37, No. 2
Barbara Pierce, Editor
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NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
THE BLIND IS NOT
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 37, No. 2 February 1994
EDUCATIONAL SETTINGS FOR CHILDREN WITH
by Barbara Pierce
COURSE, SHIFTING THE EMPHASIS: THE BLIND IN THE 1990'S
by Gary Wunder
TEACHES SCHOOL SYSTEM NOT TO DISCRIMINATE
by Scott LaBarre
BRAILLE BILL: AN EXERCISE IN COOPERATION
by Carla McQuillan
WALKING ALONE AND MARCHING TOGETHER IN ALAMOGORDO
THE NFB IN
by Kevan Worley
AND HIGHER PRINCIPLES
by Fatos Floyd
THE CRITICAL FACTOR IN THE EDUCATION OF BLIND CHILDREN
by Fredric K. Schroeder
MICHIGAN: THE FIRST, THE BIGGEST, AND THE BEST
REASON: A BLACK PERSPECTIVE ON A DARK ISSUE
by John W. Smith
NEW FACULTY MEMBER MAKES A PLACE FOR HIMSELF
SOCIAL SECURITY, SSI, AND MEDICARE FACTS FOR 1994
Copyright 1994 National Federation of the Blind, Inc.
[2 LEAD PHOTOS: PHOTO 1)
Four men in National Center for the Blind kitchen, cleaning and doing dishes.
PHOTO 2) President Maurer and Mr. Cobb stand on ladders cleaning walls in an
office. CAPTION: Whether it's walking a picket line, stuffing envelopes, or
helping to clean at the National Center for the Blind, Federationists have never
been afraid of hard work. Above, members of the Board of Directors of the National
Federation of the Blind wash dishes after a meal during the Board's annual Thanksgiving
weekend meeting. Below, President Maurer and Tony Cobb of the National staff
wax the paneling in the new street-level area at the National Center. Working
or playing, members of the National Federation of the Blind enjoy spending time
[PHOTO: Barbara Pierce standing at microphone. CAPTION: Barbara Pierce.]
ARE SPECIALIZED EDUCATIONAL SETTINGS FOR CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES IMMORAL?
by Barbara Pierce
The nation's highest ranking governmental official dealing directly with disability issues is Judy Heumann, Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services in the Department of Education (DED). The fact that Ms. Heumann uses a wheelchair and therefore understands and shares the views of a significant number of the people whom her programs ultimately affect is fairly novel and frequently helpful. But despite Ms. Heumann's firsthand knowledge all is not harmonious sweetness and light in the field of education of children with special needs.
The present difficulty is yet one more manifestation of the same old problem: in a field in which there are many different disabilities and in which even students with the same deficit have very different needs, no one educational solution will ever fit everybody. Clearly a continuum of learning environments from full inclusion in the regular classroom to the specialized residential school must be available and acceptable educational alternatives if disabled children are not to be the losers. Yet even when a range of options is available, we human beings have a near genius for doing the wrong things for the right reasons as well as the occasional possibility of doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. All this complicates even the best-intentioned effort to find the right educational setting for each disabled child.
Add to all this the instinct on the part of many public school officials to cloak their fears and misconceptions about disabilities in fashionable educational jargon and excuses about limited financial resources, and you have a situation in which what is best for the individual disabled child is often completely disregarded. Knowing that many children with special needs could thrive in the regular classroom if there were only some architectural modifications or some special instruction (Braille, sign language, speech therapy, etc.), some advocates maintain that disabled students will never be truly accepted in the regular classroom until schools are required to include them in regular classes as a matter of course. On the other hand both mainstream teachers who recognize that these children almost never get all the support services and specialized instruction they need and those who believe that disabled students can never fit in and always cause complications and disruption in their classrooms are frantic to keep all such children out. Sometimes with good reason and sometimes not, they say that they can't give disabled students the time and attention they require.
There is no easy solution to this mess. But in an article printed elsewhere in this issue, Fred Schroeder discusses the first step to finding the answer. All teachers of disabled children must begin with a fundamental belief in the abilities of the children they work with. Teachers, parents, and ultimately the students themselves must come to have real confidence in the youngsters' ability to compete academically and socially with their nondisabled peers of comparable ability.
Sufficient funds must be found to insure that the necessary skill instruction and services are available for disabled students. If these conditions were met and schools were fully accessible to students using crutches or wheelchairs, most youngsters with sensory or mobility impairments could certainly fit into the regular classroom with little problem and special services that decrease as they mature. Whether or when children with severe mental, emotional, or behavioral disabilities belong in the regular classroom is to my mind a different question and one which we in the National Federation of the Blind are not equipped to discuss knowledgeably.
In 1994, however, we are very far from being at this ideal level of educational enlightenment. It is fair to say that not a single element of the educational continuum is currently providing consistently excellent service, which is to say that improvement is necessary in every regular classroom and in every alternative setting. Enter Assistant Secretary Heumann and her predisposition in favor of full inclusion. As a youngster whose only problem was the necessity to use a wheelchair, she undoubtedly belonged in the regular classroom, an option which for part of her education, at least, she was denied. It is understandable that today she feels keenly the importance of seeing that prejudice, ignorance, and sloppy design will never again prevent disabled students from benefitting from the educational opportunities she was denied. And certainly the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) includes language that strongly encourages the mainstreaming of special education students. In fact, the Department of Education is preparing to send appropriate officials in every state copies of a brief it recently submitted in a court case together with an important court decision, the Oberti case, handed down last September. The Oberti lawsuit ended when the Clementon, New Jersey, school district chose not to appeal a court order that it must try to educate a student with Down's Syndrome in a regular classroom by providing support services. According to statements made by Judy Heumann, the rightness or wrongness of inclusion is not a legal question. The legal issue is what the IDEA requires, and the Department of Education concurs with the Oberti decision on this point. The decision reads in part:
"We construe IDEA's mainstreaming requirement to prohibit a school from placing a child with disabilities outside of a regular classroom if educating the child in the regular classroom with supplementary aids and supportive services can be achieved satisfactorily. In addition, if placement outside of a regular classroom is necessary for the child to receive educational benefit, the school may still be violating IDEA if it has not made sufficient efforts to include the child in school programs with nondisabled children whenever possible. We also hold that the school bears the burden of proving compliance with the mainstreaming requirement of IDEA, regardless of which party (the child and parents or the school) brought the claim under IDEA before the district court."
Such language can all too easily be (and, in fact, has already been) interpreted by school districts as justification for eliminating resource rooms, itinerant teachers, and special programs of all kinds. Then, as if this possibility were not dangerous enough, Ms. Heumann made a statement in a speech in California early last fall to the effect that she considered segregated special education immoral. Her statement and a subsequent exchange with a member of the audience were reported in the November 2, 1993, issue of the publication, The Special Educator. In an article entitled "Oberti Decision is Core of the ED's Inclusion Position," the exchange was reported as follows:
At one point Heumann compared the IDEA's mandate [for full inclusion] with the landmark Supreme Court case on racially segregated education, Brown v. Board of Education, stating "separate but equal is not acceptable." She also called segregated special education "immoral."
During a question and answer period following Heumann's address, one special education administrator challenged that term.
"I don't support full inclusion and I'm not immoral," an administrator said, drawing the applause of many in the audience. "I think special education students will lose in the regular classroom. These kids don't really learn anything there. Their needs are lost."
In her reply Heumann said, "If special education segregated classes were working, these kids wouldn't be dropping out of school in record numbers."
That's what Heumann said, and the outcry in the special education community was immediate. Sherry Kolbe, Executive Director of the National Association of Private Schools for Exceptional Children, wrote first to Ms. Heumann and then to Senator Edward Kennedy, Chairman of the Committee on Labor and Human Resources, to express the Association's dismay and deep concern. Here are the two letters:
Washington, D.C. November 17, 1993
Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
U.S. Department of Education
Dear Assistant Secretary Heumann: On behalf of the National Association of Private Schools for Exceptional Children (NAPSEC), I want to express our disappointment in learning of your recent classification of separate settings for children with disabilities as "immoral."
Obviously, your using the term "immoral" to describe separate settings for children with special needs is disturbing to all who are involved in providing specialized services to children outside the regular classroom. NAPSEC schools and the services that they provide are both necessary and critical to the special education system.
I find it most disturbing that, upon having met with me, you acknowledged the need for our schools in the special education system, yet would subsequently make such an inflammatory statement. At no time during our meeting at the Department did you even insinuate that you felt our schools were "immoral." These are obviously conflicting statements. I am also disappointed that you cannot see any of the good things that have happened and continue to happen in separate special education settings. Maybe it would be beneficial for you to visit some of our schools so you can see first hand that your comment is unfounded.
Also, in your statement regarding segregated special education, you mentioned that, if these settings were working, then children with disabilities would not be dropping out of schools in record numbers. The Department of Education's Fourteenth Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act states that students who attend larger schools and those who spend relatively more time in regular education classes are more likely to fail courses, and those who failed a course in their most recent school year were almost three times more likely to drop out than students who had not failed a course. Also how do you explain the drop-out rate for regular education students being educated in the regular classroom? In 1991 the drop-out rate in New York City was 17.2%, in Chicago it was 51.1%, and in Los Angeles it was 38.1%. If the regular classroom worked for everyone, wouldn't it also work for these students?
NAPSEC is not anti-inclusion, but pro-child. It is our concern that, by taking the "individual" out of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, children with disabilities will not receive the timely services necessary to address their unique needs. With the passage of P.L.94-142, we won the fight against one system of education for all children, and now the education system is able to provide a continuum of services to ensure that each child's individual needs are appropriately met.
All NAPSEC schools operate on this fundamental belief: to guarantee that each child's unique needs are met on an individual basis in order to achieve his/her maximum potential. The goal of each NAPSEC school is to provide a learning environment in which the child can establish and develop the skills necessary to allow him/her to function successfully in society. Further, our belief is that there is nothing "immoral" about providing options for children and families with special needs.
Sherry L. Kolbe
cc: Michelle Doyle, Office of Private Education
November 17, 1993
Dear Chairman Kennedy:
On behalf of the National Association of Private Schools for Exceptional Children (NAPSEC), I want to call your attention to the recent comments made by the Assistant Secretary of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Ms. Judith Heumann, regarding educating children with disabilities in separate settings.
Ms. Heumann made her feelings clear when she stated at a meeting in California that segregated special education is "immoral." Obviously this is very offensive to all of those dedicated special education teachers who have devoted their lives to working with children who have special needs. It is unacceptable for someone who is supposedly representing all children with disabilities, regardless of placement, to call those who provide educational services in separate classrooms and facilities, both public and private, "immoral." It is also very unsettling to know that these views are coming from someone who represents the Department of Education. It has been our belief that the Department both recognizes and respects the necessity of choices and options for individuals who cannot better themselves without special services to address their individual needs.
NAPSEC represents over 200 private special education schools that provide special education services for both publicly and privately placed students. The majority of our schools serve publicly placed children who are referred to our schools because they need individualized services that are not available in the public school setting. These students are funded through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Chapter 1 Handicapped Program. As you can see, if separate settings for children with disabilities are indeed immoral as stated by Ms. Heumann, the funding for these "immoral" services is being provided by law. IDEA requires that each child have an individual education program (IEP) designed to meet his/her unique needs. The determination of educational placement is based upon the student's IEP. The law also requires that students have access to a full continuum of special education services, provided in both public and private settings. Placing every child with disabilities in the regular classroom regardless of his/her needs is not only inconsistent with the law but may be detrimental to the child's ability to learn.
There is a group of individuals that believe that all children with disabilities should be educated in the regular classroom and that all other options and choices should be eliminated from the law. These individuals use the term "segregation" when they speak of children with disabilities that are placed outside the regular classroom. This word immediately conjures up ugly visions of discrimination and racial prejudice. The term is inappropriately borrowed from the civil rights movement and is not applicable to children with disabilities. Children being served in separate classrooms and schools are receiving the type of additional assistance necessary to help them succeed--not keep them from succeeding.
At this point we are unsure of what to believe. The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services states that separate settings for children with disabilities is "immoral," while the Director of the Office of Special Education Programs, Dr. Thomas Hehir, has stated publicly that the inclusion of all children with disabilities in the regular classroom will not work for all special needs children. These are conflicting statements, yet both are coming from the Department of Education.
Ms. Heumann's statement is very disturbing to those of us who see educators of children with disabilities, in any setting, as persons who should be applauded for their efforts and devotion, not be called "immoral" by the person who is in charge of the programs that make their function possible.
It is our sincere hope that the Congress will work to maintain a continuum of services for children with disabilities, as stated in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, to ensure that children with special needs will continue to receive services that appropriately address their individual needs.
Sherry L. Kolbe
It did not take Assistant Secretary Heumann long to respond to Ms. Kolbe's letter, and Senator Kennedy was not far behind. In his letter the Senator commended all those who work with exceptional children and explained that there had been confusion over Ms. Heumann's California remarks. He then enclosed a copy of Ms. Heumann's letter written to Sherry Kolbe. Here is that letter:
December 2, 1993
Ms. Sherry Kolbe
I received your letter regarding my comments about educational placements in separate settings for students with disabilities, and I am pleased to have this chance to clarify my position. During the five months since I was confirmed as Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), I have had the opportunity to meet or talk with the leadership of numerous organizations involved in advocacy for disabled children and adults. I have also met with hundreds of parents of disabled children across the nation. I firmly believe that within the last twenty years there have been major accomplishments in the education of disabled students in this country. However, I know more needs to be done. The primary concern I have heard expressed during these conversations is that for many disabled children the full range of placement options is not available.
The continuum of alternative placement is an integral part of the IDEA regulations which Office of Special Education Programs Director Tom Hehir and I are bound, both by our positions and by our own beliefs, to enforce. Tom and I both believe, consistent with IDEA, that the regular classroom in the neighborhood school should be the first placement option considered for students with disabilities. We also believe our education system must provide administrators and teachers with the training and support they need to make the regular classroom in the neighborhood school the appropriate placement, and we aim to provide strong leadership to help make that happen.
Being disabled myself and having received part of my education in segregated settings for no other reason than that I happened to use a wheelchair, I do not shrink from describing such placements as wrong--when the placement is made for reasons other than the educational needs of the child. With fifty percent of physically disabled students still receiving their education in some type of separate setting, I will continue to make strong statements in support of regular classroom placements. At the same time we fully appreciate and support the important role of other options on the continuum for some students.
I also know of the critical need for parents of all disabled children to receive more and better information about the available options and the supports that may be needed for their children. I believe that the more information parents have, the more effective they will be in the decision-making process affecting their children's education. There is a role for all of us in this empowerment process.
I regret that my schedule does not accommodate my participation in the annual meeting of NAPSEC next month. Still I would welcome the opportunity to visit a NAPSEC member school that you consider especially effective in providing educational services to disabled students. It may be easier to schedule a visit to a site in the Washington, D.C., area, but I could also consider such a visit in another part of the country. I hope you will identify some potential sites for my review.
I am convinced that we hold in common the most basic interest: better outcomes for all disabled students through appropriate and high quality education services. It is unfortunate that a few statements from my presentation in a public forum have been interpreted as a lack of support for ensuring that a full range of placement options is available for each disabled child and his or her family. My record, both past and future, will show that I fully support the availability of a continuum of placement options for students with disabilities. I look forward to working with you to achieve our mutual goals.
Judith E. Heumann
United States Department of Education
Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
That is what Ms. Heumann wrote, and it was reassuring to have her commit to paper her belief in the importance of a continuum of special education settings. One cannot help pointing out, however, that it would be helpful if she were to make this commitment more publicly and more often. Here is the letter that Sherry Kolbe wrote Ms. Heumann in response:
December 6, 1993
Judith E. Heumann
Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
Thank you for your recent letter. I appreciate your taking the time to clarify your position on the continuum of options for children with disabilities.
I agree with you wholeheartedly when you say that the full range of placement options is not currently available to children with disabilities. I too have talked with hundreds of parents regarding the lack of appropriate services for their children. Some of the conversations are very sad and unsettling. I have talked with teachers who have told me that they are not allowed to tell parents that there are any other options available for their children besides those that are offered in the public schools, regardless of whether they are appropriate or not. I have talked with children in NAPSEC schools who have told me that they did not have any friends before they came to the school. All of these conversations are equally disheartening. Yes, I agree, there is still much to be done.
NAPSEC has always strongly supported placements based solely on a child's Individual Education Program (IEP) and like you, does not excuse those placements based on other unrelated judgments. However, it is imperative that, when you make strong statements against "such placements as wrong" as described in your letter, it is done on an individual-by-individual placement basis to avoid promoting the concept that all placements in separate settings are wrong for children with disabilities. As you well know, using an all-or-nothing approach that disregards individual educational needs often leaves us with nothing. You also stated in your letter that "the continuum of alternative placements is an integral part of the IDEA regulations which Office of Special Education Programs Director Tom Hehir and I are bound, both by our own positions and by our own beliefs, to enforce." This is a message that has not yet been clearly expressed. The majority of articles in which you are quoted deal with your support for full inclusion. The importance of maintaining a full continuum of options for children with disabilities is not discussed. This could be an area where you can help to provide parents with "more and better information about the available options and the supports that may be needed for their children" by publicly discussing the options available through the continuum, of which inclusion in the regular classroom is just one of many options available to address the individual educational needs of children with disabilities.
Enclosed for your review are copies of NAPSEC Directory pages that provide program descriptions of nine member schools in the metropolitan area that you may wish to visit. I will be happy to work with your office to schedule school visits and any other arrangements that you may need. You may be particularly interested to know that the Ivymount School in Rockville, Maryland, and the School for Contemporary Education in Annandale, Virginia, have recently been recognized as Schools of Excellence by the Department of Education.
Again, I appreciate your taking the time to state your support for a continuum of options. I will share your views with the NAPSEC membership. I look forward to working with you to ensure that options and choices for children with disabilities and their families remain available and accessible in the future. Best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season.
Sherry L. Kolbe
The most recent group to weigh in with its views on full inclusion is the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). In the December 17, 1993, edition of the publication, Disability Funding News, the AFT called for a moratorium on full inclusion. One is forced to question whether this call is based on a disinterested concern for all children or panic at the prospect of facing new challenges. The answer is undoubtedly some of both. Here is the article:
AFT Urges Moratorium On Full Inclusion Programs
The American Federation of Teachers urges a moratorium on school inclusion policies that integrate all special needs students in regular classrooms.
AFT proposes a strategy for making inclusion work more effectively where appropriate, beginning with a reappraisal of federal, state, and local policies.
"A moratorium means that the abuse must stop and give common sense and sound educational policy a chance to prevail," says AFT President Albert Shanker. "We must put the brakes on a helter- skelter, even tumultuous, rush toward full inclusion so that everyone involved--parents, school boards, legislators, Congress, and the Clinton administration--can develop a policy based on what is best for all children in our public schools."
But Advocates of Inclusive School Policies Disagree
"Inclusion benefits all students in schools where careful planning has taken place and training and support are provided for teachers," responds Brenda Welburn, executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE).
"Schools with successful inclusion environments are characterized by active teacher involvement in decisions about scheduling, staffing patterns, and staff development. These schools should be used as models for other schools to proceed in implementing inclusion, rather than putting the whole reform effort on hold."
The move toward inclusion is most aggressive in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Utah, and Vermont. And inclusion was gathering momentum in Ohio and West Virginia until teachers began campaigning against it, Shanker says.
New inclusion initiatives currently in the works could potentially place up to 4.7 million special education students in regular classrooms. Some 34 percent of those 4.7 million children were taught in regular classrooms in 1990-91, according to the Department of Education.
AFT maintains that placing disabled students who yell, scream, and are prone to violent outbursts in regular classrooms threatens the academic achievement of the other students.
"More and more teachers are catheterizing children, fixing feeding tubes, giving medications, and performing other procedures on medically fragile children, while across the room a violently disruptive student is on the verge of getting away with mayhem because he can't be disciplined without a court order," Shanker says. He notes that a recent AFT survey of the one hundred largest school districts finds only five percent of schools train their general classroom teachers to deal with special needs children.
While NASBE agrees that providing little or no support to teachers to handle children with special needs or implementing inclusion without adequate support is inappropriate, Welburn says "To stop the entire effort to include students with special needs in general education classrooms is an overreaction."
Andrew Stamp, spokesman for NASBE, says the concern that teachers spend too much time disciplining special needs students is unfounded. In fact, the majority of students causing the problems in the classroom are not special needs students.
"We cannot lay the ills of society or the problems in the classroom on the backs of students with disabilities," he says, adding that one Louisiana school district, in its third year of a five-year move toward full inclusion, reported a 50 percent decrease in K-6 discipline referrals to the principal.
The motivation for inclusion is often based on budgetary and ideological motivations, Shanker says, not educational reasons.
"Schools claim to do it [inclusion] for idealistic reasons," Shanker says. "It's simply a budget savings device using the fig leaf of altruism."
Due to budget shortfalls in the federal government, school systems are under financial pressure to cut back expensive programs for students with special needs, and inclusion is one such budget-cutting measure. As a result, services are bound to be reduced or eliminated once students are scattered throughout the school system, Shanker explains.
But inclusion advocates say many states actually reward school districts financially if they keep disabled students in separate classes. They contend that special services can continue for these students if they attend regular classes.
The AFT strategy calls for:
A reappraisal of federal laws and policies that encourage inappropriate inclusion.
Congress to fulfill its pledge to fund 40 percent of costs for special needs children, as provided in the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (now the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). Congress currently provides only seven percent of this funding.
Giving teachers the authority to help determine which special needs students should be placed in regular classes.
Limits on the number of special needs children in regular classes.
Removing limitations on disciplining special needs students who are disruptive or dangerous to others.
While the moratorium is in existence at the state and local level, Shanker says, policy makers at all levels must work to balance the needs of special education and regular students for the future.
There it is--a complicated and varied situation in which there is no clear way of protecting the disabled child's right to a free and appropriate education. Clearly there is no one solution for all children or even for a single youngster throughout his or her educational life, and that means there is no one course of action for knowledgeable parents and advocates to take. We must continue to fight for improvements at every point on the special education continuum, and we must resist efforts to drop blind youngsters into regular classrooms without giving them instruction in the skills of blindness or support services to provide the educational materials they need in accessible form. There is still much for informed, thoughtful, and caring members of the National Federation of the Blind to do to protect the rights of today's blind children.
[PHOTO: Gary Wunder stands with microphone in hand. CAPTION: Gary Wunder.]
THE COURSE, SHIFTING THE EMPHASIS:
THE BLIND IN THE 1990'S
by Gary Wunder
From the Editor: Gary Wunder is the President of the Missouri affiliate and a leader at every level of the National Federation of the Blind. In November of 1993 he was the national representative at the NFB of Ohio convention, and the banquet address he delivered still has those who heard it thinking and talking about it. Here is what he said:
This past weekend I had the good fortune to work with ninety high school and college students who attended one of our seminars to learn about the skills which would benefit them in their education. The name of the event was Student Network, and it was jointly hosted by Missouri's state agency, Rehabilitation Services for the Blind, and the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri. In general terms, they pay; we present--a nice arrangement, and one which they encourage.
The reactions we get from students are almost uniformly positive. They are quick to say they appreciate our time; think our speaking is at least passible, if not entertaining; are encouraged by our accomplishments; and say they would attend the next Network should we decide to have one. Interspersed with this praise, however, are statements like the following: We would like to hear more from students; we spend too much time listening to old people. Sometimes I think the presenters are too rigid; it is as though they think they know all the answers. I wish you'd talk more about problems and how you solved them and less about philosophy and life. Then there is the all-important request: "Tell us more about how we can get our own Braille 'n Speaks and computers."
Since we ask for the evaluations in an attempt to improve our program, we have to wrestle with ways to keep the good while incorporating the criticisms in something positive. The difficulty we face is one which buffets us everyday as Federationists, workers, parents, and members of American society. How can we convey the meaningful values which have made us what we are, while at the same time recognizing the changes that have taken place between the past we describe and the present we occupy as we speak? In more concrete terms, how do we stress the importance of old-fashioned educational values without telling that worn-out story about walking seven miles to school each day in snow up to our hips?
All of this preamble leads me to what I want to talk about tonight--the changes which have occurred in recent decades for blind people, the ways in which we have brought about these changes, and our current role in this new reality. Even though our history reveals a change in emphasis from decade to decade, never have we lost the vision which brings continuity to it all: our vision of a world in which the blind are treated as normal, capable people who simply do not see, a vision of a world in which every blind person can have a job, a family, and a valued place in his or her community.
When we began our movement over fifty years ago, our first task was to establish a means of subsistence-level support for the blind. Most blind people in 1940 lived with family members and had no means of self-support. As long as their care and support were the responsibility of relatives, they would continue to be treated like children and would likely regard themselves as inferiors, lesser beings whose thoughts and opinions were of little significance. Our work then was to provide a monthly state payment for the blind, and this we were successful in securing.
After a minimal income was provided by law, our next job was to see that blind people got training. Not only was it necessary to learn the skills of blindness that would allow for independent travel and self-care, but additional academic and job skill training would be required if the blind were to secure employment. At first the training we received was minimal and rarely adequate, but each year saw new victories, and hope grew as the blind of that generation witnessed the changes.
Once we had won the right to an education and some training, our emphasis shifted once again, and we turned our attention toward changing the attitudes of a skeptical public who simply did not believe the blind could work and make a contribution to society. In the fifties you will remember our struggles with the Civil Service, our demand that we be given the right to take tests, our demand that our test scores be posted, our demand that we be interviewed when our test scores were competitive, and finally our demand that we be hired when we were the most qualified candidates available. Through this lengthy and at times frustrating process, we continued to do what we had always done for one another--reminding ourselves that we truly were competent human beings. At times we had our doubts, for few were those who believed as we did. Each day we hoped and dreamed, sharing with our blind cohorts our little triumphs and defeats, clinging to the progress of each of our brothers and sisters as proof of the rightness of our belief in ourselves.
Throughout the sixties and seventies we did much in the legislatures of the land to provide basic civil rights protection for the blind. White Cane laws soon declared that blind people could travel where we wished with our canes and our dog guides. Landlords could not deny us a place to live or charge us more to live in their establishments. Public transportation systems were not only obliged to permit us to ride but were compelled to make reasonable accommodations for us such as announcing stops and giving us the name of the route the bus was traveling. Restaurants were ordered to seat and serve us without regard to our use of a dog guide, and even insurance companies were compelled to review their policies regarding the sale of insurance to the blind, being required to justify any higher rate by statistically demonstrating that we were a greater risk than others. This, of course, they could not do.
Having made substantial gains in securing basic civil rights protection, our emphasis gradually shifted, and the seventies and eighties witnessed landmark legislation designed to assure that we would be considered for jobs in the public sector without regard to our blindness. Many of us found work as a result of amendments to the Federal Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and some state laws which were similar in intent.
We found, of course, that legislation was not enough. A major portion of our energy and funding was given to enforcing the laws we had introduced and passed, and reports of successful court challenges were a major staple in our annual presidential reports, our banquet speeches, and our governmental affairs activities.
In the nineties there is little I have mentioned that cannot still be found in the work we do. We continue to press for a guaranteed and adequate income for the blind, for quality affordable housing, and for the special programs which teach the skills and attitudes required to function independently as blind people. We still take problems which the blind of the nation bring, and these often result in administrative challenges, arbitration hearings, and court battles. You will have noticed, however, that, as our message becomes ever more widely accepted and our legal protection more firmly secured by precedent, these issues appear with some less frequency than they did in the past.
What then is our major task to fulfill in the 1990's? I believe it is to strengthen the confidence our brothers and sisters have in themselves so that they are able and willing to risk the possibility of failure on the chance of success. We must deepen the faith we have come to feel in one another so that it extends beyond faith in our power as a body and fills those areas of our lives where doubt or contentment with the status quo now resides.
Let me turn for a moment from this abstract discussion of the challenges which face us to share with you a few specific examples which concern me, because of what they illustrate in the way of changes we must address. I have been a member of the Federation for twenty years, and in that time have listened to and worked on behalf of many people who have had grievances against the education and rehabilitation establishments. Often in my early years the conflicts came about because the rehabilitation counselor simply didn't believe that a blind person could do what the client insisted he had the right to try. Often there were elements of custodial treatment which also aggravated the situation, and in most instances the blind people pressing their cases were supremely qualified to do what they wanted to do. This didn't mean that winning was easy or that the victories were always everything we wanted, but it did mean that every advance brought us that much closer to enjoying true equality with the sighted.
In the last few years I have seen a change in the kinds of issues brought to us for resolution. Let me give you two examples I find disturbing.
Jim is a man who would like to get his Ph.D. in educational administration and work as a high school principal or superintendent. He came to us when it appeared he would be denied admission to graduate school. He was interested in discussing with me the problems blind people have when taking tests administered by the Educational Testing Service. When tests are administered under nonstandard conditions such as with the use of readers or Braille or the provision of additional time, the ETS sends with a blind person's test score a letter noting that it cannot say with certainty just what the score means. Our concern about this disclaimer is that it may be used to diminish the learning indicated by our scores. Jim asked that I note our long- standing objections to this attachment in a letter he might use before the graduate admissions board, and this I did.
When Jim came to me several weeks later to ask that we hire an attorney to help him sue the university for its denial of his request to enter the graduate program, I did a little research so that I would have a better understanding of his case and could decide how we should be involved.
In denying Jim admission to its degree program, the school gave four reasons: (1) his high school and undergraduate grades were too poor for admission, (2) his grades while in graduate school on a trial basis were mediocre, (3) he did not have teaching experience, and (4) his Graduate Record Exam scores were far too low. The school argued that it had tried to be flexible in evaluating Jim as a candidate for a degree and that it had tried to take into account the special problems which might be faced by people who are blind. It argued that it had admitted Jim provisionally, without first requiring him to take the GRE; that it had overlooked his lack of work experience in the field; and that it had been willing to put aside Jim's poor performance in high school and college and was prepared to judge him on his work in graduate school. The school further argued that it had attempted to accommodate Jim in taking the GRE, that initially accommodation had been refused, and that later it had been accepted and provided. In short, the school argued that it could have overlooked any one of Jim's shortcomings and admitted him, but that the cumulative record simply went beyond reasonable accommodation.
Jim argued that his high school and college grades were poor because at the time he was sighted and did not take school as seriously as he would have had he been blind. He said his lack of job experience should be obvious, for blind people just could not find employment in the public schools. With regard to his GRE scores, Jim argued that he was disadvantaged the first time he took the test by the failure of those who administered it to provide him with accommodation--a reader. His second score, he said, was not a reflection of his true ability specifically because of his accommodation--a reader. Jim said that he was not accustomed to taking tests with readers and that this should invalidate his score. In short, the school should understand that he was a blind man and abandon trying to give him the test altogether since there was obviously no good way to measure what he knew.
After talking with Jim and members of the department which rejected him, I suggested that his lack of the skills of blindness played a real role in his lack of success and that we could help. He had argued that discrimination caused by blindness kept him from getting teaching experience. I gave him the name of Tom Ley, a math teacher in Louisiana, and Fred Schroeder, a former teacher and the current Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind. I discussed with him the possibility of getting training at a center; learning to use readers, magnifiers, and Braille; requesting mobility training; and brushing up on academic skills to improve his test scores and overall performance in school.
In the end, Jim had no interest in anything I said and made it clear that he was angered by what he viewed as interference. Jim hotly told me that he was interested in information pertaining to discriminatory treatment by the Educational Testing Service and nothing more. Blindness meant all requirements and standards should be waived. The law was on his side, and he'd use that law with or without us. Never mind the test scores, the grades, the experience, or the skill deficits. He wasn't interested in any of it. The test scores were indicative of nothing. The value of having experience as a teacher before becoming a school administrator was not important either. He wanted what he wanted, and if blindness provided an avenue to further his complaint, then that's the road he would travel. Forget the training that would make him truly competitive and equal. That would take too long. What he wanted was admission to school, and he wanted it now and without unsolicited interference. He had defined our role, and now we should function within the boundaries he had set. We refused to take part, but he persists.
About this same time I was contacted by a woman I will call Ardith. Ardith said that she was a writer of plays and movies and that she had been working on her productions since 1987. She wanted our help because she needed a loan for word-processing equipment. She said she had requested the equipment from Missouri's Rehabilitation Services for the Blind without results. She complained about being thwarted by the bureaucracy, about the rehab establishment's lack of faith in the blind, and about the way in which these poor excuses for public servants were robbing the world of good entertainment and robbing her of a lucrative livelihood.
Now I've been a Federationist long enough to know when it's my turn to come on stage, so recognizing my cue, I began encouraging her and planning how I would present her case to the Director of Rehab Services. Just as a precaution--being a middle- aged rather than a very young and inexperienced Federationist--I asked if I might see something she had written. I said that, while I was no authority on what was or was not a good play, I knew one person who would be glad to review her work for me and share with both of us her opinion of its worth. Ardith's response was slow in coming, but eventually she said, "Well, maybe I could show you something, but I wouldn't want you or anyone else to steal it, so I'll have to get it copyrighted first. Okay?" Then she said that I'd have to overlook any misspellings, problems with grammar, and mistakes in typing. That, of course, was because she didn't have a word processor. Then I asked the really tough question: has anyone expressed an interest in your work, offered you any money, or performed one of your plays? I asked it with a bit more tact than I've shown here, but the answer was an insulted "no," as though that really didn't matter.
Again I did some research, still prepared to get my exercise by beating on Rehab if I needed to, but thinking at this point that a little caution might be in order. I learned that Ardith's relationship with Rehab was a long-standing one and that her case had been closed following her pronouncement that her counselor should go straight to hell. Okay, Ardith might lack something in tact, but how could a Federation leader be upset by someone spirited enough to tell off Rehab? Then I discovered that Ardith's request for a word processor had been greeted with enthusiasm, the counselor having feared that there was nothing Ardith was interested in pursuing.
Knowing that Ardith had no word processing skills, and feeling that something besides Ardith's declared intention to be a writer should appear in the file as justification, the counselor presented Ardith with two options, either of which Rehab would fund. One option was to go for a one-month evaluation at a rehab center where Ardith could use many different kinds of adaptive equipment and choose which device best suited her. The evaluation could also be used to determine her aptitude as a writer, and the recommendations of the rehab staff and Ardith's own preferences would result in the purchase of a talking word processor. The second option for Ardith was to enroll for a semester as a student at the university near her home. She could take an English class and use the equipment in the Student Services labs; and at the end of the semester, provided she passed, the equipment she wanted would be delivered.
When I called Ardith to talk with her about what I'd been told, I fully expected to hear that the counselor had exaggerated the offer she had actually made or that in presenting it she had been rude or short or negative. Ardith, however, made no such accusations. She confirmed, in fact, that these were the options she had been given but said she found both totally unacceptable. I asked her why, and she said she had no obligation to prove herself to anybody. She further said she didn't have time to waste going for a month to a center and thought she'd get very little out of spending a semester in a university class. "You have to understand," she said, "that I'm very busy here trying to get out my made-for-television movie. I just don't have time to screw with them. Now let's talk about a loan from the Federation."
All of you who are here tonight know how strongly we feel about the need to serve the blind and to be advocates for those in need. Our role in standing up for blind people and fighting against the agencies is well known. For a long time, if someone had asked me what the primary work of the Federation was, with great enthusiasm I would have said it was to defend the blind individual against the custodial, stingy, and patronizing professionals who work with them. While from time to time we certainly do find ourselves in these situations, today they are the exception rather than the rule, and with ever-increasing frequency we find the agencies and the organized blind working together to create opportunities and change lives.
What I want for myself and others who are blind is a chance to compete. I want people to listen and discuss with us the accommodations we need, but I don't expect them to throw away the standards they use in determining what it takes to do the job competitively. If their job descriptions say "must be able to read," rather than "must be able to understand written material," then we ought to be ready for a fight. If a training program denies a blind person access because they say he cannot draw flow charts, even though he can write an efficient computer program, then we ought to champion his case.
Our task in the 90's is to get blind people to look not only at the forces allied against us in the pursuit of a home, a job, and a family, but to look at the opposite side of the coin and recognize with equal attention those forces we have rallied in support of our ambitions. When Dr. Jernigan presented his paper, "Blindness: Handicap or Characteristic," he challenged us to look upon blindness as only one of many characteristics that make us what we are. He demonstrated that some characteristics are positive, some negative, and others neutral, depending on what it is we wish to do. If most of us had been given the choice, we would not have elected to be blind; but given that we are, what problems and possibilities does this characteristic present?
What group's members today in American society can receive a monthly maintenance check while attending college with books and tuition paid by the Government? What group can request and receive special equipment simply by expressing the intention to use it in pursuing employment?
Having won through the law so much of what we have sought, we must now shift our emphasis from what society must do for us to what we as blind people can do for ourselves. It is critical that we understand what the organization we have created can and cannot do for us. Organizations are well equipped to spotlight a problem, to bring injustice to the attention of the public, and to work collectively to remove the barriers that block whole classes of people from full participation. We can march together, united in our demand that the colleges and universities of America let us in. We can mobilize the anger of the public in fighting the injustice that exists when a qualified blind woman is denied a place in the classroom. What we cannot do is accompany her into her freshman composition class and ensure through our collective action that she will do the work competitively. We can articulate the injustice which exists when a blind man is denied participation in his chosen field of study because some administrator mistakenly believes the sciences to be off-limits for the blind. What we cannot do is ensure that the blind man seeking entrance to an electrical engineering program will have developed the Braille skills that will enable him efficiently to take notes, manipulate equations, and communicate his answers to an anxious professor.
Our challenge in this decade is to use the incomes we have been provided to advance, and not merely to exist. We must take advantage of the educational resources placed at our disposal, not simply as a method of planning the way we will spend the next four or five years, but as a means to provide our own support. When we elect to attend a technical school or an institution of higher learning, we must do so with the clear intention of pursuing a career once the training is complete.
The agreement we make with our fellow Americans is not a God-given right which we accept without obligation. By our acceptance of training, we are agreeing to make the task of finding a job our first priority, meaning that we will not place so many artificial restrictions and conditions on our prospective employment that we never find a job we think we want to do. How many unemployed sighted people can argue that they turned down a $15,000-a-year job because it would require a move? How many out- of-work sighted people could turn down a $25,000 job because they felt it just wasn't worth the trouble? How many sighted people without a job could turn down work because commuting took an hour each way and just didn't seem worth the bother? I have personally helped blind people find entry-level jobs, only to have them tell me they rejected the job offer because they didn't have time to start at the bottom. Where do they believe most people make their entry into the work force? But, of course, this question really misses the point because the real issue is not inconvenience or even economics, but confidence.
As an organization we can do much when those who oppose us tell us no; but when we reach the point where society says yes, it must be the individual who goes forth to take advantage of the rights we have secured. Can he proceed in the knowledge that others have gone before? Can she work to win a degree, confident that we will stand by her should she encounter discrimination when she looks for her first job? Can the blind graduate move to another town, knowing that he is one of many who have dared to live independently, the protection of family and friends being hundreds of miles distant? The answer to these questions is yes, but the choice to risk must be made by the individual, and only through the positive choices of individuals can we remain strong.
Having said all of this, am I making the case that the world is now an easy place in which to be blind and that the only barriers standing between us and first-class citizenship are issues of individual choice? No. As long as there are more sighted people than blind ones in the world, we will have special problems with which we must cope, and we will always have need of our organization to solve problems requiring collective action. Am I saying that everyone here is capable, if he or she decides to do so, of going out of this room and getting an education and a job? No, I am not, for nothing I can say will undo the scarring some of us have endured, and no matter how hard it is to admit, for some of us it is too late.
Our job as Federationists is to do many things for many different people, and no one prescription will serve us all in this task. Some Federationists desperately need our honest assessment of their strengths and weaknesses. Some Federationists need our encouragement as they undertake this painful assessment themselves. Some Federationists deserve our understanding of where they have been and of the life experiences which have placed them where they are. All Federationists, ladies and gentlemen, can benefit from two things we can give in abundance: love and hope. These two ingredients have bound us together for more than fifty years, and they will continue to unify and strengthen us through the 90's and through the many decades to come. As we celebrate our past and embrace our future, let us rededicate ourselves this evening to the work which has brought us to this place. When we do, there is no force on earth which can stand against us.
I would like to leave you with a thought from Ralph Waldo Emerson which I find both inspirational and instructive: "There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better or worse as his portion; that though the wise universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried."
[PHOTO: Scott LaBarre stands
at podium microphone. CAPTION: Scott LaBarre.]
EDUCATOR TEACHES SCHOOL SYSTEM
NOT TO DISCRIMINATE
by Scott LaBarre
From the Editor: Scott LaBarre is the Assistant Director of governmental Affairs for the National Federation of the Blind. He often works with people who are facing discrimination of various kinds. In recent months he has spent a good bit of time working with Carol Ducote, a high school administrator from Georgia who recently lost her sight. Here is the story:
As I write this article, the National Federation of the Blind is celebrating its fifty-fourth year as an organization. Our history is filled with victories, both large and small, that have changed what it means to be blind. But despite our many successes, we still have a long road to travel before blind people can say that we are truly equal and first-class citizens, but the fact that the Federation is strong and healthy means that one day our dream of first-class citizenship will without doubt be realized. Ignorance and misconception about blindness are certainly two of the most significant barriers we face because they often lead directly to discrimination and injustice.
In the coastal town of Brunswick, Georgia, last year a blind woman found herself facing a major case of discrimination of the sort with which we have become all too familiar. Carol Ducote is an assistant principal at Brunswick High School. She is now serving her eighth year in that position, but she would not be doing so if it were not for the National Federation of the Blind.
Several years ago Ms. Ducote contracted Stevens-Johnson syndrome as a result of an adverse reaction to medication. Over time her vision grew worse, and she lost almost all of her sight in 1992. She received a little training in the alternative skills of blindness and returned to her job at the Brunswick High School in the fall of 1992.
Before proceeding with Ms. Ducote's story, it might be helpful to review briefly the protections which the law guarantees blind people. Both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 apply in Carol Ducote's case. These laws clearly state that it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a disabled individual on the basis of that person's disability. Additionally, both laws make it clear that refusing to provide reasonable accommodations is a form of discrimination. What is a reasonable accommodation? The answer is not always clear, but for a blind person it often means that he or she may be entitled to a reader or some assistive technology.
From the start in Carol Ducote's case there was virtually no doubt that the Glynn County School System had a duty to provide her with reasonable accommodations. When she returned to school in the fall of 1992 after having lost virtually all her sight, the school system made no effort to accommodate her in any way. There was never any talk about providing her with a reader or assistive technology. Despite this fact Carol Ducote did what it took to get her job done. Her friends and others volunteered to read to her in their free time. She spent many extra hours making sure that she fulfilled her duties. In other words she was determined to do her job and to do it well. She simply would not allow her blindness to hold her back.
As the year progressed, Ms. Ducote received no indication that her work was in any way inferior or not up to her previous standard. In fact all evidence indicated exactly the opposite. In the Glynn County School System all administrators and teachers are signed to one-year contracts. In April of 1993 the School System and Carol Ducote entered into a contract for the '93-'94 school year. If the School System had felt that Ms. Ducote had not been doing her job, there is no reason why it should have entered into yet another contract with her. At the end of the school year Ms. Ducote received her annual review. In it the Principal, Derrick Hulsey, indicated that every aspect of her job had been carried out satisfactorily or better. The only unusual item in the review was the statement that Ms. Ducote had done her job with some assistance. In other words Mr. Hulsey had included the fact that Ms. Ducote's friends and colleagues had offered her assistance on a completely voluntary basis during their unscheduled and free time. Ms. Ducote would never have needed such assistance if the school system had met its obligation under the law to provide reasonable accommodation.
Over the summer Ms. Ducote discovered that the school system had developed reservations about her employment. Dr. Weaver, the Superintendent of Schools at that time, met with Carol to discuss the perceived difficulties she had on the job. He said that Carol could not fulfill her disciplinary roles at school functions like dances and football games. According to the School System it was unsafe for a blind person to maintain discipline among high school students. Furthermore, school officials alleged that Carol could not properly evaluate teachers because she could not see them. They further concluded that Ms. Ducote was no longer qualified for her job because other people had helped her do her reading. At this meeting Dr. Weaver informed Ms. Ducote that she had two choices. Either she could retire and take her disability pension, or she would be terminated. At that point Ms. Ducote contacted the National Federation of the Blind to learn about her rights. After speaking to us, she informed the school system that she had no intention of taking her disability pension and that she had every intention of returning to school and doing the job for which she was under contract.
On August 24, 1993, Dr. Weaver wrote the following letter to Ms. Ducote:
Dear Ms. Ducote:
Based on Mr. Hulsey's recommendation relative to your responsibilities as Assistant Principal/Registrar of Brunswick High School, it has been determined that you cannot effectively and efficiently fulfill those responsibilities. You are hereby notified that you are immediately placed on administrative leave with full pay and benefits. The administrative leave will not be subtracted from any other form of authorized leave. The administrative leave will continue until such time as the Board of Education can formally act on a recommendation that you be terminated.
In the near future you will receive a formal letter of recommendation that your contract be terminated. The letter will detail your rights under the Fair Dismissal Act.
Jeffrey W. Weaver, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools
After Ms. Ducote received that letter, she again called upon the NFB, and we became deeply involved in her case. Both Pat Munson, President of the National Association of Blind Educators, and Sharon Gold, President of the NFB of California and a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind, spoke to Ms. Ducote about her case. As a result James Gashel, NFB Director of Governmental Affairs, and I became active in the case. We immediately contacted the school system to determine whether or not the matter could be amicably resolved. As soon as we spoke to the school's lawyers, Foster Lindberg and Jim Bishop, school officials immediately suspended their plans to terminate Ms. Ducote. It is no coincidence that they suddenly wanted to begin talking as soon as the National Federation of the Blind became involved in the case.
One afternoon in early September I had a long conversation with Foster Lindberg. I explained to him that both the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act made it unlawful to discriminate against a blind person based on disability. Furthermore, I reminded Mr. Lindberg that the school system had a duty to provide reasonable accommodations to Ms. Ducote. After this conversation Mr. Lindberg went back to talk seriously with the school board. When he called again, he said that the school system was leery of hiring someone to read for Carol. They apparently believed that she would need a full-time reader. We explained that she would require only a part-time reader and some assistive technology.
Despite this the school system apparently concluded that reasonably accommodating Ms. Ducote would be far too expensive. Furthermore, it became obvious that they believed that no blind person could ever do the job of an assistant principal. Consequently Mr. Lindberg wrote to us in September saying that the school system thought that Ms. Ducote needed a psychological evaluation and training at a rehabilitation center and that after she completed such training the school system might be able to place her in a comparable job elsewhere in the district. We informed the School System in no uncertain terms that Ms. Ducote had already received some training and that she therefore already possessed the skills necessary to fulfill her job responsibilities. Furthermore, we told Mr. Lindberg that blindness in and of itself was not such a tragedy that it required Ms. Ducote to undergo psychological counseling.
At this point Mr. Lindberg and the school board realized that their proposal was not going to be successful. Consequently they came forward with yet another one. This time they did not suggest that Ms. Ducote go through psychological counseling, but the school system still did not offer to return her to the position of assistant principal. Instead, they proposed that she become the head of vocational counseling. This is what their letter said:
October 25, 1993
Dear Mr. LaBarre:
Pursuant to your recent telephone conversations with Jim Bishop and myself, I wanted to confirm in writing that we are authorized to discuss with you the possibility of Carol Ducote becoming the head of vocational counseling for all high schools in the Glynn County Public School System (Brunswick High School, Glynn Academy, and the Night High School). Ms. Ducote would have a salary comparable to her salary as Assistant Principal/Registrar of Brunswick High School. Additionally, she would be provided with a secretarial assistant.
Of course this written communication is offered in the context of settlement negotiations and does not constitute an admission of liability on behalf of the Glynn County Board of Education or admissible evidence in any administrative or court proceeding in the event this matter cannot be resolved among our clients.
C. Foster Lindberg
That is what it said, and although the letter makes it sound as if Ms. Ducote would be assuming many responsibilities, we knew they had no intention of giving her any significant authority. The school system already had a guidance counseling program in place, which included a vocational component. Furthermore the position of head of vocational counseling actually represented a demotion from her original position in that it carried with it fewer overall responsibilities. We also feared that the position would be created for one year only and then Ms. Ducote would be released on the grounds that the position was no longer needed. Most important, we rejected the school system's offer because Mr. Lindberg had informed me that school officials felt that as a blind person Ms. Ducote simply was not up to the challenge of being an assistant principal. Based on the school system's position, we sent them the following letter:
October 26, 1993
Mr. C. Foster Lindberg
Bishop and Lindberg
Dear Mr. Lindberg:
I have received your letter of October 25, 1993, and I have shared its contents with Ms. Ducote. After considering the matter, Ms. Ducote has decided that the position of head of vocational counseling is unacceptable primarily for the reason that a counseling position is not in line with the career track which she has established with the Glynn County School System. As you may know, in addition to her experience, Ms. Ducote has acquired additional educational qualifications in the area of school administration. Currently she is under contract with the Glynn County School System to serve as an assistant principal. She desires to continue in such a position and to take advantage of the promotional opportunities which come with it. As both a sighted and a blind person, Ms. Ducote has fulfilled the responsibilities assigned to her. By moving her to a position with fewer overall responsibilities or by refusing to offer her reasonable accommodations to her current position, the Glynn County School System is discriminating against Ms. Ducote on the basis of blindness. Unless the Glynn County School System honors its contract with Ms. Ducote or offers to place her in a position which is truly equivalent, she will have no recourse but to secure her employment rights under the law.
Scott C. LaBarre
Assistant Director of Governmental Affairs
National Federation of the Blind
As our letter stated, we began exploring legal options. If we filed under the ADA, we would be restricted to filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, a process which would take months before even a preliminary investigation would begin. If, however, we brought a lawsuit in federal court under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, we could seek immediate relief in the case and request that the judge order the school system to place Ms. Ducote back on her job. We hired the Baltimore law firm of Brown, Goldstein, and Levy to handle the case. Andrew Levy flew down to Brunswick, Georgia, to meet with Ms. Ducote and the school system's lawyers. They began by telling Mr. Levy that we did not have a case and that the school system would clearly win any legal battle. Mr. Levy pointed out to Mr. Lindberg that the school system had never consulted Ms. Ducote about her accommodation needs and that officials had never lifted a finger to provide reasonable accommodations. After seeing that we simply were not impressed by the attorney's attempts at intimidation, Mr. Lindberg acknowledged that the school system may have fallen short of its responsibilities under the law. He further suggested that it might be helpful for a representative from our organization to address the school board directly to explain the situation.
On Monday, November 8, 1993, Mr. Gashel and I flew down to Brunswick to meet with the school board. That afternoon we met with Carol Ducote; our local counsel, John Bumgartner; Foster Lindberg; and school officials. Again Mr. Lindberg began by telling us that the school system had an airtight case, but we dispelled that myth rather quickly. We made it clear to everybody present that Carol Ducote had been discriminated against and that, when one blind person faces discrimination, all of us face it together. We further told the school officials that the NFB could not and would not tolerate such discriminatory actions against this blind woman. We were prepared to do whatever it took to secure a victory for Carol Ducote or for any other blind person facing such flagrant discrimination. At the conclusion of that meeting, the school officials suggested that we make the same sort of presentation to the district's board of education.
Because the school board had to conduct all of its public business before discussing a personnel matter, we had to wait until midnight to make our case. Mr. Bumgartner began by introducing Mr. Gashel and me. He then pointed out to the board that the school system had clearly violated the law by discriminating against Carol Ducote. Then Mr. Gashel delivered an impassioned presentation. He explained what the National Federation of the Blind is and why we are dedicated to protecting the rights of blind persons all across this country. He made it clear that we were prepared to stand beside Carol Ducote and to fight for her rights until she was back at work. He went on to say that the biggest problem blind people face is the perception that we are incapable of participating in the mainstream of life. He pointed out that the school system had never once described a specific problem Carol Ducote had experienced in fulfilling her job duties; rather all of the problems raised were merely perceived difficulties based on the school officials' misconceptions and stereotypes about blindness. But Mr. Gashel also expressed our willingness to work with the school system to ensure that Ms. Ducote could receive and use all the tools she needed to be competitive on her job, but we had no intention of doing so until the school system had agreed to return her to her former position. Then he said very clearly that the school system had about one week to make up its mind; otherwise, we would see them at the federal courthouse.
After we left the meeting, the board took a few moments to discuss the issue. Then they voted to place Ms. Ducote back on the job by Monday, November 15, 1993. The board further instructed the school system to work with both her and the National Federation of the Blind to ensure that she would receive proper accommodations.
Needless to say, we were all very happy that the school officials had changed their minds and decided to give Ms. Ducote a true opportunity to succeed, but we knew that our work was far from finished.
Shortly after Ms. Ducote returned to her position, Mr. Hulsey informed her that she could not enlist the support or help of any other school personnel to complete her job duties. In other words it appeared that Mr. Hulsey was determined to make Ms. Ducote's job so difficult that she was bound to fail.
After Thanksgiving Allen Harris, Treasurer of the National Federation of the Blind and an experienced high school teacher in Michigan, flew down to Georgia to work with Ms. Ducote and the school system. Mr. Harris met with all the appropriate school officials, including Mr. Hulsey, to explain the way in which particular accommodations would allow Ms. Ducote to fulfill her job duties. He explained that these accommodations would not be particularly expensive. All she needed was someone to read for her on a part-time basis and a few pieces of assistive technology.
Apparently school officials finally got the message. In mid- December they sent Carol Ducote and the district's technology expert to our National Center to spend two days in the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind evaluating which pieces of technology would be most helpful for her to use on her job. Based on their visit to Baltimore, they recommended that certain devices be purchased, and the school system has pledged to do so.
Even though it took several months for the school system to recognize its responsibilities under the law, school officials now seem willing to work with Carol Ducote and the National Federation of the Blind to give her a full and fair opportunity to fulfill her responsibilities as an assistant principal at the Brunswick High School. The Glynn County School System has learned that it cannot make personnel decisions based on old and unfounded stereotypes about the abilities of the blind. Furthermore, they have learned that, if they give Ms. Ducote the opportunity to succeed, she is likely to do her job as well as she did it when she was sighted.
Carol Ducote has learned firsthand about the power and effectiveness of collective action. Before the NFB became involved, the School System stood ready to terminate Ms. Ducote, but when we entered the case, school officials learned that they simply could not terminate a blind person based on discriminatory and unfounded reasons.
Carol Ducote has learned that when you face discrimination alone, it is frightening and very hard (if not impossible) to win, but with the support and experience of the organized blind movement behind you there is virtually no discrimination that cannot be defeated. Carol Ducote is now ready to help other blind people in Georgia learn about their rights so that they will not have to face the same problems which she has already confronted.
As an educator Carol Ducote wants to teach everyone one lesson she has already mastered: when it comes to knowing about and securing the rights of blind people, there is no greater force for justice than the National Federation of the Blind. Through collective action we as blind people will take our place as first-class citizens in our society. The Carol Ducote case clearly demonstrates that a great deal of discrimination is still aimed at the blind and that we still have a long way to go before we can rest, but the fact that we have won her case also shows that we will ultimately be victorious.
For the past fifty-four years members of the National Federation of the Blind have worked tirelessly to spread the message that, once we are given the chance, we can be just as successful as any other members of society. We must continue our work; otherwise, employers like the Glynn County School System will be able to discriminate and destroy the dreams of the blind without having to account for their actions. As long as we remain vigilant and true to our cause, we will continue to secure the rights of blind people in all areas of life. As Carol Ducote will tell you, the key to first-class citizenship for the blind is the National Federation of the Blind.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Carla McQuillan.]
THE OREGON BRAILLE BILL: AN EXERCISE IN COOPERATION
by Carla Mcquillan
From the Editor: Carla Mcquillan is the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon. Like the presidents of many other Federation affiliates, she has led a statewide effort to pass legislation that would protect the right of blind children to receive appropriate and timely instruction in Braille from teachers competent to teach it and to have Braille text materials at the same time that their sighted peers receive print ones. That passage of such common-sense legislation should be a battle is astonishing to any objective observer, but many of us know firsthand just how bitter, almost hysterical, the resistance to this concept can be. Yet occasionally an affiliate has an experience that renews one's faith in the education, rehabilitation, and legislative establishments. Passage of the Oregon Braille bill is such a story. It is not lengthy or particularly dramatic, but it provides hope to us all. This article first appeared in the December issue of the Oregon Outlook, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon. Here it is:
In the spring of 1992 a task force determined that the Oregon State School for the Blind (OSSB) and the Oregon State School for the Deaf (OSSD) were serving far too few children for the total dollars spent. The recommendation from the task force was that both schools be closed and all the students in those facilities be mainstreamed. In an effort to preserve the programs, Superintendent of Education Norma Paulis developed a plan wherein the two facilities would co-exist on a single property, without compromising the integrity of either of the programs. For more than ten years the School for the Blind has been a target in budget wars, and this year's proposed cuts were the deepest yet. Closure of the school had been prevented in the past because of the protests of the blind community. For the battle this time, however, we believed that some creative negotiating would be needed to preserve the program.
At our Members' Seminar in the fall of 1992 we took a careful look at the quality of education for blind children in Oregon. We agreed that there was room for improvement, particularly with regard to the programs and curriculum through OSSB. We considered the ramifications of relocating the blind school and concluded that the greatest loss would be the physical building itself. We concurred that a major restructuring might well be the best way to make sweeping improvements in the program. Our primary concern was to insure that the two programs (OSSB and OSSD) remain totally separate and intact.
We approached Norma Paulis, offering support for her proposal to relocate the School for the Blind, if the Department of Education would involve us in the restructuring and planning of the new facility and if they would help improve the quality of education of all blind children in Oregon by working with us on a Braille Literacy Bill.
We worked closely with Maurine Otis from the department on the language of the bill, using the Texas bill as our model. In February, 1993, Senator Bill Dwyer of Springfield sponsored the bill. In early March eighteen members of the NFB of Oregon visited the offices of all ninety Oregon legislators. We were prepared with folders containing a copy of the Braille bill; a Braille alphabet card; a few pieces of NFB literature on Braille literacy; an NFB of Oregon brochure; letters of support from the Commission for the Blind, the director of OSSB, the director of the Oregon Textbook and Materials Center for the Visually Impaired, and the President of the Alliance for Blind Children; and a fact sheet describing the Braille bill and the proposed relocation of the OSSB.
Representatives from the Text Book and Materials Center, the Department of Education, and the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon testified at each of the hearings on the Braille bill. The Confederation of School Administrators (COSA), was present at one of the hearings in the Senate and testified in support of the bill, focusing on the untimely fashion in which Braille textbooks are made available to blind students. The President of COSA testified that the textbook section of this bill would expedite the process of textbook production and improve teacher effectiveness tremendously.
The proposal to use the money from the sale of the School for the Blind to fund the building of the new school on the fifty-two-acre School for the Deaf campus was brought before the legislature. The legislators felt that they had insufficient data to determine the feasibility of the relocation, so they deferred the decision to close or relocate the Schools for now.
But following all the debate and discussion, the Oregon Braille Bill passed unanimously through the Senate and with only four dissenting votes in the House. On July 14, 1993, Senate Bill 934 was signed by Governor Roberts, eloquent testimony to the power of cooperation. It will take effect September 1, 1994.
[PHOTO: Norm Peters stands in office at New Mexico Commission for the Blind. CAPTION: Norm Peters displays the t-shirt and medallion he was presented as a participant in the White Sands Alamogordo Marathon Walk.]
WALKING ALONE AND MARCHING TOGETHER IN ALAMOGORDO
From the Editor: The philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind inspires thousands of blind men and women to stretch themselves and grow in new ways every day. Our struggles against fear and uncertainty are often unique. But although the expression of this struggle may be highly individual, the actual process each person faces is usually similar to the experiences of others. We learn about things that other blind people do every day that we would dearly love to do. We come to realize that these people believe blindness need not stop them from going about their daily lives or even dreaming great dreams or accomplishing ambitious goals. Then, with attention firmly fixed on the example before us, we step out in some new way and dare to do something that we have never tried before. And, as we discover that we actually can succeed in new ways, we begin to find ourselves serving as role models for other blind people.
For some time Norm Peters has been the President of the San Diego County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of California. In the June, 1993, issue of the Braille Monitor he described how he lost 130 pounds by eating healthily and walking significant distances every day around his neighborhood. His most recent project was walking the distance to Baltimore, home of the National Center for the Blind. Because the Federation had come to mean so much to Norm, he enjoyed imagining himself actually traveling to see its headquarters.
In the meantime he was providing his neighbors with an excellent example of the way in which blind people walk safely through the streets of their communities. He has worn out many cane tips in the process of walking those thousands of miles, and he has also demonstrated to everyone just how good a cane traveler he has become.
When the time came for the NFB of California to begin planning for the opening of the Lawrence Marcelino Orientation Center for the Blind, it was not surprising that Sharon Gold, President of the California affiliate, asked Norm if he would be interested in training to become the Center's cane-travel instructor. Norm said yes and departed several months ago for intensive training at the Adult Orientation Center at the New Mexico Commission for the Blind.
Whether one is a new student, mastering the skills of blindness for the first time and learning about NFB philosophy, or a veteran Federationist preparing for some challenging assignment, spending time as a student at one of the NFB training facilities is an exhilarating and stimulating experience. The challenges are very real and often difficult, but one comes to understand that in the Federation one is never alone, that there is always a cheering section to help one over the hard places, and that every victory one wins strengthens us all. Those are the lessons that Norm Peters learned in early December. Here is the story he told President Maurer in a letter he wrote two days after the experience:
Alamogordo, New Mexico
December 6, 1993
Dear President Maurer:
I have thoroughly enjoyed my staff training at the Orientation Center here in Alamogordo, New Mexico, in preparation for becoming the cane-travel instructor at the Muzzie Marcelino Orientation Center in Sacramento, California. I want to add my voice to those of the many others who have had the opportunity to attend NFB centers. Being here has changed my life in many ways, not just because of having the chance to do things I have never done before and now know I can, but because everything I have learned in and out of class has helped to raise my self-esteem and my recognition that it is respectable to be blind.
Because of the way I feel about myself and the training I have been getting here, I want to tell you of an experience I participated in this last Saturday, December 4. I do not believe I would ever have considered taking part in it before my training here at the Orientation Center. Perhaps you remember from reading the article about my weight loss in the June, 1993, issue of the Braille Monitor that I have done a fair amount of walking daily for the past few years. About a week before the Thanksgiving break here in Alamogordo, I heard an ad on the radio that said on Saturday, December 4, 1993, Alamogordo would sponsor various walks and runs--everything from a one-mile competition to a marathon walk or run.
When I heard this ad, I began to think long and hard. I had done a lot of walking for exercise before, mostly 5.75 miles a day, sometimes twelve. I wondered, should I, could I attempt the marathon walk?
I talked to the physical education instructor here to get his advice on whether I should try such a distance, never having done it before. He told me that, if I had walked as much as twelve miles at a time in the past, I should be able to do a marathon walk. So with his advice and my determination to go for it, I paid my $5.00 and entered the White Sands Alamogordo Marathon Walk.
Once I had put down the money, not only did I begin to prepare myself mentally and physically for the event, but I began to think about all the blind people in this country and around the world who are better off because of the National Federation of the Blind. I also began thinking about the many blind individuals who are still struggling, not understanding or believing that it really is respectable to be blind. I thought maybe it would be good for them to have a blind person do something to show them that blind people can achieve any goal we really set our minds to.
With these thoughts in mind, I determined that I would finish this race, knowing full well that I would not be first. I also made up my mind that I would dedicate this race to all the blind people in the world to let them know that it is respectable to be blind and that we really can do what we want to.
The marathon walk began in the White Sands Monument Park at 7:00 a.m. The temperature was a crisp 16.5 degrees. The first ten miles were in the White Sands Monument Park. The next thirteen miles lay along Highway 70, a major highway in this part of New Mexico. The last 3.2 miles brought us back to the city, and the finish line was right inside the Alamogordo Zoo.
I began at 7:00 a.m. and finished at 6:07 p.m. Yes, I was one of the last participants to cross the finish line, but the fact that I did it was the important thing. The thing that kept me going mile after mile was the Federation. I knew that, if they had been here, thousands of Federationists around the country would have been cheering me on to the end. With those thoughts in mind, I finished the White Sands Alamogordo Marathon Walk.
I do not know whether I will ever do a marathon again. But I do know that in this instance it was a privilege for me to be walking alone and marching together, marching with Federationists all over the country to further the independence of blind people.
Seasons greetings to you and Mrs. Maurer, David Patrick, Diana Marie, and the entire Center staff.
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: Kevan Worley standing at microphone. CAPTION: Kevan Worley.]
THE NFB IN ACTION
by Kevan Worley
From the Editor: Kevan Worley is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind Merchants Division. At the 1993 convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado Kevan was elected Vice President of the Colorado NFB Merchants Division and was also elected to the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado. He made the following remarks to that convention in September 1993. Here they are:
I am very happy to have been asked by our state president Homer Page to participate in our affiliate's traditional Sunday morning presentation, "The NFB in action," for to me the NFB means action. The first time I really paid attention to the National Federation of the Blind was in the late 1970's while working at a small radio station in west Texas. Stories began to come over our wire services about these blind people led by a charismatic Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. These blind folks were picketing the Federal Aviation Administration. They were taking action to demand the right to carry long white canes on airplanes. At that time I was twenty-two years old, insecure with myself and my blindness, and that was a little too much action for me.
As the Nobel-Prize-winning poet Mellosch has observed, "We have a command to participate actively in our history." So by 1982 I realized that it was in my best interest to learn about, join, and become active in this dynamic organization. My reasons for choosing to become involved in our social action movement were probably as complex, varied, and personal as yours. I joined, began to learn, and have been more or less active over the years.
I wonder now, without the National Federation of the Blind, what I would have done this past spring when the job I had relocated to take was apparently snatched away from me by an insensitive and unknowing governmental bureaucracy.
Let me briefly tell you the story and by doing so provide another example of why it was necessary to form an organization in 1940, as Dr. tenBroek put it then, "...for creating the machinery which will unify the action and concentrate the energies of the blind, for an instrument through which the blind of the nation can speak to Congress and the public in a voice that will be heard and command attention."
In May of 1993 Paul Pichardo, a licensed blind vendor in Colorado Springs, Colorado, was granted a promotion to manage a business at Falcon Air Force Base, a high-security installation just outside of Colorado Springs. I was then awarded the vending facility at Kaman Sciences/Instruments, vacated by Mr. Pichardo. My fiance, Karen Cox, and I relocated to Colorado Springs and settled in to begin our new business venture. But one week prior to our taking over, I received a call from the state licensing agency informing me that the Air Force had just told Paul that he would not be able to start at his new location. It would take nine to fifteen months for the Defense Investigative Service to grant him a security clearance, which is necessary for him to operate his new facility on the base. Paul's initial response was, "Well, I guess there's nothing we can do about it." While the agency did make a phone call or two to the Air Force, their posture was much the same: sympathetic yet powerless.
I told you earlier that I joined the NFB in 1982. I had joined, I had learned, and I had been more or less active over the years. My first reaction was, "Nine to fifteen months for a security clearance to operate a convenience store to sell soda pop, chips, and Gummy Life Savers--come on! There must be something we can do." The state agency assured me that I could temporarily manage a cafeteria which was then being operated by a colleague of ours who is with us this weekend, Mark Meusborn.
"Now," I thought, "let me see if I have this straight. For the next year or so I am to take a job for much less money; I am to take some of Mr. Meusborn's livelihood away from him; Karen Cox will not have her job, or will get very few hours of work at most; and the promotion earned by Paul Pichardo will be significantly delayed." The ripple affect would have impact on four people--only four blind people. No sighted people were affected at all. After discussing the matter with the state licensing agency and officials at the U.S. Air Force in Colorado Springs; San Antonio, Texas; and Washington, D.C., I determined that working alone I could not move the great weight of bureaucratic apathy. It was time for the NFB in action.
I called my state president, Homer Page. I consulted with our Director of Governmental Affairs, James Gashel, and his assistant, Scott LaBarre. We decided that the best action we could take at this point was to contact our Congressional delegation to enlist their assistance. President Page suggested this course of action and agreed to write letters to our Senators and House members detailing the situation and urging their assistance. With the support of the organized blind behind us, Karen and I each wrote letters to our Congressional delegation.
Then I told Paul Pichardo that he could have some impact if he, too, would write letters. This he did with our assistance. Paul wrote to Congressmen Hefley from Colorado Springs and McGinnis from Pueblo. I then made personal phone calls to both Congressmen whom, incidentally, I had met at our February Washington Seminar--all part of the NFB in action.
The legislative aides from Congressman Hefley's office and Congressman McGinnis's office assured us that others had had their delays caused by the Defense Investigative Service. They said there was cause for optimism because they were often successful in expediting security clearances. Paul and I received phone calls several times over the next few weeks to assure us that both offices were still working on the problem. By the way, when we wrote our letters to the Congressional delegation, we copied our colleagues in the movement: President Maurer, President Emeritus Dr. Jernigan, Jim Gashel, and state President Homer Page. We also copied Stan Boxer and Ron Landware from our state licensing agency, just so they would know someone could take action.
The letters we received from our legislators were reassuring and supportive. They told us that they understood our plight, were sympathetic to our situation, and had great respect for the National Federation of the Blind. As Dr. tenBroek had put it fifty-three years ago, "...an instrument through which the blind of the nation speak to Congress and the public in a voice that will be heard and command attention."
Six weeks from the day I had received the news from the state licensing agency that Paul's security clearance would be delayed from nine to fifteen months, Paul was granted his security clearance--not nine to fifteen months, but six weeks! Two weeks later he took over his new job at Falcon Air Force Base, and Karen and I took on our present jobs, running a small cafeteria at Kaman Science/Instruments. Mark Meusborn took back his temporary satellite, and the lady from the Congressman's office in Pueblo called to make sure I would still get my promotion.
Stan Boxer, the director of the Business Enterprise Program in Colorado, commented on the depth and "reasoned tone" of our letters. I, of course, expressed my feeling that the state licensing agency should have done more to lend their voices to our attempt to speed up the process, rather than taking a business-as-usual attitude. Perhaps it was that the lives of four blind people were affected and not their own which caused their failure to act.
It was the National Federation of the Blind which took action. Thank you, Homer. Thank you for writing the letters. Thanks for your advice and support. Thanks to Jim Gashel and Scott LaBarre for taking time to talk to me and for researching the issue. Thanks to all of you. Whether you knew it or not, you were with us as part of our great collective, the NFB in action.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Faots Floyd.]
BASIC RIGHTS AND HIGHER PRINCIPLES
by Fatos Floyd
From the Editor: Fatos Floyd is one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri and a dynamic and energetic Federationist who works to assist blind people wherever she goes. She was born and received her early education in Turkey, and she maintains close links with friends and family in Istanbul. The following is a report she made shortly after returning from a visit to Turkey last year. Here it is:
For my vacation this year I went to Turkey for six weeks to visit friends and family. I also spent a lot of time with the blind community. As you may remember from President Maurer's 1993 Presidential Report, in September of 1992 the Federation provided some training to several of the leaders in Turkey's blind movement. After my visit I can assure you that our assistance to those leaders is paying off.
As a result of my observations in Turkey, I begin to realize the size and number of the obstacles Federation leaders and members had to overcome in the past to create a better future for all blind people in the United States. Today we are no longer fighting for simple survival but for higher principles because for the most part our basic rights have been established by law. On the other hand, in Turkey the fight for fundamental rights is just beginning. There it is hard to talk about important issues like information access when by law a blind person's signature is not acceptable. As you can imagine, this law causes lots of problems for blind people, who are denied the privilege of writing checks, getting a bank card, receiving credit cards, and even getting phone service.
But do not worry. The seeds of Federationism that we planted through the training of the Turkish blind leaders are flourishing. An organization with the same philosophy as the NFB is working to make changes in Turkey that will affect the future. I was proud to be with this group and work with them for a short time while I was in the country. When I was there, I attended the opening of their computer training center. They are in the process of establishing English, Braille, and telephone operating training for the blind. They believe that the way to change the system is to train blind individuals to get competitive jobs and be taxpayers. At the same time they are working to change the demeaning laws that control the lives of blind people.
As I have said, it was great to be part of this movement, even for a short time. I conducted workshops for blind women dealing with the issues of marriage, cane use, and the future of women in the blindness movement. Although Turkey has its first woman prime minister, in the blindness movement women are still in the background. I talked with the parents of blind children about integration, Braille materials for the students, cane use in the school and outside it, and the effect on blind kids of parental sheltering. After the workshop we went out with our canes and had an independent travel experience. These women and children had never had a cane in their hands. For the first time in their lives they were walking freely in Istanbul traffic. Of course, this was just a start. With time, training, and equipment they are going to be as independent as many of us here because they have the same spirit.
You may wonder whether any exciting things happened to me while I was in Turkey. The answer is yes. Of course, no one hesitated to accept the Visa card of a blind individual, even though I had been the one to sign it. I guess that the prospect of payment in dollars overrode the signature law. Since blind people in Istanbul can ride buses free, I had to argue constantly with the bus drivers about taking my ticket. But the big challenge came just before I left the country. I went to a notary public to give my power of attorney to my brother. Of course, knowing the law, I took two witnesses with me. But even so, the head clerk almost threw me out of the office, saying that as a blind person I could not give power of attorney to anybody. I explained to her that I had done it three times before and that, according to the law, I can give it to anybody, as long as I have two witnesses. She was loud and ugly about the whole matter, so I took her name and left. In the same block I went to a second notary and got the power of attorney with no difficulty. After this incident I filed a formal complaint against the first notary for her violation of my rights.
Overall, the trip was exciting, motivating, and thought- provoking. It is wonderful to see the effect of the Federation's love, friendship, and philosophy growing in my own country. I would like to thank you all for the changes that you have brought about in me and for the help you are giving people thousands of miles away.
[PHOTO: Family portrait. CAPTION: Fred and Cathy Schroeder with their children Matthew and Carrie.]
EXPECTATIONS: THE CRITICAL FACTOR IN THE EDUCATION OF BLIND CHILDREN
by Fredric K. Schroeder
From the Editor: The following is a banquet address delivered at the eighth International Conference on Blind and Visually Impaired Children which took place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, on October 1, 1993. Fred Schroeder, who is the 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, also serves as President of the International Council on English Braille and is a noted expert in the education of blind children. Readers of the Braille Monitor will be familiar with some of his ideas from previous articles in these pages, but, given the current debate over full inclusion, this speech seems particularly relevant. Here it is:
Perhaps no issue has been more hotly debated than the question of which educational placement or array of services represents the best alternative for blind children. We tend to view this debate as a contemporary issue--full inclusion versus residential placement. Yet this debate is not new in character or substance. In 1865 at the laying of the cornerstone of the New York State Institution for the Blind at Batavia, Samuel Gridley Howe stated:
I am constantly applied to by teachers to know how to proceed with a blind child; and I always encourage them to keep it at home, and let it go to the common school as long as possible. (1866, in Blindness 1865, p. 185)
While Howe suggests that public school education is preferable to residential placement, his lifetime devotion to establishing schools for the blind reflects his understanding that neither system is wholly adequate to meet the educational needs of blind children.
Perhaps the real difficulty in the debate stems from the complexity of its issues. Residential schools have certain natural advantages in designing and implementing programs for blind children. With the students concentrated in one place, curricula can be adapted and special media prepared, allowing for instruction comparable to that available to sighted children. Residential schools offer Braille libraries and are generally noted for their athletics programs. Additionally, by being in an environment with other blind children, the blind child has better prospects for social interaction than is often the case in public schools.
Alternatively, inclusionists put forward the compelling argument that segregation from society fosters separation and isolation. They believe that blind and other disabled children are part of a diverse society and should not be separated from it. They assert that our educational system can and must be available to all and must adapt itself to varying needs rather than excluding those with differences.
There is a tendency to view the individual placement as responsible for the blind child's positive or negative experience. Yet the quality of the individual child's experience is not fully explained by the placement model itself. Children going through the very same program frequently have dramatically different feelings about the education they received. Individual children bring with them individual human characteristics. Some adjust readily to change, while others have great difficulty. In other words, the particular placement is only part of the equation.
I believe that the debate over residential versus integrated placement asks the wrong question. There is no one structure or particular type of program placement that is best for blind children. All models and all systems will inevitably succeed with some children and fail with others. What is needed, therefore, is not the refinement or fine tuning of this system or that. Instead, all systems must be premised on a fundamental belief in the ability of blind children to compete--each system must begin with this belief and translate it into expectations.
Without a clear vision of what can be achieved by blind children, no reasonable planning can take place. Without certain fundamental values, no overarching philosophy can emerge. Since its founding the National Federation of the Blind has embodied a clear philosophy of blindness rooted in the basic belief that the blind can compete on terms of equality with the sighted. Marc Maurer, President of the Federation, has stated:
In 1940 we organized to speak for ourselves through the National Federation of the Blind.... We have replaced the ancient terms of negativism with a new language of hope, and society has increasingly come to accept us for what we are--normal people with normal aspirations and normal abilities. (1990, in Walking Alone and Marching Together, p. 718)
I administered a public school program for five years. What distinguished our program was our fundamental belief in blind children. When I speak of a fundamental belief in blind children, I mean just that--a shared personal conviction that our children are inherently normal and capable of assuming an active role in society, a belief that they can grow up and marry and have jobs and raise families and live a normal life, a belief that they will have strengths and weaknesses and, if encouraged to build on those strengths, can excel, establishing for themselves a place of real equality.
It is important to distinguish what I call a fundamental belief in the ability of blind children from the less-defined, generalized belief which exists throughout our educational system. Certainly teachers as a whole seek to train and encourage their students to learn and achieve. What separates a fundamental belief in the ability of blind children from a generalized belief is the matter of clear expectations.
In the program I administered we strove to put into practice our fundamental belief in blind children. We believed that, given the right training, our students could compete in all subject areas on terms of real equality. We were not satisfied with the methods we used to teach the students unless they met this criterion. For this reason we concentrated intensively on the basic skills needed by blind children. We instructed them in Braille reading and writing, cane travel, typing, handwriting, and use of the abacus. These core skills represented the natural expression of our philosophy of blindness. We believed that our children could compete and therefore gave them the tools necessary to put that belief into action. By giving them skills and holding high expectations for them, we enabled our students to develop the self-confidence to participate fully, both socially and academically.
We held a fundamental belief in the ability of our students and translated that belief into action. We believed that our children could compete and gave them the skills necessary to make this belief a reality. When they were given the skills to meet our expectations, they developed confidence and learned to achieve. By succeeding and believing in themselves, they began the process of internalizing our belief in them. In time our expectations of them became their expectations of themselves; our fundamental belief in their inherent normalcy became their own.
What blind children lack is not access to services, but access to high expectations. Society holds only minimal expectations for blind people. Consequently the blind child is rewarded for virtually any level of performance. Even the most forward-looking people rarely hold more than tenuous and uncertain expectations for the blind. It is not surprising, therefore, that blind children lack a clear image of their own potential. To develop a real sense of their own ability, blind children must be in an environment with clearly defined expectations.
When I began administering a public school program, I found a lack of clear expectations for blind children. The staff certainly had good intentions for their students and were doing their best to train and motivate them. Yet they had a generalized rather than fundamental belief in their students. None of the children used canes, and therefore they were at a real disadvantage in getting around the school. They had been taught to trail walls and use their feet to find steps. Blind children were allowed to start out five minutes early for recess so that they could get to the playground before the other children. By and large, partially sighted children were responsible for leading the totally blind ones. At lunch time they went early to the cafeteria and sat together while the cafeteria workers brought them their trays. They were integrated primarily into non-academic subjects, except for those students who had enough vision to use print. This program was not, and is not, uncommon. Personnel in these programs did not have bad motives, were not poorly trained, and were not lazy. In fact, they had the very best of intentions. In other words, they had a generalized rather than fundamental belief in their students.
In restructuring our program, we began by integrating a new philosophy about blindness. Our fundamental belief in blind people expressed itself through high expectations. We believed that, if blind children were to compete, we must first demonstrate (through our actions) our belief in their ability. We stopped the practice of having partially-sighted children lead the totally blind. Rather we taught children to use white canes and encouraged them to walk quickly and confidently. Wall- trailing went by the wayside. We stopped releasing our children early for recess, believing that, if we treated them as though they were vulnerable, they would learn to act as though they were vulnerable and would begin to believe it.
School personnel had some initial difficulty adjusting to these changes. I remember the principal's telling me that we needed to build a sidewalk leading from the main building to the swings. She said that our students liked to swing during recess; but, since we no longer let them go early, the swings were all taken by the time they arrived. She thought a sidewalk would help them find the swings more quickly. When I asked how the children were currently getting to the swings, she told me that they had been taught to trail the fence around the perimeter of the playground. At the point closest to the swings, a rag had been tied into the chain-link fence. When they found the rag, the children were to stand with their backs to the fence and walk straight out to find the swings. No wonder our children were always the last to arrive at the swings.
I told her that what the children needed was, not a sidewalk across the playground, but more practice orienting themselves in large open spaces. When leaving the building, the children should head out across the playground in the general direction of the swings. Over time they would learn to recognize certain natural landmarks such as other playground equipment and slopes in the ground. With practice they would get better at judging the distance and direction to travel. Additionally, since swings are a high-interest activity stimulating much competition, our students would have to be quick if they were to nab a swing.
The principal was apprehensive at the prospect of a half dozen blind children running at top speed with their canes in a crowd of three hundred youngsters. What she had not considered was that, when the recess bell rang, there were three hundred children running at top speed, but they were all running in the same direction--from the building onto the playground. Expecting that the blind children in our program could compete on terms of real equality and giving them the tools to make it possible, we found that they met and surpassed our expectations. When the blind children in our program first learned to use canes, we did not teach them to run. They taught themselves to run because they felt a compelling need to get to the swings first. When they were released early from class, they walked slowly and carefully-- those with some sight helping those with none. They had no need to run and no belief that they could. When they learned to use canes and went to recess with everyone else, they found a need to run and hence learned to do so.
But this was only the beginning. Sometimes they weren't fast enough. Sometimes the swings were all taken when they got there. Consequently, they looked for other things to do. They found and used other pieces of playground equipment. They met other children and made new friends. They began to believe that they were normal children; acted accordingly; and, as a result, were viewed by others as normal.
We also stopped the practice of letting the children go early to lunch. We taught them how to get in line with the other children and use their canes (gently) to keep track of the person in front of them. We taught them how to carry a tray while using a cane and how to find an empty seat. Finally, we taught them to bus their own trays on their way out of the lunchroom. By being part of the crowd, they naturally ended by sitting with a variety of students, which contributed to expanded circles of friends.
In academic areas we applied the same fundamental belief in the basic equality of our students. When I was in graduate school, the concept of social integration was very popular. The basic concept was that placing blind children in an age- appropriate setting, we were assured, would facilitate social integration. Yet this concept was incompatible with our overall philosophy. If we believed that blind children were normal and that, given proper training, they could compete on terms of equality, then social integration would send a contradictory message. If blind children are in classrooms and unable to perform the same work as the other students, how can they learn to believe that they are equal?
We determined, therefore, to concentrate first on the skills of blindness and mainstream children only in those areas in which their skills allowed them to function competitively. This meant that our children received intensive training in Braille reading and writing, as well as training in typing, handwriting, use of the abacus, and of course cane travel. As children were able to read at grade level, they were integrated into language arts and social studies. As they became skilled in the use of the abacus, they were integrated into math. Consequently, they were able to perform competitively and thereby internalize a vision of themselves as inherently normal.
Let me reiterate that the key was not the educational placement; the critical element was our belief in their essential normalcy and the tangible demonstration of our belief through our actions. By believing in blind children and having high expectations for them, we enabled them consistently to reach and surpass our expectations.
One day one of our students came to his teacher to complain that his friends had begun playing tag during recess. When playing tag, one child is "it," and his or her objective is to tag or touch another child, thereby making the other child "it." Since none of the children wishes to be "it," the game moves at a fast pace. The problem for a blind child is that it is difficult to know who "it" is at any given moment and, more important, where "it" is. This blind child complained that, since he didn't know where "it" was, he didn't know which way to run and thus spent much of the game being "it."
We had spent considerable time and energy convincing our children that they were normal and could compete on terms of equality. We had taught them through our words and deeds that, given the right training, they could function competitively with their sighted peers. We now had a seven-year-old putting our philosophy to the test. In the game of tag he didn't feel very equal, yet he had an expectation that he was capable of full participation, so he came to us in the absolute certainty that a technique must exist which would allow him to compete. After considerable soul-searching, we determined to talk to the youngster and explain to him that the world had been constructed largely by the sighted with sight in mind, and after all there are some things that the blind cannot do (such as driving) because the activity itself is premised on the ability of the driver to see. We hoped we could explain to him that tag was like driving--constructed by the sighted for the sighted and that it did not mean that he was inferior. We hoped that we could explain, in a way that a seven-year-old would understand, that the blind were not less capable merely because there were some activities in which sight was an overwhelming advantage.
In the meantime this young fellow had grown tired of waiting for us to come up with a solution. He believed he was as capable as anyone else and believed that full participation was a product of having or thinking up the right technique. He realized he could not see, but, rather than feeling bad about it, he had learned to meet the situation head-on. Soon thereafter, before we had a chance to talk with him, he came to school with a small glass jar. At recess he put a few pebbles in it and replaced the lid. He told his friends that, when they were playing tag, whoever was "it" had to shake the jar; and, if he or she did not, the tag did not count. He still did not know who "it" was, but at least he knew where "it" was.
All of us with our master's degrees and years of experience were prepared to sell a seven-year-old blind child short--not out of malice, poor training, or even lack of imagination. Presumably as a group we had at least average powers of creativity. What limited us was a subtle, almost unrecognizable, internalization of society's diminished view of blindness. Even though we actively worked to promote a positive philosophy of blindness, we were subject to the negative conditioning of society. No matter how hard we fought it, we were still ready to accept partial participation while intellectually wishing to believe in full participation.
This student solved his own problem primarily because he believed in himself. The critical factor was his own expectation and fundamental belief in himself as a blind person. He believed that he was equal and acted accordingly. He would not settle for a lesser role but thought and questioned and tried until he had an answer. Our challenge is to develop a clear vision in ourselves of what we believe about blindness. We must replace our generalized belief in blind children with a fundamental belief. This represents an overarching philosophy guiding our programs but, more important, guiding our expectations. If we have a clear vision of what blind children can achieve, they will invariably reach and surpass our highest expectations for them.
Inevitably our programs and services develop from our beliefs, explicitly and implicitly reflecting our expectations. The real problem with today's programs for blind children is their lack of an effective philosophy. Education of the blind has become trapped by its own thinking, which has resulted in a system in which children are encouraged to progress from where they are, without a vision of where we want them to be. We have become complacent, using progress as our measure of success. We have taken this lack of clear vision and embraced it as a virtue. We have become the champions of individualized programs without clearly defined expectations. Yet doing better today than yesterday is simply not good enough. By using progress as the measure of success, we mislead ourselves into believing that our educational systems are working effectively. The real problem of a generalized belief in blind people is that it lacks definition. The progress measure of success rewards forward movement irrespective of whether it is constructive.
Today's Braille literacy problem did not emerge from a negative view of blindness, but rather from a lack of any specific view at all. If a child has some sight and is struggling to read print and if he or she begins to read better by using a CCTV or stronger magnifier, the goal of progress is achieved. The child is reading better, which is of course what we want. This satisfies our generalized belief in blind children. The progress standard is not so much wrong as incomplete. A child's making progress is good, but only if it is progress toward a worthy goal, premised on a fundamental belief in the ability of blind people to compete. I believe that blind children are fundamentally normal, so I expect that they can become literate. Since I believe that they are normal, my expectation for their literacy is that they will read and write like their sighted peers. For this reason I am not satisfied by a child's progressing from reading ten words per minute to twenty or thirty words per minute if this is the best that he or she will achieve, given a particular medium.
Progress is not enough. It must be coupled with expectation. If a child is trained to read Braille knowing that it is reasonable to expect that child will learn to read at a rate comparable to that of his or her sighted peers, then progress takes on a new and positive dimension. Progress in response to substantive expectation is progress worth applauding. Progress from a position of inferiority to a position of less inferiority, without the prospect of full participation, is not only insufficient but damaging because it erroneously teaches the child that, due to blindness, he or she is less capable. Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, President Emeritus of the National Federation of the Blind, expressed it best:
We have learned that it is not our blindness which has put us down and kept us out, but what we and others have thought about our blindness. (1990, reprinted in Walking Alone and Marching Together, p. 428)
As educators, teacher trainers, and parents we must actively work toward developing a strong and positive conception of blindness within ourselves. This can only be accomplished by spending time with blind adults who can help us reshape and redefine our expectations. Ruby Ryles, a nationally recognized teacher of blind children in the United States, pointed out:
The average V.I. teacher has had little or no contact with competent blind adults and therefore does not imagine, cannot imagine, the tragic results of the omission of basic skill training. (June, 1989, in the Braille Monitor, p. 308)
We must strive to replace our generalized beliefs with fundamental beliefs in the capacity of blind people. With these fundamental beliefs our philosophy of blindness will guide us intuitively to do what is right. Through our philosophy we will naturally hold high expectations for our students and replace undirected progress with that which is goal-driven. We will automatically know whether a decision or strategy is the right one by the degree to which it accomplishes the objective of full participation for the child.
But, most important, a personal fundamental belief in the ability of blind people will result in the passing on of this belief to our children. If we believe in them and demonstrate that belief in all that we do, they too will learn to believe in themselves, internalizing our expectations. The skills we teach are not a complete package, but a starting point. If our children learn to believe in themselves, they will draw from these skills, applying them in new ways and in new situations. They will build on this foundation and integrate themselves into society. No master's-level educator will have to teach them the correct method for playing tag. By believing in themselves and assuming that they can function competitively, they will automatically look for the techniques to put their beliefs into action. The critical factor is expectations--expectations stemming from an overarching philosophy rooted in a fundamental belief in the capacity of blind people to live full and productive lives.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: The Ambassador Bridge, linking the city of Detroit with Windsor, Ontario, Canada.]
1994 CONVENTION BULLETIN MICHIGAN: THE FIRST, THE BIGGEST, AND THE BEST
From the Editor: The members of the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan are working to make this summer's convention truly memorable. Certainly our rates at the Westin Hotel in the Renaissance Center are extraordinary. They are singles, $38; doubles and twins, $43; and quads, $48. In addition to the room rates, there will be a tax, which at present is twelve percent. There will be no charge for children in a room with parents as long as no extra bed is required. Make your reservations by writing Westin Hotel, Renaissance Center, Detroit, Michigan 48243, Attention: Reservations; or call (313) 568-8000. Westin has a national toll-free number, but do not use it. Reservations made through this national number will not be valid. They must be made directly with the Westin in Detroit. The hotel will want a deposit of $45 or a credit card number. If a credit card is used, the deposit will be charged against your card immediately, just as would be the case with a $45 check. If a reservation is cancelled prior to June 20, 1994, the entire amount of your deposit will be returned to you by the hotel. Requests for refunds after June 20, 1994, will not be honored. And just to spur you on to make your plans to attend the 1994 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind, here are some things the members of the NFB of Michigan think you should know about their state:
As you read in the December Monitor, the Michigan affiliate is ready for the "Roar of '94." We are busy with plans to make sure that the 1994 convention of the National Federation of the Blind is the biggest and best convention ever.
When we were in Dallas last July, we kept hearing that "everything in Texas is big." While this may be true, Michigan is also the biggest, the first, or the oldest in many areas. Since our affiliate President, Allen Harris, is a history teacher, we feel obliged to teach each of you a little history about Michigan and the Detroit area while at the same time having some fun with Michigan trivia. We hope you enjoy the following facts which we have dug up. If you are a Trivial Pursuit fan, you know that the categories of that game are geography, sports and leisure, science and nature, arts and literature, entertainment, and history.
In the category of geography, did you know that-- Michigan is the only state that touches four of the five Great Lakes?
Lake Superior is the largest fresh water lake in North America?
Detroit is one of the five largest ports in the country?
Michigan boasts over 3,000 miles of shoreline?
The Mackinac Bridge connecting the Upper and Lower Peninsula is the largest expansion bridge in North America?
The Detroit/Windsor border crossing is the busiest international border crossing in North America?
In the category of entertainment (and shopping is certainly entertainment), did you know that--
Detroit's Northland Mall was the first shopping mall in the nation?
Michigan is home to Bronner's, the world's largest and most famous year-round Christmas store?
Michigan's State Fair is the oldest continuously running state fair?
Detroit is the birthplace of the Motown Sound and Motown Record Company?
Interlochen, Michigan, is the world's largest music education school?
In the category of history, did you know that-- Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, is the country's oldest land grant college?
Detroit was the site of the first traffic light?
The Ford Rouge plant is the largest industrial manufacturing complex in North America?
Detroit is the birthplace of the Model A Ford and the home of the first automobile assembly line?
The largest stove in the world is at the Michigan State Fairgrounds in Detroit?
The Detroit Department of Transportation operates one of only four street car systems in the world using double decker trolleys?
Detroit's Ponchartrain Hotel is built on the site of Detroit's first permanent settlement?
The Westin Hotel, where our convention will be held, is the tallest hotel in North America at 747 feet, and it houses the highest revolving restaurant in North America?
St. Anne's Catholic Church in Detroit is the second oldest continuous Catholic parish in the nation?
America's largest indoor/outdoor museum is the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn? It has twelve acres of exhibit space in the museum itself and eighty-one acres of land in the village?
The Cobo Hall Conference Center in Detroit is the fifth largest in the country?
Selfridge Airbase in Mt. Clemens, Michigan, is one of the nation's oldest and most historic military museums and operating air bases?
In the category of sports and leisure, did you know that--
Detroit is the home of the country's first ice cream soda, made by an employee of the Sanders company in 1875?
Detroit is the home of the world's first automatic coffeemaker?
Michigan has the most registered bowlers in the country as well as the largest number of recreational boats registered?
Detroit leads the nation in potato chip consumption?
Detroit is the pizza capital of the world?
The Pontiac Silverdome, home of the Detroit Lions, is the world's largest domed stadium?
Battle Creek, Michigan, is the cereal capital of the world?
The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor boasts the largest football stadium operated by a university, holding over 106,000 people?
In the category of arts and literature, did you know that--
The Detroit Institute of Arts is one of the largest museums in the country?
The Fox Theater opened as America's largest movie theater in 1928 and was recently renovated to its original form for theater and concert productions?
The Chene Park outdoor music amphitheater ranks as the country's most beautiful?
In the category of science and nature, did you know that--
Traverse City, Michigan, is the cherry capital of the world?
The Atheneum Hotel in Greektown is home to the world's tallest indoor waterfall?
Belle Isle Park in Detroit is the largest island park within a city in the country?
The Aquarium on Belle Isle is the nation's oldest, dating back to 1904?
The Uniroyal tire, located above I-94 in Detroit, is the world's largest tire?
But most important of all, Detroit, Michigan, is the only site of the biggest and best 1994 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. We hope to see you all here. We are planning exciting tours and excursions during convention week. Details will appear in the Monitor next month.
[PHOTO: Tony Burda and daughters seated at table during award ceremony. CAPTION: This picture of Tony Burda and his daughters Natalie and Valerie was taken by photographer Steve Gadomski at the Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Hospital award ceremony. Photo by Steve Gadomski]
From the Editor: Tony Burda is a long-time leader of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois. His commitment to the organization goes back to the days when he was fighting for the right to take the Illinois licensure examination which all pharmacists in the state must pass in order to hold any job that requires a licensed pharmacist. The NFB assisted Tony in that fight, and the result was that, when he eventually took the test, his was one of the highest scores in the state. The battle did not end there, however. State officials continued to refuse to issue Tony's license until, working together, we forced them to do so.
Through the years, Tony Burda has more than justified the Federation's faith in him. His work in the poison control center of one of Chicago's busiest hospitals has been exemplary. His coolness in emergencies and wide knowledge of pharmacology have saved who knows how many lives.
But in addition to the professional contribution Tony has made to his community, he is also an impressive athlete. Tony has used his interest in physical fitness to raise funds for the National Federation of the Blind, first in a triathlon and then in a nearly 500-mile bicycle ride across Iowa and Illinois.
At the moment Tony and his cycling partner are preparing to take part in the Denver Post's competition, Riding the Rockies. This event will begin June 17, 1994, and wind its way across 400 miles of Colorado, some of the way at 9,000 feet. As with his other activities, Tony will use this event to demonstrate that blind people are like everybody else, and he will also be raising money for the NFB.
Tony Burda is an outstanding member of his community and a fine Federationist. Last September he was presented with the Thonar Award by Rush Presbyterian Hospital. Here is the story that appeared in the October, 1993, issue of RushRounds, a publication of the Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center:
Thonar Award Goes to Rush Poison Expert
by Sara Parker Floyd
Anthony Burda, R.Ph., wonders what the fuss is all about. Burda is the winner of the Eugene J.M.A. Thonar, Ph.D., Award, which honors individuals who have overcome disabilities to distinguish themselves in their careers.
"I'm flattered and humbled by the award. But, from the bottom of my heart, I consider myself just an average person, doing the best I can for my family and my profession," says Burda, a poison information specialist in the Poison Control Center.
On September 23, Burda--blind since 1975--accepted the award in the second annual ceremony organized by the Rush Americans with Disabilities Act Task Force. The award gets its name from its first recipient, Rush biochemist Eugene Thonar.
By all accounts, Burda, thirty-eight, is not average. Blinded in an accident while a student, he nonetheless pushed to complete the program at the University of Illinois College of Pharmacy, where he was enrolled. He finished at the top of his class and scored a 91 percent on the licensing exam, one of the highest scores in the state. He then had to wage a two-year court battle to get his pharmacist license, which he was at first denied because he was blind, he says.
A poison information specialist at Rush since 1981, Burda uses his expertise as a pharmacist in handling the thousands of calls that come into the Poison Control Center each year.
"The majority of the calls come from parents with young kids who have been exposed to household toxic substances. I have to calm and relax the parent," he says. "To do well on this job, I have to have a good handle on pharmacology as well as have good communication skills."
Burda must also work fast. Often juggling many frantic calls at once, he has stored in his memory information about thousands of poisonous substances people can be exposed to at home or on the job.
Calls often come in from emergency room physicians treating people who've overdosed on drugs.
"I want to do the best I can and always be conscientious about the people who are entrusted to my care," says Burda.
His colleagues respect him for his wealth of knowledge. "He's anybody's definition of an expert," says Jerrold Leikin, M.D., medical director of the Poison Control Center. "He's well aware of the toxicology literature and easily translates scientific findings into layperson's terms."
Burda keeps up a busy pace outside of work, too. An avid athlete, he took part in a twelve-hour, 175-mile cycling marathon in August. Three years ago, he completed a triathlon. Both events raised money for the National Federation of the Blind, in which Burda has been active for several years.
Fellow pharmacist Jon Lager, R.Ph., has been a partner in these endeavors. In the bicycling events, the two share a tandem bicycle, with Lager in front, navigating the way.
"It's a reality check for me to see what can be accomplished when you put your mind to it," says Lager. "Tony humbles me. He's simply amazing. There's nothing he wouldn't try to accomplish at least once."
A little flustered by the recent attention given him, Burda says he's not one to seek awards and praise. Rather, he's grateful for the blessings in his life--which, he emphasizes, include his wife and two daughters.
"Seventy percent of all employable blind people are either unemployed or underemployed," says Burda. "I'm blessed because I'm one of the thirty percent who have a satisfying career."
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Dr. John Smith.]
RACE AND REASON: A BLACK PERSPECTIVE ON A DARK ISSUE
by John W. Smith
From the Editor: Dr. John Smith is Assistant Professor of Speech Communication at Ohio University. He is an active Federationist and a member of the board of directors of the NFB of Ohio. He has thought long and hard about the Federation and racial and ethnic relationships among Federationists. Here is what he has to say:
I often refer to myself as belonging to a double minority. I am a blind African American. This double minority status presents me with both obstacles and opportunities--fortunately, more opportunities than obstacles. Since joining the National Federation of the Blind, I have come to realize that many others share this distinction with me. It is from this perspective that I want to address the issue of race within the NFB.
First, let me explain why I am using the term African American. Of course, it is politically correct; but more important, some African Americans find the term "black" or "the blacks" offensive. However, African Americans active in the sixties insisted on being called "black" rather than "colored" or "Negro." Therefore, it seems okay to me to use the term. Some black Americans still prefer to have it that way. Throughout this article I will use the terms interchangeably. Strictly speaking, no one is really black or white. The correct terms of description are "caucasoid" or "negroid."
Racial differences have too often, and increasingly of late, preoccupied the communities in which we humans live. But we in the Federation must not allow the issue of race to fracture the unity and solidarity of our movement. We must address this issue openly and frankly and cut off its ugly head whenever and wherever we find it. Racial bigotry (regardless of which race practices it and regardless of whether the terminology used is nigger and honky, black and white, or African-American and Euro- American) is a poison that, left untreated, will corrupt the very essence of a person, group, organization, or movement. It will debilitate and destroy.
I want to dispel two myths about this issue as it relates to the Federation. Myth number one is that no racism exists in the NFB. I have heard well-meaning Federationists exclaim, "I have a hard time telling a person's race, especially those from the South." Can a blind person discriminate based on the sound of someone's voice? Yes, indeed. Sometimes we make bad choices based on erroneous information or at least incomplete information, e.g., someone sounds black or white or acts in accordance with the cultural stereotypes attributable to a given ethnic group. We as individuals choose (sometimes unintentionally or because we're not sure) to include or exclude this or that person from our circle of friends. I think this unintentional discrimination is easier to forgive than the intentional discrimination that occurs when we validate our information and knowingly choose to include or exclude on the basis of race, but it is still racism.
And if you think I am only talking about whites, you are wrong. Racism can be practiced by any group or individual. It comes from the caste of the mind, not the pigment of the skin. In some senses I believe that all of us to one degree or another are racists, because I define racism as the making of choices based on race. Such choices can be either positive or negative. They are positive when they are grounded in pride, mutual advancement, and the reinforcement of a sense of belonging and self-worth.
The problem occurs when we cease to concentrate on race- based pride, dwelling instead on our ignorance and bigotry concerning other people. I define bigotry as the belittling of another's race to enhance one's own race and culture. It's appropriate to have pride in one's own ethnic and cultural identity and achievements, but not at the expense of any other ethnic or cultural group.
If nothing else, our coming together as members of the National Federation of the Blind has demonstrated to all of us that we are simply people who cannot physically see. Despite what some have thought and written, we are first and foremost human beings with all of the shortcomings and inadequacies that plague mankind. Let us then agree as Federationists that, while it is possible for us to practice bigotry, we should make every effort not to do so.
The second myth is that everyone in the Federation is a bigot and that most of the organizational decisions made are racially motivated and designed to keep one group from succeeding in the movement. This classic song of victimology has become tiresome and evermore discordant in our society at large. I don't like to hear African American Federationists sing it, but sing it some of us do. In fact, some black Federationists are saying that we need a black caucus within the NFB. At the risk of being labeled an Uncle Tom, I want to go on record as strongly opposed to this idea. We have too many battles to wage as blind people to allow our energies and focus to be fractured. Besides, compared to the sighted, our numbers are few. Our common bond and burden are our blindness and society's misconceptions about it. The sighted see us as blind people first and then as black or white.
My fellow Federationists, we cannot afford to discriminate against each other. If (whether you are black or white) you are guilty of racial bigotry in your chapter or state affiliate, I urge you to rethink your behavior. Most social movements that have been destroyed have been torn apart from within. Rome was not built in a day, and it was not destroyed in a day either. Over the course of almost two centuries, its very foundations were pulverized and hammered to pieces by inner conflict and strife so that, when the barbarians came, there was little to overrun.
Our strength in the Federation is rooted in our unity of purpose and our capacity to bring undivided commitment and attention to issues affecting the blind. We have too much to fight for and against to allow ourselves to get bogged down in contentious matters that could divide us into warring factions. Those of you who are familiar with our history are aware of the civil war of the late 1950's. It was the greatest threat that our movement has ever faced, one that almost destroyed us. Let history not record that we had a second civil war, one based on racial conflict.
Those Federationists who claim to find racism in every corner of our movement should decide now whether or not to continue in it. Why should people who vehemently and unconstructively criticize the movement and its leaders remain in the organization? I suspect that down deep inside, even these few Federationists know in their hearts that in this movement we cannot be divided or separated into racial or ethnic units but are inextricably linked together by our blindness. They know that each victory and each defeat impacts the entire blind community, regardless of race, ethnicity, or cultural identity.
To all true Federationists I would say in the strongest possible terms: Never use racism as an excuse for lack of initiative or integrity. Among the attractions of this movement for me were the integrity of its leaders and the genuine commitment to working together of the rank-and-file members. It is this emphasis on honesty, openness, and unity that will continue to serve us well as we enter the twenty-first century. I challenge each one of us at every level of our movement to take a good, hard look at our attitudes about racism--not practicing it, not condoning it in others, and not using the claim of its existence in somebody else as an excuse for practicing it ourselves. Let us agree to continue to be united as one to ensure equality, security, and opportunity for all blind people. We can; we must; and I pray that we will.
NEW FACULTY MEMBER MAKES A PLACE FOR HIMSELF
From the Editor: Dr. John Smith joined the faculty at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, in September of 1993. The January 1994, issue of Outlook, the university's faculty publication, carried an article about this dynamic young blind professor. Dr. Smith says that the student newspaper will also soon do a story, this one focused on his efforts to organize a new NFB chapter in the Athens area. Here is the newspaper story published in early January:
INCO's Smith Overcomes Challenge of Blindness
by Emily Caldwell
Present John Smith with a challenge, and he will embrace it as he has embraced life.
Add a little music to the mix, and Smith considers himself inspired.
Smith, a first-year assistant professor of interpersonal communication who has been blind since he was a toddler, now is in a position to be a source of inspiration. He accepts that being the only blind faculty member on the Athens campus might be inspiring in itself, but he says his talent as a teacher is what counts in the classroom.
"Blindness is just a nuisance. It's just a characteristic," says Smith, thirty-four. "It's not the issue, but it's something I don't avoid.
"All I'm doing is living my life the best I can. I don't get up and say, `Who can I inspire today?' (But) I do make it a goal to brighten anybody's life that I happen to come in contact with."
By many accounts, Smith is doing just that. Junior Richard Cornell, who took Smith's School of Interpersonal Communication (INCO) 206 class--Communication in Interpersonal Relationships-- fall quarter calls him a "great teacher" who "cares about the students."
Students say Smith's impaired sight doesn't hinder his teaching; instead, his dynamic style livens up lectures and group projects.
Smith is also open to questions about his blindness, senior Cori Yost says.
"He mentioned it right away. He always encouraged people to ask about it," Yost says. "I just think he was a great instructor, whether he was blind or not. For the first couple of weeks it was interesting, but after that I didn't think about it any more."
Smith was born with glaucoma and was blind in one eye at birth. When he was three, he lost sight in his good eye in an accident while playing with his brother.
Smith, who says he comes from a Chicago family of talkers and singers, has known since his sophomore year in college at Indiana University's Gary campus that he wanted to teach college speech communication.
That was in 1979. He completed a double major in history and speech communication, received a master's degree in speech communication from Purdue University, and earned a doctorate in speech communication at Wayne State University in Detroit. Finishing his Ph.D. included the one and a half years it took to dictate his dissertation to his wife, Regina.
Smith taught at Indiana University's South Bend campus for five years before coming to Ohio University this fall.
As in the fall, Smith will teach two sections of INCO 206 winter quarter and then add a course in the history of rhetorical theory this spring.
Outside the classroom Smith is trying to organize a Southeast Ohio chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. About 500 Ohioans are members of the advocacy and peer-support organization. The closest existing chapter is in Columbus.
Smith credits the organization, which he joined four years ago, with filling a void in his life and helping boost his career.
"All my life I've been a blind person who hung out in the sighted world," Smith says. "When I found the organization, I discovered there are blind people all over the world who have done things I never dreamed of. They gave me incentive to go on and do even greater things."
The College of Communication and the Affirmative Action Office combined to buy a $10,000 voice-synthesized computer that allows Smith to read mail and student assignments by transferring printed words into sound. Smith also receives E-Mail through the computer. The computer is the only special accommodation Smith needs.
"He's very independent," says INCO Director Sue DeWine. "He's really fascinating. You forget he's blind. You just forget."
It took Smith only one tour of Lasher Hall with DeWine and he was able to get around without guidance or a cane. "One trip will usually do it for me," he says.
The school offered to convert memos and handouts into Braille, which takes about four or five pages for each type- written page. Smith says after he received a memo in seventy-five pages of Braille, he told the school's support staff to convert only those documents he requests.
But the extra effort by the INCO staff on his behalf is part of the accommodation and flexibility he praises.
INCO also has provided a work-study student to read for Smith and a graduate student to help with Smith's research on rhetoric and issues dealing with the African-American community.
When he's not teaching, Smith delivers motivational speeches and conducts workshops in interviewing, motivation, and stress management throughout the country. He also is a singer and songwriter and has recorded a gospel tape titled "One Day" under the name "Dr. John" and on his own independent label.
Smith says his motivational messages are aimed at the sighted as well as the blind.
"Everybody is handicapped in some way, either physically or emotionally," he says. "If I put you in the right circumstances, you'll be handicapped.
"My message is that you can overcome anything.... I don't let anybody or anything get me stressed out. I'm just having a ball, enjoying life."
SOCIAL SECURITY, SSI, AND MEDICARE FACTS FOR 1994
The beginning of each year brings with it adjustments in Social Security programs. The changes include new tax rates, higher exempt earnings amounts, Social Security and SSI cost-of-living increases, and changes in deductible and co-insurance requirements under Medicare. Here are the facts for 1994:
FICA and Self-Employment Tax Rates: The FICA tax rate for employees and their employers remains at 7.65%. This rate includes payments to the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Fund of 6.2% and an additional 1.45% payment to the Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund from which payments under Medicare are made. Self-employed persons continue to pay a Social Security tax of 15.3% which includes 12.4% paid to the OASDI trust fund and 2.9% paid to the HI trust fund.
Ceiling on Earnings Subject to Tax: During 1993, the ceiling on taxable earnings for contributions to the OASDI trust fund was $57,600, and the ceiling on taxable earnings for contributions to the HI trust fund was $135,000. The taxable income ceiling for contributions to the OASDI trust fund during 1994 is $60,600. Beginning with January, 1994, there is no ceiling on earnings subject to the HI trust fund tax contribution of 1.45% for employees or 2.9% for self-employed persons.
Quarters of Coverage: Eligibility for retirement, survivors, and disability insurance benefits is based in large part on the number of quarters of coverage earned by any individual during periods of work. Anyone may earn up to four quarters of coverage during a single year. During 1993 a Social Security quarter of coverage was credited for earnings of $590 in any calendar quarter. Anyone who earned $2,360 during the year (regardless of when the earnings occurred) was given four quarters of coverage. In 1994 a Social Security quarter of coverage will be credited for earnings of $620 during a calendar quarter. Four quarters can be earned with annual earnings of $2,480.
Exempt Earnings: The earnings exemption for blind people receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits is the same as the exempt amount for individuals age sixty-five through sixty-nine who receive Social Security retirement benefits. The monthly exempt amount in 1993 was $880 of gross earned income. During 1994 the exempt amount will be $930. Technically, this exemption is referred to as an amount of monthly gross earnings which does not show "substantial gainful activity." Earnings of $930 or more per month before taxes for a blind SSDI beneficiary in 1994 will show substantial gainful activity after subtracting any unearned (or subsidy) income and applying any deductions for impairment-related work expenses.
Social Security Benefit Amounts for 1994: All Social Security benefits, including retirement, survivors, disability, and dependents' benefits are increased by 2.6% beginning with the checks received in January, 1994. The exact dollar increase for any individual will depend upon the amount being paid.
Standard SSI Benefit Increase: Beginning January, 1994, the federal payment amounts for SSI individuals and couples are as follows: individuals, $446 per month; couples, $669 per month. These amounts are increased from individuals, $434 per month; couples, $652 per month.
Medicare Deductibles and Co-insurance: Medicare Part A coverage provides hospital insurance to most Social Security beneficiaries. The co-insurance payment is the charge that the hospital makes to a Medicare beneficiary for any hospital stay. Medicare then pays the hospital charges above the beneficiary's co-insurance amount.
The Part A co-insurance amount charged for hospital services within a benefit period of not longer than sixty days was $676 during 1993 and is increased to $696 during 1994. From the sixty-first day through the ninetieth day there is a daily co-insurance amount of $174 per day, up from $169 in 1993. Each Medicare beneficiary has sixty "reserve days" for hospital services provided within a benefit period longer than ninety days. The co-insurance amount to be paid during each reserve day is $348, up from $338 in 1993.
Part A of Medicare pays all covered charges for services in a skilled nursing facility for the first twenty days within a benefit period. From the twenty-first day through the one hundredth day within a benefit period, the Part A co-insurance amount for services received in a skilled nursing facility is $87 per day.
For most beneficiaries there is no monthly premium charge for Medicare Part A coverage. Persons who become ineligible for Social Security Disability Insurance cash benefits can continue to receive Medicare Part A coverage premium-free for thirty-nine months following the end of a trial work period. After that time the individual may purchase Part A coverage. The premium rate for this coverage during 1994 is $245 per month.
The Medicare Part B (medical insurance) deductible remains at $100 in 1994. This is an annual deductible amount. The Medicare Part B basic monthly premium rate will increase from $36.60 charged to each beneficiary and withheld from Social Security checks during 1993 to $41.10 per month during 1994. Medicare Part B coverage may be continued for people who complete a trial work period and become ineligible to receive Social Security Disability Insurance cash benefits. This monthly premium rate is $41.10, the same amount paid by Social Security beneficiaries through withholding from their monthly Social Security checks.
[PHOTO: Marie Cobb holds infant baby. CAPTION: Marie Cobb holds Michigan Federationist Paul Posont.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Arthur Segal (right) shakes hands with Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke in President Maurer's office.]
The recipes this month come from Maryland and are contributed by two of the affiliate's best gourmet cooks, Marie Cobb and Arthur Segal. Anyone who has attended a seminar or committee meeting at the National Center for the Blind can attest to Mrs. Cobb's culinary talents. She offers three favorite seminar recipes. Arthur Segal, who is famous for his role as Santa Claus at the Baltimore Chapter Christmas parties, concentrates on the delicacies that make Maryland famous.
In May and June raspberries and strawberries from the Eastern Shore are plentiful. During the summer white silver queen corn, tomatoes, and many other vegetables are available. In the fall the northern and western parts of the state produce great apples for both eating and making cider. In addition to strawberries, the Eastern Shore has melons in the summer, pumpkins in early fall, and yellow and white peaches. White peaches are extraordinary. However, it is the Chesapeake Bay that gives Maryland its greatest reputation and most delicious products, for in the Chesapeake are found the famous blue crabs, rockfish, soft shell crabs, and a wide variety of oysters.
1 pound crabmeat
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon baking powder
generous grinding of fresh white pepper
1 « teaspoon dried ground mustard
2 generous size pieces of bread with crust removed, broken into small pieces moistened with milk so that bread is moist but not sopping wet
Method: In a large bowl mix all ingredients thoroughly and form into 8 patties for sandwiches with a 2-patty presentation; 4 large patties for a dinner serving; or 32 small balls for appetizers. Heat «inch oil (preferably peanut) in an iron skillet, frying cakes or balls on both sides until golden or crisp to touch. Marylanders eat their crabcakes on crackers or hamburger buns and with mustard or hot sauce.
1 pound blue crab backfin meat
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped dill
a generous grinding of fresh white pepper
8 to 10 drops hot sauce (approximately)
Method: In a large bowl combine all ingredients. Butter a 2-quart baking dish and put mixture in it. Sprinkle with a small amount of bread crumbs and dot with butter; bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. You can also use individual dishes and handle in the same manner. Crab Imperial also makes a good stuffing. This recipe can be used to stuff 8 Cornish hens, 8 squab, or fish fillets.
Have your fishmonger debone rockfish. Get individual fillets or large fillets that would serve two people.
Generously season with Old Bay or New Orleans blackened fish seasoning. Heat cast iron skillet with nothing in it; drop in the fillets and cook 2 minutes on each side or until fish feels crisp at the edges.
Butter and season the rockfish in the same manner as above. Arrange fillets on a large baking sheet. Cook them at 440 degrees. If using a gas oven, start with it cold. If using an electric oven, preheat it. If the fillets are over an inch thick, cook them approximately 12 minutes; if they are under an inch thick, cook them for approximately 10 minutes.
Rockfish Stuffed With Crab Imperial
Spread the crab imperial mixture on rockfish fillets, approximately « inch thick and to the edges; pack it firmly on the fish fillets. Sprinkle surface lightly with bread crumbs and dot with butter. Bake them in the same manner as rockfish but add an additional 1 to 2 minutes to allow for cooking the crab imperial topping. Crab Imperial can be used to stuff any kind of good fish, including flounder, salmon, and swordfish, three of my favorites.
Use some of Maryland's famous fresh fruit such as sliced fresh strawberries or peaches. Serve in large wine goblets with champagne. For dessert pour one ounce of Grand Marnier over the same two fruits. For an extra special gourmet dessert, mix heavy whipping cream until half whipped; add two teaspoons of Grand Marnier and finish whipping until stiff peaks form. Top the strawberries with the whipped cream.
To serve raspberries, put them into large wine goblets; pour an ounce of Chambord Liqueur over berries. Follow same instructions for whipping cream as above but replace Grand Marnier with Chambord Liqueur.
SEMINAR TUNA SALAD
by Marie Cobb
1 large can water-packed tuna
4 hard-boiled eggs chopped fine
1 medium onion chopped fine
1« cup chopped green olives
1« cup chopped dill pickles
salt and pepper to taste
1« cup mayonnaise--more if desired
Method: Mix all ingredients together and chill before serving.
SEMINAR ROAST PORK
1 6- to 9-pound boneless pork loin roast, rolled and tied
2 cups olive oil
1 cup coarse ground black pepper
1 1/4 cup salt
Method: Use a roasting pan with a rack and enough space under the rack to place two inches of water in the pan and still have the rack at least an inch above the water. Preheat the oven as hot as possible. Prepare the pan before preparing the roast. Combine the oil, salt, and pepper. Rub this mixture all over the roast to make a good coating. Place the roast on the pan and insert a meat thermometer. Place the pan in the middle of the oven. Roast for 20 minutes and then reduce the heat to 425 degrees. Cook until meat thermometer reaches 120 degrees. Remove roast from oven and wrap tightly in foil. Let stand for one hour before slicing.
SEMINAR BANANA PUDDING
1 small box instant vanilla pudding
2 cups milk
1 can Eagle brand condensed milk
1 carton (9 or 10 oz.) Cool Whip, thawed
10 bananas, peeled and sliced
1 pound vanilla wafers
Method: Beat together the pudding mix and milk. Stir in the sweetened condensed milk and Cool Whip. Blend until smooth. Line a large dish with vanilla wafers. Add a layer of sliced bananas. Pour a layer of the pudding over the cookies and bananas. Continue this process until all the ingredients have been used. Chill for at least 12 hours.
[3 PORTRAIT PHOTOS. CAPTION 1) Don and Nancy Burns. CAPTION 2) Kathy and Kevin Carpenter. CAPTION 3) Peggy and Doug Elliot stand with Dr. Jernigan at their wedding reception.]
** Wedding Bells:
This fall and early winter have been filled with the sounds of wedding bells around the Federation. Don Burns of New Mexico and Nancy Marcello of California write to advise their Federation friends of their marriage. The wedding took place in Reno, Nevada, on October 9, 1993. Don and Nancy first met at the National Convention in Charlotte and were reunited at the Dallas convention. Nancy has relocated from Burbank, California, to Alamogordo, New Mexico. Both she and Don are employed by the New Mexico Commission for the Blind. Nancy is a field teacher, and Don teaches mobility at the Commission's adult rehabilitation center. Then, on November 20 Kathy Kannenberg, President of the National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina, and Kevin Carpenter were also married. And, as if this wasn't enough excitement for the close of 1993, on December 28 Peggy Pinder, Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB of Iowa, and Doug Elliott, President of the NFB of Nevada, were married at Peggy's home in Grinnell. We all wish the three couples much joy in their new lives together.
* Resource Directory Being Compiled:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Project on Science, Technology, and Disability invites scientists and engineers with disabilities to be included in the third edition of the Resource Directory of Scientists and Engineers with Disabilities. Potential candidates for the directory must hold, or be working toward, a degree in a scientific, engineering, or medical discipline or currently be employed in a scientific field.
Funded by the National Science Foundation, the project's Resource Directory of Scientists and Engineers with Disabilities has assisted hundreds of individuals to enter and advance in scientific disciplines. The directory helps to connect persons with disabilities and their families with professors, teachers, and counselors who can serve as role models and mentors.
The Resource Directory lists scientists, mathematicians, and engineers from all parts of the country with their disciplines, degrees, and disabilities. Individuals include professionals who were born with a disability and those who acquired their disability mid-career. Those listed in the directory are also asked to consult for academia, government agencies, and industry as well as serve on peer-review panels and symposia.
Established in 1975, the AAAS Project on Science, Technology, and Disability has sought and shared expert advice from scientists and engineers with disabilities. Since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the AAAS Resource Directory has become a valuable source of expertise.
To be included in the directory or for more information, please contact Laureen Summers, Program Associate, or Patricia A. Thompson, Editorial Specialist, AAAS Project on Science, Technology, and Disability, AAAS, 1333 H Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005; or call (202) 326-6645 (voice or TDD). Information can also be sent by fax to (202) 371-9849.
Ruth Swenson, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Arizona, reports the following election results from the November 13 meeting of the Phoenix Chapter: Captain Lewis, President; Carrie Taylor, First Vice President; Hazel Plummer, Second Vice President; Tom Johnson, Secretary; Donna Silba, Treasurer; and Fred Rockwell and Harlene Anderson, members of the Board of Directors.
** Hoping To Buy:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I would like to buy a second-hand Braille English dictionary in good condition. I am also looking for a used dictionary of idioms and proverbs. In addition, I would like to borrow or be given any Braille or recorded notes or books on linguistics or other directly or loosely related material. If you have any of these items, please contact Muhammad Fazil, 1802 S.W. Tenth Avenue, Apt. 322, Portland, Oregon 97201; (503) 725-7929.
** New Chapter:
Don Capps, President of the NFB of South Carolina, reports that the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina continues to be the national pacesetter in chapter development and membership growth. The Dillon County Chapter became the forty-first chapter of the NFB of South Carolina on December 2, 1993. An election was held, and the following are the new officers: Melvin Barrentine, President; and Margaret McDaniel, Treasurer. Congratulations to the Dillon County Chapter and to the entire South Carolina affiliate.
At a recent meeting the Southern Maryland Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland elected the following: Kenneth Silberman, President; Polly Johnson, Vice President; Gerelene Womack, Secretary; Wilma Smith, Treasurer; and Alfred Wilson and Mary Skattie, Board members.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Cherie Heppe.]
** New Baby:
Cherie Heppe, a long-time Federation leader in Connecticut, recently wrote to announce that she and William Schiavo became the parents of a baby daughter, Tiara Michelle, born on August 13, 1993. She weighed nine pounds, five ounces and measured twenty inches long. Congratulations to the proud parents.
** Attention Braille Proofreaders and Transcribers:
Mary Donahue, an active Federationist from San Antonio, Texas, writes to say that, following the great success of the networking breakfast for Braille proofreaders and transcribers at the 1993 Convention, the group is planning another breakfast at the Detroit convention. Mary also hopes to include people who work in the bindery departments of Braille production facilities at the breakfast. Look for information about a network breakfast at this year's convention in upcoming issues of the Braille Monitor. She is interested in hearing from those interested in this network. Contact her at 100 Lorenz Road, Apt. 1205, San Antonio, Texas 78209; or call (210) 826-9579 (evenings and weekends) or (210) 299-2400, extension 322 (during the day).
** Information Needed:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Graduate student doing dissertation research involving disability interest groups urgently seeks information about the following organizations which have been instrumental in pursuing disability legislation in the past:
Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund
American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities
National Council of Independent Living Programs
Open Doors for the Handicapped
Consortium of Citizens with Developmental Disabilities
National Association of State Directors of Special Education
Vermont Coalition of the Handicapped
Metropolitan DC Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation
Association for the Advancement of Rehabilitation Technology
Coalition on Technology and Disability
National Council on Independent Living
Americans Disabled for Accessible Public Transportation
Information about the organization's current status (does it still exist?), a knowledgeable point of contact, and the group's operations and objectives are of particular interest. Anyone with such information about any of these groups is asked to contact Cheryl Allee at 3921 Seminary Road, Apt. 1201, Alexandria, Virginia 22311; telephone (703) 379-1283.
Paul Howard, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Indiana, reports that at its state convention the following officers were elected: Paul Howard, President; Ron Brown, First Vice President; Anthony Schnurr, Second Vice President; Sylvia Fadden, Secretary; and Pamela Schnurr, Treasurer. Mamie Harris, John Stroot, Harold Bradley, and Barbara Schmidt were elected to serve as board members.
** Assistance Needed With Sleep Research:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Men and women, ages eighteen to eighty-five, without light perception and using no prescription medications, are invited to participate in a study on circadian rhythms and sleep patterns in the blind. The study is being conducted at the Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Harvard Medical School. The study involves wearing an ambulatory monitor while you live at home and spending four to five days in the laboratory each month. Participants will be paid for their efforts and may also find out valuable information about their eyes and their sleep-wake patterns. For more information, call Dr. E. Klerman at (617) 732- 4012, extension 3948. Calls at all times of day are welcomed.
** Nutrocookies Available:
Dorothy Goodley, Secretary of the NFB of Southwest Georgia Chapter, has asked us to carry the following announcement:
Would you like to try a Nutrocookie? These are large cookies made from various types of grains, honey, and chocolate chips. They do not have additives, are nutritious, and make a whole meal in themselves, as well as being convenient to carry around in your briefcase or pocketbook. For further information contact in Braille or cassette Dorothy Goodley, 615 Fifth Street, S.E., Moultrie, Georgia 31768; (912) 985-4064.
Belle Rousseau, Secretary of the Reno Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Nevada, reports the following election results: Melissa Lisfield, President; Julie Deming, First Vice President; Michael Kirkpatrick, Second Vice President; Belle Rousseau, Secretary; and Dennis Deming, Treasurer.
** Home Products Delivered:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Interested in having laundry detergent, paper towels, and other paper and home products delivered to your door? Call (302) 366-8060 and ask for Charlotte, or write to Michael Greenway, 234 Cherry Street, Second Floor, Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania 19079- 1308.
** New Technology Available:
We have been asked to carry the following press release:
Until now it has been difficult for blind people to take advantage of voice recognition systems (voice-activated computers). Terry Martin, who is blind, has built a system that will allow blind people to use a voice-activated computer. The system is called MetaVOICEž, and it provides an audio confirmation of what the computer has heard, making it possible for print-disabled people to access the computer by voice.
MetaVOICE is an add-on product for Kurzweil VOICEž. It has been under development for over ten months. Kurzweil VOICE is a voice-recognition system. It is typically used for dictation--by emergency room physicians, for example. Such computer systems rely heavily on displaying the dictated information on the computer screen. Martin thought that a voice output component would be a tremendous help to a blind person who wanted to use a voice-recognition program. Because blind people process information by listening instead of by using their eyes, he began working on MetaVOICE to provide voiced confirmation of the commands spoken to the computer.
For more information about this product call Adaptek Systems at (716) 475-9770 or (800) 685-4566 and ask for Terry Martin or Dr. Robert Hill. The address is Adaptek Systems, 2320 Brighton-Henrietta Town Line Road, Rochester, New York 14623.
Ray Sewell, Secretary of the Merchants Division of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland, reports that the division has changed its name to the National Federation of the Blind Maryland Business Division. At a recent meeting an election was held with the following results: Barry Hond, President; Ken Canterbery, Vice President; Ray Sewell, Secretary; and Don Morris, Treasurer. Ray Lowder and Leon Rose were elected to Board positions. Joe Byard merits a sincere thank you from Maryland vendors for his service and much hard work while President of the Maryland Merchants Division.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Dottie Neely.]
** New Chapter:
On October 9, 1993, the Greater Greensboro Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina held its first meeting. The following officers were elected: Dottie Neely, President; Martha Deloatch, Vice President; Jackie McNeely, Treasurer; and Jerry Moton, Board member.
** For Sale:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have a used Perkins Braille Writer that has been serviced and cleaned and is in good working condition. I would like to get $300 for this equipment. For more information contact Martin Howe, 1164 Cherry Street, Green Bay, Wisconsin 54301; or call (414) 437-3316.
On September 11, 1993, Bonnie Peterson, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin, was elected by acclamation to Chair the Council on Blindness, which is a nine- member advisory body, appointed by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Social Service (DHSS) in Wisconsin. Wisconsin Act 435, Sec. 47.03(9) states as follows: "The Council on Blindness shall make recommendations to the Department and to any other state agency concerning procedures, policies, services, activities, programs, investigations, and research that affect any problem of blind and visually impaired persons." Congratulations to both Bonnie and the Council.
** Resource List Available:
An (adult) toy resource list addendum for 1993 is now available from the National Federation of the Blind Parents of Blind Children Committee on the Blind Multiply-Handicapped Child. The list gives ages for toys using the developmental age rather than the chronological age of the child. Families and professionals with a special interest in the blind multiply- handicapped child or adult are cordially invited to write to us for information and materials. We also match families and professionals who wish to network. Our newsletter, "Update," is published bi-monthly. To request information or materials, write or call NFB POBC Committee on the Blind Multiply-Handicapped Child, 1912 Tracy Road, Northwood, Ohio 43619; (419) 666-6212.
** Returned to Office:
Peggy Pinder was re-elected a Councilwoman in Grinnell, Iowa, in November, 1993. Peggy Elliott will take her seat in January, 1994.
Kerry Smith, Secretary of the St. Louis Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri, reports the following election results: Daryel White, President; Susan Ford, Recording Secretary; Kerry Smith, Corresponding Secretary; Thelda Borisch, Treasurer; and John Ford, member at large.
** A Movement for All Seasons:
Ramona Walhof, Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB of Idaho, reports the following:
We know that the blind are a cross section of society and that the NFB is made up of all kinds of people. This was demonstrated vividly by the group that gathered December 11, 1993, for the Christmas party of the Western Chapter of the NFB of Idaho in Boise. Thirty-two people attended. Of these, three were in their nineties, one in the eighties, three in the seventies, two in the sixties, one in the fifties, six in the forties, seven in the thirties, and four in the twenties. In addition there were one teenager and four children under ten. Thus we had ten decades represented. One couple brought a huge hubbard squash from last summer's garden, and every bit was eaten. I was struck by the diversity of the group. It occurred to me to wonder if most of our chapters are not very much like this one. I believe they are. But it is especially at Christmas time that we take the time to appreciate one another and turn acquaintance into friendship.
** BANA News:
We have been asked to carry the following information:
At the annual meeting of the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) in November, 1993, officers were elected for 1994. Dr. Hilda Caton (Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired) was re-elected as chairperson. Also confirmed were Fred Sinclair (California Transcribers and Educators of the Visually Handicapped), Vice- Chair; Eileen Curran (National Braille Press), Secretary; and Phyllis Campana (American Printing House for the Blind), Treasurer.
English Braille American Edition, which is the official literary Braille code book of BANA, is being reprinted and will be available in the spring of 1994. This reprinting will incorporate the appendices containing the 1980, 1987, and 1991 code changes. There will be some editorial changes, but no other significant alterations.
BANA established a new committee, the Public Relations Committee. Mary Lou Stark, the BANA representative from the Library of Congress, will chair it. It will be working hard to provide as much information as possible about what BANA is and what it does.
Darleen Bogart, who chairs the Ad Hoc Unified Braille Code Research Committee, reported on the International Council on English Braille (ICEB) meeting held in Sydney, Australia, in June, 1993. The ICEB voted on, and unanimously approved, a proposal presented to them by BANA which recommended that the Unified Braille Code Research Project (UBC) become international. International members were added to all the UBC committees and are now working with the previous members to attempt to develop a unified Braille code for all English-speaking countries.
The spring, 1994, BANA meeting will be held on April 24-27, 1994, in Costa Mesa, California, in conjunction with the California Transcribers and Educators of the Visually Handicapped meeting.
** Specialized Mail Order Pharmacy Services Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Orphan Medical introduces a specialized mail order pharmacy service for patients requiring hard-to-find medicines and those needing unique medicines seldom stocked by traditional pharmacies. Services include:
Consultation with specially trained pharmacists.
A unique system for finding and purchasing any prescription medicine sold in the U.S. Once requested, these medicines will be stocked for future rapid delivery.
Competitive prices due to efficiency and low overhead.
Assistance with insurance billing and acceptance of insurance co-payments.
UPS or Federal Express delivery.
Full-service pharmacy assures patients of access to all prescription medicines.
Total commitment to service and customer satisfaction.
Orphan Medical is a division of CHRONIMED, Inc. (CHMD). CHRONIMED is a health care company specializing in the unique needs of patients with chronic diseases. CHRONIMED provides patient education materials, pharmaceuticals, nutritionals, and general medical products directly to the individual and to the patients of managed care companies nationwide.
To place an order, call the toll-free number, (800) 636- 1133. For additional information about Orphan Medical services, write Bert Spilker, Ph.D., M.D., Executive Director, 13911 Ridgedale Drive, Suite 250, Minnetonka, Minnesota 55305; or fax (612) 541-4969.
Roberta Jensen, Secretary of the Tucson Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Arizona, writes that the following Federationists were elected to serve as chapter officers during 1994: Wayne Miller, President; Lee Kerr, Vice President; Roberta Jensen, Secretary; and Mary Miller, Treasurer. Cindy Heun and Joe Mora were re-elected to serve on the board.