37, No. 7
Barbara Pierce, Editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille,
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The National Federation of the Blind
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NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
THE BLIND IS NOT
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 37, No. 7 July 1994
A VISIT TO LOUIS BRAILLE'S BIRTHPLACE
by Kenneth Jernigan
FACTS ABOUT LOUIS BRAILLE'S BIRTHPLACE
BRAILLE MADE THE DIFFERENCE
CONCERNED PARENTS AND KIDS TESTIFY IN FAVOR OF BRAILLE
CALL FOR CHANGE
by James Gashel
BLIND STUDENT TEACHERS FROM A PROFESSOR OF EDUCATION
by Homer Page
MORE TALK ABOUT THE GUI
WITH CRUISE LINES
by Sheila Hall-Ritchhart
IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD
by Stephen Laughrey
by Lauren L. Eckery
OF AN ELECTRICAL ENGINEER
by Michael Gosse
by Annie Capestany
by Kathy Berry
Copyright 1994 National
Federation of the Blind
[LEAD PHOTO: Dr. Jernigan and Franois Bentz shake hands as Dr. Jernigan hands check to Mr. Bentz. David Blyth stands on Dr. Jernigan's left; the Louis Braille home is in the background. CAPTION: On Wednesday, May 18, 1994, Dr. and Mrs. Jernigan visited Louis Braille's birthplace in Coupvray, France. Shown here, Dr. Jernigan presents a check for $10,000 to Mr. Franois Bentz, the Mayor of Coupvray, while David Blyth, President of the World Blind Union, participates in the ceremony.]
[PHOTO #1: Dr. Jernigan stands next to a monument which is topped by a bust of Louis Braille. Dr. Jernigan's hand on a carving of Louis Braille (as a boy) and his father which is on the front of the statue. CAPTION: Kenneth Jernigan examines the statue of Louis Braille on the outskirts of Coupvray, France.]
[PHOTO #2: Dr. Jernigan and Marcel Herb stand talking to each other, next to Louis Braille's home. CAPTION: Marcel Herb, President of the French Federation of the Blind, talks with Kenneth Jernigan during a visit to the Louis Braille home, May 17, 1994.]
[PHOTO #3: Dr. Jernigan shakes hands with the architect, with the Louis Braille home in the background. CAPTION: Kenneth Jernigan shakes hands with the architect who is drawing the plans and supervising the renovation at the Louis Braille home.]
[PHOTO #4: Dr. Jernigan stands inside the Louis Braille home, next to a painting and a bust of Louis Braille. CAPTION: Inside the room adjoining the saddle shop at the Louis Braille home. A picture of Louis Braille hangs on the wall and directly underneath is a bust of Louis Braille.]
[PHOTO #5: Dr Jernigan stands in the stairway. CAPTION: The stairway at Louis Braille's home.]
[PHOTO #6: Dr. Jernigan stands with his hand on a wooden plaque with metal studs which spell out "Louis Braille" in print and Braille. CAPTION: A print and Braille plaque inside the Louis Braille home.]
[PHOTO #7: Dr. Jernigan stands next to a wooden workbench with his hands on wooden tools. A shadow box display of various tools used in the saddle maker's trade hangs in the background. CAPTION: Kenneth Jernigan examines the hinged boards used in the saddle maker's trade to hold the leather while it is being sewed and worked. The leather is placed between the boards, and the ends of the boards are gripped between the saddle maker's knees to apply pressure and keep the leather in place.]
[PHOTO #8: Dr. Jernigan sits at the saddle maker's bench and Franois Bentz hands him a small sharp tool. The museum curator looks on over Dr. Jernigan's shoulder. CAPTION: Franois Bentz, the Mayor of Coupvray, hands Kenneth Jernigan a tool of the type that blinded Louis Braille.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION #9: Standing in the doorway of the Louis Braille home: from left to right, Rodolfo Cattani of Italy, Vice President of the WBU; David Blyth of Australia, President of the WBU; Pedro Zurita of Spain, Secretary General of the World Blind Union; and Kenneth Jernigan.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION #10: Boats on the Seine River]
A VISIT TO LOUIS BRAILLE'S BIRTHPLACE
by Kenneth Jernigan
The French have a well-known proverb: The more things change, the more they stay the same. I thought of that proverb on Tuesday, May 17, 1994, when I went to the birthplace of Louis Braille (1809-1852) in Coupvray, France, and read the guide book provided to visitors. It says on page nine:
"At the age of thirteen Louis Braille began his research with a view to designing an alphabet based on a cell of six raised dots. The system was enthusiastically acclaimed by the pupils but was rejected by the teachers (1826). Being sighted themselves, they refused to countenance a form of writing which they could not read."
In reading that passage I was, of course, mindful of the fact that not all teachers are chauvinistic nor all students enthusiastic, but the parallel between the 1820's in France and the 1990's in the United States is remarkable and noteworthy. The road to Braille literacy for the blind has been long and, in more than one sense, bumpy--and the end is not yet discernible. If we do our work well, it can probably be reached some time early in the next century.
My trip to Coupvray was part of the effort which the National Federation of the Blind is making to try to help repair and restore the Louis Braille birthplace and museum. Mrs. Jernigan and I left Dulles Airport Sunday evening, May 15, and arrived in Paris the next morning. That afternoon we met with Marcel Herb, President of the French Federation of the Blind; Rodolfo Cattani of Italy, Vice President of the World Blind Union; and Franois Bentz, the mayor of Coupvray. Mr. Bentz is a no-nonsense fellow, who attended college in the United States and speaks fluent English. I believe he operates a factory for the making of blue jeans and engages in other enterprises. He made it clear that he wants the Louis Braille birthplace thoroughly restored and that he is prepared to take a leading part in getting it done.
Earlier this year at the meeting of the World Blind Union Executive Committee in Melbourne, Australia, we were told that architectural studies had been made and that approximately $110,000 would be needed to do a thorough job of repairing and renovating the Louis Braille home. As Monitor readers know, I pledged on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind to try to raise half of the needed money. When I returned to the United States, the Board of the NFB agreed to undertake the project.
At the May 16 meeting Mr. Bentz said that the actual estimates would be closer to $170,000 than $110,000 but that his plan might not require more than $26,000 from us. Here is how he outlined it: $26,000 from the Town of Coupvray; another $26,000 from Coupvray, which it would receive back as a tax refund; $26,000 from us; $70,000 from a French governmental authority; and the remaining $22,000 from another governmental authority. He said that appropriate applications were underway and that he felt that the work of repair and renovation should not begin until a response had been received from the governmental authorities. "If we start the work before getting a commitment from them," he said, "they will think we don't need the government money, and there will be no chance of getting it."
When I told him that the National Federation of the Blind was prepared to make an immediate contribution of $10,000 to show that we were serious and meant business, he was delighted and responded with a proposal that underscores his good judgment and understanding of politics and public relations. He suggested that officials of the World Blind Union, leaders of the French Federation of the Blind, and I go to the Louis Braille birthplace on Wednesday afternoon, where the $10,000 check would be presented in a public ceremony. Pictures would be taken; journalists would be present; and an article would be written saying that if the blind of America could give money to restore Braille's birthplace (and not only give the money but come all the way to France to bring it), surely the French government could be forthcoming. This is exactly what we did, but there were intervening activities and meetings.
On Tuesday, May 17, the leaders of the French Federation, Dr. Cattani, Mrs. Jernigan, and I drove to Coupvray to inspect Louis Braille's birthplace. I examined the house in great detail, from the third floor area to the wine barrel in the cellar, and I talked at length with the architect to see what was planned, and why. Here is a summary of what I learned:
Let me begin by saying that I went to Coupvray with a number of misconceptions. I don't know why, but I had thought the Louis Braille home was made of wood and that it was probably about to fall down. It isn't. It is made of stone. The first floor of one part of the house (the workshop and the entry room adjoining it) is made of concrete. The second and third floors are wood. The interior walls are stone with no paneling on them.
The house, which was built sometime in the latter part of the 1700's, is basically in sound condition. However, certain things need to be done. The roof is made of clay tiles. Some of these have deteriorated, and others are missing. Water is coming through. Where necessary, the roof must be re-tiled. There is leakage around the base of the chimney, which must be repaired. Below ground, the walls and foundation must have a layer of waterproofing material; and above ground, plastering and repair must be done as required. Original exterior shutters have been replaced by more modern ones. There is nothing wrong with these modern shutters, but a return to the original style will be made.
Inside the house the walls must be thoroughly dried, scraped, and painted, and the doors and windows must also be painted and refurbished. Originally the structure was two houses with a common interior wall. As I understand it, the two houses had, by the time of Louis Braille, become one by means of a door cut through the common wall at the third-floor stair landing. This creates a hazardous situation since the step through the wall does not open directly onto a level area but another stairway, one that is steep and narrow. It would be easy to lose your balance and go tumbling. In fact, I had to reach around the corner to find footing as I stepped through the doorway. This situation must be remedied with a slight alteration and the addition of a step.
As to other inside repairs, all stairways will be removed, reinforced, and then reinstalled. There is a fairly good-sized hole in the floor of one of the rooms at the third floor level, and there may be other less obvious damage. All floors must be examined and, where needed, repaired. At the first floor level, the entry room and adjoining workshop (the one used by Louis Braille's father, who was a saddle and harness maker) were originally floored with brick. Later, the bricks were removed and replaced with concrete. It is planned to remove the concrete and replace it with brick.
I was as thorough and careful as I knew how to be, and of course I was moved by the spirit of the place. I sat in a chair with a leather strap seat by the workbench in the saddle shop and felt the worn surface. I looked at the tools of the saddle maker's trade and held in my hands an awl (or curved narrow blade) of the type that blinded Louis Braille in that very room at that very bench. I reached into the stone oven in the kitchen, which is part of the living room. I touched the table and chairs- -not, I suppose, the originals but certainly of the type and period of the originals. I went to the cellar and looked at the accoutrements of wine making--particularly, the huge barrel and old wine bottles.
As I went through the house and communed with the essence of the place, I thought of Louis Braille's letters to his family when he was living in Paris:
"Paris, 10th September, 1847
I do so long to see you. Staying in the big town bores me and I shall be happy to breathe the air of our countryside and to wander with you through the vineyards. . . ."
"Paris, 15th November, 1848
I was happy to note that the weather was fine for the grape harvest, as fine as one could wish for, but today the sun is very pale. The cold season has begun and we have to stay indoors. As for me, I do not go out and while the Parisians were receiving snow on their heads as they went to the Feast of the Constitution, I was content to listen to the cannon from my well-heated room. . . ."
"Paris, 5th October, 1851
My dear nephew, my dear niece,
I have just sent off to you by train a small box of jujubes. I hope it will keep you safe from the colds which the winter season will bring you. . . . I have just spent three days in Coupvray and have now returned [to Paris], not to leave it again before next summer. . . ."
For Louis Braille there was no next summer since he was to die three months after he wrote this letter--January 6, 1852.
The visit to Louis Braille's home and the reading of his letters caused me to wonder what he thought as he was growing up and how he felt, but it also caused me to think about my own childhood and how I felt and thought. It strengthened my determination to do all I can to preserve and continue the Louis Braille heritage, for except for him I might still be living as a virtual prisoner on the farm where I grew up in Tennessee, hungering to know and longing for freedom. Instead, I escaped to a broader world of books and achievement, to a life of opportunity and hope, and to a distant day in France when I stood at the birthplace of my benefactor and reached across the years to a common bond. Yes, the home of Louis Braille will survive. The blind of today will make it happen, and the blind of future generations will keep the commitment.
David Blyth of Australia, President of the World Blind Union; Pedro Zurita of Spain, Secretary General of the World Blind Union; and Pierre Paul Blanger of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, who came as a representative of Dr. Euclid Herie, arrived in Paris late Tuesday afternoon, May 17. They, along with those of us who had gone to Coupvray the day before, met on Wednesday morning with officials of the French government who deal with museums. Mr. Herb had previously been given assurances that help would be available from the department responsible for museums, but from the outset of our meeting it was clear that we would get pleasant speeches and little else. The officials said that there were only about 31 national museums in France and that there was no possibility that the Louis Braille birthplace could be added to the list. They said that there were two other kinds of museums: those that are run by local government authorities, and those that are run by associations. They said that the Louis Braille Museum could fit into either category but that regardless of category they could give no help with repair and renovation. As I saw it, they were saying that they might give help in finding new objects for the Louis Braille Museum, but not until repairs were made and money was available for ongoing upkeep--and that they might help with ongoing upkeep but not until more objects had been collected.
Mr. Herb was outraged and told them so--and David Blyth, who is capable of succinct (one might almost say sparse) communication, said: "There is no point in continuing this meeting. We should not waste your time or ours." With that and Mr. Herb's remarks we left. Let me make it clear that this discussion with the museum officials had nothing to do with the government assistance that the mayor of Coupvray is seeking, and thinks he can get. Let me also say at this point that Mr. Herb publicly and unequivocally pledged that the French Federation of the Blind would make sizable financial contributions to help with the work.
On Wednesday afternoon our expanded company boarded a mini- bus and headed once more for Coupvray. At the Louis Braille birthplace we met the mayor, and I presented NFB's check for $10,000. It was done amid the flashing of cameras and the scribbling of journalists. I have not seen the article, but I suspect that Mr. Bentz will guide it to fulsome nature and wide distribution.
In any event, when the deed was done, we headed for the town hall, where the mayor served up champagne and toasts. He is a suitable leader for his town, which is located about forty miles southeast of Paris and has been designated a historic district. The houses and public buildings (even those of more modern vintage) are of the style and appearance of the early 1800s. Everywhere there are stone walls, tile roofs, and a flavor of the past.
The only thing left to say about the visit to France is that it was pleasant as well as productive. Mr. and Mrs. Herb and Madame Yvonne Torres, Mr. Herb's charming and capable assistant, were excellent hosts. On Tuesday we went for lunch to a restaurant in the Meaux area, where Meaux mustard and Brie cheese abound. There were also other enjoyable experiences, but I will leave it at that.
On Thursday morning, May 19, Mrs. Jernigan and I headed for London, where we talked with officials of the Royal National Institute for the Blind. It is good to go abroad to work on a constructive project, but it is even better to come home to help bring the project to completion.
The task before us is clear cut and doable. As I have said before, in the Monitor and on Presidential Releases, those who want to participate in this project should make checks payable to the National Federation of the Blind and send them to the National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. Such contributions should not be made by reducing other contributions which would have been made to the Federation. Our ongoing work must continue. Contributions may be made by check or credit card, and there should be an indication that the money is for the repair of the Louis Braille birthplace.
The job will require effort. Maybe we will need to raise only $26,000--maybe the entire $55,000. Maybe more. Whatever sums are needed, we the blind, along with our sighted friends and colleagues, will see that Louis Braille's home is fully restored and given its proper place among the museums of the world and the historic places of humanity. We can, and we will. Let nobody doubt it.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Louis Braille's
[PHOTO: Dr. Jernigan stands beside the wooden workbench with a display of saddle maker's tools in the background. CAPTION: The workbench and tools in the saddle shop at Louis Braille's home]
FACTS ABOUT LOUIS BRAILLE'S BIRTHPLACE
From Kenneth Jernigan: In the accompanying article I have told you about my visit to Louis Braille's birthplace in Coupvray, France. I thought you might like to have additional information, so here are excerpts from the guidebook given to visitors:
It is obviously impossible to do justice to a life as exceptional as that of Louis Braille in the few pages of a booklet; the many souvenirs and testimonials contained in his home could in themselves provide the material for more than one book.
The purpose of these few lines is to be for some people a reminder of a visit both moving and enriching--and for those who are not yet acquainted with Louis Braille and Coupvray, an encouragement to visit here.
THE VILLAGE OF COUPVRAY
The village of Coupvray is situated on the slopes of a grassy hill set between the Brie region of France and that of the Champagne province. In spite of the proximity of the Marne Valley, it retains even today . . . the character of a rural village. One may still see the small brown-tiled roofs, the farmyards, the farmhouses and a village green surrounded by trees where are clustered together St. Pierre Church (where Louis Braille was christened on January 8, 1809), the village hall, and the monument by tienne Leroux set up in 1887 and topped by a bust of the inventor of the alphabet for the blind. The body of Louis Braille rested in the village cemetery till 1952. On his tomb can be seen a casket in which the remains of his hands are preserved--those hands which were the first in the world to finger the raised dots of the Braille alphabet. All around is still open country. High above is the farm of the chteau. Here and there amid the gardens and orchards, small grassy paths meander across the hillside. And, on the lower slopes, is an old wash-house with wooden posts and mossy tiles where the clear waters of the Frminette flow swiftly by, gently murmuring.
THE BRAILLE FAMILY HOME
The Braille family home is in the lower part of Coupvray at the end of a small street which in the past went by the name of Knoll Street. . . . It is a large solid house, built in the latter half of the 18th century and restored at various times since then. The Braille family also owned several farm buildings in the yard and on the opposite side of the street. A marble tablet was affixed in 1952 to the wall of the house facing the yard. The text, in French and English, reads:
In this house
on January 4, 1809 was born
inventor of writing
in raised dots
for use of the blind.
He opened the doors of
knowledge to those
who cannot see.
THE LIVING ROOM
This room is really the heart of the house, both by reason of the memories it evokes and on account of the very well- preserved Briard-style architecture. On entering, we find ourselves in the warm, cozy atmosphere of the homes of yesteryear. Here in this one living room, Simon-Ren Braille, the saddler, lived with his whole family: his wife Monique and their four childrenÄÄMonique-Catherine, Louis-Simon, Marie-Cline, and their youngest, Louis. It is here that are gathered together all the essentials of daily living.
Under the mantelpiece:
* The fireplace with its fireback bearing the arms of France, dated 1659.
* The bread oven built of small tiles. Its arch fits under the winding staircase. It used to be heated by burning dry vine shoots. Then after the embers had been pushed back, pies and loaves were placed in the oven.
* The cheese recess. The warmth of the oven enabled the successful processing of the renowned Brie cheese to be carried out; this was later further "refined" in the cellar.
* The door into the loft [or upstairs]. This stands between the alcove and the bread oven. In the past the term "granary" was used--where the grain would be stored.
* The alcove is very typical of the Brie region--oak-framed, adorned with roundels and ears of corn; the latter are symbols of the Brie region.
To the left, as you enter:
* The sink. The Briards used to call it "the washer." It is a large flat stone, slightly concave, where the wooden pail was set down. [By means of a hole in the bottom], the water drained away through the wall straight into the yard.
* The stove-setter. This consisted of crossed wooden slats on which frying pans and sauce pans were hung. A recess above the sink provided storage space for jugs, pots, and other utensils.
Also of note in this room are: the oak beams on the ceiling; the doors of the 18th-century wardrobe; the "maie" or bread bin, in which the loaves were stored; the warming pan used to warm the bed; the oak table; the gun; the lantern; the cross; and, above the door leading to the [upstairs], the portrait of Louis Braille--the only photograph of the celebrated inventor.
THE WORKSHOP OF SIMON-REN BRAILLE, SADDLER
For over a century the Braille family carried on the craft of saddler from father to son. Louis Braille's grandfather, Simon Braille, had settled in Coupvray early in the 18th century. He had taken over his father-in-law's business which was already established in the village in the 17th century.
Some of the equipment and furniture used by the Brailles in their craft may be seen in this workshop:
* The wooden workbench, much worn from long use; the typical chair with its seat consisting of crossed leathern thongs.
* The horse collar block. This enabled the saddler to shape the collar to fit the horse's neck.
* The sewing clamp, which the saddler gripped tightly between his knees to hold the leather firm.
* The branding iron. Heated, the iron was used to brand the owner's initials on the horse's rump.
* The saddler's tools: paring knives, awls, tool for stuffing, moulds, etc.
On the walls of the room:
* A grape harvester's basket. Simon-Ren Braille owned some vines in Coupvray.
* The Accident. A painting by Andr Harfort.
Here we come to the tragedy which cost young Louis Braille his sight. In 1812, he is a happy little three-year old. He loves to come and watch his father handle those mysterious tools laid out on the work bench. Mysterious and attractive. One day, taking advantage of his parents' absence, he seizes a [tool] and tries to cut a piece of leather, but his small hands are clumsy. The leather is tough. Suddenly, the blade slips and penetrates the child's eye. Nothing can arrest the infection which sets in, and the other eye becomes infected. At the age of five, Louis Braille [becomes totally blind].
LOUIS BRAILLE'S ACHIEVEMENT
When we speak of Louis Braille's work, we should not forget two men who, in one way or another, were his forerunners. The first is Valentin Hały. In the 18th century this philanthropist had founded a school for the blind and invented an embossed alphabet for them. If Louis Braille was able to enter a special school in 1819, it was thanks to the pioneering work of Valentin Hay. The second is Charles Barbier de la Serre, a captain in the artillery [during the Napoleonic Wars]. He had found a way to communicate with his brother officers at night by means of a system of raised dots. The pupils at the . . . Royal Institution for the Young Blind . . . tried out this "Sonography," which took no account of spelling and, in addition, was most complicated. At the age of thirteen Louis Braille began his research with a view to designing an alphabet based on a cell of six raised dots. This system was enthusiastically acclaimed by the pupils but was rejected by the teachers (1826). Being sighted themselves, they refused to countenance a form of writing which they could not read. It was not till 1844 that, at the inauguration of some new buildings in the Boulevard des Invalides, the governors at last recognized the undeniable value of the system. Since then Braille, adapted to many of the languages of the world, has become for the blind a universal written language.
In the room which is devoted to Louis Braille's work, various pieces of equipment and documents have been assembled, showing the birth of raised dot writing, its development and use.
* Barbier rule (1819)
* Barbier slate with wooden frame (end of 19th century)
* Slate with removable frame (end of 19th century)
* Raphigraph device invented by Braille and Foucault, making it possible for the shape of normal handwriting to be reproduced by means of a succession of raised dots. Braille used this method to write to his family.
* Braille writer [the Hall writer] manufactured in Chicago (beginning of 20th century).
Books written in linear relief following Valentin Hay's method:
* Elements of Spanish Grammar, for the blind, by M. Guilli (1819)
* Manual of Ancient History (1841)
Several books written in French and other languages, printed in Braille, books for educational or cultural use, are shown here. Among other titles, attention is drawn to:
* The Imitation of Christ, one of the first books published in raised dots (1849)
* The Constitution of the United States of Brazil (1946)
Gifts and Distinctions received by the Louis Braille Museum:
* Open Book in bronze, gift of Argentina (1948)
* Commemorative Medal, struck by the Paris Mint to mark the occasion of the transfer of the remains of Louis Braille to the Panthon (1952)
* Book of Gold, gift of the town of Chicago (1952)
* Louis Braille. Sculpture by Raika (1954)
* Louis Braille. Miniature on ivory by Lucienne Filippi (1966)
LOUIS BRAILLE IN COUPVRAY
First a pupil and later a teacher at the Royal Institution for the Young Blind in Paris, Louis Braille always remained deeply attached to his native village. Letters written in "raphigraphy," preserved by the family Lecouvey-Braille are proof of the interest he always took in his family and friends in Coupvray.
When, weakened by illness, he was forced to rest for long periods of time, it is here that he sought the impossible cure. He had one of the rooms of the family home, facing the street and with a fireplace, prepared for his own use. In this room where, close to his family, he lived out some months of respite, some touching mementoes have been assembled.
* Arithmetic prize awarded to Louis Braille and bearing the signature of Pignier, the principal of the Royal Institution.
* Some dominoes from a set he once possessed.
* Marie-Thrse Marniesse, born 1828, daughter of Marie- Cline Braille. Painted portrait.
* Silver tumbler bearing the arms of old Paris, initialled F.G. (Franois Gronon, Louis Braille's foster sister).
* Decorated plates from the home of Louis-Simon Braille (middle of 19th century).
* Family Group of the Marniesse and Maurice families. Photograph (end of 19th century).
* Clock with wooden column casing, Braille family (middle of 19th century).
Documents from the village archives:
* Document appointing Simon-Ren Braille as inspector of taxes for year 13 [1804-05].
* Passport (for travel in the interior of the kingdom) in the name of Monique Baron, wife of [Louis Braille's father].
* Roll of pupils of the primary school of Coupvray. "10 - BRAILLE Louis" (November 23, 1818).
* Transfer of Louis Braille's body to Coupvray. Notice issued by the Paris Prfecture Headquarters (January 9, 1852). . . . .
DAILY LIFE IN COUPVRAY IN LOUIS BRAILLE'S TIME
From this house, a real witness in stone, we are able to recreate the daily life of a 19th-century village. There is a strong emotional bond between Louis Braille, his family, and Coupvray. Ties were forged with inhabitants of the little market town. Childhood ties: Louis went to the village school; his two sisters, Monique-Catherine and Marie-Cline, married two of the local boys--Jean Francois Caron and Louis-Francois Marniesse. Civic ties: Ren, the father, was appointed several times to posts of local authority. Ties due to shared experiences: together they endured the war, the Russian occupation. Religious ties: Louis's christening, the various feasts of the Christian liturgy: Christmas, Easter, the Assumption, and, of course, St. Peter's (the local patronal festival). The bonds of tradition, too: the evenings 'round the fireside at the homes of friends and neighbors.
In order to bring to life anew these vanished village activities and old customs, the Louis Braille Museum presents--in four distinct exhibitions--a variety of objects, documents, pictures, and articles of furniture, revealing clearly another way of life.
The attic (the old granary store):
* Childhood: games, books,
* Religion: religious articles, books, pictures.
* Marriage: a bridal bouquet, the jewel case.
* Dress: the dress of a young girl of the Brie region, caps, scarves.
* Furnishings: the dresser, the bread bin.
* Tableware: china, glasses, pots.
* Household goods: irons.
* Pictures: portraits, colored pictures sold by traveling peddlers.
* History: the monks of Saint-Maur, the Rohan family, Cardinal Collier, the lectern.
* Agricultural work: field
* Women's work: laundry, butter making, making straw mats for Brie cheeses.
* Memorabilia: the trunk, railings of Braille monument, 15th-century door, spiral staircase, the bed warmer.
* The wood pile: axes,
pruning knives, wood-splitting wedges.
* Cooperage: various tools for manufacturing and marking barrels.
* The vines: field work, planting, care of the vineyard.
* Grape harvesting, picking grapes: carrying baskets, wine press tools, casks, taps, old bottles.
FULL INFORMATION ABOUT THE BIRTHPLACE
After the death of Louis Braille and his direct heirs, the house became the property of the Maurice, Marniesse, and Braille families--his nieces and nephew--who administered the property jointly until 1878. At that time Mr. Toupet bought the house which overlooked the courtyard and in 1889 the Baudin family purchased the one facing onto the street. From 1898, the whole became the property of the Crapart family. The Braille home was sold on March 29, 1952, to the association "The Friends of Louis Braille," which was represented by Mr. Pierre Henri Monnet, the Mayor of Coupvray; it was then fitted up as a museum and opened to the public. With a view to acquiring for it the status of a municipal museum under government control, the association decided to donate all its assets to the Parish, recommending that the museum should be administered by an international organization (November 23, 1956). The Deed of Covenant setting out the agreement between the W.C.W.B. (World Council for the Welfare of the Blind) and Coupvray was signed on July 27, 1957.
Since that time the World Council for the Welfare of the Blind (now the World Blind Union) has proudly devoted itself to caring for this shrine which the blind of the whole world value as the birthplace of their benefactor.
BRAILLE MADE THE DIFFERENCE
From the Editor: Material of all kinds comes across the desk of the Braille Monitor Editor. But this week I read two articles within a two-hour period that, taken together, make the case for Braille more powerfully than anything I have yet seen or written. The pieces came from totally different sources, but the authors have a number of things in common. Both are working women-- single, educated, committed to helping other people. Both live in the Midwest and were educated in regular schools. One, however, was taught Braille early and with wise insistence that she use it in her classes and at home. Her parents expected her to read well and did all the things that good parents do to encourage effective reading skills in their youngsters. The other was forced to use print even when it was slow and painful. The cost academically and personally was immense. Not until she lost the remainder of her sight as an adult was she able to learn the Braille that she depends upon today and that could have made all the difference to her in school.
Mary Hartle lives in Iowa, though she grew up in Minnesota. The article reprinted here first appeared in the Spring/Summer issue of Future Reflections, the publication of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, a division of the National Federation of the Blind.
Jana Schroeder lives in Ohio. She was a 1984 NFB scholarship winner, and she has served as President of the National Federation of the Blind of the Miami Valley. She submitted her essay on the value of Braille to a Braille-writing contest conducted by the NFB of Ohio this past winter. Contest entries were to be written on this topic using a slate and stylus, and the winner was to receive a Braille 'n Speak 640. Jana's six-page essay was done in flawless Braille code and without a single slate error. It was the winning entry in the adult category. Viewed together, these two short autobiographies provide a powerful illustration in support of our contention that Braille is a vital tool for anyone who can't read print easily but who wishes to succeed in life. Here is Mary Hartle's article:
The Value of Learning Braille as a Child
by Mary Hartle
Although visually impaired, I attended regular school in the 1950's and 1960's. I attended a parochial school in Minneapolis and was the only child with a vision impairment. I was taught to read print and progressed through the grades along with other children my age. No effort was ever made to teach me Braille. But, in retrospect, I wish I had been taught Braille as a small child.
Although I could read standard print, I could not read it as fast as sighted students could. My grades ranged from a few B's to several C's, and some D's. (My brothers and sisters got A's and B's.) I was tracked into the lowest-ability group in junior high, although I was promoted to the middle group halfway through both the seventh and eighth grades. I could not read as much material as others could and thus had to spend more time on homework. I also had to hold books much closer to my face. Due to prolonged periods of bending over to read books at close range, I developed posture problems which, to this day, require chiropractic treatment.
Learning became difficult and painful rather than joyful and exciting. As reading and learning became more difficult, I came to feel less intelligent. I began to feel shame and thus had more difficulty concentrating on learning. I became more anxious because of my increased difficulty. This was manifested in my struggles with arithmetic in fifth grade. I can still recall my extreme frustration and tears as I attempted to do my homework with my family's tutorial help.
As a child I read fewer books than my classmates, especially novels, although I did read magazines and a few quick-read books. I also had, and still have, trouble spelling many words because I was not able to see the letters within words correctly. For instance, spelling double-consonant words has been particularly difficult because my eyes did not focus normally when I first learned to spell these words.
Since I did not use Braille as a child, I was truly handicapped in my educational progress, and my self-confidence was low because I was unable to read fluently at a normal speed. I was embarrassed about both my slow reading speed and the fact that I had to look closer in order to read. Had I learned Braille earlier, I would have been able to read at a speed similar to that of sighted students.
As I progressed through high school and college, the reading requirements became much greater, and the size of the print became much smaller. In college I avoided classes with heavy reading demands, such as history and literature.
Over the past ten years I have lost the rest of my vision, thus necessitating my learning Braille. I am not unique. Many legally blind children with a little useful residual vision become blind adults with little or no ability to read print. Although I use Braille in my day-to-day life and on the job, I do not read with the speed I could have, if I had learned Braille in the primary grades. There is nothing shameful about reading Braille or using any other non-visual technique. Today's blind children deserve a better education and a better chance to succeed in our highly competitive information age than I had. In fact, the need to read as efficiently as possible is more crucial today than ever before. Without Braille the chances of these children's getting through high school, much less going beyond it, will be minimal.
When I think of how much Braille would have enhanced my education even though I could read standard print at the time, I know how important Braille is for children today who can barely read standard print or who rely on large print. School does not have to be torture. I believe visually impaired children should be given the opportunity to learn Braille if:
1. they cannot read print at speeds comparable to that of their classmates;
2. they cannot hold reading material at a normal distance from their eyes; or,
3. they cannot read print for long periods.
Braille is as effective a reading method as print is, and blind and visually impaired children have the right to become as literate as their sighted classmates.
That was Mary Hartle's description of growing up and being educated without an efficient tool for reading and writing. Contrast her experience with that of Jana Schroeder:
Braille is an Essential Part of My Life Because...
by Jana Schroeder
I was born with extremely limited vision to a family with no prior experience of blindness. It was the early 1960's, and we lived near Dayton, Ohio. Looking back, I recognize that I was lucky to have been born in that place and time and into a sensible, loving family. Without that fortunate combination of factors, my life might have been very different.
My family did a lot of reading aloud. From my earliest days I assumed that I would learn to read when I went to school, just as my sighted brothers had.
I began my education in a public school that included a resource room for blind students. These students were assigned to a regular classroom where we spent most of our time, but we went to the resource room for part of the day to learn the skills of blindness. I understand that Dayton was one of the first cities in Ohio with a public school program for blind children, beginning in the 1950's.
In the first grade, when reading lessons began in earnest, I was encouraged to read print. Various magnifiers were tried, but the only thing that worked for me was to put my nose against the paper and hope the print was big and dark enough. This worked fine with first grade primers. However, I quickly read all the big print picture books at the local library. My mom and I soon discovered that in second- and third-level books the print quickly diminished in size to the point where I could not distinguish the letters.
My mother believed, like most sighted people (at least those who are not blindness professionals), that blind people read Braille. So sensibly, she insisted that I be taught Braille. Fortunately, the resource room teachers agreed. I cannot be certain that it would be as easy if I were in school today. I believe that very few blind students in the Dayton area today are taught Braille.
I had heard my mom and other adults read quickly and fluently, and I assumed that I would read like that myself. I was never told that Braille was slower or harder than reading print. I simply accepted that I was learning to read with my fingers while my sighted classmates learned to read with their eyes. One of the best things about the school I attended was that it had a Braille library. Never since then have I had access to a library where I could browse to my heart's content. I took home a different book almost every night. My favorites were biographies and the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. On the forty-five minute drive to and from school I would often read aloud to Mom. She endured a lot of stumbling and mispronunciation with patience and good humor. From those earliest days I received a lot of praise from my parents, grandparents, and other people for my reading and writing ability. I knew that I read as well as or better than most of my classmates, and this knowledge helped lay a solid foundation of self-esteem that has served me well in the years since, when faced with new challenges.
In the fifth grade a significant challenge came along in the form of the slate and stylus. By this time I was attending school in my own district with an itinerant teacher who came to work with me a couple of times a week. She told me that I needed to learn to use the slate and stylus because I would soon be going to junior high and I couldn't lug a heavy, noisy Brailler with me from class to class.
I absolutely hated the slate. My e's and i's were inevitably transposed, and I invariably put the paper in crooked. I pretty much refused to practice, so my itinerant and classroom teachers got together and decided that I would be required to take spelling tests using the slate and stylus. I always did well on my spelling tests, so I wasn't very happy with this new development. Gradually, however, I didn't have to reverse each letter consciously before writing it. My speed picked up, and my diagonal lines became horizontal. Since then I have written thousands of pages with the slate and stylus.
When I was in high school, closed circuit televisions began to become affordable and popular. It was very exciting to be able to read things that were only available in print, like the covers of my record albums. I spent one whole summer reading a 500-page novel that I could have read in about three days in Braille, because that was what all my friends were reading.
I knew, however, that the CCTV was no substitute for Braille. I'm almost glad that the CCTV was not available when I was in first grade because I don't know if Braille would then have been emphasized in my education. During my first two years in college my sight gradually decreased to the light perception I have today. Although I had to make some adjustments, already having well-developed Braille skills helped immensely.
In high school nearly all of my textbooks, including advanced math and French, were in Braille. In contrast, all of my college texts were on tape. By this time, though, I was familiar with spelling, punctuation, and the Braille literary and math codes. I took copious notes while listening to the texts and studied these at exam time rather than having to re-skim the entire book.
I have read that ninety-one percent of employed blind people know Braille. I am not at all surprised by this statistic. I am only surprised that so few educators and counselors of the blind seem to recognize the importance of Braille to employment. I cannot imagine being competitive without Braille.
Today I direct the Dayton criminal justice program of the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization. My activities range from leading workshops and presentations in prison and the community to advocating for criminal justice reform. I use Braille every day to keep track of phone numbers, file away relevant statistics, make outlines for talks, draft articles, and much more.
Like most non-profits, we have a very small staff in our office. For the most part we do our own filing, typing, and minute-taking. My independence is greatly enhanced by the use of a scanner and other adaptive computer technology, but I don't think it would be possible for me to do my job at all without Braille. At meetings, workshops, and presentations I always have my slate and stylus ready. Although prison officials sometimes worry that my stylus could be turned into a weapon, I always have my Braille notes with me and have given several impromptu Braille lessons to interested prisoners.
Since those early days Braille has opened many doors for me. Reading is a source of great pleasure as well as information and education. Braille writing allows me not only to keep track of personal information but also to articulate and craft my thoughts into written communication that can be shared with others. I cannot imagine my life without Braille.
I am currently studying to become certified as a Braille transcriber and proofreader. I am deeply concerned by the lack of Braille skills among the blind today and the shortage of qualified Braille teachers, both for blind children and for people who become blind later in life. Perhaps someday I will have the opportunity to put my love of Braille to good use by teaching others to read it.
[PHOTO: Sunny Emerson stands with microphone in her hand. CAPTION: Sunny Emerson] [PHOTO: Adam Emerson walks along dirt road with cane in hand. CAPTION: Adam Emerson]
CONCERNED PARENTS AND KIDS TESTIFY IN FAVOR OF BRAILLE
From the Editor: With the momentum growing to pass federal and state legislation protecting the right of blind children to learn Braille, Federationists increasingly find themselves delivering testimony, preparing comments, and writing letters to legislators in favor of Braille. This past spring it was the NFB of Michigan's turn to argue the case before the House Education Committee of the State Legislature. What follows is a sample of the testimony presented on April 12, 1994:
My name is Dawn Neddo, and I am the parent of a blind six- year-old son. I am also the President of the Parents of Blind Children (POBC) of Michigan, a division of the National Federation of the Blind. I get calls from concerned parents of blind and visually impaired children all over our state, reporting that education of their children is lacking in blindness skills. The basic skill of an educated, successful citizen is reading. The mode of reading that allows a blind person to be independent and strive to be all that he or she can be is Braille.
Everyone assumes that, if your child is legally blind, he or she will be taught Braille. It would seem reasonable to most people that the timetable for teaching reading to a blind child would be the same as that for teaching any other child to read-- after all, Braille is to a blind child what print is to a sighted child.
My son has been enrolled in the early-intervention program in our school district since he was nine months old. He has had a visually impaired (V.I.) teacher/consultant for all that time. I have been persistent in having him exposed to Braille just as parents of sighted children expose them to print. But I must tell you that it has been a frustrating struggle to get the V.I. teachers to see legally blind students as children first.
When two-year-olds are recognizing the local K-Mart sign, parents and educators of blind children need to be showing Braille to the blind child so that they can develop the same concepts as sighted children do, and at the same age as sighted children do. When Sesame Street is showing print letters and singing songs to preschoolers, we need to be showing those letters to our blind children in Braille.
As an active member of my son's Individualized Education Program (IEP) team, I have advocated for this concept of educating him. I have not felt it unreasonable to expect his teachers to think of my son as a child first and to consider his blindness second. But this has not been true in many aspects of his education.
My son entered a preschool head start program, with a V.I. teacher two to three times a week, along with the general education teacher and two general education aides. I thought that after three years of pre-Braille we were finally going to get going on letter recognition. I was wrong. I was told, "We don't teach Braille to preschoolers. He is not ready to learn letters yet." The V.I. teacher told me that, if I pushed him too fast, it would be confusing and that Braille is taught on a different timetable. I went along with this idea, trusting that my son would be ready for kindergarten when the other children were. I was wrong again.
My son entered kindergarten last fall in our school district after I agreed to the IEP that I thought would finally bring his education up to that of his sighted peers. Everyone agreed that he was a normal child who happened to be blind and that Braille instruction would finally begin.
My son entered school already behind his sighted peers, even though he had been with a V.I. teacher since he was an infant. In September he started school without having had any formal letter recognition or even the ability to recognize his name in Braille, let alone the capacity to Braille it on a Braillewriter. The V.I. teacher introduced the first letters to my son along with the other aspects of Braille such as tracking, finding the beginning and ending of the line, and inserting push pins in the paper. They worked on five letters, four of which were in his name. By December the V.I. teacher was discouraged with his lack of progress. By February she felt that he was still not ready to learn Braille and that perhaps we were pushing him too hard.
I had taken an introductory Braille course and was familiar with basic Braille. I started to work with my son at home on letter recognition and writing his name in Braille on the Braillewriter. We worked for two weeks, and then I attended one of his Braille sessions. He correctly read eight letters and Brailled his first name on the Braillewriter for his teacher. I felt confident that we were not expecting too much from him, nor were we pushing him too hard. He was very proud of his accomplishments and demonstrated his reading and Braille skills to family and friends. He finally felt he was doing the same things in school as his peers.
The V.I. teacher still felt that my son was not learning Braille fast enough and that it wouldn't hurt to have him psychologically evaluated and get an I.Q. test done. Needless to say, I was disappointed in the presumption that, when something doesn't work, it must be the blind person's deficiency and never the technique used. Since my son's report card does not reflect any problems in learning and he knows all the letter sounds, I will not subject him to a test that might mislabel him and once again discriminate against the blind community.
I have made a commitment to my son that he will know all of his Braille alphabet and numbers by the end of the summer. (Braille numbers have not yet been taught, and therefore my son knows no numbers at the end of kindergarten.) The blind adult members of the National Federation of the Blind and I will have to supplement his education through tutoring sessions they have established throughout the year.
A blind man once said to me that the professionals' attitude about teaching Braille to our blind children has been that it will always be too soon to teach it, until finally it is too late. I will not allow that to happen to my son, and I urge you not to let it happen to any other legally blind child in the state. I am committed to educating and empowering parents to advocate for their children and to make sure our blind children come out of the education system having the blindness skills to succeed in life. Our attitudes about blindness and Braille need to change. Blind people can be productive, independent, employed citizens of our state if they are allowed to acquire the skills they need and deserve.
We need this Braille bill now. It will give us a tool to make sure no legally blind child is forgotten. It is for parents that don't yet have the knowledge to recognize what lies ahead for their children and their need to have Braille skills for independence. Our blind children need this bill. I urge you not to forget them.
Here is the testimony of parents of a teenage son. Sunny Emerson is an active member of both the Michigan affiliate's parents division and the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. Here is the Emersons' statement:
We are the parents of a fourteen-year-old son who is very bright, healthy, and blind with partial vision. Although he had to lie on the floor with his chin on his books to focus a powerful reading aid on one eye, the educators certified to teach blind students in the most affluent county in Michigan refused to teach our son Braille. We pleaded, begged, and even cried to have them instruct him in Braille and cane travel in a positive and productive manner. The instruction we asked for did not cost any more money; the teachers were already working with him. In fact, it would have been less expensive than furnishing him with stationary magnification equipment which did not meet his need, which he did not use, and which would have separated him from the rest of his class.
We need your help. We have four grown children and eight grandchildren. We have had sickness, sadness, and the other trials families go through. But nothing has been as difficult as getting the appropriate education for our legally blind son-- mainly Braille and the other skills of blindness. We have never before heard of educators refusing to instruct students in subjects they were certified to teach. Many of Adam's regular teachers had hobbies or talents which they were happy to pass on to their students, but the teachers of the visually impaired refused to teach our very competent son Braille.
You have it within your power to prevent other families from going through this struggle to receive an appropriate education for their blind children. You must put a stop to the fact that only ten percent of blind students attending school know enough Braille to do their class work. The only way this can be accomplished is to present Braille right along with print, even before preschool. Sighted children are exposed to print in their daily lives as soon as they open their eyes and can focus. The special educators working with our children from birth need to do this for our blind children also. It will not cost the taxpayers any more to educate our children properly.
We have talked with many other parents of blind children, and they are having the same problems. Even totally blind children have trouble receiving Braille instruction and are not age-appropriate in their literacy skills. Much of this lag has to do with the expectations of the educators working with them. Many certified teachers of the visually impaired that worked with our son had the manual with them and were learning Braille right along with the student. Would this be acceptable practice for those teaching French or math? I've spoken with a volunteer Braille transcriber who was asked to teach our V.I. educators Braille, and she was very disappointed in their commitment to learn Braille.
Fortunately we had an opportunity to see for ourselves that totally blind individuals with good Braille skills were able to function better than many partially sighted people. Most parents don't find this out until their children are out of school. The education establishment will not tell them. Armed with this knowledge, we were going to insist that our son learn Braille. When we did, our superintendent of special education told us that we could go to court, which is very expensive. This is intimidating to parents who have only the home they have worked for and are afraid they could lose trying to get the proper reading and writing skills for their child.
Please pass House Bill 4497 so our children can have the same opportunity to be literate as other students. This will be a giant step forward in making our children independent, self- supporting citizens. We will thank you, future parents of blind children will thank you, and the taxpayers of the State of Michigan and the nation will thank you.
Mrs. Sunny S. Emerson
Now here is the statement of Adam Emerson, the son of the parents just quoted:
My name is Adam C. Emerson. I am currently a student and the president of what will soon be the world's largest software company.
When I was in elementary school, I attended Roeper City and Country School, which is in Oakland County. This is supposed to be one of the best counties to go to school in, especially if you have a disability, but the teachers absolutely refused to teach me Braille. Instead they gave me $500 glasses which had a focal length about as long as your nose, and a closed circuit TV. They apparently forgot that the glasses of an elementary school student last about one week before ending up full of scratches, and if they get broken, it takes about twelve weeks to obtain a replacement. A closed circuit television system (CCTV) is nice, but it isn't practical. It has to sit in one place all the time. In elementary school that isn't so bad, but when you start having classes in different locations, it's impossible to get anything done. My parents decided I needed to use Braille too, but the teachers insisted that, since I had some vision, I use print exclusively. My parents begged and pleaded but to no avail--the teachers would not teach me Braille. Meanwhile, I was complaining of an aching back and lying on the floor so I could read. And I couldn't even read my own handwriting.
Then my parents found an organization called the NFB that fought with the teachers for five years until finally Dorothy Goldie decided to teach me Braille. This was wonderful, but I was nine at the time and didn't really appreciate having to read Three Ducks Went Waddling in Braille while reading books on particle physics in print.
To sidetrack for a moment, cassette books are a wonderful thing, but they are not a replacement for Braille. Cassettes are better for reading a whole book all the way through, but in school, when you have to read a specific page and answer some questions, finding the right page will absolutely make you throw your cassette player against the wall and use a jackhammer on it. Besides, there is practically no way to do math using a cassette book. When using Braille, you can read a problem, flip back to get the method or whatever, and go back to the problem. You just cannot do that with a cassette. No one learns spelling and punctuation from a cassette, but you do when reading Braille. You learn the same way as when you read print.
Many blind people who have even more powerful visual aids than I had take two and a half times longer to do their work than their sighted classmates, not because they can't do the work, but because they don't know Braille. They strain their eyes trying to make out a fuzzy blob on a page, get a headache, take a rest, and do the next problem. All this could be solved if they knew Braille.
Even the glasses I am wearing now are no replacement for Braille, though I can read from a normal distance with them. They are more expensive, they take much longer to repair, and they are much more easily broken than my others. If these break I can either take a twelve-week vacation from my job or wear an old pair of scratched-up glasses that were made for me when I was nine.
For a visually impaired person, there is just no replacement for Braille, which is why I am asking all of you to support H.B. 4497. Thank you.
Finally, here is the testimony of Kathleen Hilliker, the mother of an eleven-year-old girl who has been denied sufficient Braille:
I am here today speaking on behalf of my eleven-year-old daughter, Allison Hilliker, who is legally blind. She is a sixth- grade student mainstreamed in a regular class in the Utica (Macomb County) School District.
Allison, who was born with glaucoma, has been through more than forty eye surgeries to lower her eye pressure. Without these surgeries she would have become totally blind. In the past four months she has gone through three more surgeries, missing a total of thirty days of school.
She sees at close range and only out of her left eye. Through her educational life she has been taught primarily by the Macomb Intermediate School District, which coordinates the conversion of her work to ink print large enough for her to see and gives her some mobility to get around her school building.
She's very bright, usually getting all A's, but doing her school work independently has definitely become more challenging as each year goes by.
In the lower grades she did well keeping up. Of course, the print was large, there wasn't page after page to read in each subject, and her vision was slightly better. As she got older, we requested Braille be taught, but the educators got to choose when it was taught and how she would use it. It was presented as a hard-to-learn secondary subject, like a foreign language. She was never made to read it daily or do any work in it. When we questioned these educators, they insisted she was progressing adequately and continued to add more low-vision aids, like closed circuit TV's, text on tape, two different kinds of telescopic glasses, assistants for reading texts, and administration of tests orally--all for her to continue doing her daily work in print, not Braille. To this day, her textbooks in every subject are provided in up to three media--large print, audio tapes, and rarely Braille.
Sadly, each year we insisted at her IEP meeting that it was not enough. We saw that, while the rest of her classmates grew into more independent students, able to read and write on their own, our daughter depended more and more on her vision teacher and her classroom teacher's making hourly adjustments. Her confusion and frustration grew at having to choose constantly which medium to use for each subject. Instead of sharpening her Braille skills and increasing her speed at reading and writing Braille, she is still being made to do subjects like algebra, geometry, and literature in a medium that is not compatible with her extremely limited eyesight.
Allison's life has been an emotional roller coaster of medical procedures and doctors' visits that constantly drain us as we aggressively fight to save her vision. But dealing with her medical condition is nothing compared to the emotional fight we have had to go through to get her the basic literacy skills that every child is entitled to. Why should we have to spend many emotional hours begging educators to teach this crucial independent skill to our blind children?
This fall, when Allison begins junior high, meeting her classroom needs will be even more of a challenge. Without good Braille skills she will be unable to compete. Whether she's an all-A student or not, without age-appropriate reading skills, she will not remain equal with her sighted peers. It already takes her two to three times longer to complete tests or do homework.
Just last week my husband and I helped her read material in an encyclopedia and other reference materials that she couldn't see in order for her to do her science project and an Egyptian hieroglyphic report. My husband had to enlarge each of her geometric math problems to ten by six inches for her to be able to see, since she has not been taught the Braille math code. I read her a biography that needed to be completed in a week because neither her classroom nor vision teacher cared to locate one that she could independently read to herself in Braille. As her parents we see that without Braille literacy skills she will continue to need to have these many daily exceptions made for her. But I ask you, what future employer will make all these exceptions?
There is no place for negative attitudes about Braille in our daughter's education, but they appear constantly, exhibited by the very professionals whose task is to train her in the skills she'll need to compete in the next century. Partially blind students should not be forced to accept print as their literacy medium in spite of eye strain and inefficiency, and as parents we should not have to spend years fighting the educational system to gain basic Braille literacy for our children. Too many parents in this state are left ignorant regarding the importance of Braille because they have trusted sighted educators to understand and tell them what's best for their blind or partially sighted children.
The passage of H. B. 4497 will give our blind children the same privilege to be literate as each child reading print. By supporting and passing this bill, you will help all blind children of this state grasp the fundamental key to unlock their equality and independence in the twenty-first century, not to mention achieving future success.
David and Kathleen Hilliker
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: James Gashel]
BLIND VENDORS CALL FOR CHANGE
by James Gashel
From the Editor: James Gashel is the Director of Governmental Affairs for the National Federation of the Blind. He is knowledgeable and experienced in dealing with the Randolph- Sheppard Program and with issues of concern to vendors in general. The following is his report on an important meeting that took place this past spring:
The Randolph-Sheppard Act is the basic federal law which requires that priority be given to blind persons in the operation of vending facilities on federal property. Most states have either laws or regulations on the books which extend the federal mandate to state property and often to county and municipal property as well. There are specific federal regulations for the program under which the state vocational rehabilitation agency serving the blind in each state is designated as a licensing agency for the vendors. Two states-- Montana and Wyoming--do not have licensing agencies and do not participate in the Randolph-Sheppard program.
The federal law, which originally provided only a "preference" for blind people in operating "vending stands," was enacted in 1936. Amendments were passed in 1954 and again in 1974. The 1974 amendments were intended to lead to a significant expansion of the program on federal property. The term "priority" was chosen over "preference" to reflect an intent to place opportunities for blind vendors ahead of others in selling products on federal property. The term "vending stand" was replaced by "vending facility," which also reflected an intent to expand the program.
It has now been almost twenty years since the Randolph-Sheppard Amendments of 1974 were enacted. You might say that this represents a milestone in time if nothing else. Certainly the passage of twenty years leads to some reflection on the progress made. It also leads to a natural reassessment, a kind of taking stock, and a desire to plan for the future. With this in mind the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind (NCSAB) decided to promote the idea of convening a national Randolph-Sheppard conference.
The conference was not just promoted; it was actually held. The meetings took place in Washington, D.C., from March 10 through March 13. Approximately 252 people attended. The participants included a significant number of blind vendors from the Merchants Division of the National Federation of the Blind; a contingent from the American Council of the Blind (ACB) Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America; and other vendors who are not involved (or involved to any great extent) in either organization. Staff members (including several directors) from many of the state licensing agencies for the Randolph-Sheppard program also attended.
Perhaps the most significant outcome of this conference was the fact that it occurred. Admittedly there were some rough spots, but generally speaking those who attended did so in a spirit of harmony and cooperation. It is fair to say that everyone involved expressed a shared concern that, far from expanding, the Randolph-Sheppard program was beginning to experience serious long-term problems which could ultimately threaten its viability. We also shared the view that legislation to improve the Randolph-Sheppard Act itself is not needed at this time. More consistent and strong leadership, especially from the Federal government, is needed.
This point was made several times, but most dramatically when Howard Moses, Acting Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), was responding to questions from the group at the opening session. RSA is responsible for administering the Randolph-Sheppard program at the federal level. When he was asked what RSA would do to challenge possible violations of the Randolph-Sheppard Act by the Department of Veterans Affairs and other federal agencies, he immediately asked an attorney from the Office of the General Counsel to respond. The attorney proceeded to explain that every legal issue has more than one side. She offered no assurance that RSA could bring other federal agencies into compliance with the Randolph-Sheppard Act merely on the strength of the law itself.
At this point I asked for the floor to address the group. I said that the exchange which we had just witnessed illustrated the problem. The question was this: what would RSA do to enforce compliance with the Randolph-Sheppard Act by other agencies? Immediately the acting commissioner referred the matter to the general counsel, who in turn told us how difficult it all was. I said that perhaps all of us, myself included, had emphasized litigation far too much. As a result we have been tied down in court case after court case for many years while opportunities for blind vendors are slipping away.
Then I observed that it is time for real leadership on behalf of blind vendors to be exercised by responsible officials in the federal government. For example, the Secretary of Education and ultimately the President of the United States both have responsibility for the health and prosperity of the Randolph-Sheppard program. RSA is one of the agencies in the Department of Education. If the Secretary of Education or the President cared enough about the blind vendor program, a phone call by either of them to the secretary of any other federal department could probably straighten out most compliance problems in the blink of an eye.
I said that the fact that this is not happening is a failure of political leadership. Therefore, we should look to political solutions more than legal ones to strengthen the Randolph-Sheppard program in the future. We cannot rely upon the courts to interpret or apply the Randolph-Sheppard Act favorably in all instances. Besides, recourse to litigation as a primary program-building tool usually consumes far too much time, energy, and expense. The audience responded enthusiastically to this view, and the theme of stronger political leadership's being needed was repeated throughout the weekend.
Other issues emerged throughout the conference. The process for placing issues before the group included papers which were circulated to most participants in advance of the trip to Washington. The Friday afternoon and Saturday morning sessions consisted of panel presentations to highlight some of the matters raised in the papers as well as voicing other concerns. The remainder of the day on Saturday was devoted to small group meetings. By design each group included a mixture of state agency representatives, blind vendors, and others involved in the conference. The final meeting on Sunday morning brought the entire group together once again to discuss priority issues resulting from the smaller meetings.
While a great deal of unanimity was expressed on issues such as the need for stronger political leadership, there were obvious differences in emphasis on other issues and certainly on the solutions. Some participants advocated the creation of a new national coordinating agency to promote collective buying arrangements and program activities. Those of us from the Federation responded that such a plan would likely lead to more bureaucracy and would divert resources. We pointed out that there may be a danger in promoting such an idea since National Industries for the Blind, which already coordinates federal contracts with sheltered workshops, would likely be standing in line to absorb the Randolph-Sheppard program. This outcome would certainly not be desirable.
On another point most of the delegates from the American Council of the Blind were strongly in favor of a plan to request an annual appropriation of federal funds from the Congress to be devoted specifically to the Randolph-Sheppard program. The figure mentioned was something like $15 or $17 million. The counter- view, which was expressed by many Federationists and others, was that a direct federal appropriation might actually result in reducing the support which the Randolph-Sheppard program already receives from sources such as vocational rehabilitation and state appropriations. We also pointed out that several no-cost issues should be addressed before we tackled the question of funding.
The federal funding idea was not one which had emerged as a priority from the small group process. Even so, the representatives from the ACB demanded that a vote should be taken. Up to this point we had been operating under the idea that conference positions would pretty much depend upon group consensus. All the same, a voting procedure had been agreed upon in advance, and a vote was taken. The majority favored putting the request for specific federal funds off for now. In a deviation from the otherwise harmonious spirit of the meeting, the outcome of this vote led to a small walk-out by the ACB representatives who most ardently sought to have it their way on the federal funding issue. Nevertheless the conference went forward to a successful conclusion without them.
The paper reprinted below was especially prepared for this conference by the National Federation of the Blind. Those of us who are most directly and routinely involved in matters affecting blind vendors gave considerable thought to selecting the ten top priority issues which we would like to see addressed in order to improve opportunities for blind vendors. In thinking about these issues, we focused on the vendors, not the agencies. Clearly, in addition to the issues presented in the paper, there may be some concerns of a more generic or programmatic nature upon which both the vendors and the agencies would likely agree. Our responsibility in this conference, however, was to express the views of the vendors, and that is exactly what we did.
It should not be surprising that the matters discussed below were reflected to a very significant degree in the results of the small group meetings and in other presentations. Clearly the voice of the National Federation of the Blind had a powerful impact on shaping the direction of this conference. To the credit of those who may not share some of our views on other matters in the blindness field, our views on the Randolph-Sheppard program were heard and objectively considered.
The entire weekend, with perhaps the single exception of the acrimony surrounding the small walk-out by ACB members, was representative of a new atmosphere of respect for organized consumers which is being felt increasingly in our field. Of course this also speaks to our own growing strength as a movement as much as it does to the changing reaction from others. So, with the omission of our introductory remarks, here are the views of the National Federation of the Blind on the Randolph-Sheppard program, as submitted for consideration by the NCSAB Conference:
A Report Submitted By
The National Federation of the Blind
To the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind
Randolph-Sheppard Conference Participants
ISSUES AND RECOMMENDATIONS
(1) FORCED PARTNERSHIPS DISCUSSION: Forced partnerships are situations in which two or more blind vendors are placed in a co-manager relationship to operate the same vending facility. State practices vary on this point. However, relatively few states actually have formal arrangements under which more than one vendor is assigned to a vending facility. When this is done, the decision is normally based on procedures which purport to analyze both the income potential of the facility and workload requirements. Forced partnerships are unacceptable to blind vendors. They result in placing rather arbitrary limits on both actual and potential income. By requiring partnerships, the state agency places itself in the position of deciding how much income is considered to be enough for a blind vendor. Exercising such authority is fundamentally at odds with a business-oriented philosophy and an entrepreneurial spirit. Forced partnerships actually represent a social service or welfare mentality rather than a business orientation.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Regulatory actions, both state and federal, should be taken to prohibit forced partnerships. First, each state licensing agency should adopt regulations which specify that two or more blind vendors will not be placed in the same vending facility. Second, the federal regulations should be amended to require a no-forced-partnership policy as a condition for approval of the state's application for designation as a state licensing agency.
(2) VENDING FACILITY COMPETITION DISCUSSION: Reducing competition for blind vendors was expressed as one of the principal goals of the 1974 amendments to the Randolph-Sheppard Act. However, in the twenty years since the amendments, very little progress has been made to address this problem. In fact, state agencies themselves sometimes deliberately decide to place two or more vending facilities at one location without first carefully evaluating the competitive impact caused by doing so. In other instances competition from sources outside of the blind vending program is allowed to occur because of program indifference and inaction.
Under the federal law the priority extends to blind persons, not merely to state agencies. Therefore, when state agencies are contemplating the establishment of more than one vending facility within an individual location or installation, the extent to which competition among these facilities may diminish the income potential of each such facility must be evaluated. Income potential must not be sacrificed. The priority for blind persons to operate vending facilities is a valuable right. It translates directly into business opportunities and income for blind vendors.
While the priority right for blind vendors may not be exclusive in each instance, it should be interpreted as a "first right of refusal" in every instance. When two or more facilities operated by blind vendors exist at the same site, the standard should be "no competition," meaning essentially that there is no adverse effect on income caused by more than one facility. The same standard should be applied to resist competition from non-blind vending facilities which may be allowed to operate on the same property. Competition from such facilities violates the blind vendors' priority. Therefore, it must be vigorously resisted.
The so-called "break-even" policy, normally applied in the United States Postal Service, is one of the most egregious forms of unfair competition with blind vendors. The policy as exercised by the Postal Service ordinarily prohibits operators of lunchroom facilities (often consisting of vending machines) from making a profit on the business. As a consequence of this policy, prices are held below customary marketplace levels. Even if the break- even policy is not applied to blind vendors, which is normally the case, it has the obvious effect of limiting their income.
The income limits occur in two respects. First, blind vendors faced with competition from break-even facilities are forced to reduce their prices to a point which often threatens the viability of the business itself. Second, vending machine income is not available for distribution to blind vendors as a deliberate consequence of the policy. The break-even policy is, in fact, a means of subsidizing federal employees in a way which circumvents the vending-machine income-sharing provisions of the federal Randolph-Sheppard Act.
RECOMMENDATIONS: The federal regulations should be amended to define the term "priority," including the use of a "no- competition" standard. The standard should insure that the income potential for blind vendors is not eroded by competition from inside or outside the program. Policies designed to keep income from vending machines below market levels should specifically be prohibited by the federal regulations. State licensing agencies and blind vendor committees should adopt no-competition standards and apply them to facility-establishment decisions. State agencies should also seek enforcement of existing regulations to protect blind vendors against unlawful competition from outside sources.
(3) FEDERAL LEADERSHIP DISCUSSION: The Secretary of Education, through the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), has been given responsibility for coordinating government-wide federal agency compliance with the Randolph-Sheppard Act. Several provisions of the 1974 amendments to the Act specify this role because Congress found that lack of clear federal leadership and accountability were a principal reason for declining opportunities. To remedy this condition, the amended law applies the "lead agency" concept and makes the Secretary of Education ultimately responsible for implementing federal regulations with government-wide applicability.
Examples of the leadership role given to the Secretary and RSA include the following: one or more vending facilities are to be established on federal property unless the establishment or operation of such facilities would adversely affect the interests of the United States. RSA is expected to make annual surveys of vending facility opportunities and to report the results to affected agencies and organizations. Any limitation on the placement or operation of a vending facility on federal property, based on a finding that such placement or operation would adversely affect the interests of the United States, must be fully justified in writing to the Secretary of Education, who shall determine whether the limitation is justified.
As the lead agency for Randolph-Sheppard implementation and compliance, RSA is in a position to initiate and carry out an active campaign to promote the program throughout the federal government. If such an effort does exist, it is not apparent to those who depend upon RSA's leadership. In fact, it appears that the preeminent leadership role envisioned in the law for RSA has been permitted to atrophy through ineptness or lack of exercise over time. Contrary to the clear policy direction of the amended law, RSA has continued a pattern of merely reacting to situations as they arise. This posture is a major reason for the program's downward trend.
It should be noted that RSA is not alone in the federal government in failing to support the Randolph-Sheppard program. The Department of Justice, which is supposed to provide legal support and coordination, has typically weighed in on the side of non-compliant federal agencies. In more than one instance the Department of Justice has even argued before the courts that the arbitration provisions of the Randolph-Sheppard Act may be unconstitutional. There are also other instances, so numerous as to form an unmistakable pattern, when the Justice Department's legal advice and support given to agencies has been at odds with programmatic and legal interpretations made by the Department of Education and RSA.
RECOMMENDATIONS: The Secretary of Education, through RSA, should pursue a proactive, rather than a reactive, strategy for developing and enforcing the Randolph-Sheppard regulations. This strategy should be initiated with an action plan consisting of specific steps designed to reverse the trends of declining facilities and blind vendor income. The plan should be developed within a three-month time period. Provisions should be made for participation by interested persons and organizations in the process. Once adopted, the planned strategy should be publicly announced and vigorously pursued. At a minimum the strategy should include:
(a) strict enforcement of the prohibition on limitations placed on vending facilities unless first justified to the Secretary and approved or disapproved by the Secretary, including aggressive initiation of proceedings by RSA;
(b) revisions to the program regulations which specifically clarify the meaning of the priority required for blind vendors and the way in which it is to be applied to achieve program expansion;
(c) a clear statement in the regulations that policies or practices which limit income potential for blind vendors violate the priority provisions of the Act;
(d) procedures for each federal property-managing agency and each state licensing agency to follow in establishing goals and timetables for program expansion both in the quality and number of vending facilities available for operation by blind vendors;
(e) regular and systematic monitoring by RSA of federal and state agency practices, including the routine issuance of legal interpretation and policy guidance documents;
(f) improved coordination with the Department of Justice to support the Department of Education's lead agency role, with deference to be given to its programmatic and legal interpretations; and
(g) plans for regular surveys of vending facility opportunities and potential opportunities to be conducted by RSA as required by the Randolph-Sheppard Act.
(4) COMMISSIONS AND OTHER CHARGES DISCUSSION: It is often said that effective implementation of the Randolph-Sheppard Act on federal property depends upon the formation of a partnership among Federal property-managing agencies, state licensing agencies, and blind vendors themselves. While the ultimate beneficiaries of the program may appear to be the blind vendors, the affected agencies, both state and federal, also derive substantial benefits from the program. Indeed, such benefits were part of the original concept. State licensing agencies are aided in accomplishing their broader mission of placing blind people in productive jobs. Federal agencies receive food, beverage, and other services which they must provide to their employees in order to maintain morale and productivity.
With some notable exceptions most federal property-managing agencies usually seem to acknowledge their role in the Randolph-Sheppard partnership. They recognize the benefits that accrue when federal space is provided for vending facilities to be operated by blind people. However, the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is seeking to condition opportunities for vending facilities on payment of sales commissions, represents an extreme form of non-cooperation with the Randolph-Sheppard program. The commissions sought may be as high as twenty percent of gross sales or more than half of a blind vendor's net proceeds. Some other agencies have followed the practice of charging blind vendors the flat rate of 1« percent of gross sales, which is said to be a "utility charge."
The Randolph-Sheppard Act clearly specifies certain charges for goods or services that may be assessed against the net proceeds of a vendor. Sales commissions or any other charges for vending facility space (including utilities) are not among the costs to be born in whole or in part by blind vendors. Unfortunately, most state licensing agencies, many blind vendors, and RSA officials as well have acquiesced in permitting the charges in the range of 1« percent, while the more outrageous assessments such as sales commissions have usually been challenged.
Set-aside payments, allowed by law and assessed against net vendor proceeds, can also become an inequity. The theory of set- aside is that vendors derive direct benefits from the program, so therefore they must pay for them. But other blind people who receive services at substantial cost to the state are not required to rebate the amount spent at some later date. The greatest problem is that the vendors are, in effect, a captive audience with a ready source of revenue to tap. Moreover, state agencies are constantly faced with budget pressures. In all too many instances the blind vendor program is not given high priority by responsible officials at the highest levels in the agency. When this happens, federal and state funds which could legitimately be devoted to the program are diverted to other uses.
Set-aside should be viewed as a tax. It is, in fact, a double tax, for it is paid on top of a vendor's normal tax obligation. In this respect the Randolph-Sheppard program is unique, and blind vendors are uniquely vulnerable to the very real possibility of excessive charges. For example, in the state of North Carolina, half of each vendor's net income above $65,000 must be turned over to the state. This rate goes to sixty-five percent charged on any net income above $91,000. The same vendors are paying federal and state income taxes, plus additional amounts of set-aside charged on their income below $65,000. The combined effect of these taxes and set-aside charges is to place an arbitrary ceiling on the income which a blind vendor may earn in North Carolina.
RECOMMENDATIONS: The federal regulations should be amended to specify that the priority for blind people to operate vending facilities on federal property is based on the concept that the space and services related to the normal maintenance of the facilities are expected to be provided free of charge to support the blind vendor program. State licensing agencies should resist entering into contracts or permits which include any form of assessment against blind vendor proceeds on the basis that such assessments are not authorized by law. State licensing agencies and vendors should develop plans to reduce or eliminate set-aside payments whenever possible.
(5) RESPONSIBILITIES OF BLIND VENDOR COMMITTEES DISCUSSION: The law requires that a committee, fully representative of the state's blind vendors, must be elected at least biennially. Certain responsibilities are also specified for the elected committee. The language of both the Act and the regulations goes beyond the normal advisory concept which is used to provide opportunities for consumer input in governmentally sponsored programs. The clear language of the statute and regulations seeks collaboration between vendors and agency representatives in significant aspects of policy-making and program-administration.
The regulations use the term "active participation" to describe the committee/agency relationship. At the federal level the concept of active participation has never been defined with any degree of precision, however. To the extent that it has been defined, RSA typically advises state agencies to insure that the committee is involved at least to some degree in the areas of policy development and administration specified by law. If the agency does not adopt the course or courses of action recommended by the committee, the committee should be so notified in writing together with the reasons for making a contrary decision. This is about the extent of RSA's advice.
RSA's interpretation of the committee/agency role is unduly restrictive. It follows the notion that agencies must decide important program matters after they have received input from consumers. Congress chose the term "participation," rather than "consultation," advisedly. Participation by the vendors in making policy decisions which vitally affect their business opportunities was considered to be essential for this particular program. The standard of "participation," rather than "consultation," is admittedly more stringent than the normal advisory committee approach. Therefore, creative policies must be used to foster significant opportunities for genuine participation between committees and state agencies. This can certainly be done without sacrificing agency accountability.
RECOMMENDATIONS: The federal regulations should be amended to define the phrase "actively participate with," or "active participation," as follows: "Active participation means an ongoing process of negotiations between the state licensing agency and the elected committee of blind vendors to achieve joint planning and approval of policies, standards, and procedures, prior to their implementation by the agency." This definition should also be included in regulations adopted by each state agency and blind vendor committee. The state regulations should then be examined to insure that substantive opportunities for active participation are clearly prescribed.
The federal regulations should also be amended to require each state to submit a plan for active participation along with its application for designation as a state licensing agency. At a minimum the plan should express the agency's commitment to the joint policy making and approval process described in the definition and should identify the procedures to be used to insure that active participation occurs. The plan should also specify with some precision the areas of policy-making and administration in which active participation will be used, including areas such as development of the annual program budget and recommendations for employment or dismissal of key personnel.
(6) VENDING MACHINE INCOME CEILING DISCUSSION: The Randolph-Sheppard regulations establish a ceiling on the amount of vending machine income which may be received by a blind vendor under the income-sharing provisions of the Act. The ceiling is the average amount of net vendor proceeds for all vendors in the U. S. during the previous year--the national average--or the state average if higher than the national average. Any income above the ceiling which would otherwise be paid to a blind vendor is paid instead to the state licensing agency. In circumstances in which there is no vending facility operated by a blind vendor, state licensing agencies receive all of the income that would otherwise be paid to a blind vendor.
The placement of a ceiling on any income paid to vendors is fundamentally at odds with a business-oriented, entrepreneurial program. The ceiling represents a judgment call as to how much money a blind vendor should receive. It really doesn't matter that in this instance the income in question is produced by machines which compete with the blind vendor; the effect--the limitation on net vendor proceeds--is still the same. If it is justified for blind vendors to receive such income, which the law says that it is, then there is no valid justification for imposing a limitation merely because the amount of the income seems too high.
RECOMMENDATION: The federal regulations should be amended to remove the ceiling on the amount of vending machine income to be paid to a blind vendor.
(7) ACQUISITION OF CAFETERIAS DISCUSSION: Cafeterias are included in the general definition of "vending facility" used in the program. Even so, the regulations create a distinction between vending facilities that are not cafeterias and vending facilities that are. Non-cafeteria facilities are normally secured by means of an instrument referred to in the regulations as a "permit." The terms of permits are directly negotiated between property- managing agencies and state licensing agencies. A general format is followed. Cafeterias, on the other hand, are normally but not always secured by a contract. The contract is far more extensive than the standard vending facility permit and is the type of instrument used to secure the same service from a commercial food service provider.
Blind vendors are to receive a priority for the operation of cafeterias on federal property. However, the regulations provide two options which may be used to determine cafeteria awards under the priority. The first option, and the one generally applied, is a standard bid-solicitation and award process. The second option is direct negotiations between the federal and state agencies to reach a negotiated award. By both logic and experience, we know that the bid-solicitation option is demonstrably inconsistent with the intended priority for blind vendors to operate cafeterias.
By their very nature bid solicitations involve competition. When that occurs under normal procedures, it is virtually impossible to determine whether the bid of a state licensing agency received any meaningful competitive preference. Besides, a competitive preference in the evaluation of proposals is not necessarily the same as a priority or a "prior right," as expressed in the legislative intent. Also, once contracts are awarded, they are normally extended automatically for two additional terms. Therefore, if a state licensing agency fails to receive an award for a cafeteria pursuant to a competitive solicitation, the opportunity can be lost for as long as fifteen years. These conditions have proven to be major obstacles to the establishment of a significant number of new opportunities for blind people to operate cafeterias during the past twenty years.
RECOMMENDATIONS: The federal regulations should be amended to apply the well-known permit procedures to cafeteria as well as other vending facility awards. Just as in the case of other vending facilities, the terms and conditions of permits for cafeterias should be free from sales charges or any other required payments to federal property-managing agencies. Direct negotiations, leading to the terms of each specific permit, should be used for cafeterias. Also each existing cafeteria contract with a commercial firm should be subject to termination at the expiration of each term if direct negotiations with a state licensing agency result in satisfactory arrangements for a blind vendor to operate the cafeteria.
(8) UNIFORM APPLICATION OF THE ACT DISCUSSION: The 1974 amendments anticipated that the requirements of the amended Act would be applied in a uniform manner throughout the United States. The federal regulations recognize this fact by obtaining each state's assurance that it will cooperate with the Secretary in applying the requirements of the Act in a uniform manner. The meaning and applicability of this phrase is not defined or described. Therefore, most state agencies have rather casually made the commitment without knowing or planning how to follow through.
The conditions which may exist within each state for implementing the Act are not necessarily identical. Therefore, certain policies may not be entirely uniform. However, there are certain minimum requirements which could be met by every state agency. There is a need for RSA to issue clear instructions for national distribution when problems in uniform application of the Act are discovered. Several concerns come immediately to mind. For example, initial stocks of merchandise should always be provided without charge to the vendor, but there are at least a few states which do not do so. Also, although training, upward mobility, and continuing education programs are to be available to vendors, very few states have done anything meaningful to implement this requirement. As already noted, the extent of substantive opportunities for participation by committees of blind vendors is also quite variable.
RECOMMENDATIONS: RSA should implement a program of frequent communications with state licensing agencies and blind vendors. Circulation of a regular newsletter should be considered. In addition, RSA should issue regular instructions to the state agencies and blind vendor committees to assist them in applying the requirements of the Act with as much uniformity as possible. Information resulting from arbitration decisions and other developments which have a potential impact on the program should also be circulated promptly to the states and to blind vendor committee representatives.
(9) ADVOCACY DISCUSSION: Lack of advocacy by state licensing agencies is a principal and perennial complaint expressed by blind vendors. The complaint is often, but not necessarily always, justified. Because of the legal responsibilities specified in the law, the licensing agencies are interposed between the vendors and property managers. This position creates a situation which can be somewhat delicate. The vendors are the principal clientele or constituency of the state agency, yet in matters of conflict the path of least resistance may seem to be to respond favorably to the wishes of property managers. Disregarding the well-founded views of vendors can lead agencies into a pattern of needless and unproductive conflict with blind licensees. This will happen when vendors lose trust in the agency and feel that it is not and does not want to be their advocate.
RECOMMENDATION: State licensing agencies and blind vendors should develop relationships of trust and mutual respect for the rights and responsibilities of all parties in the Randolph-Sheppard program. To achieve this goal, state licensing agencies must not shrink from assuming an advocacy posture on behalf of the vendors in appropriate circumstances. One such circumstance certainly exists when a property-managing agency commits acts that violate the rights of blind vendors and the law. When this happens, the agency can earn the everlasting respect of the vendors by coming to their aid in a time of need. In fact, it is the state licensing agency's responsibility to do so. Each state licensing agency should acknowledge this responsibility in its program regulations and policies.
(10) ADMINISTRATIVE DUE PROCESS DISCUSSION: The Randolph-Sheppard regulations clearly require that an opportunity for a full evidentiary hearing must be provided to a blind vendor whenever the vendor's license is to be suspended or revoked. It is somewhat surprising that this rather unambiguous statement has been the subject of numerous disputes, often to the point of litigation. The disputes normally arise when vendors are summarily removed from vending facilities. The removal is subject to challenge on the basis that there was no opportunity for a hearing in advance.
An agency's only defense is to claim that the vendor's license is still in effect. Vendors respond that the license is not actually in effect at all because the opportunity to operate a vending facility has been withdrawn. The license in the Randolph-Sheppard program means essentially nothing if it does not include an assignment to a vending facility, because the Randolph-Sheppard license cannot be used in open commerce. In this respect it is not the same as having an occupational or professional license in some other form, such as a teaching credential or a license to practice law or medicine. Unlike these other situations, the state agency in the Randolph-Sheppard program exclusively controls vending facility assignments. The only way for it to prove that a vendor's license is still in effect is to assign the vendor to a facility.
RECOMMENDATIONS: The federal regulations should be amended to specify the circumstances in which a license is deemed to be suspended or revoked. Involuntary removal of the vendor from any particular vending facility assignment should be defined as the suspension or revocation of the license. State licensing agencies should also adopt regulations to implement this policy.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Dr. Homer Page.]
ADVICE TO BLIND STUDENT TEACHERS FROM A PROFESSOR OF EDUCATION
by Homer Page
Editor's Note: Dr. Homer Page is blind and for many years has been a professor in the Department of Education at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is also Chairman of the Boulder County Board of Commissioners and President of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado. At the 1993 meeting of the National Association of Blind Educators he had good advice for blind students planning to do student teaching. His remarks were printed in the Spring/Summer 1994 issue of the Blind Educator, the publication of the National Association of Blind Educators. This is what he said:
I am very pleased to have a chance to speak to you on this topic. Of course, the blind student teacher must have a good knowledge of the subject which is to be taught, but equally important is mastery of the skills of blindness. The blind student teacher must be literate in Braille, quick with keyboard skills, and experienced in the use of the long white cane. Since sighted student teachers are expected to pick up a list of student names on the first day and read them quickly, the blind student teacher must have the skills to do the same. For most of us who do not see or do not see very well, Braille skills are a requirement. When closed circuit TV or very enlarged materials must be used, so much energy is consumed in decoding the print that the teacher inevitably loses contact with the students. Braille is the solution for such a teacher.
Always remember, classroom management is essential. The blind student teacher must be assertive. The teacher manages everything in the educational process. It is absolutely necessary that the blind student teacher do everything required of the sighted teachers. If the blind teacher gets by with not doing something, a mark will almost certainly be placed in the record showing that this teacher cannot perform required tasks. Never let an on-site teacher or friend talk you out of completing a requirement. In fact, it would be better to do more than other students are doing. The blind student teacher must have a lot of pre-student teaching experience. Take advantage of opportunities such as observations, internships, summer camps, and other experiences which build confidence. Make sure that the faculty of the Department of Education are aware of these pre-teaching experiences.
A lot of students tell me that they would love to teach because math, English, history, . . . is the field in which they have knowledge. The reality is that, in most schools and universities today, classroom management is every bit as important as subject knowledge. If a teacher does not have the management skills, he or she should choose another career. If the teacher cannot keep the students under control, it simply does not matter how much the teacher knows. Not only will the teacher not last, but he or she will be miserable while trying to teach. My definition of hell is trying to instruct students who are not learning. These days an educator must have the skills to handle students with a variety of unique needs. The talent of dealing with individual needs is developed by working with a variety of students in different settings. One cannot learn all these skills while trying to student teach.
I use an important word when talking to student teachers; it is "presence." By this I mean that the teacher has the talent to tell students what to do and have them do it. As a professor in a Department of Education, I have supervised hundreds of student teachers, most of whom were not blind. Their major problem was that they could not control the people they were expected to educate. Many student teachers appear to be teaching on their heels when they need to be instructing on their toes. The teacher must sit or stand tall, leaning forward and truly engaging with everything and everyone in the area. Careful listening is a necessary skill.
One of the hardest techniques for new teachers to learn is to encompass the entire environment in their attention, rather than one or two students. If the teacher's full attention is on one or two students or one portion of the class, he or she has lost. Everyone and everything must be in the teacher's consciousness. This skill is not easy to learn. I have read estimates that it takes five years to learn to engage completely with the class. Blind educators must learn these skills for all the usual reasons, but it is also true that students are perfectly happy to take advantage of the teacher's blindness. If the blind teacher does not recognize this truth, I don't believe he or she is long for this profession. Blind educators must hear and engage all the students simultaneously. This ability only comes with a lot of practice. I recommend that you get it before you begin student teaching. Schools always want speakers on blindness, so take advantage of these opportunities to take over a class and deal with students. Do not forget internships, observation, and off-campus experience. And always remember that magic word, "engagement."
It is also very important to be organized. When the blind teacher goes into a classroom, the lesson must be planned, and he or she must have prepared all the necessary materials and know where they are. A teacher can't be hunting for things or wondering what comes next or what the sequence is. If the student teacher is not well organized, the students will be gone. Being organized is part of having the presence of a real teacher.
I always tell my student teachers, be they sighted or blind, to get the list of students and learn their names before meeting them for the first time. If a teacher does not know names, the students can really get out of control. Have a relationship with each student; take the time to learn something about each one and remember it.
You have probably heard these ideas before; however, it is very easy for the blind student teacher not to have realized that extra effort before student teaching would make all the difference. Learning to deal with a variety of activities in the environment, with the layout of the school, and with the building plan for fire drills--all these take planning and practice. The bottom line is that blind student teachers must obtain the same results as their sighted peers. How blind teachers learn about the environment is not important. What is crucial is that we accomplish the same goals as all other teachers.
The first day of student teaching the teacher must feel at home in the classroom. That means a lot of preparation ahead of time and being aggressive and assertive. Make the lesson plan for the first day the best one of the whole year. Remember to start in control. It is very hard to recover from a poor start. When any student teacher loses control, the supervising teacher must take over. This happens all the time, but if the student teacher happens to be blind, the supervisor is all too likely to conclude that this student cannot teach. He or she may well communicate these reservations about the blind student teacher's ability to the education faculty, who are still too often just waiting for such a report. The next thing you know, the blind student teacher has not obtained a credential.
By taking heed of this scenario, the blind student teacher can take the necessary measures to earn a place at the top of the class in a Department of Education. So remember these things:
1) know the skills of blindness before beginning student teaching,
2) be assertive in university education classes,
3) be prepared,
4) sit in the front row and be smart,
5) let everybody get to know the blind student teacher and observe the alternative teaching skills of blindness in operation,
6) get pre-student-teaching experience,
7) get to know the school and the supervising teacher, and 8) know where everything is kept in the classroom, know the students, and have an excellent lesson plan.
In your heart be in control and believe that you have a great deal to give each student. If the blind student teacher follows this plan, he or she should have an enjoyable student- teaching experience.
MORE TALK ABOUT THE GUI
From the Editor: At the Second U.S./Canada Conference on Technology for the Blind, which took place last fall at the National Center for the Blind, there was a good deal of discussion of the problems involved in operating access technology for the blind with computer systems using one of the graphical user interface (GUI) operating systems. (See the January 1994, issue of the Braille Monitor for a full report of the conference.) One of the speakers was Curtis Chong, President of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science, who raised his concern that the GUI threat to the jobs and futures of blind employees is so serious as to require a genuine effort throughout the industry to solve the access problems and allow blind computer-users to operate the software being developed using the GUI. Comments received since publication of the conference proceedings suggest that most people agree with Mr. Chong's concern, but not all. The following is a letter Curtis Chong received by E-mail from a Federationist who works for IBM and is himself a gifted programmer and experienced computer user. Here is Christopher Chaltain's letter, followed by Curtis Chong's response and a letter to Curtis from Peggy Elliott (Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind), who happened to see the exchange of correspondence:
From: Christopher J. Chaltain
To: Curtis Chong
Subject: Comments about your remarks at the technology conference
In the Braille Monitor I read the comments you made at the meeting of the Joint Committee on Technology held at the National Center in 1993. I have some critical comments on your presentation and other remarks you made at the meeting.
First, you stated that IBM first demonstrated Screen Reader/2 at the 1992 National Convention held in Charlotte, North Carolina. Actually, Jim Thatcher demonstrated a prototype of Screen Reader/2 in 1990 at the national convention held in Dallas. Furthermore, in 1991 in New Orleans IBM was demonstrating a version of Screen Reader/2 for version 1.3 of OS/2. This version was also available on a limited basis to IBM customers. What was unique about the demonstration in Charlotte was that it marked the general availability of Screen Reader/2, which ran on OS/2 2.0 and provided support for MS Windows applications.
Second, you implied that Microsoft's interest in making MS Windows accessible began with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities ACT (ADA). Unfortunately, the structure of your presentation also had you referring to IBM in the surrounding comments, which could lead the listeners to infer that IBM's efforts were also a result of ADA. As you know, this is not the case. Besides the dates mentioned in my previous paragraph, I have been aware of Jim's efforts to make OS/2 accessible to the blind since 1988, and I believe he started earlier than that. This shows that IBM's interest in making OS/2 accessible predates the passage of ADA. The accessibility of OS/2 by the blind is more a result of Jim Thatcher's drive and efforts than any other single cause. Third, when the subject of the American Printing House for the Blind's (APH) producing a tape to instruct the blind on using the graphical user interface (GUI) came up, you recommended that the target system should be a Macintosh with OutSpoken, since that is the only graphical user interface accessible to the blind. I have never used a Macintosh running OutSpoken, but I cannot imagine that it is more accessible than an OS/2 machine running Screen Reader/2. I have been using OS/2 and Screen Reader/2 exclusively since the first month of 1991. Not only has this allowed me to advance in my career, but it has made me a more efficient and productive employee.
Finally, the overall tone of your remarks was negative and pessimistic regarding the blind's use of the graphical user interface. I, on the other hand, am optimistic and encouraged by the work done by IBM, Berkeley Systems, and others. There is a reason that the graphical user interface is becoming so popular among our sighted colleagues, and those very same reasons make it an exciting opportunity for the blind computer user. As I stated above, I am a more efficient and productive computer user because of my access to a GUI. Furthermore, I have access to applications I never could have accessed under DOS like the desktop publishing software, FrameMaker for Windows. Under DOS this WYSIWYG application would have been totally graphical and inaccessible to the blind user.
Obviously the blind user faces some challenges with the graphical user interface. It is not as intuitive for the blind user as it is supposed to be for the sighted user. However, once the blind user has mastered the additional complexity of a GUI and the associated access application, the benefits of the Common User Access (CUA) standards and multi-tasking make it well worth the effort.
I guess I was particularly distressed by your comments. I, like many other blind computer users, hold you in high regard and value your opinion. I was under the impression from your comments at previous conventions that you were impressed with the work of Jim Thatcher and IBM to make OS/2 and MS Windows accessible to the blind. I was also under the impression that you had an open mind to the benefits the GUI could have for a blind computer user. None of this came out in your comments, at least not in my reading.
Would it be possible for me to get a copy of your remarks? I am sure they are available somewhere on the Internet or on some bulletin board. I would like to pass them around to a few people to see if my comments are shared by any of the other blind GUI users.
That is what Chris Chaltain
wrote to Curtis Chong. Here is Curtis's response:
To: Christopher J. Chaltain
From: Curtis Chong
Subject: My Remarks on the GUI
Thank you for taking the time to write to me with your thoughts concerning my speech on the Problems and Challenges of the Graphical User Interface (GUI). I am always glad to receive constructive and thoughtful criticism about the articles and speeches I write.
First, I would like to set the record straight concerning my view of Screen Reader/2 in general and my high regard for Jim Thatcher in particular.
In many informal conversations in person, on the phone, over the Internet, on NFB-NET, and in the CompuServe Disabilities Forum, I have expressed the belief that IBM deserves a lot of credit for developing Screen Reader/2. As you so rightly point out, IBM's work on this program pre-dates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Screen Reader/2 is today the only screen access solution for blind people who want or need to use the OS/2 operating system. If a corporation selects OS/2 as its platform of choice, blind people who are affected by this decision will be able to keep their jobs because of Screen Reader/2. And yes I know that Screen Reader/2, used with OS/2, can provide access to applications designed to run under Microsoft Windows.
As I learn more about Screen Reader/2 (having recently converted my office computer to OS/2), I am impressed by the amount of planning, forethought, and downright genius that has gone into the development of this software. I thank God, quite literally, for Jim Thatcher. Although he would probably not admit it, I believe that he has been the inspiration, the driving force, and the architect for the entire Screen Reader project. Jim Thatcher possesses great personal warmth, public charm, tremendous enthusiasm, and intuitive genius. I have made no secret of my high personal regard for him. This is why year after year I have invited him to speak at annual meetings of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science. Jim has never disappointed me. He always has something interesting and thought-provoking to say, and he is always upbeat about the potential for blind people to use the GUI on the same terms as their sighted peers.
Why then in my speech did I not devote more space to IBM and Screen Reader/2? Why did I fail to mention the fact that in 1990 and again in 1991 prototypes of Screen Reader/2 were demonstrated at Federation conventions? Why did I not express more optimism about the potential for blind people to use GUI applications?
I think, to understand why my speech turned out as it did, you have to be aware of the context in which it was presented and the audience I was attempting to address. As you know, the Second U.S./Canada Conference on Technology for the Blind brought together people from four groups: leaders from the field of work with the blind, leaders from organizations of the blind, leaders from companies manufacturing or marketing specialized technology for the blind, and representatives from the principal computer companies in private industry having a major effect upon the ability of blind people to use commercial software (i.e., IBM and Microsoft). Because of the diverse nature of the group, it was difficult for me to come up with points that would mean the same thing to everybody. I wanted to shake up the rehabilitation professionals--to stop them from wallowing in DOS-based solutions for their blind clients. I wanted to send a message to private industry to the effect that today the GUI is still a problem for the blind, despite Screen Reader/2. I wanted to make the point that access to the GUI is not a matter to be considered once and then forgotten; it is something that must be considered each and every time a new operating system or application is developed.
I readily admit that at the time my speech was written I knew next to nothing about how to run a GUI platform. When I wrote my speech, I was getting a constant stream of queries from blind people around the country who were concerned that their jobs were on the line because of conversions to a graphical platform or application. The platform most frequently mentioned was Windows. I had no current and specific information from knowledgeable, articulate blind people (such as you) about the ability of OS/2 and Screen Reader/2 to provide real access to such software as Word for Windows or (in your case) Framemaker for Windows. I was thinking in terms of the average blind computer user--one who could not get early releases of software from IBM, who knew nothing about the differences between DOS and an operating system using the GUI, and who was told to convert to Windows but not to OS/2.
I do recall that in 1990 and 1991 prototypes of Screen Reader/2 were demonstrated at NFB and other conventions. I remember going to a Wednesday afternoon demonstration of Screen Reader/2 at the Charlotte convention in 1992. Because the 1990 and 1991 demonstrations were of prototypes, available only to a limited set of individuals, I did not regard them as having much significance in the overall scheme of things. It was perhaps because of this perception that I did not mention them in my speech. The 1992 demonstration was quite another matter, as you know. By then Screen Reader/2 was a viable product, soon to be available generally. That, I felt, was worth mentioning in my speech. And while we are on the subject, I did not actually say that the Charlotte demonstration was the first time IBM had ever demonstrated Screen Reader/2. My exact words were, "At the 1992 convention of the National Federation of the Blind, IBM demonstrated its screen reading system for the graphical OS/2 Presentation Manager." Although this statement fails to make note of the 1990-91 prototype demonstrations, it was never meant to imply that IBM had done nothing in this area until 1992.
You say that the over-all tone of my remarks was negative and pessimistic. I would prefer to think of the tone as realistic. As you say, you have been using Screen Reader/2 and OS/2 Presentation Manager since the beginning of 1991. You have doubtless had access to Screen Reader developers, OS/2 support personnel, and perhaps even some intensive training. With all of these resources to help you, how could you not feel positive about the GUI and your ability to develop and use applications built around it?
On the other hand, I and a growing number of other blind people are only now beginning to use GUI operating systems and applications. In my case, although I am fortunate to have contact with some key IBM people such as Jim Thatcher, I found that I was not getting enough day-to-day help to understand the intricacies of this new graphical operating system, OS/2. No one where I worked could tell me how to manipulate objects on the OS/2 desktop without a mouse, not to mention learning about Screen Reader/2. I was continually frustrated by the fact that the documentation, even though it was online, provided very little in-depth information about how everything worked together. Installing a simple DOS application (WordPerfect 5.1) would have been far more difficult if I had followed the instructions in the OS/2 User's Guide. In the end it became necessary for me to arrange to receive a week's training from Frank DiPalermo, a Screen Reader/2 consultant. Fortunately for me, my employer was more than willing to pay for the training. How many other blind people do you suppose will find themselves in exactly the fix I was in? Quite a few, I would bet. How many of them will be as fortunate as I was? I simply don't know.
I think that it is also important to point out here that OS/2 is not the only graphically-based system that has created concern among blind computer users and professionals. More and more blind people want to know when a commercial access product will be available for X Windows applications. I have received complaints from frustrated blind Macintosh users who tell me that Berkeley Systems is diminishing its support for the outSPOKEN program. Do these problems cause me to be negative and pessimistic? I prefer to think of them as helping me to be "concerned." As you say, blind people still face challenges accessing the graphical user interface. Screen Reader/2 is one solution to the problem, but it is by no means the only solution--nor should it be.
Screen Reader/2 and OS/2 are fine systems in their own right. Together they provide access to a wide variety of GUI applications. This is the message I have been communicating to blind people in a variety of forums. I chose not to promote Screen Reader/2 quite so heavily in my speech because I was attempting to communicate a different message. If you feel that I was not as positive about Screen Reader/2, OS/2, and IBM in my speech as you might have liked, I can only say that I have had other opportunities to demonstrate my support in ways that you may not know. For example, on behalf of the NFB in Computer Science a few months ago I wrote a letter of support for the Screen Reader project when I learned that it was being re-examined by IBM top management. I circulated the letter quite widely and caused other blind people to write letters of their own.
Under separate cover I will be shipping you an electronic copy of my speech as an ASCII text file. Feel free to circulate it to other blind GUI users or to anyone else you think would be interested in reading it. When you solicit reactions to the speech, I hope you will keep in mind what I have said here.
Curtis Chong, President
National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science
April 12, 1994
Thanks for letting me see your exchange with Chris Chaltain. I have a few additional comments growing out of my status as an amateur and lay user. Neither of you can claim this status.
As I understand it, the theoretical benefits of GUI are twofold: first, the GUI allows faster and more versatile use of computers. And second, it allows more transparent use of a computer through manipulation of intuitively obvious icons--that is, allowing the computer to appear less like a computer and more like a tool to get the job done. Chris actually addresses only the first issue, versatility and efficiency.
For the able, dedicated (and usually vocational) blind computer user, access to the GUI as Chris describes it is now possible (although not necessarily ideal). As you point out, the choices for the blind user are much more limited than for the sighted user. However, I don't think that this is the real problem.
When starting to use a GUI application, the sighted user's learning curve is just plain faster than it would be for a blind person. As I understand it, GUI uses obvious visual prompts and pictures to guide a user intuitively through the desired tasks. The theory is that the sighted user of a GUI system can become comfortable and productive with the software much more quickly than would be the case with a program using plain text. Moreover, the commands that a sighted person has to use can be displayed on the screen through the use of pull-down menus that are simple and intuitive to access. There is also the indisputable fact that a sighted person can learn at a glance (and does not have to remember) how windows and other elements on the graphical screen are laid out. Then there is the mouse. GUI applications make extensive use of this device. Sighted users click the mouse on icons and other items on the screen or move them from place to place by dragging them with the mouse. A sighted person using a mouse can tell at a glance where items are being moved and what item is being clicked on.
The blind person who needs to use a GUI application is operating at a disadvantage from the word go. In addition to learning everything that the sighted person has to learn, the blind user must learn how to make the speech- or Braille-access program (assuming it exists) do what is wanted. Also the blind person has to find other ways to do what a sighted person can do intuitively and at a glance with the mouse.
To put it plainly, for the sighted, commands and tasks are standardized, simplified, and speeded up through the use of a GUI application; for us the steps you go through to find out what is available, what is wanted, and how to do it are often varied, complicated, and not very well understood by those who use sight to work with GUI programs.
You make this point in a different way. Many of us blind users don't have the skill you have; many of us don't have the persistence you have; most of us don't have an employer who will pay for a week's training. The sighted user doesn't need this kind of specialized training, but a blind person very well might because of the inherently visual nature of the GUI. This may be dismissed as merely the problems of software development for and skill development by the blind. But GUI in all its forms is a sufficiently large barrier that it has come close to shutting a lot of us out of computers. The other point, however, remains. For a sighted user, as I understand it, the use of GUI facilitates speed and versatility; for the blind user without programmer-level training and experience and without support in this specific context, the GUI can still close out access to the computer. This includes most of us.
Here is the point that I really want to make. While nothing that Chris says is inaccurate, he needs to take into account the larger perspective. I am a good example. I am a DOS user, not a GUI user. I can understand the concept of a screen that is twenty-five lines high by eighty characters wide. I can understand enough about DOS to get the job done, and I can understand what information needs to be conveyed by a screen- reading program so that a blind person can use the computer without sighted assistance. I do not need or want the added complexity that use of the GUI would bring. In a small office I need quick results. I need to be able to troubleshoot problems immediately without having to call upon more technically sophisticated computer people for assistance. I have to get the work out now. I can't afford to allow GUI on the premises because it would immediately throw us into a minimum of several weeks of training for all staff (if you took one week, we would need much more). And the software glitches for us would probably never end since we don't have the time to learn all that we need to know to assure us of competence before use. The responsibility for running the system is mine, not that of my employees. I would guess that a sighted user in my position with my knowledge and ability could switch to GUI without difficulty--and most have. That's the real problem.
Chris says that any blind user who wants to learn the added complexities can increase productivity and efficiency. Yes, but.
. . . He misses two things. First, his statement is not true unless the blind user is working in a limited set of environments, all of which are accessible in the way Chris describes. And this assumes that new, inaccessible applications are not introduced at the blind employee's work site (usually an invalid assumption since new applications are released all the time, and many of these may not be accessible). Second and more important, the added complexity for us is now greater than for sighted users. The gap in knowledge has widened. While the GUI has made the lives of sighted computer users easier, it has made ours a lot more complicated. Until someone figures out a way for GUI-access technology to run everywhere and in as standardized a way for blind users as for sighted users, then your "realism" is the more accurate analysis. It can't be just one company or just one application, and it can't be truly available without being as readily available to us as it is to the sighted.
Another way of making the same point involves the overall job market today. For many, many entry-level jobs these days, a successful applicant must be able to demonstrate that he or she is familiar with and adept at using Windows, one of the most widely-used GUI applications. Employers can be choosy and are. They just don't hire anyone but able Windows users. That excludes most blind applicants, not on the ground of blindness, but on the ground of inaccessible software. We can't say in response to this situation that any blind person who wants to can become adept. That's just not the case right now. And pretending otherwise is very much placing one's head firmly in the sand and piling more on top.
I knew that Chris was an early user of GUI prototypes, and I was glad to know that competent blind users were in the testing pattern. But happy and trouble-free use of software by Chris doesn't make it readily usable by me. We need to solve the problem for users like me before we have achieved the goal of true access to the GUI. Despite IBM's stellar work, we haven't reached that point. Partly that is inherent in the GUI itself; partly it is because IBM is not the only company with a GUI system. Let's keep at it.
Peggy Pinder Elliott
TROUBLE AGAIN WITH CRUISE LINES
by Sheila Hall-Ritchhart
From the Editor: How do you go about persuading people who are used to providing services to the public that you do not require extraordinary assistance and that the people around you do not need protection from social contact with you just because you are blind? Airline personnel are often afflicted with these bizarre impulses, and so are maitres-d'hotel in exclusive restaurants and many nurses, particularly those with bossy dispositions. A cog slips somewhere, and suddenly considerateness and concern are transformed into overblown fear for your safety and anxiety lest bystanders be offended by contact with you or the individual's employer be sued when you inevitably tumble down the stairs or fall over an obstacle.
Once such behavior has begun, there simply isn't any reliable way of getting it stopped. A liberal application of cool composure chilling to icy self-control is the only technique I have found at all effective in restraining such exuberance. And that works best when the encounter is short-lived. What is one to do on a cruise ship for several days? What happens when it is your honeymoon, and the crew harasses you with inappropriate limitations on your movements and offers to help every time you set out for any destination? Well, you can laugh with your spouse, and you can maintain your integrity and independence, and you can fantasize about or even seriously investigate the possibility of undertaking some future action that would compel these people to abandon their preconceptions and learn to respect disabled people simply as human beings.
Recently William and Sheila Hall-Ritchhart had such an experience. Sheila is the President of the Student Division of the NFB of Indiana, and she has had some experience with university officials who are apparently incapable of treating a blind person with innate and straightforward respect. (See the July, 1993, issue of the Braille Monitor.) The following letter recounts Sheila and William's most recent adventure. Here it is:
April 11, 1994
Dear President Maurer:
My husband William and I were married on March 12, and on March 14 we took a cruise on the MS Southward for our honeymoon. The discrimination and segregation that we experienced have prompted me to write this letter.
Our trouble began at the ship terminal in San Pedro Harbor, Los Angeles. We were told that they planned to pre-board us so we would not have to stand in line with the other passengers. We refused this special treatment. We simply asked if they would show us where we were to wait for boarding. The cruise official agreed to our request but pre-boarded us anyway.
The crew on board the MS Southward made our honeymoon almost unbearable. Each and every time we left our cabin, used the elevator, went up a flight of stairs, or rounded a corner, we were stopped by one of the ship's staff. "What do you need?" "Where are you going?" "Just let me take you there," they would insist.
We always refused their assistance. Both of us stressed to the staff that, if and when we needed help, we would approach them. Following our refusal, they always asked for our cabin number and then walked away. It became a joke between my husband and me that they were going to tell on us.
Just minutes before a life boat drill our cabin steward came to our cabin with a liability waiver for us to sign. We refused to do so. He insisted that "people like you" had to sign. We firmly refused, and we're proud to say that we completed the life boat drill successfully on our own.
On these cruises your life boat station is your dining room seating assignment for dinner as well. At drill practice we were at a table with two other couples in the center of the dining room. When we went to dine that evening, we were seated at a table for two just off the entrance to the room. We were the only table for two in the entire room.
At other functions, such as the captain's party, we were also seated by ourselves. Meanwhile, other tables were being filled with two and three sets of couples. There was no self- seating. At first we thought that we had been seated alone because we were honeymooners. At a party given for the twenty- seven honeymoon couples sailing on the Southward, however, we found out that we were the odd couple. Yes, we had the only table for two.
In spite of the fact that this ship did not appear to meet any of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards, we got around just fine on our own. We dressed nicely and appropriately, were courteous and kind, and used good table manners. Blind people are not all slobs--just as sighted people are not all great dressers. We are just as civilized or uncivilized as any sighted person. We walked along the beach in Catalina, went on a three-mile fitness walk in San Diego, and went shopping in Ensa¤ada, Mexico. While on board the Southward, we went to shows, danced, and even gambled in the casino. Blind people are just as romantic, just as fit, just as greedy, and just as fun-loving as any sighted person.
I'm quite certain that being blind is not an ingredient in making lousy dinner companions. Table sixty-two in the center of the room must have been boring without us.
My husband and I really want to do something to educate the crew of the MS Southward. We have a great idea. We want to book a cruise on the MS Southward with as many Federationists as possible. My husband and I are willing to do most of the organizing to make this work. But we would like help and support from the Federation in recruiting people to go on the cruise.
When we went aboard the Southward, they thought of us as helpless and ignorant. The day we left to go home, they told us we were amazing, exceptional, and simply inspirational. This really bothered us, because words like "amazing" and "exceptional" are defined as "out of the ordinary or apart or aside from the norm." We believe that being independent and self- sufficient are normal characteristics of blind people.
It is hard to express how angry we felt every time we were called amazing, but it is important to remember that people who are patronizing towards the blind usually are so because of lack of education. This conviction kept us more or less calm and always civil. Perhaps, after sailing with the National Federation of the Blind, the crew will exchange its pity for genuine and appropriate respect.
Since the beginning of our relationship, I have talked to William about joining the Federation. He said that he was not much of a joiner but would be supportive of my involvement. As a result of our experiences, however, he is now ready to join. He will attend his first convention this coming July.
Sheila and William Ritchhart
What follows is the relevant information about the Norwegian Cruise Line's policies concerning disabled people, taken from the material that Sheila Hall-Ritchhart sent to President Maurer:
What if I have a medical condition or physical disability? Some ships have staterooms designed for people with physical disabilities. Please check ship deck plans for details.
Any medical condition or physical disability that may require special attention or treatment must be reported to our Passenger Courtesy Department when your reservation is made.
NCL has the right to revoke passage to anyone who, in its judgment, is in physical or mental condition unfit for travel or who may require care beyond that which NCL can provide. Whenever possible, though, special arrangements will be made.
NCL reserves the right to deny participation in certain activities such as dive-in snorkeling, paddle boats, sailboats, and the like, based on past or present medical conditions. For questions about eligibility, please contact our Passenger Courtesy Department.
All passengers with a disability must be self-sufficient and should travel with a passenger who will provide any assistance needed during the cruise and in the event of an emergency.
Physically impaired passengers and their companions must sign a statement releasing NCL of any and all responsibility associated with their disability relative to their ability to use shipboard facilities and in the event of any emergency.
There is nothing in these policies to suggest that the Ritchharts should have expected the treatment they received. As Sheila said in her letter to President Maurer, they would like to explore the possibility of organizing a group of blind people to travel on this ship to demonstrate that the Ritchharts are not the only competent and independent blind people in the country and to educate the crew in ordinary courtesy to blind passengers. If you are interested in joining the Ritchharts in this enjoyable exercise in public education, contact them at 1523 N. Linwood Avenue, Indianapolis, Indiana 46202; or call (317) 322-9979.
BEING BLIND IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD
by Stephen Laughrey
From the Editor: Stephen Laughrey is the Executive Director of the Braille Service Center in Louisville, Kentucky. He is also First Vice President of the Louisville Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky and Diabetic Coordinator for the affiliate. But three years ago he thought his world had come to an end. Because of his sudden blindness, he had lost his well- paid job, and he was convinced that there was nothing more for him to do with the remainder of his life. Here is his story as he tells it:
After a long battle which began in 1983, I finally became blind on February 21, 1991. In 1983 I was diagnosed as having contracted a disease called Histoplasmosis, which affects either the small blood vessels in the eyes or the respiratory system. In my case it affected my eyes. About a year later I was diagnosed as having diabetic retinopathy. The combination was the equivalent of an atom bomb waiting to explode. I went through a series of operations and laser treatments until finally there was nothing else to do to stop the inevitable outcome.
After finally becoming blind, I spent some time engaging in pity parties, wondering why I had been chosen to be blind. I soon realized that my situation wasn't going to change and that I had two choices: I could continue feeling sorry for myself and being unproductive, or I could get up, brush myself off, and get the training I needed in order to live a full, enjoyable, and productive life. That last is exactly what I decided to do, and it was certainly the correct decision.
Prior to becoming blind, I was a very determined and productive person. I was successful in my position with a building materials company in Fort Myers, Florida. I was involved in marketing and contractor sales. The year I started with the company our annual sales were nine million dollars. Twelve years later, when I left because of my blindness, our annual sales were thirty-five million. I was proud to know that I had played a major part in the success of the company, not to mention the monetary rewards I received along the way. I wanted what I had lost to become a part of my life once again. I didn't know how I was going to accomplish this task, but I knew I was willing to work hard to find a purpose in life and to learn to function as a competent blind person. Once I had accepted the fact of my blindness, I found that I had defeated the major obstacle in my path to an independent life. Thus began my quest. I was willing to face each challenge that came, knowing that it would not be easy.
Now came the task of finding the right educational program to rehabilitate me. I started contacting rehabilitative service centers and making appointments to visit them. The ones I saw had a hospital atmosphere that I wanted no part of. I became frustrated because I had hoped to find a center that did not subscribe to the sympathetic, hand-holding style of ministering to poor, helpless blind people. There was no room in my life for such ideas.
Living in Florida at the time, I had not met any blind people except those at the centers I had visited. I needed to find a place to buy a timepiece. I had heard that talking watches were on the market, and I was getting tired of asking other people for the time. My sister was looking through the phone book for places to call and came upon the listing for the Citrus Center for the Blind. She immediately called and asked where I could make my purchase. They directed her to the proper place and at the same time told her that they would like to meet me whenever I was available.
Two days later I found myself at the Center, where I had the opportunity to tour the facility. First I was given a white cane and then introduced to different types of technology. This excited me, and I wanted to see more. It was a teaching facility with classes in reading and writing Braille, mobility, computer literacy, and daily-living skills. I was like a kid in a candy shop. I recognized immediately that this Center was where I wanted to spend the free time I had acquired since becoming blind. After attending the Center for about two weeks, I was approached by the Director, who explained that the Center was too small and my hunger for knowledge and independence were too great for this small facility to give me the proper training. I was then told about the Louisiana Center for the Blind. Joanne Wilson was the director. As soon as I got home that afternoon, I called Joanne. She told me how to become a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind.
In September of 1991 I became a student at the Louisiana Center. We learned social skills, cane travel, Braille, typing, and daily-living skills. Students maintained their two-bedroom apartments, did grocery shopping and laundry, and prepared meals. Classes lasted from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. While at the Center I also had the opportunity to participate in mountain climbing, rock climbing, white water rafting, water skiing, canoeing, swimming, and fishing. These may sound like pretty demanding activities, but to me they were the greatest confidence-builders I could have hoped to receive. Each weekend there was a new experience, such as going to Texas to the largest flea market in the United States. One of the most memorable experiences was attending Mardi Gras in New Orleans. I assure you that, if you can travel in that chaos, you can travel anywhere! Learning that truth was the whole purpose of the trip. I truly believe that on that trip I gained more confidence in my ability to travel using a white cane than at any other time during my months at the Center. I am proud to say that I am a graduate of the Louisiana Center for the Blind.
I remember the first day I walked into Miss Ruth's kitchen at the Center, saying to myself, "What in the world am I doing here? I can't even boil water." But before leaving the Center, I successfully prepared an entire meal for forty and served it to the staff and students.
One day during travel class we went on a bus drop in Alexandria. It was a cold, rainy day, and I was the first one out of the van. I began looking for a bus stop. We did not know that the staff had been given incorrect information about bus routes. I soon became lost because I was on a street that had no buses going to the mall. It was a great experience! I had to use every technique that I had ever learned in order to get to my final destination. Getting lost often makes you a better traveler. I have had similar experiences since leaving the Center, and I am now certain that I will forever remain a confident and independent cane traveler.
I can't tell you how important it was for me to learn how to read and write Braille. Not only do I use Braille in my daily work, but I also set aside an hour a day for leisure reading. This helps me to increase speed and comprehension. I will never forget the first time I was able to read a story from the McDuffy Reader. It was quite emotional. If I had not been a proficient Braille reader when I graduated from the Center, I doubt that I would have the job I have today.
I shudder to think what my life would be like had I not had the good fortune to attend the Louisiana Center for the Blind. While attending the Center, I was introduced to the National Federation of the Blind, and I am proud to be a dedicated Federationist. I have had the opportunity to meet and make many new blind friends.
When I first went to the Center, I was full of indecision, wondering what the future held for me as a blind person. I wanted to get back into the work place in order to serve the blind and educate the sighted. Today all of my hopes and dreams have come true. I am now employed as Executive Director of the Braille Service Center in Louisville, Kentucky, and I have many opportunities to speak about the abilities of blind people. Achieving what I have has taken a lot of hard work and determination on my part, but it also took commitment from those who believe in equality and the right of blind people to live a normal, productive life in today's society, full of confidence, pride, and independence.
Not a day goes by that I don't pick up the freedom bell I was given when I graduated and remember the time that I spent at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. Being blind is not the end of the world. For me in many ways it was the beginning. My life is full of meaning and purpose, serving the blind and educating the sighted. The Louisiana Center for the Blind will always have a special place in my heart. In many ways my life began in September of 1991 when I enrolled at the Louisiana Center. The gift that I received there is being given to students today in the NFB centers in California, Colorado, Minnesota, and a small handful of other adult rehabilitation facilities which are conducted in accord with the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind. We can all be grateful for the work of the instructors in these excellent programs.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Lauren Eckery.]
THE BIRTHDAY PARTY
by Lauren L. Eckery
From the Editor: The following article first appeared in The Freedom Bell, the second in the Kernel series of paperback books published by the National Federation of the Blind. It begins with Dr. Jernigan's introductory note. Here it is:
What happens when a small sighted child is constantly told by her preschool teachers and the parents of other children that her blind mother and father are not capable of functioning as competently as other parents? How does she resolve the conflict of seeing her mother and father living normal lives on a daily basis and then having others tell her (both by word and act) that it isn't so? These are the issues raised in the following article by Laurie Eckery. Here is how she tells it:
When my daughter Lynden was two years old, I was pleased with the child care setting she was in. Since I spent weekly two- hour sessions at the preschool, the other children had a chance to see me, Lynden's mother, as an ordinary adult who happened to be blind.
The director had become a good friend and was happy to have me at the preschool--not just to sing with the children but also to give them an education about blindness. I trusted that Lynden was in good hands. I trusted a friend who knew and understood about blindness from my example.
When Lynden was two, I did not take her to preschool on a regular basis. If she missed out on some of the activities at school, it was purely due to her sporadic attendance--or was it? She was too young to know or care that the rest of the children, on a certain day, were dressed in western outfits or that the rest of the children had brought paper valentines to pass out-- everyone but Lynden. I let it pass; she was too young. I suspected a problem but didn't want to be labeled as "paranoid," and I reasonably expected that Lynden would eventually tell me about special occasions coming up at school. No problem.
Last fall, when Lynden was four and a half and "River City Roundup" was happening all around Omaha, we bought her a western outfit that could double as a Halloween costume. It was pretty enough to be worn anytime. When I asked which day the children would be dressing up for "River City Roundup," the director informed me that she hadn't decided--that she would let me know.
One day Lynden came home in tears. "Mommy, the other kids weared western clothes, and you didn't let me wear mine." I told her that no one had informed me that this was the day for such clothing to be worn. She was angry because she was convinced that I "should have known." Could she trust me as much after that?
When Valentine's Day rolled around, once again I asked to be informed as to when the children would be exchanging cards. Lynden piped up, "I'll tell you, Mommy." The director assured me that she would tell me. I bought cards, typed them up, and had them ready in early February. The night before the day, Lynden announced that she would be taking the cards tomorrow. Only because I was beginning to understand that the preschool director, my friend, "was a little scatter-brained" was I able to stay on top of this situation. Still, I was not particularly angry.
In March Lynden had a birthday--her fifth. She wanted to have Amanda, her best friend--the preschool director's soon-to-be adopted child--over for the birthday celebration at Showbiz Pizza Place. We invited her. Three days before the party, when we had not been given a definite answer, I made one of the most frightening but also one of the most real phone calls of my life.
The director's reason for not answering the request was that she didn't know if the girls would behave in such a noisy place. She stated in no uncertain terms that the only way that Amanda could come was if they dropped her off at Showbiz and one of them stayed. Suddenly it was apparent to me that I was expected to be as obedient and as much under her control as the preschool children she supervised each week. I was at a turning point at which I could either choose to back off and say, "That would be fine," or to do as I did.
I asked if they were worried about our blindness. At first there was total denial. When it came down to the details, though, she was afraid to have us walk the children home for fear that Amanda, who was not "trained to obey us like Lynden is," would run off; that she might dart into the street while we waited for the bus, and we wouldn't see it happening; that we might lose the girls on the way from the bus to Showbiz, and "How could you keep track of them in that noisy place?"
When I explained, she stated that I was being defensive, not caring about the concerns of other people and risking the children's safety just to make a point. I said that I had a right to ždefendž our position and that she could choose whether that was really behaving defensively or not.
She said that she had no idea that I was so "angry about being blind," that she had been so proud of me for the way "I handled it with the kids." She eventually stated that she thought Jerry and I should learn our limitations, just as everyone else does, for Lynden's sake if not for our own; that we were deluding ourselves if we thought we could function as independently as sighted people. I was horrified to hear her say, "And you know that Lynden is going to know the difference. She's going to understand that she can't have friends over without parental supervision like other children do because of your limitations. She won't be angry about it, because she will understand." I answered that Lynden would be puzzled and indeed angry when other people (teachers, other children's parents, etc.) decide for us that she and/or her blind parents "have to do things differently," when she is going to know from living with us daily for all the years of her childhood that such limitations are unnecessary. She may even begin to think that there is something wrong with her because she's being consistently left out of normal activities.
At length I told her that I thought the whole situation boiled down to a matter of trust, to which she immediately replied, "Laurie, I trust you implicitly!" She explained that she could tell when children came from less than desirable parenting and that she would hold me up as an example of one of the best parents in the neighborhood; that she was proud of the way that Jerry and I were carefully teaching Lynden, taking her places, keeping her dressed neatly, and so forth; and that she knew we loved her.
It was difficult for me to believe that I really could not trust this "friend," and she could not believe that I thought she did not trust me. I said, "When someone says to me on the one hand that they trust me implicitly but on the other hand will not allow their child to be with us without sighted supervision, something doesn't fit."
My stomach turned at the thought of how I, with my unusual amount of assertiveness, had probably changed the direction of our relationship forever. I would probably lose a good friend; I had "caused" trouble between Lynden and her best friend. Would I be forced to put Lynden in another preschool? I realized quickly through my panic that the problem wouldn't be solved in this way. It was more likely that this same kind of situation would occur again and again. I could not trust as implicitly as I had trusted previously, but Lynden's education at this preschool had, up to now, been excellent. But if the director couldn't see blindness for what it really is any more clearly even after observing it, what other blind spots might there be in Lynden's education there?
Much as I might have wished for it, there is no such thing as the perfect school setting for Lynden or for any other child. I knew, therefore, that I had to solve the problem. I decided that the next time Lynden is asked to Amanda's, she will be allowed to go only if I or her father goes along. Will the director and her husband squirm? Will they be angry? Time will tell.
We thought things had blown over by the time Lynden enrolled in dance class with several other children. However, on one occasion she was kept from going to dance class because she had a rash. Although we had paid for this class, we were not consulted about this decision. Later Lynden did not inform us of her recital. Neither did the preschool.
The night before the recital, at 9:30 p.m. with no chance for us to invite friends along, the director called us, realizing that "we might not know about it." The children were to have brought a letter home from the dance class. We did not get Lynden's letter. Thinking that Lynden had accidentally forgotten it, I asked her about the letter. I was informed that the letters had all been taken away from them at preschool and given to the parents later. We attended the recital, knew very little about Lynden's dancing, and I really began to wonder if I was being deprived because of my blindness. At home I cried about what I had missed.
The next day when I asked Lynden why she didn't tell us more about her dancing, she said, "You can't see." Suddenly I realized that lately she had begun to play tricks on us and to get very angry. I realized that she was angry about our blindness. She was also feeling that we missed out on her dance. We learn from our mistakes. When I mentioned this last situation to a friend in the National Federation of the Blind, he cleared up my own doubts about my blindness by asking, "Did you have Lynden show you what she was learning?" No, we had not gotten down on the floor to have her show us.
When I explained to Lynden that we missed out on her dance, not because we couldn't see, but because we had not asked her to show us what she was doing, she was immediately relieved. She gleefully showed us the entire dance routine, taking on the role of the dance instructor. It was hilarious, entertaining, and enlightening. Suddenly it appeared that she understood that we could be trusted, that we didn't necessarily not know what was going on just because we can't see. Her general behavior was back to normal.
I know that we will have to deal with other situations similar to these. I know that I must be wiser than to trust even good friends when it comes to dealing with issues of blindness, and I know that I must trust my own knowledge and stand by it. I know that Lynden will be confused for some time, but I hope that someday she will read what I have written and will be reminded of what she said to me when she was not quite five years old: "Mommy, I wish you could see."
Oh, dear, I thought. Not a pity party from my own kid! "Lynden, what would be different if I could see?" I inquired. "'Cause then, Mommy, people wouldn't talk to you like you were a kid."
[PHOTO: Michael Gosse stands at NFB National Convention podium microphone. CAPTION: Dr. Michael Gosse.]
REFLECTIONS OF AN ELECTRICAL ENGINEER
by Michael Gosse
From the Editor: Dr. Michael Gosse has been a committed Federationist since he received an NFB scholarship in 1985. He served as President of the Connecticut affiliate for several years, but last year, after completing his Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, he accepted a job in Maryland with Atlantic Aerospace Electronics Corporation. At the 1993 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind he described the way in which he got his job and a little of what he does. This is what he had to say:
Earlier in the week my voice started to go a little bit, and I was concerned that I wasn't going to be able to speak this afternoon. The reason I was having trouble with my voice was that every time somebody mentions Pennsylvania, Connecticut, or Maryland, of course I have to cheer.
I am a computational electromagnetics scientist, whatever that means. Hopefully, by the end of this talk, you'll at least understand that probably you don't want to be one too. The man who started this science a number of years ago--in fact it was 1875--was James Clerk Maxwell. In that year he published his treatise on electricity and magnetism. I'm going to read to you the first two sentences of his preface. "The fact that certain bodies, when rubbed, tend to attract other bodies was known to the ancients. In modern times a great variety of other phenomena have been observed and are related to the phenomenon of attraction." I wonder how many copies of that book he sold to people who didn't read past that point.
In our company we work in general on electronic warfare. What that means is that you're a lot better off in the Army or the Air Force or the Navy or the Marines if the enemy cannot find you or communicate amongst themselves. Being good at electronic warfare means you save the lives of not only your own people, but also those of the enemy. I consider this to be a good thing, and it is how I justify my job.
I started out in electrical engineering at the age of six. I had an odd father. I don't know whether he ever learned a bedtime story or not, but when he would come up to tuck me in to bed, he would say, "Now Michael, you have a five-volt source and a five- ohm resistor. The current times the resistance is equal to the voltage; what's the current?" And I would guess, of course. The only number I knew was one, and it was the correct answer. The problems progressed until I was through high school. They kicked me out of electronics class my sophomore year because I had already mastered all of the material through senior year. When you start at the age of six, you have a bit of a jump.
In college I tried to be something other than an electrical engineer. I tried to study chemical engineering and go on to physics for a Ph.D., but the bias was just too strong. I ended up in electrical engineering. And since I wanted to get a Ph.D., in May [of 1992] I actually received the degree. Then I proceeded to look for a job in the worst economy that we have seen in a long time. In ten years of post-secondary school I couldn't have picked a worse time to graduate. The nine-month period that I looked for a job was challenging and interesting. I interviewed for a number of positions.
I'd like to tell you how I landed this position. I was at the 1993 Washington Seminar and got a call on my answering machine in Pennsylvania from Atlantic Aerospace, and I immediately called them back, and we chatted about some technical things--can you use a computer? I said I preferred not to. I told them I was down in the Washington area, which is where the company is located, and I'd be glad to stop by and talk with them. They were a little busy. They had a trip to Advanced Research Projects Administration (ARPA) planned. I said, "I'm down here with the National Federation of the Blind, and we're meeting with Congressmen this week, talking about legislative issues. I'll be here through Wednesday." We tried to schedule an interview for Wednesday afternoon, but of course a number of us were planning to go to New York for the hearing in the New York law suit, and I wanted to be a part of that. I told them that I would be leaving for the National Center on Wednesday afternoon.
They said "Call us sometime on Thursday, and maybe we can work something out for Friday." So on the road to New York, I went to a pay phone and called and heard, "No, we can't schedule anything. We'll be in touch with you."
I said, "We're in New York for this hearing for the National Federation of the Blind, and I'll be going to New Hampshire after that." When I got there, I called them again. I said that I was now in New Hampshire. We had a long, technical interview this time. We talked about the finite element technique for solving magnetic problems. I told them that I'd done it before; then I went and looked it up. Towards the end of the conversation he said, "You know, you keep mentioning that you've been doing activities with the National Federation of the Blind; are you involved in that organization?"
I said, "You could say that. I am the Connecticut affiliate president." (Of course, I hadn't spent any of this time in Connecticut.)
Then he said, "Do you have a dog or a cane?"
I said, "Yes, I have a cane."
He said, "Well I suppose you wouldn't have to go to any conferences on your own."
And I said, "Hold on a second here. I called you in Washington, D.C.; I talked to you when I was on my way to New York City; now I'm in New Hampshire. How do you think that I got to all these places?"
I was on the plane for an on-site interview the next week. I had my worst interview ever because I was sick at the time. I just kept telling them that I was sick and that I really wasn't thinking straight, but it was apparently a successful interview. They contacted my advisor, and he said that I had done all this stuff in computational electromagnetics before, backing me up on that one. I appreciated that. I ended up getting snowed in in Baltimore, and you can imagine how much of a tragedy it was, having to spend time with my friends around Baltimore! Before I got home, I had a job offer. [applause]
They wanted me right away, so I took a week to wrap up some business for the Connecticut affiliate and headed to the Washington area.
The job I ended up working on at Atlantic Aerospace is the computation of the radar cross section of a radome. I am in the antenna design group. Antennas come in all shapes and sizes. If you stick an antenna on an aircraft and you don't cover it with something and you go Mach II, that antenna is going to be left somewhere behind you because it will just get blown right off the aircraft. Additionally, antennas are good at picking electromagnetic waves out of the air. Light is made up of electromagnetic waves. They come in a great variety of frequencies, like color. An antenna picks these electromagnetic waves out of the air. It also has the job of transmitting them into the air. As a result of these two processes, if you send an electromagnetic wave at an antenna, it reflects a larger electromagnetic wave, which means that, if you're the enemy, you can find an antenna very easily--it has a large radar cross- section. So you have two reasons why you want to hide this antenna: one is that it will blow off the aircraft, and the other is that it appears very large on a radar screen. So you put a plastic bubble over it. But the plastic bubble also has a large radar cross section, and nobody really understands--it's all Maxwell's fault. Nobody really understands how to design radomes very well. It's a black art.
So they said, "Mike, we need a computer program to analyze these electromagnetic waves that scatter from a radome." I worked for a couple of weeks on some theories and did some computations on how long it would take a computer to solve this problem. For example, it would take a Cray computer, which is very fast, let's say one gigaflop (one billion floating point operations per second), about one year to solve any problem of interest. I was beginning to fear for my job! I thought nobody would want to invest that much time in such a project. But since I've been working on this problem, through some mathematical tricks I have gotten the problem down to one that would maybe take a week to do. Somebody might be willing to wait around a week for the answer, so I feel that my job is safe for now. I am not certain, however, that it will last all that long. We need faster computers. That's all there is to it. But my job is safe for now. I hope to get a couple of publications out of it. And, of course, once I have a few publications to show for my work, what do you think I'm going to do? Go back to school--hopefully as a teacher this time. So it's a pleasure being in Maryland now, and I thank you for your attention.
[PHOTO: Carla McQuillan sits on the floor with her hands on number flash cards, teaching a little girl. CAPTION: Carla McQuillan, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon, takes a hands-on approach to teaching.]
EDUCATION WITH VISION
by Annie Capestany
From the Editor: Carla McQuillan is the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon. Those who attend NFB conventions know she also sings Irish ballads and other folk songs, accompanied by her guitar. They may not know that she is a Montessori teacher who operates her own business in Springfield, Oregon. The following is a story that appeared in the Springfield News, April 13, 1994. It speaks for itself; here it is:
Carla McQuillan is not just a preschool teacher. She is a spellbinder.
McQuillan holds a bachelor's degree in teaching children through the art of storytelling. To some traditionalists her skills may sound about as central to basic education as a course in Navaho basket weaving.
Stories are a great teaching tool, McQuillan argues. But that wasn't her only motivation in studying them.
McQuillan is legally blind.
Most people don't believe McQuillan is vision-impaired. Her blue eyes are bright and clear, and they seem to look right at the person who is speaking to her.
The object of McQuillan's gaze appears only as a big blind spot to her. Her only vision is peripheral. At its best it's only 20/200, compared to the 20/20 ideal.
"I don't stumble over things," McQuillan says. "But I can't read print."
Despite her blindness McQuillan owns and operates Springfield's only Montessori school, Children's Choice, which opened on Main Street last September.
One side of the schoolroom is filled with Montessori materials: sorting games; carrots for peeling; number rods and counting beads; bright blue, three-dimensional geometric shapes; and even the school's binomial and trinomial cubes.
The brightly colored cubes are a "concrete representation of an algebraic expression," McQuillan explains. "Now we don't tell the children that."
Instead the preschoolers match colors and shapes to reconstruct the cubes. In that way grade-school children can absorb the abstract math formulas the cube represents.
The other half of McQuillan's classroom is filled with more typical preschool toys and a computer. An indoor play area takes up part of the back of the building, and a grassy lawn is available for sunny days.
Although McQuillan works with an aide, she seems perfectly capable of maintaining control on her own.
"I know all the sounds of the materials in the classroom," she says. "I know when the kids are doing what they should be doing and when they aren't.
"There is a very different sound when something falls down and when something is knocked down, believe me."
While she cannot see the children's faces, McQuillan knows their voices--and their cries.
"I know from upstairs which kid is crying," she says.
The school is built on the philosophy Maria Montessori first developed in Italy. Learning is individualized, McQuillan says. She strives to find just what each child needs in the way of social, mental, and practical skills.
"We want to teach the children how to think," she says, "how to get from point A to point C, even if we don't tell them where point B is."
Montessori also taught that children are receptive to learning certain skills at certain periods in their lives. For example, she believed most children are best able to learn to read between the ages of three and six.
McQuillan says children in Montessori classrooms aren't forced to learn. Rather they are invited and encouraged to learn when they are ready.
When learning does occur, it takes place on all sensory levels, building from the concrete to the abstract.
"The more senses you incorporate," she says, "the more effective the learning is and the higher the retention level."
Traditional schools rely on visual learning eighty percent of the time, McQuillan says. Obviously that doesn't work for her, and she believes it also is less effective for most children.
Students in her classroom use many methods, including sandpaper letters, to learn the alphabet. During a recent lesson on soil and the earth, the children all went out and made mud pies.
And when it's time for a story, the children gather around McQuillan in the reading corner, next to the bookshelf, where she spins a tale of fun and fantasy, drawn from her imagination.
[PHOTO: Jim Burton sits at his computer terminal. CAPTION: Jim Burton.]
HELPING SOCIETY SEE
by Kathy Berry
From the Editor: Jim Burton is an active member of the National Federation of the Blind of Alaska. The following article appeared in the Fall 1993, issue of the Geophysical Institute Quarterly, a publication of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks:
Although his vision is impaired, Jim Burton has developed great insight into the hearts of people, especially those with disabilities.
As a man who once lived in a healthy body and is now dealing with Usher Syndrome, Burton has overcome handicaps in all areas of his life. As a result of the progressive disease, he's losing his hearing and eyesight, but not his passion for helping others.
Burton has been an active participant in federal and statewide service organizations for years. He's a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind of Alaska, and he served on an Alaska committee to implement the 1973 Rehabilitation Act.
Recently he was appointed by Governor Walter Hickel to a two-year term on Alaska's Statewide Independent Living Council, a group charged with setting up guidelines to govern the operation and funding of independent living centers, organizations that provide services for disabled people.
"In broad terms, the centers work to help remove physical barriers to transportation and access, and they help remove mental barriers with education," Burton said.
Although he wears hearing aids in both ears, is considered legally blind, and walks with a white cane at night, Burton is still able to volunteer in the local community. He has coached youth football teams in Fairbanks since 1981 and serves on the board of directors for the Fairbanks Youth Center.
In his spare time he teaches classes at UAF's Downtown Center, and he's writing a proposal to secure funds to train disabled people in computer-aided design drafting, his line of work. His aim is to help the newly disabled person get back into a job as quickly as possible.
As a computer drafting specialist with the Photo-Graphics Service Center at the Geophysical Institute, Burton uses software to help researchers draft and design tools associated with their projects.
"I work with anyone who has an idea," Burton said, "whether they want to design instruments the size of a briefcase or as large as a building."
Since he started work at the institute in 1973, Burton has helped professors design heavy equipment, an array of antennas, special tools for cutting ice, and even a rail system for a rocket launch at Poker Flat Research Range. He's reshaped architectural drawings to conform to requests, and he's worked with the institute machine shop to create models and true-sized replicas of instruments needed for specific purposes. He's also created maps, graphs, and line drawings of existing structures for publication; he's currently producing a set of drawings of the observatory in Kaktovik so rocket scientists visiting Poker Flat can plan where to place their instruments without first visiting the remote site.
Burton works on the projects from a bank of computers in his shared office, which is unusually dark to accommodate his sensitivity to light and contains a clock that regularly broadcasts the time. Since his disease was diagnosed in 1987, his co-workers have made adjustments along with him.
"I've been lucky concerning the support I've received," he said. "Without the employer trying to make an effort, a newly disabled employee doesn't have a chance."
Nearly deaf since birth, he realized he also was losing his eyesight only six years ago. His family, which includes Hanne, his wife of twenty years, and his two sons, who are now college- bound, helped him deal with the discovery. "When people become newly disabled, the whole family has to change its way of life," Burton said.
In learning to accept the things he's had to give up, Burton has gained the respect and admiration of hundreds of people whose lives he's touched.
His life is a testimony to his passion. "The main thing is to help all people, regardless of age or health, function fully in society as freely as possible," he said.
[PHOTOS: Portraits. CAPTIONS: 1) Gail Bryant. 2) Billie Weaver. 3) Carolyn Scharkey. 4) Betty Walker.]
This month's recipes come from the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri.
MR. DELL'S POTATO CASSEROLE
by Rhoda Dower
Gary Wunder, President of the NFB of Missouri, says of Rhoda Dower: "She is the spiritual first lady of our Missouri affiliate and one of our most outstanding fund raisers, hostesses, and cooks. It is with gratitude and firsthand knowledge that many of us can testify to her skill in the kitchen and her warmth as a Federationist."
2-pound bag frozen hash brown potatoes
1/2 cup butter
1 can cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1/2 cup milk
1 pint sour cream
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 chopped green pepper
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups cooked chicken breast
Method: In a large bowl mix soup, milk, sour cream, green pepper, and onions, adding salt and pepper to taste. Melt butter in a 9-by-13-inch pan or dish. Spread one-half of the hash brown potatoes in a layer across the pan, then add the chicken. Pour one-half of the liquid mixture over the chicken and add half the cheese. Top with a final layer of potatoes and the remaining liquid. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over all. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Serves 12. This recipe usually requires 5 or 6 boneless and skinless chicken filets.
by Gail Bryant
Gail Bryant is a long-time member of the Columbia Chapter of the NFB of Missouri and, according to Gary Wunder, has probably served as president of the Chapter longer than any other member. "Gail is a tremendous cook, and her marriage to Ed has resulted in the development of some excellent recipes which diabetics can enjoy. Gail uses her knowledge of cooking and her Braille cookbooks to help many of us find that special recipe." Her husband Ed is the Editor of the Voice of the Diabetic:
3/4 pound ground round
3/4 pound ground turkey
1/2 cup regular oats
1 8-ounce can tomato puree
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 teaspoon black or lemon pepper (I prefer lemon)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Method: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients well. Press mixture evenly into ungreased loaf pan, or use a 9-by-13- inch pan, and shape into loaf. Cook uncovered 1 1/4 to 1« hours, or until center is no longer pink. Makes 8 servings. Exchange per serving: 145 calories, 18 grams protein, 3 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fat, 2 grams unsaturated fat, 4 grams saturated fat, 60 milligrams cholesterol, and 250 milligrams sodium. Great with a salad and steamed vegetables.
by Cletus Hentges
Cletus Hentges is a long-time member of the Columbia Chapter of the Missouri affiliate and was the husband of the late Mary Lou Hentges. He has continued to be active in the Federation since Mary Lou's death. Cletus has endowed a state scholarship in her memory and is always helpful in getting members to meetings and to speaking engagements featuring the Federation.
2 pounds liverwurst
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 envelope onion soup
Method: Mix all ingredients together with hands and shape into ball. Wrap tightly and refrigerate until time to use.
SWEET POTATO SOUFFLE
by Billie Weaver
Billie Weaver is a psychologist, a long-time leader in the Springfield Chapter, a former President of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri, and one of the most respected members in the affiliate.
3 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons butter
1« teaspoons vanilla
1 stick butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
Method: Combine first six ingredients and pour into a buttered pan or oven-proof dish of appropriate size. For topping, cream butter and brown sugar together, then fold in nuts. Spread over the sweet potato mixture and bake for 20 minutes in a 350- degree oven.
by Carolyn Scharkey
Carolyn Scharkey is the President of the NFB of Missouri's Student Division, a member of the Mississippi Triangle Chapter, and the recipient of both state and national NFB scholarships. She is also a mother and a wonderful cook.
3 cups cubed cooked ham
6 cups peeled cubed potatoes
1 cup peeled diced onions
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 cup peeled cubed apples
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 8-ounce container sour cream
1/2 cup milk
6 slices American cheese
Method: Lightly grease bottom and sides of 9-by-13-inch pan. Mix together ham, potatoes, onions, celery, and apple. Combine soup, sour cream, and milk and pour over the ham mixture in the pan. Top with American cheese, cover with foil, and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove cover and brown for 15 minutes.
DUDLEY'S DOGGIE DONUTS
by Betty Walker
Betty and David Walker are active members of the Jefferson City Chapter of the NFB of Missouri. Undoubtedly more Federationists attended their wedding than have ever attended any other because it took place at the close of the Wednesday session of the 1982 Convention in Minneapolis. They report that Dudley, who is an American Water Spaniel, is indeed fond of these treats. When he hears them mentioned, he runs to the kitchen and gazes hopefully at the tin in which they are kept.
2 cups whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons oatmeal
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 egg, slightly beaten
2/3 cup boiling water
1 bouillon cube, any flavor
Method: Dissolve bouillon cube in boiling water; set aside. Mix together dry ingredients and stir in egg. Stir in bouillon with fork until dough forms a ball. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; roll or press to about 1/4-inch thickness. Cut with donut cutter. Gather together donut holes and scraps, flatten again and cut more donuts. Place in microwaveable baking dish, cook on high for 10 minutes. Donuts will harden as they cool. Makes twenty donuts. If all donuts will not fit in baking dish, place half in dish and microwave on high for seven minutes; repeat with remaining half.
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."
** What's New in the Car Rental Business?:
In the June 1993, issue of the Braille Monitor, Ed and Toni Eames described some problems they were having with car rental companies and the measures they have pursued to alleviate them. They recently sent us the following update on the situation:
The issue was simple. As blind consumers with a valid credit card, we wanted the same right as sighted people have to rent a car. Some companies required a driver's license as the only acceptable means of identification for car rental. Therefore, they would not accept our California non-driver identification cards. This clearly smacked of discrimination and violated state and federal law.
We filed two separate complaints under Title Three of the Americans With Disabilities Act against Dollar and Enterprise car rental companies. The Department of Justice has been investigating these complaints and working with the companies to change their policies and practices. Currently both companies say they have changed their practices, permitting us to rent cars using non-driver identification cards, and that they are working toward a change in policy. The Department of Justice investigating attorneys have asked us to notify them of any recent denials of the right to rent cars from these two companies. If you have had a problem with Dollar, please contact Maggie Prieto. If you have had a problem with Enterprise, please write to Mary Lou Mobley. Both can be contacted at Civil Rights Division, Public Access Section, U.S. Department of Justice, P.O. Box 66738, Washington, D.C. 20035-6738. If you have had a problem and write to either attorney, please send us a copy. Toni and Ed Eames can be contacted at 3376 North Wishon, Fresno, California 93704; or call (209) 224-0544.
[PHOTO: Tom Bickford stands with his hand on that of Elijah Cummings, who is under sleep shades, instructing Mr. Cummings how to use the white cane. CAPTION: Tom Bickford teaches Maryland Delegate Elijah Cummings the proper way to hold a long white cane.]
** Book on Cane Travel Now Available from NLS:
Care and Feeding of the Long White Cane: Instructions in Cane Travel for Blind People by Thomas Bickford, published by the National Federation of the Blind, is now available from your cooperating NLS network library as BR9342, one volume, and RC37053, one cassette.
The Library of Congress annotation reads as follows: the author, blind himself, begins with instructions for novices in cane use and continues with step-by-step advice on walking within buildings, following traffic patterns, and using public transportation. Also discussed are recreational hiking and dealing with inclement weather.
** For Sale:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have a slightly used Visual Tek for sale. It is in very good condition, and I am asking $850. For more information please call Nino Pesce at (215) 322-4447, or write to him at 4356 Pine St., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19053.
** Hoping To Find:
We have been asked to carry the following request:
I am seeking to purchase a 4-volume map set of the United States, which was available from the American Printing House for the Blind in the 1970's but is no longer available. If you have any information about where I might purchase this item, please write in Braille or on cassette to Les Seitz, 5415 North Sheridan Road, #4908, Chicago, Illinois 60640.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Joe Ruffalo.]
Joe Ruffalo, President of the National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey, reports that at the affiliate's May 1, 1994, convention the following officers were elected: Joseph Ruffalo, President; Ever Lee Dow, First Vice President; Tracey Hall, Second Vice President; Dr. Edwin Lewinson, Secretary; and Gloria Lewis, Treasurer. Kathleen Benjamin, Rose Bethea, Michelle Foster, and Jerilyn Higgins were elected to serve as board members.
** Information Needed:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I would like to get in touch with users of IBM-compatible computers who know of any games compatible with speech output other than those created by Richard DeSteno. I would also like to find documentation on Flipper and Accent. I have both programs on my PC but know very little about them. I would also like to get in touch with Braille 'n Speak 640 users. You can contact me in print, Braille, tape, or by phone. Contact Marie Lagerquist, 12003 Green Mountain Street, Reno, Nevada 89506; or call (702) 677-4258.
** Perkins Brailler Repairs Available:
Joseph Staniewski has asked us to report the following:
The Selective Doctor, Inc., is a new repair service for all IBM typewriters and now Perkins Braille writers. Located in Baltimore, the service has done work for the Maryland School for the Blind and a number of other organizations in Maryland. They are now prepared to receive Perkins Braillers sent to them from around the country. They advertise top quality service at yesterday's prices. They also request a phone call before shipment of Braillers and ask that equipment be insured in the mails. For more information contact the Selective Doctor, Inc., P.O. Box 28432, Baltimore, Maryland 21234; or call (410) 668- 1143.
** For Sale:
Perkins large-cell brailler in excellent condition. If interested, please call Jo Nell Standefer anytime at (505) 274-6402.
** Cruise Information Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
"Custom Cruise News" is a bi-weekly publication available in accessible format. It is a source of current cruise information and specials offered by cruise lines through Custom Cruises Unlimited, Inc. Subscription cost is $36 a year. Advertising is free to subscribers and should be submitted in Braille or on cassette. For more information write to Custom Cruises Unlimited, Inc., 8036 Congresswood Lane, Cincinnati, Ohio 45224; or call (513) 931-2234.
** Book About CD-Rom Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
National Braille Press has just released a new book on CD- ROM technology called The CD-ROM Advantage. This book answers the most commonly-asked questions about CD-ROM technology and how it works with speech and Braille. The book has practical advice from blind CD-ROM users who talk about the advantages, and the pitfalls, of this exciting new technology. Profiles of blind users add a human element to an otherwise technical subject, and as an added feature the book lists over one-hundred CD-ROM titles that do work with speech and Braille. There's plenty of resource information, including where to go for help and support. The cost is $11.95 in Braille, disk, or print (add $3.50 for postage on the print edition).
** In Memoriam:
Karen Mayry, President of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota, reports with sorrow the death last fall of Harold Pigsley, charter member of the Black Hills Chapter. She says, "Harold succumbed to complications of diabetes at the age of seventy-two. He had struggled many years with the disease but always held firm in his belief that blindness could be reduced to a mere nuisance. His dedication, support, and great sense of humor helped set the tone for the Black Hills Chapter. His business acumen, willingness always to do more than his share, and positive attitude helped the rest of us to do our part. He was loved by all and will be intensely missed."
** Pen Pals Wanted:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I would like to correspond with Americans or Canadians between the ages of twenty and forty-five. I am totally blind and would like to exchange ideas with people who work in the fields of recreation, camp counseling, and children's camp administration. My interests are sports; radio (contemporary, Christian, southern, gospel, and country and western); blue grass, pop, and Latin music; blindness issues; the outdoors; and shortwave listening. Interested people should write in Braille, computer Braille, print, or cassette tape to Eric Calhoun, P.O. Box 1003, Inglewood, California 90308.
** Perkins Brailler Needed:
Incarcerated Braille transcribing student seeks to purchase a new or used Perkins Brailler. Please write (print or Braille): Michael Portzer #168686, CCA/SCCC 10A/B/205, P.O. Box 279, Clifton, Tennessee 38425-0279.
** New Chapter:
Karen Mayry, President of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota, writes as follows:
The City of Yankton is the home of our newest National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota chapter. Affiliate Board members Noble Mellegard, Eileen Tscharner, and Karen Mayry held an organizing dinner in November, 1993. Attendees expressed interest in forming a chapter in Yankton. The first meeting, despite a horrendous snow storm, found a large group of people gathered at the public library to elect officers, listen to Denise Jones present her Washington Seminar report, and visit. Enthusiasm ran high that evening. With such interest and energy, Yankton members will help educate others about the respectability of blindness, the tools of independence, and the ways in which good training can lead to success. Elected officers include Denise Jones, President; Harley Evans, Vice President; and Peggy Klimisch, Secretary/Treasurer.
** Disability Resource List Available:
A two-90-minute-cassette package of disability resources has been compiled by Federationist Nancy Scott. It contains national agency, organization, and catalog information for people with vision, learning, and mobility impairments, as well as information for senior citizens and families of people in the above groups. The list features names, addresses, phone numbers, and brief descriptions of services plus some surprises put in just for fun.
Cost for "Disability Resources" is $4 per copy. Cassettes can be played on any recorder. Make checks payable to Nancy Scott, and send to 1141 Washington St., Easton, Pennsylvania 18042. Tapes will be mailed free matter.
** Business Opportunity Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Rapid growth in consumer electronics provides a part-time or full-time opportunity for you. International company needs highly motivated individuals in order to expand locally, nationally, and internationally. Sales and sales management opportunities as independent distributors available in every state, Canada, the United Kingdom, and soon the rest of Europe. Start your own business to sell security and home entertainment electronic products directly to consumers. Work from your home. Minimal investment. Please contact Federation member Leonard Shije at (505) 292-5088; or write him at 10400 Griffith Park Drive, N.E., Albuquerque, New Mexico 87123.
** Braille Machzor Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Jewish blind who are interested in obtaining Braille copies of the "Machzor" for the High Holy Days to participate in the services for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur may obtain their complimentary copies by writing to JHB, P.O. Box 290336, Brooklyn, New York 11229; or sending a fax to (718) 338-0653.