Vol. 41, No. 8 August/September 1998
Barbara Pierce, Editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille, on cassette, and
the World Wide Web and FTP on the Internet
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
Marc Maurer, President
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
NFB Net BBS: (612) 696-1975
Web HomePage Address: http//www.nfb.org
Letters to the President, address changes,
subscription requests, orders for NFB literature
articles for the Monitor, and letters to the Editor
should be sent to the National Office.
Monitor subscriptions cost the Federation about twenty-five dollars per
year. Members are invited, and non-members are requested, to cover the cost. Donations
should be made payable to the National Federation of
the Blind and sent to the address above.
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION SPEAKING FOR THE BLINDIT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES.
Table of Contents
1998 Convention Roundup
NFB Awards for 1998
Bureuracy and the Individual: The Plan for Rehabilitation in
the Twenty-first Century
by Fredric K. Schroeder, Ph.D.
The Continuing Saga of the Kernel Books
by Kenneth Jernigan
Supporting Programs that Enhance Opportunity: A View
by Kay Granger
The Scholarship Class of 1998
The Search for Anonymity
by Marc Maurer
Attending Conventions: Deane Blazie Makes a Statement
Resolutions Adopted by the Annual Convention of the
National Federation of the Blind, July, 1998
Copyright 1998, The National Federation of the Blind
[LEAD PHOTO DESCRIPTION: A number of Federation leaders are pictured on these two pages, all wearing cowboy hats. Several of them are wearing the same hat, the one given as part of the grand prize at the close of the Banquet. Pictured here are Peggy Elliott, Jim Omvig, Deane Blazie, Ron Gardner, Bruce Gardner, James Skelton, Marc Maurer, Jim Gashel, Allen Harris, Norm Gardner, Hal Priser, and Ted Hart.
CAPTION: When in Rome, do as the Romans. When in Texas. . . .]
1998 Convention Roundup
by Barbara Pierce
Many Federationists arrived at the Hyatt Regency DFW in early July convinced that they knew what to expect from the 1998 convention. After all, this was our third convention since 1990 at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport Hyatt. The weather would be hot and the hotel staff friendly and helpful. The quarter-mile-long corridor between the two towers would grow longer as the week continued. Sullivan O'Shaughnessy's diner and the Sports Bar would serve delicious food into the small hours to Federationists too busy to find dinner earlier. The elevators would be crowded, and the stairwells would be hot but faster than any other way of getting up and down the two towers.
All of these things were certainly true, but what no one was quite prepared for was the fact that in many ways this convention would be, quite simply, unforgettable. As always lots of people were attending their first convention, but many others had made great efforts to return to Dallas. One of these was Mrs. tenBroek, who grows more delicate each year but also more determined. As always she lent charm and dignity to every conversation in which she took part, and her presence lent continuity to the entire event.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Hazel tenBroek and Kenneth Jernigan]
If asked to describe this convention in a few words, one would have to say that it was characterized by deep love, growing determination, and self-confidence. Undoubtedly Dr. Jernigan's courageous fight against lung cancer inspired everyone and called forth the best in each one of us as we march together toward the millennium. In short, this convention turned out to be the embodiment and expression of all that is best in each of us and in this movement we love.
A good example of the kind of thing that happened throughout the week was the experience of many of the 150 or so families of blind children who attended this year's convention. Barbara Cheadle, President of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, reports that more networking than ever before took place during the week. She points to the attendance of a growing number of professionals truly sharing the NFB's commitment to quality instruction and positive attitudes. These inspiring teachers offered their expertise to parents and kids alike throughout the week. Added to the discussions and brain-storming that always take place among families and Federationists, we seem to have hit a new high of usefulness to blind kids.
At least two teens who had become blind within the previous month attended this year's convention. Their families came with them, and they all learned and observed and took home new hope for the future. Can you imagine a more powerful antidote for the tragedy of sudden blindness than cane-travel instruction by instructors like Joe Cutter and competent blind adults, Braille advice from teachers and parents who believe in the importance of Braille, and the inspiration of meeting and observing hundreds of successful blind adults?
As always family activities on July 4 were inspiring and thought-provoking. Parents and educators enjoyed a morning-long seminar of presentations from Federation leaders, professionals, parents, and kids. The afternoon was jammed with exciting workshops and a first-time-ever walk-in question-and-answer session for parents. To give you an idea of the range and importance of the activities, here is the list of workshops, several of which were presented twice:
Beginning Braille for Parents
Teaching Braille to Students with Partial Sight: Rationale,
Methodologies, and Materials
Technology from the Point of View of Blind Youth
Sports and Recreation: Blind Kids Belong Too
Keeping Up with the Rest of the World: Tips to Help Blind Kids
Speed Up and Keep Up
While adult activities occupied parents during the day on Saturday, blind and sighted kids in NFB Camp learned about cooking and prepared their own lunches using toaster ovens and microwaves borrowed from local NFB members. Also during Saturday fourteen teens, eleven of them blind, participated in a class devoted to the fine points of babysitting. Carla McQuillan, who helped instruct the class and who also planned and supervised NFB Camp during the week, reports that class graduates all got babysitting jobs afterward, and all volunteered throughout the week in NFB Camp.
At 5:00 p.m. parents gathered to watch a cane parade by all the youngsters who had spent the preceding hour decorating canes for the Fourth of July. Blind and sighted children alike used stars, streamers, and sparkles to adorn their canes. Sighted youngsters continued to admire and use their masterpieces in NFB Camp throughout the week, and blind kids discovered, some for the first time, that a white cane really can be an object of pride and independence.
Meanwhile teens were gathering for a dance and contemporary dance lessons. That evening they took part in a scavenger hunt that sent them all around both towers of the hotel to gather items and to allow them to get acquainted with each other and the facility. Family hospitality gave parents and kids (not otherwise occupied) a chance to get to know each other and talk about the day and other issues of importance to them. All in all, it was a wonderful beginning to the convention for families.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: NFB campers and their chaperons enjoy lunch at the dude ranch. CAPTION: Nikki White of Maryland rides one of the ranch horses.]
On Monday forty youngsters, along with teen and adult chaperons took a trip to a dude ranch, where the older ones rode horses and the younger ones had a hay ride. Everyone enjoyed hot dogs and s'mores, though the camp fire might have been more attractive if Texas had not been already blazing with the triple-digit temperatures that lasted all week. The children had a wonderful time climbing down to and back up from the creek, using outcrops and roots to clamber along the steep bank. It was an unforgettable day for ranch employees and visitors alike.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Circle dancing was one of the activities at NFB Camp.]
NFB Camp just gets better every year. This year about sixty kids were enrolled each day, and the schedule of things to do and for visitors to enjoy was so crowded that it was hard to fit in last-minute opportunities. Daniel Lamonds, president of the Darlington County Chapter of the NFB of South Carolina, was a particular favorite. Each day he did something different in camp, and out of the sales of music tapes to NFB Camp families, he made contributions to the NFB treasury.
In addition to the parents' and kids' activities, all sorts of other workshops, seminars, meetings, and demonstrations were taking place throughout Saturday, the Fourth of July. The most popular, of course, was the Job Opportunities for the Blind National Seminar for blind job seekers on Saturday afternoon. President Maurer opened the seminar with the announcement that the JOB Program, as we have come to know it, is now at an end. The U.S. Department of Labor changed the requirements for programs it would consider funding this year, so the NFB altered its proposal. Shortly before the convention we received a grant to begin an exciting new program, but as far as we can now tell, the JOB Seminar, the Employers Bulletins, and JOB Bulletins have ended. If this turns out to have been the final JOB National Seminar, it was a spectacular finish. Presentations by a blind trucker, blind paralegals, a blind occupational therapy assistant in a rural area, and a blind linguistic anthropologist followed each other in rapid succession. More than 250 Federationists took advantage of the presentations and asked interesting and insightful questions.
The JOB breakfasts were also an unqualified success again this year. Twenty-five took place. One day as many as ninety people turned out for structured discussion in their field of interest. We will have to think long and hard about ways to replace the quality networking that has taken place as a result of JOB contacts. Again this year, as in past years, a number of contacts took place that seem destined to end in employment matches. The coming JOB Program will undoubtedly be extremely helpful to blind people, but we owe a great debt of thanks to the Department of Labor and to Lorraine Rovig and the others who have guided the JOB Program through the past twenty years for all they have done to increase job opportunities for blind Americans.
A number of other groups met on Saturday. Division meetings and seminars for writers, guide dog users, deaf-blind people, and secretaries and transcribers were scheduled during the afternoon and evening. Several other committees and groups took advantage of the relative calm of the day before the official beginning of the convention to conduct meetings. And workshops on using the NFB computer bulletin board and Windows 95 also drew sizable crowds. In addition, demonstrations of Humanware's Braille Companion, Blazie's Braille notetakers, the Myna Corporation's new Myna computer, and NEWSLINE® and America's Jobline® took place throughout the day.
After dinner the Texas affiliate hosted a wonderful evening of fiddle music and dancing. This Texas hospitality set the tone for the convention and allowed folks to meet new people and visit with old friends.
Sunday, July 5, was the first official day of the convention. Sensory Safari opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 9:30, and convention registration and the exhibit hall opened their doors at about the same time. A television news crew followed several children around as they examined a number of animals from a snapping turtle to a bear on his hind legs with his mouth wide open. Federationist Ted Hart's latest trophy was also on display. This was the head, skin, and claws of the bear he recently shot in Canada. Sensory Safari remained open on Sunday and Monday, and a number of volunteers from the local group were present to make sure that everyone who came by had a chance to examine all the trophies on display.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ted Hart shows an admiring Hazel tenBroek the bear he shot in Canada]
As always, registration ran smoothly. People hardly had time to discover what was being sold by hopeful NFB peddlers working their way up and down the lines before marshals had guided them into the ballroom and one of four concurrent registration stations, where a name tag was printed, event tickets purchased, and an agenda in print, Braille, or cassette dispensed. After that came quick stops for PAC, Associate, and SUN ribbons before heading out for a look at exhibits.
This year was Miss Scheuermann's first year to supervise the exhibit hall, and by all accounts she did a splendid job. Each booth was numbered, and print and Braille handouts described the layout of the room and listed the fifty-one outside exhibiters and affiliate and division displays, together with a brief description of what could be found at each location. The crowds were as large as always, but at least everyone knew what they were looking for and approximately where to find it.
Sunday afternoon marked the meeting of the Resolutions Committee. Fifteen resolutions made it through the committee and to the floor of the convention for action later in the week. The full texts of these resolutions appear elsewhere in this issue.
Immediately following the Resolutions Committee meeting was a new event. The National Association of Blind Lawyers conducted a mock trial as a fund-raising and educational activity. National Board member and practicing attorney Charlie Brown acted as judge, and Anthony Thomas, a public defender in Chicago, and Scott LaBarre, President of the lawyers division and an attorney in private practice in Denver, were the council for the plaintiffs. Paul Kay and Larry Povinelli, who are law partners in Washington, D.C., served as counsel for the defense.
The case was a rather free reenactment of the suit Nadine and Steve Jacobson brought against United Airlines with the help of the NFB in 1985. Nadine Jacobson and Tom Scanlan played themselves, and Bennett Prows played an actual Frontier Airlines executive who testified for the plaintiff in the original case. Witnesses for the defense were Peggy Elliott (who was the Jacobsons' attorney in the original case and who won it for the good guys) playing a United Airlines executive. Allen Harris played the arresting police officer, and Barbara Pierce played the Louisville gate agent who called the police. As street theater the trial may have lacked polish, but everyone in the room enjoyed it hugely. The lawyers have already announced that they have begun planning the mock trial to take place at the Atlanta convention.
Sunday evening and Monday afternoon and evening were even more crowded than usual with meetings, seminars, and receptions. Thirty separate committee and division activities took place. In addition, a number of groups hosted receptions of various kinds. Here are a very few highlights. A new division (which had formerly been a group, the National Association of Blind Piano Technicians) was organized. The National Association of Blind Entrepreneurs, which was organized at last year's convention, attracted sixty to its meeting this year and now boasts 200 members. The new Professional Blind Journalists Group heard a fascinating presentation by Bob Ray Sanders, the Executive Editor of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, who clearly understood the parallels between the problems faced by black and disabled journalists. Journalists from Hong Kong, Cypress, and the United Kingdom took part in the meeting.
The Louisiana Center for the Blind Players gave two performances of yet another original play by Jerry Whittle on Monday evening. The title was The Sky is Blue and Black. It was a romantic comedy about a blind woman's fight to marry the man she loves.
The first official convention session is traditionally the meeting of the NFB Board of Directors, which took place at 9 a.m. on Monday morning, July 6. President Maurer brought the meeting to order on time and led the organization in a moment of silence in memory of the members who have died in the past year. The day was Dr. tenBroek's birthday, and his wife Hazel was with us this year and was warmly greeted by the convention. President Maurer reviewed the list of members of the Board whose positions were up for election. This included all five officers and six of the twelve at-large members.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: NFB of Texas President Tommy Craig]
After greetings and several announcements by Tommy Craig, President of the NFB of Texas, Dr. Jernigan took the mike for a number of announcements. The audience's greeting was tumultuous as, in fact, it was every time he addressed the convention during the week. After reviewing a number of the details of convention activities, he urged everyone to submit jokes for the joke books we use in fund-raising. He read letters illustrating the value of these books and the way they have led to direct public education. Jokes like the ones that appear at the end of Presidential Releases can be submitted in writing to President Maurer at any time.
Dr. Jernigan then reviewed the forty-four NEWSLINE® sites now up and running in the United States and Canada and said that the number should top fifty by the end of the year. He announced that the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults is continuing its effort to see that blind children have their own Braille books. Animorphs is currently number fifteen on the New York Times best seller list. Each month the American Action Fund will produce a volume of this series in Braille. Those interested in adding the names of blind children to this list should contact Barbara Cheadle at the National Center for the Blind. [PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Maurer displays the medicine stick while Toby Longface looks on.]
A number of presentations were then made. Toby Longface, a member of the Chiricahua Tribe of the Apache Nation and a new member of the NFB from Arizona, explained that he had made a medicine stick for Dr. Jernigan last winter, and now he has specially made another one for Dr. Maurer. The stick is over five feet long with an eagle's head carved at the end of the crook. It has feathers and a dream-catcher, and the words "Dr. Marc Maurer" are carved on it. The medicine stick is now on display in President Maurer's office.
A number of affiliate presidents came to the platform to announce gifts to the national organization. Gary Wunder presented $10,000 from Missouri. Diane McGeorge gave $18,237 from a recent bequest to the NFB of Colorado. Carla McQuillan announced that the Oregon affiliate has given $23,355 during the past year. Peggy Elliott next explained that the Blackhawk County Chapter of the NFB of Iowa received a bequest, which it immediately presented to the state affiliate for division between it and the national organization; $24,106.84 is the amount that has come to the National Center. Jim Willows, President of the NFB of California, announced that throughout this past year the affiliate has contributed $138,623 from bequests that it has received. Kris Cox, the newly elected President of the NFB of Utah, proudly announced that from a bequest the affiliate was contributing $508,995.48 to the work of the national organization. Finally President Maurer announced that the Baltimore Chapter has contributed about $9,000 to the NFB from its most recent art auction. It was also instrumental in acquiring a $10,000 gift from the United Parcel Service Corporation. The UPS Foundation has contributed $50,000 to support NEWSLINE®, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, also associated with UPS, has contributed $50,000 to fund educational programs for parents and educators of blind children.
Steve Benson, Chairman of the Blind Educator of the Year Selection Committee, came forward to present this year's award to David Ticchi, First Vice President of the NFB of Massachusetts and President of the Cambridge Chapter. The text of that presentation appears elsewhere in this issue.
Dr. Jernigan announced to the Board that someone at the Winn-Dixie supermarket nearest the convention hotel had called hotel management and warned them not to send over any more blind people. Dr. Jernigan commented that some response was required, and President Maurer appointed a committee composed of Charlie Brown and Peggy Elliott, both of whom are attorneys, to contact the store manager and resolve the situation and educate store staff about the law.
Peggy Elliott then introduced the members of the 1998 scholarship class to the audience. A complete report of this year's scholarship program appears elsewhere in this issue.
Brian Buhrow, Chairman of the NFB's Research and Development Committee, announced that real audio versions of a number of NFB speeches will soon be available on the Internet. Consult the notice in the "Convention Miniatures" column in this issue for the details.
Dr. Jernigan then presented a Distinguished Service award to Michael Marucci, who has been translating and recording NFB materials in Spanish. The full text of this presentation appears elsewhere in this issue.
Brief reports were made by those who chair the Pre-Authorized Check (PAC) Plan, Shares Unlimited in NFB (SUN), Planned Giving, tenBroek Fund, and Associates Committees. President Maurer then read the top ten in number and in contributions in the 1998 Associates contest. 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. Jim Omvig (Arizona), 53
9. Gary Thompson (Missouri), 57
8. John Stroot (Indiana), 63
7. Joe Ruffalo (New Jersey), 73
6. Carlos Servan (New Mexico), 76
5. Karen Mayry (South Dakota), 100
4. Laura Biro (Michigan), 112
3. Tom Stevens (Missouri), 247
2. Arthur Schreiber (New Mexico), 271
1. Michael Taylor (Utah), 333
Top Ten in Dollar Amount Raised
10. Verla Kirsh (Iowa), $1,608
9. Joe Ruffalo (New Jersey), $1,672
8. Laura Biro (Michigan), $1,766
7. Mary Ellen Jernigan (Maryland), $2,125
6. Marc Maurer (Maryland), $2,197
5. Tom Stevens (Missouri), $2,599
4. Arthur Schreiber (New Mexico), $2,745
3. Michael Taylor (Utah), $3,335
2. Karen Mayry (South Dakota), $5,276
1. Kenneth Jernigan (Maryland), $14,921
After the Board voted to conduct an Associates contest during the coming year, President Maurer adjourned the meeting.
[PHOTO DESCRIPTION: In this view of the convention hall many state flags are visible, and the attendance banner can be seen mounted on the Texas stanchion. The ballroom is filled with seated people. CAPTION: The convention ballroom as viewed from the center aisle.]
The crowd began to gather early on Tuesday morning as Federationists prepared for the opening of the first general session of the fifty-eighth convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Following the opening door prizes and the invocation, President Maurer read a welcoming letter from Governor George W. Bush of Texas. Tommy Craig, NFB of Texas President, then welcomed the convention. This is part of what he said:
Welcome to Texas. . . . As I said yesterday, we were real concerned to see that you had a warm welcome here, so we've done our best and got it as warm as we could. But if it's not warm enough for you, let us know, and we'll try to do better.
I wanted to tell you some facts about Texas. I told you a few of them yesterday. There are probably as many facts about Texas as there are Texans. Being so humble and all, we want to share them with you. First of all, the state capitol building in Texas is the largest state capitol building in the U.S., and it's actually taller than the U.S. capitol building. The San Jacinto Monument, which stands outside of Houston, is 570 feet tall, twenty feet taller than the Washington Monument. Texas has 254 counties, more than any other state, and forty-one of those counties are larger than the state of Rhode Island. Three of the ten largest cities in the U.S. are in Texas: Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.
Texas produces more oil, natural gas, beef, sheep, goats, wool, cotton, rice, and watermelons than any other state. There are eighteen million people in Texas, sixteen million head of cattle, two point five million deer, and two hundred thousand alligators. The land area of Texas is larger than New England, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois combined. Texas is over 800 miles from north to south and from east to west. The DFW Airport, where we now are, is larger than New York's Manhattan Island. El Paso is closer to Los Angeles than to Port Arthur, Texas, and Port Arthur is closer to Jacksonville, Florida, than it is to El Paso. There you have a few tidbits about Texas. Once again, welcome to Texas.
President Maurer briefly reviewed the election information in preparation for the election on Wednesday. Then Richard Edlund, a Member of the Board, asked for the floor to make the following announcement:
Thank you, Mr. President. I do not choose to seek re-election this year. It seems to me that I've been at it for about thirty years. I think you and I both attended our first National Convention in 1969, and I got started a lot later in life than you did. Fourteen years as national Treasurer and six years on the Board with a little time off for the state legislaturethis has probably been one of the greatest experiences of my life, being connected with you out there and all over this nation.
People ask me why did you drop out of the legislature? I usually tell them that some of the arguments started to make sense, and I figured that was the time to leave. That is not why I am dropping out now. I'm still going to be here, and I love you all.
After a number of convention announcements by Dr. Jernigan, President Maurer introduced an NFB song, which was played for the convention. The selection was one of a number on a cassette recording produced by a group of Federationists calling themselves the Cane Raisers. As Dr. Maurer commented, songs as tragic and angry as this one have to be leavened with humor in order to be tolerable. Dr. Jernigan pointed out that anyone who doubts the importance of the National Federation of the Blind has only to take note of the truth expressed in this song to understand how much still has to be done to give blind people a fair chance.
The Technology Song
words by Debbie Brown
sung by Lloyd Rasmussen to the tune of "The Marvelous Toy"
by Tom Paxton
1. When I wrote my rehab plan,
My Counselor promised me
The hottest screen-access program
Of the twentieth century.
I waited for six months
Then gave my counselor a call,
He said, "our budget's frozen;
You must wait until next fall."
Refrain: It went zip when it moved
And pop when it stopped
And whir when it stood still.
I've never done a thing with it,
And I guess I never will.
2. When my equipment finally came,
My counselor explained
That I couldn't get my hands on it Till I'd been thoroughly trained.
I said "Let's start tomorrow,"
But my counselor told me,
"We have a six-month waiting list
At our facility."
Refrain: It went zip when it moved
And pop when it stopped
And whir when it stood still.
I've never done a thing with it,
And I guess I never will.
3. I said I'd get trained on my own,
But rehab made a fuss.
They said, "You won't get funding
Unless you're trained by us."
Now my training's finally done,
And I've come home to wait.
If I ever get a job,
My skills will be out of date.
Refrain: It went zip when it moved
And pop when it stopped
And whir when it stood still.
I've never done a thing with it,
And I guess I never will.
4. Today I had an interview,
But I didn't get to go.
I called for para-transit,
But my vehicle didn't show.
The finest new technology
Won't help us, it's quite plain,
Without good blindness training
And a thirty-dollar cane.
Refrain: It went zip when it moved
And pop when it stopped
And whir when it stood still.
I've never done a thing with it,
And I guess I never will.
I've never done a thing in life,
And I guess I never will.
The remainder of the morning session was devoted to the roll call of states. During this the official delegate from each affiliate comes to the microphone to give several pieces of information. Sometimes interesting little facts are also announced. For example, Richard Bennett announced that the Delaware legislature had just appropriated funds for NEWSLINE®, and Priscilla Ferris announced that her affiliate's work with the Massachusetts Association for the Blind has now been successful in bringing NEWSLINE® to the Bay State this coming fall. Allen Harris told the cheering audience that funding for four local service centers to begin service later this year has been made available in Michigan. Maryland and Minnesota announced that Jobline® is up and running in their states, and New Jersey and New Mexico are about to sign the final contracts to make it available across their states. Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, and Texas boasted that their state agency directors were on the convention floor. Minnesota's was also present all week long.
Wayne Davis told the cheering audience that the state agency for the blind in Florida had just notified the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC) that it had decided to drop its affiliation with the agency. Florida had been the only state agency left on the NAC rolls. Now that agencies serving the blind in Florida are no longer required to maintain NAC accreditation in order to get state contracts, it will be interesting to see how many of NAC's remaining fifty-two members will decide to desert the ship. Eleven are in Florida. Their reason to continue paying NAC membership dues is clearly gone. How many others will now see the light?
Following the lunch recess, the afternoon session began with Dr. Maurer's presidential report. He reviewed the activities of the previous year and looked forward to the year ahead. The full text of this exciting report appears elsewhere in this issue.
When the standing ovation that greeted President Maurer's report had subsided, he quietly announced that several people had come to him with a request that the organization establish the Kenneth Jernigan Fund, interest for which would be used to help fund our scholarship program and convention scholarships for deserving people. He admitted that he had been hesitant at first to go forward with the idea, but the pressure had continued, so the fund had been established with an anonymous gift of $5,000. He then appointed a committee to supervise the project.
With that announcement the afternoon schedule dissolved in a touching and heartfelt outpouring of loving tributes to Dr. Jernigan and his role in changing the lives of blind people. Individuals and affiliates lined up to make gifts and pledges of up to $10,000. This is what Lloyd Jernigan, Dr. Jernigan's brother, said:
Good afternoon, Federationists. Back during the twenties and thirties, when Kenneth Jernigan was a child, there was very little hope for a blind child to become an independent, self-supporting person. Kenneth Jernigan has spent his entire adult life trying to change those conditions. There are still many obstacles to be removed. Several of us have discussed setting up a Kenneth Jernigan fund to be used for scholarships or other things, for example, financial aid to someone who does not have the financial means to attend a convention such as this. The fund will be used to help educate and assist blind persons. My wife Mary and I would like to start the donation this afternoon with a check for $1,000, and here is the check. [applause] Thank you.
[PHOTO DESCRIPTION: Lloyd Jernigan stands at the podium holding a check over his head. CAPTION: Lloyd Jernigan]
There is no way to convey the raw emotion and the sincere love expressed by person after person at the microphones that afternoon. Others simply made their quiet way to the table at the back of the room to make contributions, large and small.
Eventually Dr. Jernigan came to the podium and said:
I was warned and admonished to keep out of this, to say nothing about it, and I kept my counsel until the comments were made. I have never been insulated from the Convention, and I don't intend to start now.
I have only a very few things to say. One of them is to say that anybody who didn't have a heart of stone would be touched and appreciative of what has been said. I am. The second one is: don't count me out; I'm not gone yet! [tumultuous laughter and applause]
I hope to be around for a long time to come, and, as long as I am around, I intend to have a hand in running this outfit. So keep it in mind. This fund looks as if it is going to grow. I'd add my voice to that of Dr. Maurer: don't give any money to this fund that you would have given otherwise because that would be restricting money that we don't want restricted. However, when this fund is developed along with everything else in this outfit, since I am finance chairman, I'm going to have something to say about how it is spent. I thank all of you for what you have said. I think we understand each other. God bless you.
[PHOTO DESCRIPTION: Dr. Jernigan stands at the podium smiling broadly. CAPTION: "Don't count me out yet."]
With that Dr. Jernigan intended to bring the public outpouring to a halt in order to go forward with the afternoon's agenda. But it was not to be. The stream of people kept flowing to the microphones on the convention floor, and no one wanted it to stop. By the time the contributions and pledges made during the week were added up, the total was $130,000 and still climbing.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson]
When the afternoon's agenda resumed, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson of the Nineteenth Congressional District addressed the convention briefly. She talked about her recognition of our need for reliable, affordable public transportation and pledged to work toward this goal. She also committed to become a co-sponsor of H.R. 612, the bill to re-establish linkage between the monthly stipends received by blind SSDI recipients and those received by retirees under seventy.
The Hon. Richard Conway Casey, District Judge in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, then came to the platform to speak. His title was "A Jurist Who Happens to be Blind." He encouraged his audience always to dare to do more and to help others along on their way. He illustrated his points by reviewing his own experience during recent years, after he became blind.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Geoff Hilton-Barber]
Geoff Hilton-Barber, mariner and Director of the National Society for the Blind in the Republic of South Africa, was the next speaker. His title was "Charting the Course, Setting the Sails, Completing the Voyage: The Blind Sailor Travels from Africa to Australia Solo." In the time allotted to him he tried to give the audience a real sense of his voyage, not merely the exciting or frightening events, but the peace and beauty as well. Hilton-Barber is soft-spoken, sensible, a gentle and quiet man. It was clear from his story that fulfilling this dream has been costly. He was parted from his loving wife and children, including a four-year-old daughter, for many weeks, and he has borne much of the expense himself. But he believed that it was important to demonstrate that a blind sailor could organize and make this voyage.
The closing agenda item for the day was titled "The Blind Businessman Builds a Visual/Audio Systems Business." It was presented by Greg Lukens, Founder and Vice President of Washington Professional Systems, Inc. He described the way he sold one successful business and began another in which he and fifty-two other people now design and build video and audio systems for big business. He encouraged his listeners to resist becoming the prisoners of other people's lack of imagination. His company did fifty million dollars' worth of business last year and expects to do more this year, but he still finds it necessary to remind others not to let their lack of imagination limit his opportunities.
On this high note the afternoon session recessed, and delegates left to change for the barbecue at Bear Creek. The mercury was still above 100 as the busses began to make their way to the party, but that didn't stop those determined to enjoy Texas fun and good food. Deane Blazie supplied the beer; the band was great; and everyone had a wonderful time.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Federationists enjoy the barbecue at Bear Creek]
Just because hundreds of Federationists were enjoying the barbecue, things didn't stop at the hotel. The annual IEP workshop sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children drew a large and interested crowd. The Music Division's Showcase of Talent was also lots of fun for participants and audience alike.
At 9:00 a.m. sharp President Maurer gaveled the Wednesday morning general session to order. The first agenda item was the annual election. The positions of the five constitutional officers and six at-large board members were up for election this year. The six members in hold-over positions were Don Capps (South Carolina), Wayne Davis (Florida), Priscilla Ferris (Massachusetts), Bruce Gardner (Arizona), Betty Niceley (Kentucky), and Joanne Wilson (Louisiana). Marc Maurer (Maryland), President; Joyce Scanlan (Minnesota), First Vice President; Peggy Elliott (Iowa), Second Vice President; Allen Harris (Michigan), Treasurer; Ramona Walhof (Idaho), Secretary; and Board Members Steve Benson (Illinois), Charlie Brown (Virginia), Sam Gleese (Mississippi), Diane McGeorge (Colorado), and Gary Wunder (Missouri) were all nominated and re-elected by acclamation.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Carla McQuillan]
Because Dick Edlund was not running for election this year, the Nominating Committee placed in nomination the name of Carla Mcquillan, President of the NFB of Oregon, for election to the Board. She was elected with great enthusiasm. This is what she said immediately following the vote:
Mr. President, Dr. Jernigan, fellow Federationists, in 1988 I applied for a scholarship from the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois. I had a four-year-old daughter and a husband in graduate school, and I was flat broke. I remember the telephone call from President Benson. After a series of very uncomfortable questions about blindness, he got to one I thought I could answer, and without hesitation or reservation, when he asked me, "Do you consider yourself blind?" I said, "No sir. I do not." I went to the convention in Carbondale, Illinois. My pockets were empty, my hands were empty, and my soul was empty. Two days later I walked away as president of the student chapter, a white cane in my hand, and a thousand dollars in my pocket.
Shortly after that convention I addressed a student luncheon in St. Louis. Rami Rabby was in the audience, and I said my goal is that ten years from today people in this organization will look back and say, "I'm glad that we gave that scholarship to Carla McQuillan." Here we are ten years later, and I had no idea that the affirmation would be so resounding, but I will take it.
I consider what I've learned from the members of the National Board to be beyond anything that I could give back. It is such an honor to be counted among them, and with your help although I'm sure many will leave this convention with empty pocketslet us work to see that no one walks away with empty hands or empty souls. Thank you so much. [applause]
[PHOTO DESCRIPTION: Two photographs appear here. In the first Carl Augusto presents the award to Dr. Jernigan. Mr. Augusto holds it between them, and Dr. Jernigan examines it. The second photograph is a close up of the award with the print text visible on the base. The exact text reads "The AFB International Leadership Award, Kenneth Jernigan, 1998." CAPTION: Carl Augusto presents the AFB International Leadership Award to Kenneth Jernigan. CAPTION: One side of the award has Braille text; the other side has print.]
Carl Augusto, President of the American Foundation for the Blind, then gave a report from the AFB, reviewing its activities and accomplishments during the past year and looking to the future. Mr. Augusto then said:
Much progress has been made in recent years in working together, and much of the credit for that progress belongs to Kenneth Jernigan. Dr. Jernigan's leadership in this country and throughout the world is unparalleled. He has inspired so many blind people to reach for the stars and not to allow barriers to be in the way of a successful life. So many individuals and organizations have reached out to Dr. Jernigan for advice and assistance. In recognition of his lifelong commitment to enabling blind people to be the best they possibly can be, the American Foundation for the Blind has established an award entitled the American Foundation for the Blind International Leadership Award, and I am very, very proud to present this new award, the AFB International Leadership Award, to its first recipient, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan.
The award is a crystal globe with the continents shown in gold plate. The globe turns on its green marble base. The name of the award is written in print and Braille on the base. In his acceptance Dr. Jernigan commented in closing that the award is a symbol of the deepening respect and collegiality between the AFB and the NFB.
Martin Frost, Member of Congress representing the Twenty-fourth District of Texas, next reviewed the legislative picture in Washington and urged Federationists to continue to come to Capitol Hill to educate Congress about the important issues facing blind people. He assured the crowd that he is a co-sponsor of our linkage bill.
Frank Kurt Cylke, Director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, began his remarks by pointing out that this was the first time in twenty-seven years that he had spent the Fourth of July at home. Next year, when our convention is once again scheduled during the first week of July, he'll bring his family with him. After reporting briefly on what's new at NLS, Mr. Cylke described in some detail the process by which the NLS is preparing to make the transition to digital production of Talking Books. As always many people had questions to ask following his speech, and as always he was generous with his time in meeting with people to clear up confusion and problems.
The morning concluded with a group of three presentations concerning rehabilitation. Dr. Fred Schroeder, Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, spoke about "Bureaucracy and the Individual: The Plan for the Twenty-first Century." His remarks appear elsewhere in this issue. Jamie Hilton, President of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind and Executive Director of the New Jersey Commission for the Blind, then delivered remarks titled, "Combined Efforts: The Direction of Today, the Strength of Tomorrow." She reviewed all the ways in which the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and the NFB of New Jersey are working together to see that communication is complete and coordinated action on behalf of blind people is as extensive and effective as possible. Hilton said that she has also used this model as president of the NCSAB working with nationwide consumer organizations and with the federal government. She pointed out that, when she started working in this field twenty-five years ago, it would have been inconceivable for the NCSAB and the AFB both to be on the platform together at the convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Our strength to cope with tomorrow will come from a shared vision today.
The final panelist and last speaker of the morning was Tom Robertson, Associate Commissioner of the New York Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped. His title was "Changing Service Delivery, Working with the Consumers, Increasing Opportunity." He said that all the things listed in his title are essential in rehabilitation today. To accomplish them an agency must insure that an agency director is appointed who is committed to improving the quality of service. He also stressed that consumers must play a significant role in establishing directions and determining program and policy for the agency.
Immediately before the recess, President Maurer called Peggy Elliott to the platform to report on the work of the Winn Dixie Committee. She explained that Mr. O'Neal Williams, manager of the Winn-Dixie store that had refused to do business with blind people earlier in the week, was with her on the stage. His head office had instructed him not to speak over the p.a. system, but he had written a letter to convention delegates that was read. The text stated in forceful terms that the Winn-Dixie company recognizes that everyone who shops at its outlets confers patronage on the company. He said that Winn-Dixie welcomed and was grateful for the business we might bring, and he pledged to do all that he could to make blind shoppers feel welcome. With or without an oral statement from a Winn-Dixie representative on the platform, this was a victory for blind people.
The array of Wednesday-afternoon tours sent Federationists off to explore all corners of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, but there was lots to do at the hotel for those uninterested in braving the triple-digit temperatures. There were workshops on Social Security and making tactile materials for blind children. Joe Cutter conducted a drop-in discussion for parents on "Kids and Canes," and Descriptive Video showed several of its new releases. In addition, several committees and divisions met and other groups held receptions. The centerpiece of the evening, as usual, was Monte Carlo Night, sponsored by the National Association of Blind Students.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Federationists enjoy Monte Carlo night.]
The Thursday morning general session came to order at 9:00 a.m. sharp, and the first speaker was Cheralyn Braithwaite, a special education teacher at Mueller Park High School in Bountiful, Utah. Her speech was both touching and powerful. She described years of struggling to appear to be sighted, complete with embarrassing mistakes and a few marginal successes. Then she began to accept herself and her very real abilities when she met Federationists and began to live out NFB philosophy. The audience response to this talk was overwhelming.
The next convention item was a panel presentation titled "The Blind in the World." Dr Jernigan moderated the panel and began with a review of the NFB's role in international matters in the blindness field. Ian Bruce, Professor, Doctor of Social Sciences, Commander of Institute Management, and Director General of the Royal National Institute for the Blind, then gave a charming report on the situation of blind people in the United Kingdom. Dr. Euclid Herie, President of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and also President of the World Blind Union, reported on his travels across the world during the past year and expressed the hope that blind people everywhere will continue to work together ever more effectively to bring literacy, jobs, and community acceptance for all blind people.
The next speaker was Frank Clegg, Vice President of the Canada and U.S. Central Region for Microsoft. He reiterated Microsoft's eagerness to work with disabled people to improve the quality and quantity of software solutions to the computer problems faced by blind people. Mr. Clegg indicated that he and his company were ready and eager to discuss access issues. He pointed out that accessibility was now on the executive check list of items that Bill Gates checks when software packages come to him for approval. This is a very important matter for developers writing programs within Microsoft. The audience was left with the impression that Microsoft executives are genuinely interested in insuring that Microsoft programs will truly be accessible to disabled people in future.
During a brief exchange after this presentation, the following challenge was given by President Maurer and accepted by Mr. Clegg:
President Maurer: You have said that you want to work with us. I want to know if you are willing to put it on a regular, ongoing basis. I recognize that we won't like all of the decisions you make. And I also recognize that you won't like all of the recommendations we make. We'll get along anyway. I'd like to do it. I want, on a regular, ongoing basis, for us to establish communication so that we can build something we can use. Will you do it?
Mr. Clegg: (after a brief pause for thought) Yes. [cheers and applause]
Dr. Maurer concluded the discussion by saying: "Mr. Clegg, we've always respected Microsoft; we think now we are going to come to like you guys."
William Rayder, Executive Director of the National Braille Press, gave a report on "Braille Books on a Computer Disk: The Multi-Volume Text You Can Carry in a Briefcase." He announced the availability of Port-a-Books®, which can be loaded into the three Blazie notetakers and read anywhere. The Braille will be NBP's standard, high-quality code, and it will be encrypted for additional copyright protection. National Braille Press's policy of selling Braille books at no more than the cost of the print versions will apply to Port-a-Books® as well as hard-copy Braille. Rayder said that NBP plans to expand beyond Blazie products as soon as possible, and it should also soon be possible for buyers to download their purchases from the Internet. The audience's response to the announcement of this new product was enthusiastic. Mr. Rayder closed his remarks by thanking the NFB and particularly the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille, for presenting the Golden Keys Award to NBP last year. He said that the plaque hangs in his office and is an eloquent demonstration to would-be contributors that blind people appreciate the work of the National Braille Press.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Carolyn Colvin]
The final item on the morning agenda was a report from Carolyn Colvin, Deputy Commissioner for Operations at the Social Security Administration, titled "Social Security Beneficiaries and Work: The Need to Encourage Independent Employment." She reviewed current efforts to minimize the disincentives and increase the opportunities for disabled beneficiaries to return to work. In an exchange with Jim Gashel following her remarks, Ms. Colvin agreed to explore ways of working with the NFB to notify those returning to work of what they must do to prevent overpayments and the subsequent need to return the funds in a lump sum.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman]
The afternoon session began with a convention first. Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman spoke to convention delegates from her office in Washington. The Secretary was visible on large screens at the front of the ballroom, and the audio system allowed her to hear and be heard during her remarks. This is what Secretary Herman said:
Thank you for that warm introduction and for allowing me to be a part of your national conference. I must admit that I feel as though I am with you live, in person today. I want to recognize Congresswoman Kay Granger, who I understand is there with you in Dallas; the President of the NFB, Dr. Marc Maurer; and acknowledge your President Emeritus, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, for his longstanding leadership in the blind movement. [beginning applause] Yes, let's give him a round of applause. [enthusiastic applause]
The Department of Labor and the NFB have a long record of working together to expand opportunity and increase employment for people with disabilities. And meeting that goal is a high priority for President Clinton and for me as your Secretary of Labor. That's precisely why the President established and I chair the Presidential Task Force on the Employment of People with Disabilities.
We know our economy today is strong. Jobs are up and unemployment is down. But we also know that people are getting left behind. Three out of four people with severe disabilities are not working. We have to change that. And that is why I am so pleased to announce the awarding of a $3 million grant to the NFB to implement a project that will help us do just that.
As you may know, the Department of Labor has an Internet Web site called America's Job Bank. It is the largest electronic job bank in the country. That's a great service, but it's not available to the blind. Through your leadership that's going to change.
Our $3 million grant to the NFB will be used for the development of America's Jobline®, which makes a personalized job search possible by telephone. You won't need a computer. You won't need to get on the Internet. All you need is a phone. The project reflects three major principles and hallmarks of our Department's one-stop system-building: universal service; customer choice; and strong partnership among public, private, and non-profit sectors.
For the user Jobline® will: 1.) be available twenty-four hours a day to provide all job announcements in high-quality synthetic speech; 2.) let callers search a regularly updated, job-order data base, for example a statewide job bank or America's Job Bank; 3.) allow job seekers to create and store on the system personal job-search profiles.
I am very excited about this project. It will make a real difference. And I want to thank the NFB for helping make that happen. And I know that Jim Vollman, the brain behind many of DOL's technology-based, one-stop advancements, is there with you to walk you through our new project in detail.
Let me also say that I am pleased to announce that as of July 1, 1998, the Department of Labor and the NFB are collaborating on an exciting initiative to promote competitive employment for the blind. This $500,000 effort will go a long way to making sure that blind individuals are trained and job-ready for opportunities in the futureparticularly in the high-tech area. (I want particularly to commend United Parcel Service for their willingness to step up and commit to being the very first large corporate employer to agree to place job-ready blind individuals.) [applause] Thank you, UPS.
Once again, thank you for the opportunity. I look forward to working with all of you and continuing the Department of Labor's strong partnership with the NFB in the months and years to come. Thank you, and may God bless all of you today.
Then the Associate Assistant Secretary of Labor leading the One-Stop and Labor-Market Information Initiatives and Employment and Training Administration, Jim Vollman, spoke to the convention. He described the Jobline® technology that is beginning to be available for the use of job seekers with access to phones rather than computers. He went on to say that with our help they are working to make truly accessible America's Job Bank, the original online version of the Department of Labor's giant database of employment opportunities. He concluded by saying that perhaps the most important lesson he had learned from his work with the NFB was that the most valuable and constructive thing that the Department of Labor can do is not to do things for blind people but to make it possible for us to do them for ourselves.
President Maurer then called on longtime Federationist Richard Davis, Director of Programs for the Blind in the Minnesota Department of Economic Security, to describe briefly the America's Jobline® installation in Minnesota, which was being readied for demonstration during the national One-Stop Conference to be held in late July.
The next agenda item was the one Federationists had been waiting for all week. "The Continuing Saga of the Kernel Books" was the title of Dr. Jernigan's address, and it was, quite simply, magnificent. The text appears elsewhere in this issue. Those who receive the cassette edition of the Braille Monitor will have some idea of the electricity that filled the ballroom as our beloved leader for so many years delivered what people recognized might well be his last speech to the organized blind movement. This was one of a number of times throughout the week in which love for Dr. Jernigan and for one another and pride and joy in what together we have created swirled through the room, strengthening us all for the future.
When Congresswoman Kay Granger, Representative of the Twelfth District of Texas, came to the podium to speak following this presentation, it was clear that she, too, had been moved by what she had heard. Her topic was "Supporting Programs that Enhance Opportunity: A View from Congress." She is a truly articulate and engaging speaker, and her remarks appear elsewhere in this issue.
Ritchie Geisel, President of Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, announced that seven members of his staff were attending the NFB convention because, as he pointed out, it is the largest gathering of RFB&D borrowers taking place this year. He described the exciting progress being made by researchers to make the new digital technology available to RFB&D borrowers. He believes that by sometime in 2001 it will be widely available, though as long as patrons still want cassette books, they will also be available. In closing, Mr. Geisel announced that he will be leaving RFB&D in the coming months but said that he and his wife hope to be in Atlanta for next year's convention.
The final agenda item of the afternoon was a panel presentation moderated by James Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs. He was joined by Dan Shipley, Deputy Director for Retail Tenant Services of the General Services Administration, and Stephen Leavey, Manager for Corporate Personnel Operations of the United States Postal Service. Mr. Gashel began by describing recent efforts by various federal agencies to erode the blind priority of the Randolph-Sheppard Program. Mr. Shipley assured the audience of GSA's continuing commitment to implementing and supporting the program, and Mr. Leavey, who was back for the second year, reported on food service operations in the Postal Service and talked about efforts to work with the NFB to improve matters still further. It was clear from their comments and from the questions that followed their presentations that, though there are certainly problems, these two agencies are prepared to continue making good-faith efforts to solve them and protect the Randolph-Sheppard Program.
As often happens, the banquet this year occurred on Thursday evening. A new system was put in place that made getting to the ballroom during the half hour preceding this always memorable event positively pleasant. A Federationist was assigned to every elevator lobby in the East Tower. This person's job was to load the elevators stopping at that floor. A hotel employee operated each elevator by hand. These six people were in radio contact with each other at all times. When an elevator was full, it was taken directly to the ballroom level. The folks in charge were pleasant, and the trip was surprisingly efficient and very quick.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Allen Harris]
There is a science to getting several thousand people to assigned banquet seats in a brief time, and we seem to improve our mastery of it each year. By shortly after 7:00 p.m. most people were in their seats, and Allen Harris, who did a superb job as master of ceremonies this year, was banging the gavel to begin a memorable evening. Of course door prizes, songs, and division drawings were scattered throughout the proceedings. Jim Gashel came to the podium to recognize the United Parcel Service Corporation for its growing partnership in the work of the National Federation of the Blind and the Kaman Corporation, which is also an enthusiastic NFB supporter. Both organizations had a number of guests present at the banquet.
One of the first pieces of business for the evening was consideration of Resolution 98-01, commending the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind for honoring Dr. Jernigan. It was adopted enthusiastically with Jamie Hilton, NCSAB President watching.
Dr. Jernigan presented the Newel Perry Award to Rudy Savage, head of Talking Book Publishers, Inc., a nonprofit organization in Denver, Colorado, that produces talking books. Mr. Savage responded briefly to this warm presentation. The full text of this ceremony appears elsewhere in this issue.
Immediately following this presentation came one of the high points of the evening. Ramona Walhof stepped to the microphone to present the Jacobus tenBroek Award for 1998. She began quietly enough, but when she got to the words, "I first met Mary Ellen Jernigan," the ballroom erupted in a standing ovation of spontaneous and heartfelt joy and approval. Mrs. Jernigan was completely surprised, but demonstrated what we have long suspected, that it is impossible to catch her without a collected, articulate, and insightful response on her lips. The complete text of this moving tribute appears elsewhere in this issue.
The other award presentation made during the banquet was recognizing the 1998 Distinguished Educator of Blind Children. Sharon Maneki came to the platform to present this award to Dr. James Bickford, Director of Education at the Washington State School for the Blind. The complete text of this presentation appears elsewhere in this issue.
"The Search for Anonymity" was the title of this year's banquet address by President Maurer. We have come to expect thoughtfulness, humor, and inspiration from NFB banquet addresses. It is fair to say that this year's speech was vintage Federation fare. It was by turns funny, infuriating, thought-provoking, and energizing. The full text appears elsewhere in this issue.
It's always a delight to participate in the presentation of the twenty-six scholarships awarded during each year's banquet. Hearing the students' accomplishments and their vocational plans one after the other is challenging and inspiring. Each year these students represent the furthest cast we have yet made toward first-class citizenship. Their dreams are the product of all we have worked for and dared to hope. Whenever fatigue threatens to overwhelm us, it is enough to remember the scholarship class and what they are accomplishing. This year Stephanie Thompson was the recipient of the American Action Fund Scholarship in the amount of $10,000. Her remarks, as well as a full report of the 1998 scholarship program, appear elsewhere in this issue.
As the banquet drew to a close, one of the activities that had enlivened the Thursday-afternoon convention session came to a close. The Jernigan Fund Committee had conducted a split-the-pot drawing in which 1,000 tickets were each sold for $5. The drawing took place just at the close of the banquet, and Alan Hale of Maryland was the winner of $2,500. Karen Marx won the grand door prize of $1,000, and as a result her husband Jim, who complains that no hat ever fits him, was the ultimate recipient of the Texas-size hat that went with it and was worn at different times by so many NFB leaders during the course of the eveningsee the lead photograph for the evidence.
However late the banquet runs and however hard Federationists play afterward, the Friday convention session begins promptly at 9:00 a.m.
The entire final day of the convention was devoted to organization business. Dr. Jernigan presented the financial report, and Jim Gashel reported on the past year in Washington. Affiliates and divisions had an opportunity to contribute to both the Jacobus tenBroek Fund and the White Cane fund in the Honor Roll Call of States. The remaining fourteen resolutions were read, considered, and passed by the convention. And a number of drawings took place. Here is the complete list of countries represented by the sixty international guests at this year's convention: Canada, China, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.
Final reports were made by the Pre-Authorized Check (PAC) Committee. Contributions rose to an annualized figure of $383,514, and SUN contributions during the convention reached $9,485. Toward the close of the afternoon session, Dr. Jernigan raised the problem of persistent negative posts from a few people on the NFB's various listservs. He made it clear that he was not referring to honest questions posed in tactless terms but rather repeated insults and criticisms dropped into the discussion in the name of free expression. Dr. Jernigan commented that he had no quarrel with the concept of free speech, but he didn't see why we should have to pay for other people to insult us in the name of the First Amendment. The convention obviously agreed with him because it voted enthusiastically to deny space to such contributors in future.
Following a number of commendations and several suggestions for agenda items at the 1999 convention in Atlanta, Diane McGeorge drew for the final door prizes, and Dr. Maurer brought down the gavel adjourning the 1998 convention. It's always difficult to leave a National Convention. The joy of being together, exchanging ideas and funny stories; the inspiration of learning about what other people dare to do; the excitement of discovering new possibilities for ourselves: these always make good-byes hard to say. It was particularly difficult this year because of the uncertainty of Dr. Jernigan's health. But every moment of the convention served as a reminder of what the blind of the nation have built by working together and what we have already accomplished through the National Federation of the Blind.
As always, the future is uncertain. Challenges await us. Those who would prefer for blind people to remain quietly in the places of dependency they have assigned us will try to stop our march. But we now know some part of what we are capable of accomplishing, and we dare to dream of an even brighter tomorrow. We will carry into that tomorrow all the proud history of our past, all the wisdom and compassion we have been taught, all the love we have received and passed along. Our strength and courage will be sufficient to face whatever comes, for the price of failure is too great. We will keep faith with those who have gone before us, and we will continue to reshape the world for those who come after. Whatever the year ahead brings, we will gather again in our thousands in Atlanta next July to keep the pledge we have made to Dr. tenBroek, Dr. Jernigan, and each other to change what it means to be blind.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: President Marc Maurer]
National Federation of the Blind
July 7, 1998
During the past twelve months the National Federation of the Blind has experienced unprecedented growth, and our leadership in matters dealing with blindness has expanded to an unparalleled level. Even with the accelerated pace of activity within the Federation, the essence of what we are remains the same. We continue to be the blind speaking and acting for ourselvesthe blind teachers, the blind lawyers, the blind merchants, the blind vendors, the blind students, the blind factory workers, the blind sheltered shop employees, the blind musicians, the blind members of religious communities, the blind government employees, the parents of blind children, and othersthose blind people who are unemployed, those who have recently become blind, those who are in rehabilitation facilities, and all others who believe in the innate capacity and normality of the blind. We are the people of the organized blind movement.
The work of the National Federation of the Blind continues to be recognized for outstanding leadership both within the field of work with the blind and elsewhere. Several years ago Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, President Emeritus of the National Federation of the Blind, wrote an article entitled "The Pitfalls of Political Correctness." This article has been reprinted many times. This spring we received a request from the Harcourt Brace College Publishing Company to include it in a college-level textbook by Jane McGrath entitled Point/Counterpoint. The thinking, the philosophy, and the leadership of Dr. Jernigan will be included in college courses throughout the United States and in a number of other countries.
On Wednesday, April 22, 1998, the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind awarded the first lifetime achievement award ever given by that organization. Jamie Hilton, President of the Council, said: "In recognition of more than four decades of exceptional leadership, advocacy, and unwavering dedication to promoting the capabilities and fortifying respect for the rights of individuals who are blind worldwide; in celebration of the life of one who embodies the attributes of courage, spirit, and devotion. Know the manknow the legend." With those words the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind presented its award to Dr. Kenneth Jernigan.
For many years Dr. Jernigan has served as our representative in international programs dealing with blindness. Last summer, shortly after the close of our convention, Dr. Jernigan traveled to Sao Paolo, Brazil, to present the keynote address at the convention of the International Conference on the Education of the Visually Handicapped, the world body concerned with the education of the blind. The address was delivered before an audience of more than a thousand representatives from countries throughout the world. It has already induced a substantial increase in cooperation among organizations dealing with blindness.
As Federation members know, Dr. Jernigan has served as President of the World Blind Union, North America/Caribbean Region, for the past dozen years. For health reasons he resigned last fall, and I was elected President. In this capacity I have participated this spring in meetings of the officers of the World Blind Union held in Madrid, Spain. Our continued membership in this world organization provides us information and opportunity for interaction which we would not otherwise possess. We do what we can to provide educational materials, and we are always anxious to learn from our colleagues in other nations.
Last summer, shortly after the close of our convention, I was filmed for a program called "Cultural Affairs." This program describes in brief the work of the National Federation of the Blind. Most people begin with a fear of blindness. However, when this fear is overcome, the abilities possessed by the blind are revealed. Blindness cannot stop us, but the mistaken attitudes about blindness canif we let them. This "Cultural Affairs" program shows me teaching a blind man from Cyprus how to cut wood with a chain saw. He is a reporter for a newspaper there. He came to the Federation to learn about computer technology. We recognized that teaching him to use a chain saw would enhance his skill in the use of the computer. It would show him that the limitations which he had thought might prevent him from engaging in a broad range of activity have been overstated. With imagination and a proper understanding of blindness, these limitations can be overcome.
A year ago, as we gathered at our National Convention, we had become aware that the Walt Disney Company was planning to release a new movie featuring the clumsy, bumbling, almost blind character Mr. Magoo. We adopted a resolution opposing the production of the film and calling upon the Walt Disney Company to scrap it. Disney responded to our resolution by telling the members of the press that Magoo was not blindonly nearsighted and that the film was only a comedy, offered in good fun, so how could anybody object? Of course there have always been jokes about blindness, but most of them are not funny to the blind. Blind people do not (as Magoo does) speak to the coat rack, thinking it is a person, or pat the top of a fire plug, thinking it is the head of a small child. The problem with the portrayal is that the misunderstanding of blindness is accentuated by Magoo, and blind people are hurt by the experience. Some blind people have been spat upon; some have been kicked; and many have been the butt of this so-called humor. This is the legacy for us of Mr. Magoo, along with a substantial measure of misunderstanding and lost opportunity.
After our convention the magazine Entertainment Weekly in its July 18th column called "Jim Mullen's Hot Sheet: What the Country Is Talking About This Week" said that one of the top stories was Mr. Magoo and the National Federation of the Blind. We stayed among the top stories week after week in Entertainment Weekly, on radio talk shows, in newspaper columns, and on television. The coverage continued until the beginning of 1998. Sometimes the National Federation of the Blind was portrayed as a bunch of ridiculous malcontents, and sometimes we were represented as a group trying to protect the blind against the power of a giant, the Walt Disney Company. The ABC program "20/20" of October 9, 1997, interviewed me and described the Mr. Magoo controversy as a foolish argument instigated by the blind for no valuable purpose. It's only a joke, they said. The blind, they thought, would be an admirable target for the so-called humor.
The CBS program "Public Eye" of November 12, 1997, carried a segment entitled "Laugh until It Hurts." Three Federation leaders, Joanne Wilson, Barbara Pierce, and I, told the viewing audience about the damage the Magoo image has done to the prospects of blind children and blind adults. The commentator got the point. He summed it up by saying that, if it's unfair to tell jokes about Jews or members of other minority groups, it's just as unfair to make fun of the blind.
In the meantime a senior vice president from Walt Disney came to the National Center for the Blind several times to negotiate. When the Magoo film appeared on Christmas Day, 1997, it contained a statement that the film was not intended to be an accurate portrayal of blindness or blind people and that we who are blind can lead productive lives. In addition to the statement the Disney Company made in its film, senior officials have indicated that they want to support the National Federation of the Blind. They have told us that they are prepared to assist us in a number of ways, including letting people know about our programs.
When the Magoo film appeared in the theaters, it lasted only a few days. Our objection to its release helped the public to give it the proper perspective, and it received the reception it deserved.
Last August we created the Technology Department of the National Federation of the Blind. This part of the organization considers existing technology and works to develop additional applications for it. It also explores the development of new technology and coordinates all of our efforts in this direction.
One of our most innovative and exciting programs is the NEWSLINE for the Blind® network, which reads newspapers to the blind over touch-tone telephones. This service has expanded substantially. Since last year additional NEWSLINE® local service centers have been established in Hartford, Connecticut;
Los Angeles, California; Montgomery County, Marylandjust outside the District of Columbia; New Brunswick, New Jersey; New York City; Huntington, West Virginia; Madison, Wisconsin;
Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Columbus, Ohio; and Seattle, Washington. There are currently forty-three local service centers in the United States and Canada, and we are exploring establishment of NEWSLINE® local service centers in a number of other countries.
The six national newspapers and seventeen local papers now being offered by NEWSLINE® will soon be joined by the Wall Street Journal. A satellite dish has been installed at the National Center for the Blind to receive daily feeds from that paper.
An outgrowth of the NEWSLINE® technology is America's Jobline® system, which provides tens of thousands of employment listings to job seekers by touch-tone telephone. We have completed final development and testing of this system and established the first local service center in Maryland. We anticipate that a majority of the states will have America's Jobline® within the next year. The Jobline® technology will benefit not only blind people but also anybody else who wants to search for jobs by telephone.
Access to information over the World Wide Web continues to be a major focus. Through our Technology Department we are providing leadership in Web accessibility. Guidelines for constructing accessible Web sites are now available on our own Web site or in print from the Technology Department. These guidelines offer substantive direction to Webpage designers to make information on the Web fully accessible to the blind.
Curtis Chong, Director of the Technology Department of the National Federation of the Blind, has been designated as our representative to participate in ongoing discussions with the Microsoft Corporation about accessibility to its programs such as Windows and other graphics-based applications. Last February Mr. Chong attended a two-day meeting on accessibility held at the Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington. Microsoft has committed to assign an increased number of staff members to the task of making its programming accessible to the blind. Furthermore, it has also promised to work more closely with us, and it is sending a representative to this convention.
In conjunction with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), we are participating in the development of standards for the digital talking book, the replacement for books on tape now being offered by the Library. This effort is being coordinated by the National Information Standards Organization. A document describing the text-navigation features that we hope will be incorporated in the most sophisticated digital talking book machine is now available for review and comment from our Technology Department or from NLS.
Of course we continue to maintain the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind. This center contains at least one of every device of which we are aware that is being manufactured anywhere in the world to provide access to information through voice, through Braille, or through refreshable Braille. During the past twelve months we have purchased or upgraded four electronic note takers, six refreshable Braille displays, six optical character recognition software packages, two screen readers for Microsoft Windows NT, six screen readers for Windows 95, six Braille embossers, four stand-alone reading machines, two digital talking book machines, three voice-recognition programs, one tactile mouse, four software synthesizers, five hard-wired speech synthesizers, two Braille-translation programs, four screen-enlargement programs, and one color identifier. We have also purchased for use with these software packages ten additional Pentium-class computers. In the International Braille and Technology Center we now have ten Internet work stations, using a variety of screen-reading software programs, Web-browsers, refreshable Braille displays, and Braille printers.
The Federation is helping train people in the use of technology for the blind. There is a tremendous need for this skill, and we are attempting to meet the need. Within the last year we have taught more than a dozen classes in information technology for the blind to rehabilitation professionals, parents of blind children, teachers of the blind, and blind individuals. And in the year to come we expect that the number of these classes will increase. Nowhere else on earth are there, collected in one place, the hardware, the programs, and the talent required to offer the kinds of classes we are able to give.
For the past few years we have maintained a substantial portion of the extensive body of literature of the Federation on the Internet. Our goal is to create the best possible research library on blindness. During the past year we have provided more than 365,000 pages of information to more than 98,000 people. The number of people who have asked for information has more than tripled in the last year. We have provided information to people from eighty different countries, including Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Belgium, Bermuda, British West Indies, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russian Federation, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Venezuela, Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe.
Last year we prepared a model Braille bill to be used in states to require equal access to information for the blind. This model legislation declares that technology purchased by the states must be constructed to afford equivalent non-visual access to information. Technology bills have already been adopted in Texas, Minnesota, and Maryland. We will continue to work until this principle has become law in every state. Manufacturers of information technology are capable of producing very complex systems to present information in Technicolor and Surround Sound for the sighted. They must not exclude the blind, and we will see that they do not.
Last December the Governor's Office of the state of Maryland sponsored a Maryland Technology Showcase to bring attention to the most innovative technologies being invented in the state. The National Federation of the Blind demonstrated America's Jobline®, the national NEWSLINE® network for the blind, and other computer access technologies. Over eight thousand people attended the Showcase. The kick-off ceremony of the Showcase was the initial breakfast attended by the most prominent technology developers. At that breakfast the Governor of the state of Maryland praised the National Federation of the Blind for its innovative information-access programs. Immediately following this presentation I addressed the gathering and presented Maryland's Governor with an engraved National Federation of the Blind mug.
The National Federation of the Blind is working closely with the International Braille Research Center for the Blind in cooperation with the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research to build a tactile image printer. This three-year project will create a multi-level tactile graphics printer suitable for topographic presentations and other similar applications. One element of this undertaking is the creation of a set of principles to be used in editing pictures and graphics so that the essence of these images is retained and presented in a way that can be understood. Dr. T.V. Cranmer, the Director of Research for the National Federation of the Blind, has planned this project and will be directing it.
Dr. Cranmer was featured last March on the CBS program "Sixty Minutes," as the best-known inventor of products for the blind in the United States. CBS told the nation that he is the Thomas Edison of the blindness field.
On an increasing basis we receive calls from the press wanting to know our position on issues relating to technology and other matters dealing with blindness. In just the last few months we have been quoted extensively in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Wall Street Journal, and a number of computer magazines.
We have also been involved in a number of legal cases on behalf of blind people during the last year. Dennis Groshel operates a vending facility at a Department of Veterans Affairs installation in St. Cloud, Minnesota. More than ten years ago the Department of Veterans Affairs decided to take the facility away from Dennis Groshel. This was a violation of the Randolph-Sheppard Act, but the Department of Veterans Affairs was unimpressed when we asked them to obey the law. There was no choice except to take the matter to court. After a number of proceedings we won the case. Then the Department of Veterans Affairs decided to install vending machines next to the vending facility operated by Dennis Groshel in direct competition with him. If they could not throw him out, they planned to drive him out. This, too, was a violation of the Randolph-Sheppard Act, but the Department of Veterans Affairs did it anyway. We went back to court, and once again we won. Dennis Groshel could continue to earn his livelihood in the vending program.
Last fall we asked the Federal Court to review the case and make a determination that the actions of the Department of Veterans Affairs regarding Dennis Groshel had been without foundation. This would entitle Dennis Groshel to an award of attorney's fees. Of course the National Federation of the Blind had been assisting throughout the case with technical support and financial backing. We paid the lawyers. In November of 1997 we received a check for the attorneys' fees in the amount of $47,219.91.
Of the federal agencies that resist the blind vendor priority under the Randolph-Sheppard Act, none is more openly hostile than the Department of Veterans Affairs. Last fall the Department tried to have Congress adopt a provision of law dealing with food service concessions which would give the Department exclusive control over all vending operations in veterans facilities and eliminate the priority of blind vendors under the Randolph-Sheppard Act. The bill including this provision was scheduled for a vote in the House of Representatives under suspension of the rules, which meant that it could not be amended.
We learned about the plan late Friday afternoon, October 3, 1997. The vote would occur Monday afternoon, October 6. When Congressional offices opened on Monday morning, the odds against changing the bill were overwhelming, but this has never stopped the Federation. Calls came flooding into the Capitol, but Congressional staff members informed us that the scheduled bill could not be changed. When it passed later that day, the provision dealing with food service had been deleted. The organized blind had accomplished what many said could not be done. This is the power of the National Federation of the Blind.
We have supported amendments to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which funds the federal/state program that pays for training and employment services for the blind and other handicapped. Bills which have been adopted by the Senate and the House of Representatives strengthen provisions regarding client choice, declare that those who receive Social Security benefits are eligible for rehabilitation, and increase access to electronic information technology. We have worked closely with the Rehabilitation Services Administration on the amendments to the Rehabilitation Act.
I reported to you last year that the Federation had assisted three blind law school applicants, Ross Kaplan, Latonya Phipps, and Shannon Dillon, in bringing a lawsuit in the federal court against the Law School Admissions Council because this testing service would not permit them to use their own readers or even take Braille notes during the Law School Admission Test. This test is one of the requirements for entrance into law school. Sighted applicants may take all the notes they want, but the blind were prohibited.
After months of legal maneuvering and negotiation, the case has been settled. Blind applicants for the test will select from a pool of readers until they find one of acceptable quality. And, of course, we may take all the notes we please. The Law School Admissions Council thought the blind could conveniently be ignored. But we in the National Federation of the Blind believe that all people should obey the law, including the lawyers and administrators of the Law School Admissions Council.
Brad Carroll, living in Alabama, is the blind father of two small children. In a family court proceeding last March, he attempted to gain visitation rights. The court decreed that he was permitted to visit his own children only if they were in the presence and under the supervision of a non-disabled adult. Implicit in the order is the misguided belief that blindness prevents a father from supervising his own children and that it is necessary for the safety of the children that the court force a stranger into the family of a blind father. Such an order deprives blind parents of the rights and obligations associated with one of the most fundamental relationships there is.
We in the National Federation of the Blind are not prepared to surrender our rights, our love and affection for our children, and our dignity as human beings because of a misunderstanding about blindness. The president of our Alabama affiliate sought counsel from our national office and urged Brad Carroll to seek a reconsideration from the court. Blindness does not prevent a person from being a good father, and we asked the court to revise its order and remove the restriction.
The ruling in the court was not long in coming. The revised order declares that the blind father and his children need not be supervised by an able-bodied adult. Instead the supervision must be given by an able-bodied teenager. The order makes it perfectly clear that the judge believes blindness is synonymous with helplessness and inferiority. Even a teenager, says the court, is better able to care for children than their own father if he is blind. We have commenced an appeal. We came to this case late, but we are now a part of it, and we intend to win!
In the spring of 1997 Arthur Schreiber, President of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico, received a call from Sherrie Abraham, the mother of a blind boy named David who was not being taught by the school system to read and write Braille. She felt desperate because she had done all she could to get a decent education for her son, but it was not happening. Then the Federation offered assistance. Christine Hall, one of the leaders of our New Mexico affiliate, began tutoring David in Braille. An appeal was filed demanding that the Albuquerque Public School System evaluate David to get a realistic picture of the services he needed and that it act upon this evaluation. To prepare for the case, we helped to secure an independent assessment of David's educational abilities.
The case has now come to a conclusion. The school system is working closely with us to meet the needs of this blind student;
David is receiving classes in Braille; and the other recommendations that came from the evaluation are slowly being implemented. One more blind child is receiving an education. As Sherrie Abraham told us, it would not have happened without the support and sustained help of the National Federation of the Blind.
Rodney Botellho is a blind computer expert living in New Mexico. Something over a year ago he applied for a job as a database administrator with Software Research and Development, a contract database manager for the Wells Fargo Bank. He supplied documents showing his ability and answered all the questions they asked. He was offered the job, and he accepted.
All of this was done by telephone and mail. At the last moment Software Research and Development and the Wells Fargo Bank learned that Rodney Botellho is blind. Within twenty-four hours they had rescinded their job offer and rejected his application for employment. We helped him with an appeal. A settlement has now been reached. The Wells Fargo Bank will change its policies so that there is no more discrimination against the blind. Rodney Botellho will also receive a cash payment. I am requested not to disclose the amount, but I believe it would be fair to say that Rodney Botellho could soon be the proud owner of a brand new car, and he would own it because of the work of the National Federation of the Blind.
We have helped with a number of Social Security cases. Russell Jeffreys is a blind vendor living in Ohio who had been receiving Social Security Disability Insurance benefits until the early 1990's, when he was told by the Social Security Administration that he had been overpaid by $92,000. The calculations of the Social Security Administration were incorrect, and we helped with an appeal. Within a short time the overpayment was waived, but Social Security continued to insist that Russell Jeffreys was no longer eligible for benefits. It has taken many years. The most recent proceeding in the case occurred last August, and the letter from Social Security arrived in February. It said that the first check for back benefits would be $77,417.60. A second check for more than $8,000 has also been sent, and monthly benefits are now being paid.
We continue to publish the Kernel Books. Last fall we released the thirteenth Kernel Book, entitled Wall-to-Wall Thanksgiving. The fourteenth, entitled Gray Pancakes and Gold Horses, is being released at this convention. These easy-to-read volumes contain first-person accounts of the lives of the blind told in a way to attract the interest and capture the imagination. To understand blindness, it is necessary to learn something about it, and these Kernel Books are the best broad-based educational program on the topic that has ever been devised. With well over three million of them now in circulation, the message of the normality and ability of blind people is being spread throughout the nation, and a growing number of interested people are responding.
We have also published a number of other books. A Resource Guide to Training and Employment of the Blind and Visually Impaired for Staff and Customers of One-Stop Career Centers offers practical advice to staff members at the one-stop vocational and career centers, which have been established to provide assistance to members of the public in finding jobs. Generally personnel at these career centers know nothing about blindness, and they need assistance in approaching blind applicants in the most effective way.
We published Techniques Used by Blind Cane Travel Instructors by Maria Morais, Paul Lorensen, Roland Allen, Edward Bell, Arlene Hill, and Eric Woods, which gives detailed instructions for blind cane travel instructors. We are also distributing Dr. C. Edwin Vaughan's book Social and Cultural Perspectives on Blindness, which contrasts socialization, educational opportunities, and expectations for the blind in a number of cultures. The National Federation of the Blind is quoted extensively.
We have produced a number of new video tapes. Two of these, White Canes for Blind Kids and Avoiding an IEP Disaster, have been prepared to assist parents and educators of blind children to approach education for blind youth with an increased emphasis on the skills essential to independence. Too often blind children are prevented from gaining the broadest possible education, and this leads to loss of opportunity in later life. These two videos will help to change that thinking and offer new direction.
During the past year we have done extensive remodeling at the National Center for the Blind. A twenty-five-ton air conditioning unit was installed on the roof of our building to upgrade and expand our air conditioning system. Shortly before this convention one of our tenants departed, releasing more than eight thousand feet of floor space. We have begun extensive remodeling of that space to put it into shape for our own use.
Cable trays and conduit have been installed throughout the building to permit the laying of cable for an upgraded computer network. This network is now big enough that it has required 850 feet of cable tray and 150 conduit cable drops. One of the principal elements of this system is fiber-optic cabling and accessories, which permit information to be transmitted at 100 megabits per second.
A new masonry store room, with approximately 850 feet of floor space, has been constructed at the first floor level in an unused area south of the Johnson Street elevator. The top of this store room is an outside deck. Immediately above it is another deck of the same size at the third-floor level. At the fourth floor we have added the Skydeck, which is much bigger than any of the others. It is 185 feet long, and for most of its length it is 32 feet wide, which adds over 5,000 feet of outdoor meeting space to our Center.
This deck was constructed by pouring 108 yards of concrete weighing 432,000 pounds on steel decking supported by beams and columns. The steel weighs eighty-eight tons. Although the National Center for the Blind is unique among facilities for the blind, the addition of the Skydeck will offer opportunities unlike any we have ever known. And all of this fiber-optic cable, these tons of concrete and steel, and everything associated with them belong to usto you and meto the blind of the nation.
Through our Diabetes Action Network we have been working to convince drug manufacturers and the Food and Drug Administration to put insulin into bottles with tactile markings. This spring agreement was reached; in the future insulin vials will carry different raised markings to identify the kind of insulin they contain. We expect the FDA to issue a final rule incorporating this agreement within the next few months.
The most widely distributed publication dealing with blindness in the United States is the Voice of the Diabetic. We are now producing 225,000 issues per quarter. The message of the National Federation of the Blind is being read by medical professionals and diabetics in record numbers.
The Braille Monitor, now being circulated to more than 35,000 people per month, is the most widely distributed general-interest publication in the field of work with the blind. And there are many other publications: more than 8,000 Presidential Releases; over 11,000 copies per quarter of Future Reflections, the magazine for parents and educators of blind children; The American Bar Association Journal recorded edition; more than 17,000 Job Opportunities for the Blind publications; and all of the other newsletters, brochures, and magazines produced by chapters, state affiliates, and divisions.
To assist in addressing the crisis in Braille literacy, we are, in conjunction with the International Braille Research Center, in the final stages of producing a text entitled The National Braille Competency Test Self-Preparation Manual. More than 50 percent of the people who have taken the National Braille Competency Test have not passed. We are offering this book to encourage the study and understanding of Braille by the professionals who must teach it and promote its use. In schools and agencies for the blind there is a growing trend to require staff members to know Braille. This should have a real impact in bringing literacy to the blind, and we are doing what we can to accelerate this trend.
During the past year approximately twelve hundred people came to the National Center for the Blind to discuss programs dealing with blindness and to learn from the organized blind of the United States. We had visitors from all fifty-two of our state affiliates and from twenty-two countries beyond our borders.
The facts and statistics are important, but they come to have added meaning when we realize how much they touch the lives of individual blind people. A letter which came to the National Center for the Blind last April says in part, "My name is Marilyn Barr, and my daughter Jessica, who is totally blind, is going to be attending the national Scripps Howard Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., on May 24th through the 30th. She won our regional spelling bee and is now eligible to participate on the national level. This is a great honor for her. I think that the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest put on by the National Federation of the Blind has had a hand in helping her to like the Brailled word. I was hoping that someone could give me information on what is good to see for a totally blind thirteen-year-old in Washington. I want to make sure she gets everything possible out of this wonderful trip that we will be embarking on."
This is what the letter from Marilyn Barr said to us about her thirteen-year-old totally blind daughter, and how do we respond? We feel exactly the way Jessica's mother does; we want Jessica to have all the wonderful experiences of life. And we are prepared to help her get them through a knowledge of Braille, through programs that will expand her understanding and independence, through association with other blind people who will encourage her to think big, to believe in herself, and to persist in the search for the tremendous future that can and should be hers.
As we gather at this convention and consider the events of the past year, we come with a sense of optimism and hope. Dr. Jacobus tenBroek founded our movement in 1940. Under his leadership the Federation continued to grow for more than a quarter of a century. Dr. Kenneth Jernigan worked with him and was inspired by him. Dr. Jernigan became the leader of our organization, assuming the presidency in 1968, and he has become an inseparable part of the Federation. Dr. Jernigan taught and inspired me and the members of my generation, and I have now served as President of the Federation for twelve years.
I know that one day we in the Federation will not have Dr. Jernigan's counsel and advice on a daily basis. Indeed we wondered if this would be the year. With immeasurable gratitude we hope and believe that the extraordinary steps Dr. Jernigan has taken are bringing him back to good health and strength. He is not only a colleague, not only a leader, not only a teacher, but our dear friend, and we love him.
But we say to you, Dr. Jernigan, if the time comes that your step is no longer felt in the convention hall, we will carry on. We will continue to build. The Federation is too important to let it be otherwise. We have learned strength from you, and we will find the commitment and the dedication that must exist to bring true independence to the blind. The journey that began in 1940 will be completed.
There is nothing on earth that can prevent us from going the rest of the way, for we will accept nothing else. The future will be bright because we will make it bright. Our determination demands it; our imagination affirms it; and our lives proclaim it! This is my report for 1998.
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.
National Federation of the Blind Awards for 1998
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 five presentations were made. Here is the way it happened:
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Jernigan presents the Distinguished Service Award to Michael Marucci]
The Distinguished Service Award
At the meeting of the Board of Directors on Monday morning, July 6, Dr. Jernigan came to the microphone to make a presentation. Actually, he had intended to present two awards, but Angela Ugarte, mother of student division President Ana Ugarte, was packing for a family move from Ohio to Oregon and could not attend the convention, so Dr. Jernigan presented only one award in person. This is what Dr. Jernigan said:
It is with considerable pleasure that I am privileged to present an award. In this organization, as you know, we are very choosy and sparing in the awards we present. We have given a few Distinguished Service Awards in our time, but not very many. That makes those we do give of greater significance than they would be if we gave them automatically.
We are giving the Distinguished Service Award to Mr. Marucci. I want him to come up to the stage, and I want to say a few things. I'll ask Mrs. Dyer, my secretary, to read the text of the award. I can read Braille, but somehow I lost the text, so she will read it.
Mr. Marucci is an important part of this organization. He functions without a very high profile. His wife is on the staff at the National Center for the Blind and does a good job. He works on the staff too, but doesn't get paid for it. He is an accomplished linguistspeaks several languages. He does it professionally, without any payment and without for that matter a lot of praise or credit. He translates books into Spanish for us. He is about to put our book on diabetes into Spanish. He has translated other books. It seems altogether fitting that he receive this award. I'm going to ask Mrs. Dyer to read it. Mr. Marucci, there are two things I want to present to you as part of the award. I'm taking the pin that I have been wearing on my lapelthe NFB pinoff, and I want to give it to you. This is a pin that has a great deal of symbolism about it, not because I have worn it, but because of the fact that it represents the Federation. So I'm going to hand you the pin: then we'll read you the plaque.
Mrs. Dyer then read the text of the award:
Distinguished Service Award
In recognition of the contributions
you have made and your dedication
to our cause
the National Federation of the Blind
presents to you,
this Distinguished Service Award.
Without expectation of public acclaim
or fanfare you have tirelessly worked to
translate material for the blind
from English into Spanish, and you have done it on a continuing, sustained basis.
We call you our colleague with pride.
We call you our friend with love.
The lives of the blind of this nation
and the world are better
because of your effort.
The National Federation of the Blind
Dr. Jernigan: For whatever you may wish to say, here, Mr.
Marucci, is a mike.
Dr. Jernigan, Federationists, thank you very much. I am stunned here. I do love Monday mornings, however. I want to thank all the people: Mrs. Marie Marucci, who is my encouragement and support in this whole thing. When I said, "Why am I doing this?" She said, "There is a reason." If it makes one person's life better, by all means I am happy to do this: I am very proud to do this.
Mr. Gildner, for putting up with me through all these recording sessions, making sure the mike is in the proper place, all those after-work hours, I thank you very much. All the people in the Federation who have given me support.
This is what you can do with a foreign language if you put your mind to it. A lot of people say, "Why study a foreign language?" This is what you can do. Anybody who would like help in this endeavor, I would like to think that I am not doing this alone. Anybody else, I know there are several of you who are bilingual out in the audience. I am sure that everybody comes in contact with a foreign language. I know there are a lot of scholarship recipients who have studied a foreign language at one time or another. If one of you helps, it doubles the effort. We have plenty of literature to go around, not major bookseven small ones. Anything that helps out would be greatly appreciated.
Again I thank you for the award. I walk in the steps of fellow recipients of the award who have done much more than I have. I accept this humbly. I thank you very much.
Dr. Maurer: Congratulations to you. Increasingly we are distributing our literature all over the world. One of the major languages that people wish to read it in is Spanish. Your translations of our works have been distributed to tens of thousands of people in countries around the world. Thank you very much.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. David Ticchi receives the Blind Educator of the Year Award from Steve Benson.]
Blind Educator of the Year Award
From the Editor: Steve Benson, Chairman of the Blind Educator of the Year Award Committee, made the following presentation during the Board of Directors meeting on Monday, July 6.
The recipient of the 1998 Blind Educator of the Year Award is, of course, an extraordinary teacher. This person exhibits creativity, resourcefulness, patience, flexibility, wisdom, and clear thinking. The winner is demanding, raises student expectations, and commands the respect of both students and colleagues. This year's winner has gained considerable stature and respect as an elected and appointed leader on boards and commissions in the community as well as in his church.
More than all of that, this individual has demonstrated leadership in the National Federation of the Blind as a chapter President; as a state officer; and as one who has served on committees, often as chairman, since the mid-seventies.
The winner of this year's award has appeared at legislative hearings on behalf of the Federation. He has spoken before civic, church, and community groups; and he has represented us on radio talk shows. In each case he has delivered the message of the Federation effectively and persuasively.
The 1998 winner has done those things or caused those things to be done that have improved the quality of life for blind people. He has stretched blind people beyond what society has deemed appropriate for us. In other words, this year's recipient has understood and has emulated the example and the words of Dr. tenBroek, Dr. Jernigan, and President Maurer, all exemplary teachers.
The Blind Educator of the Year Award committeeHomer Page, Judy Sanders, Adelmo Vigil, and Ramona Walhofhave selected as this year's winner David Ticchi.[applause] While David is making his way to the platform, I will tell you that he is a cum laude graduate of the College of the Holy Cross, and he earned his master's and doctoral degrees at Harvard University.
David is currently supervisor of the alternative education program for ninth and tenth grades at Newton North High School in Newton, Massachusetts. This is a program designed for potential school dropouts. David is also a consultant for the Technical Vocational Department in his school. I might add that David had the honor of carrying the Olympic torch prior to the 1996 Olympic games.
David Ticchi is a Federationist. He does all that he does within the context of Federation philosophy.
David, congratulations. Here are a check for $500 and a plaque which reads:
Blind Educator of the Year Award
National Federation of the Blind
in recognition of outstanding
accomplishments in the
You enhance the present
You inspire your colleagues
You build the future
July 6, 1998
Here is what David Ticchi said:
Thank you very much. This is something I will cherish. When Steve Benson was reading the introduction this morning, I wasn't sure if that sounded like me. I wasn't sure who would win the award because to me this is one of the most prestigious awards that a blind person could earn. Our organization was started by an educator, Dr. tenBroek, followed by Dr. Jernigan, and Dr. Maurer. If you look up the derivation of the word "education," you will find it is based on a Latin root, "ducere," which is to lead. In order for one to lead and be an educator, you have to have a philosophy, a body of knowledge and information, a desire, a motivation, and ability to convey it to others in order for them to benefit from what they learn. Our organization certainly is illustrative of that kind of education and that kind of leadership. To be honored in this way is something which means a great deal to me.
I will also say, too, for blind people who have worked in public schools in particular, that I'm very thankful for this opportunity because historically, until the 1960's, there were actual visual acuity requirements for blind people who worked in public schools. Dr. tenBroek, Dr. Jernigan, and others changed those laws, and made it possible for me and other blind people to teach in public schools. They are now doing that at all grade levels. It is our responsibility to do that and to continue that and to educate others. Frankly we are all educators. Because if we truly think of one of our sayings, "changing what it means to be blind," in reality that's education. That's changing people's attitudes and providing them with information to show them that we can do what we have to do, that we are truly a cross section of society. Thank you very, very much. This is something, as I say, I will cherish.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Sharon Maneki presents Dr. James Bickford with the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award.]
The Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award
During the Thursday evening banquet, Sharon Maneki was called to the dais to make the following presentation:
Good evening, Dr. Maurer, Dr. Jernigan, fellow Federationists. In 1987 we established a new tradition in the National Federation of the Blind; we created a new opportunity to make sure that our blind children had a good education. We established the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award. As the recipient begins to make his way to the stage, let me share a little of his background. He is an individual who has taught in schools for the blind throughout the nation for the past twenty-five years. He has a master's degree from Florida State University in vision. He has a Ph.D. in administration from Portland State University in Oregon. But this is not the whole story; the individual that we are recognizing tonight does the real thing about education of blind children. As the Director of education at the Washington State School for the Blind he makes sure that his students have the opportunity for real academics. He promotes science and foreign languages, but he does not neglect the basic skills of blindness and literacy. In Washington State vision teachers are required to know Braille. Thanks to the leadership of Dr. James Bickford, Washington State is the first state to require instructional assistants who work with blind children to know Braille.
His friends refer to him as Blue, and we in the National Federation of the Blind are certainly his friends. Blue, I have first of all for you a check for $500. Let me present the plaque to you, and then I will read it.
The National Federation of the Blind
Dr. James Bickford
Distinguished Educator of Blind Children
for your leadership in building
for the students at the
Washington State School for the Blind
for creating a standard
to measure competency
in literary Braille
and for your successful efforts
in insuring that vision teachers
and instructional assistants
in Washington State are required
to demonstrate competency in Braille reading and writing.
You champion our movement,
you strengthen our hopes,
you share our dreams.
Dr. Bickford then responded:
President Maurer, Dr. Jernigan, Ms. Maneki, and members of the National Federation of the Blind, it is indeed a pleasure to be here tonight. I am proud to be in the state of Washington, where the NFB and the Washington State School for the Blind have worked cooperatively to better the educational programs for all blind children in the state. Thus it is on behalf of the students, parents, paraprofessionals, and teachers who have worked so hard to make everything work that with humility, honor, and a great deal of pride I accept this award. Thank you very much.[Applause]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Rudy Savage receives the Newel Perry Award.]
The Newel Perry Award
From the Editor: During the banquet on July 9 Dr. Jernigan came to the microphone to present the Newel Perry Award for 1998.
This is what he said:
The Newel Perry Award (one of the highest honors we can bestow) was first given in 1955, being presented to Governor Ed Johnson of Colorado. The next year the recipient was Senator Jennings Randolph of West Virginia. I received the award in 1960, and subsequently it was given to members of Congress, administrators, and other community leaders who were deemed to have made significant contributions to the improvement of the quality of life for blind people. In 1965 we gave the award to Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey.
It should be noted that this award is not routinely given. In fact, quite the contrary. In 1982 the recipient was Congressman Barry Goldwater, Jr., of California. It was 1989 before the next presentation was made. That year's recipient was Congressman Gerry Sikorski of Minnesota. In 1991 we gave the Newel Perry Award to then Commissioner of Rehabilitation Nell Carney. No one has received the Newel Perry Award since that time.
This gives special significance to tonight's presentation. Tonight's recipient (although he has deliberately maintained a low profile in the blindness field) is particularly deserving. Last year, for instance, without even being asked to do so, he came to the National Office of the organization and gave $5,000 to help with our work. This was not his first financial contribution.
But it is not for this that we honor him. Rather it is for his daily effort to make life better for blind people. As I have said, he deliberately maintains a low profile, and some of you may not even know who he is. But if you don't, it is time you got acquainted. Tonight's recipient of the Newel Perry Award is Rudy Savage, who is head of the nonprofit company Talking Book Publishers, Inc., of Denver, Colorado.
Mr. Savage was born in Denver and received his B.A. degree in social science from the University of Denver. Acting on the hunch that many readers of all ages and types would enjoy recorded books, he presented the idea of books on flexible disks to the American Booksellers convention in 1966. At that time he met Robert Bray, who was head of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress and who expressed interest in the concept for the NLS program.
Mr. Savage researched and pursued the development of high-quality flexible disk recordings with the Eva Tone Corporation. Not only could five flexible disks be produced and mailed for the cost of one hard disk, but the timeliness of recorded magazines could be enhanced if they were mailed directly to subscribers instead of being sent to the regional libraries and then recirculated to blind readers. The flexible disk program, which has been a standard feature of library service for the blind for many years, was pioneered and developed by Rudy Savage.
In the early 1970's he continued to pursue his work with the blind by pioneering a contract with US News and World Report to produce a recorded edition of their magazine to be made available to the blind through NLS. At that time he also established the nonprofit company Talking Book Publishers, Inc. He then brought together a group of readers whose names are now household words among the blind.
Talking Book Publishers, Inc., now records between 300 and 400 books a year, as well as many of the magazines and periodicals available on cassette and flexible disk. Mr. Savage takes great pride in the quality of the recording standards and research that Talking Book Publishers, Inc., maintains.
Rudy Savage has a variety of business interests outside of the blindness field. He has created several successful companies that provide business information to thousands of executives, and he serves as a consultant and facilitator for a business diagnostics process.
Of particular interest to us, Mr. Savage is a true friend of and an active participant in the organized blind movement. He encourages those who wish to make financial contributions to programs for the blind to work directly with the NFB, and he puts his own money where his mouth is.
During the past few years I have come to know Rudy Savage personally and well. He rings true and is genuinely committed to advancing the interests of the National Federation of the Blind.
Therefore, it is with real pleasure that I present the 1998 Newel Perry Award to the head of Talking Book Publishers, Inc., Rudy Savage. The brass plaque mounted on walnut reads:
Newel Perry Award
National Federation of the Blind
In recognition of courageous leadership
and outstanding service,
the National Federation of the Blind
bestows the Newel Perry Award upon
our colleague; our friend; our brother
on the barricades. You champion our progress; you strengthen our hopes;
you share our dreams.
July 9, 1998.
Mr. Savage, I give you this plaque and a copy of my remarks. Welcome to this convention, and congratulations to you on the receipt of the Newel Perry Award.
Doctors Jernigan and Maurer and the entire Federation, I am really just overwhelmed by this. I didn't expect anything like this. When Dr. Jernigan suggested that I attend this year's convention as I have done from time to time, I thought that maybe I would receive a piece of paper or something like that. But to receive something as distinguished as this award is just overwhelming. I don't have anything else I could possibly say right now. Thank you very much.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Mary Ellen Jernigan addresses the banquet audience after receiving the Jacobus tenBroek Award while Ramona Walhof and Allen Harris look on.]
The Jacobus tenBroek Award
During the banquet on Thursday evening, July 9, Ramona Walhof came to the microphone to present the Jacobus tenBroek Award. This is what she said:
In 1974 the convention decided to establish an award in memory of our beloved founder Dr. Jacobus tenBroek. This award is to be given to one of the leaders of the organization as often as merit indicates. Since 1974 the tenBroek Award has been presented fourteen times to leaders from eleven different states. Tonight the committee has selected an individual who joined the Federation at a young age, during the 1960's, and has matured and developed into one of our very best. Anyone who has attended a National Convention during the last twenty or twenty-five years has observed this person on the run handling large and small matters with poise, competence, and efficiency.
I first met Mary Ellen Jernigan [prolonged applause] when we were both teachers at the orientation center in Iowa. Dr. Jernigan picked her as a very promising new graduate of Drake University in Des Moines. Some of her travel students from that time are here tonight. When she and I organized together in Kansas and Oregon, we both underrated the contributions we could make to the National Federation of the Blind, but blind people are not the only ones who have benefited and grown and blossomed under the direction of Dr. Jernigan and in the activities of the National Federation of the Blind.
Early in the 1970's the then Mrs. Anderson became Deputy Director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind. In 1978, when it was time to move Federation headquarters to Baltimore and begin to build a new National Center for the Blind, Mrs. Anderson was eager and able to take on a large share of that work. With her usual high energy, thoroughness, and intelligence she began to learn and to manage the mailings of the organization. For nearly twenty years Mrs. Jernigan has been one of the primary builders and the administrator of one of our principal means of public education and fund-raising. I remember when she led a small group of Federation staff members to go and learn enough that we could purchase and install our very first computer at the National Office. Since that time she has kept ahead in the increasing dependence on use of computers.
Her contribution has been immeasurable in making our headquarters operation the comprehensive and effective facility it is today. I cannot fill in all the details of a career of more than thirty years, but we have all benefited from the contributions she has made to the Federation. She has worked many, many hours beyond the call of duty. She has been far more than a valuable staff member. She has become truly a leader in her own right.
In 1986 Dr. and Mrs. Jernigan were married, and we all shared their happiness. Mrs. Jernigan has continued to assist both Dr. Jernigan and Dr. Maurer in the management of the National Federation of the Blind as the organization has grown and become the most important force in work with the blind in the world today.
This year we have faced a new and frightening problem. Dr. Jernigan developed lung cancer. To fight such a battle requires all the strength and determination anyone can possess.
I cannot, and I hope I need not, describe the difficult weeks and months through which the Jernigans have struggled together this winter. We have all prayed for strength and success for them in this most important of all efforts. But the Jernigans have had to shoulder and carry the primary weight. Dr. Jernigan has depended heavily on Mrs. Jernigan through the treatment, and she has never wavered or stumbled in her support, doing research on the treatment, giving injections, helping to understand and remember the details of the doctors' pronouncements, going with him wherever the treatment took them, counting pills, finding and preparing special dietsthese are only some of the ways that Mrs. Jernigan has participated in the struggle against the cancer.
Most important of all has been her spirit, always gentle and caring. She has not complained or flinched at whatever has been needed. Most of the time you and I were not able to be there and could not know or help with the daily battle and pain. We depended on the Jernigans together to give it their best while we gave only love and prayers from a distance. But it has meant a lot to all of us as well as to Dr. Jernigan himself to know the kind of support Dr. Jernigan has had from his wife. This battle matters to everyone of us in this room and elsewhere tonight, and we are proud of the Jernigans for the progress they have made so far. Tonight is the time to honor Mrs. Jernigan for all she has done for Dr. Jernigan and for all of us, both this year and throughout the many years she has been a leader in the National Federation of the Blind.
Throughout her career she has made invaluable contributions, and therefore Mrs. Jernigan we all honor you and appreciate you tonight. We love you and honor you for what you have done and what you are. We have a plaque here. Let me give it to you, and then I will read it. The plaque says:
Jacobus tenBroek Award
National Federation of the Blind
Mary Ellen Jernigan
for your dedication, sacrifice, and commitment
on behalf of the blind of the nation. Your contribution is not measured in steps, but in miles, not by individual experiences, but by your impact on the lives of the blind of the nation.
Whenever we have asked, you have answered.
We call you our colleague with respect;
we call you our friend with love.
July 9, 1998
Now I'm going to give Mrs. Jernigan the microphone to hear what she has to say.
President Maurer, Dr. Jernigan, Mrs. Walhof, and friends. I have grown up in this organization; and I, like so many of you, have gained far more from this organization than we've ever given. I want to say a word about this year. I want to thank all of you for your love, for your prayers, for your support. I want to say a special word about President Maurer. President Maurer has been there early and late and every day. President Maurer has carried on all of his work, all of Dr. Jernigan's work, most of my work, and, while he has been doing that, he's been by the bedside. He's never too busy to do any tiny thing that he even thinks Dr. Jernigan would have wanted done. I want to say to him thank you, and I want to say to all of you: we picked right; we have one of the most wonderful presidents this organization could ever hope to have.
I also want to say thank you to the staff at the National Center for the Blind because each of them has also done during this year a lot of Dr. Jernigan's work and a lot of my work.
It's not easy to keep a secret from me in this organization, and I must say that I had absolutely no inkling of this. I've often said that there is really only one speechmaker in our family, and it's not me, so I will close with this. Thank you very much.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Fredric Schroeder]
Bureaucracy and the Individual:
The Plan for Rehabilitation in the Twenty-first Century
by Fredric K. Schroeder, Ph.D.
From the Editor: On Wednesday morning, July 8, Dr. Fredric Schroeder, Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Education, delivered his annual address to the National Federation of the Blind. This is what he said:
Thank you, President Maurer. I'd like to begin by adding my congratulations on your re-election as President of the National Federation of the Blind. I was thinking about what this means as the elections were taking place this morning. Two months ago, as you all know, President Maurer was presented an honorary degree by Menlo College in California. I thought: here is a man who has been recognized for his commitment and his ability and his leadership externally by the academic community and now reaffirmed this morning by blind people throughout the nation. I would say that the National Federation of the Blind is very, very fortunate to have a president like Marc Maurer.
I'd like to begin by recognizing that a number of my colleagues from the Rehabilitation Services Administration are here with me today. From our Dallas office Mr. Loran Steever, our regional commissioner, is here. Also from our Dallas office is Martha Garber. From my office in Washington is Susan Benbow, and also the Director of the Division for the Blind, Joe Cordova, is with me this morning.
As we discuss rehabilitation programs in the United States, I think it is important to recognize that the model for rehabilitationwhat has become an enduring and powerful model for rehabilitationwas brought to us by Dr. Jernigan. He did much more than articulate a philosophy. Dr. Jernigan took that philosophy and put it into practice and built the most effective program for the blind that has ever existed in this country. It would behoove all of us as rehabilitation professionals to learn from the work that he has done.
For blind people and others to attain social and economic integration, we must find ways to aid the rehabilitation system to work better. But what is meant by working better? Better than what? And are better services good services?
To know whether rehabilitation services are good services and to know whether we are making progress, we must first share a common understanding, a common belief about the purpose of the rehabilitation program. In my view the system exists to assist blind people and others with disabilities to achieve high-quality employment according to their individual interests and abilities--good-quality employment that can help lift them out of poverty but, beyond that, afford them the opportunity to live normal lives as integrated members of society. But what do these words mean? How are words such as "high-quality employment" any more precise than words like "better services"? What is high-quality employment?
Agreeing on the meaning of "better services" and "high-quality employment" speaks to expectationsthe expectations of the client for the system and the expectations of the system for the client and what it believes he or she might be able to achieve. It speaks to the question of whether we genuinely believe in the inherent normalcy of blind people or whether we as a society continue to assume that blind people are forever doomed to lives of nominal participation.
Today few would argue that blind people cannot be employed, but the real question is whether we as a society and as a service delivery system and, for that matter, we as blind people ourselves truly believe that blind people can achieve equal status in society. We know that blind people can work, but do we believe that blind people truly have the same full range of talents and abilities as others and, given training and opportunity, can work competitively alongside the sighted? To expand employment opportunities for blind people, we must recognize that our real struggle, our first and most pressing priority, is to reshape society's beliefs and attitudes about blindness.
As a rehabilitation system we know how to accommodate an individual's disability. We know about the training and the assistive technology that can enable the individual to work. But to assist blind people in attaining true integration, we must seek opportunities for blind people and others to pursue their individual interests and aspirations. With this principle in mind let me discuss with you the current status of the reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (the Act) and how certain proposed changes will better enable state rehabilitation agencies to support blind people and others in pursuing high-quality employment.
In the House of Representatives amendments to reauthorize the Act are contained in the Employment, Training, and Literacy Enhancement Act of 1997 (H.R. 1385), which was passed by the House in May, 1997. The Senate's bill to extend authorization of the Act is the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 (S. 1579). This bill was adopted on May 5, 1998, as an amendment to the Workforce Investment Partnership Act (WIPA, S. 1186). Congress is now working through a conference committee to resolve differences between the two bills.
The Senate bill contains many more changes and new provisions than the House proposal. However, when taken together, the bills would streamline administrative procedures; expand consumer choice; increase opportunities for high-quality employment; and link the vocational rehabilitation (VR) program to a state's workforce development system.
For example, to increase access to the system, the Senate bill takes an important step to simplify eligibility determinations by establishing presumptive eligibility for people who receive Social Security Supplemental Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and who are seeking employment. While the provision does not establish an entitlement to VR services for SSI recipients and SSDI beneficiaries, it recognizes that they have already been determined by an agency of the federal governmentthe Social Security Administrationto have a disability which impedes their ability to work and accordingly receive cash and medical benefits.
Concerning informed choice, the Senate and House proposals expand the choice provisions in the Act in several ways. State VR agencies, through an open process, will be required to develop and implement policies and procedures to afford opportunities for applicants for VR services and eligible individuals to exercise informed choices throughout the rehabilitation process. The policies and procedures must include the provision of information and support services to assist applicants and eligible individuals in making informed choices.
Current law requires that VR services be provided in an integrated setting; however, the Senate and House bills clarify that the requirement is for the most integrated setting that is appropriate to the service being provided and consistent with the informed choice of the individual. If a particular program or service is better suited to a special setting, such as orientation and adjustment training, it may continue to be provided in a nonintegrated setting. Both bills also incorporate current regulatory language on informed choice in the selection of the employment goal, services, service providers, and procurement methods.
Both bills rename the Individualized Written Rehabilitation Program (IWRP) to focus on employment and expand the client's role in developing it. Clients (or their representatives) will have the new option of developing their own plans for approval by state VR agencies, or they may jointly develop their plans with rehabilitation counselors in the traditional fashion.
To encourage new opportunities for high-quality employment, both the House and Senate bills include new provisions that emphasize self-employment and small business operation. The Senate bill adds to the scope of VR services, technical assistance, and other consultation services for eligible individuals who are pursuing self-employment or small business operation. Both bills introduce new authorities to fund special service projects to assist individuals in pursuing self-employment, and the Senate bill includes authority for special projects in the area of telecommuting.
While the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) does not administer Title V of the Act, I would like to give you an update on proposed changes to section 508. The Senate version of section 508 would strengthen current law by requiring every federal department or agency to procure, maintain, and use electronic and information technology that is accessible to people with disabilities, unless not practicable. An important change in the Senate proposal is a requirement that, within eighteen months after the date of enactment, the Access Board must issue standards that set forth the technical and functional performance criteria necessary to implement the requirements of section 508. Another important proposed change is a provision which would allow any individual with a disability to file a complaint alleging that a procurement action is inconsistent with the established standards.
Turning to another matter, you may be aware that on March 13, 1998, President Clinton issued an Executive Order on the Employment of Adults with Disabilities. The Executive Order articulates the belief that people with disabilities in the United States should be employed to the same extent as the general population. It calls for the creation of a national Task Force made up of the Secretaries of most domestic policy Federal departments, including the Departments of Labor, Education, Commerce, Health and Human Services, and Justice. The Task Force is chaired by Labor Secretary Alexis Herman with Tony Coelho, the Chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities serving as Vice Chair. The Task Force will examine Federal disability policy to determine what changes can be made in a coordinated, interagency effort to remove barriers to employment facing people with disabilities.
As the rehabilitation system seeks ways of increasing employment opportunities, we must begin by recognizing the importance of education in acquiring high-quality jobs. We know that there is a strong correlation between education and earnings. The more education an individual has, the more money he or she is likely to make. Conversely, people with little education on average earn less than more highly educated workers, and are more apt to live in poverty.
RSA is in the fourth year of a longitudinal study of the VR Services program. Preliminary findings indicate that competitively employed individuals with disabilities with less than a high school diploma or GED equivalency earn an average of $6.30 per hour. Those with more than a high school education average slightly over $9 per hour, or over 40% greater earnings, due to higher academic achievement. Unfortunately, of all people competitively employed in the longitudinal study, only 18 percent had earned any kind of degree beyond a high school diploma or GED equivalency. Less than 3 percent held an advanced degree.
Achievement levels in reading and mathematics also correlate strongly with earnings. Competitively employed workers with disabilities who read at less than the fourth-grade level barely earned the federal minimum wage, while those who read above the twelfth-grade level averaged $7.52 per hour, over 36 percent more than the poor readers.
The disparity in earnings by math achievement levels is even more dramatic. People with math achievement levels at less than fourth grade earn an average of $5.56 an hour. Those with achievement levels above the twelfth grade earn an average hourly wage of $8.54, over 50 percent more.
An important measure of high-quality employment is access to health insurance. Only 36 percent of all disabled workers in the VR longitudinal study received medical benefits through their employers. Not surprisingly, better paying jobs were also more likely to include health benefits.
The staggering unemployment rate among blind people and others with disabilities can be significantly reduced through more jobs, but high-quality jobs are the key to true economic independence. High-quality jobs mean higher-paying jobs that include critical benefits such as health insurance and retirement plans. High-quality jobs mean jobs that are not dead end but have opportunities for career advancement. And, most important, high-quality jobs mean jobs which the individual finds challenging and rewarding. In many instances access to high-quality jobs will require better-qualified candidates, and therein lies the challenge.
It is unconscionable to train people for entry-level, low-paying jobs with few or no benefits when additional training or education would qualify them for better jobs with better benefits and economic independence. We serve no one well when we assist an individual in becoming underemployed.
We know that higher academic achievement leads to higher earnings, and higher earnings lead to health insurance and other important benefits. Blind people must be encouraged to seek out high-quality employment, not simply stereotypic jobs or the most readily available jobs. To prepare blind people for high-quality jobs, blind people must first be literate. We must be able to read and write Braille if we are to pursue advanced academic or technical training. Consequently, the rehabilitation system must encourage and support blind people in pursuing training in the skills of blindness as well as the academic or technical credentials necessary to compete successfully for good jobs. And the system must also encourage and assist those who are underemployed to acquire the additional skills or education they need to achieve true social and economic integration. Service providers and blind people must share a common belief in the fundamental equality of blind people. We must forge partnerships between blind people and the rehabilitation system growing out of the shared belief in the capacity of blind people to work competitively and to live normal productive lives.
In short, we must continue to struggle to break free from the bonds of minimal expectations. We must continue to struggle to create opportunities for blind people to achieve academically and to pursue their individual interests and abilities. We must continue to struggle for high-quality employment, but not simply to lift ourselves out of poverty. We must continue to struggle for high-quality employment as a symbol of true social and economic integration. We must continue to struggle for high-quality employment as the tangible expression of our fundamental normalcy. And we must continue to struggle for high-quality employment as evidence that we have the capacity and right to assume the challenges and opportunities of first-class status.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Kenneth Jernigan]
The Continuing Saga of the Kernel Books
by Kenneth Jernigan
During the 1990's the Kernel Books have been at the very heart of our program of public education, and 1998 is no exception. This year, as in the past, we are publishing two new volumes. The first will be available at this convention, and the second will be released this fall.
Today, as on previous occasions, I want to give you the introductions to the two books, as well as the first article in each. As you know, I edit these books, and I also usually write the first article. So here is my Editor's Introduction to the book that will be available to you at this convention:
This is the fourteenth volume in the Kernel Book series. Its title, Gray Pancakes and Gold Horses, is taken from the first two stories and symbolizes the theme of the book.
How do blind children learn the details of the hundreds of small daily acts that sighted children pick up without ever even knowing they have done it? A blind boy sits in a farm house on a summer night and wonders which way to shake his head to mean yes and no. He guesses and loses, and his mother's feelings are hurt. I know, for I was that boy.
A blind father cooks for his two sighted children, and the pancakes are gray, causing the children to reject them. Small incidents, things of no great moment. Yet the stuff of daily living, the patterns and realities of life.
This Kernel Book is much like those that have gone before it. It contains first-person real-life stories, told by those who have lived them. It talks about going to school, communicating with others, and living from day to day. I know the people who appear in its pages. They are friends of mine. Some have been my students.
The one thing all of us who appear in this book have in common is our shared participation in the work of the National Federation of the Blind, the organization which has been the strongest single factor in making life better for the blind of this country during the twentieth century. With more than 50,000 members the National Federation of the Blind is primarily composed of blind people, who are trying to make life better for themselves and other blind people, while at the same time making the world a better place in which to live for everybody.
We who are blind have a major job on our hands in trying to get members of the general public to see us for what we arenot especially blessed or especially cursed but just ordinary people, exactly like you. The only difference is that we don't have eyesight, which is not as big a factor in our daily lives as most people think it is.
So how do we get the job done? How do we get people to see us for what we are and not just what they have always thought we are? One of the most important ways is through the Kernel Books. This is why we write and publish them. They must be entertaining enough that people will read them, but they must do more than that. They must carry the message of what blindness truly is, and what it isn't.
We hope you will enjoy this book and that it will give you new insights about blindness. Since more than 50,000 people become blind in this country each year, the information you get from these pages may be useful to you in a personal way at some future timeand if not for you, then for a family member or friend.
As you read, remember that we who are blind have more hope today than ever before in history. We believe that, when we can, we should do for ourselves before calling on others for assistance, but we also recognize the value of the help which a growing number of sighted friends and associates give us. We want to live the full lives of free, participating citizens, and we know that we can.
All of this you will see reflected in the pages of this book. We hope you will find it of interest and that it will cause you to rethink some of your notions about blindness.
There you have the introduction to Kernel Book fourteen. Now, here is my opening article. It is entitled "The Barrier of the Visible Difference."
The Barrier of the Visible Difference
Catchy titles and clever phrases are the stuff of big business. As every advertising agency knows, fortunes are made or lost by the way the public reacts to a jingle or a slogan.
Once I heard a liquor distributor say that his company had a thoroughly mediocre wine that was going nowhere, and then somebody got the bright idea of giving it a sparkly name (I think it was Wild Irish Rose). After that he said they couldn't make enough to meet the demand, operating three shifts a day.
Whether that story is true or false, the underlying message is right on target. It is not just what a thing is but how it sounds and feels that sets the tone and gives the value.
When most of us come across the term "visible difference," we think of the trademark of the beauty expert and cosmetics manufacturer Elizabeth Arden. "Visible Difference" is the brand name of moisturizers, lotions, and other products. But for the blind the term means something else. It represents a barrier and a hurdle to be surmounted. Let me illustrate.
When I was a boy of about four, my mother and I were sitting in the front bedroom of our home. Even though more than sixty-five years have passed, I still remember every detail. It was a summer evening just after dark. My father and brother were sitting on the porch, and the night sounds (the frogs and crickets) were coming into full chorus. It was oppressively hot with a lot of dust in the air.
In those days we didn't have electricity, so my mother had just lit the oil lamp. The smell of the burning kerosene began to blend with the regular odors of food and plant life that permeated the four-room house. Of course, all of the doors and windows were open.
When my mother finished lighting the lamp and adjusting the wick, she sat down and put her arm around me. Then she kissed me on the left side of my face. Since she was sitting on my left, this was a natural (almost an automatic) gesture. Then she said:
"Do you like for mother to kiss you?" Now this put me into a real dilemmafor I very much liked for mother to kiss me, but I felt shy and embarrassed to say it.
Hunting a way out, I thought perhaps I could say yes by shaking my head. From conversations I had heard, I knew that other people shook their heads to mean yes or no, but I didn't know which way the head should move to indicate which meaning. It had never before occurred to me to wonder about the matter since I had never needed to know. My mother or anybody else around the house would undoubtedly have been perfectly willing to tell me if I had asked, but that didn't help in the situation I was then facing.
Using the best logic I could muster, I thought that since my mother was sitting on my left, maybe if I moved my head that way, it would indicate yes. Unfortunately it didn't, and my mother (not understanding my embarrassment and lack of knowledge) thought I was saying no. She was hurt and cried, and I didn't know how to explain.
So what is the moral of that little story, that minor tragedy of childhood? It is not that blind people are less competent than others of their age and circumstance. It is not that blind persons are slow learners or inept. It is that sometimes something that can be seen at a glance must be learned a different way by a blind person. The learning can be just as quick and just as effective, but it won't happen unless somebody thinks to explain, to help the blind child cross the barrier of the visible difference. There is no great problem in knowing how to shake one's head or in doing a hundred other things that sighted children learn without ever knowing that they have done it. It is only that the blind child must either be unusually persistent and inquisitive or have somebody constantly at hand who thinks to give information. Otherwise insignificant details will multiply to major deficits.
And this is not just a matter of childhood. After seventy years I keep learning new things about the barrier of the visible difference. Recently, when I told a blind friend of mine who is a lawyer about my head-shaking episode, he asked if I knew how you are supposed to hold your hand in a court when you are told to raise your right hand. I said that I had never thought about it but had always assumed that you simply raise your hand above your head, which is what would seem logical in the circumstances.
"No," he told me, "that isn't the way it is done. You raise your hand to shoulder level with the palm out." He went on to tell me that when he was being sworn in to be admitted to the Bar, he had raised his hand above his head and that later one of his classmates had told him how the customary ritual is performed.
It is important to understand the significance of this incident. There is nothing better about raising the hand to the shoulder than over the head. It doesn't make one a better lawyer or a better witness in court. My friend is an excellent attorney, and I have testified in court on more than one occasion. We are simply dealing with a custom of society, a visible difference.
More than anything else (at least, unless one is aware of it and thinks about it) meaningless visible differences can lead to confusion and misunderstanding, and sometimes even to misplaced feelings of superiority or inadequacy. A thing that looks beautiful to the eye, for instance, can feel ugly and dirty to the touch. Again let me illustrate. Once, when I was four or five, my mother and father took me to the county fair. This was a big event.
We lived about fourteen miles from the county seat, and we didn't have a car. Very few people did in those days, so friends and neighbors pooled their transportation and helped each other with rides.
On this particular occasion my mother and I were standing at one of the booths at the fair. In retrospect it must have been one of those places that give prizes for throwing darts, tossing rings, or something of the sort. Regardless of that, the woman in charge gave me a small statue of a horse. As I think back on it, she may have done it because I was blind, or simply because she thought I was a cute kid. For purposes of my story it doesn't matter.
The horse must have been quite pretty, for both the woman and my mother kept exclaiming about it. It was apparently covered with some sort of sparkly gold paint. To the eye I assume that it was extremely attractive, but to me it just felt dirty and grungy.
Now, I had never before had a small gold horse or, for that matter, any other kind of horse, or very many nice toys of any kindso I was pleased and ecstatic with my treasure. But I thought I ought to clean it up and try to make it look nice.
Therefore, while my mother and the woman were talking, I busily scratched all of the rough-feeling gold paint off of it. It was quite a job. By the time I had finished, my horse felt clean and attractive. I was proud of it. Imagine, then, my disappointment and chagrin when my mother and the woman noticed what I had done and were absolutely dismayed. I couldn't understand why they were unhappy, and they couldn't understand why I felt that the horse was better for my effort. Again I had bumped head-on into the barrier of the visible difference.
Unlike the head-shaking incident, this was not exactly a matter of learning correct information. If a thing looks better to the eye and feels worse to the touch, that doesn't make it better or worse. It simply means a different point of view, a visible difference.
I thoroughly understand that we live in a world that is structured for the sighted, so if a blind person intends to get along and compete in society, he or she must learn how the sighted feel and what they think is beautiful and attractive. But this has nothing to do with innate loveliness or quality. It is simply a visible difference.
As a matter of fact, although I wouldn't scratch the paint off of it if I met it today, that horse of my childhood would feel just as dirty to me now as it did then. A few years ago, when I went to Athens, I was invited (no, urged) to handle a variety of sculptures. They may have looked beautiful, and I have no doubt that they did; but they didn't feel beautifulat least, not to me. They felt dirty, and I wanted a good hand-washing after feeling them. Hopefully this does not mean that I am either a barbarian or a boor, only that my way of appreciating beauty may have something to do with the fact that I touch instead of look.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that it is only the blind who get stuck on the barrier of the visible difference. The sighted do it, toorepeatedly, every day. Recently when I was in the hospital, I was being taken to the x-ray department for tests. On the way I had to stop to go to the bathroom. As I came out, a hospital official (I think she was a nurse) saw me and exclaimed, in what I can only describe as panic:
"Catch him! He's going to fall. His eyes are closed."
My wife explained to her that I am blind and that my eyes are usually closed. It made no difference.
"It doesn't matter," she said. "Hold him. His eyes are closed. He will fall." This woman is not abnormal or unusually jumpy, nor (at least, as far as I can tell) is she stupid. She is simply so accustomed to the fact that sighted people look about them to keep their bearings that she cannot imagine that sight and balance have nothing to do with each other. If I had thought it wouldn't have upset her, I would have asked her if she believed she would be unable to stand up in a totally dark room.
During that same hospital stay, when I stepped into another bathroom, the nurse turned the light on for me even though I told her in a light and pleasant tone that I didn't need it. She said she would turn it on anyway. It was clear that she felt uncomfortable to have me in the bathroom in the dark. Obviously this is not a major matter. It simply shows that we feel uneasy when something violates (even benignly) our routine patterns.
And these are not isolated instances. Every day letters and articles come to my attention to prove it. A journalist from Ohio writes to say that the blind need special fishing facilitiesand he will lobby the government to help make it happen. He doesn't say why we can't fish in the regular way like everybody else, which many of us do all of the time.
A locksmith from Wisconsin believes the blind would benefit from specially shaped door knobs (oval and textured, he thinks), and he is willing to design them. A pilot from Pennsylvania thinks we should solve any problems we have with the airlines by setting up an airline of our own, and he will help fly the planes.
A man from Minnesota believes that blind alcoholics cannot benefit from regular programs used by the sighted and suggests separate services. Some years ago the Manchester Union Leader, one of New Hampshire's most prominent newspapers, said that the governor of the state was so bad that only the deaf, the dumb, and the blind could believe he was competent.
These few illustrations are not a complete list, of course, but only a sampling. Moreover, I am not talking about all of the sighted. An increasing number are coming to understand and work with us. They give us some of our strongest support.
Nor am I saying that the sighted are hostile toward us. Quite the contrary. Overwhelmingly the members of the sighted public wish us well and have good will toward us. It is simply that they are used to doing things with visual techniques, and when they look at a blind person, they see something to which they are not accustomedwhat I call the barrier of the visible difference.
Most sighted people take it for granted that doing something with eyesight is better than doing it some other way. Visual techniques are sometimes superior to non-visual techniques, and sometimes not. Sometimes the non-visual way of doing a thing is better. Usually, however, it isn't a matter of better or worse but just difference.
This brings me to my experience with the National Federation of the Blind. I first became acquainted with the Federation almost fifty years ago, and it has done more than anything else in my life to help me gain balance and perspectiveto understand that the barrier of the visible difference need not be a major obstacle, either for me or for my sighted associates.
With more than fifty thousand active members throughout the nation, the National Federation of the Blind is leading the way in making it possible for blind people to have normal, everyday lives. We of the Federation seek out parents and help them understand that their blind children can grow up to be productive citizens. We work with blind college students, giving scholarships and providing successful role models. Blind seniors make up an important part of the organization, helping and encouraging each other and exchanging ideas and information. We develop new technology for the blind and assist blind persons in finding jobs.
All of this is what we of the National Federation of the Blind do to help ourselves and each other, but the chief value of the organization is the way it helps us look at our blindness and the way it helps sighted people understand and accept. We who are blind know that with reasonable opportunity and training we can earn our own way in the world, compete on terms of equality with others, and lead ordinary, worthwhile lives. We do not feel that we are victims, or that society owes us a living or is responsible for our problems. We believe that we ought to do for ourselves and that we also should help others. These attitudes are the heart and soul of the National Federation of the Blind. They constitute its core beliefs and reason for being.
We go to meet the future with joy and hope, but we recognize that we need help from our sighted friends. If we do our part, we are confident that the needed help will be forthcoming. We also know that both we and the sighted can surmount the barrier of the visible difference and reduce it to the level of a mere inconvenience.
There you have the Editor's Introduction and the first article in volume fourteen of the Kernel Book series. Here is the Editor's Introduction to book fifteen, which will be released this fall:
This is the fifteenth volume in the Kernel Book series. Its title, To Touch the Untouchable Dream, comes from the article by Ed and Toni Eames, who recently went to South Africa. They tell of their visit to a game preserve and the techniques they used to experience the wonder of it.
The first of the Kernel Books was issued almost eight years ago, and since that time more than three million have been put into circulation. If generalizations were effective, we could have saved a lot of paper, space, and time by writing a single paragraph or two to convey our message. It would probably go something like this:
Being blind is not what almost everybody thinks it is. Contrary to popular belief, the real problem of blindness is not the lack of eyesight but the misconceptions and misunderstandings which exist misconceptions and misunderstandings by the public at large and also, unfortunately, sometimes by many of the blind themselves. However, we are learning new ways of thought about blindness, and every day our situation is improving. This is true because we have established our own nationwide self-help organization, the National Federation of the Blind, and because more and more sighted friends are doing what they can to help us.
We know that with proper training and opportunity the average blind person can do the average job in the average place of business and do it as well as a sighted person similarly situated. We know that blind children can successfully live and compete with sighted children, that blind seniors can function as well as sighted seniors, and that there is almost no job that some blind person is not competently doing. In short, through the work of the National Federation of the Blind and of our sighted friends and associates we are changing what it means to be blind.
If generalizations were effective, we could, as I have said, have saved a great deal of effort by simply writing and distributing these two paragraphs. But generalizations are not effective. They don't convey a sense of reality, so we give details and write the Kernel Books. The present volume is part of the process.
What happens when a blind man who has been an outdoorsman goes camping and climbs a tall tree while a passing tourist stops to watch? You will learn in this book, and I think you will find the interchange interesting. At least I did since I was on hand to observe it.
And what happens when a blind father, waiting for his wife, is holding his baby in his arms and is approached by a sighted bystander, who believes that the blind are not competent to do such things? Then there is the blind person who teaches another blind person to operate a chain saw, and the blind woman who talks about baking bread. These and other true-life, first-person stories appear in this volume.
This is not the stuff of high drama. Rather, it is an account of the ordinary routine of daily life, the detailing of how average human beings live and work and playperhaps as compelling in the long run as the most graphic international news story. I know the people who appear in these pages. They are friends and colleagues of mine.
Besides blindness we have at least one other thing in common. We give our time and effort to the work of the National Federation of the Blind. We do this because the organization is the focal point for improving the quality of life for the blind of this country. Life has been good to us, and we feel the need to give something backto help the newly blind, blind children, blind job seekers, blind seniors, and each other. We feel strongly that we must contribute as well as take, but we also realize that, if we are to go the rest of the way to real equality, we will need help from sighted friends. These are our core beliefs, and we feel great hope and confidence in the future.
I hope you will find this book, the fifteenth in the series, both interesting and entertaining. If you do, we will have achieved our purpose and come one step closer to touching the untouchable dream.
My opening article in book fifteen is called "Even I." Here it is:
Words play a more important part in our daily lives than we sometimes think. They allow us to communicate with each other with wonderful precision, and they are one of the principal features that distinguish humans from animals. It is not that words make us human but that they enhance our humanity.
For the blind certain words have a special meaning. As an example, when I was a boy growing up on the farm in Tennessee, I learned early on of the significance of the words "Even I" used by my family and sighted neighbors.
As a case in point consider the game of checkers. In those days (when none of us in that part of the country had either telephones or radios and when books and magazines were not part of the daily routine), the men and boys often entertained themselves by playing checkers. I wanted to play, too, but one or another of my family would invariably explain to me that I had to understand my limitations as a blind person. Eventually they would get around to saying something like this, "Even I find it difficult to play checkers."
The implication was that, because they could see and I couldn't, I was obviously at a disadvantage, not only in checkers but in everything else. This, of course, was just plain foolishness. All I needed was some way to feel the squares on the checkerboard, a problem I solved by stretching a string across the squares and tacking it down at both ends. The job took only a few minutes, and my checker playing was not impaired by my blindness. However, in the face of all of the negatives, it took me a while to put the system into place. The "Even I" was a definite drawback.
And this attitude of believing that sight is always the deciding factor is not just a matter of fifty years ago or some isolated corner of rural America. In the 1950's, when I was a teacher at the California Training Center for the Blind, we had a student who had always been an outdoorsman. He was now in his forties, had just become blind, and had come to us for training.
One day a number of us went to a wooded area for an overnight camping trip, and while we were there, the new student (feeling energetic in the fresh air) decided to climb a tree. He went up the tree with ease. A passing tourist stopped and marveled.
"That is amazing," he said. "Even I would have trouble climbing that tree, and I can see."
As best I could determine, the tourist was probably in his late sixties, and he was extremely overweight. I doubt that he could have climbed the tree if his life had depended on it, but he thought only in terms of sight and blindness. Of course, in the circumstances blindness had nothing to do with the matter. The "Even I" was totally irrelevant.
Later, when I was director of programs for the blind in the state of Iowa, I was traveling to one of our district offices and stopped at a service station to get a Coca-Cola. While I was drinking it, a man who had just come in said:
"I can understand some of your problems, for I am handicapped, too. My handicap is not as bad as yours, but even I have trouble getting along."
After I left the service station and was continuing my trip, I thought about what he had said. So far as I could tell, he had at least three handicaps that would limit him in the competition of daily life. He had a speech impediment, which I think was what he was talking about when he said he had a handicap; he had a very limited education; and his intelligence did not appear to be very high.
I think his speech impediment was the least of his handicaps, but I am sure that he didn't see it that way. I suspect that I was much more employable than he and much better able to participate in the rough and tumble of the competitive world. But to him, because he could see and I could not, the edge was all in his favor. As he said, "Even I have trouble getting along."
In the early 1980's I appeared one night on the "Larry King Program." In those days it was entirely radio, and the studio was about nineteen floors up from street level in a downtown Washington, D.C., building. It was a lively program, and when we finished at midnight, my driver and I went out into the hall to take the elevator to ground level.
The problem was that the elevator wouldn't come. This seemed mightily upsetting to both Larry King and his assistant. I pointed out to them that there was a fire stair immediately next to the elevator and that there would be no problem in simply walking down to the street. It is no exaggeration to say that Larry King's assistant was shocked. Apparently it had never occurred to him that a blind person might take the stairs.
"Even I would not like to walk down those nineteen flights," he said, "and I am sighted."
What sight had to do with it was more than I could understand, but after a few minutes of trying to soothe him down and of waiting for an elevator that persistently refused to come, we took the stairs over his protest and walked without incident to the street.
This sort of thing happens every day, but it is not limited to the sighted. Let me go back to my teaching experience at the training center in California. In those days (1953 to 1958) I had not learned to sign my name. My students told me that I was creating a bad image of blindness because of this shortcoming and that I should get with it and learn to make a readable signature.
I argued that I rarely needed to sign my name, that I didn't need to learn how in order to improve my self-esteem, and that I could and would take an hour or two and learn to sign my name if the time came when I thought it would be useful to do so.
In fact, when I became director of Iowa's programs for the blind in 1958, I did just that. One evening as we were driving across the country from California to Iowa, my sighted wife worked with me for an hour, and I learned to sign my name. It is not the most elegant signature in the world, but it is legible and serves my purposes. Incidentally, as director of the Iowa programs for the blind, I did not sign my name as often as I thought I would, delegating routine paperwork and signatures to a deputy. However, the fact remains that I learned to sign my name in an evening and that I now do it without thought whenever I need to.
Yet that does not end the matter. As I have thought about it through the years, my students were right, and I was wrong. I, who was teaching them that blindness need not mean inferiority, was not proving up. As later events would show, it would have been a simple matter to learn to sign my name.
So why didn't I do it? Reluctantly I conclude that it probably had to do with "Even I." From childhood I had been told in hundreds of ways everyday that sight meant superiority. In the circumstances it would have been surprising if I had not absorbed and been affected by some of the mistaken notions. Therefore, when I am tempted to be impatient or annoyed with sighted people who say "Even I," let me remember my own experience in learning to sign my name. What we need is not bad temper or blame but understanding and education.
This brings me to the National Federation of the Blind, the organization which has done more than any other single thing to make life better for blind people during the past century. The National Federation of the Blind has local chapters in every state and almost every community of any size. These state and local chapters come together to make up the national body.
Although we have sighted members, most of us in the Federation are blind. We give our time and devotion because we have seen what the National Federation of the Blind does in helping blind people lead normal, regular lives. Through its work with parents of blind children, with seniors, with blind college students, and with blind persons seeking employment, the National Federation of the Blind touches every aspect of the daily lives of the blind of the nation.
We in the Federation believe that we should stand on our own feet and do for ourselves before asking others for assistance, but we also know that our road to independence cannot be successfully traveled without help from our sighted friends and associates. And we have faith that this help will be forthcoming if it is reasonably requested and wisely used.
In fact, the future looks bright for those of us who are blind. We go into the new century with hope and confidence, and an ever-growing number of the sighted are moving with us as part of our cause. "Even I" is still one of our greatest problemsbut that, too, is diminishing and fading into the past.
There you have the introductions and opening articles of this year's Kernel Books. When the National Federation of the Blind came into being in 1940, the problems we faced were overwhelming, but the most urgent and pressing of them was to find a way to relieve the immediate distress of poverty faced by most of the blind. After that (and it took years) we turned our attention to rehabilitation and jobs. Then it was a question of dignity and civil rightsand although all three of those problems are still to some extent with us, we have now moved to a fourth stage of emphasis, that of public education.
For ultimately confrontation and legislation will not solve our problems. To some extent both confrontation and legislation will always be necessary, and we must certainly not forget how to do either. But in the final analysis we cannot force people to accept us as equals, and I think we don't need to if we give them the facts. As somebody once said, it is not necessary to be loved, but it is extremely desirable not to be hatedand an overdose of confrontation and legislation can create backlash and hatred.
On the other hand, education properly done brings only good will and support. This is why we continue to invest the time and resources to produce and distribute the Kernel Books, and the results have richly justified our faith. We know that we are capable of living on terms of equality with the sighted and that the sighted are capable of accepting us as suchand for the most part they want to. All we need to do is present the facts in understandable terms.
Of course the Kernel Books are no magic bullet. They will not solve all of our problems, and nobody thinks that they will. Certainly I don't. As I have already said, we must retain the option of confrontation and legislation, but these should be used sparingly and only when absolutely necessary. The better and more productive road is education.
As we move toward the next century, we as a movement are stronger and more confident than we have ever been. We choose peace and harmony if we can have it, but we will do what we have to do to go the rest of the way to equality. I have said it to you on previous occasions, and I will say it again now. The future is ours. We know who we are, and we will never go back.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Congresswoman Kay Granger]
Supporting Programs that Enhance
A View from Congress
by Kay Granger
Thursday afternoon, July 9, Congresswoman Kay Granger addressed the Convention. She is a compelling speaker, and it was clear that she impressed her audience and was impressed by what she observed of the National Federation of the Blind. President Maurer introduced her with the following words:
Congresswoman Kay Granger, who is a Member of Congress from the Twelfth Congressional District of Fort Worth, Texas, is the first Republican woman to serve in the United States House of Representatives from Texas. Before her election to Congress in 1996, she served as mayor of Fort Worth for five years. She is a member of the House Budget Committee and an assistant majority whip. According to the Washington Times, Congresswoman Granger is the most often mentioned newcomer to Congress. And George Magazine has described her as one of the most compelling freshmen of the 105th Congress. Let me say to you, Congresswoman Granger, that we are pleased to welcome you to this convention. (Congresswoman Granger has been here through the afternoon.) You have observed that we have worked most closely with a number of Democrats this afternoon. Don't let that make you believe that we don't like to work with our Republican friends. We certainly do, and we want to welcome you to the 1998 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Here is Congresswoman Granger.
Thank you all very much. It's definitely an honor to be here today with all of you. I understand this convention will be the largest meeting of the blind anywhere in the world this year. I'm here to say first of all thank you for choosing Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex for your meeting again, and also thank you for asking me to be here with you today.
When I was contacted about speaking with you, we talked about what should be presented to you and what would be most important to say. I contacted a good friend of mine who speaks nationally to large groups such as yours and asked him what I should speak about. He looked at me, narrowed his eyes, leaned forward as if he were going to give me some very, very sage advice, and he said, "You asked, Kay, what you should talk about. I think you should talk about fifteen minutes and sit down."[applause]
The sheer size of this meeting is truly very impressive, but even greater than the size and strength of this organization is its purposeto fully integrate the blind into society on the basis of equality. Before I was a Congresswoman, I was mayor. Before I was a mayor, I was a small business owner. Before I was a small business owner, I was a teacher like Kenneth Jernigan. I began teaching school when I was only twenty-one years old, and I taught high school English. My students were sixteen and seventeen and a few were even eighteen years old. So I had to try very hard to be bold and grown up in front of students who were almost my age. Of course I was learning just as they were learning. One of my students that first year that I taught was a very remarkable young man. He was president of his class. He was a brilliant musician. He was close to genius in intelligence, and he was also blind. Robert went onI kept up with himhe went on to earn his bachelor's degree. He went on to earn his master's degree. He went on to earn his doctorate degree. The last time I heard, he was doing post-doctoral work in math.
I frankly couldn't teach Robert much in high school. He knew so much, but he taught me a great deal. He was very generous in answering my questions about how he dealt with and mastered the world he found himself in. That was nearly thirty years ago, but I have told this story many times to many other students and to people that I work with and colleagues. I have thought so often about what he taught me about really paying attentionattention to sound and texture and smell and the tiny nuances of each day and each event that go so completely unnoticed by those of us who do not develop that extra sensitivity that many of you have developed so finely.
In thinking of your mission and your purpose of this organization to fully integrate on the basis of equality, I also thought about one of my favorite stories about former President Ronald Reagan. I think this story makes an important statement about our society and how we view and treat those who live with extra challenges in their lives. One day Reagan visited an elementary school. He wanted to discuss the importance of staying in school and education and also staying off drugs.
It was that kind of well-crafted, well-planned media event that press secretaries can only dream of. Reagan had taken off his coat in a very relaxed manner and began to talk to the young children about how important they were to the future of America and how they absolutely had to stay in school and off drugs. At the end of his talk he said, "I'm now going to answer questions from you youngsters." And as luck would have it, the very first hand to go up was a little girl in the front row who didn't look any different from the other children, but unlike the other children she had a speech impediment, one that was so severe that her words were almost impossible to understand. Naturally, when President Reagan saw her hand go up, he smiled at her and asked what her question was. With all the network cameras filming every minute, the young girl looked at the elderly President and struggled to ask her question.
President Reagan couldn't understand the little girl, and with the cameras rolling, there was a silence as the entire room looked at Reagan and wondered what he would do. Would he tell her he couldn't understand her? Would he ignore it? Would he move on to another question, and if he did, wouldn't the little girl be crushed? Here she was with the President of the United States, and he couldn't, wouldn't answer her question. After a few seconds, Ronald Reagan walked over to the little girl's desk. He bent down on one knee and in a whisper that could barely be heard by others he said, "You know the worst thing about getting old is this darn hearing aid. It just never seems to work." He said to her, "Would you do me a favor? Would you write your question down, and I'll be happy to answer it?"
Well you can imagine, a collective sigh went around the room. Everyone in the room said that they were so relieved that a possibly embarrassing situation had been avoided. But more important, everyone in the room was amazed. Here was the most powerful man in the world, and he wasn't too dignified or too important to reach down to a little girl and say, "You know, your question is important to me." He let her know that so was she. Imagine what that must have meant to her. Imagine the struggles she'd suffered, and here was the President saying "You didn't do anything wrong. I'm just that old, and I can't hear sometimes, so let's just find another way to communicate."
As powerful as that lesson is, there is an even deeper lesson to learn from the story. President Reagan's simple act reminds us all that ultimately we're all the same, even though we are unique. We all have our own crosses to bear and our own challenges. Just because some of us face a speech impediment, paralysis, or, yes, blindness, we're created in God's image; and we all have a role to play in making America great. [Applause]
You in this room know that, and that's why you applauded. You know that's what makes America great, and you know that our differences also strengthen America. Our unique differences as people and the value we put on the individual are what make the greatness of America. One of the themes of this conference is supporting programs that enhance opportunities. Let me say that I support federal programs that help open doors for all people. SSI, Social Security Disability, IDEA, vocational training programs, and civil rights protectionthey're all issues I've supported and I will continue to support because they're so important.
But they're just pieces of puzzles. Real solutions are found right here in this room. You are the ones that make it happen every day. You're the ones that are breaking down barriers and changing stereotypes. You're the ones who are letting your fellow citizens know that blind Americans have an important contribution to make in American life. You may be doing it through books like the Kernel series; you may be doing it just because you take the time to explain and let us know. I've a simple sloganI say, "Government if necessary, but not necessarily government." So I want to tell you today, that, while government programs can be helpful, it's the timeless values that are essential. They aren't values handed down from Washington. They're handed down from one generation to the next.
I want to speak to you just a minute about how important it is that we all play an active role in society and pass down values. Whether you're a blind American or just an American interested in helping the blind, we can all make an effort to make a difference in our homes, in our work places, in our communities, and certainly in our nation. I believe there are two basic truths that open doors for all Americans, and they make our society more compassionate and more caring. I want to spend a minute just telling you and talking about those.
First I want to talk about an old fashioned American virtue. It's better to give than to receive. I say, isn't it amazing what can happen when we can give ourselves, not just money, not just words, but we truly give ourselves? America is a nation founded on giving and compassion. Generations have passed down the gift of a free nation to our children. Of course Americans give so freely, a hundred and fifty billion dollars a year to churches and to charities. It's not only our responsibility to give, it's our heritage; it's our contribution; it's our legacy here in America.
Giving usually involves more than money. Americans are traditionally understanding that our forefathers didn't believe government was the care giver. They believed that they were, and churches were, communities were, and individuals were. When they gave, they also had expectations. They said that they helped and they never took away the self-respect by giving much but expecting little. Marvin Olasky has written a book about early Americans and how they dealt particularly with poverty and those who were without. They used a very different model than sometimes we do today; they didn't measure support for the needy in dollars and cents; they measured the number of hearts they touched and the lives they changed. Our ancestors didn't just give their money. They gave their time. They gave themselves. They gave new folks jobs and brought them into the communities, their homes, their churches. In other words they gave from their hearts, not just from their wallets. We must never forget the power of people giving of themselves and giving to their neighbors. We must always remember that only in giving do you receive.
One of the most important lessons that Olasky talks about in this book is what we came away with in giving. With the gift came expectation, the expectation that everyone is expected to play a part. A hand up, not a hand out, was what was expected with compassion. So a lot of self-respect was restored along with a full stomach and a quenched thirst.
Last year a friend of mine was honored with the Horatio Alger Award. The Horatio Alger Award is a wonderful award that says, "We want to recognize people who have achieved extraordinary success by overcoming adversity." I listened to the stories both of those receiving the award and also of the wonderful young people that they were helping. But in those stories not a single person who was recognized gave credit to a government program. They gave credit to their own hard work, and they also gave credit to caring individuals in their lives. They also gave credit to an environment of opportunity and certainly equality of opportunity, which is what you stand for.
America is a great nation and is filled with good people. I've always believed that. We're good because we believe that all men and women are created equal, and so therefore they deserve and should have equality in treatment, equality in respect, and deserve equal opportunities, which is of course what we have been working so effectively for.
We talked about one more important concept, and that's the concept of the power of one. Let me explain it. You may remember the story of Captain Scott O'Grady. He was the pilot who was shot down in Bosnia in 1995. He was alone, all by himself, starving for days. He lived off the land. He hid in the bushes from the enemy. At night he would come out of the bushes and try to make contact with the American troops. Finally, after more than a week, he was able to make contact. But there was only one problemhow do you rescue a person deep within enemy territory when he can't even come out from the bushes? So what do we do? We send in the Marines. We sent the Marines, a whole platoon of them. We sent our Marines, who are the best trained and best equipped soldiers. We did that to save one person, Scott O'Grady.
That statement becomes even more amazing when you look around the world and see how some nations treat individuals. In Iraq you see a leader who never tries to save one person. In fact, he's been known to test weapons of mass destruction against his own people. He protects himself with human shields of women and children. But thank goodness America is a different place, and thank goodness America values each and every citizen. Only Americans can be kind enough, concerned enough, and caring enough to mount a full-scale operation to save one person.
On a more personal level, think of the people around you. Think of the people in this program, and think of the people who aren't. Think of your colleagues you work with and people in your community who are sort of down and need help or need a pat on the back or need to be remembered or understood. Everyone plays a part. Please remember that in America each person is a creation of God, and each person we need for the equal opportunity because that is what makes America great. With a little help that person can become a doctor, a scientist, or a teacher (one of the most important careers). Like I say, we need everyone to pitch in, and we need everyone to play a part, and everyone can do that part if they listen to what you're saying. What you're saying is, "Opportunity for all and equality for all." I think we should keep in mind that people are only limited by their dreams.
I appreciate my experiences. I appreciate the people who have been in my life who give the color, the texture, and the understanding that it takes all of us and that we all play a part. Each of us comes with a little different kind of difficulty, but if we listen to each other and talk to each other and we understand that we are unique, then our nation can overcome whatever is wrong. It's often popular today to talk about what's wrong in America. I believe that what's wrong with America can always be overcome with what's right with America. You show that in this room; you show that in this meeting; and I appreciate it very, very much.
Thank you for letting me talk to you today. Thank you for letting me listen particularly to the wonderful stories I've heard. Thank you.
In a brief question period following this address, Congresswoman Granger was asked whether or not she would co-sponsor H.R. 612, the Social Security linkage bill. Mr. Gashel took a minute to describe it to her, and she immediately agreed to sign on, which she did several weeks after the convention.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: The scholarship class of 1998: (left to right) back row: Tomas Cintron, Adam LaSalle, Eddie Bell, Tanya Stewart, Rik James, and Daryl Swinson: middle row: Nhu Nguyen, Stephanie Thompson, Ellen Nichols, Catherine Armstrong, David Dzaka, Brenda Patterson, Sathish Sundaram, Ameenah Ghoston, Eddie Culp, Calvin Keuchler, Greg Williams, Jason Hutton, Arnold Thomas, and Priscilla McKinley; front row: Lauren Hunter, Karla Gilbride, Amanda Bourn, Tiffany Medina, Steven Smith, and Angela McJunkin.]
The Scholarship Class of 1998
From the Editor: Twenty-six men and women from Vermont to California arrived at the Hyatt Regency DFW as members of the National Federation of the Blind scholarship class of 1998. 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 Thursday, July 9, banquet. This year's class is a remarkable group of studentsbright, energetic, and eager to change the world. They met the full convention during the meeting of the Board of Directors on Monday morning. Four of the winners were designated as tenBroek Fellows because they had won scholarships in a previous year and had been chosen this year not only because of their impressive academic record but also because of the contribution they have already made to the organized blind movement. Peggy Elliott, Chairman of the Scholarship Committee, introduced each student by saying the name, home state, and school state. This is what each student had to say:
Catherine Armstrong, Virginia, Connecticut: Good morning. I would just say to the scholarship committee, it's a genuine pleasure to be here today and thank you very much. Recently I graduated from T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia, and will be attending as a freshman Yale University this fall. I don't know what I want to major in, but this convention has given me a lot of things to think about as far as that goes, and I want to say congratulations and good luck to all the other scholarship winners and thank you very much for allowing me to be here.
Eddie Bell, California, Louisiana: Good morning. I just graduated in May with my bachelor's degree in human development. I am currently at Louisiana Tech University working on my master's degree in orientation and mobility and will hopefully be working at one of our fine NFB centers teaching cane travel very soon. This is my sixth convention. My very first was right here in Dallas, Texas, 1993. I'm very proud and honored to be selected as a tenBroek fellow this year.
Amanda Bourn, Oklahoma, Oklahoma: Hi. I've lived in Oklahoma for the last three years and am going to attend Oklahoma University this fall as a freshman. I plan to major in linguistics and hope to get into translation for a career goal. Thank you very much for this experience.
Tomas Cintron, Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico: Good morning Dallas. I'm a student at Inter American University of Puerto Rico. My major is special education in my handicap. I'm very proud to be here. Thank you to the committee for selecting me to participate in this scholarship. Thank you.
Eddie Culp, Louisiana, Louisiana with a detour this summer in Colorado: Mornin' all. Hi. My name is Eddie Culp. I'm attending Louisiana University, double majoring in political science and history, minoring in English. I hope to attend law school and someday get into politics. I'm very glad to be here. I'd like to thank the scholarship committee for helping me make it here, and also to thank God.
David Dzaka, Hawaii, Hawaii: Hello everybody. I'm David Dzaka from the University of Hawaii, greatly honored to be here. I'm a Ph.D. candidate in English, and I have great ambition to be a college professor as well as a writer. In addition, I also look forward to serving as an international delegate of the NFB. I appreciate this opportunity.
Ameenah Ghoston, Illinois, Illinois (a tenBroek fellow): Hi. My name is Ameenah Ghoston. I will be a junior at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. After declaring so many majors, my advisor said to declare something, anything. I chose journalism, and I think I will stick with it. Thank you.
Karla Gilbride, New York, Pennsylvania: Hello everybody. My name is Karla Gilbride. I just graduated a couple of weeks ago from Syossa High School in Long Island, New York. In a month or so I'm going to be a freshman at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. I'm very excited about it. I plan to major in psychology and possibly also linguistics. I also love to sing, and I want to pursue an interest in music during my college years. I'm really honored to have been selected among this illustrious group of scholarship winners. Thank you very much for the honor, and goodbye.
Lauren Hunter, Colorado, Colorado: My name is Lauren Hunter. I'm going into my senior year at Fort Lewis College. I'm a humanities major and studying political science, English, and sociology, with a minor in history. I hope to go to law school and get into civil rights mediation. I'd like to thank the Scholarship Committee and all of my fellow Federationists, who have had a great influence in my life. Thank you.
Jason Hutton, Indiana, Indiana: Hello. My name is Jason Hutton, and I would just like to thank the National Federation of the Blind for this scholarship. This is my first Federation experience, and I didn't know that with the scholarship came this opportunity to be educated by all these wonderful people. That is what I would like to thank you the most forthe opportunity to learn about blindness and this organization. I'm a sophomore at Butler University next year, and I will be a band director after I graduate. Thank you.
Rik James, Montana, Louisiana: Good morning. I just love being here, and I appreciate the scholarship committee's choosing mewhat an honor. Very impressive committee, very impressive group of winners. I am very humbled and deeply honored. I am currently enrolled in the master's program at Louisiana Tech University seeking an educational psychology degree with concentration in orientation and mobility. I plan to be a cane travel instructor. The training down there is rigorous; our methods are sound; our purposes are clear. We believe in the techniques and the ability of blind people. I intend to be a cane travel instructor of whom hopefully all of you people will be proud. My career aspirations are intertwined with my Federationism to help my affiliate along, one blind person at a time, to make things better for all of us. Thank you very much.
Calvin Keuchler, Ohio, Ohio: All honor and praise goes to the Almighty, my ancestors whom I represent, and for the children who might struggle. I want to be an educator. I received my bachelor's at Oberlin College in Spanish with an intention of going into a master's in math education at the Ohio State University. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this. It adds new meaning and new heights to what I know I can achieve.
Adam LaSalle, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, with a detour this summer in Louisiana: I am originally from Pennsylvania, where I went to Swarthmore. I am attending graduate school in North Carolina because I intend to go for my doctorate and teach college history and possibly political science. I'm glad to be here, and I thank the committee for choosing me.
Angie McJunkin, Tennessee, Tennessee: I'd like to thank the scholarship committee and say what an honor it is to be here. I just graduated from the Tennessee School for the Blind, and I will be attending Trevecca University in Nashville, where I plan to major in English education and then go on to get a master's in special education and hopefully help other blind students.
Priscilla McKinley (another tenBroek fellow), Iowa, Iowa:
Hi. I'm Priscilla McKinley. I am the newly elected president of the Old Capital Chapter in Iowa City. I am glad to say we now have five chapters in Iowa. I am a graduate student at the University of Iowa. I'm finishing my thesis in the M.F.A. non-fiction writing program, and I'm starting the graduate program in English education in the fall. I teach writing and rhetoric at the University of Iowa. Two years ago, when I stood up here in 1996, I had three goals: one was to teach, which I'm pursuing. Two was to top Robert Waller in the New York Times Best Sellers' Listand I hope to do that with my thesis. I'm having one of my chapters published. My third goal was to be like the other people here who have been here twenty, twenty-five, thirty years. This is my third convention, and I'm counting. Thanks a lot.
Tiffany Medina, California, Massachusetts: Hi everyone. I'm really honored to be here today. I just graduated from Henry M. Gunn High School in Palo Alto, California, where I worked hard played hard too. I was first runner-up for valedictorian. I'm really excited to go to Williams College this September, where I will be exploring a lot of my interests. My major as of now is undecided, but I'm looking at teaching or international relations. Thanks everyone.
Nhu Nguyen, Kentucky, Tennessee: Good morning. I'm a second-year law student at Vanderbilt University. I have a bachelor's degree in political science and communications from the University of Louisville. While I have learned a lot of information in college, a lot of my knowledge and some of my wisdom has come from the NFB. Thank you.
Ellen Nichols, Maryland, Pennsylvania: Good morning ladies and gentlemen. It's such a privilege to be here this morning, for which I thank the Lord. I am anticipating attending Messiah College near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where I will major in Spanish and minor in music. My long term goal is to be a missionary. In the meantime, I guess I will do translation in general or things like that. Thank you very much.
Brenda Patterson, Vermont, Vermont: Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you warmly for bringing me for this first time into your very caring family. Next fall I begin my life as a blind student at the University of Vermont doing graduate studies in the history of international law. I thank you again. Following me is another fellow Vermonter.
Steve Smith, Vermont, Vermont: Good morning. I am currently enrolled in the graduate program and I am studying community psychology. Last year I graduated from Norwich University with a degree in psychology and counseling. When I've finished my education, I am going to be counseling peopleself-employed. I just want to say that I think Winn-Dixie will be getting their education.
Tanya Stewart, New York, Louisiana: I'd like to thank my NFB family. I've been in the Federation now for two years, and without you I'd never pursue the education that I'm going to. I'm going to Louisiana Tech University for a degree in elementary education, and two years ago I never thought it was possible, because at that point I didn't know that, even if I survived college, I could ever teach. So I thank you very much and thank you for being my family and supporting me all the way through. I am currently in Louisiana working for the Louisiana Center for the Blind, and I graduated from the adult program in March. Thank you.
Sathish Sundaram, Michigan, Massachusetts: Good morning everyone. I will be attending Harvard University and majoring in either physics or mechanical engineering. I plan to design musical instruments. My minor at Harvard will be in medieval underwater basket-weavingwait, no, that's not right. It's something in which the job market is equally scarceI'll be a music performance minor. I would say "goodbye" to you, but I hope to be speaking to you again on Thursday night, so I'll just say, "Thank you all."
Daryl Swinson, Arkansas, Arkansas (tenBroek fellow): Good morning fellow Federationists. I'm going to be a senior at Arkansas Tech University. I'm a computer science major. I deeply appreciate the honor given me by the scholarship committee by allowing me to be a part of the scholarship class this year, but the true gift of being here at the convention is that you get to meet so many inspirational people, and it gives you the opportunity to make the NFB philosophy an integral part of your life. That's the true gift that I take away from these conventions. Thank you very much.
Arnold Thomas, Nevada, Utah: Good morning. It's my first conference here other than the state conference. I have a degree to be a basketball coach and a football coach, and I also have a degree in psychology. Currently I am working on my master's degree at the University of Utah in social work. I hope to pursue a Ph.D., hopefully at Cal Berkeley in California. I'm a native American from Nevada originally, and I would like to offer a short song to those individuals that are here today, also to go along with what happened earlier with the gift that was given to Mr. President there. I offer this short song. (He then sang a brief Native American song.) Thank you everyone.
Stephanie Thompson, Utah, Utah: Charlotte Bronte, who is well-known as the author of Jane Eyre, but less well known for her struggle with myopia and limited vision, once wrote, "Throughout my youth the difference which existed between me and the people around me was an enigma that I could not solve. I felt myself inferior to everyone, and it distressed me." When I read those words, I felt as though someone had looked on my own soul, and I determined to seek out biographies of other blind and visually impaired women in the nineteenth century. I want to thank the NFB for helping me in that project, not only by giving me the money to help pursue a Ph.D., but also in giving me the confidence to overcome those feelings of inferiority and to recognize that difference can be strength. Thank you.
Greg Williams, Indiana, Indiana: Good morning. I would like to thank the scholarship committee for giving me the opportunity to come to the NFB Convention. This has been my first exposure to the NFB, and it has given me the opportunity to get to know the likes of people like Dr. Jernigan, Dr. Maurer, and the scholarship committee themselves. Let me tell you, I'm very impressed with what I have seen. I am currently attending Indiana University. I finished my sophomore year this past spring, and I am majoring in chemistry and math with the intent of going into teaching and research. I would like to thank God for what He has given me. Thank you.
Throughout the week these twenty-six scholarship winners got to know Federationists and participated in convention activities. Thursday evening, July 9, at the close of the banquet they received their scholarship certificates, and Stephanie Thompson, the winner of the 1998 $10,000 American Action Fund Scholarship, briefly addressed the audience. This is what she said:
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Stephanie Thompson]
Thank you so much. Overwhelmed isn't quite the word, but it's close. Until earlier tonight during Dr. Maurer's wonderful speechthat was the first time I ever heard that I was a partial. Before that I had heard as early as the age of eight, when my third grade teacher decided to humiliate me in front of the entire class, that I was faking it, because there are two types of people in the world: blind people and sighted people. I heard the same thing from my itinerant teacher about ten years later when I desperately wanted to learn Braille. I was sighted, not blind; therefore I was not eligible for any Braille or cane mobility instruction. Well, I heard thatand please correct me if I'm wrong, and I trust that you will. I heard also earlier this week that there are two types of peopleblind people and sightedand I am so thrilled and excited to find out that I'm a blind person and that I have every right and ought to seize the privilege of associating and being seen as a blind person and of learning those skills which will make me a better person. [applause]
I cannot praise and thank Dr. Jernigan and President Maurer, not only for making this possible, but for their invigorating and wonderful talks during this conferenceI really do not want to cry. But I also want to say to them and their wonderful wives and to all of you out there: I feel as though this is the beginning of a big change in my life. This is one of those momentous occasions that I could never want to go back on and that I think will be beyond words. That's it. I just ran out of them. But I do wish again to thank the scholarship committee, the wonderful people hereand I know that I will leave somebody outso I won't do the Academy award thing and name everybody and their dog, but really everybody here, thank you so much. Especially again President Maurer and Dr. Jernigan. [applause]
Peggy Elliott: Scholarship winners, I do have one other quick thing I would like to say to you as a scholarship class. We have spent the week with you. We have talked and talked with each of you about the Federation. We have also walked that quarter-mile walk, waited for elevators, ascended the stairs, shared barbecue, played cards, laughed, cried, and talked some more. Most of all we have offered to you the gift we think is of much more value than the check we will give you. We offer to you the National Federation of the Blind, the most precious thing we have. We of the Federation have poured our minds and our hearts and our souls into building this Federation. We love and cherish it and deeply wish that each of you will do the same. The Federation is a winner, but your strength can add to our momentum and to our success. We offer this gift wrapped in the love which is the fundamental bond among Federationists. Join us, and that bond of love, as well as first-class status for all blind people, will both grow and prosper. From us (we hope) to others of us, we say to you congratulations 1998 scholarship winners! [applause]
Here is the complete list of winners and the awards they received:
$3,000 NFB Scholarships: Catherine Armstrong, Amanda Bourn,
Eddie Culp, Ameenah Ghoston, Karla Gilbride, Lauren Hunter, Jason
Hutton, Calvin Keuchler, Adam LaSalle, Angela McJunkin, Nhu
Nguyen, and Arnold Thomas
$3,000 Frank Walton Horn Memorial Scholarship: Sathish
$3,000 Hermione Grant Calhoun Scholarship: Ellen Nichols
$3,000 Kuchler-Killian Memorial Scholarship: Steven Smith
$3,000 Humanities Scholarship: David Dzaka
$3,000 Mozelle and Willard Gold Memorial Scholarship:
$3,000 Educator of Tomorrow Scholarship: Tanya Stewart
$3,000 Howard Brown Rickard Scholarship: Greg Williams
$3,000 E. U. Parker Memorial Scholarship: Rik James
$3,000 Computer Science Scholarship: Daryl Swinson
$4,000 NFB Scholarships: Eddie Bell and Tomas Cintron
$4,000 Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship: Priscilla
$10,000 American Action Fund Scholarship: Stephanie Thompson
[PHOTO/CAPTION: President Marc Maurer]
The Search for Anonymity
An Address Delivered by Marc Maurer
President of the National Federation of the Blind
July 9, 1998
Ideas expressing new understanding of reality inevitably, if they are to be accepted, undergo a process of internalization. To paraphrase the naturalist Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz, every great truth goes through three stages. First it is claimed that the idea conflicts with recognized truth and is heresy. Next it is argued that the idea has been discovered in a former time. Finally it is asserted that knowledgeable people have always believed it.
Groups that come to be accepted as part of society must undergo a similar process. The members of such groups begin with the experience of rejection or indifference. Then comes a grudging toleration. The toleration is eventually replaced by a peculiar mixture of uneasy suspicion and admiration. During each of these stages the individuals in the group are regarded as distinctly separate and different from the ordinary, regular members of society. They are a part of the fringehaving an identity strange and mysteriousan identity so unusual that those who have it are always under scrutiny and can never be taken at face value.
The fourth and final stage is unlike the first three because it is undramatic and unremarkable. At this point in the evolution of the process, there is full acceptance. The characteristics which marked the group as separate from the rest of society still exist, but they are no longer thought to be importantno longer an identifiable means for differentiationno longer a symbol denoting special emphasis or special treatment. These identifying characteristics have come to be a part of the norm, and the members of the group that were once so noteworthy as a result of possessing these characteristics have lost their high profile and become anonymous.
Consider, for example, the Irish. In the history of the United States there have been times during which immigrants from Ireland were unacceptable as part of the social set or the work force. Employers posted advertisements for jobs which included the statement "No Irish Need Apply," and they meant exactly that. Those from Ireland, regardless of their abilities or qualifications, were rejected. Today, such a pattern of behavior would be completely unimaginable and unacceptable.
But what does this delineation of elements in social change mean for us, for the blind? The process of achieving acceptance within society is not automatic; it does not come to every group. To get it, a group must possess self-discipline, the capacity for joint action, assertiveness, a willingness to give, and the understanding to take the long view. Furthermore, acceptance is never offered free; it must be earned.
When we the blind came to organize in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in 1940 under the leadership of Dr. Jacobus tenBroek and those few other pioneers who formed the National Federation of the Blind, our history was one in which the blind were either regarded with indifference and dismissed or actively rejected. No blind person could escape the all-pervasive social attitude which relegated the blind to positions of inferiority and idleness. Indeed Dr. tenBroek, who was later to be counted among our nation's most brilliant authors and constitutional scholars, had enormous difficulty at the beginning of his career finding any kind of meaningful work within the discipline he had studied.
For the blind of the early 1940's there were few if any jobs, not many books, and only limited opportunities for a college education. Some sheltered workshops had been established, which provided a little work for a few blind people, but wages were low and working conditions dismal.
The Social Security Act had been adopted in 1935, but it provided minimal support to a small number of blind beneficiaries. Most blind people were without financial resources, without the ability to gain a first-class education, without employment, without the opportunity to engage in social interaction at a meaningful level, and without hope. On those rare occasions when members of the general public thought about blindness at all, they dismissed us as being unable to make substantial contributions. When we who were blind sought the opportunity to engage in productive activity, our efforts were rejected.
Then Dr. tenBroek and that small group who joined with him formed the National Federation of the Blind. With that single act circumstances for the blind began to changethe rejection became less frequent, and the dismissal less firm. The possibilities for blind people began to expand. There were more jobs, more opportunities for education, more books, and more social and political interaction with the rest of society. The process has continued for more than half a century, and the reason for the change is unmistakably clear. It is in this room tonight. It is our joint effortyours and minethrough the National Federation of the Blind. It is also the effort of those tens of thousands of blind Federationists who preceded us. It is the strength and commitment of the organized blind movementspeaking for ourselves with one united voice. It is the organization we have builtthe National Federation of the Blind!
As soon as the force of the Federation was felt, the rejection of former times began to give way to toleration although it has not always been a peaceful toleration. Blind people could no longer be universally dismissedwe were becoming too well organized to permit it. Of course not all of the rejection came to an endsome of it still exists even today. But blind people as a group proclaimed for the first time that we have a role to play, and some (at first only a few) within society responded.
During this phase of development laws were adoptedlaws which had, for the most part, been drafted by the National Federation of the Blindlaws to guarantee the rights of the blind to equal access to institutions of higher learning, to public buildings, and to other places of public resort. Blind people were not always welcomed, but we were frequently admitted because it was easier to let us in than to keep us out; and having learned something of independence and the joys of participation, we would no longer stay at home, where some thought we belonged. As the pressure continued to be exerted to include the blind in all activities of life, the toleration of the blind slowly changed. It was replaced by a mixture of cautious suspicion and admiration.
In the past those who were blind were not expected to be competent to handle much of anything. When blind people did something successfully, there was (and sometimes still is) a measure of surprise that a blind person could do the job at all. Some have wondered whether the job was really done with competence, and others have suspected that the apparent success must be attributable to luck or accident rather than ability. The situation is made more complex by the legal requirement under the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal statutes to offer the blind reasonable accommodation with the attendant uncertainty about what this means.
In some government institutions, for example, this concept has been distorted to such an extent that it is said to require a double standard of performancea higher one for the able-bodied and a lesser one for the handicapped. In these institutions a blind employee is required to produce only 50 percent as much work-product as a sighted employee. In such circumstances to speak of a blind employee as successful is a mockery and a sham. It creates mistrust, frustration, and annoyance. There is a tendency on the part of employers to say, "When I buy a quart of milk, I'm not prepared to settle for a pint or even a pint and a half. If this is what the handicapped demand, I will do my best to avoid them. I will take one of them if I must, but I won't like it."
Even with all of the frustration and mistrust, blind people do perform, and when there is no other convenient explanation for success, we get the credit, sometimes accompanied by a healthy dollop of admiration. When the admiration is offered not for outstanding performance but for the ordinary job done in the ordinary way in the regular routine, it signifies inferiority. It implies that the blind worker cannot reasonably be expected to be successfulthat incompetence and failure are the norm for the blind. The admiration is better than rejectionbut not much.
We who are blind do not want recognition because of our blindness. We want to be known for the talent, the energy, and the imagination we possess. We do not believe that the ordinary job performed by a blind person becomes extraordinary or that blindness is amazing. We do believe that the ordinary blind person, given training and opportunity, can perform the ordinary job in the ordinary place of business and do it as well as the ordinary sighted person similarly situated. We also believe that there are many extraordinary blind people, who deserve recognition for what they are and what they do, but not because of blindness. It is nice to be admired, but we want the admiration that we deservenot false admiration from those who believe that they are superior to us. They can keep their false admiration; we are not prepared to accept a counterfeit. We want the real thing, and we have the talent to earn it.
The various reactions to blindness included in the shift from second-class status to first-class citizenship often exist simultaneously. It is not that one reaction disappears and another takes its place, but that a reaction which has been predominant diminishes to permit a different attitude to become primary. Rejection for the blind still occurs, and toleration is often an element in the attitude of the general public toward us. But there is a growing admiration for talented blind people and, of even more importance, a growing acceptance of the blind in general.
One of the more poignant depictions of blindness during the last twelve months occurred on December 22 of last year on the nationally televised NBC program "Dateline." Desiree Strand, a single parent living in Albany, New York, and working as a business consultant, became blind in 1995 only days before Christmas. The devastation caused by blindness was featured on "Dateline" two years later. The ancient myth that blindness is always an unmitigated tragedy was laid on with a heavy hand. Desiree Strand says at one point during the dialogue that she contemplated suicide. She decided not to kill herself because she has a daughter to raise. She tried rehabilitation but found it less than satisfactory. Then she received training at a guide dog school, and her prospects changed. Excerpts from this extensive program describe the experience this way:
Tonight: The story of a remarkable woman, and the extraordinary dog who came to her rescue! It's about a woman of tenacity and wit [said Jane Pauley, host of the program], a woman whose happy life was torn apart by a terrible twist of fate. Dennis Murphy [the "Dateline" reporter] learned how she came back from the brink with the help of a remarkable friend.
It happened a few days before Christmas [said the reporter], and at first Desiree Strand thought, just maybe, she was getting the best gift of all. She'd lost the vision in her left eye several years before, but now something in her eye was changing maybe for the better. Tingling with excitement and hope, she made an appointment with the eye doctor.
I went to the doctor's [said Strand] with joyful anticipation that I was getting my sight back in my left eye, and in fact, he informed me I was going blind.
[The reporter asked] And how much later was it, when you actually lost the vision?
[Strand responded] Two days. I turned to my doctor and said, "Oh my God, what am I going to do? What am I going to do, how am I going to live? How will I survive?" He said to me, "I don't know, but you're going to have to find a way."
[The reporter asked] how did you go about the routines of your life?
[Strand answered] I didn't. I lay on my couch, and I waited for the sun to come through the windowso I could feel it. I was afraid of falling. I was afraid of looking foolish, and so I locked myself, literally, in my home. And it dawned on me that I was taking the one place on earth that I loved very much [and making of it a prison]. It was a prison, [so I hated it].
[The reporter asked rhetorically] How could she ever raise her eleven year-old daughter Mandy? Her consulting business was all about numbersporing over the books for new car dealers. How could a blind person do that?
[Said Strand] I envisioned myself living in a basement on public assistance.
[The reporter stated] her prospects were black as night.
[Said Strand] I'm probably one of the strongest people you'll ever meet. It brought me to my knees in a flash. It was overwhelming, absolutely overwhelming. It was truly the depths of despair that I think any human being can go through. And I had the pills in my hand.
[The reporter sympathized] You were looking over the edge.
How did you crawl back, Desiree?
[She responded] I reached down real deep for every ounce of inner strength I could muster. I did it then for my daughter. I do it now for me.
Starting over [said the reporter], Desiree had to put her life back together piece by piece, relearning everything, from getting toothpaste on the toothbrush, to making sure her shoes matched. She put her career on hold. Everything she did now was focused on how to be a blind person.
[Said Strand] The only thing I didn't have to relearn was sleeping.
Let me interrupt the dialogue to reflect that blindness, if it is not properly understood, can be devastating. But I also reflect that the language in the "Dateline" program is written for maximum drama, not for truth. Those of us who are blind need not relearn everything except sleeping. To declare that every skill we possessed before we became blind disappears at the onset of blindness, except the capacity to sleep, is a distortion, a vast overstatement, one that characterizes the entire presentation. But back to the program.
Desiree had devoured books [said the reporter]. Now she was learning to read with her fingertips. She had to learn to get about by tapping a cane.
[Strand said] It's hard as hell to get around. Blindness is lonely. It's like being in a cocoon.
[The reporter said] Potholes, cracks in the sidewalk: things that used to be just annoyances now could break her neck. Desiree's teacher took her to downtown Albany, New York, for a gritty lesson with obstacles galore. Like this bicycle left in the middle of the sidewalk. Desiree knew it was there, somewhere. She overheard two bystanders giving cynical play-by-play as she approached.
Once again I interrupt the "Dateline" presentation to ask you, how often have those of us who are blind broken our necks on potholes, cracks in the sidewalk, or bicycles? Such things are annoyances, but not more than that. But back to the program.
[The reporter asked] The cane really bugs you, doesn't it?
[And Strand replied] It bugs the hell out of me. I hate it. I felt pitiful. I don't want anybody's pity. Absolutely not. Be happy for me. I'm out and about; I'm not locked in my house.
But [said the reporter] the clock of her life was still stopped at that December day. Even though the cane works well for most, Desiree needed something more to get back to where she was before she lost her sight. That's when she decided to heed a friend's advice and investigate the possibility of getting a guide dog.
[Strand said] I've tried so hard to put my life back together again. And this is really the last piece. Now, if the dog could just drive, we'd be all set.
[As Strand departed from the guide dog school, she said, in part] I have spent the last few months of my life getting up each morning and turning my back on the curse of blindness, telling it, "You cannot have me; I am not yoursnot today." I find myself walking towards that door once again which was slammed in my face when I became blind; I will open it and resume my life. I don't think I can lose. Indeed, I think I've already won.
And Desiree is back at work [said the reporter]. Back in the thick of her consulting business she loved so much. Desiree and her new silent partner in the firm. [She] is back to where she was before she lost her sight. The clock has started again. It was a cruel Christmas season, the December she went blind. One year later, this past Christmas, the greatest gifts turn out to be the family and friends who saw her through and the companionship of one special partner, who is so much more than that.
[Said Strand] My life is wonderful, and, you know, people hear me say that, and they say "My God, you're blind! How can you say you're happy?" I'm happy. I don't feel blind anymore. I felt different before. I don't feel different anymore. I'm the happiest I've ever been in my life.
So says the story on "Dateline" from December 22, 1997, less than seven months ago. Such descriptions are intended to warm the heart, renew the belief in goodness and the human spirit, and remind us that each of us is given a measure of hope and the strength to bring success to our lives if we have faith and the willingness to work. But wait, there is something even better. The reporter has not finished. We return to "Dateline."
This past June [the reporter said], just when Desiree was finally comfortable with Braille and she and Ruth had become an inseparable team, something totally unexpected happened. Desiree went to see a doctor who specializes in low-vision problems. A person resigned to being blind for the rest of her life could see. Her life is enormously improved by her new special glasses. But she is still legally blind and needs Ruth's help to get around. The glasses work only for reading, and that is a struggle. Being able to simply read poems to her daughter Amanda resting at her feet is something she never thought she'd do.
Since we first met Desiree [said the reporter], she's also received a number of awards over the months for her courage and her strength. She was recently named entrepreneur of the year by the state of New York, not just for her skills in business, but for the inspiration she instills in others.
[At one of the gatherings where Strand was honored she said] hope is the thing that we need to move forward. Most importantly, I'd like to thank my twelve-year-old daughter Amanda, who has believed in me as a mother and a provider. For the longest time I felt that blindness was a punishment, something that we [my daughter and I] were going through together. I was wrong. It's a test. We passed, honey; we passed.
[Jane Pauley, the host of the program, closed by telling us these things]: As for Desiree, her condition continues to improve. She tells us she just saw her eyes in the mirror for the first time in two years. Seeing her own eyes, she says, makes her feel like she's been given back her soul.
This is what the "Dateline" program said, and is it any wonder that the blind are misunderstood when such drivel is portrayed on television as reality? "Dateline" saves the essential point to the final moments of the program. The significant factor is not the struggle to rebuild a career, not the reestablishment of a family circle, not the return to community activity. Desiree Strand is informed that she may be able to regain her sight. If she can get it, she will be able to abandon the despondency and despair associated with blindness. Even with the experience of becoming blind, she has permitted herself to be duped. Such training as she has been able to get has not taught her the truth. She equates sight with goodness and blindness with deprivation. Although as a blind person she has declared that her life is happy and that she has already won, she demonstrates no happiness. She thinks that the capacity to see will allow her to regain possession of her own soul.
What a Christmas present for the blind of Americawhat a shallow, misguided, misleading portrayal! Blindness can be, if it is not properly understood, a tragedy indeed, but blindness is not equivalent to inferiority. It need not deprive a person of a career or prevent a mother from caring for her child. And under no circumstances can it rob us of the essence of our beingit cannot take away our souls.
It is not the blindness itself but the attitudes portrayed by programs like "Dateline" that stifle the initiative and curtail the opportunity. "Dateline" does not reject the blindat least not overtly. It has admiration for the courage and fortitude of a blind woman, but its assessment is that the courage and fortitude are insignificant compared to sight. We know that this understanding of the relative importance of the capacity to see is unfounded. "Dateline" admires us, but in doing so it asserts our inferiority. We reject that formulation. We are willing to be admired, but only if it is the real thing. And we will never accept a counterfeit.
Becoming first-class citizens requires blind people to perform competently. If we do not, we should face the consequences. For an employer, through a feeling of charity, to decide not to dismiss a blind person who has failed is a disservice not only to the employer but also to us who are blind. An article from the Associated Press which appeared in January, 1998, describes a disciplinary action taken against a blind judge. It says in part:
A state judicial panel Friday suspended Alabama's only blind judge for failing to keep his docket up to date and trying to block testimony that the judge feared would show how poorly he ran his office.
The State Court of the Judiciary also censured Jefferson County Circuit Judge Tony Cothren for sleeping on the bench, but it did not issue sanctions on that count because of undisputed evidence that he suffers from a sleep disorder.
Cothren, forty-eight, was suspended with pay until June 30 and without pay for the remainder of his appointed term, which ends in January, 1999.
A friend, Jefferson County Tax Collector Jack Williams, said he was disappointed in the ruling and he felt Cothren had been "hammered" for having a physical disability.
"I definitely think he didn't get a fair chance" to work as a judge, Williams said.
Cothren also testified he was not aware of ever falling asleep on the bench, although his lawyers said he has a sleep disorder and introduced evidence that people with the disorder don't always realize they doze off for brief times during the day. Numerous witnesses told the court that Cothren fell asleep during court proceedings.
When asked about stacks of court files supposedly littered throughout his office, the judge said he was not aware of them. He said he relied on his staff to tell him about such matters.
Cothren said that, because he is blind, he is more dependent than most judges on his staff members. He said he must trust them to do the work he asks them to do because he cannot see it for himself.
This is the story from the Associated Press. If the judge was disciplined because of blindness, as one person believed, we in the Federation should support him in challenging the decision. But if the reason for dismissal is a failure to get the work done and to stay alert, the decision is fair. It is beyond comprehension that we would ask for special treatment because we didn't know that the stacks of paper representing court files littered the office. There are those who want to hide behind the disability of blindness and blame all their misfortunes on it, but we know better. We want the admiration that our performance deserves, and we have the talent required to earn it. But we insist on the real thing, and we will never accept a counterfeit.
When I was a boy at the school for the blind in Iowa, all people were divided into three categories: the sighted, the blind (sometimes called totals), and the partialssometimes partially sighted, sometimes partially blind, but most of the time just partials. The difference between the partials and the totals was significant. Partials were permitted to meet guests and give tours of the campus; totals were not. Partials, if they were old enough, could travel downtown by themselves. Totals had to be escorted by partials. Partials were also called "sight-savers" because they could read large-print books. Totals read Braille, which was regarded as slow and clumsy. Being a partial was better than being a total.
Today, at least in certain erudite professional writing, the classification is different. The three categories are the sighted, the blind, and the low-vision. The argument is made that those who have some remaining sight (we used to call them partials) are not really sighted but not really blind. The problems faced by the blind, according to this theory, are fairly well defined and readily addressed. However, those with some remaining sight cannot be helped by the techniques for the blind because these solutions do not apply to them. But the techniques for the sighted don't work either. Consequently, the low-vision live in a shadow-worldsuffering from the disadvantages of not being able to handle the world as the sighted do and not being accepted by the blind.
Of course it is tempting to dismiss this line of argument as just one more effort to create a euphemism for blindnesssight-limited, visually impaired, visually challenged, sight-savers, partials, or, as some wags would have it, the hard of seeing. But the professional theorists in the business of advancing the claims of the low-vision say it's not that simple. There is not only a physical difference but a psychological one as well, they say.
A book by Helen Neal entitled Low Vision: What You Can Do to Preserve and Even Enhance Your Usable Sight contains suggestions for adapting the home for the partially sighted. The author believes that the ordinary comfortable home becomes, for the partially sighted, a place of inconvenience and danger. Here are portions of the text that describe this phenomenon:
As vision deteriorates, [says Neal] the once familiar, safe household has a disconcerting way of developing hazards that didn't seem to exist before. Staircases that were once descended without looking down at all become perilous, one tread indistinguishable from another. Scatter rugs that one used to walk on surefootedly slide from underneath. Tiled bathrooms, their light intensity once perfect for shaving or putting on makeup, develop a blinding glare. One is less likely to notice the dog or cat stretched out in pathways from one room to another. Tripping over invisible family pets is a common accident for the partially sighted, adding broken bones to an already crowded list of problems. Some people get rid of pets they have difficulty seeing. But there are other solutionsan elderly woman, whose sight had deteriorated to the point where she kept tripping over the Siamese cat that blended into the gray living room carpet, instead of getting rid of the cat as everyone advised, had the carpet dyed a deep reddish brown that contrasted with the silvery cat.
That is part of what Neal tells us, but there are other, more devastating problems, she believesproblems of perception, problems of communication, problems of psychological wholeness.
Among the reasons many people with defective vision try to cover up [Neal tells us] is fear of being labeled blind if they take rehabilitation courses, and especially of being rejected by the opposite sex. Dating is a major concern of partially sighted young adults and of older adults as well. How do you meet people? Should you admit you have a vision problem if they haven't already noticed? One young man told about going on a first date carrying his white canethe date ended at the front door. At a dance a young woman whose sight was minimal approached a tall, slender man and asked him to dance. The tall man with close-cropped hair turned out to be a woman, very indignant at having been mistaken for a man. Among the many anxieties besetting the partially sighted is fear of losing sexual drive and attraction. In psychiatric language the eyes are an erogenous zone, organs of sexual excitation. Painters, poets, and lovers have immortalized the attributes of the eyes: their beauty and power to arrest, haunt, invite, question, and transmit messages of desire, melancholy, hatred, adoration. Being unable to see the eyes of others deprives one of what has been called the little consoling flirtations of everyday life.
So says the writing of Helen Neal, but there is more. In her book, she quotes a man who has lost substantial amounts of vision. He says he feels "undesirable and unmanly." He laments not being able to "engage in the sophisticated language of the eyes." He says that his lack of vision leaves him with "no access to the eyes' ambiguities, no playful enigmatic dialogue, no sexual finesse."
I interrupt to ask you how does such a description strike you? Have you lost your sexual drive? Do you feel undesirable and unattractive? Have you lost all of your sexual finesse? But I return to the writing of Helen Neal.
She quotes the partially sighted man this way: "I felt particularly loutish without my eyes. I wondered what signs I was missing, whether her countenance was sparkling or dull, bored or preoccupied or aroused. I yearned for the absolute truth of the eyes' and the body's involuntary code."
Such writing makes a person wonder whether Helen Neal has ever met a blind person. When you are with a person of the opposite sex in a setting where such things matter, can you tell whether your companion is preoccupied, bored, or interested? And even though it seems both obvious and elementary, sex can occur with no involvement of the eyes.
Although Helen Neal purports to offer a fresh perspective concerning the lives of those who have lost much but not all of their sight, there is nothing new in the images presented. She takes extraordinary pains to avoid using the word "blind." She tells us that the eye is a part of the essence of our being, and that this sense organ is necessary to communication in complex relationships. She says that for those who have lost sight, simple chores become difficult and complex. This is not new science, but ancient witchcraft decked out in modern form.
We in the Federation believe that those with some remaining sight should use it to the extent that it is useful. The writers about low vision emphasize sight because they fear blindness. This fear is transmitted to those who are losing vision, and it creates a tremendous anxiety. Suppose that the person with a little sight loses just a little more. Will the cat still be visible on the newly dyed carpet? How much easier it would be to learn the techniques of blindness and to combine those techniques with such sight as remains. How much more effective it would be to abandon the fear of blindness and accept blind people for what we are. Those who seek euphemisms for blindness do not believe that it is respectable to be blind. Although they claim to be among the most modern thinkers on the subject of low vision, their attitude is of a bygone era. They are seeking to reject the blind.
However, such self-proclaimed experts are not the only people with the capacity to write. We who are blind, we who make up the organized blind movement, we will offer our own opinions and our own advice. We have learned that blindness cannot stop us, but the writing of such people as Helen Neal mayif we let them. When we started the Federation, our experience was almost total rejection, and Helen Neal and the others who write in a similar vein would resurrect that benighted thinking of a former day. But they cannot do it, for we will not permit it. This too is the reason we have formed the National Federation of the Blind.
As we gather here at the convention in our thousands from every part of the nation, what are the prospects for the blind in the months and years ahead? The "Dateline" program tells us there is little hope unless we can regain sight. The blind jurist argues that blindness prevents a person from observing that there are stacks of files littered throughout the office. The expert in low vision writes that the lack of sight can cause loss of sexual finesse and a consequent rejection by members of the opposite sex. If this were the total picture of our future, the prospects would be dismal indeed. But it is not the total picture; it is one scene in a much greater panorama.
The complete rejection of the blind as part of society, which was once the norm, has not yet come to an end, but this primitive approach to blindness is much less prominent than it was even just a few years ago. The toleration of blind people is slowly giving way to a sense of admiration and, in many instances, to genuine acceptance. Such a revolution in understanding is not a matter of accident; it comes only to those who earn and demand it. The requirements for success are rigorous and exacting. But no matter what the cost, we in the Federation are equal to the challenge. When work must be done, we will do it. When sacrifices of time, of money, of energy, and of commitment are required, we will make them. When problems confront us, we will solve them. And above all else we will believe in ourselves and each other, and we will share the dedication that must exist to bring the dream of a brighter future to reality.
I will expect of you, the members of the Federation, all that is best within you, and I will not hesitate to ask for your support. For my part I will not ask of you what I am not prepared to give myself. I will stand in the front lines and take whatever comes, and I will not equivocate or flinch or duck responsibility. In the past we have been rejected, tolerated, and admired for the wrong reasonbecause of our blindness. We will find the strength and the resolve to change these attitudes so that we who are blind gain full acceptance. In so doing we will lose the high profile so often associated with blindness and will reach anonymity. We want no false admiration from those who think us their inferiors. Instead we insist on the real thing, with all the recognition that this implies. And we will not rest until we have it. Join me, and we will make it come true!
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Deane Blazie]
Attending Conventions:Deane Blazie Makes a Statement
From the Editor: In a field as comparatively small and inbred as the blindness field, a number of producers and vendors seem to struggle over the question of identification with one or other of the consumer groups. Not surprisingly, loyal members of each group would like to believe that their favorite suppliers agree with them about the various issues on which the NFB and ACB frequently disagree.
A companyor even an agencymay require that its employees have nothing to do with either group, but such a policy is not very sensible. The result is not the objectivity, which was presumably intended, but fence-sitting of a particularly uncomfortable and cowardly sort. Blind and sighted employees alike, if they are worth their salt, should know about and have views on the issues big and small that shape the lives of their blind customers.
Having personal opinions and convictions, however, need not affect the quality of the service or equipment provided. When Dr. Jernigan was Director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind, he constantly made it clear that the group affiliation of a blind consumer of agency services would never determine the excellence of the services provided by his staff. In fact, it seems to me that employees should be reprimanded for showing bias of any kind because of politics in the field. I have no personal knowledge of what effect ACB affiliation has on the general quality of service delivery by its members employed in the field, but over and over again I have observed NFB members go more than the extra mile to help a blind customer just because of their own personal commitment to the concept that every blind person should have the chance to succeed.
Last spring Deane Blazie and Blazie Engineering began receiving pronounced criticism for their corporate decision not to attend the ACB convention again in 1998. On June 15 Mr. Blazie finally made a statement of his position in an open letter which he put on the Blazie Engineering listserv. It is an articulate statement of an eminently sensible corporate policy. Here it is:
Recently there has been a lot of discussion about Blazie Engineering's decision not to participate in the ACB convention the last two years. There have been e-mails, letters, Internet discussions, stories, and proclamations. Many of them have been thoughtful and serious; many of the questions have been probing; many of the complaints courteous.
Not all of it has been nice, of course. In any controversy there is rumor, error, innuendo, and misinformation. Some of it arises from heartfelt passion, some of it to further personal and professional agendas. In the hope of answering the questions and to help in putting the record straight, I want to take this opportunity to respond and tell our side of the story.
First, however, I want to make a critical point. The issues involving NFB and ACB have no connection to the relationship Blazie Engineering has with its customers. I don't like wasting words, and I don't like repeating myself, but this point is too important to pass over lightly: The issues involving NFB and ACB have no connection to the relationship Blazie Engineering has with its customers. None.
The relationship we have with our customers is the centerpiece of our business. It is the reason we have survived and prospered. Making a good product is not enough. You must build trust, create customers that become lifelong friends, and you must listen to the people you serve.
We DO NOT ask anyone whether they belong to one organization or another. We ask them how we can help, and that is all we ask because that is all we need to know.
The suggestion that our support of NFB affects how we do business is, at best, disingenuous. At worst it is an attempt to force us to change our position by frightening our customers. It won't work because we believe in the rightness of our decision and because our customers know better. I am sorry but not surprised to see this tactic used, but anyone who knows us knows how shallow the charge is.
Now that we have gotten that nonissue out of the way, we can get to the question at hand: Why has Blazie Engineering chosen not to attend the ACB convention for the past two years?
To understand the answer, you need to know a little bit about me and about the origins of Blazie Engineering. I promise to keep this part short, but it is important. My introduction to electronics and to the special world of the blind started when I was a boy in Frankfort, Kentucky, and made friends with a remarkable manTim Cranmera name some of you will recognize. That friendship was one of the most important in my life, and I learned a great deal from it. Most important in the long run, perhaps, was the role it had in helping me develop a political and personal philosophy.
Slightly less than twenty years ago I made my first computer for the blind, and just over ten years ago I made the first Braille 'n Speak. In fact, I made ten of them, using all the money I had, and I took them to the NFB convention. From a business point of view I suppose the story is that I came home with all ten of them sold and with enough orders to start the business for real. But I came away with a lot more than just orders. I made friends. I got advice. I got support. Anyone who has built a business knows that these things are as valuable in their own way as orders.
I also found kindred spirits, people who had the same views as I did about being advocates for the blind, people who were committed to the same goals and ideals that Tim and I had discussed. I had found my place.
Blazie Engineering grew up with the NFB. Over time the relationship strengthened, and we found ourselves active and eager participants in many of their projects. We have supported their goals. We believe it is an important and effective organization.
Last year we had our ten-year celebration at the NFB convention. Because of the commitment that required from us, we decided we could not attend the ACB convention. The ACB responded by passing a proclamation attacking Blazie Engineering. I still do not know why they did thatdon't understand why they would have bothered.
I did not seek to be caught in the conflict between ACB and NFB, but I am. Contrary to some of the charges that have been made, this is not a business decision. And this is not just about loyalty. This is a personal and philosophical decision. I have always been a Federationist. I believe in the organization. It is the most active, aggressive, effective, and important spokesman for the blind in the world.
ACB is largely a social organization. It is unfortunate, but I believe it siphons off energy and resources from NFB. Despite their proclamation, I harbor no animus or ill will toward the organization, and I remain personal friends with many of its members. But there can be no question about which organization I support. In the end I am not doing this because I was caught in the middle; I am doing it because it is the right thing to do.
I know my position will not satisfy every person. Any time you find yourself trying to make everyone happy, you can be sure that you are doing something wrong. It isn't personal. I respect the people who disagree with me, and I hope they return the feeling.
Deane Blazie President, Blazie Engineering, Inc.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ramona Walhof (left), Committee chairwoman;
Sheryl Pickering, Committee secretary; and James Gashel, Committee consultant, listen carefully to a speaker during the Resolutions committee meeting.]
Resolutions Adopted by the Annual
Convention of the
National Federation of the Blind
by Ramona Walhof
As usual President Maurer appointed a large and diverse Resolutions Committee this year. There were forty-nine members from thirty states. Eleven committee members are attorneys, and twenty are state presidents. In addition, two individuals were appointed to advise the committee regarding technical matters. They were Jim Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs, and Curtis Chong, Director of the Technology Department, both staff members at the National Center for the Blind. I did not attempt further to categorize committee members, but it is a delightful and hard-working group.
Any member of the Federation may submit a resolution to the committee. These resolutions must be received by the President or the chairman no less than two weeks ahead of the committee meeting. The committee reads each resolution, discusses it, and votes either to recommend that the convention pass it or refuses to send it to the floor. Each resolution must have a sponsor at the committee meeting. After the resolution is read, the sponsor has the opportunity to speak about it as part of the committee discussion.
This year I received nineteen resolutions. One was withdrawn before the committee met. Two were withdrawn after discussion with the committee. Another was voted down. The other fifteen were passed by the committee and presented to the convention. This year most of the resolutions were discussed on the floor Friday afternoon. Each of the fifteen resolutions was voted on and passed by the convention. They now constitute policy of the National Federation of the Blind. Therefore, they will be printed in full later in this article. Here are brief summaries of our fifteen new policy statements.
Resolution 98-01 commends the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind for honoring Dr. Jernigan and for its efforts to work more closely with the NFB in providing better services to blind people.
Resolution 98-02 calls upon the U.S. Congress to pass currently pending legislation on exempt earnings for blind people.
Resolution 98-03 states NFB's insistence on equal access to electronic information technology for the blind and calls upon governmental agencies to remember this when they procure, use, or regulate this technology.
Resolution 98-04 calls upon producers and developers of set-top boxes to confer with and respond to designated representatives of the NFB in order to provide equal access to the blind.
Resolution 98-05 calls upon the U.S. Congress to revise, re-enact, and improve the technology assistance act to provide better access to technology for the blind.
Resolution 98-06 calls upon those responsible for implementing the 1997 IDEA Amendments to be conscientious and firm.
Resolution 98-07 states that this organization opposes bill H.R. 3433 as passed by the House of Representatives because it could encourage minimal training and dead-end jobs for the disabled instead of real careers.
Resolution 98-08 calls upon the courts of Hawaii not to adopt the settlement offered in Crowder, et al. v. Nakatani, et al. (Civil No. 93-00213 DAE), which would restrict the freedom of blind people to use guide dogs in Hawaii at a time when it should be expanded.
Resolution 98-09 calls upon the U.S. Congress, especially the chairman and members of the House Committee on Resources, to include an amendment to S.1693 to insure that the provisions of the Randolph-Sheppard Act are acknowledged when the bill is considered by the House.
Resolution 98-10 condemns the position by the Acting Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Army regarding the Randolph-Sheppard Act and calls upon the Secretary of Education to defend and preserve the Randolph-Sheppard program.
Resolution 98-11 objects to the idea that the committee which administers sheltered workshops can appropriately have anything to do with assessing the Randolph-Sheppard program.
Resolution 98-12 calls upon all blood glucose monitor developers and manufacturers to shift from hanging-drop-of-blood systems to simpler and more accessible test strip types.
Resolution 98-13 calls upon the Social Security Administration to make work incentives a top priority pursuant to Executive Order 13078.
Resolution 98-14 opposes the inclusion of rehabilitation funds for the blind in block grants from the federal government to the states.
Resolution 98-15 commends the responsible leaders in Congress for including the reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act in the workforce development program legislation and calls upon Congress for action immediately.
WHEREAS, the National Council of State Agencies for the
Blind (NCSAB) has recognized Dr. Kenneth Jernigan with its first
Lifetime Achievement Award; and
WHEREAS, this recognition by the NCSAB in particular is both
a distinctive honor for Dr. Jernigan and an act of noteworthy
importance in paying tribute to his service on behalf of all
blind people as the principal leader of the organized blind
movement and President and President Emeritus of the National
Federation of the Blind: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in
convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1998, in the City of
Dallas, Texas, that this organization officially express its
appreciation to the National Council of State Agencies for the
Blind for honoring Dr. Kenneth Jernigan with the first Lifetime
Achievement Award ever presented by that organization; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we particularly commend the leadership of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind for the constructive efforts being made to work in harmony with the National Federation of the Blind on behalf of better programs and improved services for blind people throughout the United States.
WHEREAS, Representative Barbara Kennelly and Senators John
McCain and Christopher Dodd have sponsored legislation to restore
the policy of an identical earnings exemption threshold for blind
people and age-sixty-five retirees; and
WHEREAS, this legislation, introduced in the 105th Congress
as H.R. 612 and S. 375, would reenact the statutory linkage
approach for exempt earnings which existed for a continuous
period of eighteen years before the policy was broken in favor of
mandated adjustments in the earnings exemption for seniors but
not the blind; and
WHEREAS, 191 members of the House of Representatives and 32
Senators (including the leaders of both the majority and the
minority in the Senate) have placed their names on this
legislation as cosponsors in the present Congress, demonstrating
that substantial support now exists for correcting the injustice
that was done by excluding blind people from the series of
mandated adjustments in exempt earnings: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1998, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization call upon the Congress to approve the pending legislation on exempt earnings for blind people since, as in the case of retirees, this is the best, most certain way to promote the opportunity to work.
WHEREAS, developments in information technology now being
used for communication by electronic means are changing the way
in which ideas and knowledge are spread throughout our society
and the world; and
WHEREAS, the new methods of information exchange resulting
from these developments are affecting participation in society in
a growing number of ways, including personal communications,
provision of educational services, conduct of business, and
interaction with entities of government for required filings, to
obtain information and services, or to take part in the political
WHEREAS, entities engaged in the design and use of
electronic information technology have a responsibility to assure
equal participation, especially when the technology or
information content is intended for general use; and
WHEREAS, the new forms of communication by electronic means
hold much promise for providing blind people with ready access
and equal participation, butexcept in the most unusual of
casesthe design of both the technology and the content
presented presumes that everyone who uses the technology or
receives the information can see; and
WHEREAS, participation on equal terms requires equal access
to the channels of communication and sources of information
available: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in
convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1998, in the City of
Dallas, Texas, that this organization insist upon equal access to
electronic information technology as fundamental to the right of
equal participation throughout our society; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Federation seek the enforcement of existing laws and the enactment of new laws and standards for nonvisual access so that equal participation by means of equal (including nonvisual) access will be embraced as a fundamental right by all entities of government involved in the procurement, use, or regulation of electronic information technology.
WHEREAS, digital set-top boxes and other electronic devices
currently under development will enhance the conventional
television by enabling it to be used as a focal point for access
to a variety of information and interactive services such as the
Internet, interactive cable and telephone services, and a host of
other information offerings; and
WHEREAS, prototypes of such devices are currently being
tested without the participation of blind consumers; and
WHEREAS, digital set-top boxes and similar devices are
substantially inaccessible to blind persons; and
WHEREAS, the designers and manufacturers of these devices
have not sought to obtain advice from experts on blindness and
access technology in order to produce a product which complies
with Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which
requires that telecommunications equipment and services be made
accessible to blind persons and which is administered by the
Federal Communications Commission (FCC); and
WHEREAS, designers and manufacturers of set-top boxes such
as IBM, Visual Information Services Corporation, Microsoft
Corporation, Sony Corporation, Philips Corporation, and other
companies have made no effort to work with the National
Federation of the Blind, the largest and most influential
organization of the blind in the country, in designing their
equipment to be accessible and usable by blind persons; and
WHEREAS, within a few years digital interactive set-top
boxes and similar digital technologies will be required in order
to receive virtually all information services, and lack of access
for blind persons will lead to isolation from the mainstream
channels of communication open to every one else: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in
convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1998, in the City of
Dallas, Texas, that this organization call upon designers and
manufacturers of digital set-top boxes and similar equipment to
design their products to be accessible to and usable by blind
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization declare its desire and willingness to consult with the industry on this important issue and take all necessary steps to ensure that set-top boxes and similar devices are accessible to and usable by the blindincluding, but not limited toconsulting with designers and manufacturers of set-top boxes and similar technology; seeking administrative remedies available under the Telecommunications Act of 1996; and, as a last resort, litigation as may be necessary.
WHEREAS, authorizations for programs conducted under the
Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities
Act (known popularly as the "Tech Act") will expire at the end of
September, 1998, unless Congress approves legislation to continue
or recreate these programs in some form; and
WHEREAS, programs conducted under the Tech Act have been
spread across the entire spectrum of disability needs with the
result that their impact in bringing resources to bear upon the
access needs of blind people has been minimal; and
WHEREAS, Congress is considering proposals to continue a
state-grant technology-assistance program and to revise the
policy approach and program emphasis of the Tech Act in positive
and relevant ways which may include assistance to promote
leadership by consumers in the evaluation of technology and
expanded support for low-interest loans and loan-guarantee
programs to assist individuals in obtaining needed technology;
WHEREAS, provisions in the revised version of the Tech Act
must especially affirm the right of access, including nonvisual
access, to information technology when such technology is
marketed for sale to the public or is generally available for
public use, especially when such technology is used for
communications or for any course of instruction in the case of
any tax-supported program; and
WHEREAS, elements such as these would improve the policy
direction and program emphasis of the Tech Act by addressing
present-day concerns of blind people who could otherwise be
excluded from the benefits of the modern communications
technology now evolving in the information age: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in
convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1998, in the City of
Dallas, Texas, that this organization encourage the Congress to
revise and re-enact the technology assistance program prior to
the expiration of the current Tech Act; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we support a redirection in the policy and program emphasis of the technology assistance law so that the goals of accessincluding access to financial assistance for technology acquisition and access in the use or modification of technology for nonvisual usewill be supported as a top priority and can be achieved through this program.
WHEREAS, landmark legislation to improve the Individuals
with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was passed by Congress and
signed by President Clinton in June, 1997; and
WHEREAS, the IDEA Amendments of 1997 contain important new
provisions on the content of the Individualized Education Program
(IEP) required to be used for each child eligible for special
education services; and
WHEREAS, the law specifies that Braille instruction and the
use of Braille must be included in the IEP of each blind child
unless the IEP teamincluding the child's parentsdetermines
that Braille services are not necessary based on evaluations of
reading and writing performance and consideration of the child's
future literacy needs; and
WHEREAS, provisions of the new lawincluding the
specifications for content to be addressed in each child's IEP
are now under serious and sustained attack by organizations
representing school boards, school administrators, and general
education professionals who originally opposed the IDEA
amendments but eventually agreed to the compromise legislation
which was negotiated in good faith in 1997; and
WHEREAS, the organized opposition to the IDEA Amendments of
1997 is likely to result in efforts to change the law by way of
amendments placed on annual appropriations bills or other
legislation expected to be passed before the end of the present
WHEREAS, the efforts to change the law by creating an
atmosphere of controversy and angry opposition in the Congress
have placed all of the new provisionsincluding Braille
instruction for blind childrenin jeopardy while plans are made
to promote amendments which will not be disclosed in their full
scope and content until the time for presentation and voting is
at hand: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in
convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1998, in the City of
Dallas, Texas, that this organization urge the Congress to stand
firm in upholding the IDEA amendments which were finally passed
in 1997 after several years of controversy; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call upon the officials and professionals responsible for implementing the law to honor the commitments made in the passage of the 1997 amendments.
WHEREAS, the beneficiary rehabilitation program of the
Social Security Administration allows for payment of costs for
training and employment assistance provided to a beneficiary who
becomes employed and leaves the rolls; and
WHEREAS, with the limited exception of services obtained
from only a few so-called "alternate providers," the beneficiary
rehabilitation program pays for services from state vocational
rehabilitation agencies and not from any other source; and
WHEREAS, legislation passed by the House of Representatives
as H.R. 3433 now pending in the Senate would expand the
beneficiary rehabilitation program to allow for virtually any
agency of the beneficiary's choice to be reimbursed for services
provided, but only after successful employment is achieved; and
WHEREAS, this approach, while well-intentioned in its
emphasis on beneficiary choice, is essentially a way of using
revenues from the Social Security Administration to subsidize
programs otherwise known as sheltered workshops that both train
and then employ the persons served; and
WHEREAS, provisions for a milestone payment system as an alternative to the reimbursement system are so far ill-defined, making it unlikely that beneficiaries with significant adjustment and training needs such as the blind would have a choice of providers other than state agencies under the existing program:
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1998, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization oppose H.R. 3433 as passed by the House of Representatives on the basis that this legislation would promote the expediency of short-term training and quick-fix jobs instead of providing resources for extensive services and quality jobs.
WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind opposes
application of animal quarantine procedures by the state of
Hawaii in the case of blind persons who use guide dogs; and
WHEREAS, Hawaii Governor Ben Cayetano has been a champion of
removing the procedures for blind residents of the state and in
fact assisted in the preparation of a provisional rule to that
WHEREAS, in a lawsuit entitled Crowder, et. al. v. Nakatani,
et. al. (Civil No. 93-00213 DAE), brought under the Americans
with Disabilities Act and supported by the United States
Department of Justice, various plaintiffs, including persons and
organizations claiming to represent the blind, challenged
application of the quarantine to blind guide dog users but have
decided instead to ask for a court-approved settlement; and
WHEREAS, concessions agreed to in the proposed settlement include the following:
(1) that each guide dog user must abide by extensive procedures for testing and rabies-free certification of the dog with no assurance that the quarantine will not be imposed even though the procedures have been followed and the dog is rabies-free;
(2) that the procedures for testing and rabies-free certification are as onerous for Hawaiians with guide dogs as they are for non-residents who may visit the state with their guide dogs;
(3) that guide dogs trained by owners or by any source other than a school on a state-approved list are subject to the quarantine even if they are rabies-free;
(4) that guide dog users who must visit the state of Hawaii for emergencies must have their dogs quarantined and, when leaving the quarantine station, must be accompanied by a sighted person at all times and can only go to places related to the emergency;
(5) that guide dog users may stay only in state-approved hotels or in homes of residents of the state that are specifically pre-approved by the state;
(6) that the use of a guide dog means the waiver of the
right to privacy since a record of each user's travel to the
state will be kept and routinely furnished both to the plaintiffs
and to the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.; and
WHEREAS, the proposed settlement with the terms just
described is a compromise of civil rights for expediency and as
such will enshrine in the law the principle that the use of a
guide dog is a valid reason for such rights to be abridged when a
case can be made to do so; and
WHEREAS, for residents of Hawaii, the proposed settlement
concessions would roll back the clock and impose onerous
restrictions which Governor Cayetano had worked cooperatively
with the blind of the state to remove: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in
convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1998, in the City of
Dallas, Texas, that this organization condemn and deplore the
compromise of civil rights for expediency as proposed in Crowder
v. Nakatani and declare the proposed settlement itself to be an
express denial of civil rights affecting not only the blind who
use guide dogs but all blind persons as well; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge the Attorney General of
the United States, Janet Reno, to withdraw the Justice
Department's agreement to the proposed settlement on the basis
that the very terms of the settlement impose discriminatory
restrictions upon blind persons in contravention of the Americans
with Disabilities Act; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii to reject the proposed settlement in Crowder v. Nakatani on the basis that the terms which it would impose upon both the residents and non-residents of Hawaii are contrary to the Constitution and laws of the United States.
WHEREAS, Title IV of S.1693, as recently approved by the
United States Senate and now pending in the House, is entitled
"The National Park Service Management Improvement Act of 1998";
WHEREAS, the provisions of this legislation are essentially
designed to ensure that virtually all contracts for concession
services in national parks are awarded through a competitive
process with the offer of a franchise fee paid by the
concessionaire to be considered as one of four principal factors
when the Secretary of the Interior evaluates proposals and awards
such contracts; and
WHEREAS, by the plain terms of the Randolph-Sheppard Act,
the priority established for the placement and operation of
vending facilities by the blind on federal property applies to
national parks and public land areas to precisely the same extent
that it applies to federal buildings; and
WHEREAS, although the Secretary of the Interior would be
authorized to set aside the use of the competitive process for
limited commercial use authorizations or in "extraordinary
circumstances where compelling and equitable considerations
require the award of a concession contract to a particular party
in the public interest," these provisions do not specify that the
competitive process must be set aside for compliance with the
Randolph-Sheppard Act, and in fact the provisions of title IV of
S.1693 fail to acknowledge or even mention the priority required
by law for blind vendors; and
WHEREAS, failure to cite compliance with the Randolph-
Sheppard Act as a specific requirement is likely to create a
statutory conflict and will certainly reduce the likelihood that
blind vendors would be awarded concessions opportunities in
national parks: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in
convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1998, in the City of
Dallas, Texas, that this organization call for a clarifying
amendment to the concessions-management provisions of S.1693 when
this legislation is considered in the House of Representatives;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge the Chairman, Representative Don Young of Alaska, and members of the House Committee on Resources to specify compliance with the priority for blind persons under the Randolph-Sheppard Act as an essential requirement in the bill before it is reported to the House.
WHEREAS, leadership for government-wide compliance with the
Randolph-Sheppard Act is vested in the office of the Secretary of
Education and is further delegated to officials within the
Department of Education, such as the Commissioner of the
Rehabilitation Services Administration; and
WHEREAS, the lead agency authority for government-wide
compliance includes the authority to interpret the law and to
issue regulations which are binding on all other departments and
agencies of the Federal government; and
WHEREAS, the Acting Assistant Secretary for Research,
Development and Acquisition of the United States Army has
notified Army procurement officers of his interpretation of the
Randolph-Sheppard Act and instructed them not to award contracts
for food service in military mess halls to state licensing
agencies under the Randolph-Sheppard Act; and
WHEREAS, this action is a knowing and calculated assault
upon the Randolph-Sheppard Act and particularly upon the
authority of the Secretary of Education to interpret it in regard
to the types of facilities covered on all federal property; and
WHEREAS, allowing this action to stand would nullify the
Secretary of Education's authority to interpret and coordinate
government-wide compliance with the Randolph-Sheppard Act and
would thereby lead to further erosion of the blind vendor
priority: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in
convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1998, in the City of
Dallas, Texas, that this organization condemn and deplore the
arrogant disregard for the law shown by the Acting Assistant
Secretary for Research, Development and Acquisition of the United
States Army in his issuance of instructions which he knew to be
contrary to the express position of the Department of Education;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Federation support and insist upon a vigorous response from the Secretary of Education in asserting the authority granted by the Randolph-Sheppard Act whenever it is under attack by the U.S. Army or by any other Federal department or agency.
WHEREAS, on March 13, 1998, President Clinton issued
Executive Order 13078 for the purpose of increasing employment of
adults with disabilities to a rate that is as close as possible
to the employment rate of the general adult population; and
WHEREAS, although laudable in its goals, the Executive Order
in section 2© specifies that the Committee for Purchase from
People who are Blind or Severely Disabled is to have a role in
assessing the impact of the Randolph-Sheppard vending program on
employment and small business opportunities for people with
WHEREAS, the vagueness of the language in section 2© leads
to the troubling conclusion that the drafters of this Executive
Order are calling into question the mission of the Randolph-
Sheppard Act and suggesting that the Committee, which only
administers an employment-in-sheltered-workshops program, has
some sort of special knowledge about businesses operated by the
blind, which it does not; and
WHEREAS, rather than serving as a constructive force for
entrepreneurial opportunities for blind or disabled people, the
Committee's narrow view and statutory purpose is to promote
direct labor jobs for blind and disabled people in sheltered work
programs, making it completely unqualified to provide any
assessment whatsoever of business-opportunity programs such as
the Randolph-Sheppard Act; and
WHEREAS, in a consistent pattern of conflicts with the U.S.
Department of Education, the Committee has established a record
of promoting employment for disabled people in sheltered work
over business opportunities for blind people under the Randolph-
Sheppard Act, leaving no question as to the Committee's narrow
orientation: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1998, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization advise the task force responsible for implementing Executive Order 13078 of its profound objection to the notion that the Committee that administers the employment-in-sheltered-work programs can play a constructive role in assessing the impact of the Randolph-Sheppard Act on small business opportunities based on the Committee's record of promoting sheltered work over any other form of employment.
WHEREAS, The Center for Disease Control estimates 15.7
million Americans have diabetes and calls diabetes "the leading
cause of new cases of blindness in adults twenty to seventy-four
years old," making this an issue of great interest to the
National Federation of the Blind; and
WHEREAS, all diabetics, blind and sighted, need to monitor
blood glucose levels accurately and frequently in order to
maintain health and reduce risk of complications; and
WHEREAS, many of the common and popular types of home blood
glucose monitors available today require a hanging drop of blood
for correct measurement, a complex, vision-intensive move which
is difficult for many sighted diabetics and an unnecessary burden
to blind diabetics or those losing vision; and
WHEREAS, other, simpler means of depositing blood onto the
test strip already exist, but most have yet to be integrated into
glucose meters with speech output for the blind: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1998, in the City of Dallas, Texas, this organization call upon all blood-glucose-monitor developers and manufacturers to shift from hanging-drop-of-blood systems to simpler and more accessible test-strip types.
WHEREAS, provisions to allow work while continuing the
payment of benefits are part of the Social Security Disability
Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs and are
supposed to operate as work incentives; and
WHEREAS, these work-incentive provisions are complicated
enough as written in the law, but the lack of clarity in the
approach used by the Social Security Administration in regard to
work incentives is even more baffling both for beneficiaries and
for employees of the Social Security Administration, as well; and
WHEREAS, the failure of the Social Security Administration
to create and apply rational standards and reasonably workable
procedures to implement the work incentive provisions nullifies
the value of the provisions by creating an atmosphere of
uncertainty, confusion, and mistrust; and
WHEREAS, efforts to promote rehabilitation and self-
sufficiency among beneficiaries are worthy but will end up with
disappointing results if beneficiaries who respond to the
encouragement are then caught up in allegations of overpayments
and the quagmire of rules and standards used to resolve them; and
WHEREAS, the use of clear and workable procedures for work
incentives is unquestionably possible and should be particularly
beneficial in the case of blind people whose eligibility is
governed by more precise statutory criteria as compared to the
regulations which in other cases define disability and
eligibility for benefits: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in
convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1998, in the City of
Dallas, Texas, that this organization promote the resolution of
the work-incentive quagmire as a top-priority objective for the
Social Security Administration in its administration of the
Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we insist upon the adoption of a clear, fair, and rational approach for the administration of the work-incentive provisions as an immediate initiative to be made by the Social Security Administration in responding to Executive Order 13078 pertaining to employment of people with disabilities.
WHEREAS, distribution of federal dollars by means of a
block-grant, no-strings-attached approach is promoted as a
panacea for the alleged inefficiency of more targeted or
categorical federal programs; and
WHEREAS, the approach for federal block grants for programs
such as education and workforce development was recently proposed
by the National Governors' Association at its winter, 1998,
meeting in an attempt to convince the Congress to provide funds
to the states in broad categories for discretionary spending at
the state level rather than to enact or reauthorize specific
federal programs, such as state grants for vocational
WHEREAS, Senator Slade Gorton of Washington State sponsored
an education block-grant amendment which included funds to be
removed from the Vocational Rehabilitation program and which
passed the Senate last fall on a vote of fifty-one to forty-nine;
WHEREAS, although Senator Gorton said after the vote that he
had not intended to include funds from Vocational Rehabilitation
in the block grant, the threat resulting from this amendment was
very real and could reoccur at any moment on the floor of the
U.S. Senate or the House of Representatives; and
WHEREAS, rather than being a panacea for the improvement of
programs, approval of a block-grant approach as advocated by the
National Governors' Association and Senator Gorton would create a
melee of competition for a shrinking pot of federal dollars, with
the result that programs serving the blind (which are
comparatively small) would often be overtaken by others in the
scramble to survive: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in
convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1998, in the City of
Dallas, Texas, that this organization reaffirm its vigorous
opposition to the use of the block-grant approach in which funds
for services for the blind would be included; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge all members of Congress to give block-grant proposals a strict-scrutiny test in order to insure that targeted and categorical programs that meet a defined need, such as services for the blind, are not swept away in the rush to make a political statement.
WHEREAS, legislation to consolidate federal vocational
education, training, and employment assistance programs into a
single workforce-development system has been passed in different
forms by the House of Representatives and the Senate; and
WHEREAS, in passing their respective versions of the
workforce-development bills both the Senate and the House of
Representatives have kept faith with their express commitment to
continue programs in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 under funding
authorities and statutory provisions that are separate and
distinct from the consolidated workforce-development system; and
WHEREAS, provisions included in both bills are similar in
important respects and promise to improve the public vocational
rehabilitation program, particularly in regard to responsiveness
to consumers; and
WHEREAS, the changes expected in the Rehabilitation Act,
such as strengthened client-choice language, presumed eligibility
for disability insurance beneficiaries or SSI recipients, and new
requirements for procurement of accessible information technology
for employee and public use, fulfill important objectives of the
National Federation of the Blind: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in
convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1998, in the City of
Dallas, Texas, that this organization express strong support for
the present effort underway in Congress to enact a final bill on
the consolidation of workforce-development programs; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we commend the responsible leaders in both the House of Representatives and the Senate for the approach being taken in this legislation in regard to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and urge them to bring the entire bill forward for final passage within the next few weeks.
Blind Science Students Needed:
Brian Buhrow, who chairs the NFB Research and Development Committee, recently wrote to say that Arizona State University is conducting research to determine the feasibility of using rapid-prototyping techniques to provide instructional materials to blind students completing post-secondary courses in the sciences. Rapid prototyping is a technique for producing three-dimensional scale models of complex computer-rendered drawings. For example, it is traditionally used in manufacturing to allow parts designers to produce samples quickly and easily. These samples allow designers to experience their designs using tangible parts to understand better the way their designs translate into product.
Because rapid-prototyping techniques can be used to turn almost any computer-rendered three-dimensional image into an actual object, which one can touch and hold, it can also be used to create models of objects which are normally too small or large to touch. For example, it is possible to collect images of human blood cells through microscopes, generate computer-rendered images, and turn them into three-dimensional objects which are accurately scaled up to a size discernible by the human hand. It is also possible to go the other direction and scale large objectsa model of the Empire State Building, for exampledown to a few inches.
Dr. Anshuman Razdan of the Prism Project at Arizona State University came to our convention this year to learn about how we might be able to help him learn how useful rapid prototyping would be in instructing blind students in scientific course work. Specifically he is interested in helping produce three-dimensional models of various objects for blind students who are taking scientific courses during the 1998-99 academic year. Because this is an experimental project, Dr. Razdan is able to work with only a few students during this academic year. However, he is particularly interested in working with blind students who are pursuing courses in the biological, physical, and architectural sciences. Students analyzing laboratory data are also of interest here.
The plan is to have the students work directly with Dr. Razdan's office to gain access to visual models throughout the academic year. Students will be expected to provide feedback to the Prism Project about what worked and what didn't, and the Prism Project will work with the students to try to provide access to handouts, laboratory data, etc. The exact details of what will be provided and expected of students participating in the program will be worked out between each student and the folks at the Prism Project.
Blind students reading this and pursuing or about to pursue a course in which access to non-textual, visual data might be helpful should contact us to indicate an interest in participating in this program. To learn more about it or to express interest in participating, please contact Brian Buhrow at (831) 423-6743 or <email@example.com>.
Division Election Results:
A number of divisions conducted elections during the 1998 convention in Dallas. Here are the results of the elections about which we were notified:
The Science and Engineering Division: John Miller, President; Michael Gosse, Vice President; Brian Buhrow, Secretary; Robert Jaquiss, Treasurer; Angela Lee and Abraham Nemeth, Board Members.
The National Association of Blind Educators: Bonnie Peterson, President; Mary Willows, First Vice President; Allen Harris, Second Vice President; John Smith, Secretary; Pattie Harmon, Treasurer; and David Ticchi and Carolyn Braak, Board Members.
The National Association of Guide Dog Users: Suzanne Walen, President; Dana Ard, Vice President; Eugenia Firth, Secretary; and Priscilla Ferris, Treasurer.
The Diabetes Action Network: Ed Bryant, President; Janet Lee, First Vice President; Sandie Addy, Second Vice President;
Sally York, Secretary; Bruce Peters, Treasurer; and Eric Wood and Gisela Distel, Board Members.
The National Association of Secretaries and Transcribers:
Lisa Hall, President; Janet Triplett, First Vice President; Mary Donahue, Second Vice President; and Carol Clark, Secretary.
The Deaf-Blind Division: Joseph B. Naulty, President;
Maurice Mines, First Vice President; Burnell E. Brown, Second Vice President; Terry Criswell, Recording Secretary; Lisa Hall, Corresponding Secretary; Kimberly Johnson, Treasurer; and Dana Ard, Robert Jacquiss, and Robert Deaton, Board Members.
The National Organization of the Senior Blind: Christine Hall, President; Ray McGeorge, First Vice President; Kathy Randall, Second Vice President; Paul Dressell, Secretary; and Don Pruitt, Treasurer.
The Music Division: Linda Mentink, President; Mary Brunoli, First Vice President; Karen McDonald, Second Vice President; Mary Donahue, Secretary; and Ben Snow, Treasurer.
The Merchants Division: Donald J. Morris, President; Joseph VanLent, First Vice President; Kevan Worley, Second Vice President; Pam Schnurr, Secretary; Don Hudson, Treasurer; and Wayne Shevlin, Norm Bolton, Chris Hollingsworth, and Carl Jacobsen, Board Members.
The National Organization of Parents of Blind Children:
Barbara Cheadle, President; Carol Castellano, First Vice President; Marty Greiser, Second Vice President; Christine Faltz, Secretary; Julie Hunter, Treasurer; and Tammy Hollingsworth, Crystal McClain, Sally Miller, and Sandy Taboada, Board Members.
Computer Games for the Blind:
Near the close of the parents seminar, Richard Ring, director of the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind in Baltimore, told the audience that at least one company is now producing high-quality computer games using sound rather than complex graphics. Games available at a reasonable price include Monopoly, Ten Pin Bowling, Fox and Hounds, and Any Night Football.
To learn more about these games, contact PCS Computer Systems, 551 Compton Avenue, Perth Amboy, New Jersey 08861, phone (732) 826-1917.
The Sound of the National Federation of the Blind on the Internet:
The National Federation of the Blind is beginning to build a digital audio library of banquet speeches. We will begin with the 1998 banquet address in Dallas, Texas, by Dr. Maurer and work backward through the banquet addresses. Our goal is to have the most extensive digital audio library on the Web addressing issues of blindness. It will truly be "the blind speaking for themselves" on the World Wide Web.
We will be using the Real Audio technology from Progressive Networks, Inc., which works with most popular Web browsers available today. Since most of these browsers work with speech technology, these recordings will be accessible to blind users of the Web as well as friends, colleagues, and those just being introduced to blindness issues. The initial URL for the NFB audio archive will be: <http://www.blind.org/audio.html>. Expect availability of the 1998 banquet address about the end of September. Tell your friends, show it to your colleagues, and demonstrate it as often as possible. We want to be heard, and now we can be around the globeday or night, rain or shine.
During this year's convention a new division, the National Association of Blind Piano Technicians, was formed. The new officers are Don Mitchell, President; Richard Bennett, First Vice President; Ron Poorey, Second Vice President; Al Sanchez, Secretary; and Connie Ryan, Treasurer.
Music Tapes by Daniel Lamonds Available:
Those interested in purchasing recordings by the performer who was the hit of NFB Camp this year will be interested in the following information. Three tapes of Mr. Lamonds's original songs are currently available: "Cookies and Milk" (preschool through fourth grade); "Cookies and Milk Movement and Activity Bus" (ideal for elementary students); and "Out of a Dream" (country music). A tape of religious music will also soon be available. Mr. Lamonds's personal favorite is the movement and activity tape.
Ordered individually, each tape costs $10. Two tapes are $15, and three tapes (three copies of one tape or mixed in any combination) are $20. Add $3.50 handling to the cost of one or two tapes, $5 handling for three tapes. To order, make checks payable to Blind Ambition, Inc., and send to P.O. Box 692, Darlington, South Carolina 29540. For more information contact Mr. Lamonds at (843) 393-2004, office/Fax (843) 393-3426, e-mail <Dansing4u@aol.com>.
NFB Literature in Spanish Now Available on Cassette:
Two Distinguished Service Awards were presented this year to Federationists who have been working to translate and record NFB literature in Spanish. Here is the current list of Spanish language publications now available on cassette: If Blindness Comes, What Color Is the Sun?, The Freedom Bell, As the Twig Is Bent, Making Hay, "The Federation at Fifty," "The Day after Civil Rights," "Blindness: A Left-Handed Dissertation" and "a Definition of Blindness" (on the same tape), and "Blindness:
Handicap or Characteristic."
NFB Songs Old and New Available:
"NFB Songs, Old and New" is the title of the cassette tape which includes the technology lament played for convention delegates. Sligo Creek chapter members describe it as an effort to teach people some new and old songs about blindness and the National Federation of the Blind. It is a fund-raiser for the NFB of Maryland. The singers, known as the Cane Raisers, were Tom Bickford, Andrea Brandies, Deborah Brown, Terry Powers, Lloyd and Judy Rasmussen, and Gail Snider. Curtis Chong played keyboards, Tom Bickford played guitar, and Arthur Segal sang one solo.
The tapes cost $5, and checks should be made out to the NFB of Maryland. For more information or to place an order, contact Lloyd Rasmussen, 11909 Coronada Place, Kensington, Maryland 20895-2322, (303) 946-8345. Work e-mail: <Iras@loc.gov>, home e-mail: <Iras@sprynet.com>.
Dan Keller, who sang during the daily devotions at convention, has cassette tapes of his gospel music for sale. The tape contains ten original compositions of Scripture verse vocals with keyboard accompaniment. The tapes were professionally recorded and sell for $8. The supply he brought to convention sold out before everyone who wished to buy one had a chance to do so. A contribution from each sale will go to the NFB. For more information or to order, contact Dan Keller, 1802 N. Cedar, Nevada, Missouri 64772 (417) 667-6208.
I pledge to participate actively in the effort of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.
Posted September 24, 1998