38, No. 11 December
Barbara Pierce, Editor
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The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, President
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 38, No. 11 December 1995
FOR THE BLIND RESURRECTS SEGREGATED SHELTERED
by Donald C. Capps
A PROMISE OF HOPE: MY FIRST
by Susan Walker
CONVENTION 1996: WE GO TO
by Kenneth Jernigan
LOU AND THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS
by Don Morris
WHERE IS THE JUSTICE?
by Toni and Ed Eames
LOVING ELIZABETH: BLIND
COUPLE'S STRUGGLE TO ADOPT A BABY
by Nadine Jacobson as told to Bill Holton
TWIN REASONS TO CELEBRATE
by Chris Shackleford
WHY THE NATIONAL FEDERATION
OF THE BLIND?
by Sue Drapinski
SOME SUGGESTIONS ON HOW
TO USE READERS MORE EFFECTIVELY
by Jerry Whittle
THE AXE AND THE LAW BOOK
by Marc Maurer
A LESSON FROM MARSHA
by Barbara Walker
KEEPING THE RENT CURRENT
by Hazel Staley
OF BLIND CHILDREN AWARD FOR 1996
by Sharon Maneki
THE 1996 BLIND EDUCATOR
OF THE YEAR AWARD
by Stephen O. Benson
THE ORIGINALITY OF THE SPANISH MODEL
PRE-AUTHORIZED CHECK PLAN
Can Your Chapter Achieve 100 Percent?
by Jim Omvig
THE LOUISIANA CENTER FOR
THE BLIND CELEBRATES A DECADE OF SERVICE
by Karl Smith
Copyright 1995 National Federation of
by Donald C. Capps
From the Editor: A long-standing sheltered-workshop battle has now broken out again in Charleston, South Carolina, and is raging with unrestrained fury. The controversy involves a local agency, the Charleston Association for the Blind. There was a day when sheltered shops were almost the only solution to the employment problem for the blind, but that time is rapidly fading into memory.
Through the years we have come to recognize and reject the widespread injustice of restricted pay for blind employees, poor working conditions, and unfair management practices designed to keep costs down and the blind in their place. Blind people have also learned that they can compete on terms of equality if only they are given the training they need and the opportunity to prove themselves.
As these things have occurred, progressive industrial plants employing predominantly blind workers have gradually modernized--sometimes very slowly and over towering managerial opposition. They have begun to treat their blind employees with the respect that other workers in the American work force have come to expect. The best of these sheltered industry programs dedicate a fair amount of energy to helping people find work in the competitive market instead of keeping them within the Javits-Wagner-O'Day system.
All this being so, what would possess any agency purporting to serve blind people in the late twentieth century to revert to the world of fifty years ago in the name of giving blind workers the choice between finding a job in competitive industry and doing so in the sheltered shop system? That, it seems, is precisely what the Charleston Association for the Blind has decided to do.
The idea of opening a new sheltered shop in the state was repugnant and unacceptable to the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina three years ago when it was first floated under the leadership of the Association's previous director, Isabel Ewing. The Federation and the Association crossed strongly worded views, if not swords, at the time; and Mrs. Ewing resigned, taking her antiquated ideas with her, or so everyone in the blind community hoped.
But it was not to be. Bad ideas often exhibit a staying power out of all proportion to their intrinsic worth, particularly when the idea happens to reinforce the prejudices and ignorance of an uninformed public. In this case, after a year or so under the leadership of a director who made no apparent move to revive the sheltered-shop idea and who died suddenly last year, the agency's board hired Roy Proffitt, lately retired from a stint as director at Volunteer Blind Industries, Inc., (VBI) of Morristown, Tennessee--widely recognized within the blind community as one of the more consistently reactionary sheltered shops in the entire country. (See the January, 1984, issue of the Braille Monitor.)
That is the background of the most recent struggle between the NFB of South Carolina and the Charleston Association for the Blind. The following article is taken from the August-September, 1995, issue of The Palmetto Blind, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina. Don Capps is the President of the South Carolina affiliate and an experienced champion in the battle for the rights of blind people everywhere. Here is the way he tells the story in The Palmetto Blind:
On May 18, 1995, Charleston's Post Courier published the following article:
The Association for the Blind plans to leave Pitt Street, its Charleston home for thirty-eight years, and move to another building with more space for industrial shops.
The move, which is not final, seems certain to revive a longstanding debate as to whether workshops or industries for blind employees are really in their best interest.
"We're a little premature in saying too much about the move," said Association Executive Director Roy M. Proffitt, who took over in December after former Director Isabel Ewing resigned.
However, Proffitt added, "You could say it looks promising."
The Association has contracts to sell 41 Pitt Street, a former church, and purchase the former Frasier Tire Services building at Petty and Mechanic Streets near where Rutledge Avenue meets Interstate 26. Both deals could close within two months.
Proffitt said the move would increase the Association's space from 2,000 to 8,000 square feet, which would allow the group to increase the number of employees from nine to thirty-five. Its budget, which was $4,185,000 last year, also would soar.
The new employees would work at several industrial tasks, including making helmets under a possible $1.2 million contract through the National Industries for the Blind.
Ewing, who pursued such a plan before her departure last year, said she was delighted to hear it was falling in place. As planned, the Association building would be the only workshop for blind employees in the state.
"A blind person should have a choice to go to a workshop or to find a job in mainstream industries," Ewing, who now lives in Beaufort, said. "Right now, they don't have a choice."
But others said the workshops are relics, an outdated idea from a time where blind people had no other opportunities.
"It's just not in the interest of blind people to set them apart in a sheltered or isolated situation like a sheltered workshop," said Donald Capps, President of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina. "Sheltered workshops played a valid and valuable role fifty years ago when there were little or no opportunities for the blind in the open job market, but that was fifty years ago, and we have gotten beyond that."
Capps said his organization has no veto power over the Association's plans, but added, "We will do what we have to, legally and honorably, to stop it. I don't think we have any choice."
Nationwide, there are about 108 industries, or workshops, where most all of the employees are blind. None of them exist in South Carolina and have not since a Columbia workshop closed its doors thirty years ago, Capps said.
Meanwhile, many blind residents have found employment in mainstream businesses, but estimates indicate about 70 percent of the state's 55,000 blind residents are still unemployed.
The Association is a private, non-profit group chartered in 1937 to improve the quality of life of blind Charleston residents. Some, but not all, of its board members are blind.
During its history the local group has provided training, social services, and few minimal work programs, such as chair caning. The Association is supported by the Trident United Way and is separate from the South Carolina Commission for the Blind, a state agency formed to rehabilitate the legally blind.
In recent years the Association has employed a handful of people who cane old chairs and make brooms, but it also plans to expand its business side by transcribing medical recordings and starting up at least one other trade.
Proffitt became the Association's Director in December, two years after he retired from Volunteer Blind Industries, a Tennessee organization that grossed $10.7 million in 1992.
That is what the Post Courier reported. Three years ago, in 1992, Isabel Ewing, then Executive Director of the Association for the Blind, spearheaded a campaign joined by some board members, including members of the Advisory Board, to establish a segregated sheltered workshop. This action stirred up the proverbial hornets' nest within the state's blind community. In October of 1992 the Board of Directors of the NFB of South Carolina adopted a strongly worded resolution opposing the establishment of a segregated sheltered workshop.
Considerable acrimony developed between officials of the NFB of South Carolina and the Association for the Blind of Charleston. The then Executive Director Isabel Ewing, invited me as President of the NFB of South Carolina to meet with her in Charleston to discuss the situation. However, I was ambushed upon arriving in Charleston allegedly to meet quietly with Mrs. Ewing. Rather than meeting alone with her as agreed upon, I was ushered into an office where Mrs. Ewing and several Association board members had assembled unknown to me. I vigorously protested this trickery, but the parties present refused to acknowledge any impropriety. I reminded the group that, if I had known several of the board members would be attending the meeting, I would have invited NFB of South Carolina Board members to attend the meeting as well. Rather than the Association's Executive Director's presiding over the meeting, Furgerson Fulgram, a prominent Charleston businessman, made it clear that he had been elected by the Association to chair the meeting. It was apparent that Mrs. Ewing and Association board members had held a strategy meeting prior to my arrival to discuss the tack they would take with me.
From the outset Mr. Fulgram expressed hostility toward me personally, among other things stating that he was going to record the meeting. I made it clear to Mr. Fulgram and everyone else present that I would not participate in any tape-recorded meeting. Notwithstanding this clearly stated position and unknown to me, Mr. Fulgram proceeded to tape-record the meeting surreptitiously. Several minutes later, in order to be certain that the meeting was not being tape- recorded, I asked Mr. Fulgram to confirm that no recorder was running, whereupon Mr. Fulgram admitted that he had indeed been recording the meeting but that he would turn off the recorder. Because of this serious impropriety, which clearly took advantage of my blindness, I vigorously protested, stating that I would no longer participate in such a meeting, whereupon Mr. Fulgram said he would be glad to show me to the door although my wife Betty was present. I requested that the surreptitiously made tape be given to me, but Mr. Fulgram angrily declined.
Subsequently there was considerable correspondence between the law firm representing the NFB of South Carolina and Mr. Fulgram's attorney, in which we strenuously argued that the tape existed only because of Mr. Fulgram's duplicity and therefore we had a moral right to it. Once again our request was denied. Rather than resorting to court action in an effort to secure the tape (an action which would have been prohibitively expensive) the NFB of South Carolina decided to drop the matter, leaving the tape and all of its implications of double-dealing in the Association's hands.
It is not entirely clear whether or not the infamous October, 1992, meeting--including the surreptitiously recorded portion--halted the Association for the Blind's efforts at that time to go forward with the establishment of a segregated sheltered workshop. Soon thereafter, however, Mrs. Ewing resigned as Executive Director of the Association, and apparently the project was placed on the back burner.
Unfortunately, this bitter controversy has again surfaced, according to media reports and other information that the NFB of South Carolina has received.
Following the Charleston Post and Courier story quoted at the beginning of this article, the NFB of South Carolina provided the media with relevant information, including the following brief statement:
The National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina feels that it has no choice but to oppose the establishment of a segregated sheltered workshop in South Carolina. Approximately thirty years ago the blind voted to close the state's only sheltered workshop at that time. There is certainly no good reason to turn the clock back thirty years and establish an outdated and archaic form of unnecessary sheltered employment which keeps the blind out of the mainstream and sets them apart from the rest of society.
That was the general statement. Here are excerpts from the document sent by the NFB of South Carolina to area media representatives and community leaders:
. . .With the departure of Executive Director Isabel Ewing, who had apparently been leading the segregated- sheltered-workshop movement, the NFB of South Carolina was encouraged to hope that the well-intentioned Board Members of the Association had decided to abandon this disastrous initiative. We were obviously incorrect.
The board of the Association did react to the NFB of South Carolina's Fall, 1992, resolution. Soon after the adoption of our resolution, African-American representation on the Association's board finally became a reality. Also the NFB of South Carolina's resolution prompted the Association's board to appoint blind people to their board. It seems to the NFB of South Carolina that broadly based representation and diversity should have been a policy and practice of the Association long before our resolution was adopted. At its May 27, 1995, meeting the board of Directors of the NFB of South Carolina conducted a thorough discussion of the Association for the Blind's current plan to establish a sheltered workshop. The policy of the NFB of South Carolina in this regard was reaffirmed.
National Industries for the Blind (NIB) is obviously happy with its segregated-sheltered-workshop empire and no doubt relishes the idea of enlarging it with the cooperation of the Association for the Blind, Inc. It is neither appropriate nor honest for anyone to mislead or make a pretense that a NIB-related sheltered workshop is not in fact just that--a sheltered workshop. The primary purpose and existence of NIB is to work with and assist sheltered workshops. If this were not the case, NIB would probably have to close its doors. The current Executive Director of the Association for the Blind, Roy Proffitt, has a longstanding connection with the NIB and is well known by the blind of Tennessee and the nation. The NFB of South Carolina believes that National Industries for the Blind played a role in the Association for the Blind's employment of Mr. Proffitt, knowing full well that he would use his longtime connection with NIB to establish the first segregated sheltered workshop in South Carolina in some thirty years.
Mr. Proffitt has a significant, though unenviable, record. The NFB of South Carolina believes it is most unfortunate that officials of the Association imported Mr. Proffitt, who brings with him considerable baggage, which must be understood if the seriousness of the current situation in Charleston is to be fully appreciated.
While Mr. Proffitt was part of the management team at Volunteer Blind Industries in Morristown, Tennessee, he gained a national reputation for oppressing the blind employees of that sheltered workshop. His oppression was so serious that several blind employees of Volunteer Blind Industries filed litigation in the Federal courts and also filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. The information in an affidavit signed by employee Taylor Smith in 1983 and furnished to the Federal Court and NLRB contributed to a decision against Volunteer Blind Industries.
Incidentally, in a call to Volunteer Blind Industries in Morristown, Tennessee, on Monday, June 12, 1995, we requested to speak to Mr. Taylor Smith. Not surprisingly we were told by the switchboard operator that he had been laid off, a fact consistent with past policy and practice of VBI. In the affidavit signed by Mr. Smith, (copy enclosed [to area media]) a complete accounting of the discriminatory practices and policies of Roy Proffitt and VBI were delineated clearly.
Upon hearing this complaint, the National Labor Relations Board ruled against VBI in favor of the blind employees. We are highlighting both the affidavit and the ruling of NLRB as well as the notice the NLRB required VBI prominently to place at its headquarters, pledging that management would no longer oppress and discriminate against the blind employees. Other blind persons associated with VBI are furnishing additional affidavits, being prepared by our attorney, and they will be forwarded to you in the near future. Please also note that the NLRB imposed monetary settlements to the complainants as well. The NLRB would not have ruled against VBI had the discriminatory practices alleged by blind employees been trivial or insignificant. This sad affair became a national issue, and we are therefore enclosing other material giving background information explaining why it became necessary to file the litigation which led to the decision against VBI.
Any reasonable person would believe that this adverse ruling by the NLRB against VBI would have caused Roy Proffitt and others at VBI to cease their oppression and discriminatory practices, but this was not the case. Enclosed is a copy of a current affidavit by Mrs. Linda Tatum, who recently moved to Columbia but was an employee of VBI for seven years. You will note that Mrs. Tatum has described a pattern of discrimination by VBI against the blind, including intolerable working conditions leading to painful injuries to Mrs. Tatum, which would not have happened without callous indifference and negligence on the part of Roy Proffitt and other management personnel.
Incidentally, in Sue Henson's 1983 letter to Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, she refers to Mr. Roy Proffitt as the "big man." Also, based upon references in Mrs. Henson's letter, it certainly appears that Mr. Proffitt was guilty of nepotism, employing two of his sighted nieces, who were paid almost twice as much as the blind received for doing the same type of work. Note that Mr. Proffitt paid his sighted nieces some $100 a day while the blind receive significantly less.
We cannot help wondering whether the board and other officials of the Association for the Blind did their homework with respect to researching the background and record of Roy Proffitt before employing him. On the other hand, if the board was in possession of the information being furnished to you and disregarded it, this would in and of itself be an incredible decision. Blind employees, who have little job security at VBI and who are no doubt easily intimidated by sighted bosses including Roy Proffitt, would not be preparing affidavits without having been treated shabbily. Additionally, the NLRB would not have handed down a decision against Roy Proffitt and VBI in favor of the blind employees without compelling evidence.
It is generally held that an individual's past performance is a reliable measure of what that individual will do in the future. This concerns us greatly with respect to Mr. Proffitt. In an effort to improve relations in the entire blindness field, our national organization is having ongoing dialogue with NIB officials.
Information furnished to the NFB of South Carolina indicates that, in addition to establishing a sheltered workshop, Mr. Proffitt and other Association officials may be considering establishing a bakery at the sheltered- workshop site. Also we understand that a training program for blind medical transcribers is underway. While our information may be incomplete or inaccurate, we understand that two individuals are currently in training as medical transcribers, one a high partially sighted individual and the other sighted. We also understand that blind medical transcribers will be paid a stipulated wage, after some of their earnings have been skimmed off to pay other parties for making this service available to the Association. We are continuing to investigate this situation in order to obtain further clarification and information. . . .
We believe that talk about establishing a bakery at the sheltered-workshop site and the training program for blind medical transcribers at the sheltered workshop headquarters is nothing more than window dressing and an attempt to camouflage or disguise the principal purpose of the sheltered-workshop operation. Certainly, properly trained blind persons can work satisfactorily in a bakery not part of a sheltered workshop. Likewise, properly trained blind persons make good medical transcribers and should receive full pay working side by side with their sighted co-workers in a hospital, clinic, or doctor's office. Why stigmatize or isolate blind persons in bakery or medical transcription employment in a segregated setting?
If we the blind are going to reduce misconceptions and avoid stereotypes, we must support programs which will assimilate properly trained blind persons into the mainstream, regular job market. It's simply not necessary for well-trained blind persons to be set apart, finding themselves in a sheltered workshop, which is more often than not a dumping ground and dead end. If blind people can make helmets in a segregated sheltered workshop, they certainly can do the same type of work in the regular job market and earn more for their efforts.
The Americans with Disabilities Act is replete with language and instruction about mainstreaming the blind and other disabled persons, assimilating them into the normal market place. The ADA emphasizes normal job market access to the blind and other disabled persons. There is nothing in the ADA which supports segregated sheltered-workshop employment for the blind, since the language, spirit, and intent of the ADA support employment for the disabled in the mainstream. It is incredible that officials of the Association for the Blind insist upon resurrecting this deep-seated controversy. It is not helpful to the state's blind community. Many blind Charlestonians are successfully employed in mainstream jobs, and this wholesome practice should be continued and accelerated.
The Association for the Blind has an important role to play in serving the blind. We fail to understand why the Association does not concentrate its employment efforts on such training as the proposed bakery and medical transcription projects and placing qualified blind graduates in jobs beside sighted coworkers. The NFB of South Carolina would certainly welcome the opportunity to work with the Association in such initiatives. While we certainly cannot speak for the South Carolina Commission for the Blind, we also believe the state agency would be most cooperative in working with the Association to mainstream blind people in employment with their sighted neighbors and friends. It can be done. Thousands of blind Americans are already competing on terms of equality with their sighted co-workers every day. . . .
There you have excerpts from the document sent to the media by the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina. Here are the affidavits that went with it:
Affidavit of Linda Tatum
I, Linda Tatum, being duly sworn, state that I am legally blind and was legally blind during my employment at Volunteer Blind Industries (VBI) from 1987 through 1994 in Morristown, Tennessee, where I met Roy Proffitt (the top staff member at VBI).
The staff at VBI consisted of both blind and sighted individuals, but for the majority of my employment at VBI only one blind person (an individual by the name of Jack Wolfe, a supervisor) was a member of management. I can recall only one other blind individual who served briefly as a supervisor during my employment at VBI before being demoted, possibly for reasons other than blindness. Jobs on the factory floor had varying levels of difficulty and (consequently) varying levels of pay. Not only were the blind employees at VBI kept out of management by-and-large during my employment, but the blind were also barred from filling the higher paying jobs on the factory floor.
As a seamstress I received slightly above minimum wage plus three cents per item I produced, provided that I met my daily quota. Many of my sighted peers who worked along side of me on the factory floor (including the sighted niece of Roy Proffitt, Carolyn Eply) received as much as five or six dollars per item produced, provided that they reached their daily quotas.
At times production demands at VBI would diminish making it necessary to lay off some employees for lack of work. I believe that, for each blind employee laid off, VBI was required to lay off three sighted employees. VBI did not observe this policy. Whenever lay-offs occurred, VBI laid off mostly (if not only) blind employees. When production demands increased, VBI often hired sighted, temporary employees in place of laid-off blind employees. As I recall, a blind individual by the name of Taylor Smith (who repeatedly tried to organize a union for VBI employees and a chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, among other things) was laid off more than any other blind or sighted employee.
I believe that the machines on the factory floor which were operated by sighted employees were better maintained than those which were operated by blind employees. I recall being forced to make velcro straps to be placed on helmet covers on a defective strap machine, which (as a result of the defect) had been fragmenting sewing needles and propelling them from the machine toward me, striking me at times around my face. Though I could not meet my daily quota (which meant less pay) due to the defect in the strap machine, I worked under these circumstances for approximately four weeks before one day leaving my work station crying, after being struck on the forehead by a needle fragment at which time VBI made the necessary repairs. A VBI maintenance man told me that VBI simply did not want to bear the cost of repairing the strap machine.
I was forced to endure other circumstances, such as poor working conditions (by factory standards) including poor ventilation (partly due to the fact that there were no windows), and an extraordinarily high concentration of lint circulating in the air due to poor ventilation and the high quantity of clothing produced on the factory floor. Many of my peers and I suffered from breathing and sinus problems as a result of the lint in the air. VBI furnished employees with one type of mask in response to the problems caused by the lint, but subsequently replaced the first type of mask with what seemed to be a cheaper mask, which was so uncomfortable that I decided not to wear that mask and deal with the breathing and sinus problems instead.
In about 1993 Taylor Smith, Teresa Smith, and Doyle Henderson organized a protest in front of VBI's place of business (which received media coverage), where Taylor Smith was harassed and physically assaulted by Mark Wolfe (a sighted employee and the son of Jack Wolfe) and where other employees were told not to join the protest or "VBI would close its doors on us." Roy Proffitt and others in upper management did nothing about the assault on Taylor Smith or about the threat against VBI's employees concerning the possibility of joining the protest. Based on my seven years of experience working in a sheltered workshop, I know that I could never work in a sheltered workshop again, and I cannot support the establishment of any sheltered workshops anywhere in the future.
Linda E. Tatum
Affidavit of Taylor Smith
Personally appeared before me Taylor Smith, who first being sworn, affirms and deposes:
1. That he resides at 1103 North Henry Street in the City of Morristown, Tennessee.
2. That he is totally blind and has been from birth.
3. That he has been employed by Volunteer Blind Industries of Morristown, Tennessee, since September of 1981 except for (a) a period of thirteen months in 1988 and 1989 when he was laid off and (b) the time between September of 1991 and February of 1993.
4. That he has been continuously employed at Volunteer Blind Industries of Morristown, Tennessee, (hereafter VBI) since February of 1993 as a sewing machine operator.
5. That in May of 1988 he and other employees of VBI picketed on a public sidewalk across from the VBI plant for higher wages for blind employees.
6. That in June of 1988 he was laid off for thirteen months by VBI.
7. That Doyle Heddrick, another blind picket, was also laid off in June of 1988.
8. That Mark Wolfe, the son of a VBI supervisor and a sighted employee of VBI, and William Bedwell, another VBI employee, in May of 1988 came out of the VBI plant and ripped down and broke the signs being carried by Taylor Smith and other blind pickets.
9. That neither Mark Wolfe nor William Bedwell were disciplined by VBI, nor were either of them laid off.
10. That a Tennessee state trial judge subsequently ordered Mark Wolfe and William Bedwell to make restitution to the court and that a fine was paid in the amount of approximately $150 to the court for the breach of the public peace by Messrs. Wolfe and Bedwell.
11. That on March 16, 1995, Taylor Smith, the affiant, was laid off by VBI and has been continuously unemployed since that time.
12. That production quotas have been established by VBI for blind persons employed in the plant, and that blind persons not meeting those quotas have been laid off, including affiant.
13. That it is a business practice of VBI to employ blind persons only four days a week, or thirty-two hours a week, in order to avoid paying insurance on blind employees.
14. That VBI discriminates against its blind employees in its insurance coverage in that sighted workers are hired for forty hours a week, and their insurance is paid by VBI.
15. That VBI does not adhere to the 75 percent/25 percent ratio under law that 75 percent of the work in direct labor in the shop be done by the blind.
16. That VBI discriminates against its blind employees with respect to layoffs, its practice being to lay off blind workers rather than sighted workers wherever possible and to call back to the job, first, persons with better vision instead of calling back the totally blind.
17. That it is a VBI business practice to discriminate among its blind employees on the degree of their visual acuity, a preference being given to legally blind individuals with some vision over totally blind individuals.
18. That VBI has used "production quotas" as a means of discriminating among its employees based on their degree of visual acuity.
19. That VBI has falsely stated that there were no work tasks the totally blind could perform, when, in fact, there were work tasks the totally blind could perform, such as turning and lacing sweat pants and other tasks as well.
20. That VBI has adopted as its business practice the exclusion of blind persons from non-shop and managerial positions.
Further affiant saith not.
Affidavit of Ellis Hines
Personally appeared before me Ellis J. Hines, who first being sworn, affirms and deposes:
1. That he resides at 224 Brittain Drive, Talbott, Tennessee.
2. That he is totally blind and has been so from birth.
3. That he has been employed by Volunteer Blind Industries of Morristown, Tennessee, (hereafter VBI) since February 20, 1978, except for periods in which he has been laid off.
4. That he has been laid off since March 16, 1995.
5. That at the time he was laid off on March 16, 1995, he was employed as a tacker, i.e., an operator of two automatic sewing machines and a snap machine.
6. That there are sighted persons who are still employed by VBI to perform work tasks identical to those done by affiant before he was laid off on March 16, 1995.
7. That VBI discriminates against totally blind persons by laying them off before laying off sighted persons.
8. That when affiant and other blind persons in the life vest department were given part-time work (four days a week) or laid off, sighted workers in the department were not laid off but were transferred to other departments and kept on five-day work weeks.
9. That Maurice Robinson, M.D., one of the VBI company doctors, in May of 1995 gave physical examinations to six sighted persons as a step in the pre-employment process, when blind workers at the plant were still laid off.
10. That VBI has advertised the availability of jobs at the plant during times when blind employees were laid off.
Further affiant saith not.
There you have much of the information we provided the media. On July 12, 1995, we provided them with additional information as follows:
The enclosed resolution, which is self-explanatory, was adopted several days ago at the National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind without a dissenting vote.
The annual conventions of the NFB are the largest gathering of blind Americans every year. . . . The provisions of the enclosed resolution adopted by the nation's blind are entirely consistent with the information previously given to you concerning the Association for the Blind, Inc., of Charleston. Understandably, when this resolution was adopted, a blind sheltered-workshop employee asked to be recognized and told the nation's largest gathering of the blind that he had been unable to escape thirty years of sheltered-workshop employment and certainly could not recommend it to any other blind person.
Recently we had a telephone conversation with Ms. Judy Peters, Executive Director of National Industries for the Blind, who was surprised to learn of the pattern of mistreatment of the blind employees at Volunteer Blind Industries of Morristown, Tennessee, including the NLRB ruling against VBI for unfair labor practices. . . . Ms. Peters stated that she and NIB were currently attempting to assist blind persons in mainstream employment.
The NFB of South Carolina strongly supports any effort by the Association for the Blind of Charleston if such efforts are directed towards mainstreaming and competitive employment, but the nation's blind are clearly opposed to perpetuating segregated sheltered-workshop employment, which may have been a viable solution in 1938 but not today.
The following is the resolution unanimously adopted by the NFB convention in Chicago:
WHEREAS, the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act, originally known as the Wagner-O'Day Act, became law in 1938, for the purpose of giving a non-competitive priority in federal purchasing to favor items made by blind people at non-profit agencies called sheltered workshops; and
WHEREAS, the jobs made possible by virtue of the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act are not in the competitive labor force and, in the vast majority of instances, never lead to jobs that are in the open labor market; and
WHEREAS, in its operation of the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act in the manner just described, the federal government is overseeing and financing a system of segregated employment settings for blind and disabled people, directly contravening the policy of the United States, declared in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, to promote employment opportunities for persons with disabilities in integrated settings: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1995, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this organization urge the Congress to enact legislation which will reshape and reform the Javits-Wagner-O'Day program into an instrument of job training and transitional work opportunities for blind people, providing for each person employed in the program a plan with specifically identified goals and time schedules to obtain competitive employment; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that eligibility for agencies to participate in the Javits-Wagner-O'Day program be based to a considerable extent on each agency's consistent demonstration of its ability to enable blind people to achieve competitive employment outcomes.
There you have the text of the South Carolina's second mailing to the media. Not unlike the rest of the country, the Charleston area certainly has blind persons who are unemployed. However, we believe that Roy Proffitt and the Association for the Blind are exploiting this situation with the apparent intention of creating an outdated segregated sheltered workshop. Unemployed blind persons who are unskilled and economically deprived and who are promised a better quality of life in segregated sheltered-workshop employment are vulnerable and easily intimidated. This has been reflected in the expressions of several blind persons in the Charleston area. While the NFB of South Carolina throughout the decades has worked for greater employment opportunities for the blind and supports proper training and fairness in employment opportunities, we absolutely reject the notion that segregated sheltered-workshop employment is the answer. Thus the NFB of South Carolina will continue to oppose vigorously all efforts by the Association for the Blind to turn the clock back by establishing and perpetuating segregated sheltered-workshop employment, which does nothing significant to improve the quality of life for blind persons.
Linda Tatum, Taylor Smith, and Ellis Hines are not alone in the segregated sheltered-workshop experiences they related in their affidavits. Hundreds of blind Americans trapped in segregated sheltered workshops have had similar experiences. We don't need any more segregated sheltered workshops! The NFB of South Carolina is appalled that the Association for the Blind has once again resurrected this controversy, which had apparently been put to rest some three years ago. The NFB of South Carolina would be derelict in its commitment to the blind and irresponsible not to continue its vigorous opposition to segregated sheltered workshops.
by Susan Walker
From the Editor: What is the impact of one's first convention of the National Federation of the Blind? How can one measure the benefit of meeting thousands of competent blind people and hundreds of focused, optimistic parents of blind children? There are no exact answers to these questions. But the impact of the experience changes lives and sews hope every July when the National Federation of the Blind gathers for its annual convention. Here is what one mother reports about her experience:
Last July in Chicago I attended my first NFB convention with my infant daughter Moriah, who is cortically visually impaired (CVI). Since I had been introduced to the NFB only weeks before, I really didn't know what to expect. However, I was primed for the convention by the contagious enthusiasm of Dawn Neddo, Barbara Cheadle, and Loretta White, all of whom I had met just days before at the June Lilli Nielsen Conference in Novi, Michigan.
Just a couple of months previously, my daughter Moriah had been diagnosed with CVI, and I was still battling shock and hopelessness and struggling for answers. Quite frankly I needed help. How do you teach a blind infant to crawl, walk, talk, or be potty trained? How will I cope? My husband and I are both firm believers that attitude affects 90 percent of what happens in one's life. Therefore, I knew it was crucial for me to regain a conviction of hope for my daughter's future and confidence in my ability to raise her.
When my funding for the NFB convention fell through at the last moment, I called Dawn Neddo to explain that I wouldn't be going after all and to thank her for all her encouragement and help. It was then that I learned my first lesson in parent empowerment from the guru Neddo. The lesson is entitled "Never Give Up." Our conversation ended with Dawn saying, "Let me make a few phone calls, and I'll get back with you." Within minutes the phone rang, and Dawn told me to pack my bags. A scholarship had been granted to me.
Saturday, the first morning in Chicago, I was spellbound as I listened to Marc Maurer and Kenneth Jernigan speak. I could feel the promise of hope welling up within me as I listened to numerous parents and blind children give speeches and perform skits with confidence and ease. I watched in awe as graceful, confident people wove their way through crowded lobbies and hallways using their canes effortlessly. (I was greatly tempted to follow them as I tried to grope my own way through the wall of people.)
I had planned on attending only the parents' pre-convention weekend this year, so I really needed to return home the following Monday. My heart, however, was yearning insatiably for more of this thirst-quenching hope I had received. Deep down I knew that the key to keeping a hopeful perspective is continuing to meet with other parents of blind children. In watching others walk the path that now lies before my family, I see that many of the rough places have been made smooth by these heroic pioneers. I returned home with a feeling of peace and the promise of hope.
Are you considering coming to the 1996 convention of the National Federation of the Blind? Chances are that it will change your life for the better. If you can handle an infusion of optimism, hope, and resolve to change the world, join us for the single most important gathering of blind people to occur in 1996. Read the following article for details.
by Kenneth Jernigan
The time has come to plan for the 1996 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. As Federationists know, our recent National Conventions in Detroit and Chicago were outstanding in every sense of the word--excellent programs, good food and facilities, and wonderful hospitality. But Anaheim in '96 promises to be the best we have ever had. The last time we were in California was Los Angeles in 1976, twenty years ago. We now return to Southern California, bigger and stronger than ever before in our history and ready for a wonderful convention. President Jim Willows and the other leaders and members of the NFB of California tell me that plans are going forward for a spectacular meeting.
We are going to the Anaheim Hilton at 777 Convention Way in Anaheim. Those of you who attended the 1995 convention at the Hilton and Towers in Chicago know how good a Hilton can be, and the one in Anaheim is among the best. A short distance away from Disneyland, the Anaheim Hilton has all of the elements required for a tremendous convention.
Let's begin with the rates: one in a room, $45 per night; two in a room, $47; three in a room, $54; and four in a room, $57. As you can see, these rates are slightly better than we had last year in Chicago. In addition to the room rates, there will be a tax. At the time Mrs. Jernigan and I made the arrangements with the hotel, it was just under 15 percent. There will be no charge for children in a room with parents as long as no extra bed is required. If you want to come a few days early or stay a few days late, convention rates will apply.
As to the meeting facilities, there are two side-by-side ballrooms (the Pacific Ballroom and the California Pavilion) located on the ballroom level. We will use one for our general sessions and the other for exhibits. This will give us maximum efficiency and convenience.
In recent years we have sometimes taken hotel reservations through the National Office, but for the 1996 convention you should write directly to Anaheim Hilton, 777 Convention Way, Anaheim, California 92802-3497, Attention: Reservations; or call (714) 750-4321. 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 Anaheim Hilton in Anaheim.
Here are the convention dates and schedule: Saturday, June 29--seminars for parents of blind children, blind job seekers, and vendors and merchants; several other workshops and meetings. Sunday, June 30--convention registration, first meeting of the Resolutions Committee, other committees, and some of the divisions. Monday, July 1--meeting of the Board of Directors (open to all), division meetings, committee meetings, continuing registration. Tuesday, July 2--opening general session, evening gala. Wednesday, July 3--general sessions, tours (you can bet that Disneyland will be on the list). Thursday, July 4--general sessions, banquet. Friday, July 5--general sessions, adjournment.
There are two major airports one can use when flying into the Anaheim area. They are Los Angeles International Airport and John Wayne Orange County Airport. It may be easier to find a flight into Los Angeles International, but John Wayne is closer to the Anaheim Hilton. Keep both of these airports in mind when you make your travel arrangements.
Remember that we need door prizes from state affiliates, local chapters, and individuals. Prizes should be relatively small in size and large in value. Cash is always popular. In any case, we ask that no prize have a value of less than $25. Drawings will be made steadily throughout the convention sessions. As usual the grand prize at the banquet will be spectacular--worthy of the occasion and the host affiliate. The 1995 grand prize in Chicago was a thousand dollars in cash. The 1996 grand prize will be at least as good. Don't miss the fun! You may bring door prizes with you or send them ahead of time to Patsy and Bob Ramlo, 401 Livingston Avenue, Placentia, California 92670-2420.
The displays of new technology; the meetings of special interest groups, committees, and divisions; the exciting tours; the hospitality and renewed friendships; the solid program items; and the exhilaration of being where the action is and where the decisions are being made--all of these join together to call the blind of the nation to the Anaheim Hilton Hotel in California in July of 1996. Come and be part of it all.
by Don Morris
From the Editor: The following article is reprinted from the Fall, 1994, issue of the Merchants Messenger, the quarterly newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind Merchants Division. It captures the spirit of this holiday season. We can all be proud that Lou Zuares is a Federationist. Here is a delightful Christmas story as Don Morris tells it:
Leon (Lou) Zuares has a varied business background and a wealth of experience. Although Lou was born in Egypt, he is Jewish. His mother was born in Italy; his father in Sardinia. Lou has lived in several countries and is fluent in French, Italian, Arabic, and English.
He has been a vendor in the Maryland Business Enterprise Program since 1984. He currently operates three restaurants. His primary operation is at the Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund (MAIF) located in Annapolis. He has an annex facility at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Experimental Farm in Greenbelt, Maryland. Recently he took over the management of a third full-line cafeteria; this satellite operation is located in the Legislative Services Building in downtown Annapolis.
We all know that the real Santa Claus lives at the North Pole, but Lou Zuares is a genuine long-distance Santa's helper. For the past nine years Lou has provided Christmas dinner to any and all of the 500 employees at the Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund. The price of admission to this traditional Christmas dinner is a gift-wrapped toy. A barrel is placed inside the door. As diners file past, they deposit their gifts in the barrel. Packages are marked for a boy or a girl and indicate the approximate age. Lou places no minimum price requirement on the presents. He says, "We leave it up to each person what they want to give. According to what most people tell us, the presents have a value of from $7 to $10 each." The gifts are turned over to the Toys for Tots program, which distributes them to children in needy families.
Wearing chef hats and aprons provided by Lou, the senior management of the Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund staff the serving line. They scoop the potatoes, dip gravy, and carve the twenty-two freshly roasted turkeys.
Even though lunch is served in three shifts, a very large group of diners at any given time is being served. To accommodate the large number, Lou rents additional tables and chairs, as well as linens for every table. Entering the cafeteria is a sensory delight. The wonderful aroma of roasting turkeys and the scent and sight of poinsettias and other table decorations heighten the Christmas spirit.
Once everyone has been served, Lou and his own employees take over for a massive clean-up effort. In addition to the normal clean-up procedures, leftovers are packed for transport to a Salvation Army facility, which distributes them in a feeding program for homeless people.
Lou is modest about his generosity. He said, "This is just something I like to do." However, his customers and the children who receive the gifts say more. "When I have Christmas lunch with Lou, his food feeds my body and his kindness for children feeds my soul," reports one customer.
Because gifts are donated anonymously, Lou doesn't hear from any of the children, but our guess is that they appreciate this unlikely Santa's helper.
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 the 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."
by Toni and Ed Eames
From the Editor: Ed and Toni Eames are members of the Fresno Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of California. The following article describes a situation with which they have been struggling for more than four years. This is what they have to say:
Willie Lee Johnson, a member of the Fresno Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of California, is serving a fifteen-year-to-life prison term as a result of being convicted of second-degree murder. Based on police records and Willie's discussion of the evidence with us, we have pieced together the following story:
Willie's stepson invited a friend to stay with the family until he found a place of his own. After a while Willie began to suspect the guest was dealing drugs and probably having an affair with Willie's wife. Willie asked the young man to leave, and he then challenged Willie's ability to put him out.
Faced with this impasse, Willie called the police for help. They informed him that, if the house were searched and evidence of drugs or drug dealing were discovered, they would have to arrest all adults in the household. If this happened, Willie believed his twelve-year-old daughter would be placed in a foster home. Fearing the impact of this familial disruption on his daughter, Willie withdrew his complaint.
Several days later (on July 1, 1990) Willie demanded once again that his unwelcome guest leave. As before, he refused and dared Willie to force him out. Frustrated and desperate, Willie went into the guest room, grabbed the young man's shotgun, loaded it, and returned to the living room. He intended to shoot out the TV and other amenities to make life so uncomfortable in the house that the drug dealer would leave. As Willie and his wife struggled for the gun, it went off, and the young man was killed.
Subsequently Willie was arrested and sent to jail. We believe that several factors worked against Willie in his confrontation with the criminal justice system. In addition to being blind, Willie is poor. As a result, he was represented at his trial by a public defender, who says Willie should never have been convicted of second-degree murder.
Willie has concluded that he was inadequately represented at his trial because two vital issues were not brought up in his defense. The first was his blindness. Since Willie, who is legally blind as a result of macular degeneration, had a limited driver's license, his public defender decided that the blindness issue should not be presented in his defense. This decision was made despite the fact that the police report indicated the room in which the homicide took place was dark and the victim was wearing dark clothes, which would have severely limited Willie's ability to target him if that had been his intention. The second issue was the attorney's decision to omit material indicating that the victim had a history of convictions for drug dealing. The public defender claimed afterwards that he could not find any mention of this evidence in the police report although we were able to find reference to it without difficulty.
Willie did not contact us until the trial was over and he was awaiting sentencing. He asked us, as fellow members of the NFB, to act as advocates on his behalf and help him in whatever way we could. We agreed and have been involved with him and his case for the last four years.
Initially, Willie was assigned to New Folsom, a maximum security prison near Sacramento. Although he had no prior criminal record, the authorities were afraid that his job history as a locksmith made him a security risk. Because Willie is not totally blind, prison authorities denied him access to Braille and recorded material. At our request Willie's Fresno ophthalmologist forwarded a report to Folsom certifying Willie as legally blind. Only after prison ophthalmologists confirmed the diagnosis, were we able to convince the administration to authorize his receipt of Braille and recorded material.
At Folsom Willie ran into the barrier of denial of access to the law library. During the last two decades a series of court decisions have recognized prisoners' Constitutional right to help prepare their own appeals. Part of this right is the ability to use the information in the prison libraries. Because of his blindness, Willie cannot read standard print and, we believe, was denied the right of equal access guaranteed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
After several calls we contacted a representative of the California Department of Corrections. When we presented Willie's case, the representative did not see it as a problem or a denial of his rights. Her response is detailed in our letter to the Department of Justice.
Frustrated by the impenetrability of the prison system and fortified by Willie's blessing, we filed a formal complaint with the Department of Justice (DOJ), which is responsible for enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act as it relates to prisons. This is what we wrote:
January 20, 1992
U.S. Department of Justice
Coordination and Review
Civil Rights Division
We request an investigation into the treatment of Willie Lee Johnson, who has been denied his basic right of access to the law library at New Folsom prison in Represa, California. A representative of your office has told us that, if New Folsom receives any federal funds, the Department of Justice has the right to investigate the matter and seek remedies.
Mr. Johnson has been legally blind from early childhood as a result of macular degeneration. Two prison consulting ophthalmologists have noted this fact in their reports (see enclosed documents). Mr. Johnson can read Braille and receives tape-recorded Talking Books from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. He cannot read standard print material without the aid of magnification devices. Despite his legal blindness, no effort has been made to obtain adaptive equipment for him or provide him with readers.
Mr. Johnson wants to be involved in appealing his conviction and sentencing. However, he cannot get involved without access to the law library at New Folsom. When we discussed this issue with Mrs. Easter of the classification section of the Institutional Division of the California Department of Corrections, she told us that he did have access to the law library since he, like any other prisoner, could go into the law library and obtain books. She said the clerks would even help him get books from the stacks. We could not convince her or anyone else in the system that as a legally blind person Mr. Johnson did not have access since he could not read the material.
As field representatives of the National Federation of the Blind of California and as members of the National Federation of the Blind's Fresno chapter, to which Mr. Johnson belongs, we call on the Department of Justice to investigate this obvious case of discrimination against him.
The National Federation of the Blind is the largest consumer organization of blind people in the United States with a membership of more than 50,000. Our goal is to eliminate discrimination against blind people in all areas of our society. We believe that Mr. Johnson has been a victim of such discrimination.
Please let us know what steps you can take to remedy this situation.
Ed and Toni Eames
NFB of California
Shortly after we registered this complaint, Willie was transferred to the California Medical Facility at Vacaville. However, he still faced the problem of lack of law-library access. Despite the presence of more than twenty blind prisoners at this facility, no reasonable accommodation had been made for them. Willie discovered many additional instances of discrimination as he talked with other blind prisoners.
No educational or rehabilitation services were provided. A number of prisoners who needed white canes were denied access to them. Although a large-print version of a test to become a clerk was provided for Willie, he could not enter the training program after passing the test because the training materials were not available in large print. However, Willie has continued his education by taking courses from the Hadley School for the Blind.
Once Willie realized how bad things were at this facility despite its large blind prison population, he asked Sharon Gold, then President of the NFB of California, to support his efforts to organize an NFB chapter at the prison. Sharon provided him with the necessary letter, and Willie began organizing. However, prison authorities would not permit any group meetings. Thus, the effort failed.
A few weeks after we filed our complaint, we were notified that the Department of Justice had assigned Richard Waters, an employee in Washington, D.C., to investigate the complaint. In October of 1992, after many phone conversations, Mr. Waters visited Vacaville to investigate Willie's complaint as well as those of other blind prisoners. He interviewed Willie twice and held interviews with twenty other inmates. After these interviews he met with the warden of Vacaville and his staff and with the Deputy Director of the California Department of Corrections and his staff. All agreed that there were violations of the rights of blind prisoners, and Mr. Waters was asked to prepare a statement detailing the results of his investigation and to make policy and procedural recommendations.
In January of 1993, a year after the official complaint was filed, we spoke with Mr. Waters about the progress being made. He indicated that his report was finished and that the California Department of Corrections was willing to cooperate in implementing his suggestions. However, his superiors at DOJ seemed to be in no hurry to settle the matter. Mr. Waters assured us that the discrimination faced by Willie and other blind prisoners would be removed, but he just didn't know when.
In October of 1993 Willie was transferred to the California Men's Colony at San Luis Obispo. Since the transfer we have been able to interest representatives of the University of California at Davis Law School Civil Rights Clinic in Willie's case. Unfortunately, the case with the Department of Justice received a blow when a class action suit was brought against the California Department of Corrections by a group of physically disabled prisoners. When the DOJ learned of this development, it turned Willie's case over to the lawyers representing the physically disabled prisoners. Willie's claims of discrimination are being included in this class-action case, known as Armstrong v. California Department of Corrections. This case is slated to be heard in federal court on April 1, 1996.
Apart from and reaching far beyond the issue of the denial of Willie's civil rights as a blind inmate is the issue of the unduly harsh sentence he received. Without success we have approached attorneys to help in his appeal on a pro-bono basis. Despite his inability to access the law library, Willie (assisted by sighted prisoners) has filed an appeal and is hoping for a new trial.
Willie looks forward to the day when he can resume active participation in our Fresno Chapter. Until that time comes, we support him in many ways, including visiting him in the California Men's Colony, located more than 100 miles from Fresno.
All visitors are required by the Department of Corrections to obtain prior approval, and several of our sighted friends who are NFB supporters have joined us in acquiring such approval in order to drive us to the prison. Visitors must adhere to a dress code which, surprisingly, is never fully specified in the visitor's instruction packet. We haven't gotten it right yet! Each time we visit, we or our driver wear something that violates a rule not specified in the written code. Knowing that blue is a forbidden color, because prisoners are identified by their blue outfits, on our first visit Ed wore black slacks. The checkpoint guard disallowed Ed's pants, insisting that they had faded to navy blue. During a winter visit, knowing that layering was not permitted, Toni wore a hooded shirt. Hoods, we discovered, are disallowed. Given our previous experience with the quixotic dress code, our driver wore on our last visit a bright red blouse and white pants. Believe it or not, the pants were considered too tight and disallowed! Initially we were concerned that our guide dogs might present an access problem. To our consternation, it has been clothing rather than dogs that has plagued our visits. The clothing issue would have been disastrous had it not been for the availability of a visitors' swap shop at a neighboring prison facility. Apparently we are not the only ones to run afoul of the unstated dress code.
One of the unanticipated benefits of our visits has been the impact of our dogs on Willie's fellow prisoners. Inmates and visitors meet in a large social hall dotted with tables, chairs, and food vending machines. During each of our visits several men have approached us asking permission to pet our dogs. Many have not seen or interacted with a dog for more than ten years. The dogs are also an attraction for children visiting their fathers in prison. One father was delighted when we allowed his threeyear-old daughter to have her picture taken standing with her arms around our two golden retriever guides.
Willie is seeking correspondence with NFB members. Unfortunately, all personal correspondence must be in print. Under current prison rules, he is not permitted to have a tape recorder and cannot receive taped correspondence, which could be played on his NLS equipment. Since Willie is denied the right to receive and send recorded correspondence (an accommodation to him as a blind prisoner) and has to ask fellow inmates to handle print correspondence, the Armstrong case lawyers have added this discriminatory policy to the class action suit.
Those interested in corresponding should write to Willie Lee Johnson E81930, California Men's Colony, PO Box 8101, Quad B, Cell 3178, San Luis Obispo, California 93401- 8101.
by Nadine Jacobson as told to Bill Holton
From the Editor: The following article first appeared in the "Profiles in Courage" section of the October, 10, 1995, issue of Family Circle Magazine. Nadine and Steve Jacobson are leaders in the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota. They are not the first nor, regrettably, will they be the last couple to have difficulty adopting a child simply because they happen to be blind. But articles like this one will certainly make a difference in our efforts to educate the public about this painful and maddening issue. Here is Nadine's story:
My husband Steve and I were so excited. There was a newborn boy in Arkansas, and after years of hoping and trying, it looked as if we were finally going to become parents. The private adoption seemed so certain, we started buying baby clothes and furniture for the nursery. But then, abruptly, the lawyer who was handling the adoption stopped taking our calls.
"I'm sorry," he said when I finally got through to him, "but we changed our minds and decided to give the baby to another family." He explained that it wasn't because there was a problem with our home study or that Steve and I couldn't support a child financially. The lawyer made it perfectly clear there was only one reason we weren't getting that baby boy--because Steve and I are both blind.
Steve and I have known each other since I was six and he was eight. We were both students at the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind, where we pretty much grew up together. We started dating when he was fourteen and I was twelve. We played in the school band together and sang in the choir. I was a cheerleader; Steve wrestled on the school team. When Steve graduated and went on to college, I left the Academy and spent my last two years in public high school back home in Richmond, Minnesota, where I became involved in speech tournaments, had parts in several school plays, and graduated near the top of my class.
We were married in the spring of 1973 and set up housekeeping in Minneapolis while I finished college and Steve started turning his math degree into a career in computers. Like many couples our age, we always planned on having a family but decided to wait, wanting to become a bit more settled first. Steve went to work for 3M, where today he's a lead programmer analyst. I got my master's degree in social work, and over the years I have licensed foster homes, done advocacy work for the elderly, taught Braille, and done career counseling at a private rehab agency for the blind.
About ten years ago Steve and I decided it was time to begin our family. Unfortunately, nature didn't agree. Fertility drugs, making love on a schedule, many trips to the doctors didn't help. Eventually, I underwent surgery to try to increase my chances of conception. When even this failed, Steve and I were forced to face the truth: I was probably never going to get pregnant.
The Adoption Option
We'd talked about adoption many times. It was always something we hoped to do after we had a baby of our own, but now that it looked like a biological baby wasn't going to happen. . . .
Walking into that first agency interview in June of 1989, Steve and I knew we had a lot of work ahead of us. Although social workers are educated to understand how the disabled function and adapt, all too frequently they harbor the same misconceptions and negative stereotypes as does much of the general population. We knew we were going to have to do a lot of educating, teaching them everything we knew about how blind parents parent.
"Please, ask us anything you want to know," I encouraged the agency officials. They seemed open to what we had to say and asked a lot of detailed questions. For example, how would we know if our child were sick or playing with something that might be dangerous? I explained to them that, like most parents who don't spend every minute of every day in the same room with their child, you do a lot of careful listening. If the child becomes too noisy or too quiet, then you know it's time to check. You become especially careful not to leave things lying about that a small child could hurt himself with or put in his mouth.
Also as a blind parent you tend to spend more time with your child, sitting on the edge of the tub or standing right there beside the swing set. And as for illness, they do make talking thermometers, but what mother can't tell when her child is sick just by the sound of her breathing or a gentle kiss on an overheated forehead?
During the following weeks we filled out any number of forms, provided written life histories and philosophies of parenting and such, and prepared ourselves for that all- important home visit. Everything seemed to be right on track, and Steve and I started to feel cautiously optimistic.
When the social worker who did the home visit asked how we would feel about adopting a blind child, we told her that we wouldn't have a problem with it but that, if we'd had our own baby, he or she wouldn't have been blind, so we didn't think eyesight should be a consideration. "Yes, well," she replied matter-of-factly, "I can't imagine we would even consider placing a sighted child with you."
Best Interest of the Child
Steve and I were disappointed by her attitude, but we understood it. In any placement the agency needs to keep the best interest of the child as its first priority, and apparently this woman simply did not believe the best interest of a sighted child could ever be served by placing him with blind parents. Understanding her position, of course, didn't make it any less misguided. There are thousands of blind parents raising sighted children and doing a fine job of it. After all, it's not what you can or can't see that makes you a good parent; it's what you teach your child about love and life and living in the world. (We later learned of another reason the agency wanted to limit our adoption to blind children. They were afraid that eighteen years from now a sighted child might sue them for forcing him to grow up with blind parents.)
We tried to educate them, but it became clear that their minds were set: they would help us find a child, but it was going to be a blind child.
Were we equally set against adopting a blind child? Of course not. Steve and I don't think any less of ourselves or each other because we happen to be blind. How could it make a difference in the way we would feel about a child? But we did want to adopt a child, and fewer than 1 in 200 children in the world are born blind. And many of those babies also have severe physical problems that make them unlikely candidates for adoption.
We had chosen this agency because they specialize in finding children in Korea and South America, where there are far more babies waiting to be adopted than adoptive parents. We figured the larger the pool of potential children, the sooner we'd find a baby who was just right for us. But then the agency tells us that for us the only right baby is a rare, blind baby.
So rare that, after a year and more of searching, the agency hadn't been able to come up with a single potentially adoptable child for us.
Eventually Steve and I began to look elsewhere. We ran up huge phone bills calling other agencies in other states as well as attorneys who specialize in private adoptions. There were agencies that would agree to help us, but then we'd never hear from them again. Even though attorneys were more straightforward, they couldn't help us either.
By the summer of 1992 Steve and I were despairing. And then we were introduced to a social worker from Washington State named Barbara Freeman. Barbara and her husband Mike had experienced many of the same roadblocks to adopting a child as had Steve and I. It had taken them five years to find a child, particularly discouraging since Barbara wasn't blind; only her husband was. Barbara told us of an agency in Oregon called Hold International Children's Services, which specialized in placing children with special needs. We contacted them at once.
Again we were asked if we'd mind adopting a blind child. Again we explained that, blind or sighted, it didn't matter to us--what we wanted was a baby, a precious new life to love and cherish and raise as our own.
It was a few months later, in September of 1992, when we got a call back. "We think we've found a baby for you. A five-month-old little girl from Korea named Kang Soo Jee."
Steve and I tried not to get too excited. We didn't want to get our hopes up, only to have them dashed again. Sure enough, a few weeks later we got a call. "We don't think this child is going to work out for you after all," the woman apologized.
"What's the problem?" I asked, my stomach tightening into a knot.
She explained that Kang Soo Jee wasn't totally blind, and they were worried that a partially sighted child might be too much for Steve and me.
Back to square one. I explained to her that I had been partially sighted as a child, so I knew what it was like. I understood the sort of things Kang Soo Jee needed to know in order to make the best use of her limited vision and how techniques used by the blind could help her avoid the dangers of partial-sightedness.
The agency representative promised to take what I'd told her under advisement. Six weeks later we received their decision: Steve and I had been approved for adoption. Though the waiting wasn't over--there were papers to be filed, a passport and visa to be secured, and about a million last- minute things that could go wrong--it began to look as if Steve and I were finally going to get the baby we'd been praying for.
Our daughter arrived in this country at 1:45 p.m. on March 25, 1993, five days after my fortieth birthday, and eight days before her very first.
"Oh, Elizabeth!" I wept, accepting my baby girl from her escort and using the new name we planned to give her. Steve was right there by my side, a proud new papa.
She was so tiny, so beautiful, and after all these years of wanting and waiting, I could hardly believe she was really mine.
When she first came to us, she was mostly crawling, and she could only speak a few words of Korean. Just today she was chasing the cat around the house with one of the arm protectors from the sofa, calling, "Kitty, night-night! Kitty, night-night!" Later, while I was fixing dinner, she sat on the kitchen floor with most of the pots and pans out, banging the lids and saying, "`abeth cook too!"
Elizabeth loves watching Barney on TV. She sings along, and when it's time for the "I Love You" song, she always runs over and gives me a great big hug. After Barney, we often go to the little park up the street. Sometimes I take her in the stroller with the handle that reverses so I can pull it with my right hand while I cane with my left, or else I fasten a loose string tether around our wrists and let her use her own, smaller cane. She does pretty well with it, too. I stick pretty close to Elizabeth in the playground and usually dress her in a pair of shoes with tiny bells on the off chance she decides to go exploring.
After dinner the three of us go for a walk, and Elizabeth gets to ride in her daddy's backpack. Elizabeth loves her daddy. She loves listening to him read to her from one of her picture books with the text transcribed into Braille, or helping him put together one of the many puzzles I've Braille-marked on the back so I know which picture we're working on. I've similarly marked the colors of many of her toys, because no one is ever going to say my little girl doesn't know green from orange because both her parents are blind.
I hope, though, that we'll be able to teach Elizabeth more than just the colors of the rainbow or how to read Braille or use her white cane to negotiate her way across a busy intersection. If Steve and I are truly to succeed as parents, we're also going to have to impart to Elizabeth everything we know about growing up to become a decent and responsible human being. We'll have to show her how to enjoy each day of her life to the fullest and, most important, give her the support and confidence to recognize that there isn't anything in this whole wide world she can't accomplish if only she sets her mind to it.
But then, aren't these the very same beliefs, values, and ideals that parents everywhere hope to instill in their children?
by Chris Shackleford
From the Editor: It's easy to get discouraged when being constantly reminded of how much there is still to do to win the right for blind children to take their proper place in school and the normal social life of their peers. Ignorance, fear, and misconception play such a large part in people's reaction to blindness that it sometimes seems as though we are getting nowhere. But we are making a difference. Gradually things are changing. Parents are learning what to demand and expect of themselves, their blind children, and their schools. On rare occasions, educators actually get the equation right. And sometimes local agency staff members and other blindness professionals even know how to provide truly useful help and do so with a minimum of fuss and with admirable efficiency. Occasionally all of these things happen at the same time and for the same child. When that occurs, it is usually because the National Federation of the Blind and the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children have been active in the area.
That is what has been happening recently in Chattanooga, where Amanda and April Jones live with their grandparents and where long-time Federationist David Robinson has recently become Executive Director of the Vital Center. The Jones family has attended the past two annual conventions of the National Federation of the Blind, and Pat Jones has taken an active part in organizing a parents division in Tennessee. The combination of all these factors has been wonderful news for April and Amanda. Here is a recent story about the Jones twins as it appeared in the September 19, 1995, edition of the Chattanooga Free Press. The story should bring you a little cheer for the holiday season. Here it is:
Amanda and April Jones are disappointed.
"I wanted to be on TV," April says, upon learning her interviewer is a newspaper reporter.
Resigned to being in print, she reaches over to touch the reporter's steno pad.
"Read me your notes," she asks.
"April," her grandmother Pat Jones reminds her, "That's not nice."
"But I want to know what she's writing about me," the youngster insists.
Born premature, April, like her twin sister Amanda, is blind. But that's the only thing that separates these dual dynamos from their classmates at Ooltewah Intermediate School.
"Indeed," says David Robinson, executive director of the VITAL Center, the agency that provides rehabilitation services to the visually impaired, "they're like any other nine-year-old kids. The only difference is that they just happen to be blind. They're at that age now where they're asserting their independence. They're very outgoing and full of energy." In other words, "The twins are quite a handful."
"They like to rollerblade, go swimming, ride bikes, and go to the movies," their grandmother says. And recently the girls joined the Chattanooga girls choir and are learning to play the piano.
"In fact, given the chance, there is no reason they can't do anything their sighted peers do," Mr. Robinson says, "so long as they have access to alternative skills that allow them to function independently."
That's where VITAL comes in. Not only does VITAL provide orientation and mobility (cane travel) and Braille training, which allow the visually impaired to function; VITAL also provides consultation to the teachers at their school in the case of the twins.
"Federal law mandates that schools must provide the disabled with an equal and appropriate education and the necessary support. That includes Braille materials, equipment, tape recorders," he explains.
The problem is some mainstream classroom teachers don't know how to communicate with the blind.
"If a teacher puts an assignment on the board, Amanda and April can't copy it down. The teacher has to find a way to provide the information in an alternative format," Mr. Robinson says.
As a result VITAL works to help classroom teachers adapt their lessons so that youngsters like the Jones twins can function independently and successfully.
"Most blind people want to function normally within society. And they can, once they learn the basic alternative skills. That, in turn, builds confidence. And confidence encourages people to attempt and learn more things. It creates a positive cycle," he says.
Pat Jones agrees. "David has been great. He has developed so many programs for our children. He's been a wonderful influence on the girls."
Recently the girls spoke to a meeting of the Lions Club to discuss their disability and the need for better understanding about the barriers many handicapped people face.
"Someone asked me recently if I wasn't being a little too hard on them because I make them walk to the school bus stop rather than have the bus pick them up at the front door," their grandmother relates. "I said, `No, they're perfectly capable of walking to the bus stop.'"
"A lot of people want to protect them. They don't understand that it's important that they learn to lead independent lives."
So far, the approach appears to be working. Just ask April.
"I was the only one to make 100 on the math test today," she says, squealing with pride.
And as for taking the bus to school like their sighted friends, well that's okay too. With perhaps one exception.
"It has a lot of boys on it," the twins echo.
by Sue Drapinski
From the Editor: Sue Drapinski is the Treasurer of the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan. She and her husband Don are long-time leaders of the affiliate. Sue wrote the following article after the close of the 1995 NFB of Michigan Summer Day Camp for blind youngsters and their families. Here is what she has to say:
We've all been asked what the National Federation of the Blind is and what the organization does. We know the answer and can give it without even thinking--it is so much a part of us. But the answer to the question that often follows, "Why the National Federation of the Blind?" varies from person to person and situation to situation. Here is my current answer.
We of the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan have just completed our eighth summer day-camp program for blind children. We have made changes and refinements over the years, and this year we believe was our best program yet. We invited blind children and their families to join us on five separate field trips. We went for a train ride, explored a fire engine hands-on, went roller blading, spent a day at a wave pool and water slide, went to the zoo, toured a farm, and went to the beach. Each day we had a picnic lunch. We enjoyed our old friends, made new ones, and grew stronger in our common belief that blind children are no different from any others. Most important, we gave our blind children and their families the opportunity to learn this truth first hand.
But such learning does not stop with the blind children and their families. We teach wherever we go and whomever we encounter. The owner of the railroad company that provided the train trip asked me what to do with our group. She went on to explain that they usually gave a narrated tour and used such comments as "Look to your left and you'll see . . .," or "When you see the train crossing,. . . ." She then asked me what she should say instead so that she wouldn't hurt anyone's feelings. My response was not to do anything different from what she normally would do, and everything would be fine. Was she naive to ask this question? Absolutely. Was it a stupid question? Not to her and, therefore, not to me. But the important point was that she listened to my answer. We talked for a few minutes about the National Federation of the Blind and our philosophy. She then did the presentation in the same way she always did, and we all enjoyed and learned from it. And she learned as well.
What about Kyle, who went down the giant water slide? One of the attendants at the top of the slide radioed to the attendant at the bottom, "Blind child coming down." Was this necessary? Absolutely not, but the attendants learned. Kyle went back on the slide again. He showed the park personnel that he could handle the slide the same way any other child would have, and on his second and third trips down the slide there were no radio announcements about the blind child coming down. They have learned.
These encounters were small victories, but they were victories nonetheless. During each of our trips the children also observed blind adults barbecuing, roller blading, and swimming. The children quickly learned that blind adults do all the things other adults do.
Why the National Federation of the Blind for me? Because I believe in this philosophy. It must be shared with the people who cross our path. I am committed to doing my part in accomplishing this goal. I have also found, need, and enjoy the friendships and love that are a part of our Federation family.
But most important are Adam, Alison, Charles, Cheryl, Christina, Jared, Jason, Karl, Kyle, Steven, and Zach--the blind children of this year's summer day camp program. For me, they are the most powerful answer to the question, "Why the National Federation of the Blind?"
by Jerry Whittle
From the Editor: Developing good study habits and using readers effectively are important skills for any blind student to master. From time to time we have published articles on this important subject. (See "The Care and Feeding of Readers" by Peggy Pinder in the May, 1993, issue and "Of Readers, Drivers, and Responsibility" by Peggy Elliott and Barbara Cheadle in the March, 1995, issue.) Jerry Whittle is a staff member at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. He has worked with many students and has personal experience supervising readers successfully. His approach is a little different from that of Peggy Pinder Elliott, but his message is the same. This is what he says:
Over the past ten years the Louisiana Center for the Blind has had several students who had never used readers before and who sought to be more effective in their study habits. Usually I discover that these students have been making some fundamental errors in using their readers efficiently. First of all many blind college students make the mistake of hiring only one or two readers, usually college students attending the same institution as the blind person. One or two readers are not enough. Tests at a university often occur on roughly the same schedule in all classes; therefore, student readers need to study for their own tests, so they are unable to spend lots of time helping the blind student during these high-pressure periods in the school year. If, however, the blind student maintains a list of seven or eight dependable readers, the chances of finding someone to help study in times of crisis are far greater.
Another principle in using readers is not to hire university students only. It is important to hire one or two readers who do not attend college. At exam time all college students are necessarily engrossed in their own studies and do not have much time to help a blind employer. A reader from outside the university becomes extremely important in such times of concentrated study.
It is essential that the time you spend with your readers be effectively used. Some students make the error of relying on their readers to record tapes only. During my undergraduate and postgraduate work, I rarely asked readers to tape record anything for me and drop it off. I did this for several reasons. First of all, when one allows a reader to work on his or her own recognizance, he or she is less likely to be efficient than when reading directly to the employer. Tapes often come back with innumerable yawns or recorded by a voice that sounds as though the reader were an inmate of a concentration camp. This happens because readers often get around to recording the material only when their own studies are finished and they are ready for bed.
Second, tapes can break, twist into frightful knots, or become garbled. Third, no two tape recorders are alike, so the reader may well use a K-Mart special to produce tapes that will be irritating or incomprehensible on your top-of- the-line tape recorder. Fourth, human nature being what it is, readers often do not get study materials recorded until the very last minute. Often anxiously awaited tapes don't appear at all because the reader has not been under the blind employer's direct supervision. In short, reader laziness and irresponsibility can be a terrible problem, and they are more likely to occur when one sends a reader home with material to record rather than doing it live and under direct supervision.
Many blind students also make some rather tragic mistakes when using a reader under direct supervision. For example, for some reason many blind students believe that they are studying effectively if they simply sit and listen to someone read a chapter. Unfortunately, this method is almost useless. Statistics have shown that a person retains only about 15 percent of what he or she simply hears when studying in this manner. One does not remember much without writing it down. It is vitally important that a blind student take careful notes from the material being read aloud. Use a slate and stylus and sit at a desk or table when studying. Point out to your reader the important passages that you wish to have underlined or highlighted; then, after you have listened to your reader and have written down the important points with a slate, ask him or her to record the important material he or she has marked in the chapter. Listen to this condensed material and take notes while listening to it.
I would like to reiterate how important one's working environment is. I once visited the apartment of a student who was not doing well in class but who was using a reader consistently and studying at least two hours a day for a single course. This student was sitting on a couch with her reader. She had no writing instruments within reach, and she was listening to music on the radio at the same time. She heard the chapter read, but she had no notes to refer to, so she probably retained only 10 percent of what she had almost heard through the music. In summary, it is wise to sit at a table or desk, take notes, ask one's reader to underline important material, and tape record this underlined material for future review. This method has proven to be successful for many blind students.
Many people make another tragic mistake in the classroom. These students decide to tape record their class lectures, but they do not take notes while the tape recorder is going. However, sighted students are taking notes with a pen or pencil while listening to the lecture. By the close of the class, the sighted students have heard the lecture and also have hard-copy print notes to review further. In contrast a blind student who depends only on the tape recorder retains hardly any of the lecture; he or she has no hard-copy notes; in fact, the blind student has almost nothing until he or she returns home and begins to study by listening to the entire lecture again and again. It is extremely important that one take notes while listening to a lecture. Writing helps the mind focus on what is being said instead of wandering. Additionally, this is an excellent way to begin developing faster and more useful notetaking speed.
This raises another problem. Many blind students lack confidence in taking notes, so a sighted notetaker is often assigned to help. A sighted notetaker is at best an unsatisfactory way to handle one's college studies. Such notes may well not be dependable and are unlikely to include all the things and only the things that the blind student would have written down. Taking notes is a highly individualized exercise since everyone comes to the lecture with his or her own approach to and previous knowledge of the subject. Moreover, a blind student who uses a notetaker in class has already planted in the professor's mind the concept that he or she cannot do the work independently. Finally, the blind student has wasted valuable class time by not focusing on the lecture as attentively as his or her note-taking classmates do.
In order to compete on an equal basis, blind students must use their readers effectively and find ways to keep them working hard in a team effort. Cultivating and keeping good readers is important during a college career. You must establish good working habits with readers. Stressing how important your studies are to you can be an effective way of getting a reader to go the extra mile. "I am taking sixteen hours this semester, and I really depend on my readers to enable me to make good grades," is not a bad thing to say to a reader from the outset of the working relationship.
It is also important for the reader to recognize that the blind student is in charge of study time. The reader is an employee, and the blind student expects him or her to be on time and to read and work steadily for one- to two-hour periods. During my college career I found it difficult to keep a reader on task for more than two hours. Even my best readers grew weary of reading continually for that period, and some of them were ready to call it a day after one hour. For that reason I scheduled my readers to come in every two hours. Since I was a day person, I usually scheduled my classes as early in the morning as possible and kept my afternoons free to use readers, having them come in every two hours. I saved my evenings for further review or to listen to textbooks on tape or to socialize when time permitted. I would suggest that students schedule readers during the hours of their peak concentration.
Additionally, it is important that the blind employer not be afraid to phase out poor or irresponsible readers as quickly as possible. During my undergraduate studies alone, I hired well over twenty-five readers, but I used only about seven for any length of time. I never allowed them to take control of my study time; I made sure that I was prepared to begin work as soon as they arrived. Many students make the mistake of waiting until the reader arrives to get out the work for the day, and fifteen to twenty minutes of precious time is then wasted preparing to study. It would be much more efficient to have the necessary materials organized and ready to read as soon as the reader arrives. This preparedness minimizes the temptation to converse too much. I would begin to answer chatty comments in monosyllables and comport myself in such a way that it was clear I wanted to study. A wise and disciplined blind student will communicate the idea that general conversation is appropriate only after studying is finished.
In some circumstances it may be appropriate to give an occasional small gift to a particularly good and dependable reader. This gesture may keep him or her working hard. For example, in college I had a very good reader who was not paid expeditiously after I had turned in her hours. She was growing impatient to be paid by the Commission for the Blind, and I could sense her consternation. I bought her a small gift and attached this note to it: "I couldn't make the grade without you." She was touched and kept reading diligently until she was finally paid. Don't take a good reader for granted--cultivate and thank him or her.
On another occasion this same reader grew weary of reading for me after three or four weeks of concentrated work, probably because I did not relent in my desire to do well with my studies. She said to me one day, "Couldn't we just talk some time? Wouldn't it be nice to have some bread and cheese and wine and just talk instead of studying all the time?" So the next time we were scheduled to read, I put a bottle of wine, two wine glasses, a small loaf of bread, and some packaged cheese in my briefcase. When she met me that evening in an empty classroom of the history building, I opened the briefcase and took out the contents, and we had a wonderful conversation for two hours. After that she felt relieved not to be under pressure all the time; and she read sedulously and without complaint for the rest of the semester.
Remember that good readers are extremely important to a blind student's success, but more important is the way readers are used. Other important aspects of a successful college career are the kind of working relationship one establishes and how effectively a blind student keeps a reader working. Most important, remember to write information down. Listening alone is not a satisfactory method.
by Marc Maurer
From the Editor: The following article first appeared in Toothpaste and Railroad Tracks, the most recently released Kernel Book, published by the National Federation of the Blind. It begins with Dr. Jernigan's introduction:
Abraham Lincoln wielded an axe, and he also became a lawyer. Although Marc Maurer has never been elected President of the United States, he has followed Lincoln's footsteps with the axe and the lawbook. Living in different centuries, both Lincoln and Maurer had hardships to overcome--and both succeeded when they might have despaired and given up.
No, Marc Maurer has never been elected President of the United States--but he has been elected President of the National Federation of the Blind, a position he holds today. And the lives of countless blind people are better as a result. Here is how he tells the story of his development.
Many of the toys I was given as a child were mechanical. Toy cars and trucks often contained mechanisms attached to the wheels that made a noise when the vehicle was pushed across the floor. I wanted to know what was inside, and I took them apart. But this was not all. Alarm clocks, mechanical ice-cream dippers, egg beaters, doorknob assemblies, electric motors, our family lawn mower, the vacuum cleaner, and anything else I hadn't been forbidden to touch--I took them all apart.
Then came the question of putting them together again. Those who have taken an alarm clock to pieces know how difficult this can be. The spring shoots out, and the pieces go everywhere. Even if you can find all the parts, it is hard to tell which tiny wheel or spring goes where.
The first time that I dismantled a piece of machinery which was not working and reassembled it so that it functioned properly, I was delighted. I began to examine everything with the idea that I might "fix it."
Although I was then--as I am now--blind, I became the fixer for our family. My father was the principal fixer, but he was a traveling salesman, and he was often away from home. If an electrical cord needed a new plug, if a curtain rod needed hanging, if a hinge on a door had become loosened, if the washers in a faucet needed to be replaced-- I was the one to be called upon to put it right.
I even got to work on our second car, a 1954 Plymouth. My Dad forbade me to monkey with the internal mechanisms of the new car. He drove that one for work, and he did not want me fiddling with it. He would let me change the tires if they were flat or put the new license plates on. He would even let me look at the engine if I wanted to. I just couldn't do anything to it.
My father had many tools, and he shared them with me and taught me to use them. But he had very little experience with blindness, and he did not know how blind people use power machinery. He gave me an electric drill, and he let me use his disk sander, but he did not encourage me to use the power saws. He thought that using them was beyond the capabilities of a blind boy, and I agreed with him.
In 1969 I met Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, who was then serving as President of the National Federation of the Blind. I was a student in Dr. Jernigan's program for training blind adults. In that program there was no prohibition against blind students' using power tools.
There were hand tools, of course, but there were the big ones, too--a table saw, a planer, a radial arm saw, a joiner, a wood lathe, a metal lathe, a vertical mill, a drill press, and more. And best of all, I was not prohibited from using them. I was expected to make them function. I was expected to learn how to use the machines and to demonstrate my knowledge by building something. During the time that I was in the program I hoisted an engine out of a car, tore it to pieces, and rebuilt it.
One cold winter day we traveled to a wooded area. I took one end of a two-man cross cut saw, and, before the day was through, we had cut down a tree more than three feet thick. It was exciting and fun.
Although I was a student in Dr. Jernigan's program, I knew that the time was approaching for me to go to college. The fun that I had had manipulating tools made me wonder whether I should study engineering.
Dr. Jernigan encouraged me not to be limited by a single perspective. How mechanical things fit together can be interesting, he told me, but there are other fascinating ideas as well. How do organizations accomplish their goals? How do governments achieve their objectives? What is it that makes people persuasive? What are the characteristics that cause an individual to be a leader? How is opportunity created? What are the driving forces behind social change? How are the decisions reached within society to select one direction over another? Not only did Dr. Jernigan pose these challenging questions, but he also introduced me to a startling new idea.
I, as a blind person, could--if I possessed the ability and the willingness to work--help to decide the answers. If I could learn how social structures worked and if I could discover how change was created, I might be able to help contribute to the building of a nation.
Before I became a part of the National Federation of the Blind, I believed that I might be able to replace a broken leaf spring or to balance a flywheel. But I never imagined that I would be able to participate in determining broader questions.
With the help of my friends in the National Federation of the Blind, I enrolled at the University of Notre Dame. After graduating with honor from Notre Dame, I entered law school. For many centuries the law has been among the honored professions.
In law school I learned that the law, the courts, and the judicial system are not mysterious or unknowable--not beyond the mental capacity of a blind student--not an unattainable goal. The law is a tool to be used to achieve a stable and civilized society. It changes to meet the demands of that society. In the hands of a skillful artisan the law can be used to bring about the most worthwhile results. And it possesses a great deal of power.
Early in my legal career I learned that a seventy-six-year-old woman had (four years earlier) been declared criminally insane. Agnes had been placed behind bars in the mental hospital for criminals. When I questioned the doctor about her case, he told me that Agnes was perfectly sane. I asked for permission to interview her in the hospital, and she asked me to represent her in the courts.
Agnes had been good friends with her neighbor Clara--a woman somewhat younger than she. To Agnes's amazement, Clara stole Agnes's husband. There was a fight, and Agnes was hauled off by the police. Clara told the arresting officer that Agnes was having strange hallucinations, and she repeated her testimony in the court. Agnes was adjudged to be insane.
Unless something could be done to change the circumstances, Agnes would live out the remainder of her life in the mental hospital. I prepared a petition of habeas corpus and presented it to the court. The prosecuting attorney refused to consider an adjudication without court proceedings. The matter came on for hearing, and I prepared witnesses to present evidence. The doctor repeated under oath what he had told me in our private conversation. Medical evidence indicated that Agnes was sane.
After the evidence had been presented, it was time for argument to the court. Locking a person who is sane in a hospital for the criminally insane is the same as putting that person in jail. Our law states unequivocally that no person may be put permanently in jail unless that person has been convicted of a crime. Even if a conviction has occurred, a judge must decide how long the sentence will be.
Agnes had already been in the hospital for four years, and she was facing the real possibility of life behind bars. I asked the court to release this seventy-six-year-old lady. The judge gave the order that we wanted.
Although I have handled many different kinds of cases in my career, most of the legal practice that I do today involves individuals who are blind or corporations established to assist the blind. The diversity of experience I have had in the courts has helped to give me perspective and understanding in the things I do today.
As I think about the tools that I have used in my lifetime (both those that are mechanical and those that are not), I am astonished and pleased to note that the learning never stops. In 1993 my son David joined the Cub Scouts. A new pack was being formed at the church we attend. Despite my inexperience (I had never been a Scout), I was asked to serve as an assistant leader. As a part of my responsibility I participated in the 1994 fall Camporee.
In this event the Scouts go out into the woods, set up tents, build fires, cook their meals, and practice outdoor skills: recognizing and following tracks, tying different kinds of knots, building shelters with the materials at hand in the forest, learning to load a backpack, and chopping wood. The wood-chopping exercise demands precision. A wooden match stick is placed on the chopping block with its striking end up. The Scout is expected to split the match with a hatchet. Extra points are given (they say) if the match lights as you cut it.
I was the leader, so I was not asked to perform this feat. I was glad not to be expected to perform in public. Even though I have a great respect and a great appreciation for good tools, I had never used a hatchet or an axe.
I thought about why this was so. I remember quite well the story of the tin woodman from the Wizard of Oz. He made a number of mistakes with his axe. One at a time he cut off each of his legs and each of his arms. They had to be replaced with tin. Then he slipped once more and cut his body so that it had to be replaced as well.
I came to understand that using an axe was a dangerous thing to do. Although I would probably not have said so, I thought it was too dangerous and too impractical for a blind person. Consequently, I never tried. All of this is what I thought on that camping trip. How often we create our own limitations and restrict our activities because we don't believe there is any possibility of doing otherwise.
Later, in the fall of 1994 I borrowed a hatchet and, working with my son David, chopped out a stump in the yard of one of my neighbors. I have always liked physical work with tools. Perhaps this is because I spend most of my working days in an office, meeting with people and managing documents.
The fireplace in my house needs wood to make the evenings pleasant. Each fire requires kindling. I suppose it is possible to buy it, but my son and I have begun making it ourselves. He uses the hatchet he got for Christmas, and I use an axe. Neither one of us is very good at it yet. But we enjoy being with each other; we enjoy the outdoors; and we enjoy the physical exertion. We also feel good about learning a new skill. We hope to become competent at using the tools that helped to clear the forests from our nation to give us the productive farm land that has fed this country for so many years, and we like to have kindling for the fire.
We keep the tin woodman in mind. We don't want to have artificial legs, so we play it safe. But we don't let the worries about safety keep us from using the tools.
In the National Federation of the Blind we offer hope and encouragement to blind people who believe that the possibility for having a full life is ended by blindness. We know that blind people can perform most jobs that are done by the sighted. We know that blindness is not the thing that will stop a blind person but that negative attitudes about blindness are. I learned this when I joined the organization in 1969, and I have had this learning reinforced from time to time throughout the years.
In the fall of 1994 with an axe in my hand, I learned it again. I may never spend a significant amount of my time using an axe, but it isn't because I'm blind. I thought that it couldn't be done--that my muscles might do many things, but they would never feel the bite of the axe blade in the wood. Because the Federation taught me to explore what I thought I could not do, and because my son wanted to go camping, I have learned to swing an axe.
by Barbara Walker
From the Editor: The following story first appeared in Toothpaste and Railroad Tracks, the newest in the Kernel Book series of paperbacks published by the National Federation of the Blind. Beginning with Dr. Jernigan's brief introduction, here it is:
Almost all children test their parents to see just what they can get away with. What if the parent is blind? And what if the parent is blind and the child takes advantage of the blindness? Is it fair? And what does it say about the child's attitude toward the parent and the parent's blindness? With sensitivity, love, and true understanding of herself, her blindness, and her daughter, Barbara Walker (one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind) explores these questions in the story that follows.
"Mom, someone asked me today if I can read Braille because I was wearing my Braille Readers are Leaders sweatshirt." I felt again the depth of my daughter Marsha's acceptance. I know that, as she grows, a time may come when she won't want to champion the cause of the blind. I thought that junior high might be that time. But not only has she worn that sweatshirt, but she has also proudly worn her "Braille is finger food for the mind" T-shirt with the "cool Federation logo" on the back.
One day she took a copy of some titles she had Brailled along with the print version to show her teacher. She did them on an IBM Braille typewriter which was recently donated to our affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind. Without much thought I can bring to mind many times that she has promoted our cause.
There was the time when she took copies of our first Kernel book, What Color Is the Sun, to each of her teachers. Inside she had tucked a Christmas-tree-shaped note pointing out that the title article was written by her aunt.
When she ran for student council in the fifth grade, she wanted to mention in her speech that I was president of the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska. I told her how pleased I was that she wanted to do that but suggested that, since she was the one seeking office, it would be more appropriate for her to talk about some of the things she herself has done to further our cause--stamping and stuffing envelopes, helping younger children at our conventions, assisting in sorting and distributing literature, participating in fund-raising, and so on.
That same year she involved friends of hers in our walk-a-thon, created Braille art, and made a Braille picture card game with me. She is very interested in art and believes people should be allowed to touch three-dimensional creations, whether or not they can visually see them, because you experience them more fully that way.
I have complimented her insight and have encouraged her to present that perspective often to others. Since our society tends to emphasize visual learning and to underestimate the value of education through other senses, many, including some artists, may otherwise never consider the treasure which feels so natural to her.
Last summer, while volunteering at a day care home, she took copies of The Encounter (a cartoon book about blindness) for the children to color in. She said, when asking to do that, "If they take them home to their parents, which they usually do with things they make, their parents will read it and learn about blindness."
On another occasion, when I was not present, a man in our church suggested to her that she should see to it that her brother wore clean and appropriate clothes to church. When I heard that this had happened, I asked her what she had said. She told me she had been a little embarrassed about how to answer him but had ultimately said, "I think that's Mom's job."
In the midst of all of this, there was one situation which at first seemed to contradict all of the foregoing. Marsha had been wanting to have someone over one evening, and I had said she couldn't because she hadn't earned the privilege. A little while later she went to the door. I asked if someone had come. She said something noncommittal which, since her brother came in shortly thereafter, I took to mean that he had been the one who was out there.
Moments later John asked why Seana's bike was in our driveway. I felt stunned. Trembling in disbelief, I went to Marsha's room and knocked on the door. I asked if she was alone in there. When she didn't immediately answer, I opened the door. The smell of Seana's perfume brought with it a suffocating mixture of hurt, anger, mockery, and betrayal.
When I found my voice, it was surprisingly low, even, and cool. I asked Seana to leave at once, saying that I was disappointed in both of them. She started to speak, but I cut her off, saying that I didn't want to hear from her then. I added that, if she was intending to have me consider her innocent, I didn't. She could, at several points, have rejected the idea, even if Marsha had initiated it.
After she left, Marsha wanted to talk to me. I said I would seek her out when I was ready. I went to my room and cried. There are many kinds of tears. Mine on that occasion were not tears accompanied by audible sobs which invite sharing. They were silent tears, spilling unbidden from one too full of pain to contain them--too deep in the aloneness of betrayal to seek human companionship.
I prayed for guidance and strength as I again approached Marsha's room, believing that our relationship would be forever changed by this incident. I was not prepared for what followed.
She received me calmly, continuing to tape a poster to her door as I began to talk to her. I asked how she felt about what had happened. She said she didn't feel good about it. I said I felt for the first time that she had deliberately included someone outside our family in taking advantage of my blindness and, in doing so, she had shaken my trust. She said she knew she had done that and she was sorry. Then she added, "If you were sighted, I would have found a different way to have Seana come."
Again I felt stunned. What was she really saying to me? I said to her that I was willing to rebuild our trust. She said she was too.
As I left her room, I began to consider that perhaps we had taken a step forward. Why after all should the characteristic of blindness be some sort of touch-me-not fortress protected by delusion from the throes of children's testing? And had it really, through the years, been untested? When at last I felt the fresh air sweeping through this deepest hole in my cover, I realized that it was riddled with snags, and I was finally willing to let it fall away.
We have all known all along that blindness brings with it opportunities for the creative tester. But we often succumb to confusing equal with identical--that is, it's o.k. to acknowledge that children of blind parents will test them in the usual ways, but it's not o.k. to put blindness- related tests in that same category. They are worse somehow. They take the child beyond the realm of fair-game testing into the arena of the dirty player. That night I had to ask myself why that is.
Over time I have come to understand that the answer relates to perceptions about blindness. All of us, blind and sighted alike, consider blindness a characteristic with so much on the negative side that even children, whose natural bent is to test limits and explore ramifications of human characteristics, should treat this one with kid gloves. The unfortunate outcome of that process is that the unexplored trait becomes stagnant or brittle, and neither parent nor child knows what it's made of.
I believe, of course, that Marsha's actions were wrong. Both the disobedience and the conspiracy were unacceptable. She endured consequences of that behavior. But after I got past the initial shock of her having included someone outside of the family in this test, I realized that it was not in any way a contradiction of the positive approach to blindness she has always expressed.
She is not bamboozled by the facade we so often build when we want to be treated identically rather than equally. Blindness is, in her mind, no more or less sacred than other potentially fertile testing grounds of her parent. I hope we've all learned the lesson well enough that we won't need a refresher course any time soon. If we haven't, it won't surprise me at all if younger brother John steps up to teach it.
by Hazel Staley
From the Editor: When I joined the National Federation of the Blind more than twenty years ago, Hazel Staley was President of the National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina and a member of the NFB Board of Directors. In all the years since, during personal good times and bad, Hazel has continued to serve wherever she was called and in whatever capacity she could. She is content to let others take center stage, but when you stop to chat with her, she is filled with humor and profound common sense. In the following article, which first appeared in Toothpaste and Railroad Tracks, the latest in the NFB's Kernel Books series of paperbacks, Hazel reveals, in part at least, the philosophy that motivates her to be one of the finest examples of Federationism and humanity I have ever known and loved. This is what she says, beginning with Dr. Jernigan's introduction:
The strength of the National Federation of the Blind lies in its members from the very young to the not so young. Here one of our senior members tells about her life. Her story reminds me of something I frequently tell people about us: we laugh and cry, work and play, hope and dream--just like you. Here is what she has to say:
I was number five in a line of six children born to a farm family in Union County, North Carolina, in August of 1916. I lost my sight when I was two years old as a result of meningitis. I graduated from the North Carolina School for the Blind and received my A.B. degree from Flora McDonald College (now St. Andrews) with majors in French and English and a minor in psychology.
When I first entered Flora McDonald, the faculty was at a loss as to how to deal with me. Blind students had been there before, but they had all majored in music, and the faculty didn't know how I was going to do the lab work in science, which was a requirement for an A.B. degree.
After considerable discussion they decided to put me on probation for the first semester to see if I could make it. Science just isn't my bag, but I felt diminished by being on probation; so I decided to do whatever I had to do to prove that I could handle the lab. My other subjects came easily to me; so I zeroed in on science and made the honor roll that first semester.
I had hoped to teach English in the state secondary school system; but finding this field closed to blind people, I enrolled in the graduate school of social work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I was employed as a social worker with the North Carolina Commission for the Blind for almost six years. I met and married Bob Staley and resigned my position. Bob was in the U.S. Army, and I wanted to be free to go wherever he went. That was in 1947. Our only son Ken was born in 1951. Bob died of lung cancer in 1986. I have two lovely little granddaughters.
We were stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, when Ken entered school, and I immediately got involved in the PTA. I served as vice president and president of the PTA, and I think I must have served as the chairman of almost every committee there was. I received a lifetime PTA membership from the state of Georgia.
One day in 1969 (I was again living in Charlotte, North Carolina) my employer, the director of the local agency for the blind, told me that a group of blind people wanted to meet in our conference room on Sunday afternoon and that I should come and be responsible for opening and closing the building.
That meeting turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me. Leaders of the National Federation of the Blind had come to organize a chapter of the Federation in Charlotte. I had never heard of the Federation, but I realized at once that its philosophy had been mine all my life. I joined that day and immediately became active in the movement.
I have lived a very full life. I served two years as president of my homeowners' association and have been teaching Sunday School for more than twenty years. I have also served as president of my church's Women's Missionary Society and as director of church training. In 1978 I was named Charlotte's Outstanding Citizen, and in 1989 I received the Jacobus tenBroek Award for my service in the National Federation of the Blind.
Someone has said that service to others is the rent we pay for the space we occupy on earth. I plan to keep the rent on my space current.
by Sharon Maneki
From the Editor: Sharon Maneki is President of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. She also chairs the committee to select the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children for 1996. Here is her announcement about the competition:
The National Federation of the Blind will recognize an outstanding teacher of blind children at our 1996 convention June 29 to July 5, in Anaheim, California. The winner of this award will receive an expense-paid trip to the convention, a check for $500, an appropriate plaque, and an opportunity to make a presentation about the education of blind children to the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children early in the convention.
Anyone who is currently teaching or counseling blind children or administering a program for blind children is eligible to receive this award. It is not necessary to be a member of the National Federation of the Blind to apply. However, the winner must attend the National Convention. Teachers may be nominated by colleagues, supervisors, or friends. The letter of nomination should explain why the teacher is being recommended for this award.
The education of blind children is one of our most important concerns. Attendance at a National Federation of the Blind convention will enrich a teacher's experience by affording him or her the opportunity to meet other teachers who work with blind children, to meet parents, and to meet blind adults who have had experiences in a variety of educational programs. Help us recognize a distinguished teacher by distributing this form and encouraging teachers to submit their credentials. We are pleased to offer this award and look forward to applications from many well-qualified educators.
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND DISTINGUISHED EDUCATOR OF BLIND CHILDREN AWARD 1996 APPLICATION
City: State: Zip:
Day phone: Evening phone:
City: State: Zip:
List your degrees, the institutions from which they were received, and your major area or areas of study.
How long and in what programs have you taught blind children?
In what setting do you teach? residential school classroom
special education classroom itinerant program
other (please explain)
How many students do you teach regularly this year?
What subjects do you teach?
How many of your students read and write primarily using:
Braille large print closed circuit television
recorded materials small print
Please complete this application and attach a letter of nomination, one additional recommendation written by someone who knows your work and philosophy of teaching, and a personal letter discussing your beliefs and approach to teaching blind students. You may wish to include such topics as the following:
What are your views on the importance to your students of Braille, large print, and magnification devices; and what issues do you consider when making recommendations about learning media for your students?
When do you recommend that your students begin the following: reading Braille, writing with a slate and stylus, using a Braille writer, learning to travel independently with a white cane?
How should one determine which children should learn cane travel and which should not?
When should typing be introduced, and when should a child be expected to hand in typed assignments?
Send all material by May 15, 1996, to Sharon Maneki, Chairwoman, Teacher Award Committee, 9736 Basket Ring Road, Columbia, Maryland 21045, telephone: (410) 992-9608.
by Stephen O. Benson
From the Editor: Steve Benson is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB of Illinois. He also chairs the committee charged with identifying each year's Blind Educator of the Year. Here is what he has to say:
Several years ago the Blind Educator of the Year Award was established by the National Association of Blind Educators (the teachers division of the National Federation of the Blind) to pay tribute to a blind teacher whose exceptional classroom performance, notable community service, and uncommon commitment to the NFB merit national recognition. Beginning with the 1991 presentation, this award became an honor bestowed by our entire movement. This change reflects our recognition of the importance of good teaching and the impact an outstanding blind teacher has on students, faculty, community, and all blind Americans.
This award is given in the spirit of the outstanding educators who founded and have nurtured the National Federation of the Blind and who, by example, have imparted knowledge of our strengths to us and raised our expectations. We have learned from Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, and President Marc Maurer that a teacher not only provides a student with information, but also provides guidance and advocacy. The recipient of the Blind Educator of the Year Award must exhibit all of these traits and must advance the cause of blind people in the spirit and philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind.
The Blind Educator of the Year Award is presented at the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Honorees must attend the National Convention to receive the appropriately inscribed plaque and a check for $500.
The members of the committee which will select the 1996 Blind Educator of the Year Award are Steve Benson, Chairman, Illinois; Patricia Munson, California; Homer Page, Colorado; Judy Sanders, Minnesota; and Adelmo Vigil, New Mexico. Nominations should be sent to Steve Benson, 7020 North Tahoma, Chicago, Illinois 60646. Letters of nomination must be accompanied by a copy of the nominee's current resume and supporting documentation of community and Federation activity. All nomination materials must be in the hands of the committee chairman by May 15, 1996, to be considered for this year's award.
From the Editor: The following article first appeared in the January-June, 1994, edition of The World Blind Union, the publication of the World Blind Union. It recounts the history of the Spanish National Organization of the Blind (ONCE), by any measure one of the most successful organizations of disabled people in the world. In many ways the story is remarkable; here it is:
The year was 1938. For two years Spain had been living a terrible civil war. And yet, at a time when passions and opposing world views violently clashed, a group of young blind people, a handful of crazy visionaries, dared to conceive the idea that for the visually disabled it was a good moment to create a strategy that would allow them to progress toward a better future. Located in the territory occupied by the side that was already emerging as the inevitable winner, these dreamers prepared a project for a unified organization of the blind which they submitted to the Head of State of what was then called the national zone, Francisco Franco, who would rule the destiny of Spain with an iron hand until 1975.
The increase in the number of blind people as a result of the war made Franco and his government more sensitive toward the problem, and they agreed to sign a decree that on 13 December, 1938, would create the Spanish National Organization of the Blind (ONCE). And at the helm was a twenty-eight-year-old blind masseur: Javier Gut”errez de Tovar.
The ONCE's identity features
This institution's founding document was suffused with idealism and utopian schemes, but it also included practical approaches to facing a miserable and desolate situation. The founding group had, among many other things, the undeniable good sense positively to take advantage of the coercive force implicit in an authoritarian political regime that was being imposed in Spain at that time, to form a strong and unified organization that would seek solutions to the problems of the blind without squandering resources. In effect the government decree obliged all the institutions of and for the blind existing at the time to disband as independent bodies and to merge assets and people into the new organization.
Faced with the impossibility of receiving any worthwhile subsidy from a state in such adverse circumstances, they had the foresight to introduce a daily lottery on a national level that would capitalize on the local raffles that had been set up in some cities before the war. The management of the new association was placed in the hands of the blind themselves, although they were supervised by the government. Therein lie the roots of the three main characteristics of the situation of the blind and blindness in Spain over the past half-century.
One single institution manages all the services, including education, while it also functions as the associative structure that represents the interests of the visually disabled before the authorities and society.
The daily lottery is the primary source of funds for operating the institution and for rendering services, while at the same time providing jobs for the majority of the blind.
It is the blind themselves who hold positions of responsibility in the new institution.
This institutional profile has gone essentially unchanged throughout its evolution.
The Early Days
In the Spain of 1938 there were very few blind people who had had access to an education, and even fewer who had found a job. A considerable number of people had lost their sight in combat or as a consequence of it, and some of them had received a good education, but the majority ended up as beggars and indigents. Nonetheless, it can be said that soon the Spanish blind won the prize in their own lottery, because in a remarkably short time the success of this undertaking became evident. This fund-raising system called "Pro Blind Cup¢n"--today known as the "ONCE Cup¢n"--began immediately to fulfill the dual function for which it was created and which, to a large extent, still does to this day: to yield funds to the institution so it could meet its objectives and directly or indirectly provide jobs for a growing number of blind people.
However, its spectacular success brought with it the disadvantage of making it difficult to conquer ideal goals, such as the blind being integrated in the labor market with everyone else and in jobs that correspond as much as possible to their characteristics and interests. Over a relatively short period, they had all the blind children whose existence they were aware of enrolled in well-equipped residential schools, and through the sale of the lottery and the preferential reserve of management and administrative positions, teaching in specialized schools, as well as certain jobs in print houses and Braille libraries, they succeeded in providing decent employment to the majority of the blind of working age. Nevertheless, this employment system is too exclusive, and although the ONCE is an institution respected by nearly everyone, it is a very closed structure. It is as if the blind constituted a state within the state.
The Renovation of the Sixties
In the sixties the winds of renovation and openness blew across Spain, and some of this fresh air timidly made its way into the ONCE. In 1959 Ignacio Satr£stegui, a prestigious entrepreneur who had lost his sight in the Civil War and who had been managing his own companies, was appointed national Director of the ONCE. This appointment brought some changes to the institution which mainly took the shape of a series of establishments set up for vocational training and basic rehabilitation. These began to train the blind as telephone operators, specialized factory workers, and physiotherapists. After a few years the number of those who had jobs outside the ONCE structure began to be significant. Physiotherapy and telephony continue to be valid job options to this day; the employment in factories soon failed in Spain because people preferred the comfort and higher wages offered to them as vendors of the lottery to the work in an industrial plant, which can be quite hard.
The Advent of Democracy
Beyond a doubt the writing of the most brilliant pages of this heartening story is reserved for the young people of the seventies, educated by the ONCE itself. In Spain in 1976 a new period of transition toward a democratic system began, which the new generations of blind people, with their very progressive mentality, wanted to bring to their institution as well. This new course was not an easy one because the isolationist attitude of the organization of the blind's old guard resisted the change. They thought that these young agitators, who were claiming freedom and democracy, were going to destroy that great work they had built with the sacrifice of so many people over many years. But the pressure in favor of reform was unstoppable.
In 1981 the government issued a decree that modified the founding document, and in it, among other things, a thorough democratization of all ONCE's structures was established. From then on the organization has been governed by a General Council, composed of fifteen blind people, who are chosen every four years by all of the institution's members in a general election that is reminiscent of the parliamentary elections of any country.
In April, 1982, the first voting was held, which brought to power the very young people whose advocacy had been so feared by those who had managed the ONCE until then. Nearly all of them were under the age of thirty. Some had a university education; others had gained their experience in the school of life--the sale of the lottery on the streets of many cities in Spain, at times done in quite harsh conditions. Indeed, they did not have experience in positions of responsibility or management, but they had more than enough enthusiasm and imagination, as well as a large dose of that energy that comes from the positive combination of youth with the unlimited conviction that things can be done another way. And, happily, they were able to rely on a leader with exceptional qualities, Antonio Vincente Mosquete, who in April, 1982, became the first President of a democratic ONCE.
The Revolution of the Eighties
Antonio and those who during the years immediately prior to that date shared in the struggle for change with him and who now participated in representative and management tasks quickly got to the job at hand. They fostered a process of profound transformation, which meant the modernization of the organization's objectives and strategies, a drastic reform of the lottery system, and full participation in the country's social and economic dynamics.
In January, 1984, the new lottery went into effect. Instead of thirty-three daily draws, which had been made in as many territorial districts, now one draw would be made on a nationwide level, and without changing the percentage destined for prize money, they changed the system in such a way that the amounts the public could win were higher. The reform was accompanied by an imaginative campaign in every communication medium, including television, which unquestionably aided the success of this undertaking. In January many people stood in line from the early hours of the morning in front of the ONCE's points of sale in order to buy a ticket, and the street vendors were left with not one ticket after an hour. The printing house which turned out the tickets could not keep up, so after a few months they had to modernize it completely. Very soon sales had doubled. The Spanish blind had once again won the biggest prize of their own lottery. Its success amazed the people involved and outsiders alike and represented a qualitative leap in the institution's evolution.
In 1985 another change was introduced which took the shape of a grand prize (approximately one million dollars) every Friday for one single ticket, and the welcome it received once again exceeded even the most optimistic expectations. It must be said that from 1984 to 1994 the overall business turnover has more or less multiplied by eight.
In June, 1987, a tragic and absurd accident cut short the life of Antonio Vincente, when he was only thirty-five years old. For many of us his sudden disappearance left a vacuum that is impossible to fill, because Antonio was gifted with an incredible constellation of qualities. He was extraordinarily intelligent and imaginative; he had the marked charisma of a born leader, while his kindness and sensitivity enabled anyone to feel close to him. He possessed an uncommon capacity for work, and his vitality seemed to have no limits. He seemed to have accomplished the work of a hundred years in only five.
Fortunately, the ONCE's institutional solidity is great, and talent and creativity abound in it. After 1987 the changes continued to occur at a rapid pace.
The ONCE Today
Thanks to the employment scheme used, the percentage of blind people of working age who have a job is the highest in the world, that is, around 75 percent. In absolute figures, we can say that 14,384 blind and partially sighted people are employed as vendors of the ONCE lottery, and they receive monthly salaries that are notably higher than the average salary of Spanish workers. Their income is calculated in accordance with a complex system which sets commission percentages that increase as sales increase, and once a certain limit is exceeded, they begin to decline but are complemented with amounts that are not subject to commissions, such as compensations for holidays, vacation, seniority, etc.
The popularity of the ONCE lottery and the almost continuous advertising that is done on it guarantee that all of the vendors reach very reasonable levels of income. Of course, because of their full status as workers, they enjoy all the benefits of the Spanish social security system, besides the additional advantages that the ONCE offers its members and employees. The sale is done on foot in the street, although a growing number of vendors now sell from the modern kiosks located on public thoroughfares or in stands placed in large areas of common use like train stations, airports, department stores, etc. As an example we can say that in Madrid there are around 2,500 blind vendors and another six hundred with disabilities other than blindness. There are about 700 kiosks, some of which are used by more than one vendor, and twenty stands.
As we have already mentioned, the ONCE applies a very strict policy in the reservation of upper and middle management positions, as well as in its schools and centers of a diverse nature. In this manner about one thousand visually disabled people have well-paid jobs. Several hundred work outside of the ONCE as physiotherapists, telephone operators, teachers in regular schools, computer programmers, etc.
Over the past ten years the ONCE has completely renovated all of its services and has introduced new ones, such as the Center of Production and Distribution of Books in Madrid, which includes a wonderful museum for the blind, a network of visual rehabilitation centers, several school integration support units, and the rendering of rehabilitation services in the clients' homes, two new non- residential basic rehabilitation units, etc. Practically all its services are provided in totally new or completely renovated facilities that are staffed by mostly young and well-qualified people.
In 1987 the ONCE reached an agreement with the government to create a foundation, which receives three percent of the total amount of lottery tickets sold and whose objective is to promote activity in the field of employment, rehabilitation, and education for people with disabilities other than blindness. Many companies have been constituted through this foundation, either its own or shared, in which a significant number of disabled are employed. The ONCE also decided to employ a certain number of disabled as Cup¢n vendors. Currently around 7,000 now work in this activity.
Between 1988 and 1992 it intensified an economic risk diversification strategy in which the ONCE became majority shareholder or even the owner of many companies of a diverse nature. In nearly every case the blind hold major management positions in them. The communications media of many countries reported on this fact, especially when Miguel Dur n, then the General Director of the ONCE, became chairman of the Tele 5 Television Company. To a large extent Miguel Dur n led this aggressive policy of participating in the economic life of the country, and owing to his great personal charm and extraordinary gift for communication, he has become a very popular public figure. It is noteworthy that, even now when the ONCE is no longer a main shareholder of the television channel, the others want him to remain as its president.
The Blind and Society
The fact that the sale of the lottery takes place directly on the street has meant that in Spain, after the creation of the ONCE, blindness has become a highly visible phenomenon for society in general. There have been foreign visitors who thought there were more blind people in Spain than in other European countries. However, people knew that the ONCE fulfilled a good social function, but they knew very little about what went on within its structures. This interaction with society underwent a dramatic shift after the renovation of the eighties.
The ONCE has maintained a very intense communication with the public through frequent advertising campaigns, which are sometimes strictly commercial, aimed at boosting lottery sales, while others focus on specific aspects of the services it provides. The quality of these campaigns has been recognized by national and international awards, and it is obvious that this barrage of information has succeeded in conveying the message that the blind are by no means useless beings. And this contact with the people has been further cultivated through the participation in different exhibits and scientific and cultural gatherings. The blindness/poverty connection has definitively vanished from the minds of the public in general, and from social and economic agents in particular. the ONCE is admired and respected, and often bankers and entrepreneurs are found courting its directors in an attempt to gain their favor.
Of course, Spain is not exactly a paradise for the blind, although it is easy to understand the pride that those who manage the ONCE and those who benefit from it feel for their organization. Comparing the miserable situation in which it was created fifty-six years ago with the present strength of its social and economic activity, no one can deny how remarkable its accomplishments have been. The experience, although it may be unrepeatable in some aspects, should serve as motivation for many countries that are currently undergoing rapid development. It certainly would be worth trying to imitate the Spaniards in some things. Prejudice toward blindness and discriminatory attitudes have not been erased completely. There are people who hold the combined success of the institution in high esteem but who feel that the blind have little to do outside of it. Of course, this subtle discrimination appears when one is already on the top rung of the ladder leading to full social equality.
Let us all rejoice at this splendid reality. We can give assurances without any reservation that the ONCE will always offer solidarity to all efforts made to foster international collaboration.
by Jim Omvig
From the Editor: Jim Omvig is the energetic chairman of the Pre-Authorized Check Plan Committee. This is what he has to say:
I have just returned home from the 1995 national convention in Chicago, and what a convention it was! I attended my first in Kansas City in 1961, and the stimulation and revitalization which I receive from each National Convention never cease to amaze me.
As PAC (Pre-Authorized Check Plan) Committee Chairman, I am also pleased and gratified with the progress we made at the 1995 convention on this important organizational fund-raising program. We began the convention with 1,325 individuals giving at a total annualized rate of $306,012. We signed up ninety-two new PAC contributors and ended the convention with 1,415 givers. (If this math doesn't seem accurate, it's because we also had two people drop temporarily because of personal problems.)
We also made significant strides in the total amount of annualized giving. We had an increase of $25,158 and ended the convention with total annualized giving of $331,170. The top five states at the end of the convention were Maryland, California, Minnesota, Colorado, and Iowa.
Sometimes the Chairman can have experiences which are particularly heartwarming, and this convention was no exception. Early in the convention a couple came to me and said, "We wanted to join PAC last year, but we didn't have a checking account. We just wanted to let you know that this year we opened a new checking account before we came so that we could join up and do our share!"
As I just said, we made good progress on PAC this year. Perhaps, though, to be accurate, I should put it another way: those who attended the National Convention did a good job this year. The PAC Committee is convinced, however, that we must find a lot of new PAC Plan contributors who do not generally attend National Conventions, if we are significantly to increase the base of giving from our own membership. The Committee believes that there are large numbers out there who, while they are not able to attend conventions, are just as committed to the Federation and feel just as obligated to support it as those who do.
Accordingly, we are initiating a new type of recognition. The idea comes from my old Lions Club days, where it was with real pride that individual clubs endeavored to achieve one-hundred-percent membership participation on a variety of club projects. It was truly something when you were recognized as a "one-hundred-percent" club.
So the PAC Committee thought, "Why not develop a method whereby one day a year the NFB could recognize One-Hundred-Percent Chapters--chapters in which all members are on the PAC Plan?"
We approached President Maurer with the concept, and he heartily approved. We decided that Valentine's Day (February 14) would be a suitable day for checking a chapter's membership list against the official PAC giving list. In order for a chapter to qualify, each member (or couple) must be an individual PAC member. We can't just say, "My chapter gives to PAC, so I qualify even though I haven't signed up individually."
Each One-Hundred-Percent Chapter will receive due recognition. One of the stoneware NFB Braille mugs will be given to the chapter. A gold emblem indicating the year in which the chapter achieved its One-Hundred-Percent status will be affixed to the mug, and suitable publicity will be given at each annual convention and in the Braille Monitor.
The PAC Committee also has a few general suggestions for state affiliates and chapters. Each state President should appoint a State PAC Chairperson, and each chapter should do the same. Each affiliate or chapter could develop some type of incentive to attract new PAC members. Each state newsletter should include information about PAC and urge broader participation. In fact, a PAC card could be included in each state newsletter.
If anyone asks what the PAC money is used for, have him or her read President Maurer's Presidential Report in the August-September issue of the Braille Monitor. We of the PAC Committee wish to thank those of you who are on the Plan. For those who aren't, we urge you as strongly as we can to sign up. As the song says:
Get on the PAC Plan; sign up today. We need your contributions right away! Funding the movement, it must be done, So all our battles can be won!
I wait with anticipation to see which of our chapters will be among the first to receive the One-Hundred-Percent recognition!
by Karl Smith
From the Editor: Attentive readers of the Braille Monitor will have noticed that during the past year all three of the private adult rehabilitation centers for the blind operated by affiliates of the National Federation of the Blind have celebrated important milestones. The most recent was the tenth-anniversary celebration and facility dedication at the Louisiana Center for the Blind, which took place on October 7. Here is former student Karl Smith's report of the event:
Joanne Wilson, Director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind in Ruston, Louisiana, is not in the habit of looking backward. During my association with her as a center student and part-time employee, she always seemed to be planning new programs, negotiating hurdles, and looking for the next challenge. Over the weekend of October 6 to 8, during festivities marking the tenth anniversary of the opening of the Louisiana Center in 1985, Joanne and the more than 300 former Louisiana Center students from around the country, local governmental and civic leaders, and townspeople from Ruston took time to reminisce and take stock of the accomplishments of the center's first decade.
An informal get-together featuring good food, conversation, and guitar playing kicked off the weekend on Friday evening at the activity center, located at the student apartments. Saturday morning we met for a nostalgic tour of the old house which served as the Center's first home. As we crowded into this cramped structure, where Joanne shared an office with three other staff members and the kitchen floors sloped so severely that a brick had to be placed under the leg of the stove so baking cakes would come out level, we heard from some of the first students and staffers about what it was like in those early days.
Next we attended a seminar conducted by NFB President Marc Maurer. Two two-hour discussions emphasized the important role of the Federation in providing training centers in which blind people can learn to fulfill their ambitions, raise their expectations, and receive the support they need to face the challenges of life. We also discussed the importance of associating with people who believe unconditionally in us and who spend every waking hour of every day instilling this belief in us and in helping us understand our responsibility to pass this belief on to other blind people.
At 2:00 p.m. Saturday afternoon Joanne cut the ribbon officially opening the newly remodeled Louisiana Center building. On hand for the ribbon cutting was the Director of Louisiana Rehabilitation Services (LRS), May Nelson. The new facilities were made possible by a million dollar grant from LRS. Following the ribbon cutting Joanne rang the official freedom bell, a large old-fashioned school bell located between the two wings of the new building. This single ringing bell was soon accompanied by a crescendo of ringing bells as the crowd of former and current students and staff members rang their own bells. These small brass bells engraved with the student's name and sporting an eagle with outspread wings on the top are presented to all students as a symbol of their new-found freedom at graduation.
Following the ceremony, tours were conducted through the new facilities. The new center building is an impressive structure with spacious, bright work places. The contrast between it and the old house where it all began is striking. But the new facility is only a building. Anyone visiting the center will soon understand that the real difference between this training center and most others lies in the Federation's fundamental belief in blind people. Without this conviction the Louisiana Center for the Blind would be just another training center.
The highlight of the weekend was the banquet held on Saturday evening. President Maurer delivered a stirring banquet address telling personal stories of the triumph of individual blind people over their own and others' attitudes about blindness. He also talked about the importance of passing the great legacy of the Federation on to blind youngsters and their parents so that this generation of blind children can grow up with the precious knowledge that it is respectable to be blind. At the close of the banquet ten former and current students expressed their feelings about their association with the center and presented each staff member with a memory box to contain their good memories of the past ten years. Finally the students presented Joanne with a locket in appreciation for her dedication to the cause of blindness.
Sunday was a day for goodbyes and last-minute reminiscences. As busses and cars loaded and pulled away, the hubbub of laughter and conversation died away, and the Center building and apartments began to return to normal. But not for long. On Monday morning, after thanking everyone for their help over the weekend and discussing the positive results, Joanne said, "Now, for our next big project. . . ."
This month's recipes come from members of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon.
CRAB AND POTATO CAKES
by Carla McQuillan
Carla McQuillan is the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon. These crab cakes served with eggs and toast make a wonderful brunch menu. Imitation or canned crab meat may be substituted if fresh crab meat is too costly or difficult to find.
2 potatoes, peeled and cooked
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, cream, or evaporated milk
1 cup cooked crab meat
4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
2 cloves minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced onion
3 tablespoons fresh dill, parsley, or basil
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
Method: Mash potatoes and let cool. In a bowl, beat eggs and stir in flour, salt, pepper, garlic, and onion. Whisk in the buttermilk. Gradually beat egg mixture into potatoes. Fold in crab meat, cheese, and dill. Heat a large skillet on medium high, then coat with non-stick cooking spray. Drop large spoonfuls of potato mixture into the skillet about four inches apart. Cook until crisp (about five minutes per side). Keep cooked crab cakes warm in a 150-degree oven while preparing the remaining cakes. Makes twelve to fifteen cakes.
SALMON STEAKS WITH MUSHROOM STUFFING
by Sally Edmonds
Sally Edmonds is Treasurer of the Lane County Chapter of the NFB of Oregon. She is also Carla McQuillan's mother. Salmon is an Oregon specialty. Fresh or frozen, it cooks very nicely in the microwave oven. This recipe has a flavorful mushroom and bread stuffing that forms a topping for each steak. The mixture makes a good stuffing for part of a whole salmon too.
4 salmon steaks, cut inches thick
2 cups fresh sliced mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons parsley flakes
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 stalk (1/2 cup) chopped celery
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 cups (3 slices) soft bread cubes
1/2 cup light cream (or evaporated milk)
lemon slices for garnish
Method: In a two-quart (12 by 8-inch) baking dish, arrange salmon steaks with thin ends toward center; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. In mixing bowl combine butter, onion, and celery. Cook uncovered on high in microwave oven three minutes, stirring once after butter melts. Stir in bread cubes, mushrooms, parsley, 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Toss to mix well. Spoon on top of salmon steaks. Pour cream over top. Cook, covered with wax paper or plastic wrap, ten minutes or until salmon flakes easily. Garnish with lemon slices. Makes four servings.
HOT CRAB TRIANGLES
by Sally Edmonds
Dungeness Crabs are plentiful in the Pacific waters off the Oregon Coast. The crabs are a purple-brown color in the water but turn bright red when cooked. The crabs measure about six inches across the back. These crab triangles make delicious holiday hors d'oeuvres.
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 6-ounce can crab meat, drained
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons minced green onion
1 tablespoon milk
2 tablespoons finely chopped almonds
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 slices firm white bread, crusts trimmed
Dash of cayenne pepper
Method: Beat cheese until fluffy. Combine mustard with milk and add to cheese with next five ingredients. Mix well and spread generously on bread slices. Sprinkle lightly with paprika. Cut each slice in four triangles, place on baking sheet, and bake in hot oven (400 degrees) for ten to twelve minutes, or until well browned. Makes twenty-four.
by Carla McQuillan
Vegetarian dishes are prevalent in Oregon cuisine. You may choose, however, to adorn this pizza with additional toppings.
1 pound, 2 ounces flour
1 1/4 cup warm water (90-110 degrees)
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 package active dry yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
cup of your favorite spaghetti sauce
cup grated parmesan cheese
cup feta (or other goat cheese)
cup grated cheddar
1 cup grated mozzarella
1/2 cup grated provolone or romano
Method: In the large bowl of a mixer, combine water, two tablespoons olive oil, cornmeal, yeast, salt, and 1 1/2 cups of the flour to make the batter. Using a dough hook, mix the batter as you gradually add the remaining flour to the bowl. Cover with a damp cloth and put in a warm place until dough doubles in size: approximately one hour. Split the dough into three equal pieces. The extra dough may be frozen in a plastic bag or container for up to six months. Dust a rolling surface with flour. Using one piece of the dough, roll out crust to 14 inches in diameter. The crust will be thin. Place on pizza pan, rolling up excess dough at the edges. Combine the two tablespoons olive oil and minced garlic. Brush oil mixture onto the crust. Spread spaghetti sauce over the oil. Sprinkle the cheeses over the sauce in the order that they appear in the ingredients list. Bake at 450 degrees for ten to twelve minutes.
by Carla McQuillan
Don't let the name fool you! This is a wonderful vegetarian main dish that goes well with a tossed salad and a glass of red wine. This recipe uses the crust from the Five Cheese Pizza recipe above.
Pizza crust (dough from pizza recipe)
12 ounces fresh spinach leaves
1 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1/4 cup sliced black olives
1 ounce fresh basil leaves (optional)
Method: On a floured surface roll the pizza dough into an oval about 12 by 16 inches. Layer about six ounces of the spinach on half of the oval, leaving a margin of 1 inch at the edge. Sprinkle 1/2 cup mozzarella over spinach. Layer mushrooms and olives over the cheese. Place the remaining spinach over the top. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the spinach. Press down on the layer of spinach and cheese to compress. Fold other half of the crust over the spinach to form a turnover. Roll the edges of the dough together to seal the pie. Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 450 degrees for fifteen to eighteen minutes. Top crust should be crisp and lightly browned. Cut pie in half. Makes two servings.
SUGAR-FREE BANANA CREAM FLUFF
by Gary Jeffries
Gary Jeffries and his wife are relatively new members of the Lane County Chapter of the NFB of Oregon.
1 or 2 bananas
1 3-ounce package instant sugar-free banana pudding
1/2 pint heavy whipping dream
1 cup milk
9-inch graham cracker or vanilla wafer pie crust
2 to 4 teaspoons sweetener
Method: Whip the heavy cream until thick. Add sweetener to taste. Add the pudding and milk to the whipped cream. Whip until well mixed. Slice bananas into 1/2-inch thick rounds. Fold into the pudding mixture. Spoon into the pie crust and smooth the top. Chill for one to two hours before slicing. Makes six to eight servings.
by Carla McQuillan
Blackberries grow wild throughout central and coastal Oregon. This recipe makes a simple, no-frills cobbler that is very tasty.
1/2 cup milk
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
2-3 cups blackberries, rinsed
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or allspice
Method: Mix ingredients for the dough. Pour into a greased 9-inch square baking dish. Combine the ingredients for the filling. Stirring the berry mixture will produce juice. Pour the berries and juice evenly over the dough. Bake at 350 degrees for forty-five minutes, or until the center is done. Makes nine servings. Note: The amount of sugar added to the filling may be altered, depending on the sweetness of the berries.
NFB NET Goes North--At Least Temporarily:
In mid-October David Andrews, who has directed the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind for almost five years, moved to Minnesota to take a new job with Minnesota's state agency for the blind. When he left Baltimore, NFB NET went with him--probably not permanently but at least for the present. As of late November, the phone number for the NFB NET bulletin board service shifts to (612) 696-1975. After the change, calls made to the old (410) 751-5011 number will result in a screen showing only the new Minneapolis listing. Since most people have always accessed NFB NET using long-distance service, the change of location should make very little difference. Log on soon and see what's new.
We recently received the following happy announcement:
Miriam Rodriguez and Mark Truman, board members of the Greater Daytona Beach Chapter of the NFB of Florida, were married May 19, 1995. The newlyweds attended their first National Convention this year in Chicago, where Truman was one of the national scholarship winners.
Hoping to Buy:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I would like to buy a Talking Clock radio. Call Jay at (817) 696-1237, or write in Braille or print or on cassette to 3312 York Street, Wichita Falls, Texas 76309.
The Greater Springfield, Inc., Chapter of the NFB of Massachusetts elected new officers at its June, 1995, meeting. They are Basil Maurice, President; Diane Hall, Vice President; Paulette Gordon, Recording Secretary; Keith Barton, Treasurer; Joseph Mitchell, Sergeant-at-Arms; and Wanda Ryan and Joan Merrill, Board members.
Under date of July 6, 1995, Joe Ruffalo, President of the National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey, received notification of his appointment to membership on the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired Board of Trustees. The appointment was made by the State Board of Human Services with the approval of Governor Christine T. Whitman. Congratulations to Joe and to the New Jersey Commission.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
VersaBraille II Plus unit manufactured by Telesensory. Includes carrying case, two battery chargers, and all Braille documentation. Asking price: $1,000 or best offer. For further information contact Kimberly Morrow at either of the following internet addresses or telephone number: [email protected] or [email protected] or (913) 541-9534.
Johnna Simmons, Secretary of the NFB of North Carolina, reports newly elected affiliate officers: Peggy Kalin, Treasurer; Johnna Simmons, Secretary; and Hazel Staley, Laurancene Murphy, Ike Collins, and Billy Bethea, Board members.
Attention Talented and Fun-Loving Residents of the Southeast:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The Montgomery, Alabama, Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind is sponsoring Spring-Fest Entertainment for the Blind, 1996. Interested Federationists are welcome to enter. The festival will be held March 2, 1996. Events include a talent-fashion-comic showcase, talk show, picnic, and after party. The showcase and talk show will be taped and aired on television. Door prizes will be given at the festival. Admission and registration fee is $30. The admission and registration deadline is February 1, 1996. For further information contact Mr. Eldridge Hardy, weekends only at (334) 418-0308.
Dottie Marlow of the Magic Valley Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho writes to report two weddings that took place earlier this fall. On September 9, 1995, chapter members Neil Gibson and April Jansson were married, and on September 10 Lorrie Riddle, President of the Magic Valley Chapter, and Quen Miller also tied the knot. Congratulations to both couples.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
EZ Reader portable closed circuit TV system for reading printed materials from your television screen with a fixed- focus 45X magnification. Has an option of black on white or white on black lettering. Complete with all cables and adapters to hook up to TV. Good condition. Asking $495. Contact Orville Lewis, 692 E. Second Street, Logan, Ohio 43138 or call (614) 385-5079 or (614) 385-5703.
Attention New York Residents:
Wells Jones, Executive Director of the Guide Dog Foundation, Inc., of Smithtown, New York, has asked that we disseminate the following information:
New York State Department of Taxation and Finance
September 15, 1995
GUIDE, HEARING, AND SERVICE DOGS
Effective September 24, 1995, sales or uses of any goods or services necessary for the acquisition, sustenance, or maintenance of a guide dog, a hearing dog, or a service dog are exempt from sales and use taxes. The guide, hearing, or service dog must be used by a person with a disability to compensate for an impairment to the person's sight, hearing, or movement (Tax Law 1115(s) as added by Chapter 102 of the Laws of 1995). Those eligible to claim this exemption are a person with a disability and an individual whose dependent is a person with a disability. People who have been given express authority by an eligible person to make purchases on the eligible person's behalf may also claim the exemption.
Purchases of guide dogs have always been exempt from sales and use taxes. The new exemption under section 1115(s) is broader because it also exempts tangible personal property (goods) and services necessary for the acquisition, sustenance, or maintenance of these dogs. In addition, section 1115(s) extends the exemption to include purchases of hearing or service dogs for use by a person with a disability and goods and services necessary for the acquisition, sustenance, or maintenance of hearing and service dogs.
Carla McQuillan, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon, has written to tell us of the death on August 10, 1995, of Kathy Day, President of the Lane County Chapter of the NFB of Oregon and newly elected Secretary of the Diabetics Division of the National Federation of the Blind. Kathy also served as receptionist and assistant for the NFB of Oregon. According to Carla, she had a real gift for finding the right words to comfort and encourage people who were dealing with blindness for the first time. She will be deeply missed.
Tina Hansen, Secretary of the Capitol Chapter of the NFB of Oregon, reports the election of the following officers: David Hyde, President; Kathleen McGrew, Vice President; Tina Hansen, Secretary; and Donna Henry, Treasurer.
Resource and Information Service Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Announcing the Resource and Information Service. We will find the agency you have been looking for--equipment and services for the blind and visually impaired--businesses that sell screen readers, tape recorders, glucose monitors, scales, agencies for rehabilitation, special legal services, guide dogs, all types of computer equipment, clubs, books on computer disk and tape, transcriptionists, etc. No problem too big or small. Call us for a form on cassette tape or IBM, 3«-inch computer disk. Please specify. We will research your problem and get you the best services at the best prices. We will send your list back in the medium in which we received your form. The cost is only $10. Call today, (520) 577-6334.
Dottie Marlow of the Magic Valley Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho reports with sorrow the death of chapter board member Arlene Fuller, who died on June 27, 1995. She was a lively and warmly hospitable member of the chapter and will be deeply missed.
Tactile Cards Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Creative Adaptations for Learning (CAL), designers of innovative legible tactile illustrations, has put together a set of tactually illustrated notecards suitable for all occasions, including seasons greetings.
At CAL we make it easy for you to shop from the comfort of your home. Delight your family, friends, and business associates by sending your personal message Brailled, printed or typed by you on the inside of an attractively illustrated notecard.
Each 5-by-7-inch picture is embossed on white plastic and framed on white card stock backing for durability and easy Braille writing.
The selection includes CAL-tac(tm) notecard and envelope, $2.50. Set of ten cards, $18.75: snowperson, "Season's Greetings"; 6 balloons, "Congratulations"; flowers in flower pot; three hearts; rainbow over duck pond; waterfall between two mountains; butterfly; moonlight sailing; and bowling ball and ten pins. Add 10 percent shipping and handling to the cost of the card(s). Send your order to Creative Adaptations for Learning, 38 Beverly Road, Great Neck, New York 11021. For more information contact Shirley Keller or Irma Goldberg (516) 466-9143.
Federationist Tina Blatter of Artistic Touch, a company that produces Braille greeting cards and tactile paintings, has moved from Colorado to South Dakota. For those wishing to place orders, her new address and phone number are 2600 West 28th Street, Sioux Falls, South Dakota 57105, (606) 335-1736.
Sandy Jo Hansen, Secretary/Treasurer of the Black Hills Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota, reports the following election results: Noble Mellegard, President; Bonnie Bender, Vice President; Sandy Hansen, Secretary/Treasurer; and Ray Thomas, Jean Thompson, and Julaine Rollman, Board members.
Cassette Mailers for Sale:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I am hand-making cassette cardboard mailers for the blind. The cost of the mailers is 50 cents each. Orders must be in large print or on cassette. Send your name, address, and number of mailers along with payment to Christine Diaz, 51 First Street, Norwood, Massachusetts 02062.Elected:
Jim Omvig, Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind of Arizona, reports that the following individuals were elected as officers and Board members of the NFB of Arizona on September 17, 1995: Bruce Gardner, President; Judith Tunell, First Vice President; Jim Boatman, Second Vice President; Jim Omvig, Secretary; and Donna Silba, Treasurer. Sandie Addy, Carolyn Craven, Lee Kerr, Captain Lewis, David Montgomery, and Ruth Swenson were elected to serve as Board members.
Albums of Vocal Music Available:
Linda Mentink, President of the NFB Music Division, has asked us to carry the following announcement:
I have recorded two albums of sacred songs on cassette. One is contemporary, and the other is old hymn favorites. The cost of each is $10, including shipping. They make great gifts. To order, contact Linda Mentink, 1737 Tamarak Lane, Janesville, Wisconsin 53545-0951, phone, (608) 752-8749.
Physical Fitness, Wet and Dry:
From the Editor Emeritus: I recently received a letter from Olivia Ostergaard, who is a member of the Fresno Chapter. She says in part:
As Federationists are known to blaze new ground, so two Federationists in the Fresno Chapter are gaining visibility, and better health. How? By attending a local gym at least three times a week for water aerobics, treadmill, and/or bike.
Lyrue Taylor, Vice-President, who is diabetic, and I, who am borderline, are members of "George Brown's Fitness" and "Clovis Athletics" respectively. Lyrue attends the 8:30 a.m. water aerobics, and I the 11:45 a.m. class, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. We both try to get in some treadmill and exercycle before the water aerobics. There are six gyms in the Fresno/Clovis area. If you're a member of one, you get the benefits of all of them.
One day, while I was at the Blackstone gym, I met a blind man who labeled the treadmill. The only drawback to this, as I see it, is that we can't read the numbers for time, heart rate, miles, etc. that appear on the screen of most treadmills. The same is true for the exercycle.
My question is this: Is there any way that the NFB can make contact with companies that manufacture this equipment to see if we could have a talking computer chip in some of them so that they would be more accessible? We hope to contact a local sports reporter and make a news story out of this. Remember, most folks think blind persons just sit and read our Braille and Talking Books. Not anymore!
Educational Supplies Needed in Ghana:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I am appealing for donations of educational materials for the blind in Ghana. These may include blank or used cassette tapes; writing aids such as Braillers, slates, and styluses; Braille paper; and any other useful equipment or accessories. Please send all donations to the following address: Kobena Bonney, 90 Saint Mary's Street, #2-6, Boston, Massachusetts 02215; e-mail, [email protected]; or phone, (617) 267-7454.
Sharon Maneki, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland, reports that on Saturday, September 9, 1995, the Delmarva Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland was formed. The chapter was welcomed into the Federation by both the President of the NFB of Delaware and the President of the NFB of Maryland. The new chapter officers are Joan Mitcheil, President; Ann Xumbo, Vice President; Virginia Glynn, Secretary; and Tami Dodd Jones, Treasurer. Raymond Jackson and Lydia Richardson were elected to serve as Board members.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
For sale Romeo Braille printer, RB--40, in excellent condition, never having been used. Will sell complete with all Braille and printed materials, along with a complete box of paper for the machine. Will deliver in reasonable distance from Los Angeles. Excellent machine for anyone needing to make Braille copies of material. Asking $2,500 or best offer. For further information call Essie Hall at (213) 292-1654.
Space Camp for the Blind:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Traveling into space is something that many of us have always wished we could do. The odds of this ever actually happening are pretty slim. Through its Space Camp Program the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, located in Huntsville, Alabama, has allowed tens of thousands of children and adults to experience earthbound the effects of space. The West Virginia School for the Blind has made this experience possible for hundreds of visually impaired children and adults through its coordination of the Space Camp for Children with Visual Disabilities and the Adult Space Camp for the Blind. The West Virginia school is entering its seventh year as the coordinator for these programs. The 1996 schedule for programs serving the blind has been set, and the dates are as follows: Adult Space Camp for the Blind, May 10-12, 1996; Parent/Child Camp for the Blind, May 10-12, 1996; and Space Camp for Children with Visual Disabilities, September 21-28, 1996. The Parent/Child Camp for the Blind is a new program that allows both parents and their children to go through the Space Camp experience together. At least one member of each family must have a visual impairment to be eligible for the program. This program will be held during the same weekend as the Adult Space Camp Program in Huntsville.
Anyone wishing additional information for these programs may contact Dan Oates at the West Virginia School for the Blind, 301 E. Main Street, Romney, West Virginia 26757, (304) 822-4883, or in the evenings call (304) 822- 4410. The registration deadline for the parent/child and the adult program is March 15, 1996. If enough registrations are not confirmed by the deadline the program will be canceled.
Useful Books from NBP:
National Braille Press has recently announced the following new releases:
Based on the success of our tutorial for WordPerfect 5.1, National Braille Press is pleased to announce a new tutorial for Learning WordPerfect 6.0 Using A Screen-Access Program by Kathleen Beaver. Similar to the previous tutorial, Learning WordPerfect 6.0 contains a self-paced, step-by-step instruction book, plus two practice disks to give new users hands-on experience using the newest features of this version of WordPerfect with speech or Braille access. This book assumes no prior experience with WordPerfect.
Learn basics like entering and editing text; exiting, saving, and opening documents; and so forth, as well as more advanced features, such as using the Thesaurus and Grammar Checker. The tutorial comes in Braille (two volumes) or cassette for $23, and in print for $28 (includes shipping). In her book, What Do I Do Now? Making Sense of Today's Changing Workplace, Shena Crane, founder and President of Mentor Career Services in Irvine, California, outlines the dramatic changes occurring in today's workplace and spells out new strategies to turn these changes to your advantage. What Do I Do Now? sells for $14.95 in Braille (same price as print book).
Order both books from National Braille Press, 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, or call (617) 266-6160 and charge it with MasterCard or Visa.
Bill Isaacs, President of the Kankakee Heartland Chapter of the NFB of Illinois, reports the death of Boi Ehmsen Eskildsen. He was 103 at the time of his death, perhaps the oldest Federationist. Mr. Eskildsen was a gentle, kind, pleasant, interesting man. He was born in Denmark and traveled from the United States to Europe many times over the years. He lived alone in his own home until fairly recently. In his mid-nineties he went to nursing homes to entertain the "old folk" with his harmonica.
Ehms is survived by his sister, Metha Jensen, who is in her nineties. She is as active and lively as her brother was. Both Ehms and Metha were members of the Federation for many years.
Pen Friend Wanted:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
My name is Denis Bui, and I am thirty-three years old. I would like to find a pen friend. I like music, travel, and correspondence. I can write in print, in Braille, or on computer disk. I have an IBM computer. My contact information is Residence Pierre Loti, 15/227 rue des Fusills, 59280-Armantires, France.
We are pleased to report that on September 23, 1995, David Denotaris, one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey, and Mariann Serano were married. Congratulations to the Denotarises.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
For sale, 14-inch Telesensory black-and-white CCTV, Model ER2A, Serial #ER91111-154. Cost $2,825 when purchased in 1992, will now sell for $1,600 or best offer. Contact Elmer Estey, 608 Mimosa, Roswell, New Mexico 88201.
World Series Baseball Game Is Back:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Version 10 of the award-winning World Series Baseball Game and Information System will be available following the 1995 World Series. This game is now being played in forty- eight states and four foreign countries on IBM-compatible computers with screen readers and synthesizers. Version 10 comes with 155 items and ten information programs. There are many improvements and several new features. The cost is still only $15 to new users, $5 for updates. Send your check to Harry Hollingsworth, 692 S. Sheraton Drive, Akron, Ohio 44319 or call (216) 644-2421. Please specify which size disk you prefer.
New Cassette Catalog Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Jett and Smith is back with the 1995-1996 No-Frills, Priced-Just-Right catalog on tape. Presenting over 300 exciting products for everyday living, and a collection of special gifts for all occasions. We are also introducing a new line of liberating products. As our catalog name implies, every item is discount priced. Shop in the safety and convenience of your own home. All orders will be shipped to your door. When requesting your free cassette catalog, please call (800) 275-5553 between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Pacific Standard Time, Monday through Saturday. We are here to help you and look forward to your call. Please note that we do not ship outside the United States.
Transcription Service Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Do you need your bank statements, bills, business cards, booklets, folders, greeting cards, business letters, magazines, menus, instructional manuals, signs, or labels produced in Braille, large print, or regular print? Call or write Ronald Kolesar at Ron's Braille Transcribing Services, P.O. Box 102, Girard, Pennsylvania 16417-0102, or call (814) 774-5709 between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday. No holidays or weekends please. Leave a message on the machine during these hours.
Robert Leblond, Treasurer of the NFB of Maine, reports that the National Federation of the Blind of Maine held its annual convention on September 22 and 23, 1995, at the Holiday Inn West in Portland. It was a wonderful convention, which focused on the changing balances in the blindness field. Allen Harris delivered an inspirational banquet address. The officers elected to serve were Connie Leblond, President; Dave McCabe, Vice President; Robert Leblond, Treasurer; Seth Leblond, Secretary; and Rob McIninch, Bruce Westfall, and Mike Jacubouis, Board members.
Thank-yous Are Always in Season:
We came across the following note in the August 17, 1995, edition of the Dundalk Eagle, in its "By the People" column. It was submitted by Ken Canterbery, a Federationist from Maryland who owns a vending business called Hot Diggity Dog. At this season of the year we would all do well to remember that goodness and compassion still walk the streets of our world, and we could all do more to help them prosper:
I am legally blind and run the food vending cart in front of the Dundalk Post Office.
I often encounter homeless and needy people gathering near the Post Office water fountain. Some are loitering, and some are just hoping someone will offer them money or food. Many people claim I contribute to their loitering because I occasionally offer them a free meal or soft drink.
Sometimes I feel good about myself when I can offer them something to eat. It doesn't matter who they are or where they come from; they are all human; and I don't like to see anyone go hungry.
I am not the only person who feels this way. For several months before and after the last election, a special friend has handed me $10 or $20 at a time to help feed the underprivileged. When I talk to this friend, I can see and feel the goodness in her heart.
On behalf of these needy people and me, I want to thank Ms. Bonnie Leisure. God bless her. Hot diggity dog!