38, No. 2
Barbara Pierce, editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille,
on cassette and
the World Wide Web and FTP on the Internet
The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, President
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
NFB Net BBS: (612) 696-1975
Web Page Address: http//www.nfb.org
Letters to the president,
subscription requests, orders for NFB literature,
articles for the Monitor, and letters to the editor
should be sent to the National Office.
subscriptions cost the Federation about twenty-five dollars
Members are invited, and non-members are requested, to cover
the subscription cost. Donations should be made payable to
National Federation of the Blind and sent to:
National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
THE BLIND IS NOT
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
38, No. 2
GROWING UP WITH INDEPENDENCE:
THE BLIND CHILD'S USE OF THE WHITE CANE
by Fredric K. Schroeder
FROM TAKING NOTES TO TAKING
OUT THE TRASH
by Bonnie Peterson
WHO IS BLIND?
by Lola Pace
THE HOOK ON THE DOCTOR'S
by Kenneth Jernigan
MY STRUGGLE TO CORRECT POOR
ATTITUDES ABOUT BLINDNESS
AND THEIR IMPACT ON MY SIGHTED CHILD
by Trudy Barrett
WHY NOT JUST ASK?
by Peggy Elliott
WORKING WITH DANGEROUS CLIENTS
by Frank Stark
BLIND JOB-SEEKERS LOG ON
by Peter and Mary Donahue
BLINDNESS NO BARRIER TO
ENGINEER'S VISION OF LIFE
by Ozzie Roberts
SEMINAR FOR PARENTS OF
BLIND CHILDREN STRESSES PHYSICAL FITNESS
by Peggy Chong
LITERACY IS EVERYBODY'S BUSINESS
SCHOOL AND THE CHICKEN
by Homer Page
THE BLIND CHURCH MEMBER:
CONVERSATION IS UNLIKELY TO REVEAL
by Harvey Lauer
by Stephen O. Benson
SHANTHI'S FIRST AMERICAN
by Barbara Freeman
SEARS DEMONSTRATES ADA IMPLEMENTATION IS NOT A HARDSHIP
BRAILLE EVALUATORS NEEDED
by Emerson Foulke
USING FLYERS TO ADVERTISE
Copyright 1995 National Federation of
[LEAD PHOTOS/CAPTIONS:] When blind children are introduced to the long white cane early, they grow up using it easily and naturally. Their independence grows as they do, and they develop an accurate knowledge of the world and a healthy self-confidence.
[Photo: Mark McClain helps his toddler learn how to use her cane. Caption: Parents are a blind child's first travel teachers. Here Mark McClain of Ohio shows Macy how to use her cane.]
[Photo: Nicolas Stockton, holding a stuffed elephant, uses his cane while stepping onto an escalator. Caption: Nicolas Stockton of West Virginia has places to go, and escalators don't stop him.]
[Photo: Michelle Letsche, age four, finds the curb using her cane before stepping onto her school bus. Caption: Michelle Letsche of New Jersey learns about climbing onto her school bus with the encouragement of a school aide.]
[Photo: Hailee Linhart and Niki White run and laugh racing across the grass. Caption: Hailee Linhart of Washington and Niki White of Maryland depend on their canes in order to run and play safely.]
[Photo: Tim Day walks along the waters edge on a pier in Detroit. Caption: Tim Day of Washington thinks nothing of walking on a pier as long as he can use his cane.]
[Photo: April and Amanda Jones link arms and use their long white canes to walk down a hallway. Caption: April and Amanda Jones of Tennessee acquired NFB canes at their first National Convention in Detroit and put them to use immediately.]
[Photo: Richie Cavallaro uses his cane
to travel past the Sbarro Pizza counter. Caption: Richie Cavallaro, four and
a half years old, from New York explores a mall with his long white cane.]
[Photo #1: Fred Schroeder standing with cane. Caption: Fred Schroeder]
UP WITH INDEPENDENCE:
THE BLIND CHILD'S USE OF THE WHITE CANE
by Fredric K. Schroeder
From the Editor: Fred Schroeder is a
graduate of San Francisco State University and holds California credentials
in special education and orientation and mobility. He recently received his
Ph.D. in educational administration. Following graduation from college, he was
employed as a mobility instructor by the Nebraska Services for the Blind in
Lincoln. In the early 1980's he began teaching blind children in the Albuquerque
public schools, where he introduced the use of the long white cane to children
of all ages. His talents were quickly recognized by the superintendent, and
he was promoted, being asked to coordinate the programs for all children with
low-incidence disabilities in the Albuquerque schools. When the New Mexico Commission
for the Blind was established by the state legislature in the mid-
eighties, Fred Schroeder was hired as Director of the Commission, a position he held until the summer of 1994, when he was appointed by President Clinton as Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration.
Dr. Schroeder has steadily championed the Federation's philosophy of early, consistent cane use by blind children in his dealings with educators of the blind. He delivered the following address to the 1980 fall convention of the National Federation of the Blind of California. The text was printed in the Spring- Summer, 1986, edition of the Blind Educator, the publication of the National Association of Blind Educators, and reprinted in the Spring-Summer, 1991, edition of the Blind Citizen, a publication of the National Federation of the Blind of California. The subject is as timely today as it was when the speech was first delivered. One could wish that fifteen years had seen a greater change in the professional outlook on this subject than has occurred. Yet, we have come a long way. Here is Dr. Schroeder's 1980 speech:
My topic today is blind children growing
up with independence through the use of the white cane. As is often the case,
the debate on this matter stems from two divergent philosophies. On the one
hand the National Federation of the Blind believes that blind children are simply
normal children who happen to be blind. The other is the view of the majority
of the established special education system, which holds that blind children
are faced with a myriad of problems which, by their nature and severity, require
Undoubtedly each philosophy has evolved in significant part out of the vested interests of the respective groups. The National Federation of the Blind has a strong interest in furthering its goals of security, equality, and opportunity, which are integrally tied to the organization's basic assumption of the normality of blind people. The established special education system, on the other hand, has a vested interest in maintaining the concept of the blind as a population with a wide range of specialized needs since this concept is integrally tied to the very existence of the profession.
Let us begin with a discussion of infancy. Sighted infants are typically encouraged to explore their environment. Parents, siblings, and other relatives are continually providing stimulation which helps the infant become an active participant in the world. I believe that blind children deserve the same opportunity to develop experientially. When a blind child begins to walk, he or she should be provided with a lightweight, flexible cane to be used in the exploration of the environment-- to seek out familiar toys and places of interest. The cane has long been recognized as a symbol of independence for the blind. Its use focuses the parents' attention on the development of the child's independence while alleviating many of the parents' concerns about safety.
I am not, of course, advocating instructing a neonate in the formal two-point touch technique with an arc going precisely one inch to either side of the body and rising no more than one and a half inches at its highest point. I do advocate the truth of the principle that a blind child, provided with the necessary tools, will seek out new experiences and begin to explore the world. This will do more to develop space and body concepts than any other activity.
As the child grows, he or she will naturally move to outdoor play. At this point the cane should be an old and trusted companion. Many members of the orientation and mobility profession argue that, using a cane at this age, a child will develop a variety of bad habits, which will interfere with the eventual development of good cane skills. They say that the child should first be instructed in pre-cane skills. But what are these pre-cane skills? I suggest that trailing walls and protective-arm techniques have very little to do with eventual effective use of the cane. If one is sincerely interested in providing experiences which will eventually result in good cane technique, then one should provide the very young blind child with a cane.
When a six-year-old first grader begins learning to read and write, it is with an extensive background in pre-reading and pre-writing skills. This background is directly related to the final task. A two-year-old is not typically able to read but is encouraged to sit on the parent's lap and follow along while a story is being read. Similarly, this same two-year-old is not yet able to write but is, of course, encouraged to play with crayons. No one worries about the development of bad habits while the child experiments with a variety of ways of grasping crayons. Rather educators understand that the child's early play is helping to develop the fine motor control necessary for eventual writing. Why then do so many orientation and mobility professionals object to young blind children's using canes in an informal manner in order to develop the fine motor control necessary for effective cane travel?
These professionals go on to argue that the development of compensatory skills is seriously impeded by the young child's use of a cane. Their claim is that the child who becomes dependent on a cane will not learn to use his or her hearing effectively. As an alternative they suggest the aforementioned pre-cane techniques. One of these is the upper-hand and forearm technique, which positions the hand and arm in front of the blind child in order to protect the head and face. While offering some limited protection, the technique definitely muffles the child's hearing, while, on the other hand, the tap of the cane provides an excellent sound source, which I believe enhances the child's ability to interpret sounds in the environment.
I recently spoke with an orientation and mobility specialist who has an additional year of training in the use of electronic travel aids. She advised that, instead of a cane, a pathsounder should be used with blind children. The pathsounder is a device which beeps when an object is directly in front of the user. She explained that, using this device, a young blind child would be able to walk freely and without fear. Further, the child's ability to interpret environmental sounds would be developed through the feedback provided by this device.
It does not seem to me, however, that the pathsounder can offer the blind child any information not readily accessible through the cane, which enables him or her besides to walk freely and without fear. In addition, the cane can be used to provide the child with feedback concerning the location of an opening or an obstacle. The information gathered through the use of a cane will certainly enable the child to learn to interpret sounds in the environment. The difference is that the cane is a natural extension of the arm and hand and, therefore, requires little in the way of sophisticated interpretation. If the cane touches a solid object, it takes very little abstract reasoning to understand that there is something ahead. But what is there in a beep which would imply to a child that there is something blocking his or her path? The only plausible reason why professionals like this woman would advocate the use of a pathsounder in place of a cane is that the pathsounder requires training and, therefore, the intervention of the professional. As
a result, parents are made to feel that their children's special needs are so complex that they are inadequate to participate in their child's development.
When the blind child reaches elementary school, the use of the cane should naturally extend to the playground. At this time the child will take part in exciting new activities such as jumping rope, climbing on monkey bars, and swinging on swings. This is also the time when a child needs to learn how to find a
good place to keep his or her cane. When the child is finished playing, he or she should be able to recover the cane independently. This is no different from the responsibilities normally assumed by other children of the same age. Sighted children are expected to be responsible for their belongings. In
other words, a blind child should be responsible for his or her possessions, as are his or her sighted peers.
As the blind child reaches junior high school, he or she should be able to take for granted the ability to travel independently. Unfortunately, this is about the age at which many orientation and mobility specialists believe cane travel instruction should begin. The child is generally provided with some basic instruction which is not designed to develop travel skills overall, but rather to solve the immediate problem of getting from class to class. Rarely does the child evolve beyond the stage of traveling memorized routes. The age-old stereotype of the blind person's being on a memorized path is one of which the orientation and mobility profession has been unable to rid itself.
The regrettable truth is that most members of the orientation and mobility profession do not fully believe in a blind person's ability to travel safely with a white cane. Otherwise, why would the profession insist upon using new electronic travel aids as an adjunct to the cane or, in some cases, as a substitute for it? One orientation and mobility specialist from the Midwest typically instructs her junior high and high school students in the use of the laser cane. During a lengthy discussion she was unable to explain what practical advantage the laser cane had over an ordinary cane. Her only concrete reason for encouraging the use of the laser cane was that it could be used as an icebreaker in social situations.
In other words, for the sake of social contact, the blind child should be willing to make a spectacle of him- or herself. It is clear that this woman does not believe in the ability of blind children to initiate the process of making friends. Her comment implies that the blind child must use flashy electronic
gadgets in order to be interesting or attractive. In addition, I question the effectiveness of the laser cane, particularly in the Midwest, since it will not operate in temperatures below thirty degrees. It is further limited by being inoperable during rain or snow. The manufacturer explains that in these situations the cane can be turned off and used as an effective long cane. One has to wonder, if the cane can be effective with the electronics shut off, why the cane's beeps and vibrations were needed in the first
We have come full circle, returning once again to my original point. When I speak of growing up with independence, I mean just that--true independence. When many members of the orientation and mobility profession speak of independence, the term carries with it the unspoken qualification, "as independent as a blind person can reasonably be expected to be."
The orientation and mobility profession's pervasively custodial attitudes are shown all too clearly in an article entitled, "The Electronic Car Controversy," which appeared in the Summer, 1980, edition of News and Views, the publication of the American Association of Workers for the Blind (now the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired). The article reads in part as follows:
The Northeastern Region Interest Group
IX has become concerned with electric cars as a potential barrier to independent
travel for visually impaired people. With the exception of the noise produced
by the friction of the tires against the pavement while the car is moving, electric
cars are completely silent. . .
Although [the article continues] the problem of inaudible cars may well affect a number of populations (older pedestrians, the hearing impaired, and children) the Northeastern Chapter Interest Group IX feels that a number of issues that impact specifically on visually impaired travelers must be addressed on a national level.
Implications for both street crossings procedure and safety as well as parking lot and gas station
negotiation are many. Considerations also exist in terms of training procedures for traffic alignment and
environmental analysis. . . . One company has gone so far as to include a notation in their owner's manual and on a label in the car, alerting drivers to safety factors for vision- and hearing-impaired pedestrians.
Beyond this, [the article continues] manufacturers have offered to provide the public with sensors which
could be worn on a lapel and operate as a "go-no-go" device, emitting some sort of signal when an electric vehicle comes within range of the sensor. Our objections to this are: first, a very small percentage
of the general populations could effectively use such a high-technology device, and secondly, the burden of responsibility for safety in traffic should rest on the driver and not on the visually impaired traveler. . . .
This is what the article says, and it
is interesting to note that the orientation and mobility profession does not
consider it to be within the blind traveler's capabilities to protect him- or
herself from the threat of electric cars. They argue that an electronic sensor,
which beeps when an electric car is near, is too complicated a device to be
of practical benefit to the blind. What a revealing comment, clearly highlighting
the profession's attitude about the blind as both defenseless and witless! Instead,
they would ask the blind to trust their safety to the driver, secure in the
knowledge that on the dashboard of the electric car is a statement cautioning
the driver about the possible presence of blind pedestrians.
It will take a long time to change society's views of blindness and, for that matter, the views of the orientation and mobility profession. It is clear, however, that a change must come. Those of us who have grown up as blind children understand the negative impact which these attitudes have had on our lives.
We have experienced the heartache of being left behind and the degradation of being taken along by brothers and sisters, who became unwilling caretakers. The tragedy is not that of blindness, but rather the ease with which we and society sold ourselves short. Blindness did not isolate us, but our inability to travel as freely as others did. To participate in society was to be at society's mercy--to accept gratefully the opportunity to be brought along, even if not included.
No professional pride or theoretical dogma should be allowed to isolate and degrade blind children in the future. No one has the right to rob another of his or her self-respect by imposing arbitrary limitations. We must claim for the blind children of today and those of tomorrow the right to grow up with dignity and to experience life to the full.
[Photo #2: Bonnie Peterson, laughing, stands at podium. Caption: Bonnie Peterson]
TAKING NOTES TO TAKING OUT THE TRASH
by Bonnie Peterson
From the Editor: The following article is based on a speech Bonnie Peterson delivered at the 1994 parents' seminar on Friday, July 1, at the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Detroit, Michigan. Mrs. Peterson is President of the NFB of Wisconsin, a wife, a mother, and a university professor. She is also blind. Her remarks first appeared in the Fall, 1994, issue of Future Reflections, a publication of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, a division of the National Federation of the Blind. Here they are:
I teach communications and public speaking
in the university system of Wisconsin. I am also blind. Taking notes is, of
course, something that is extremely valuable to me. From my experience I believe
that notetaking is probably one of the most important skills that your children
will learn. So what is notetaking, and how is it valuable?
First of all, notetaking is not tape-recorded documentation of information. Notetaking is an activity in which the note-taker picks and chooses the information to be retained. True notetaking must be done in a medium that is flexible and quickly accessible. Notes must be taken under a wide variety of circumstances--standing or sitting, inside or outside, and so forth.
There is no question that the skill and art of notetaking lead to active listening. In other words, the better you take notes, the better you listen. You need to listen in order to pick and choose which things you wish to take down. That is, you must be constantly making decisions as you write notes. When children start to study for tests and exams from notes, they begin to realize the importance of making good decisions--especially when they discover that their notes are incomplete and the information they need isn't there. Notetaking leads to better decision-making skills, and this in turn promotes other leadership qualities.
One of the key skills of successful leaders is juggling five or six or more different things at the same time. Successful people are busy people. Once people discover you are a competent, skillful leader, everybody wants you. Notetaking allows people to function more efficiently and effectively and therefore to be more successful.
I take notes on a myriad of topics, and I take them in Braille. I use Braille to write notes to myself about grades and other important information concerning my students. I use Braille when I judge speaking competitions. There is no way anyone could remember, or would care to remember, all the intricacies of each speech and each speaker, so I use Braille for that. I use Braille for political activities, especially public hearings. The information in testimony I give--the figures and statistics--are all written down and at my fingertips; and frankly no one beats me. As a matter of fact I have a running competition with my
Congressman, Gerald Kletchka. We play a little game. He wants to see if he can get to his statistics faster than I can get to mine. So far I've always won, and I like it that way; I intend to keep it that way too.
I also use Braille in my home life--writing down appointments and grocery lists and keeping track of my two daughters' schedules. (They have basketball practice, volleyball and soccer games, and gymnastic classes--and I have to see that everyone gets to the right place at the right time.) But it wasn't always that way. I didn't always take notes in Braille.
When I went to school, my parents were told that I didn't need Braille; after all, I could see. We didn't know about the National Federation of the Blind then. My parents trusted the professionals, so I did not learn Braille as a child. Instead I learned to take notes in a dive-bomb fashion. Now, when you take notes this way (and you can; it is doable), your back and shoulders are hunched up, and your nose is literally on the paper as you drag your face across the page. But I didn't need Braille; I could see.
A funny thing happens if you have long hair: it all flops down on the desk, onto your paper, and into your face so that you're eating hair while you're trying to take notes. Nobody thinks about those things. You also eliminate what little light there is because your head is blocking it. It results in a tremendous amount of eye strain, but that's how I took my notes. Between classes I would go into the ladies' room and wash the ink off the tip of my nose. (Later, in high school, I didn't want the boys to see ink on my nose, so I had to devise methods to wipe it off in class without being obvious.)
I went through certain stages in my childhood, trying to deal with the fact that I really couldn't see. We didn't use the word blind when I was a child.) My family was Polish, and we heard a lot of jokes about Polish people with big noses. So I thought that Polish people must have big noses, and I must have a bigger nose than other people. I remember thinking, if I didn't have this rotten Polish nose, I could get close enough to the paper to read without getting ink on myself. This is true confession time--not many people know this--I decided I could squish down my nose and make it smaller by sleeping face down in my pillow. I really did! But after a few weeks my desire for air and my fear of suffocation while I slept made me give up. I still have the nose with which I was born. With that I outgrew my ethnic-nose stage and moved into the martyr stage.
By this time I was in eighth grade, early adolescence. For years I had heard people say things like, "Isn't she remarkable? That poor little thing struggles so hard. Look at how well she does with the little that she has." My reaction in this stage became: "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen; nobody knows but me. I will endure this for the greater good of society, and someday I will be rewarded." However, my Joan-of-Arc stage didn't last very long either. I was quite aware that, like Joan, I was getting burned. I didn't really want people to pity me, pet me, and tell me how sweet and wonderful I was to endure this hardship. That wasn't what I was about.
So I moved into the "Buck up, Bonnie, and just make the best of this. This is the way the cards of life have been dealt, so watcha gonna do?" stage. I stayed in the "poker-hand-o'-life" stage for a long, long time--into and beyond my college years.
When I went to college, I was still dive-bombing my paper, of course. However, I did devise a hairstyle that kept me from eating my hair anymore. The college I went to was quite a ruthless school, by the way. They treated everyone equally. I was fortunate to get a very strong education there.
The career I chose was communications. It required a lot of group analysis. Groups of students were videotaped as they interacted, and professional evaluators critiqued and rated each student within the group according to communications principles and criteria. These evaluations were given to the class instructor, who would then review the evaluations with each student. One Tuesday evening at 9:00--I will never forget--my instructor was going through this evaluation process with me. (She had not seen the videotape, of course. She was merely reviewing the evaluation with me.) On the list of things that I
had done was a comment about withdrawing behavior. For those of you who don't know anything about communication jargon, withdrawing behavior is the worst thing that you can do in communication. It's like turning your back--ignoring the other person. It means that you have taken your consciousness, your
essence away from the group. My instructor said, "Bonnie, leading behavior here, challenging behavior here. Those are all positive, but what is this? Withdrawing behavior? You never withdraw. What were you doing here?"
When I told her I didn't know, this upset her more than the behavior itself. How could I do something and not be aware of it? So she read the description from the evaluation to me and asked me again just what I had been doing.
"Well, I was only taking notes, Sister."
"Notes aren't withdrawing behavior. Show me what you do when you take notes."
So I played World War II Ace and dive-bombed the paper and pretended to take notes. She asked me, "Bonnie, what is the definition of withdrawing behavior?" I regurgitated the definition as any good student should. She left it at that, but I didn't. I thought about it. She was right. To take my face, my entire upper torso away from the group and to be down there on that paper for even a millisecond was, of course, withdrawing behavior. This bothered me. I had always been praised and encouraged for taking notes this way. Now someone was telling me, for the first time in my life, how this behavior was interpreted in the real world. I wasn't bothered enough to change anything right away, but I certainly put the idea on the back burner to simmer.
I continued to dive-bomb my paper--I was the best World War II fighter pilot Ace--even after I stumbled into the National Federation of the Blind and saw wonderful, positive blind people doing things that I couldn't do in a million years, like reading and writing Braille comfortably and easily. These were people who weren't struggling with eyestrain, which had become such an ordinary fact of my everyday life that I didn't even bother complaining about it. You would have thought this was enough to make me change, but it wasn't. It took the reaction of my three-year-old daughter to do that.
I was reading her a book about Dumbo the elephant. Of course, reading the book meant wrapping it around my face. I still remember the way she looked at me and said, "Daddy read me." What I heard in her words was, "You are stupid; you are embarrassing; I am going to get as far away from you as I can; you're dumb." Now she didn't mean to be cruel, but as far away as a three-year-old could get was across the room to her dad, and that was far enough for me.
With the help of the Federation, I learned Braille in two months. Let me tell you something else that you probably won't believe. If any of you had come to me during the time I was still dive-bombing and offered me one million dollars in unmarked bills tax-free if I could read back to you notes I had written a month previously, I couldn't have gotten the money from you. I was taking notes that I literally couldn't read. But I knew no other way. It was what the professionals told me I should do.
All of the committee chairmanships and all the expertise and success in teaching that I have enjoyed have come since I learned Braille and self-confidence from members of the NFB. I owe a great part of who and what I am today to the National Federation of the Blind.
My parents didn't know a lot about notetaking, but they did know about taking out the trash. They knew about providing me with strong values, teaching me to be responsible, and instilling in me a passion for doing a job well. From the time I was a young child I was expected to do household tasks, make my bed and do it correctly, fold up my clothes, and put them away. By the time I was eight-years-old I was helping my mom on Saturdays to clean the house. My job was totally cleaning the bathroom, the hall,
and the steps. When I was thirteen, my mom went to work. It was just going to be a part-time job, she said, just for a little extra spending money in the family. But my mom was so good that she moved up into management full-time. By the time I was fifteen, I was grocery shopping, ironing, and taking care of the family. I did all of that, and I did it well, for nothing less was acceptable to my parents.
Now (blind or sighted) kids are kids, and they want to get away with what they can--especially if they are creative, and I was. When I was about thirteen, I developed a passion for long, hot showers. But soon my long, hot showers began causing the bathroom tiles to fall off the wall. I discovered that, if after
a shower I just plunked those babies right back up on the wall, they would stay until the next person took a shower, and that person showered and got the blame for the falling tiles. Of course, my parents eventually pinned it on me. Slowly they eliminated the other possibilities, and the only person left was Bonnie. "Stop taking those hot showers," my father said.
"Okay, Dad, sure." Of course
I was too old for them to monitor my showers. I just opened up the window, fanned
out all the hot air, plunked the tiles back up on the wall, and left. The next
family member would come in, and plunk, plunk, plunk--down would come the tiles.
It was clear that I wasn't going to stop taking long, hot showers; and the tiles
were going to keep on plunking down.
Then one day my dad called, "Bonnie!" He was in the bathroom, so I came in. He said, "Here, this is for you." It was a can of tile cement and a trowel. "You're taking these tiles off the walls with your showers. I can't stop you from taking the hot showers. If you're old enough to do it, you're old enough to fix the wall, and I'll show you how." To my dismay, he did.
I soon learned that the tile responsibility was entirely mine. If I put the tile up improperly or if I didn't squish the tile cement onto the whole tile, they would eventually fall off; and, even if this occurred after someone else's shower, I had to fix them. You can imagine the teasing I got from my younger brother and sister. This was too degrading, so you can bet I learned how to be an excellent mason. This little experience with shower tiles taught me many things, but I have never given up my love for long, hot showers. When my husband and I built a home, we put in a fifty-gallon hot water tank instead of a little
thirty-five gallon one because I never wanted to run out of hot water. I also amazed the contractors with my knowledge of bathroom tiles, backing, drywall, and ceiling materials. I did not plan on ever putting up bathroom tiles again--especially not in my own home.
What did all this mean? What did my parents teach me? They taught me that, if you mess it up, you gotta fix it up. You need to be responsible for what you do. My parents didn't know the value of Braille, but they did know about other values. They were smart people, and they didn't fall for my adolescent trickery and deceit. My blindness (even though we didn't call it that then) was never an acceptable excuse for getting out of a job that had to be done. They taught me not to shirk responsibility, and they
never made excuses for me. If homework had to be done and it took me two hours to do what others did in one, that's how long it took. I did the job. I did it thoroughly, and I did it well. If there was a test that was going to take the other students an hour, I needed to figure out a way to do it in an hour too. These lessons about responsibility have stayed with me throughout my life.
My parents thought of the future, of the woman who would be running her own household someday. They thought of the woman who would be married and of what her husband would want--a
responsible wife. They thought of a woman who would be a mother to children and of the skills this would require. You need to think about these things for your children. The young children they are today are not the women and the men they will one day be. What will be required of them in the future? This is
extremely important for parents to think about and to plan for. My parents did, and I shall always be thankful for this.
Trash. There are many things that you can put in and take out with your trash, excuses for one. Pile up all your excuses about why your child can't do this or that regular chore, and put them in the trash. There are no excuses. People are not rewarded for what they cannot do or for the least they can do. People are
rewarded for what they can do, and the best rewards go to those who do the job best. My Joan-of-Arc, martyrdom stage certainly taught me that. I wasn't getting rewarded. I was being pitied, pushed back, and ignored. That's not good; it's not healthy.
Along with the excuses that you throw
into the trash, you need also to throw in low expectations about blindness.
Replace these with high expectations. The best place you can find high expectations
about blindness is in the National Federation of the Blind. It's the only organization
I know of that consistently
promotes high expectations. So low expectations, into the trash. The next thing to throw away is negative attitudes about blindness. These can be subtle. They creep up on you from other people who say, "Oh, don't discipline him--the poor child is blind!" or "You let her do that? But she's blind!" or "Your little boy does so well that I wouldn't even know he's blind." Put all these negative attitudes, low expectations, and excuses in a nice Hefty bag, tie it up real tight, take it out with your trash, and bury it in the deepest landfill you can find!
But even when you do this, you will sometimes
find yourself in doubt. "Maybe I am pushing my child too hard." "Can
she really do this?" "Maybe I am trying to overcompensate." Again,
go to the National Federation of the Blind. Talk to parents and the blind men
and women who are in this organization. Read our publications: Future Reflections,
the Braille Monitor, the Kernel books. Then think about what you have
read. There are more negative attitudes and low expectations about blindness
out there than positive attitudes and high expectations. But this isn't the
way it has to be. Today there are better attitudes and higher expectations about
the blind than there were in my own childhood because of the work of the National
Federation of the Blind.
Even with this support you are going to have doubts, and yes, you're going to make mistakes. You will not be a perfect parent. No parent is. Parenting is hard work, whether your kid is blind or sighted. (It's hardest, incidentally, when your kid is thirteen, which I have and whom I am willing to sell for any amount you would care to mention.) But as a parent don't let yourself slide into that martyrdom stage that I went through as a blind child. You know the line: "My goodness, am I not a wonderful parent because of the things that I endure? Someday I will be rewarded." You will not be rewarded any more than I'm going to be rewarded because of my kids. Our kids will grow up, go away, and we'll be lucky if we see them at Christmas.
Our job is to train our children to be the best possible people they can be, to pass on to them values of honesty and responsibility. Blindness does not need to change any of our expectations for our children. Whether it is taking notes or taking out the trash, the blind can do it too.
[Photo #3: Portrait Caption: Preston and Lola Pace]
by Lola Pace
From the Editor: Lola Pace is an active and involved member of her community. She is also one of the leaders in the National Federation of the Blind of Texas. She does not take kindly to being treated as though she were helpless and didn't have the wit to know her limitations. Here is her amused and annoyed account of her most recent run-in with ignorance and misperception and what she did about it:
Sometimes I wonder how long it will
take people to overcome their ignorance about blindness. I am tired of some
behaving as if blindness indicates the lack of a mind. I can think of innumerable
examples--people yelling at me, asking the person beside me questions meant
for me. It even happens with people in professions from which one should be
able to count on a small amount of common sense. Unfortunately, I don't know
of a single college offering a course in common sense. In fact, sometimes that
important commodity seems to go right out the window when diplomas go on the
wall. Sometimes the worst offenders are those who identify themselves as sensitive
to the blind.
My most recent experience of this absurdity occurred yesterday. My personal physician recommended that I have a treadmill test. He and his nurse understood perfectly well that I would have no difficulty doing the test. When they made the appointment with the cardiologist, the question of whether or not I could walk on the treadmill arose. My doctor told him with complete truth and some asperity that there was nothing wrong with my legs, just my eyes. Frankly, I did not see why the matter had even been brought up, but I suppose they felt it was necessary to warn the other office's staff.
I never have understood why people who can see seem to think they are smarter than I am. Physical sight is not a measure of intelligence; in this case it was a clear indicator of complete ignorance.
As soon as the technician saw my long white cane, she began the barrage of insults. Could I walk? Could I react to the change of increasing movement? Could I distinguish the difference between the colors black and gray? There was much more, all of it just as senseless.
She actually refused to attach the electrodes to my body until the cardiologist joined us. I was not angry when I went into that office, but as my visit progressed, I began to get mad--a feeling that increased with every silly question they asked.
They assured me that they were only thinking of my safety. What safety? There was a handrail, which I used. But before the test the technician held onto me as I sat down in a chair. She seemed to think I had no control of myself. I began to wonder if I was the first blind person they had ever had any dealings with. God help the others if they had been treated as I was!
The more they told me I could not do the treadmill test, the more determined I became to show them I could. The whole thing was stupid.
Finally, when the cardiologist came in to talk to me, I asked him how I could be sure he knew what he was doing. (He had treated both my son and my husband, so I had confidence in him professionally.) But the questions I was now asking him made about as much sense as the ones he and his staff were asking me. I had been with both my husband and my son when they were under his care; but, since I was not the patient, I guess he did not give my competence any thought.
Needless to say, I did not leave that office until I had the chance to do that treadmill test. If they had refused to do the test, I would probably still be there. All the time they were explaining about increasing my heart rate with exercise, they were doing a pretty good job of it without my ever getting on the treadmill. At one point I went to the restroom, and my husband tried to assure them that I would be fine on the treadmill, but neither of them would believe him either.
Finally, and clearly against their better judgment, they decided that maybe they ought to do the test. And of course I did fine as I knew I would. But until that point they didn't believe what we had been telling them.
This experience was not an isolated case. The same thing happens all the time. I could have been in a restaurant or clothing store, just about any business establishment or social function we go to. Why do some sighted people treat us so differently? We are people; our money spends just like anyone else's, and it folds or rattles like theirs, too.
When I left the office, I told the technician that, when they send me the bill, they should give me a huge discount for giving me such a hard time. Of course she said, "No." I then suggested that they write it off to continuing education; that will never happen, either. But I'm sure I will be remembered for a long time in that office. If I ever have to go to a cardiologist again, I would not want to go back to that office,
except that I would undoubtedly have to break in another physician and his or her staff. I am still angry about this experience. If it had been a one-time deal, I could understand, or at least have patience. But it is a constant frustration. Blind people like me face this sort of thing all the time; it is high time some of these people stop to listen to us.
[Photo #4: Dr. Jernigan sits at his desk in his office at the National Center for the Blind. Caption: Kenneth Jernigan]
THE HOOK ON THE DOCTOR'S DOOR
by Kenneth Jernigan
From the Editor: The previous article
captures the frustration and humiliation at the hands of others that too often
lie in ambush for blind people as we go about our daily lives. One frequently
wonders how to handle such experiences in a way that will educate the public
and preserve one's own dignity and self-respect.
The following story (which appears in When the Blizzard Blows, the latest in our Kernel series of paperback books) provides an answer. It is not an easy solution. It requires patience, perspective, and hard-won experience. But the attitude Dr. Jernigan describes is certainly the one to aim for. Here is what he has to say:
Not long ago, when I went to a doctor's
office for an examination, I had two or three things happen to me during the
course of a few minutes that showed me how far we still have to come in changing
public attitudes about blindness. In the examining room I was taking off my
shirt and getting ready to hang it on a hook on the back of the door. I had
my hand on the hook, so there was no question that I knew where it was. The
nurse said: "If I close the door, will you be able to find it?"
I don't know whether she was talking about the door or the hook, but it really doesn't matter. I had my hand on both of them, and the door was only going to move a short distance. There is no way that I could have lost it.
I later learned that the nurse had gone out to the waiting room and asked my secretary, who had come with me so that we could work while I was waiting, whether she wanted to come back and help me take my clothes off. That is not all. When I was leaving, the receptionist said to my secretary: "Does he need another appointment?"
What should I have done? How should I
have reacted? What I didn't do was become upset or hostile. The nurse and the
receptionist were well-intentioned and kindly disposed. They were doing the
best they could to be of help to me. Moreover, if I am so touchy and insecure
that I can be upset by people who are trying as best they can to give me assistance,
then I had better look within. Confrontation was certainly not called for.
On the other hand, I shouldn't just leave the matter alone. I was pleasant and unperturbed, but I also took the occasion to talk about things I was doing and accomplishments blind persons were making. And I let the nurse see me tie my tie and find the door, trying to teach by example and not by sermon.
One thing that may have helped me keep my cool was an experience I had almost thirty years ago with a young blind fellow named Curtis Willoughby. He had just graduated from high school and was planning to go to college. He wanted to be an electrical engineer, and he didn't know whether a blind person
could do it--and, particularly, whether he could do it. Of course, I didn't know whether he could do it either--but I hoped, put on a brave face, and did everything I could to encourage him.
Even though there were technical problems to overcome, he did extremely well in college. I continued to encourage him and talked now and again to his professors, assuring them that there would be no difficulty in a blind person's functioning as an electrical engineer. In reality they probably knew more about it than I did. Certainly they knew more about the technicalities of electrical engineering. But they seemed to need the reinforcement.
When Curtis graduated from college, I helped him make contacts and write job resums. I talked to potential employers, assuring them that Curtis was competent and could do the work of an electrical engineer. I also continued to encourage Curtis and talked positively to everybody I met.
After about three months, Curtis was hired by Collins Radio of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He apparently did his work in a satisfactory manner since he received commendations. A little while later, I was talking with a friend of mine who was a newspaper reporter, and he said to me: "Do you think Curtis is really pulling his weight at Collins, or do you think they are just keeping him for public relations purposes?"
I said, "I believe he is doing the job. I certainly hope so, but how can I be sure?"
The next spring another blind person graduated as an electrical engineer from Iowa State University, the same school from which Curtis had received his degree, and this blind person didn't have to wait three months for a job. He was hired immediately, and by Collins Radio. I hunted up my newspaper friend and said to him:
"I can now give you a firm answer. I think Curtis is pulling his weight at Collins, for if they need one blind person for public relations purposes, they don't need two."
A few years went by, and Collins fell on hard times. They cut their work force by more than half and were in serious financial trouble. Engineers were laid off according to seniority, and when Curtis's number came up, he didn't ask for special privileges--which is the way it should have been. He took his layoff like the rest. We of the National Federation of the Blind don't try to have our cake and eat it too. We want equal opportunity, but we are also willing to make equal sacrifices and accept equal responsibility.
Anyway, Curtis took his layoff, and then he applied for a job as an electrical engineer with the telephone company. As director of programs for the blind in the state of Iowa, I had the responsibility of trying to help Curtis get another job. I thought he was a good electrical engineer, but I didn't know whether he was as good a salesman as I was. So I scheduled a lunch with top engineering officials at Northwestern Bell in Des Moines and talked about Curtis. I said he was a whiz at electrical engineering, and I did it with enthusiasm. They apparently believed me, for before we left the lunch, it was agreed that Curtis would go to work for the phone company.
He did, and after a time he was invited to spend a year at Bell Labs in New Jersey. This is a prestigious appointment, one that is only given to the best.
When Curtis finished at Bell Labs, he came back to Des Moines and resumed his work as a systems design engineer. One day without comment I received from Curtis a copy of a letter. It was written by top engineering officials with AT&T, and it said something to this effect: "Mr. Willoughby has been dealing with Problem X, and his work is some of the best we have seen. Please put this letter in his personnel file." I called Curtis and said,"Tell me in two or three sentences what you did. If you make your explanation longer, I probably won't understand it."
As I remember it, he said that in large installations, such as those manufacturing farm equipment and the like, there were tremendous loads of electrical current and that these interfered with the phone system. There would be pixie effects--sometimes causing static and other interruptions and sometimes creating no problem at all. The filtering equipment necessary to remedy the problem was bulky and expensive. It would cost many tens of thousands of dollars if used widely throughout industry. Curtis had discovered a way to redesign the telephone system at these large installations so that the bulky filtering equipment would not be needed and another piece of equipment which had routinely been used could also be eliminated. The new design permitted more clarity in telephone conversations than would have occurred with the expensive filters or with the standard equipment.
After finishing this conversation with Curtis, I went into my office and literally locked the door. I sat at my desk and said to myself: "You helped Curtis through college. You encouraged him in his search for employment. You did one of the best selling jobs in your life, convincing phone company officials that he could perform as well as anybody else as an electrical engineer. But deep down in your heart, have you ever really believed that he was fully, completely equal to a sighted electrical engineer?"
I wish I could say that my answer was an unequivocal yes. The truth is that I don't know. I had said it, and I had thought I believed it. But did I? After receiving the letter, I am certain that I did. But before that? I can't be sure.
This brings me back to the hook on the doctor's door. I have spent most of my life trying to convince blind people that they can compete on terms of equality with others and trying to bring sighted people to the same belief. If under these circumstances I was still not certain that I believed in my heart that Curtis was pulling his weight, how can I possibly feel hostility or blame others who fail to comprehend? What we need is compassion and understanding, not blame or bitterness. Although there are times when we must speak out and not equivocate, let me always remember the telephone company when I am annoyed by the hook on the doctor's door. I will fight if I must, but usually it won't be necessary--especially if I remember Curtis and the phone company.
[Photo #5: Portrait Caption: Trudy Barrett]
MY STRUGGLE TO CORRECT POOR ATTITUDES ABOUT BLINDNESS AND THEIR IMPACT ON MY SIGHTED CHILD
by Trudy Barrett
From the Editor: When I was a child,
my father often teased me by concluding our debates with the words, "I
know what I think; don't confuse me with the facts." That attitude, which
I must quickly say was not his actual view, seems all too often to characterize
the thinking of some members of the general public when it comes to blindness
and dealing with blind people. Luckily, the more contact they have with competent
blind adults and our families, the more likely they are eventually to abandon
their outdated notions. In the following story notice that the school personnel
having the most consistent contact with the author were the ones with the best
grasp of reality. This is why the effort to provide quiet, steady, undramatic
education about blindness is so important.
Trudy and Pat Barrett are long-time Federationists and active new members of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota. Here is Trudy's story of the Barretts' recent move to Minneapolis and her efforts to settle the family into a new community:
I have lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota,
for a year now. We moved here because of my husband's employment. The way our
society is nowadays, it is not uncommon for couples with young children to move
cross-country for better job opportunities.
Competent blind people are expected to do the same as their sighted neighbors. A major move means re-establishing doctors, schools, shopping--that is, after you learn the general layout of the city. This task is more difficult when you don't know anybody in the area to whom you can ask questions or from whom you can seek advice.
Like everyone else blind people have all this to deal with, but in addition we face the traditional custodial attitudes that have always plagued the blind.
After the pots, pans, and furniture were organized and a grocery store located, I had the task of enrolling our six-year-old daughter Raeann in the first grade. I needed to find school supplies and the school bus stop. I also had to learn other things about Raeann's new school. My husband was out of town and working long hours the first couple of months we were here. I knew no one who could read or give me the information I needed.
So I called the school my daughter would be attending and asked them to give me the information I needed. When the person I spoke with found out I was blind, I was told that a blind person could not cross streets and that my daughter was eligible for free lunches and school supplies. This apparently was due to the fact that both my husband and I are blind, and he believed that blind people cannot work. I learned that I was speaking with the school counselor. I informed him that, if I could not get the information I needed, I would not enroll my daughter in the school. As often happens, the counselor had taken it upon himself to decide what was good for me and what wasn't.
As the school year progressed, the special education teacher carried on the pattern. I tried to volunteer for the school reading program, but she removed my name from the volunteer list. She told me that Braille was too hard, too cumbersome, and too slow for me to read to the kids. I was able to work with the PTA president and the principal to get my name back on the list. I then wrote a letter to the teachers with a booklist of Braille titles I had on hand and indicated my willingness to volunteer to read. The books I had were several we had purchased through the National Braille Press Children's Book of the Month Club and others that we had borrowed from the Kenneth Jernigan Library, operated by the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults. All these books were in print-Braille format so the kids could see the pictures after I read the Braille. In the letter I also indicated my desire to help in other areas, such as with field trips.
Towards the end of the school year, we got a piece of information in the mail saying our daughter was eligible for summer school in a program for children who were behind in learning. Earlier in the year Raeann had been tested for and accepted into the advanced program. I soon discovered that our friendly professionals, Mr. Counselor and Ms. Special Ed, had again been hard at work behind the scenes. I contacted Raeann's teacher for an explanation of the phrase "needs a variety of experiences," which was written in the comments section of the unsigned note. The teacher was opposed to Raeann's involvement in the program because she recognized that it was unnecessary. She told me that Mr. Counselor and Ms. Special Ed had pushed for Raeann to be in the summer program because her mother and father were blind and therefore unable to provide her with a variety of experiences. The teacher said she would have the counselor call, but he did not bother to. After I called the principal to request the call, he managed to. I informed the counselor that, if he would not take Raeann's name off the summer program list, I would. He said he would not do it, so I did.
My daughter did not go to summer school. She spent the summer going to a park and recreation program two days a week, taking piano lessons, enjoying the Minnesota and Como Park Zoos, learning to hit and run at tee ball, roller skating, swimming, riding her bike, and playing with friends in the neighborhood. It proved to be a summer with lots of fun and a variety of learning experiences. The summer's stimulating activities taught Raeann a great deal; I can only hope that it taught the counselor and special education teacher something constructive as well.
From the Editor: Peggy Elliott is the Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind. She is also an experienced and committed Federationist. The following article first appeared in When the Blizzard Blows, the latest in our Kernel series of paperback books. This is what Peggy has to say, beginning with Dr. Jernigan's introductory note:
What is it like to be blind? A very reasonable question, but one which very often isn't asked. As Peggy Elliott points out here, how much easier it would be if it were. Incidentally, for readers of previous Kernel Books, Peggy Elliott is the former Peggy Pinder. Here is what she has to say:
I've been blind for almost twenty-five
years, and a lot of people have asked me, "What's it like to be blind?"
Often, the questioner has in mind some experience he or she had when the lights went out or when a blindfold was voluntarily worn for a few hours in one of those so-called trust walks or handicapped-awareness days. The problem is that those kinds of experiences give a false impression of what blindness is like. People wearing a blindfold for a few hours or losing the electricity are temporarily blinded, just trying for a short period of time to fend until the ability to see returns. They haven't learned the techniques useful for doing things without sight. They haven't had any practice at it. And their recollection is that blindness is pretty scary. Well it is if you don't know how to handle it.
For me, learning how to handle blindness started when I met fellow blind people in the National Federation of the Blind. These were not only experienced blind people used to doing everything without looking, but they also were interested in passing along their knowledge and lots of encouragement with it.
The day I met competent blind people eager to pass along their sense of confidence was the day I started really learning what it was like to be blind. Before that I'd just been scared.
So what is it really like to be blind? Three experiences I had while in college taught me a great deal about what it's like to be blind and what the blind person can do about it.
The first thing was that the college I attended imposed a physical education requirement for graduation--four semesters of it. I happen to be a wimp and hate exercise. Faced with wimpiness and the hurdle to graduate, one naturally starts thinking of ways around the hurdle. I did--or I did until my advisor contacted the college administration without my knowledge and presented me with the college's determination that physical education would be waived in my case. Now that was the only way to get me to take a gym class and not complain about it.
The advisor and the administration both assumed that, because I was blind, I couldn't do physical activity and that I wouldn't want to be embarrassed by discussing it. So they worked out what they thought was a kindly way of taking care of the problem: I would be excused. I firmly told all involved that I wanted my college degree to have the same weight as all the other degrees that would be granted at the same time. If everyone else took physical education, then I would take it, too. I did it peaceably and without complaining.
That was my first lesson in what it's like to be blind: people around you in a genuine spirit of kindness think that you can't do things and are cheerfully willing to exempt you without even discussing the possibility that you could do it.
The second experience took place in preparation for a science lab. Again, a science course with laboratory work was a graduation requirement. Now informed a little better about what might happen, I went to the professor teaching the class I had selected (geology) and asked to discuss my taking the class. He immediately said that the lab requirement could be waived.
I gave my reason for not wanting the requirement waived and then went on to say what I had prepared ahead of time. I told the professor that "he knew rocks" and that "I knew blindness." If we put our knowledge together and worked out ways of doing the lab so that I could learn the required material, I was sure that I could do the required lab and graduate with a degree equivalent to those of my classmates.
The professor thought about his knowing rocks and my knowing blindness for a long time. I patiently waited him out, knowing that this was a concept he needed to think about. Finally, he said: "That makes sense. Now, how shall we have you. . . ." We talked details, worked out techniques, and I successfully took the course--a good one, by the way. It's interesting to learn how the world around you got to be the way it is.
Armed with my knowledge from these two incidents, I was not unready when the third one occurred. I was a philosophy major, and that department required a course on logic to complete the major. I registered for the course and completed the first section with a perfect score.
When the professor gave me my test score, he informed me that I would not be able to take the remainder of the course because there was a lot of work on the chalkboard throughout the rest of the semester. He preferred to teach without a textbook, using photocopied handouts and diagrams on the chalkboard instead--particularly the three interlocking circles called Venn diagrams. He stated that there was no way I could get the information, so I would have to drop the course.
I tried explaining that the course was required. He stated that the requirement would be waived. I tried explaining that I didn't want a waiver. He repeated his statement that I couldn't get the information and therefore couldn't pass the course.
Here once again, and in a very vigorous form, was the assumption that I could not do something. But this assumption threatened my major. And even more disturbing was the insistence on not discussing the issue with me. The professor simply stated what he thought and planned to make it stick. He thought he knew what blind people could do--and they couldn't read chalkboards. That was the end of the issue, and this from a professor of logic.
I decided that, in this case, I would not argue the matter at all. If someone was so certain that he knew what blind people could do, there was no point arguing. The only thing I could do was to show him. I told the professor I would be taking the rest of the class and, as politely as I could, walked away. There was no point in shouting or fussing. I'd just show him.
I was at a bit of a disadvantage in the conversation because I also had no idea how I was going to get the information. I just knew that I would. Every day I took a piece of carbon paper to class and asked a classmate seated near me to make copies of the diagrams drawn on the board. As the classmate drew in his or her notebook, a copy was made for me.
I soon learned that this was unnecessary. The professor was such a plodding lecturer that, by the time he had finished drawing the diagram, he had actually described it about five times and explained it seven times more. You didn't need the diagram. But I had them anyway if I wanted to refer to them outside of class while using a sighted reader to explain how they looked.
I also learned that nobody else in the class was paying attention. The professor's style of lecturing was so dull and uninspiring that nobody listened. They just copied the diagrams and looked at them later. The diagrams by themselves told you nothing. You had to listen. So people started coming to me in the dorm, asking me what the professor was talking about. I ended up tutoring many of my classmates since I seemed to be one of the very few who were actually paying attention.
When test time came around, I took the test and handed it to him. He scored it and informed me that I had scored 30 out of 100, noting as he told me that he had said I couldn't pass the course. I knew I had answered perfectly and insisted on going through the test, question by question. On the first question he had marked my answer wrong; the phrasing of the question itself permitted three possible answers. He had not noticed that and had only one answer in his test key. I explained that there were three possible answers. He grudgingly agreed and changed his test key.
There was still one question left, worth half the test. He had scored me wrong on that one, too. It was a memorized answer, based on the way he had drawn the diagrams on the chalkboard. He said I was wrong. I said I was right. I offered to go back to the dorm and get my carbon-copied notes to show him that he was remembering incorrectly the way he had drawn the diagram on the board. He very angrily pulled out his own lecture notes and looked at them for a very, very long time. Then he said: "Well, you're right." I didn't hear any more from him about not being able to do the work.
Not every denial of opportunity for a blind person works out so well. I did not know exactly how I was going to do the class work; I just knew I could find a way. But we often meet people like that philosophy professor who insist that we can't do something instead of people like the geology professor who are willing to discuss alternatives.
I don't mind being asked questions about what it's like to be blind and how I do things. The only thing I mind is when people assume that I can't do whatever it is. Sometimes, I want to say: Why Not Just Ask? I'll be glad to explain, and when I don't exactly know the answer, the National Federation of the Blind usually has a member who does.
So, what's it like being a blind person? It's like being any other kind of person.
[Photo #7: Portrait Caption: Frank Stark]
WITH DANGEROUS CLIENTS
by Frank Stark
From the Editor: Frank Stark is an
experienced social worker. He was an alcoholism counselor for many years and
has worked with troubled families and individuals in a variety of settings.
He has taught courses at the university level and supervised human services
students. In short, he speaks from firsthand experience and full assurance.
At the 1994 national Job Opportunities for the Blind seminar, conducted at the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind on Friday, July 1, in Detroit, Michigan, Mr. Stark addressed the issue of working with patients or clients who are dangerous to themselves or others. Often blind human service professionals are discouraged or prevented from such activity on the grounds that they might be hurt. Here is what Mr. Stark had to say, based on his years of experience with this population:
I owe a great debt of gratitude to the
Job Opportunities for the Blind Program. Three years ago I found myself unemployed,
and it was the JOB tapes I listened to that kept me going and my self-esteem
together. Despite my extensive experience I found it very difficult to find
a job because as blind people we have to deal with denial on the part of those
doing the hiring. Today I hope to outline some things that can help blind people
in human services to break through those barriers we all face when the question
of safety comes up.
I'll begin by telling you about one of
the first patients I worked with way back in Topeka, Kansas. I was a recreational
therapist. One day, when it was pouring rain, I was standing by the door of
the gym, and I made the simple comment that it was raining cats and dogs. All
of a sudden this woman began seeing cats and dogs literally coming out of the
sky. I quickly said, "I'm just pulling your leg." At the end of that
gym class she was waiting for me, and she was ready to pull my leg. I was scared.
Thank goodness for a ping pong table that I went scurrying under to get to the
door. That was the point when I realized that there had to be a better way to
intervene in that kind of situation. That experience put me on the track of
learning how to deal with patients who place me at risk.
As I studied the problem, I began to realize that I was really dealing with client safety. So remember, any time you find yourself in a job interview in which they begin talking about your safety, it helps to flip the issue over and begin talking about client safety. One reason why these people are under our care is that they are dangerous to themselves or to others. That means there are three things we need to do: know our clients; know our clients; know our clients. The more you know about the client, the better off you are.
One time the nurses called me in to work with a client who had already punched out three people. So I grabbed the patient and said, "Come on; let's take a walk." We went over and stood beside a wall. I knew the patient was right-handed, and I wanted that hand against the wall. We talked for a while, and I got him settled down. But when we came back, the nurses said, "Frank, we noticed that you were standing very close to that patient while you were talking to him. Was that because of your visual impairment?"
I just laughed because I had been keeping him close to that wall so that, if he decided to take a swing at me, he couldn't have gotten a full jab.
This is just part of learning to maximize the environment. You have to keep track of where patients' hands, feet, heads, and mouths are. Most of the time it is easy to tell where their mouths are because they're usually yelling obscenities at us.
I like to conduct interviews at a table. And when I set up my office, I like to put the chair off to the side. In escorting patients, the best method for me is a modification of the sighted-guide technique. When I take the patient's arm, I extend my hand under the elbow and place my other hand over the arm so that it can't fly up and hit me in the face. In this way I can escort the patient quite easily to wherever he or she has to go. Many times I can still let the patient act as sighted guide.
It's also important to know what behaviors trigger clients. For example, one of the hardest populations I ever worked with was drunk drivers. At one point I did a lot of evaluations to determine whether or not they got to keep their licenses. Sometimes, when I would lift the license and recommend treatment, a livid monster would come out--over a driver's license! I never got that upset over not having one. But again, this gave us a point from which to begin negotiations.
In working with patients who are dangerous to themselves or others, we must establish and maintain our own guidelines. For example, I have made it quite clear that I never chase patients. That's a security issue. If the client runs out the door, I get on the phone and call security or the police or do whatever I have to do to get that client back. I also like to spend time talking the patient down--defusing the situation. It is very important to defuse things before they escalate. If you reach the point of physical intervention, the situation has already gone too far.
I have also learned the importance of simple common courtesy. The Federation's philosophy of treating people as individuals is what agencies should be doing with their own clients. A lot of times courtesy will defuse situations. Many times when I am called in to sort something out, I find that the clients have not been treated as individuals. It comes down to using plain old common sense.
You have to learn a certain amount by trial and error. Remember, anybody can get hit. We need to remind people that there is no discrimination in a psychotic patient. It doesn't matter if you're blind or sighted. In fact, my supervisor got her ribs broken last year. Everybody is at risk working with this
population. Don't let people single out blindness as the only issue. The trick is to minimize risk: control the interview area and establish good safety guidelines in treatment areas. When I was a recreational therapist, I learned very quickly to keep the pool balls away from the gym socks. A pool ball in the toe of a gym sock makes a great weapon; you can whirl it around and bust somebody open. Learn to assign equipment to responsible people and not people who may be dangerous to themselves or others. You
can see that it just comes down to common sense. And when you get into a job interview, you have to communicate to the interviewers that you have common sense to offer to that agency.
Remember that generally we work as a team. So when a patient goes off and is throwing things around, I let the other members of the team handle that situation. But I'm right behind them, handling the other clients in the room, making sure that they don't go off, because a lot of these behaviors escalate. It makes sense for the people with the vision, who can duck the flying objects, to deal with that, while I am coping with the rest of the patients, getting the situation calmed down. There's one other advantage in working with a team. If I am working with a client who is argumentative and wants to take me on because he thinks he can beat me up, he may well rethink that idea when there are two or three other staff around him as well. It's harder to take on three than one, so there is greater safety for everybody when you work with a team. So try selling the team concept when these questions of safety come up.
During the question period that followed
this address, Mr. Stark offered to work with people individually to demonstrate
things like breaking a choke hold. A question was then asked about working with
psychotic patients in restraints and in seclusion. Mr. Stark said:
When patients are in seclusion, I begin by knowing the room very well. I know exactly what is in that room. I do not take my cane into a seclusion room. I don't want it grabbed and used as a weapon. I leave the cane outside the room or at the nurses' station. After that it goes back to what I said about talking things out with the patient. But remember that when we talk about psychotic people, we are really talking about medication problems. And that requires the intervention of physicians. But when I was working in drug abuse programs, I had to deal with people on PCP. I had to be very careful about their
hallucinations. In fact, I have one woman today who, when she sees me, sees the devil. She will be carrying on a normal conversation when suddenly she begins to groan and her face tightens up, and she sees a devil. When she sees that, she wants to strike out, so she cleans off my desk. She just takes her hand and sweeps off the desk. So I have come up with a technique that I'll share with you. It's a co-operative venture between Circuit City and me. I buy the little, cheap, forty-dollar tape recorders. When they hit the floor, I sack them up and take them back to the store. I have my tape recorders under three-year maintenance contracts at $3, and I'm on my fourth one already. It's a great deal! Then, when I get her calmed down, we usually take a walk. Walking is a great way of releasing tension.
[Photo #8: Scott Edwards, holding his cane, stands in front of telephone operator cubicles. Caption: Scott Edwards stands near the work stations at the US Long Distance Operator Center]
[Photo #9: Fidencio Cruz sits in his cubicle with his headset operating his computer. Caption: Fidencio Cruz is a hardworking and efficient telephone operator]
[Photo #10: Mary Donahue stands in front of telephone operator cubicles. Caption: Mary Donahue stands near the work stations at the US Long Distance Operator Center]
JOB-SEEKERS LOG ON TO EMPLOYMENT
by Peter and Mary Donahue
From the Editor: Blind people have
reason to rejoice anytime they find evidence that a company has discovered for
itself that blind workers are efficient, steady, and reliable. When the corporate
response to this discovery is to begin hiring blind workers in significant numbers,
we are all affected, for the ripple effect of increasing employment benefits
U.S. Long Distance is such a company. In fact, there is indication that several long-distance companies are now providing job opportunities for blind workers--some demonstrating remarkable generosity and common sense.
Mary Donahue is one of those who have taken advantage of U.S. Long Distance's recent willingness to hire and train blind operators. She and her husband Pete are active members of the San Antonio chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas. They decided that it would be interesting and helpful to describe exactly what is involved in the kind of job that Mary is doing and that it would be appropriate to give U.S. Long Distance credit for its efforts to employ competitive blind workers on terms of equality with sighted telephone operators. Here is the article they wrote:
San Antonio, Texas, is located about
ninety miles south of Austin along the banks of the picturesque San Antonio
River. It is the home of the Alamo, where Colonel William Travis and his entire
army were massacred by the Mexican Army under General Santa Ana's troops in
1836. The city is also a major military hub with six installations located in
and around it. Still others know San Antonio as the home of the newly constructed
Alamo Dome; the San Antonio River Walk; Sea World of Texas; and the new theme
park, Fiesta Texas. In addition, many businesses, including customer-service-related
concerns, also make their home here.
U.S. Long Distance, Inc. (USLD) is a company that provides operator-assisted long distance telephone service to many businesses and some residential customers. That is, it specializes in handling long-distance calls that require the assistance of an operator to complete, such as person-to-person, credit card, collect, and third-party-billing calls as well as coin refunds.
USLD'S primary customers are businesses. These include several national hotel chains, various private hotels, hospitals, state prisons, and county jails. However, USLD'S biggest customer is the private pay phone industry. The company also offers a travel card system used by college students, traveling business people, etc. It offers some of the lowest rates in the industry.
USLD'S operator center was opened in 1992, and it has grown from twenty operators to over 265 operators working around the clock today. They work three shifts, and the number of operators working on any one shift varies as customer traffic changes. Its computer is a switch link system. Calls come to the operator center through two switches located in Waco and Houston, and the operators are divided into two groups to handle calls from the two switches. The system runs under the MS-DOS operating system, which enables it to support a wide variety of access hardware and software such as the Alva and BRAILLEX refreshable Braille displays. Melinda Samaniego, personnel recruiter for the USLD operator center, explained how they began hiring blind telephone operators.
It wasn't so much that we became interested. Rather, we had several blind applicants, and that is what drew our attention to the possibility of employing blind persons as telephone operators. We simply decided that this was something we definitely wanted to do. We were very excited, and even though it was something that we weren't familiar with and we didn't have all the answers at that moment, we went ahead, confronted the problems, and embraced the challenge with open arms. I think that making that first decision not to fear the employment of a blind person and not to reject the possibility automatically because of the unknown is something that has opened the doors, and we are delighted that it's working out.
USLD employed its first blind telephone operator, Scott Edwards, on June 7, 1993. He was joined by Lidia Espinoza in September of that year. Fidencio Cruz was hired in April of 1994, and Mary Donahue was employed on July 8. Karen Steriou was hired later that same month. Raymond Castro joined USLD'S operator staff at the end of September. This brings the number of blind persons working at USLD to six, and more are on the way. Of these six blind persons, five use Braille, and one uses standard print. Three are members of the Greater San Antonio Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas. Mary Donahue serves as San Antonio Chapter Secretary, and Scott Edwards is a Board Member. To date USLD has hired, trained, and employed eight blind persons as telephone operators, two of whom have since found other employment. Samaniego describes the training of a blind telephone operator this way:
Our training usually runs Monday through
Friday. Normally it is a one-week training period. But because of the special
complexities facing a blind telephone operator, we train them from three to
four weeks. If at the end of three weeks we feel that the person needs more
time, we'll give him or her a week or two more training. Normally they don't
need it because our trainers are so good. Scott Edwards is our trainer, Laura
Arias is our coach, and Lucy Quintanillas also helps out when Scott is not available.
These three individuals have gotten very good and proficient at training with
the Alva and the Braillex Terminal. At present we have only Alvas, which is
wonderful because the Texas Commission for the Blind purchases them, and we
have everything adapted for them.
It works out really great because what takes the most time is getting the feel for the Alva--what's on the screen, how to learn scripting, and so on. The job is far more complicated when all the information available to the sighted operator is not immediately accessible to you. You have to read it line by line, so it takes a little more time. But what we have found in doing some research in the statistics we have compiled is that in many cases the blind operators are a little more proficient than the sighted ones. We are absolutely delighted by this discovery. It's really wonderful. We make a point of remembering that everyone who arrives for training is an individual, and we try to adapt the training to his or her needs.
Scott Edwards began employment at USLD
on June 8, 1993. Edwards graduated from the Texas School for the Blind in 1986.
Then he went on to college, where he studied Computer Science and Data Processing.
Upon graduation he began volunteering at the San Antonio Independent Living
Center, where he answered the phone and taught computer literacy. Scott describes
how he got his job
at USLD this way: "In 1992 I enrolled in a program conducted jointly by San Antonio College and the Lighthouse for the Blind. It was designed to help blind people become employed as customer service representatives. One day the job development specialist told me that U.S. Long Distance was hiring telephone operators and that I should apply. I called to find out more about the job and to schedule an interview. After my interview I was told that I had been hired. Mind you, I hadn't even filled out an application yet, but I was given a job."
About his training Scott says this: "Perhaps the most difficult things for the new operator to get used to are the wide variety of calls to process and the range of people you have to deal with. Some are very pleasant, while others can try your patience. But you must learn to be patient and, most important, not get discouraged when you have a rough day."
Since his employment in 1993, Scott Edwards has helped to train the other blind operators hired in recent months. About this responsibility Scott says: "In the beginning it is helpful to have a sighted operator present in training a blind person because he or she can see the entire computer screen, whereas the blind trainer and student can only read one line of text at a time using the refreshable Braille display device. The blind trainer is at a disadvantage because there is no way to ask questions while calls are being processed. But the job becomes easier as the blind operator gains confidence with the system and becomes more proficient at processing calls."
In July of 1994 both Scott Edwards and
U.S. Long Distance were honored by the San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind.
Scott received the Lighthouse's Flames of Independence Award for his
part in opening new career opportunities for the blind. U.S. Long Distance was recognized for its willingness to employ so many blind persons in such a short period of time. To the blind person desiring to work as a telephone operator, Scott says, "Braille is a must. You must be very proficient in Braille reading because it is your window to the computer screen. Hone your Braille skills, and if you have the opportunity to train on Braille display devices, by all means do it. Although a job of this nature may not be what you ultimately want to do with your life, it's a starting point. If you are blind and unemployed, give serious consideration to working as a telephone operator. Getting that first job is your key to moving on to bigger and better things."
Lidia Espinoza began working at USLD on September 15, 1993. After graduating from high school, she attended St. Phillip's College and later Mansfield Business School in San Antonio. While at Mansfield Lidia studied data processing. She then worked for a while at a local hotel as a kitchen worker. Now that she has moved on to USLD, she is the only blind operator who uses print. At present she uses no special screen-enlarging software or other access devices since she is able to read standard print. On occasion she has experienced eye strain, but the problem is not very serious. Lidia is one of three blind telephone operators who handle calls in both English and Spanish. She, Fidencio Cruz, and Mary Donahue have received bilingual Spanish certification. "Knowing another language can mean higher hourly pay for telephone operators," Samaniego explained. "New operators earn $6.00 per hour. For every foreign language they know, we give a forty-cent-an-hour raise."
Lidia hopes to study other foreign languages since that will eventually mean a higher rate of pay for her. In discussing her job, Lidia says: "It's different because, although you do the same thing every day, what you confront on the phone varies." To blind people considering working in this field or looking for that first job, Lidia gives this advice: "No matter what type of disability you have, there are always opportunities in phone work. Where there's a will, there is a way. The work can still be done, no matter how difficult the job may seem."
Upon graduation from the Wisconsin School for the Visually Handicapped in 1973, Mary Donahue enrolled in the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire, where she majored in Spanish and minored in English. At that time she wanted to become a teacher. She graduated from UW Eau Claire in 1978, and in January of 1979 she began work as a Braille transcriber at the Wisconsin School for the Visually Handicapped. While employed at WSVH she gained some computer literacy skills because the school used BRAILLE-EDIT Software and Apple Computers to transcribe Braille. She and Pete met at the 1984 NFB Convention in Phoenix and were married in March of 1985. In 1989 they moved from Austin, Texas, to San Antonio, where Mary began work as a Braille proofreader. Here is the story of how Mary joined U.S. Long Distance in her own words:
On February 28, 1994, while I was still
working as a proofreader of Braille textbooks at the Education Service Center,
Region 20, the rest of the Braille Department staff and I found out that the
department would be downsizing effective August 31. This was a sad irony since
it came at a time when we in the NFB were working hard to make more Braille
available to blind children and adults! I immediately began sending out resumes
and applications to various schools and school districts to apply for a teaching
position in Spanish, English, or both. However, I did not rule out looking for
jobs outside my field. When I first moved to Texas in 1985, it took me four
years to find the job at Region 20. I was never going to allow that to happen
to me again.
About a week after I found out about the downsizing of the Braille Department, my husband, Pete, told me that U.S. Long Distance was hiring telephone operators. I began doing research about the company and submitted my application and resume. Immediately after I applied at U.S. Long Distance, I began preliminary training at the San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind on the Alva refreshable Braille Display Terminal, the terminal compatible with the Switchlink Operator System. Because I had to use vacation time to train on the Alva, I had to sacrifice the 1994 NFB convention. In fact, I continued to work while training for my new job at U.S. Long Distance. I took off several mornings a week to train at the Lighthouse. This training lasted four weeks. While at the Lighthouse I also took a typing test which I passed with a rate of forty words per minute. U.S. Long Distance requires its operators to have a typing speed of twenty-five words per minute.
In June I interviewed for a second time and was officially hired. I left the Education Service Center, Region 20, on July 7 and began work at U.S. Long Distance on July 8. I looked forward to beginning my new job and accepted it as a welcome change from proofreading Braille textbooks. On July 8, 1994, I reported for orientation. On July 11 I began my first week of training. The first day and a half were spent in a classroom reviewing the scripts for the various calls operators receive.
During this time I took notes extensively with my Braille 'n Speak 640. Since Pete had access to a Braille printer, he later produced these notes in hard-copy Braille for me. As the other blind operators came on board, he made them Braille copies of my notes as well. Later in my training Laura read the Spanish scripts on tape for me. I entered these in my Braille 'n Speak, and Peter later printed them out in hard copy Braille. The notes were difficult to review in the Braille 'n Speak since my version does not speak Spanish. The file had to be read one character at a time. It was a tedious job, but I got it done. As a result U.S. Long Distance has several copies of the scripting in Spanish Braille. I am currently helping Raymond Castro in learning Spanish Braille so that he too can read the scripts in Spanish. We have also saved both of these files on disk so that we can produce these documents for future blind operators who need this information in Braille.
On my second day I had a chance to listen to calls Scott Edwards received. Because the two Alvas would not be available for the rest of that week, I studied the call scripts, taking detailed notes and asking questions. During my second week of training I was introduced to the Alva and the layout of the keyboard. During the first four days I placed simulated calls in order to become familiar with the call patterns and to commit some of the scripts to memory. It is essential that the blind operator memorize as much of the scripting as possible because call processing is very fast-paced. It was also during the second week that I took a written operator test, which I passed. In addition I started on line with Laura Arias, my coach, speaking to the customers, while I typed in the required information.
During the third week of training I began typing and talking to customers simultaneously. When I first started on line, my call processing was slow, but I soon learned that the more practice I got, the more skilled and confident I became. On July 29 I received the certificate qualifying me as a full-fledged telephone operator, and on August 1, 1994, I went solo for the first time. However, there were other operators around me in case I had any questions.
Let me describe the evaluation that an operator receives every three to four months. Each operator meets with his or her supervisor and goes over the evaluation form. There are four areas: attendance and punctuality, monitoring, office conduct, and call handling. Each area is assessed using a number on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning needs improvement and 5 meaning excellent. The following is a description of each area.
1. Attendance and punctuality. These are measured by a time- clock system. Operators punch in at a time clock six times a day--each time they report to work and each time the breaks begin and end. An operator cannot be even one minute late after a break. Being late three times is called an occurrence. One can be absent five times on one occurrence. If three occurrences are issued, both oral and written warnings are given by the supervisor. If an operator is having trouble adjusting to the time clock system and is late at breaks, it is best to time oneself. I have started timing myself using the Braille 'n Speak's count-down timer, and for the past two weeks my system has worked wonders!
2. Monitoring. Each operator is monitored once a week. The Quality Assurance Department is in charge of administering monitoring. Monitoring sessions are taped and unannounced and are submitted to the supervisors for individual critiquing with the operators. A Quality Assurance person monitors four calls and fills out a form based on the operator's opening and closing branding, on his or her warm, courteous telephone manners, and on adherence to the written script. If an operator does not follow the script or is not accurate, points are taken off. During the first six months a score of eighty on a monitoring evaluation is passing for an operator. At the end of two to three months, all monitoring scores are averaged, and the operator receives an overall average for that quarter. For example, in August my scores were ninety-two, ninety-three, ninety-six, and ninety-seven, leaving me with an overall average of ninety-five. Therefore, I am still in good standing in monitoring scores.
3. Office Conduct. USLD has a dress code. Operators must wear business dress from Monday through Thursday. On Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays they may dress casually. Men must wear ties, and women must wear dresses or dressy pants suits. Blue jeans and T-shirts are allowed on casual days. No personal items are allowed at the work station. Drinks are allowed, but they must be in a spill-proof container. There is also no tolerance for negative behavior at U.S. Long Distance--in other words, no
swearing, gossiping about other people, or abusive language is allowed. If operators meet these standards of office conduct, it is easy to receive a score of four or five on a quarterly evaluation. Employees who come to work dressed inappropriately are sent home to change into acceptable clothing. The lost time cannot be made up. In addition, all operators must wear their badges at all times, for they are not only identification, but serve as the access device for punching into the time clock and for opening the back door of the operator building. Any operator who loses a badge must pay a replacement fee.
4. Call Handling. Operators are graded on the length of time it takes them to process a call. The average time is between thirty-five and forty-five seconds. If a call takes longer than that, the score may go down during an evaluation period. Evaluation of call handling is based on the four main billing methods--collect, third party, credit card, and station-to-station. My first scores on call handling were not as high as I would have liked, but I am working on these skills and am confident that my score will go up during the next quarter.
Finally I would like to describe a typical day at work. I usually arrive between 7:00 and 7:30 A.M. The first thing I do after putting on my badge is head for my locker and retrieve what I need for work--my Braille area code book, my headset, and loose change for a snack before work. At approximately ten minutes before eight, I head for the time clock and wait until it reads five minutes to eight. Then I punch in using one side of my badge and head for my workstation. They are all set up the same way, containing a computer terminal, keyboard, monitor, print area code book, telephone, and adaptor with a long cord for the headset.
After putting on my headset and turning on my computer, I go to the branding line before the first call comes in, which demonstrates that I am organized and ready to take the first call. I receive all kinds of calls. Depending on which of our contracting telephone companies (brands) the cursor indicates when a call comes in, I answer using the correct name. So I always open my script by stating the company name and my name and then asking for the area code and number the caller wants or asking how the call is to be billed, assuming that the number has already been dialed in. For a collect call I type in the caller's name and then wait to see if the call has gone through. A system message appears notifying me whether a call has gone through.
If a call cannot be processed, it is usually due to a block on the line or to an invalid number. If this happens, I have to redirect a call to another operator or refer the caller to the 800 number for AT&T. If the caller wants to know how much the call will cost, I refer him or her to a rate quote operator, who can provide this information. Jail calls are considered collect calls, and I merely ask for the caller's name. I can usually tell if someone is calling from a jail because there is so much background noise. With a third-party call I simply ask for the number the person is billing and the caller's name. For a credit card or calling card call I select the card choice and then type in the card number. The system message tells me whether a card number has gone through or not. I check system messages on all calls.
After dealing with the billing information on person-to-person calls, I ask for the caller's name and the name of the person to whom the caller wishes to speak. For station-to-station calls I merely ask if the person is dialing directly. If the caller says yes, I press the appropriate choice and thank the person for using the company whose name is displayed on my screen. I rarely receive station-to-station calls, but it is best to know the procedure.
In an emergency call the caller usually asks for the police or the fire department, but sometimes one asks for the ambulance or poison control. I ask the caller what the nature of the emergency is. If a caller has had a serious accident, I forward the call to the appropriate emergency choice by selecting the appropriately numbered choice on my screen. I then remain on line and type a summary statement about the accident unless the caller specifically tells me to hang up.
With coin-refund calls I merely tell the caller that I am not a coin operator, but if he or she wishes, I can take his or her name and address so a refund can be sent by mail. Many people want their money back, while others feel that the loss of a quarter or fifty cents is no big deal. Still others think that operators can perform magic tricks and send the lost money back through the telephone lines. At times nasty callers want their money back right now, and they can be frustrating. If callers get too nasty, I transfer them to a supervisor. With reports of trouble I merely type in the telephone number from which the person calls and take a statement about the problem. On coin- refund calls I take down the number being called, the name and address, the home phone, and the amount lost, as well as a statement about what happened. Coin-refund and trouble reports must be brief and to the point.
Finally, for a bilingual call I speak Spanish to the caller who wants a Spanish-speaking operator. My Spanish has become a valuable asset on this job, and I am glad I can help callers who cannot speak English. If the Spanish-speaking caller speaks too fast, I transfer him or her to a more proficient Spanish-speaking operator.
I have received calls from callers who have a variety of funny nicknames such as "Poochie," "Nukie," "Mookie," "Munchy," "Dirt," "Snake" "High Note" "White Rabbit" and "Funky." You get the idea. Operators are instructed to type in whatever name the caller gives.
These calls make up my whole day at U.S. Long Distance. I get two breaks--one at about 10 A.M. and the other about 1:00 P.M. Before my breaks I must punch out and punch back in when I return. Because of the nature of this job, operators are not given a lunch break. However, those who work a double shift are given an hour lunch break between them. Sometimes things get really busy on either the Waco or Houston switch. When this happens, the results are reminiscent of a scene out of MASH. A supervisor announces over the PA System: "All available personnel please log onto the Waco [or Houston] Switch for a queue of twenty." A queue is the number of callers that are trying to reach the operator. When this happens, people come running from everywhere. Sometimes floor-support personnel and supervisors log on to the system to help handle the workload. I must admit, though, that since I started this job, my days have gone fast, and I am always tired when I leave at 3:00 P.M.
My advice to those seeking either a first-time or new job is
this: when opportunity knocks, answer the call! Do not be afraid
to go out of your field, and above all do not give up on
yourself. And always strive for success!
New operators work part-time for their
first year. This usually amounts to about twenty-five to thirty-five hours a
week. The starting pay for new operators at U.S. Long Distance is $6 an hour.
They receive periodic raises and additional pay if they know a foreign language.
After their first year of employment they are promoted to full-time status and
become eligible for benefits. These include paid health and dental insurance
and several paid days off. The company tries to see that employees get at least
one major holiday off per year, but not a minor holiday such as Flag Day. USLD
is quick to encourage its
employees with attendance challenges, and it is just as eager to reward those who do outstanding work. For example, if an employee has perfect attendance for three months, he or she receives a $100 bonus. Other incentives include USLD T-shirts, a week of casual dress on the job, gift certificates from area merchants, and more. Scott Edwards was named Employee of the Month in June of 1994. For this he was presented a trophy and a gift certificate from Sound Warehouse.
The fact that USLD has hired so many blind people in such a short period of time raises both excitement and concern among the blind community of San Antonio and the nation. The excitement comes from the fact that we are changing the attitudes of businesses about employing blind workers. The concern is that, as companies such as USLD begin to employ blind people in large numbers, they may find themselves the victims of exploitation by state vocational rehabilitation agencies for the blind. In recent years the federal government has cut back defense spending, which has resulted in reduced contracts for sheltered workshops for the blind. As a result blind workers have been laid off or given reductions in their work hours. Clearly some state vocational rehabilitation agencies for the blind in the past have used these
workshops as a dumping ground for blind people whom they believe to be unemployable. Now that the sheltered workshops are not hiring as many blind workers as they once did, there is some fear in the blind community that the agencies will put pressure on companies that hire blind people in large numbers to take on these marginal workers.
In addition some rehabilitation agency counselors are still tempted to steer blind clients into fields for which they have little or no interest or aptitude. Not everyone wants to be a telephone operator. Yet there is a danger that vocational rehabilitation agencies will take the easy way out, when they can, by offering such clients special training and then sending them to "that long-distance company that has been so wonderful to the blind," regardless of the client's goals, interests, and desires.
Sam Jackson, NFB of Texas State Board Member and First Vice President of the Greater San Antonio Chapter, puts it this way: "U.S. Long Distance has become a shining example of what can happen when companies come to believe in the abilities of the blind. However, rather than becoming the place the state
vocational rehabilitation agency sends blind people seeking employment, the company should be viewed as an example of what can happen when blind people are given the chance to compete on equal terms with the sighted. Other businesses should be encouraged to follow the example of groups like USLD. State vocational rehabilitation agencies for the blind must constantly encourage more and more businesses to hire blind employees. Likewise, blind people themselves should not be afraid to approach businesses in their communities and encourage them to hire the blind."
Perhaps the best advice we can give companies for avoiding exploitation by state vocational rehabilitation agencies for the blind is to urge them to use the same criteria for screening both blind and sighted job applicants and to expect the same performance from blind employees as from sighted workers. While U.S. Long Distance has extended the training period for its blind telephone operators beyond that for its sighted ones, it expects the same high level of performance from all its employees. We of the San Antonio Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas applaud U.S. Long Distance for its open-mindedness to the abilities of the blind and its willingness to hire blind telephone operators. These employees are proof positive of what can happen when employers are given correct information about blindness and the abilities of blind people. We are proud to have this company join with us on our march to freedom and increased job opportunities for all blind Americans.
If you would like more information about working as a telephone operator, you can contact Scott Edwards at 8535 Green Brier, Apartment 119, San Antonio, Texas 78209, (210) 804-0182. You can also contact Mary Donahue at 100 Lorenz Road, Apartment 1205, San Antonio, Texas 78209, (210) 826-9579.
[Photo #11: John Miller sits at a table, writing Braille. Caption: John Miller]
BLINDNESS NO BARRIER TO ENGINEER'S VISION OF LIFE
by Ozzie Roberts
From the Editor: As a brand new high
school graduate in 1988, John Miller was a National Federation of the Blind
scholarship winner. At that time he was heading off to Stanford University for
what would eventually become both bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical
engineering. Soon after graduation John was hired by Qualcomm, Inc., and settled
in San Diego, California, where he, his wife Valerie, and his infant son Collin
Woodrow now live. It wasn't long before John became President of the San Diego
Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of California and a member of
the affiliate's Board of Directors. At the 1994 NFB convention a number of engineers
and scientists organized the Science and Engineering Division and elected John
Miller its President. The following story appeared in the September 19, 1994,
edition of the San Diego Union-Tribune. It speaks for itself; here it
is: John Miller works in the San Diego Design Center, a place that could be
mistaken for a gigantic maze.
It's a sprawling, modernistic Sorrento Valley edifice of multiple levels replete with sharp corners and zigzagging corridors.
Some might think anyone with impaired vision would find moving from office to office extremely difficult here.
Miller isn't among the doubters. He's been blind since retinitis pigmentosa struck when he was three.
Tall and thin, the twenty-four-year-old maneuvers, no problem, in this space-age world, daily reinforcing his oft-repeated view that blind people can do anything sighted people can do.
But this is hardly a story of a blind person who gains a measure of self-satisfaction by conquering a maze.
It is an account of a human being who,
through his motivation, benefits many more than even he will ever know.
Miller is an electrical engineer for the Design Center's landlord, Qualcomm Inc., a leading developer of digital cellular-telephone equipment.
With more than a firm grasp of all the techno-speak of the data communications field, Miller researches and studies voice transmission.
His work on a couple of separate projects could ultimately help expand cellular-phone communication here and increase telecommunication in Third World countries.
"I love doing fundamental research and coming up with something that's never been done before and then applying it," he says.
But Miller loves more the work he does advocating for the rights of the blind, working as an officer, locally and nationally, with the National Federation of the Blind. The NFB is a powerful 50,000-member organization that represents the half million blind in this country.
Miller is president of the organization's San Diego chapter as well as of the NFB's national science and engineering division.
He is aware of statistics revealing that seventy percent of the nation's employable blind are not working. And he bristles.
Often, sighted people think of blindness as an all-encompassing disability. It's not, he says, before noting that he and his organization lobby hard in Washington and throughout this and other states to change the false notion. And Miller is well qualified for the challenges.
He could easily teach his passion.
Thoughts of a Ph.D. in double E [electrical engineering] and a classroom position somewhere, someday, never leave his psyche.
But his current challenges, including at this writing a first child, expected any day for him and his wife, Valerie, keep him in the lab in Sorrento Valley.
As Miller grew up, the youngest of four boys, in Ralston, Nebraska, his mom, a caring, no-nonsense woman, encouraged his stick-to-itiveness. His dad, himself an electrical engineer, honed a strong sense of responsibility.
And together, parents Joseph and Janice Miller went to any and all lengths to ensure that their youngest was treated as his brothers' equal.
John Miller built strong confidence and self-esteem on that.
Qualcomm hired him two years ago after he impressed recruiters with his attitude and a bachelor's and a master's degree from Stanford University.
"I learned early to speak up for myself and to let others know how I want to be treated," Miller says. And he does that now for many more than just himself.
[Photo #12: Blind children playing in a large indoor pool with the YMCA logo on the wall. Caption: Like other youngsters, blind children enjoy water play at the Y pool. These young swimmers were attending the 1994 convention of the NFB of Maryland and went to the pool while their parents took part in the convention]
SEMINAR FOR PARENTS OF BLIND CHILDREN STRESSES PHYSICAL FITNESS
by Peggy Chong
From the Editor: Peggy Chong is the President of the Metro Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota. She has also been active in the Buddy Program, the summer instruction for middle-school-age students conducted by BLIND, Inc. (Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions) the adult rehabilitation facility operated by the NFB of Minnesota. Last fall they sponsored a seminar for families with blind youngsters to discuss the importance of physical activity for these kids. Here is Peggy's report on the event:
On Saturday, November 12, 1994, BLIND,
Inc.; the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota; and the YWCA of Minneapolis
sponsored a seminar for parents of blind children at the Downtown Minneapolis
YWCA on the importance of physical fitness. While the parents met, the children
went for a swim at the Y's pool.
Families came from as far away as Bemidji
to talk about the importance of keeping our blind children just as physically
active as their sighted peers. The Y children's fitness instructor made one
of the presentations. He gave examples of the activities at the Y for children
and young adults and stressed the importance of a healthy start in life. Y staffers
see no reason why blind children cannot participate in their regular programs.
The group suggested ways in which this could be done without disruption to classes.
Experienced blind adults know that how well we travel depends a lot on how fit we are. People who eat the right foods and get plenty of exercise have a much brighter mental outlook.
The participants in the Buddy Program in the last two years have certainly proven the truth of this statement. The buddies who participated in phys ed classes and extracurricular activities--in short, who were just being kids--were the ones who could walk faster and had better posture. Travel was not
particularly difficult for them. They enjoyed getting out. Those with a more sedentary lifestyle had difficulty walking any distance. We had to begin by working with them on their posture before going out on lessons so they could listen to what was in front of them rather than focusing their attention on their feet.
Parents attending the seminar were interested in what they could do to motivate their children and get them involved in a regular exercise routine to improve their travel skills. They reminded each other of how important it is for kids to use their canes at all times, even while walking with classmates at school.
But they found that the vision teachers said that, if a blind child walks with anyone, the cane should be put away and sighted guide technique used instead. The parents felt this policy was not helpful in teaching children how to travel confidently and skillfully.
Blind adults shared their experiences growing up, and parents expressed their concerns for their children. It was a good start down the road of independence for the next generation of blind kids.
[Photo #13: Kyle Neddo, with his cane resting under his chin, examines various tactile pictures. Caption: Kyle Neddo admires tactile pictures at the art exhibit held during the 1994 NFB convention]
LITERACY IS EVERYBODY'S BUSINESS
From the Editor: Part of the responsibility
of being a Federationist is remaining attentive to every opportunity to educate
the public about the actual problems of blindness and the abilities of blind
people. Whenever we find misinformation, misconceptions, or even an opening
for a bit of solid education, we must seize the chance and do the best we can
to provide constructive comments and accurate information. We can never tell
when our efforts will make a difference.
Dawn Neddo is the President of the Parents Division of the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan. She works hard to encourage her school system to provide her son Kyle the education he deserves, and she takes every opportunity she gets to educate the rest of her community as well. On September 11, 1994, she read a column by Neil Munro in the Oakland Press. Mr. Munro was talking about the importance of parent involvement in the education of their children. Dawn saw this column as an excellent opportunity to outline the need for a Braille literacy law in the state and the importance of the work of the National Federation of the Blind to one of the community's leaders and perhaps through him to his readers as well. Here is Neil Munro's column and Dawn Neddo's letter in response.
Good Reading Habits Start at Home Not in the Classroom
It was fifty-one years ago this fall
that my mother and I walked the mile or so from our farm home to the small,
white-framed school with the bell cupola on top.
In back were two outhouses, one for girls and one for boys.
The classroom was heated by a stove that burned fuel oil.
There were about a dozen pupils scattered through the grades from kindergarten--there were two of us--to the sixth.
My mother didn't walk to school with me to make sure I was safe. She was the teacher and, as I recall, was paid about $1,500 a year. But everything is relative. In that era you could buy a new car for less then $1,500, though they weren't making any in 1943.
That school had none of the amenities even the poorest have now, such as a library or visual aids or even a playground. I could say I learned to read there, in spite of the spare surroundings. But I didn't. I could read when I enrolled.
My mother hadn't taught me, either, not in any formal sense. I learned to read by having her read my favorite comic book to me over and over and over. It was about Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy, a couple of rag dolls that, as far as I know, are popular to this day.
One day I suddenly made the connection between what she was saying and the words on the page. T-H-E became "the," and so forth. I must have been about three going on four at the time, judging by where we were living.
I bring up this ancient anecdote with its surprise ending not to impress you with my humble beginnings but to stress the dramatic differences an involved parent makes.
Of course I'd eventually have learned to read in school, whether my mother was the teacher or not. But having a head start, so to speak, helped along the way. Some of my classmates never did get beyond the plodding one-word-at-a-time approach, and I'm sure they didn't read for pleasure because it must have been painful for them.
If anything has become clear to me over the years, it's the absolute necessity for parental involvement in the educational process.
You have a role to play. Read to them when they're little. There is more magic in a book than in any television show. Be seen to read yourself. Help them get the idea that it's something adults do because they like it. You don't have to tackle Shakespeare. A romance novel will serve the purpose.
Introduce your youngsters to the local library. Every community has one, and they all have special sections of children's books.
To be able to read easily is the key to everything else.
If your youngster is having a problem with it, make sure the teacher knows that and knows that you know. Don't let it slide. Don't assume the school is going to do anything about it.
Yet people do, all the time.
Several years ago I got to know a couple of high school graduates who seemed perfectly normal, until I found out they could barely read well enough to get through "See Spot run."
Their parents didn't know that until after the fact. Were they ever surprised! They'd made the mistake of trusting the school to do the job.
Don't do that. You're paying taxes for education, directly or indirectly. Make sure you get something for your hard-earned money.
That was Neil Munro's article. This is what Dawn Neddo wrote in response:
Commerce Township, Michigan
September 13, 1994
Dear Mr. Munro:
I totally agree with your article "Good Reading Habits Start at Home, Not in the Classroom." As a parent of five children (a twenty-three-year-old third-year law student at University of Detroit law school; a twenty-year-old junior at Oakland University in the education program; three adopted children, ages ten, seven, and six; and a three-year-old foster son) I have always been involved with the schools and my children's school work.
My husband of twenty-five years and I have been foster parents for fifty-six children over the last sixteen years. We have seen learning techniques come and go, and I truly believe in the old-fashioned learning of basics and parent involvement.
I read with interest your article and thought of how it pertained to all children, even the special needs child. My son Kyle has been totally blind since birth, and we have actively and successfully pursued an inclusive education for him in the Walled Lake School District. Now I don't mean we have plopped him down in a regular education class and stood back and said, "There, we've done our part--it's up to the teachers now." We have insisted that Braille literacy be the top priority and that Kyle be expected to learn and behave with the same high expectations his sighted classmates do. It has been a struggle for us to get the schools and society to see that blind people are people first and deserve a chance to live and go to school with their peers. Because this seems to be a radical idea for many people, we have had to advocate every step of the way. We are in no way done and feel that we will be advocating for our son and other blind people for the rest of our lives.
We have been involved in every aspect of our son's education from planning his day and educating staff to getting his needs for learning Braille met and the rest. We could not have done this without the dedicated involvement of the National Federation of the Blind.
Allen Harris, President of the NFB of Michigan, and its membership have taught our family the use of blindness skills and the importance of Braille literacy for Kyle. They have given of themselves and their time for blind children of this state and all over the U.S.
As a parent of a blind child I felt it necessary to learn Braille and become active in the NFB. I am able to work on homework in Braille with Kyle and supplement his education. I have been the president of the Parents of Blind Children of Michigan, a division of the NFB, for three years.
The NFB has been active in tutoring sessions for Kyle and all blind children in the state throughout the school year. During the tutoring sessions the blind adults work with the blind children on Braille, cane travel, math (abacus), and attitudes about blindness. They also have day camp each summer for one week, where blind children and their families participate in field trips using the skills they have learned throughout the year. The NFB also has blind advocates who go into IEP meetings with parents to see that all areas are addressed in order for the blind child to receive a quality education.
All these areas need parent involvement to be successful. I am surprised to find that many parents of blind children feel it is the state's job to educate their child and just sit back with a see-what-happens attitude. They are not aware of many blindness skills; they have a stereotyped attitude about blindness itself; and they never think of learning Braille. They do not participate in the free programs offered by the NFB or the free Braille classes through the Oakland Schools. They don't educate themselves about the problems facing the blind community that some day will be a part of their child's life. Funding for Braille and Talking Books is threatened, and many are not aware of these issues nor will they apparently feel any need to help continue and restore programs until it is too late. Unfortunately, as a result many of our blind citizens are illiterate and are not prepared to be a productive part of society.
Your article stated, "They'd made the mistake of trusting the school to do the job." I am not against the public schools or teachers. Coming from a family with many members in the education field and having a daughter working towards a teaching certificate, I want to believe the school system can work. My two older children graduated from Walled Lake schools with an excellent education, able to go on to quality colleges. They did this because they had many dedicated teachers and involved parents who knew what was going on in school.
With so many difficult issues in education today, we especially need to know what is going on; and, as you wrote, "You're paying taxes for education, directly or indirectly. Make sure you get something for your hard-earned money."
The NFB has been working on getting a Braille literacy bill passed in Lansing, and we are still trying to educate our legislators about the importance of such a bill for the blind community. Parents need to have high expectations for their blind children and not allow stereotyped labeling or low expectations to keep them from being given the same education sighted children get. Parents of blind children must not sit back and trust that the state knows what is best for their child. Everyone assumes that all blind children are encouraged to learn Braille and that they are taught in a positive, progressive way by a qualified
teacher. This does not always happen. Teachers of the visually impaired are not always fully trained in teaching Braille, and they are not always fully trained in the different Braille codes. Parents need to be on top of their blind child's education as much as, if not more than, their sighted child's.
I want to thank you for your article and hope that I can use it along with my ideas to encourage parents of blind children to become active team members with their schools and V.I. teachers. We hope to make people aware of the need for a Braille bill, which will allow our children to compete with their peers. Parents play an important part in their child's education, and our blind children are definitely worth the effort.
Thank you for your time.
Dawn L. Neddo
[Photo #14: Homer Page stands at a podium. Caption: Homer Page]
AND THE CHICKEN HOUSE
by Homer Page
From the Editor: Homer Page serves as President of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado. The following recollection of his youth first appeared in When the Blizzard Blows, the latest in our Kernel series of paperbacks. It begins with Dr. Jernigan's introductory note. Here it is:
Dr. Homer Page is Chairman of the Boulder County Board of Commissioners and a professor at the University of Colorado. He is also one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado and of the national movement. Here he reflects on the things that helped him achieve success:
Miss Nellie Stice was my English teacher
during my senior year at Buchannan High School in Troy, Missouri. She often
read examinations to me. On the final examination I received 296 points out
of a possible total of 300. When we finished the exam, she told me my score
and said, "Have you ever thought about what you would be able to accomplish
if you were not blind?"
Miss Stice did not believe blind persons could be successful. She believed that I had ability, and she felt bad that I, in her view, was destined to be thwarted in my efforts to use that ability. She genuinely felt pain for me. If any other of my classmates had done as well (and none of them did), she would have said to that student, "Congratulations, you will go far in life," but those were not her expectations of me.
In spite of the withering message that I received from Miss Stice, I was generally encouraged as a child. When I was in the first grade, the teacher set up three groups of different learning levels. I was originally placed in the slowest group. My parents are not educated people. My mother completed the tenth grade, and my father went only to the eighth grade. However, they understood that it was not good for me to remain in that group.
They talked with the teacher, and I was moved up to the first group. I am sure that nothing my parents ever did for me, apart from giving me life, was so important to my future. If the teachers and administrators and other people had developed the expectations that I couldn't keep up with the demands of the school, then I hesitate to think what my life would have become. I am certain it would have been different and that it would have been much worse.
There was another time when my parents came to my rescue. During the summer between my third and fourth grades in school, my family was visited by representatives from the Missouri School for the Blind. My father and I were on top of the chicken house putting down a new roof. We spoke with them from our lofty perch. They wanted me to attend the school for the blind in the fall. My father said no. He said, "My son is doing fine in school. I think a boy's place is with his family, and besides, who would help me
with all this work if he were to go with you?" Few things could have been more important to a young blind child than to hear his father affirm that he was successful in school, loved and wanted by his family, and a productive, contributing member of the economy of his family farm.
By the time Miss Stice made her comment, it was already too late for my spirit to be damaged very much. I was on my way to college, and there were some things that I wanted to do. Now, decades later, I ask myself, "Have I been successful?" In some ways perhaps I have; but, if I have, I haven't done it on my own.
I had a supportive family and generally helpful friends and teachers and a group of people working for me about whom I had no knowledge until well into my adult life. That group was the men and women of the National Federation of the Blind. Even though I didn't know it, opportunities had been made available for me through the work of the generation of NFB members that preceded me.
[Photo #15: Portrait Caption: Harvey Lauer]
BLIND CHURCH MEMBER: WHAT CONVERSATION IS UNLIKELY TO REVEAL
by Harvey Lauer
From the Editor: Harvey Lauer has
been a reader of the Braille Monitor for many years. He was one of the
pioneer researchers in methods of enabling blind people to read print. He works
as a researcher and computer instructor at the Department of Veterans Affairs
hospital at Hines, Illinois. The following
article recently came into our hands. It captures the experience that many blind church members have had and demonstrates the most effective way of educating, reassuring, and witnessing to congregations filled with ordinary people who fear blindness and are uncertain how to behave with blind people. Here is what he has to say:
Note: The author gratefully acknowledges the Vision Impaired Ministry Committee of the Northern Illinois District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, which first commissioned this article and endorses its distribution.
"We can't ask them to help. What
could they do? They are blind!" As new members of our congregation, Bethlehem
in Broadview, Illinois, that's almost the first remark my wife and I overheard.
It didn't surprise me because I had met professors who wouldn't let me take
their courses and some who wanted to give me a good grade just because I was
blind. By the time we moved to Broadview, I was employed as a rehabilitation
teacher and had to deal regularly with stereotyped notions about disability.
My wife, Lueth, had just come from a rural community in which blindness was poorly understood by her family and friends. They meant well but perceived her as dependent, even as an adult. She came to the city with hopes of being accepted as a contributing member of society. Because of her shyness she reacted by feeling ill at ease and withdrawing. She hoped that we could find a friendlier church, but I saw the problem differently. I knew that only time and acquaintance would reveal whether such remarks were based on clannishness, ignorance, or pity.
People were friendly, but that didn't help much. They told her how amazing it was that she read and wrote Braille, something she had learned in school and which she felt should not be considered unusual. As a result, she felt self-conscious and would not read aloud in public.
At church gatherings we both sat a lot and must have appeared rather helpless. People may have wondered how we did our housework. We kept a reasonably good house, but there were two big obstacles to functioning in church. The first was unfamiliarity with the territory. At home we knew where to find things. At church almost nothing was ever in the same place twice. At home awkward behavior could be laughed off; in public the appearance of awkwardness brings not only needed assistance but sometimes too much help and expressions of pity that are hard to take.
Talk was futile. There were two barriers. It was hard for Lueth to try new things, and some people were reluctant to give her a chance. Some wanted to help but didn't know how to begin. While she couldn't wait on tables efficiently, she could have helped in the kitchen if she had known where things were kept.
She couldn't watch children on the playground, but she could have helped in the nursery if people had believed in her ability. She couldn't make posters, but she had developed the ability to write and dramatize stories. Yet she needed encouragement and acceptance. My own road to acceptance and involvement was just as rocky.
Over the course of several years, and with the help of prayer and good friends, our strategy took shape. We volunteered to organize the coffee hours. Then we "forgot" to find someone to go in early to make coffee and prepare for the activity, so the job fell to us. We went a half hour early in order to familiarize
ourselves with the kitchen and find everything we needed. The members who came later with coffee cakes were surprised to find us there and more surprised to find the place set up for business.
In calling people for the next coffee hour, we found that it's easy to get people to bring things, but harder to find someone who will go early and set everything up. Lueth said, "Why don't we do it again?" So we did it again and many more times after that. Each time different people who were taking their turns would come in and find us working.
Good working relationships were formed. Lueth began to help with other activities. People found out what she could do efficiently and gave her those tasks. The years went by. We had birthday parties for our children and invited members' children. We joined neighborhood Bible study groups, where Lueth gradually gained the confidence to read passages and contribute to the discussion. She volunteered to be a friendly visitor in convalescent homes, where she could talk with people individually, then later read stories to groups, and finally lead a Bible class. Now she is on the evangelism team and an officer on the church council. In many of these activities the Braille and recorded materials transcribed by several groups and organizations were of great help.
Before I relate the final incident, I must tell you that so far there is nothing unusual about this story. In fact, it is typical for blind church members and blind people generally to be underinvolved. Why is this so?
One set of reasons stems from ignorance. Most people think blindness is a lot more limiting than it needs to be. People think that, because they use their vision for a given task, it must be necessary to do so, so they conclude that those who function well without sight must be either courageous or geniuses. The fact is that it takes different skills and tools to function without sight. Training is important, and certain activities like independent travel are more difficult, so fewer blind people do them well. Even the parents of blind children seldom learn all that can be done to maximize the ability of a blind person. Less is expected of us, so we often react by expecting less of ourselves. Blind beggars and geniuses are the most common stereotypes. Articles and pamphlets which discuss resources for information and assistance are available.
What Christians call sin accounts for another set of reasons. The thought of blindness strikes fear, wounds pride, engenders hostility, and therefore causes guilt. It strikes fear in those who have not learned to rest secure in the strength of the Lord. It wounds pride in those who have not fully opened
themselves to the humility of Christ. It engenders loathing in the souls who cannot feel God's loving presence. Guilt is felt by those who can't face their human nature and accept God's forgiveness. No matter what they are taught about blindness and no matter how many blind people they know, those who are steeped in fear, pride, resentment, or guilt find it almost impossible to relate to a blind person as an equal. They must think of themselves as superior. When such people sustain a loss of vision themselves, they have great difficulty adjusting to it.
Vision loss, especially sudden loss, is a blow to anyone. But after the shock wears off, some of us perceive blindness as a stumbling block. We exaggerate the areas of physical dependence, allowing our pride to let us forget about the interdependence of all life. We hate even more the demeaning attitudes which depict all blind people as helpless. We often refuse needed help because we mistake kindness for pity.
But others among us see blindness as a stepping stone. We can enjoy most of the world's good things, and unfortunately the bad ones as well. We have the chance to inform where knowledge can be accepted and to forgive where prejudice clouds minds. Our disability can be used as a vehicle for overcoming pride. We can learn to discern between pity and kindness. Pity comes from guilt and the desire to feel superior. Kindness is motivated by love and the wish to do for others what one would like to have done for oneself in the same circumstances.
Now let me tell you the rest of the story, which is not typical, but not unusual either. We learned about it twenty years after it happened. Some people in town told a group of church members that we should be investigated because we were blind and probably couldn't take proper care of our children. Nothing was
done about the suggestion because the members assured them that blindness was no reason for such a concern. They said that our children were at least as well cared for as theirs. It turned out that ours is not only a friendly church, but an observant and loving one as well.
If you or a friend would like to remember the National Federation of the Blind in your will, you can do so by employing the following language:
"I give, devise, and bequeath unto National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, a District of Columbia nonprofit corporation, the sum of $_____ (or "_____ percent of my net estate" or "The following stocks and bonds: _____") to be used for its worthy purposes on behalf of blind persons."
[Photo #16: The Harold Washington Library Center is a renovated, multi-story red stone building with large arched windows situated on a full city block. Caption: On average, 7000 people visit Chicago's Harold Washington Library Center each day]
[Photo #17: Located on a man-made island, the Adler Planetarium has a center dome on the roof. When the dome shutter is opened, the public can peer through a telescope at the moon, the planets, and the stars. Caption: Chicago's Adler Planetarium stands at the tip of a half mile peninsula jutting into Lake Michigan]
by Stephen O. Benson
From the Editor: The following is the second installment of Steve Benson's "Chicago Notebook." We hope it whets your appetite for the activities and opportunities that will surround the 1995 convention. Here it is:
Within walking distance of the Chicago
Hilton and Towers are five outstanding museums. One of these, the Museum of
Broadcast Communication, will be featured as a tour on Wednesday afternoon of
the convention. Watch these pages for details next month. This edition of "Chicago
Notebook" focuses on two museums and the Harold Washington Library Center.
The John G. Shedd Aquarium opened May 30, 1930 to an enthusiastic crowd of more than 20,000 people. It was a gift to the people of Chicago from Shedd, who had been president and Chairman of the Board of Marshall Field and Company. The Aquarium's original construction cost was $3.5 million. In April, 1991, the museum invited the public to visit the newly constructed forty-five-million-dollar Oceanarium, a structure that doubled the size of the building and provided space for whales and white-sided dolphins.
The white Georgian marble aquarium houses more than 8,000 fresh and salt water fish and animals in an area of 395,000 square feet. Visitors will find themselves almost within arm's reach of sea turtles, sharks, and barracudas at the coral reef. Several times a day a diver enters the reef pool and hand-feeds these aquatic creatures. The spectacular Oceanarium is constructed to resemble the landscape of the Pacific Northwest. Throughout the day the whales and dolphins exhibit some rather amazing habits those of us in the hinterlands don't ordinarily witness.
The Aquarium's mission is the protection and conservation of aquatic life. The endangered status of more and more species makes the mission more urgent. The quality of the animal habitat is crucial to the survival of the Aquarium's residents. Water quality of the more than 4.5 million gallons of fresh and salt
water is maintained by computers. Salt water was transported by railroad tank car to the aquarium from Florida from 1931 until the early 1970's, when the aquarium began fabricating it on the premises.
The John G. Shedd Aquarium is open seven days a week, from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Admission, up to 5:00 p.m., is $8 for adults and $6 for senior citizens and children three to eleven years of age. Admission is free on Thursdays.
The Adler Planetarium, opened in 1935, was the first of its kind in the United States. The Planetarium's benefactor was Max Adler, an executive with Sears.
Native Chicagoans routinely refer to
the building as the Planetarium. Actually the planetarium is a machine that
projects celestial pictures onto the inside of the building's dome and illustrates
the relationships among stars, planets, and other galactic bodies as they move
through space. Adler collected navigation instruments, astronomy devices, and
time-keeping instruments as part of his legacy to Chicago. This collection is
now regarded as one of the three finest in the world.
While most of the exhibits are behind glass or out of reach of the public, many of the displays have audio commentaries that are top quality. The Planetarium is open seven days a week. Admission is $4 for adults, $2 for children and senior citizens, and free to everyone on Tuesdays.
The Chicago Public Library's central facility is the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State Street, four blocks from the Chicago Hilton and Towers Hotel. The building, named after Chicago's first African-American mayor, is the largest municipal circulating library in the United States.
The 144-million-dollar, 765,000-square-foot structure was completed ahead of schedule and under budget. Its architect attempted to capture the style of turn-of-the-century buildings near it with its exterior. The interior is quite modern, done in marble and light maple. When the building opened in October of 1991, it housed almost two million books, a collection of recordings numbering more than 100,000, one of the Midwest's most extensive collections of fiction and drama, and an outstanding government documents collection. The library's spectacular ninth-floor winter garden alone is worth a visit. As this article is being prepared, the library is anticipating installation of state-of-the-art computer and Braille printing equipment that will make the Chicago Public Library's collections more accessible to blind and otherwise physically disabled persons.
Other features of the Harold Washington Library Center should be noted. The children's library occupies 18,000 square feet and boasts some rather unusual nature exhibits. The library offers an outstanding telephone information service. Telephone inquiries to (312) 747-4300 will reveal to you how resourceful
librarians are. One more thing: visits to the library are free. Watch these pages next month for details of some wonderful tours.
The dates of the 1995 convention of the National Federation of the Blind are Saturday, July 1, through Friday, July 7. The rates are singles, $47; doubles and twins, $49; triples, $54; and quads, $57. In addition to the room rates, there will be a tax, which at present is almost 15 percent. There will be no charge for children in a room with parents as long as no extra bed is required.
In recent years we have sometimes taken hotel reservations through the National Office, but for the 1995 convention you should write directly to Hilton and Towers Hotel, 720 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60605, Attention: Reservations; or call (312) 922-4400. Hilton has a national toll-free number, but do not (we emphasize NOT) use it. Reservations made through this national number will not be valid. They must be made directly with the Hilton and Towers in Chicago.
[Photo #18: Barbara Freeman, smiling at the camera, holds a sleeping Shanthi against her shoulder. Caption: Barbara Freeman and her daughter Shanthi]
SHANTHI'S FIRST AMERICAN YEAR
by Barbara Freeman
From the Editor: The following story was written in late 1992. It first appeared in Standing on One Foot the sixth in the NFB's Kernel series of paperback books. It begins with Dr. Jernigan's introduction:
Mike Freeman, a blind computer analyst, and his wife Barbara (who is sighted) are long-time leaders in the Washington state affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind. When Mike and Barbara began the adoption process about four years ago, they were a little nervous. Not only did they have to deal with the usual bewildering mass of paperwork, interviews, and unexpected pitfalls associated with the adoption--especially overseas adoption--process, but they had to deal with questions and doubts about Mike's ability to care for a child. Why? For no other reason than the fact that Mike is blind. Fortunately, it is no longer rare or unusual for blind individuals to adopt children successfully. The National Federation of the Blind has been providing help and encouragement to prospective blind adoptive parents for over twenty years. As a consequence blind people generally have fewer difficulties today in overcoming negative attitudes and ignorance about blindness among adoption social workers. So it was with Mike and Barbara, and eventually Shanthi joined her family in America. But a whole new set of challenges awaited Mike and Barbara. Shanthi, too, is blind, and for nearly a year she had been in a less than ideal environment. Here is Barbara's story of "Shanthi's First American Year."
My husband Mike and I met our new daughter
Shanthi Anne at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on November 13, 1990.
Shanthi, then aged eleven and a half months, flew to us from India. Our social
worker had recommended this baby to us because she was outstandingly responsive
and alert when she observed her on a trip to India the previous April. Shanthi
is anophthalmic; this means she was born without eyes.
When Shanthi arrived at our home in November, she had changed little since she had been placed in the foundling home the previous April. She could not bear weight; she could sit up but not get to a sitting position by herself; and she could roll but not crawl or creep. She examined people's faces, hands, and clothing, but never reached out to find anything beyond the person holding her. Most disturbing of all, Shanthi did not know what a bottle was and could not use a cup or eat from a spoon.
Another set of parents had visited her
foundling home and had observed the babies being fed. Because of a nipple-borne
infection, the doctor had forbidden bottles. As a result, at every feeding one
caretaker would hold the babies down and pry open their mouths while another
caretaker would pour thick water-buffalo milk in from above. The babies would
scream and gag the whole time. The social worker who brought Shanthi from India
had been feeding her with a little medicine syringe. She would squirt formula
into Shanthi's mouth while Shanthi sucked her thumb. Shanthi expected to be
fed lying down and never took her thumb out of her mouth. She got more formula
on her than in her.
We drove home with our baby without any idea about how we were going to feed her. Upon the advice of our pediatrician, we decided to train Shanthi to a cup instead of back to a bottle. Our doctor also advised us to start feeding her a wide variety of foods immediately. Shanthi was underweight and had mild anemia. There was no time to introduce solid foods gradually. Shanthi's front teeth were coming in when she arrived, so it was doubly important that she learn to bite and chew right away. A child who does not learn to use her teeth when they are coming in often has eating problems. A delay in learning how to eat plus the early trauma of forced feeding might very well have caused a life-long problem.
Thus began an extremely intense three weeks. My goals were twofold: first, to teach her how to eat a mixed diet and second, to give her control over her food intake as soon as possible. I bought training cups with lids that allowed the formula to flow when the cup was tipped. I wanted Shanthi to know that tipping the cup caused the milk to flow. Some training cups are so spill-proof that the milk must be sucked out.
I insisted from the first that Shanthi sit up to eat or drink. I sat her in my lap with my left arm behind her back so she could not lie down. By the third feeding, she was sitting in the highchair. When I gave her a drink, she learned she could control intake by pushing my hand away. I also got her to eat a little strained food, but I had to chase her mouth as she moved her head back and forth. She also kept her thumb in her mouth most of the time, and I had to catch her when it came out. I learned to keep the spoon in one place and let her come to it. Within ten days Shanthi could eat graham crackers and even a fig newton cookie. Upon the advice of an eating therapist, I stopped using baby-food the same day she learned how to eat the graham crackers.
I taught her how to pick up the cup by placing her hands on it and showing her what to do. After she learned how to pick it up, it took several more days to learn how to tip the cup up to get the formula. I placed crackers or large sticks of food in her hand and moved her hand from the tray to her mouth. Soon she could feed herself finger-food. As Shanthi practiced feeding herself, she slowly learned how to get smaller bits of food into her mouth. As soon as she discovered that she could feed herself, she refused to take anything from a spoon. She began to use a spoon again only when I showed her how to use it herself.
Shanthi attended the NFB National Convention in New Orleans in the summer of 1991, where she became much more aware of how adults drink out of open cups because she sat in our laps a lot while we talked with friends. She heard the tinkling ice in water, juice, and tea and started reaching for them. I would help her taste them. When we got home, I taught her how to drink from an open cup. I moved her hands from behind. Because she was having trouble moving the full cup to her mouth, I fed her a few
times in just her diaper without a bib so she could feel right away what movement made the milk spill. She learned in four days.
We also began helping Shanthi with her motor skills shortly after she arrived. Shanthi began walking with us holding on with two hands in January, 1991, and could walk holding on with one hand by May. In early fall I taught her how to climb stairs while I held her hands.
As Shanthi's second birthday approached, she was rapidly developing new language, charm, and musical ability. Shanthi has quite a wide vocabulary now. She will ask her daddy to play the piano and says, "See book," when she comes across anything with Braille on it. She celebrated entering the Terrible Twos by singing the entire "Star-Spangled Banner" substituting "no" for each word.
Shanthi has great dignity. Her daddy and I hope to be able to teach her the skills she needs to put her proud independence into practice without crushing her spirit in the process.
I have learned that, if I am to teach Shanthi a new skill, we must both be ready. I will not always know just how I, as the mother, get ready to move with Shanthi to the next phase of development. I believe my membership in the National Federation of the Blind will continue to give me the faith to trust that, if I teach, she will learn.
DEMONSTRATES ADA IMPLEMENTATION
IS NOT A HARDSHIP
From the Editor: We recently received the following press release from the Annenberg Washington Program. It was literate and well written, which is more than can be said for most materials we receive from organizations hoping we will publish their information. But more to the point, the study being reported clearly produced sensible data about the cost and difficulty of most reasonable accommodations mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act. In pertinent part here is the text of the press release:
Many businesses have struggled with the
employment provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)--yet Sears,
Roebuck and Co.'s experience proves that ADA compliance does not have to be
a hardship. In a report released in November, 1994, by the Annenberg Washington
Program, Annenberg Senior Fellow Peter David Blanck documents Sears' ADA-related
employment practices and finds that the average cost of most ADA accommodations
is $36--less than dinner and a movie for two.
Contrary to many critical reports, ADA compliance does not necessarily mean high costs. In fact, fewer than ten percent of Sears employees who self-identify as disabled require any kind of accommodation. Sears' data on the total cost of providing accommodations to employees with disabilities from 1978 to 1992 are striking: of the 436 ADA-related accommodations for which data were available, sixty-nine percent cost Sears nothing, twenty-eight percent cost less than $1,000, and only three percent cost more than $1,000.
Moreover, from 1978 to 1992 the total cost of accommodations to Sears was $52,939; the average cost per accommodation was $121. If accommodations costing $1,000 or more are excluded, the average cost per accommodation is a mere $36.
Thus, almost all accommodations at Sears (ninety-seven percent) required little or no cost. Such accommodations include flexible scheduling, longer training periods, back-support belts, revised job descriptions, rest periods, enhanced lighting, and adjusted work stations.
The report, Communicating the Americans with Disabilities Act--Transcending Compliance: A Case Report on Sears, Roebuck and Co., emphasizes five core implications drawn from the study of Sears' experiences:
1. The impact of the ADA on American
business is evolutionary, not revolutionary.
2. Universal design and access, not retrofitted technology, fulfill the objective of including persons with and without disabilities in productive workforce participation.
3. Efforts to educate management and the workforce about the ADA and the capabilities of persons with disabilities must be based on facts, not paternalism and myths.
4. Starting from a base of ADA compliance, companies can look beyond compliance to transcendence by fostering independence and by providing meaningful career opportunities for people with disabilities.
5. Far from creating onerous legal burdens, the ADA can give employers and employees a framework for dispute avoidance and resolution, rather than the explosion of litigation that some observers predicted.
The study of Sears' experience is meant
to stimulate discussion of ADA implementation issues; provide specific data
and cost information about ADA implementation; identify the implications of
Sears' ADA-related experiences for future practices in this critical employment
area; and serve as an example of ADA leadership for other companies. Sears is
one of the largest single employers of people with disabilities, currently employing
an estimated 20,000 persons with a mental or physical disability in its 300,000-person
work force. These individuals represent the scope of disabilities and related
accommodations that enable productive, meaningful participation in the work
Sears is one among dozens of corporate role models that provide an important laboratory for studying the ADA's impact on the work force. The effectiveness of the ADA depends upon education and communication from Sears and other corporate leaders to achieve the following: (1) dispel myths about persons with disabilities, (2) inform people of their rights and obligations under the act, (3) equalize opportunities for advancement, (4) empower people to make better and more informed decisions, and (5) diffuse and resolve employee/employer disputes without formal litigation.
For more information or a copy of the report, contact Lisa Spodak at (202) 393-7100, fax (202) 638-2745, or e-mail [email protected]
[Photo #19: Emerson Foulke stands at podium. Caption: Emerson Foulke]
BRAILLE EVALUATORS NEEDED
by Emerson Foulke
From the Editor: We recently received the following announcement from Dr. Emerson Foulke, one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky. Dr. Foulke is a consultant at the Braille Research Center and co-developer of the proposed unified Braille code. Here is what he has to say:
The International Council on English
Braille (ICEB) has assumed responsibility for the Unified Braille Code Project
and has established the Unified Braille Code Development Committee to manage
this project. The committee, which was called the Objective II Committee when
it was originally appointed by the Braille Authority of North America (BANA),
was given the responsibility of trying to find a way to unify the Braille codes
now in use. It has now become a subcommittee of the Unified Braille Code Development
Committee and is now called Committee II. Its initial responsibility continues.
The Unified Braille Code Development Committee will be meeting concurrently with BANA during its semiannual meeting in April of 1995 in Washington, D.C. At that time it expects Committee II to report a second draft of its effort to unify the Braille codes now in use. Shortly thereafter it will be necessary to submit this second draft to Braille readers, Braille teachers, and Braille transcribers for evaluation.
To prepare for the evaluation, the Braille Research Center is accumulating a file of the names of people who have indicated a willingness to help with the evaluation of the Unified Braille Code. We will sort the names in the file into three groups--Braille readers, Braille teachers, and Braille transcribers. From each of these subgroups we will draw a sample of evaluators. Each sample will be constructed to reflect a broad range of age and experience with Braille and will include representatives from as many states in the United States and Provinces in Canada as possible.
If you would be able to help by serving as an evaluator, please contact me, Emerson Foulke, with the name of the group of evaluators in which you wish to be included. You can write to me at Emerson Foulke, Braille Research Center, American Printing House for the Blind, P.O. Box 6085, Louisville, Kentucky 40206. If you prefer, you can inform me by e-mail at [email protected], by telephone (502) 899-2362; or by fax at 899-2363. When I know in which group of evaluators you wish to be included, I will send you a brief questionnaire in order to get some basic information about the nature of your experience with Braille.
When the questionnaires have been returned, I will begin the process of constructing the samples of evaluators; and, if your name is drawn, I will be sending you a letter to inform you and to tell you what the next step in the evaluation process will be. We need all three kinds of evaluators, and I think we will be able to do a much better job of evaluation if NFB members are well represented.
USING FLYERS TO ADVERTISE
At the meeting of the Committee on the
Senior Blind that took place in conjunction with the 1994 convention of the
National Federation of the Blind in Detroit, Michigan, Jane Karle, who is a
member of the Pasco County Chapter of the NFB of Florida, described a project
which she undertook for the Rochester Chapter of the NFB of New York while she
was visiting in the area that spring. It was simple and effective in spreading
word about the organization and its meetings. This is what she did.
First she designed and duplicated an easy-to-read one-page flyer describing where and when the chapter met and how to get there. Then she compiled a list of churches, senior centers, libraries, and other public places where notices are usually posted and where blind people might be present. Then she sent out a mailing to each address consisting of the flyer and a cover note requesting that it be posted and that any blind people in the area be told about it.
The result was immediate. Not only was there an increase in chapter membership, but the general public became aware of the organization, its name, and its logo. This project would be easy to copy in other chapters. The sample flyer on the next page could be adapted for local use. We have used sixteen, twenty, and twenty-two point type, which can be produced by most computers and printers. The logo can be added by using clip art available to chapter presidents from the Materials Center of the National Federation of the Blind in Baltimore; it can be attached with rubber cement.
It's as easy as that. Good Luck. Here's the flyer:
(NFB LOGO HERE)
The (chapter name) of the National Federation of the Blind of (state)
meets on (week and day) each month at
(time) in (location)
If transportation is needed call (chapter contact person's name or transit authority and phone number)
For more information, call (usually the chapter president) (phone number)
Everyone is welcome to attend, especially blind people of all ages and those interested in working for their equality and acceptance.
The NFB is the oldest and largest organization of blind people in the country. It began in 1940 and has over 50,000 members in the fifty states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
We are changing what it means to be blind.
This month's recipes come from members of the National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey.
PENNE CON ASPARAGI, CARCOFI SALAMI
by Joe Ruffalo
[Photo #20: Portrait Caption: Joe Ruffalo]
Joe Ruffalo is President of the NFB
of New Jersey.
12 spears asparagus, cooked until tender, then cut into three pieces
20 slices salami di Napoli or other high-quality brand, cut into thin strips
8 artichoke hearts, cooked and quartered (You can use tinned ones; but fresh are better.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
black pepper, freshly ground
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
penne or similar shaped pasta
Method: Amounts of all the above ingredients are approximate; I tend not to weigh anything but use what seems right. Begin cooking the pasta according to package directions. When it has about five minutes left to cook, in a frying pan begin sauteing salami, and once some fat is rendered, add the olive oil and cook for about one minute. Don't worry if bits of the meat get crispy. Add the artichokes and cook for about one more minute, then add the asparagus and cook for another minute. Season with lots of black pepper. Once it is cooked al dente, drain the pasta and place it in a large bowl. Toss the meat mixture with the pasta and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and a handful of chopped parsley. Serve this with hot ciabbata bread and a side salad of thinly sliced tomatoes, sprinkled with thinly sliced celery and a dressing of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and fresh black pepper. As a variation, when courgettes (or any squash) come into season, substitute these for the asparagus. Be sure that they are no larger than a man's little finger. Cut them into about 4 pieces, cook them until they are tender crisp, and fry them with the rest of the ingredients.
STIR AND BAKE CARROT CAKE
by Gloria Lewis
Gloria Lewis serves as Treasurer of both the Northern Chapter and the NFB of New Jersey.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups salad oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/4 cups loosely-packed shredded carrots (about 7 medium sized carrots)
1 12-ounce box pitted prunes, chopped
1 3-ounce can pecans, chopped (about 1 cup)
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch round cake pan. In large bowl sift the first six ingredients and mix with a spoon. In small bowl, with a fork beat eggs slightly; stir in salad oil and vanilla. Stir egg mixture, 3 cups carrots, prunes, and pecans into flour mixture just until flour is moistened. Spoon batter into pan. Bake for fifty-five to seventy minutes or until center of cake springs back when gently pressed. Cool in pan ten minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack. Frost with the following:
CREAM CHEESE DRIZZLE
1 3-ounce package cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon margarine or butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Method: With mixer at medium speed, blend cream cheese, sugar, milk, margarine, and vanilla until smooth. Spread over cake. Garnish with more shredded carrot.
PUMPKIN CHEESE CAKE
by Jerilyn Higgins
[Photo #21: Portrait Caption: Jerilyn Higgins]
Jerilyn Higgins has been a member of the Federation for a long time. She has served as both chapter and state Treasurer and is currently a member of the state Board of Directors.
1 package zwieback crackers, crushed (1-1/2 cups)
1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 16-ounce can pumpkin
1 3/4 teaspoons pumpkin spice
1/4 cup heavy cream
Method: Blend crumbs, sugar, and butter in medium bowl. Press firmly across bottom and up sides of a lightly-buttered 9- inch springform pan and chill. Beat cream cheese in a large bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Gradually add sugar until well mixed; at low speed blend in eggs, one at a time, until light and fluffy. Add canned pumpkin, pumpkin spice, and heavy cream, mixing at low speed. Pour into prepared crust. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for one hour and thirty-five minutes. Remove cake from oven and sprinkle with walnut topping. To make topping, combine 6 tablespoons soft butter and 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar, and mix until crumbly. Add 1 cup chopped walnuts, mix, and sprinkle on cake.
by David J. DeNotaris
[Photo #22: Portrait Caption: David DeNotaris]
David DeNotaris is currently Job Opportunities for the Blind coordinator for New Jersey. He is also a world champion power lifter.
1-1/2 pounds ricotta cheese
black pepper to taste
garlic to taste
salt to taste
1 pound mozzarella
Italian cheese, grated to taste
1/2 pound thin spaghetti (broken in half)
Method: Cook spaghetti according to package directions and drain in colander. In a large bowl beat eggs and then add ricotta and Italian cheese. Add salt, pepper, and garlic to taste. Cut mozzarella into small pieces and add to mixture. Stir in spaghetti and pour into greased baking pans. Bake at 350 degrees from fifty minutes to one hour, or until top is lightly browned and firm to the touch.
SHRIMP WITH ANGEL HAIR PASTA
by Kathy Miragliotta
Kathy Miragliotta is the newest member of the newest chapter of the NFB of New Jersey, the Metro-Suburban Chapter. You can always find Kathy cooking in the kitchen.
1 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 pound angel hair pasta (cooked according to package directions)
1 cup onion, chopped
4 tablespoons butter
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/4 tablespoons instant bouillon crystals
1-1/2 teaspoons crushed basil
1 can recipe-ready (or pasta-ready) tomatoes by Contadina
1/3 cup grated cheese
1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Method: Cook onions in butter and oil till tender. Stir in the wine, bouillon crystals, basil, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer uncovered for twelve to fifteen minutes or until two-thirds of the liquid has evaporated. Halve shrimp and add to wine mixture. Cover and simmer for five minutes (or until shrimp are tender). Stir in tomatoes and heat through. Toss pasta with melted butter, add shrimp mixture, cheese, and parsley. Toss gently until pasta is well coated.
PENNE WITH VODKA SAUCE
by Kathy Miragliotta
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small onion, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup chopped prosciutto or fully cooked Virginia ham
2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup vodka
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup sliced imported Italian black olives
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 16-ounce package penne or mostaccioli
2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
Method: Heat butter and oil in 10-inch skillet over medium high heat. Saute garlic and onion in butter mixture. Stir in prosciutto and chicken. Cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is brown. Stir in vodka. Heat on high until mixture is quite hot. Carefully ignite. When flame has been extinguished, stir in whipping cream, olives, parsley, and pepper. (To extinguish flame easily, cover with lid.) Bring mixture back to the boil. Reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, thirty minutes, stirring frequently until thickened. Cook penne according to package directions. Toss together penne and sauce and top with cheese. Makes 6 servings.
** Remodeling Old Ideas:
We recently received the following press release from Karen Mayry, President of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota:
[Photo #23: Bob Schumacher works at his saw table marking a piece of wood before cutting it. Caption: Bob Schumacher works at his saw table.]
Just look at Bob Schumacher from Mobridge,
South Dakota. Several years ago, as he was losing his vision, Bob was told that
he could no longer work in the motel he was operating, repair rentals he owned,
or do anything else productive. Fortunately he did not listen. Today Bob does
his own carpentry work on a variety of rentals, builds sheds, and has repaired
roofs. Blind and can't work? Don't you believe it!
Bob also serves as the NFB chapter President in Mobridge, South Dakota. He coordinated hosting the 1993 state convention, organized a White Cane Day bake sale, and sells tickets for the chapter's Valentine's Day dinner at a local restaurant in Mobridge to raise money for the scholarship fund. His chapter is really on the move.
** Public Employees Newsletter Announced:
The Public Employees Division of the National Federation of the Blind plans to publish a quarterly newsletter beginning in March, 1995. It will address issues relating to blind employees of federal, state, and local governments. If you wish to receive this publication or to contribute information to it, please send your name, address, and telephone number to Arthur Tackman, 1250 Fourth Street, S.W., Unit W-109, Washington, D.C. 20024, or call (202) 488-8233.
** Attention Would-Be Convention Exhibitors:
Duane Gerstenberger, NFB Executive Director, reports that the decision has been made no longer to give free space to local chapters in the exhibit hall at National Conventions. We will still give space, however, to affiliates, divisions, and committees.
Dr. Norman Gardner, recent National Representative to the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Puerto Rico, reports the following election results: Ivan Nieto, President; Alpidio Rolon, First Vice President; Lydia Usero, Second Vice President; Vaneza Delgado, Treasurer; and Jesseca Borrero, Secretary. Amarilys Torres, Maria Diaz, Pedro Alvarado, and Carmen Brigantti were elected to serve as members of the affiliate's Board of Directors.
** Hoping to Buy:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I am looking for a Perkins Brailler at a reasonable price. Please call Carmen at (515) 435-4151 days or (515) 435-2036 evenings.
** First Audio Dart Tournament in Delaware:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The first National Audio Dart Tournament to be held in Delaware will take place May 5, 6, and 7, 1995, at the Holiday Inn Downtown, Wilmington. There will be six events with $1,000 in prize money per event. Entry fee will be $20 for each event. If you participate in all six events, the entry fee is $60. Entry
fee must be received no later than March 31, 1995. Accommodations at the Holiday Inn Downtown, Wilmington, are $62.00 per night plus eight percent tax. For information contact National Tournament, Pat and Stan Smith, 1110 Maryland Avenue, Wilmington, Delaware 19805, or call (302) 658-7231; or contact Jack Turner by calling (302) 577-3080 (work), (302) 764-3361 (home).
** For Sale:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have for sale an Arkenstone (Hot Reader) True Scan card, HP Scanjet Plus with daughter card and automatic document feeder, which attaches to the scanner. All documentation is in print and on disk with taped tutorial and version 2.02 of software. Asking $900, including insured shipping UPS in the United States. Write to Roger Behm, 1611 Clover Lane, Janesville, Wisconsin 53545, or call (608) 754-0658.
** 1995 Space Camp for Adults:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Adult Space Camp for the Blind will be held at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, May 12 to 14, 1995. This program is coordinated by the West Virginia School for the Blind. Braille, large print, and some adaptive equipment will be provided. Sighted guides and additional specialized assistance will be provided by the Teacher Training Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Cost for the program is approximately $500 for tuition, plus one night stay prior to the weekend, transportation, and personal souvenirs. For additional information please contact Dan Oates, West Virginia School for the Blind, 301 East Main Street, Romney, West Virginia 26757, or call (304) 822-4883 (office) or (304) 822-4410 (home).
** 1995 Space Camp for Kids:
We received the following announcement with the previous one:
Space camp for children with visual disabilities will be held September 16 to 23, 1995 (Level II) and September 17 to 22 (Level I). This program is also coordinated by the West Virginia School for the Blind. Last year 113 students from sixteen states participated in this program. Braille, large print, low vision devices, CCTV's, refreshable Braille displays, synthetic speech, etc. will be available during this special week to allow a better experience. These adaptations have been made possible by Access Technologies of Decatur, Alabama; Telesensory, Inc.; Mark Goodkin & Associates; and Optelec. This will be the sixth year for the program, which continues to grow every year. Special health and diet considerations can be easily dealt with. Cost of the programs ranges from $500 to $725. Additional costs include transportation and personal souvenirs. Depending upon the student's arrival time, there may be additional lodging and food costs.
Those interested in additional information should contact Kathy Johnson at (304) 822-4897 or Dan Oates at (304) 822-4883 (office), (304) 822-4410 (home).
Ruth Hazel Staley, Secretary of the Mecklenburg County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina, reports the following election results: Mabel Conder, President; Pat Robbins, Vice President; Hazel Staley, Secretary; Laurancene Murphy, Treasurer; and Janis Lynn Stallings, board member.
** Perkins Brailler Repairs Available:
Joseph Staniewski has asked us to report the following:
The Selective Doctor, Inc., is a 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 now accept 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.
The National Federation of the Blind of Southeast Ohio conducted its 1995 elections in January. The results were as follows: Dr. John Smith, President; Roger Hawk, Vice President; Meghan Burns, Secretary; Jeff Bates, Treasurer; and Brenda Blake, Board Member.
** That the Blind May Read Airs on Television:
As many people now know, January 4 is the anniversary of Louis Braille's birth. In an increasing number of communities around the country, the days around it are now recognized as Braille Literacy Week. According to "The Clipboard," a weekly publication of the National Federation of the Blind of California, the NFB's new video, That the Blind May Read, was shown in San Francisco on Channel 53, City Visions, on January 2 at 9:00 p.m. in commemoration of Braille Literacy Week. Member Larry Hunt made arrangements for the showing of the video, and the station management liked it so well that they asked to show it again in the spring. On Wednesday evening, January 4, at 8:30 p.m., the video was shown over Channel 18 in Sacramento at the request of Federationist Paul McIntyre. Paul is also working with the cable access television station in Pleasanton to schedule a time when the video can be shown there in the near future. This is an excellent way to spread the word about the importance of Braille literacy and to alert the public to the availability of our video. It can be ordered from the Materials Center, National Center for the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. The cost is $20 for the seventeen-minute version and $35 for the twenty-seven-minute one.
** For Sale:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have a number of access/adaptive technology items that may be available for sale. Depending on what sells first, I will have to keep some things for my home-office work. The majority of the following is new, unless otherwise indicated. I list the retail price first and then my asking price. Here's the list: Mega Dots, $495, $375; OsCaR, $995, $750; Vocal-Eyes, $450, $325; DECtalk PC, $1,195, $900; HP Scanjet IICX with sheet feeder and interface kit, $1,500, $1,100; Navigator 40/8 (used three years), asking, $3,000; Braille Lite with one-year service, $3,850, $2,900; and Index Everest Braille Embosser, $3,595, $2,800. Some prices are negotiable. If you are interested, please contact Soonkyu Shin as soon as possible at J.P. Morgan and Company, 60 Wall Street, 22nd Floor, New York, New York 10260, phone (212) 648-3931, email [email protected], or Fax (212) 648-5751.