Vol. 36, No. 10 September/October
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. 10 September/October 1993
by Barbara Pierce
by Marc Maurer
by Kenneth Jernigan
OF LEADERSHIP: TWIN REQUIREMENTS
by Marc Maurer
THE SCHOLARSHIP CLASS OF 1993
by Ramona Walhof
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND AWARDS FOR 1993
SAILOR TRAVELING ALONE ON THE BLUE WATERS
by Hank Dekker
ADOPTED BY THE ANNUAL CONVENTION OF THE
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
by Ramona Walhof
Copyright National Federation of the Blind, Inc., 1993
[LEAD PHOTO: Enterprise Ballroom of Hyatt Regency during NFB convention session--shows head table and four of the state delegate flags. CAPTION: Federationists from every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico (as well as from 8 other countries) gathered at the Hyatt Regency hotel on the grounds of the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport the first week of July for the 53rd annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Workshops, seminars, meetings of committees and divisions, exhibits, plays, tours, games, dances, good food, and of course opportunities to meet old friends and make new ones: all these drew people to this year's convention. But above all they came to take part in the deliberations of the most dynamic and influential organization of blind people in this country. This is the way the convention hall looked on Tuesday morning, July 6, when convention delegates took their seats for the first general session of the 1993 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. The state banners marked delegation seating and assisted people to find their friends and colleagues in the huge and crowded hall.]
by Barbara Pierce
Three years ago, when the National Federation of the Blind descended on the Hyatt Regency Hotel at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport for our golden anniversary convention, not many of us knew anything about the facility or the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth. But when we began arriving in the early days of July for the opening of the 1993 convention, we were returning to a facility we knew would meet our needs admirably, a friendly and helpful staff, and a state affiliate bent on a Texas-size welcome and warm hospitality. Glenn Crosby, President of the NFB of Texas and a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind; his wife Norma; and the more than 200 other Texans at the convention turned themselves inside out to answer questions, provide information, and in general see that this convention was unforgettable.
[PHOTO: Four children play with large building blocks. CAPTION: This year the child care facility received a change of name. It was NFB Camp, and it was fun for everybody who spent time there.]
[PHOTO: Children and teens sit under the trees at a dude ranch listening to day's agenda. CAPTION: During the Parents Seminar lots of kids went to an area dude ranch for horseback riding, a hayride, and other outdoor fun.]
By Saturday morning, July 3, a full day before the opening of convention registration, more than a thousand Federationists had already arrived and were on hand for the dozen or more seminars, workshops, and committee meetings that day, beginning at 7:00 a.m. These included stress management for business people, Braille 'n Speak instruction for both beginners and more advanced users, self-defense training, a workshop for authors, and many more. This year's day-long seminar for parents and educators of blind children was titled "Meeting the Needs of the Blind Youngster." The older children using child care visited a dude ranch, and the little ones were cared for in the facilities at the hotel. As usual Saturday afternoon was the time of the annual Job Opportunities for the Blind (JOB) seminar. JOB is a job reference and referral program jointly conducted by the National Federation of the Blind and the United States Department of Labor. This seminar is always packed with helpful and informative presentations and opportunities for networking. Presentations from both the parent and JOB seminars will appear in Federation publications in the coming months.
By Saturday evening everyone was ready for some Texas fun, and the NFB of Texas was set to provide it. Fiddlin' and dancin' were available in the hospitality area while families with blind children gathered for conversation and play in the child care area. The teenagers got to know one another by taking part in a glorified scavenger hunt, and everyone ate pizza. It was the small hours of the morning before everyone was ready to leave the fun and food.
Sunday morning brought convention registration with its fast-moving lines and first look at the convention agenda. The exhibit hall opened, and the crowds of newly-registered Federationists poured through the doors to look at what's new in appliances and technology for blind people. NFB chapters, affiliates, and divisions took the opportunity to sell things and provide literature and other information. As always, one of the most popular areas in the exhibit hall was the NFB store, where shoppers could examine all the aids and appliances sold year- round through the NFB's Materials Center. In addition delegates could stock up on Federation literature in Braille or print or on cassette. This year there were display booths staffed by forty- eight vendors (up four from last year) and twenty-four Federation groups.
Sunday afternoon and evening twelve Federation committees and divisions conducted seminars or meetings, including the Resolutions Committee, which traditionally meets for several hours on the afternoon of convention registration day. Because of the importance of the work of this committee, no other meetings are scheduled during that time, and hundreds of interested Federationists gather to listen to the committee discuss the issues raised and make recommendations. Twenty-five resolutions were brought to the committee this year, twenty of which eventually came before the convention for debate and action. The texts of these resolutions are printed elsewhere in this issue.
Monday, July 5, was filled with committee and division meetings, seventeen in all. Monday evening also saw a production of Jerry Whittle's new play, By The Wind Grieved, presented by the Louisiana Center for the Blind Players. The Yah Sure Can-Do Carnival (sponsored by the NFB of Minnesota and by BLIND, Inc., the Minnesota affiliate's adult rehabilitation center) also took place that evening. Those who stopped in found food, games, and information about BLIND's exciting rehabilitation program. They also got the opportunity to practice talking Minnesotan-- Heckofadeal!
The meeting of the Board of Directors, which took place at 9:00 Monday morning, was as always the first actual convention session. More than a thousand Federationists were present for the meeting, and the only Board member missing was Gary Wunder, whose employer had chosen the Fourth of July weekend to bring a new computer system on line. Gary was in charge of working out the bugs that inevitably develop during such an exercise, so he could not leave town until late in the week when, to everyone's delight, he joined us in Dallas. After announcing that Gary had regretfully decided not to stand for re-election this year, President Maurer read aloud the following letter from him:
June 20, 1993
Dear President Maurer:
It is with a tremendous sense of gratitude that I thank the members of the National Federation of the Blind for having given me the privilege of serving as a member of the National Board of Directors since 1985. The activities I have been asked to carry out have been some of the most meaningful of my life. I wish that circumstances had allowed me to say this personally to you so that you could hear in my own voice what is so inadequately communicated in this letter. I ask that the Nominating Committee not consider me for another term on the Board and that it recommend to the convention the name of another in our Federation family who knows the pride and honor which come from serving this wonderful organization. I look forward to continuing actively in this magnificent movement we share, and again I thank all of you for the privilege you have extended to me.
The first order of business of the meeting was President Maurer's invitation to everyone to remember those who had died in the past year. Then Dr. Jernigan described the two newest additions to our Kernel Book series, small paperback collections of essays about blindness and the actual experience of blind people. The first of these two new Kernel Books was As the Twig Is Bent, a book largely about the experiences of blind children and teens. The second was Making Hay, written by blind adults about making their way in the world of work like everybody else. Dr. Jernigan announced that all of the Kernel Books (as well as Walking Alone and Marching Together and What You Should Know About Blindness, Services for the Blind, and the Organized Blind Movement) would be on sale at the convention hall book table all week. Also available at the table was Dr. C. Edwin Vaughan's new book, The Struggle of Blind People for Self-Determination. All of these titles can be ordered from the Materials Center at the National Center for the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230.
Dr. Jernigan then explained to the Board that it has become obvious that changes should be made in the NFB's Deferred Insurance Giving (DIG) Program. It makes sense to shift our emphasis from the purchase of great numbers of insurance policies and the size of their face value to concentration on the actual contributions being made to an investment program for the future. It has become clear that it will be increasingly difficult to maintain contact with the many children on whose lives policies have been taken so that, when they die at seventy or eighty, we can notify the insurance company and receive the amount due on the policy. Also, with the recent fall in interest rates, the projections of when a given policy will be paid up are now wrong. It is, therefore, necessary to make substantial changes in the program. For those people who make automatically deducted payments on insurance policies, there will mostly be no changes; they will continue to participate in the program as they have done in the past. Those, however, who make annual payments will notice that in future their bills will come from the NFB. In situations in which it seems advisable to do so, the organization may cash in the policy or begin making the payments if necessary. For purposes of calculating state rankings in what will now be known as the Deferred Investment Giving Program, state rank will now depend on the amount of annual contribution to the investment program originating in that state, rather than solely on the face amount of the insurance policies that have been purchased. The result will be that, as contributions to the Deferred Investment Giving Program rise, the NFB will have a pool of funds with which to invest in ways that will earn substantial returns for the organized blind movement.
When Dr. Jernigan had completed this explanation, President Maurer announced that the Baltimore Chapter had made contributions of $7,000 each to both the NFB of Maryland and the National Federation of the Blind, and David Ticchi, President of the Cambridge Chapter of the NFB of Massachusetts, then came forward to present $2,000 each to the Massachusetts affiliate and the national organization.
[PHOTO: Young girl jumps in Oyngo Boyngo. CAPTION: Kids of all ages enjoyed bouncing in the Oyngo Boyngos at this year's convention.]
Next President Maurer called Mary Willows of California to the platform. Before turning the mike over to her for announcements about child care arrangements for the week, he explained that Mary, in agreeing to supervise this important effort, had stipulated that the name be changed to NFB Camp. Mary announced that during NFB Camp this year the children would see a marionette show, have a visit from a magician, and take a trip to the Science Place in Dallas. She also explained that this year at the convention there were two mesh-enclosed trampolines for the use of the children. Invented and now produced by a parent, they are called Oyngo Boyngos, and they turned out to be the hit of the convention for the under-125-pound crowd. Mary also said with pride that it had become necessary to solve the cane-storage problem in the child care room because there are now so many youngsters using the facility who need to have a safe place to store a cane while playing. Mary turned to Fred Schroeder, Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind, who had asked Jim Estis, the industrial arts teacher at the orientation center, to solve the problem. Jim came to the microphone to describe the oak cabinet with twenty-four storage compartments that the students at the New Mexico orientation center had made. It is a beautifully finished piece of woodwork, and every bit of it was done under sleepshades. Jim concluded his report by saying that, whether the students who helped build the cabinet were at the convention in person or not, each one of them sent thanks to the members of the Federation for what he or she was receiving from the New Mexico program because of the work of the NFB.
Peggy Pinder, Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind and Chairman of the Scholarship Committee, then introduced the twenty-six members of this year's group of scholarship winners. A full report of the scholarship program appears elsewhere in this issue.
Dorothy Cofone, President of the NFB of New Jersey, and Carla McQuillan, President of the NFB of Oregon, then came forward to make a presentation from the members of the Leadership Training Seminar known as the Defensive Seminar. Carla has thought for some time that the space over the large fireplace in the Harbor Room at the National Center for the Blind is the perfect location for a wall hanging, and for some years Dorothy imported and sold oriental rugs. So the Defensive Seminar presented the Federation with a beautiful silk rug from China measuring five feet by three. It has an ivory background and tassels along the ends. The design incorporates flowers, birds, and animals in shades of blue and brown. President Maurer thanked the members of the seminar and promised that a fitting place would be found for the rug at the Center.
Two award presentations took place during the Board meeting. Steve Benson, Chairman of the Blind Educator of the Year Award Committee, presented Dr. Emerson Foulke of Louisville, Kentucky, with that award, and Sharon Maneki, Chairwoman of the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award Committee, presented that award to Gail Katona of Albuquerque, New Mexico. A full report of both ceremonies appears elsewhere in this issue.
When Tom Stevens, Chairman of the Associates Committee, came to the platform to make his report to the Board, he announced that two new records had been set this year in the recruitment of members-at-large as associates of the NFB. More than $90,000 was raised in the program, and 468 people took part as recruiters. President Maurer then announced the top ten recruiters by number of Associates and by dollar amount as follows:
Top 10 in Number of Associates Recruited
10. Norman Gardner (Arizona),
9. Arthur Schreiber (New Mexico), 89
8. Laura Biro (Michigan), 92
7. Karen Mayry (South Dakota), 103
6. Kenneth Jernigan (Maryland), 105
5. Matthew Brink (Michigan), 107
4. Bill Isaacs (Illinois), 154
3. Toni Eames (California), 179
2. Tom Stevens (Missouri), 229;
1. Fred Schroeder (New Mexico), 314
Top 10 in Dollar Amount Raised
10. Matthew Brink (Michigan),
9. Karen Mayry (South Dakota), $2,713
8. Tom Stevens (Missouri), $2,726
7. Bill Isaacs (Illinois), $2,758
6. Toni Eames (California), $2,781
5. Duane Gerstenberger (Maryland), $2,986
4. Mary Ellen Jernigan (Maryland), $3,013
3. David Andrews (Maryland), $4,142
2. Fred Schroeder (New Mexico), $4,224
1. Kenneth Jernigan (Maryland), $9,092
The Board of Directors then voted to conduct a contest to encourage Associate recruiters again in 1994.
Just before adjournment of the meeting, President Maurer introduced three young women who last year enrolled in a Braille transcription course being offered at their school, Marissa High School in Marissa, Illinois. The three (Amy Heil, Kyle Jouglard, and Christine Walker) all passed the National Library Service Braille transcription test before the end of the school year and are now certified Braille transcribers. The Federation gave them scholarships to attend the NFB convention in order to thank them in person for their dramatic undermining of the notion that learning Braille is difficult for busy people to find time to do.
[PHOTO: Two women examine the list of convention attendees from their state. CAPTION: All week Federationists kept track of the registration count by checking the state delegation lists hanging in the foyer of the Hyatt Regency ballroom.]
Tuesday morning President Maurer gaveled the first general convention session to order precisely at 10 a.m. The welcoming ceremonies were interspersed with announcements and reports on convention registration, banquet ticket exchange procedures, and other important details. During the roll call of states three presidents announced that Braille bills had recently or were about to become law. As of August 1, New Mexico, Oregon, and Rhode Island had joined the group of states that can boast protection of the right of parents and their blind children who wish to receive Braille instruction in the schools. There are now twenty-one states that have recognized that blind children truly do have a right to an appropriate education.
Tuesday afternoon the convention session began with President Maurer's annual report to the members, printed in full elsewhere in this issue. As always, it summarized and provided perspective on the work of the Federation during the past year, and it set the tone for the organization's activities in the months ahead. Here is the way the report began:
During the past twelve months the National Federation of the Blind has experienced substantial progress. Our extensive programs have expanded, and our activities have diversified. As we gather for this convention, our feelings are harmonious and enthusiastic. This by no means suggests that we are passive. There is a restless, throbbing energy throughout the Federation. The driving force is focused, and we are finding solutions to our problems.
Within our movement (the organized blind movement) there is a place for blind professionals, for blind students, for parents of blind children and the children themselves, for blind merchants, for blind workers in industry and the sheltered shops, for administrators and workers in the field of work with the blind, for sighted family members and friends, for blind people hunting work, and for blind retirees--for everybody. The only requirements are that we possess belief in the founding principles of our movement and that we be willing to put that belief into practice. We have forged an agreement. Our organization is for everybody--everybody, that is, who is prepared to work, to believe, and to dream. As we prepare for the year ahead, and as we review our progress during the past twelve months, that commitment remains the vital connective tissue of our organization.
Following the tumultuous audience response to this report, the convention heard from Congressman Sam Johnson of Texas, who was a prisoner of war for seven years during the Vietnam War. His title was "Blindness: Meeting the Challenge Through Self- Organization and a Fighting Spirit--Lessons From One Who Knows."
"The Nature of Independence" was the title of a thought- provoking speech delivered by Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, which is printed elsewhere in this issue. Then President Maurer read a letter to the convention from Assistant Secretary of Education Judy Heumann. Here it is:
I want to take this opportunity to offer my greetings to your membership as I begin my tenure as Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. As you hear this, I am in the midst of sorting through the myriad boxes and suitcases which have followed me in my move to Washington. This is certainly a busy time for all of us, but an exciting time too. And although I cannot be with you this week, I wanted to express my wishes for a successful and productive convention. I am sure that in the near future I will be meeting with your leadership to discuss our mutual areas of concern. I greatly look forward to that meeting and to collaborating with your membership in advocating for blind people.
The many successes achieved by the Federation are well known to me, and I have always greatly respected your work in advancing independence and opportunity for blind people. Whether on the picket line, in the board room, or in the courtroom, your undaunted vigilance and commitment have brought about significant change. Because of your efforts blind individuals of all ages can take their rightful place as equal and independent members of society. You have a right to be proud, and we have much to learn from you.
I also want to take this opportunity to express my thanks for all of your support and hard work in bringing about many of the forward-thinking reforms we have witnessed in the passage of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1992. For example, I know that the Federation has long been committed to bringing about reforms in the area of client choice. Because of your efforts and those of other committed and dedicated organizations, rehabilitation clients will now have increased input into decisions affecting the type and nature of the services they will receive. I firmly believe that this concept of choice is at the very heart of all of our efforts because independence begins with learning to make choices in order to determine one's destiny.
In addition, I plan to work collaboratively with the Federation and other interested organizations to implement the provision of the amendments which mandates streamlining client eligibility for rehabilitation services. While we are on the subject of rehabilitation, I want to commend you for the fine job you are doing in conjunction with the Rehabilitation Services Administration on the Work Incentive Training project. This pilot project, designed to teach blind recipients of SSI and SSDI how to take advantage of the work incentives for which they are eligible, will result in the production of a training manual that will be used nationally by vocational rehabilitation agencies for this purpose. It is my hope that similar types of projects will enable individuals with other disabilities to take advantage of the work incentive provisions for which they too are eligible.
Before I close, I want to make two specific requests of you today to help achieve the excellence that is the theme of this Administration. The first request is that you contact us to receive applications to serve as peer reviewers for our grant competitions carried out by each of the three OSERS components: the Rehabilitation Services Administration, the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, and the Office of Special Education Programs. As you know the Peer Review function is at the very core of some of our most important work, and it is critical that the interests and experience of blind people be fully tapped. Peer review applications are available from my office in Braille upon request.[and also from here, anyway, back to the letter]
The second request is that you help me learn about model programs serving blind children, youth, and adults across the nation. As my staff and I travel across the country, we want to know about the programs that are doing the best job of educating and rehabilitating blind individuals in a variety of settings, and we want to learn from them and replicate them to help others. So I am asking that you help us achieve the excellence we seek by sending us written or taped descriptions of model programs in a range of environments and telling us why they are models.
Let me say again that I look forward to working closely with you over the next few years in a spirit of mutual collaboration. May this convention week be full of rewarding and exciting experiences for each of you.
Sincerely, Judith Heumann
Hank Dekker, the man whose 1993 attempt to sail single- handed from Cape May, New Jersey, to Plymouth, England, was described in the August, 1993, issue of the Braille Monitor, next addressed the convention, describing how different his life after becoming blind would have been if he had found the National Federation of the Blind earlier than he did. His remarks are printed elsewhere in this issue.
The closing item on the afternoon agenda was an address by Dr. Tuck Tinsley, President of the American Printing House for the Blind. His title was "Tomorrow's News Today." He reviewed some of the most exciting plans for the future being made by the Printing House, laying particular stress on joint efforts with the Federation.
[PHOTO: Convention attendees socialize around the tables and near the pavilion at Hyatt Bear Creek. CAPTION: The barbecue at Bear Creek was Federation fun at its best: good friends, good food, good music, and Texas hospitality.]
The convention session recessed at 5:00 p.m., and everyone headed for the Texas Barbecue Under the Stars at Bear Creek, where good food and music could be shared with good friends at the close of a wonderful day.
The barbecue was hardly the only activity taking place that night. Buses shuttled back and forth to Bear Creek all evening so that Federationists could attend events at the hotel as well as enjoying the festivities at the resort. Again this year the Parents of Blind Children Division sponsored a workshop for parents and teachers interested in learning to use the slate and stylus. Claudell Stocker (Braille expert and recently retired head of the Braille Development Section at the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped) instructed almost two dozen eager students, who came away enthusiastic about Braille and excited and confident about their new skill in writing it.
The Music Division's Showcase of Talent also took place Tuesday night. The winners in the children's division were first prize: Kevin Hatton, age six, from Maryland, piano; second prize: Ellen Nichols, age ten, from Maryland, piano; and honorable mention: Katie Munck, age ten, from Michigan, voice. In the composition competition the first place winner was Julie Melton of California, who sang her own song, "I Will Shelter You." The second place winner was Nancy Herb of Arizona, who sang her composition, "Inspiration." In the talent competition Dolores Smith of Alabama won the first place prize for her singing of "I'm Glad God Made Me," and Jan Kaftan of California took second place with a piano rendition of "Climb Every Mountain."
The Wednesday morning general session began with a welcome from Texas Congressman Greg Laughlin, who had been prevented from leaving Washington the day before. The Convention next turned to the annual election. Six positions on the Board of Directors were open this year. The holdover positions were those currently held by the organization's officers: Marc Maurer, Maryland, President; Joyce Scanlan, Minnesota, First Vice President; Peggy Pinder, Iowa, Second Vice President; Ramona Walhof, Idaho, Secretary; and Allen Harris, Michigan, Treasurer. Those currently serving in the holdover board positions are Steve Benson, Illinois; Charlie Brown, Virginia; Glenn Crosby, Texas; Sam Gleese, Mississippi; Frank Lee, Alabama; and Diane McGeorge, Colorado.
The six board seats open for election in 1993 were held by Don Capps, South Carolina; Priscilla Ferris, Massachusetts; Betty Niceley, Kentucky; Fred Schroeder, New Mexico; Joanne Wilson, Louisiana; and Gary Wunder, Missouri.
Dr. Jernigan chaired the Nominating Committee this year and made the Committee's report to the convention. The names of Don Capps, Priscilla Ferris, Betty Niceley, Fred Schroeder, Joanne Wilson, and Sharon Gold, California, were placed in nomination; and all were elected by acclamation. Each of those so honored by the Convention spoke a few words to the delegates. Sharon Gold's remarks captured the commitment and dedication of those elected to serve as members of the Board of Directors for the coming two years. The newest member of the Board said:
When I was born, there was no National Federation of the Blind. It was born eleven days later, so you'll always know how old I am. But, if it weren't for the National Federation of the Blind... It has led the way for me throughout my life--it has changed my life. But most of the time I didn't know that, not until I was thirty-five years old. That's very sad.
When I did learn about the National Federation of the Blind, I had been teaching school for almost fifteen years, a job that I would never have gotten but for this organization, because it was this organization that got the laws changed so that blind people could get a teaching credential. So I wouldn't have been a tax-paying citizen had it not been for the National Federation of the Blind and for all of you people in this room. It is our collective work and our collective strength that bring the changes that make it possible to change the lives of all blind people, whether they are part of this organization or not, whether or not they even know about the organization. I'm a prime example, and I will never ever be able to repay the debt that I feel to my fellow Federationists.
It is a privilege to belong to this organization. It is an honor to be asked to serve on our National Board. I appreciate the honor, and I accept the responsibility, and I thank you very much.
Following the election, Ritchie Geisel, President of Recording for the Blind, delivered a report from RFB, which, according to Mr. Geisel, is continuing to grow and to work with the American Printing House, textbook publishers, and the National Federation of the Blind to make machine-readable textbooks available for Brailling in the near future.
The remainder of the morning was devoted to a panel discussion entitled "Fair Labor Standards: Fact or Fiction for Blind Workers in the Sheltered Shop." Panel participants included Joe Cordova, Assistant Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind and Administrator of the Industries Division; Richard Edlund, Member of the Kansas House of Representatives; Fred Puente, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Blind Industries and Services of Maryland; Donald Ellisburg, labor lawyer and consultant; William Gross, Assistant Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the Employment Standards Administration in the U.S. Department of Labor; and Austin Murphy, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Labor Standards, Occupational Health, and Safety of the Committee on Education and Labor in the U.S. House of Representatives. Taken together these presentations provided a strong argument for doing away with certificates of exemption for shops employing blind workers.
On Wednesday afternoon and evening Federationists went their separate ways, taking part in a number of possible activities. The Texas affiliate had outdone itself with an array of tours to fit every interest. But there were also wonderful possibilities to choose at the hotel. Of course there were workshops and committee meetings for those with work to do. One of the most popular of these was the annual workshop for applicants, advocates, and recipients of Social Security Administration programs.
But there was also fun to be had. The exhibit hall was open all afternoon, and for the first time at an NFB convention there was a show and sale of art by blind artists. The Louisiana Center for the Blind also hosted the Federation Follies, where participants could sing Federation songs and play all kinds of NFB games like Federation Trivial Pursuit. In addition, the Louisiana Center Players presented Federation Heritage, a play depicting the history of the National Federation of the Blind. That evening hundreds of people flocked to the annual Monte Carlo Night, sponsored by the National Association of Blind Students.
At 9:00 a.m. Thursday, however, delegates were in their seats, ready to enjoy and take part in the day's crowded agenda. President Maurer invited Art Schreiber, one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico and currently a candidate for election as the Mayor of Albuquerque, to address the convention for a moment. Art thanked the organization for giving him the confidence to know that he is capable of holding this important job.
Carl Augusto, Executive Director and President of the American Foundation for the Blind, then delivered his "Report from the American Foundation for the Blind." In this address Mr. Augusto outlined the plans and changes for the future that the Foundation has decided to undertake.
Frank Kurt Cylke, who the following day would celebrate his twentieth anniversary as Director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress, then delivered his annual report to the convention, entitled "Twenty Years of Service and Twenty Years to Come." He reviewed the changes that have come about in the National Library Service since 1973 and looked ahead to the future.
Next Ramona Walhof, Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind, delivered a stirring address, "Braille: A Renaissance." This speech, which combined personal experience, exemplary anecdotes, and sound advice about reading and writing Braille, is printed elsewhere in this issue.
"Mainstreaming, Schools for the Blind, and Full Inclusion: What Shall the Future of Education for Blind Children Be?" was the title of a panel discussion which included presentations by Fred Schroeder, Executive Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind and formerly Director of Low Incidence Programs in the Albuquerque Schools; Dr. Phil Hatlen, Superintendent of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired; Dr. Michael Bina, Superintendent of the Indiana School for the Blind and President of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER); and Dr. Ralph Bartley, Superintendent of the Arizona State School for the Deaf and Blind. All of the panelists raised serious questions about the concept of full inclusion as it is currently being practiced in many schools, opting instead for the principle that each blind child should be provided with the instruction he or she needs in the setting that is most appropriate at the time.
The final speaker of the morning was Patricia Stenger, Senior Vice President of the American Diabetes Association. Her title was "Diabetes: A Leading Cause of Blindness in the United States." In recent months the American Diabetes Association has shown increased willingness to work with the National Federation of the Blind, and certainly Ms. Stenger's appearance at the convention was an indication of the growing spirit of cooperation between the two organizations.
The opening agenda item of the afternoon session was an address by Louis Enoff, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. His title was "Social Security and SSI: Meeting the Challenge for Modernization for the Decade of the 90's and Beyond." Mr. Enoff reported on a number of efforts to improve service and reiterated SSA's eagerness to work closely with the organized blind movement to improve service to program recipients. As always there were many questions from the audience and much concern about problems, but as both President Maurer and Mr. Gashel commented, the honesty, good faith, and willingness to correct injustices demonstrated by senior staff members of the Social Security Administration give hope and encouragement to all those who strive to improve the lives of blind people.
The next item was a panel presentation titled "Diversified Tasks: The Blind in the Workplace." Panel participants were Richard Realmuto, a high school technology teacher; Kathy Kannenberg, a middle and high school mathematics teacher; Dr. Michael Gosse, an electrical engineer; and Alan Downing, a high- performance engine builder. All four explained something of how they do their jobs and discussed the role of the Federation in helping them accomplish their goals.
The final speaker of the afternoon was Congressman Jim Ramstad of Minnesota, sponsor of the pending legislation that would include people with severe disabilities in the Small Business Act. His title was "The Americans with Disabilities Business Development Act: What Is It, What Does It Mean for the Blind?" Mr. Ramstad urged delegates to encourage their Members of Congress to co-sponsor his bill, H.R. 794, and insist that hearings on it be held soon.
"The banquet of the 1993 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind is now in order." With these words Dr. Jernigan signaled the opening of the banquet festivities on Thursday evening, July 8. A serious effort was made this year to shorten the banquet agenda, and despite the exuberance of the audience, it was successful. Cheering, singing, Division- sponsored drawings, and wonderful prizes were all present in abundance. But the program moved along, fueled by excitement and enthusiasm. The National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB) presented its first ever Golden Keys Award to honor an individual who has made a notable contribution to promote the use of Braille. This award was presented to Mr. Deane Blazie for his production of the Braille 'n Speak. A full description of this award ceremony appears elsewhere in this issue.
Peggy Pinder, Chairman of the NFB Scholarship Committee, presented the twenty-six scholarships to this year's winners. Jennifer Lehman, a junior at the University of Minnesota, was the winner of the American Action Fund Scholarship in the amount of $10,000. A full report of the scholarship award ceremony appears elsewhere in this issue.
As always, however, the high point of the banquet and of the entire convention was President Maurer's banquet address, the title of which was "The Continuity of Leadership: Twin Requirements." The response of the crowd demonstrated again that the organized blind are prepared to do whatever is necessary to define our own destiny and win freedom for ourselves and one another. Here are the final words of that address:
"It is of utmost significance to respond with decision and determination in times of crisis. We, the organized blind, must be prepared to take concerted action whenever our collective effort can solve the immediate problems we face. However, of even greater importance is the need to stimulate an atmosphere of understanding--of acceptance of the blind on terms of equality. This must occur all over the nation--in our homes, our immediate neighborhoods, and our broader communities. The leadership that inspires this attitude must be a part of our thoughts and actions every day.
"If we collectively and individually do not meet the challenge of leadership which is now before us, the odd-ball notions and crazy ideas about us will continue to impede our progress and stifle our growth. Furthermore, there is nobody that can do it for us--we must meet the challenge ourselves. Let the sighted march with us, and increasingly they do. Let the governmental and private agencies join the effort, and ever growing numbers are doing so. But in the final analysis others cannot shape the future for us. We must make our own tomorrow. We know what our problems are, and we know how to deal with them. We know how to find the means and how to focus the effort. We cannot fail or turn back. The stakes are too high and the prize too great. In the spirit of Dr. Perry, who was the precursor; of Dr. tenBroek, who was the founder and pioneer; and Dr. Jernigan, who has been the organizer and builder--yes, and also in the spirit of those who will look back to test our actions and judgment, we of this generation must and will do what is needed to bring the blind closer to full membership in society. We will respond to crisis as we must, but we will also be creative and plan ahead. In the certainty of our strength to do what must be done and our belief in each other and ourselves, we face the future with confidence and joy. We are the organized blind. We are the National Federation of the Blind. My brothers and my sisters, we will make it come true!"
The 1993 banquet address is reprinted elsewhere in this issue.
[PHOTO: Friends dance at the Hoe-Down. CAPTION: The Colorado Hoe-Down didn't begin until the banquet ended Thursday evening, but Federationists were still going strong.]
Following the excitement of the banquet most people streamed into the Colorado Hoe-Down, jointly sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado and the Colorado Center for the Blind. The warmth of Western hospitality and the exuberance of Western dance music were the order of the day, or should one say the late evening and early morning hours?
Yet at 9:00 a.m. Friday morning the crowd was back in the ballroom again, this time for the final day's program. Dr. Jernigan, who chairs the Finance Committee, presented the financial report, and James Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs, gave the Washington report. In addition, Euclid Herie, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and Treasurer of the World Blind Union; Geraldine Braak, President of the Canadian Council of the Blind; and Mr. Pecharat Techavachara, President of both the Thai Blind Union and the Foundation for the Employment Promotion of the Blind in Thailand and Chairman of the Lighthouse for the Blind in Thailand, addressed the convention briefly. Dr. Herie reported on the actions of the World Blind Union and the role of the North America/Caribbean Region. Mrs. Braak drew parallels between the Canadian Council of the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind.
[PHOTO: Mrs. Jernigan holds a bouquet of 4 roses made from 5 $5 bills. CAPTION: One of the more unusual door prizes this year was a rose constructed of $5 bills. In fact, several of these horticultural wonders were given away to lucky Federationists. Mrs. Jernigan is pictured here holding a bouquet of very valuable flowers.]
Mr. Techavachara, who was the first blind student in Thailand to be educated alongside sighted students and has earned a degree in economics from the Wharton School in Philadelphia, told delegates of the struggle of the blind of his country to win the right for blind people to participate in deciding the direction of the programs that control their lives. Because of his success in business--he manages two family-owned enterprises- -Mr. Techavachara has been able to achieve some victories for blind people, and he and his blind colleagues are determined to continue their fight for self-determination. Dr. Jernigan concluded this discussion of the blind in the world by saying: "You can see from these reports that a lot is going on concerning the blind around the world, and we as an organization have been active, doing what we can to try to promote the well-being and best interests of blind people in other countries."
The final agenda item of the morning was a brief report from Aundrea Moore, who works for the Attorney General of Texas to see that materials concerning child support issues are available in alternative media for those who need them. In describing how she got her job, Ms. Moore pointed out that people who are entitled to child support and who are also receiving SSDI should remember that child support payments are not to be counted as income in determining SSDI eligibility. Such payments may count against SSI recipients, but even so, medical assistance may be available. People who believe that they are not getting the child support or SSA benefits they are entitled to would be well-advised to contact the Federation for assistance.
The afternoon session was devoted primarily to the consideration of resolutions. Final reports of several week-long campaigns were also made. Perhaps the funniest moment of the session occurred shortly after Shelley Alongi of California, who was attending her first national convention, won a door prize which consisted in part of a box of Armadillo Droppings. Boxes of this Texas confection had figured prominently in the door prize activity all week long, and there had been a good bit of playful discussion from the platform about the propriety of opening one of the boxes to see what on earth Armadillo Droppings actually were. Shelley Alongi came to a mike to tell President Maurer that she would be pleased to offer him an Armadillo Dropping since it would be one way for her to meet him. Much to the delight of the convention, she brought the box to the platform, and President Maurer then described with great precision what the candy looked and tasted like.
The entire encounter livened up the proceedings and delighted everyone, except perhaps those who never did get a taste of Texas Armadillo Droppings.
The final report on Pre-authorized Check Plan contributions showed exciting increases during this convention. When the convention began, 1,322 Federationists were members of the PAC Plan. The PAC Committee set a goal of 1,400 members by adjournment Friday afternoon. The actual final figure was 1,432, with 110 new members, 23 of whom were from one state, California. The amount being contributed annually on PAC at the beginning of the week was $307,068, and by the close of the convention the Committee's goal of $325,000 had been left in the dust. The annualized contribution at adjournment Friday was $328,888. The week-long campaign to raise at least $40,000 in new contributions to the Deferred Investment Giving Program resulted in gifts and pledges of $43,661 by Friday afternoon.
A few moments before the final gavel of the 1993 convention sounded, Dr. Jernigan sought the floor to remark how pleased he was about the convention and what it had accomplished. To judge from the applause that followed his farewell as he left the hall to conduct last-minute business, the audience clearly agreed with him.
At the very close of the convention an event occurred that demonstrated with high good humor both the fundamental democracy of the NFB and its deep affection for its leaders. It happened like this: Diane McGeorge, door prize chairwoman, drew Dr. Jernigan's name for a prize several minutes after he had left the room. The audience was noisily and delightedly divided on the question of whether he was ineligible to receive it because he was out of the room or should be given it because he has given so much to the organized blind movement and, after all, he was conducting Federation business. Finally, a mock-serious vote was taken and, as a result, Diane drew again.
[PHOTO: Baby in stroller with hands on print/Braille book. CAPTION: Miranja Silvert attended her first convention this year. Though she was only eight months old when this picture was taken, she had already begun to learn the value of Braille. Here she is enjoying a Twin Vision-- book.]
[PHOTO: Hazel tenBroek and Joe DeBeer seated in convention audience. CAPTION: Joe DeBeer of Minnesota, at 91, was the oldest Federationist at this year's convention. He and Mrs. tenBroek visit together here as they have at conventions since the 1940's.]
With high spirits and higher hopes for the future, laughter and determination to change present hopes into future reality, members of the National Federation of the Blind said good-by to Dallas and set forth on the year-long journey to Detroit, Michigan, and the 1994 National Convention. With enthusiastic invitations from the Michigan affiliate to come to the Motor City and "Bring a friend" ringing in their ears, Federationists packed up and returned home. The challenges facing us in the coming year will be significant and the obstacles formidable as always, but the movement of blind Americans toward first-class status and full participation in society is unstoppable. Now we shift our sights to July 2 to 9, 1994, the dates of next year's Convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Meantime it's business as usual for the organized blind movement, changing what it means to be blind.
[PHOTO: Mr. Maurer standing at podium microphone. CAPTION: President Marc Maurer delivers his annual report to the 1993 convention of the National Federation of the Blind.]
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
JULY 6, 1993
During the past twelve months the National Federation of the Blind has experienced substantial progress. Our extensive programs have expanded, and our activities have diversified. As we gather for this convention, our feelings are harmonious and enthusiastic. This by no means suggests that we are passive. There is a restless, throbbing energy throughout the Federation. That driving force is focused, and we are finding solutions to our problems.
Within our movement (the organized blind movement) there is a place for blind professionals, for blind students, for parents of blind children and the children themselves, for blind merchants, for blind workers in industry and the sheltered shops, for administrators and workers in the field of work with the blind, for sighted family members and friends, for blind people hunting work, and for blind retirees--for everybody. The only requirements are that we possess belief in the founding principles of our movement and that we be willing to put that belief into practice. We have forged an agreement. Our organization is for everybody--everybody, that is, who is prepared to work, to believe, and to dream. As we prepare for the year ahead, and as we review our progress during the past twelve months, that commitment remains the vital connective tissue of our organization.
Increasingly the National Federation of the Blind is recognized by governmental agencies, nonprofit institutions, and commercial companies as the most knowledgeable organization in the nation regarding blindness. The Golden Corral Restaurant chain provides activity books to the children who come to dine. One of these books contains a story about a blind child named April, who travels in time. April is depicted using a cane and reading Braille. We were asked to review the story and offer comments. Included in this Golden Corral Restaurant publication is a message from the Federation, which says: --For more information about blindness, contact the National Federation of the Blind.-- This booklet is scheduled to appear in September. Our message will be included in each copy distributed--all two million of them.
Our interaction with Golden Corral Restaurants is indicative of a growing phenomenon. Ever more frequently the National Federation of the Blind is consulted when the subject of blindness is being considered. When one of the readers of --Dear Abby-- wrote to inquire about blindness and newspapers for the blind, --Dear Abby-- called us. When the Washington Post needed background information about the capabilities of blind people, it called the National Federation of the Blind. When editors at the Simon and Schuster publishing company were seeking information about Braille literacy, they called us. When planners at the Senate Printing Office wanted to know the best way to produce Braille, they visited the National Center for the Blind.
The National Federation of the Blind was instrumental in making the 1993 presidential inauguration accessible to the blind. Several of the documents prepared by the inaugural committee were Brailled by the National Federation of the Blind for distribution to blind participants in the inauguration ceremonies. The inauguration was carried on television nationwide. The visual portions of the broadcast were described for blind people in the television audience through the Descriptive Video Service. One of the major sponsors of this descriptive video broadcast, prepared by WGBH television of Boston, was the National Federation of the Blind.
On November 16, 1990, on the fiftieth birthday of our movement, we established the National Braille and Technology Center for the Blind. Because of the scope of activity in this Center, it has been renamed the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind. This facility houses the most extensive collection of technological devices for the blind anywhere in the United States--or, for that matter, the world. We are committed to including among the devices in the Center at least one of every piece of useful hardware that can be obtained (along with all of the useful software packages) capable of producing information in speech, in refreshable Braille, or in hard copy Braille. Although this Center is less than three years old, it has already outgrown its original quarters, a spacious demonstration hall twenty-six feet wide and one hundred twenty feet long with accompanying offices and classrooms. Nothing like it exists (or has ever existed) anywhere in the world.
Available to be examined in the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind today are twenty-five kinds of speech synthesizers; five kinds of stand-alone reading machines; nine kinds of computer-based reading systems; eight kinds of refreshable Braille displays; two kinds of Braille laptop computers; seven kinds of portable electronic note takers; twenty kinds of Braille embossers; nine kinds of Braille translation software; twenty kinds of screen review programs; five kinds of printers for creating Braille and print on the same page; numerous pieces of miscellaneous software, such as scientific calculators, banking programs, speech-based reference materials, database managing systems, and other computer programs; miscellaneous hardware, such as graphics devices; a talking cash register; and the computers needed to make all of this work.
The second floor of the Johnson Street wing in the main building at the National Center for the Blind is presently being remodeled to house the ever-expanding International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind. In addition to extensive demonstration space there will be eleven new offices, meeting facilities, a museum, and a kitchen. The International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind will, in these new quarters, be more than two and a half times as large as it is today.
One aspect of the Technology Center is our computer bulletin board, NFB NET. This service makes available by telephone, to people with a computer and computer modem, information about blindness, services for the blind, the organized blind movement, computer technology of interest to the blind, computer programs, and suggestions that will improve information availability to the blind. In addition, this service provides a communications system where topics of interest to the blind can be researched and discussed. There have been 9,215 calls to the bulletin board within the past twelve months. There have been 1,924 files sent to the board by phone, and over 6,000 transmissions of information from our service.
The International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind is valuable because it brings opportunities to blind people who would not otherwise have them. But this is only part of the reason for its existence. The cooperation among agencies doing work with the blind, organizations involved in the blindness system, and blind consumers is stimulated and enhanced through meetings that are planned to discuss technological applications and related matters. In 1991 the National Federation of the Blind sponsored and hosted the first U.S./Canada Conference on Technology for the Blind. This conference brought together for the first time the decision-makers of all of the major manufacturers and distributors of technology, organizations working with the blind, and organizations of the blind in the United States and Canada. We are now planning to sponsor and host the second U.S./Canada Conference on Technology for the Blind. Again, it will be convened at the National Center for the Blind. The specific results coming from these conferences are far more than the improvement and dissemination of technology. They also encompass a new spirit of harmony and cooperation among all of those involved in blindness and work with the blind on the North American continent.
Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, President Emeritus of the National Federation of the Blind, serves as President of the North America/Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union. His leadership has created greater unity of purpose and a clearer focus regarding the common problems of those involved in work with the blind than there has ever been in the past. Last fall Dr. Jernigan led the North America/Caribbean delegation to the third quadrennial convention of the World Blind Union, held in Cairo, Egypt. In addition to Dr. and Mrs. Jernigan, Federationists who attended included Don and Betty Capps; Patricia Miller; my wife, Patricia Maurer; and me.
Before reaching Cairo, Dr. and Mrs. Jernigan visited programs for the blind in Athens, Greece; Amman, Jordan; and Istanbul, Turkey. While in Istanbul, Dr. Jernigan was invited to an audience with the then Turkish President Turgut Ozal. For almost an hour, Dr. Jernigan and the members of the Turkish Federation of the Blind discussed with President Ozal matters dealing with blindness in Turkey and throughout the world.
The participation of the National Federation of the Blind in the World Blind Union has not only given those of us in the United States perspective about what we are doing in this country, but it has also produced a spirit of cooperation in the blindness field throughout this region of the world which would have been unimaginable even as recently as a decade ago. The Committee on Joint Organizational Effort (JOE) has grown out of the international meetings which were initiated through the World Blind Union. In the spring of 1993, the members of the JOE committee met at the National Center for the Blind, in Baltimore. For the first time in affairs dealing with blindness there was general agreement among the agencies and organizations present to cooperate to seek major changes in programs for the blind. These changes are expanded availability of Social Security Disability Insurance for the blind and a much broader scope of education for blind children in the reading and writing of Braille.
To the extent that we can, we are providing encouragement and assistance to the blind not only of this country but also throughout the world. Literature and materials about blindness are being distributed to: Angola, Antigua, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bermuda, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Egypt, England, Ethiopia, France, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Holland, Hong Kong, India, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Liberia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Morocco, Nepal, Netherlands, New Guinea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Sierra Leone, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tanzania, Tobago, Trinidad, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, and Zambia.
Early last fall two members of the Turkish Federation of the Blind, Lokman Ayva and Selahattin Aydin, visited the National Center for the Blind for several weeks of intensive training in the techniques of blindness and the use of computer technology. When blind people from other nations are seeking to expand opportunities for the blind and to encourage independence by blind people within their borders, we feel a natural kinship with them. When working together, the friendships we form are lasting and deep. Dr. Jernigan's visit with the President of Turkey, accompanied by members of the Turkish Federation of the Blind, is one instance of our continuing relationship, but this is not all. Mr. Lokman Ayva graduated with a bachelor's degree in management this spring. He applied immediately to take the Turkish national scholarship examination for study in other nations and paid the required fee. Scholarships are awarded based upon performance in this examination. One of the questions on the application asked if he was disabled. Lokman Ayva replied that he is blind. Eight days before the examination was to occur, the Turkish department of education denied him the opportunity to take it on the grounds of blindness. But Mr. Ayva did not give up. He protested to the department of education and the newspapers. He also contacted his friends in the National Federation of the Blind of the United States. At Mr. Ayva's request, we sent letters of protest about the denial to the department of education in Turkey and to the principal newspaper. Three days before the examination was to be given, the Turkish department of education changed its mind. The administrator of the department complained to the press that the denial of opportunity for Mr. Ayva to take the examination had received more attention in the papers than the news about the presidency of Turkey. Lokman Ayva competed with the others who are seeking scholarships to study management outside the borders of Turkey. Blindness has not prevented him from further education even though the attitudes of administrators in the department of education might have. Such is the measure of international cooperation between the National Federation of the Blind and like-minded individuals throughout the world.
We have also been involved during the past year with a number of legal cases. Jillian Brooks is a blind X-ray technician living in California. She was hired by Redding Radiology late in 1990. Although she had discussed the alternative techniques she would use to perform the daily functions of a radiologist, officials at Redding Radiology had not regarded her as a blind person until they saw her adaptive aids being used on the job. One week after she was employed, Jillian Brooks was fired on the grounds that she is blind and that no blind person can do the work of a radiologist.
Jillian Brooks was not only fired; she was told that if she complained, Redding Radiology would have her blacklisted--banned from the profession altogether. It is not a coincidence that Jillian Brooks turned for assistance to the National Federation of the Blind. She is president of her local chapter, and she is one of our leaders in California. A lawsuit was filed charging discrimination on the grounds of blindness. That case has now been settled. There is a price to be paid by those who discriminate against the blind. The payment to Jillian Brooks came to one hundred eighty thousand dollars. And there are those who wonder what value there is in becoming a member of the National Federation of the Blind.
In Alabama, we are facing a situation which is complex, unconscionable, and ugly. There is extensive systematic discrimination in the Alabama vending program. An investigation conducted by the Office for Civil Rights of the United States Department of Education discovered that the average income in the vending program for white vendors is $6,000 greater than the income for black vendors. During the past three years, ninety-five percent of the new locations in the state have been awarded to white vendors. The locations received by black vendors produce the smallest amounts of money, and they are in high-risk areas. It was noted in the report that two of the vendors had been killed while they were operating their vending facilities. Both were black.
Although these findings are, to say the least, shocking, the agency for the blind in Alabama has shown virtually no interest in taking action to correct this pattern of discrimination. We have proposed to officials of the state agency that affirmative action programs be implemented to accelerate the advancement of the black vendors who have been systematically deprived of promotions in the program, that facilities in high-risk areas be closed and the operators transferred to safer and more lucrative locations, and that additional training be offered to black blind vendors to compensate for the past refusal to teach the basic skills required for business. When the Randolph-Sheppard Act was adopted, it created a vending program for blind vendors--all blind vendors, not just those of a particular class. Those who believe that it is all right to discriminate against one or another segment of the blind must learn that they will have to face the united force of the National Federation of the Blind. We are the blind, and we stand together. That is why we have the National Federation of the Blind.
Two years ago I reported to you that we were helping with a lawsuit on behalf of Larry Reynolds. The case involved his right as a blind father to have his daughter visit him without sighted supervision. Now, the case has come to an end. The blatantly discriminatory requirement that a sighted supervisor be with him twenty-four hours a day is no more. A father and his daughter have been reunited without artificial barriers and discriminatory conditions. It happened because of the National Federation of the Blind.
Maureen Symes is a student who has earned an --A-- average at Linfield College in Oregon. Last year she applied to travel to Mexico for an extended period to study art. Students were accepted for the trip based upon academic standing and their responses to questions in a personal interview. Although Maureen Symes received high scores in the interview (and she does have that --A-- average), she was denied the opportunity to take the trip because of her blindness. Then, she learned of the National Federation of the Blind, and she asked for help. When we informed the president of the college that there had been violations of both state and federal law, the college changed its ruling. It is worthwhile to be a member of the National Federation of the Blind. Maureen Symes can tell you the reason why.
Henrietta Brewer is a child-care provider in Michigan. Last fall she applied to be director of an after-school day care program operated by the public school. However, the state of Michigan denied her the necessary license. The reason is the same old tired piece of make-believe that is almost always trotted out--safety. Knowing that Henrietta Brewer was thoroughly capable, the local school offered to hire her anyway without state approval, but officials from the certifying agency threatened to close the child-care program. Henrietta Brewer called upon the National Federation of the Blind. With our help a complaint has been filed under the Americans With Disabilities Act. There is no reason why Henrietta Brewer cannot perform child-care duties. She knows it; those in the school district know it; the blind know it; and state certifying officials are about to learn it.
Janet Roberts had been an exemplary employee at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eugene, Oregon, for seven years when she became blind. Although the hospital employs 2,500 people in dozens of different work assignments, Janet Roberts was informed that she would be terminated because of her blindness. There was no talk of reasonable accommodation, no discussion of retraining, no consideration of the alternative techniques that Janet Roberts could use to perform the essential functions of the job that she had managed with an outstanding record for seven years. Janet Roberts was blind; that, according to the hospital, was enough.
With the help of the National Federation of the Blind, Janet Roberts commenced legal action. Just before Christmas of 1992, the hospital offered Janet Roberts a new job, and she was paid a sizable cash settlement. Although the settlement agreement prohibits disclosure of the dollar amount, I strongly suspect that Janet Roberts is now able to consider the purchase of a new home. A job, a home, and no more discrimination--this is what comes of being a member of the National Federation of the Blind.
Connie Leblond serves as President of the National Federation of the Blind of Maine. Several years ago she applied for a job as a telephone answering machine operator at Sentinel Service of Portland, Maine. Sentinel had advertised that the job paid $5 an hour, that no experience was necessary, and that on-the-job training would be provided. Nevertheless, when Connie Leblond appeared for an interview, she was summarily dismissed without being given the chance to demonstrate her ability to do the work. Sentinel personnel said that the operator of the telephone answering machine must be able to read and that blind people are not able to do that. Despite her protests, Connie Leblond was peremptorily rejected. Using the combined know-how of the Federation at the national and state levels, we brought legal action against Sentinel. A trial occurred, and the decision has now been reached. Although the order of the court has been appealed to the Supreme Court of Maine, the decision is clear and unequivocal, and I suspect that it will not be overturned. Sentinel has been ordered to cease and desist its discriminatory policy, to pay $1,000 in civil damages to Connie Leblond, to reimburse us for the attorney fees expended in the case, and to issue a check for back wages to Connie Leblond amounting to $20,700. This is one more reason for the National Federation of the Blind.
The National Federation of the Blind has been active in protecting the rights of blind vendors. In 1987, the Maryland state licensing agency was taking seventeen percent of vendors' net income in set-aside payments. These charges had not been approved by the federal government even though the Randolph-Sheppard Act requires it. Furthermore, the agency had proposed set-aside charges of over twenty percent. These practices are clearly contrary to the federal requirement that such charges be approved by the Department of Education, so with the support and encouragement of the National Federation of the Blind seventeen Maryland vendors decided that they would make no further payments until the Maryland agency came into compliance with federal rules. The state agency responded with an ultimatum to the protesting vendors, saying that they must pay up or be expelled from the program in thirty days. The termination notices served as the basis for a complaint in the federal court.
The Maryland vendors' case lasted five years. In 1992, settlement papers were signed. No vendor was terminated for failing to pay set-aside, and the state agency may not retaliate against blind vendors for participating in the lawsuit. The extraordinary set-aside rates have been dropped to eight and a half percent and will be dropped to three percent by 1995. Every vendor's personal income will increase as a direct result of our efforts, and each vendor will also receive $2,000 per year for fringe benefits. The set-aside rate may not be increased by the state licensing agency before 2009. Vendors in Maryland would still be paying an exorbitant amount to the state agency if it had not been for the work of the National Federation of the Blind.
One of the ongoing activities of the Federation this year has been assistance to individuals with Social Security problems. Because the specialized rules regarding disability claims for the blind are different from those for other disability groups, mistakes sometimes occur. The Richard Realmuto case is a striking example. He became blind in December of 1989. He took a leave of absence from his industrial arts teaching job with the New York public school system and applied for Social Security Disability Insurance. After the five-month waiting period, he was awarded benefits, but three months later (in September of 1990) with assistance from the National Federation of the Blind, Richard Realmuto returned to his position as an industrial arts teacher. Indeed, the experiences of Richard Realmuto as a blind teacher of the sighted are illustrative. He will be making a presentation later during the convention.
Not long after his return to work, the Social Security Administration notified Richard Realmuto that he would be required to refund the entire amount paid to him from June of 1990. However, our examination of the case indicated that Richard Realmuto was entitled to every penny of the Social Security benefits that he had received--and then some. We proved it in a hearing. Rather than being required to repay almost $10,000 to the Social Security Administration, Richard Realmuto and his dependents received more than $12,000 of additional money. The outcome would undoubtedly have been the reverse if it had not been for our knowledge, our ability to do the research, our determined effort, and our capacity to apply the law to the facts. Richard Realmuto is bright, but he is not accustomed to the intricacies of federal regulation. When it comes to blindness and fighting for his rights, he is a relative newcomer. He needs the National Federation of the Blind, and of course, we need him, too. Working together we can solve the problems we face. This is why we have the National Federation of the Blind.
The National Federation of the Blind is among the most outspoken proponents of Braille. We produce and distribute more Braille each year than any other organization in the United States except the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Through our Parents of Blind Children Division, we conduct the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest to promote the learning of Braille for blind children. We have this year promoted the study of Braille by sighted students in the high school grades, and we have granted scholarships to attend this convention to three who have completed the National Library Service transcribing course. We have established and continue to expand the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind. We have been working jointly with the American Printing House for the Blind to create teaching materials for courses of study in Braille. We have joined with the Creative Director of the nationally-syndicated cartoon --Pluggers-- to employ the blind character Zackaroo to promote Braille literacy. In this effort we have adopted the slogan --Braille is finger food for the mind.-- And we promote Braille literacy programs in schools and in libraries throughout the United States. As an example, early in August, I will be reading Braille to five-year-olds who are participating in the story hour program of the Baltimore County Public Library. Within the past year the Blind Person's Literacy Rights and Education Act (more commonly known as the Braille Bill), which we drafted, has been adopted in one form or another by the legislatures of five states. So far, eighteen states have Braille literacy laws on the books. Although there is a great deal of work yet to be done, literacy for the blind is today more of a reality than it has ever been. Reading is essential. We of the National Federation of the Blind know this in our minds and our hearts. We will never quit until every blind child has the chance to learn to read.
At our convention last year, we discussed at length a plan which had been proposed by a small group within the rehabilitation establishment to create a national commission on blindness. The purpose of this commission was ostensibly to conduct research and provide advice on the subject of blindness to Congressional leaders, to officials in the executive branch of government, and to all other interested persons. The real purpose behind the proposal was to take control of the rehabilitation establishment for the blind and to prevent blind consumers from having significant input into the decision-making process. This proposal was included as a part of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1992. Although the bill to reauthorize the Rehabilitation Act was signed by the President last October, the national commission on blindness was no longer a part of it. We, the organized blind of this country, had voiced strong opposition to a commission that would interpret for us our needs and wants. Our voice was heard in the halls of Congress. We opposed the commission on blindness, and it was defeated.
I am pleased to report that included in the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1992 are provisions that those who are blind are presumed to be eligible for rehabilitation services and that blind clients have a right to choose among those who will provide those services.
During the past year we have initiated (in conjunction with others) three new programs. The Information Access Training Program, funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, is devoted to training blind people in the requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act regarding accessible information. The Work Incentive Training Program, funded by the Rehabilitation Services Administration, is designed to provide information about the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income work incentive provisions to rehabilitation professionals and consumers. The Braille Literacy Training Program is a cooperative venture with the American Printing House for the Blind to develop improved Braille training systems and materials for blind adults. The in-depth experience of blind people throughout the nation is essential to all of these programs. There is no other organization that can provide the kind of experience and background that we can bring to the performance of these endeavors.
Hank Dekker is a blind sailor. We will be hearing from him later during the convention. Ten years ago he sailed alone from San Francisco to Hawaii. A second solo trans-Pacific voyage was completed three years later. This summer, on July 26, Hank Dekker plans to pilot a sailing sloop, the --NFB,-- from Baltimore harbor into the Atlantic. His destination is Plymouth, England. This event, named --To Sea with a Blind Sailor,-- will demonstrate the capacity of the blind and will focus attention on the fundamental reality that we who are blind have the same hopes, desires, abilities, and dreams possessed by everybody else--including the dream to sail alone on the high seas. As we have so often said, blindness cannot stop us, but misunderstanding may. This summer, we the National Federation of the Blind will be supporting the blind blue water sailor, Hank Dekker, in his voyage. We believe in the blind; we believe in our member Hank Dekker; we believe he will successfully complete the voyage; we believe in the National Federation of the Blind.
With the adoption of the Americans With Disabilities Act, many who hoped to make a bundle by restructuring the world for what they perceive to be the unfortunate blind began to create proposals to install raised warning surfaces for us all over the country. Bumpy handrails; knurled doorknobs; sandpapery strips at the tops and bottoms of staircases; specialized tiles with large rounded bumps on them called Braille tiles, pathfinder tiles, or the like; and even homes with rounded corners and easy-to-follow floor plans specifically designed for the blind. All of these have been promoted as essential architectural alterations mandated by the Americans With Disabilities Act. Such modifications are not required by the Act, and they do more harm than good. Changes to the environment should be welcomed when they help but rejected when they don't. Our focus in the Federation is not on modifying the world but on having the opportunity to live in it as it is.
Last fall Peggy Pinder, Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind, was appointed by the President of the United States to serve as a member of the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, the federal agency responsible for deciding what modifications are required to ensure that handicapped people have full access to newly-constructed or remodeled public buildings and facilities. Her service as a member of this board has already been effective. The Architectural Barriers Board has for the first time reviewed the standard for Braille which should be used in creating signs for the blind. Prior to this review (even as recently as six months ago) much of the Braille produced on signs was completely unreadable. In addition, the Architectural Barriers Board has rejected some of the harmful proposals which have been made such as the one to require the installation of tiles with raised surfaces. We believe that this board should adopt the policy that those architectural changes which clearly do some good will be considered for inclusion in federal regulations--and that those which do not won't. This spirit seems evident in recent decisions of the board.
Fred Schroeder is Executive Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind and a Member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind. He is one of the most knowledgeable individuals about Braille in this country. For several years he has served as the representative of the National Federation of the Blind on the board of the Braille Authority of North America. He has been an active proponent of a unified Braille code in the United States, and his influence in promoting Braille has been felt in other nations as well. In 1992, the International Council on English Braille was established to serve as a catalyst to bring uniformity in the printing of Braille to all English-speaking countries. Fred Schroeder was elected as its first President. In June, a few weeks prior to our convention here, Fred Schroeder presided at the conference of the International Council on English Braille in Sydney, Australia. While in that country, he appeared on the program of the National Federation of Blind Citizens of Australia. He also traveled to New Zealand to present the keynote speech at the Braille Conference of the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind in Auckland. Although it is essential that we address problems in our own country, it is also beneficial to have interaction with those abroad.
We continue to publish and distribute the most extensive array of information about blindness produced in the United States. Our magazine, the Braille Monitor, provided in Braille, in print, on cassette, and on talking book record, is the most widely-read general information magazine in the field of work with the blind, having a circulation of more than 30,000 a month. Our publication the Voice of the Diabetic, with a circulation of over 60,000, is the most widely-distributed magazine about blindness in the nation. The magazine for parents and educators of blind children, Future Reflections, is being sent to over 10,000 individuals and institutions. And there are also the publications of state affiliates, other national divisions, and local chapters. In our studios at the National Center for the Blind, in addition to recording the Braille Monitor, Future Reflections, and the Voice of the Diabetic, we produce a number of other publications, including Job Opportunities for the Blind Bulletins, the American Bar Association Journal, Presidential Releases, recorded issues of our books, and a number of specialized publications and materials.
We are releasing at this convention two new books in the Kernel Book series: As the Twig is Bent and Making Hay. These general-interest publications about blindness capture the essence and spirit of our movement. We who are blind yearn for the opportunity to be independent and successful. These volumes bring inspiration and education to the homes of the general public. The response from those who have received our books shows that our approach to the subject of blindness is new, impressive, exciting, and convincing. We have now distributed more than two million of the Kernel Books, and more are coming.
Our public education program continues through our public service announcements. The capabilities of blind people have been broadcast this year on all of the major television and radio networks, and our service message has reached the homes of an estimated two hundred million people.
And then, there is the balloon. The name of the National Federation of the Blind may appear almost anywhere. Our flag and our banner were flown from a hot air balloon that participated in the 1992 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
There are now more than 200 types of aids and appliances being distributed from our Materials Center. We also distribute literature--now over 800 different items. Our reference book, What You Should Know About Blindness, Services for the Blind, and the Organized Blind Movement, has been sent to over 40,000 people this year, and a newly-published critical examination of the social status of the blind, entitled The Struggle of Blind People for Self-Determination by Professor C. Edwin Vaughan, has recently become available. The items that have been distributed this year from our Materials Center number about two million. Among them were 16,806 cane tips. I asked certain members of the Federation how long a cane tip lasts. The information I collected indicates that tips are good for at least thirty miles. At thirty miles a tip this is over half a million miles of cane travel. One thing is certain, Federationists get around.
This has been a year of accelerated growth for the Federation, but not all of our encounters have been positive. In 1992 David Robinson, a Federationist of long standing, was appointed as Administrator of the Ohio Client Assistance Program--the agency funded under the Rehabilitation Act to assist rehabilitation clients in gaining their rights. The Client Assistance Program is supposed to be an independent agency; the provisions of the Rehabilitation Act make this clear. Soon after his appointment, David Robinson learned that the Client Assistance Program in Ohio was being directed by the same administrators who were expected to provide rehabilitation services. This watchdog agency was (in violation of federal law) under the thumb of the people it was intended to watch. David Robinson complained about this condition and tried to get it changed. Within a few months, he had been relieved of his duties. Shortly before he was discharged, David Robinson was ordered to stop talking with Federation members--all Federation members--at least while he was at work.
We in the Federation have a right to be a part of this movement, and working for the state of Ohio cannot strip us of that right. It is guaranteed to us by the Constitution of the United States. In May of this year David Robinson and the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio filed suit. The case is not over; indeed, it is only beginning. But the principle that we will speak and act freely and independently, and work with each other to bring opportunities which have not previously been available to the blind is fundamental to us. We must and we will protect our right to be a part of the movement and to speak our minds. Such action is essential to maintain and achieve our freedom, and freedom of action we will have. In other words we intend to win the David Robinson case. This, too, is the meaning of the National Federation of the Blind.
As President of the National Federation of the Blind this year, I have encountered blind people matriculating in the schools; participating in civic affairs; working in offices, factories, and workshops; engaging in politics; creating art; writing books; planning international travel; sailing the seas; raising families; and enjoying leisure activities--in short, participating in every aspect of daily life. Although I am pleased to work with those outside our organization (public officials, representatives of agencies for the blind, members of the business community, and individuals from the academic world), my inspiration and my faith in the future come from you, the members of the National Federation of the Blind.
As I come to this convention, I know that the problems in the weeks, the months, and the years ahead will be great, but I also know--I am absolutely certain--that we as a people will do what we need to do. We will muster the resources; we will find the strength; we will have the dedication to meet the challenge. We in the Federation have made a commitment and a solemn promise. We will believe in each other and in ourselves; we will care for our blind brothers and sisters; and we will support our organization. Our movement is a sacred trust. We cannot do less than give it the energy, the resilience, and the spirit that is ours. This is the promise of our movement--this is the reality of the National Federation of the Blind. And this is my report for 1993.
[PHOTO: Dr. Jernigan standing at podium microphone. CAPTION: Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, President Emeritus, discusses the nature of independence with convention delegates at the Tuesday afternoon general session.]
THE NATURE OF INDEPENDENCE
An Address Delivered By
At the Convention of the
National Federation of the Blind
Dallas, Texas, Tuesday, July 6, 1993
Shortly after last year's convention, I received a number of letters from students at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. It was clear that the letters were written as the result of discussions held at the Center and that, although the apparent topic was independent mobility, the real issue was independence in general, and how blind persons should live and behave. I want to share those letters with you, then tell you how I answered them, and finally say a few things about what I think independence really is. The letters are all dated July 23, 1992. Here is a composite of them:
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
I am a sophomore in high school. Right now, I am in a teenage program that the Louisiana Center for the Blind is sponsoring. It is the STEP program. That means Summer Training and Employment Project. We are allowed to get jobs and make money as well as have classes.
A few weeks ago I attended the national convention. I really enjoyed all your speeches and everything. People noticed that you and Mr. Maurer walked sighted guide sometimes, [I interrupt to call your attention to the almost code-word use of the term "sighted guide." Not "walking with a sighted guide" or "walking with a sighted person" or "holding the arm of a sighted person," but "walking sighted guide." This makes it clear that the concept of "sighted guide" has been the topic of considerable conversation. But back to the letter.] and we thought you all would never walk sighted guide, because you all are so highly involved in the NFB. I never thought sighted guide was OK until then. So why did you all use sighted guide? I know there are many reasons why this might be. We discussed this in one of our talk times and came up with one reason this might be. We know that you all have to be at meetings all the time, and it would be faster if you would use sighted guide. [I interrupt again to call your attention to the use in the following sentences of the depersonalized "it." Now, back to the letter.] I am sure you don't use it so much that you lose your cane travel skills. I am not trying to say this is wrong. I was just wondering why you do this. Someone brought up that if we, as the people being trained at the moment, were caught using sighted guide, they would fuss at us. And I realize that you are not the one in training, so it is not wrong. We couldn't use sighted guide, because we might want to use it more than the cane if we use too much of it.
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
During this past convention in North Carolina some of us noticed that you did not walk with a cane. I do not understand this at all. I can understand that you have to be in many places in a short amount of time at the conventions, and that might be the reason you went sighted guide. But I also know that when you came for a tour of the Center, you also went sighted guide. We do not understand this.
We all have our own theories as to why you went sighted guide, but we want to get the correct answer straight from the horse's mouth.
Your fellow Federationist,
That's a very clear-cut letter, and I am pleased to be called that end of the horse. Here is the last one:
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
This year I came to Charlotte to attend my third national convention of the NFB. I am currently a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind in the STEP program for blind teenagers. This program stresses cane use, Braille literacy, employment readiness, and self-confidence based on achievement. While at the convention I heard from a friend that you were never actually seen using your cane. I discussed this with a group of friends, and it was decided that you most likely had many places to go and had to get to them quickly. This made sense, and the question seemed settled. Then one of the group remembered you using sighted guide during a tour you took of the Center while passing through Ruston on the way to the Dallas convention in 1990. This was such a hectic situation, and the question was no longer settled because the only alternative travel technique anyone noticed you using was sighted guide.
I do not mean this letter to imply any disrespect towards you, the Federation, or its many achievements. If the Federation had not pushed so hard for independence for the blind, I would have no grounds on which to write this letter. It is because of my own personal convictions about independence that I ask why the figurehead of the NFB is not himself using the alternative techniques that his student, Joanne Wilson, has been teaching for nearly ten years in Ruston.
I would prefer to end the letter on a positive note. I realize that you are responsible for the training I am currently receiving, and I am grateful for it. I am not implying that you have no cane skills, because I do not honestly know.
These are straightforward letters, seriously written. They raise fundamental questions, questions that deserve a reasoned answer. Here is the expanded substance of what I wrote:
July 29, 1992
Under date of July 23, 1992, the three of you wrote to ask me why I didn't travel alone with a cane during the national convention in Charlotte and why on a visit to the Louisiana Center in 1990 I took a sighted person's arm instead of walking alone with a cane. I appreciate your letters and will tell you why I do what I do.
In the first place let us assume that I didn't have any cane travel skills at all. This might be comparable to the situation of a parent who had no education but dreamed of an education for his or her child. That parent might preach the value of education and might work to send the child to high school and then to college. The parent might, though personally uneducated, feel tremendous satisfaction at the learning and accomplishment which his or her effort had made possible. In such circumstances what attitude should the child have toward the parent? The child might be critical of the parent for his or her poor grammar and lack of education and might even be ashamed to associate with the parent--or the child might feel gratitude for the sacrifice and the work that had made the education possible.
This is not an apt analogy since I have perfectly good cane skills, but it has elements of truth about it. When I was a child, there were no orientation centers or mobility training. The only canes available were the short heavy wooden type, and we youngsters associated carrying a cane with begging, shuffling along, and being helpless.
It was not until I finished college and had taught for four years in Tennessee that I first carried a cane. It was made of wood and had a crook handle. I might also say that it was longer than most of those in vogue at the time, forty inches. I started using it in 1953, just before going to California to work at the newly established state orientation center for the blind. The Center had been in operation for only a few months and had enrolled only four or five students by the time of my arrival.
In those days the California Center was using 42- inch aluminum canes. They were a tremendous improvement over the 40-inch wooden cane I had been carrying, and I immediately adopted the new model. Even so, it seemed that something better was needed. I worked with the person who had been employed as the travel teacher, and we experimented with different techniques and canes.
In the mid-1950's the solid fiberglass cane was developed. It was first made by a blind man in Kansas, but we at the California center popularized it and brought it into general use. We also worked to improve the tip. Our students received intensive training, those with any sight using blindfolds (or, as we called them, sleep shades), and our students and graduates were identifiable in any group of blind persons because of their competence and ease in travel. Since they had enjoyed the benefit of our study and experimentation, as well as intensive instruction and the time to practice, many of them probably became better travelers than I--and I felt pride and satisfaction in the fact. We were advancing on the road to freedom and independence.
In 1958 I went to Iowa as director of the state commission for the blind, and I carried with me the experience and knowledge I had acquired in California plus a 48-inch fiberglass cane and a head full of new ideas and hopes for the future. I hired a young sighted man who had no experience at all with blindness and spent several days giving him preliminary instruction in mobility, using blind techniques. First I had him follow me all over Des Moines, watching me use the cane while crossing streets and going to various places. Then, he put on sleep shades, and I worked with him to learn basic skills. Next I sent him to California for three or four weeks to gain further experience and to compare what I had taught him with what the California Center was doing. Finally he came back to Des Moines, and I spent several more weeks working with him until (though sighted) he could (under blindfold) go anywhere he wanted safely and comfortably using a cane.
During all of that time I worked with him on attitudes, for unless one believes that he or she is capable of independence as a blind person, independence in travel (as in other areas) is not truly achievable. This travel instructor's name is Jim Witte, and he developed into one of the best I have ever known.
Iowa students rapidly became the envy of the nation. You could single them out in any group because of their bearing, their confidence, and their skill in travel. As had been the case in California, some of them undoubtedly traveled better than I, and I felt a deep sense of fulfillment in the fact. Joanne Wilson (the director of your own Louisiana Center) was one of those students, and I am sure she has told you how it was at the Iowa Center--how students were treated, what was expected of them, the relationship between staff and students, our dreams for the future, and how we set about accomplishing those dreams. Arlene Hill (one of your teachers) was also an Iowa student. Both Joanne and Arlene are living examples of what we taught and how it worked. So are President Maurer, Mrs. Maurer, Peggy Pinder, Ramona Walhof, Jim Gashel, Jim Omvig, and at least fifty others in this audience.
It was in Iowa that we developed the hollow fiberglass cane. It was an improvement over the solid cane, lighter and more flexible. We also gradually began to use longer and longer canes. They enabled us to walk faster without diminishing either safety or grace. As I have already told you, I started with a 40- inch wooden cane. Then I went to 42-inch aluminum--and after that to solid fiberglass, then to hollow fiberglass, and (three or four years ago) to hollow carbon fiber. As to length, I went from 40 inches to 42, then to 45, 48, 49, 51, 53, 55, and 57. At present I use a 59-inch cane. It seems about right to me for my height and speed of travel. Will I ever use a still longer cane? I don't know--but at this stage I don't think so. Obviously there comes a time when a longer cane is a disadvantage instead of a help.
I've told you all of this so that you may understand something of my background and approach to independence in travel, and independence in general. The doctors who established the medical schools a hundred years ago were (with notable exceptions) not generally as competent and skilled as the doctors they trained, for they did not have the benefit of the kind of concentrated teaching they themselves were providing. Obviously they could not stand on their own shoulders. Through their students they extended their dreams into the future, building possibilities that they themselves had not known and could never hope to realize.
So it is with me in relation to you. You are the third generation of our mobility trainees, having the benefit of what I have learned and also of what Joanne and the other Iowa graduates have learned. Unless you make advances over what we have done, you will, in a very real sense, fail to keep faith with those who have gone before you and those who will follow. In this context I would expect and hope that some of you will become better travelers (and, perhaps, better philosophers and teachers) than I, and if you do, I will take joy in it.
Having said all of this, let me come back to my own travel skills. During the 1950's I traveled completely alone on a constant basis throughout this entire country, going to almost every state and dealing with almost every kind of environment--urban area, city bus, taxi, complicated street crossing, rural setting, hired private car, country road, and almost anything else you can imagine. During late December and early January of 1956 and 1957, for example, I traveled alone to fourteen states in eleven days, writing testimony for the NFB's Right to Organize bill. It was no big deal, and not something I thought about very much. It was simply a job that had to be done, and the travel was incidental and taken for granted. I have taught travel instructors and have developed new techniques and canes. I travel whenever and wherever I want to go in the most convenient way to get there--and sometimes that means alone, using a cane.
Once when I was in Iowa, students observed that I walked to a barber shop one day with another staff member, and they raised with me some of the same questions you have raised. That afternoon in our business class (you may call it by some other name-- philosophy or something else) I dealt with the matter. I told the students some of the things I have told you, and then I went on to say something like this:
"Although what I have told you should mean that even if I couldn't travel with much skill at all I might still not merit your criticism, we don't need to leave it at that. Follow me. We are going to take a walk through downtown traffic--and see that you keep up."
I took the lead, and we walked for eight or ten blocks at a fast clip. When we got back to the classroom, I didn't need to tell them what kind of travel skills I had. They knew.
Then, we talked about why I had walked to the barber shop with another staff member. In that particular instance I had matters to discuss, and I felt I couldn't afford the luxury of doing nothing while going for a hair cut. As a matter of fact, in those days I often made a practice of taking my secretary with me to the barber shop and dictating letters while getting my hair cut. Of course, I could have made a point of walking alone each time just to make a visible demonstration of my independence, but somehow I think that such insecurity might have made the opposite point and would certainly have been counterproductive.
In the Iowa days I was not only director of the state Commission for the Blind but also first vice president and then president of the National Federation of the Blind. Both were full-time jobs, requiring me to use to best advantage every waking minute.
I was up before 6:00 to go to the gym with the men students; I wrote over a hundred letters a week; I entertained legislators and other civic leaders an average of two or three nights a week to gain support for our program; I traveled throughout the state to make speeches; and I spent long hours working individually with students. Besides that, I handled the administrative details of the Commission and the NFB on a daily basis. At the same time I was doing organizing in other states and dealing with problems brought to me by Federationists throughout the country.
In that context it would have been a bad use of my time (and both Federationists and Iowa students and staff would have thought so) for me to spend much of my day walking down the street to make a visible show of my independent travel skills. I traveled alone when I needed to, and I gave demonstrations to students, legislators, and others when I needed to do that--but I never did either to convince myself or to establish in my own mind the fact of my capacity or independence. It didn't seem necessary.
So what about the NFB convention in Charlotte? I was in charge of convention organization and arrangements, and there were a thousand details to handle. There were four hotels and a convention center, each with its own staff and each requiring separate handling and a myriad of decisions. Sometimes I had not only one but two or three people with me as I went from place to place, talking about what had to be done and sending this person here and that person yonder.
Even so, I might (you may say) have refused to take the arm of one of the persons with me and used my cane to walk alone. But for what reason? When a blind person is walking through a crowd or down a street with somebody else and trying to carry on a meaningful conversation, it is easier to take the other person's arm. This is true even if you are the best traveler in the world and even if both of you are blind.
In fact, I contend that there are times when refusing to take an arm that is offered may constitute the very opposite of independence. If, for instance, you are a blind person accompanying a sighted person through a busy restaurant closely packed with tables and chairs, do you create a better image of independence by trying to get through the maze alone, with the sighted person going in front and constantly calling back, "This way! This way!" or by simply taking the sighted person's arm and going to the table? What is better about following a voice than following an arm? From what I have said, I presume it is clear which method I favor. Of course, if no arm is conveniently available, you should be prepared to use another method, regardless of how crowded the restaurant or how labyrinthine the path. In either case you should do it without losing your cool. But I'll tell you what alternative is not acceptable in such circumstance-- pretending that you don't want anything to eat and not going at all. That's not acceptable.
But back to the convention. When you are trying to get through crowds quickly to go from meeting to meeting, and possibly also trying to find different people in those crowds in a hurry, the efficiency of sighted assistance multiplies. Incidentally, even if I were sighted and doing the things I do at national conventions, I would want two or three persons with me--to look for people in crowds, to send for this and that, and to talk and advise with.
As an example, consider what happened at last year's convention with respect to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander. He has normal eyesight and is in every other way, so far as I know, able-bodied and energetic. I am sure that he can drive a car and walk vigorously. Yet, he sent an assistant to Charlotte a day in advance of his arrival. The assistant scouted out the convention and then went to the airport to meet the Secretary. The assistant drove the car from the airport to the convention, accompanied the Secretary into the meeting hall, went with him to the platform, met him at the edge of the platform when he finished speaking, and drove him back to the airport. If the Secretary had been blind, I wonder if somebody would have said, "Just look! He's not independent. He has to have a sighted person with him at all times, accompanying him everywhere he goes and driving his car."
Since I am not a student trying to learn to travel independently or to establish within my own mind that I can compete on terms of equality with others, and since I can and do travel by myself when that is most convenient, I feel no particular obligation to make a demonstration when it is more efficient to do otherwise. If I were a student, I should and would behave differently. As an example, I think a student should always use a rigid (not a collapsible) cane. But I generally use one that is collapsible. Why? Students often are uncomfortable with canes, and if they are allowed to use those that fold or telescope, they may tend to hide or conceal them because they think (even if subconsciously) that it will make them look less conspicuous. I have carried a cane for so long that I would feel naked without it, and I always carry one whether I am with somebody or not. Because they were so rickety, I refused to carry a collapsible cane until we developed the telescoping carbon fiber model. I pull it to such a tight fit that it doesn't collapse as I use it, and I almost never collapse it unless I'm in close quarters. Again, it is a convenience, and my sense of independence is not so brittle that I think I have to carry the rigid cane to prove to myself or others that I am not ashamed to be seen with it or uncomfortable about blindness.
When I was teaching orientation classes in California and Iowa, I often said to those in attendance that students at a center tend to go through three stages: fear and insecurity, rebellious independence, and normal independence--FI, RI, and NI. During fear and insecurity one tends to be ultracautious and afraid of everything, even if at times putting on a good front. During rebellious independence one tends to be overly touchy, resenting anybody who attempts to offer him or her any kind of assistance at all, even when the assistance is appropriate and needed. In the rebellious independence stage one is likely to be a pain in the neck, both to himself or herself and others--but this is a necessary step on the road from fear and insecurity to normal independence. Unfortunately some people never get beyond it.
Hopefully one will eventually arrive at the stage of normal independence, with relatively little need constantly to prove either to oneself or others that one is capable of independence and first-class citizenship. This means maturity in dealing with condescending treatment, and it also means flexibility in accepting or rejecting offers of assistance, kindness, or generosity. Sometimes such things should be graciously or silently taken, sometimes endured, and sometimes rejected out of hand--but the reason should never be because you doubt your own worth, have inner feelings of insecurity, or wonder whether you are inferior because of blindness.
Normal independence also means not rationalizing your fear or inability by saying that you are just doing what is convenient and efficient and that you don't feel the need to prove something when in reality you are just covering up the fact that you are as helpless as a baby--and it means not going so far the other way and being so touchy about your so-called independence that nobody can stand to be around you. It means getting to the place where you are comfortable enough with yourself and secure enough with your own inner feelings that you don't have to spend much time bothering about the matter one way or another. It means reducing blindness to the level of a mere inconvenience and making it just one more of your everyday characteristics--a characteristic with which you must deal just as you do with how strong you are, how old you are, how smart you are, how personable you are, and how much money you have. These are the goals, and probably none of us ever achieves all of them all of the time. Nevertheless, we are making tremendous progress--and we are farther along the road now than we have ever been.
I am pleased that you wrote me, and I am especially pleased that you are able to receive training at the Louisiana Center. It is grounded in Federation philosophy, and it is one of the best. You are getting the chance while you are young to learn what blindness is really like, and what it isn't like. You have the opportunity to profit from the collective experience of all of us--the things we tried that didn't work, and those that did. On the foundation of love and organizational structure which we have established, you can make for yourselves better opportunities than we have ever known--and I pray that you will. The future is in the hands of your generation, and I hope you will dream and work and build wisely and well.
That is what I wrote, and there have been a number of subsequent developments. One person, hearing these letters, said, "I can see your point, but don't you think you should try to be a role model?"
To which I replied, "I thought that was what I was doing." Then, there was the letter I got about a month ago from a person who attended a seminar at the National Center for the Blind last Christmas. She said in part:
The discussion about the letter from the students at the Louisiana Center for the Blind has stuck with me and helped me in two ways. I no longer feel the deep embarrassment I had been experiencing about being unable to read Braille and having less-than-perfect travel skills. I remain painfully aware that I could be much more efficient than I am, particularly if I could read and write Braille, but I no longer feel that I am less worthy because of the lack. And, by the way, I hope to take care of my deficiencies in that area soon.
The discussion also helped me better to appreciate and respect my dad, who was blinded by an on-the-job accident when he was 26. After he became blind, he went to law school, and I have always admired his relatively quick adjustment to blindness. On the other hand, I have always felt somewhat embarrassed that when traveling he uses a sighted guide the majority of the time. (For instance, I was horrified and disbelieving when I heard my dad flew to Alaska by himself to go fishing without his guide dog or a white cane!) He has a guide dog but only used him when he was going to work. I have never seen him use a white cane although I have just learned that he used one while in his office at work. However, the seminar discussion helped me to understand that everyone's situation differs and that the opportunities available are not uniform. My dad has accomplished a lot: He was an administrative law judge until he retired last month; he is an avid fisherman; and he is as pro-Braille as anybody I have ever met.
That is what the seminarian wrote me, and her letter makes a point. It is simply this: We absolutely must not become so rigid and dogmatic about the means and precise details of achieving independence that we make ourselves and everybody else around us miserable. Down that road lies bigotry, as well as the loss of any real independence or true normality.
Usually when I go to bed at night, I read myself to sleep with a recorded book. A few months ago somebody took me to task for this. The person said something to this effect: "You should not read recorded books. You should use Braille. After all, the Federation advocates Braille literacy, and if you use tapes and talking books, you decrease the circulation of Braille from the libraries, and you also set a bad example. What kind of statement are you making? What kind of image are you creating? You have an obligation to serve as a role model."
I didn't argue with the person. It wouldn't have done any good. Yes, I use Braille; and as you know, I find it helpful. More than that. My life would be poorer without it. But Braille is a means. It is a vehicle, not an article of faith. I am conscious of the fact that I have an obligation to be a role model, and I do the best I can to meet the requirement. But the kind of role model I want to be (for anybody who cares to see me that way) is that of a competent, well-balanced human being, not a caricature. The fact that I don't want to die of thirst doesn't mean that I want to drown.
What is independence? I would define it this way. With respect to reading, it means getting the information you want with a minimum amount of inconvenience and expense. For me that means Braille, but it also means using live readers, recordings, and (despite my limited competence in that area) a certain amount of work with computers. For somebody else the combination may be different, but any active blind person who lacks skill in Braille will be limited--not necessarily unable to compete but definitely limited.
As to travel, independence is the ability to go where you want when you want without inconvenience to yourself or others. Probably none of us (blind or sighted) ever fully achieves that goal all of the time--and almost all of us achieve at least some of it some of the time. Usually we are on a continuum.
If I could not travel by myself without discomfort or great expense, there are times when it would be a real problem. What about the trip I made to Kansas City in May of this year to meet with local Federationists and speak at a JOB seminar? My wife had other things to do, and it would have been inconvenient to take somebody else. I went alone. Did I have any assistance during the trip? Yes. At times--when it was convenient for me and not inconvenient to others.
What about the time last month when I was called for jury duty? It would have been very difficult for a guide to have accompanied me to the jury box or the jury room--so, of course, I went by myself. Does that mean that nobody showed me where the jury box was or gave other assistance? No. It means that I went where I needed to go without inconvenience to me or those around me. That is what I call independence.
Just as with the sighted, there are times when you as a blind person want privacy--want to go somewhere (to see a boyfriend or girlfriend, for instance) without being accompanied by your daily associates, want to buy a present for a friend or a loved one, or just feel like following a whim. In such cases a dog or a cane is helpful. On the other hand, there are times when the assistance of a sighted person is extremely beneficial. Taken by itself, the use or lack of use of a sighted guide has very little, if anything at all, to do with real independence. In fact, the whole notion of independence (not just in mobility but also in everything else) involves the concept of doing what you want when you want, and doing it without paying such a heavy price (either monetarily or otherwise) that the thing is hardly worth having once you get it or do it.
In conclusion, I say to each member of this organization: Hold your head high in the joy of accomplishment and the pride of independence--but not because of dog or cane or human arm, and not because of your ability to read Braille or use a computer. These are the trappings of independence, not the substance of it. They should be learned, and used when needed--but they should be regarded only as means, not ends. Our independence comes from within. A slave can have keen eyesight, excellent mobility, and superb reading skills--and still be a slave. We are achieving freedom and independence in the only way that really counts--in rising self-respect, growing self-confidence, and the will and the ability to make choices. Above all, independence means choices, and the power to make those choices stick. We are getting that power, and we intend to have more of it. That is why we have organized. That is why we have the National Federation of the Blind. We know where we are going, and we know how to get there. Let anybody who doubts it put us to the test. My brothers and my sisters, the future is ours! Let us meet it with joy; let us meet it with hope; and (most important of all) let us meet it together!
[PHOTO/CAPTION: President Maurer delivers the 1993 banquet address.
[PHOTO: Aerial view of ballroom during 1993 NFB convention banquet. CAPTION: The ballroom of the Hyatt Regency hotel was filled with Federationists eager to enjoy the banquet festivities and hear President Maurer's address.]
THE CONTINUITY OF LEADERSHIP: TWIN REQUIREMENTS
An Address Delivered by
President, National Federation of the Blind
At the Banquet of the Annual Convention
Dallas, Texas, July 8, 1993
There are two fundamental kinds of leadership that may be exercised by nations, by individuals, or by social action organizations. The first (and more common) is reactive. In times of crisis the political leader must find ways to bring positive results from circumstances which present no good alternative. The second (and perhaps the more important) is creative. The political leader must anticipate what might be caused to occur if an action is taken or avoided--even though there is no event that demands an immediate response.
Leadership is essential in a crisis if disaster is to be averted. But even more significant, leadership is vital when no crisis is imminent. In times of turmoil or stress it is perfectly clear that something must be done. When there is no impending calamity, there is also no obvious need for leadership--but without leadership there is only stagnation. If progress is to be realized, there must be leadership. Especially when the exigencies of circumstance do not demand it.
In 1970 the sixth largest corporation in the United States (Penn Central) declared bankruptcy. It did so because it owed hundreds of millions of dollars in short-term debt. Shortly before the filing with the bankruptcy court, leading financial planners contemplated the possible results. As soon as this mammoth corporation defaulted, all short-term debt obligations for all companies in America would become suspect. The short-term debt at that time amounted to over forty billion dollars. The default would almost certainly cause widespread financial panic. The companies that had loaned the hundreds of millions to the bankrupt could not get the money back, and they would not be able to meet their own financial needs. If they could not obtain immediate credit, many of these companies would, in their turn, be faced with ruin. Layoffs would be massive, and there would be no new jobs for those who had become unemployed.
The disaster did not occur because individuals at the Federal Reserve Bank anticipated the need for extraordinary amounts of money, and (within less than two days) created the mechanism to assure American bankers and capital managers that credit would be found to meet the ongoing demands of business despite the multi-million-dollar loss. Although a catastrophe of monumental proportions had been avoided, this remarkable feat of monetary management was not widely reported--even though the bankruptcy of Penn Central was.
The most important form of leadership is not reactive but creative. It examines conditions as they exist and imagines what may be possible if energy and resources can only be focused. It dreams not of solving the present crisis or avoiding anticipated tragedy. Instead, it seeks to explore new avenues of thought and to build social structures, human understanding, and technological applications that have never been tried.
The history books tell us that the American Revolution began in 1775 and that the Declaration of Independence inaugurated our nation on the fourth of July, 1776. The leadership which propelled the American Revolution is well-documented and dramatic. But if the focus of the historian is on the period of the revolution alone, an essential element in the reallocation of political and social balances is omitted. The leadership that occurred during the revolution is of the kind that reacts to dire circumstance. The Declaration of Independence lists the evils which the revolution was intended to correct. However, there is a theory which maintains that the most important form of leadership on this side of the Atlantic transpired before the first shot was fired and long before the Declaration was signed.
To be successful, the revolution had to occur within a society which believed that the old order was no longer tenable. The military strategists could synthesize and implement the alteration, but the underlying reality of the thought processes, at least in large measure, needed to be in place. Otherwise, the population on the North American continent would not have tolerated the revolution. The leadership which brought the citizens of the colonies to believe --That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES-- occurred long before the march to Lexington and Concord in 1775. That leadership had already created in the minds of the American colonists the conviction that our country should be free and independent--that reliance on those governing other lands was no longer endurable--that an entirely innovative form of government should be adopted.
Although certain patterns of human behavior recur, the complex fabric of being is ever new. As we meet here tonight in the largest gathering of the blind that will assemble anywhere in the United States this year, the opportunities for leadership will be (and are) abundant. What will our reaction be to the challenges of today? But even more to the point, what can we create through focused energy and collective imagination for tomorrow?
In 1940, when Dr. Jacobus tenBroek and a small group of other blind people brought the National Federation of the Blind into being in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, conditions for the blind were exceedingly poor. There was very little training, almost no opportunity for employment, and (except for occasional social encounters) almost no chance for meaningful interaction. Schools for the blind had been established in many states, but almost without exception these institutions had not found a way to encourage their students to become productively employed. Some sheltered workshops had been created, but the work was simple and repetitive, and the pay was dismally low. Modern training centers had not yet been invented. Almost no blind person had learned to travel confidently with a cane. Training in the manual arts, home economics, and communication skills was not readily available. When the Federation came into being on that eventful day in 1940, the notion of widespread productivity for blind people was no more than a shadow and a dream.
What a dramatic contrast with conditions as we find them today after more than fifty years of effort! Blind people are now students in the schools, colleges, and universities, both public and private. Employment opportunities for the blind are (for many of us) not a matter for the decades to come but a reality of the present. Blind people have become teachers, farmers, factory workers, restaurant operators, scientists, engineers, and financial consultants. Increasingly, the blind are accepting the responsibilities of a job, a home, and a place in the community. Not only are we becoming participants in the social structure of our country, but ever more often we are helping to shape it. Some of us have become active in politics, and others of us are sailing the seas and managing race cars. Not all of the problems faced by the blind have been solved--far from it. But many have. Not all of the negative attitudes about us have been eradicated, but it is fair to say that all of them have been affected by our years of effort. The reason for the alteration can be found in this room tonight--in the sacrifice, the commitment, and the belief of the blind of this nation--in our organization, the National Federation of the Blind.
Until the establishment of the National Federation of the Blind in 1940, leadership in matters involving the blind was provided (to the extent that it was provided at all) by those in the governmental and private agencies doing work with the blind. It was assumed that blind people themselves should not attempt to become leaders because the effort would meet with inevitable failure.
In 1937 (and I remind you that 1937 was more than a third of the way through the present century) a book was published that today would be unimaginable. It would either be the target of intense anger or uproarious laughter. And it was written by a blind author--a man of some renown at the time--Henry Randolph Latimer. Entitled The Conquest of Blindness, it contains the following astonishing statements:
To what extent may the physically blind person, with safety, lead the physically blind?
Time and time again, here and there, --all-blind-- societies have been formed with the avowed purpose of taking over the affairs of blind people, only to disintegrate through dissensions incident to their self-imposed isolation.
At best, [Latimer continues] blindness is a negative bond of common action. As such, like any other human want, it weakens and disappears in exact proportion as its needs are met. Accordingly, all-blind clubs and societies include among their active membership comparatively few of the independently successful blind people.
That's what he says, and I want you to keep in mind that he's talking about you and me. I wonder how he'd feel if he could be here with us tonight in our thousands. Regardless of that, here is some more of it:
On the other hand, their stronger members tend to become lukewarm and to seek more practical outlets for their superfluous energy. Thus the less experienced and less capable members assume leadership in the affairs of the club, causing the society to lose impetus and prestige.
Here, I guess, he's talking about me and those of you who are national board members, state and local presidents, and state and local board members. But back to brother Latimer.
So it is, [he continues] with few exceptions, that such societies contain within themselves the conditions of inertia and decay. It is as literary, musical, or otherwise mutually beneficial societies that all-blind organizations prove most useful.
It cannot, then [he continues], be through the all-blind society that the blind leader of the blind finds adequate opportunity for the exercise of his leadership. The wise leader will know that the best interests of each blind person lie within the keeping of the nine hundred and ninety-nine sighted people who, with himself, make up each one thousand of any average population. He will know, further, that if he wishes to promote the interests of the blind, he must become a leader of the sighted upon whose understanding and patronage [patronage, he says] the fulfillment of these interests depends. There is, nevertheless, no advantage accruing from membership in an all-blind organization which might not be acquired in greater measure through membership in a society of sighted people.
Federationists, take note!
Three years after Latimer's publication about the futility of the blind trying to lead the blind, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, the blind person who would serve as the most striking illustration of the capacity of the blind for the next twenty-five years, founded the National Federation of the Blind--and, incidentally, tangibly refuted Latimer's thesis. In addition to leading the Federation, handling a full-time teaching load, and raising a family, Dr. tenBroek published scores of articles and five full-length books. One of these received the Woodrow Wilson Award as the best treatise for political science for the year, and the others are quoted in law schools and legal periodicals to this day. The quality of his leadership came to be reflected throughout the National Federation of the Blind and set the standard for the quality of leadership throughout the organization as a whole. How different has our experience been from the theory propounded by Henry Randolph Latimer.
Although the Latimer thesis could not easily have been refuted at the time it was written, such is no longer the case. By the early 1950's Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, one of the most profound philosophers and powerful writers ever to consider the subject of blindness, had become a part of the organized blind movement. For more than a generation Dr. Jernigan has continued the tradition of Dr. tenBroek. He has led; he has taught; he has inspired others. We who have heard that resonant voice have understood the truth and recognized the wisdom. The struggle to achieve independence by the blind has been conducted in every part of our nation, and the single most powerful instrument in this effort has been our organization--the organization conceived by Dr. tenBroek and built by Dr. Jernigan with the help of so many others--our movement, the National Federation of the Blind.
If we who are blind possess leadership talents, why are we not leading? In many instances, of course, we are, but the examples of leadership among us have almost always been dismissed. They have not been regarded as a part of the normal pattern of human behavior. Instead, they have usually been ascribed to inspirational and miraculous powers. Miracles don't need to be explained. If you can explain them, they aren't miracles, but only science.
A contemporary of Dr. tenBroek's is the blind World War II resistance fighter Jacques Lusseyran, who was blinded at the age of eight. This Frenchman began his work of organizing one of the French underground resistance movements in 1939 when he was sixteen. With an original membership of fifty-two boys, all under the age of twenty-one, this organization grew within a year to over 600. In 1943 Lusseyran was captured by the Gestapo and sent to a Nazi prison camp. When inmates of the camp were freed in 1945, Lusseyran was one of the few survivors.
After the war was over, Jacques Lusseyran sought a professorship at the university. Despite his heroism in fighting for his country, and despite his brilliant accomplishments at the Sorbonne, Lusseyran was barred from the classroom. In the 1950's he was eventually permitted to teach in France. He later became a teacher in the United States, and finally achieved the status of full professor at Case Western Reserve University, in Ohio. The leadership potential of this blind man cannot be doubted. Yet, the blind organizer and leader of the French resistance was prohibited from teaching in the very country he had helped to save. And why? Because he was blind.
The notion that the blind can and should lead the blind is still sometimes resisted, even today, by some of the officials of the more reactionary governmental and private agencies for the blind, who attempt to dissuade us from taking independent action. The notion that we might have full lives or think and act for ourselves is not even considered. We are depicted as so lacking in talent, so shrouded in misery, and so racked with pain that all we need--in fact all we can use--is custody, and care. Custody and care, incidentally, provided by these agencies. Custody and care requiring a lot of money--either from the public or the government, or preferably from both. Consider, for instance, this language from a recent appeal made by the National Association for Visually Handicapped. Think about it carefully. Here is what it says:
A Time Filled With Sunshine and Leisure
But Not For Everyone
There are those to whom the glare of bright sunlight means pain, to whom longer days mean longer periods of emptiness, to whom the change of season brings only heat and further isolation.
Our unique services help ease the pain with visual aids, temper the heat with warmth and caring, [you'd think, by the way, that at least they would offer coolness and caring, but back to their appeal] and fill the emptiness with youth activities and large print books.
The National Association for Visually Handicapped [their letter continues] is the only national health agency solely devoted to the partially seeing.
We reach out to people who live with the --Heartbreak of Being a Little Bit Blind,-- to whom the brightness of the day does nothing to clear the blur that is a loved one's face, nor offer a world different from that viewed as if through a rain-splattered window.
Won't you help us add a ray of hope to the summer sunshine?
That, in part, is what the letter of the National Association for Visually Handicapped says--and what a picture! Are blind people ever lonely? Of course, we are. Does blindness isolate? Sometimes. It can. Are these the overwhelming experiences of blindness? Only if we leave the management of our lives to people like those who wrote this appeal. Only if we suffer the ministrations of the National Association for Visually Handicapped and their ilk. Only if we accept the misconceptions about blindness typified by this letter. Only if we default on the challenges of leadership.
The National Association for Visually Handicapped says that it is working on behalf of --the over eleven million visually impaired in the United States.-- Do you think they're working for you and me? Maybe we would be better off if they weren't working so hard--and, incidentally, collecting so much money. If their help consists of telling the world how lonely and isolated we are, how racked with pain, we can do without it. Let them keep their visual aids and youth activities. We can do without them. Let them keep their syrupy speeches and tearful fund-raising appeals in our name. We can do without. We are finding our own way, and the road we are traveling leads to first-class status and full membership in society. Yes, and we are providing our own leadership.
In 1991, Pantheon Books released the American edition of Touching the Rock: An Experience of Blindness by the blind professor John M. Hull. This book contains the introspection of a man who has become blind in middle life.
Hull's feeling of dependence, resulting from his belief that the blind are less capable than the sighted, is expressed in his attitude toward walking with a friend. Here are portions of the text:
When I am walking into work, [says Hull] it is not unusual for people to ask if I need any help.
Now, with me, a curious thing takes place. I lose my independence as soon as I accept my friend's company. This is because I must put a finger under the elbow of my companion, in order to locate him, to keep abreast of him, so as not to keep walking into him. I am like a hitch-hiker. I am being towed, moving more rapidly than would normally be possible.
Moreover [he continues], we have to have conversation. If you are walking along with somebody for company, you talk. This means that I cannot devote to my route the concentration which it would normally require.
This means that a sighted person cannot simply accept my company. Through no fault of his own, he has, by walking with me, deprived me of my independence.
Through no fault of my own, I have sacrificed my independence for the sake of his company. He then becomes responsible for me. He becomes like a car towing a caravan. It is his responsibility to make sure that the vehicle he is towing is still there, i.e., that I do not become detached from him at some crucial point of the route.
These are some of the thoughts of Professor Hull. Blindness is (for him) an all-pervasive and all-important element of his life--but this formulation is manifestly not the truth. Blind people are not less able than others to manage the ordinary activities of everyday life. Walking with a friend does not strip us of our independence.
Professor Hull believes that sight is essential and that although the blind can sometimes substitute other senses, the substitution is always inferior. For example, stimulation of the urges of the body for food and (you guessed it) sex are, according to Hull, primarily visual. Here, in part, is what he says:
Early in infancy we learn to associate our desires with the visual images of the things which satisfy them. So complete is the identification of desire with image that it becomes difficult to distinguish between --I feel hungry-- and --I want to eat that food which I see there.--
Blindness dislocates this primordial union of desire and image.
[I interrupt to say that I really wonder whether these high-flown notions have any connection with everyday life. Is there really a primordial union of desire and image? Has your primordial union suffered a dislocation in your attempt to eat your dinner tonight? But back to Professor Hull.]
Naturally [he continues], sight is not the only sense to be involved. As always, however, sight is the foundation upon which the other senses build.
I am often [says Hull] bored by food, feel that I am losing interest in it, or cannot be bothered eating. At the same time, I have the normal pangs of hunger. Even whilst feeling hungry, I remain unmotivated by the approach of food.
Something rather similar [he continues] seems to happen in the case of sexual desire. The image [visual I presume he means] of that which satisfies is quite inseparable from the realization of the desire itself.
So it is possible, I think [says Hull], for a heterosexual blind man to be bored by women and yet to be conscious of sexual hunger. The trace of a perfume and the nuance of a voice are insubstantial when compared with the full-bodied impact upon a sighted man of the appearance of an attractive woman. There must be many [blind] men who wonder whether they will ever again be capable of genuine sexual excitement.
To which I respond, don't you believe it. When you are hungry, do you find yourselves uninterested in food? Are blind people generally a lot skinnier than the sighted? And speaking of desire, perhaps I should address myself to the men. Do you wonder whether you will ever again be capable of genuine sexual excitement? Take a moment, think of women. Are you bored? And what do you women say? Have you lost the power of romantic encounter?
It is a temptation to dismiss the writings of Professor Hull as the work of a nut. However, the Washington Post says of his book that --it glows with a light that enables the sighted to see a world beyond ordinary experience, and the blind reader to identify with a role model of uncommon courage and sensitivity. We must all be grateful [the Post says] for the appearance of this stunning book.--
That is what the Washington Post says, but Professor Hull is no model for us to follow. He is headed in the wrong direction. He believes that he is weaker and less capable than his sighted colleagues, and perhaps he is, but the problem is not his blindness. If he could only know the members of the National Federation of the Blind--if he could know and follow the example of that other professor, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, what might his life become?
Within the past few years a number of books have been written which have attempted to capitalize on the special needs or unusual requirements of the blind. One of these books, entitled One Way or Another: A Guide to Independence for the Visually Impaired and Their Families, is a compilation of helpful hints. There is apprehension for the newly blinded and their families about what lies ahead. Nevertheless, I wonder whether the suggestions in this book will help to alleviate the distress or will simply enhance the uncertainty. Here are some of the suggestions:
Before you even begin the process of reorientation [say the authors], discuss it at length with the visually impaired person. You can suggest tasks that are safety oriented, such as dialing the phone, and finding the front door.
Don't make decisions for him. If he wants to keep the elaborate furniture arrangement and learn to navigate around it--so be it! Applaud his sense of adventure and determination. Don't insist that he move all the furniture against the walls just because it would make the reorientation easier for you.
These are the exact words of the book, and the question comes to mind, are the authors serious? Is it advisable to adopt a special arrangement of the furniture for the blind? Why would it be easier to push the furniture against the wall? But there is more.
If [the authors say] your loved one is reluctant to leave his bedroom, allow him that. But help him explore that room--show him every inch. As he gains confidence in his bedroom, he will soon want to branch out and reacquaint himself with every room in the house. Ask if he would like you to set up guide ropes or landmarks, as temporary aids, to help him find his way around.
This is what the authors say, and you would think that they were talking about small, not very bright children--but they aren't, they're talking about adult blind people. They're talking about you and me--including guide ropes in the living room. Although I have been totally blind for a great many years, and although I have known thousands of blind people (many of them newly-blinded), I have never yet met a blind person who had guide ropes installed in his house to get from room to room.
In 1568, the Flemish artist, Pieter Bruegel, painted The Parable of the Blind also entitled The Blind Leading the Blind. Six blind men are depicted traveling together. The six form a line by having the second man hold to the first, the third hold to the second, and so on until they are all connected. The leading blind character has fallen into a brook, and the second is in the act of falling. Those still erect are clearly headed for the same fate.
The blind men apparently suffer from at least five different kinds of eye diseases. The accuracy of detail in the painting is noteworthy because, at the time it was completed, very little was known about diseases of the eye. Blindness, it was believed, was the result of bad gasses rising from the stomach. Advice from doctors of the sixteenth century to those suffering eye disorders was that an attendant should be found to --blow into the eye gently with a breath sweetened by chewing cloves or fennel.--
The Bruegel painting would be interesting only for historical purposes, except that it has served as the basis for a novel by Gert Hofmann entitled The Parable of the Blind, published in Germany in 1985, and translated for publication in the United States in 1986.
The novel relates the events of the day in the lives of the six blind men who posed for the Bruegel painting. At dawn they are awakened from sleep in a barn by a banging on the door. At dark they are again locked in the barn for the night. The hours between are described in painful detail. The six are shown as cringing, self-centered, suspicious, but above all bumbling, unfit, inept. It may be that there are six blind people in this country today who are so lacking in perception that they could fit the portrayal, but I doubt it. When they wake in the barn, they do not know their own names but must take a moment to remember. They are not certain how many of them are present. They feel themselves all over to recall what they are like and to seek some identity with what they were yesterday and what they may become tomorrow. But, let Mr. Hofmann speak for himself. Here are his own words:
A knocking on the barn door drags us out of our sleep. No, the knocking isn't inside us, it's outside, where the other people are.
Yes, we call as we crouch there. Now what do you want of us?
And he asks if we've forgotten about being painted today.
So we must get up now and go to the village green. It's time, the knocker says. We have to walk around in the village a bit, to practice.
And why walk around?
Because we've got to practice the walking that will be painted, the knocker says. Especially the stumbling and falling, the different kinds of fall.
But aren't we going to be painted sitting?
No, not sitting, the painter says.
So we're going to be painted walking?
Stumbling and falling and screaming.
Do we have to practice screaming?
He doesn't know. Probably we'll have to.
Wait, we call, we're coming.
Slowly, clawing at one another, we get out of the straw, struggle to our feet. Then we grope at ourselves and at one another. Then we pass our hands over our bodies. Yes, we're still the same people as yesterday. And probably to the end we'll be yesterday's people and gradually now we remember ourselves better, down to the smallest details. Everything comes back again, even that which was buried, and we're very startled. We remember our names again too, the names we call one another. And this morning, as we feel our heads, arms, and sticks, we're probably the same for others. This is how we'll be painted, it will be quite a big picture, because there are several of us, six perhaps.
That is what the author says, and despite the surrealist style, the depiction of the blind is the same old tiresome lie which has been monotonously told from the beginning of time. Do you wake in the morning and rub yourself all over to remember who you are? Do you have to work to recall your own name? The author's fantasy is just that--fantasy! But of course, he may argue that he was not describing fact but creating an allegory. He may say that the behavior of the characters is exaggerated for emphasis. Indeed, there is dialogue later in the book which might suggest this thought. Consider this portion of the text:
Isn't that it? the painter says. And he's very excited now by the sight of us (the sight of us on the bridge and on the canvas). Which, as he exclaims again and again, does wondrously sum up the ways of the world and the fate of man. Nor do we know [the novel continues] what the sight of us sums up for the painter, we just go on saying: All right, now we'll fall, all right, time to fall. And let ourselves be led back to the bridge, stumble, scream, and fall. But we can't leave the scene yet, we're still being painted. The painter is the only person who isn't worn out, while his good friend calls out to him over and over again how excellent he finds what's being painted, and that if the painter means to paint a masterpiece he only has to go on like this. Until we suddenly feel we're not needed anymore, until somebody even shouts this to us. Somebody who'd been silent till now shouts it from the window.
Stop now, he shouts, take them away.
Both the Flemish painter and the twentieth century author apparently believe that the blind are a striking example of the benighted guiding the ignorant. The predetermined result is inescapable disaster. But their characterization is not the truth. We who are blind are not forever bound in intellectual isolation. Blindness does not equate with stupidity. We possess talents, and we are living demonstrations that we can be creative. We have the curiosity, the commitment, and the energy to play a full part in the society in which we live.
There is at least one other way to interpret the Hofmann parable. Time and time again the blind are used to achieve somebody else's private ends regardless of the harm that may be caused to the blind. The parable of Hofmann's book may be that if the blind do not lead the blind, there will be oppression, tyranny, and humiliation. The real moral of the novel (the one that Hofmann himself probably did not understand) is that we must accept the demands and challenges of leadership and the direction of our own lives. If we do not, the theorizing about blindness and the shaping of public attitudes concerning the blind will be left to others--to writers like Hofmann and Hull. We cannot, and we will not let this happen. Hofmann's parable is not ours. It may have had power for a different era, but that time is no more. We are the blind, the organized blind--and we intend to lead. We have come together from every part of the nation, and we have formed a common bond. We think and write and act for ourselves. We are the National Federation of the Blind.
Blindness and blind people have been misrepresented, falsely portrayed, and misunderstood from the beginning of recorded history. The thinkers, the dreamers, the shapers of political thought and cultural comprehension have almost always been sighted. If they ever thought about blindness, they gave it only the briefest attention. They assumed that they themselves would not be able to compete effectively if they lost their sight, and they attributed this presumed incompetence to us as well, to all of the blind. Leadership with respect to the affairs of the blind has proceeded during almost all of history from the viewpoint of the sighted. Until quite recently blind people have not, to any great extent, been leaders of the blind.
When the National Federation of the Blind was founded a fundamental change in emphasis and prospect was initiated. But the creation of a body of philosophical understanding which would permit the establishment of a pattern of leadership by blind people could not be fully developed in a year, a decade, or even half a century. The notion that the blind could and would lead the blind demanded a change in the basic thought processes of society--in the entire culture--not only of the sighted but also of the blind.
It is of utmost significance to respond with decision and determination in times of crisis. We, the organized blind, must be prepared to take concerted action whenever our collective effort can solve the immediate problems we face. However, of even greater importance is the need to stimulate an atmosphere of understanding--of acceptance of the blind on terms of equality. This must occur all over the nation--in our homes, our immediate neighborhoods, and our broader communities. The leadership that inspires this attitude must be a part of our thoughts and actions every day.
If we collectively and individually do not meet the challenge of leadership which is now before us, the odd-ball notions and crazy ideas about us will continue to impede our progress and stifle our growth. Furthermore, there is nobody that can do it for us--we must meet the challenge ourselves. Let the sighted march with us, and increasingly they do. Let the governmental and private agencies join the effort, and ever growing numbers are doing so. But in the final analysis, others cannot shape the future for us. We must make our own tomorrow. We know what our problems are, and we know how to deal with them. We know how to find the means and how to focus the effort. We cannot fail or turn back. The stakes are too high and the prize too great. In the spirit of Dr. Perry, who was the precursor; of Dr. tenBroek, who was the founder and pioneer; and of Dr. Jernigan, who has been the organizer and builder--yes, and also in the spirit of those who will look back to test our actions and judgment, we of this generation must and will do what is needed to bring the blind closer to full membership in society. We will respond to crisis as we must, but we will also be creative and plan ahead. In the certainty of our strength to do what must be done and our belief in each other and ourselves, we face the future with confidence and joy. We are the organized blind. We are the National Federation of the Blind. My brothers and my sisters, we will make it come true!
[PHOTO: Class portrait of 1993 scholarship winners. CAPTION: NFB SCHOLARSHIP WINNERS, 1993. Front row (left to right): Tina Ektermanis, Zuhair Mah'd, Brigid Doherty, Angie Matney, Ann Edie, Colleen Wunderlich, Kathleen Hart, Chuck Strickland. Center row (left to right): Denise Howard, Al Fogel, Mary Hurt, Jim Salas, Saeed Golnabi, Bill Cuttle, Matthew Brink, Christopher Smith, Maren Christensen. Back row (left to right): Jennifer Lehman, Jack Allord, Laura Biro, Janelle McEachern, Christopher Foster, Jonathan Mize, Carolyn Scharkey, Marvelena Desha, Sally Nemeth.]
THE SCHOLARSHIP CLASS OF 1993
The task of the National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Selection and Award Committees is never easy. During the spring the members of the selection committee must pore over many hundreds of scholarship applications to choose the group of finalists, who will attend the convention to compete for the various awards. Then during convention week, when there are always at least five things one wants to do with every free moment, the awards committee members must find the time to get to know each of the twenty-six winners in order to make the final judgments in the competition. This year the job was particularly difficult. The Class of '93 is talented and energetic. A number of its members are already active in the Federation, and during the convention many others began to demonstrate deep interest in and personal response to our philosophy and commitment to changing what it means to be blind. Here are the 1993 scholarship winners as they presented themselves to the Board of Directors at its Monday, July 5, meeting. Peggy Pinder, Chairman of the Scholarship Committee, introduced each person and listed first the state from which the winner comes and then the state in which he or she will be a student this coming fall. This is what the winners had to say in the few seconds they were given in which to introduce themselves:
Jack Allord, Wisconsin, Wisconsin: "Good morning, everyone. I'm Jack Allord from Shawano, Wisconsin. I went to Illinois School of Technology and studied mechanical engineering. After that I went into the Army, and they saw fit to make a Korean interpreter out of me. After the Army I went to Northern Illinois University and got a degree in biology, studying genetics. After that I went to Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, and got a doctor of dental surgery degree. Right now I'm at the University of Wisconsin in Green Bay, studying administration science. I hope to go into health care administration. Extracurricularly, I'm on the Independent Living Council of Wisconsin. I'm a speaker for the visual impairment program at North Central Technical College. I am very active in Free Masonry--I'll be the Grand Master of Free Masons in Wisconsin in 1996. Thank you."
Laura Biro, Michigan, Michigan: "Good morning, fellow Federationists. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the National Federation of the Blind not only for honoring me with a scholarship, but for your continued love and support. I am currently a junior at Sienna Heights College in Adrian, Michigan, where I'm pursuing a career in social work. My ultimate goal is to obtain a master's degree and work with handicapped children. Thank you."
Matthew Brink, Michigan, Michigan: "Thank you, Miss Pinder, and good morning to you all. I am presently at Western Michigan University, academically focused right now in psychology, specifically working with clients with traumatic brain injury. I also co-instruct in a class in abnormal psychology and just finished an internship in Battle Creek. I am also learning from the National Federation of the Blind, for which I am grateful and hope to contribute to the '93 convention, as well."
Maren Christensen, Montana, Montana: "Hello. My name is Maren Christensen. I'm currently a student at the University of Montana. I'm enrolled in a joint degree program, receiving my law degree and a master's in public administration. I intend to work as a lawyer with particular emphasis on implementing progressive public policies. I am honored to be here. I have enjoyed the last two days of meeting, talking with, and listening to this group of dynamic, intelligent, and active, dedicated individuals. I'm real pleased to be here, and I'm particularly pleased with my new NFB long white cane. Finally I can move as fast as I want to. Thanks."
Bill Cuttle, Massachusetts, Massachusetts: "Hello, everyone. This is my first convention. I'm very grateful to be here, not only for the scholarship, but also I have just met so many nice people. To be honest, I'm a little overwhelmed with everything that's here. I'm going to be going to Boston College Law School in September, and I'm going to be focusing on the field of family and juvenile law. I received my bachelor's degree at Bridgewater State College in psychology and a master's degree also in counseling psychology from the University of Massachusetts and have been working in the field of mental health for the past seven years as a clinical director of programs for kids. I'm thirty-one, and I'm going to be trying a new career. I'm hoping to combine my background with law to help other people. Thank you."
Marvelena Desha, California, California: "Hello. My name is Marvelena Desha, and I'm from San Francisco, California. This is my first convention, and I must say that I am very impressed with the Federation. In September I am going to be attending the University of California at Berkeley with a major in linguistics and foreign language. I hope to pursue a career as a foreign language interpreter."
Brigid Doherty, Oregon, Oregon: "Good morning, everyone. I am a junior at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. I am majoring in international studies. I have been out in the work force for the past twelve years, working as a legal secretary and office manager among other things. I'm very pleased to be back in school, working toward a better understanding between cultures. I would like very much to work either in a governmental capacity or in business, helping people to learn to communicate with other cultures as they are traveling overseas--also just to have a better understanding door to door, neighbor to neighbor. We're all living in an increasingly interdependent world, and I think it's very, very important that we learn to understand one another better. I thank you for the opportunity of being here."
Ann Edie, New York, Massachusetts: "Good morning and thank you all for the opportunity to be here at the NFB convention. My background is teaching Asian studies and Chinese. In the fall I'll be going to Boston College to study teaching of the blind. I hope eventually to combine these two interests by teaching blind people the skills that they need, by teaching sighted people Braille and other skills that will help them understand the abilities of blind people, and by teaching both sighted and blind people Chinese and Asian studies and Asian cultures. I'm very happy to be here, and thank you very much."
Tina Ektermanis, Missouri, Missouri: "Hi. My name is Tina Ektermanis. I'm a senior at Northwest Missouri State University with a major in computer science and a minor in mathematics. I ultimately plan to go on for a master's degree. I'm not exactly sure where yet, but I plan to work in the field of adaptive technology or network administration. Thank you."
Al Fogel, New York, (Washington, D.C. this summer) and New Jersey: "Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Al Fogel. I've just completed my first year at Rutgers Law School in Newark, New Jersey. This summer I'm working at the Department of Justice with the ADA. I have a bachelor's degree in accounting and Talmudic law. I hope to be a corporate attorney with an emphasis on bringing more disabled people into the corporate field. I can say that starting next year, working with Rutgers, we'll be getting the first disabled student to go into a New Jersey law firm. I'm glad to be here. I'd like to thank the Scholarship Committee, and I'd really like to thank the Texas people for some down-home hospitality. Thank you."
Christopher Foster, California, California: "Good morning. I'd like to thank the Federation as well as the committee. This is my first convention, and I have learned a lot in the last few days. I also have my brand new long white cane. Again I'd like to thank you all. I'm going to be a freshman at Sierra Community College in Rockland, California, where I will start my studies in English and computer science. I hope to then go on to the University of California at Davis, where I will continue and hope to get a master's in computer science. I would like to go into possibly design engineering or something like that, just to sort things out and do the follow-through work at companies and things. Thank you very much."
Saeed Golnabi, Ohio, Ohio: "Good morning, everybody. My name is Saeed Golnabi. I am very happy and pleased to be here. This week I have had the best experience in my whole thirty-two years. Right now I am at the University of Cincinnati. I'm working on my Ph.D. in mathematics, and I hope I will graduate in a couple of years. Thank you."
Kathleen Hart, New York, Washington: "Thank you. Good morning. I previously have been a teacher of special education and a counselor. I hold both a bachelor's and a master's in education. I am currently a senior at Colgate Rochester Bexley Crozer--that is a seminary. I am working on my master's in divinity and will be graduating next May 14. I am looking for ordination in the Episcopal Church as a deacon and have about four more years to go till that happens. I have been a Federationist for two years. My first convention was two years ago. About a month after that my state affiliate's president invited me to a state leadership conference, and I also met my fiance at my first convention, so the Federation has been wonderful!
Denise Howard, Georgia, Georgia: "Good morning. My name is Denise Howard, and I'm from Savannah, Georgia. I recently graduated from high school. In the fall I'll be a freshman at Spelman College. I plan to double major in English and elementary education. Thank you."
Mary Hurt, Kentucky, Kentucky: "I'm Mary Hurt from Louisville, Kentucky. My first convention was in '87. I'm a past treasurer of the Diabetics Division and Kentucky State representative for the Diabetics Division. In 1991 I raised $10,000 for that group, and I am a senior at the University of Louisville, studying business administration. I plan to pursue a career in the world of corporate finance, and I'm very honored to be here."
Jennifer Lehman, Wisconsin, Minnesota: "Good morning, everyone. My name is Jennifer Lehman. I'm a recent graduate of BLIND, Inc. in Minnesota. I am President of the Minnesota Association of Blind Students, and I was elected last night to be the Secretary of the National Association of Blind Students. I'm also a member of the Metro Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota. Right now I am a junior at the University of Minnesota. My major is sociology. My minor is communication and speech and hearing science. I would eventually like to be a speech clinician, working with preschoolers. I want to say that I am very honored to be a scholarship winner and very glad to be here for my third convention."
Zuhair Mah'd, Florida, Florida: "Good morning, fellow Federationists. I've always been told how hard it was to speak in public, but I guess I know now what it means. My name is Zuhair, and I am studying computer science at Florida Atlantic University. I also work for the Office for Students with Disabilities as a computer consultant in assistive technology. I'd like to take the opportunity here to thank the National Federation of the Blind very, very much for the help and the honor it has bestowed upon me. I'd like to make a pledge here to be, for everyone else that I meet, as helpful as the National Federation of the Blind has been to me. Thank you very much."
Angie Matney, West Virginia, Virginia: "Good morning. My name is Angie Matney. I recently graduated from Iager High School in Iager, West Virginia, and I will be attending Washington and Lee University in the fall, where I plan to major in English and/or computer science to pursue a career either in post- secondary education or in the field of adaptive technology for the blind. I would just like to thank each and every one of you for the opportunity that you have given me to attend my first NFB convention as a national scholarship winner and also to thank you for my new long white cane. Thank you very much."
Janelle McEachern, Arizona, Arizona: "Good morning, everybody, and greetings from the great state of Arizona, the home of the almost world champion Phoenix Suns, almost, I say. My name is Janelle McEachern, and I hold my bachelor of arts degree from Arizona State University. It's a history degree in American and European military history. I am currently in law school, ASU College of Law. I'm studying to be a lawyer, and I am also taking my master's degree in American and British constitutional and legal history. I'm doing both at the same time, so I'm either desperate or crazy--I haven't figured out which yet. I hope to be both an attorney and a professor of constitutional and legal history for either American or British--I haven't figured out which. I guess I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. In my spare time I do disability advocacy. I am a prospective board member for the Arizona Bridge to Independent Living. I am a volunteer consultant on ADA accessibility guidelines for area historical museums and zoos. I also do local missionary work for my church, and I am a civil war history buff. Thank you."
Jonathon Mize, Texas, Texas: "Good late morning, close-to- lunch late morning. Welcome to Texas, where you have wide-open spaces and always pleasant-smelling faces--the only place where it costs a $10 cab fare just to get out of the airport. My previous background in education--I got an associate in science degree with emphasis in public administration from South Plains College in Levelland, Texas, and transferred to Stephen F. Austin University as a junior majoring in public administration. I will continue to get my master's degree at the University of Texas at Austin, where I will also have the public administration master's. In the near future I plan to be a city manager or work in some of the state agencies--Lord knows they need help. Thank you."
Sally Nemeth, West Virginia, Ohio: "Good morning. How y'all doing out there? Good, I hope. I thought I'd try a little bit of Texan. This is my first NFB experience, and I have to say, what an incredible initiation! My background is in communication and psychology. I have a strong interest in the area of wellness. I am a member of the ADA Training and Implementation Network. This fall I'll be beginning a degree in counseling at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. I hope eventually to obtain a Ph.D. in either counseling or counseling psych and with that to teach, to conduct seminars on a national basis, to write, counsel, engage in community service, and eventually join the Peace Corps. I thank you for your generosity in helping me to obtain my goals."
Jim Salas, New Mexico, New Mexico: "Good morning, everybody. I'm Jim Salas. I'm attending Webster University, pursuing a master's degree in human resources development. I'm interested in the people side of organizational effectiveness. For the last four years I've been the associates program chairman in New Mexico. Over that period of time we've quadrupled the number of associate recruiters, and we are the two-time defending national champion. They're going to be telling us in a little while who the champion is for this year, and we have some pretty good numbers again. If we win, great, congratulations to us. If Missouri or Maryland or California or one of those pretenders happens to get in this year, well congratulations to them; but remember there is always next year! In the immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, `vi'll be back!'"
Carolyn Scharkey, Missouri, Missouri: "Hi. It's good to be here. I was the first licensed hairdresser in the state of Missouri as a blind person, and I then had three children of my own, two foster children, and just loved people. I decided to go into social work so will be entering the University of Missouri, St. Louis, in the fall. Thank you."
Christopher Smith, New Jersey, Rhode Island: "I just recently graduated from Ridgewood High School in northern New Jersey. I'll be a freshman at Brown University this September, and I plan to major in English, creative writing, with the goal to become a professional writer. This is my first experience with the Federation. I'd like to thank everyone for their truly sincere welcome, and I look forward to a long and committed future with the Federation. Thank you."
Chuck Strickland, California, California: "I have a master's degree in physics with a minor in computer science from Southwest Texas State University, which is where I've mostly been, in Texas. I was a participant in the Young Scholars program sponsored by the National Science Foundation, and I was a science counselor there. It was held at SWT. I'm now going for a Ph.D. in physics. I hope to teach at the university level and do theoretical physics, make some contribution. I'm attending the University of California at Riverside. Thanks for your consideration."
Colleen Wunderlich, Illinois, Indiana: "Good morning. I would like to begin by thanking the Federation for the opportunity they have given me to be here today. I feel very fortunate to have received influence from these Federationists. I feel that they have a great sense of inner strength and pride, and I hope that I will achieve my dream of becoming a psychiatrist. Right now I will be attending Purdue University in the fall, where I will major in pre-med and psychology. Then I plan to go to medical school. I believe that the Federation will be here to help me achieve my dream. When I do so, I'd like to give that back to future generations to come. Thank you very much."
Peggy Pinder: "And there, Mr. President and members of the National Federation of the Blind, are the twenty-six scholarship winners this year."[applause]
As you will observe, it was an impressive group of students this year. Here are the awards they received:
$2,000 NFB Merit Scholarships: Marvelena Desha, Tina Ektermanis, Al Fogel, Saeed Golnabi, Kathleen Hart, Denise Howard, Jonathon Mize, Christopher Smith, and James Strickland.
$2,000 Ellen Setterfield Memorial Scholarship: Janelle McEachern,
$2,000 Hermione Grant Calhoun Scholarship: Angela Matney.
$2,000 Kuchler-Killian Memorial Scholarship: Ann Edie. $2,500 NFB Scholarships: Jack Allord, William Cuttle, Christopher Foster, Mary Hurt, and Zuhair Mah'd.
$2,500 NFB Educator of Tomorrow Scholarship: Sally Nemeth.
$2,500 NFB Humanities Scholarship: Colleen Wunderlich.
$2,500 Frank Walton Horn Memorial Scholarship: Carolyn Scharkey.
$2,500 Howard Brown Rickard Scholarship: Maren Christensen.
$3,000 Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship: Matthew Brink.
$4,000 NFB Scholarships: Brigid Doherty and James Salas.
$4,000 Anne Pekar Memorial Scholarship: Laura Biro.
$10,000 American Action Fund Scholarship: Jennifer Lehman
[PHOTO: Jennifer Lehman stands on stage during the banquet speaking into a microphone. CAPTION: Jennifer Lehman, winner of the 1993 American Action Fund Scholarship.]
In introducing Jennifer during the banquet for brief remarks, Peggy Pinder said:
Jennifer took time out during her undergraduate years to go to a training center for blind people when she met the Federation and realized that she needed what the Federation and its training centers have. She hasn't been in school this last year. She's going for the first time to the University of Minnesota (ranked as a junior), where she is earning a bachelor of science degree in sociology. As I think many of you know, Jennifer is an active and loved member of both the Minnesota and the Wisconsin affiliates and intends to be a pre-school speech clinician. Now here, for a few remarks, is this year's $10,000 scholarship winner, Jennifer Lehman.
Jennifer Lehman: Thank you all so much. I am very, very honored to be chosen as this year's top scholarship winner. I want to thank President Maurer and Dr. Jernigan and everyone in the National Federation of the Blind for all the help and support you have given me during the past three years.
I would not have been able to make it through a lot of situations that have happened in the past three years if it had not been for all the support from the members of the Federation family. I can't even tell you how I feel right now or how much the NFB means to me. So I just want to say that I will continue to be active in this organization and help to change what it means to be blind. I want to help get more people into the movement so that everyone's life can be changed as much as mine has been by this wonderful organization. Thank you all.[applause]
[PHOTO: Ramona Walhof standing at podium microphone. CAPTION: Ramona Walhof addresses the convention.]
BRAILLE: A RENAISSANCE
An Address Delivered by
at the Convention of the
National Federation of the Blind
Dallas, Texas, July 8, 1993
When I was in the sixth grade at the Iowa School for the Blind, my class was given a timed reading test. Afterward, each student was called in for a private conference. I was congratulated and told that my Braille reading speed was very good: 91 words per minute.
I remember very vividly knowing that something was wrong. I was not a good reader, and I did not like the prospect of never getting any better. Still, I had no idea how to improve, and the message was clear. I should not expect to. I knew a few students who read faster in Braille than I did--although not many. The prevailing attitude was: Most people can't read Braille very fast. How futile and discouraging for a young blind student! And I now know how incredibly wrong!
As many of you know, I was the second of three blind children. Our attitudes about Braille did and do vary considerably. That is explainable and may be significant as we examine attitudes toward Braille. In my family we had a sort of mini laboratory.
My brother is the oldest and took kindergarten and first grade in public school, where he was provided large print books that he couldn't read. Anyone can imagine the frustration a child in this situation must experience. Unfortunately, many children must repeat it still today. When my brother went to the school for the blind after Thanksgiving of his second grade year, he was behind the other students. He did learn Braille, but was slow. The other students said he read like a tortoise, with the accent on the second syllable for emphasis. I can never remember my brother's reading much in Braille, except (as he grew older) the Braille Technical Press. He became quite good at getting adults to read technical material aloud to him. In college he used readers and tapes. Shortly after college graduation, he was married, and his wife has read for him ever since. Never has he had adequate motivation and encouragement to build good Braille reading speed. It's not that he is incapable. His slow speed is not just fate. It has causes and, if he chooses, a cure.
I enrolled at the school for the blind after Thanksgiving of my first grade year. I could not see the large print books in public school either, but I was humiliated to go to a school where the children had not started to read at all. When we did start reading at the beginning of the second semester, we were given flash cards that did not have enough letters. I could understand look (L-O-O-K), but there was something wrong with Sally. Nobody told me about an A-L-L-Y sign. By the end of that year, I had read and memorized one little book Happy Days--and I had learned something else, that it was bad to read Braille.
My sister, a year younger, started to the school for the blind after Thanksgiving of her kindergarten year and learned the Braille letters from blocks that had nails arranged in the formation of Braille letters. She remembers that once near the end of that year another student and I came from the first grade into the kindergarten room to demonstrate reading Braille. She remembers thinking we were not good readers. She was right. She said that she decided right then and there to read better than her older sister--which she did.
For me during second and third grades Braille was dreary. The students who used Braille never read all the material in the textbooks, and nobody indicated that we could or should do better. The students who used large print read faster than we did, and they read more stories. This just reinforced our notion that Braille was bad, although nobody ever said so. Once in third grade we went to the library and checked out books. Crazy as it sounds, we were not permitted to take the books to the dorm, nor were we permitted to read them in the classroom. Therefore, at the end of the month we took our books back to the library unread, and never checked out any more. My sister, on the other hand, did take library books to the dorm and read them. She took a timed reading test in the third grade and read 110 words a minute. Nobody could understand how she got so fast. There was a boy in her class who also read rapidly. Perhaps they provided stimulation for each other. Since then, I have met children who were reading 150 words per minute or more in the third grade. Some were reading print, and some were reading Braille.
News commentators read between 160 and 180 words a minute. Thus, 150 is a comfortable speed for reading aloud, and probably a low average for good readers.
As we grew older, the best encouragement I had was my little sister's reading speed, which was better than mine. I did get faster, but a little direction and encouragement might have helped. It wasn't until after I graduated from high school and found people reading Braille at three and four hundred words per minute that I began to work on speed for real. And it made a lot of difference. Today my reading speed varies, depending on how much Braille I have used recently. Even at my relatively slow speed in high school, I read every Braille book the librarian would recommend, and some that she didn't. The library had far too few titles, even for a small school--another disincentive for Braille readers.
I had a different experience with Braille writing. My brother brought home a Braille slate and stylus after his third- grade year. That summer I took possession of it and taught myself to write. I could write better with the slate than with the Braille writer when I went back to school that fall, much to the frustration of the man who was supposed to teach me. To this day I still enjoy using the slate, and I always carry one in my purse and briefcase. As I once undiplomatically told a colleague in college: If you can't write an address or phone number when you need to, you are illiterate. And how many blind people still find themselves in that trap?
Most of the teachers at that school for the blind read very little Braille, and when they did, they read with their eyes and followed the text, if necessary, from print teachers' manuals. They had no real idea what the expectations for Braille should be. You can speculate about how their attitudes were formed: Blindness is bad. Therefore, it is bad to read Braille. Further, reading and writing Braille are probably slow. Some teachers even asked us (their students) how much would be a reasonable amount for us to read for an evening history or science assignment. If any student had said, "give us a big, fat reading assignment," that person would have been lynched by his or her classmates. But all of this was developing our attitudes about Braille and blindness. This was the climate that largely shaped our thinking about our potential as blind people.
All this causes one to ask why some blind people read Braille as well and as rapidly as they do. The answer is simple. Somebody provided encouragement and helped these people believe that it was possible for them to be good. It may have been family members. It may have been another blind person who read Braille well. It may have been the need to keep up with print readers in public school. It may even have been a teacher at a school for the blind. One thing is sure. Somebody or some combination of circumstances helped good Braille readers believe in Braille--helped them understand that Braille can be used rapidly and for virtually anything for which you can use print. Expectations have a lot to do with performance. Both blind children and blind adults will read and write better if we provide encouragement and sensible advice. The National Federation of the Blind knows how to do this, and we intend to do more and more of it.
Recently at a state convention of the NFB, I became involved in a discussion about Braille. There seemed to be a consensus that, in order to become a fast Braille reader, it is necessary to begin reading at an early age. Along with everyone else, I agreed that this is desirable. However, it is not the only way. It is not reasonable to assume that anybody who learns Braille after age 7 or 10 or 15 will never be able to read quickly and enjoy it. There are simple techniques for increasing Braille reading speed. Read with both hands, and generally keep at least six fingers on the Braille lines. Learn to skim. Read easy material, and re-read it going faster. Read Braille while someone else is reading the same text faster. A tape recording of the same text you are reading in Braille will work just fine. Most important, read a lot. An hour or two a day will do, but more is better.
As a language major in college, I was at a disadvantage--along with most of the other students--because I only started studying Russian and French at age 18. There were some native speakers in our classes who had flawless accents and a big head start because of their early introduction to the languages. That did not mean it was impossible for those of us who were not native speakers to become proficient in Russian or French or whatever language was being learned. Most of us had a slight accent, but our use of the language became clear and good. Some of the people in that class are now employed as translators and teachers. I had no trouble making myself understood in the Soviet Union when I was there, and other students had similar experiences.
Braille is not a foreign language. But reading and writing Braille are fairly complex skills, as are reading and writing print. With proper training and opportunity, an adult can develop good facility in Braille, even though starting earlier would have been an advantage. Many factors affect the development of these skills.
The age one begins to read and write is certainly one of them. Others are: use of language generally, level of education, self-discipline, motivation, availability of material to read, amount of time spent reading and writing, and the quality of instruction. More basic than any of these is the attitude about Braille and Blindness.
As you know, most state affiliates of the NFB have supported legislation to improve Braille literacy for blind children. Some have already passed such laws. Of course, the reason these laws are necessary is because so many educators and others don't regard Braille as good in comparison with print. They wouldn't want it put that way, but that's what it comes to--and we see plenty of evidence. Most of us have been educated by teachers with these attitudes, and many of us read and write less well than we should because we have sold Braille short. I recently talked with a certified teacher of blind children who was taught in college that the average Braille reading speed is 70 words per minute. That was his reason for teaching most of his students large print. He really believed none of them could be expected to read Braille rapidly under any circumstances. I did my best to show him that he had been misinformed. This teacher was thrilled and went away intending to teach more Braille. There are bound to be encounters that will shake his resolve, but we can change attitudes only a little at a time--just as we eat an elephant-- one bite at a time.
It is important for each of us to examine our attitudes and determine whether we are limiting ourselves in the use of Braille. If we wish to improve, it is most certainly possible. We may choose not to use Braille at all. That is respectable. Some blind people can read and write print efficiently. If so, that too is respectable. The closed circuit t.v. enlarger is a useful piece of equipment and should not be discouraged. But it will be most useful as a supplement to Braille, not a substitute. We should be honest--at least, with ourselves--about why we choose to teach Braille or print and why we choose to use one or the other ourselves. We may decide that it is worth the trouble to discipline ourselves to become rapid and accurate Braille readers and writers. Most of us can do this if we wish, including diabetics. I have taught many diabetics to read Braille, some of whom were told they did not have adequate feeling in their fingertips.
You and I know a number of people who learned Braille as teenagers or adults and are now quite good at it. Peggy Pinder and Fred Schroeder learned Braille in high school. Neither needs apologize for Braille skill. Joyce Scanlan, Allen Harris, Mary Ellen Halverson, Joanne Wilson, Seville Allen, and Betty Sabin are other good Braille users who did not read Braille as children, and, of course, I cannot begin to list them all.
Mabel Nading and I were teaching Braille in the mid 1970's, and some of our students grew discouraged because learning Braille took them so long. Mabel and I thought we could speed up the process, so we wrote Beginning Braille for Adults. We used our students as guinea pigs to test the lessons, and our success surprised us all. Not just one student, but many, learned Braille more quickly than was formerly the case and began to pick up speed. One of our students learned Grade 2 Braille in 3 weeks and built her speed to 150 words per minute in six months. She worked at it 3 to 4 hours a day. She had been a very rapid and constant reader of print, and a better than average student. She was being trained in a climate where she was in constant contact with people who used Braille well. Her speed continued to improve, and she is not the only person to make this kind of progress.
I want to tell you about Norm Gardner. When I first moved to Idaho, Norm was president of the Federation's state affiliate. One night he and I made presentations to the legislature at a dinner. After an event like that, we frequently want to review what happened and evaluate the reactions of some of the guests. But after most people had left that night, Norm wanted to talk about something else. The first words out of his mouth were: "I am determined to learn Braille." I responded that it was a good idea but asked why it was on his mind right then. He said with some vehemence, "You had eye contact with the audience, and I had my nose down on the lectern in my notes. I do a lot of lecturing, and Braille notes would be so much better." I thought I could understand how he felt. That was several years ago. I suggested the methods and techniques I knew, and Norm began (as he could) to work on Braille.
Then he moved to Arizona, and I had very few occasions to talk to him about Braille. A couple of years later, though, I observed at the Washington Seminar that Norm had all the Arizona appointments written in Braille. He was working at it when he could. He was proud of his progress, and so was I. Then came the evening I called Norm about something totally unrelated to Braille. When he heard my voice, he said: "I just have to tell you what I was doing when the phone rang. I've been reading the Hardy Boys in Braille." He was as happy as a child with a new toy, and he went on: "This is my third Hardy Boys book. My brother Bruce and I are both reading them. I never could read for fun when I was young. It was all I could do to get people to read school work to me, and I only discovered tapes in college. Now I'm reading Braille for fun almost every day." As I talked with Norm that night, I kept wishing that all the people who constantly say that adults can't learn Braille could be hooked in on that phone line.
Then there are the people who assume that you have to teach writing primarily with the Perkins Brailler because the slate is so slow that most people never develop good speed or accuracy. Consider the following: There was a time when Braillers did not exist--and later, a time when they were scarce. And during all of these times they were not affordable for many of the blind. Children learned to write with the slate and stylus, and it is hard to believe that all youngsters are dumber or less well coordinated today than they were forty years ago. If we were to take pencils and pens away from sighted children, their skill would deteriorate just as has happened with blind children who are never encouraged to become skilled with the slate and stylus. There is nothing wrong with the Brailler--but it is too big, too noisy, and too expensive to be a substitute for the slate and stylus.
Kim Boshart in Nebraska started teaching preschoolers to write with the slate and stylus because she didn't know they couldn't learn it that young. And guess what! They did learn.
There was a day when a college-bound student came to me with a question. She wanted to know how to develop good enough writing speed with a slate and stylus for college note-taking. She had started to learn Braille about a year before and could read better than she could write, but she needed to build speed generally. Skeptic that I am, I felt rather sure she would not take my advice, but I did the best I could. I told her: Don't take a pen or pencil or tape recorder to class. Take your slate, and do the best you can. At first you will miss things and make some mistakes. Remember that most college freshmen are still learning to take notes. If you make yourself depend on the slate even when you think you are missing things, you will be taking good notes well before the end of the first semester. You will have required yourself to write two or three hours a day. I also advised her to use light weight paper so her arm would not rebel. Having done all I could, I forgot about the whole conversation. At Christmas break, this student came to me for a piece of information. I told her what she wanted to know, and she wrote it. Suddenly, I realized that she had written it on a slate, and very quickly.
I was delighted and said, "Carolyn, you did it!" At first she was puzzled and asked what I was talking about. I reminded her of her concern about college notes on the slate.
"Yes," she said, "I haven't thought about it lately. I did what you recommended, and it worked." I say to you that if Carolyn can do it, so can thousands of others, given encouragement and a little advice.
Another project from my past came to mind not long ago when I was discussing with some blind college students the kinds of employment they might find. You never know when a skill might come in handy, but if the skill is not there, you cannot use it. I was one of forty-five blind students enrolled in two projects sponsored jointly by Georgetown University and the old Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Most of us studied the Russian language, and a few took German. As you may know, the Russian language is written with the Cyrillic alphabet. The Braille was easy enough to learn, but the average Braillist couldn't transcribe Russian. In order to improve our vocabulary and read material from the Soviet Union (which we could get through the Library of Congress) we desperately needed a Braille dictionary. Somebody (it wasn't I) thought up the idea of our transcribing a large Russian-English dictionary into Braille ourselves. We could get our professors to record the dictionary on tape and we could transcribe it into Braille. Most of us didn't have Braille writers, but we could afford to buy forty-cell board slates.
Slate writers were in clover, because we were paid (I think) $2.40 per hour. In any case, it was more money than I had ever before earned in my life. I suppose ten or twenty of us participated in copying that dictionary. There were some who worked more hours than I, and some may have used Braille writers- -but I was quite happy with the arrangement. I understand that this dictionary may still be in use by blind translators working for the Department of Defense.
I mention this not just for the sake of a little nostalgia. A lot of books were put into Braille using the slate and stylus. Many of us here today have read some of them. It was quite an adequate method. The Braille writer is faster, but that does not mean that the slate is worthless. Just as the computer keyboard will not soon, if ever, replace the need for pens and pencils, the Braille writer has not made the slate undesirable--and probably won't.
As I have said, Federation affiliates in most states have been working on legislation for better Braille instruction and for better Braille literacy. This will in time improve the reading and writing skill of today's and tomorrow's blind children. Belief in the value and potential of Braille is again improving. Ten years ago it was declining. You and I know the cause of this change--the National Federation of the Blind. We have reversed a trend. We must continue to work, and our progress will accelerate.
I have a friend named Marian who is in kindergarten. She is intelligent, active, and blind. She and her mother have become good Federationists. Recently Marian and her mother stopped at my office, and I took the opportunity to see how Marian was coming in Braille. She could tell me how to make most of the letters, and she could write many on the Braille writer. However, when I gave Marian a piece of paper with whole lines of individual letters written on it, she could not identify any of them. I thought this was odd since Marian knew these letters. I did not believe she was playing games.
When I looked at her hands, I found she had placed them flat on the page so that her fingertips were slightly raised off the paper. She was not using her hands the way you do to read Braille. I showed Marian and her mother how she needs to hold her hands to feel the Braille dots, but it was clear to Mom and me that we have a lot of work to do to see that blind children have adequate opportunity to learn Braille--and to learn it in a usable manner. This was an unfortunate experience for Marian. Thankfully she has lots of Federation friends to fight for her. This was an example to set before the legislature as we worked for better Braille literacy in Idaho. Marian's teachers are trying, and Marian is bright--but we must work to build a better system for teaching Braille to young blind children.
It takes a long time to get the information about blindness so distributed that it can be found by those who need it. Think of the Braille Monitor, Future Reflections, The Voice of the Diabetic, the Kernel Books, our public service announcements, our JOB literature, our state and local newsletters, our public speaking, and all of the individual work we do. Even so, we still come across people who seem never to have heard a positive word about blindness.
Last summer I was helping my daughter get settled in her first apartment after college just before she started her first full-time job. I managed to schedule a weekend in Chicago in the middle of a business trip, and one of the things we did was to go grocery shopping. I don't need to tell you who was paying the bills. My daughter was far in debt in spite of her college jobs and all the help I could give her with college expenses. As we walked side by side behind the grocery cart toward the used pick-up she was driving (a college graduation present from me), a car passed very near. The driver's window rolled down, and the woman said, "She is so lucky to have someone like you to take her out!"
That woman was not talking to me about Laura. Before either of us could say a word, the window rolled up, and the car drove on. How could there be a more eloquent description of the work we have left to do? I am lucky to have a daughter like Laura, and I'm proud of her. But the picture of blindness in that woman's brain could not have been more wrong.
If anyone believes that reluctance to teach and promote Braille is not intertwined with the same notion about blindness expressed by the woman in the supermarket parking lot, then that person has a different understanding of the world from the one I have. The image of blindness and the image of Braille are very closely related whether we like it or not. As we in the National Federation of the Blind--tens of thousands of us--work together to change what it means to be blind, we will at the same time inevitably be changing what it means to read and write and teach Braille. We support and use Braille because it is a good way of reading and writing, not because we are making the best of a bad business. We have made progress.
It took a generation before more than a few of Louis Braille's close associates would accept his work as the wonderful breakthrough it was. How much of the reason was because he was blind? It was another seventy years before Braille was accepted as the standard in this country. Braille reached its peak in the 1930's, or perhaps the 1940's. Back-sliding is not unusual for a new system, no matter how good it is. Braille will have another new day. You and I, together with thousands of other members of the National Federation of the Blind, will make it happen.
Today the cost and time necessary to produce Braille are decreasing with new developments in Braille translation software and low-cost Braille printers. We are leaping forward in the use of Braille. New instruction materials, new laws, and better teachers are coming forth. The dark ages of the 1960's and 70's have been succeeded by a new awakening for Braille. As we move toward the turn of the century, we are truly in the midst of a Braille Renaissance.
This is part of the work of the National Federation of the Blind. We know where we are going, and we know how to get there. We will meet roadblocks and detours along the way, but we are determined, and there are more and more of us each year. Increasingly, the road is paved with love for each other, with belief in ourselves and other blind people, and with the increasing effectiveness of the largest organization of the blind in the world. My brothers and my sisters, I am proud to be a part of the National Federation of the Blind; I am proud to use Braille; and I am proud to have each of you as a colleague.
If you or a friend would like to remember the National Federation of the Blind in your will, you can do so by employing the following language:
"I give, devise, and bequeath unto National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, a District of Columbia nonprofit corporation, the sum of $_____ (or "_____ percent of my net estate" or "The following stocks and bonds: _____") to be used for its worthy purposes on behalf of blind persons."
[PHOTO: Emerson Foulke holds award plaque. CAPTION: Dr. Emerson Foulke, 1993 Blind Educator of the Year.]
[PHOTO: Gail Katona holds award plaque. CAPTION: Gail Katona, 1993 Distinguished Educator of Blind Children.]
[PHOTO: Standing with Marc Maurer and Betty Niceley, Deane Blazie and Kenneth Jernigan hold award plaque. CAPTION: Deane Blazie (far right) is the first recipient of the Golden Keys Award, presented by the NFB's National Association to Promote the Use of Braille.]
FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
AWARDS FOR 1993
National Federation of the Blind awards are not bestowed lightly. If an appropriate recipient does not emerge from the pool of candidates for a particular award, it is simply not presented. At this year's convention three presentations were made:
Blind Educator of the Year Award
At the Monday morning meeting of the Board of Directors, Stephen Benson, member of the National Federation of the Blind Board of Directors and Chairman of the Selection Committee, made the Blind Educator of the Year presentation. Here is what he said as he presented a plaque and check for $500 to this year's recipient:
Jacobus tenBroek was a teacher whose influence was and is felt far beyond the halls of academia. He was an author whose writing continues to demand attention and respect. He established standards and expectations for blind people that guide our work in this organization today. He was a man of great good humor who loved his blind brothers and sisters. He was quick to give his time and energy and means to help blind people. In his footsteps Dr. Jernigan and President Maurer have done the same. The task of this year's Blind Educator of the Year Award Committee was to find a teacher who emulates Dr. tenBroek, someone who fully understands the lasting impact of the teacher and teaching in the classroom. The Selection Committee believes we have a candidate worthy of the high recognition our Blind Educator of the Year Award conveys. He has written literally hundreds of articles. He has authored and co-authored many books. He has taught at the university level. He has a Ph.D. in psychology from Washington University in St. Louis. He has been involved in technical research and research on human perception, and he has done extensive work in Braille. He is involved in the construction of the Braille Code. The award plaque which I will bestow upon our winner this year says:
BLIND EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR AWARD
Federation of the Blind
DR. EMERSON FOULKE
in the teaching profession.
You enhance the present.
You inspire your colleagues.
You build the future.
Here is the plaque, Dr. Foulke; congratulations.[applause]
When Emerson Foulke came to the microphone, he responded by saying:
Well, I thank you very much. I accept this honor with gratitude, although I am not sure I deserve it. If I am the Educator of the Year, I guess it is possibly not this year, because I retired a year ago.[laughter] I did, however, teach at the university for thirty-three years, and it may even be possible that I got a bit better at it as time went on. In any case, thank you very much; I am quite pleased.
The Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award
Also at the Monday Board of Directors meeting Sharon Maneki, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland and Chairwoman of the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Selection Committee, presented that award. She said:
We in the National Federation of the Blind constantly challenge ourselves to find new ways to meet our goals. In 1987 we created the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award because we not only believed in excellence in education, but we believe that the best way to help blind people is to make it better for the next generation. The members of the Committee have a difficult task. Those members were Jacquilyn Billey, Allen Harris, Fred Schroeder, Joyce Scanlan, and I. We were able to find a candidate who reflects what we stand for. She is a candidate who has been teaching for nine years in the classroom. Some may say that's like combat duty, but she is a person who believes in students and passes on the torch, not only of knowledge, but of confidence in their abilities. This year's Distinguished Educator of Blind Children is a teacher in Zia Elementary School in the district of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Gail Katona.[applause] I'm going to present Ms. Katona with a check for $500 and also with a plaque, and I will read the plaque:
DISTINGUISHED EDUCATOR OF BLIND CHLILDREN
Federation of the Blind
skill in teaching Braille
and the use of the white cane,
for generously donating extra time
to meet the needs of your students
and for inspiring your students
beyond their expectations.
Our colleague, our friend,
our ally on the barricades,
you champion our movement,
you strengthen our hopes,
you share our dreams.
After Ms. Katona accepted her plaque, she said:
I'm overwhelmed. Thank you very much for this wonderful award. It is a great pleasure and honor to receive it from an organization such as yourselves. I would like to thank Mrs. Maneki and the members of the selection committee for selecting me this year. I would also like to say thank you to Mr. Fred Schroeder, who, when I was first hired into Albuquerque, was the coordinator of the program. So Fred was the one who hired me initially and gave me the opportunity to start the program in Albuquerque and to teach these wonderful blind children. I'm a niece of Karen Mayry from South Dakota, so it's no wonder that I've been a member of the NFB since I was about sixteen or seventeen years old, and it is through this organization that I have learned my philosophy and my attitude about teaching blind children. Blind children are children first--they're kids. They're little. They need to be taught. Our blind children need to be taught the skills of blindness. I do my best to make sure that all of my students get the opportunities to learn and to grow to their full potential. I think that is done through the use of teaching Braille so that we have proficient Braille readers, and we always encourage the use of a long white cane so the students can become very independent cane travelers. Thank you again. This is a wonderful honor.
The Golden Keys Award
At this year's banquet the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB) presented its first ever Golden Keys Award. NAPUB President Betty Niceley described the award as she made the presentation:
The National Association to Promote the Use of Braille was established in 1984 to serve as the vehicle for the NFB to emphasize at all times and influence, where possible, activities relating to the production and use of Braille. For a long time NAPUB has discussed and planned the giving of a prestigious award to demonstrate our appreciation to a carefully selected recipient who has worked for us and with us to increase the use of Braille. To this end we have created the Golden Keys Award. I shall describe it to you. If you imagine it hanging on the wall, the back is a beautiful walnut wood. On that is a bronze plate, and inlaid on that is a black enamel plate having gold lettering. At the bottom of this plaque are seven keys emulating the keyboard of the Braille writer.
We in the Federation have been instrumental in orchestrating the passage and signing of Braille bills in eighteen states, and there are more to come. Whether you realize this or not, we have helped to build a company. We have done this because its founder has sought us out, wanted our comments, listened to us, and then put into action the suggestions we made. The National Association to Promote the Use of Braille is very pleased to present this award. I'm going to read to you what it says:
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION TO PROMOTE THE USE OF BRAILLE
these golden keys
in recognition of your commitment
to Braille and to the
readers who depend on it.
To these readers
you have given keys that unlock doors
to the temple of knowledge.
When he arrived at the microphone, Deane Blazie responded by saying:
Fellow Federationists, I'm Braille 'n speechless. Thank you so much for what you've done for me. I really appreciate it from the bottom of my heart, and I promise to spend the rest of my life paying you back.[applause]
[PHOTO: Hank Dekker standing at podium microphone. CAPTION: Hank Dekker.]
THE BLIND SAILOR TRAVELING ALONE ON THE BLUE WATERS
by Hank Dekker
From the Editor: The August issue of the Braille Monitor carried a story about the attempt that Hank Dekker, the single- handed blind sailor, and the National Federation of the Blind made to cross the Atlantic from Cape May, New Jersey, to Plymouth, England. Major problems with the sloop's equipment caused Dekker to return to port shortly after he had begun the voyage. Then, before the necessary repairs could be completed, it became obvious to many that the hurricane season was now too far advanced to make it advisable for the sloop NFB52 to start the voyage this season. It was a bitter disappointment to everyone, but Federation leaders concluded that the likelihood of danger was now too great for an attempt to be anything but foolhardy.
Dekker, whose courage was not in question, unfortunately did not see things the same way. He has tried to use the law to force us to allow him to make the passage, and like the rest of us he is certainly frustrated and angry at the situation that has developed because of the accident and the resulting complexities.
It is not at all clear what will happen next, but nothing can alter the positive media attention that the abilities of blind people received across July and into August. Nothing can change the fact that our decision to cancel the sailing during the hurricane season probably saved Dekker's life--and nothing can detract from the power of the life story that Hank Dekker told the audience at the 1993 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind on Tuesday afternoon, July 6. We must always remember that every day there are new people who need to learn about the National Federation of the Blind and our message of hope and promise. Here is what Hank Dekker told the convention:
Hello, fellow Federationists. This is my first convention. What a fool I have been! This is wonderful; I have found a family. I really mean that. I made a vow today: I am going to come to the next fifty conventions. I made a phone call and have arranged to have my body frozen and brought here every year.
I know you want to hear about the voyage, but my first voyage really started in the mid-seventies. That was my voyage with darkness. I was living in Hawaii, had a wife, two wonderful children, a home, and a car dealership. Then I started to lose my vision. I started to run, running from myself actually. I didn't know what I could do without vision because I didn't know about the NFB. I moved to Connecticut, where I would have better medical treatment. My vision continued to deteriorate, and I started to fall apart. I didn't know about blind people. I had never talked to a blind person. What could I do without vision? I thought blind people just sold pencils in front of department stores. I didn't know about the NFB.
I was finally asked by my family to leave them--I had changed so much. My daughter told me to go. She said, "Daddy, we know you're going blind, but we don't care. You've changed too much; you're not our daddy anymore." And I wasn't. I was a miserable person. I moved to California and started right away as a general manager of a large dealership, but I couldn't hold a job. I didn't know how to hold a job. I didn't know about the NFB, where I could get help. I went from general manager to new car sales manager, to used car sales manager. Soon I was selling cars. And then the last job I held was washing cars at a little dingy used car lot, the butt of all the Mr. Magoo jokes. Then I gave up entirely because I had no help. I didn't know about the NFB, that I could turn to them, turn to you people. I wound up in a gutter south of Market in San Francisco. I became a real bum. I used to beg for spare change, and I used to eat out of dumpsters. Worst of all, I had no hope that I could ever be a full person again because I didn't know about the NFB.
Eventually I came out of this somewhat and made my first mistake by going to a state agency [applause]. I went to a state agency because I didn't know about the NFB. I started work and was getting along pretty good, but I started to experience things I didn't like. I had a hard time getting a job. No one would hire me; no one thought I could do anything. I had to make my own jobs. I'm sure that you have all experienced the same things that I hated, the condescending talk, the state agencies, and the places like the Lighthouse for the Blind. Just sit back, get your welfare, SSI, or SSDI. People will say, "Why don't you get a guide dog? It would be such company for you." Not that I could possibly have a human friend!
In about 1980 a friend took me sailing for the first time in my life, out of Sausalito, California. I enjoyed it; I really loved it. It was something I thought I could do. Within about two months I found a little boat, made a deal with the owner, and paid him by the month. It wasn't a very expensive boat. I started to learn how to sail, and I became fairly good at it. And although I was working now, and I had a sailboat, enjoyed sailing, I still didn't feel like a whole person. People wouldn't let me become a whole person. I realized, I was smart enough to know, that we are a very small percentage of the population; we are a very minor minority. I know we have to fit into the sighted world (at least I think we do), that the sighted world doesn't seem to want me to get into it. They didn't want me, wouldn't let me in.
I was sailing the boat one time with a friend (I had been sailing for about one year), and I told him my dream, that I would love to be able to do what those world-famous sailors do-- sail a boat all by myself across the ocean. What a thrill, one of the last challenges that man could do! This fellow started to laugh at me. I said, "Why are you laughing?"
He said, "These people that sail oceans alone are the world's best sailors. You're a blind person; you'll never learn how to sail that good. And if you could learn how to sail that good, how could you navigate? Blind people can't navigate."
I thought, "To hell with that; I know I can do it!"
So I set my goal. I wanted to prove to the world that a blind person can learn something new, learn it in a short period of time, and execute it well. Maybe that would open up some job markets, showing that we can learn things, do them well without needing a whole bunch of expensive, special equipment. I knew I could do it.
It took me three years to put this together. I could have done it sooner, but I didn't know about the NFB. I had a lot of negative press before I made the first trip. "It was impossible." "It couldn't be done." All the experts said so. I made the trip. It was a twenty-three-day voyage on Dark Star, and we did a fine job. I survived a hurricane; my navigation was good. I'll tell you, on that trip I became a whole person again. I knew I could do anything I put my mind to.
But you know, people still don't give you credit because they still have that stereotype of blind people. A lot of sailors were very upset that I made this trip because they felt it belittled them. If a blind guy could sail an ocean by himself, that means it put them down. So now they started to ridicule my trip. They said, "Well, you got to Hawaii in twenty-three days, but you couldn't compete in a real race against real good sailors."
I said, "The hell I can't."
There is a race held every two years from San Francisco to Hawaii. It's a world-class sports event. Sailors come from all over the world to compete in this--one sailor, one boat. Most of the guys are highly sponsored and very competitive. Well, I scraped money together, but I didn't get a sponsor because I didn't know about the NFB then. Well, we entered the race, and I didn't win, but I took third place. [applause] It's a funny thing: as vessels came in one or two days behind me, the first thing they asked on the radio as they approached the finish line was, "Where is the blind guy?"
They would answer, "Well he's here--well maybe he's at a restaurant or a bar right now, but he came in a couple of days ago." [applause]
A few years after I made that trip, you all know about Bill Buckley's column? He wrote a column I think started, "Hubris is my Co-Pilot." I had to look up "hubris." I didn't know it meant "arrogance." He was writing about a blind fellow, Jim Dixon, who was going to attempt to sail the Atlantic. Now Bill Buckley personally knew that I had sailed the Pacific twice, that it could be done. But he belittled Jim Dixon. Unfortunately, Jim didn't make it all the way. He had some problems. But the thing about the article: it seemed to me that Buckley just tore apart everything that I had worked for. His article concluded by saying, Why would a blind person want to sail a boat? He can't see the clouds; he can't see the waves. What would possess him to want to do this? And he finished the article, as I recall, "Cripples can't run; why try?" Well, I have been trying to get back at Bill Buckley for several years, and I will because now I know about the NFB.
On July 26, NFB52--that's the name of our vessel; the "NFB" and the "52" stands for our fifty-two chapters [applause]--we'll slip our berth in Baltimore on the third anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and we will arrive in Plymouth, England, maybe twenty-three days later, maybe eighteen days, maybe thirty days. To those in the sighted world who doubt this trip: I have done two others. There is a risk out there, but if there were no risks, the journey wouldn't be worth doing. [applause]
This time next year, I'll tell you about the trip to England. I know we're out of time, so may God bless all of you as much as He has blessed me. [applause]
[PHOTO: Ramona Walhof, Sheryl Pickering, and Kenneth Jernigan seated at table during meeting of NFB's Resolutions Committee. CAPTION: Ramona Walhof (left) chairs the NFB Resolutions Committee, and Sheryl Pickering (center) serves as committee secretary. Debates are lively, and the committee works hard. Pictured here, Dr. Jernigan is preparing to enter the discussion.]
RESOLUTIONS ADOPTED BY THE ANNUAL CONVENTION
OF THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
by Ramona Walhof
From the Editor: Ramona Walhof is the Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB of Idaho. She also serves as the Chairman of the Resolutions Committee. Each year she presides over the receipt and handling of all resolutions until they are acted upon by the Convention. This is what she has to say about the resolutions considered at the 1993 convention of the National Federation of the Blind:
Monitor readers will recall that the February issue of the Braille Monitor included an article about the streamlining of the resolution process beginning with the 1993 convention. As Resolutions Committee Chairman I for one found this new process to be a major improvement. Resolutions this year were submitted well in advance of the convention. When several persons had an interest in resolutions about the same matters, for the first time it was possible to put them in touch with each other so that they could resolve their differences before the committee considered the resolutions. Thus we were relieved of the need to find the time to do this during the crush of convention activities. More important, resolutions presented to the committee and then to the convention received more thought and were in better form than had sometimes been true formerly.
Twenty-five resolutions were brought to the committee this year. Twenty were sent on to the convention with a recommendation of "pass," and five were withdrawn. Hence twenty resolutions were brought to the convention floor, and all were passed by the convention.
Resolutions adopted by the National Federation of the Blind are written policy statements of the organization. Each resolution is presented to the convention for discussion and a vote. Prior to coming before the convention, resolutions are ordinarily presented to the Resolutions Committee for discussion and a recommendation. The committee may not block a resolution from coming to the floor; it can only recommend "pass" or "not pass." Any NFB member may present a resolution to the Resolutions Committee and, through it, to the NFB convention. If the presenter chooses to withdraw a resolution based on committee discussion or for some other reason, that is also possible.
I wish to thank publicly members of the Resolutions Committee and others who worked on these NFB Policy Statements. The 1993 NFB Resolutions which were passed are as follows:
Resolution 93-01 discusses the use of the word "blind" and other words and phrases which mean "blind" and states the policy of the NFB pertaining to these terms.
Resolution 93-02 commends government agencies for abandoning their support of detectable tactile warnings in traffic and architecture in favor of further study and expresses the view of the NFB that such warnings are not helpful to the blind and may be harmful to everyone. The resolution raises no objection, however, to the efforts made by some transit authorities to use differences in textured surfaces to indicate the various areas in transit stations. The NFB's objection is to the specially applied detectable warning tiles.
Resolution 93-03 calls upon vocational rehabilitation agencies for the blind to adopt policies pursuant to the 1992 amendments of the Rehabilitation Act and lists areas to be included in these policies.
Resolution 93-04 reiterates the Federation's ability to represent the blind and states a goal of discouraging other national organizations which may seek to speak for both blind persons and groups of persons with other disabilities.
Resolution 93-05 calls upon the Social Security Administration to adopt and implement a thirty-day standard for the approval or denial of a Plan to Achieve Self Support.
Resolution 93-06 urges President Clinton and the U.S. Congress to take steps to modernize Supplemental Security Income in accordance with recommendation of the SSI Modernization Project.
Resolution 93-07 seeks instruction for blind children whose parents wish it in Nemeth Code and the Braille Music Code in addition to instruction in standard Grade II Braille, and it seeks instruction for Braille students in the Unified Braille Code when it is adopted.
Resolution 93-08 calls upon the Rehabilitation Services Administration to adopt a policy of presumed eligibility of blind persons for rehabilitation services, especially those receiving SSI and SSDI.
Resolution 93-09 The Randolph-Sheppard Act gives a priority to a designated licensing agency in each state to establish vending facilities to be operated by the blind in Federal buildings. These facilities may be vending machines, of which part of the income is paid to blind operators. Recently the U.S. Department of Education ruled that NASA did not need to pay these fees in a case in Mississippi. This resolution opposes the position of the Department of Education in the NASA case and calls upon the department to review its findings and policies and not take a similar position in the future.
Resolution 93-10 calls upon the Clinton Administration to reverse the new and regressive policy of the General Services Administration to award cafeterias in Federal buildings by contract bids instead of by permit to State Licensing Agencies as allowed by the Randolph-Sheppard Act.
Resolution 93-11 calls upon Attorney General Janet Reno to see that the U.S. Department of Justice defends the Randolph- Sheppard Act, not the governmental agencies that violate it.
Resolution 93-12 condemns the policy of the Federal Communications Commission which excludes blind persons from being volunteer examiners and calls upon the FCC to adopt a policy affirming the ability of blind persons to do this and other functions.
Resolution 93-13 supports reauthorization of the Technology- Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988 and urges improvements in the act.
Resolution 93-14 states that the NFB wishes to be consulted about and evaluate assistive technology for the blind.
Resolution 93-15 opposes employment of blind workers at less than the Federal minimum wage and requests procurement policies prohibiting the government from purchasing products produced by blind persons who are paid less than the minimum wage.
Resolution 93-16 urges the Social Security Administration to provide to beneficiaries upon request a clear statement of their individualized work incentives status.
Resolution 93-17 urges the Clinton Administration and the U.S. Congress to provide findings and personnel to implement the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Resolution 93-18 commends Congressman Jim Ramstad for the introduction of H.R. 794 and urges Congress to hold hearings without delay and pass the bill.
Resolution 93-19 calls upon Congress to amend the Javits- Wagner-O'Day Act to provide that blind persons operating for profit businesses may apply for and receive government contracts under the same terms that now apply to sheltered workshops. Resolution 93-20 commends the American National Standards Institute for reflecting the true needs of Blind Americans by excluding any reference to detectable warnings in its published standards.
There you have the summaries of this year's twenty resolutions. Here are the texts of those resolutions:
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 persons 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 this ninth day of July, 1993, in the City of Dallas, Texas, 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.
WHEREAS, in Resolution 92-07 the National Federation of the Blind strongly opposed all further research on the color, size, shape, and placement of detectable warnings, insisting instead that, if further studies are made, the question whether such warnings are needed or desirable should first be resolved; and
WHEREAS, the Department of Justice, the Department of Transportation, and the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board have now suspended application of detectable warning requirements and guidelines pending further study; and
WHEREAS, studies to be made on the question of detectable warnings must not assume that such warnings are needed and should fully examine the hazards which the warnings create for blind people and others, including persons with disabilities: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1993, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization commend the Department of Justice, the Department of Transportation, and the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board for suspending application of the detectable warnings rules and guidelines, pending further study; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that studies on matters pertaining to detectable warnings should critically examine the presumed justification for such warnings rather than assuming that blind people cannot travel safely without them; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that while the responsible government entities are studying the need for detectable warnings, it is the experience of this organization that the installation of such warnings is not justified by any facts known to the blind and that detectable warnings as a concept should be abandoned altogether.
WHEREAS, the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1992 were passed and signed into law at the end of the second session of the 102nd Congress; and
WHEREAS, consumer empowerment is the dominant theme of this legislation, stating policies such as the following: "respect for individual dignity, personal responsibility, self-determination, and pursuit of meaningful careers based on the informed choice of individuals with disabilities"; and
WHEREAS, consistent with this policy, the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) has instructed each state vocational rehabilitation agency to revise its state plan and in doing so to specify among other things: "how clients are given choice and increased control in determining their vocational goals and objectives, the vocational rehabilitation services they receive, the providers of those services, and methods to provide or secure services"; and
WHEREAS, both the law and RSA's instructions have placed state vocational rehabilitation agencies and their personnel on notice that meaningful and informed choices by clients are expected to become the normal way of doing business in rehabilitation, and the days of counselor or agency mandates which disregard the clients' expressed views and wishes are over: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1993, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization call upon all state vocational rehabilitation agencies serving the blind to adopt a consumer empowerment philosophy and policies consistent with the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1992; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that among the consumer empowerment standards to be followed by state agencies, we strongly urge the following: (1) elimination of restrictive rules that could be and have been used to impair client choice; (2) directing counselors to become pro-active in assuring that clients assigned to them are given choice and increased control over decisions made in developing and carrying out individualized rehabilitation programs; (3) mandatory disclosure of known sources for the provision of service, such as adjustment-to-blindness services, whether or not such sources are located within the state's borders; and (4) referral of clients to known consumer groups from which they may receive advice and advocacy assistance.
WHEREAS, the needs and characteristics of certain groups of persons with disabilities are diverse and often even conflicting; and
WHEREAS, there is far too much confusion about the needs and characteristics of various groups of the disabled; and
WHEREAS, there is some real desire to include disabled persons in the mainstream of society as evidenced by the passage through Congress of the Americans with Disabilities Act; and
WHEREAS, persons with disabilities bear a large share of the responsibility for helping the rest of society learn about their needs and characteristics; and
WHEREAS, there has recently been a push toward the formation of a national organization of persons with disabilities; and
WHEREAS, the existence and activities of such an organization would inevitably cause increased confusion about the differences in needs and characteristics among persons with different types of disabilities; and
WHEREAS, improvements and changes for disabled persons are best accomplished when they are sought by an organization dealing primarily with one disability such as blindness; and
WHEREAS, in the event that a combined effort is needed on behalf of persons with several different types of disabilities, there already exists a coalition of citizens with disabilities: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1993, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that, as the largest organization of blind persons in the country, this Federation continue representing the needs of the blind and taking leadership in making changes for the blind and continue in its endeavors to advocate for and represent the blind of the nation; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Federation of the Blind actively resist and discourage the formation of any national organization of disabled persons which claims to speak for or represent all disabled persons or all types of disabilities.
WHEREAS, the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program includes procedures which an applicant or recipient may use to acquire, save, and spend income or resources to carry out an approved Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS); and
WHEREAS, use of a PASS can be critical for some individuals in establishing or retaining SSI eligibility or in protecting benefit rights, including the amount of the benefit entitlement; and
WHEREAS, approval of a PASS by the Social Security Administration is required before the income and resources to be devoted to the PASS are excluded by the Administration in determining SSI eligibility and payment amounts; and
WHEREAS, since applicants or recipients who submit PASS applications seldom have control over the time schedule which must be met in training programs or schooling involved in the PASS, a prompt response by the Social Security Administration to approve, amend, or deny a PASS application is almost always essential; and
WHEREAS, the length of time taken by the Social Security Administration bears no apparent relationship to critical time schedules involved in implementing the PASS, but rather, once a PASS is submitted there is often a lengthy wait and a period of uncertainty before the applicant or recipient learns that a decision has finally been made, and by then the decision may in fact be too late; and
WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind is joined by the panel of experts in the SSI Modernization Project who have also recommended a prompt determination standard for PASS applications: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1993, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization insist upon a thirty-day prompt determination standard to be met by the Social Security Administration, with approval by presumption to occur if a decision has not been made during the thirty-day period following the Administration's receipt of the application for a PASS; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we ask the Social Security Administration to implement the prompt determination standard specified in this resolution, without the necessity for remedial legislation.
WHEREAS, the Social Security Administration has undertaken a project to modernize the Supplemental Security Income for the Aged, Blind, and Disabled (SSI) program; and
WHEREAS, a panel of experts, including Sharon Gold from the National Federation of the Blind, was used to review the program and develop recommendations for updating the SSI law, regulations, and policies; and
WHEREAS, among several other changes proposed, the panel of experts has recommended the following: (1) increasing the Federal benefit rate so that the standard for an individual would not be less than twenty percent above the poverty line with equivalent raises to be made in the SSI couples' benefit rate as well; (2) raising the resource limits from $2,000 for individuals and $3,000 for couples to $7,000 and $10,500 respectively; (3) increasing the monthly general income exclusion from $20 to $30 and applying it to unearned income only; (4) increasing the monthly earned income exclusion from $65 to $200 plus two thirds of earned income over $200; and (5) eliminating reductions in SSI benefits caused by living with families or friends or by the receipt of in-kind support and maintenance; and
WHEREAS, these recommendations respond forthrightly to the need for SSI modernization, recognizing that many of the program's most significant features, such as the basic resource and income disregards, have not been updated in twenty years, since they were placed in the original law; and
WHEREAS, a continuing national commitment is essential to preserve and update the SSI program in light of economic and social changes which have occurred and will occur: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1993, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization urge the Clinton Administration to give priority to Supplemental Security Income modernization in developing the President's next budget; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Federation inform members of Congress of the need for a continuing national commitment to maintain the SSI program as a critical income-support mechanism for blind people in this country; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call upon the members of the 103rd Congress to take prompt action to enact legislation designed to update the SSI program in accordance with the recommendations made by the modernization project.
WHEREAS, blind and sighted persons who possess a comprehensive education have greater opportunities for employment and career advancement; and
WHEREAS, literacy, mathematics, and various other areas of study such as music, the arts, and the physical sciences are integral parts of a full and complete education for both blind and sighted persons; and
WHEREAS, specialized Braille and print codes exist that enable both blind and sighted students to acquire a thorough education; and
WHEREAS, a unified Braille code, making Braille mathematics an extension of literary Braille, would facilitate the learning and use of Braille by establishing a common standard that would prevent the confusing duplication of symbols: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1993, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization work to ensure that all blind students pursuing an academic course of study receive instruction in Grade II literary Braille; the Nemeth Code of Braille Mathematics; and any other Braille codes, such as the Braille Music Code, the student and/or the student's parents deem necessary for a full and complete education; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization work to ensure that a unified Braille code is adopted and that all blind students pursuing an academic course of study receive instruction in the unified Braille code, when it is adopted, and any other Braille codes, such as the Braille Music Code, the student and/or the student's parents deem necessary for a full and complete education.
WHEREAS, the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) will soon propose regulations to implement the client choice and other provisions of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1992; and
WHEREAS, new provisions for determining eligibility in the program include a presumption that an individual's blindness or disability is a substantial impediment to employment if the individual is eligible to receive disability insurance or SSI benefits paid under the Social Security Act; and
WHEREAS, the receipt of such benefits should be evidence that in most cases the applicant is eligible for vocational rehabilitation services, particularly with respect to blind individuals; and
WHEREAS, regardless of the new presumption favoring eligibility of blind or disabled Social Security or SSI beneficiaries, state agencies have argued that eligibility for any services whatsoever can still be refused if it is decided that employment can be achieved without services; and
WHEREAS, restrictive interpretations of the law such as this have been used in the past to deny needed services, leading Congress to include in the amendments a strong presumption in favor of eligibility: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1993, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization register its most vigorous opposition to efforts by state vocational rehabilitation agencies to undercut the presumption that Social Security and SSI beneficiaries are to be found eligible for vocational rehabilitation services in all but the most unusual of circumstances; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge the Rehabilitation Services Administration to issue clear rules and guidelines designed to enforce a presumed eligibility policy, particularly in the case of beneficiaries.
WHEREAS, the Randolph-Sheppard Act is administered by the United States Department of Education, through the Rehabilitation Services Administration, for the purpose of assuring that all departments, agencies, and instrumentalities of the United States give priority to blind persons in the operation of vending facilities on Federal property; and
WHEREAS, the priority granted to blind persons under the law is absolute and is not conditioned upon the ability or willingness of blind persons to pay proceeds from the vending facility for the support of Federal employee morale, welfare, or recreation activities; and
WHEREAS, in a dramatic departure from this policy and the law itself the United States Department of Education provided a legal opinion to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), informing that agency that it could insist upon payment of sales commissions from facilities operated under the Randolph-Sheppard Act; and
WHEREAS, this opinion was issued during the course of an appeal by NASA of a decision by an arbitration panel, directing NASA to approve an application for a vending facility permit filed by Mississippi Vocational Rehabilitation for the Blind; andv WHEREAS, the opinion, which was fortunately rejected by the Federal District Court, actually supported NASA in a position taken against the blind vendor program in Mississippi in contravention of the Department of Education's legal mandate to provide policy and administrative leadership on behalf of blind vendors: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1993, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization express firm opposition to the legal position taken by the Department of Education in regard to the payment of vending facility proceeds for morale, welfare, and recreation activities of Federal employees; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Federation demand a review by the Department of Education of the position taken in the NASA case to the end that a similar opinion will not be issued in the future.
WHEREAS, the General Services Administration (GSA) controls and manages buildings in which most of the civilian agencies of the United States government are housed; and
WHEREAS, GSA has often been cited as a leader among federal property-managing agencies in giving priority to blind persons in the operation of vending facilities as prescribed by the federal Randolph-Sheppard Act; and
WHEREAS, GSA'S positive record in awarding vending facilities for operation by blind vendors is actually quite mixed in regard to assigning cafeterias, following a policy that is either variable or variably applied, sometimes favoring the assignment of cafeterias for operation under the Randolph- Sheppard Act and sometimes not; and
WHEREAS, in its most recent actions to award cafeteria contracts GSA has returned to an old and once-abandoned policy of requiring state licensing agencies to submit extensive bids which are judged in competition with those of commercial firms; and
WHEREAS, the bidding policy currently applied has never been announced through any official form of communication with state licensing agencies, with the National Federation of the Blind, or in any other way, but it has occurred nonetheless during a time of change-over in administrations, when bureaucrats, lacking accountability, could presume to make decisions on their own; and
WHEREAS, returning to the policy of competitive bidding for federal cafeterias is not justified and should not be allowed by regulations governing the vending facilities program: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1993, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization express outrage over the General Services Administration's return to the use of competitive bidding procedures, which circumvent the goals of improving business opportunities for blind people promised through the priority granted by the Randolph-Sheppard Act; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that responsible officials of the Clinton Administration who are given the authority to do so shall be urged to review and reverse GSA'S policy change without delay.
WHEREAS, the Randolph-Sheppard Act specifies that the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) is to be the lead agency in issuing regulations and in coordinating compliance with the Act by all departments, agencies, and instrumentalities of the United States; and
WHEREAS, the specification of a lead agency for administration of the Act was necessary to ensure that priority for blind vendors to operate vending facilities would be uniformly applied throughout the Federal government; and
WHEREAS, the lead agency designation under the law means that RSA's interpretations of the law should receive deference over opposing interpretations by other Federal agencies; and
WHEREAS, the United States Department of Justice has demonstrated a pattern of vigorously defending Federal agencies whose actions or positions are inconsistent with the goals and requirements of the Randolph-Sheppard Act, not to mention being inconsistent with RSA's interpretations of the law; and
WHEREAS, this pattern of failing to uphold the Randolph- Sheppard Act is exemplified by the Department of Veterans Affairs versus the Minnesota Department of Jobs and Training and Dennis Groshel appeal, in which the Department of Justice is challenging the constitutionality of the arbitration process which is used under the Act to resolve disputes; and
WHEREAS, continued assaults upon the Randolph-Sheppard Act by the Department of Justice are deplorable and cannot be tolerated: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1993, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization urge the Attorney General, Janet Reno, to rein in her Department and insist upon vigorous defense of the Randolph-Sheppard Act, not the agencies that violate it.
WHEREAS, examinations to qualify for amateur radio operator licenses are administered by volunteer examiners authorized by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC); and
WHEREAS, the FCC regulations governing the amateur radio service state that a volunteer examiner must be present for and observe the entire examination; and
WHEREAS, the Chief of the FCC's Private Radio Bureau has issued an official opinion that individuals who are blind cannot properly observe examinations because of their blindness; and
WHEREAS, despite this official opinion, many blind radio amateurs have already successfully completed the duties of a volunteer examiner; and
WHEREAS, because blind teachers, professors, instructors, and volunteer examiners have clearly demonstrated that blind individuals can competently and effectively administer all types of examinations, the FCC's current policy amounts to officially sanctioned and blatant discrimination against the blind: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1993, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization condemn and deplore the discriminatory policy of the Federal Communications Commission which excludes blind persons from serving as volunteer examiners; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon the FCC to adopt a policy and issue an opinion which affirmatively confirms the ability of blind individuals to administer licensing examinations and carry out any other function under the amateur radio service.
WHEREAS, Congress enacted the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988 to ensure that individuals with disabilities would have greater access to assistive technology devices and services; and
WHEREAS, the Congress is currently considering legislation to reauthorize this Act; and
WHEREAS, the reauthorization proposal holds promise for improving the Act in several important ways, especially by emphasizing consumer empowerment; and
WHEREAS, with few exceptions technology assistance and services designed to meet the needs of blind individuals have so far received short shrift in the implementation of this Act, a situation which can best be remedied by including in the reauthorization bill an option for states receiving grants under the Act to designate an agency specializing in services to the blind in a manner similar to the designation of agencies under Title I of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended; and
WHEREAS, further strengthening of the Act should be made by adding provisions stating that grants to programs serving specialized disability needs, such as the needs of blind individuals, are both authorized and encouraged: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1993, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization support legislation to reauthorize the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act and applaud proposals being made to improve consumer-responsiveness and self-determination in programs funded under the Act; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call upon the Congress to make further improvements in the Reauthorization legislation, such as those specified in this resolution, which will better ensure that the technology needs of blind individuals are met.
WHEREAS, the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) has stimulated development of new assistive technology with the intent of accommodations for blind persons and other individuals with disabilities; and
WHEREAS, one such area has to do with audible signage; and
WHEREAS, such assistive technology may be developed in a vacuum and subsequently be presented by well-meaning people as the ultimate solution; and
WHEREAS, an accommodation must be practical in its intended use while not demeaning the user; and
WHEREAS, overselling and exploitation of assistive technology may occur where consumer input is absent or ignored; and
WHEREAS, assistive devices should be unobtrusive and user- controlled, and enhance a public image of ability not disability: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1993, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization is eager to consult with people and organizations seeking to develop, market, and utilize assistive technologies and to participate in the informal and formal evaluation of said technologies.
WHEREAS, the federal minimum wage has been established under the Fair Labor Standards Act to set a floor-level pay standard for American workers; and
WHEREAS, blind people who work in special industrial programs, generally referred to as "sheltered workshops," produce products bought by the United States Government and valued at over $200 million annually, and still these workers are not guaranteed at least the minimum wage for their labor in producing these products purchased by the government; and
WHEREAS, it is ironic but true that employers in the competitive labor force routinely pay their blind employees at least the minimum wage and more, if for no other reason than because they fear being charged with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 by virtue of having a double pay standard; and
WHEREAS, purchasing policies of the Federal government, including price determinations made by the Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled, are a major contributing factor to common practices of sheltered workshops that exploit blind people by paying them subminimum wages; and
WHEREAS, rather than contributing to or even causing practices that lead to pay exploitation, the Federal government should be a model and set an example by refusing to purchase items from employers, including sheltered workshops, that do not pay their workers at least the Federal minimum wage: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1993, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization oppose as a matter of principle the employment of blind workers at pay rates that are less than the Federal minimum wage; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we request the cooperation and leadership of responsible members of the Congress to adopt federal procurement policies which prohibit rates of pay below the minimum wage for the production of products or services bought by the United States government.
WHEREAS, the Social Security Administration has regulations and announced policies to promote incentives to work for beneficiaries in the disability insurance program; and
WHEREAS, uncertainty about how the work incentive provisions apply at particular times and in particular circumstances is a major if not the major factor which discourages work attempts; and
WHEREAS, the Social Security Administration has made efforts to inform beneficiaries about their benefit rights when they work, but beyond a point this general information is not sufficient to overcome the uncertainty and fear of adverse consequences which may result from work; and
WHEREAS, this apparent policy not to emphasize careful tracking of vital work incentive information, such as trial work or extended eligibility months used and available, leads to overpayment disputes and ultimately defeats the work incentive goals: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1993, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization urge the Social Security Administration to institute procedures for supplying beneficiaries, upon their request, with clear, understandable, individualized, and written work incentive status reports including at a minimum (1) a listing of the specific trial work months already used, (2) a statement of the number (if any) of trial work months remaining and a reminder about the earnings and services criteria used to determine trial work; (3) if the trial work period has ended, information on when the extended eligibility period began and when it will end; and (4) a reminder about earnings allowed while receiving benefits during any month of extended eligibility.
WHEREAS, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 was enacted to prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, transportation, and public accommodations; and
WHEREAS, enforcement of the ADA's civil rights provisions is primarily the responsibility of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the United States Department of Transportation, and the United States Department of Justice; and
WHEREAS, the new legal rights provided for people with disabilities under the ADA will have very little practical meaning unless these government agencies are equipped with the personnel and financial resources necessary to investigate and prosecute complaints; and
WHEREAS, the resources currently devoted to ADA technical assistance and enforcement are woefully inadequate, even to the point where those affected by the Act cannot obtain needed information in response to written or telephone inquiries because staffing is not sufficient to meet the demand; and
WHEREAS, the history of civil rights enforcement in this country amply demonstrates that covered entities will comply based largely on their perception of the government's commitment to enforce the law, a commitment which is currently in doubt with respect to the ADA: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1993, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this Federation urge the Clinton Administration to give priority to vigorous enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act both in funding and assignment of personnel under the present budget and in its future budget proposals presented to the Congress; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge the Congress to place a high priority on providing resources for ADA enforcement through appropriate provisions in relevant spending and authorization bills.
WHEREAS, blind persons have traditionally had few opportunities to become employed and even fewer opportunities to establish and maintain their own businesses; and
WHEREAS, Sections 8(a) and 7(j) of the Small Business Act establish a Minority Small Business and Capital Ownership Development Program to be conducted by the Small Business Administration (SBA); and
WHEREAS, this program is intended in part to foster business ownership by individuals who are both socially and economically disadvantaged and to promote the competitive viability of businesses owned and operated by them; and
WHEREAS, participants eligible for the program by definition include members of racial and ethnic minorities, but exclude persons with disabilities (including blind persons) unless, on an individual basis, applicants can prove social disadvantage under criteria not clearly specified; and
WHEREAS, the Americans with Disabilities Business Development Act (H.R. 794) has been introduced in the 103rd Congress by Representative Jim Ramstad specifically to include persons with disabilities as a recognized minority group having the presumed status of social disadvantage for purposes of the minority small business program: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1993, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this Federation commend Congressman Ramstad for standing tall with the blind of America in his introduction of H.R. 794; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge the Congress through the Small Business Committees in the House of Representatives and the Senate to hold hearings on this legislation and take further action to bring it to a vote and have this bill enacted as soon as possible.
WHEREAS, Congress enacted the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act (originally the Wagner-O'Day Act) in 1938 to promote employment opportunities for blind people through the manufacturing of products purchased by the federal government; and
WHEREAS, non-profit agencies that employ blind people or others with severe disabilities in their manufacturing operations can qualify to sell products or services to the federal government on non-competitive terms; and
WHEREAS, since 1938 federal employment policy regarding the blind has changed dramatically from an emphasis on sheltered employment to the goal of competitive employment in integrated work settings; and
WHEREAS, full participation in the economic life of our society involves performing work that is far more complex and challenging than the assembly line jobs in non-profit agencies currently supported by contracts under the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act; and
WHEREAS, the operation of small, for-profit businesses by blind persons could be stimulated through the use of federal contracts if the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act allowed such contracts to be offered to businesses owned and operated by blind individuals: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED BY the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1993, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization urge the Congress to enact amendments to the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act which will permit for- profit businesses owned and operated by blind individuals to be awarded federal contracts under essentially the same procedures and terms that now apply exclusively to sheltered workshops.
WHEREAS, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is the recognized authority in setting building and construction standards for private-sector facilities in the United States; and
WHEREAS, in the latest revision of its standards, ANSI considered including guidelines for detectable warnings but rejected the guidelines altogether after learning of the experience and considered views of blind people; and
WHEREAS, ANSI's decision not to include detectable warnings in its guidelines represents a constructive philosophy and an enlightened view about the true needs of blind people: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this ninth day of July, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization commend the American National Standards Institute for reflecting the true needs of blind Americans by excluding any reference to detectable warnings in its published standards.