The Braille Monitor

Vol. 40, No. 11                                                                           December 1997

Barbara Pierce, Editor

Published in inkprint, in Braille, on cassette and
the World Wide Web and FTP on the Internet

The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, President

National Office
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
NFB Net BBS: (612) 696-1975
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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



Contents


Vol. 40, No. 11                                                                         December 1997

 

The City and the Fear
by Marc Maurer

Microsoft Takes A Big Step Backward
by Curtis Chong

The Owner-Executive Running the Montessori School
by Carla McQuillan

Advancing Science Through the Legal Profession
by Charles Brown

The Blind Lawyer Shaping Policy for the Nation's Power Companies
by Bruce Gardner

Food for Thought: Experience of a Blind Dietitian
by Lynn Mattioli

Parents Win Fight with School Board in Virginia

NFB Sues Law School Admissions Council

Setting the Record Straight about Sensory Safari

Living by the Numbers
by Susan J. Spungin, Ed.D.

The Other Side of the Mule
by Randy Cox

Seeing No Limits
by Don Melvin

Now Blind Can Scan the Newspaper
by Cala Byram

Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award for 1998
by Sharon Maneki

The 1998 Blind Educator of the Year Award
by Stephen O. Benson

Recipes

Monitor Miniatures

Copyright 1997 National Federation of the Blind

[DESCRIPTION OF LEAD PHOTOS: Three photographs appear on this page. The first is a decorated tree with gifts beneath it in the reception area at the National Center for the Blind. The second shows a man gathering up gifts and placing them on a cart. The third photo shows a number of people seated at long tables in the Harbor Room. The tables are covered by white cloths and are decorated with candles, greens, and ribbon. Some people are opening gifts and others are examining their gifts on the table in front of them. CAPTION: Each year a live Christmas tree graces the reception area at the National Center for the Blind. In the days preceding the staff Christmas party, presents for the gift exchange begin to accumulate around the tree. On the night of the potluck party, someone gathers up the gifts and takes them all to the Harbor Room where Santa's helpers pass them out. Mr. Ray (above right) is shown gathering up the gifts. Center staff members and their guests (below) enjoy a festive meal together and then take turns displaying and describing their gifts to the entire group.]

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Marc and Patricia Maurer with their son David Patrick and daughter Dianna Marie.]

The City and the Fear

by Marc Maurer

From the Editor: The following Christmas story first appeared in Like Cats and Dogs, the eleventh in the NFB's Kernel Book series of paperbacks. We reprint it here along with our wish for a joyful holiday season for all Monitor readers. We begin with Dr. Jernigan's introduction:

A knowledge of the meaning of blindness is not automatic; it must be learned—or, in many cases, unlearned. When childhood fears are added to the mix, the combination can lead to frustration and anxiety.

Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, has two young children. Regular Kernel Book readers have followed the birth of his son David, their adventures in Cub Scouting, camping, cutting fire wood, and repairing the roof. Through all of it Marc has simply been David's father—who happens to be blind. But now David is approaching his teens. As he begins to absorb society's traditional attitudes about blindness, how will his father protect the relationship and keep it from deteriorating? In his heartwarming account of a family holiday trip, President Maurer explores this issue. Here is what he has to say:

In the Maurer household there are two adults and two children. My wife Patricia and I are both blind, but our children, David and Dianna, are not. David is thirteen and Dianna is ten. We are a family in the traditional sense—we go places together; perform family projects together; cook, clean, repair our home, and maintain our yard together; attend church together; and explore new horizons together.

We almost never discuss blindness. We don't forget it, but it is rarely a topic of conversation. Of course in the planning for our activities we remember that blindness is a factor. We do not own an automobile because none of us can drive it. So travel plans include hiring taxis, buying airplane or railroad tickets, renting automobiles and hiring drivers, calling upon friends and colleagues who have cars, taking buses, walking, using the subway, or some combination of these methods.

Then there is mowing the lawn and maintaining the yard. We do this as a family. My part of the job includes maintaining the lawn mower and other gardening equipment. We have a hedge, which runs along the front edge of our property. I keep this clipped, using a gasoline-powered hedge trimmer. If you touch the trimmer in the wrong place, it will trim your fingers along with the hedge—so I don't.

I also spend part of my time mowing the grass. However, this job is usually performed by David. My wife and daughter undertake to pick up the sticks and stray papers in the yard. The combination of effort gets the job done.

David and I mow the grass differently. He is sighted, and he watches what the lawn mower is doing. I am blind, so I use other techniques. I often mow under low-hanging trees and shrubs. David finds this frustrating because he finds it difficult to see what he is doing. I can follow the shrub line or use the branches to tell me where I am and how much of the space has already been mowed. He uses one technique, and I use another. Working together, we keep the yard neat and tidy.

Inside the family there is no misunderstanding about who is in charge or how responsibilities are determined. The parents make decisions, and the children must follow direction. If the children misbehave, they are reprimanded or punished as circumstances warrant. They are given assignments and expected to carry them out, and they must seek permission to go visiting or engage in other activities away from home. This arrangement is stable, and predictable.

Outside of our family this understanding is not always shared. From time to time we have encountered remonstrances from strangers. They tell my children that they must take care of their parents. They will stop my son or daughter on the street and tell them to be careful that I don't run into a telephone pole.

If I do run into a telephone pole, a thing which almost never happens, the children are sometimes chastised by strangers for their supposed neglect. My sighted children have been repeatedly told that they are responsible for their blind parents.

Sometime during the fall Dianna asked me if we could go to New York. I was surprised. I have been to New York many times, and of course at one level of my mind I knew that she hadn't but I simply wasn't thinking in those terms. "Would you like to go to New York?" I asked.

"Yes," she replied. "I'd certainly like to go. Can we?"

So we planned to take a trip to New York City.

Since I love my daughter, and since I like to please her, we began planning the trip immediately. The questions were numerous. When would we go? What would we do? What would the trip cost?

Could we afford it? I considered waiting until another year. Expenses during the past few months had been heavy, and I wondered whether the budget could take any more travel. However, I am particularly fond of my family, and I want very much to give them the experiences they want if we can afford them. Besides, I am aware that postponed promises are often never kept.

There is always something more important that interferes, or the yearning that caused the request to be made in the first place dries up before the promise is carried out. With all these thoughts in mind, I decided that we should travel to New York right after Christmas. The Christmas decorations would still be in place, and maybe the crowds would be a little smaller after the holiday had passed.

Dianna was delighted, but David was not. He did not want to go. He asked if we could invite someone else to go with us. As the time for the trip came nearer, he became less and less enthusiastic.

He wondered aloud if there wouldn't be some work assignment that would prevent me from going so the trip would need to be canceled. He told his mother and me that there wasn't anything in New York that he wanted to see. He said that he would just stay in the hotel and watch television. He worried about how we would get to the train station and what we would do to find our way around New York City. Finally he became unresponsive and irritable when we discussed the upcoming trip. I wondered why, and when he asked once again if we could take somebody with us, the answer became clear.

David, my sighted son, was worried that he would be expected to serve as the responsible leader of our family—that he would be called upon to know what to do and where to go—that he would be required to make decisions and plan the trip. He felt that he was inadequate to meet the challenge and that he would be expected to shoulder responsibilities that were beyond him. He was worried that he might fail his parents and that his failure would cause distress or danger. Even if there were no danger, he thought the trip might be a failure because he would not know where we should go, therefore making the excursion to New York a disappointment, a disappointment that would be his fault.

As soon as I understood the problem, I knew what we must do. We would travel to New York and have a wonderful time. We would go together as a family, and we would do it alone—two blind parents—protecting, shepherding, guiding, and caring for our two sighted children. I decided not to tell David that I thought he might learn from this experience and ultimately profit from it. Instead I reminded him about all of the wonderful places there are to visit in New York. But it didn't seem to cheer him up at all.

On a Thursday morning, the day after Christmas, we boarded a train in Baltimore and headed for New York. I had hoped that the crowds would have diminished because we were traveling after Christmas. However, this was not the case.

The train was jam-packed. We had hoped to find four seats together, but no such luck. We settled for two. Mom, Dad, and David sat in the two seats; and Dianna sat on the suitcases at our feet. There was nowhere else to go and nowhere else to stow the luggage. You could say it was cozy, but you might also have called it cramped. Fortunately the train ride from Baltimore to New York takes only a little over two hours, and the excitement of planning the next few days kept us occupied.

We had tickets for the Thursday evening performance of the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. We talked about visiting Rockefeller Center to see the tree and watch the ice skating. David wanted a chance to visit the toy store, F.A.O. Schwarz; and Dianna expressed a wish to shop at the Warner Brothers store because she especially likes Tweety Bird.

As the train halted in Pennsylvania Station in New York City, we stepped out into the cold air and followed other passengers up the escalator. As we left the station, I welcomed the children to the sidewalks of New York—sidewalks as crowded as I ever remember them in the Big Apple. We found a taxi and loaded our bags into it. In a short time we reached the hotel, where we would stay for the next three days.

Our room was what you would expect in a decent New York hotel, but David (still mistrustful) wanted to know why it was so small and why it didn't have fancier amenities. He had seen the Plaza in a movie, and he thought we ought to go there. I told him to quit griping and put his bag away so that we wouldn't stumble over it during our stay.

I also told him to get ready for lunch, but he told me he wasn't hungry. I got the idea that he was more nervous than ever. But I was not prepared for his nervousness and irritability to become the controlling factors in the trip. I gave him his instructions: hungry or not, he was going to have lunch; so he had better get ready. I wondered whether the trip had been a mistake, but we were in the Big Apple, and I intended to do all that I could to make our stay there enjoyable and memorable.

So the first order of business was lunch. In the hotel coffee shop Dianna and her brother both ordered chicken noodle soup, and they were warmed as much by the familiar food as by the steaming broth.

After lunch it was time to explore the city. We were planning to attend the early evening performance of the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall, so on our way to the show we decided to stop by Rockefeller Center (across the street from Radio City) to see the enormous Christmas tree and watch the ice skaters.

I asked the doorman at our hotel to give me directions to Rockefeller Center. We were on 47th Street, not far from Broadway. The doorman told me I should walk up Sixth Avenue to 49th and I would see it. He said we could get there in about ten minutes, so we started out.

The afternoon was chilly, and there were people everywhere. Street vendors offered us hot roasted nuts, hot dogs, soft pretzels, and hard goods such as sunglasses and electronic watches. But we were not yet acclimated to New York, so we kept on our way without stopping to bargain or buy. I was in the lead, walking with David, and Patricia followed with Dianna.

When we came to the corner of 49th and Sixth, we did not find Radio City, but somebody told us, if we kept on for a block, we'd be there. And a block later there it was. On 50th Street we came to the skating rink. The crowds were enormous, and the line for admission to the rink was exceedingly long. We watched the skaters and admired the dazzling Christmas tree, decorated with hundreds of colored lights and a big white star at the top.

As the afternoon became evening, we joined the line for the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. The story of Christmas is timeless, but there are many ways to present it. Santa Claus told us that he couldn't do his work in one night all by himself, so he recruited helpers. In a few moments there were sixty Santas on the stage. A moment later Dianna laughed in astonishment when animated Christmas trees danced in time to the music. Then there was the story of the Christ child. My small daughter confided to me that she thought the camel (a real one), which was part of this segment of the performance, looked unhappy and confused.

David enjoyed the show too, but he still seemed nervous. When we started back for the hotel, he thought we were going the wrong way. He imagined that we were getting more and more lost in this big strange city, but I told him we were all right, and, sure enough, we were soon in familiar territory. When he saw the nut vendor outside our hotel, he obviously began to feel relaxed. He said to me that we had found the place, and without telling him that we had never lost it, I agreed.

The next day we started out for the toy stores, Warner Brothers and F.A.O. Schwarz. They are within a block of each other on Fifth Avenue, and across the street is the Plaza. This hotel, featured in the movie Home Alone, fascinated the children; and I promised to take them there for lunch. We did not merely eat; we dined. The children asked for spaghetti, which did not appear on the menu, but the waiter said they would find some. The surroundings were elegant; the service was impeccable; and the bill, when it came, was as impressive as everything else.

Then it was off to the Empire State Building. More than fourteen hundred feet in height, this tallest of New York buildings has an observation deck on the 102nd floor, from which we could see a cruise ship in the distance. A short walk from the Empire State Building is Macy's Department Store, a central feature in the Christmas movie Miracle on 34th Street. On the way there we passed more street vendors. Dianna bought a beret, and David purchased a Nike watch.

On Saturday morning we set off for the Statue of Liberty. This symbol of American freedom is over a hundred years old. We hired a taxi for the ride to the harbor, but we were puzzled about the place the ferry docked. I asked David if he saw the spot to board, but he did not. I told him I would ask some of the passersby where it was. He argued with me, telling me that they were ordinary tourists, not public officials. I said that they didn't need to be public officials to give us information and that they might know the answers to our questions. When I asked, they told us what we wanted to know. David was astonished and relieved to discover that this simple technique worked so well.

The method for finding your way is much alike for both the blind and the sighted. In an unfamiliar place it may be necessary to ask for directions. If the directions are correct and complete, this solves the problem. If not, a request for more information may be made. This is how all of us learn how to get where we want to go.

On our ferry boat ride to the Statue of Liberty, we were at peace and enjoying the sightseeing as a family. David had stopped worrying that everything would go wrong. He had been reminded, not in words but by example, that blindness does not prevent his parents from managing the family and protecting him and his sister. He came to recognize that he was not responsible for his parents but that the responsibility ran the other way. He felt good about this, and he relaxed.

In our walk around the base of the Statue of Liberty, a piece of history and the hope of the future came together. I could not help reflecting that the lessons learned by my children on the trip to New York are a small part of the process that will bring understanding and opportunity to all of humankind, including not only the blind but also the sighted.

Through the years blindness has often been misunderstood, and that misunderstanding has prevented those of us who are blind from achieving our full potential. However, working together, we can change the negatives that have so frequently been associated with blindness. Sometimes it is done on the job, sometimes in a television appearance, and sometimes by what is written in a newspaper or a magazine. Sometimes it is done by a walk around the base of the Statue of Liberty on a holiday trip to New York.

[PHOTOS: Curtis Chong is seated at his desk talking on the telephone. CAPTION: Curtis Chong. PHOTO/CAPTION: Chuck Oppermann PHOTO/CAPTION: Gregg Lowney]

Microsoft Takes A Big Step Backward

by Curtis Chong

From the Editor: Curtis Chong is the President of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science. Here is some recent correspondence he and others have had with people at Microsoft together with his comments:

Almost everybody who has anything to do with computers knows the name Microsoft. Most of the computers we run today have Microsoft software running on them. For the blind the name Microsoft has been linked with the graphical user interface (GUI), Windows®, icons, the mouse, and just about everything else involving computers that has made our lives a challenge.

When blind people first began dealing with Microsoft, individually and collectively, the company was generally regarded with cynicism and more than a little dislike. Some asked why this juggernaut insisted upon foisting graphics on to the computer screen, thereby making the lives of blind people more difficult than they needed to be. What was wrong with the good old Disk Operating System (DOS)? some people wanted to know.

As Microsoft began to reach out to the blind community, more and more people began to understand exactly what the company was doing. We learned about Active Accessibility®, a Microsoft-developed programming interface designed to permit software such as word processors, spreadsheets, web browsers, and the like to pass important information to screen reading systems for the blind. We learned about Microsoft's Windows Logo® program and how the company was placing increased emphasis on accessible software as one requirement for earning the logo. And over time, starting with an Accessibility Summit held by Microsoft in 1995, we began to recognize that within the company there was a dedicated group of people (Microsoft's Accessibility Team) which really wanted to make Microsoft and other software accessible to the blind. Moreover, as time went on, some hope was expressed that we might have turned the corner in our ability to use Microsoft Windows® and the programs running under this graphical operating system.

Slowly, grudgingly, and with no small amount of skepticism, consumers and vendors alike began to accept Active Accessibility® as a viable means of dealing with our software accessibility problems. Developers of screen reading systems for the blind began to incorporate Active Accessibility® into their software. Our optimism was strengthened even further by three events:

1. Internet Explorer® Version 3, Microsoft's World Wide Web browsing software, was released with Active Accessibility® and keyboard navigation features built in. (Keyboard navigation makes it possible to run the software without a mouse.)

2. Office 97®, Microsoft's newest suite of office products, was released with Active Accessibility® built in.

3. The actual Microsoft Active Accessibility® application programming interface software was released for general distribution. In other words, instead of just talking about Active Accessibility®, Microsoft delivered some real live code.

Relations between Microsoft and blind consumers reached a high point just last summer. When Charles Oppermann, Manager of Microsoft's Windows Accessibility Team, came to speak at the 1997 meeting of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science, he was warmly received; and although he did get a few direct questions, everybody felt that finally Microsoft was headed in the right direction in making its systems and software accessible to the blind. In fact, when the merits of various Windows-based Internet Web browsing programs were discussed at the meeting, it was generally agreed that Microsoft's Internet Explorer® Version 3 was the best Web browser for blind people to use with their screen-reading systems.

Then in early October word began spreading through various Internet mailing lists that Microsoft had released Version 4 of its Internet Explorer® Web browsing software. To everyone's dismay, this newer software turned out to be less useful to blind people than its predecessor. Earlier in the year reports circulated that preview versions of Explorer 4.0 did not contain Active Accessibility®. However, people were assured on more than one occasion that the final release of Explorer® 4.0 would contain Active Accessibility®.

When we learned that this was not to be, people hit the roof. Around the world on several Internet mailing lists people expressed frustration and bitter outrage at this shabby treatment. Unfortunately, many people seemed bent upon showering complaints upon the Microsoft Accessibility Team, which in this instance appeared to me more victim than culprit. One of the most literate and compelling of these postings was written by Jonathan Mosen, National President of the New Zealand Association of the Blind and Partially Blind. Here it is:

The following is the draft text of a letter being sent to appropriate authorities and media, including New Zealand's Commerce Commission and Human Rights Commission. Basically the blind consumer movement in New Zealand won't tolerate this behavior any more.

Re - accessibility of Microsoft Internet Explorer® 4.0

I write on behalf of the New Zealand Association of the Blind and Partially Blind, the blind speaking for themselves in New Zealand. Blind people use computers with the aid of a voice synthesizer, Braille display, or large image system. In most cases software known as a screen reader is also used, so the synthesizer or Braille display can receive instructions as to the information the user requires.

With the advent of the Microsoft Windows® operating systems, access to software which is essential for blind people to obtain or retain employment has been difficult and challenging, although access to Windows 95® has improved substantially over the last year as screen readers have become more sophisticated. Microsoft, however, has now developed its Active Accessibility add-on to Windows 95®, which will come bundled with Windows 98®. In brief, Active Accessibility® is a way of passing information to a screen reader which allows the screen reader to provide information in a helpful, intelligible way to a blind person.

Adaptive technology vendors have made considerable efforts to incorporate hooks for Microsoft's Active Accessibility® into their screen readers. It is important to emphasize that the mere inclusion of Active Accessibility® in a screen reader is not sufficient. The software application itself, such as the word processor, spreadsheet package, database management software, or Web browser, must also expressly support Active Accessibility®.

Last week Microsoft released its long-awaited Internet Explorer® 4.0. Blind people had been advised that it would not be appropriate for them to download the platform preview releases, since Active Accessibility® was not incorporated in these previews. However, on several Internet e-mail lists frequented by blind people interested in access technology, we were advised that Active Accessibility® would be incorporated in the released version of Internet Explorer® 4.0.

Many blind people downloaded Internet Explorer® 4.0 last week, only to find that Active Accessibility® had not in fact been included. We therefore wish for Microsoft to be investigated under New Zealand's Fair Trading Act and either fined or the product removed from shop shelves and Web sites in New Zealand until the breach has been remedied by the inclusion of Active Accessibility®. We were given an assurance by a Microsoft employee which has not been met, and therefore the product has been downloaded or, in some cases, purchased on CD-ROM under false pretenses.

We also wish to lodge a formal complaint against Microsoft under the Human Rights Act 1993, on the grounds that Microsoft has discriminated against people with disabilities. The technology now exists for Microsoft to make its products accessible. Indeed Microsoft has told people in the adaptive technology field that incorporating Active Accessibility in application software is a fairly simple process. As a leader in the computing marketplace, Microsoft must follow the standards it seeks to set for other software manufacturers.

Now that such technology does exist, it is entirely inappropriate for the blind to be treated like second-class citizens by Microsoft. Microsoft would not dream of releasing a product in which the ability to use a mouse was not yet working, yet its blind customers are told that we must wait until they get around to releasing a patch to the software before we can use it.

We trust that this matter will be given urgent consideration. Media statements will be issued advising of our complaint.

Yours sincerely,

Jonathan Mosen
National President
New Zealand Association of the Blind and Partially Blind

As president of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science, I discussed the problem with members of the Microsoft Accessibility Team. Although everyone was apologetic, it was clear to me that the team had been overridden by the Internet Explorer® development team, which appeared to be more interested in adding new features and shipping software early than in ensuring that Explorer® 4.0 remained as useful to the blind as Explorer® 3. Clearly Microsoft as a corporation had made a decision to release Explorer® 4.0 without all of the necessary accessibility components.

Here is an exchange of e-mailed letters between Charles Oppermann (Program Manager, Accessibilities and Disabilities, Microsoft Corporation) and me that encapsulates the discussion:

October 7, 1997

Hello Chuck:

As you know, there have been many messages floating around about the problems involving Microsoft Internet Explorer® Version 4. As I am sure you understand, Microsoft is going to take a lot of heat on this one—mostly from individuals who (with some justification) feel betrayed and more than a little frustrated with the way this entire affair was handled. The reason I am writing to you privately and directly is to let you know where I stand on this issue and where I intend to focus the energy of the NFB in Computer Science.

First let me say that I do not intend to be critical of anyone on the Accessibility Team. As Bruce Maguire so eloquently stated on the GUISPEAK list, there are people at Microsoft who are genuinely and deeply committed to equal access. I count you, Luanne, and Greg among those people; and I am certain there are many others as well. Perhaps the only criticism I might add to the many others you have doubtless received is that you could have been more frank with the community at an earlier point. However, I fully appreciate that you may not have been permitted to be frank with us because of overriding corporate concerns.

What we have here is a case of other corporate priorities outweighing the priority of accessibility. It is as simple as that. The reason why IE4 [Internet Explorer® 4.0] does not work as well for the blind as IE 3.02 is that it was more important for Microsoft as a corporation to release IE 4 than it was to hold up the release to ensure maximum accessibility. So what are we to do about this?

To be honest, I am not sure. I am well aware that the level of cynicism and mistrust toward Microsoft within the blind community has been elevated due to recent events. It has taken many years for people even to begin to listen (not to mention to believe) anything that Microsoft says regarding accessibility. I think that, when you came to the NFB in Computer Science meeting in July, people were feeling quite optimistic about Microsoft and welcomed you with warmth and good will. Do you remember the meeting you attended in 1995, when you took a lot of criticism about the off-screen model? The gains made in two years have, I feel, been virtually wiped out because of the way IE 4 and the issue of accessibility were handled. It is going to take a long time for things to get back to where they were scant months ago. From=20Microsoft's point of view this may well be a cost that the company is willing to pay. But then again, perhaps not.

I want you to know that I have no intention of deflecting any of the fire that others will want to throw at Microsoft. Frankly, upper management deserves it. However, I do want you to know that I intend to ensure that energy is properly focused and directed toward appropriate parts of the company. The Accessibility Team tried its best on this issue but was prevented, due to circumstance and overriding corporate priority, from completing the job. If nothing else comes out of all of this, I hope that it causes management to realize that trust is an extremely delicate and hard-won asset. Microsoft will have to work extremely hard and deliver concrete results to win back what has been so precipitately lost.

Yours sincerely,

Curtis Chong
President
National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science

October 8, 1997

Curtis,

Thanks for the intelligent message. I have forwarded this to the appropriate people in the Internet Explorer® team. A big failure on our part, for which I personally am to blame, is the lack of advanced notice to the blindness community at large before the release of Internet Explorer®.

We will try not to repeat that mistake again. I agree that a lot of our progress has been wiped out by this situation. I spoke at the NFB of Washington convention over the weekend and answered a lot of questions about this and our Java® efforts.

We'll keep working hard and trying. Your feedback is essential, and I appreciate it very much,

Charles Oppermann
Windows NT User Interface Group

Microsoft Corporation "A computer on every desk and in every home, usable by everyone!"

That was my exchange with Chuck Oppermann. The following is a letter I wrote to Bill Gates, the chief executive officer of Microsoft. Its message is as clear as I could make it. Here it is.

October 15, 1997

Dear Mr. Gates:

My name is Curtis Chong. I am the president of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science (NFBCS). This organization is a division of the National Federation of the Blind, a nationwide organization of blind men and women with more than 50,000 members throughout the fifty states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Since its inception NFBCS has worked hard to improve the ability of persons who are blind to program and use computers without sighted assistance. Over the years we have worked with a variety of companies in the computer industry, Microsoft being the most recent.

I am writing to you because I think it is important for you, as the chief executive officer of Microsoft, to understand exactly what it is that the company has lost due to the most recent debacle with Internet Explorer® Version 4.0, otherwise known as IE4. Time and time again, at conferences and on a variety of Internet mailing lists, blind people were advised that, when IE4 was released in its final form, it would contain Microsoft's Active Accessibility®.

As you may know, Active Accessibility®, which Microsoft took years to design and develop, represents a way for application programs running under Windows to pass important information to third-party accessibility aids—among them screen-reading programs for the blind. If an application is coded to use Active Accessibility® and if a screen reading program is written to take advantage of this interface, the blind computer user can be provided with critical information about what the application is doing and is therefore in a better position to use the application independently. Well, as it turns out, although we were promised Active Accessibility® with IE4, the final version ultimately released did not fully implement this feature. There are those who say that Active Accessibility® was totally eliminated in IE4.

Internet Explorer® Version 3.02, which contains keyboard navigation capabilities and Active Accessibility®, is quite useful to the blind; it works very well with the screen readers we use. IE4, on the other hand, is far less accessible—in short, virtually useless to someone who is blind. A blind computer user who migrates from Version 3.02 to Version 4.0 is, in effect, taking a step backward. Given this information, it is easy to understand why blind people around the world feel more than a little betrayed by the release of IE4.

Why is this significant? Ever since Windows® and Microsoft's efforts to promote this graphical operating system began to be recognized as a problem within the community of blind computer users, Microsoft was always viewed with mistrust, cynicism, and, in some quarters, active dislike. In 1995, at its Accessibility Summit, Microsoft unveiled its corporate Accessibility Policy. To be frank, no one from outside the company was enthusiastic about it, regarding it as a marketing ploy and an attempt by the company to save face.

Nevertheless, as Microsoft employees—particularly people in its Accessibility Team—kept on promoting the policy and demonstrating that Active Accessibility® was really more than just vaporware, people began to feel that perhaps Microsoft was truly interested in accessibility after all. This feeling was strengthened when, in May of this year, the actual application programming interface code for Active Accessibility® was released. People felt that at long last there was some code for programmers to get their teeth into. When the manager of Microsoft's Windows Accessibility Group spoke at the 1997 NFBCS meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, he was warmly received. The discussions which took place were upbeat and optimistic.

Mr. Gates, all of this optimism and good will, all of the trust that has been gained so laboriously over the past two years: all of this has been wiped out because the Internet Explorer® development team made a decision to release IE4 without full support for Active Accessibility®. By releasing IE4 the way it did, Microsoft has convinced every naysayer in the world that, as far as Microsoft is concerned, accessibility is nothing more than a sham. At best accessibility cannot compete effectively with other corporate priorities.

In the public announcement about IE4 released by Microsoft on the World Wide Web, we are told that "Microsoft Internet Explorer® 4.0 introduces a number of advances that make the World Wide Web more accessible to computer users with disabilities." The term "accessible" is particularly ironic in this context when one reads the injunction contained in the same announcement, "Users who are blind may want to remain with version 3.0 for the time being." How long, we ask? And does IE4 really make the World Wide Web more accessible to the blind? In truth, it doesn't.

The bottom line here is that Microsoft has lost a good deal of trust and good will in the blind community. To say that the level of cynicism has been heightened is an understatement. It may well be that Microsoft is quite willing to pay this cost. After all, the blind do not represent a significant share of the market. If this is the case, we may have no choice but to seek redress through other channels. On the other hand, it may well be that you and Microsoft as a company really are interested in making software accessible to us. If so, then you should know that you have taken a significant step backward.

Yours sincerely,

Curtis Chong, President
National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science

That was my letter to Bill Gates, and it wasn't long before Carl Augusto, President of the American Foundation for the Blind, and Paul Schroeder, Director, AFB National Technology Program, decided that they, too, had better weigh in with something on the subject. On October 28 they wrote a three-page letter to Bill Gates and circulated it pretty widely on the Internet. On October 31, Gregg Lowney, Senior Program Manager, Accessibility and Disabilities Group at Microsoft, called me to ask what I thought about the AFB letter. Here is the e-mail message I sent Greg on Monday, November 3:

Hello Greg:

On Friday, October 31, you and I spoke regarding the letter sent by the American Foundation for the Blind to Bill Gates about the IE4.0 debacle. I finally had a chance to read that letter and herewith submit my thoughts concerning the nine recommendations it makes. I will reproduce each recommendation and insert my comments after each.

1. Commit to the full implementation of MSAA [Microsoft Active Accessibility®] in Internet Explorer® 4.0 to ensure full accessibility by December, 1997.

My belief is that Microsoft already made this commitment in the announcement (on its Web site) about IE 4.0. Here is an excellent opportunity to (1) deliver on a public commitment and (2) clarify that full accessibility to IE 4.0 may not be achieved without some cooperation from the screen-access software vendors.

2. Ensure that MSAA is part of the standard or typical installation of all future Microsoft operating systems, including Windows NT®, CE®, and the successor to Windows 95®.

I believe that Microsoft may already have made this commitment with regard to Windows 95® and NT®. I am not sure about Windows CE®. It is my fervent hope that something will be done about this latter operating system as it relates to the issue of access to consumer electronics, which many of us are concerned about.

3. Commit to comprehensive use of standard Windows® controls [using standard Windows® functions to display buttons, menus, and the like on the screen] (preferred), or full implementation of MSAA in all future releases and upgrades of key products, beginning with business, reference, education, and home productivity products.

I think this recommendation is fairly clear. But whether Microsoft will really commit to it is another matter. I hope that it can. In fact, if its credibility is to be restored in a meaningful way, it really must do so. Of course, commitment is one thing, concrete results another.

4. Maximize accessibility of Microsoft products by continuing to develop full keyboard access to all features, customizable display appearance, and audio input/output.

One might argue that this is already well under way. However, the point is valid nevertheless. I personally believe that a stronger commitment from the company, along with concrete deliverables [actual programs that reflect this commitment], is in order here.

5. Substantially increase the number of staff with responsibility for accessibility efforts across Microsoft product lines, especially in key product areas such as Windows®, Office, IE, and education.

This strikes at the very heart of the problem we have with Microsoft—that is, the perceived lack of corporation-wide commitment to accessibility. Everybody wants Microsoft to devote more staff to accessibility. Although some people might argue that this is an unrealistic recommendation, I would say that a significant increase in the number of staff devoted to accessibility concerns would go a long way toward restoring Microsoft's credibility.

6. Provide full support for MSAA in all developer tools and include accessible design as an important element in your presentations to software developers.

I agree with this wholeheartedly and would also point out that Microsoft has not demonstrated nearly as much skill in marketing accessibility issues as it has in marketing Windows® and its suite of Windows® applications.

7. Draw upon the resources of organizations representing the interests of people with disabilities, especially those who are blind or visually impaired, to provide training in the access needs of persons with disabilities to Microsoft staff across all product lines, including research staff.

I would say that this recommendation should be considered seriously. The problem, as I see it, is that very often Microsoft personnel speak one language while people in the blindness field speak another. Microsoft talks about device drivers, Windows® applications, hooks, protocols, etc. We talk about accessibility, compatibility with screen-access technology, and simply getting a piece of work done on the computer. It is vital for the two areas to communicate in a meaningful way if any progress is truly to be made.

I think there is a generally held belief that Microsoft, even today, simply doesn't get it. I know that some of you, after years of contact with the blind community, have come to understand and appreciate the problems we have in access to computers. However, as this recommendation suggests, there are too many staff people at Microsoft who do not possess fundamental knowledge about blind people and our needs with respect to technology.

Another point must be made with regard to this recommendation—namely the distinction between organizations of the blind and agencies serving the blind. While the American Foundation for the Blind may be well intentioned and as interested in access issues as blind consumers themselves, it can in no way be characterized as a representative organization of the blind. Rather it is an agency doing work in the field of blindness. On the other hand, the National Federation of the Blind is an organization of the blind; its members elect people to represent them. It is vital that Microsoft understand this distinction.

8. Strengthen the accessibility provisions as requirements of the Windows® logo program [the Microsoft certification process for application programs saying that they are Windows-compliant] and make compliance and support of MSAA a mandatory requirement for any application seeking authentication as a Windows-compliant application.

I believe this effort is well under way, if what I heard at CSUN last spring is any indication. It would help if Microsoft would provide concrete statements about what it plans to do to accelerate this effort. And in my view this effort should be accelerated, in light of recent events of which both of us are well aware.

9. Improve Microsoft's technical and other support provided to screen-reader developers.

Frankly I don't know where the Foundation is going with this recommendation. I have not heard any complaints of substance regarding a vendor's inability to get appropriate technical support from Microsoft.

Before closing, I would like to suggest a few priorities of my own:

First and foremost, Microsoft should deliver the promised patch to IE 4.0 without delay. Failure to keep the commitment to deliver the patch before the end of the year will be devastating to the company's credibility among blind people.

Second, Microsoft should concentrate on ensuring that application programs which blind people really need to use on the job are fully compatible with screen-access technology. Attention should be devoted to making Microsoft Word® as useful to the blind as WordPerfect® 5.1 for DOS, a program which is still fondly regarded by many MS/DOS adherents. Microsoft should ensure that its software used to access the Internet is fully compatible with screen-access technology for the blind. This includes Web browsing software as well as e-mail, FTP, TELNET, TN3270, and other clients. Similar attention should be given to other text-based Microsoft applications such as Excel® and Microsoft Access®. I am sure you would be pleased to hear one day that for blind people Microsoft applications are the programs of choice when it comes to ease of use with screen-access technology.

Finally, I think that you and I need to find ways to communicate with each other in a more meaningful way. There are lots of things that we can do if we exchange information in a more timely fashion. I do not promise to support Microsoft 100 percent of the time. Nor do I promise to apologize for Microsoft when it makes a clear tactical blunder—as it did with IE 4.0. However, I promise that I will do my best to understand and articulate the company's point of view—particularly if I am assured that you and others from Microsoft will respond in kind.

Speaking more broadly, Microsoft needs to do a better job communicating with the National Federation of the Blind. I suspect that very few people at Microsoft know who the President of the Federation is. (Incidentally, the Federation's President is Marc Maurer.) Even fewer have taken the time to talk with President Maurer directly. The Federation is a major force in the affairs of the blind today. This is not an exaggeration. Just ask people in the field of work with the blind what organization saved the rehabilitation system when it was about to be shut down by Congress. They will tell you that it was the National Federation of the Blind.

Greg, everyone agrees that Microsoft is a key player in the computer industry today. Consequently it touches the lives of many people, some of whom are blind. Through its actions the company can either be a force for good or one which destroys the lives of individual blind people. I trust that as a corporation Microsoft will choose to be a positive influence on the lives of those of us who happen to be blind.

Yours sincerely,

Curtis Chong
Director of Technology
National Federation of the Blind

Frankly, I don't know what effect any of this correspondence will have. I do know that Microsoft really has taken a big step backward in its credibility with the blind. Trust is extremely difficult to earn. It is far easier to lose. In this case Microsoft may not yet know exactly what it has lost. But we do.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Carla McQuillan]

The Owner-Executive Running the Montessori School

by Carla McQuillan

From the Editor: On the afternoon of Friday, July 4, 1997, a group of Federationists told convention delegates about their jobs and the ways in which their Federation philosophy has influenced their work. Following are the remarks of four of them. The first is Carla McQuillan, President of the NFB of Oregon. this is what she said:

I am the owner and director of a Montessori school. We currently serve seventy students ranging in age from two-and-half to eight years. We offer a preschool program, an early elementary program, and child care for those working parents who have children enrolled in our school. Our facility is 3,752 square feet. We have three classrooms. It sits on about an acre of land. I supervise nine staff members, three of whom are here at convention this year. I have Mary and Margaret, who are working in NFB Camp, and we also have Gary Jeffries, who is the blind cook at my school, serving lunches and snacks to our children every single day. I think, if you asked the children, Gary is the most popular staff member we have.

The responsibilities of a director are many and varied. It's kind of like a compact disk player that's been set on a random song-selection. You never really know what tune is going to pop up next. So sometimes I'm a janitor; sometimes I'm a cook or an accountant, a nurse, a stern principal, a receptionist, a supervisor, a cop (that's my personal favorite), a therapist, a friend, and always a juggler. There are a lot of exciting events that happen around our school. In fact, one of the most recent happened just on Monday. I got an emergency phone call from the school. It seems that one of the popcorn poppers set off the fire alarm; and, while all of the fire engines were screeching into the parking lot, none of the staff there had the code to turn off and reset the alarm. They are laughing about it now, I hope.

Some of my responsibilities are just short of heart-wrenching. As a child care professional I am required to report any suspected child abuse. This last year a five-year-old boy came to me and disclosed that his father was sexually abusing him.

I have some unnerving responsibilities. I fired a teacher in March for throwing a pair of adult scissors across the room with a group of children assembled and then had the honor of replacing her in the classroom for the last three months of the year, just in time for NFB Camp registration to start up.

I'd like to tell you a little bit about how I got to where I am today in my business. Some of you may ask why I chose to get to where I am. When I was a young teenager and knew nothing about the Federation, I believed that working with young children was something that a blind person could do. When I was a senior in high school, I acquired a job as a preschool teacher at June Bug Preschool and was pretty much a glorified baby sitter. There wasn't a lot of teaching going on. My freshman year in college I taught music in a Montessori school and was just amazed at the difference in the behavior of the children. The Montessori children were attentive. They were well-mannered. They were well behaved, and they were extremely bright, curious, and inquisitive. I enrolled in a Montessori teacher-training program figuring I didn't know what it was those teachers were using, but whatever it was, I wanted to have some of it.

Montessori for those of you who don't know is a very self-paced, individualized type of instruction, and it's the use of the Montessori materials as they are manipulated that helps to teach the child different concepts. In fact, Montessori said that the more senses you incorporate into any learning experience, the higher the retention level and the more effective the learning. This also makes this method of education much more accessible for blind children, which I'll talk about later. The overall philosophy of the Montessori method is that of teaching personal responsibility, respect, independence—all of which develops self confidence in the children. Montessori children, by and large, are self-starters. They have a natural thirst for knowledge and information, which is of course extremely delightful for the teachers who work with them.

In 1988 I was the recipient of a National Federation of the Blind of Illinois scholarship, and at that point I came to learn some very strange and wonderful things about myself, my peers, and my philosophy on human development. As I came to work more and more with the Federation, I came to believe in myself and to believe that I didn't need to work for somebody else, but maybe it would be okay for me to work for myself and that I could be successful in the endeavor. So I ran a home-based Montessori program for three years until my son was old enough to participate, and then he decided that I was Mom and not a teacher, and he wasn't having any part of it. So the next step was to go in search of a facility for us to start our own school. In that pursuit we found a building for lease with a capacity of forty-five students. I applied for an Oregon Economic Development Loan that was designed specifically for disabled people wishing to start their own businesses. And guess what? Oregon didn't think that I could make this business fly. Oregon denied the loan, but I found out that the National Federation of the Blind did believe that I could be successful, and I secured a small business loan from this organization.

But it's the skills that I have learned through the work of the Federation that have really gone far beyond the seed money in the way of helping me to become successful. Children's Choice Montessori School is unique in its philosophy even from other Montessori schools: philosophy that is developed by and large through participation on my part with this organization. When I take prospective parents through the school to decide whether or not our facility is appropriate for their children, of course I go around and show them the classroom and make sure that they understand that it's a safe and comfortable and warm and loving environment. But I also emphasize to the parents two goals that we have at our school for each of those children.

1) The children will learn to work and play well with others. Even if they don't want to go out and play on the playground with all of their classmates, we require that they be respectful and coexist peacefully while they are in the classroom. How many times have we seen Dr. Jernigan, Mr. Maurer, and other leaders of this organization faced with the task of dealing with individuals who are perhaps not our favorite people, who don't see things exactly the way we do? In fact, at one point Diane McGeorge said to me, after having spoken to a state agency director, "You get done talking to him, and you just feel like you want to take a shower." But throughout the course of her conversation, not an inkling of that sentiment came through. She was respectful. She was courteous, and that's exactly what we are trying to teach the children at our school.

2) We teach the children to be responsible for their actions. This entails recognizing that there are consequences for their actions and for their inactions. We also believe that this perspective will ensure that the children will never grow to believe that they are victims of their circumstances. Dr. Jernigan was talking the other night to this scholarship class and saying how we are in a society and a generation (both sighted and blind) who are looking for someone else to blame for the position they are in today. We need to resist that temptation. It is my firm belief that this philosophy needs to be instilled at a very early age and brought all the way through life, and that's exactly what we are trying to do.

At Children's Choice we are teaching life skills. This is not something that most of the other programs are doing. They are looking to resolve today's problems without any look towards where those children will be in the future. I believe our decision has contributed greatly to the success of the school.

One of the other things I have learned that has been invaluable to me is that there are insufficient hours in the day to do everything that we would like to do. I do not waste a lot of time and energy on those things that I cannot affect. I try to spend my time resolving and solving all the problems I can do something about. This is particularly helpful when I take on added responsibilities such as NFB Camp, which by the way I love doing.

Last year I applied for and received a Small Business Administration loan so that we could purchase the land and construct the building in which we now operate our school. There was a bit of discussion between the builders and me about the Americans with Disabilities Act, particularly with regard to the size of the handicapped-accessible bathrooms. Using the skills that I have learned through the Federation, I researched the regulations, and I challenged the builders at their interpretation of those regulations. After I threatened to fire them, they finally agreed to reduce the size of each handicapped bathroom by eighteen square feet, freeing up enough classroom space to add two students more than their plan allowed, and now I understand that they're circulating our blueprints to other people who are thinking of building schools as a model school environment. By the way, the obligatory handicap-accessible bathroom sign that needed Braille—we have that. I have the technology to produce that myself without any additional cost, and the Braille on that sign reads, "Deposits only, no withdrawals." The city inspector came by, ran his fingers over that Braille, and we all sat and smiled.

But I believe probably the most exciting part of what we are doing at the school happens when the Federation work and the Children's Choice work merge to form a more perfect union. This summer the Oregon Commission for the Blind has placed a high school student, through its summer work-experience program, to be employed at Children's Choice Montessori. Clarissa is learning a lot about how to work with children when you are a blind person, and she is learning a lot about the National Federation of the Blind. In the fall we will have a three-year-old blind child starting in Mary's classroom. Instead of being threatened and upset, Mary is delighted because she has worked at NFB Camp for the last two years. I am also told that there is a nine-month-old blind child in the community whose mother has already told case workers that her son will be at our school when he comes of age.

Every day the compact disk sets on random song-selection; and we walk in, prepared for the dance; and through the waltzes and the jigs and the dirges and the ballads, occasionally we are uplifted by "Glory, Glory, Federation." Thank you.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Charlie Brown]

Advancing Science Through the Legal Profession

by Charles Brown

From the Editor: Charlie Brown is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB of Virginia. He is also Assistant General Counsel at the National Science Foundation. This is what he said:

It is indeed a pleasure to be here, and since I reside and have for the last twenty-five years or so in our nation's capital area, I bring you greetings from America's largest and most interesting theme park. I'm really honored today to talk with you as a fellow Federationist about what I do to earn my daily bread.

I work for the National Science Foundation, and it truly is an exciting place to work. Although in many ways we operate like a private foundation, we're actually established as a federal agency. We're located in Arlington, Virginia. The Foundation's primary mission is to support (that means send money out to) science and engineering research and education efforts carried out mostly by the colleges and universities around the country. We also run the U.S. Antarctic Program, including our three bases in Antarctica. Many of you may know us best from the science underwriting we do for National Public Radio and Public Television.

Let me make it very clear to you that I am not a scientist myself, so it's a real challenge to interact every day with a truly outstanding staff. That's half the fun of being there. Our average professional staffer is a Ph.D. scientist or engineer with numerous years of research and teaching experience acquired before coming to the NSF. We have hardly any professional entry-level positions.

Here's where I fit in. In recent years Congress has tried to focus accountability by identifying particular individuals in the government who are responsible for performing particular critical tasks (at least what Congress believes to be critical tasks) so that one person will be answerable as to whether it's done right or not done right. For instance, every agency has an inspector general to ferret out fraud, waste, and abuse. Each agency is required to have a chief financial officer. And each federal agency, including NSF, is required to have someone called in the statute "a designated agency ethics official," responsible only to the agency head, whose job is to direct that agency's employee ethics and conflict-of-interest-prevention efforts. That's my job at NSF.

NSF spends about three billion of your tax dollars every year—that's billion with a "b." Almost all of it is spent on peer-reviewed research and education grants and cooperative agreements. But even with as much as three billion to spend every year, the problem is that lots more folks want money from NSF than can get it, so the competition is fierce. It's not really a question so much of weeding out unworthy science from worthy research; the real issue is picking out the best science we can buy from the merely good. To the extent that we can do this well, we earn the confidence of the scientific community—the community we serve on a daily basis, as well as the general public and the Congress. I think we can say that we have done this over the years because at the bottom line Congress has supported NSF very well where it counts, in the appropriations process.

My mission is to protect NSF to see that its procedures guarantee integrity and fairness in the review process, that people don't participate in the decision-making process when they have improper, even inappropriate, relationships, affiliations, or financial interests that could be affected by what we're trying to do with that particular program. Yes, at NSF we have to adhere to a whole bunch of federal ethics regulations, but we have to do so in an environment which is different from that in the typical federal agency or office.

For instance, we are managed by a twenty-four-member, part-time, Presidentially-appointed National Science Board that is deliberately set up to come from and represent the science community we fund. We have to watch out and make sure that we avoid conflicts of interest with their particular home institutions. Unlike full-time agencies' board members like the Federal Communications Commission, or something like that, these people are specifically not asked to give up their outside interests or affiliations to assume their part-time duty. We want them to be true representatives of the outside. They are mostly college presidents, deans, and corporate R&D people. Another thing that is different about us is that at any given time our professional staff is composed of 30 percent people visiting NSF as rotators for only a year or two. We have to make sure that these people don't put their thumbs on the scales to help their universities back home get some unfair advantage.

Another distinguishing feature is that we use 6,000 panel peer-reviewers a year to evaluate grant research proposals. Those folks, too, have to be conflict-screened to make sure that they're going to judge on the basis of scientific merit and not on the basis of their old buddies or where they have a buck or two invested.

Now, with all that said, in 1991 the National Science Foundation decided that it needed to conduct a nationwide search for a new ethics official. I ended up getting that job. It was truly an unusual application and interview process that even involved my teaching a sample seminar and interviewing all manner of people. My friends joked that, if I interviewed one more person to get this job, it would be the Vice President. Anyway, I got it, and there were a bunch of other people who wanted it, so I was happy to get it—a little bit surprised because I had some ethics role in the Department of Labor, where I had been for twenty years, but most of my job with Labor actually involved the Department's legislative activities on the Hill. As it turned out, I guess they thought I had a pretty decent background. In addition to my twenty years with Labor, I do hold my undergraduate degree from Harvard, and my law degree is from Northwestern.

So what I do in the ethics business—I'm a counselor—I advise people how to get through the complicated ethics laws. I'm often a judge saying, "You may do this, and you may not do that." I issue hundreds of written opinions a year. I'm part of the management team. Some of these big projects that we fund (we had a 350-million-dollar one that I was involved in and got a big cash award for how I handled it this year) have so many universities involved that I'm basically working on the project right alongside the scientists every day.

I deal with the White House on our Presidential appointees and nominees and often am the first to know who is going to be on the National Science Board or who is going to be Director or Deputy Director. I'm also our liaison person with the U.S. Office of Government and Ethics. I have a great deal of sympathy for those in the private sector because I too am in a regulated industry, and they come and audit us and make sure that we're in compliance with all the governmental and ethics enactments.

I don't do this work alone. I have four other folks in the general counsel's office who spend at least some of their time assisting me. I spend a lot of time keeping our various division directors and deputy division directors up-to-speed and up to the latest on both our own procedures and NSF procedures. Many of those procedures and regulations I wrote myself. I published two sets of NSF-specific ethics regulations in the Federal Register last year.

People ask me what alternative techniques I use—not many really, I guess. I do have a CCTV in the office, and I use screen enlargement software on my computer, and I use Braille a lot. That's important. I obviously have residual vision, but one of my critical jobs is that I must train about 700 of our staff in two-hour training sessions every year. I do it in small seminar groups of about thirty-five apiece, scheduled about twice a month. I just couldn't do two-hour training sessions with case studies without my training outlines and all my other training materials available in Braille.

People also ask me, "Was blindness an issue in getting this job?" The answer is, "Yes, it was." The people who interviewed me probably violated all kinds of EEOC rules (and I'm glad they did) by asking me, "How are you going to handle computers around NSF?" I knew the answers because I had checked it out. I had been down to the exhibit hall. I knew about that kind of stuff and how much it cost. What I didn't tell them was that I had no idea how to use a computer in the first place. I figured, what the heck; if I got the job, these are just machines anyway, and I know how to use machines. I learned some about computers, as much as I needed to learn.

The only other issue about blindness was that early on there was some chatter about how could they give this much unreviewable responsibility to a blind person? That came back to me through third parties. Thankfully, and I hope through my good efforts, we no longer hear that kind of stuff around NSF. I'm proud of the job I do; I'm proud that it helps keep our science the best in the world. I'm especially blessed to have the opportunity to come here to talk to you for a few minutes about what I do because I do think it's important.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Bruce Gardner]

The Blind Lawyer Shaping Policy for the Nation's Power Companies

by Bruce Gardner

From the Editor: Bruce Gardner is the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Arizona. At the 1997 convention he was elected to a seat on the NFB Board of Directors. This is what he said:

I am a senior attorney with Arizona Public Service Company (APS), a major corporation in Arizona. I am one of ten attorneys who serve as in-house counsel for the company. APS is not a municipality or government agency; it is a publicly-held corporation and the largest electric utility company in Arizona. So what do I do as a senior attorney with a major corporation? I practice law, of course. But if all you know about attorneys and the practice of law is what you have learned watching Perry Mason reruns or the O.J. Simpson trials, you won't know what I mean when I say, "I practice law."

Just as most physicians are not surgeons, most lawyers are not litigators. In fact, it has been years since I have jumped to my feet in righteous indignation and shouted, "Objection, your Honor, that's hearsay." If most of us lawyers are not litigators, then what do we do? As I said, we practice law. What does it mean to practice law? We were told in law school that it means to think like a lawyer. I recall the dean of the law school telling all of us first-year law students that we would be required to take classes in many legal subjects such as contracts, torts, civil procedure, criminal procedure, Constitutional law, criminal law, evidence, tax, etc., and that we would, of course, be required to learn the laws in each of these subjects and develop skills in legal research, legal writing, oral advocacy, and other procedural aspects of practicing law. But he said the fundamental purpose—the real purpose—of going to law school was to teach us to think like lawyers.

An incident that happened to me early in law school should illustrate the three aspects of legal training: learning laws, developing skills, and, most important, beginning to think like a lawyer. In the first year of law school, we were required to take the criminal law class. The criminal law professor had served for over twenty-five years as a renowned criminal prosecutor in southern California. In his class, when he called on you, you were required to stand and attempt to answer his barrage of questions while he systematically pinned you to the wall.

To make things worse, the whole procedure was videotaped, and you were later required to review the videotape with the professor. One of his purposes was obviously to get us used to responding on our feet while under pressure—as I am now. While reviewing the videotape, the professor would critique our posture, gestures, and facial expressions, saying such things as "Look, you licked your lips. What did you do that for?" "What is your hand doing in your pocket?" "Why are you grimacing? You look like a scared rabbit." One day, in the first week or two of law school, the professor asked a question based on a substantial reading assignment. He asked about the six elements of the common definition of burglary, which is the breaking and entering of the dwelling of another at night time with the intent to commit a felony. He then asked for the common law definition of "night time," and no one he called on knew the answer. He glared at us and growled," Didn't anyone read the footnotes?" The answer was given in one little, obscure footnote in one of the many cases that made up the previous night's reading assignment. Fortunately, I had read the footnotes; unfortunately, I raised my hand. I was so dumb I didn't know you didn't raise your hand in Mr. Dean's criminal law class. With obvious pleasure the professor said, "Mr. Gardner, stand up." That's the way he sounded when he was about to eat a first-year student. Well I stood up, and he said, "What is the definition of night time?" I replied with the definition given in the footnote, "The time between sunset and sunrise when it is too dark to recognize a man's face." The professor then moved in to pin me to the wall. He said, "Mr. Gardner, what if there is a full moon and it is a clear night so that you can easily recognize a man's face a block away?" Without really thinking, I replied, "Mr. Dean, I'm blind. It doesn't matter how bright the moon is; I could never see a man a block away, never mind recognize him." The whole class burst out laughing. The professor, with a chuckle in his voice, said, "Okay, Mr. Gardner, sit down. I can tell when I have been beaten."

Despite the fact or maybe because of the fact that I had inadvertently won the first round, I was given many opportunities along with my peers to engage in mental jousting with my criminal law professor. Although no one has ever explained to me what it means to think like a lawyer, I believe it means that, when faced with a situation, and keeping in mind the laws he has learned, a lawyer should look at the matter from all possible angles, creatively brainstorm and identify all of the positives and negatives that could conceivably result from the situation, then carefully analyze, critique, and evaluate each of the positives and negatives identified, throwing out those without any merit. The remaining pros and cons are then carefully reviewed and analyzed so that ways can be found to minimize the minuses and capitalize on the pluses. Now I recognize that this is probably an overly simplified explanation of what it is to think like a lawyer. However, that is what I do daily for APS in a variety of areas.

For example, I handle the legal real estate matters for the utility company. Since APS is the largest property tax payer in Arizona, it is safe to say the company has its share of real estate issues. Nearly every day I handle power line easement and right-of-way matters such as how and where the utility company should build its power lines in light of concerns that electromagnetic fields (EMS), which emanate from power lines, might cause adverse health effects.

Additionally, I handle the legal aspects of buying and selling real property. For example, when the company outgrew its corporate headquarters building and it was decided that for political reasons it should lease rather than own new office space, I negotiated all of the legal aspects of the construction and lease of our new twenty-story corporate headquarters building. I drafted and negotiated the multi-million-dollar contract for the sale of the old office building.

However, real property issues are only a small part of what I handle for the company. I also oversee all of the numerous tort and commercial litigation cases. It is my job to select the litigators who will try the cases for the company, and I oversee their actions to assure that sound legal analysis and advice are being provided. This means that I must carefully analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the company's position in each case as well as evaluate the legal skills of the litigators I have retained. There are many millions of dollars at issue in each of these cases.

As the coordinator of litigation cases, I also direct the legal investigation of accidental electrocutions and other serious accidents which could result in lawsuits being filed against the utility company. Additionally, I handle a substantial number of miscellaneous matters, such as the legal aspects of selling electricity in Mexico. It has been my job to guide the company through the legal administrative and bureaucratic mazes required to obtain the Presidential permits, licenses, and other authorizations necessary to construct power lines across the international border into Mexico. Many approvals are required from numerous federal, state, and local governmental agencies in addition to the International Boundary Commission and the Mexican government. As a result of these efforts, last year APS became the first United States company to sell electricity directly to a retail customer in Mexico. I both drafted and negotiated that contract.

It is company policy at APS that no major decision is to be made without the benefit of legal analysis and advice. Consequently, on a daily basis I receive a variety of e-mail messages and telephone calls from numerous clients throughout the company explaining their situations and asking for advice. I outline their various options and explain the pros and cons and legal ramifications of each.

Although I feel rather uncomfortable speaking about myself, I have shared with you a glimpse of what I do for a living, not to be boastful, but to make a point. The fact is that my blindness is irrelevant to my clients. They come to me because I look at their problems and opportunities from all angles and can spot issues and can see solutions. They come to me because I think like a lawyer.

However, and this is the point I wish to make, I simply would not be as successful if I did not also think like a Federationist. In fact, I doubt that I would have gone to law school if I had not first learned the truth about blindness and begun overcoming the low self-esteem and low expectations I developed as a blind child. Until I learned the truth about blindness from the National Federation of the Blind, all I knew about blindness was what I had absorbed from society. Unfortunately, society's notion of blindness is one of helplessness and dependence. Blind people are generally thought of as not being capable of doing much of anything. Therefore, although my parents were as positive and optimistic as they could be under the circumstances, growing up I had low self-esteem and low expectations.

I remember going to the eye doctor as a child and hearing him tell my parents that, because my blindness was probably hereditary, they should make sure that I never got married or had children. I recall my mother sobbing and feeling that it was somehow her fault that I was blind. The clear message I absorbed from the doctor was that blindness was a terrible tragedy and that it would be better not to be born than to be born blind. The cartoon show Mr. Magoo helped to create and expand the shame and low self-esteem I felt inside. I refused to admit that I was blind because blindness meant helplessness. Blind people were bumbling, fumbling, Mr. Magoos, or worse, helpless dependents who sold pencils on the street corner. Blind people were inferior, dependent, and helpless folks to be pitied and cared for. Therefore, I tried to deny my blindness because I could see light and dark, general shapes, and movement with my peripheral vision. But the feelings of inferiority and shame would not go away. And of course I did not use any of the useful alternative techniques of blindness such as Braille and cane travel. To do so would have been to admit that I was blind.

In high school I signed up for AP English. I was in all respects qualified for the advanced course; however, the teacher told me that I could not take the class because I was blind. She told me that there would be too much reading and that I wouldn't be able to keep up. She said that because of my blindness I should take the minimum of English classes. Of course she knew nothing about talking books and other alternative techniques used by the blind. This well-intentioned but uninformed teacher was so convinced and my self-esteem and expectation were so low that I followed her advice and took the bare minimum of English classes in both high school and college.

It was not until I was in law school that I realized what a mistake I had made in listening to her. She didn't have any idea what too much reading was because she had never been to law school and tried to keep up with the reading requirements there. I realized that I should have at least minored in English to help me in the practice of law. In fact, I still feel that I am playing catch-up on the English classes I should have taken. For example, to this day I have a propensity to inadvertently split my infinitives.

Fortunately, in college the National Federation of the Blind found me, taught me the truth about blindness, and helped me overcome my low self-esteem and low expectations. The NFB helped me develop the confidence I needed to go to law school. Thanks to Dr. Kenneth Jernigan and the National Federation of the Blind, I have come to learn the truth about blindness, which is that the real problem is not the lack of eyesight but rather the public's lack of insight regarding blindness. In other words, it's not a physical disability but a social handicap, society's attitude, that is the real problem.

It was Henry Ford who said, "If you think you can or you can't, you're right." Given opportunity and training, a blind person can find alternative techniques for doing just about anything he would have done with eyesight and therefore be successful doing whatever he decides to do. For me that means practicing law. I am paid to think like a lawyer, but regardless of how we earn our daily bread, it pays to think like a Federationist. For this reason I will do everything in my power to share Federation philosophy with others so that they too can benefit from knowing and living the truth about blindness.

 

Planned giving takes place when a contributor decides to leave a substantial gift to charity. It means planning as you would for any substantial purchase—a house, college tuition, or car. The most common forms of planned giving are wills and life insurance policies. There are also several planned giving options through which you can simultaneously give a substantial contribution to the National Federation of the Blind, obtain a tax deduction, and receive lifetime income now or in the future. For more information write or call the National Federation of the Blind, Special Gifts, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998, (410) 659-9314, fax (410) 685-5653.

 

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Lynn Mattioli]

Food for Thought: Experience of a Blind Dietitian

by Lynn Mattioli

From the Editor: Lynn Mattioli was a 1987 NFB scholarship winner. During the years since that first introduction to the organization, she has moved around the country gathering the necessary academic, professional, and blindness tools to do her life work. At the 1997 convention she told delegates about her adventures in the past ten years. This is what she said:

Imagine a young woman, wearing a hair net, dashing around to deliver meal trays to sick patients confined to bed, prodding them to eat their chicken soup and lime-flavored Jell-O. When people ask me, "What do you do all day?" frequently this is what they have envisioned. However, it is not 100 percent accurate. I wear a lab coat, not a hair net, but I do encourage my patients with poor appetites to eat well.

I work as a clinical dietitian at a 250-bed hospital in South Baltimore. I cover several areas of the hospital, including cardiology, orthopedics, and neurology. So I spend my day working with patients who have heart problems, those who have had surgery to repair broken bones or replace a joint such as the knee or hip, and those who have had strokes. I also cover a sub-acute or extended-care facility (ECF) affiliated with the hospital. Patients go to the ECF when they have recovered enough to leave the acute-care side of the hospital but need more time before they're ready to go home.

Altogether I am responsible for sixty to seventy-five patients on any given day. Basically what I do is gather information about my patients to identify those people who are at nutrition risk. Then I assess the situation and implement strategies to increase food intake or recommend an alternative route of feeding when necessary. The most technical part of my job is calculating the appropriate composition of solutions used to feed patients intravenously. The solutions are approved by the physician and then prepared by the pharmacy. I am also responsible for teaching my patients about their diet. Nutrition education is tailored to meet each individual's needs. Heart-healthy eating and eating for optimum management of diabetes are the two topics I cover the most.

People often ask me, "What do you need to do to become a registered dietitian?" First let me clarify: there is a big difference between being a nutritionist and being a registered dietitian. Anyone of you here today could claim to be a nutritionist. Those people wearing white lab coats at the health food store in your local mall may have been working selling shoes last week.

In order to be a registered dietitian, you must first have a bachelor of science degree in nutrition. In college you will study anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, food science, and nutrition science. Accounting, economics, business management, and social science courses are also required. Then you must obtain hands-on experience through a year-long internship program. Finally you must pass a national registration examination and fulfill continuing lifelong education requirements to maintain your credentials. Depending on what you want to do as a dietitian, advanced education might be good. I decided to obtain a master of science degree in nutrition because I plan to teach at the university level one day. So you can see that it is more challenging than just putting on a white lab coat.

While I was in college, no one ever suggested that I couldn't be a dietitian because of my blindness. The faculty was very supportive. I used alternative techniques such as readers and lab assistants when needed. I had numerous externship experiences while I was in college, so I was able to explore the profession a bit before I graduated. When it came time to apply for my internship program, I decided to set my sights high. I applied for several of the most prestigious programs in the country. There is a limited number of internship programs, so entrance is very competitive. I also decided to apply for some programs that seemed a little more attainable, just in case.

On the application form I did not mention my blindness because I didn't really think it mattered. I didn't want to be excluded from a program because of misconceptions about blindness. Internship directors are looking for reasons to exclude candidates. I didn't want my blindness to be the issue. I was ecstatic to learn that I had been accepted at the Massachusetts General Hospital, a 1,000-bed Harvard-affiliated teaching hospital in Boston. I did tell them about my blindness after I accepted their offer.

I arrived in Boston a few weeks before the program began, to give me time to move in. I made an appointment with the internship director to discuss the program with her in more detail and to have a tour of the huge facility. I wanted to help her to feel comfortable with my blindness. I remember the details of that afternoon as if it were yesterday. I had my tour; then I was introduced to Helen, the head of the department. Helen invited me into her office to have a little chat. After I sat down, she said to me, "Lynn, I want to be honest with you: I don't think a blind person can be a dietitian. I think it would be easier for a deaf person or a person using a wheelchair to be a dietitian than it's going to be for you." We spent an hour discussing how I was going to accomplish specific tasks related to my job. "How are you going to use the meat slicer?" "How are you going to take apart the food chopper so you can clean it?" "Can you turn the knob?" "How will you know if the employees are stealing food or dealing drugs?" "How will you know if a patient is awake when you go into the room?" I answered her endless string of questions to the best of my ability. After the questions were finished, I explained to her that we were going to need to figure out some things when we got to them. I didn't know exactly step-by-step how I was going to clean the food-chopping machine, but I knew how to clean my own food processor. So to me it was the same equipment, only ten times bigger.

As I was leaving the meeting, Helen left me with some friendly advice. "You'd better go home and pray." I remained composed until I returned to my apartment, and then I did what most young adults would do: I called my mother in tears. She was as shocked as I was. We were Federationists by this time in my life, so we knew that discrimination could happen, but now it was happening to me. I'm certain that they would have terminated me from the program if they could have, but I think they were smart enough to know that I wouldn't have left quietly.

I had two choices: I could agree that a blind person couldn't be a dietitian and return home to Pennsylvania; or I could stand my ground, which is what I did. But I needed people to help to keep me standing. I immediately contacted Job Opportunities for the Blind and got in contact with a blind dietitian in Iowa. We talked on the phone. I don't think she told me anything I didn't already know, but she gave me the gift of reassurance that a blind person could do and accomplish what I was setting out to accomplish myself.

I wasn't alone. Throughout that year I had the support of the Massachusetts affiliate and the Cambridge chapter. At the end of the year, though, my confidence was lacking. My supervisors had encouraged me to do my job in the same fashion as my sighted counterparts. It was as if they wanted me to be that sighted person they thought they had accepted into the program. I was uncomfortable trying many alternative techniques for fear my performance might be judged harshly. I knew at the end of that year that I was a good dietitian. I had the knowledge, and I had experience, but I couldn't hope to be an excellent dietitian unless I attained more confidence in myself as a blind person and better blindness skills.

After attending one of the top internship programs in the country, which turned out to be a living nightmare, it was time to attend one of the top adult rehabilitation programs in the country, the Louisiana Center for the Blind. (We all know where the other top programs are located.) This was a dream come true. I was a different person when I left Ruston. An amazing thing happened when I went for my job interview at Harbor Hospital. This was the first real job interview I had as a professional. My blindness didn't seem to matter to my future boss one bit. We talked about it. I remember her saying, "Obviously you know you can do this job, or you wouldn't be here." It will be wonderful when every job interview is like that.

I know that I would not have been able to become an employed registered dietitian if it hadn't been for two things. For these blessings I am grateful—for my parents who were Federationists long before we discovered the organization and for the National Federation of the Blind. As an organization the Federation paved my way by changing society's views of blindness, insuring security, equality, and opportunity. As individuals many of you have personally changed my life. You have been my friends and mentors. I am thankful. If it hadn't been for you, I might have told Helen that she was right. Instead we did not give her that satisfaction.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Vickie Messick (seated) talks to Hailee Linhart of Washington (left) and her daughter Briley Pollard (right).]

Parents Win Fight with School Board in Virginia

From the Editor: It is always heartening to hear of a victory by the good guys in a fight over the rights of blind children. As the following article makes clear, Hampton, Virginia, school officials now seem to understand that their past struggles to provide only the barest minimum of services to blind students enrolled in city schools have done incalculable harm to youngsters who were already facing heavy odds against their success. Once again we see the damage done by imposing the failure model on the education of blind children. Waiting for the child to fail using one set of supports before permitting more useful ones to be tried virtually insures that the student's self-confidence will evaporate a little more with every poor grade or uncompleted assignment.

Hampton parents, with help from the parents division of the NFB of Virginia and its active President Vickie Messick, forced school officials to change things for the future and correct past mistakes as far as possible. Here is the story by Sandra Tan as it appeared in the August 7, 1997, Daily Press.

Hampton to Hire Third Staffer for Blind Schools to Offer Makeup Services

Theresa Brooks sat in her car as the rain turned the cold February night colder. She had just left a school board meeting to speak on behalf of her visually impaired daughter, but no one seemed to hear. Her husband had died several months earlier and could lend no comfort. So she prayed.

"Lord, I'm tired. I feel like I'm all alone. What I said, did it go into people's hearts? Is anybody listening?"

Someone finally listened. Brooks's daughter and other visually impaired students in Hampton City Schools will be getting more help.

"I don't know what did it, said Vickie Messick, president of Parents of Blind Children, a local chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. "It could be God; a lot of people have been praying."

After more than nine months of complaints and lawsuit threats, Hampton City Schools administrators agreed to make up for some incomplete and incorrect special education guidelines that parents say robbed their children of adequate instruction for years.

Since November parents have complained that their children were illegally denied preschool instruction because of their age, that unqualified administrators were making decisions about their children's schooling, that the number of school vision specialists was grossly inadequate, and that the guidelines used to determine a student's right to services were too narrow.

Most of all, parents complained that school administrators didn't seem to care whether they were doing the right thing for a group of children that make up less than two-tenths percent of Hampton's overall student population. These complaints were finally addressed in meetings with parents and parent advocates over the last two weeks.

Given a pending suit filed with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights and more protests brought before the local school board, school officials have now promised to hire more specialists and offer make-up services to children whose parents said were wrongly denied instruction

"A lot of parents had threatened to go to due process hearings, basically take them to court," Messick said. "I have no desire to go to court. If we can make progress another way, so be it."

Superintendent Billy Cannaday conceded that the school system could have done a better job of addressing these parents' complaints from the start. Instead of wasting time arguing about who was technically correct according to state and federal regulations, the school system should have taken a closer look at the potential harm being done to visually impaired children, he said.

"We only looked at the letter of the regulations, not the intent of the regulations, which is to serve children," he said. "When it came down to doing what's best for students, it became a much easier issue to resolve."

As part of the solution, the Hampton City School Board voted Wednesday to hire a third vision impairment specialist to help work with about thirty-five children. Last year the school system had only one specialist working with more than twenty-five children. In December of 1996, the board approved another position, but the second specialist was not actually hired until last month. In addition to increasing staff size, the school system has agreed to offer more than 600 hours of makeup services to children who received inadequate vision instruction in their earlier years.

Cannaday said some personnel changes will also be made to insure that such students are never overlooked or shortchanged again. Money will be reallocated to meet the agreements reached with parents, Cannaday said, but that the amount will not stress the existing budget approved by City Council.

Parents and advocates praised the school administrators and board members for their actions but still wondered at the time it took for those actions to come about.

"I'm very happy that they finally, finally are giving the services that Christina needed and deserved," said Brooks, in regard to her fifteen-year-old daughter, a tenth grader at Bethe High School, "I thank God, I really do." Christina, an albino with severely impaired vision, received no school vision assistance until she nearly failed the second grade, Brooks said.

Brooks's daughter will receive 345 hours of makeup tutorial and counseling services. "Even though they're the educators, we're both on the same team," Brooks said. "It's a partnership, raising a child."

 

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ross Kaplan

PHOTO/CAPTION: Latonya Phipps]

NFB Sues Law School Admissions Council

From the Editor: On April 4, 1997, the National Federation of the Blind filed suit against the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) on behalf of three blind students. The students (Ross Kaplan, Latonya Phipps, and Shannon Dillon) argued that the reasonable-accommodations and equal-access protections afforded disabled people under the Americans with Disabilities Act had been denied them when they attempted to take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), administered by the Law School Admissions Council.

Kaplan and Phipps were denied the right to bring trained readers of their own choice with them when they took the grueling law school entrance examination. LSAC officials insisted that they use readers assigned by the Council to take the test. Despite the fact that proctors are always present to insure that no inappropriate communication takes place between reader and blind student, the LSAC officials maintained that using readers who were familiar with legal vocabulary and had experience following the students' instructions constituted a breach of test security.

Dillon was refused the right to use a Braille writer and paper during the LSAT even though sighted students may write in the margins of test pages and on blank pages in the test book. She requested permission to use her Brailler several weeks ahead of the test, but LSAC officials insisted that she had not done so soon enough.

The lawsuit also argues that the LSAC's policy of sending a letter to each law school to which a blind student's scores have been sent invalidates the student's LSAT scores. The letter in question explains that the blind student took the LSAT in "nonstandard" conditions and therefore the LSAC cannot predict how accurate an indication the test will be of the student's ability to do the work in law school. The complaint points out that blind law graduates have been taking and passing the bar examination for years without anyone's raising a question about their ability to practice law merely because they used Braille, readers, large print, or other reasonable accommodations to take the test.

The April 21, 1997, edition of The National Law Journal was only one of a number of publications to carry a story about this suit. The Journal article, written by Joseph Slobodzian, was the most accurate and comprehensive one that appeared. Here is the story he wrote:

Blind Test-Takers: LSAC Failed to Comply with Disabilities Act

Three aspiring pre-law students who said they were unfairly treated by that grueling rite of passage, the Law School Admission Test, have shown that, regardless of their scores, they know what a real lawyer would do.

They sued.

Specifically, the trio sued the Law School Admissions Council, which administers the test, contending LSAC violated the federal Americans With Disabilities Act by failing to accommodate the three students who are blind.

The students—Ross Kaplan of Washington, D.C.; Latonya Phipps of Atlanta; and Shannon Dillon of Rohnert Park, California—contended in their suit filed April 4 in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia that all were top-scoring undergraduates who were sabotaged on the LSAT by the council's refusal to let them use their own human readers or Braille note-taking equipment. Forced to take the test without the use of aids, the suit said, all three did poorly, damaging their chances of being accepted by a top law school. Kaplan v. LSAC, 97-cv-2350.

The lawsuit was filed in Philadelphia because the council is located in Newtown, about thirty miles north in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Scott C. LaBarre, a lawyer with the National Federation of the Blind in Denver, who filed the suit with New Hope, Pennsylvania, lawyer Martin J. King, said he believed the suit was the first challenging a standardized test for violating the federal disabilities law.

The suit asks for an order to prohibit LSAC from discriminating against the blind and to let the three students retake the LSAT at no cost and "free of the discriminatory policies set forth above." LSAC counsel Joan Vantol said she was prohibited from commenting on complaints involving individual students or on pending litigation.

The suit says LSAC offers some accommodations to blind students, such as providing the test in Braille, providing human readers for the exam, providing the test on cassette tape, and offering the blind additional time to take the test. But those accommodations do not remedy the hurdles the test presents to individual blind students, the suit maintains.

Mr. Kaplan, for example, the lawsuit says, took the LSAT October 5 at American University in Washington, D.C., and asked the LSAC if he could use his own human reader and a CCTV, a television device the legally blind use to magnify print.

The council allowed Mr. Kaplan to use his CCTV but rejected as a security breach his own reader. LSAC said he could use a council-supplied reader.

The suit says Mr. Kaplan took the test under protest with an LSAC reader and did "very poorly," scoring a 143, which ranks in the 21.9th percentile of those taking the test.

Mr. LaBarre said the relationship between a blind person and reader is so individual that using a strange reader is "like forcing somebody who needs eyeglasses to take the test wearing the wrong pair of glasses."

Ms. Phipps, for example, took the LSAT last October at Clark Atlanta University and reluctantly agreed to use an LSAC reader, who Mr. LaBarre said, was inexperienced with legal terminology and obviously had never worked with a blind person.

Ms. Dillon, the suit continues, took the exam last December at the University of California, Hastings College of Law in San Francisco and sought permission from the LSAC several weeks earlier to use a Braille typewriter to make notes during the exam, maintaining that sighted students are allowed to make notes in the margin of the test paper. The LSAC refused, although it relented when she retook the test earlier this year.

Mr. LaBarre said the LSAC's refusal to accommodate the twenty-five to fifty blind students who annually take the LSAT negated the test's purpose: "It's no longer testing the ability to succeed in law school. Instead it's trying to find out which blind person can train and work with a reader on the spur of the moment."

There you have the story as it appeared in April. The case is now scheduled to go to trial in late December. Depositions are currently being taken, so, assuming that no postponements take place—always a large assumption—we can hope for an early decision in this matter.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Don Morris

PHOTO: A little boy examines a mountain goat. In the background other animals are visible. CAPTION: David Seyfarth of Mississippi examines a mountain goat with the help of a friend.]

Setting the Record Straight about Sensory Safari

From the Editor: At almost every National Convention since 1991, we have enjoyed interesting displays of mounted bird and animal trophies provided by members of Safari Clubs International. Volunteers from the group also conduct individual or small-group tours of the mounts, pointing out interesting details and offering tidbits of information about the species at hand. Those who have taken advantage of these opportunities have found the experience enlightening and fun. The Sensory Safaris have been particularly helpful to blind children through the years since they are certainly unlikely to learn in any other way exactly what a mountain lion looks like, how large an elephant's foot is, or how wide a wolf's mouth actually opens.

Members of Safari International are understandably proud of their contributions of trophies and volunteer effort to help blind people appreciate the beauty and power of wildlife. Not surprisingly the group's magazine, the Safari Times, carried a story about the New Orleans Sensory Safari in its August, 1997, issue. Also not surprisingly, they got some of the facts wrong and inflated the centrality of the exhibit that its Louisiana members put together for our convention. Don Morris, one of the leaders of the NFB of Maryland, read the article and was moved to set the record straight. This is what he wrote:

August 14, 1997

S.J. Sagi

Safari Times Editor

Tucson, Arizona

Dear Mr. Sagi:

My son Kirk, who is an avid hunter and a member of the Safari Club International, shared the August, 1997, Safari Times with me.

I read the article about the Sensory Safari (page 16) with interest. I have been a member of the National Federation of the Blind since 1967 and on several occasions have gone through the terrific exhibit put on by SCI. Your club and its members are to be commended for sharing their enjoyment of the hunt as well as sharing their knowledge of these fine specimens.

Not to be critical but from the perspective of a purist, I would like to correct and add a few elements to your article. First, the 1997 convention of the National Federation of the Blind was the largest gathering of blind people ever assembled anywhere on earth. We registered 3,346 conferees. Our convention lasted not only from June 30 to July 1, when the Sensory Safari was present, but through a full slate of day-long meetings from June 28 to July 6, 1997.

In this age of political correctness I noted Mr. Stroup's reference to our members as "sight impaired." In fact, we believe it is okay to use the word "blind." Often euphemisms are offered so as not to offend or embarrass. However, we who are blind do not require such niceties. We believe that blindness need not be more than a physical characteristic. It is not a condition which embarrasses us. It does require us to learn alternative techniques in order to compete on the basis of equality with our sighted peers.

Please see the enclosed article as an additional eye-opener about blindness. I am sending a reprint from the Braille Monitor, the monthly publication of the National Federation of the Blind, about a blind Federationist from Waterloo, Iowa. Ted Hart is a competent, confident, creative, and enthusiastic person who has not let blindness stop him from accomplishing his goals. The article describes how Ted, a totally blind person, acquired his own personal trophy.

Thanks again to your club and its members for bringing examples of wildlife that we can discern tactilely. Your efforts help broaden our experience and knowledge. We look forward to seeing you in Dallas.

Best regards,

Donald J. Morris

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Susan Spungin]

Living by the Numbers

by Susan J. Spungin, Ed.D.

From the Editor: Dr. Susan Spungin is Vice President, National Programs and Initiatives Group, American Foundation for the Blind. She is also knowledgeable and articulate about Braille and its importance to blind people. Dr. Spungin addressed the 1997 convention of the National Federation of the Blind on Friday, July 4. This is what she said:

A drunken researcher dropped a dime in the middle of a dark street late one night. His friend asked why he was looking for the dime under the street lamp, far from where it had landed. The answer: "Because it's too dark over there."

The image fits some people (most are neither researchers nor drunk) who seek to locate the effects of disability policy. Policy watchers, perhaps figuratively intoxicated by deep gulps of newfound power, are looking where the light is—that is, where data currently exist. A bit of sober thought should suggest that is not likely to work.

Living by the numbers. What does that mean? It means as many different things as the number of people you ask. Some examples are the lottery, gambling, accounting—well, you get my point. But today, in this presentation, it means accuracy of existing statistics and demographics. The term "statistics" refers to numbers as a way to describe something. It is to provide a detailed picture of the social situation of people who have difficulty seeing or who are unable to see. We use numbers (i.e., statistics) to develop that picture, like threads in a tapestry.

Now, before you tune me out of your consciousness, let me say that, unfortunately, in the blindness field demographics, identifying the number and characteristics of blind people in the United States, at times appears to be some kind of a gamble or lottery game because the numbers never really seem to add up. Yet policy is based on these numbers. Why should we care? Let me tell you why with a real life example, the results of which affect all children who are blind or visually impaired in this country.

Every year the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and American Printing House for the Blind (APH) require counts of children who are blind or visually impaired. The major difference is that APH uses the restricted definition of legal blindness of 20/200 or less, etc., and IDEA requires the broader functional definition that can include those children that are totally blind or legally blind as well as those who often see as well as 20/60 or 20/70, frequently referred to as partially sighted or low vision. In summary, the APH federal quota registration requires legal blindness for eligibility, a more restrictive requirement than IDEA's requirement for a visual impairment that affects the ability to learn. Yet the annual count of students with visual impairment served under IDEA has totaled less than the federal quota registration since 1977.

In the 1994 APH census, the count for children was 53,576 using legal blindness for eligibility. In 1993-94 the OSEP or IDEA child find count was 24,892. The annual count of children with visual impairments served under IDEA for the 1993-94 school year comprised only 46.5 percent, or less than half, of the Federal Quota Registration maintained by the American Printing House for the Blind. For years the field has relied on the federal estimate of the population of children with visual impairments—that is, one-tenth of one percent of the school-age population—first articulated by Jones and Collins in 1966, some thirty years ago. There are now more recent estimates ranging from .2 percent to as high as 1 percent. Using these projections, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act's count fails to identify over 80 percent of students with severe visual impairment. Even APH's registry, using these more recent estimates, may fail to account for over 60 percent of students with severe visual impairment.

Why is this? Why is it that, since the implementation of IDEA in 1976 until 1994, IDEA's numbers—remember the broader definition—have gone from 38,000 down to 25,000 as compared to APH's count in the same time period going from 32,000 up to 55,000. What is wrong with this picture? Might it be that some blind children are classified as another disability, e.g., learning-disabled, because the district has no teacher for blind kids and doesn't wish to spend the money, or no teachers are available? Might it be that our multiply handicapped blind children are not classified blind but some other disability because they cannot be counted twice; e.g., a child with a physical handicap and blindness is seen as a child with only a physical handicap? Even with the multiply handicapped population, including the deaf-blind categories first reported in 1978, it still makes no sense. So what! Well, the so what is that, like it or not, we live by the numbers in order to justify funding for training programs, teachers, vocational rehabilitation, Social Security benefits, to mention just a few. We cannot continue to accept or ignore the lottery-like approach we have when describing the demographics of our field. We are gambling with the quality of life for blind people of all ages since this problem intensifies as one goes up the age range.

Again, I can't help but ask, why are there discrepancies? Shall I put my New York City paranoia hat on and suggest it is purposeful? Unfortunately, the answer is not that easy—it really comes down to how we and others define the blindness population. I'm sure you have heard the old joke that people are blinded more by definition than any other eye condition, or to continue the theme of a drunken researcher: he uses statistics as a drunken man uses a lamp post—for support rather than illumination.

Depending on who is counting—the blind person is defined differently from agency to agency—be the agency from the federal or private sector—or even two agencies in the same sector, such as, two federal agencies, namely the Bureau of the Census and the National Center on Health Statistics.

The Bureau of the Census in the Survey of Income & Program Participation asks the questions: with glasses do you have difficulty, or are you unable to see words and letters? Those who answer "difficulty" are 9.7 million people; those who answer "unable" are 1.6 million.

The National Center on Health Statistics asks the question this way: "Can you see to read ordinary newsprint?" getting a response of 4.3 million people. Now these questions sound similar, but if you look closely, the Bureau asks about seeing words and letters, and NCHS asks about reading newsprint, which could be interpreted as a measure of literacy. Hence different answers to seemingly similar questions. The difference between 9.7 million visually impaired people versus 4.3 million visually impaired people is more than double! The problem is in the details-details-details. However, may we never be so indifferent to believe what Joseph Stalin said: A single death is a tragedy— a million deaths is a statistic. Let us never forget that these numbers represent people like you and potentially even me— depending on how well I age in my sunset years.

Anyone advocating for funding for services for people who are blind or visually impaired, or anyone who tries to judge whether these services are successful needs timely, reliable statistics about the number, background characteristics, needs, and achievements of the visually impaired population in the U. S. The only plausible source for such statistics is the federal government, which is able to mount large-scale surveys and get respectably high response rates, ensuring that an accurate picture emerges.

Unfortunately, there are only two federal surveys looking at all the age ranges—one conducted by the Bureau of the Census and the other by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS)-- that even occasionally collect the kind of statistics that we seek about people who are blind or severely visually impaired. And, while they define the same concept of visual impairment— print reading disability—these two surveys generate substantially different results because of differing methods used to collect data. We are getting beyond the point of advocacy in which we can ask for action simply because it's the right thing to do. We're being asked for information. We need to be sure the information is the right type—that it is what we need.

To address this problem, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) requested the World Blind Union/North American-Caribbean Region to submit a proposal, partially funded by NLS, to deal with the problem of accurate counts and comparable data of blind people. A proposal was submitted to NLS entitled Federal Statistics About People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired: A Project to Improve How Data Are Collected and Used.

The proposal suggested a way to improve how data about blindness and visual impairment are collected and used by asking both the Census Bureau and NCHS to work together. The goal is to develop recommendations for how federal surveys can better phrase survey questions on visual impairment so that respondents provide unambiguous answers—which should clear up many of the discrepancies. In addition, AFB plans to conduct workshops for a wide variety of blindness constituencies—agencies, schools, and consumers, for example—in order to make sure that we all make good use of the improved statistics coming out of this research.

Funding for this project reflects an innovative collaboration between consumers and service providers and public and private sectors. As mentioned earlier, major funding was provided by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress, which paid for the part of the project conducted by the Census Bureau and NCHS. Additional activities conducted by AFB are supported by a generous grant from the National Federation of the Blind, augmented by contributions from the National Industries for the Blind, the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, the American Council of the Blind of Wisconsin, and AFB, with additional funds anticipated from other blindness organizations.

At the present time AFB is in the process of working with the research staff of the Bureau for the Census and the National Center for Health Statistics in order to get higher-ups in these two agencies, and possibly other agencies, to pay attention to the study recommendations and actually adopt their practice regarding the wording of the vision question. (If you are in a federal agency or have worked with one, you readily understand that such change is not automatic or easily achieved.)

The study approach is called "cognitive interviewing." After the respondent answers, the interviewer asks the respondent to explain in detail how he or she understood the question and what he or she was thinking while deciding on the answer. The objective is to gain insight into what people mean when they answer the two seemingly similar question wordings that the Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics have used.

The main product will be a written report in which the federal researchers detail what they found and what implications they see for future questionnaire design. It is our hope that one or more questions will emerge that are easily understood and consistently answered to allow for more accurate and comparable statistics.

Would it not be wonderful to get the Bureau of Census and NCHS to agree on one preferred wording for the print-disability measure of visual impairment to use whenever and wherever disability measures are used? We would also want the Bureau of Labor Statistics or any other federal agency that may begin to include questions and measures on types of disabilities to use the same preferred wording as well. This means we all need to promote the outcomes of this project and strategies for its implementation.

I would like to thank the core working group which works with us in this project (with special recognition to the NLS and NFB). The group consists of the following organizations:

American Council of the Blind

Association for the Education & Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired

American Foundation for the Blind

American Printing House for the Blind

Blinded Veterans Association

Canadian National institute for the Blind

National Federation of the Blind

National Industries for the Blind

National Library Service for the Blind & Physically Handicapped

I would like to conclude with the hope that one, you're still awake; two, you have learned something of the demographic dilemma in our field; and three, I haven't confused you even more than you might have been before.

I have always found statistics hard to swallow and, on first hearing, impossible to digest. The only one I can ever remember is that, if all the people who go to sleep in church were laid end to end, they would be a lot more comfortable. Thank you.

The Other Side of the Mule

by Randy Cox

From the Editor: Randy and Kristin Cox are active members of the National Federation of the Blind of Utah. The following article first appeared in the fall, 1997, edition of Insight, the publication of the NFB of Utah. This is what Randy says:

I suggest that there are two main steps in solving a problem: 1) correctly perceiving what the problem is; and 2) using the right method to solve it. The first step largely determines the second. Let me illustrate this with an example.

A Zen master is walking through a small town when he comes upon a group of irate people arguing. He asks a person at the center of the fray what the commotion is about. He is told that a mule is in the middle of the street, kicking people as they walk by. The crowd is trying to determine how to get past the mule safely.

The Zen master watches as several strong young men try to walk by the mule holding boards up as a shield only to have the board shattered and their arms hurt by the mule's hooves. He overhears an optimist declare that they just need the right attitude and then observes him walking down the street and being kicked as well. He turns to see a group of intellectuals bringing a chalkboard onto the nearby shop's front porch while they discuss the reasons why the mule may be kicking and the impact of each kick. Many conclude with solemn faces that they will be unable to go down that street anymore.

A tranquil smile crosses the Zen master's face as he rises from his seat and quietly begins walking down the street. Slowly the villagers become aware of the old man and stop their chatter to see what he will do. They watch as the master makes a left turn several yards in front of the mule onto a cross street. They watch until he disappears. As they look around, they suddenly see him reappear from the left but several yards past the mule. As it dawns on the crowd what the man has done, they notice him stop to wave before he continues serenely on his journey.

This story illustrates the two points about problem-solving I mentioned earlier. The villagers perceived the problem to be the mule. Consequently, that is where they focused their attention. Some tried to force their way past the obstacle. Some tried to change their attitude. Some tried to analyze the problem. Some just gave up. But the mule kept kicking.

The Zen master, on the other hand, realized that the problem was not the mule but the route. As a result he focused on finding a path that would get him where he needed to go without meeting the mule. I am reminded of a comment Albert Einstein made once:

"The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them."

What does all this have to do with blindness in general and with the National Federation of the Blind in particular? Let's say that someone has recently become blind. For the sake of this example, we'll call him Johnny. He experiences the usual frustration of not being able to read and do well in his work. He has difficulty getting around town as easily as he used to. Tasks that used to be simple he now perceives to be hard. In other words, he now finds himself with a problem.

Let's go back to the two-step process mentioned earlier. Step one is correctly identifying the problem. If Johnny perceives the problem to be blindness itself, this obviously has a large impact on his approach to step two: applying the right solution. If he thinks blindness is the problem, he may try to continue doing things the way he did before he was blind and force his way along. He may try to ignore the reality of his situation and just work on his attitude. Perhaps he studies the causes of blindness, various degrees of vision, the impact of blindness on those confronted by it, etc. He may just put his life on hold and simply wait for his blindness to be cured. But after all of his effort, Johnny is still blind, still unable to read, and still prevented from traveling effectively.

To continue our example, let's say Johnny meets a member of the NFB whom we will call Sue. What does Sue think Johnny's problem is? For starters, she does not identify blindness as the problem. She recognizes that Johnny's perception that blindness is the problem is actually most of the problem. The remainder is his lack of proper training and opportunity largely resulting from society's misconceptions and ignorance about blindness.

Since Sue sees the problem differently, her approach is different as well. Instead of encouraging Johnny to read print, she teaches him Braille. Instead of watching Johnny get lost and bump into things while working to keep a good attitude, she shows him how to use a long white cane. Instead of allowing Johnny to sit home asking "Why?" she introduces him to people who are saying, "This is how."

In my experience the NFB is the only organization with the correct perception of and approach to blindness. Some may argue that we are wrong, But they argue as they watch blind people wave back to them from the other side of the mule.

Seeing No Limits

by Don Melvin

From the Editor: The following article appeared in the Atlanta Journal and the Atlanta Constitution on Saturday, August 23, 1997. The subject of this story, Amanda Wilson, is a very determined Federationist who has read the Braille Monitor for a number of years and clearly understands the importance of having high expectations. Here is the article about her:

Despite losing her sight and borderline retardation, Amanda Wilson has managed to attain her master's degree.

Don Wilson doesn't remember anyone speaking the words aloud, but he remembers what the tests showed.

His daughter Amanda, though, remembers.

She was ten years old, maybe a little older. Steadily, inexorably, she was losing her sight. And tests conducted at the Georgia Academy for the Blind in Macon showed she was borderline retarded.

She was not college material, she was told. Her best bet was to pursue a career as a vendor or perhaps as a telephone customer service representative.

"I told them I wanted to work with children," she remembers.

"And they said, `You can't do that.'"

Sunday, Amanda Wilson, now twenty-eight and nearly totally blind, will be awarded her master's degree in special education from the State University of West Georgia in Carrollton. With honors.

She plans to work with children—to encourage them, she says, rather than discourage them.

"I want them to hear that, if they apply themselves and get proper training, they can be whatever they want to be," she said.

Wilson has suffered from retinitis pigmentosa, a hereditary, progressive eye disease, and is legally blind. She struggled through grade school and even high school, sometimes bumping into things, sometimes not seeing the blackboard.

This May she returned to the Georgia Academy for the Blind to apply for a job as a teacher. She was asked, she said, whether her Seeing Eye dog, a black Labrador retriever named Sison, would be a distraction in the classroom or whether he had ever shown aggression toward children.

Wilson did not get the job, but she said she does not know the reason.

Her father was incensed.

"I guess I thought that they, of all the people in the world, should be aware of what a Seeing Eye dog is and what it helps a person accomplish," Don Wilson said. "And I was frustrated, amazed, and angry."

Richard Hyer, the director of the academy, said he does not believe such questions were ever asked. He would not comment on the academy's evaluations of Amanda Wilson's potential.

"I don't have any comment," he said. "I'm not going on the record with you at all."

Amanda's anger only fueled her desire to succeed.

She has lived independently in Carrollton, using Sison to guide her.

People read course material to her, her computer speaks, and the university has a scanning machine that reads printed material aloud.

Neither she nor her father ever accepted the evaluations of experts regarding her potential.

"I'm redheaded and hard-willed and stubborn," Don Wilson said. "And we always said we don't really care what the experts say. This is what we're going to do."

He would like to take credit for his daughter's success, but he said he can't.

Fortunately, Amanda plans to return to her parents' home in White, a town in Bartow County northwest of Atlanta, and look for a job working with handicapped children.

"I think I'm a determined person who would like to show disabled people they can be who they want. They can be independent. It doesn't matter what your disability is; you have to be a person first."

Her father, meanwhile, expects to shed tears of pride Sunday when his daughter receives her master's degree.

"I'm more glad than I can live with, almost," he said. "I'm very proud of her."

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ron Gardner]

Now Blind Can Scan the Newspaper

by Cala Byram

From the Editor: As local service centers offering NEWSLINE for the Blind® proliferate around the country, stories like the following are written. This one appeared on October 15, 1997, in the Deseret News, one of the local newspapers available as part of the Utah NEWSLINE® service. Here it is:

Attorney Ron Gardner browsed a local newspaper on his own for the first time in his forty-six years last week. Gardner, blind since birth, picked up his telephone, made a local call, and instantly had access to things those in the sighted world may take for granted: flipping through a newspaper, scanning headlines, and reading stories at will.

The Deseret News and the Salt Lake Tribune are now available, in fully automated form, to the blind. The newspapers are shipped electronically to Baltimore and shipped back minutes later, translated into synthesized speech. The service is still in a testing period and won't be available on a larger scale for about a month. But, for people like Gardner who can access the service during the test run, the opportunity is literally the first in a lifetime.

By pushing the phone's numbers, the computer voice reading the paper can be sped up or slowed down. Gardner can pick a female or male voice. There are a high-pitched voice and a deep, rough voice he could choose but doesn't. And, if he doesn't choose one of the two Utah dailies, he can read the Chicago Tribune, USA Today, and the New York Times. Before NEWSLINE®, local newspapers were accessible to those without sight only over the radio. There's no choice but to listen to whatever is being read, and there is no skipping straight to the latest article on the Jazz or bypassing Dear Abby for the obituaries.

It is a beneficial service. But Gardner, legal director for the Disability Law Center, didn't have the time to sit by a radio waiting for a certain story to be read. "It is indescribable . . to be able to pick up a newspaper," Gardner said. "There is a huge door opened to my world to be able to read a newspaper."

The National Federation of the Blind created NEWSLINE® in 1994. Since then a majority of states have adopted the service, which is available from thirty-five sites nationwide and serves more than 10,000 people, said spokeswoman Pat Maurer. The state's Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired paid to bring NEWSLINE® to Utah last year. The Utah State Library for the Blind put up $14,000 to get the local newspapers on NEWSLINE®. The service is free to those who apply through the state or the Utah Federation of the Blind and live within a local calling area. So far, local numbers are available for people living in Utah, Salt Lake, Davis, and Weber counties. Others will have to pay the long-distance charges to access NEWSLINE®.

Kristen Jocums, president of the Utah Federation of the Blind, is thrilled with the service and the ability to flip through local news daily. "I have been loving it," Jocums, an attorney, said. "It's much more like reading the paper is for a sighted person. You can slow it down, speed it up, and skip forward." NEWSLINE® is also beneficial because people who use the service can access it in any state or city that has the service. "You can pick up a newspaper anywhere," Jocums said. The Utah State Office of Rehabilitation estimates 15,000 to 20,000 Utahns are legally blind. The newspapers are just another way they can be independent, Gardner said.

That kind of independence will be celebrated during White Cane Day today. Governor Mike Leavitt will sign a proclamation Thursday heralding the independence of the blind and visually impaired. White canes are about ¼ inch in diameter and made of aluminum, graphite, or fiberglass. They generally extend to a person's shoulder, a length that allows a blind person to walk at a normal pace with time to react if the cane hits an obstacle. Robert A. Day, a state orientation and mobility specialist, said white canes may be simple and inexpensive, but they give mobility. "They mean a world of freedom," Day said. "They allow people to go to the grocery store, go to work, feed their family. They allow blind people to get along as well as anybody." Dr. Richard Hoover developed the modern white cane during World War II when soldiers came home blind and wanted independence. He began a training program in Hines, Illinois, in 1948.

Gardner has used a white cane for about twenty years. He says white canes and services like NEWSLINE® are all about accessibility and independence. "I've been practicing law for nineteen years and never had the opportunity to read local newspapers," he said. "This is just another large step toward independence."

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Sharon Maneki]

Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award for 1998

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 1998.

The National Federation of the Blind will recognize an outstanding teacher of blind children at our 1998 convention July 4 to 11 in Dallas, Texas. 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

1998 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, 1998, to Sharon Maneki, Chairwoman, Teacher Award Committee, 9736 Basket Ring Road, Columbia, Maryland 21045; telephone: (410) 992-9608.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Steve Benson]

The 1998 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.

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 sum and supporting documentation of community and Federation activity. All nomination materials must be in the hands of the committee chairman by May 15, 1998, to be considered for this year's award.

Recipes

This month's recipes are provided by members of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC). This NFB division publishes a quarterly magazine called Future Reflections. Families with blind children and professionals who work with blind children and students and who embrace the NFB's positive philosophy about the abilities of and possibilities for blind youth belong to this nationwide organization and the many state and local groups that comprise it.

Santa's Whiskers

by Yvette Woods

Tom and Yvette Woods are the parents of Jessica, six, who is blind, and Katie, two. Tom is the active President of the New Mexico parent division.

Ingredients:

1 cup butter or margarine

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup finely chopped red or green candied cherries

½ cup finely chopped pecans

1 cup flaked coconut

Method: In a large mixing bowl beat butter or margarine till softened. Add sugar and beat till fluffy. Add milk and vanilla and beat well. Add flour and beat till well mixed. Stir in cherries and pecans. Shape into three 7-inch rolls. Roll in coconut to coat. Wrap in waxed paper and chill for several hours or overnight. Cut into ¼-inch slices. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in a 375-degree oven about twelve minutes or till done. Remove and cool. Makes about eighty cookies.

[PHOTO: A woman sits with a little girl in her lap and a boy standing beside her. CAPTION: Debbie Day sits with daughter Brianna on her lap and son Tim beside her.]

Chicken and White Bean Stew

by Debbie Day

Debbie Day and her family, including son Tim, live in Washington State. She chairs the Home-Schoolers Network in NOPBC. Debbie says that the following recipe is a one-dish chicken stew that makes its own gravy.

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 chicken thighs or enough chicken to feed four 4 small red-skinned potatoes (about 1 pound)

3 cloves garlic

1 14-16-ounce can chicken broth

2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon salt

approximately 2 pounds canned white beans

Method: Pour olive oil into a Dutch oven. Set on medium-high heat and add chicken thighs, skin side down. While they brown, cut the potatoes into 1-inch chunks and add to the pan. Peel and mince garlic and add to pan. When chicken is a deep brown, turn it over and add chicken broth, paprika, cumin, chili powder, and salt. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered thirty minutes, stirring occasionally to keep potatoes submerged in juices. Drain white beans and add them to mix. Simmer five minutes more. Serve in wide bowls. Makes four large servings. Serve with slices of French bread for dunking and carrot sticks for crunching.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Jude Lincicome hands a glass of punch to a child at the Braille Readers Are Leaders party in the dining room at the National Center for the Blind.]

Green Tomato Pie Filling

by Jude Lincicome

Jude Lincicome is Second Vice President of the Maryland Organization of Parents of Blind Children. Jude has several adopted children with disabilities. Jeremy is blind. The two recipes she submitted were childhood favorites prepared by her mother. She says, "Having grown up enjoying these dishes, I can personally guarantee that both the pie and pudding are unbelievably delicious."

Ingredients:

3 cups green tomatoes

1 ½ cup brown sugar

½ cup white sugar

1 or 2 thinly sliced lemons

½ cup raisins

1 teaspoon finely crushed cinnamon sticks

1 teaspoon powdered cinnamon

2 teaspoons flour

¼ teaspoon salt

Method: Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. (A rolling pin works well for crushing cinnamon sticks.)

Use your favorite pastry recipe or the Bisquick recipe. This is a two-crust pie. Roll pastry 1/8-inch thick. Fit bottom crust into 9-inch pie pan. Sprinkle a tablespoon of flour on the bottom crust to absorb juice in baking. Spoon filling into shell. Dot filling with about half a stick of butter and cover with top crust. Seal edges and pinch one vent hole in center of top crust and five holes peripherally around the edge. Bake ten minutes at 400 degrees; reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for thirty-five to forty minutes more.

Persimmon Pudding

by Jude Lincicome

Use native persimmons, not the store Orientals. Gather one to one and a half gallons of persimmons only after a good frost, and test one or two by taste before using. (You will know why if they are not ripe.) This is an old American Indian recipe. Wash persimmons and squeeze out the seeds. One cup of persimmon pulp makes two puddings.

Ingredients:

1 cup flour

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup nuts, preferably black walnuts

½ cup sugar

½ teaspoon soda

½ cup raisins

1 cup seeded persimmon pulp

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Method: Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Grease two one-pound coffee tins (or equivalent vessels) and fill each half to two thirds full of mix. Bake at 325 degrees for one hour (and lick your chops). This is wonderful served warm with your favorite cold hard sauce as a topper.

Chicken Mozzarella

by Danielle Becker

Danielle and Dan Becker have been active members of the Maryland parents division for six years. Their daughter Rachel is blind. Danielle has recently chaired the fund-raising effort in her state division and was just elected First Vice President of the Maryland Organization of Parents of Blind Children. The following two recipes are family favorites.

Ingredients:

boneless chicken breasts

jar of spaghetti sauce

sliced mozzarella cheese

Method: Brown chicken breasts in a small amount of oil in a pan until the chicken is cooked through. Spread some sauce in the bottom of the baking pan. Then place chicken in pan. Cover the chicken with more sauce, then arrange the slices of cheese on top of the chicken. Place the baking pan in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes or until the cheese melts and the sauce is bubbly. Serve with noodles or spaghetti and the remaining sauce. We enjoy garlic bread with this meal.

Banana Bread

by Danielle Becker

Ingredients:

½ cup sugar

½ cup butter

3 bananas—mashed

2 eggs

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

2 cups flour

cinnamon and ground cloves to taste, optional

Method: In mixing bowl, using electric mixer, combine all ingredients in the order listed. Pour batter into a greased and floured loaf pan and bake in a 300-degree oven for one hour to one hour and 15 minutes. A toothpick inserted in center should test clean. Allow loaf to cool a little in pan before removing to cool completely on a rack.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: TJ Dixon and his stepson Brian Watts.]

Tingly Candy

by Cathy and TJ Dixon

Cathy Watts Dixon is a past member of the NOPBC Board of Directors, and TJ is President of the Missouri parents division. Cathy's son Brian took part in the panel discussion, "Fun, Friends, and Fitting in," which appears in the introductory issue of Future Reflections. These two recipes are great projects for kids, blind or otherwise, to make.

Ingredients

6 ounces butterscotch chips

6 ounces chocolate chips

4 cups crisp rice cereal

Method: In a 1-quart bowl microwave chips at fifty percent power for four to six minutes, stirring after three minutes. Add cereal, stirring well. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper. Chill in refrigerator until cool. Store covered.

Peppermint Bark

by Cathy and TJ Dixon

Ingredients:

1 pound almond bark

7 ounces peppermint candy

Method: Break bark into pieces and place in 3-quart bowl. Microwave at fifty percent for five to six minutes, until pieces are soft. Stir after three minutes. While bark is melting, process candy in food processor until it is a fine powder. Add candy to melted bark and stir well. Spread on waxed paper 1/8- to ¼-inch thick. Cool in refrigerator until hard. Break into pieces. Store covered.

Seven-Flavor Pound Cake

by Loretta White

Loretta White is a long-time leader of the parents division in Maryland. This year she is serving as the organization's treasurer. Monitor readers are familiar with the Whites' ongoing struggles to get their daughter Niki the education she deserves in her local school district.

Ingredients:

2 sticks margarine or butter

6 eggs

3 cups cake flour

3 cups sugar

1 cup sour cream

¼ teaspoon baking soda

1 ½ teaspoon rum flavoring

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon coconut flavoring

½ teaspoon lemon extract

½ teaspoon orange extract

½ teaspoon pineapple extract

½ teaspoon brandy flavoring

Note: the last five flavors can be any that you like; however, these are the five I recommend.

Method: Stir soda into sour cream. Set aside. Separate the eggs and set aside yolks. Beat egg whites until stiff. Set aside. Cream butter and sugar together. Add the egg yolks to the butter and sugar mixture, blend well. Add a couple of spoons of cake flour to the mixture and blend. Add the seven flavorings and blend. Alternate adding the cake flour and sour cream mixture, blending after each addition. Finally, fold in the beaten egg whites. The cake rises very high, so use an angel food cake pan or a bundt pan. Bake at 300 degrees for one hour and fifteen minutes. Let stand for ten minutes before removing from pan to cool completely on rack.

Monitor Miniatures

Spanish Language NFB Publications Available:

The National Federation of the Blind's Materials Center now carries several publications and articles in Spanish on 2-track cassette. Available are "Blindness: Handicap or Characteristic";

"A Definition of Blindness"; "Blindness: A Left-Handed Dissertation"; What Color Is the Sun?; The Freedom Bell; combination cassette of "Blindness: Handicap or Characteristic" and "Blindness: A Left-Handed Dissertation"; the 1997 NFB Banquet Address, "The Day After Civil Rights"; and the 1990 NFB Banquet Address, "The Federation At Fifty." As with all Kernel Books, there is a minor charge—the Spanish versions on 2-track cassette cost $5 each. To order any or all of the cassettes, contact the Materials Center, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, or call (410) 659-9314, Monday through Friday between the hours of 12:30 and 5:00 p.m. EST.

For Sale:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

I have the following items for sale:

PCMCIA Keynote Gold voice card, $850; German Braille writer, $100; Index Basic D interpoint Braille printer (under warranty until April, 1998), $3,000. All prices negotiable; make an offer. Contact Sharon Klug, 4951 Collett Little Road, Lot 59, Fort Worth, Texas 76119, (817) 561-4616.

New Chapters:

Allen Harris, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan, reports that two new chapters were organized in the state during the fall. On September 20, 1997, a group gathered to create the Kalamazoo Chapter. John Czrneki is its President. On October 4 the Western Michigan Chapter of the NFB of Michigan was organized. The President is Darren Warren. Congratulations to both these new chapters and to the Michigan affiliate.

For Sale:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

I have a Braille 'n Speak 640 and the disk drive that goes with it, both with carrying cases. They are in excellent condition. I also have the cables and manuals for both. Asking $800 for everything. Please contact Mrs. Lillian Scott at (410) 298-4527 or (410) 298-2302.

Silk Flower Arrangements:

John TeBockhorst, who with his brother Tom is an active Federationist, has asked us to carry the following announcement:

For an alternative to fresh flowers, try silk flower arrangements for all occasions. A new company, Send Our Silks (SOS), offers eleven products in its catalogue, ranging in price from $15 to $40 including shipping and handling. SOS ships anywhere, using United Parcel Service. Call toll free (888) SOS-7760, fax (319) 322-3299, or Web site: http://www.sosendoursilks.com Credit card orders, checks, or money orders are acceptable.

Piano Tuning Training:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Piano tuning and related technologies have been viable vocations for blind men for over 150 years. In the last twenty-five years both men and women—most of them sighted—have been flocking to the profession. Now visually impaired men and women can learn the art and craft of piano technology at the Emil Fries Institute of Piano Tuning and Technology.

If you would like to learn more about this business opportunity and how you can receive the training necessary to start your own piano-tuning and service business, please contact the Emil Fries Institute of Piano Tuning & Technology, 2510 E. Evergreen Boulevard, Vancouver, Washington 98661, phone (360)

693-1511, Fax (360) 693-6891, e-mail dsmitch@pacifier.com

Fellowship Available in Rehabilitation Research:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

The Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision at Mississippi State University (MSU) offers the Anne Sullivan Macy fellowship for a doctoral student interested in pursuing a career in rehabilitation research in the area of blindness or low vision. The amount of the fellowship is $700 per month plus tuition beginning in August, 1998. All applicants must be accepted into the doctoral program in the Department of Counselor Education and Educational Psychology at MSU. The deadline for applying to the Graduate School is March 1, 1998. Send all inquiries to J. Elton Moore, Director, Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision, P.O. Drawer 6189, Mississippi State, MS 39762, (601) 325-2001, fax (601) 325-8989, TDD: (601) 325-8693, or e-mail: jemoore@ra.msstate.edu

Tutorials Available:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Introducing a new service providing specially designed cassette tutorials on using computer software. A few are also available in large print, in Braille, and on computer disk. Subjects covered include DOS, Windows® 3.1, Windows 95®, most phases of the Internet, Microsoft Word®, WordPerfect®, Telecommunication programs, and a seminar on running your own home business. Free shipping and handling are offered as a special introduction. Contact John Harden, Hear and Know, 1741 Decree Avenue, West Columbia, South Carolina 29169, or call (803) 796-4887 or e-mail to jharden@gte.net

Computer Baseball Game:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Version 12 of the World Series Baseball game and Information System is now available. Played on IBM-compatible computers with screen readers and synthesizers, Version 12 comes with 139 teams, including the 1997 pennant winners and all-star teams. There are two baseball games and ten information programs. The cost is still $15 to new users, $5 for updates. Send checks to Harry Hollingsworth, 692 S. Sheraton Drive, Akron, Ohio 44319 or call (330) 644-2421.

PHOTO/CAPTION: $50 bill]

Redesigned U.S. Currency:

Based on recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. Government is redesigning U.S. currency to make it easier to read and to reduce the chances of counterfeiting. The new $50 bill was issued in October, 1997; the $20 note is scheduled for release in 1998. The Series 1996 $50 bill, and all redesigned currency to follow, will be notably different from any other previously issued by the U.S. Treasury.

These notes will incorporate a new feature—a large, dark numeral on a light background—making it easier to identify. The low-vision feature will become standard in the design of future denominations of U.S. currency and will not result in any devaluation or recall.

Special Offer:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

The holidays have arrived, and so has the Reading Technology difference. From now until the end of January, 1998, receive a free HP 5P scanner or WindowEyes screen-reading software with the purchase of a fully loaded Arkenclone system, including at least an Arkenclone computer, Double Talk or DECtalk hardware synthesizer, and Open Book 3.5 OCR software. This offer must accompany your order. Orders must be prepaid, no post office boxes please. Call (619) 685-7323 or (619) 685-READ.

Accessible Science Fiction Publications Available:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Ed Meskys, longtime Federation leader in New Hampshire, points out that another Federation was founded in 1940--the National Fantasy Fan Federation (N3F). This is a correspondence and service organization for SF and fantasy fans, which is making a major effort to make its services accessible to blind members. Its principal publications (the National Fantasy Fan and Tightbeam) are available on cassette and computer disk respectively, and most bureau heads will make their services available in accessible format. Their blind services bureau will circulate magazines about SF fanzines and SF books not otherwise available to blind members. Give the organization a try by sending $18 (one year's dues) to William Center, 1920 Division Street, Murphyboro, Illinois 62966-2320. Make checks payable to Mr. Center. The N3F has about 500 members and engages in many interesting projects.

Alexander Scourby Reading Available on the Internet:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Alexander Scourby was the first to record the Bible back in the forties. Now this legendary recording is available on the Internet, along with a large-print edition of the King James translation of the Bible. This recording is also available as commercial software. The Internet address is http://www.audio-bible.com

Braille Transcription Available:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Ferguson Industries, a division of the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, is now producing Braille. We will Braille documents in standard English for $.60 a sheet of double-sided copy on computer-sized Braille paper. There is a setup fee, and binding is extra. For further information contact Ferguson Industries at (617) 727-9840, or call their consultant, Rich Wood, at (508) 668-5412.

Happy Ending:

In the July, 1997, issue of the Braille Monitor we reported on the struggle Loretta and Joe White have had getting the instructional services their daughter Niki was entitled to. They eventually filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights, Department of Education, which brought the school district to heel pretty quickly as measured in bureaucratic time. The National Federation of the Blind supported the Whites every step of the way. Here is the letter Loretta White wrote to President Maurer on September 20:

Dear Mr. Maurer,

At long last we have reached a settlement with Anne Arundel County for the compensatory education owed to our daughter Niki. And finally the county has paid up in the amount of $12,500. Please accept our heartfelt thanks for your help. Without the help of the National Federation of the Blind, we would never have been able to receive compensation for the education services the county failed to provide over the course of three years.

Since there is no gag order, I hope the Federation will be able to use our experience to help other families in similar circumstances.

Again, please accept our thanks.

Sincerely,

Loretta and Joseph White

 

NFB Pledge

I pledge to participate actively in the effort of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.

In Our Prayers:

President Maurer reports that as the Braille Monitor was being completed Dr. Jernigan was admitted to the hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. He had spent some time in the hospital in Paris, France, where he underwent treatment for a blood clot in the leg. Doctors have now discovered a tumor in his lung, which must be removed.

Although surgery is always difficult, when I last spoke with Dr. Jernigan, he was in good spirits. The surgery will take place shortly.

We will keep Dr. Jernigan in our prayers, and we will wish him a complete and speedy recovery.