The Braille Monitor
40, No. 8
Barbara Pierce, Editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille,
on cassette and
the World Wide Web and FTP on the Internet
The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, President
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
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National Federation of the Blind
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Baltimore, Maryland 21230
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION
OF THE BLIND IS
NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 40, No.
by Barbara Pierce
by Marc Maurer
The Scholarship Class of 1997
Awards for 1997
The Day After Civil Rights
by Kenneth Jernigan
Services for the Consumers: The Challenge
of Rehabilitation Today and in the Decades to Come
by Frederick K. Schroeder, Ph.D.
Partnership: Working in Cooperation with
by Mae Nelson
Resolutions Adopted by the Annual Convention
National Federation of the Blind, July, 1997
The Constitution of the National Federation
of the Blind
by Gerald Moreno
Copyright 1997, The National Federation of the Blind
The largest convention in Federation history brought thousands together for the July banquet. To show the entire ballroom, the photographer took three wide-angle pictures. We have put them together here in an effort to capture a bit of the excitement of the evening. Not shown are the overflow tables in the lobby outside the doors.
Katey Wintz of Louisiana Explores
the wolf exhibit at Sensory Safari.
Two young dancers enjoy the Mardi Gras Ball
The National Association of Blind Students always
attracts a crowd to its seminar. This is the registration area shortly
before the meeting actually begins.
1997 Convention Roundup
by Barbara Pierce
Like so much else in life, conventions of the National Federation of the Blind have established a distinct rhythm. Over several years attendance grows to a high point and then slides back a bit to gather again and reach an even more significant mark. The 1997 convention at the Hyatt Regency, New Orleans, established an attendance record that will probably stand for a number of years. Sixteen people gathered to bring the National Federation of the Blind into being in 1940. The 1,000 barrier was not broken until 1971 at the Houston convention. The 2,000 mark was passed in Chicago in 1988, and the 3,000 mark was passed this year for the first time. Our previous attendance record of 2760 was set at the 1991 convention. But this year we broke every record, closing with a registration figure of 3,346.
New Orleans is a marvelous city in which to hold a convention. We had 1,100 rooms at the Hyatt and another 500 at the Radisson. The overflow crowd was divided among a half dozen other hotels. A shuttle circled between the main hotels all day and most of the night, and people using white canes or guide dogs could be seen all over the city during the last several days of June and the first week of July.
PHOTO description: Three women stand in the hotel lobby. Two are holding canes, and all three have dozens of strands of Mardi Gras beads looped around their arms and hands. CAPTION: Linda Dubois (left), Karlene Dubois (middle), and Julie Russell (right) greet arriving Federationists with Mardi Gras beads.
New Orleans is ready for a party no matter the time of day or year, and the Louisiana affiliate underscored this theme by greeting Federationists with strands of Mardi Gras beads whose jingle provided a festive undercurrent to all activity. Despite the heat and humidity, the streets of the French Quarter were filled with tap-dancers, street bands, and solo musicians. And conversations between Federationists all week long were likely to begin or end with restaurant recommendations and descriptions of adventures in the French Quarter.
There was plenty of good food to be found right in the Hyatt. The food court offered everything from beignets at Cafe du Monde to Chinese and Italian fare. On the thirty-second floor of the Hyatt was a revolving restaurant with excellent food and a chocoholic bar that proved the downfall of many a chocolate-loving Federationist. On the closing day of the convention a waitress told a group of us that the pastry chef had worked harder during this convention than she could ever remember.
By Friday, June 27, lines were beginning to form at the Hyatt check-in desk, and the liveliest area of the lobby was the Louisiana information desk. Several tours took place on Saturday, and Federationists began pouring into New Orleans in earnest. By Sunday it was clear that attendance records were going to be set this year. Child-care registration was jammed, and more than 200 educators and family members registered for the parents seminar.
Each year the activities for Federation families become more exciting and creative. The parents seminar, titled "An Education for a Full Life," began at 9:00 a.m. Sunday and kept its audience riveted until shortly after noon. The afternoon was filled with seven different workshops for parents and educators. Though the adults clearly enjoyed their activities, the real exuberance was reserved for the young people. The children first went to lunch in the food court and then toured the Children's Museum a few blocks from the hotel. Sixty children with their blind and sighted chaperons made the most of opportunities to examine the displays while a television news crew recorded the adventure and interviewed the leader about what was going on.
A teen-ager sits cross-legged on the floor with a
Red Cross infant doll held in a standing position in front of her.
CAPTION: Ellen Nichols of Maryland works with a Red Cross doll.
Meantime, twenty-three teens had enrolled in a daylong Red Cross babysitting course, which provided a handy reservoir of trained sitters for parents planning an evening out during the convention, and twenty of the teens volunteered enough time in NFB Camp the rest of the week to receive certificates and to allow Carla McQuillan, Camp director, to let go two workers hired locally. The course did a great deal to build self-confidence in the fifteen blind teens who took part, and it helped to forge friendships among all the kids who shared the experience. Equally exciting, Carla reports that the Red Cross staff began with the usual peculiar notions about what they would have to do to cover the course material for this group of students, but as the day progressed, they quickly recognized that, with the Brailled information (provided by the NFB) and a willingness to use words instead of gestures, this group of teens was pretty much like any other they have trained.
PHOTO: An elementary-school-age girl sprawls in a huge collection of balls. CAPTION: While convention delegates deliberate NFB policy in the Hyatt Regency ballroom, the children in NFB Camp can enjoy their own ball room. Alicia White of Maryland makes maximum use of the balls in NFB Camp.
More than a hundred children registered at NFB Camp during the week. The American Printing House for the Blind field-tested its Braille and print version of BrainQuest in Camp for the week, and it proved to be very popular. Blind adults dropped in to perform for the kids--one of the most popular was Daniel Lamonds, President of the Darlington Chapter of the NFB of South Carolina. In short, Carla McQuillan and her staff deserve grateful recognition from us all. During busy times each day NFB Camp averaged seventy-five to eighty children, and fifteen infants were registered. Many families can come to convention because we conduct this wonderful program, and convention sessions are far less chaotic with our children happily making new friends and playing with new toys in a safe and well supervised area.
Sunday evening was filled with activities for families. Chyvonne Blanchard, a graduate of the Louisiana Center for the Blind, conducted a boisterous dance workshop for teens in which the group learned to do line dancing and the Macarena. Later families gathered for informal hospitality with food and fun for everyone, topped off with a talent show by the children. Mildred Rivera organized an evening of teen activities, including a treasure hunt designed to help kids learn about the hotel and get to know other teens in New Orleans for the week. Judging from the laughter and general noise emanating from the room, the event was a great success.
As always, the Job Opportunities for the Blind (JOB) annual seminar was filled with interesting and useful information about job-hunting and successful work strategies. Employers came with job announcements, and would-be employees brought their resumes. Already several happy employment matches have been made. But the seminar was only the first round in the week's JOB activities. Twenty-two special-interest breakfasts took place throughout the week. One interesting new employment program was the seminar, "A New Job in a New Place." It was conducted by the travel instructors at BLIND, Inc., who led a group discussion of useful techniques for gathering necessary information about getting started in a new city. Those who attended the seminar reported that it was very useful.
An increasing number of groups are choosing to conduct meetings the day preceding convention registration. Besides the activities already mentioned, meetings included ham radio operators, merchants, guide dog users, secretaries and transcribers, professional journalists, deaf-blind people, Canadians, and several committees. In addition, seminars on NFBNet, using the Internet, raising funds for Newsline for the Blind, the Braille 'n Speak, and the Myna computer took place during the relative calm of pre-convention activity. The crowning activity of this day full of bustle and business was a delightful evening of Cajun dancing with the Louisiana Fourchen Cajun Band and the Cajun French Music Association Dancers, who taught people the steps.
Monday dawned to the excitement of the opening of the largest NFB convention in history. Convention registration was scheduled to open at 10:00 a.m., but lines began forming by 9:00 in expectation that the crew would be ready early. As usual, they were, and the crowds in carnival mood began streaming through the registration area and on to the French Market Exhibit Hall just around the corner shortly after 9:00 a.m.
PHOTO description: A man dressed in full beekeeper's regalia sits behind an exhibit table filled with bottles and bags of products. CAPTION: Ehab Yamini offers bee pollen, honey, and other products for sale in the convention exhibit area.
The exhibit area was filled with displays by sixty-six outside exhibitors and twenty-three NFB affiliates, divisions, and chapters, as well as the NFB store, where literature, canes, and aids and appliances could be examined and ordered. Throughout the week crowds surged through the hall whenever it was open.
PHOTO: Bruce Gardner kneels on one knee in the foreground. He holds his cane in his right hand and listens to the three children in front of him. Two of the youngsters hold white canes, and one of them is speaking earnestly to Bruce. CAPTION: Bruce Gardner (left) gives a cane travel lesson to Robby and Lindsey McHugh (middle) from Arizona and Nicolas Stockton (right) from West Virginia.
Monday morning two hour-long cane walks for blind children and youth and their parents took place in the hotel. During these sessions experienced instructors and blind adults helped kids and parents through their first introduction to cane travel. Anyone walking down the hall where the tiny travelers were working was fair game for exploration, and when canes got crossed, a blind adult could find herself a temporary member of the teaching crew. It was stirring to observe thirty children--the number in the group I met--beginning their personal venture into independence in such a positive and determined company.
PHOTO/CAPTION: Cheryl Pickering, secretary of the Resolutions Committee, confers with Director of Governmental Affairs James Gashel during the Resolutions Committee meeting.
By the time the Resolutions Committee met Monday afternoon, the previous first-day registration record of 2,133 had been broken, and, by the time the committee adjourned, 2,363 people had registered. The Resolutions committee considered eighteen resolutions this year. The texts of the ones adopted by the convention appear elsewhere in this issue.
Linhart of Washington state
meets a bear at the Sensory Safari exhibit.
In addition to the Resolutions Committee meeting, at least ten other seminars and meetings, not to mention demonstrations, displays, and receptions, took place Monday afternoon and evening, and another twenty occurred Tuesday afternoon and evening.
PHOTO description: A woman wearing a long dress and bib apron sits reading the Bible to a child. CAPTION: In the play, Growing Up In Tennessee, the young Kenneth Jernigan, played by Allen Sale, sits listening to Cousin Juanita, played by Angela Sasser, reading the Bible aloud.
One of the highlights was Growing up in Tennessee, an original play by Jerry Whittle, presented by the Louisiana Center for the Blind Players. As its title suggests, it was the story of Dr. Jernigan's formative years, and several children were part of the blind cast.
PHOTO: In the foreground of this photograph is the audience at the Board meeting. They face away from the camera, looking at the U-shaped board table on the platform, where the members of the Board of Directors are seated. CAPTION: Each year the Board of Directors conducts a public meeting on the day following the opening of convention registration. Hundreds of Federationists gather to observe.
As always, the first general session of the actual convention was the public meeting of the Board of Directors beginning at 9:00 a.m. Tuesday, July 1. President Maurer presided, and though over a thousand Federationists were in the audience, microphones were limited to members of the Board, who were seated at a table on the dais. The meeting began with a moment of silence in memory of those members of the Federation family who were no longer with us. This included David Walker, who had died the night before in Jefferson City, Missouri. David and Betty Walker were married immediately following the noon recess of the convention session on Wednesday, July 7, 1982.
Following a number of announcements, President Maurer saluted the United Parcel Service for its financial support of Federation programs and for its ongoing relationship with the organized blind movement. A number of affiliates then made presentations and received the thanks of the organization. President Maurer acknowledged the NFB of California, which presented a gift resulting from a bequest earlier this year. The amount of the contribution was $259,234.20. Jim Willows, President of the California affiliate, was prepared to make this announcement, but a few moments before he was scheduled to do so, he fell and damaged his knee, requiring his use of a wheelchair for the remainder of the convention. Nani Fife, President of the NFB of Hawaii, then announced that Hawaii was delighted to present $159,985.70 from a bequest. Peggy Elliott, President of the NFB of Iowa, announced that before his death Ron Johnson bought an insurance policy with the National Federation of the Blind as beneficiary. A check for more than $60,000 has now been contributed to the organization through the efforts and dedication of Ron Johnson. Checks representing half of bequests to the Wisconsin affiliate ($8,338) and from the Oregon affiliate ($2,000) have also recently been sent to the National Office. Carla McQuillan, NFB of Oregon President, then presented another check for $8,760 to President Maurer. Carla announced that this gift came from a trust from which the affiliate regularly receives funds and that the Oregon board has decided to pass the funds on to the national organization quarterly so that they can be used immediately rather than comprising sizeable annual gifts.
Steve Benson, who chairs the Blind Educator of the Year Selection Committee, then presented that award to Dr. Adrienne Asch, a member of the faculty of Wellesley College. Sharon Maneki, Chairwoman of the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Committee, presented that award to Deborah Prost, an active member of the Tidewater Chapter of the NFB of Virginia. The complete text of both these presentations appears elsewhere in this issue.
Next Peggy Elliott, Chairman of the Scholarship Committee, presented the twenty-six members of the scholarship class of 1997. The full report of this year's scholarship program appears elsewhere in this issue. The Board voted to conduct a similar scholarship program in the coming year. The Board also voted to establish a new division of the National Federation of the Blind. It is the National Association of the Blind in Communities of Faith, and the President is the Rev. Robert Parrish.
The Board meeting concluded with various reports about funding the movement. Bonnie Peterson, Chairwoman of the Shares Unlimited in the National Federation of the Blind (SUN) Program, invited people and groups to make contributions in multiples of $10 to be set aside and used only when necessary to assist in carrying out Federation activities. Michael Baillif, who chairs the Planned Giving Committee, urged people to find creative ways to benefit the NFB with bequests and other such gifts. Noel Nightingale, Chairperson of the Pre-Authorized Check (PAC) Plan Committee, reviewed the current state rankings and urged states to move up during the convention. President Maurer then announced the standings in the Associates Program. Those recruited to become Members-at-large (Associates) not only make contributions to the NFB but also become full-fledged members of the organization. The top ten recruiters this year by number of Associates and by dollar amount are as follows:
Top Ten in Number of Associates Recruited
10. John Blake (New Mexico), 53
9. Janet Caron (Florida), 54
8. Cindy Handel (Pennsylvania), 55
7. John Stroot (Indiana), 67
6. Laura Biro (Michigan), 75
5. Vanessa Gleese (Mississippi), 75
4. Karen Mayry (South Dakota), 84
3. Carlos Servan (New Mexico), 120
2. Arthur Schreiber (New Mexico), 129
1. Tom Stevens (Missouri), 173
Top Ten in Dollar Amount Raised
10. Arthur Schreiber (New Mexico), $1,300
9. John Blake (New Mexico), $1,321
8. Joe Ruffalo (New Jersey), $1,325
7. Carlos Servan (New Mexico), $1,697
6. Jim Salas (New Mexico), $1,775
5. Tom Stevens (Missouri), $1,956
4. Karen Mayry (South Dakota), $2,583
3. Duane Gerstenberger (Washington), $3,195
2. Mary Ellen Jernigan (Maryland), $4,670
1. Kenneth Jernigan (Maryland), $17,370
PHOTO/CAPTION: (left to right) Joyce Scanlan, First Vice President; Julie Bieselin, President Maurer's Secretary; Marc Maurer; and Kenneth Jernigan sit at the table during the meeting of the Board of Directors.
After some discussion of the importance of the Associates Program and a vote by the Board of Directors to conduct an Associates contest in the coming year, President Maurer adjourned the meeting.
By the time delegates began gathering in the third floor ballroom for the opening session of the convention on Wednesday morning, hotel staff had crammed just about every chair into the space that the fire marshal would allow. The state banners were in place, and the NFB flag and the flags of the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom were displayed on the platform. By 9:00 a.m. the crowds began to gather. Chapters selling various items peddled their wares enthusiastically; marshals directed traffic to the best doors for finding particular state delegations; and people fought their way through the mob to exchange banquet tickets, register for the convention, and check registration figures. As the crowd inside the hall grew, state chants began to echo back from the walls. By the time the gavel fell at 9:45, there was standing room only in many parts of the room, and the crowd was wild with excitement.
PHOTO/CAPTION: The Preservation Hall Band marched into the opening day convention session and took the Federation by storm.
PHOTO: Dr. Jernigan and Priscilla Hudson dance in the classic ballroom position on the platform. The flags are visible behind them. CAPTION: Dr. Jernigan and Priscilla Hudson get into the Mardi Gras spirit when the Dixieland band starts to play.
Following the invocation, President Maurer introduced Joanne Wilson, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana, to greet the delegates. Her welcome was pure New Orleans--a Dixieland band playing a medley including "When the Saints Go Marchin' in." Members of the Louisiana delegation followed the band throwing beads and urging folks to dance. Dr. Jernigan was among those who joined in.
When order was more or less restored, Dr. Jernigan, who makes convention arrangements, announced that at 1:45 p.m. on Tuesday, July 1, person number 3,000 had registered for the convention. By Wednesday morning the count was pushing 3,200. State presidents were invited to sign a telegram to Mrs. tenBroek, who at eighty-five had not felt equal to facing the heat and humidity of New Orleans in July and was not present at the convention. It was not quite the first one she has missed, but everyone was deeply sorry that she was absent and joined in the hope that she would be with us again in 1998.
The remainder of the morning was devoted to the roll call of states. Several interesting announcements were made in addition to the information required from each delegate. Diane McGeorge announced that Homer Page, director of the Colorado Center for the Blind and First Vice President of the NFB of Colorado, had decided the week before to stand as a candidate for Congress from Colorado's Second District. Massachusetts and New Hampshire both announced that Braille bills were now law in their states. A number of states boasted their state agency director as part of the delegation. And Kristen Jocums, President of the NFB of Utah, told the convention that she had just learned Ron Gardner and Jan Hunsaker were to be married July 10 in Manti, Utah.
Following a short address by Isabelle Ewell, representing the National Federation of the Blind of the United Kingdom, the morning ended with adoption of Resolution 97-03, urging the Walt Disney Company not to resurrect Mr. Magoo in a live-action film to be released at Christmas. Delegate support for the resolution was overwhelming, and a media frenzy, set off by news of the NFB action, exploded at the moment of passage and took weeks to subside. Wire services, CNN and CBS television, radio stations across the country, and news organizations around the world wanted comments and often interviews. Those whose lives had been made miserable as children by taunts of "Magoo" spoke passionately of their hope that today's blind children might avoid such misunderstanding and ignorance about the abilities of those who do not see clearly what is around them. At every opportunity they articulated their conviction that entrenched employment and literacy problems for blind people today have their origin partly in the familiar stereotypes embodied in Mr. Magoo.
The afternoon session began as usual with Mr. Maurer's Presidential Report, which appears in full elsewhere in this issue. At the close of the report President Maurer restated the covenant that binds the National Federation of the Blind together.
You have elected me to serve as President of this organization, and I believe that I understand the responsibility you have given me. I do the best I can to meet that responsibility. But we in the Federation have something else--something that makes us more than an organization, more than a gathering of individuals--something that makes us a movement. It is the bond of understanding, of commitment, and of mutual support from me as President to you the members, and from you to me. As long as I am President, I will do the best I can to lead this movement with firmness and determination. I will be prepared to give whatever time is necessary, whatever effort is demanded, whatever resources are at my command. I will stand in the front lines and take the criticism, and I will not count the cost, or hedge, or equivocate. This is what you have asked of me, and this is what you have a right to expect.
And what will be expected of you? You must be prepared to give all that you can in support of our Federation, our leaders, and each other--not only with your minds but also with your hearts. I will ask you to contribute your time, your money, your imagination, and your effort. The National Federation of the Blind demands of all of us the very best that we have to offer, and it is too important to be incidental or part-time. The spirit of the Federation is as strong today as it has ever been, and our bond of mutual commitment is the unbreakable element that makes us the unstoppable movement that we are.
When the problems come, as surely they will, you must be prepared to remain steadfast and not waver; and you must give of your resources, of your willingness to work, and of the spirit that is in you. I must and will do no less than I ask of you. And because of this bond which holds us together, this mutual understanding that makes our movement what it is and us what we are, there can be no doubt of our continuing success. We have done much, but there is still much that urgently needs to be done. Can you doubt that we are equal to the task? The spirit here present in this room gives answer to the question. These are the commitments we make to each other, and this is my report.
When the ovation that followed the Presidential Report had died down, Kenneth Rosenthal, President of the Seeing Eye, came to the platform to speak briefly to convention delegates. He indicated his pleasure in the increasing warmth of the relationship between our two organizations. He, President Maurer, and Dr. Jernigan all agreed that our shared commitment is to enable blind people to become more independent.
The Honorable David Tatel, Judge, United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, delivered an address titled: "The Blind in the Judicial System." After thanking the National Federation of the Blind for having developed Newsline, which he uses to read the New York Times every day, he went on to recommend the federal government as an excellent employer for blind people because it provides accommodations without questioning the need or its obligation to do so. He then described some of the work he has done as a judge in the court which many consider to be just one step below the Supreme Court.
Next Joseph Schneider, Vice President of Human Resources for United Parcel Service, spoke on "Partnership between Business and the Blind." Mr. Schneider celebrated the growing relationship between the NFB and UPS. The two organizations share attitudes about getting things done and empowering individuals to do their best.
"The Voice of the Blind Is Heard in Congress," was the title of remarks by Dr. John Cooksey, Member of Congress from the Fifth District of Louisiana. Dr. Cooksey is an ophthalmologist who was elected to Congress last November. He is a co-sponsor of H.R. 612, the bill to reestablish linkage between Social Security stipends of retirees under the age of seventy and blind Social Security Disability Insurance recipients. He urged Federationists to make our case to Congress whenever we have issues of concern, and he promised to listen.
The final agenda item of the afternoon was a panel discussion titled "Blind Vendors in Postal Facilities." The participants were Jim Gashel, NFB Director of Governmental Affairs, and Stephen Leavey, Manager, Corporate Personnel Operations, United States Postal Service. Jim Gashel reviewed the history of the Randolph-Sheppard Program and urged that the Postal Service set a goal of increasing its share of vending locations in the program from 27 percent--a 1 percent rise over the past twenty-five years--to 45 percent by a date to be negotiated. Stephen Leavey said that the Postal Service recognizes the value of this program and is dedicated to increasing the Postal Service's participation. He pointed out that personnel able to deal effectively with Randolph-Sheppard issues have been lost through downsizing, but he intends to change the picture. Early evidence is that Mr. Leavey was sincere in what he said. Already his staff has removed a roadblock brought to his attention after his remarks, and a large post office vending operation in Michigan is now set to open under the Randolph-Sheppard program. In addition, two representatives from the NFB have been invited to attend an important postal conference in September and discuss our concerns with postal officials.
Wednesday evening was filled with activities. The Music Division's Showcase of Talent drew a large and enthusiastic audience. The IEP workshop for parents of blind children was well attended and valuable as usual. The Louisiana affiliate hosted a party and dance featuring the singer, Harry Connick, Sr., and his twelve-piece orchestra. Irresistible music filled the entire third floor of the Hyatt till midnight, and Deane Blazie provided soft drinks and beer for everyone at this Mardi Gras Ball.
PHOTO/CAPTION: Jim Willows, President of the NFB of California, displays the attendance banner as he passes it on to Louisiana for the coming year.
Thursday morning the convention session began at 9:00 sharp. One of the first items on the agenda was Jim Willows's presentation of the attendance banner to Joanne Wilson to display proudly for the coming year. Next Ed McDonald thanked the organization for the experience he has had for three years as a member of the Board of Directors, but he announced that he would not be a candidate for election to the board this year. Ramona Walhof, Chairwoman of the Nominating Committee, then made that committee's report. Not scheduled to stand for election this year are President, Marc Maurer (Maryland); First Vice President, Joyce Scanlan (Minnesota); Second Vice President, Peggy Elliott (Iowa); Secretary, Ramona Walhof (Idaho); Treasurer, Allen Harris (Michigan); Steve Benson (Illinois); Charles Brown (Virginia); Richard Edlund (Kansas); Sam Gleese (Mississippi); Diane McGeorge (Colorado); and Gary Wunder (Missouri). Those presented to the Convention as candidates for election to the Board of Directors this year were Donald Capps (South Carolina), Wayne Davis (Florida), Priscilla Ferris (Massachusetts), Bruce Gardner (Arizona), Betty Niceley (Kentucky), and Joanne Wilson (Louisiana).
PHOTO/CAPTION: Bruce Gardner
Each newly elected member of the board spoke briefly. The love and dedication to this movement that all of them expressed is embodied in the remarks of Bruce Gardner:
Mr. President, fellow Federationists, the scriptures teach "For of him unto whom much is given, much is required." The NFB has given me much, and I am grateful for the opportunity to give back to this organization. It is particularly humbling to contemplate working more closely with three of my personal heroes: Dr. Jernigan, President Maurer, and Peggy Elliott. I would also like to thank two individuals, Jim Omvig and my brother Norman Gardner. Each has been a mentor, a friend, and a true hero. Their lives have exemplified dedication and selfless service to our fellow blind, and I know that I will be doing well if I can become half the Federationist that they are. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve. Thank you.
Following the election, Dr. Gregg Vanderheiden, Director of the Trace Research and Development Center and a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, addressed the topic: "How the Changes in Telecommunication and Computers Will Affect the Daily Lives of the Blind." He reviewed the technological problems we face and the solutions being developed to solve them.
"The Hands of the Blind That Do the Healing" was the title of a presentation by Dr. Paul Peterson, a highly successful chiropractor. He described the alternative techniques he has developed to teach and practice chiropractic medicine.
Dr. Fred Schroeder, Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, then addressed the Convention on the subject, "Services for the Consumer: The Challenge of Rehabilitation Today and in the Decades to Come." Before his appointment to lead RSA, Dr. Schroeder was a longtime leader of the National Federation of the Blind. His remarks are reprinted elsewhere in this issue.
Charles Crawford, President of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind, then spoke about "Forming Partnerships: Designing Tomorrow." He pointed out the hope available to blind people because of the strength and passion of the National Federation of the Blind, and he then spoke warmly of the growing recognition among professionals of the importance of the services available to blind people through the Federation. Real partnership is now growing among agencies and consumers. But the threat posed by the pan-disability movement to bypass the blind in the name of the larger disabled community is a profound and growing problem facing us all. With a growing population of blind people, we must find ways of working together to protect the rights and opportunities for all blind people.
The concluding agenda item of the morning was an address by Dr. Dean Stenehjem, superintendent of the Washington State School for the Blind, titled "The Role of Education at Residential Schools for the Blind: Present Perspective and Future Prospects." Dr. Stenehjem reviewed the history of his own institution and urged that the blind community and education professionals work together to improve future possibilities for today's blind students.
Following the noon recess, a number of tours carried Federationists to activities across the Greater New Orleans area. But that did not mean that the Hyatt was quiet. At least eight committees, divisions, and other groups conducted meetings and workshops. One of the most exciting was "Kids and Canes," a drop-in discussion with video illustrations led by Joe Cutter, nationally recognized pediatric orientation and mobility specialist. The day closed with the now traditional Monte Carlo night party hosted by the National Association of Blind Students.
PHOTO/CAPTION: Federationists enjoy themselves at Monte Carlo night.
The Friday morning convention session began promptly at 9:15 and was filled with interesting items. The first topic for consideration was the international picture. Dr. Jernigan moderated the panel of presenters and began with a review of the NFB's participation through the years in international organizations of and for the blind. He then introduced Dr. Rodolfo Cattani, Director of the Italian National Library for the Blind and Vice President of the Italian Blind Union, who described organizations and programs serving blind people in Italy. He ended his remarks with a summation that brought cheers from his audience:
You see, dear Federationists, every day is the first day of our fight. Every good result which we obtain is a new starting point. Every dream which we change into reality gives us new strength. Yes, we are ready to go on fighting, and we shall overcome one day. During this convention I have learned a lot. I have felt around me the spirit, the power of your organization, the genuine solidarity, the strong optimism, and the overwhelming humanity of you all. I thank you for this experience; I thank you for your warm and generous hospitality; but I thank you first of all for having infected me with your optimism of winners. I love you all. Blind is respectable!
Next Geoffrey Gibbs, Chief Executive of the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind, described the history of services for the blind in New Zealand and the growing insistence of blind people on equality and a voice in determining the programs available to them. Then Norbert Mueller, Education Director for the German Education Service for the Blind, Secretary General of the European Blind Union, and a member of the board of the German Federation of the Blind, described the complex political and social problems facing the blind of Germany. Mr. Mueller has attended five NFB conventions in the last seven years. He concluded his remarks by saying: [Sound bite 6]
Dr. Jernigan, when you speak about the role of the National Federation of the Blind, what it should do within the World Blind Union or in the world, I think you must hold the torch high to show to organizations of the blind all over the world how much strength is in an organization which has pride in itself, whose members are not ashamed of being blind, and which has the energy and will to go about and do the business that needs to be done. I promise you that I will continue to work in Germany so that our organizations--I hope one day that it will be only one--will go in that direction.
The final panel presentation was a "Report from the World Blind Union" by Dr. Euclid Herie, President of the World Blind Union and President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. He told the audience of the acute need and deprivation faced by the world's millions of blind citizens in the developing world, but he went on to say that often the most effective help that blind people in developed countries can give is knowledge and resources.
President Maurer then introduced Susan Spungin. Dr. Spungin is Vice President for National Programs and Initiatives of the American Foundation for the Blind. Her title was "Living by the Numbers." She lucidly described some of the inconsistencies in statistics and demographic problems facing those trying to collect accurate and meaningful data about blindness in this country. She then briefly outlined efforts being made to solve the problems.
The final speaker of the morning was Susan Daniels, Associate Commissioner for Disability, Social Security Administration. Her title was "Social Security: A Report on Disability Insurance, Work Incentives, and Return to Employment Initiatives." It was clear that she is eager to work with consumers to find ways of helping disabled people return to meaningful work and of removing current disincentives that prevent them from doing so.
The afternoon session began with a presentation by Geoffrey Bull, President of Braille International, Inc. His title was "Technology, the Cost of Braille, and Prospects for the Future." He reviewed the remarkable improvement in Braille production over the past twenty years and the simultaneous and astonishing drop in costs during that time, but he pointed out that the number of publications available in Braille is not growing. He urged members of the NFB to work to increase the funding allocation for Braille and to continue to work to see that the demand for Braille rises.
"What's New at Blazie Engineering" was the title of the address made by Deane Blazie, President of Blazie Engineering. He briefly described the wide range of improvements available this year in the various Blazie products. He also announced that his company is trying to find grant funding to assist in carrying on with production of the Optacon.
Dr. Raymond Kurzweil, inventor of the Kurzweil Reading Machine and founder of at least four companies, reminisced about his more than twenty-year-long relationship with the National Federation of the Blind and gave the audience intriguing glimpses into access technology in the twenty-first century.
Frank Kurt Cylke, Director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress, next spoke on the subject, "Building a Solid Base for the Future: A Report of Current NLS Activity." Mr. Cylke summarized progress and plans for establishing digital playback equipment and publications in the future and announced decisions about magazine conversions to cassette tape in coming years.
PHOTO: Larry Posont sits in a convention session with a baby standing on his lap holding onto his cane. CAPTION: Larry Posont of Michigan listens to a convention presentation while he entertains his youngest daughter Betsy.
The next five agenda items were presented by Federationists talking about their jobs and outlook on life. Carla McQuillan, owner and operator of Children's Choice Montessori School and Child Care Center and President of the NFB of Oregon, began with a moving description of the way in which her Federation experience has strengthened and enhanced the curriculum provided at her facility for seventy children. Charles Brown, Assistant General Council, National Science Foundation, spoke about "Advancing Science Through the Legal Profession." Next Dr. William Reynolds of South Carolina discussed "The Blind Doctor: Building Business in the Medical Profession. The next presentor was Bruce Gardner, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Arizona, the newest member of the NFB Board of Directors and a senior attorney with the Arizona Public Service Company. His title was "The Blind Lawyer: Shaping Policy for the Nation's Power Companies." The final member of this group was Lynn Mattioli, a registered dietician at Harbor Hospital in Baltimore. Her topic was "Food for Thought: Experience of a Blind Dietician." All of these presentations were inspiring and reassuring, for Federation philosophy has enabled all these people to succeed and make a profound difference in their communities.
Following this inspiring group of presentations was one that in its own way was every bit as filled with promise for the future. Mae Nelson, director of Louisiana Rehabilitation Services, described the relationship she has forged with blind consumers during the past ten years. Her title was "Partnership: Working in Cooperation with Consumers." Her remarks appear elsewhere in this issue.
The final presentation of the afternoon was a brief report by Ritchie Geisel, President of Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic. He described briefly RFB&D's new digitized book format and announced that the group representing RFB&D at this year's convention was the largest ever.
When Mr. Geisel ended his remarks, the convention recessed, and the room cleared in record time. By 7:00 p.m. the ballroom had been transformed for the banquet. In order to conserve space, the platform had been considerably narrowed. It was almost impossible to pass behind the chairs of those seated at the head table. At floor-level, tables were fitted as closely together as possible, and still an overflow crowd had to be seated in the ballroom foyer with the audio piped to them. It was a memorable evening in many ways.
PHOTO: This graphic is the artwork for the 1997 NFB mug. It includes a saxophone, a New Orleans trolley, a drawing of the Cafe du Monde, a mule wearing a headdress of flowers, and the NFB logo with the words "New Orleans, 1997." The words "National Federation of the Blind" printed vertically separate the logo from the rest of the artwork. CAPTION: Marilyn Whittle of Louisiana designed this year's NFB mug. Each person who attended the banquet received this maroon mug with the artwork and lettering in silver.
President Maurer served as master of ceremonies. Two award presentations were made. Betty Niceley, President of the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille, honored National Braille Press with the Golden Keys Award for the organization's innovative contributions in providing useful publications in Braille. Then President Maurer presented Betty herself with the Jacobus tenBroek Award for outstanding and continuing service to the blind. The text of both presentations appear elsewhere in this issue.
The banquet address was delivered by Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, President Emeritus of the National Federation of the Blind; and for the first time in Federation history the speech was broadcast live using real audio. That evening people around the world with access to computer systems equipped with soundcards, real audio software, and Windows could (and for a limited time still can) listen to the actual live broadcast of the banquet address. The URL (think of it as the Internet address for finding this wonder of the computer age) is grit.net/~nfb.html The title of Dr. Jernigan's address was "The Day after Civil Rights." The entire text of this address appears elsewhere in this issue, but a short excerpt will suggest the flavor and the argument:
But there comes a day after civil rights. There must. Otherwise the first three stages (satisfying hunger, finding jobs, and getting civil rights) have been in vain. The laws, the court cases, the confrontations, the jobs, and even the satisfying of hunger can never be our prime focus. They are preliminary. It is not that they disappear. Rather it is that they become a foundation on which to build.
Legislation cannot create understanding. Confrontation cannot create good will, mutual acceptance, and respect. For that matter, legislation and confrontation cannot create self-esteem. The search for self-esteem begins in the period of civil rights, but the realization of self-esteem must wait for the day after civil rights.
Following this moving address, which has already been chosen for publication in the August issue of Vital Speeches of the Day, Peggy Elliott came to the microphone to present the 1997 scholarships. The platform was too constricted to allow the winners to receive their awards at the podium, so they stood in front of the platform and stepped forward as their accomplishments were read and their scholarships presented. The winner of the American Action Fund $10,000 scholarship was Stacy Hayworth of Nebraska.
At the conclusion of this wonderful event, the Louisiana affiliate hosted yet another memorable party. This time the music was supplied by Henry Butler, a noted singer and pianist, whose band provided music for the revelers until the small hours of the morning.
The Saturday morning convention session began with the annual financial report and a discussion of the various fund-raising efforts of the organization. At the conclusion of that discussion Dr. Jernigan put the matter into perspective. He said:
We have spent a good part of this morning talking about money, and we're still talking about money even when we are talking about hotels. There is no reason why I should urge you any more than you should urge me. Please find a way to help finance this movement. If we don't, the movement won't die, but it will be anemic and weak. We are a powerhouse in the blindness field, and we want to stay that way and get more that way. To do it takes money. We have got to. Every way we can we ought to work to finance this movement. It's worth everything we can put into it, and we ought to do it. The money is spent wisely and well. It gets results. Look about you, and you can see what they are.
The afternoon session began with the Washington report by James Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs. He reviewed what we have accomplished legislatively during the past year and looked ahead at the issues facing us in coming months.
During the remainder of the afternoon seventeen resolutions were read and voted on. Various announcements of interest were also made. For example, President Maurer announced that 143 foreign guests had registered at this year's convention. They came from Bermuda, Canada, Cyprus, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, South Korea, Sweden, Togo, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.
The summary of PAC activity during the convention looked like this. At the beginning of the convention Federationists were contributing $343,965 annually. By convention adjournment new and continuing PAC members had pledged to make annualized contributions of $362,461.80. By the end of Saturday afternoon, nine States (Maryland, California, Minnesota, Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, Iowa, Ohio, and Louisiana) were giving more than $1,000 a month. As always, the challenge is now to continue to give at this level through the coming year.
Bonnie Peterson, Chairwoman of the Shares Unlimited in NFB Committee, reported on the SUN activity during the week. States, divisions, chapters, and individuals contributed $11,150 toward the NFB's rainy-day fund. Bonnie concluded her report by inviting the SUN choir to join her in teaching a new song to the Convention. The words, sung to the tune of "You are my Sunshine," are:
I have some SUN shares;
Have you bought your shares?
Protect our future,
And help us grow.
They'll always be there;
We want to prepare
For NFB tomorrow.
By the time the final gavel fell, bringing the afternoon convention session to a close, delegates were in a happy blur of excitement, fatigue, wonderful memories, and anticipation of the challenges in the coming year. The Writers Division conducted a workshop Sunday morning. Everyone else streamed out of the convention hall to jump on busses or finish packing or perhaps enjoy one more delicious meal in the Big Easy.
PHOTO/CAPTION: Jody Lee
But no one could forget what we had just shared. Jody Lee, one of this year's scholarship winners, captured both the joy and the dedication of this movement of ours on the closing afternoon. President Maurer invited her to tell the group of an experience she had Thursday when her cousin and a friend had come to the hotel to spend some free time with Jody. Neither woman knew anything about the convention, so walking into a crowd of thousands of blind people was quite a surprise to them. Jody was a few minutes late for their meeting, and the two women watched the bustle and excitement of tour loading and people rushing to meet the demands of their personal schedules. When Jody appeared, the friend told her with evident wonder in her voice that she had just been diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa. Since learning this news, she had been depressed. But she said, "I have been watching the crowd for twenty minutes, and I can hardly believe the confidence and ability of the people around here. They give me hope for the first time." Jody said that this experience taught her in a flash of illumination what this organization is all about.
Jody was right: spreading this message is exactly the work everyone went home to take up again. Our batteries have been charged for another year. We have battles to fight, encouragement to give, and hope to kindle. The work will keep us busy through the months between now and the Dallas convention.
PHOTO/CAPTION: Marc Maurer makes the 1997 Presidential Report
National Federation of the Blind
New Orleans, Louisiana
July 2, 1997
From the time of the beginning of the National Federation of the Blind in 1940, there have been a spirit of cooperation, a joint commitment, and a mutual understanding that comprise the fundamental essence of the organized blind movement. This essence is as much a part of the National Federation of the Blind today as it has ever been. Although the functioning and diversity of our organization have expanded so greatly that our founder, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, would be astonished, he would still know us for what we are--the blind, organized for collective action, working together for greater opportunity, helping each other achieve the dreams of independence. We are the blind from all parts of the nation and all segments of society. Regardless of ethnic background, economic circumstance, educational achievement, or position in business or government, we come together as an indivisible, united body. We come as the organized blind movement.
During the past twelve months growing recognition has been given to the vital work of the National Federation of the Blind, and some of this recognition has been reported in unusual places. Consider, for example, the Harlequin Romance. Never regarded as great literature, but read by millions--these little books are distributed through drug stores, grocery stores, newsstands, and elsewhere. One of them, entitled For Your Eyes Only, includes a blind heroine, who (during the course of the action) visits the National Center for the Blind, consults with the National Federation of the Blind, espouses Federation ideas and philosophy, and demonstrates that a blind person with proper training and opportunity can compete on terms of equality, can outwit the villain, and can acquit herself not only in a satisfactory manner, but with sparkle, dash, and mystery in the romantic episodes as well. The writers of this novel visited the National Center for the Blind and studied extensively our literature about blindness. Their conclusion is clear. Blindness is only a characteristic. Blind people and blind characters in books are interesting because of what they are and what they do--not because they are blind.
One of our most exciting new programs, the Newsline for the Blind Network, has continued to expand. With thirty-two local service centers already operational and a number promised for the immediate future, this service is providing a larger volume of information to blind people than has ever before been available in the history of the world. Using nothing more complex than a touch-tone telephone, any blind person within the local calling area of a local service center can read the New York Times, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, and (in many instances) the local newspaper. There are local service centers in many cities, both within the United States and now in Canada. Those in operation have been established in Baton Rouge; Minneapolis; Denver; Baltimore; Boise; Sacramento; Des Moines; Davenport; Cedar Rapids; Sioux City; Houston; Austin; San Antonio; Camden, New Jersey; Chattanooga; Jackson, Mississippi; Oklahoma City; Tulsa; Salt Lake City; Toronto, Canada; and the following cities in Illinois: Bloomington, Champaign, Coal Valley, Edwardsville, Naperville, Peoria, Quincy, Rockford, Springfield, Carterville, and two in Chicago.
The idea of transmitting information by telephone is not new. However, the computerized handling of a large volume of data so that it can be presented in manageable units is revolutionary. What this technology suggests is an alteration of patterns on at least two levels. The blind have always been at a disadvantage in obtaining information. With the advent of this national network much of that disadvantage is erased, and for some purposes the balance shifts. How many sighted people can, before seven a.m., have access to at least three of the nation's major newspapers?
The Newsline for the Blind Network offers other opportunities. One of the most innovative programs currently being tested by the National Federation of the Blind is Jobline. Jobline is a telephone access system that enables each user to search for employment within a specified geographic area. Those looking for work can indicate the kinds of jobs they seek, the compensation level, and other characteristics. Jobline has the potential for managing substantial databases such as America's Job Bank and statewide job information services. Our goal is to have this job access information system established throughout the United States. One state has already indicated that it wishes to install the Jobline service, and a number of others are considering doing so.
This service will be of great benefit to the blind, but it can also be used by the sighted. Those who are seeking work but cannot get to a state employment office during the day, those who wish to search the Internet for job listings but don't have a computer, and those who (for whatever reason) want to hunt work at four in the morning will all be able to use Jobline--a product designed, developed, and implemented by us, by you and me, by the National Federation of the Blind.
Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, who is President Emeritus of the National Federation of the Blind, continues to serve as our representative in international programs dealing with blindness. In his capacity as president of the North America/Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union, Dr. Jernigan led the North America delegation to the fourth General Assembly of the World Blind Union in Toronto, Canada, last August. Dr. Jernigan was asked to deliver the keynote address at the opening assembly of the convention. Dr. Euclid Herie, who was at that convention elected president of the World Blind Union and who is president of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, presented Dr. Jernigan to the assembled delegates. Among other dignitaries on the platform was the governor general of Canada, Romo LeBlanc, who stayed to hear Dr. Jernigan's powerful message to the blind of the world.
At the General Assembly the constitution of the World Blind Union was amended to permit additional delegates to represent countries with large populations. The representation from the United States increased from six delegates to ten. Dr. Fred Schroeder, Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, and I were two of the additional delegates elected to represent the blind of this country.
Shortly after the close of the World Blind Union convention, Dr. Jernigan was invited to be the keynote speaker at the upcoming convention of the International Conference on the Education of the Visually Handicapped, the world body concerned with the education of the blind. Dr. Jernigan will be traveling to Sao Paulo, Brazil, to deliver this keynote address later this month. This will be the first time that one individual has ever been asked in the same quadrennium to give the keynote addresses to both world organizations concerned with blindness.
Within the World Blind Union Dr. Jernigan now chairs the committee which has the responsibility of overseeing the restoration and refurbishment of the Louis Braille birthplace at Coupvray, France. The Louis Braille birthplace had deteriorated so that its roof and other structural elements needed substantial repair. Dr. Jernigan traveled to Coupvray in 1994 to meet with the mayor, Monsieur Benz, and with Marcel Herb, the president of the French Federation of the Blind, to offer assistance from the blind of the United States and to plan for the restoration.
In February, 1997, the work of restoration had been completed, and it was time for the opening of the Louis Braille birthplace. I traveled to France and stood in the yard where Louis Braille played. I examined the workbench where the accident happened that blinded him at the age of three. I sat on the bench that was part of the living quarters of the Braille family, and I participated in the opening ceremonies with television cameras rolling and representatives of the blind from throughout the world present. During that ceremony the National Federation of the Blind presented a contribution of $10,000 to complete the payment for the restoration of the Louis Braille home and memorial.
As I stood in the chilly February sunshine in the yard of that humble home which symbolizes so much to the blind of the world, I experienced not only gratitude for the work which Louis Braille did but also a sense of pride that I could bring from the blind of the United States a tangible expression of our feelings. More than that I felt honored that I could be there representing you, that I could say to the world at that historic moment that the National Federation of the Blind knows the role it must play and is prepared to meet the responsibility. We pay our debts; we live our philosophy; and we hold our heads high.
Last fall Dr. Jernigan was invited to make a presentation to the annual training conference sponsored by the General Council of Industries for the Blind and National Industries for the Blind in Kansas City. It is of utmost importance to the future of programs for the blind that the officials who direct those programs cooperate with the organized blind consumers and that we cooperate with them to enhance the services provided. Disharmony and gratuitous belligerence create instability and a climate in which separate programs for the blind are in danger. That is the message Dr. Jernigan carried to the General Council of Industries for the Blind and National Industries for the Blind.
This past May the work that Dr. Jernigan has done within the organized blind movement was given tangible recognition by MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Illinois. Dr. Jernigan was granted an honorary doctoral degree by the college. Dr. Jernigan, who has served as a leader of the National Federation of the Blind for almost half a century, has brought to the blind, both within our country and abroad, inspiration and hope. What exists today could not have been built without him. This honorary doctorate confirms once more the recognition of our progress by those in the broader community. We in the Federation are always pleased when a blind person receives recognition for outstanding accomplishment. But in this case we are especially pleased, for Dr. Jernigan is one of us-- inseparable from the National Federation of the Blind.
In 1991 the National Federation of the Blind brought together, for the first time, at the National Center for the Blind, chief executives of the major manufacturers of technology for the blind, leaders of consumer groups in the field of blindness, and the heads of the principal agencies serving the blind in the United States and Canada. This gathering, known as the US/Canada Conference on Technology for the Blind, changed the direction and emphasis in programming for the blind on this continent. Communication and joint planning among entities dealing with blindness became much more likely because of the interaction that occurred in that conference.
A second US/Canada Conference on Technology for the Blind was called in 1993, and last fall the third US/Canada Conference on Technology for the Blind was hosted by the National Federation of the Blind. The difficult problems of creating usable access technology for the blind were explored by the participants. The discussions which followed formal presentations stimulated imagination and encouraged development. Technology for the blind, as is true of technology for the sighted, is evolving at such a rate that new applications may be overlooked unless there is a meaningful forum to permit the free exchange of ideas. A full report of the proceedings is contained in the January, 1997, issue of the Braille Monitor.
Through our Diabetes Action Network, the Division of the National Federation of the Blind concerned with the problems of blind diabetics, we have for over a decade been publishing the magazine, Voice of the Diabetic. This is the most widely circulated magazine dealing with blindness in the United States, with a distribution of approximately 200,000 copies per quarter. The information contained in the Voice of the Diabetic is not readily available anywhere else. Interwoven with the positive philosophy of the Federation are articles offering advice and suggestions regarding how a blind person can best manage the problems of diabetes. Much of the information contained in the magazine is of continuing use. Selected articles, including reference material of ongoing worth, are now being collected in a volume entitled Serving Individuals with Diabetes Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired: A Resource Guide for Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors. This publication is being produced in cooperation with the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision at Mississippi State University under the sponsorship of the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.
The International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind was opened on November 16, 1990, as part of the commemoration of our fiftieth birthday. It houses the most extensive collection of technology for the blind in the world, including at least one of every device of which we are aware that produces information from computers in either speech or Braille. The commitment we made at the opening of the Center was to maintain this collection of technology and to acquire all additional useful machines for the blind that become available. During the past year we have added three new Braille embossers and obtained or upgraded three Braille-translation software packages, one DOS-based screen-reading program, seven screen-review programs for Windows, one screen-review program for the Windows NT operating system, four refreshable Braille displays, two laptop computers with built-in refreshable Braille displays, two stand-alone reading machines, two PC-based reading systems, and six note-takers. We have also acquired a computer program which produces tactile drawings through a Braille embosser. In addition, we have upgraded a number of our computers and purchased eight new ones in the Pentium class.
Much of the information provided by computer is gathered through the Internet. In the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind we have created seven Internet work stations, which can be used to demonstrate methods for obtaining information from across the world in speech, in Braille, or in refreshable Braille.
Two years ago we inaugurated the Information Access Technology Training program. We have begun teaching week-long seminars in the operation of all this diversified equipment. Sponsored by the Rehabilitation Services Administration, this program offers personnel from state vocational rehabilitation agencies background and information about access technology for the blind and the opportunity for hands-on experience in its use. In early 1997 still another training program was initiated, the Comprehensive Braille Access Technology Training program. This program combines training sessions at the National Center for the Blind in the operation of Braille access technology with instruction at rehabilitation centers in Braille advocacy and the use of the Braille code.
Nowhere else in the world is there an array of equipment collected in one place adequate to make such classes possible. These training programs could not occur without the National Federation of the Blind.
Last summer, only a few weeks after the close of our 1996 National Convention, Congress took decisive action to amend the Copyright Act. The new provisions relating to blindness, which became effective in September, were drafted jointly by the National Federation of the Blind and the Association of American Publishers. At our request Senator John Chafee of Rhode Island sponsored the legislation.
The new law authorizes nonprofit organizations or government agencies to reproduce books and other material in special formats that can be used by the blind. No permission is required from the copyright holder. Braille, voice recording, or electronic formats may be used. The role of the National Federation of the Blind in negotiating the agreement with the Association of American Publishers and in taking the result to Congress will make a lasting positive difference in the lives of the blind of our nation, and similar legislation has been adopted in Canada and is currently being considered in Italy and elsewhere.
We in the National Federation of the Blind are aware that a crisis exists in Braille literacy. Several years ago we drafted model Braille bills and initiated the effort to get them adopted in the states. These bills say that blind children should be taught Braille and that the school districts should make Braille materials available to their students who are blind. Although there have been a number of problems in getting these statutes enforced, they are presently on the books in twenty-eight states.
Although in many states the law says that blind children should have the opportunity to learn Braille in school, certain educators have argued that this provision of state law cannot be implemented because it is inconsistent with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). We responded to this argument by asking Congress to amend the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to include provisions favoring the use of Braille. On June 4, 1997, less than a month ago, the amended Individuals with Disabilities Education Act became law. The statute includes the most sweeping declaration ever made in favor of Braille by any legislative body in the world. Braille services and instruction are to become a part of the education plan for every blind child, unless all of the planning team (including the parents) agree that Braille should be excluded. The preference for Braille is now a part of the law, and the reason is the National Federation of the Blind.
In most instances officials in agencies for the blind are thoroughly aware that blind individuals (clients, employees, or otherwise) are guaranteed the right to freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom of thought. Most agencies for the blind have a high degree of respect for the blind people with whom they come in contact. And in most cases we of the National Federation of the Blind are able to work in harmony and partnership with them.
But this is not always the case. As I reported last year, rehabilitation officials in Missouri have declared that counselors and others at the agency may not provide any information to blind clients about the National Federation of the Blind, may not indicate to clients whether they (that is, the agency employees) are members of the National Federation of the Blind, and may not encourage blind clients to participate in any activity of the National Federation of the Blind--no matter how valuable it might be. Can blind clients be encouraged to seek business or technology loans from the National Federation of the Blind? Can blind students be encouraged to participate in the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest? Can blind clients be informed of the convention of the National Federation of the Blind--this meeting, where so much information and inspiration are to be found? The answer from the Missouri agency is a resounding no. As I said to you on our opening day last year, we are not prepared to take this without a fight. In fact, we are not prepared to take it at all. Our fundamental constitutional and human rights and our dignity as human beings are at stake. We who are blind have a right to freedom of association, freedom of speech, and freedom of thought--and we intend to exercise our rights--all of them.
Our training center in Colorado, the Colorado Center for the Blind, has been providing orientation and adjustment services to blind clients from Missouri, and the Missouri rehabilitation agency has been paying the fees. At the very same time that the Missouri agency for the blind has been asking us to provide orientation and adjustment services through our Colorado center, it has also been criticizing our program because it is part of the Federation. The Missouri agency officials say that in our own program we may not favor NFB canes because they are NFB canes. This spring the head of the Missouri agency informed our Colorado Center for the Blind that the contract to provide services is canceled because in April of this year one of the clients being trained in Colorado voluntarily participated in a bingo game operated by the Denver chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. Three years ago, in 1994, the Missouri agency personnel agreed that this kind of participation would help to build the confidence and business skills of a blind client from Missouri, and they encouraged participation in that same identical bingo game. Today, because Missouri rehabilitation officials do not like the National Federation of the Blind, they have canceled the contract and said that they are refusing to pay for training services for the blind of Missouri.
The lawsuit that we promised last year has commenced. The trial is scheduled to occur early in 1998. In the meantime I have this to say to the officials of the Missouri rehabilitation agency: We are not prepared to cringe or fawn or crawl for your favor. There are some things your money will buy, but one thing it can never buy is our acquiescence in your misuse of power. We will not give up our freedom; we will not abandon our philosophy; we will not disband the Federation in Missouri; and we are not prepared to desert the blind of Missouri who are not yet part of the Federation simply because they are now, or might become, clients of the Missouri rehabilitation program. You have positions of influence, and you have on your side tax dollars to spend, and some of those tax dollars have been collected from those very blind persons you would deny the right to use them; but we are not helpless, and we will not let you get away with it. We will meet you in the courts.
Each year tens of thousands of Americans take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) in order to enter law school. Ross Kaplan, Latonya Phipps, and Shannon Dillon are blind applicants who sought to take the Law School Admissions Test during the fall and winter of 1996. They wanted an opportunity to compete on terms of equality with other test applicants. However, the Law School Admissions Council, the entity that administers the test, denied them this basic right.
Ross Kaplan and Latonya Phipps asked to be allowed to use their own readers. They wanted, they told the Law School Admissions Council, to concentrate on taking this difficult examination rather than teaching a total stranger to read effectively. But the Council administrators said no and insisted that Latonya Phipps and Ross Kaplan use readers provided by the administrators. One of the assigned readers could barely read English, and the other wasn't much better. As you might imagine, the test scores were low. The artificial conditions that were imposed upon these applicants prevented them from demonstrating their real abilities and hurt their chances to be admitted to the best schools.
Shannon Dillon took her examination in Braille. She asked for permission to use her Braille writer to take notes--not an unusual request for a blind person. How else would a literate blind person take her notes? However, permission was denied.
By refusing to allow blind students to use Braille writers and readers of their own choosing, the Law School Admissions Council has violated the law. We tried to talk with them, but they would not listen. Consequently, we have no choice but to act. All blind students taking tests anywhere in this country must be able to do so on terms of equality with their sighted peers. A lawsuit has been filed in federal court, and we intend to win.
Several years ago we assisted Carol Ducote, of Brunswick, Georgia, when her employer, the Glenn County School District, tried to force her to resign from a position as assistant principal because she is blind. With our help Carol Ducote kept her job; but the school district tried again, this time with a different approach. District officials decided to remove Carol Ducote from her employment by saying they were eliminating her position.
We didn't let them throw her out the first time, and we were not prepared for them to do it the second time. We brought suit against the Glenn County School District, and a settlement has been reached. Carol Ducote is still employed as an assistant principal, and the school district paid her attorneys' fees--$40,000 in all. I believe Carol Ducote is in this room today.
Mary Shandrow, one of our blind members living in Colorado, wants to become a teacher. To gain experience working with children, she applied for a job as a day-care worker at Adventures in Learning in Denver. When officials at the day-care center learned that Mary Shandrow is blind, they said that there was no job. However, in their letters of explanation, they admitted that there was employment but that they would not consider Mary Shandrow for it because they thought blindness made her a safety risk. How often have we heard that safety is the reason to deny us jobs, entrance to public places, and sometimes even the right to care for our own children. It is a lie! Blindness does not denote hazardous behavior or a safety risk. We filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, and a settlement has been reached. Adventures in Learning must take training to understand the real abilities of the blind and must pay Mary Shandrow the salary she would have earned on the job.
Eugene Schwerdtfeger is a blind warehouse worker living in Northern New Jersey. Although he had worked for an auto parts company for a number of years, when the company was sold to a new owner, he was dismissed from employment because he is blind. With the help of the National Federation of the Blind, he brought suit in the federal district court. Company officials argued that he could not claim discrimination on the basis of blindness because he had applied for Social Security disability benefits. If he were disabled enough to receive Social Security benefits, they said, he could not say that he was able to work. The decision of the court agreed with Eugene Schwerdtfeger. The judge said that, although he had applied for Social Security disability benefits, he had written on the application that he intended to continue to work. The case has now been settled; a check has been written to Eugene Schwerdtfeger for $57,500.
For more than a decade the Department of Veterans Affairs has been trying to get rid of a blind vendor, Dennis Groshel, at the St. Cloud, Minnesota, Medical Center. First the Department argued that the Randolph-Sheppard Act, which authorizes the establishment of the blind vending program on all federal property, does not apply to veterans facilities. But the federal judges disagreed. Then the Department of Veterans Affairs established a competing vending facility to drive Dennis Groshel out of business. With our help he fought back. Once again the federal judges heard our position and spoke with force to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit directed the Department to cease (as the court said) the scorched-earth policy against full compliance with federal law. Dennis Groshel will continue to operate the vending facility at the St. Cloud Medical Center free from unlawful competition. This case has national implications for vending facilities operated on property of the Department of Veterans Affairs. And make no mistake, the National Federation of the Blind has, from the very beginning and until this day, done the major part of the work and paid the major part of the costs.
In another case the Department of Veterans Affairs built a facility in Maryland without including space for a licensed blind vendor. The Department wanted to run its own vending operation with no blind vendors involved. This decision, of course, is a violation of the Randolph-Sheppard Act, and we assisted with a federal arbitration. The arbitration decision said that the Randolph-Sheppard Act applied and that a facility for a blind vendor must be established. The Department of Veterans Affairs appealed. In a decision that tortures the plain meaning of the law, a federal judge said that the Randolph-Sheppard Act applies to veterans facilities, but that when federal arbitration panels find a violation of the Act, they have no authority to tell a federal agency what it must do to correct the violation. Instead, the Department of Veterans Affairs could make up its own mind about how it would respond to the decision that the Randolph-Sheppard Act had been violated. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals concurred.
We are asking the United States Supreme Court to overturn the decision of the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. If the Fourth Circuit's ruling is not reversed, any federal agency found in violation of the Randolph-Sheppard Act would be allowed to decide for itself how it will behave regarding the Randolph-Sheppard program.
It is worth noting that our petition to the Supreme Court is being supported by more than a dozen state agencies for the blind and a number of other groups. If the Supreme Court takes the case, it will be the first time it will have reviewed the Randolph-Sheppard Act. The stakes are high, but the cause for all blind people is worth it. This is why the National Federation of the Blind is taking the matter to the chambers of the highest court in the land.
The National Center for the Blind, the headquarters of the National Federation of the Blind, continues to be a first-quality facility, which is both elegant and functional. We have installed in the dining room a hardwood floor of red oak trimmed with walnut that has been finished with five coats of high-gloss polyurethane. The tables in the dining room have been finished to match the decor, and additional lighting has been added. A first-class sound system has been installed, and we are currently in the final stages of upgrading the heat and ventilation system with roof-mounted air conditioning units.
We have installed a new telephone system at the National Center for the Blind. The volume of telephone traffic, like much of the rest of our operation, has dramatically increased. It is not uncommon to have as many as seven or eight calls coming into the Center at one time. Consequently, part of the new telephone system is an automatic telephone-answering machine that asks callers to hold for the receptionist.
With the increased activity at the National Center for the Blind, we find ourselves with fewer bedrooms than is sometimes desirable. Consequently, on the second floor of the central courtyard building, we are constructing six new bedrooms. On the fourth floor of the main building, we are expanding the lunchroom area so that it may accommodate larger numbers. In addition, we are revamping the heating system in the Records Center and building an enclosed masonry fire stair to replace the exterior steel fire escapes. The increased demand at the National Center for the Blind has also placed a burden on our freezer space. We are contemplating the installation of a walk-in freezer in the kitchen to meet the need.
As I have indicated to you in previous years, the National Federation of the Blind is present on the Internet. The library of material on our Web site continues to expand, and we have added a substantial number of links to make it easier to find the information. Since our last convention 31,625 people have requested information from our web site, and more than 106,000 pages have been downloaded to individuals from throughout the United States and from seventy-one other countries. Our information displayed on the Web about blindness and technology is so extensive that we have been asked to provide a computer link to the Web site of U.S. News and World Report.
The National Center for the Blind continues to be the focal point of programming for the blind in the United States and provides information to individuals from many other lands as well. During the past year visitors have come to our Center from forty-nine of the fifty states and the following foreign countries: Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, England, Ethiopia, France, India, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Thailand.
In the last year we have helped place more than 160 people in competitive employment through the Job Opportunities for the Blind (JOB) program. The kinds of work range from a Colorado ski lift operator to a bagger in a supermarket, from sales manager to veterinary technician, and from attorney to sandwich maker in a Subway shop. JOB bulletins about employing the blind have been distributed to more than 6,000 employers this year.
Through the Aids, Appliances, and Materials Center of the National Federation of the Blind more than 4,600 telephone orders have been filled, and hundreds more have come by mail. We have shipped more than 2,000,000 items to fill these orders to individuals in the United States and twenty-seven other countries. Our order forms for materials and aids and appliances are now available on two-track cassette, as well as in large print and in Braille.
The Braille Monitor, the most influential publication in the blindness field, is being distributed in record numbers with more than 35,000 copies a month being produced. And there are our other publications: Future Reflections, the magazine for parents and educators of blind children, now being sent to over 12,000 people per quarter; Job Opportunities for the Blind bulletins; presidential releases; and a number of state and division newsletters.
At the convention last year we spoke extensively about the Kernel Books. These volumes carry firsthand accounts of the experiences of the blind. The stories are presented in readable form that will attract attention. We who are blind are not essentially different from others, not mysterious or peculiar or strange. A major part of our educational program is to spread the word to the public at large about the normality and capacity of blind people; and through the dissemination of the Kernel Books, we are doing just that. There are eleven such books today. The most recent volume is entitled Beginnings and Blueprints, which was released last fall. The twelfth book, already published and in the process of being distributed, is Like Cats and Dogs. Well over 3,000,000 of the Kernel Books have been placed in the hands of the public, and they are having an impact far beyond our expectations. They inspire; they amuse; they stimulate. Perhaps of most importance, they offer a measure of hope where there had been nothing but despair. Consider this letter, from the father of a blind fourteen-year-old living in Washington:
Thank you very much for your recent mailing. I tape-recorded the National Federation of the Blind book, Making Hay, for my fourteen-year-old son Nathan, who is blind.
I enjoyed reading the book and found it very hopeful and inspiring--a very upbeat, yet realistic book. You mentioned that Making Hay is the fourth book in the Kernel series. I am most interested in getting the first three Kernel books. These true-life stories can make the difference between a person's developing confidence and goals, rather than just settling for some "blind job." So, I have two requests for you:
Please send me the first three books, or others like them, from the Kernel series--books about blind people who are creating a life for themselves.
Could you make a recommendation regarding a good beginning Braille instruction manual? I would like to work with my son to help him learn Braille. I had previously believed that it was very slow and cumbersome. Your books have convinced me that it is useful and needed. I can see that now, and I have been able to more persuasively talk to my son about learning Braille. He has been very resistant to doing anything which might characterize him as blind and take him out of the mainstream. Your book has been so helpful in giving us hope and accurate information from those with the experience to know.
Thank you for your good work. God bless us all.
Sometimes the letters come from the parents of a blind fourteen-year-old; sometimes they are from senior citizens; and sometimes they are written by schoolchildren. One individual, one family, and one school group or community meeting at a time, we are providing information about the reality of blindness, and we are building for a better and a brighter future. One of the most effective ways to do it is with our Kernel Books.
What does this report, this compilation of facts and statistics that I'm giving you, mean? What does it suggest for us as a movement? The National Federation of the Blind is more active in a wider range of programs today than it has ever before been, and our progress is accelerating. At the national, the state, and the local levels, we face challenges of complexity and diversity that demand a high level of comprehension and substantial energy. Nevertheless, I feel certain that our future is bright. We have the will, the energy, the motivation, the commitment to each other, and the understanding to meet the challenges as they come.
You have elected me to serve as President of this organization, and I believe that I understand the responsibility you have given me. I do the best I can to meet that responsibility. But we in the Federation have something else--something that makes us more than an organization, more than a gathering of individuals-- something that makes us a movement. It is the bond of understanding, of commitment, and of mutual support from me as President to you the members, and from you to me. As long as I am president, I will do the best I can to lead this movement with firmness and determination. I will be prepared to give whatever time is necessary, whatever effort is demanded, whatever resources are at my command. I will stand in the front lines and take the criticism, and I will not count the cost, or hedge, or equivocate. This is what you have asked of me, and this is what you have a right to expect.
And what will be expected of you? You must be prepared to give all that you can in support of our Federation, our leaders, and each other--not only with your minds but also with your hearts. I will ask you to contribute your time, your money, your imagination, and your effort. The National Federation of the Blind demands of all of us the very best that we have to offer, and it is too important to be incidental or part-time. The spirit of the Federation is as strong today as it has ever been, and our bond of mutual commitment is the unbreakable element that makes us the unstoppable movement that we are.
When the problems come, as surely they will, you must be prepared to remain steadfast and not waver; and you must give of your resources, of your willingness to work, and of the spirit that is in you. I must and will do no less than I ask of you. And because of this bond which holds us together, this mutual understanding that makes our movement what it is and us what we are, there can be no doubt of our continuing success. We have done much, but there is still much that urgently needs to be done. Can you doubt that we are equal to the task? The spirit here present in this room gives answer to the question. These are the commitments we make to each other, and this is my report.
PHOTO/CAPTION: 1997 Scholarship winners (left to right, back row: Jason Ewell, Nathanael Wales, Eugene Skonicki, Darrin Pagnac, Steven Hagemoser, Bill Petrino, Stewart Jenkins, Rachel Ragland, and Kenneth Silberman. Middle row: Keri Stewart, Stacy Hayworth, Sumara Shakeel, Latawnya Muhammad, Michelle Lauer, Ameenah Ghoston, Rebecca Hart, and Jody Lee. Front row: Tonia Valetta, Laura Biro, Diana Knox, Marina Eastham, Samantha Shlakman, Ivette Valdes, Mariyam Cementwala, Angela Sasser, and Katharine Chavez.
The Scholarship Class of 1997
From the Editor: Twenty-six men and women from Maine to California arrived at the Hyatt Regency, New Orleans, as members of the National Federation of the Blind scholarship class of 1997. Not counting their expense-paid trips to the convention, this year the class divided $88,000 in scholarship awards, which were made at the close of the Friday, July 4, banquet. This year's class is a remarkable group of students--bright, energetic, and eager to change the world. They met the full convention during the meeting of the Board of Directors on Tuesday morning. Peggy Elliott, Chairman of the Scholarship Committee, introduced each of them by saying the student's name, home state, and school state. This is what first she and then each of them had to say:
Peggy Elliott: My friends and fellow Federationists, I once again have the pleasure of introducing to you a new scholarship class. As I read to you the names of the Scholarship committee, think with me about how many of these people came to us through the scholarship program. I am going to read to you now the names of the people who are serving on the National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Committee, and the list is headed by Dr. Adrienne Asch, Massachusetts; Michael Baillif, District of Columbia; Bryan Bashin, California; Rich Bennett, Delaware; Steve Benson, Illinois; Charlie Brown, Virginia; Carol Castellano, New Jersey; Pam Dubel (a former scholarship winner), Louisiana; Priscilla Ferris, Massachusetts; Michael Gosse, Maryland (won a scholarship); Ever Lee Hairston, New Jersey; John Halverson, Missouri; Allen Harris, Michigan; David Hyde, Colorado; Carl Jacobsen, New York; Judy Jobes, Pennsylvania; Kristen Jocums (former scholarship winner from Utah); Reggie Lindsey, Tennessee; Sharon Maneki, Maryland; Jim Marks, Montana; Lynn Mattioli (won a scholarship), Maryland; Carla McQuillan, Oregon; Homer Page, Colorado; Barbara Pierce, Ohio; Joyce Scanlan, Minnesota; Steve Shelton, Oklahoma; Debbie Stein, Illinois; Mark Stracks (tenBroek Fellow, won two), Connecticut; Larry Streeter, Idaho; Ramona Walhof, Idaho; Melissa Williamson (former scholarship winner from Alabama); Jim Willows, California; Joanne Wilson, Louisiana; and Gary Wunder, Missouri. Those are the people who serve on the Scholarship Committee.
As you know, we give twenty-six scholarships ranging in value from the lowest, $3,000, to the highest, which is ten thousand dollars. One of these people you are about to meet will leave this convention with ten thousand more dollars than he or she had at the beginning of the convention. This is a wonderful scholarship program that helps with the financial need of going to college or graduate school, but it also helps us to meet these wonderful men and women and for them to meet us.
I have told them all, and I'll tell them again that there are 3,000 people who want to meet you, so please wear your purple ribbons so you can be found. My friends in the audience, I would ask you to hold your applause until we are done. You will have plenty of time to applaud these people both here and in other places.
Laura Biro: Michigan, Michigan. Good morning, fellow Federationists. I'm currently a graduate student at Sienna Heights College. In addition, I'm doing the certification in orientation and mobility at Louisiana Tech University in the summers. I hope some day to combine those two careers somehow and work with the adult population. I also hope to become a streetwalker, in that I mean to walk the streets and spread the word about the NFB. Thank you.
Meriyam Cementwala: California, California. Ladies and gentlemen, hello. I could bore you with the fact that I'm going to be a Regents' Scholar at UC Berkeley and tell you all about that, but rather than that, I'll try a new strategy. I'm going to be bluntly honest with you (a strategy that never worked with my parents). What I would like to say is that I'm so impressed and overwhelmed with the scholarship committee that selected me and the people that are my fellow competitors and my fellow scholarship winners that in the words of Willy Wonka--and those who know me know this best about me; I love chocolate and I'm a chocolate fiend. So in the words of Willy Wonka, "NFB, the tension's killing me, and I hope it lasts."
Catherine Chavez: New Mexico, New Mexico. It has been quite an honor to represent the National Federation of the Blind for four years. I am a former Vice President and President of the New Mexico Association of Blind Students, and as of last night I am a newly elected board member of the National Association of Blind Students. I am currently attending New Mexico Highlands University and am studying social work. In the fall I will be completing my junior year and want to continue my education. Thank you very much.
Marina Eastham: New Mexico, Connecticut, and this summer D.C. Good morning, fellow Federationists. I am from New Mexico. I attend Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. I'm studying political science and also getting my certification in education. I would like to pursue a career in education as well as become a federal legislator. I would like to lead the Federation in federal legislation. I have gained so much from the Federation, and I would like to share my knowledge with all of the future Federationists of this nation.
Jason Ewell: Ohio, Ohio. Good morning everyone. Earlier this month I graduated as the valedictorian of my class at Norwalk High School, and I will be attending John Carroll University in the fall. My first experience with the National Federation of the Blind occurred while I was in attendance at the Ohio State School for the Blind when one of my friends and I wrote a letter concerning a matter of advocacy with which we were involved to Dr. Jernigan and Mrs. Pierce. That letter was in the Braille Monitor in August of 1989. Dr. Matson found it worthy of inclusion in the Epilogue of Walking Alone and Marching Together. So I hope that I may continue in the future to help to work for all the goals and policies of the Federation, and also I hope to develop some policies that could serve us all through our lives. Thank you.
Ameenah Ghoston: Illinois, Illinois. Hello. My name is Ameenah Ghoston. I'm in Chicago at Roosevelt University. I believe in making dreams possible. I'm a very big dreamer. I push myself to the extreme (sometimes killing myself in the process). My lifelong dream is to receive a Nobel prize in computer science. I am dedicated to do that. Thank you very much.
Steve Hagamoser: Originally from Iowa, now from Kentucky. Thank you. I'd like to thank the Scholarship Committee for this wonderful opportunity. I'm going to be pursuing my doctorate for my fourth year this fall at the University of Kentucky in a pretty competitive clinical psychology program. Right now the model number of publications for psychologists, blind or sighted, is zero. Right now I have two, while still in graduate school, and I'm working on a third. I think I can safely say by objective standards that I'm doing okay. I'm what you would call an Iowa Department of the Blind Adult Orientation Center success story. I came in insecure, self- and life-loathing, and since then I've been able to do what I've been able to do. Thank you very much.
Rebecca Hart: Virginia, Virginia. Good morning. This fall I will be attending Radford University in the southern part of Virginia. For those of you who know where Virginia Tech is, it's close. I can date the guys there, but I don't have to do any of the work. I do not know what my major is yet. My university has a pre-major program that I'm in. I have a lot of interests, but I don't know where that's going to take me. I would like to work with the space program. My ultimate goal is to become an astronaut.
Stacy Hayworth: Iowa and Nebraska. Good morning, one and all. I am a graduate student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (not New Orleans). I plan on getting my Ph.D. in business health administration and follow in the footsteps of Dr. Asch. My concentration is in pediatric medicine. Unlike this morning's rendition, I cannot carry a tune, but fortunately, every day of my life, I carry three extra organs. Thank you.
Stewart Jenkins: Georgia, Georgia. Good morning. This fall I will be continuing my undergraduate years at Georgia Tech. I will be majoring in physics and computer engineering. I plan to go into graduate school studying physics. After all those years of listening to college professors lecture, I plan to do it myself. Let me say that I've only been with the Federation a short time, but during that time my experience has been a positive one that I hope will continue to be that way. Thank you all.
Diana Knox: Maine, Maine. Good morning. I'm a junior at the University of Southern Maine. I'm majoring in psychology. I must confess I came here because I had a very good incentive--scholarship money. Well, I've been with you for four days, and a lot has changed. I don't intend to take the money and run anymore. You Federationists are just wonderful people. I intend to be active in my local chapter and spread the NFB philosophy. Our philosophy now is just wonderful. I'd like to thank you for your hospitality and generosity. Thank you.
Michelle Lauer: Kentucky, Indiana. I recently graduated from the University of Kentucky in May. This fall I'm going to start law school at the University of Notre Dame. When I was three years old, I was scared about my brother riding the bus to school. After months of confusion, I rode the bus myself and realized that you did not sit on the roof of the bus, but you climbed into the bus. However, everyone had said, "Look at Brian get on the bus." Since I couldn't see it clearly, I assumed you climbed onto the roof. The perspective is different for a blind person and a sighted person, and I appreciate the multitude of perspectives that I have learned from all of my friends in the Federation this week. I hope everyone has a wonderful time. Thank you.
Jody Lee: Florida, Florida. Hi, everybody. I'm happy to be here today. I'm about to make a big career change in my life. I am presently employed by the State of Florida, and in the fall am about to begin to work in the orientation and mobility, rehab teaching master's degree program at Florida State. I'm legally blind, and it wasn't until after I had already made all these plans to make these changes, had been admitted to school--everything--that I learned that apparently there is controversy in this field. I know this is going to be one of the things that people expect me not to be able to do, but I'll prove them wrong. I am looking forward later this week to getting my first cane travel lesson from a BLIND, Inc., teacher.
Latawnya Muhammad: Illinois, Illinois. Good morning. I have something very special to share with you all today. First I should tell you that I go to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Second, I wanted to share with you that I was born into a Muslim family, and when babies are born into the family, they give them names that reflect attributes that they would like them to have. I was the first blind child in my family, so they really didn't know what I would be capable of. Upon telling my father that I received a scholarship from the NFB, sending him literature and explaining how important the NFB was, he decided to give me my name. So next convention I will be officially Alea Miriam Muhammad. Alea means a star that is rising, Maria means Mary from the Bible, because my father says that I'm an exceptional mother.
Darrin Pagnac: South Dakota, South Dakota. Hello. I'm a master's student at the South Dakota School of Mines, studying vertebrate paleontology. My work involves the meticulous reconstruction of fossil remains in a laboratory setting as well as the search for new fossil remains in the field, which involves such great activities as spending weeks on end living out of a tent; working long hours in the hot, searing sun; and experiencing such wonderful things as poison ivy, falling rocks, barbed wire, stinging scorpions, and biting rattlesnakes. It's an interesting life. This is my first NFB convention, and it's been a very positive experience. Above all else, I am extremely impressed with the incredible spirit demonstrated by the Federation and all of its members. Thank you all very much.
Billy Petrino: Louisiana, Louisiana. Good morning. I'm an entering junior at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, majoring in mathematics education. Louisiana is the forty-ninth state I've been in more than two months. People often ask me why I moved so much. It has taken me until this last year to realize I was looking for a home and a family, and I found both at the NFB. Thank you.
Rachel Ragland: Missouri, Missouri. Hello, everyone. First I would like to start by saying the Federation is very new to me--this is actually my first convention. So far I've learned so much exciting stuff and met so many of you. Thank you very much. I am attending the University of Missouri at Rolla. I am majoring in nuclear engineering with a strong emphasis in environmental engineering. After I graduate from college, I hope to work with nuclear propulsion and to work with radiation waste management, and if I'm really lucky and if I spend a lot of hard hours at the nuclear reactor, I might be my very own light bulb.
Angela Sasser: Louisiana, Louisiana. Good morning. In the fall I'll be a freshman at Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana, and I'll be studying art history. I hope one day to get a job either as a professor or in a museum. I am currently a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind, and I'm teaching art to the Buddy kids in the kids' program. I'm also a newly elected board member of the National Association of Blind Students.
Ken Silberman: Maryland, District of Columbia. Hello, everybody. I'm sort of making a career change or augmenting it. I'm combining my engineering background with a law degree in attending the Columbus School of Law at Catholic University this fall. I currently work at NASA's outerspace flight center and hold a master's degree in aerospace engineering and a bachelor's degree in astronomy. I serve as President of the Southern Maryland Chapter--Hi, Maryland, and I serve on the Board of Directors of Volunteers for the Handicapped, an agency in Silver Spring, Maryland. I would just like to get personal for a second and thank everyone here for the last twelve years in helping me to change my life. When I applied for a scholarship the first time, I was really heading for a life of dependency and great difficulty. I met people who believed in me and inspired me and helped me; and it turns out that you were very proud of me. I just want to say that I love you all very much and thank you.
Gene Skonicki: Illinois, New York. Good morning, my friends. I am a recent graduate of the Illinois Math and Science Academy and will be attending the University of Rochester, New York. More than that, though, this is my first convention experience. I am reminded of a story that, I think, embodies the spirit of the National Federation of the Blind. Once Winston Churchill was at a party late at night and found himself a bit intoxicated. A noble woman in the room commented to him, "Mr. Churchill, you are quite drunk."
He responded in kind, "Madam, I may be drunk, but you are ugly. In the morning I will be sober." Thank you.
Sumara Shakeel: New Jersey, New Jersey, Delaware. Hello, NFB. I am currently nearing the completion of my undergraduate work in music therapy at Montclair state University and would like to pursue a master's degree in occupational therapy and combine the two disciplines in my work someday. If there is one piece of advice I can give to you newcomers, it's network, network, network. Because I have learned from personal experience that that is the way to education and empowerment. Thank you.
Samantha Shlakman: New York, District of Columbia. When Dr. Jernigan spoke to the Scholarship Class of 1997 on Sunday, he stated that blind people should never be handed anything on a silver platter. We should and have to work just as hard to accomplish comparable goals with all other people. I have never been handed anything on a silver platter--not to mention any other type of platter--and I know from first-hand experience the type of hard work that Dr. Jernigan is referring to. This coming fall I will become a freshman at George Washington University, but that's not the special part. The memorable part of my story comes when I tell you that at George Washington I am enrolled in a seven-year BA/MD program, and next year will be my first year. This program enables me to do three years of undergraduate work and then automatically enter medical school. There were only eight people out of six hundred and thirty applicants who enjoyed being selected this year. I can tell you as well that I will become the first blind person ever to attend George Washington Medical School. I would like to thank the Board, the people that selected me as a scholarship recipient, and I would like to commend all of these hard-working blind people out there who are continuously not asking for things on platters but earning them through hard work and determination. Thank you.
Keri Stewart: Missouri, Missouri. Good morning, fellow Federationists. Thank you, I would like to say that I am very proud to be a member of the Federation. I am attending the University of Missouri, Columbia. I'm getting my master's in social work and planning and administration with an emphasis on disabilities. I started my leadership skills back in high school when I was a drum major for our high school band. Some of you out there heard me yesterday yelling down the hall where the student seminar was. I didn't need a microphone yesterday, and I didn't need one back then. I would like to say, though, that I was a leader then; I'm a leader now; I will be a leader in the future; and I'm thrilled to be a part of this wonderful organization, changing what it means to be blind. I want to be a part of it.
Ivette Valdes: Wisconsin, Wisconsin. Good morning. I am very happy to be here. This is my first NFB convention. It's very exciting. I am a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. I am in the French Department, working on a dissertation which focuses on women writers from the French-speaking Caribbean Islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe. I chose my geographical area very carefully since I know I will be having to do research there in the future. I hope to be finishing within the next year, and I hope to follow the example of Professor Asch and go on to teach and do research at the university level. Thank you very much.
Tonia Valletta: Virginia, North Carolina, New Mexico. I feel deeply indebted to the members, especially to the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind, for stretching my thinking by challenging me to answer the question, "What does it mean to be a truly independent blind person?" I have now often asked myself that question. It has many answers, and I have learned some of them, but I hope to learn many more with your help. Thank you very much.
Nathanael Wales: California, California. Good morning. I'm a student at the University of California at Davis. I am majoring in civil engineering, and after I finish my undergraduate work, I would like to go on to law school and enter a career combining both engineering and law. I started my studies at the University of California at Davis this past April. I did that shortly after graduating from the Louisiana Center for the Blind in Ruston. At the Louisiana Center I not only gained confidence in myself as a blind person, but I also received very valuable training in many skills including Braille, cane travel, computers, independent living, and the proper technique for eating Scottish bonnet in the jambalaya at the House of Blues at the French Quarter and learning to live to tell about it. Thank you.
Peggy Elliott: And there, fellow Federationists, is the class of 1997. [applause]
As you can see, we have an impressive group of scholarship winners this year. Here are the awards they received:
$3,000 NFB Scholarship: Katharine Chavez, Marina Eastham, Ameenah Ghoston, Steven Hagemoser, Rebecca Hart, Stewart Jenkins, Michelle Lauer, Latawnya Muhammad, Rachel Ragland, Sumara Shakeel, Samantha Shlakman, Keri Stewart, and Tonia Valletta.
$3,000 Frank Walton Horn Memorial Scholarship: Eugene Skonicki
$3,000 Hermione Grant Calhoun Scholarship: Ivette Valdes
$3,000 Kuchler-Killian Memorial Scholarship: Kenneth Silberman
$3,000 Humanities Scholarship: Diana Knox $3,000 Mozelle and Willard Gold Memorial Scholarship: Mariyam Cementwala
$3,000 Educator of Tomorrow Scholarship: Bill Petrino
$3,000 Howard Brown Rickard Scholarship: Darrin Pagnac
$3,000 E. U. Parker Memorial Scholarship: Laura Biro
$3,000 Computer Science Scholarship: Nathanael Wales
$4,000 NFB Scholarship: Jason Ewell and Jody Lee
$4,000 Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship: Angela Sasser
$10,000 American Action Fund Scholarship: Stacy Hayworth
Awards for 1997
From the Editor: National Federation of the Blind awards are not bestowed lightly. If an appropriate recipient does not emerge from the pool of candidates for a particular award, it is simply not presented. At this year's convention four presentations were made. Here is the way it happened:
Blind Educator of the Year Award
At the Tuesday morning meeting of the Board of Directors, President Maurer called Steve Benson to the microphone to make an award presentation. Steve is a member of the NFB Board of Directors, President of the NFB of Illinois, and Chairman of the Blind Educator of the Year Award Committee. This is what he said:
Thank you, President Maurer, and thank you, also to the selection committee: Homer Page, Judy Sanders, Adelmo Vigil, and Ramona Walhof. I recently visited DePaul University's new library and found four titles by Jacobus tenBroek. Three are listed in the law library and one in the general collection. We know him as the founder and principal first mover of our organization, but his consummate teaching skills, commitment to scholarship, expertise in the law and the Constitution, and influence in and writings about the welfare system still stand as authoritative sources. Dr.tenBroek was always in demand as a speaker and lecturer. He strongly advocated for the right of the blind to achieve excellence and compete on equal terms with our sighted neighbors.
The recipient of this year's Blind Educator of the Year Award emulates Dr. tenBroek's scholarship and commitment to academics. This winner advocates vigorously for the rights of blind children and adults. Her curriculum vitae extends to more than a dozen pages. She has lectured at universities all over the United States and is in demand as a speaker in her field here and abroad. She has authored many scholarly articles published in professional journals. She has earned genuine distinction in her field. Her name is Adrienne Asch. [applause]
While Adrienne is making her way to the platform, let me tell you she holds a Ph.D. in social work from Columbia University. She has a position at the Hastings Center, a think-tank that shapes policy for the law and medicine. She is the first blind person to occupy such a position. Adrienne demonstrates that blind people can compete on the basis of equality in an area that demands staggering amounts of reading. She has taken a leadership role in the attempt to educate those supporting full inclusion about the rights of blind children for cane and Braille and other things.
Among her long list of writing credits is an article on blindness in the Encyclopedia of Social Work. She serves as a council member of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, Division Nine of the American Psychological Association. She served on the President's task force to reorganize the health care system. She is currently serving a five-year appointment to the Henry R. Luce Chair of Biology, Ethics, and the Politics of Human Reproduction at Wellesley College, chosen, by the way, from a highly competitive international field of candidates. It is a most prestigious position--a position of real honor.
So, Adrienne, here is a check for $500 and a plaque, which reads:
Blind Educator of the
National Federation of the Blind
in recognition of outstanding
accomplishments in the teaching profession
You enhance the present
You inspire your colleagues
You build the future
July 1, 1997
Adrienne Asch: I'm overwhelmed. This means more to me than I can possibly say. I care about this organization; I have for a long time. I love the work that I do in it. I love the work that I do in my scholarship and teaching. I can't believe what a joy this is to me--to have the work I've tried to do recognized by this organization. Thank you very much. [applause]
Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award
A little later in the Board meeting, President Maurer called upon Sharon Maneki, President of the NFB of Maryland and Chairwoman of the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Selection Committee, to make a presentation. This is what she said:
The committee of Allen Harris, Jacquilyn Billey, Joyce Scanlan, and myself are pleased to present a truly distinguished educator of blind children. The National Federation of the Blind started this award, I believe, about ten years ago to recognize teachers because the children are our most important investment in the future. Education is the most important vehicle to true equality and opportunity. Sometimes it can be very lonely for a vision teacher in the school system, not because of being the only vision teacher in the system, but sometimes because of very real differences in philosophy.
This morning's recipient is someone who has been teaching for seventeen years. She is an itinerant teacher. She has a certificate in Literary Braille Competency from the Library of Congress, as well as a master's from the University of Virginia. We are recognizing her, not only because of her ability in teaching academic subjects, but because she is an advocate for her students. When there was a debate about whether a student could carry a cane and use it in the classroom, she stood for the student. When there was a debate about a need for Braille or a need for technology, she stood for her students and was able to get them what they needed.
She is truly a role model for her students. She lives her Federationism, not just in the classroom, but every day of the year. She not only teaches, but she expresses her philosophy, and many times students catch it as she lives her life. Join me in congratulating Deborah Prost, a teacher in the Portsmouth, Virginia, School District. [applause]
As Debbie is coming over to the microphone, I want everyone to know that we have a $500 check for Deborah, and I will be giving her the plaque. It reads:
The National Federation
of the Blind
Distinguished Educator of Blind Children
for your skill in teaching
Braille and the use of the white cane
for generously devoting extra time
to meet the needs of your students
and for inspiring your students
to perform beyond their expectations
You champion our movement
You strengthen our hopes,
you share our dreams
July 1, 1997
Deborah Prost: I want to thank the Federation for this award. It really means a lot to me to get this because I know the Federation is the only organization that really expects the best of students, and I want to continue working and doing everything I can to work with the Federation to help students be the best that they can be. I also thank God for helping me receive this award. I really thank the Federation again.
Golden Keys Award
During the banquet on Friday, July 4, President Maurer called Betty Niceley, President of the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille, to make a presentation. Here is what she said:
It was the growing concern about the steady decline in the use of Braille that led to the establishment in 1984 of the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille, fondly referred to as NAPUB. This division of the National Federation of the Blind is a vehicle for addressing Braille-related issues. The mission of NAPUB is to promote and encourage the production, teaching, and use of Braille. An integral part of this process is to recognize excellence whenever and wherever it occurs.
The most prestigious award which NAPUB has to offer is the Golden Keys Award, and it is not given lightly. In the organization's thirteen-year history, only two have been given to individuals for unusual dedication to Braille and its availability to the blind. This year NAPUB is presenting the third Golden Keys Award to the National Braille Press. [applause] This is done for its ongoing commitment to Braille and its creativity, which result in unique and innovative ideas for making things happen.
The National Braille Press is well known for the children's book-of-the-month club, which made it possible to purchase Braille books at the same price as the print edition. Not only the Book-of-the-Month Club, but Just Enough to Know Better, the book designed by NBP to help parents learn Braille along with their children, enjoys a continued popularity. Braille copies of the Constitution provided by the National Braille Press probably gave many blind citizens their first chance to look at this historic document. Because of the National Braille Press, cooks all over the country are able to read their own package directions from Kraft Foods and General Mills products.
When computers made the scene, it was the National Braille Press which provided Braille instructional manuals and put in a lot of effort to keep them updated. NBP was there when surfing the Net became the number one hobby of sighted Americans, and the people at NBP dreamed that the same pleasure could be given to blind computer users. The publication by the National Braille Press of the Internet Complete Reference has made it possible for computer users who are blind to reap the rewards of traveling the information superhighway. As a means of addressing the problem of continuing graphics on the Internet, NBP published the Links Reference Guide for blind users, a textbook-based browser which allows a blind person to navigate around the system with Braille or speech access.
In presenting this award, special recognition is given to Diane Croft, Marketing Director for the National Braille Press. [applause] William Rader, the Director, and other employees at NBP contend that Miss Croft is the moving force behind the stream of innovative ideas which make it possible for Braille readers everywhere to enjoy an amazing variety of both educational and fund materials. Mr. Rader suggested that Miss Croft should accept this award for NBP.
The plaque reads in part:
To the National Braille
We present these golden keys in recognition
of ongoing commitment to Braille
and to the readers who depend on it.
Through creativity and innovation
NBP has given to these readers
the keys that unlock doors
to the temple of knowledge.
Miss Croft, on behalf of the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille, it gives me great pleasure to present our Golden Keys Award to the National Braille Press. [applause]
Diane Croft: Thank you very much. There are thirty hard-working people at the National Braille Press. A lot of people are surprised that there are only thirty. I very much appreciate your recognition of the hard work that they do every day. I'm so pleased to bring this back to them. Thank you very much.
The Jacobus tenBroek Award
Immediately following the presentation to National Braille Press, President Maurer began speaking. This is what he said:
The Jacobus tenBroek Award is given from time to time to one of our own members, but only as often as circumstances warrant. It exemplifies the spirit of our founder and recognizes the reflection of that spirit in the person who receives it. Dr. Jacobus tenBroek had the imagination to believe that blind people working together for the advancement of the blind could accomplish more thananybody else to bring independence and success to the lives of the blind. He had the determination to form the vehicle which would make it possible, the National Federation of the Blind. It is his courage which said, "No matter what the obstacles, we can meet them. No matter what the trials, we will surmount them." And this was not done only for himself, but for all of us--for the blind of the nation. This year we have identified a worthy recipient of the Jacobus tenBroek Award. The selection committee, whose members are Ramona Walhof, Allen Harris, James Omvig, and Joyce Scanlan, has given to us the name of a leader in the Federation--a blind person who has shared the aspirations of Dr. tenBroek and worked within the Federation for a generation to bring those aspirations to reality. I invite to join me on the podium Betty Niceley. [applause]
Born in 1934, Betty Niceley grew up with her grandparents, who managed a series of country stores in southeastern Kentucky. The family lived beside the stores, doing whatever needed to be done--stocking shelves, filling orders, cashiering. It was good experience for a blind child. At the age of eight Betty Niceley left home to attend the Kentucky School for the Blind in Louisville, where she got a good education. Later she transferred to Bell County High School, where she received her diploma. Her senior class selected her as queen and voted her the "Person Most Likely to Succeed." Betty Niceley attended Georgetown College in central Kentucky, receiving a bachelor's degree in English and a secondary teaching certificate, but about the same time she was married to Charles. The Niceleys have two daughters and two grandsons.
After leaving college, Betty Niceley found a job at the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville. Thirteen years later she left the printing house to accept a job teaching Braille at the rehabilitation center opened by the Kentucky Department for the Blind. When the Kentucky Independent Living Center opened in the fall of 1980, Betty Niceley began teaching Braille, other blindness skills, and travel to the blind of all ages. She also became responsible for public relations and educational programs there.
Betty Niceley first joined the National Federation of the Blind in 1967. Within a short time she became Secretary of the state affiliate and President of the Louisville chapter. In 1979 she was elected President of the National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky. She was a principal force in the formation of the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille, a division of the National Federation of the Blind. She became its first President and serves in that office today. Betty Niceley has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind since 1985.
These are facts about Betty Niceley, and they describe a woman who possesses poise, a record of accomplishment, and a willingness to share her talents. As impressive as this recitation is, it cannot convey the spirit of the person we honor tonight. When a job needs doing, Betty Niceley is there to help. When a plan must be made, Betty Niceley's imagination will be employed to create the understanding we seek to achieve. When a blind person needs consolation or support, Betty Niceley is ready with a loving heart. This is the person who receives our highest honor. This is the 1997 recipient of the Jacobus tenBroek Award. The award reads:
Jacobus tenBroek Award
National Federation of the Blind
for your dedication, sacrifice
and commitment on behalf of the blind
of this nation
Your contribution is measured
not in steps, but in miles
not by individual experiences
but by your impact on the lives
of the blind of the nation
When we have asked
you have answered.
We call you our colleague with respect
We call you our friend with love
July 4, 1997
Betty Niceley: Now you all know that I do get emotional. . . . Been there, done that, this week. Thank you so very much. I don't know what you can say about being given so much honor for things that come so naturally. For those I love (and that certainly is this group), for those I appreciate (those are my leaders and those who follow me), thank you very much. I assure you that I accept it with love. [applause]
The Day After Civil Rights
An Address Delivered by
At the Banquet of the Annual Convention
Of the National Federation of the Blind
New Orleans, Louisiana, July 4, 1997
It has been said that all knowledge consists of definition and classification, and even definition may be just another way of classifying. History, for example, can be classified (or divided) into ancient, medieval, and modern; secular and ecclesiastical; American, English, European, African, Asian, and Latin American; political, economic, and social. And there are hundreds of other ways of doing it.
As to our history, the history of the organized blind movement, I classify or divide it into four stages. Of course, I could add a fifth--the centuries and eons before our founding in 1940. But I prefer to think of that time as the dark ages, the pre-history before hope and enlightenment.
When the National Federation of the Blind came into being almost six decades ago, our problem was simple. It was to find enough food to keep body and soul together--not for all of us, of course, but for many. If you are hungry, it is hard to think about anything else. And the blind were hungry.
And then we moved to a second stage, the attempt to find jobs. Call it rehabilitation. It wasn't that poverty had been eliminated, but it had been so reduced that we could now begin to think about something else, about jobs, about how to earn and not just be given. Naturally the desire for jobs was there from the beginning, but it now moved to the center of the stage. This was in the late '50's, the '60's, and the '70's. We wanted jobs--and we found them. Not always according to our capacity and not always with equal pay--but jobs.
And then we moved to a third stage. Call it civil rights. After a person has satisfied hunger and found a job, there is still something else--the search for self-esteem and equal treatment--the yearning to belong and participate--to be part of the family and the broader community. And for us, as for other minorities, there was only one way to get there--confrontation. The status quo always fights change.
Many people think that civil rights and integration are the same thing. They aren't. The concept of civil rights precedes integration and is a necessary precursor to it. As used in the late twentieth century, the term civil rights (although some will deny it) always means force--an in-your-face attitude by the minority, laws that make somebody do this or that, picketing, marches in the street, court cases, and much else. And we have done those things, all of them. We had to.
But there comes a day after civil rights. There must. Otherwise, the first three stages (satisfying hunger, finding jobs, and getting civil rights) have been in vain. The laws, the court cases, the confrontations, the jobs, and even the satisfying of hunger can never be our prime focus. They are preliminary. It is not that they disappear. Rather it is that they become a foundation on which to build.
Legislation cannot create understanding. Confrontation cannot create good will, mutual acceptance, and respect. For that matter, legislation and confrontation cannot create self-esteem. The search for self-esteem begins in the period of civil rights, but the realization of self-esteem must wait for the day after civil rights.
It will be easy for me to be misunderstood, so I want to make something very clear. We have not forgotten how to fight, and we will do it when we have to. We must not become slack or cease to be vigilant, and we won't. But we have now made enough progress to move to the next stage on the road to freedom. I call it the day after civil rights.
If a minority lives too long in an armed camp atmosphere, that minority becomes poisoned and corroded. We must move beyond minority mentality and victim thinking. This will be difficult--especially in today's society, where hate and suspicion are a rising tide and where members of minorities are encouraged and expected to feel bitterness and alienation and members of the majority are encouraged and expected to feel guilt and preoccupation with the past. Yes, it will be hard to do what I am suggesting, but we must do it. We must be willing to give to others as much as we want others to give to us, and we must do it with good will and civility. We must make the hard choices and take the long view.
Let me be specific. If a blind person tries to exploit blindness to get an advantage, or tries to use blindness as an excuse for failure or bad behavior, we must not defend that blind person but must stand with the sighted person that the blind person is trying to victimize. This will not be easy; it will not always be politically correct; and it will frequently bring criticism, not only from those blind persons who claim to want equality but are not willing to earn it, but also from some of the sighted as well. But we must do it anyway. If we want equal treatment and true integration, we must act like equals and not hide behind minority status. Yes, blind people are our brothers and sisters, but so are the sighted. Unless we are willing to have it that way, we neither deserve nor truly want what we have always claimed as a birthright.
That birthright, equal responsibility as well as equal rights, is the very essence of the NFB's philosophy. It is what we set out to get in 1940; it is what we have fought for every step of the way; it is what we are now close to achieving; and it is what we are absolutely determined to have. Equal rights--equal responsibility.
We are capable of working with the sighted, playing with the sighted, and living with the sighted; and we are capable of doing it on terms of complete equality. Likewise, the sighted are capable of doing the same with us--and for the most part I think they want to. What we need is not confrontation but understanding, an understanding that runs both ways. This means an ongoing process of communication and public education.
It is for that reason that in 1991 we introduced the Kernel Books. As I said at last year's convention, what we have done in writing, publishing, and distributing these books is nothing short of revolutionary. More than three million of them are now in circulation, and the difference they have made in public attitudes about blindness would be hard to exaggerate.
This year, following our usual pattern, we are issuing two more Kernel Books. Book twelve, Like Cats and Dogs, is available now; and book thirteen, Wall-to-Wall Thanksgiving, will come this fall. There are, of course, many other elements in our educational program, but the Kernel Books are the centerpiece of it. As you hear the introductions to the two 1997 books and excerpts from the articles I wrote for them, keep in mind the context and the reason for publishing them. They must carry a message without being so preachy that nobody will read them, and they must be entertaining without blurring the purpose:
Like Cats and Dogs
In the early and mid 1930's, when I was a boy in grade school, I dearly loved to read poetry--or, more properly speaking, have poetry read to me. And my teachers often obliged. One of my favorites was a poem by Eugene Field called the "Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat." Although it will never be a classic, I liked it. It begins like this:
The gingham dog and the calico cat
Side by side on the table sat;
'Twas half-past twelve,
and (what do you think!)
Nor one nor t'other had slept a wink!
The poem goes on to tell how the cat and dog had anawful fight and concludes by giving the outcome:
"But the truth about the cat and
Is this: they ate each other up!
Thus we come to the title of this book, Like Cats and Dogs. Maybe I chose it because I once had a dog that I dearly loved, or because I currently have some adorable kittens--or maybe because of the well-known saying about people fighting like cats and dogs. Regardless of the reason, the title is chosen, and we come to a question:
Exactly how do cats and dogs behave toward each other?
If they don't understand each other, they fight "like cats and dogs." But if they have the opportunity to get acquainted, they can live in harmony and become good friends.
As it is with cats and dogs, so it is with the blind and their sighted neighbors. There can either be harmony and friendship or misunderstanding and frustration. This little volume (the twelfth in the Kernel Book series) is meant to promote understanding, the ultimate framework of all true friendship and mutual respect.
As with past Kernel Books, the stories here are real-life experiences, told by the blind persons who lived them. The one exception is the article by Theresa House, who is the sighted wife of a blind man. Her parents feared that a blind person could never be an adequate husband for their daughter, and certainly not a suitable father for her children. You will see how it is turning out as they live their lives and raise their family.
As a matter of fact, marriage and children are major themes of this book. Bruce Gardner, blind and preparing to be a lawyer, dates and falls in love with a young sighted woman. She has questions, and so do her father and mother.
And there is the matter of blind parents and sighted children. As the boy and girl grow up, how do they feel? Do they think their parents can take care of them--and how do the parents feel? What ambitions do the parents have for their children?
There is another theme relative to children (blind children). Many are not given the chance to learn Braille. What does that do to them, and how do they feel about it as they come to adulthood?
There is more--the article I wrote about the difference between the sounds and smells of today and sixty years ago; and there is the story about a blind kitten (told by the owner, of course, not the kitten); an account of a blind woman's experience with pouring coffee; and much else. But I think I have told you enough to give you an inkling of what to expect.
At the core all of the people represented here are talking about the same thing. What they are saying is this:
In everything that counts we who are blind are just like you. As you read, you will recognize yourself in the story of our experiences. We laugh and cry, work and play, hope and dream, just like you. And although we don't forget that we are blind, we don't constantly think about it either. We are concerned with the routine business of daily living-- what we plan to have for dinner, the latest gossip, and the current shenanigans in Washington.
Around fifty thousand people become blind in this country each year. That means that it may happen to you, a member of your family, a neighbor, or a friend. So we want you to know what blindness is like--and, more to the point, what it isn't like. That is why we are producing the Kernel Books. We hope you will find this volume both informative and interesting. If you do, we will have accomplished our purpose. We want to live in harmony with our neighbors--not the way most people think cats and dogs live.
Baltimore, Maryland 1997
That is the introduction. Now here are excerpts from my article called "The Sounds and Smells of Sixty Years":
Everybody knows that change is probably the only constant in life, but I think we don't fully understand what that means until after we are fifty. At least that is how it has been with me.
As readers of the Kernel Books know, I grew up on a farm in Tennessee in the 1920's and '30's, and it seems to me that almost nothing today is the way it was then. Since I have been blind all of my life, I am not talking about how things look but how they smell, taste, sound, and feel.
Start with smell. The world smells different today from what it did then. Nowadays I spend much of my time indoors, breathing conditioned air, whether heated or cooled. But that wasn't how it was when I was a boy.
Since we didn't have electricity, we couldn't have had air conditioning even if we could have afforded it. So in the summer the windows were open, and usually so were the doors. The air was rich with odors--the smells of growing things, of the barnyard, of the dust and gasoline from an occasional passing car, and of creeks. These were the smells of summer, but there were also the smells of winter--wood, burning in a fireplace, the smell of the unheated portions of the house, and the smell of the country in winter.
And it was not just the smells of that time but also the sounds--the mixture of stillness, bird songs, distant cattle, and the aliveness of the land. Today, whether indoors or out, one thing is always present--the sound of motors. There are automobiles, office machines, fluorescent lights, power tools, lawn mowers, vacuum cleaners, kitchen appliances, air conditioners, and heating units. When I was a boy, I might go a whole week without hearing a motor--but not today. In the world of the '90's there is never a minute without a motor. Sometimes it is an avalanche of noise, and sometimes only a vibration in the background--but it is always there--always a motor.
And I mustn't omit taste and touch. At first thought it might seem that there would be no difference between then and now, but there is. It isn't necessarily that I can't touch most of the things today that I touched in the 1930's. It is just that I don't. And as to taste, it may simply be my imagination or my aging taste buds, but it certainly doesn't seem that way. Food is prepared differently, and the ingredients take a different path from origin to table.
But what does all of that have to do with blindness? After all, that is what this book is about. Certainly blindness and blind people are not treated today the way they were sixty years ago. The blind of that generation had almost no chance to get a job and very little chance to get an education.
In my case (many of you know this story as well as I do, so you can judge for yourselves whether it fits our purpose in the Kernel Books), I was allowed to go to college, but I wasn't permitted to take the course of study I wanted. I attended elementary and high school at the Tennessee School for the Blind in Nashville, graduating in 1945. One day in the spring of my senior year, a state rehabilitation counselor came to talk to me about what I wanted to do and be.
I remember it well. We sat in what was called the parlor--a room, incidentally, which deserved the name. The School was housed in an old southern mansion, and the parlor, which was used as a general reception area, was the very essence of elegance.
The counselor and I sat on the elaborately carved sofa, and he asked me to tell him two or three areas of study that I might like to pursue when I went to college. I told him that I didn't need to pick two or three, that I wanted to be a lawyer.
He said that he wouldn't say that a blind person couldn't be a lawyer but that he thought it wasn't realistic. I would not be able to see the faces of the jury, he said, and would not be able to do the paperwork and the travelling. I argued, but I was only a teenager--and I didn't have any money.
Ultimately he told me (with big words and gently, but with absolute finality) that either I could go to college and study law and pay for it myself, or I could go and prepare to be something else and be assisted by the rehabilitation agency. Since I was a teenager and didn't have any money, I went and was something else.
Of course I now know that he was wrong. I am personally acquainted with hundreds of successfully practicing blind lawyers, and most of them are not noticeably more competent than I am. But I would not want to create the wrong impression. This man was not trying to do me harm. Quite the contrary. He truly believed that what he was doing was in my best interest. He was trying to help me. He was acting in the spirit of the times and doing the best he knew.
Today it wouldn't happen that way. Many things have made the difference, but principal among them is the National Federation of the Blind. Established in 1940 by a handful of blind men and women from seven states, the Federation has conducted a never-ending campaign to educate the public and stimulate the blind. I joined the organization in 1949, and it changed my life.
Today the Federation is the strongest and most constructive force in the affairs of the blind of this country, but its work is by no means finished. The job that still has to be done is not so much a matter of legislation or government assistance as of handling the interactions of daily life. We have come a long way in public acceptance, but sometimes the attitudes of sixty years ago are still with us.
Let me illustrate by what at first may seem to be trivial examples. (Again, some of you are familiar with the details surrounding the story I am about to tell, so you can judge whether it meets our test of suitability for the Kernel Books.) Over fifty years ago, when I was a boy on the farm in Tennessee, I often found time heavy on my hands during the summer months when I was not in school. To relieve the tedium, I would sometimes ride with a truck driver, who collected milk from the local farmers to take to a nearby cheese factory.
The days were hot, and when we could afford it, we sometimes bought a bottle of Coca-Cola. (Incidentally, it cost five cents.) I didn't have much money, but now and again I had a little, and I wanted to pay my share. One day I said to the driver (a young fellow about twenty), "I'll buy a Coke for each of us."
"Okay," he said, "stay here. I'll go in and get it."
"No," I said. "I'll go with you."
He was obviously uncomfortable and didn't want me to do it. Finally he said, "I can't do that. How would it look if people saw a blind person buying me a Coke?"
I was a teenager, not yet accustomed to the ways of diplomacy. So I told him in blunt terms that either I would buy the Coke publicly or I wouldn't buy it at all. After greed and pride had fought their battle, he decided not to have it, and we drove on--after which I was not welcome in the truck.
But that was more than fifty years ago. It couldn't happen today. Or could it? Well, let me tell you about an incident that occurred less than six months ago. My wife and I were entering a restaurant--an upscale, classy place with plenty of glitter and lots of manners.
It so fell out that another couple and we reached the door almost simultaneously. I happened to be positioned so that it was natural for me to open the door and hold it while the other couple entered, but the man was obviously ill at ease. He insisted that he hold the door and that my wife and I go first. Since I already had my hand on the door and was holding it open and since I was not in the mood to be treated like a child or an inferior, I dug in my mental heels and stayed put. It was all done on both sides with great politeness and courtly manners, but it was done. As I continued to hold the door, the other couple preceded us into the restaurant. But the man was obviously uncomfortable, showing by his comments and demeanor that he felt it was inappropriate for a blind person to hold a door for him and behave like an equal.
Trivial? Not related to the daily lives and economic problems of the blind? Not a factor in determining whether blind people can hold jobs or make money? Don't you believe it! These incidents (the one fifty years ago and the one this year) typify and symbolize everything that we are working to achieve.
But again I must emphasize that we are not talking about people who are trying to cause us harm. We are talking about people who, almost without exception, wish us well and want to be of help. Our job is not one of force but of giving people facts.
And key to it all is the National Federation of the Blind--blind persons coming together in local, state, and national meetings to encourage each other and inform the public. Sometimes we are tempted to believe that our progress is slow, but in reality it has been amazingly rapid. We have made more advances during the past sixty years than in all previously recorded history. And there are better days ahead.
It is true that the smells, sounds, touch, and taste of today are not what they were sixty years ago--but it is equally true that, despite occasional nostalgia, we wouldn't want them to be. We wouldn't because today is better--and not just in physical things but also in the patterns of opportunity and possibility. I say this despite all of the problems that face our country and our society. We who are blind look to the future with hope, and those who are sighted are helping us make that hope a reality.
That is my article for the first of this year's Kernel Books. Here are the introduction and the article for the second:
Most American holidays have a double significance--what they are and what they imply. New Year's Day, for instance, means just that, the beginning of another year. But it also means reviewing the past, planning for the future, and hoping to do better.
The Fourth of July commemorates the establishment of the nation. But over the years it has picked up a whole host of other meanings--everything from summer picnics and fireworks to how we should live and the current state of American values.
And then there is Thanksgiving--and also the present Kernel Book, the thirteenth in the series. When we started publishing the Kernel Books almost seven years ago, we didn't know how successful they would be, but our goal was to reach as many people as possible with true-life first-person stories told by blind persons themselves--how we raise children, hunt jobs, engage in courtship, get an education, go to church, cook a meal, meet friends, and do all of the other things that make up daily living.
And we wanted to do it in such a way that the average member of the sighted public would read and be interested. The results have been better than we could possibly have hoped. More than three million of the Kernel Books are now in circulation, and I rarely travel anywhere in the country without being approached by somebody who has read them and wants to talk about them or ask questions.
As to the present volume, Wall-to-Wall Thanksgiving, it is much like what has gone before. It tells about blind people as they live and work.
What does a blind boy do to earn summer spending money, and what do his sighted parents expect of him? What of the Viet Nam veteran who loses his sight in the war and comes home to build a new life? And what about the self-conscious youngster and young man with a little sight, who is ashamed of blindness and yet has to live with it?
What of the small details that come together to make the days that form the years--learning to ride a bicycle, cook a steak, read a book, get a job? This is what Wall-to-Wall Thanksgiving is about. I know the people who appear in its pages. They are friends of mine. Some have been my students. All of them are fellow participants in the work of the National Federation of the Blind.
If you wonder why so many of us give our time and effort to the Federation, it is because the Federation has played such an important part in making life better for us. In fact, the National Federation of the Blind has done more than any other single thing to improve the quality of life for blind persons in the twentieth century. It is blind persons coming together to help each other and do for themselves. That doesn't mean that we don't want or need help from our sighted friends and associates, for we do. But it does mean that we think we should try to help ourselves before we ask others for assistance. And we should also give as well as take. All of this is what the National Federation of the Blind stands for and means.
I have edited the Kernel Books from the beginning, and I have contributed a story to each of them. My present offering deals with help I have received from sighted people. Sometimes my reactions have been appropriate and mature; sometimes not. As you read, you will see that my views have changed as I have grown older. Perhaps my article, "Don't Throw the Nickel," sums it up.
As to the title of this thirteenth volume in the Kernel Book series, Wall-to-Wall Thanksgiving, it is taken from the story of the same name by Barbara Pierce. But like the various holidays, it has more than a single meaning. With all of the difficulties we have had and with all of the problems we still face, we who are blind have more reason for thanksgiving now than ever before in history.
Unlike many in today's society, we do not think of ourselves as victims. We feel that our future is bright with promise. That is so because we intend to work to make it that way, and because more and more sighted people are joining our cause and helping us.
I hope you will enjoy this book and that it will give you worthwhile information.
Baltimore, Maryland, 1997
That is the introduction. Now for the article. As I have already said, it is called "Don't Throw the Nickel."
When is it appropriate for a blind person to accept help from a sighted person, and when is it not? If the offer is rejected, how can it be done without causing embarrassment or hurt feelings? Since most sighted people are well-disposed toward the blind, these are very real questions--questions that I as a blind person have faced all of my life. As you might imagine, my answers have changed as I have grown older and gained experience.
When I was a teenager, filled with the typical self-consciousness of adolescence, I frequently rode city buses. This was in Nashville. The school for the blind, where I was a student, was located on the edge of the city, and I liked to go downtown. Incidentally, in those days a bus ride cost a nickel, as did a lot of other things--a hamburger, a Coca-Cola, an order of French fries, a full-size candy bar, a double-dip of ice cream, and much else.
One day I was standing on the corner waiting for a bus when an elderly woman approached me and said, "Here, son, I'll help you." She then put a nickel into my hand.
I could tell that she was elderly because of her voice. There was quite a crowd at the bus stop, and I felt acute embarrassment. I tried to give the nickel back, but she moved out of my way and kept saying, "No, that's all right."
Everybody stopped talking, and my frustration mounted. Each time I stepped toward her to try to give back the nickel, she moved out of the way. It must have been quite a spectacle, me with my hand extended holding the nickel, and the woman weaving and dodging to avoid me. Finally, in absolute exasperation, I threw the nickel as far as I could down the street.
That was over fifty years ago, but the memory is still clear. Once the woman had placed the nickel in my hand, there was really no way I could have given it back. If I had simply and quietly accepted it and thanked her, very little notice would have been taken. As it was, I created quite a show. The elderly woman, who was only trying to help me, was undoubtedly embarrassed, and I did little to improve the image of blindness. Instead I did the exact opposite.
Ten years later, when I was in my twenties, I was teaching at the California training center for the blind in the San Francisco Bay area. One of my principal duties was to help newly blind persons learn how to deal maturely with loss of sight and the attitudes of the public about blindness.
Late one afternoon, after a particularly hard day, I was leaving the Center to go home. When I came to the corner to cross the street, an elderly man (he sounded as if he might be in his eighties) approached me and said, "I'll help you across the street." "No, thanks," I said. "I can make it just fine." I was polite but firm.
"I'll help you," he repeated, and took my arm. As I have already said, it had been a hard day. I made no discourteous response, but I speeded up my pace as we crossed the street.
Clearly the man could not keep up, and if I am to be honest, I knew that he couldn't. He released my arm and said with a hurt tone, "I was only trying to help."
When I got to the other side of the street, I came to a complete stop and said to myself, "Are you really so insecure about your blindness that, even if it has been a hard day, you can't afford to be kind to somebody who was only trying to help you?"
As with the nickel-throwing incident, there was a lesson to be learned. I should have accepted the man's offer of help and should have done it graciously. We would both have profited, each feeling that he had done the other a kindness. As it was, both of us experienced pain, even if only a little and even if only temporarily.
By the time another ten years had passed, I was in my thirties and directing programs for the blind in the state of Iowa. My job required me to do a great deal of traveling, and one day when I was checking into a hotel, a bellman carried my bag to my room. As he was leaving, I gave him a tip.
"Oh, no," he said, "I couldn't take a tip from you. I'm a Christian."
Unlike what I did in the other situations I have described, I did not refuse or resist. I simply thanked him and let it go at that. Of course I might have tried to get him to change his mind, but I didn't think it would be productive. And besides I didn't feel so insecure or unsure of myself that I needed to prove either to him or me that I was equal.
So far I have talked about help that has been courteously offered and probably should have been accepted. But what about the other kind? Blind people don't have a monopoly on rudeness or bad manners. Sighted people are human, too.
I think of a time when I was standing on a street corner in Des Moines, minding my own business and waiting for a friend. A big husky fellow with the momentum of a freight train came along and scooped me up without ever even pausing. "Come on, buddy," he said, as he grabbed my arm, "I'll help you across the street."
As it so happened, I didn't want to cross that street. I was going in another direction. But he didn't ask. And he wouldn't listen when I tried to tell him. He just kept walking and dragging me with him.
In the circumstances I planted my feet and resisted--and I should have. All of us, whether blind or sighted, owe courtesy and consideration to each other, but in this case I was being treated like a none too intelligent child. No, worse than that--for children are rarely manhandled in public.
Not long ago I entered an elevator, and a man standing next to me reached out and placed his hand on my arm, between me and the elevator door, in a protective manner. He probably felt that I might lean into the door as it was closing or that I might have difficulty when the door opened. It was a sheltering gesture, totally inappropriate but meant to be helpful. He would have been shocked at the thought of behaving that way toward a sighted adult passenger, but in my case he saw no impropriety.
When the door opened, he restrained me with his hand and said, "Wait. You can't go yet." Since I was standing immediately next to the door and since there was no traffic outside, it is hard to know why he felt I should wait. Maybe he thought I should take a moment to get my bearings, or maybe it was simply more of the protectiveness. Who knows?
He treated me very much as he would have treated a small child. How should I have reacted? It all depends on how insistent and how obtrusive he was. There is something to be said for restraint and not hurting other people's feelings, but there is also something to be said for recognizing when enough is enough.
In what I am about to say next, I am not just talking about persons who are totally blind but also about those who now see so poorly that they cannot function the way a sighted person normally does--persons who may be losing sight and who may be having trouble accepting it. I am also speaking to relatives.
As I have indicated, most blind people appreciate help when it is offered. When a blind person is walking through a crowd or down the street with somebody else and trying to carry on a conversation, it is easier to take the other person's arm. This is true even if the blind person is quite capable of traveling alone.
All of us like to do things for ourselves, but there are times when refusing to take an arm that is offered constitutes the very opposite of independence for a blind person. If, for instance, a blind person is walking with a sighted person through a crowded restaurant, the sensible thing to do is to take the sighted person's arm and go to the table without fuss or bother.
As you can tell, my views about independence and help from others have changed over the years. Probably the single most important factor in helping me come to my present notions has been the National Federation of the Blind. Having chapters in every state and almost every community of any size, the Federation is the nation's oldest and largest organization of blind persons.
As it is with me, so it is with thousands of other blind people throughout the country. We work together to help each other and ourselves. We give assistance to parents of blind children, to blind college students, to the newly blind, to the senior blind, and to blind persons who are trying to find employment. Above all, the Federation teaches a new way of thought about blindness. We want to take the mystery out of blindness. Mostly we who are blind are very much like you.
This is the message of the National Federation of the Blind, and it has made a great difference in my life. If I had to sum up my personal philosophy in a single sentence, it would probably be this: Do all you can to help yourself before you call on somebody else; try to make life better for those around you; and don't throw nickels.
There you have excerpts from the two Kernel Books for 1997. I believe our efforts at self-improvement and public education will be advanced by these books and that we will go the rest of the way to full participation and first-class status in society. While I am talking about the future, let me say something else. I never come into one of our convention sessions without feeling a lift of spirit and a surge of joy, for I know to the depths of my being that our shared bond of love and trust will never change, and that because of it we will be unswervable in our determination and unstoppable in our progress.
Through our public service announcements on radio and television, through newspaper articles and personal contacts, through gatherings like this, through our mail programs, through our publications, through public speaking engagements, through meetings with government officials and corporate leaders, and especially through our Kernel Books, we are telling our story--and we are doing it in our own way and with our own voice. The day after civil rights is fast approaching, and we will meet it as we have met every other challenge we have ever faced--joyously, actively, and triumphantly. My brothers and my sisters, we are truly changing what it means to be blind--and the Kernel Books are helping us do it.
Pooled Income Gifts
In this plan money donated to the National Federation of the Blind by a number of individuals is invested by the NFB. Each donor and the NFB sign an agreement that income from the funds will be paid to the donor quarterly or annually. Each donor receives a tax deduction for the gift; the NFB receives a useful donation; and the donor receives income of a specified amount for the rest of his or her life. For more information about the NFB pooled income fund, contact the National Federation of the Blind, Special Gifts, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998, phone (410) 659-9314, fax (410) 685-5653.
Services for the Consumers:
The Challenge of Rehabilitation
Today and in the Decades to Come
by Fredric K. Schroeder,
Rehabilitation Services Administration
U.S. Department of Education
From the Editor: Fred Schroeder is more than the Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration; he is loved and respected by thousands of blind people across the country. Before assuming his current position with the U.S. Department of Education, Dr. Schroeder was Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind and a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind. He addressed the 1997 NFB convention on Thursday morning, July 3. This is what he said:
During the elections this morning a number of those elected and reelected to the Board of Directors talked about the mentoring they had received in this organization. This is a powerful concept and very much a part of this organization. More than twenty years ago I remember spending an entire Christmas break listening to speeches that Dr. Jernigan had given and having those speeches change my life. Dr. Jernigan's words gave me hope at a time in my life when I had very little hope. I know that that has been the experience of many of you as well. Yesterday, in listening to the Presidential Report, I thought to myself: that flame of hope is burning very brightly.
I feel a solemn responsibility whenever I speak to the national body of the Federation. In preparing my presentation, I was talking with my children--I have a daughter (fifteen) and a son (thirteen), who is for sale if anyone's looking for a thirteen-year-old boy. I was explaining how precious time on the podium is and how important it is to do right by the membership. I said that very often people create a theme by picking a quotation from literature and using that to focus their thoughts. I asked my children whether they could help me think of an appropriate quotation. My daughter, who is not for sale, was studying Romeo and Juliet in school, and she said that she had a quote that she thought would be just right.
I thought: this will be terrific--a quote from Shakespeare! People will think I am learned and very intellectual. It will be very dignified and will set just the right tone. So she got the book and read me the quote. Here is what she came up with: "O single-soled jest, solely singular for the singleness." I said, "I don't know what that means." Now I did think about using it anyway on the assumption that no one else would know either, and you might all think that I had some very deep philosophical insight, but I was afraid that the President might allow questions at the end. . . so I come with no great quote from literature but some information about the Rehabilitation Services Administration that I can share with you.
Perhaps the reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act is the most significant issue facing the public rehabilitation program today. Later this summer the Administration will submit its proposal for reauthorization. In our proposal we intend to build on the principle that the rehabilitation system should not simply assist blind people in securing just any job, but instead, should assist blind people in securing the very best job possible. In our proposal we are committed to streamlining administrative requirements and keeping the focus of the program squarely centered on high-quality employment.
In May the House of Representatives adopted H.R. 1385, the "Employment, Training, and Literacy Enhancement Act of 1997." This proposal reauthorizes the rehabilitation program for a three-year period, rather than for five years as has been customary in prior reauthorizations. Very few substantive changes to the Rehabilitation Act were included in the House bill. However, the changes that were included are quite significant. Specifically, H.R. 1385 contains a new section on informed choice that draws together provisions that were previously scattered throughout the Act and strengthens the concept of client choice. The new section makes clear that clients must be active and full partners in the vocational rehabilitation process, making meaningful and informed choices in the selection of their own employment goal, and having the opportunity to participate in the identification of needed services and in the selection of service providers. This new section also provides for clients to be actively involved in determining how services will be purchased, thereby explicitly authorizing the appropriate use of vouchers. Additionally, H.R. 1385 renames the Individualized Written Rehabilitation Program (IWRP) to an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) and simplifies process requirements in ways intended to expedite the delivery of rehabilitation services.
The Senate is now beginning to take up reauthorization. The Senate will hold a hearing on reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act on Thursday, July 10, 1997, in Washington, D.C., and will hold a second hearing on July 21 in Columbus, Ohio. It is our understanding that the Senate will likely introduce bill language shortly after Labor Day. We are told that the Senate intends a bipartisan effort on reauthorization, and we are hopeful that the reauthorization process will be completed sometime this Fall.
On March 13, 1997, final regulations implementing Title I of the Rehabilitation Act became effective. These regulations contain a number of provisions of particular interest to blind people. In 1992, when the Rehabilitation Act was last reauthorized, additional emphasis was placed on the importance of state rehabilitation agencies' using professionally trained rehabilitation personnel. In developing regulations, RSA was concerned that the emphasis on professional training not unfairly discriminate against blind people in the field of Orientation and Mobility. Historically blind people have been excluded from university training in Orientation and Mobility and, consequently, were not eligible for professional certification. While in recent years the Orientation and Mobility profession has made important strides in opening university training programs to blind people, the fact remains that most blind Orientation and Mobility professionals do not possess university training or professional licensure. Accordingly, the preamble to the new Title I regulations sets forth RSA policy that state agencies and other service providers may continue to employ blind Orientation and Mobility instructors who do not meet current certification standards.
Specifically, the preamble reads in part,
The Secretary [of Education] is cognizant of the particular difficulty experienced by blind individuals who, historically, have been excluded on the basis of their disability from becoming certified as orientation and mobility instructors. The Secretary emphasizes that these regulations do not inhibit DSUs [state rehabilitation agencies] or other VR service providers from hiring blind individuals as orientation and mobility teachers even though those individuals may not meet current certification requirements.
This means that state agencies may continue to employ blind people to work as Orientation and Mobility instructors and may continue to purchase services from private agencies that employ blind Orientation and Mobility instructors.
Another important provision of the new Title I regulations concerns the definition of competitive employment. Essentially, RSA defines competitive employment as employment at or above the minimum wage in an integrated setting. We believe that, when describing different types of placements, the term competitive employment should be used in a manner that is straightforward and readily understood by policy makers and the public at-large. To say that an individual is competitively employed should mean that the individual obtained employment in an ordinary place of business and is earning a competitive wage.
It is our belief that the degree to which we, as a federal agency, are successful is the degree to which state rehabilitation agencies are successful. And the degree to which state rehabilitation agencies are successful is the degree to which blind people and others with disabilities receive training and encouragement, resulting in high-quality employment.
Measuring the number of people who go to work is easily done. Last year, the public rehabilitation program successfully placed in employment 213,334 clients, of whom 18,478 were blind people. If we chart the number of closures since the 1992 Amendments, we find an increase of 11.3 percent in closures overall from 191,890 in 1992, to the current level of 213,334. Accordingly, there is strong evidence that in President Clinton's first term in office the public rehabilitation program in America made significant strides in increasing the number of people placed in competitive work.
Yet the number of people placed in employment each year is not sufficient, in and of itself, to measure the effectiveness of the public rehabilitation program. We must also ask, is the program working with the right people, that is, those individuals who without assistance would have the least prospect of going to work--people who need orientation-center training as well as assistance in learning a particular job skill and who will likely battle discrimination in their job search? In 1992 the percentage of successfully rehabilitated clients who had severe disabilities, which includes blind people, was 69.7 percent. As of fiscal year 1996, 77.6 percent constituted the proportion of clients with severe disabilities successfully served by the program. Yet these two measures--the number of people placed in employment and the percentage of individuals with severe disabilities served by the system-- are inadequate to measure the true health of the rehabilitation program.
The rehabilitation system must find ways to place more and more people in employment each year. It must find ways of targeting services to those individuals most in need of help. Yet, if the rehabilitation system is to be truly successful, if it is to be faithful to the policy established by Congress, then the system must ensure that blind people and others receive the services and encouragement necessary, not simply to find any job, but to prepare for, and enter high quality employment. Accordingly, RSA will soon issue a policy directive formally rescinding the concept of "suitable employment" which focused on entry-level work for rehabilitation clients and will replace this concept with a policy that emphasizes that blind people and other clients must have access to a broad range of employment opportunities consistent with the individual's abilities, capabilities, and informed choice.
In short, the rehabilitation system has a responsibility to work with blind people in elevating our expectations for the future. The system must encourage blind people to pursue the very best quality employment possible. By elevating our collective expectations, we create a circumstance wherein blind people continually demand more of the rehabilitation system. Inevitably this challenges our resources and imagination, yet this is the process by which genuine progress is realized. The process of elevating expectations, with its accompanying new demands on the system, stimulates innovation and with it expanded employment opportunities for blind people throughout the nation. Hence, the measure of success for the rehabilitation system is the degree to which the system places more and more people in employment each year, the degree to which it increasingly targets resources to those most in need of help, and the degree to which the system works together with the blind to elevate our collective expectations for blind people. This is the principle which must guide our work and the principle by which we must measure our success.
If we are true to this principle, the public rehabilitation system, in partnership with blind people, will work better tomorrow than it does today and will work better the day after tomorrow than it does tomorrow. The need is too great and the stakes too high to settle for anything less. We must reduce the unemployment rate of blind people in this nation and yet, if the rehabilitation system does nothing more than place blind people in the quickest, easiest, cheapest placements--in dead-end, unskilled jobs, then the program will have failed to meet its most fundamental responsibility. Society today assumes that the blind are capable only of marginal, low-end employment. If the rehabilitation system merely fulfills this limited expectation by placing blind people in low-end jobs, it will have failed the blind and it will have failed society. We must reduce the unemployment of blind people in this nation, but we must do it by working collectively to elevate our expectations--the expectations of rehabilitation professionals, the expectations of rehabilitation clients, and the expectations of society at-large.
Recently Mr. Joe Cordova was hired as the Director of the Division for the Blind within RSA. Mr. Cordova's qualifications are impressive, both as a rehabilitation professional and as an advocate. He brings to the position experience and expertise, but, perhaps most important, he brings with him commitment and integrity. Mr. Cordova is a man who believes in blind people. He knows personally what it is to face discrimination, and he knows personally what it is to confront it successfully. I am very proud to welcome Mr. Joe Cordova as a colleague and as the senior federal official responsible for programs for the blind in America. Under his leadership I am confident that programs for the blind will meet the challenge of increasing the number of blind people who go to work in high-quality jobs each year and will do it by working collaboratively with the blind themselves to elevate our collective expectations and by so doing, expand employment opportunities for blind people throughout the nation.
Partnership: Working in Cooperation with Consumers
by Mae Nelson
Joanne Wilson: I've been asked to introduce our next speaker, Miss Mae Nelson. When I was asked to introduce her, I thought of this saying, "It takes knowledge to build bridges, but it takes wisdom to know where to put them." As the director of the Department of Social Services under Governor Roemer for four years and then for the past ten years the director of Louisiana Rehabilitation Services, Mae Nelson has worked tirelessly to get rid of the dead wood and to build a strong agency with strong and just policy procedures and a wonderful staff, many of whom are here at this convention. Mae has learned and has had the wisdom to know that, if she was going to build a strong agency, she needed to bridge the gap of suspicion, distrust, and frustration that had been held by blind people for many years in this state. She developed a relationship with the National Federation of the Blind that has built a strong agency. We in Louisiana have learned that, if we're going to have a strong agency, we need a strong National Federation of the Blind. If we're going to have a strong National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana, we need a strong agency. I would like now to present the Director of the Louisiana Rehabilitation Services, Miss Mae Nelson. [applause]
First I want to add my welcome to the National Federation of the Blind and thank you for selecting Louisiana as the site for your 1997 convention. I'm very pleased to have this opportunity to be introduced to you as the director of Louisiana Rehabilitation Services (LRS) and as the public official responsible for blind services in Louisiana. More important, I'm an individual who believes in the ability of blind people. [applause]
One has only to review participating organizations at this convention to have one's commitment to the abilities of blind people renewed. What abilities do blind people have? The ability to be students, secretaries, merchants, lawyers, doctors, and many other professions when preparation and opportunity present themselves.
The theme of my comments this afternoon is "Partnership: Working in Cooperation with Consumers." I realize that, in order for blind people to achieve certain goals, individuals may need temporary assistance from Louisiana Rehabilitation Services. I believe that we at Louisiana Rehabilitation Services have demonstrated that we are willing to work with the National Federation of the Blind to change what it means to be blind. Louisiana's shining example of cooperation and partnership toward providing blind people with preparation to take advantage of opportunities is the Louisiana Center for the Blind at Ruston. We are very proud of the Center, their accomplishments, and the alumni who are well represented at this conference and throughout the nation. They provide excellent opportunities to blind people so that they may be prepared for independence and employment.
Since we believe in the Louisiana Center for the Blind and, more important, the Director Joanne Wilson, we have consistently provided resources for the expansion of services at the Center. Louisiana Rehabilitation Services' most recent cooperative project with the Center has been a total of one million dollars in grant funds to expand the Center's programs at Ruston [applause]--not to fund the projects and services that I as director felt were needed by the blind, but to carry out the values and ideas that were presented to me by the Director Joanne Wilson.
LRS has provided funding for the Center's STEP Program, which is a summer training and employment program. This is a new pilot this year that we are implementing with the Center. This pilot is a transition program for students. Joanne and I have been talking for years about the inability of vocational rehabilitation--because we are an employment program--to begin early enough in the process with students to help them with their self-esteem and to lift their expectations about what they can do as blind persons. This year we will start a pilot program where we will take students in the lower grades and track them through graduation and through their training and college programs to demonstrate in Louisiana and to provide additional funding and projects to show that, if students are received early enough in the Center for the Blind program and provided with opportunities, those students can achieve whatever goals they set. [applause]
We have utilized the Center as a site for Louisiana Rehabilitation Services staff training. We feel that our staff, if they are to believe in the services that can be and should be provided to people who are blind, need to be exposed to the philosophy and programs at the Center.
Our cooperation and a cooperative endeavor with the Center enabled Louisiana to be the first state to come online with the Newsline(TM) service, pioneered by the National Federation of the Blind. LRS funded this project with federal grants for the older blind secured through the grant-writing skills of Suzanne Mitchell, who is a Federationist. I had the forethought and common sense to hire Suzanne Mitchell as my assistant and executive director of Blind Services almost three years ago. LRS has also provided additional financial support to add a pilot job information line to the news service.
Last year Suzanne came to my office to discuss with me the shortage of orientation and mobility instructors in the state and wanted to know from me if I would commit to and if we could write a grant to try to bring this training to Louisiana. I don't think Suzanne is quite used yet to coming to my office, proposing an idea, and sitting down together and coming up with strategies to make it happen. Suzanne wrote the grant, and, through this cooperative project with Louisiana Tech University for O & M specialist training, it is now coming online, and the project has come to fruition. Also last year Suzanne came into my office to say that the need was overwhelming. We needed additional resources; could she write another grant? I said, "Sure." So we wrote another grant, and we have secured additional funding to provide an additional instructor so that we may enroll additional students in that program through the Center for the Blind and Louisiana Tech.
In terms of partnership, we must thank our grant partners for those grant funds. If this sounds like bragging, it is not. I wish to convey to you that Louisiana Rehabilitation Services has made an investment in changing what it means to be blind in Louisiana. [applause]
We are also a participant in the National Federation of the Blind's Comprehensive Braille Training Project. Counselors have received their first in a series of Braille-training activities sponsored by this project. Three counselors and Louisiana Rehabilitation Services Assistive Technologies Program specialists have attended Braille technology training at the National Center for the Blind.
Louisiana Rehabilitation Services regards the National Federation of the Blind as an excellent resource for consumers and staff and encourages the distribution of information and publications routinely to benefit consumers. The Braille Monitor is included in our library in a prominent place. Our counselors and staff participate in local and statewide meetings of the National Federation of the Blind. All of our counselors and others of our staff have been in attendance at this conference, not by mandate, but by choice. They are true partners in changing what it means to be blind.
I have a lot of other issues here that I could go on and on with that would demonstrate our commitment in philosophy and resources, but due to time I will leave some of it out. However, I do want to say that at our first meeting Joanne and I had a very tenuous kind of meeting, and not understanding the relationship between the Federation and some commissioners, I did not understand why it took almost eight years for me to receive from NFB the Administrator of the Year Award, but it is one of my most prized possessions. It is because I know through the Federation that, if I received the Administrator of the Year Award, I got it the old fashioned way--I earned it. [applause]
by the Annual Convention of the
National Federation of the Blind
by Ramona Walhof
From the Editor: Ramona Walhof is the Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB of Idaho. She also serves as the Chairperson of the Resolutions Committee. Each year she presides over the receipt and handling of all resolutions until they are acted upon by the convention. This is what she has to say about the resolutions considered at the 1997 convention of the National Federation of the Blind:
For me in recent years it has been a thrill to pound the gavel and call the Resolutions Committee Meeting to order. The response is a mighty yell from the committee and the audience, friends and colleagues in the Federation. This occurred at 1:30 p.m., Monday, June 30, 1997. A committee of nearly fifty representatives considered resolutions brought by NFB membersfrom across the country. We require that those who present resolutions attend the committee meeting.
As usual, there was an audience of several hundred people. Why do so many come? Because NFB resolutions are policy statements of the National Federation of the Blind, and NFB members take our policies seriously. After discussion by the committee, resolutions which receive affirmative action are
brought to the floor of the convention for a final decision. There may or may not be much discussion on the floor, but conventioneers will have been thinking and talking about them all week long, especially if a particular resolution is at all controversial.
This year nineteen resolutions were sent to the chairman as required before the convention. Seventeen were passed by the committee and the convention. One resolution had no sponsor at the committee meeting and therefore was not considered. The Committee resoundingly voted not to recommend a second one to the Convention. Short descriptions of the resolutions that were adopted as well as their complete texts follow:
Resolution 97-01 thanks Senator John
Chafee and other members of Congress for their affirmative action on the Copyright
Act passed in September, 1996.
Resolution 97-02 expresses gratitude to Representative Barbara Kennelly, Senators John McCain and Christopher Dodd, and other co-sponsors of the legislation to restore the policy of work-incentive equity for blind people receiving Social Security Disability Insurance.
Resolution 97-03 calls upon the Walt Disney Company to abandon its plans to produce a movie featuring Mr. Magoo and calls upon Leslie Nielsen and other actors not to associate themselves with such a project.
Resolution 97-04 urges the Department of Veterans Affairs not to attempt to serve blind persons who are not veterans and not to seek payment for such service from other federal agencies.
Resolution 97-05 calls upon the Veterans Administration to abide by the decision of the Eighth Circuit Court stating that the Randolph-Sheppard Act applies to VA medical centers.
Resolution 97-06 urges Tektronix, Inc., to continue to improve its newly demonstrated system of tactile graphic images produced by its Phaser 600 printer and calls upon agencies of the federal government to assist in improving the accessibility to the blind of graphic images commonly used on computer screens and print-outs.
Resolution 97-07 calls upon the electronics industry to ensure that the needs of the blind are considered in the design of electronic devices intended for the general public.
Resolution 97-08 urges equal access for the blind when information is provided to the public through kiosks and other public-access sources of electronic information and calls upon those purchasing such equipment to keep this accessibility need in mind.
Resolution 97-09 calls for better Braille music instruction for blind children and their instructors and requests the National Library Service to develop a Braille music competency test for these instructors.
Resolution 97-10 deplores the proposed use of a means test by vocational rehabilitation programs and calls upon Congress to reject any proposal for a means test as a condition of receiving services.
Resolution 97-11 calls upon the Social Security Administration to establish within its teleservice system one or more positions to provide technical information about its work incentives.
Resolution 97-12 calls upon blood-glucose-meter manufacturers to make all of these devices accessible to the blind by providing voice output.
Resolution 97-13 praises Congress and the President for supporting Braille instruction to blind children and calls for parents, educators, and policymakers everywhere to see that the law is implemented.
Resolution 97-14 strongly urges the Social Security Administration to adopt revised standards and procedures for approving PASS applications based on encouraging rather than restricting recipients' efforts to achieve self-support and insists upon clear and objective standards in evaluating PASS applications which do not include governmental prejudgment on the recipients' chosen goals.
Resolution 97-15 was not passed by the committee.
Resolution 97-16 opposes the position of the Department of Defense which excludes Randolph-Sheppard vending facilities from most Department locations and calls upon the Department to open Defense food service sales facilities broadly to blind vendors.
Resolution 97-17 urges schools to provide access and instruction in the use of computers and the Internet for their blind students.
Resolution 97-18 supports the bill in Congress already passed by the House of Representatives to consolidate job training and employment programs, especially provisions to amend and extend the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
WHEREAS, amendments to the Copyright Act of major and historic consequence for blind people were enacted and became law in September, 1996; and
WHEREAS, the amendments resulted from an agreement reached between the National Federation of the Blind and the Association of American Publishers with consultation and involvement by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress in the discussions leading to the agreement; and
WHEREAS, an enthusiastic and positive response by United States Senator John H. Chafee of Rhode Island to a request from the National Federation of the Blind brought about prompt enactment of the copyright amendments; and
WHEREAS, this legislation has had the immediate beneficial effect of providing blind persons the chance to obtain a greater degree of access to published works without the delay formerly caused by the necessity to secure permission from publishers, but the long-range benefits of the copyright amendments are likely to be of even greater consequence with the inevitable growth in creation and mass distribution of information by electronic means: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization convey its official thanks and commendation to Senator John H. Chafee for the understanding and commitment he has shown by providing the leadership necessary for enactment of the Copyright Act amendments during the first session of Congress in which this legislation was proposed.
WHEREAS, the Social Security Act contains provisions for determining the amount of exempt earnings used as a factor in eligibility for blind people in the disability insurance program; and
WHEREAS, the statutory exempt earnings guideline which applies to blind persons was established as a matter of law to reflect the fact that blindness, like retirement age, is a definable condition; and
WHEREAS, an identical, annually-adjusted, exempt amount was applicable to earnings of blind persons and age-sixty-five retirees from 1978 until the law for retirees was changed in 1996; and
WHEREAS, the 1996 changes made for retirees will result in an earnings exemption of $30,000 beginning in 2002, but the limit on earnings of the blind in that year will be less than half the amount allowed for seniors; and
WHEREAS, Representative Barbara Kennelly and Senators John McCain and Christopher Dodd are leading an effort in Congress to correct this inequity with a bill to provide the same annual changes in the exempt amount for blind people as those now approved for retirees: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this second day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization express its gratitude and appreciation to the members of Congress-- Representative Kennelly and Senators McCain and Dodd--as well as to the cosponsors of the legislation in the House of Representatives and the Senate who are leading the effort to restore the policy of work incentive equity for blind Americans; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge all members of Congress to join with the sponsors of this most significant work incentive legislation for the blind so that action to secure its prompt enactment will occur.
WHEREAS, for fifty-eight years the cartoon character Mr. Magoo has perpetuated the old myth that blind people are bumbling, unaware, helpless, and often crotchety; and
WHEREAS, two generations of blind children have already endured taunts in school and elsewhere with the belittling label "Mr. Magoo"; and
WHEREAS, the Magoo character has fortunately become such an anachronism that no studio has filmed any new Magoo movies or TV shows for thirty-two years; and
WHEREAS, until now the Walt Disney Company has never offended blind Americans by producing entertainment which included the inept and unaware Magoo character; and
WHEREAS, recent press reports indicate that the Walt Disney Company has bought the rights to Mr. Magoo in order to capitalize on Magoo's supposed nostalgia by filming a new feature-length, live-action Magoo movie expected to be released during the Christmas holiday of 1997; and
WHEREAS, the inescapable nature of Magoo is as offensive and stereotypical to us today as Little Black Sambo and Amos and Andy are to Americans of every race; and
WHEREAS, the Los Angeles Times has quoted the late Jim Backus, voice of Mr. Magoo, as saying of Magoo in 1976 that he'd "like to bury the old creep and get some good dramatic roles"; and
WHEREAS, a central element to the Magoo character is his so- called funny ineptness in activities of ordinary life because he can't see--an artless prejudice against the blind that the National Federation of the Blind has fought to change since 1940; and
WHEREAS, we believe that the multi-million dollar budget for Magoo--which exceeds the entire annual operating budget of the National Federation of the Blind--represents a colossal waste of resources toward an end unworthy of the Disney name; and
WHEREAS, the nation's largest organization of blind people finds it objectionable that the multi-billion-dollar Walt Disney Company has apparently chosen to make new profits at the expense of blind people; and
WHEREAS, we believe that the values of this year's holiday season (when this movie is projected to open) would be better served by portraying blind competence, not incompetence, blind alternative techniques rather than helplessness, blind fellowship rather than isolation, and blind inclusive humor rather than ridicule of us; and
WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind stands ready immediately to assist the Walt Disney Company in developing movies and cartoons that show this positive, modern understanding of the normal abilities of blind people without resorting to ancient stereotypes: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this second day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization condemn and deplore Disney's attempt to raise Mr. Magoo from his deathbed; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call upon the Walt Disney Company to abandon production of this offensive project; to return to Disney's tradition of making films which celebrate people and their capacity to learn, adapt, and grow; and to let Quincy Magoo die a natural death; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call upon Leslie Nielsen and other actors and Disney staff associated with the Magoo project to stop working on this ill-conceived movie which will be an embarrassment to their careers and an insult to the millions of blind or visually-impaired Americans; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we take whatever action appropriate to protest the revival of the Mr. Magoo character.
WHEREAS, the Department of Veterans Affairs is pursuing an effort to obtain support from other agencies, including the federal/state vocational rehabilitation program, to underwrite the costs of its blind rehabilitation program; and
WHEREAS, this effort to expand its base of financial support includes recruitment of trainees who are not veterans and are actually not eligible to receive services from the Department of Veterans Affairs except under special agreements made to serve them; and
WHEREAS, the approach followed by the Department of Veterans Affairs in conducting its rehabilitation program for the blind has been designed as a medical model, with the emphasis placed on skill development and the provision of prosthetic aids and devices, rather than on teaching constructive views about blindness and building the confidence needed by each blind person to achieve full participation in society on terms of equality; and
WHEREAS, references to blind students as "patients" and the description of the training facility's capacity itself by reporting the number of "beds," rather than the number of training slots available, completely misstate the mission and purpose of rehabilitation services for blind people but typify the medical-model approach of the Department of Veterans Affairs; and
WHEREAS, in training facilities outside of the Department of Veterans Affairs, use of the medical model for rehabilitation of the blind has been rejected as a failed approach because it tends to perpetuate the myth that blindness is a physical affliction; and
WHEREAS, the Department of Veterans Affairs' announced policy against the employment or training of blind persons as orientation and mobility instructors is a further reason for rejecting the efforts of that agency to position itself as a service provider for the blind population in general: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization oppose the effort of the Department of Veterans Affairs to double-dip from the federal treasury by financing its tax-supported, hospital-based program for veterans with funds received by serving clients of other federally funded programs.
WHEREAS, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has issued a final and binding judgment in which the priority granted to blind people by the federal Randolph-Sheppard Act has been upheld as fully in effect in a medical center of the Department of Veterans Affairs; and
WHEREAS, the court's decision in this particular instance has brought to a final and satisfactory end more than a decade of legal proceedings in which the Department of Veterans Affairs has used every argument and legal strategy imaginable to no avail to obtain a court-approved exemption from the Randolph-Sheppard Act; and
WHEREAS, in the spirit of the oath of office taken by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and other top officials of that Department faithfully to "execute the Constitution and laws of the United States," the Department should now accept the federal court's decision and take affirmative steps to abide by it at all of the Department's 172 medical centers; and
WHEREAS, rather than honoring the blind-vendor priority consistent with the Court's decision in the Eighth Circuit, the Department of Veterans Affairs appears to be embarked on a policy of attempting to defeat the priority by simply ignoring it and hoping that officials in the blind-vendor program will simply not notice their failure to comply with the law: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization condemn and deplore the take-no-prisoners posture of the Department of Veterans Affairs in its efforts to undermine the priority now confirmed by the courts in favor of the Randolph-Sheppard Act; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization seek the assistance of those responsible in the Department of Education and the Department of Justice in order that the Court's decision in the Eighth Circuit may be honored as a matter of policy and law throughout the Department of Veterans Affairs medical center system.
WHEREAS, graphic images such as pictures, diagrams, maps, and graphs are becoming more prevalent in educational materials; and
WHEREAS, graphic images such as spreadsheets, diagrams, and graphs are being more widely used as a means of conveying information in the workplace; and
WHEREAS, there has until recently not been a system for rapidly producing tactile images on an as-needed basis; and
WHEREAS, Tektronix, Inc., the world's leading manufacturer of workgroup color printers, has recently demonstrated a usable system for producing tactile line drawings and graphs using the Phaser 600 printer: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization commend Tektronix, Inc., for its efforts in creating this outstanding contribution to the blindness community; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge Tektro- nix, Inc., to continue the development of this technology by working in cooperation with interested companies and the National Federation of the Blind; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon the appropriate agencies of the federal government such as the Rehabilitation Services Administration, the National Institute of Health, the Department of Education, the Veterans Administration, and the National Science Foundation to cooperate in funding further research and developments in this area.
WHEREAS, the use of digital controls and computer technology in today's consumer electronic appliances has resulted in devices which are difficult if not impossible for blind persons to use independently; and
WHEREAS, examples of some features that cause problems for blind consumers include but are by no means limited to:
1. Buttons that cannot be located by touch but which all too often require only a light touch to be pressed,
2. Buttons which can be located by touch but which provide no indication, either by touch or by sound, that they have been pressed,
3. Continuously rotating knobs whose settings cannot be determined by touch but which are displayed on a screen, and
4. On-screen menus--particularly the more complex menus used on more sophisticated devices--which tend to change with no warning after a pre-determined amount of inactive time has passed; and
WHEREAS, these features can be found not only in the home, where a blind person has a certain amount of choice about which appliance to purchase, but in the office--on telephones, fax machines, copiers, and other devices--which often are essential for an employed blind person to use in order to keep his or her job; and
WHEREAS, the difficulties imposed on the blind by the increased digitization of electronic devices can be attributed to the lack of understanding and good information on the part of designers and developers, who often do not even imagine that their products are likely to be used by the blind: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization work with the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers' Association, CEMA, and other major organizations within the electronics industry to ensure that the needs of the blind are considered in the design of electronic devices intended for the general public.
WHEREAS, communication by electronic means is becoming a widespread method for conducting business with government agen- cies and obtaining essential public services; and
WHEREAS, employment opportunities are also becoming dependent upon the ability to acquire and manipulate data presented by electronic means and stored in electronic files; and
WHEREAS, the benefits of information technology (including the use of public-kiosk systems and other methods to access information presented in electronic form) are readily apparent for employees and members of the general public who can see, but for blind people the same benefits are being denied because of lack of accessible equipment and features and lack of planning to obtain such features at the time of procurement of information technology; and
WHEREAS, adoption of model legislation for information technology access prepared by the National Federation of the Blind is essential to remove the barriers resulting from the lack of specific non-visual access standards for use as procurement specifications: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization insist upon a policy of equal access to information technology in those instances when such technology is purchased and deployed for public or employee use; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization vigorously promote the passage of laws with specific requirements for non- visual use so that the growing reliance upon information technology throughout the United States becomes a means of access rather than a source of discrimination against the blind.
WHEREAS, goal 5 of the National Education Goals declares that by the year 2000 every adult American will be literate; and
WHEREAS, the National Literacy Act of 1991 states in part that literacy is "an individual's ability to read and write . . . and to develop one's knowledge and potential"; and
WHEREAS, when a blind person decides to become literate in music, one of the tools for acquiring this knowledge is the Braille Music Code; and
WHEREAS, the second purpose of the National Federation of the Blind Music Division is to develop and improve methods for transcribing music into large print and Braille: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization strongly urge the use and teaching of the Braille Music Code whenever appropriate; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge all entities preparing instructors of blind students to offer courses in the Braille Music Code; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Federation of the Blind call upon the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) to create an additional test for the Braille Music Code to assure parents of blind children and music students that these instructors are competent in Braille music.
WHEREAS, a federally mandated means test was eliminated from the vocational rehabilitation program more than thirty years ago, providing each state with the discretion to establish a financial-need policy, including the policy of not applying a financial-need standard for any vocational rehabilitation service at all; and
WHEREAS, amid the consideration of amendments to the Rehabilitation Act now occurring in the United States Senate, a proposal to restore "means testing" as a federal mandate is under review with the concept that many services, other than eligibility and plan development, could be subject to some form of means testing under certain, as-yet-to-be-determined circumstances; and
WHEREAS, a means test by its very nature creates a significant disincentive to the use of vocational rehabilitation services, since individuals who need such services are often forced to live on public benefits and exhaust family resources (including savings belonging to themselves and others) just to survive financially, let alone taking on the burden of paying the costs of rehabilitation; and
WHEREAS, a policy of means testing would be particularly onerous for blind people, since service costs--such as the costs of personal adjustment and training--are high enough that payment by individuals is an unrealistic expectation, even though the services are necessary for lifelong success following rehabilitation: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization deplore the notion that a means test required by the federal government should become a part of the vocational rehabilitation program; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call upon the members of Congress and the President to reject any proposal for a federally mandated means test as a condition for an eligible person to receive services under the Rehabilitation Act.
WHEREAS, attempts to work while receiving cash benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income programs will eventually result in overpayment allegations being made against beneficiaries by the Social Security Administration in virtually every case; and
WHEREAS, although the work-incentive provisions that may apply to any particular claim and the unique circumstances of that claim may be complex and difficult for employees of the Social Security Administration to understand, this is not an acceptable excuse for failing to implement the law and certainly not an acceptable excuse for threatening beneficiaries with allegations of overpayment without developing a complete record of the facts; and
WHEREAS, beneficiaries, who cannot obtain correct information about the status of their claims and the effect of using particular work incentive provisions, will often choose not to attempt working at all, since this is still their safest, most secure option; and
WHEREAS, the Social Security Administration has invested substantial resources in creating and maintaining a toll-free, telephone-access network for use in scheduling appointments, responding to personal inquiries, or providing general information about Social Security programs, but competent and personalized help or counseling in the use of work incentives is not provided through this network: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization call upon the Social Security Administration to establish within its nationwide teleservice system one or more positions with the exclusive responsibility of providing work incentive technical assistance for the purpose of responding to questions about the use of work incentives and for giving beneficiaries a prompt and convenient means of access to their work-activity information on file; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the particular, number one, responsibility of each work incentive technical assistant should be to help beneficiaries overcome the uncertainties caused by working by accurately informing them on matters such as the record of their trial work months used, if any, and the method used to decide whether a particular month should count against the trial work period; the length of time remaining for extended eligibility and the importance of knowing when this period will expire; the expected expiration date for the individual's Medicare eligibility; and the facts on file concerning work expense and impairment-related work expense deductions presently being allowed.
WHEREAS, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in working age adults; and
WHEREAS, the Center for Disease Control estimates that up to 39,000 Americans become blind from diabetes each year; and
WHEREAS, each year thousands of diabetic senior citizens become blind due to other causes; and
WHEREAS, all diabetics need to monitor blood glucose levels accurately in order to maintain their health and reduce their risk of further complications; and
WHEREAS, vision loss from diabetes is often gradual and fluctuates dramatically, making it difficult for diabetics to read accurately the results from conventional blood glucose meters; and
WHEREAS, the experience of the National Federation of the Blind proves that blind diabetics can successfully manage their blood glucose levels if given the appropriate training and voice technology; and
WHEREAS, adding voice feedback to electronic devices is now simple and cost-effective, especially when voice access is added during product design and development phases: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization call upon all blood glucose meter developers and manufacturers to make all future blood glucose meters directly accessible via voice for diabetics who are blind or losing vision; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization work directly with developers and manufacturers to find cost-effective and workable solutions for making new meters accessible.
WHEREAS, early acquisition of literacy skills to the extent of each individual's ability is essential for lifelong success in our information age; and
WHEREAS, amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) recently enacted can provide the impetus necessary to secure literacy instruction in Braille for every blind child in America; and
WHEREAS, with the enactment of the IDEA amendments, the focus of responsibility now shifts to nationwide implementation so that the individualized education program of each blind child actually includes Braille instruction and services of sufficient scope and quality necessary for each child to learn and achieve at the highest level possible; and
WHEREAS, the new law provides an opportunity for educators, parents, and blind students themselves to join with the National Federation of the Blind in efforts to achieve excellence in the design and implementation of Braille literacy programs for blind youth: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization acknowledge with praise and thanks the efforts of those in Congress and the Clinton administration who have demonstrated a strong commitment to Braille literacy services for blind children as a matter of national policy and law; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon educators, parents, and policy makers at all levels to cooperate in assuring that the clear intent of the law--that each blind child receive high quality instruction in Braille reading and writing--is fulfilled in schools throughout our land.
WHEREAS, provisions in title XVI of the Social Security Act permit the exemption of income and resources in the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program if the SSI recipient's use of the funds is restricted to approved expenses under a plan for achieving self-support (PASS); and
WHEREAS, the reported failure of the Social Security Administration to monitor the use of the PASS provisions, coupled with allegations of program abuse, have led to long delays in the approval of PASS applications and to an actual curtailment in the type of applications approved; and
WHEREAS, the procedures now in use have vested in employees of the Social Security Administration the power to determine the feasibility of each applicant's vocational goal, even though the persons responsible for making such judgments are not acquainted with and, in fact, have never met the individuals being judged; and
WHEREAS, the Social Security Administration's reported practice of disapproving any application for a PASS that calls for education or training beyond that necessary to obtain employment at the entry level is in itself an abuse of administrative discretion; and
WHEREAS, without clear policies and objective standards for the evaluation of PASS applications, the Social Security Administration is itself creating a disincentive to fulfillment of self-support goals that recipients would otherwise pursue if given the opportunity to do so: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization strongly urge the Social Security Administration to adopt revised standards and procedures for the approval of PASS applications that are based on encouraging rather than restricting the efforts of recipients to achieve self-support; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization insist upon clear and objective standards to be used in evaluating pass applications which do not include the power of governmental prejudgment of the goals chosen by recipients.
WHEREAS, amendments to the federal Randolph-Sheppard Act, passed more than twenty years ago, were specifically designed to expand the quality and scope of business opportunities made possible for blind persons on federal property; and
WHEREAS, the Department of Defense has recently requested support by the Clinton administration for an exemption from the Randolph-Sheppard Act to apply in the case of military food service facilities which, according to the Department of Defense, should not be considered as vending facilities under the Randolph-Sheppard Act since meals are paid for from appropriated funds and are not purchased individually by the troops; and
WHEREAS, regardless of the manner of payment, the food service provided to members of the armed forces can lead to business opportunities of significant size, thus providing a means of expanding the blind-vendor program while fulfilling an important government need: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization strongly oppose the position of the Department of Defense that food services which are paid for by the taxpayers rather than the troops should be excluded from the priority for the blind granted by the Randolph-Sheppard Act; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon the Department of Defense to do its duty as required by law and assure that opportunities for vending facilities of all kinds are provided on a consistent and widespread basis under the auspices of the blind vendor program.
WHEREAS, efforts by federal, state, and local agencies are now being made to fulfill the commitment by President Clinton, that each child by the age of twelve should be able to log on to and use the Internet in school; and
WHEREAS, the capacity for children at an early age to have access to the Internet is unquestionably just as important for blind children as it is for sighted children; and
WHEREAS, regardless of this undisputed fact, the investment in equipment and software needed for schools to go online has, in almost every instance, not included access by speech or Braille output for children who cannot see the computer screen; and
WHEREAS, matters of access, such as speech and Braille output in the use of computers, tend to be viewed as the exclusive responsibility of special education when in fact the general education program is required by law to provide the same opportunities for participation and learning by disabled and non-disabled students alike, including instruction in the use of computers and access to the Internet; and
WHEREAS, the failure to provide for securing the appropriate technology for Internet access by non-visual means in all but a few exceptional situations has shown a shocking disregard for the educational needs of blind students, not to mention that this disregard is a flagrant violation of the laws which prohibit discrimination against such students: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization insist upon a policy of strict observance of the rights of blind students to instruction in the use of computer technology and access to the Internet as part of the general education program to the same extent that such instruction and access are provided to students who are not blind; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the position expressed in this resolution shall be communicated to responsible officials, teachers, and parents involved at all levels of the education system so that corrective action will be made.
WHEREAS, legislation to consolidate federally assisted employment and training programs is being considered once again in Congress; and
WHEREAS, the measure, presently in the form of H.R. 1385, proposes to extend existing programs for blind persons and others with disabilities which are authorized in title I of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and would not result in the consolidation of these programs with generic job training and employment services intended for use by the general population; and
WHEREAS, amendments to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which have been included in H.R. 1385 as passed by the House of Representatives, would significantly strengthen and improve upon the language now in the law pertaining to informed choice of employment goals, services, and service providers by individuals eligible for vocational rehabilitation services; and
WHEREAS, the amendments as passed by the House would also acknowledge the right of each eligible individual to develop and submit for approval by the state agency an individually prepared employment plan, rather than relying solely upon evaluation and planning activities directed by the rehabilitation counselor; and
WHEREAS, these features of the amendments to the Rehabilitation Act would continue the constructive policy redirection of the vocational rehabilitation program toward a more client-centered approach long advocated by the National Federation of the Blind: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization express strong support for the present proposal to consolidate job training and employment programs, especially in regard to the provisions of that bill as passed by the House of Representatives to amend and extend programs now authorized by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge the Senate of the United States and the leaders responsible for employment and training legislation to place the consolidation bill as passed by the
House on a fast track for consideration so that final passage of amendments to title I of the Rehabilitation Act may be achieved before the expiration of the current authority for this important
of the National Federation of the Blind
as Amended 1986
ARTICLE I. NAME
The name of this organization is the National Federation of the Blind.
ARTICLE II. PURPOSE
The purpose of the National Federation of the Blind is to serve as a vehicle for collective action by the blind of the nation; to function as a mechanism through which the blind and interested sighted persons can come together in local, state, and national meetings to plan and carry out programs to improve the quality of life for the blind; to provide a means of collective action for parents of blind children; to promote the vocational, cultural, and social advancement of the blind; to achieve the integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality with the sighted; and to take any other action which will improve the overall condition and standard of living of the blind.
ARTICLE III. MEMBERSHIP
Section A. The membership of the National Federation of the Blind shall consist of the members of the state affiliates, the members of divisions, and members-at-large. Members of divisions and members-at-large shall have the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities in the National Federation of the Blind as members of state affiliates.
The Board of Directors shall establish procedures for admission of divisions and shall determine the structure of divisions. The divisions shall, with the approval of the Board, adopt constitutions and determine their membership policies. Membership in divisions shall not be conditioned upon membership in state affiliates.
The Board of Directors shall establish procedures for admission of members-at-large, determine how many classes of such members shall be established, and determine the annual dues to be paid by members of each class.
Section B. Each state or territorial possession of the United States, including the District of Columbia, having an affiliate shall have one vote at the National Convention. These organizations shall be referred to as state affiliates.
Section C. State affiliates shall be organizations of the blind controlled by the blind. No organization shall be recognized as an "organization of the blind controlled by the blind" unless at least a majority of its voting members and a majority of the voting members of each of its local chapters are blind.
Section D. The Board of Directors shall establish procedures for the admission of state affiliates. There shall be only one state affiliate in each state.
Section E. Any member, local chapter, state affiliate, or division of this organization may be suspended, expelled, or otherwise disciplined for misconduct or for activity unbecoming to a member or affiliate of this organization by a two-thirds vote of the Board of Directors or by a simple majority of the states present and voting at a National Convention. If the action is to be taken by the Board, there must be good cause, and a good faith effort must have been made to try to resolve the problem by discussion and negotiation. If the action is to be taken by the Convention, notice must be given on the preceding day at an open Board meeting or a session of the Convention. If a dispute arises as to whether there was "good cause," or whether the Board made a "good faith effort," the National Convention (acting in its capacity as the supreme authority of the Federation) shall have the power to make final disposition of the matter; but until or unless the Board's action is reversed by the National Convention, the ruling of the Board shall continue in effect.
ARTICLE IV. OFFICERS, BOARD OF DIRECTORS, AND NATIONAL ADVISORY BOARD
Section A. The officers of The National Federation of the Blind shall be: (1) President, (2) First Vice President, (3) Second Vice President, (4) Secretary, and (5) Treasurer. They shall be elected biennially.
Section B. The officers shall be elected by majority vote of the state affiliates present and voting at a National Convention.
Section C. The National Federation of the Blind shall have a Board of Directors, which shall be composed of the five officers and twelve additional members, six of whom shall be elected at the Annual Convention during even numbered years and six of whom shall be elected at the Annual Convention during odd numbered years. The members of the Board of Directors shall serve for two-year terms.
Section D. The Board of Directors may, in its discretion, create a National Advisory Board and determine the duties and qualifications of the members of the National Advisory Board.
ARTICLE V. POWERS AND DUTIES OF THE CONVENTION, THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS, AND THE PRESIDENT
Section A. Powers and Duties of the Convention. The Convention is the supreme authority of the Federation. It is the legislature of the Federation. As such, it has final authority with respect to all issues of policy. Its decisions shall be made after opportunity has been afforded for full and fair discussion. Delegates and members in attendance may participate in all Convention discussions as a matter of right. Any member of the Federation may make or second motions, propose nominations, and serve on committees; and is eligible for election to office, except that only blind members may be elected to the National Board. Voting and making motions by proxy are prohibited. Consistent with the democratic character of the Federation, Convention meetings shall be so conducted as to prevent parliamentary maneuvers which would have the effect of interfering with the expression of the will of the majority on any question, or with the rights of the minority to full and fair presentation of their views. The Convention is not merely a gathering of representatives of separate state organizations. It is a meeting of the Federation at the national level in its character as a national organization. Committees of the Federation are committees of the national organization. The nominating committee shall consist of one member from each state affiliate represented at the Convention, and each state affiliate shall appoint its member to the committee. From among the members of the committee, the President shall appoint a chairperson.
Section B. Powers and Duties of the Board of Directors. The function of the Board of Directors as the governing body of the Federation between Conventions is to make policies when necessary and not in conflict with the policies adopted by the Convention. Policy decisions which can reasonably be postponed until the next meeting of the National Convention shall not be made by the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors shall serve as a credentials committee. It shall have the power to deal with organizational problems presented to it by any member, local chapter, state affiliate, or division; shall decide appeals regarding the validity of elections in local chapters, state affiliates, or divisions; and shall certify the credentials of delegates when questions regarding the validity of such credentials arise. By a two-thirds vote the Board may suspend one of its members for violation of a policy of the organization or for other action unbecoming to a member of the Federation. By a two-thirds vote the Board may reorganize any local chapter, state affiliate, or division. The Board may not suspend one of its own members or reorganize a local chapter, state affiliate, or division except for good cause and after a good faith effort has been made to try to resolve the problem by discussion and negotiation. If a dispute arises as to whether there was "good cause" or whether the Board made a "good faith effort," the National Convention (acting in its capacity as the supreme authority of the Federation) shall have the power to make final disposition of the matter; but until or unless the Board's action is reversed by the National Convention, the ruling of the Board shall continue in effect. There shall be a standing subcommittee of the Board of Directors which shall consist of three members. The committee shall be known as the Subcommittee on Budget and Finance. It shall, whenever it deems necessary, recommend to the Board of Directors principles of budgeting, accounting procedures, and methods of financing the Federation program; and shall consult with the President on major expenditures.
The Board of Directors shall meet at the time of each National Convention. It shall hold other meetings on the call of the President or on the written request of any five members.
Section C. Powers and Duties of the President. The President is the principal administrative officer of the Federation. In this capacity his or her duties consist of: carrying out the policies adopted by the Convention; conducting the day-to-day management of the affairs of the Federation; authorizing expenditures from the Federation treasury in accordance with and in implementation of the policies established by the Convention; appointing all committees of the Federation except the Nominating Committee; coordinating all activities of the Federation, including the work of other officers and of committees; hiring, supervising, and dismissing staff members and other employees of the Federation, and determining their numbers and compensation; taking all administrative actions necessary and proper to put into effect the programs and accomplish the purposes of the Federation. The implementation and administration of the interim policies adopted by the Board of Directors are the responsibility of the President as principal administrative officer of the Federation.
ARTICLE VI. STATE AFFILIATES
Any organized group desiring to become a state affiliate of The National Federation of the Blind shall apply for affiliation by submitting to the President of the National Federation of the Blind a copy of its constitution and a list of the names and addresses of its elected officers. Under procedures to be established by the Board of Directors, action shall be taken on the application. If the action is affirmative, the National Federation of the Blind shall issue to the organization a charter of affiliation. Upon request of the National President the state affiliate shall provide to the National President the names and addresses of its members. Copies of all amendments to the constitution and/or bylaws of an affiliate shall be sent without delay to the National President. No organization shall be accepted as an affiliate and no organization shall remain an affiliate unless at least a majority of its voting members are blind. The president, vice president (or vice presidents), and at least a majority of the executive committee or board of directors of the state affiliate and of all of its local chapters must be blind. Affiliates must not merely be social organizations but must formulate programs and actively work to promote the economic and social betterment of the blind. Affiliates and their local chapters must comply with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federation.
Policy decisions of the Federation are binding upon all affiliates and local chapters, and the affiliate and its local chapters must participate affirmatively in carrying out such policy decisions. The name National Federation of the Blind, Federation of the Blind, or any variant thereof is the property of the National Federation of the Blind; and any affiliate, or local chapter of an affiliate, which ceases to be part of the National Federation of the Blind (for whatever reason) shall forthwith forfeit the right to use the name National Federation of the Blind, Federation of the Blind, or any variant thereof.
A general convention of the membership of an affiliate or of the elected delegates of the membership must be held and its principal executive officers must be elected at least once every two years. There can be no closed membership. Proxy voting is prohibited in state affiliates and local chapters. Each affiliate must have a written constitution or bylaws setting forth its structure, the authority of its officers, and the basic procedures which it will follow. No publicly contributed funds may be divided among the membership of an affiliate or local chapter on the basis of membership, and (upon request from the National Office) an affiliate or local chapter must present an accounting of all of its receipts and expenditures. An affiliate or local chapter must not indulge in attacks upon the officers, Board members, leaders, or members of the Federation or upon the organization itself outside of the organization, and must not allow its officers or members to indulge in such attacks. This requirement shall not be interpreted to interfere with the right of an affiliate or local chapter, or its officers or members, to carry on a political campaign inside the Federation for election to office or to achieve policy changes. However, the organization will not sanction or permit deliberate, sustained campaigns of internal organizational destruction by state affiliates, local chapters, or members. No affiliate or local chapter may join or support, or allow its officers or members to join or support, any temporary or permanent organization inside the Federation which has not received the sanction and approval of the Federation.
ARTICLE VII. DISSOLUTION
In the event of dissolution, all assets of the organization shall be given to an organization with similar purposes which has received a 501©(3) certification by the Internal Revenue Service.
ARTICLE VIII. AMENDMENTS
This Constitution may be amended at any regular Annual Convention of the Federation by an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the state affiliates registered, present, and voting; provided that the proposed amendment shall have been signed by five state affiliates in good standing and that it shall have been presented to the President the day before final action by the Convention.