The Braille Monitor

Vol. 39, No. 11                                                                                            December 1996

Barbara Pierce, Editor

Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by

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

ISSN 0006-8829


Contents


Vol. 39, No. 11                                                                                   December 1996

 

How Can Specialized Agencies for the Blind Be Saved
by Kenneth Jernigan

Been There, Done That
by Betty Niceley

Convention 1997: We Go to New Orleans
by Kenneth Jernigan

New Orleans--the City with a Past
by Jerry Whittle

You Have Taught Me Well
by Connie Leblond

Agreement Reached with Seeing Eye

Now That I Have Time to Think
by Clarence Parks

Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award for 1997
by Sharon Maneki

The 1997 Blind Educator of the Year Award
by Stephen O. Benson

A Federationist in A Strange Land
by Greg D. Trapp

Statement Supporting Residential Schools for the Blind
by Kenneth Jernigan

Social Security, SSI, and Medicare Facts for 1997
by James Gashel

Recipes

Monitor Miniatures

Copyright 1996 National Federation of the Blind

 

 

HOW CAN SPECIALIZED AGENCIES FOR THE BLIND BE SAVED

An Address Delivered by Kenneth Jernigan

At the 1996 Annual Training Conference Sponsored by
The General Council of Industries for the Blind and National Industries for the Blind

Kansas City, Missouri, October 9, 1996

A few years ago (I think it was in the 1970's) a respected professor at the Air Force Academy repeatedly drummed a preachment into his students. "If World War III comes," he said, "and if you have anything to say about how we fight it, don't let anybody who successfully commanded at any level during World War II have a position of command or authority. At the critical moment, reflex action will take over, and such a person will automatically do what worked in the 1940's, thus endangering not only the people at hand but possibly the whole country as well." Today's panel is entitled "The Battles to Preserve Specialized Services: What's at Stake in the Blindness Community?" If we are going to have a meaningful discussion, we must clearly understand what audience we are trying to reach and what we want that audience to do. As a beginning, let me say what we are not talking about. We are not really considering whether specialized agencies provide better services to the blind than agencies that serve the whole spectrum of people with disabilities. All of us know that, and those who don't know it aren't in this room, won't be reading our papers, and aren't likely to know about today's proceedings.

Nor are we considering how specialized agencies for the blind can be preserved or strengthened. We know that, too. The way it can be done (in fact, the only way it can be done) is for the agencies and the consumer organizations to go together with mutual trust and common purpose to Congress, the executive branch of government, the state legislatures, and the public.

So if it is not necessary to discuss whether we need specialized agencies or how we can preserve them, why are we having this panel at all? We need it because we must consider the question of how the unified effort I have mentioned can be achieved, and this is certainly the appropriate forum, for the audience we want to reach is here in this room. There are two sub-parts to the problem: First, how can the agencies get deep and committed support from the blind they serve? And second, how can they establish meaningful community of purpose with the consumer organizations?

As to the first question, I have talked about it so much in recent years, that I won't spend much time on it. The need is obvious, but getting agency decision-makers to take the matter seriously and do what has to be done is something else again. Too many of them are still commanding the regiments and using the tactics they employed successfully in World War II.

I say to every one of you involved in the running of an agency that what you need most is a strong, independent organization of the blind to work in partnership with you. And I don't just mean that you should not object to its existence or that you should merely sit passively by and wish it well. You should encourage it and openly make common cause with it. If you don't, you have nobody to blame but yourself when you stand alone in the time of need.

Of course, you cannot create an independent organization of the blind, for if the organization depends upon your permission and your financing, it is by definition not independent. But if you cannot create an independent organization of the blind, you can and will establish the climate that will either encourage or inhibit it. And the stake you have is not solely altruistic or professional. It is also a matter of self-interest, and possibly survival.

In today's climate of changing values and hard-fought issues, the best possible insurance policy for an agency for the blind is a strong, independent organization of blind consumers. Regardless of how much individual blind people may like your agency and support it, they cannot achieve and sustain the momentum to nurture and defend it in time of crisis. That is the negative way of saying this: If there is a powerful, independent organization of the blind and if the members of that organization feel that the agency is responsive to their needs and working in partnership with them, they will go to the public and the government for funding and support. They will be vigilant in the advancement of the agency's interests. They will have something to lose, and they will fight with ingenuity and determination to protect it.

Serfs, on the other hand, have very little to lose. They are at best indifferent and at worst resentful, always waiting for a chance to rebel in time of crisis. In good times they rarely criticize, but they also do not imaginatively and effectively support. In bad times they not only fail to defend--they cannot defend. They have neither the strength nor the know-how.

Moreover, they lack the incentive. Having been taught that agency policy is none of their business, they cannot in time of danger suddenly become tough and resourceful. As many an agency has learned (the same is true of countries), slaves do not make good soldiers.

What I have just said becomes more relevant to your operation every day--for budgets are tightening; the environment is deteriorating; population is rising; and resources are dwindling. In addition, other disability groups (once disorganized and invisible) are finding their voice and reaching for power. Some say they took their lessons from the blind. Be that as it may, they are now a growing force, and there is no turning back. The argument they make is deceptively alluring. Give us, they say, a unified program for people with disabilities--no special treatment for any segment of the group. We are one population. Despite superficial differences, our needs are essentially the same. Save money. Eliminate duplication.

You and I know that the logic is shallow and the promise false, but it will take more than rhetoric to save the specialized programs. In the general melting pot of the generic disability agency the blind will have no useful training, no meaningful opportunity, and no real chance. There is only one way that the specialized programs for the blind can survive. The agencies and strong, independent grassroots organizations of the blind must work together to make it happen. And the partnership cannot be a sham. It must be real.

This brings me to the second of the sub-parts. How can the agencies establish meaningful community of purpose with consumer organizations? While I am at it, maybe I should add a third sub- part: How can the two national consumer organizations build and maintain trust and cooperative relations? Let nobody say that these matters are too delicate to discuss. We must discuss them, for here is where the battle will be lost or won.

I want now to talk about specifics, for generalities won't do. Friends and colleagues can differ concerning methods and policies, and they can still continue to be friends and colleagues--but they cannot attack each other's motives, integrity, and character and continue to be friends and colleagues. Let me give you recent examples.

The American Council of the Blind, the American Foundation for the Blind, and many others in the blindness field believe that detectable warnings in the form of truncated domes should be placed at the edge of railway platforms and in certain other areas to warn the blind of possible danger. The National Federation of the Blind believes that this is not the best approach. So what should those of us who hold these differing opinions do?

The American Council of the Blind and others have a perfect right (perhaps if they feel strongly about it, an obligation) to say in their publications that we are wrong, and we have an equal right and obligation to express an opposing view. In my opinion it is even proper for the American Council of the Blind and others to bring a lawsuit against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to force it to install truncated domes instead of the experimental electronic system that the National Federation of the Blind has been helping develop. But the discussion and even the court proceedings should be kept at the level of relevant issues. When advantage is sought by attacking the integrity, the character, or the motives of those with an opposing view, the line is crossed. In such circumstances there can be no continued mutual trust, no friendship, and no collegial effort--not only on one issue but across the board on any issue.

Two recent instances come to mind. The National Federation of the Blind sought a federal grant to promote training in teaching and using Braille. A number of other groups in the blindness field sought the same grant. The federal government assembled a panel of three to do what is called a peer review. One of the members of that panel is an official in the AER structure and, I believe, a member of the American Council of the Blind. A second member of the panel is a member of the National Federation of the Blind (and also, incidentally, a member of AER). After considerable discussion the panel recommended that the grant be awarded to the National Federation of the Blind, and it was.

I am informed that the first member of the panel then went to officials in the federal department involved and lodged a complaint on the grounds that the second member of the panel is a member of the National Federation of the Blind. AER membership was, of course, not mentioned. The complaint was that Federation membership constituted a violation of ethics since the Federation was one of the applicants. But, of course, almost everybody on any of the review panels is a member of one or another of the organizations in the blindness field applying for grants.

If I am correctly informed about the complaint (and I give credence to the story because of inquiries made and information given to us by officials of the federal department), this conduct should be deplored not only by the Federation but by every other organization in the field. Such behavior invites counterattack and certainly does not engender mutual trust and collegiality. Two final comments about this situation. The grant still stands--and make no mistake, a measured response will be made.

Am I saying that it is never proper to deal with personalities? Not at all. If it can be established that an individual or a group in our field is guilty of abuse of trust, criminal conduct, or other wrongdoing, it is not only proper but incumbent upon all of us to speak out. The point is that the issue must stand on its own except when the personal conduct itself becomes the issue. Obviously, as a case in point, if an individual or an organization believes that a given kind of detectable warning should be used or not used or that a certain method of teaching should be employed, the motives and character of those involved are irrelevant.

In the September, 1996, issue of the Braille Forum the following paragraph appears regarding a report made to the ACB convention by Executive Director Oral Miller. Here it is:

Miller said the preservation of separate services for blind and low-vision individuals remains high on ACB's list of concerns as does the media attack under which some schools for the blind have been besieged. "The American Council of the Blind certainly would not and has never countenanced unacceptable improper conduct such as child abuse or neglect of children. On the other hand, it's just common sense to point out that the irresponsible leveling of such very serious charges for political reasons is assuredly a way of reducing even further the understanding of the public concerning the importance of separate services for blind people."

This is what the article says, and I cannot see how the use of such words as "irresponsible leveling of serious charges for political reasons" can possibly have any constructive purpose or effect. It is certainly true that the Braille Monitor has discussed problems at a number of the residential schools for the blind during the past few years. Is this positive or negative, constructive or detrimental? It depends on the truth of the allegations and the thoroughness of the reporting.

In this connection it may be pertinent to the topic we are considering to review part of an article that appears in the October, 1996, Braille Monitor. It deals with residential schools for the blind and also with my concept of balance, fairness, and the question of personality. Here is what it says:

In this issue of the Monitor you will find stories about five residential schools for the blind. We think that four of them are doing an excellent job, and we have asked their superintendents to give us details. We think the fifth school has serious problems and needs improvement. I want to tell you how we chose these five schools. In doing so I hope to give balance and perspective to what is happening in today's residential programs.

I have long heard that Phil Hatlen is running a good school for the blind in Texas. The blind of the state say so; my contacts with him would indicate it; and I have heard nothing credible to the contrary. So I started with him. I called him and told him that I would like to have an article about the Texas School for the Blind. What was the School trying to accomplish? How was it setting about it? He could make the article as long or as short as he liked.

At the conclusion of my conversation with Dr. Hatlen, I asked him to suggest a few other schools that he thought might be doing an outstanding job. He said that there were quite a number, but he gave emphasis to three-- Kentucky, Indiana, and Washington.

Since I am quite well acquainted with Ralph Bartley, I picked him as the next to call. When I called Dr. Bartley, he said he would be pleased to write an article for the Monitor, and he did. As I had done with Dr. Hatlen, I told Dr. Bartley that he had complete leeway in what he said and how he said it. As to my question about other residential schools for the blind that were doing a good job, Dr. Bartley joined Phil Hatlen in mentioning Indiana and Washington.

So I called Michael Bina at the Indiana School for the Blind. He requires special comment. Dr. Bina and I have known each other for quite some time, having served together in affairs of the World Blind Union and on various committees. We have discussed educational philosophy and our general notions about blindness, and we have not always agreed--a fact not relevant in the context of what I was now doing.

Last year I received an anonymous letter purporting to be from staff members at the Indiana School for the Blind. It made serious charges about Dr. Bina and his operation of the school. Anonymous letters are usually worth about as much as their signatures, but this one contained such specific and detailed accusations that it seemed necessary to investigate.

Without giving Dr. Bina advanced warning, we sent a reporter to Indianapolis to talk with state officials, staff and students at the School, and Dr. Bina himself. Upon arrival in Indianapolis our reporter visited Dr. Bina's superiors. Then he went unannounced to the School. He simply walked in and began looking around, waiting to be challenged.

News of such visits is quick to circulate, and Dr. Bina soon showed up. He was probably a little apprehensive (who wouldn't be), but he didn't try to stop our reporter from investigating. In fact, he let him pick students and staff at random and gave him a room for interviewing. He permitted our reporter to go anywhere he liked and willingly answered questions. Despite the tenseness of the situation, Dr. Bina was in every way cooperative. Our reporter came away from the school believing that Dr. Bina is doing an excellent job and running a good program. He was convinced that the students are receiving a good educational opportunity, that they overwhelmingly like Dr. Bina and the staff, and that they feel they are treated well. This view is shared by the blind of the state with whom we talked.

In the circumstances I will not repeat the charges that were made against Dr. Bina and the School. If I do, it will simply give them currency even if I say that we found no grounds for them. If we had found the charges to have substance, we would have printed them and done so in detail. Let anyone who doubts it read past issues of the Monitor, particularly those dealing with schools for the blind. We print the truth as we find it regardless of the consequences.

And here we come to the nub of what I think our responsibility is. Educational systems for the blind (residential or otherwise) have tremendous power over the lives of the children in their care. They train and educate, manage and mold. This is not necessarily bad. But whether bad or good, it is inevitable. Children are inventive. They are highly suggestible.

They fantasize, hold petty grudges, and sometimes misassess. Usually the teachers, custodial staff, dorm workers, and administrators who are charged with their care and teaching are conscientious and sensitive. They have standing in the community, and the presumption is that they are doing the right thing and telling the truth when a dispute arises.

Yet sometimes, as we know, trust is abused, and teachers, administrators, and other staff go bad. When this occurs, the violation is worse than an ordinary abuse of trust since the victims are particularly vulnerable and unable to fend for themselves. They may not (especially when they are quite young) have the judgment and the perspective to know that what is happening is wrong. Everything I have said is doubled and tripled when the victims are not only blind but also possessed of other disabilities.

When things do go bad in an educational program for the blind (especially when physical or sexual abuse is involved), all of us in a position to know have a responsibility to take action. This is particularly true of the organized blind movement and its publication. Except in unusual cases, these are not our biological children--but at the deeper levels (the moral and the spiritual) they are our children with all that the term implies. We must love them, nurture them, protect them, and defend them. We must also see that they get the best education that is possible and that they have the chance to be and achieve all that their potential allows.

This means fearlessly exposing bad programs and the abuse of trust. But it also means protecting and publicizing good programs. It means going to legislatures and getting money. It means taking time to tell each other and the community at large about the excellence that exists. Finally, it means not becoming so caught up in exposing the bad that we forget to talk about the good, even if the good is undramatic and demands no headlines.

That is what the Monitor tries to do, and that is why we are glad to publicize Mike Bina's work in Indiana regardless of whether at times we disagree with him. It is why we will not detail the charges that were made against him, because as I have said, we found no basis for them. Enumerating them would do nothing but cause problems.

Dr. Bina's article appears in this issue along with the others I have mentioned. He joined with Dr. Bartley and Dr. Hatlen in commending the work of Dean Stenehjem at the Washington School for the Blind, so I called him. He was glad to write about the Washington School, and his article appears in this issue along with the others. So there you have the four articles from schools for the blind that we feature as examples of excellence--Texas, Kentucky, Indiana, and Washington. They are not the only ones. We could have mentioned others.

Regrettably in this issue we must also feature a fifth residential school, New Mexico. Read the story, and judge for yourself. We think the New Mexico School has serious problems and that the students are not receiving the education or the treatment they deserve and are entitled to receive. We think we are as obligated to report what we have found in New Mexico as in the other states.

There you have part of the lead article in this month's Braille Monitor. Perhaps I should also share with you the final two sentences:

Through the Braille Monitor and otherwise, the National Federation of the Blind will do everything that it can to see that blind children have the opportunity for a first-class education. We will do it with as little controversy as possible, but we will do it--and we will not be much concerned about whether we receive criticism in the process.

This is what the October Monitor says, and these are my thoughts on what we must do if we are to save and strengthen specialized programs for the blind. I believe we can do it, but the task will not be easy. Too many people are still leading the regiments and using the tactics they employed in the 1940's. Mutual trust and community of purpose mean more than shared goals. They also mean good will and fair play. In times to come the next few years will either be remembered as the end of a millennium or the beginning of a new era. The choice is ours. I hope we decide wisely and well.

 

BEEN THERE, DONE THAT

by Betty Niceley

From the Editor: Betty Niceley is the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky. Last spring the blind of the Bluegrass State found themselves facing an immediate and catastrophic threat to the quality of the services provided by the state agency serving blind and visually impaired citizens. Here is the way Betty Niceley described what happened:

The National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky has been proud that more than twenty years ago we led the effort to establish a separate agency for the blind in our state. Needless to say, the reaction was swift and certain when we learned on May 22, 1996, that the powers that be in state government had decreed the agency for the blind was now to be a thing of the past. If I maintained a diary, the entry for May 24, 1996, would read something like this:

Today I stood on the steps of our State Capitol building and participated in a well-attended press conference to speak out in opposition to the announced merger of Kentucky's Department for the Blind and the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. Then, with a group of approximately 125 supporters--still accompanied by the press--I stood in Governor Paul Patton's office and denounced this plan which would set rehabilitation services for the blind back at least twenty-five years. During the activities of this day those participants who have been around long enough to remember the struggle for a separate agency were also remembering the poor service delivery which prompted the demand for change in the first place.

Prior to July, 1976, specialized services for Kentucky's blind and visually impaired population were buried beneath layers of bureaucracy, and the delivery process was slow and inefficient. At that time the Division of Services for the Blind was a part of the general rehabilitation program. By the early 1970's it was practically impossible for an individual to expect anything like timely service delivery. Participants in the program at the state's rehabilitation center for the blind would often complete their training and return home before requests for adaptive aids or additional services could receive approval from the cluttered system. Since it became apparent that those with visual disabilities represented a group for whom expectations were quite low, workers in the field, as well as clients themselves, became increasingly frustrated and discouraged. They knew that with appropriate training and the opportunity to do so, the average blind person could become a productive member of the work force, but fewer and fewer blind people were able to demonstrate the truth of this conviction.

Realizing that blind and visually impaired Kentuckians were extremely underserved, the National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky led the effort to establish a separate agency for the blind. It was a long and hard struggle, but one well worth the effort. Consumers had to be convinced that they could make a difference. State employees had to make choices which put their jobs on the line. Legislators required numerous telephone calls and endless pages of written material to help them understand that blind people seeking effective rehabilitation really do have unique needs. However, it is to Kentucky's credit that a separate agency for the blind was created by a law which became effective in July, 1976.

For twenty years now, Kentucky has been nationally recognized as having one of the best service-delivery agencies for blind and visually impaired individuals. In 1980 this agency was chosen as one of a limited number to receive an Independent Living grant which has made a difference in the lives of thousands of Kentuckians with visual disabilities. When the Kennelly Amendment established highway vending facilities as a means of providing jobs and operational funding for blind vendors, Kentucky was chosen as one of the states to participate in a pilot project for this program. Because of its leadership the Kentucky Department for the Blind was selected in 1990 as one of only a few state agencies to receive and disburse funds from the Technology Act to provide assistive technology for individuals with disabilities throughout the state.

The creative inventions which have put Kentucky on the map in the field of technology for the blind would not have been possible without a separate agency to focus on solving the specific problems faced by blind people. There can be no doubt that specialization is as necessary in rehabilitation as it is in the medical profession.

Since the establishment of a separate agency in 1976, the National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky has monitored it with a critical eye. The Department for the Blind has brought a lot of positive recognition to Kentucky, and we are pleased that it ranks in the top ten of almost all categories listed in the most recent ranking of vocational rehabilitation agencies for the blind.

Armed with bad memories from the past and compellingly positive facts from the present, Federationists stepped to the barricades in late May, fully prepared to protect future opportunities for our blind brothers and sisters in Kentucky. The next few weeks were filled to overflowing with strategy-planning sessions lasting into the small hours of the morning. There were meetings with state officials, letters and telephone calls to legislators, rallies, and petitions from all over the state carrying approximately 3,000 signatures of Kentuckians who supported our views. Committed Federationists were just settling in to enjoy the battle when we received an oral promise that the merger would not take place. However, we insisted on a public announcement through the press, and on July 23, 1996, a press release was distributed including the statement: "There will be no merger of the Kentucky Department for the Blind and the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation."

So here is yet another answer to the question: why do we need the National Federation of the Blind? From past experience we know with painful clarity the price paid by blind citizens when states eliminate specialized rehabilitation services in the name of increased economy of scale and cross-disability programs. This organization will always actively and aggressively oppose any attempt to merge separate agencies for the blind with general rehabilitation programs. Why?--been there, done that. It doesn't work. For now the Governor of Kentucky and his minions understand this fact, and thanks to the National Federation of the Blind Kentucky's blind citizens can continue to expect effective rehabilitation.

The following is an exchange of correspondence between James Gashel, National Federation of the Blind Director of Governmental Affairs, and Rodney Cain, Secretary of the Kentucky Workforce Development Cabinet. Taken together they summarize the struggle that took place in Kentucky and the victory won by the blind of the state and their allies, but they also demonstrate the necessity for vigilance because the forces pressing the case for economy of scale have not changed their minds. Here are the letters:

June 19, 1996

The Honorable Paul Patton
Office of the Governor
State Capitol
Frankfort, Kentucky

Dear Governor Patton:

I am writing this letter to ask you to reverse the announced, planned reorganization of programs for the blind in Kentucky. As Director of Governmental Affairs for the National Federation of the Blind, I am aware of the fact that consolidation of programs which appear to have a similar purpose always seems to be a cost- effective and logical move. However, the termination of the identifiable organizational structure which has worked well for over twenty years in serving the blind of Kentucky will have predictable repercussions far beyond a mere administrative change for efficiency.

The merger of the Department for the Blind into programs having a much broader mission and focus will inevitably change the nature, scope, and quality of the services provided. This will happen because blind people are only a fraction (approximately 10%) of the total disability population. Even so, the needs to be met in serving people who are blind are quite distinct, and the knowledge and skills necessary to provide services are highly specialized.

If services for the blind are provided through an agency that is primarily called upon to meet the complicated needs of a much different and far more diverse population, blind people will lose the chance to obtain the kind of targeted attention required to address their particular condition. This is the very reason why the Kentucky Department for the Blind was established. The results achieved by the Department have certainly justified the decision of the legislature to create the Department.

The concern which I am expressing has been explained in considerable detail by the Committee on Joint Organizational Effort (the JOE Committee), which has functioned for several years to coordinate approaches among all of the major groups having interests in the blindness field at the national level.

Therefore, I am attaching a copy of the Committee's statement on specialized services for your consideration. The statement points out the fundamental incompatibility between blind services on the one hand and the broader mission of vocational rehabilitation and other human services programs on the other.

After you have reviewed this letter and the JOE Committee's statement, please consider the fact that a decision to merge programs for the blind with other programs will have the inevitable result of diluting services. Although the immediate consequences of diminished relevant assistance will be felt first by the blind people of Kentucky, the long-range impact will be to burden the taxpayers with the cost of supporting the blind in growing dependency caused by lack of services. Maintaining the

Department for the Blind under its present statutory basis is the best way to avoid this result.

Very truly yours,

James Gashel
Director of Governmental Affairs
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND

Specialized Rehabilitation Services for Blind and Visually Impaired Persons
A Position Statement

The Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws enacted in recent years in the United States and Canada represent enlightened disability policy. However, the noticeable trend to define "disability" as an overarching generic condition for purposes of program design, administration, and funding is pernicious in its effect upon rehabilitation services for children and adults who are blind or visually impaired.

It is the common experience of the agencies and organizations that have joined in this statement that specialized, comprehensive rehabilitation services and essential changes in social attitudes about blindness do not occur when rehabilitation services for the blind are provided through a single program which serves both blind and disabled persons. This is so in large part because the characteristics and distinctive needs of the blind become lost amid much larger issues and populations and because specialized services are overshadowed by diverse, unrelated goals.

The accomplishment of individualized rehabilitation goals can be achieved in an efficient, consumer-responsive manner when blind people have access to an agency dedicated to providing blindness-specific services. Such an agency must be administratively identifiable and have qualified personnel especially trained to serve the blind. Accountability for program results is strengthened by this organizational structure and staffing since accomplishment of specific objectives for a defined target population of manageable size can readily be measured. When program results fail to merit support, blind consumers and their advocates or the professionals who serve them can make focused efforts to insist upon improvements.

Promoting more enlightened social attitudes about blindness is an indispensable goal of specialized services for the blind. To achieve this unique goal competent personnel, including blind persons serving as role models in both staff and volunteer capacities, must be assigned to teach blindness-related alternative techniques. Blind individuals require comprehensive and often complex rehabilitation services in areas such as adjustment training, independent mobility, Braille, and the use of assistive technology to meet their particular information needs resulting from vision loss. Most importantly they must develop confidence, which is a prerequisite to effective use of these skills in daily life.

Laws pertaining to "people with disabilities" as a class may appropriately be general if the purpose is to prohibit discrimination or to identify individual rights. However, rehabilitation programs and the laws which authorize them have a far more precise mission. When services for the blind are submerged into broad disability programs, precision is sacrificed for generality, and comprehensive, consumer-responsive services for blind individuals are lost.

This position statement has been unanimously adopted by national agencies and organizations in the United States and Canada which represent those who provide services for persons who are blind or visually impaired and those who are the elected representatives of the blind. We are firmly committed to the provision of specialized rehabilitation services for blind persons by identifiable agencies especially established to serve them. We urge program administrators, lawmakers, and other public officials to follow the principles expressed in this statement.

American Council of the Blind
American Foundation for the Blind
Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired
Blinded Veterans Association
Canadian Council of the Blind
Canadian National Institute for the Blind
National Federation of the Blind
National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

 

Frankfort, Kentucky
July 9, 1996

Mr. James Gashel
Director of Governmental Affairs
National Federation of the Blind
Baltimore, Maryland

Dear Mr. Gashel:

Governor Paul E. Patton has forwarded your correspondence concerning the Workforce Development Cabinet's intention to merge the Departments for the Blind and Vocational Rehabilitation to me for response. Over the past month you have undoubtedly heard much concerning this proposal. Please know I share your concern for consumers who utilize services provided by Cabinet agencies, as well as your desire for increased quality and efficiency.

As ongoing discussions with consumers and advocates continue, be assured we are giving every consideration to their ideas and suggestions. On June 26, 1996, I announced the cancellation of public hearings on combining the State Plans and the proposed merger, although I remain concerned about the duplication of the departments' administrative and support staffs. As we work toward an equitable resolution, both departments will meet separately and jointly to discuss plans each has developed regarding the other cost efficiencies.

Please be assured that cost efficiencies affecting administrative activities will be coordinated between the Departments for the Blind and Vocational Rehabilitation and redirected into direct services. Also a meeting with consumers will be held in late July so that all ideas concerning reducing duplication may be shared. As stewards of the public trust, the Workforce Development Cabinet will continue to pursue efficiency and the continued effectiveness of its agencies. Again, thank you for sharing your concerns with Governor Patton and the Cabinet.

Sincerely,
Rodney S. Cain, Secretary
Workforce Development Cabinet
Office of the Secretary

 

 

CONVENTION 1997: WE GO TO NEW ORLEANS

by Kenneth Jernigan

The time has come to plan for the 1997 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. As Federationists know, our recent National Conventions in Chicago and Anaheim were outstanding in every sense of the word--excellent programs, good food and facilities, and wonderful hospitality. But New Orleans in '97 promises to be the best we have ever had.

And it also promises to be the biggest. Our last convention in New Orleans was in 1991, and we had the biggest attendance in our history--2,760 registered attendees, and the record still stands. This time I hope we can break 3,000, and I believe we will. We are bigger and stronger than ever and ready for a wonderful convention. President Joanne Wilson and the other leaders and members of the NFB of Louisiana tell me that plans are going forward for a spectacular meeting.

We are returning to the Hyatt Regency New Orleans at 500 Poydras Plaza, New Orleans, Louisiana 70140. Those of you who attended the 1991 convention know how good the Hyatt Regency New Orleans is, and it has been remodeled and improved since we were there. It is among the best hotels in the world.

In recent years we have sometimes taken hotel reservations through the National Office, and that is what we are going to do this time. Call the National Center at (410) 659-9314 or write to National Convention, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. Reservations will be taken on a first come, first serve basis, and no reservation will be valid unless it has been made through the National Office of the Federation. A few people have already called the Hyatt Regency New Orleans and have apparently been told that their reservations are confirmed. These reservations are not valid and will not be honored. They should be re-made through the office here at the National Center for the Blind. As has been the case when we have followed this procedure in the past, Mr. Cobb will take telephone calls and deal with letters.

In order to confirm a reservation, you will need either to send a check or money order for $40 as a deposit or give to Mr. Cobb a credit card number. The credit card account will be charged immediately. If a reservation is canceled prior to June 1, 1997, half of the deposit will be returned. After that date deposits will not be returned. Exceptions may be made in certain demonstrated emergency situations.

The reason for this policy concerning reservations is that we have only 1,100 rooms in the Hyatt Regency. We believe we will need 1,425 rooms, so after the 1,100 rooms are gone, the overflow will be placed at another hotel. In order to make the situation workable and to be certain that we get the maximum number of rooms at the Hyatt Regency, we are handling reservations in the National Office of the Federation. I emphasize that no reservation will be valid unless it is made through our National Office and that after 1,100 rooms are gone, an overflow hotel will be used. Be warned, and behave accordingly. Those who do not read the Braille Monitor or attend chapter meetings to hear Presidential Releases have only themselves to blame.

As is always the case, our hotel rates for 1997 will be the envy of all who attend conventions. Here they are: one in a room, $40 per night; two in a room, $42; three in a room, $44; four in a room, $46. As you can see, these rates are better than the ones we had in 1996 in California, which were better than the ones we got in Chicago in 1995. 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 11 percent plus $3 a night. There will be no charge for children under 12 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.

Here are the convention dates and schedule. Notice that we are one day off from our usual schedule:

Sunday, June 29--seminars for parents of blind children, blind job seekers, and vendors and merchants; several other workshops and meetings.

Monday, June 30--convention registration, first meeting of the Resolutions Committee, other committees, and some of the divisions.

Tuesday, July 1--meeting of the Board of Directors (open to all), division meetings, committee meetings, continuing registration.

Wednesday, July 2--opening general session, evening gala.

Thursday, July 3--general sessions, tours (interesting ones throughout the New Orleans area).

Friday, July 4--general sessions, banquet.

Saturday, July 5--general sessions, adjournment.

The elegant Hyatt Regency New Orleans is located just eight blocks from the French Quarter. As those who were there in 1991 remember, it features two towers--Poydras, with 27 floors; and Lenai, with 11 floors. In addition to a swimming pool on the seventh floor, the Hyatt also features several restaurants, cocktail lounges, and a large shopping mall.

This shopping mall includes a Waldenbooks store, jewelry store, souvenir store, Cafe du Monde, Frank and Stein--hot dogs and beer--and many other fast food meals. In addition, Macy's Department Store is adjacent to the Hyatt and is easily accessible. Passing through Macy's will lead to the Super Dome, a colossal structure that is home to the New Orleans Saints as well as many other gala festivities. A shuttle service to and from the French Quarter will be provided to hotel guests during the National Convention. The huge rooms on the third floor of the Poydras Tower will easily accommodate both the general sessions and our exhibits, as well as the banquet. The 1997 convention of the National Federation of the Blind should offer enough variety and enough space to make it the best ever.

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 1996 grand prize in Anaheim was a thousand dollars in cash. The 1997 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 Don Banning, 663 Grove Avenue, Harahan, Louisiana 70123-3840, telephone (504) 737-4955.

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 Hyatt Regency New Orleans Hotel in July of 1997. Come and help make it happen! Meanwhile, read the accompanying article by Jerry Whittle, and revel in anticipation.

 

NEW ORLEANS--THE CITY WITH A PAST

by Jerry Whittle

From the Editor Emeritus: As Federationists know, Jerry Whittle is the author of the plays that annually emanate from the Louisiana Center for the Blind. In college he was an English major, and he has never gotten over it. Hopefully he never will. He formerly lived in South Carolina. Now he is a fixture at the Louisiana Center for the Blind (he and his wife Merilynn)-- writing plays, guiding students, and leading by example. As we approach the 1997 convention in New Orleans, Jerry will be writing a number of articles to persuade you to come. Here is the first:

The National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana has the pleasure of hosting the 1997 National Convention of the NFB in the great city of New Orleans. Since our hotel--the luxurious Hyatt Regency--is located just a few blocks from the French Quarter, it is our purpose with this initial article about the National Convention to entice all of you to visit one of the most distinctive and picturesque cities in the world.

Describing New Orleans and the French Quarter is a monumental task. New Orleans pulsates with energy, and the French Quarter is the heart. The twisting cobblestone streets open to all visitors the enormous contrasts between the wild and raucous and the exquisite beauty of the myriad architectural influences--Spanish, French, Creole, Irish, Italian, and African. Each culture, for good or bad, has left a brush stroke on the intricate tapestry that is the Vieux Carre.

The French Quarter, if you could use north, south, east, and west (you cannot use cardinal directions in the Quarter because the Mississippi River bends like a crescent moon around the city and plays havoc with cardinal directions); but if you could use compass points, Decatur Street would be the southern border of the French Quarter; Esplanade would be the western border; North Rampart would be the northern border; and wide and wonderful Canal Street would be the eastern border. Let's pretend that these directions are sufficient. Do you see why New Orleans is a city of extremes--glaringly and intentionally indifferent about where the sun goes and when it sets? Only in New Orleans would the sun dare to rise on the West Bank. Only in New Orleans would you find the majestic St. Louis Cathedral and the artistry of Jackson Square placed almost flamboyantly as the gateway to raucous and bawdy Bourbon Street, where the Big Easy is the easiest.

Over the past eleven years the students and staff of the Louisiana Center for the Blind have ventured to New Orleans for eleven Mardi Gras, for Jazz Festivals, for sports events at the Super Dome, and for various state and National Conventions of the NFB. During these visits we have experienced just about every nuance of the French Quarter. Our memories are too numerous to recount, but we are all veterans of the great city and have all been captivated by its charm and sometimes embarrassed by its audacity.

Decatur Street

Decatur Street bends with the Mississippi River and is just a jazz note away from the Old Man. One of the busiest streets in the Vieux Carre, Decatur has ample shopping stalls lining its sidewalks--French Market, Tower Records, the Riverwalk Mall, Jax Brewery, book stalls, souvenir shops, and curiosity shops, to name just a few.

I can remember going to Sidney's on Decatur with two students on a cane travel route during Mardi Gras. The sun was setting, and we were after some Jamaica Rums--big cigars. We usually wouldn't want to smoke a cigar, but something about the city made us want suddenly to smoke one. We had no explanation--just three men in search of the biggest cigar in the city.

We wended our way through throngs of people. A sudden blast, lingering and musical, from a tugboat blared--a calliope from one of the paddle wheelers soon followed, not to be outdone. I walked into the north end of a south-bound horse parked almost on the sidewalk as its owner waited for customers to come for a horse-drawn tour of the surroundings. We could smell crayfish boiling--Old Bay seasoning--cayenne--potatoes and corn--as soon as we passed Jackson Square. We ran into some barricades and worked our way carefully along the perimeter of a new restaurant featuring Aaron Neville that very evening. Across the street at the Cafe du Monde, a Dixieland band struck up a lively tune. We were jostled some; I felt like a salmon swimming upstream; but we made it to Sidney's. "Hello, Baby," the woman behind the counter said. "What can I get for you tonight?" She asked with that beautiful lilt of the Cajun. We were fighting our way up the street again. I had three big Jamaica Rums in a paper bag, and we were just past Jax Brewery--a former brewery converted into a large shopping mall--and a man yelled at me from across the way, "Hey, man, let me have one of them big cigars."

My first visit to New Orleans. I wanted to see the Mississippi, up close and personal. Just between Cafe du Monde and Jax Brewery, there is a little outdoor theater. Bands and all kinds of street entertainers perform there. I saw a man tangle up a bunch of balloons, create an audacious caricature of a poodle, and give it to a wide-eyed child.

If one climbs the steps of the outdoor theater and a few steps down on the other side, one can walk down to the Mississippi and get close enough to put a white cane in the water and feel the power of its current as it rolls to the Gulf of Mexico. It was almost dark as I started down the steps to the river, and just as I reached the bottom step and could sense the majesty of the Old Man, a man started wailing the blues on this trumpet--just playing his heart out down there with the barges and the tugboats and the paddle wheelers. I sat and listened to him until the sun was completely down, wishing I had a Jamaica Rum. The Chamber of Commerce couldn't have planned it any better. The city had captivated me.

Chartres Street

Just north of Decatur Street winds Chartres--probably the most picturesque and charming street in the Quarter. Cafes, art shops, book stalls, coffee shops, and bars line the irregular sidewalks. A few years ago we wandered into a little restaurant called Naspero's for breakfast. It was Sunday morning, and we had just come from mass at the St. Louis Cathedral. The cathedral bells were tolling.

As we approached the restaurant, I heard a sudden burst of staccato energy. A little boy bounced to his feet and started tap-dancing. He was wearing tennis shoes with bottle caps attached to the bottoms for taps. His flashing feet pounded the old cobblestones. Seemingly from out of the shadows, a crowd encircled him, clapping hands and shouting words of encouragement. Quarters and other coins rained down at his clicking tennis shoes. We stopped to listen and enjoy the energy of his performance. The church bells tolled again, drowning out the crowd and reminding us it was Sunday. As soon as the bells subsided, the boisterous little crowd came back into our senses.

In the restaurant I had dark roast coffee, biscuits, hot links, and scrambled eggs--just an ordinary breakfast. My waitress called me "hon" and filled my coffee cup several times. Food tastes better in New Orleans than anywhere else in America. Ordinary food becomes superb. It must be because the tolling bell and the tapping feet and the architectural beauty and the audacity of this city blend with the cuisine.

Royal Street

Running parallel with Decatur and Chartres and just one street below Bourbon, Royal is probably the most sophisticated street in the Quarter. Lined with antique stores, art galleries, and fine restaurants, it attracts those with the most discerning tastes. Occasionally yuppie revellers suddenly bellow out barbaric yawps or wild peals of laughter; but for the most part it is relatively quiet and respectable.

One of my great passions is collecting used books, and Royal has plenty of used book stores scattered among the more wonderful restaurants such as Mr. B's. I wandered into one of these stalls once and met an aged man who proceeded to help me find the authors I wanted. I started talking to him about Thomas Wolfe--the great Southern writer who frequented New Orleans and Tony's Spaghetti House on numerous occasions.

"Wolfe used to come into this store," the owner said. "He was a huge man, over six and a half feet tall and weighing almost three hundred pounds."

"You met him?" I asked in amazement.

"He came in here often. A restless kind of man with a voracious appetite for books. Faulkner and Sherwood Anderson lived just down the street in Pirate's Alley. There's a book store there now--the Faulkner House," the owner said.

On another trip to New Orleans I shopped on Royal Street for a photograph of William Faulkner. For years I had asked for his photograph all over the country without any luck. I wandered into a photography shop on Royal Street and asked the proprietor if he had a photograph of William Faulkner, but I already had one foot pointed toward the front door. To my amazement, the owner said,
"I sure do." He reached to the shelf and placed the coveted print in my eager hands. I started reaching for my wallet to pay him. "This photo of Mr. Faulkner is quite rare. Only two prints have ever been made of it. Faulkner is bouncing a ball for his dog to catch," the owner said. "I am asking four thousand dollars for it."

I gently removed my hand from my wallet.

Bourbon Street

Music blares--every kind of music imaginable--Cajun, progressive jazz, rock and roll, country, gospel, and some strains blasted in total improvisation. People do not talk on Bourbon; they yell; they laugh; they scream, exuberant and uninhibited. Bars beckon; women flaunt and taunt. Sirens roar past on the boisterous street, and people grudgingly move out of the way as if afraid to lose their niche, their observation post. A woman, dressed outrageously, sways out onto the balcony over the street. Men gather below to watch. She spins; she twirls and grins down at them, flapping a pink scarf; then she disappears into the darkness of a little alcove, and the men disperse and find their observation posts.

Tea rooms dot the street--palm readers and voodoo shops and crazy souvenir shops nestle beneath small, but smart hotels. Street dancers, street musicians, street evangelists, and street singers stand intermittently and cajole and entertain. People sometimes carry placards.

Just across from Preservation Hall, where the old jazz traditions are maintained, we heard an electric guitar. The door to the little bar was open, and we could hear the man playing the guitar, singing some Jimmy Buffet song. Some of us decided to walk in for a few minutes to hear him and soak up some local color. Several Harley-Davidsons were lined up in front of the little bar. We found stools and plunked ourselves down. The man playing the guitar was saying, "I need a tall, slender blonde to come up here and hold my electric cord while I play."

He repeated it more than once. Finally, he said, "I will buy a tall, slender blonde a drink if she will come here and hold my electric cord." It just so happened we had a tall, slender blonde in our group; so she stepped forward and held the performer's electric cord while he played "Wasting Away Again in Margueritaville."

On one of our visits to Mardi Gras a few years ago, I was walking down Bourbon Street with two students, and we were wearing masks. I was wearing an owl mask; one student was wearing a flamingo mask; and the other student was wearing a witch doctor mask. Our witch doctor was tall and slender himself, and the mask was perfect for him. We had stopped to rest, leaning against a wall, exhausted from the wild jaunts and shopping sprees all over the Quarter. A man approached our witch doctor and stood before him, staring for a long time. Finally the man said, "That has got to be the most magnificent mask I have ever seen," and walked away. Momentarily, a woman, painted completely blue and wearing next to nothing, approached and tickled the witch doctor under his bearded chin. "Nice," she said and sashayed down the street toward Baby Doll's on Iberville. We laughed for a long time. The outrageous city had just overwhelmed us.

We haven't even begun to tell you about how wonderful the 1997 National Convention is going to be. Several more articles will chronicle many other reasons why New Orleans is the place to be. No one has to read about New Orleans. At the National Convention of the NFB everybody can experience the Crescent City personally. With sumptuous accommodations like the Hyatt Regency Hotel just a few short blocks from the French Quarter and with the wonderful agenda of our convention, the 1997 National Convention should be truly an unforgettable one. In future issues of the Monitor, we will be offering more information and more attractions. The members of the National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana cordially invite all of you to come to New Orleans and see firsthand why it is truly one of the great cities of the world. Laissez le bon temps roulet.

 

YOU HAVE TAUGHT ME WELL

by Connie Leblond

From the Editor: Connie Leblond is the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Maine. Her Son Seth is a poised and articulate young man who has spoken effectively to groups at our national conventions. Here is the latest chapter in the Leblond family's effort to get the service they deserve from state agencies in Maine:

My husband and I are not strangers to the National Federation of the Blind. Key individuals in this organization have taught us how to make informed decisions and how to pursue and achieve appropriate outcomes; and, perhaps most important, they have instilled in us the deep understanding that we are never alone. All of these skills have served us well especially in a state like Maine.

This northern state accepts services from agencies for the blind that continually attempt to mislead the public, state officials, and blind people themselves by minimizing the need for blindness skills such as Braille and cane travel. Despite the fact that failing visual acuity is almost always a characteristic of blindness, professionals in the blindness field in Maine profess allegiance to ophthalmological extremes to stretch visual proficiency, even when parents understand that, in order to compete on terms of equality, blind children must learn skills that they will be able to count on as an integral part of their lives. In the same way that reading print is essential for sighted students, Braille is necessary to blind students.

Bob and I understand the importance of parent involvement. Attending IEP meetings is a given for us. We have tirelessly offered to consult with regular classroom teachers to enable our son to participate fully. We've offered Braille maps, resources for the acquisition of textbooks, referrals for adaptive equipment, and the list goes on. One might think that such support would be welcome, but we have encountered resistance that borders on hostility!

In March of 1995 we stumbled upon information about a state-wide conference for regular classroom teachers who would be teaching blind or visually impaired students in the fall. The conference was to be conducted by itinerant vision teachers, who work for Catholic Charities of Maine, an organization with which the Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired (DBVI) contracts for services. DBVI provides these teachers at no cost to local schools. We were assured that the conference would be beneficial to next year's teachers. Anyway, as members of the NFB we attempted either to make a presentation at the conference or to attend the scheduled event.

We received immediate rejection of our proposal to make a presentation. DBVI Director Harold Lewis told us that the conference had not been developed for parents but for teachers. The man totally denies the existence of the National Federation of the Blind as a reputable organization in the blindness field with an important perspective to contribute in the education of blind children. To add insult to injury, Mr. Lewis, with great sincerity, pointed out that the conference would cost ten dollars--ten dollars for each of us! Gasp! We responded that it would be well worth the investment.

As the event drew near, we were given misleading information that would have sent us to the conference site, the Augusta Civic Center, a week too early. When we discovered this error and confirmed the correct date, we assumed our attendance was assured. The day before the conference, however, while we were out, we received faxed forms to complete. In reviewing the information, we found a pre-registration form, which we completed and even faxed to the appropriate people. But another request was for pre-payment. This we could not provide on such short notice. The instructions were specific: without pre-payment, we would not be allowed entrance.

In fact, we were kept out of this in-service. If it had not been the pre-payment, it would have been something else. What were the vision teachers planning to say that they did not want us to hear? Following the in-service, I spoke to one of the teachers who did attend the conference. When I asked if she felt it had been productive, she responded by saying that she now understood how difficult school must be for blind and visually impaired children. She expressed concern for their difficulty in looking up words in a dictionary. I just could not believe that the misconceptions we have worked so hard to eradicate were being perpetuated and condoned by our state agency and our state department of education.

Following the conference, the entire state legislature received a letter from us detailing the manipulative actions of the Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired in cooperation with Catholic Charities of Maine. We thought that letting people know what had happened was important before any future in-services were planned.

Seth began eighth grade in September of 1995. We had moved, and he overcame his fear of not knowing anyone in his new school. About mid-September, after all of these newly informed teachers had participated in this allegedly enlightening conference during the previous spring, a particularly unsettling episode in Seth's home economics class took place. The home ec teacher, Ms. Cochran, made an autonomous decision concerning Seth's ability to see. She directed her class to prepare to take a quiz. Seth took out his Braille 'n Speak and was ready for the questions. Ms. Cochran handed Seth a piece of yellow lined paper and a pencil and informed him that he would use these tools for the quiz. Seth's shock must have been apparent, but he tried to let Ms. Cochran know that, if she didn't want him to use the Braille 'n Speak, he could use his Braille writer. He went on to say that, if that wasn't acceptable, he would be glad to stay after class and take the quiz orally. The teacher refused to consider any of Seth's proposed solutions.

The final straw for Seth was the teacher's overt encouragement of his entire class to cajole him into writing the quiz with a pencil. What could he say? Seth was in a new school with classmates he wanted to accept him for who he was. This teacher was focused on her own convenience, not what was possible for her student to do. Seth did not complete the quiz. He left the paper blank.

When he talked to us about it, he was feeling embarrassed but sure that he had made the correct decision. We supported his conclusion that this teacher could not conceive that a blind student could have alternative techniques that would allow equal access. My husband and I met with Ms. Cochran and the principal, Mr. McCarthy, the day after Seth told us about the incident. I introduced myself as an adult blind person who used alternative techniques. I asked her to explain to me what had taken place in her classroom with our son. She immediately said that Seth got around so well that he must have some vision. She just knew that if he tried, he could complete the quiz using his vision. Ms. Cochran was confident that her past experience in teaching another visually impaired student would sway our opinion or that of the principal. By the time we were finished, and it was a real effort to maintain calm, Ms. Cochran was no longer being defended by the school's administrator. The irony and frustration of the situation struck me. We could spend hours developing an IEP that addressed Seth's mode of learning, and this teacher was prepared to make independent decisions about testing without any hesitation. So much for parent involvement. And what about the in-service? We must conclude that we would probably not have wanted to hear what the professionals in the blindness field in Maine were saying. We would have welcomed an opportunity to dispel some of the outdated notions, but we were not given the chance.

Ms. Cochran no longer works for King Middle School in Portland, Maine. The school, however, has not learned anything from this whole experience. In late May of 1996 we received a letter from Deering High school officials letting us know that an in-service had been held for Seth's teachers the following year. We received the letter the day after the in-service took place. Again we are being kept out. I must admit that their strategy this time was better--send the notice the day after the conference, and no one will be to blame.

My family appreciates that we are part of the National Federation of the Blind. You keep us strong. We keep each other strong. Seth has made many friends in the NFB with whom he communicates on a continuing basis. He likes who he is, and there's no changing that. We know who we are, and we cannot go back. We are proud of our son. I look forward to the day when I can look at the handiwork of school districts in Maine with pride and a feeling of accomplishment. That day is not here yet. In fact, never has there been a clearer need for positive action and the empowerment of blind individuals in Maine. The National Federation of the Blind of Maine has not been welcomed as colleagues in the shared work of educating our children, but we remain ever vigilant, and we will not give up.

 

AGREEMENT REACHED WITH SEEING EYE

As those attending the 1996 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will remember, there was a considerable amount of dissatisfaction with the conduct of certain employees of the Seeing Eye. Since the Seeing Eye is a respected institution in the blindness field and has enjoyed the reputation of doing good work and carrying on constructive programs, nobody wanted to do anything to damage the school's reputation or hinder its activities. Yet the delegates felt that action must be taken. This was particularly the feeling of the National Association of Guide Dog Users. Therefore, a resolution was presented by a number of the guide-dog users, among them several Seeing Eye graduates. After discussion the resolution was overwhelmingly adopted by the convention. It reads as follows:

RESOLUTION 96-12

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind promotes security, equality, and opportunity for the blind; and

WHEREAS, the Federation promotes gatherings of blind persons including blind children, parents of blind children, and sighted supporters of the blind at local, state, and national conventions in order to increase positive attitudes toward blindness and blind people both in the blind community and throughout society as a whole; and

WHEREAS, one of the means by which the Federation increases positive attitudes toward blindness and blind people is by promoting respect for blind people; and

WHEREAS, the Seeing Eye, Inc., has been attending Federation conventions for the past twenty-five years, and has for the past twenty-three years availed itself of Federation convention facilities to hold an annual breakfast for its graduates, at no cost to the graduates; and

WHEREAS, Seeing Eye representatives have been able to reduce their hotel costs by at least two-thirds by taking advantage of Federation hotel rates, even though many Seeing Eye staff members have consistently been unwilling to pay the nominal registration fee (currently ten dollars) paid by all who attend Federation conventions; and

WHEREAS, because of rising convention costs the Federation finds it necessary to charge vendors, agencies, and all other non-member groups a fee for the use of meeting rooms for their activities at Federation conventions; and

WHEREAS, the Seeing Eye has refused to pay the fee and has refused to deal with the Federation directly but instead has begun the practice of holding its breakfasts for Seeing Eye graduates and guests at a neighboring hotel, this despite the fact that the Seeing Eye is the richest guide dog school in the United States, having millions of dollars at its disposal; and

WHEREAS, at the 1995 NFB Convention in Chicago the Seeing Eye attempted to undermine the Federation by engaging in subterfuge in planning and holding its breakfast outside the hotel, in that it singled out its graduates and surreptitiously provided them with information about the time and location of its breakfast, thereby attempting to create a schism between its graduates and other members of the National Federation of the Blind; and

WHEREAS, in the Spring/Summer, 1996, issue of Harness Up!, a publication of the National Association of Guide Dog Users, a division of the National Federation of the Blind, the Seeing Eye was warned that the Federation would no longer tolerate such behavior and that the Federation would no longer announce or sanction Seeing Eye breakfasts if they were to be held secretly and outside Federation convention premises; and

WHEREAS, during the registration period at the 1996 annual meeting of the National Association of Guide Dog Users at the NFB Convention, the Seeing Eye again engaged in subterfuge and trickery, handing out Braille information concerning the location of its breakfast in such a way as to take advantage of the fact that the majority of the members of the Division, being blind, would not be able to see what Seeing Eye staff members were doing; and

WHEREAS, the breakfast was held the following day at the Marriott Hotel, causing discomfort to Seeing Eye graduates and others who attended, because it was clear that the Seeing Eye was attempting to disrupt Federation activities by trying to isolate its graduates from the other members of the Federation; and

WHEREAS, these reprehensible practices of the Seeing Eye are an insult to the organized blind of this country and a calculated act of hostility toward the Federation: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1996, in the City of Anaheim, California, that the National Federation of the Blind express its extreme displeasure with the behavior of the Seeing Eye and its staff members; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, if this situation cannot be amicably resolved, the President of the National Federation of the Blind be authorized and instructed to call for and organize picketing of Seeing Eye headquarters in order to inform the general public that, while the Seeing Eye trains and provides guide dogs and instruction in their use, its attitude toward blind people and the organized blind movement of the nation is characterized by contempt and disrespect; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, if no resolution of this problem can be achieved, we give the broadest possible publicity to this cavalier behavior toward the blind by the Seeing Eye; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a copy of this resolution be sent to the Seeing Eye.

Under date of July 18, 1996, President Maurer sent the resolution to Mr. Kenneth Rosenthal, President of the Seeing Eye, with the following letter:

Mr. Kenneth Rosenthal
Executive Director
The Seeing Eye, Inc.
Morristown, New Jersey

Dear Mr. Rosenthal:

Enclosed is Resolution 96-12 adopted by the convention of the National Federation of the Blind on July 5, 1996. I regret the necessity of bringing to your attention the problems outlined in the resolution. However, as the resolution indicates, the incidents which caused this resolution to be prepared have come to represent a pattern of behavior which simply must be addressed.

We have worked with Seeing Eye in the past. We would very much like to maintain an amicable relationship. We request that you address the problems outlined in the resolution and give us your response at your earliest convenience.

Sincerely yours,

Marc Maurer, President
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND

Under date of August 14, 1996, Mr. Rosenthal responded to Mr. Maurer; and shortly thereafter he sent the resolution and the correspondence to Seeing Eye graduates. Under date of August 20, 1996, Mr. Maurer responded to Mr. Rosenthal as follows:

Mr. Kenneth Rosenthal
Executive Director

The Seeing Eye, Inc.
Morristown, New Jersey

Dear Mr. Rosenthal:

I have your letter of August 14, 1996, and in many ways it typifies the problem which I tried to bring to your attention by sending you the resolution passed at the 1996 NFB convention. You say that you "couldn't be on" the "calendar" of the NFB convention and that, therefore, you had to write to your
graduates. But, of course, your organization could have been on our calendar. The Seeing Eye chose not to do so. Moreover, the Seeing Eye breakfast was not held in the convention hotel. It could have been. Again, the Seeing Eye chose not to have it there.

The reason is simple. A number of the Seeing Eye employees who came to our convention last year in Chicago objected to paying the $10 registration fee that everybody else paid. Yet they were quite willing to take advantage of the hotel rates and the convention facilities we provided. When Mr. David Loux contacted us last year to talk about arrangements for a breakfast to be hosted by Seeing Eye, we told him that Seeing Eye (like everybody else) would be asked to pay a fee to use the room, $500. He responded with anger and rudeness.

Since we had contracted for all of the space in the hotel and since our costs for the convention were heavy, surely it is reasonable for us to ask organizations that participate and benefit to help with a modest contribution. Other organizations seemed to feel that this was fair. If Seeing Eye had been poverty-stricken, we might have been willing to try to find funds to help them pay what should have been their share, but this was not the case. Even if it had been, this would not have excused Mr. Loux's rudeness and abusive conduct.

The question now comes as to what is to be done. Since we are not interested in playing games or having anybody have to lose face, we are not interested in a formal apology. On the other hand, we will not be content with generalities about how all of us are working toward the same objective and that no remedies are needed.

To be specific, we want from the Seeing Eye an assurance that any of its employees or agents who attend any part of any of our future conventions pay the nominal registration fee like everybody else, and that they do it in a civil manner and not with rudeness. Beyond that, if any reception or food function is to be held by Seeing Eye at the time and place of our convention, we want to be told about it officially; we want Seeing Eye to pay the same fees that others pay; and we do not want the event held in neighboring facilities. We believe these requests are reasonable and that they are compatible with honest dealings and courteous behavior.

I am aware of the fact that you have not been the Chief Executive Officer at Seeing Eye for very long and that most of the problems I have brought to your attention did not occur during your tenure. It is my hope that the Seeing Eye and the National Federation of the Blind can work in concert for the advancement of the blind and the benefit of all, but I am sure that you understand that I must seek a definite resolution of the matters raised in this letter--indeed, that I have no other option or alternative. The resolution I sent you was adopted by vote of the membership, and its mandate to the Officers of the Federation is clear. If the response of the Seeing Eye does not go beyond formal generalities, the resolution lays out the course which our organization will follow, with both vigor and reluctance.

We have no wish to engage in conflict with the Seeing Eye; we respect what you are doing; and we will gladly have amicable relations with you. I hope that I may have an early reply from you and that it will contain the assurances I have mentioned. I also hope to meet you in person and would invite you to pay a visit to the National Center for the Blind.

Sincerely,

Marc Maurer, President
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND

Shortly after receiving this second letter from Mr. Maurer, Mr. Rosenthal contacted Mr. Maurer by telephone, and it was agreed that a meeting would be held at the National Center for the Blind to try to resolve matters.

Mr. Rosenthal and Mr. David Loux came to the National Center for the Blind on September 26, 1996, and talked with Mr. Maurer and Dr. Jernigan. From the outset it was clear that nobody wanted hostility and that the past apparent differences had been based on misunderstandings. Mr. Rosenthal was in every way cordial and courteous, and he and Mr. Loux received the same treatment in turn.

Mr. Rosenthal felt that our request that those from Seeing Eye coming to NFB conventions should pay the nominal registration fee that all others pay and that any Seeing Eye functions held at the time and place of NFB conventions be part of regular convention activities was proper and reasonable, and President Maurer agreed that Seeing Eye functions at the convention should be listed in the program agenda and announced from the platform. The spirit of the meeting was one of cordiality and a wish to reach accommodation on both sides. There was no sense of a winner or a loser but of mutual respect and a wish to work together. President Maurer and Dr. Jernigan were invited to visit Seeing Eye at a future time, and they planned to do so. Mr. Rosenthal and Mr. Loux, on the other hand, took time to tour the facilities at the National Center for the Blind and to learn about the Federation's overall program of activities.

This is the kind of resolution that one would hope could be found to all problems--a meeting of the minds, courtesy and consideration, the prospect of joint efforts for the benefit of all, and the promise of a growing friendship.



NOW THAT I HAVE TIME TO THINK

by Clarence Parks

From the Editor: One day last summer I picked up a document that had arrived in the mail. It was the following article, written by one of the many enthusiastic library patrons of the National Library Service's Talking Book program. Perhaps because I count myself in this number, I found Dr. Parks's essay charming. He does raise one question that I can answer. An advisory committee meets periodically to discuss book selection, among many other topics, with NLS staff. The National Federation of the Blind representative to this committee is Sandy Halverson. Those wishing to discuss NLS book selection or other consumer issues can contact Sandy at 403 W. 62nd Ter., Kansas City, Missouri 64113-1623. Meanwhile, here is Clarence Parks's reflection on Talking Books:

Things started badly when we moved from Texas to Colorado. We were so broke after graduate school we had to borrow money from my mother to move. As we crossed the Texas panhandle, the August heat was so intense that the glue holding the head liner of our Toyota began to melt, dropping the cloth down over our heads like a collapsing circus tent. The old car coughed and choked over La Veta Pass as if after a lifetime at Gulf Coast sea level it couldn't function at 9,000 feet without loudly complaining. Ten minutes after we arrived in Alamosa, our five-month-old daughter Elizabeth got our human relations in our new home town off to a lousy start by throwing up on the real estate agent who was trying to help us find a place to rent. That night the moving van with our goods showed up three days ahead of schedule, and the driver demanded to know where the furniture was to be put.

Our problems, as most problems do, eventually smoothed out. All of them, that is, except for one associated with my life as a blind person, which took years to right itself. A little background is necessary before I discuss that.

To help me survive the stresses of graduate school, I had developed a coping mechanism of compulsive, late-night novel-reading, or novel-listening, since I listened to them on National Library Service (NLS) tapes provided by the Texas State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. I fell asleep most nights, not worrying about preliminary exams or dissertation topics, but instead listening to Gandalf galloping across the plains of Rohan or David recovering from Dora's death or Huck fleeing from the feud. I doubt I would have made it through graduate school without the Recordings for the Blind textbooks, and I know for certain that I would not have made it through without the R&R provided by National Library Service novels on tape. When I received my degree, I assumed that the need for that particular survival technique would be less, but I looked forward to continuing the very pleasant late-night novel-reading habit, if perhaps in a less manic and compulsive fashion.

But trouble arose when we reached Colorado. The Texas Library had always been helpful and friendly. The Colorado Talking Book Library turned out to be very different.

The employees who answered the phone were rude, almost hostile toward me. I couldn't imagine what I had done to make them so angry. The first month they lost several books and hotly accused me of losing them. In the many years I had been in the Texas system I had never lost one book. I dreaded calling them about this problem or anything else because someone usually answered who acted like an irritable princess I had awakened from her mid-morning nap. All the employees seemed to hate their jobs, especially when their jobs had anything to do with blind people.

A very important part of my life was not working out. Checking with other blind people, I soon found it was not me that set them off, it was all people who used their services. The best solution old timers could suggest was to try to get books through a blind friend in another state, where the state library for the blind worked better.

But even that problem associated with our move eventually cleared up. None of us knows exactly why. I and others complained; but, as far as we could tell, we were ignored. But over several years the irritable princesses went away, competent librarians took their places, and the entire attitude and effectiveness of the Colorado library did a 180-degree turnaround. Now I can't imagine a better state library for the blind than exists in Denver. Government can in some circumstances work well, at least as high as the state level.

So I'm back to my novel reading. Almost every night I fall asleep to one of the fabulous readers of the studios supplying Talking Books to NLS, reading wondrous things to me. The truly spectacular thing about novel reading is all the connections a reader can make to people and worlds of his or her own choosing, an especially important set of connections for people with disabilities, who often feel disconnected from the normally sighted world. I personally enjoy connecting to interesting worlds populated by characters I love to love or love to hate, who do heroic or dastardly things in colorful settings far removed from the cares and worries of everyday life. I freely admit to being an escapist reader. If I wanted reality and depression, I'd read an old income tax form.

The literature I listen to on NLS tapes makes my life better as much as my wonderful wife and great kids do. I live in a richer world than those without literature, a world full of people and places and ideas and excitement and old friends that those without literature are deprived of. And for me it could not happen without Talking Books.

Now that my formal education in human behavior is mostly complete, I've found that I actually have time to think about human behavior instead of just reading and writing about it. One of the topics that has entered my mind recently is how different the experience of people like me, who listen to literature, is from that of those who read print books. Some beneficial differences and some not so useful have come to mind.

First, on the positive side, I can do other things while I am listening to a tape that those who are tied down to print can't do. All I need is my ears while they need eyes and hands. I can walk, paint the fence, lie in the dark, or do many other things my seeing friends can't do while they perform their book ceremony. Score one for our side, and not an inconsiderable one. Second, on the good side, other book listeners and I get another human being into the book-reading ceremony, almost always in a good sense. While the sighted deal with ink on paper, the literature-transferring mechanism to blind people's brains is Bob Askie, Phil Regensdorf, or Thomas Martin. Any of these and many of the other great NLS readers with their marvelous dramatic talents and obvious love of language could have been and
frequently are successful actors.

This interjection of another party is a plus, not a minus, because these great readers enrich the reading experience, not by interjecting themselves between the book and the reader, but by adding drama, personality, and richness to literature with their talent. Great readers never add themselves in an obtrusive way. Instead they amplify the literature. For example, a good reader never laughs at a joke or trembles at a scary passage because it is not his or her job to tell you where to laugh or be frightened. Instead, good readers enrich the literature with appropriate accents, inflections, and pacing. When they do it right, their presence in the listening experience is a marvelous addition that print readers do not have.

Recording for the Blind books, all as far as I know read by volunteers, vary significantly in quality. Some are great; some are very bad. I suppose volunteers can't be criticized, but nevertheless hearing Arthur Conan Doyle read with a Brooklyn accent by someone who has no more interest in his effort than if he were reading a telephone book is distressing, no matter for what reason such a travesty exists.

But listening to books is not always the better way to absorb their meaning. Some disadvantages exist for us compared to our fellow enthusiasts who read print books. Availability is often a major problem. If persistent, print readers can usually find most print books they want. Not necessarily so with books on tape. Many of our great authors of classic fiction--P.G. Wodehouse, Erle Stanley Gardner, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and even wildly popular Louis L'Amour--have many of their works unrecorded while hundreds of what seem to me to be trashy junk books are released on NLS tapes each year. To whom do we write to complain about book selection policy? I've never figured that out.

Another problem book listeners have that print readers do not have is book intimacy. A print book is a very private thing; you and nobody else are reading it. It is yours to deal with in your private book world exactly as you see fit. Books on tape are not intimate; they belong to everyone within earshot. Earphones help, but somehow the wonderful privacy and intimacy of reading your book in your own way still seems to me somehow compromised. Other minor irritations exist for us listeners that print readers never deal with. Paper books don't jam or break as tapes do. They don't require a plug or charged batteries. But these aren't particularly heavy crosses to bear. As I reach the end of this article, I have realized a mild deception on my part. I said before that I had never had any problems with books from the Texas library. I now remember an ex post facto one.

Unpacking upon reaching our new home in Colorado, our six-year-old son found something unusual in his secondary toy box. It was a very old slate record copy of Livingston Gilbert reading The Fellowship of the Ring. I took it from Aaron almost as though he had found an old family Bible or my great grandmother's wedding ring. As far as I am concerned, that recording is a masterpiece as real as any ever accomplished in the performing arts, as good as Nureyev's Swan Lake or Gielgud's Othello for my money. Our family has no idea how in moving that recording got stuck away instead of being sent back, but since I have it, just sit down a minute and listen to it with me.

Just close your eyes while I put it on. Imagine Gilbert's spectacularly beautiful soft baritone reading a book he obviously reveres as much as we do, imagine his voice as magical as Middle Earth itself. I've got to send it back to Texas, even though I know the state libraries have thrown away almost all the old slate records. Maybe my conscience will make me send it back tomorrow, so just listen with me one last time to a tale from another world.

"Hobbits are an unobtrusive but very ancient people, more numerous formerly than they are today. . ."

 

 

DISTINGUISHED EDUCATOR OF BLIND CHILDREN
AWARD FOR 1997

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 1997.

The National Federation of the Blind will recognize an outstanding teacher of blind children at our 1997 convention June 29 to July 5, in New Orleans, Louisiana. 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 students 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

1997 APPLICATION

Name:

Home address:

City: State: Zip:

Day phone: Evening phone:

School:

Address:

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 worked with 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 regular print?

Please complete this application and attach the following: a letter of nomination from someone who knows your work, one additional recommendation also from someone who knows you professionally and knows your philosophy of teaching, and a letter from you discussing your beliefs and approach to teaching blind students. You may wish to discuss topics like 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, 1997, to Sharon Maneki, Chairwoman, Teacher Award Committee, 9736 Basket Ring Road, Columbia, Maryland 21045, telephone (410) 992-9608.

 

 

THE 1997 BLIND EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR AWARD

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 continued to nurture 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 be present to receive an appropriately inscribed plaque and a check for $500.

The members of the committee which will select the 1997 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, 1997, to be considered for this year's award.

*******************

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."

*******************

 

A FEDERATIONIST IN A STRANGE LAND

by Greg D. Trapp

From the Editor: Greg Trapp is an active member of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico. He recently took two weeks' leave from his job to volunteer in Ghana. This is what he writes about his experience:

Imagine that you live in a land where the average income is just a little over $400 a year. Now imagine that you are blind and that most people you meet believe that blindness is a curse from God. Also imagine that you have no independent cane travel skills, that there are no sidewalks for you to walk on, that traffic flows with no discernible pattern, and that open sewers frequently cut across your path. Last, imagine that you do not have a job, that you cannot afford a Braille writer or even a simple tape recorder, and that you must resort to begging to scratch out your meager living. You have just imagined yourself as an average blind person in the West African nation of Ghana.

I recently spent two weeks in Ghana as a faculty leader with Joni and Friends (JAF), which is the disability ministry of Joni Eareckson-Tada. Joni, as you may know from the book and movie by the same name, became a quadriplegic after a teenage diving accident. JAF has a division called Wheels for the World. They collect and repair used wheelchairs and distribute them to people with disabilities around the world. For the last three years they have distributed wheelchairs in Ghana.

While it may be difficult for Americans to imagine, Ghanaians commonly believe that persons with disabilities, particularly blind people, are either cursed by God or afflicted by evil spirits. As a result Ghanaians with disabilities, especially the blind, are shunned by society, forcing most to resort to begging. Dependence on begging is reinforced because it is considered sinful not to give to a beggar. The sight of a blind beggar is common in Ghana, though it is even more common to see beggars with bodies twisted by polio, crawling on their hands and knees.

My job with the JAF team was to teach church and community leaders that people with disabilities are not cursed and that they deserve an equal place in the church and in society. To help in this effort, JAF brought over 200 wheelchairs. I brought several dozen Braille slates, two dozen white canes, two Braille Bibles, a Braille concordance, and Braille and print copies of NFB materials including Care and Feeding of the Long White Cane. Although these items could meet only a tiny portion of the physical need, our real purpose was to bring about a lasting change in attitude.

The primary means for effecting the change in attitude was a series of three-day seminars. These were designed to enable students to return to their own communities, where they would teach others. Each seminar was co-taught by either a pair of physical therapists or a pair of disability specialists. The principal Bible passage used was John 9:1-3, in which Christ expressed the value He placed on people with disabilities when he said of the blind man, "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him."

I was a faculty leader for the seminar in Accra. Community leaders, pastors, and one Member of Parliament attended it. As the seminar began, it became clear that many of the students were unwilling to deal with a blind person. Some of the students ignored me, addressing their questions and comments to the seminar co-leader. As the seminar progressed, I noticed that the students who did not ignore me were interested in my personal and professional accomplishments. They were incredulous that a blind person could be employed as a lawyer, teach as a law professor, and live and travel independently.

The tangible example of a useful and productive blind person was far more effective in bringing about changes in attitude than any words I could have spoken. By the second day of the seminar, I had managed to connect with most of the students. By the final day even the students who had initially ignored me took the initiative to speak to me. I hope they also learned that a blind person could achieve more than just living a life as a beggar. One of the first things I noticed about the blind in Ghana was their complete lack of cane-travel skills. Even relatively independent and successful blind people almost always travel using a sighted guide. Several factors may account for the lack of cane travel skills. Most Ghanaians can only afford locally made wooden canes that are short and extremely heavy. These canes, which cost the equivalent of about three dollars, are very clumsy when compared to a fiberglass cane. Another factor may be the lack of proper cane travel instruction. At one rehabilitation center six blind students were sharing a single wooden cane. Our gift to the center of several NFB straight canes was gratefully received but could fill only a tiny fraction of the overall need.

It is also true that difficult travel conditions undoubtedly hinder the development of cane travel skills, especially considering the lack of positive attitudes about blindness. For instance, doorways often have thresholds that are several inches high and several inches wide. Similar thresholds are also sometimes used to border patio areas. In superstitious cultures, such thresholds are believed to help keep out demons and evil spirits. However, these thresholds are also difficult to identify by cane. In addition, Western style sidewalks are nearly nonexistent. In their place are uneven paths shared by pedestrians and vehicles. Worse yet, traffic laws are only sporadically obeyed, creating no discernible traffic pattern.

Perhaps worst of all, open sewers often cut across pathways and run alongside roadways. These sewers are sometimes several feet deep and are typically two or three feet across. Needless to say, the open sewers were highly conducive to my own proper cane use. At the conclusion of the seminar in Accra, I left to join the JAF team in the coastal city of Tema. Each day another team member, a physical therapist, and I journeyed by van to the villages of Abouri and Akrapong. My partner was dropped off in Abouri, and I continued along a winding mountain road that led to Akrapong. We each had a local guide whose knowledge of the culture and language was invaluable. For the next four days I observed our students teaching their own seminars. I was pleased to see how readily the students embraced what they had been taught, though I was somewhat embarrassed to observe that they repeatedly used me as an example of what a blind person could accomplish.

We also visited the school for the blind in Akrapong. Unlike schools for the blind in America, this school is a large facility serving over 500 students, ranging in age from six to fifty. The school was originally founded as a Christian institution, but the demands of such a large facility led to its take-over by the government. More than fifty tribal languages are spoken in Ghana; but, because Ghana is a former British colony, its official language is English. Accordingly, the students are taught Grades I and II English Braille. As might be expected, handicrafts and music are heavily emphasized. Cane travel is taught, though it uses the short cane.

Unfortunately the school suffers from a serious shortage of supplies and equipment. It would be unimaginable for a school for the blind in America not to own a variety of adaptive computers and Braille printers. By contrast, the school for the blind in Ghana does not own a single adaptive computer or Braille printer. Even the most basic supplies, such as Braille paper, are scarce. I was also able to visit briefly the school for the deaf in Mapong, a village only a few miles from Akrapong. Students who are deaf-blind are sent to this school. The students are taught American Sign Language and are instructed in basic handicrafts.

The school is a Christian institution and receives some of its funding from World Vision. Like the school for the blind in Akrapong, the school for the deaf in Mapong seemed to be a place of tranquility, where students are sheltered from much of the harshness they would face elsewhere in Ghana. However, I left both facilities having to console myself that instruction in music and handicrafts is a positive alternative to begging--since American standards of education and independence do not apply in Ghana.

I was also able to visit the heads of the relatively new Ghana Association of the Blind and the much more established Ghana Society for the Blind. As their titles imply, the Ghana Association of the Blind (GAB) is an organization of blind persons led by the blind, while the Ghana Society for the Blind (GSB) is a service organization headed by a sighted person. There is an obvious rivalry between the GAB and the GSB. It was also readily apparent that the GSB had a closer relationship with the sighted headmaster at the school for the blind. Of course, this situation is reminiscent of what is frequently the case in America. Still it was clear that both the GAB and the GSB are sincerely dedicated to improving the lives of the blind.

Unfortunately, their efforts are frustrated by a crippling lack of resources. For instance, the GAB public relations director does not even own a standard tape recorder, and neither organization possesses an adaptive computer or Braille printer. On my last day in Ghana, I parted with the JAF team to meet with the leaders of the GAB and GSB again. The JAF team planned to go to an arts market in Accra, and I rejoined them after my GAB and GSB meetings. A small entourage of Ghanaians accompanied me. Up to this time, I had made a point of tactfully declining assistance from the overly helpful Ghanaians, choosing instead to walk by myself as much as possible. However, my independence came to an end as my cane snapped under the wheel of a cart that abruptly cut across my path. I had brought a spare, but it was back at the hotel. Suddenly I felt as helpless as the people I had come to help.

Wanting to salvage some good from the incident, I decided to take advantage of the situation to experience what it was like to be an average blind person in Ghana. I dropped my broken cane in a trash can, took the arm of a Ghanaian, and began to walk using a sighted guide. My sensitivity training lasted only a few minutes, because one especially resourceful member of the entourage retrieved the cane and used tape and a wooden dowel to splice it together. Those few moments when I was without a cane taught me to cherish even more the mobility and independence the long white cane provides.

During the long flight home, I thought about the scenes I had witnessed while in Ghana. I remembered being ignored during the seminar. I recalled one blind man's emotionally telling me how difficult it is for blind people to marry. I remembered the desperate pleas of a blind beggar I had encountered earlier that day in the market. Perhaps, I reflected, my stay had given me a glimpse of what it might have been like to be blind in America during the last century.

My experiences in Ghana have made me even more appreciative of the National Federation of the Blind. I am grateful for the opportunities that it has created for me and other Americans. Yet I know that we will not have truly changed what it means to be blind until the blind everywhere are free to live as equals in their communities and to compete on terms of equality with their sighted counterparts.

Author's note: If you would like information about how to donate materials to the blind in Ghana, you may contact me, Greg Trapp, at 1330 Louisiana NE, #410, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87110; (505) 266-4016; and e-mail at GTRAPP@ABQ.COM

 

STATEMENT SUPPORTING RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS
FOR THE BLIND

by Kenneth Jernigan

Recently a resolution supporting residential schools for the blind as a viable option for blind children was circulated among organizations in the blindness field. The wonder is not that eleven groups signed it but that anybody would refuse to do so. It is better than motherhood and apple pie, with a dollop of ice cream thrown in.

So, of course, the National Federation of the Blind signed on. Certainly no harm can come of it, and probably not much good either. The problem is that the resolution has no teeth in it, no specificity. More to the point would be a statement attempting to set out the particulars of when and under what circumstances the residential school is appropriate and when mainstreaming is the right choice.

Regardless of all that, the resolution is certainly a step in the right direction, and if there is the slightest controversy about it, it is unquestionably needed. Here it is:

Specialized Schools for Blind Students

WHEREAS, schools for the blind have a rich and distinguished history in providing quality education to blind children and youths for over 150 years; and

WHEREAS, these schools are essential if there is to be an array of placement options, based on individual needs, for children: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED that those organizations listed below support specialized schools for the blind as an integral and necessary placement option in order to guarantee a free and appropriate education for blind children and youths.

American Council of the Blind (ACB)
American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)
American Printing House for the Blind (APH)
Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER)
Association of Instructional Resource Centers for the Visually Handicapped (AIRCVH)
Choices for Children (CFC)
Council for Exceptional Children-Division of Visually Impaired (CEC-DVI)
Council of Schools for the Blind (COSB)
National Agenda Advisory Board Members
National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
National Industries for the Blind (NIB)


SOCIAL SECURITY, SSI, AND MEDICARE FACTS FOR 1997

by James Gashel

The beginning of each year brings with it annual adjustments in Social Security programs. The changes include new tax rates, higher exempt earnings amounts, Social Security and SSI cost-of-living increases, and changes in deductible and co-insurance requirements under Medicare. Here are the new facts for 1997:

FICA and Self-Employment Tax Rates: The FICA tax rate for employees and their employers remains at 7.65 percent. This rate includes payments to the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Fund of 6.2 percent and an additional 1.45 percent payment to the Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund, from which payments under Medicare are made. Self-employed persons continue to pay a Social Security tax of 15.3 percent. This includes 12.4 percent paid to the OASDI trust fund and 2.9 percent paid to the HI trust fund.

Ceiling on Earnings Subject to Tax: During 1996 the ceiling on taxable earnings for contributions to the OASDI trust fund was $62,700. The taxable income ceiling for contributions to the OASDI trust fund during 1997 will be $65,400. All earnings are subject to the HI trust fund tax contribution of 1.45 percent for employees or 2.9 percent for self-employed persons.

Quarters of Coverage: Eligibility for retirement, survivors, and disability insurance benefits is based in large part on the number of quarters of coverage earned by any individual during periods of work. Anyone may earn up to four quarters of coverage during a single year. During 1996 a Social Security quarter of coverage was credited for earnings of $640 in any calendar quarter. Anyone who earned $2,560 for the year (regardless of when the earnings occurred during the year) was given four quarters of coverage. In 1997 a Social Security quarter of coverage will be credited for earnings of $670 during a calendar quarter. Four quarters can be earned with annual earnings of $2,680.

Exempt Earnings: The monthly earnings exemption for blind people who receive disability insurance benefits was $960 of gross earned income during 1996. During 1997 the monthly exempt amount is $1000. Technically, this exemption is referred to as an amount of monthly gross earnings which does not show "substantial gainful activity." Earnings of $1000 or more per month before taxes for a blind SSDI beneficiary in 1997 will show substantial gainful activity after subtracting any unearned (or subsidy) income and applying any deductions for impairment-related work expenses.

Social Security Benefit Amounts for 1997: All Social Security benefits, including retirement, survivors, disability, and dependents' benefits are increased by 2.9 percent beginning with the checks received in January, 1997. The exact dollar increase for any individual will depend upon the amount being paid.

Standard SSI Benefit Increase: Beginning January, 1997, the federal payment amounts for SSI individuals and couples are as follows: individuals, $484 per month; couples, $726 per month. These amounts are increased from individuals, $470 per month; couples, $705 per month.

Medicare Deductibles and Co-insurance: Medicare Part A coverage provides hospital insurance to most Social Security beneficiaries. The co-insurance payment is the charge that the hospital makes to a Medicare beneficiary for any hospital stay. Medicare then pays the hospital charges above the beneficiary's co-insurance amount.

The Part A co-insurance amount charged for hospital services within a benefit period of not longer than sixty days was $736 during 1996 and is increased to $760 during 1997. From the sixty-first day through the ninetieth day there is a daily co-insurance amount of $190 per day, up from $184 in 1996. Each Medicare beneficiary has sixty "reserve days" for hospital services provided within a benefit period longer than ninety days. The co-insurance amount to be paid during each reserve day is $380, up
from $368 in 1996.

Part A of Medicare pays all covered charges for services in a skilled nursing facility for the first twenty days within a benefit period. From the twenty-first day through the one hundredth day within a benefit period, the Part A co-insurance amount for services received in a skilled nursing facility is $95 per day, up from $92 per day in 1996.

For most beneficiaries there is no monthly premium charge for Medicare Part A coverage. Those who become ineligible for Social Security Disability Insurance cash benefits can continue to receive Medicare Part A coverage premium-free for thirty-nine months following the end of a trial work period. After that time the individual may purchase Part A coverage. The premium rate for this coverage during 1997 is $311 per month. During 1997 this premium rate is $187 for individuals who have earned at least thirty quarters of coverage under Social Security covered employment.

The Medicare Part B (medical insurance) deductible remains at $100 in 1997. This is an annual deductible amount. The Medicare Part B basic monthly premium rate will increase from $42.50 charged to each beneficiary and withheld from Social Security checks during 1996 to $43.80 per month during 1997. Medicare Part B coverage may be continued for people who complete a trial work period and become ineligible to receive Social Security Disability Insurance cash benefits. This monthly premium rate is $43.80, the same amount paid by Social Security beneficiaries through withholding from their monthly Social Security checks.

Programs Which Help with Medicare Deductibles and Premiums: Low-income Medicare beneficiaries may qualify for help with payments. Assistance is available through two programs--QMB (Qualified Medicare Beneficiary program) and SLMB (Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary program). Under the QMB program states are required to pay the Medicare

Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance) premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance expenses for Medicare beneficiaries who meet the program's income and resource requirements. Under the SLMB program states pay only the full Medicare Part B monthly premium ($43.80 in 1997). Eligibility for the SLMB program may be retroactive for up to three calendar months.

Both programs are administered by the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) in conjunction with the states. In order to qualify in any state, the income of an individual or couple must be less than the threshold amount which is announced for each year. The threshold amount is revised annually to reflect changes in national poverty level guidelines. The rules vary from state to state, but in general:

A person may qualify for the QMB program if his or her income is approximately $665 per month for an individual and $884 per month for a couple. These amounts apply for residents of forty-eight of the fifty states and the District of Columbia. In Alaska the income threshold used to define poverty is approximately $825 per month for an individual and $1,099 per month for couples. In Hawaii income must be less than approximately $763 per month for an individual and $1,014 per month for couples. For the SLMB program the income of an individual or a couple cannot exceed the poverty level by more than 20 percent.

Resources--such as bank accounts or stocks--may not exceed $4,000 for one person or $6,000 for a family of two. (Resources generally are things you own. However, not everything is counted. The house you live in, for example, doesn't count, and in some circumstances your car may not count either.)

If you qualify for assistance under the QMB program, you will not have to pay: Medicare's hospital deductible, which is $760 per benefit period in 1997; The daily co-insurance charges for extended hospital and skilled nursing facility stays; The Medicare Medical Insurance (Part B) premium, which is $43.80 per month in 1997; The $100 annual Part B deductible; The 20 percent co-insurance for services covered by Medicare Part B, depending on which doctor you go to.

If you qualify for assistance under the SLMB program, you will not have to pay: The $43.80 monthly Part B premium. If you think you qualify but you have not filed for Medicare Part A, contact Social Security to find out if you need to file an application. Further information about filing for Medicare is available from your local Social Security office or Social Security's toll-free number, (800) 772-1213. Remember, only your state can decide if you're eligible for help from the QMB or SLMB program. So, if you're elderly or disabled, have low income and very limited assets, and are a Medicare beneficiary, contact your state or local welfare or social service agency to apply. For more information about either program, call HCFA's toll-free telephone number, (800) 638-6833.


RECIPES

This month's recipes were submitted by members of the NFB of Virginia.

BAKED BEAN CASSEROLE

by Louise Ruhf

Louise Ruhf is a member of the Potomac Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia and has held chapter offices, currently serving as a Board Member. She made the baked bean casserole for the chapter's August picnic, and it was one of the first dishes to be emptied.

Ingredients:
1 1-pound can green lima beans
1 1-pound can large butter beans
1 1-pound can red beans
1 large can pork and beans
1 cup brown sugar
2 heaping teaspoons prepared mustard
1 teaspoon vinegar
1/2 pound bacon, chopped
1 onion separated into rings

Method: Drain all beans except pork and beans and mix them in a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish. Rinse the pork and beans can with 1/2 cup water, and add to casserole. Combine brown sugar, vinegar, and mustard. Add to casserole and mix thoroughly. Place the raw bacon on top of casserole, spreading the pieces evenly. Place the onion rings on top and bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. Casserole can be served hot or cold.

BAKED CHICKEN BREAST

by Seville Allen

Seville Allen is First Vice President of the NFB of Virginia and editor of the affiliate's newsletter, the NFB Vigilant.

Ingredients:
8 boneless (preferably skinless) chicken breasts
1 8-ounce cup plain yogurt
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
4 tablespoons white flour
garlic powder and curry powder to taste
1/2 cup dry sherry or wine (optional)

Method: In a large mixing bowl combine yogurt and flour and stir thoroughly. Add undiluted soup and mix well. Add garlic powder and curry powder. Add sherry or wine and stir mixture thoroughly. Place washed chicken breasts in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Pour the yogurt mixture over the chicken, spreading the sauce evenly. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 11/2 hours, leaving the dish uncovered. When serving, use a slotted utensil to serve the chicken. Pour the sauce over rice.

HERSHEY BAR CAKE

by Dawnelle Cruze

Dawnelle Cruze is one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia. She was a founder of the Tidewater Chapter and served as an officer for twenty years. Dawnelle currently serves on the Virginia State Library for the Blind Advisory Committee and participates in many local and statewide Federation activities. She has a reputation as an excellent cook.

Ingredients:
2 sticks butter or margarine
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
21/2 cups flour
1 8-ounce Hershey bar
1 small can (one cup) Hershey syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
pinch of salt

Method: Grease and flour a 10-inch bundt or tube pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well. Dissolve baking soda in buttermilk. Add this mixture alternately with flour to contents of large bowl. Melt Hershey bar and beat into batter. Add the Hershey syrup. Beat vanilla and salt into batter. Pour into baking pan and bake ninety minutes at 300 degrees. Cool cake in pan on rack for at least fifteen minutes before removing from pan and serving.

SWEET POTATO PUDDING

by Dawnelle Cruze

Ingredients:
2 1-pound cans vacuum-packed sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons margarine
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 beaten eggs
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon each cinnamon, vanilla, and nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon each ginger and cardamon
1/4 teaspoon each coriander and cloves
1 can pineapple bits
2 large cans mandarin orange slices

Method: Mash sweet potatoes, add melted margarine, salt, and brown sugar, and beat well. Add beaten eggs and milk, beat well. Beat the spices into mixture. Add the pineapple and mix well. Stir in vanilla. Pour into greased 21/2-quart dish. Drain the cans of mandarin oranges and arrange slices evenly on top of pudding. Bake forty-five minutes at 350 degrees. Serve and enjoy.

STEAMED CARROT PUDDING

by Billie Ruth Schlank

Billie Ruth has held a number of offices in the NFB of Virginia's Potomac Chapter and currently serves as President of the Virginia Association to Promote the Use of Braille.

Ingredients:
1 cup grated potato
1 cup grated carrots
1 cup raisins
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon cloves (or allspice)
1 teaspoon each: baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup currants
1 egg
3/4 cup candied orange peel
1 tart chopped apple, peeled

Method: Mix all ingredients together. Steam in a large greased pudding mold, completely sealed, for three to four hours.

GERMAN HONEY CAKES

by Susan Povinelli

Susan Povinelli is a member of the Board of Directors of the Potomac Chapter of the NFB of Virginia. Her husband Larry serves as chapter president. In the Povinelli home it would not be Christmas without at least one batch of these cookies.

Ingredients:
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
3/4 cup almonds or English walnuts, chopped
21/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup mixed candied fruit

Method: Mix all ingredients together. Preheat oven to 370 degrees. Roll dough on floured bread board to about 1/2 inch thick. Then cut into 11/4 inch by 11/2 inch pieces. Place cookies on greased cookie sheet. (For those who don't want to bother with this process, press cookie dough into a jelly roll pan.) Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until brown. Cookies should spring back when lightly touched.

ITALIAN RICE WITH MUSHROOMS

by Susan Povinelli

Susan Povinelli says, "Here's a simple side dish for your holiday table. It reminds me of the wonderful rice dishes that we tasted in Rome and Florence this fall."

Ingredients:
4 cups water
4 chicken bouillon cubes
1 cup Italian rice
1/4 to 1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Method: Place 4 cups of water in a large pan and add the bouillon cubes. (You can substitute chicken stock if you wish.) Place pan over high heat to bring stock to a boil. Add the mushrooms and cup of rice and reduce heat to low. Simmer for approximately 20 minutes. Turn off heat and let stand for five to ten minutes before serving. Makes four servings.


MONITOR MINIATURES

NFB Web Page Interim Report:

The Braille Monitor, Future Reflections, the Voice of the Diabetic, Walking Alone and Marching Together, the Kernel Books, and other NFB materials are now available on the NFB Internet Web page, http://www.nfb.org This means the philosophy and words of the Federation are available world-wide to anyone needing information about blindness.

If you are looking for information about blindness--the National Federation of the Blind, technology and computer access for the blind, literature, books, aids and appliances, or other materials, Social Security or legislative updates, Job Opportunities for the Blind, materials for parents of blind children, or other information--http://www.nfb.org can supply the need. Surfers can reach several specific topics for further investigation.

The NFB Web site is designed to provide information to blind people themselves, but in addition many requests have come from educational institutions, federal and state governmental agencies, the military, and thirty-two foreign countries. In October alone our Web site received 1,920 contacts, totaling 8,537 pages accessed, including 208 requests from educational institutions and 45 federal and state agency inquiries. The five most active areas in October were 1. the Braille Monitor, 2. technology, 3. diabetes, 4. research, and 5. NFB in computer science.

American Communications Network Workshop:

Connie Leblond has asked us to carry the following announcement:

Everyone is preparing for the upcoming Washington Seminar. On Sunday, February 2, 1997, those attending the seminar will have the opportunity to participate in the American Communications Network (ACN) conference. A number of independent representatives will be on hand to answer questions. You will meet professionals in this business who will share their secrets of success. We will provide detailed information about the American Communications Network. We will show you how to earn money while making income for the National Federation of the Blind. We will even show you how easy it is to make this business work.

All of those involved in ACN look forward to meeting and talking with you. If you are interested in discovering a way to make money by marketing telecommunications services, please contact the following people so we can have an approximate count of members who wish to attend. You owe it to yourself to be informed. Contact Connie Leblond at (207) 772-7305 or Suzie Stanzel at (913) 339-9114.

Transition Calendar Available:

The Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision at Mississippi State University has recently published a new booklet entitled, Transition Activity Calendar for Students with Visual Impairments. This booklet will serve as a valuable resource to rehabilitation professionals, guidance counselors, and junior/senior high school students who are blind or severely visually impaired. Prices are $4.25 for 1 to 10 booklets, $4 for 11 to 20, $3.75 for 21 to 30, $3.50 for 31 to 40, $3.25 for 41 to 50, and $3 for over 51. Send your order to Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision, P.O. Drawer 6189, Mississippi State, Mississippi 39762, (601) 325-2001 fax, (601) 325-8989 TDD, or (601) 325-8693.

For Sale:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Full talking-PC package for sale. Includes 486 33Mhz computer, Artic Business Vision with Symphonics speech card, 8 MB RAM, U.S. Robotics 14.4 fax modem, 2 hard drives, super VGA color monitor, Keytronics extended keyboard, Colorado tape backup, 250 MB system. Software included. Asking $1,200 or best offer. Call Tom at (714) 490-1044.

1996 Update for the World Series Computer Game available:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Version II of the award-winning World Series Baseball Game and information system will be available following the 1996 World Series. The game is being played in forty-eight states on IBM- compatible computers with screen readers and synthesizers. Version II comes with 159 teams, including the 1996 pennant winners and all-star teams. There are two baseball games and ten information programs. There are many improvements, most suggested by users of the game. Baseball action during the game is described in the words of many of the famous radio and TV announcers. 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 (330) 644-2421.

Raised-line Greeting Cards Available:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

The Iffin Group is a graphic design company that has produced a line of Braille greeting cards. The picture on the front of the cards is raised, and they are printed in bright colors. The effect is unusually attractive and eye-catching. The inside message is in both Braille and print.

The drawings were produced by a young artist blinded by juvenile diabetes. Six cards are currently available, and six more are in production. Cards for fall holidays and Christmas are also forthcoming. Contact the Iffin Group, P.O. Box 8847, Asheville, North Carolina 28814, (704) 684-6176, (704) 681-1985 fax, or e-mail, IFFINgroup@aol.com

PHOTO: Two people are seated at a restaurant table playing a board game. CAPTION: People of all ages can enjoy the strategy and competition of Flexagon.]

New Board Game of Strategy Available:

We recently received information about an interesting new game designed to be played tactilely. Called Flexagon(tm), it is a 14-inch by 14-inch hexagon board with twenty-four brightly colored, one-inch hexagon grooved or ridged chips per player. The game is commercially marketed at $39.95. It is a great fundraiser through tournament play at senior and activity centers, with part of the proceeds benefiting the sponsor. Gib Thompson, the seventy-three-year-old inventor who created the game, can be reached at P.O. Box 1413, Paonia, Colorado 81428, or by calling (970) 256-7353.

New Directory Available:

We recently received the following press release:

The Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults (HKNC) announces the publication of its updated Directory of Agencies and Organizations Serving Individuals Who Are Deaf-Blind, 1996-97, which is designed as a resource and an aid to parents, professionals, and consumers seeking services nationwide for individuals who are deaf-blind. The Directory includes federally funded, public, and privately funded programs; and the listings appear alphabetically according to state, city, and name of agency.

The Directory's information is based on an extensive survey conducted by HKNC and reflects the participants' responses. The data include director's name, contact person, geographical service area, age range of the population served, major services, communication modes, and agency publications.

The Directory is available in print or on disk. To order, please send your check or money order for $25 payable to HKNC (no purchase orders please) to Community Education Department, HKNC, 111 Middle Neck Road, Sands Point, New York 11050, (516) 944-8900 ext. 299 (voice), (516) 944-8637 (TTY).

Low-mileage Braille Bookmaker Interpoint Embosser for Sale:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

This embosser has been used for one-and-a-half years as a demo by the manufacturer, then for two years as a backup embosser by Seedlings Braille Books for Children. Asking $2,750. Call Debra at (800) 777-8552 or e-mail Seedlings at seedlink@aol.com.

Another Black Belt in the Martial Arts:

Loren Schmitt, President of the Old Capital Chapter of the NFB of Iowa, recently sent us an article written by Pat Harty that appeared in the August 31, 1996, edition of the Iowa City Press Citizen. It dealt with the growing popularity of tae kwon do in the community and the virtues which the discipline fosters. The reporter interviewed Loren, who talked a good bit about the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind. None of that portion of their conversation was included in the article, but we can hope that the reporter learned something about the abilities of blind people anyway. Here is the part of the news story that described Loren Schmitt's accomplishments:

Tae Kwon Do Disciplines Mind and Body

. . . Tae kwon do has no boundaries in regard to those who participate. One of Choe's most inspiring students is Loren Schmitt, who earned a black belt despite being blind. "I had tried tae kwon do before when I lived in Oregon, and I hadn't done well at it, so I concluded that it was something that a blind person couldn't do," Schmitt said. "Then I moved here and met another blind man who was well on his way to a black belt. "That took care of what I had thought."

With help from Choe, a seventh-degree black belt, Schmitt was able to achieve his dream. He earned a black belt last month, which culminated an intense two-year training period under Choe's supervision.

"If you're careful about it and persistent, you really can do things that you certainly didn't think you could do initially," Schmitt said. . . .

Raised-Line Christmas Cards Available:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Braille Christmas cards with free name personalization are available. To place an order or request a Braille catalog, contact Prophecy Designs, P.O. Box 84, Round Pond, Maine 04564, phone, (207) 529-5318, fax, (207) 529-6418.

Service-Learning in Maryland:

Last year the Maryland Parents of Blind Children initiated a service-learning project to meet the needs of blind individuals and increase awareness of blindness. Service-learning, a method of acquiring knowledge through hands-on training, is a graduation requirement for Maryland high school students. MDPOBC is providing a service-learning opportunity to students while meeting the needs of blind people. Through a grant from Learn and Serve America, a federal agency which funds service-learning programs in grades K through twelve, Barbara Cheadle (President of the MDPOBC) has initiated service projects with blind and sighted youth.

One program, the "Braille Games Project," engages sighted students in Brailling card games. Last year Bernice Lowder, a dedicated member of MDPOBC, taught two classes of students and their teachers to Braille regular playing cards and Uno cards. Over forty decks were Brailled and sold at cost through the NFB's Materials Center.

The project "Blind Youth in Service to the Blind" begins each year at the Maryland State Convention. At the convention approximately twelve blind young people and their mentors (young, blind adults) attend seminars to learn about service-learning and plan a service project. The students then go back to their
hometowns and complete the project with guidance from their mentors. Service-learning offers the MDPOBC the unique opportunity of helping students meet their graduation requirements while meeting the needs of blind people and educating the public about blindness.

For Sale:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

For sale, Keynote Companion Talking Palmtop from Humanware. Has diary, address book, word processor, calculator, and communications. Includes carrying case, 2MB memory card, disk drive, battery pack, and cables, as well as documentation in Braille, tape, and disk formats. Excellent condition. Asking $1750. Please contact Alice Lockwood, 15 Winfield Avenue, Brentwood, New York 11717-1841, (516) 273-3577.

Netscape Tutorial Available:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Did you ever wish that you could explore the Worldwide Web successfully and browse all those Web sites you hear so much about? Access to Windows is becoming a must for the blind community. Due to the increased popularity of Windows, many blind people now want to browse the Web using Netscape, one of the most widely used browsers available. Well, toss that mouse aside and learn all the keyboard commands you need to navigate the Web. Introducing Navigating Netscape, a new tutorial from Magical
Mist Creations. Navigating Netscape will take you step by step through every menu in the Netscape program. You will learn how to do everything from the most basic commands of the browser to the more complicated functions that can confuse even the most experienced Web surfers.

Topics include how to open a location on the Worldwide Web, open a local file on your computer, save bookmarks, check your bookmarked sites for any changes, manage your cache and memory, navigate through the Netscape mail and news programs, configure your Netscape browser to suit your needs best, send and receive E-mail from within Netscape, and configure your browser to accept plug-ins.

Each menu item, dialogue box, and text entry field is explained in easy-to-understand language that will have you navigating the Web like a pro in no time!

Navigating Netscape is available by check, money order, or credit card. Each tutorial is spiral-bound and printed in large type. For large print with 3.5 disk, $50; large print with 4-track cassette, $50; or Braille, $50. For credit card orders call (800) 936-0001 or send check or money order to Tom Baccanti, 2400 E. Lincoln, #150, Anaheim, California 92806-4260.

Fordham School of Law Scholarship Available:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Fordham University School of Law is offering a scholarship for a totally blind student who commences studies at the Law School in the fall of 1997. The scholarship covers partial tuition for each of three years, provided that the student maintains a GPA of at least 2.30.

This scholarship, which was initiated through the efforts of Amy Reiss, assists needy blind students in obtaining a Juris Doctor degree from Fordham Law School.

The Law School will work with the recipient of the Amy Reiss Blind Student Scholarship, as well as other totally and legally blind students, to ensure attention to their particular needs. The Law School Library has an Arkenstone reading system and a Braille printer.

Students interested in the scholarship should apply to the Law School by contacting the Financial Aid Office at (212) 636-6815 or by writing to the Financial Aid Office at 140 West 62nd Street, Room 125, New York, New York 10023.

An interested student should also send an essay not exceeding 1,000 words in which he or she discusses any topic of the student's choice. The essay should, however, include pertinent information about why the student believes that he or she should be awarded the scholarship. The essay should be sent to Amy L. Reiss, c/o Morrison Cohen Singer & Weinstein, LLP, 750 Lexington Avenue, New York, New York 10022.

Elected:

The National Federation of the Blind of California elected officers on November 3, 1996 at its annual convention in Oakland. Elected were Jim Willows, President; Donovan Cooper, First Vice President; Nancy Burns, Second Vice President; Jana Littrell, Secretary; and Nick Medina, Treasurer. Elected to serve on the Board were Rosye Manning, Bryan Bashin, Joseph Lopez, John Bates, and Maurine Barcelo.

Chess Tournament by Mail:

The U.S. Braille Chess Association (USBCA) will hold a correspondence chess tournament beginning January 1, 1997. For further information contact Al Pietrolungo at (410) 529-9475.

Looking for Assistance:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Eighty-two-year-old woman would like to borrow a closed circuit television system to help in reading. Limited income. Please help. Thank you. Call Laura at (615) 646-2610.

For Sale:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

486 IBM-compatible computer, VGA monitor, 220 MB hard drive, internal modem, mouse, two floppy drives, four active com ports, Braille and speech software, DOS 6.1, games, popular spreadsheet software, asking $995 or best offer.

VersaBraille II with software and two external disk drives. It can be used as a stand-alone unit or as a Braille display with an IBM computer or compatible, asking $1,595 or best offer. For more information call Kit Lau at (510) 653-6343.

Attention Blind Parents of Deaf Children:

Peter Russillo, Vice President of the Martin Chapter of the NFB of Florida, and his wife Loni recently wrote to the Braille Monitor as follows:

We are parents of a high-school-age deaf child. We would like to correspond with other blind parents who have sighted, deaf school-age children in order to network and share experiences of raising a deaf child as blind parents. Our address is Peter and Loni Russillo, 950 Colorado Avenue, Apartment A-10, Stuart, Florida 34994. The phone number is (561) 288-3715. You can leave messages on the answering machine since we are at work during the day.

Elected:

Sheila Johnson, Secretary of the San Diego East County Chapter of the NFB of California, reports the following election of officers: Joseph Lopez, President; Lisa Irving, Vice President; Sheila Johnson, Secretary; and Maria Deer, Treasurer. Linda Gwizdak and Ivan Weich were elected as Board members.

For Sale:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Optacon with soft pack, in excellent condition. If interested, write Bob Rehahn, 1312 S.E. 40th Street, Cape Coral, Florida 33904, (941) 549-2600, evenings and weekends after 5:00 p.m. and before 10:30 p.m. EST.

DOS Versions of CD ROM Titles Needed:

We were recently contacted by a professor in Sri Lanka interested in using CD ROM technology. His computer system runs under DOS, and he has no chance of upgrading it. Here is his request:

If you are willing to sell DOS versions (not Windows) of the CD ROM titles mentioned in the following list, contact Wimal Weerakkody, Associate Professor, Department of Western Classics, Faculty of Arts, University of Peradeniya, Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. Here is the list: The Bible and Religions, California
Collection, Computer Reference Library, Electronic Home Library, Encyclopedia of Sound, Greatest Books Ever Written, History of the World, Magazine Rack (1990), Reader's Library, and WordPerfect 6.0b, program and documentation.

Personal Organizer Software:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Acrontech announces the Personal Organizer, an integrated software package which is simple to use. It is designed specifically for individuals who rely on large-print, Braille, or speech devices.

Writing a letter, scheduling appointments, balancing a checkbook, and accessing an address book to print an envelope are daily tasks which can be performed quite effectively even by the inexperienced computer user.

The Personal Organizer was recently demonstrated at the World Blind Union conference in Toronto. The simplicity of the program is what impressed those who observed the demonstration. One of the visitors commented, "Acrontech has incorporated the most useful functions of many other programs into one software package." This program is ideal for use at home, the office, or both.

One of the key features of the Personal Organizer is the unique screen presentation of menus and entry fields. Information is displayed vertically, taking up only a portion of the screen, which can be magnified or easily read by speech- or Braille-output devices. Until now, writing a check on your own checkbook with speech or Braille was virtually unheard of by computer users. The Personal Organizer allows you to keep track of all your personal expenses confidentially and independently.

All modules of the Personal Organizer are based on a simple operational concept; therefore, if you can write a letter, you can also file data, book appointments, write checks, and print envelopes. At the low introductory price of $295, Personal Organizer may be the only application software you need.

For a free demo copy of Personal Organizer, contact Acrontech, Williamsville, New York (716) 854-3814 or Acrontech, Toronto, Ontario (416) 467-6800 or (800) 245-2020, Web site: http://www.acrontech.com or e-mail: acrontec@idirect.com