The Braille Monitor

Vol. 42, No. 4                                                                      May, 1999
Barbara Pierce, Editor

 

Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by

THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND

MARC MAURER, PRESIDENT

 

National Office
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
NFB Net BBS: (612) 869-4599
Web Page 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 subscription cost. Donations should be made payable to National Federation of the Blind and sent to:

National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230

 

THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES

 

ISSN 0006-8829

Contents

Vol. 42, No. 4                                                                      May, 1999

 

The Monica Stugelmeyer Case, the United States Senator, and the
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
    by Marc Maurer

Exploring Atlanta
    by Alfred Falligan

Local Organizations of the Blind: How to Build and Strengthen Them

Open Letter to New Chapter Presidents
    by Barbara Pierce

Keeping Sight of the Vision: Leadership in the NFB
    by Bruce Gardner

Making the Vision Come True: An Open Letter to Arizona Federationists
    by Bruce Gardner

Public Relations: A Tool for Chapter-Building
    by David Milner

ATM Accessibility
    by Chris Kuell

Review: Privileged Hands: An Autobiography
   
by Brian Buhrow

Fredric K. Schroeder, a Man of Confidence
    by David Bolton

Sewing
    by Ramona Walhof

Recipes

Monitor Miniatures

Copyright (C) 1999 National Federation of the Blind



[PHOTO/CAPTION: Marc Maurer]

The Monica Stugelmeyer Case,The United States Senator, and
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

by Marc Maurer

Monica Stugelmeyer has been a member of the National Federation of the Blind for more than fifteen years. She has held a number of jobs and is presently employed in the mailroom at the Spokesman Review newspaper. She might not have known about her rights as a blind person, but she joined the National Federation of the Blind, and she has learned that she should be treated with fairness. When her employer denied her a promotion because she is blind, she came to the Federation to find out how to protect herself. A complaint has been filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The agency investigated and found good cause to believe that discrimination had occurred. But the Spokesman Review would not even consider the proposition that treating a blind employee differently from any other is a violation of the law.

Because the newspaper refused to discuss the matter, the case has been filed in federal court. I asked Scott LaBarre to represent Monica Stugelmeyer. Apparently our advocacy on her behalf made a real difference. Witherspoon, Kelley, Davenport, and Toole, the law firm representing the Spokesman Review, decided to try to avoid the judicial system and to bully the EEOC. It wrote a letter to Senator Slade Gorton complaining that the Federation had been behind the case, and it said that the EEOC had succumbed to undue pressure. However, the EEOC is not to be easily cowed. It responded to Senator Gorton with the facts and said it expected to win the case in federal court. The Spokesman Review asked Senator Gorton to peddle a little Washington influence, but the ploy backfired. Here is the relevant correspondence. First is the letter from the newspaper's law firm to Senator Gorton.

 

Spokane, Washington
January 18, 1999

Catherine O'Connell
Office of U.S. Senator Slade Gorton
Spokane, Washington

RE: Cowles Publishing/EEOC


Dear Ms. O'Connell:

This letter summarizes the situation I described to you on the phone last week involving Cowles Publishing and the suit brought against it by the EEOC for disability discrimination.

In April, 1996, the Spokesman-Review/Cowles Publishing hired Monica Stugelmeyer to work as a trucker/inserter in the company's mailroom. The mailroom packages advertising inserts in daily and weekend papers. Ms. Stugelmeyer is legally blind, but she did not notify Cowles of that fact when she was hired, nor did she ask for any accommodation to her vision impairment.

After several weeks and though she was barely adequate at performing some of her duties, Ms. Stugelmeyer was, as all mailroom employees were then, given the opportunity to work on the inserting equipment. There was an hourly pay differential of $1 per hour more for working on the inserter, which all the employees wanted. After several hours other employees came to the mailroom supervisor complaining that Ms. Stugelmeyer could not keep up with the other employees and that it was unsafe for other employees to be working with her because she could not see the equipment controls or mechanical parts well enough to act quickly if necessary. She was taken off the inserter and assigned to other tasks in the mailroom. She continued to work as many shifts as she had before working on the inserting equipment, and the company tried to find extra shifts for her to make up for the pay differential.

Ms. Stugelmeyer complained to management and to the Mailers' Union that in not working on the inserter she was being discriminated against because she is blind. The union declined to pursue a grievance filed by Ms. Stugelmeyer. The management, after consultation with the company's insurer, [the] Department of Labor and Industries, and the inserting equipment manufacturer about the unsafe nature of the equipment, reaffirmed the initial decision to remove Ms. Stugelmeyer from inserting duties. The union concurred.

Ms. Stugelmeyer enlisted the assistance of an attorney for the Washington Federation [of] the Blind, the state branch of the National Federation [of] the Blind. With the attorney's input, Ms. Stugelmeyer filed a complaint with the EEOC, which concluded, in large part, we believe based on the Federation for the Blind's pressure, that Cowles had discriminated against Ms. Stugelmeyer in not putting her on the inserting equipment, despite the input from a number of sources about safety concerns. The attorney for the Federation for the Blind refused Cowles' invitation to come and see the mailroom and the inserting equipment.

Cowles attempted to conciliate with the EEOC, offering to permit Ms. Stugelmeyer to train and be evaluated on new inserting equipment that was installed in late 1997. The new equipment has many safety features lacking on the old equipment, and management believed it was possible to give Ms. Stugelmeyer an opportunity to train on it without unduly threatening her or her fellow employees.

The EEOC initially agreed to such training but then, without discussing the matter with Cowles again, unilaterally decided, midway through the agreed-upon training period, that Ms. Stugelmeyer was completely qualified to work on the equipment and therefore entitled to a full-time job. The EEOC also demanded for Ms. Stugelmeyer back pay from 1996 and punitive damages for Cowles' allegedly "egregious" conduct in not permitting Ms. Stugelmeyer to insert. When Cowles objected to the EEOC's bad faith in reneging on the training and evaluation arrangement, the EEOC brought suit against the company. The National Federation for the Blind now seeks to represent Ms. Stugelmeyer and intervene on her behalf in the lawsuit, though the Federation has, thus far, refused to explain to Cowles why the EEOC is not adequately representing Ms. Stugelmeyer's interests. Despite the unwillingness of the EEOC to participate in a final determination as to Ms. Stugelmeyer's qualifications, Cowles has determined she is qualified to work part-time as an inserter, although she is not sufficiently skilled and proficient to work in one of fifteen full-time positions, all of which are currently filled. She is currently working one or two shifts per week as a part-time inserter. She is also assigned shifts as a trucker.

Far from having discriminated or acted in bad faith, Cowles has an exemplary reputation for efforts to employ a diverse workforce, including disabled people. Further, in 1991 the Spokesman Review/Spokane Chronicle was presented with the Goodwill Industries of the Inland Northwest Employer of the Year award for employment of people with disabilities. Aside from acting in bad faith in its negotiations with the company, the EEOC appears to have succumbed to political pressure from an advocacy organization that has an axe to grind with employers. This should not be the motivation for a government agency supported by the taxpayers and supposedly acting for the good of the public.

We appreciate your interest in this situation and your efforts to assist. Please do not hesitate to call if you have questions. I have included a more detailed summary of the facts in the case for further background.

Sincerely yours,
Duane M. Swinton
Witherspoon, Kelley, Davenport & Toole


There you have the letter written by the law firm to Senator Gorton. Mr. Gorton responded by making an inquiry to the EEOC. Here is his letter:

Washington, D.C.

January 28, 1999

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Congressional Liaison

Dear Congressional Liaison:

I am writing on behalf of the Spokesman Review/Cowles Publishing in Spokane, Washington. The Spokesman Review is the premier regional newspaper and has become involved with an EEOC suit for disability discrimination. The Spokesman and Cowles Publishing are concerned with this suit and feel that they have not discriminated against their employee. I am referring this inquiry to you for your consideration and response.

Please provide the necessary information in duplicate to the attention of Catherine O'Connell in my Spokane office.

In advance, thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely,
Slade Gorton, United States Senator


That was Senator Gorton's inquiry, and no federal agency would ignore such a missive. This is what the EEOC wrote in reply:

Seattle, Washington
February 17, 1999

The Honorable Slade Gorton
United States Senator
Spokane, Washington

Dear Senator Gorton:

This is in response to your January 28, 1999, inquiry on behalf of Cowles Publishing concerning a lawsuit we recently filed against the organization.

The lawsuit is the result of a charge of employment discrimination filed by Ms. Monica Stugelmeyer, a resident of Spokane, Washington, and an employee of Cowles Publishing's Spokesman Review newspaper, alleging discrimination based on disability. Ms. Stugelmeyer is legally blind; her vision is 20/200 and has been since birth. Her charge stems from the Spokesman Review's refusal to allow her to work in a higher-paying position with the company.

Ms. Stugelmeyer works for the Spokesman Review as a trucker/inserter. The positions of trucker and inserter are separate, but are performed by the same group of employees. Inserters load stacks of newspaper inserts, such as the advertisements, onto an inserting machine which separates the inserts and drops them into slots containing the newspapers. Truckers stack and sort completed packets of newspapers and prepare them for loading onto trucks. Inserters receive a $1.50 per hour higher wage than truckers. Truckers are assigned to rotate into the higher-paying inserter position. The company's job description states that the company will endeavor to allow truckers to have equal opportunities to perform the inserter job.

The company assigned Ms. Stugelmeyer to work on the inserter machine for the first time in May, 1996. She reported having no difficulty while working on the machine for approximately two hours. Without explanation the Spokesman Review never assigned Ms. Stugelmeyer to work as an inserter again. When Ms. Stugelmeyer approached her supervisor to express her interest in continuing to work as an inserter, she was told that her vision was too poor. This was the first time her vision had become an issue on the job. Ms. Stugelmeyer responded that she believed she was capable of performing the job, but the supervisor refused to reassign her to the inserter position again. The Spokesman Review claims that managers and co-workers were and are critical of Ms. Stugelmeyer's job performance; however, our investigation did not support such claims. No objective evidence of deficient job performance has been produced.

As you know, when Congress enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, it sought to eliminate the prejudice and other barriers which prevent qualified individuals with disabilities from fully participating in our society as they deserve. The law contemplates that a person with a disability will be evaluated on the basis of his or her individual capabilities, and not on the basis of society's biases or an employer's preconceptions.

Because Ms. Stugelmeyer believed she was capable of performing the higher-paying, inserter job duties, she sought help from her rehabilitation counselor and arrangements were made to consult the Washington State Department of Services for the Blind. The state agency offered the services of Mr. Bronson Goo, a machine shop instructor who has twenty-five years of experience in training blind and visually impaired people to operate complex machinery.

In August, 1996, arrangements were made for Mr. Goo to travel from Seattle to Spokane to visit Ms. Stugelmeyer's workstation, at no cost to the Spokesman Review. Mr. Goo wanted to view the inserting machine operation and observe Ms. Stugelmeyer at work to determine whether she was qualified to operate the machine, with or without reasonable accommodation. The Spokesman Review refused to allow Mr. Goo to observe Ms. Stugelmeyer at work on the machine, notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Goo had the necessary expertise to determine whether Ms. Stugelmeyer could effectively operate the inserter. Mr. Goo did, however, observe other employees operating the machine. Based on his observations and experience, Mr. Goo concluded that Ms. Stugelmeyer could be trained to work safely on the inserting machine. The Spokesman Review, however, refused to consider Mr. Goo's assessment. Instead, the company made the decision to deny Ms. Stugelmeyer the right to work as an inserter and refused to consider any objective information about how to accommodate Ms. Stugelmeyer in this position.

After we issued our decision that there is reasonable cause to believe that the Spokesman Review had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, we invited the company to engage in efforts to conciliate a resolution of the matter short of litigation. This process began in March, 1998. At no expense to the Spokesman Review, we again arranged for Mr. Goo to make a second trip from Seattle to Spokane. This time he was permitted to work with Ms. Stugelmeyer on the inserter machine. He subsequently reported that Ms. Stugelmeyer is capable of working as an inserter, and, indeed, she has continued to work in that capacity to this date.

Our reasonable settlement proposal to the Spokesman Review included a request for damages and injunctive relief, such as training for staff on relevant disability issues. Unfortunately, although requested, we have never received a specific counter-proposal from the company. We believe that, among other things, training is required to remedy the discrimination which has occurred. We are particularly troubled by the hostile attitudes displayed toward Ms. Stugelmeyer in this case. For example, counsel made the remark that Ms. Stugelmeyer "seems to be the only one" who does not believe she is disabled.

We regret the Spokesman Review's purported dissatisfaction with our handling of the charge to date. While the company may disagree with our assessment of the case and is free to present its own arguments during litigation, it is clear that our actions in processing Ms. Stugelmeyer's charge to date have been proper and consistent with the relevant evidence and our statutory mandate. It is not uncommon for the parties to a charge of employment discrimination to assert strong views that their versions of the facts support their respective positions. Still, notwithstanding their views and any pressure they seek to apply, our final determinations must comport with our own independent interpretations of the evidence and the laws we enforce. We firmly believe that the Spokesman Review has subjected Ms. Stugelmeyer to egregious, unlawful discrimination based on her disability, and we expect to prevail in the litigation we have initiated. We also know that Ms. Stugelmeyer is entitled to present her own case in court and to be represented by a pro bono attorney, to the extent she seeks further relief for which we cannot provide representation.

Thank you for your expression of interest in the case. We hope this information is helpful to you.

Sincerely,

Jeanette M. Leino, District Director
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission


That's what the EEOC wrote, and one could hardly ask for a clearer response to a Senate enquiry. The final piece of correspondence in this series is my letter to Senator Gorton. Here it is:

March 9, 1999

The Honorable Slade Gorton
United States Senator
Spokane, Washington

Dear Senator Gorton:

I have received an exchange of correspondence regarding the Monica Stugelmeyer case, consisting of a letter from Mr. Duane Swinton of the law firm Witherspoon, Kelley, Davenport and Toole addressed to your office; a transmittal letter from your office to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC); and a response from the EEOC to you (copies enclosed). Mr. Swinton offers the National Federation of the Blind quite a compliment. In his letter dated January 18, 1999, he says that the National Federation of the Blind has the power to determine what cases the EEOC will pursue. Although I serve as the President of the Federation, I was unaware that the organization was in a position to decide for the EEOC what it would do. Mr. Swinton apparently believes that the only way to defeat the Federation in its support of the claim brought by Monica Stugelmeyer is to seek intervention from a prominent member of the Senate.

I met Monica Stugelmeyer in the 1980's. She is not a radical, militant hell-raiser. She is a blind woman trying to get along in life. She joined the National Federation of the Blind so that she could share experiences with other blind people and learn what she could. She is part of the American workforce that helps to make this country what it is. All she asks is an equal opportunity to earn her daily bread. We in the National Federation of the Blind are trying to help her get it.

I do object to the characterization in Mr. Swinton's letter of the National Federation of the Blind. He says we have an axe to grind against employers. Apparently Mr. Swinton doesn't know of the decades of work we have done to find competent blind employees who are prepared to serve employers in every aspect of the business community. I could think of names for the carelessness demonstrated in Mr. Swinton's letter, but I will refrain from the name-calling he has used in his letter.

Senator Gorton, we in the National Federation of the Blind have great respect for you. Consequently, if you want further information about the activities of the Federation, we would be only too happy to supply it.

Sincerely,

Marc Maurer, President
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND


Exploring Atlanta

by Alfred Falligan

 

From the Editor: Al Falligan lives and works in Atlanta. He is working hard to make the best convention arrangements yet for our first ever visit to Atlanta. Here is what he has to say this month:

We trust that you are coming to Atlanta expecting a great time. We are anxious to get together with the family again and catch up on the news since we were in Dallas, Texas. Of course there will be new people to meet and opportunities to deepen existing friendships. This article provides additional information to make your stay even more enjoyable. But first here are a few reminders.

By the time you read this article we expect to have only a few tickets left for the Tuesday evening, July 6, Atlanta Braves/Florida Marlins baseball game. They are $12 each and can be ordered by sending checks for the number of tickets ordered to Al Falligan, P.O. Box 2124, Atlanta, Georgia 30301. Be sure to make checks or money orders payable to the NFB of Georgia, not to me.

Also, if you have not yet made your travel arrangements and room reservation for the convention, you should do it today. This year's gathering with its memorial events for Dr. Jernigan, its plans for the future, and its opportunities to get your hands on tomorrow's technology will be absolutely unforgettable. It won't be the same without you, and you will always regret your absence if you don't decide to join us. To make your travel arrangements and take advantage of our special airline rates, contact Sue Kable at Glyndon Square Travel, (800) 875-9685. Convention room rates this year are singles, $57; doubles and twins, $59; triples, $61; and quads, $63. The room tax is 14 percent, and nothing will be charged for children in the room with parents if no extra bed is requested.

For 1999 convention room reservations write directly to Atlanta Marriott Marquis, 265 Peachtree Center Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia 30303, or call (404) 521-0000. Do not use Marriott's national toll-free number. Reservations made through this national number will not be valid. They must be made directly with the hotel. The hotel will want a deposit of $60 or a credit card number. If you use a credit card, the deposit will be charged against your card immediately, just as would be the case with a $60 check. If a reservation is cancelled prior to June 4, 1999, $30 of the $60 deposit will be returned. Otherwise refunds will not be made.

The Marriott Marquis Hotel is at the northern end of an area of Atlanta filled with hotels, restaurants, and shops. The north boundary of the Marriott property lies along Baker Street. The south side is bounded by Harris Street; south of Harris and also running east and west is International Boulevard, then Ellis Street. East of the hotel is Courtland Street, running north and south. The Hilton, our overflow hotel, is straight across the street from the Courtland Street entrance of the Marriott. West of the Marriott and parallel to Courtland is Peachtree Center Avenue, not to be confused with Peachtree Street, which is one block further to the west. Resign yourself to finding that you're standing on Peachtree something-or-other just about any time you turn a corner in Atlanta. This Peachtree Street is the city's main thoroughfare.

The Peachtree Center Mall is located in the square block southwest of the Marriott. It is bounded by Harris, Peachtree Center Avenue, Ellis, and Peachtree Street. But it is not necessary to walk out into the steamy Georgia summer to reach this shopping Mecca. You can get there directly from the lower level of our hotel, and the Georgia affiliate is preparing directions for you in print and Braille for doing just that. Here are a few of the things you will find in the Peachtree Center Mall:

Food Court, Gallery Level, includes the following:

American Lunch, Atlanta Bread Company, Auntie Anne's, Big Easy Cajun, Blue Chip Cookies, Cafe du Jour, Chick-Fil-A, Coffee Station, Cosimo's Pizza, Dairy Queen, Dressed to Grill, Dunkin' Donuts, Gorin's Homemade Ice Cream, Gyro Wrap, J. Brenner Grill, Kameel's Cafe, KFC, Oriental Express, Roman Delight Pizza, Subway, TCBY, and Wall Street Deli. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, everyone will find something here that hits the spot.

But maybe you are in need of a little more substantial evening meal before you hurry back for an important meeting. The Mall has several restaurants you'll want to know about.

Azio Downtown, a popular upscale Italian bistro, (404) 222-0808, Peachtree Street Level.

Benihana, entertaining tableside presentations of Japanese cuisine, (404) 522-9627, Avenue Level.

Charlie & Barney's Bar and Grill, casual atmosphere featuring its famous chili, a fully stocked bar, and a dance floor, (404) 688-0928, Gallery Level.

For those necessary souvenirs and remembrances you will want to take home, try Touch of Georgia, offering a variety of Georgia food products, theme gifts, T-shirts, mugs, and potpourri, (404) 577-6681, Gallery Level.

Everyone who travels knows the occasional necessity of finding a drugstore, grocery store, hair salon, etc. Here are some shops you may want to find:

Continental Hair Design, a full-service men's and women's salon, also offering manicures and pedicures, (404) 577-6511, Gallery Level.

Executive Shoe Shine, complete leather care service for ladies' and men's shoes, briefcases and other accessories, Gallery Level.

The Flower Garden, a full-service flower shop with traditional and tropical blooms, plants, and balloons. (404) 522-5212, Avenue Level.

La Grande Convenience Store, assorted grocery items including beer, wine, fruit, snacks, and general merchandise, (404) 688-2254, Avenue Level.

The Pharmacy, a complete drugstore for prescription and personal needs, (404) 522-1492, Gallery Level.

Ticket Pros, memorabilia from and tickets to the hottest seats in town for sport, theater, and special events, (404) 614-1766, Gallery Level.

Wolf Camera and Video, one-stop shop for cameras, video equipment, accessories, and one-hour photo processing, (404) 614-1766, Gallery Level.

If you want to travel world-famous Peachtree Street and visit places like Planet Hollywood, the Sundial Restaurant (seventy-two stories up), the Hard Rock Cafe, Macy's department store, or McDonald's, you can leave the Marriott from the main entrance on Peachtree Center Avenue and turn right. Walk to the corner, which is Baker Street. Cross Peachtree Center Avenue. If you then cross Baker, you will find yourself facing a cluster of restaurants at the northwest corner of the intersection. If you travel one block west to Peachtree Street instead, you can turn left and walk south on Peachtree Street. There you will find McDonald's and the rest. Those exiting the hotel onto Courtland Street should turn right and walk to the corner. Turn right on Harris, walking west for two blocks, and take a right onto Peachtree Street. In that two-block stroll you will find Steak and Ale; Hoops, a soul food restaurant; Mick's; Sho's, an Oriental restaurant; and a number of other restaurants.

One of the truly memorable areas of Atlanta is Buckhead, about six miles north of the Marriott. Take a taxi or the MARTA rail system to this up-scale city within a city. Youthful recreation and sophisticated charm are to be found in this community, which is now 160 years old but looks practically new. You will find twenty-four-hour night life, all the major retail chains, exquisite dining, some of the largest churches in America, beautiful homes shaded by an extensive tree canopy, places to visit like the Atlanta History Center and the Governor's Mansion, and much more. Residents are a mixture of old-timers and new kids on the block from throughout the country and around the world.

Here's a quick Buckhead fact: There are more than 100 restaurants and nightlife spots within the two and a half blocks surrounding the intersection of Peachtree Road and West Paces Ferry Road. If you're looking for entertainment day or night, Buckhead is the place to be. At the northern end of Buckhead, on Wieuca Road, Chastain Memorial Park is a favorite Atlanta gathering spot. It's home to Chastain Park Amphitheater, where touring jazz, rock, and adult contemporary artists play during the summer.

Buckhead truly sparkles after dark, and the choices for entertainment are endless. Stroll through the Village, the intersection of West Paces Ferry and Peachtree Roads, and see what catches your fancy--there are lots of bars and clubs on the east side of Peachtree, and you can club-hop to your heart's content. On weekends the area resembles a giant block party as thousands of people crowd the sidewalks. You'll find food, drinks, darts, and of course pool at Buckhead Billiards at 200 Pharr Road. Try Fado Irish Pub for the ambience of an authentic Irish pub; visit John Harvard's Brew House at 3039 Peachtree Road to experience a mellow brewpub; or head to Havanan Club at 247 Buckhead Avenue for live Latin music in a cigar-bar atmosphere, with more than 100 brands of stogies available.

Tongue & Groove at 3055 Peachtree Road is a great place to celebrity-watch. Open Tuesday through Saturday, this nightspot resembles an upscale cocktail lounge and attracts a slightly older crowd. Just a short drive away is the plush Goldfinger at 3081 East Shadowlawn Avenue, where you can choose from twenty martinis--all named after James Bond movies.

Swing dancing is as much of a craze in Buckhead as it is across the nation. Romantic duos have several venues to choose from, including Swingers at 3449 Peachtree Road, which offers free dance lessons nightly at 10:00 p.m. Sambucca Mediterranean Cafe & Jazz Bar at 3102 Piedmont Road also plays swing on Monday nights.

A couple of long-standing establishments are perennial favorites among an older crowd. The elegant Otto's at 265 East Paces Ferry Road is a singles club featuring contemporary dance music, while the more casual Johnny's Hideaway at 3771 Roswell Road caters to a more mature audience, with dancing to mellow Big Band dance music and tunes from the past sixty years.

Buckhead is served by three MARTA transit rail stations: Lenox, Buckhead, and Lindbergh.

The Fourth of July is a memorable day of celebration in Atlanta, and this year the holiday falls on our convention's half day. The Peachtree Road Race begins early. First staged in 1970 with 110 runners, the ten-K race has grown to 50,000 participants. The event is popular, not only with the athletes it attracts from around the world, but with the more than 200,000 spectators that line Peachtree Street; call (404) 231-9064 for more information. That night at around 6:00 p.m., guests start arriving at the Lenox Square parking lot to enjoy a picnic and live music and to await one of the country's top fireworks shows at dusk. The twenty-minute choreographed display is set to top-forty and patriotic music and includes more than eleven tons of fireworks.

With all this and more to choose from, Buckhead is guaranteed to keep you entertained. Hurry on down!

Georgia, Georgia, no peace I find.

Just an old sweet song, keeps Georgia on my mind.


Local Organizations of the Blind:
How to Build and Strengthen Them

 

From the Editor: Federationists who can count silver threads among the gold may well remember the title of this article. In the early seventies it was the title of a publication written by Dr. Jernigan recommending ways to build strong, effective local chapters of the NFB.

Through the years Dr. Jernigan came to the conclusion that some of the ideas he had outlined and the situations he was responding to were no longer relevant to the current needs and challenges facing local chapters. But the requirement that the Federation build vital local chapters and state affiliates has never been more compelling than it is today. Our national organization is engaged fully in breaking new ground and dealing with problems and needs that are truly nationwide in their implications and scope. The advocacy, education, and problem-solving within the Federation are broader, more extensive, and more demanding than ever before in our history. These tasks, which were once managed largely by individuals in our National Office, have expanded to such a degree that they necessarily fall to state and local chapter representatives working together with advice from our National Office. This is a natural and healthy development of our efforts to train leaders at every level of the organization who are equipped to help blind people and represent the organized blind movement in all sorts of situations. At one time, only the very most experienced of us could be counted upon to do the job right. Dr. Jernigan traveled the country in the 1950's writing testimony and preparing Federationists to stand up and deliver it when necessary. Today state and local officers and members think nothing of stepping up to the witness table and providing testimony to legislative committees and state agencies.

This is all as it should be, but the need to develop healthy and vital local chapters is even more important than it was when no one expected them to do much more than get together every month to talk about the spirit of the Federation, to keep the hope of a better future alive, and to raise public awareness and needed funds for our organization. Recognizing the importance of this task, the Braille Monitor has published articles from time to time through the years that address the question of developing strong chapters and affiliates. But they have appeared hither, thither, and yon, and it is difficult to pull them together to assist new chapters, newly elected officers, and experienced but over-burdened leaders.

I thought it would be useful to bring several of these items together so that they are readily available. Consequently, we are reprinting in revised form four articles published in these pages during the past few years. The following group of articles is not definitive. A number of other good pieces have appeared from time to time, but these four seem to have been particularly helpful to those who have had them to turn to.

We urge you to hold on to this issue for later reference. If you let it slip away, try to remember May, 1999; that's the issue you want to order in future for members eager to build and strengthen local organizations of the blind. Enjoy the following articles, and when they inspire you to go in new and exciting directions, write down the accrued wisdom and send it along for the rest of us to profit from.


[PHOTO/CAPTION: Barbara Pierce]

Open Letter to New Chapter Presidents

by Barbara Pierce

 

 

From the Editor: This article was first published in 1990. It has been slightly revised.

Recently the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio had occasion to organize a new chapter. The young woman who was elected president had no past experience as a Federation officer, so I wrote her a long letter setting forth ideas, projects, and principles that we in the organized blind movement have found useful in building our local chapters. Lots of good ideas are not mentioned here, but perhaps it is useful for new chapter presidents, and for us all from time to time, to spend a few minutes thinking about the fundamentals of chapter-building. Here, in significant part, is the letter I wrote:

Dear New President:

Sometimes in a burst of democratic zeal new chapters and their officers make the error of believing that every decision made for the organization must be considered (too often exhaustively) by the entire membership. Remember that the chapter as a whole does not need to make all the decisions that clamor for attention in the early weeks of the chapter's existence. There are some organizational matters that you or the board should decide without bothering the general membership. These are things that individuals can and should express opinions about but on which chapter meeting time should not be wasted. I am thinking of transportation arrangements and meeting location, for example. Such discussions will always expand to fill the available time, and when you are finished, the decisions are likely to be less satisfactory and more divisive than they would have been if a smaller group had been responsible for making the arrangements.

Generally speaking the meeting location should be central, free or inexpensive, and accessible by public transportation. If you are paying more than a few dollars a month rent, you are pouring money down the drain--money that we could otherwise spend on Federation projects. I would discourage efforts to look for a place with kitchen facilities in order to serve elaborate refreshments. We do not gather in Federation meetings to eat and drink together, pleasant as that is. We have work to do, and every way that we can find to communicate this message to members should be taken.

Transportation problems must be worked out with an eye to the particular complications in a given situation. Obviously, getting someone who is already coming to the meeting to pick up people more or less on the way is the best solution. Service or church organizations may be able to find volunteers who would be willing to drive for you, or neighbors, family, or friends of one of the members in the area affected might do so. If necessary the people getting the ride could share the cost of the transportation, or the chapter could reimburse the driver for mileage, assuming there are funds available.

You should work these arrangements out as rapidly and efficiently as possible so that they do not drag on, consuming meeting time and energy. Chapter members will find it instructive to observe such problems being resolved quietly and efficiently. The important thing is to be seen to be taking the complications in stride. Too many blind people see such matters as constituting major problems in their lives instead of the logistical annoyances they should be. You can begin to teach them something about blindness as a nuisance by the way in which the Board handles these matters.

It is important to spend time at the beginning working with your officers and eventually your committee chairs on ways of making meetings run smoothly and interestingly. An inexperienced secretary may begin by writing minutes that are either too detailed or too brief. Minutes should record all decisions made by the organization and list all matters discussed. It is not advisable to expect the minutes to record what was said in the course of the discussion. The chapter needs a record of the substantive actions of the organization.

This record must be in print whether or not it is also maintained in Braille or on cassette tape. Auditors frequently wish to see minutes, and they mean print. For this reason also the treasurer must maintain records in print. Your written order to the treasurer to pay expenses must also be in print and must have the appropriate receipts attached to it for the treasurer's records. The secretary's and the treasurer's reports at each meeting should be relatively brief and as lively as they are capable of making them.

One ongoing responsibility, usually assumed by the chapter secretary, is notifying the National Office of the names, addresses, and phone numbers of new members whose names should be added to the Braille Monitor mailing list. It is critically important to mark such correspondence clearly as information for the Monitor list. Each name should also have the magazine format clearly marked. The choices are large print, Braille, e-mail, and cassette. Each member should have the Monitor available in a format which he or she will use. A sighted member should not necessarily be expected to read his or her spouse's recorded magazine just to save expense. On the other hand, a blind couple does not usually need two recorded editions.

Remember that the Braille edition is much more expensive than any of the others. People who will make good use of the Braille should not hesitate to request it, but we should all work to make our resources go as far as possible. So those who would be happy with the cassette edition, for example, should not order the Braille edition merely in an effort to demonstrate their love of the code. Individuals who are inclined to pay for their subscriptions should be encouraged to do so, but your aim should be to have every member of the chapter reading the entire magazine every month whether or not the family can afford the subscription cost.

Many chapters make a practice of presenting to each new member an NFB pin when he or she joins the Federation. Then when the roll is called at the beginning of each meeting, everyone who is not wearing a pin or other NFB insignia (jewelry, tie clasp, etc.) must pay a small fine. This kitty is then used for some special purpose for the whole group. Some chapters do a split-the-pot raffle at each meeting. People throw in their loose change or buy tickets for some nominal amount, and at the end of the meeting one name is pulled, and the proceeds in the pot are split between the chapter treasury and the winner. Sometimes members take turns in providing an object for an auction to be conducted during the meeting at a moment when a little lively activity would lift the spirits of the group. Again the proceeds go to the treasury or to some special project fund.

Before you arrive at the meeting, you should have planned your agenda. This of course should include old and new business so that other people can bring up things that they would like to discuss. You should run through the agenda at the beginning of the meeting so that people know what to expect. This may help them to refrain from time-consuming discussion early in a meeting that they can see will be packed with agenda items.

The first thing on your agenda (after the roll call, the reading of the minutes of the previous meeting, and the treasurer's report) should be playing the presidential release if you have one. As the chapter president your name has been placed on the presidential release list, so you should receive each one as it is mailed from the National Office. If you do not receive one within a month or so, call the National Office (410-659-9314) to inquire about whether or not your name is on the list. You should listen to the tape before the meeting so that, if there is information that you need to know more about, you can get a briefing from a state officer before people begin asking you questions you can't answer.

The release is very important because the chapter must feel itself to be an integral part of the whole tightly knit organization that reaches across the nation. Part of your job as president is to help every member of the Federation in your area understand that Dr. Maurer is a real friend. Everyone should recognize his voice and understand that the issues that affect the organization as a whole must be recognized as important in your city.

I must say a word here to you about finances. It is important that the chapter get started early raising money, but it is equally important that the habit be formed of passing the funds through the books so that it can do the most good. There is a strong temptation among us mortals to hang on to what we earn, but the Bible is right when it says, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." More than one chapter has contracted a terminal illness by acquiring a fat savings account. In my view a local chapter, if it is very active, can spend five to ten thousand dollars a year without trying very hard. But I mean that this much money can pass through its books. A chapter that has established this kind of record will be working hard at fund raising and supporting state and national programs liberally in addition to contributing to the Washington Seminar and the national and state convention efforts and assisting local members to attend these events. The chapter will also be conducting various programs in the community: distributing literature; educating the public, including providing Braille cards to each child in the classes addressed; organizing seminars of various types for chapter members and the community; etc.

You will notice that I emphasized that such funds should be passing through the books. Pools of money at the local or state levels are not likely to encourage health in the Federation. People are less likely to scramble to make money if the savings account is significant and there are certificates of deposit squirreled away in the bank. They will be inclined to see efforts to vote contributions to the state or national organizations as attempts to "get our money away from us." Though it is certainly true to say that our organization, like most others, is only as strong as its local chapters, it is equally true that a dollar spent at the national level will do tenfold the good that the same dollar can do at the state level and one hundredfold the good that it can do at the local level. Money must, of course, be spent at the chapter level, and there are many programs that cannot work except at the grassroots, but if we want to change the climate of public opinion and the quality of life for blind people everywhere, we must work nationally. If we ever hope to improve services to the state's blind, we must work at that level, and such efforts must be undertaken by entities beyond the local chapter.

There are a couple of very useful projects that local chapters can undertake that provide good outlets for chapter funds and assist the organization in the most efficient way possible. The first is to have the chapter enroll in the Pre-Authorized Check (PAC) Plan. This project must be undertaken very carefully because it must not dissuade individual members from becoming PAC members personally. The PAC Program allows an individual or organization to have a specified amount automatically deducted from a checking account each month. The chapter should provide this service for members who wish to contribute on PAC but who do not have checking accounts. Individual PAC members should not be discouraged from contributing to the chapter PAC collection if they wish to, but it should be made clear that their personal PAC commitment is their primary focus. The chapter can decide how much money to contribute monthly to PAC, and then those who wish to do so can contribute at the meeting to cover the PAC contribution each month.

Two other extremely useful programs that chapters can participate in are Shares Unlimited in NFB (SUN) and the Jernigan Fund. SUN shares ($10 each) constitute a long-term investment in the National Federation of the Blind. These contributions in any amount over $10 are invested with the understanding that only the interest will be used for current operations unless the organization faces a true emergency. The Kenneth Jernigan Fund was established at the 1998 annual convention and is dedicated to educational efforts like scholarships. Contributions to either of these funds should be made payable to the National Federation of the Blind and the name of the fund placed on the memo line of the check. You can receive further information about these funds or send contributions to National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230.

One of your first tasks as president will be to appoint committees. Some of these should be standing committees, and some should be ad hoc. An ad hoc committee might look into notifying the appropriate state offices of the chapter's existence and preparing and filing the appropriate forms and documents. They might also take responsibility for notifying the libraries, social service organizations, and telephone company of the chapter and its services to the community. You might consider devising a small flyer informing them of the existence of the group and of its ability to help blind people and their families.

Typical standing committees include Ways and Means, to do fund raising; Nominating, to recruit a slate of board and officer candidates when appropriate; Legislative, to work with the state organization on educating your local representatives in the Legislature and the Congress; Public Relations, to do local PR and to help with state and national projects; Associates, to encourage chapter members to recruit family, friends, and acquaintances as members at large who will become Associates of the NFB; and Membership, to build the organization by recruiting new members.

The chapter may need to establish standing committees to deal with local causes or organizations that involve the blind. For example, many chapters have a committee composed of those members who sit on the board of the local service-delivery agency. If you establish permanent fund-raising projects, you may wish to appoint standing committees to work with each of those rather than doing it all through the Ways and Means Committee.

I would not try to appoint all committees immediately. Like a juggler, you must get them launched one at a time and learn to keep the ones already appointed working well before starting another project. Your aim is to make everyone feel that he or she is playing an important part in the ongoing functioning of the chapter. Some will be more effective committee members than others. You must decide how to divide the chapter talent among the committees so that no group has too much weight to carry and too few people to carry it. Some people will be able to give good service on more than one committee; others will be happiest putting all their effort into one activity. You must balance the needs and the preferences as best you can. This task will get easier as you get to know the people with whom you are working. Try to establish the kind of relationship with your committee chairs that will enable them to turn to you with their problems for advice and encouragement. Your job as president is not to do everything but to enable others to get it done.

The question naturally arises of what kinds of projects would be best to begin right away. There are lots of things that cry out to be done everywhere. Again your job is to strike a balance for your chapter. Some projects at the beginning should be chosen because they are easy to do or because the starting point is obvious. Literature distribution is a good example. We have several pieces of literature that are ideal for distribution in local areas. You should have a rubber stamp made including the name of the organization, the chapter phone number, and an address so that these pieces of literature can be stamped (a good job for someone with some sight at a chapter meeting) and then distributed.

The pieces I am thinking of are "What is the National Federation of the Blind?" "Do You know a Blind Person?" and The Voice of the Diabetic. The first two are available from the National Center for the Blind, Materials Center. Sample copies of the third can be obtained from Ed Bryant, Editor, Voice of the Diabetic, 811 Cherry Street, Suite 309, Columbia, Missouri 65201-4892. Doctors' offices, libraries, and public places of any kind where literature is available are good places to leave stacks of these pieces. Your state affiliate may also have brochures about the affiliate or local NEWSLINE(R) service that are also useful to circulate.

Other projects that come to mind include the following:

* Notifying the blind students at local institutions of higher education about the Federation's scholarship program and perhaps conducting a seminar for them in the application-writing process. They will be inclined to come because it is to their financial advantage to do so, and you will have a chance to educate them about the Federation and what we can do for people. You will then have names of blind students for your own chapter and for the student division.

* Chapter education. Members can take it in turn to lead a group discussion of one piece of Federation literature like a banquet address or an article from a recent Braille Monitor. Everyone should know beforehand what is to be discussed at the next meeting, and, if necessary, copies should be made and distributed so that they have a chance to read or reread it. This is an excellent way of encouraging people to read our information with attention and of familiarizing members with the reservoir of useful NFB literature.

* Fund raising. It almost doesn't matter what you do here as long as you are doing something. You may have trouble persuading people to jump into this one. The chapter will need money immediately, but some of us instinctively feel that we are above such mundane things. Others are so conditioned as blind people to steer clear of anything that smacks of begging that they balk at pitching in to participate in projects that they would happily help with if it were for a church or community service club like the Lions. Try making the point that nothing is more important in helping blind people everywhere than the work of the National Federation of the Blind. We are experts in this field, and the fact that we are committed to helping blind people through the Federation is merely an indication of how justifiable our fund raising is.

It may be advisable to set a special goal for some of the funds raised, like sending chapter members to the National Convention next summer. The group as a whole had better discuss what they are most willing to do in fund raising. Some chapters would rather sell tickets themselves than staff a booth to sell a product. Some like raffles, and others would rather tackle a big project like a hike-a-thon. Some groups buy blocks of tickets for a community theater production and sell the tickets at a profit. But the principle must be established early on that money must come into the organization if it is to go out again, and you must do everything you can to teach each member to expect that the money will go out.

* Distributing our television and radio spot announcements to local stations. It is important for those folks to know who we are and what we stand for. Someone should go to visit the Public Affairs or Public Service Director to discuss the organization and to hand him or her the announcements and several small pieces of our literature. The person in charge of this project or the chair of the committee should maintain accurate records of each station's personnel, the spots they have taken, whether or when the spot announcements were aired, and what affirmative response the chapter has made to the station. A full discussion of this and many other important public relations responsibilities appears in the Federation's public relations handbook, The Media and the Message, available in print or Braille from our National Office for $6.

* Assisting chapter members with their personal problems. As people come to know and trust one another, they will volunteer their troubles. The newly blind have many issues to grapple with. Others will have problems with the state rehabilitation agency, Social Security, employers, schools, or over-protective family and friends. You may want to form a Human Rights Committee to work intensively with these people, or you may wish to use a general discussion of one person's dilemma (having previously checked with the individual to insure that he or she is happy to discuss it) to educate everyone about these issues and to bring the group together in a caring relationship with each other. This is tricky to achieve but valuable when it works.

* Establishing a Calling Committee. This is or can be different from the Membership Committee, which seeks to build the chapter by finding new members. The Calling Committee builds the chapter from within. Its members call everyone with a reminder about the coming meeting. The members keep tabs on who is ill, who is bereaved, who is just having a hard time for some other reason. Cards and calls can help at times like these. It is also nice to celebrate together graduations, births, marriages, and the other happy milestones in people's lives. We say we are a family because we really are one and because we care about one another. The Calling Committee makes sure that we don't let things slip between the cracks.

It is also a good idea from time to time to plan for presentations at chapter meetings. Talking with state or national legislators about matters of concern to the blind is a very good use of chapter time. Having a presentation by a teacher of visually impaired children and then talking about our concerns is also important. If members are unsure about the services of local agencies that purport to serve the blind, invite someone from the agency in to explain the programs and answer questions. Anytime a member has trouble with being denied service because he or she is blind, you have an excellent opportunity for a program devoted to that problem.

Arranging for exchange visits between the chapter and other Federation chapters is both fun and instructive. There are any number of program ideas floating around out there. But don't fall into the trap of thinking that you have to have a program item at every meeting. We have lots of internal business to conduct month in and month out, and if the chapter spends all its time dealing with outside issues, we will have trouble keeping the ongoing work moving along. The committees of a chapter are usually the hands and feet of the outfit. The chapter meeting is the time when everyone learns what people have been doing since the last meeting.

The board is charged with working out the details that will make everything move along smoothly, and the president has the day-to-day responsibility for seeing that glitches do not occur or are corrected as soon as possible and that people are working well together. You set the tone, listen with an open mind and a compassionate heart, and guide as wisely as you know how to. You should also make a point of keeping in touch with others in the state who can help and encourage you.

I am afraid that you may be feeling panic at the scope of what you have taken on. Spelled out, it takes a lot of paper, but much of this you probably already know. Much, too, you will have to initiate as you have time, energy, and bodies to do it. The most important part is always to take the next step. You can almost always see what that one step is, even if you don't know clearly what you should do after that.

We are all here to help each other. Our goal is the full integration of the blind into society on terms of equality. To do this we must support each other, the newly blind, the parents and families of blind children, and the public, which knows next to nothing about the capacity of blind people. If you stop to think about it, you know quite a lot about this whole subject. You will make a wonderful president. Everyone in the state and national leadership is here to help you. Good luck.

Cordially,

Barbara Pierce, President
National Federation of the Blind of Ohio


[PHOTO/CAPTION: Bruce Gardner]

Keeping Sight of the Vision:
Leadership in the NFB

by Bruce Gardner

 

From the Editor: In the July, 1996, issue of the Braille Monitor we published the following article by Bruce Gardner. In addition to being a very effective state president, Bruce is also now a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind. Here is the article, beginning with the editor's headnote:

From the Editor: Bruce Gardner was elected last September as President of the National Federation of the Blind of Arizona. He is Senior Attorney with the Arizona Public Service Company. Bruce and his wife have six children, and he is very active in his church. In short, Bruce Gardner is a busy man. During the weeks preceding his first affiliate Board of Directors meeting as President, Bruce did a good bit of thinking about and planning for the organization under his administration. The following article is a distillation of his thinking and the discussion that took place at the October, 1995, board meeting. It should be helpful to the members of every other Federation chapter and state affiliate. Here it is:

Dr. Kenneth Jernigan began his 1976 National Convention banquet address entitled, "Blindness--of Visions and Vultures," with the following story:

"Behold a king took forth his three sons to judge their fitness to govern the kingdom, and they stopped by a field, where a vulture sat in the branches of a dead tree. And the king said to the oldest son, 'Shoot--but first tell me what you see.'

"And the son replied: 'I see the earth and the grass and the sky...'

"And the king said, 'Stop! Enough!' And he said to the next son, 'Shoot--but first tell me what you see.'

"And the son replied, 'I see the ground and a dead tree with a vulture sitting in the branches...'

"And the king said, 'Stop! Enough!' And he said to the youngest son, 'Shoot--but first tell me what you see.'

"And the young man replied, his gaze never wavering, 'I see the place where the wings join the body.' And the shaft went straight--and the vulture fell."

Dr. Jernigan, referring to the National Federation of the Blind throughout his banquet address, said, "A vulture sits in the branches of a dead tree, and we see the place where the wings join the body." His message was clear: as members of the NFB we must keep sight of our vision of the future and not become distracted from our true purpose.

With this in mind, as the newly elected President of the NFB of Arizona, I decided that, in order to capitalize on the strength of past leadership in the state and help our affiliate reach new heights, it was important that we be united in our understanding of the purpose of the NFB and of basic leadership principles. Additionally it is important that we set goals and organize ourselves to reach those goals. Therefore our first Board meeting following our state convention was dedicated entirely to these topics. All members of the affiliate were encouraged to attend.

I have now been asked to share my notes of that meeting with other Federationists. With the addition of some further thoughts, here is what we discussed: (1) What Is the NFB and What Is Its Purpose? (2) Leadership in the NFB; (3) Goals and Objectives; and (4) Specific Committee Assignments.

What Is the NFB and What Is Its Purpose?

What is the National Federation of the Blind? In order to understand the NFB properly, we must recognize that it consists of two parts: an organization and a philosophy.

The organization is made up of blind people working with and for blind people. That is significant. However, without the philosophy the organization would not be much different from the ACB or, for that matter, the Lions Club or dozens of other organizations. Without the philosophy it would simply be another group of volunteers who have come together for the common purpose of doing good. Fortunately, the NFB is not just another blind organization--it has a philosophy.

What is the philosophy?

* That blind people are normal people--simply a cross section of society--who just happen to be blind.

* Given real opportunity and effective training, the average blind person can do the average job in the average place of business as well as his sighted neighbor and can participate fully in the affairs of family, community, and nation.

* The real problem of blindness is not the lack of eyesight (because there are alternative ways to do what you would have done with eyesight if you had it), but the public's (and often the blind person's) attitude about blindness.

* With real opportunity and effective training, blindness can be reduced to the level of a nuisance.

In other words, NFB philosophy is nothing more or less than the truth about blindness. It is not speculation, wishful thinking, or fantasy. Tens of thousands of NFB members over the last fifty-nine years have proven the truth of this philosophy. Unfortunately, the truth is not widely known, and misconceptions about blindness abound. However, the truth is no less true for its relative obscurity, but rather more valuable.

What is the purpose of the NFB? The overall purpose of the NFB is to help blind people to be successful and to enable them to live and manage their lives normally, independently, and freely. According to Dr. Jernigan, a blind person needs three specific things in order to be truly independent, self-sufficient, and successful:

* He must know the truth about blindness--that is, he must come emotionally as well as intellectually to believe that he can be truly independent and live a productive, normal life. It is much easier to learn the truth intellectually than it is emotionally, but the emotional belief is key.

* He must acquire competence in the alternative skills which enable a blind individual to be truly independent. These are skills such as Braille, independent travel, and personal management.

* He must develop a complete understanding of public attitudes about blindness and why those negative attitudes are what they are. And he must get to the point where society's attitudes (and the things which will happen because of those negative attitudes) do not bother or upset him so that emotions do not get in the way of success. You can't do what you need to do when you lose your temper.

How can the NFB fulfill its purpose of helping as many blind people as possible to become successful? Once we understand the NFB's overall structure, philosophy, and purpose and once we understand the three ingredients which it takes for a blind individual to be truly successful, we can more easily envision how the NFB can fulfill its purpose. I believe it can do this by focusing its efforts in the three areas that constitute our three-fold mission. They are sharing our philosophy (the truth) about blindness, strengthening our members, and advocating for the blind.

* Sharing the philosophy: Although we of the NFB know the truth about blindness, we gain nothing by keeping it secret; it must be shared. Our first responsibility is to share it with blind people who do not know the truth about blindness or about the NFB. As we have already discussed, a critical need of any blind person is to come to believe the truth emotionally. Since we know it, we have a moral obligation to pass it on to others.

Second, we must share the truth with the general public. We of the NFB are seeking the complete integration of the blind into society, and in order for us to accomplish this objective, the general public must become aware of the normality and capabilities of the blind so that they can accept blind people and make a place for us once we have been trained and have emotionally accepted our own blindness.

* Strengthening our members: The members of the NFB are at different stages of development--society is continually eroding our understanding of and commitment to the truth about blindness. Therefore it would be as foolish to assume that a member of the NFB needs no additional philosophical help and support as it would be for a good Christian to assume that, because he read the Bible fifteen or twenty years ago, he does not need to read and study it any more. We should be constantly working to develop a deeper intellectual and emotional understanding of the truth about our blindness. Therefore we must constantly strengthen our own members.

* Advocating for the blind: Our third broad mission is advocacy. We must advocate for the protection of civil rights, for quality educational programs for our blind children, and for quality rehabilitation services for blind adults. This involves state and national legislation, grievances, hearings, and demonstrations.

Everything we do in the NFB should fulfill one or more of these major objectives or be a supporting activity (such as fund raising) which leads to successful implementation of these three major objectives. Overemphasis on one of these objectives will result in insufficient emphasis on another. The NFB strives for a balanced approach to fulfill its three-fold mission.

Leadership in the NFB

In the management of any business or governmental or private organization there are four basic styles of leadership, which are helpful to understand. First, there is the command style. In this the administrator makes the decisions and tells others what will be done and who will do it. Second is the input or counsel style. Here, after receiving input from others, the leader makes the decisions and announces them to others. Third is the democratic style. Here, the leader allows a majority vote to rule. And fourth is the consensus style. In this one the leader continues the discussion until all agree upon a plan--possibly a plan which was no individual's first or second choice, but something everyone can live with.

In an organization such as the NFB, each of these four styles is appropriate at different times, depending upon the circumstances and issues involved. It is generally understood that the consensus and democratic styles are effective in building unity, team spirit, and membership support. However, the more critical, far-reaching, or visionary the decision must be, the less effective the consensus or even the democratic style is likely to be. The role of a true leader is to have a vision of where the organization needs to go and the ability to employ a combination of the various leadership styles to make the vision a reality.

Three old adages can be instructive in illustrating the need for a mentoring approach to leadership in the NFB. (1) "A lazy mother does everything for her children." (2) "If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime." And (3) "He who can do the work of ten men is great. But he who can get ten men to work is greater."

In the NFB leaders must be mentors. We must be willing to set the example and say, "Come, follow me," but we must also make sure that we strive to enrich and empower others to learn to do for themselves and to do their share of the organizational work. It is inappropriate for the elected leaders to think that it is their responsibility to do all of the work. Also it is important for us to tap all of the resources which we have available in the organization, and we must help all of our members develop their talents and potential (even when they think they don't have any) by giving each of them the opportunity to serve in some capacity in the organization. NFB leaders must delegate, spread the work, mentor, and follow up because members need to experience and live the philosophy, not just hear it.

Goals and Objectives

When a chapter or state affiliate is setting its goals and objectives for the coming year, conducting a brain-storming session with members can be very helpful. It is important to keep in mind the mentoring approach to leadership and the four leadership styles and to remember that our ultimate objective is to assist blind people. We should also keep in mind the three-fold mission of the NFB as we make our plans.

The major 1996 goals and objectives for the NFB of Arizona are 1) establishing NEWSLINE(R); 2) getting a large Arizona attendance at the 1996 National Convention in Anaheim; 3) putting on a major fiftieth-anniversary state convention in September; and 4) strengthening our own members and the NFB of Arizona so that we can help more blind people be successful and also have more legislative clout.

Specific Committee Assignments

Once we understand the organization, its philosophy, the three things which every blind person needs in order to be successful, and the three-fold mission of the NFB, our work and the committees needed to do the work can be clearly envisioned. Most of the committees fall directly under the three main purposes, and several others support the basic mission.

(Note: It would not be wise or even possible to have each committee reporting directly to the State President. Accordingly, for efficiency of operation many of the following committees will report directly to other Executive Officers.)

Committees Charged with Spreading the Philosophy

Public Relations Committee: one major effort must be to reach the public effectively through the media. This includes airing radio and television spot announcements about the NFB, broadcasting our films on television, and placing articles and stories about the Federation in the print media.

Public Speaking Committee: Members of this committee give speeches at schools, civic organizations, employment or church groups, and teachers' or parent groups. This committee should prepare white papers to help rank-and-file members make effective presentations. The committee also conducts training sessions in successful public speaking.

Dissemination of Publications Committee: This committee sees that our literature--"Do You Know A Blind Person?" "What Is the National Federation of the Blind," If Blindness Comes, etc.--gets into the hands of the public. We can also create our own local and state informational materials. All these materials should be placed in doctors' offices, libraries, bank lobbies, utility-company mailings, etc.

Information and Referral Committee: This committee will handle the NFB of Arizona's telephone message machines, return calls, make appropriate referrals, and identify potential new members.

(Note: The major purpose of these first four committees is to educate the public and to find blind people who need our help or who wish to join with us in our work.)

New Member Mentoring Committee: Once we have identified new blind people, we must have a way of retaining information about them so that they do not inadvertently slip away, and we must have a mechanism to communicate the truth about blindness to them. Whenever possible, the one-on-one approach is best. Give them copies of banquet addresses. Talk about their experience with blindness. Invite them to dinner. This committee should prepare new-member packets and assign an experienced mentor to each new contact.

NEWSLINE(R) Committee: This committee's task is to obtain the financial and public support necessary to make NEWSLINE(R) a reality in Arizona. Although NEWSLINE(R) will greatly benefit our own members, it is mentioned here under Spreading the Philosophy because establishing NEWSLINE(R) will require extensive outreach into the community.

Committees Charged with Strengthening Our Members

Philosophy Committee: This committee has two primary functions. First, it will conduct a statewide philosophy seminar at least once each year. Second, it will work steadily with local chapters to develop ways to get members to read and study NFB literature--banquet speeches, Federation periodicals, Kernel Books, Walking Alone and Marching Together, etc. One possible approach is to establish a contest with points and prizes for those who read NFB literature. Each chapter meeting should contain philosophical meat--substantive discussion about what distinguishes us from other organizations.

Telephone Committee: The state affiliate must help chapters and members stay well informed about NFB issues and develop a strong network of close relationships. This committee must get the word out quickly. Each chapter is encouraged to develop a similar plan so that information flows quickly and accurately throughout the organization.

New-Chapter-Organizing Committee: As we learn of new areas where organizing can be done or as existing chapters get so large that they should be split up into smaller geographic areas, this committee will be available to spearhead the work.

National Convention Arrangements Committee: One of the most important things we can do to strengthen our members is to get them to National Conventions. This committee has two main functions: to work out the logistics of getting members to the National Convention and to work with the Philosophy and other committees to help motivate and inspire members to want to go.

Convention-Planning Committee: This committee has one function each year: responsibility for organizing the state convention--finding the site; choosing the dates; and negotiating the rates for rooms, meals, equipment, etc. During anniversary years the committee should also plan special activities and programs.

Braille Literacy Training for Adults Committee: This committee will participate in the Braille Literacy Training Project established by our national organization. The project matches Braille-using mentors with adults wishing to learn Braille and assists the mentors in their teaching.

Awards Committee: This committee identifies candidates for the affiliate's special merit awards, makes selections, arranges for plaques, etc.

Scholarship Committee: This committee circulates state scholarship applications, reviews candidates, makes selections, and arranges for the winners to attend and participate in the state convention.

(Note: A vital part of strengthening our membership is to encourage each chapter to hold discussions of NFB philosophy at each chapter meeting. Also each chapter should appoint a librarian to circulate NFB literature like the Kernel Books among members so they will have constant access to good training materials.)

Committees Charged with Advocating for the Blind

National Legislation Committee: This committee works with the National Office on needed action, contacts chapters or individuals to notify them of needed action, and participates in the annual Washington Seminar.

State Legislation Committee: This committee works on all facets of state legislation and plans and coordinates annual legislative events.

Grievance Advocate: The advocate handles complaints, grievances, and hearings involving problems blind people are having with either state or federal agency programs.

Governor's Council on Blindness: The NFB of Arizona holds three positions on the Arizona Governor's Council on Blindness and Visual Impairment. These three individuals represent the NFB of Arizona at Council meetings, advocate for NFB of Arizona positions, and remain vigilant to make certain that the Council does not take positions or actions harmful to the blind community.

Supporting Activities

Materials Inventory Coordinators: Just as modern business practice requires just-in-time inventory, we need to have the materials available from our National Office closer to home. Our state coordinators should have commonly requested and needed items on hand so that local members and committees don't have to keep their own stock pile of materials or contact Baltimore each time something is needed. The coordinators might also keep a few canes, cane tips, and other aids and appliances on hand.

Fund-Raising Committee: This committee will deal with two broad areas--preparing grant applications and traditional fund-raising projects such as walk-a-thons, yard sales, or other new projects through which our own members can help to raise funds for the organization.

Newsletter: This committee is responsible for writing and editing the state newsletter, gathering information from chapters and divisions, and producing and distributing the final product.

Computer Committee: This committee keeps track of membership and other computer lists, prepares mailing labels, and carries out similar organizational duties.

PAC, Associates, and SUN Committee: The chairman of this committee is responsible not only for reporting on the affiliate's rank in these National fund-raising programs, but also for devising ways of encouraging broader participation from all members of the affiliate.

(Note: Local chapters and divisions will need to appoint representatives to work with the state committee chairmen for many of the committees listed.)

Do we expect to staff all of these committees immediately and have them functioning efficiently? No. We do not intend to run faster than we are able or to take on so many things at once that we cannot do anything well. We know implementing this plan will take time, but we have a vision of how the NFB can and will operate in Arizona. "A vulture sits in the branches of a dead tree, and we see the place where the wings join the body."


Making the Vision Come True:
An Open Letter to Arizona Federationists

by Bruce Gardner

 

From the Editor: The following article has never before appeared in the Braille Monitor. It was first printed in the Spring, 1997, issue of News and Views of Blind Arizonans, a publication of the NFB of Arizona.

This open letter to Arizona Federationists is a follow-up to the article entitled "Keeping Sight of the Vision--Leadership in the NFB." I strongly encourage the NFB members in our Arizona affiliate to study that article and this open letter carefully.

At our state convention in September, 1995, you elected me president of the NFB of Arizona. My acceptance remarks reflected on the fact that NFB philosophy (the truth about blindness), like good music, can motivate, inspire, and heal the soul and that the NFB is like an orchestra which produces that music. Each member of the orchestra has unique talents to share and a special part to play. The sounds produced by the violins, cellos, clarinets, and tubas are blended together to produce beautiful, inspiring symphonies. The orchestra conductor does not produce the music but leads, organizes, draws together, and elicits the music from the group.

Likewise, each member of the NFB has unique talents and a special role to play in the organization. The NFB state president, like the orchestra conductor, can do very little by himself. His role is to lead, organize, encourage, and draw out of the members the inspiring, motivating, healing truth of the Federation. Therefore the success of our affiliate will come as a result of our working closely together.

On October 28, 1995, we held a special board meeting which all Federation members were encouraged to attend. At that meeting we established a vision for our future in Arizona and identified a threefold mission of the Federation. As we discussed it that day, it is: 1) strengthening our members; 2) sharing NFB philosophy (or the truth about blindness); and 3) advocating for the blind.

Additionally we discussed leadership principles such as: a lazy mother does everything for her children; if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, but if you teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime; and he who can do the work of ten men is great, but he who can get ten men to work together is greater. In other words we discussed the fact that NFB leaders need to be mentors, teachers, and role models, not just workaholics and service providers.

With these leadership principles in mind, we next identified and organized committees within the threefold mission of the Federation. In the area of strengthening our members, we established committees in philosophy, telephoning, new-chapter organizing, national convention arrangements, state convention arrangements, awards, scholarships, and Braille-literacy training for adults.

Within sharing NFB philosophy, we established committees in public relations, public speaking, dissemination of information, information and referral, new-member mentoring, and NEWSLINE(R) for the Blind.

In advocating for the blind, we established committees or positions in national legislation, state legislation, grievance advocacy, and the Governor's Council on Blindness.

Additional supporting committees and activities are material inventory coordinators, fund raising (PAC, associates, and SUN), computer data, newsletter, and Braille production.

Did we then or do we now expect each of these more than two dozen committees immediately to be fully staffed and functioning efficiently? No. We do not intend to run faster than we are able or to do so many things at once that we do not do anything well. But we have a vision of how the NFB can and will be in Arizona, and we intend to make it come true. The affiliate working together has made numerous and substantial strides towards that vision during the past year.

Did we randomly select which activities to work on first? Of course not. There is a critical priority in which the committees must be established in order to get the whole effort working. If the proper priority is not followed, we will get the cart before the horse, and little if any progress will be made. In fact it will be impossible for some of the committees to be effective unless other activities have first been accomplished.

Although he used different terminology, in his 1985 national convention banquet address Dr. Jernigan spoke of the threefold mission of the NFB and outlined the proper priority. We must begin with strengthening our members, which of course means that we first strengthen ourselves. Next we must share the truth about blindness with the public, including other blind persons. Then, and only then, can we be effective in advocating for the blind.

We have a natural tendency to focus on advocacy, but as an organization we will never be truly effective advocates if we do not first focus significant efforts on strengthening our members and sharing NFB philosophy. Then we must make sure we continue working on these two priorities as we go about our advocacy. We need an ever-expanding army of well-informed and well-prepared members who know the truth about blindness to serve as excellent mentors, teachers, and role models as well as advocates.

In order to build that army, our state board decided at its November, 1996, annual planning meeting that for the coming year (and probably longer) there are two committees on which we will focus our efforts. The first is the Philosophy Committee, which is the basic committee in the area of strengthening our members. The second is the New-member Mentor Committee, which is the fundamental committee in the area of sharing NFB philosophy. Following is a synopsis of what we have done during the past year and what we have planned for the coming year in these two areas.

Philosophy Committee--Strengthening Our Members

Background: When I first joined the NFB twenty years ago, I read all the material I could get my hands on. I was like a starving man at a banquet--I could not get enough. I drank up all the refreshing, invigorating truths in each article and speech. However, with the increasing pressures of practicing law, raising a family, and participating in church and community activities, I gradually found myself too busy to do all that NFB reading.

Fortunately, about two years ago, when I agreed to serve as state president, I again began reading each issue of the Braille Monitor and re-reading all the banquet speeches. I even started reading the Kernel Books. That old and wonderful feeling of satisfying a powerful hunger and quenching a deep and substantial thirst returned. I simply could not get enough. I discovered that the banquet speeches, Kernel Books, and other NFB material were similar to the Scriptures in that, no matter how many times you read them, you can learn something new and be strengthened by reading them again. I realized that, if I was too busy to read NFB material, I was simply too busy and needed to re-evaluate my priorities. I came to realize that reading some NFB literature--some truth about blindness--each day (or at least each week) to counteract the constant barrage of negative, inaccurate, and demeaning misconceptions about blindness we face is one of the most important things I can do for my family and for me.

What We Did Last Year: At our October, 1995, board meeting in which we established our vision of the future, we of course discussed NFB philosophy. I was amazed and somewhat disappointed at the difficulty our members had when they tried to articulate our philosophy. Mr. Omvig commented that readers of the Braille Monitor, banquet speeches, and Kernel Books should be able to repeat three or four sentences which summarize and encapsulate the truth about blindness. It was clear that many of our members, including long-time members, had fallen into the same trap I had and were not regularly reading NFB material.

As a result, in the area of strengthening our members, the Philosophy Committee conducted a special statewide philosophy seminar in March of 1996. We have also encouraged each chapter at every monthly meeting to discuss NFB philosophy. The chapters have begun listening to an excerpt from a banquet speech or a Kernel Book story and then discussing the truth about blindness contained in the excerpt.

Additionally the Philosophy Committee established an NFB literature-reading contest to encourage our members to read banquet speeches, Kernel Books, the Braille Monitor, Voice of the Diabetic, and Future Reflections. The first contest began on May 15 and ended September 14. Dozens of members participated in reading approximately 1,000 speeches, Kernel Books, and monthly magazines during those four months. The contest prize winners were announced at the state convention, but the real winners were those members who enriched their lives by reading, pondering, and absorbing the truth about blindness.

In an effort to facilitate this increase in reading, the chapters established librarians with multiple copies of NFB materials for circulation among the members.

Plans for the Coming Year: In the coming year we will focus on encouraging our members to read, study, understand, and internalize the truths about blindness contained in our NFB literature by:

(1) Seeing that each member in the affiliate has access to NFB literature, including the Braille Monitor, banquet speeches, the Kernel Books, and Walking Alone and Marching Together. It would be helpful for each chapter to have a complete set of NFB materials available for referral, study, and the education of new members.

(2) Encouraging our members to participate in this year's NFB literature-reading contest. This year our contest will involve reading all of the Kernel Books and Walking Alone and Marching Together. Each member is encouraged to read, ponder, and absorb the truth contained in our literature.

(3) Continuing increased chapter focus on meaningful philosophy discussions at every chapter meeting. Our chapters will continue to insure that each meeting contains meaningful and inspiring philosophical meat to strengthen our members.

(4) Continuing to conduct statewide philosophy seminars. These seminars are designed to compare the myths and misconceptions about blindness with the truth about it and help our members come to understand what this truth can mean in their lives.

(5) Getting as many people as we can to our national and state conventions. The NFB national convention has been described as a family reunion and has been compared to a gathering of the Scottish clans. It has just as aptly been described as an intense week-long training seminar of unequaled significance and importance to the blind. Our state convention is the same thing in miniature. I know of nothing more beneficial or important to the blind or to parents of blind children than attending the state and national conventions of the National Federation of the Blind.

(6) Encouraging our members to write their own Kernel Book stories. As we discussed at our 1996 state convention in the segment entitled "Kernel Books: Kernels of Truth," the Kernel Books, which contain true-life stories of blind people, are a vital part of the NFB literature. They should be read and re-read again and again. Our NFB reading contests have been established as a fun way to encourage individuals to discover the Kernel Books so that they can benefit from them.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. Please don't horse around--drink in the refreshing, invigorating, inspiring truths contained in the Kernel Books. The simple, sincere, common-sense stories can warm your heart and help heal your soul.

It has also been said that he who gathers firewood is twice warmed. That is true whether the wood and warmth are physical or spiritual. I hope you will read, enjoy, and absorb the warmth in each of the Kernel Books. But more than that, I hope you will be twice warmed. I hope you will gather spiritual firewood by writing your own Kernel Book stories.

As you read the Kernel Books and banquet speeches, or at any old time, think about your own life. Are you reminded of a time something of particular significance happened to you? If so, jot it down. Make a list of little happenings or ideas. Then go back and add some of the facts to one of the ideas, and before long you will have written your own Kernel Book story. If it is never shared with anyone else, at least you will have been twice warmed by it. And from my experience the warmth and growth that come from pondering, organizing, and writing a personal story are greatly magnified and extremely therapeutic.

But like a cowboy's campfire the light, truth, and warmth of your story can also bless the lives of other weary travelers. To paraphrase the Bible, let your light so shine that others may see your good works and be warmed thereby.

Don't worry that you are not a polished writer, and don't tell yourself that no one would be interested in what you have to say. Begin writing your stories. We want you to experience the growth that comes from pondering, organizing, and writing your own memoirs. Additionally we want the editor of News and Views of Blind Arizonans to be flooded with articles. If they are never published, at least you were twice warmed. But it may be that your article will be published in our newsletter, the Braille Monitor, or even a future Kernel Book. If so, you will have warmed, inspired, and blessed the lives of others as they read and absorb warmth and strength from your kernels of truth. (Note that the East Valley Chapter has decided that it will gather Kernel Book stories from its chapter members and compile them in its own publication.)

New-member Mentor Committee--Sharing NFB Philosophy

Under sharing NFB philosophy (or the truth about blindness), the most important committee is the New-member Mentor Committee. The other committees and activities under sharing NFB philosophy, such as public relations, public speaking, dissemination of information, NEWSLINE(R), etc., mostly reach out to find new contacts; but once they are found, it is the New-member Mentor Committee that primarily must keep track of the new contacts and share with them the truth about blindness. Therefore it is the New-member Mentor Committee that will:

1) Assign an active NFB member as mentor to each new contact it receives from all sources.

2) Send out the initial packet of NFB literature to the new contacts.

3) Keep track of new contacts and how well mentors are following up by contacting mentors and entering status reports into a computer database.

4) Work with the mentors to teach them how to mentor new contacts.

In this way new contacts will be given more frequent, timely, and personalized information regarding the truth about blindness.

Of course, the New-member Mentor Committee cannot function without an army of well-informed and well-prepared members who know the truth about blindness to serve as excellent teachers, role models, and mentors. Therefore, our motto should be "every member a mentor." We should all prepare ourselves to be effective mentors by reading, pondering, internalizing, and living the truth regarding blindness contained in our NFB literature. As it says in the Bible, "When thou art converted, strengthen the brethren." In order to be most effective as role models, mentors, and advocates, we must be, as Dr. Jernigan explained in his 1993 article entitled "The Nature of Independence," beyond rebellious independence and well on the way to normal independence.

In an orchestra not all of the members are the principal violinist, the first-chair clarinet player, or the conductor. However, each member is a musician and has a special part to play in the orchestra. Likewise in the Federation not all of our members are the chapter presidents, board members, or state president; yet each member can and should be a mentor with a special role to play in the organization. As an affiliate we have established our vision for the future. Working together, we will make it come true.

 


[PHOTO/CAPTION: David Milner]

Public Relations:
A Tool for Chapter-Building

by David Milner

From the Editor: This article originally appeared in the June, 1991 issue of the Braille Monitor. It has been slightly revised for accuracy.

From the Associate Editor: David Milner is an energetic member of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas. He recently had occasion to talk with several Federationists about the importance of public relations. They asked him to put his ideas on paper so that they could refer to them again. Here is the letter he wrote; its advice is useful for us all:

Austin, Texas
January 12, 1991

Dear Friends:

You have told me that you want to increase your chapter membership and that you could use some ideas on public relations. Three things are necessary for the successful waging of a public relations campaign. They are dedicated people, time, and money. You should begin by finding people to work with you who are dedicated to the principles of our movement. Time is sometimes even more precious than money. And like money, the more time you are willing to put into your PR project, the more benefit your chapter will receive from it.

Now all you need is funding. It does not require a large investment of money to run a successful public relations campaign. However, if you limit your PR budget, you will limit the number of techniques at your disposal. Public relations, as a means of attracting new members, raising funds, or simply informing the public about the organized blind movement, is well worth any reasonable expenditure, and you should have little difficulty justifying chapter support.

Once you have your funding, all of your basics will be in place. Begin by assembling press kits. These can be given to radio and television station news directors, station managers, newspapers, etc. In fact they should be given to all contact people with whom you plan to deal regularly. A reasonably good kit can be assembled by including a selection of the following material in a plain file folder or an NFB document folder, available for $1 from the Materials Center at the National Center for the Blind: (a) a chapter business card if you have one (the NFB folder has slits on one pocket designed to hold a card); (b) our pamphlet, "What Is the National Federation of the Blind"; (c) "Do You Know a Blind Person"; (d) your chapter or state affiliate's public outreach pamphlet--if there is one (or you can prepare one); (e) copies of the latest state and national legislative agendas; (f) copies of the most recent state and national annual reports; (g) copies of the latest state and national NFB resolutions; and (h) a copy of a Kernel Book or the most recent Braille Monitor.

This is a lot of material to read, but it will answer almost any question a contact person has about the Federation. A well-compiled press kit provides a thought-provoking overview of the movement available more or less at a glance. The material in these kits should be updated at least once a year. They can be quite helpful in establishing and maintaining contact between the public relations person and local media representatives.

Other material will be needed from time to time. Get a literature order form and place an order to the Materials Center. Order and read our public relations handbook, The Media and the Message. This public relations primer will advise you in general terms and in specific situations better than I can in one letter. Also get a good supply of materials for handouts. Besides the items mentioned for use in the kit, you can also distribute such literature as If Blindness Comes, Future Reflections, Voice of the Diabetic, and your state newsletter. These are only a few of the publications suitable for distribution.

Your most difficult task could be deciding what to order because there is so much to choose from. You should not order more material than you believe will be used, but certainly order a reasonable amount. In my opinion NFB chapters and members should always have materials on hand to distribute when the occasion demands. Bear in mind that there may not always be time to order PR materials before an event. (It takes at least three weeks from the time the order is received to get material unless you want to pay the cost of overnight shipping.) Be prepared for the unexpected.

You will need a current press list. In Austin we have an organization called American Women in Radio and Television. They have put together a package called "Public Service: An Inside View." This is a complete listing of all radio and television stations, newspapers, and periodicals in the Austin area. This list also details community affairs programs through which a given organization can inform the general public about itself. It might be productive to inquire about a branch of that organization in your area.

Other sources for prepared press lists are the convention bureau, the Chamber of Commerce, the local Republican or Democratic party offices, or the League of Women Voters. I draw your attention to these possible sources of prepared press lists, because compiling one yourself can involve much time and drudgery, and they become outdated almost immediately. But if you must do it yourself, I would suggest starting with your local Yellow Pages directory. If you are going to wage a successful campaign, you must know the territory you wish to conquer.

You now have everything you need to begin. A good start would be to find out what public service announcement (PSA) formats are used by your local radio and television stations and order the right ones from the Materials Center. When they arrive, distribute them in person to your local stations. This is a good opportunity to get to know your contact people. Depending on the size and management style of the station, the person you will deal with may be called the program director, the news director, the manager, or the public affairs or public service director. Whatever the title, almost every station has a person whose job includes dealing with community groups, and an acquaintance with these folks is invaluable. See that they are informed about the National Federation of the Blind. They have the power to keep our PSAs on the air, which is important. If they come to know us and believe in what we stand for, they can do other helpful things as well. Contact people are good friends to have.

Do not forget that your local radio and television stations may run short announcements as a public service. These are useful for advertising chapter meetings, membership drive get-togethers, fund raisers, etc.

Your local cable television operator may offer public-access television service. If this is available, it may be possible for you to produce or appear on local-access television programs.

Once you begin making contacts, you will find that more opportunities reveal themselves. In large measure this is due to the organization's increased visibility. If people have heard of us, they will think to contact us when matters concerning blindness come up. But it is also true that the more you think in terms of public relations, the more opportunities you will spot for yourself. Like so much else in life, successful public relations is a matter of forming good habits.

Be willing and ready to give interviews at any time and appear on all types of community affairs programs whenever possible. Remember that a good media representative for the NFB should be one who is knowledgeable about the movement, its goals, its programs, and its philosophy. He or she should also be reasonably attractive, intelligent, and articulate. In a perfect world the message would have more appeal than the messenger, but the mass media audience has been conditioned to the point where it places more importance on the package than the contents. As a result the person who appears for the Federation on radio or television must have enough personal appeal to make an audience stay tuned and the ability to deliver our message at the same time. Actually I make this individual's job sound more difficult than it really is. It is important, but far from unmanageable.

If you are short of time, personnel, or money (and who isn't?), you might want to narrow your field somewhat and concentrate on a few specific markets. This frugal technique is used by advertising agencies to sell everything from insurance to the latest miracle wrinkle treatment. Let us say, for example, that you wish to attract new members between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five. You would concentrate your efforts on the radio and television stations and print media that appeal to that age group, such as your local FM top forty station. Believe me, this technique works well.

Local newspapers and magazines might be persuaded to donate space for local chapter promotion. Also you might consider purchasing advertising in these for the promotion of chapter activities such as fund raisers. One should hesitate before taking this step because it is very difficult to persuade the media to donate time or space once they have been paid for it. But there are times when immediate need overrides the luxury of waiting until donated space is available.

A very effective means of informing the public about the Federation is the handout method. Get whatever permits are needed, and pass out NFB information along with our Braille alphabet cards ($3 a hundred), or tuck pamphlets in with things that your chapter may be selling to raise funds. Doris Henderson, the President of our Dallas Chapter, once told a group of us that Dallas chapter members pass out our pamphlets when they sell candy. In her words, "We wrap each bar up in a `What Is the National Federation of the Blind' pamphlet to keep the candy nice and warm." Discount stores and malls are usually good places for this technique.

Speaking of malls, check with your local ones. Many of them host public events sponsored by their stores. When they do, it might be a good idea to staff a booth at these activities. This is a good way to interact personally with large numbers of the general public. I have participated in these efforts, and they can be a great opportunity and lots of fun besides.

Consider posting NFB information on bulletin boards, such as those found in grocery stores, churches, shopping centers, laundromats, and public buildings and libraries. These bulletin boards are usually free for the use of the community, and you might as well take advantage of them. Doing this takes a certain amount of time and footwork, but it is well worth it. You never know how far our information will travel before it reaches a blind person. On the way it will educate people about blindness and the National Federation of the Blind.

Finally, be ready to capitalize on any and every chance to promote the Movement. Opportunities may present themselves at any time, and visibility is one of the keys to public relations.

Above all, have fun. Yes, ours is serious business, and we have much important work to do on our path to first-class citizenship. But remember to have fun. Public relations can be dull, boring, and tedious if you approach your PR activities with the attitude that they will be dull, boring, and tedious. But if you think about the good that you are about to do, if you think about the people whose lives you are about to enrich through the Federation, you will view all your public relations activities as the fulfilling events that they truly are.

Whether you are promoting your chapter, recruiting new members, or raising funds to finance the organization, you can turn these activities into times of joy. Make a day of it, if you can. Recruit as many of your chapter members, family, and friends as possible. You have the ability to transform a mundane task into a productive team effort which will not only get the current job done but will also create a sense of unity, pride, and purpose in chapter members. Doing PR for the National Federation of the Blind should not be considered a chore, but a chance to help change the meaning of blindness. I find this exciting, and I am sure you will too.

 

A deferred charitable gift annuity is a way for donors to save taxes and make significant donations to the National Federation of the Blind. (The amounts here are illustrative, not precise.) It works like this:

James Johnson, age fifty, has decided to set up a deferred charitable gift annuity. He transfers $10,000 to the NFB. In return, when he reaches sixty-five, the NFB will pay James a lifetime annuity of $1,710 per year, of which $179 is tax free. In addition, James can claim a charitable tax deduction of $6,387 of the $10,000 gift in the year the donation is made.

For more information about deferred gift annuities, contact the National Federation of the Blind, Special Gifts, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998, phone (410) 659-9314, fax (410) 685-5653.


[PHOTO/CAPTION: Chris Kuell and his wife, Christine Dimeglio]

ATM Accessibility

by Chris Kuell

From the Editor: For close to a decade now the Access Board has been talking about the problem of making automatic teller machines (ATMs) accessible to blind customers. Representatives of banking organizations and ATM manufacturers periodically make reports about how difficult and expensive the problem is to solve. Everyone shakes their heads, and the Access Board goes back to think some more about the problem. Meanwhile blind people listen to wisecracks about Braille on drive-through machines and head for the teller's window to conduct their banking business.

The Danbury Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut has had enough. Its members set out to inform themselves about the problem and work on finding a solution. At the very least they have discovered that a good bit of inertia has so far prevented a solution. Perhaps if other chapters take up the challenge, we can begin to bring the kind of pressure that may help to get things moving. Dr. Chris Kuell is a new member of the NFB. This is the way he describes what happened:

 

Recently I began attending NFB meetings at a new chapter in Southern Connecticut. While reviewing old business at the December meeting, an issue concerning banking practices in our state caught my attention. Maureen Carr, a fellow Federationist, detailed her encounters with Webster Bank.

The trouble started in the spring of 1998. The local news reported that several banks in our area were instituting new policies, which included charging a fee for using a live bank teller. The banks want to encourage customers to use their Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) because they are cheaper for the bank than paying a teller to conduct transactions.

ATMs have text displays for instructions and keypads for entering transaction information. However, without the help of a sighted assistant a blind person can't read the text display in order to enter the required information. Various banks offer different models of ATM machines, and there is little consistency among them. While blind users may be able to memorize the instructions and commands for a specific machine, we are not free to operate the multitude of other ATMs independently. So, having no alternatives, most blind people are forced to do their banking at a counter with a live teller.

When Maureen brought this to the attention of Webster Bank in June of 1998, they agreed to waive all transaction fees made for use of a teller, encoded her account to reflect this decision, and considered the matter resolved.

By now this had become a hot topic at the NFB chapter meetings, and the chapter president, Jeff Dittel, became involved. When pressed as to why their ATM machines were not accessible to blind people, Webster Bank replied that the manufacturers of the ATMs did not offer accessible models, so there was nothing the bank could do. They also pointed out with obvious pride that their machines had been equipped with Braille touch pads since 1993. Maureen and Jeff wrote letters and made phone calls to the bank, pointing out the futility of these Braille key pads since a visually impaired person had no way to read the screen's text display so could not know what keys to push. Along with this information Maureen submitted a list of suggestions regarding banking policies and blind customers. The list included the need for bank officials to consult visually impaired customers before making banking accessibility decisions.

The bank's attitude was dismissive to say the least, and the final pronouncement was that "maintaining standards for security, reliability, and performance" are of top priority, and alternative technologies are not available. When the manufacturer of Webster Bank's ATM machines was contacted, it claimed there was no demand for blind-accessible machines from banks, and hence it did not produce such equipment. This is the never-ending wheel of blame and excuse in which blind people get left behind.

Automatic Teller Machines are everywhere in our society today. Airports, banks, malls, grocery stores, and even convenience stores have them. They are easy to use, fast, and a regular banking mechanism for sighted people today. An article in the January 25, 1999, Newsweek detailed how ATMs are now being used for dispensing gas, stamps, airplane tickets, and ski-lift tickets. All indications are that the trend of more goods being available through ATM purchases will continue.

In our quest for independence blind people deserve this same convenience. According to reports by the Lions Club there are approximately 1.3 million visually impaired people over the age of twenty-five in the United States. It is safe to assume that nearly all of these people have bank accounts, surely a significant enough number to be considered valuable customers. While I can understand the banking industry's commitment to cost reduction, the price of accessibility to the banks would be minimal. Furthermore, the cost would be offset by attracting additional customers and would generate invaluable public relations benefits. The bank's argument that accessible machines are not available is weak and refutable. Along with the Braille keypads already in use, it would seem simple enough to add inexpensive telephone headsets for audible instructions to ATM machines.

Perhaps Webster's vendor does not offer accessible teller machines, but an ATM manufacturer in Canada does. In 1997 NCR, a Canadian company that specializes in data and financial transaction processing equipment, made available what they claim is the first audio banking machine. They are currently being installed in Canada. Curtis Chong, Director of the Technology Department of the National Federation of the Blind, forwarded a press release to me. It was dated October, 1997, and said that NCR's banking machines were designed and developed in conjunction with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and the Royal National Institute for the Blind as consultants. Apparently these ATMs have headphone jacks available for anyone who wishes to use personal headphones to conduct audio-assisted electronic transactions.

This article is not intended as an endorsement of NCR's product line; I have never used one of its ATMs. But this press release demonstrates that access technology for ATMs is currently available. I trust that, when a few large banks begin using audio-assisted electronic banking machines, it won't be long before other banks follow.

While the actions and attitudes of Webster Bank devalue the blind customer, they are not atypical. I called four other banks in Connecticut (Fleet Bank, Peoples Bank, Chase Manhattan Bank, and Nutmeg Federal Savings and Loan) as well as three in New York (Bank of New York, Chase Manhattan Bank, and Putnam Valley Savings and Loan), and none offered blind-accessible banking machines. I did have some very entertaining discussions about the logic and value of Braille keypads on drive-through ATMs, but found no answers to accessibility issues. Clearly the technology is now available for blind access to electronic teller machines. So call your local banks and ask about accessible ATMs and why they don't have them. Repeated requests will encourage and motivate banks to bring about the changes that we must insist on.

That's what Dr. Kuell sent the Monitor Editor. I turned to Curtis Chong for a bit more background. We conclude this article with Mr. Chong's comment:

"My discussions with NCR indicate that building in voice-output is not a trivial task, given the way the current crop of ATMs is designed. However, what NCR does have available is a voice toolkit which facilitates the incorporation of voice-output into custom ATM applications. This is extra work, which the local banks would have to arrange to have done.

"Should we wait for standards from the Access Board? My sense is that we should not. The problem is fairly simple to solve technically. However, so far no one has had the will to solve it."

Perhaps if the organized blind begin putting pressure on banks across the country to solve the ATM-access problem, everyone will discover that there is good reason to purchase the Canadian technology or develop alternatives. We certainly have nothing to lose by trying.


[PHOTO/CAPTION: Brian Buhrow]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Geerat Vermeij examines shells in a display box]

Review: Privileged Hands: An Autobiography

by Brian Buhrow

From the Editor: For several years now I have been looking for one of our scientifically inclined members to review Geerat Vermeij's wonderful autobiography, Privileged Hands. Even if one knows little about shells and expects to care less, this book is riveting. Dr. Vermeij addressed the 1988 convention of the National Federation of the Blind and has clearly embraced the NFB's philosophy of capacity and independence, as he acknowledges in one passage of his autobiography, in which he commends the NFB for its work and attitudes.

Finally this winter I approached Brian Buhrow, Chairman of the NFB's Research and Development Committee, and he cheerfully agreed to read the book and reflect on it for us. Like me, Brian found Privileged Hands a fascinating and inspiring read. Here is what he says:

 

As many readers of the Braille Monitor already know, one of the primary tenets of NFB philosophy is that blindness can be reduced to the level of a mere nuisance and that the physical characteristic of blindness itself does not prohibit a person from living a full and productive life in society and participating on terms of equality with his or her sighted peers. Instead the social limitations placed on those who happen to be blind by sighted society often put them in a position where they limit themselves, not through physical inability to accomplish what they want, but because they come to feel, as society does, that they can't.

Geerat Vermeij, in his autobiography Privileged Hands: A Scientific Life (Br10669 and RC 42911), describes in vivid and entertaining prose just how he broke out of the bonds of society as a blind person and into the world of ecology, malacology, and biology. He tracks his history from his days as a young blind boy growing up in post-World War II Holland through his current appointment as professor of geology at the University of California at Davis. His story serves as a guide to younger blind folks with an interest in science and sighted folks who want to know what blind people are capable of doing, and it serves as a reminder to everyone that blind people are just about like everyone else in society, except that they happen to be blind.

As Vermeij takes us through his childhood, he keeps us aware of his blindness by describing his surroundings in vivid detail--that is, from the perspective of a blind person. His descriptions of his days in Gouda are filled with smells, sounds, textures, and specific street addresses. No colors, descriptions of the surrounding countryside from a sighted perspective, or descriptions of what people wore are to be found in these pages. Yet I do not believe that readers of this book will feel strongly that significant details were left out of the description of Vermeij's environment. Rather I think people will do what they always do and fill in the blanks using their imaginations and forget that Vermeij uses sounds and smells to paint landscapes rather than sight and color.

This point is significant because it reminds us again that sight is not needed to enjoy the full human experience, nor is it needed to convey that experience to readers. As Vermeij describes the "...sweet aroma of decaying leaves and the fermenting crab apples...interrupted briefly by car fumes" as he walks to elementary school, one can picture the quiet country road where occasional cars pass through the autumnal atmosphere.

Another tenet of NFB philosophy shows up early in this book as well. The author stresses the support he received from his family and teachers from a very young age. "...My family effectively broke through the information barrier by making available the full richness of the print media to me." He also talks of how his parents took him out into the country and exposed him to nature. His father, who was very interested in horticulture, enabled his children, Vermeij and his older brother Arie, to experience the full richness of their European countryside. Through long walks, bicycle rides, collecting natural objects, and a desire to have Vermeij touch everything possible, his parents were able to instill a sense of curiosity and a love of nature at the same time.

Another aspect of this support was the expectation that young Vermeij would be as responsible as the other members of the family or class for daily chores. If Vermeij fell down and skinned his knee while performing some family chore, oh well, he'd just have to be more careful next time. Vermeij summed it up in the old Dutch proverb which says, "Ik ken niet, zei de dwas, en daarom kon hij niet" (I cannot, said the fool, and that is why he could not.)

In addition to support from his family, Vermeij received excellent Braille and scholastic instruction from the Prins Alexander Stichting Boarding School in Huis Ter Heide. This instruction, along with his love of reading and his family's willingness to Braille all they could, meant that Vermeij was widely read for his age by the time he left boarding school and moved to the United States, where he finished growing up in New Jersey.

Once Vermeij introduces us to the building blocks of his life as a blind child and the various techniques he learned in order to function, he turns to the task of showing us how he applied those techniques toward his interest in natural history as he worked his way toward college in the United States. He takes us through the process of collecting, sorting, and cataloguing various collections of shells, plants, and rocks; through days of fishing with his brother Arie; planting and measuring the growth of various plants and herbs; and finally deciding on Princeton University as a place to get his foot in the door and begin his career as a malacologist.

Throughout this journey Vermeij details simply and clearly the alternative techniques he used to get the job done. He describes how he learned to work with readers, develop working relationships with lab partners, and earn the trust and confidence of his professors.

What makes this journey interesting, however, is not so much how he was able to break into a new scientific field in the mid 1960's, but rather that blindness was not, and should not have been, his overriding concern. For every page Vermeij spends discussing aspects of the way blindness affected his progress into and through his career, he spends at least ten times that many discussing the various theories, questions, scientific puzzles, and his own personal development as an academic in the process of becoming a full-fledged professor. Through these pages we learn his theories on the reasons shells differ in various environments around the globe; what it's like to work as a scientist in Guam, the Philippines, the Galapagos Islands, Canada, Hawaii, and the Aleutian Islands; how he developed his ideas on evolution and adaptation; and, through it all, how he dealt with the few barriers presented by his blindness. In short, we meet a man who is obsessed with science and the full life it has to offer and who happens to be blind.

Although Vermeij admits that he spent little time developing a social life in high school and during his undergraduate career, he more than made up for it later by traveling around the world performing field work as a scientist, meeting and marrying his wife Edith, and raising his daughter Hermine.

In short, Privileged Hands: A Scientific Life is a book which describes the life of a shining role model of the NFB's philosophy. It documents how to apply that philosophy to everyday living, where to place it in the context of getting on with one's life, and it details how the NFB helps with the process of making blind people successful, first-class citizens. In addition, it is a fascinating view into the mind of a leading scientist in his field and gives a glimpse into the depth and richness of a discipline which involves applying highly technical and political skills in a variety of innovative ways.

I would recommend this book to any blind person who wants to know if he or she can succeed in a competitive environment, whether it be law, science, or letters. I would also recommend it to anyone sighted who doubts whether or not blind people can make it on terms of equality in a sighted world. The prose is written with clarity, feeling, and a fervor which makes it clear that the author speaks from real-life experience and that he believes not only that blind people are capable of competing on terms of equality with the sighted but that they must compete. He recounts the way he did it and leads the reader into the exercise of determining how he or she will do it. Read what Geerat Vermeij has to say, and I believe you'll agree that he's right. The blind have an absolute right to be admitted as first-class citizens into society and an absolute responsibility to take that role seriously by working to first-class standards of competition and responsibility. In addition, you'll meet a humorous punster who lays out innumerable tidbits for his readers to savor and enjoy.


[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Fredric Schroeder, Photography by Breton Littlehales]

Fredric K. Schroeder, a Man of Confidence

by David Bolton

 

From the Editor: David Bolton is the Editor of the National Buyers Group Magazine. The following profile of Dr. Fredric Schroeder appeared in the first issue of the publication. Here it is:

Fredric K. Schroeder, Ph.D., has spent his adult years fighting the misperception over the capabilities of blind people, that they are somehow limited in what they can achieve. As Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, overseeing a multi-billion-dollar agency in the Department of Education, he is particularly dedicated to widening their entrepreneurship opportunities; he believes that the Randolph-Sheppard program has great potential.

But long before he began breaking down the barriers to blind achievement, he first had to defeat his own demons.

Fred Schroeder describes growing up in a New Mexico household as "eclectic." Born in Lima, Peru, he was adopted at nineteen months. Along with his brother, he joined a family of two Pueblo Indian children, also adopted, and a University of New Mexico education professor, a single woman with a strong sense of purpose.

From the beginning Fred's mother instilled in him a powerful work ethic, an appreciation for the value of education, and a strong sense of giving back to the community.

He lost most of his vision when he was seven and became totally blind at sixteen. He had what he describes as "a common experience" with his blindness. He assumed that for the rest of his life he would have to be cared for by his family.

People brought to his and his mother's attention stories about blind people who had done remarkable things, recalls Schroeder. Those stories did not inspire him; rather they made him angry. He felt anything but remarkable. Either he was even more inferior than originally thought, or those blind people had not accomplished anything of note. "They hadn't really climbed a great mountain or sailed a great ocean. Their achievements were artificial . . . propped up."

What did inspire him were blind people with high academic credentials; blind people who had achieved a great deal in business; blind people who were teachers, social workers, or guidance counselors; who were factory workers, secretaries, and farmers. He learned about the National Federation of the Blind. The speeches of its president, Dr. Jernigan, drew the young man away from cynicism and defeat. Dr. Jernigan became his hero.

Recalls Schroeder: "Dr. Jernigan articulated that blindness is not all-encompassing, that a blind person is not just a blind person, that you are first and foremost a human being with a combination of strengths and abilities. Yes, blindness has a clear impact on the way you function. You can't drive. You can't pick up a newspaper and read it. But it's really not much more than that. . . . That difference doesn't in any way speak of your capacity to succeed. . . . If you fail, it's not because of blindness."

Armed with that philosophy, he earned a degree in psychology at San Francisco State University in 1977 with a dual major in psychology and elementary education, completing his undergraduate program in just two and a half years. "It was very important to prove my ability to compete," says Schroeder. Ironically, his oldest brother said he understood how Fred could go through school so quickly; after all, he was blind. He had nothing else to do but study all day.

Schroeder realized he was up against, not his own limitations, but the "underlying assumptions about blindness." He set about proving those assumptions wrong, earning next a master's degree in special education. He wanted to teach blind children. Instead of teaching children, however, he ended up in Nebraska, at an adult orientation and adjustment center. He taught cane travel to newly blind adults. He became the first blind person to earn a master's degree in orientation and mobility. There he met his future wife, also blind. She wanted to be a computer programmer.

Expedience vs. Quality Employment

In 1994 the Senate confirmed Schroeder as the ninth Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration the same day he was notified of completion of his doctorate.

His dissertation was a study on the use of Braille among legally blind adults. He investigated the way Braille readers versus non-Braille readers functioned. Those completely blind tended to embrace Braille, whereas those visually impaired tended to orient themselves around visual methods. The Braille readers ended up going farther in school and getting better jobs. The visually impaired gravitated toward jobs that required little reading.

Schroeder says his biggest challenge as RSA Commissioner is maintaining a focus on quality employment. He understands that the taxpayer wants to ensure that the program funds ($2.4 billion) are spent wisely on the one million recipients. The greatest danger, he believes, would be to oversimplify, to measure the effectiveness of the rehabilitation program according to "the number of people who go to work, how quickly they go to work, and how cheaply they go to work."

These are not necessarily bad measures, he adds, but they would tend to "drive the program toward expedience" rather than help the individual pursue the most appropriate employment. "If people have an interest in teaching, law, or some other profession, then they need the training and skills to pursue that profession."

The Future of Randolph-Sheppard

Schroeder believes there are many opportunities for growth in the R-S program. "The Randolph-Sheppard program historically has battled the assumption that blind people can't function as competently as sighted people. So very often the expectations for the Randolph-Sheppard program by state and municipal governments have been fairly low."

He cites as an example the state rehabilitation agency that he ran in New Mexico. "We continually had to battle for Randolph-Sheppard priority when it came to large food service operations. . . . If it was a little building that had a handful of employees and couldn't generate money, then we'd get called by the agency and asked if we couldn't put in a Randolph-Sheppard facility to provide coffee and donuts.

"But if you talked about a large-scale cafeteria, we were still confronted with the question of whether a blind person could, in fact, operate a complex food service operation. That continues to be the challenge to blind people generally . . . the lack of information about their capability."

Schroeder says the R-S program is becoming more sophisticated. "Vendors as a group have taken very seriously the need to modernize practices, to develop state-of-the-art business procedures to deliver high quality products at a good price. As that work continues, the opportunities for facilities that yield better incomes will increase."

The Fight for Mess Halls

Schroeder says there has been "some conflict" over certain federally-operated food service operations, particularly in the military. "The question has been whether Randolph-Sheppard applies to certain military food service activities, specifically military troop dining facilities. Second, if it does apply, then where does the Randolph-Sheppard program step in, and where does the JWOD [Javits-Wagner-O'Day] program step in?"

The RSA has been working with the Committee for Purchase along with other federal agencies to resolve these conflicts. "It makes no sense to have two very important employment programs postured against one another....

"We just rescinded a policy issued by my predecessor; it had attempted to clarify when a facility met our definition of a cafeteria. In practice the RSA policy guidance didn't help with the situation at all. . . . We have been working particularly with the Department of Defense to issue clear policy direction so that appropriated-fund activities, such as military troop dining, are in fact subject to the Randolph-Sheppard Act. We are now working with the Defense Department on some additional policy guidance that would be aimed toward the people who handle military procurement. We are also working with an interagency work group to work out other issues that have been put forward as impediments to the further expansion of the Randolph-Sheppard Act."

And what about the conflict between R-S and JWOD? The way Schroeder sees it, there should be no conflict. The law is quite clear. "The Randolph-Sheppard priority is a specific priority," he explains. "Once you get past the hurdle of recognizing that the Randolph-Sheppard Act applies to military troop dining as well as other food service operations, then the priority would be triggered." Those facilities would thus fall under the domain of the state licensing agency.

The SLA, however, may decline to take that facility, if there is no blind vendor available to take advantage of the opportunity. In that case, Schroeder says, the facility would then be available "for issuing a contract under the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act."

By viewing the R-S priority as a very specific one, you resolve the conflict between the programs. "JWOD food service is only one of many types of service contracts available under the programs," he adds. "We believe there is considerable room for both programs to live and work in harmony, benefiting considerable numbers of people with disabilities."

The Act Is Just the Beginning

The Randolph-Sheppard Act represents only a crack in the door. People who make the procurement decisions must be convinced that it is in their best interests to be served through the Randolph-Sheppard program. "If you don't have open-mindedness," says Schroeder, "then you run into resistance. You run into people looking for loopholes in the law, for ways to circumvent what we regard as [Congressional] intent. You can fight those in court, and if you're tenacious enough, you can likely prevail."

Schroeder would rather see greater cooperation from federal agencies. He cites the post office as a good example. "It has entered into a cooperative relationship with the Randolph-Sheppard program . . . to expand employment opportunities for blind people. Some of the efforts go far beyond any statutory obligation." Schroeder says that the post office--its staff and the public that it serves--has realized some significant benefits, in particular, service of the highest quality.

When asked what advice he would give to blind vendors, Schroeder listed the things they should do in reverse priority. "Certainly they need to be vigilant about what's happening at the federal level, and they need to be vigorous about contacting members of Congress to educate them on the Randolph-Sheppard program and how it benefits blind people in their home districts and states."

They also need to be involved with their state licensing agencies, to be active, participating members of the Committee of Blind Vendors. They must take an active role in guiding the program's policies at the state level. "But the most important thing any vendor in this country has to do," adds Schroeder, "is provide excellent, quality service to every customer who comes through the door. Ultimately, if this program has loyal, satisfied customers, then no amount of political threat will ever damage it because we'll have a constituency that will say, `Look, this blind vendor is fantastic. We get good food. We get good service. We get reasonable prices and clean, comfortable, locations.'"

Toward that end Schroeder urges vendors "to capitalize" on every training opportunity and run state-of-the-art, competitive food operations. "That, in my view, is the single greatest thing that can be done to protect this program."

A Sense of Obligation

An estimated 70 to 80 percent of blind people are wholly unemployed. Those who are employed are often underemployed. That realization drives Schroeder, who says that every time a blind person enters a new field or new occupation, "never again will there be the question of whether a blind person can perform that type of work. . . . That collective momentum will expand opportunities for blind people. That growth can never be turned back. That to me is the exciting part of rehabilitation."

Schroeder, the father of a seventeen-year-old daughter and fifteen-year-old son, greatly admires his wife, who at the age of ten wanted to be a computer programmer. "When I was ten, I didn't know there were such things as computer programmers."

His wife, blind since birth, became a computer programmer at a time when it was "very exploratory" for blind people to do that kind of work. "She is exceedingly good at it."

Digital technology has been extremely helpful. "The work that my wife does using sweep synthesis and other technological breakthroughs would not be possible. That's true for many other jobs."

Schroeder cautions, however, against giving technology too much credit. "There is a tendency for society to point to something external to account for the competence of blind people. Technology is not what makes us competent. It is a tool, just as a paint brush in the hand of a great artist is a tool. The brush does not lend itself to inspiration."

He uses the guide dog as an analogy. Often someone seeing a blind person using a guide dog will say, "`Isn't it wonderful that they train these dogs to take blind people around?' . . . Well, the dog doesn't take you around. The dog is part of your ability to travel independently, but he's not a caretaker."

And what is the most essential quality for a full life? "Fundamental confidence," replies Schroeder. "Self-confidence comes from having good training, from working hard, and from being able to see tangible evidence of your work. But there are other things that are part of that self-confidence ... a sense of obligation. . . . You cannot give unless you believe that you have something worth giving.

"I don't mean to sound overly philosophical," he concludes, "but a person who believes in him- or herself will succeed. Success comes from seeing yourself as a truly integrated, contributing member of society, somebody who benefits from society, and a person who contributes back to society."


[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ramona Walhof]

Sewing

by Ramona Walhof

 

From the Editor: The following article appeared in To Touch the Untouchable Dream, the fifteenth in the NFB's Kernel Book series of paperbacks. It begins with Dr. Jernigan's introduction:

Ramona Walhof grew up in a small farming community in rural Iowa. She and her brother and sister were born blind. Yearning for something to do during one long, dull summer, Ramona asked her mother (who was an accomplished seamstress) to teach her to sew. The story that follows is her account of a lifetime of satisfaction and practical good--from hobby, to employment, to family budget-stretcher--gained from this rapidly disappearing art.

Along the way Ramona (who was widowed in her early twenties) also raised two children, owned and managed a commercial bakery, taught school, and directed employment programs for the blind. Today she operates a very successful public relations business and is President of the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho. She also serves as a national officer in the National Federation of the Blind. Here is what she has to say:

When I learned to sew, I never thought much about blindness. I didn't avoid thinking about blindness. It was a part of me. But when I needed a method to do something that others did visually, I just did what seemed most likely to work. Nobody suggested that blindness should prevent sewing until I knew better.

As I grew older, I came across blind girls and women who had been actively discouraged from doing things I learned as a child. Sewing for me has provided employment, relaxation, challenge, and accomplishment. It has helped me to learn about fabrics, styles, and colors. There are things I never attempted (some because of blindness) but most because of lack of time. Perhaps one day I may still take up some new kinds of sewing such as quilting. I know it would be delightful to do if I ever got to it.

When I was a young child, summers were boring. My brother, sister, and I attended the School for the Blind during the school year. We were very glad to go home at the end of May each spring, but we didn't have a lot of friends in our home town, and we got tired of not having enough to do. We took swimming lessons, participated in local church activities, helped with cleaning and cooking (washing dishes was the worst), visited with grandparents and cousins. We hauled as many Braille books home from school as we could fit in the car with all our clothes and other possessions. My brother managed to talk our Dad into some ham radio equipment and entertained himself with that. My sister and I generally rationed our books some and got Braille magazines, but there never was really enough to do.

One summer (the one after my fifth grade year), I decided to try to solve the problem. I announced to my mother with the diplomacy customary for me at the time, "This summer you are going to teach me to sew." My mother had been making clothes for us as long as I could remember. We got some school clothes from stores and from catalogs, but the ones she made were always nice, and we could help decide what they would look like. Several people in our family sew, and my mother had a buttonholer on her machine, so people would bring their garments to our house to do the buttonholes. So it seemed natural for me to want to sew.

My mother didn't resist at all. She responded with a question, "What do you want to make?" I never asked her what she thought about it, but I really don't think she was shocked--only a little uncertain about some of the techniques. Actually techniques were not a problem. I told her I wanted to make gym clothes. I figured a few mistakes could be tolerated in gym clothes. I think that neither my mother nor I knew that blindness was much of a factor, so it wasn't.

We decided that the gym shirt should have a plain round neckline with cap sleeves. This was my idea so that I would not have to gather the sleeves and set them in. My mother cut a pattern out of newspaper, designing it from something else she had. I pinned the pattern on the material and cut it out. Then my mother realized that she had forgotten the cap sleeves, so they had to be set in after all. This made the project more complicated for a beginner, but the gym shirt looked great to me. I learned to guide the material through the sewing machine using a quilting guide my mother had. I learned to pin seams and hems closely and remove the pins just before they came to the presser foot. I learned to move the gathers on the gathering thread and put them where they should be when I pinned the gathered piece to the one it needed to be sewed to. Really it wasn't as hard as I had feared. I wore that gym shirt all through sixth grade. I don't think we ever got to the shorts.

Marking darts could be done with pins or basting threads. There were so many different kinds of darts that it took some practice to get them all figured out. Gradually I got so I could judge the size of darts pretty accurately without having to use the marks from the pattern itself.

When we came home for Christmas that year, I made a yellow skirt. It turned out all right too. This time I used the tissue paper pattern. My cutting technique seemed obvious to me, and my mother never commented on it. Only later did we learn that blind people weren't supposed to be able to cut around tissue paper patterns.

I held the scissors with my right hand, the way most people do. I looped my left hand over the top of the scissors with the thumb and fingers opposite each other right at the part of the scissors that did the cutting. If the edge of the pattern was at the top of the bottom scissors blade, I could feel tissue paper on one side and fabric on the other. If the scissors were not right at the edge of the pattern, I would have paper or fabric on both sides of the bottom blade. The more practice I got, the better I got, but even as a beginner, I could cut reasonably well along the edge of the pattern.

Patterns come in an envelope in big sheets, and my mother would cut the pieces apart and trim them on the cutting lines. She never really read the instructions to me. Rather she taught me basic concepts about how to set in sleeves, turn down a skirt band over the seam, set in a zipper, assemble and attach a collar, etc. She also taught me to identify pieces of garments by their shapes. Sleeves tended to be round at one end and square at the other. Blouses and dress tops had big arcs cut out where the sleeves would be attached. The curves at the front and back of slacks and shorts were shaped differently from sleeve curves. The curve at the back was bigger than the curve at the front for slacks patterns, but the curve in the front of the top where sleeves are inset is bigger than the one at the back.

Much later I learned that the instructions printed with the patterns could often be helpful when taking on a new style of garment. I am sure my mother read the instructions, because she often used them when we were laying out fabric before we cut it out. But we often found better ways to make efficient use of the material than the patterns showed. I don't remember what I made during the summer after my sixth grade year, but I am sure there was something.

In any case, when I enrolled in home economics in seventh grade, I already knew some of the basics about sewing. Our teacher was new that year and had no background working with blind girls. Our first project was to make an apron. There was no cutting. Everything was on a straight line and could be torn with the grain of the fabric. The aprons had a blue border at the bottom with a flowered print above. The bands and sashes were straight pieces. The sashes had to be hemmed, and the aprons had to be gathered and attached to the bands.

There were eight girls in my class, and most of us could sew a hem fairly straight by the time the aprons were done. The teacher really didn't want us to run a machine without having her present to watch. I disregarded this instruction without too much teacher protest.

I learned about the seam guide in that class. You can buy a little metal hump that screws into the top of the machine cabinet, which works better than my mother's quilting guide. For the rest of the first semester our home economics class cooked. Second semester was the real sewing class. My friend and I decided to make tangerine skirts, but they were different patterns.

The teacher's first notion was that she would cut out all the patterns. Unfortunately for her, I was there to object. So I cut out my own pattern. I also offered to help other kids learn to do it. Some of the girls really didn't have much trouble. Some tended to place the fingers of their guiding hand at the end of the scissors instead of where the cutting occurred. They were constantly being warned to be careful not to cut themselves. Since I thought everybody knew better than to close the scissors with fingers between the blades, these warnings seemed unnecessary. Certainly some of the students were more fearful of scissors than they needed to be. We also learned how to assemble all our different patterns.

When I cut out my blouse, I made an error. I should have laid the back on the fold, but I cut it on the edge of the fabric, thus requiring a seam where there should have been none. If I had not been so determined to do it myself, the teacher would doubtless have caught this error before it happened. Some students were much too cooperative in my judgment and did not do as much of the work themselves as they could and should have.

We could all thread a regular needle using a needle threader with a fine wire loop. When the wire loop is in the eye of the needle, the thread is brought through the loop. When the needle threader is removed from the needle, the thread passes through the eye. Large-eye needles made this easy. Our teacher encouraged basting, but most of us didn't like to do it. We all learned to baste, though, because we were required to baste zippers. We also learned to hem garments with an overcast stitch. It was desirable not to see the thread on the outside of the hem. With practice, some of us got pretty good at this.

Threading the machines presented another challenge. When threading the machine, one needed to pass the thread through several metal or plastic loops. No one had trouble learning where to put the thread, but we would not notice loops of thread that got caught in other places while we were doing the threading.

It took me a while, but I finally realized that, if I kept the thread taut from spool to needle while doing the threading, I could tell if there were errors or loops where they should not be. We always blamed the tension if something went wrong, and I feel sure that we did inadvertently turn the dial controlling the tension sometimes.

With experience I learned to tell from the stitching itself when the top and bobbin tensions were balanced. My mother was casual about making constructive suggestions on things like this and more helpful than anyone else before or since. She would tell me what she looked for, and I could try to learn the same information by touch. More often than not it worked. Everyone (including me) tended to rely on somebody's eyesight for certain judgments at first. If a sighted person wasn't conveniently available to help when wanted, this became a nuisance and provided motivation for all of us to develop techniques that a blind person could use independently.

It is surprising for me now to think about how difficult it sometimes seemed to feel proper stitching. If we had expected to be able to do it from the beginning, we all would have found it easier. As it was, this took some time and experience.

I continued to make clothes during vacations and in home economics. I enjoyed the making and the wearing of the clothes. I also enjoyed making things for others, but seldom had enough confidence to do it. I made a shirt for my dad and a baby dress for a cousin, and I think they were OK.

During college I did not have access to a sewing machine and did very little sewing. Shortly after I was married, though, a sewing machine seemed important to have. We bought a cheap one, a portable one that weighed a ton. It was very heavy to lift on and off the dining room table, so it stayed at one end while we ate at the other during many weeks. I usually put it away on weekends.

I took a set of big bath towels that had been wedding presents but were not being used and made my husband a bathrobe. He was pleased and wore it a lot, which pleased me. We still have a picture of him sleeping in a recliner in that bathrobe with our first baby on his shoulder, also asleep. When I got pregnant, I knew I could save money by making maternity clothes. I did make some, and my mother made me some too. We didn't spend much. Then of course it is even more fun to sew for your children.

Knits were the big thing in the early '70's, so I took a short course at the YMCA in stretch and sew. We didn't sew during class. We took our assignments home, so the teacher had no occasion to worry about blindness. If she didn't explain something, I asked, but this was easy for all. I made pants and a shirt for my daughter, who was a toddler, and a matching set for my son, who was a tiny baby. I also made a shirt for myself. I offered to make my husband a shirt, but it never got done. It was already cheaper to buy t-shirts than to make them.

After my husband died and I returned to work at the Commission for the Blind in Iowa, I was immediately assigned to teach sewing along with Braille. My students all wanted to sew with knits, so the stretch and sew class was far more valuable than I had ever dreamed. Some of my students were beginners, and some had far more sewing experience than I. This concerned me at first, but I found that we could learn from each other in wonderful ways.

Several of my students went home and took up sewing a lot. Others did less but enjoyed it. One young woman had been a professional seamstress in an alterations department for a big store. She chose to make a jacket that had three parallel rows of top stitching for trim that were supposed to be done in three different colors. I cautioned her about this, but that is the kind of thing she liked. I thought that her control as a newly blinded seamstress might not be as good as desirable for something that showy, but it really turned out fine. I cannot say how many students I taught sewing or how many outfits I made for myself and my children during the next several years, but I gained a lot of experience.

It was during that time that people began using machines with cams and other kinds of fancy stitches. These made sewing even more fun. Making decorative items or decorations on clothes was something we had to do. We just couldn't ignore these interesting new sewing machine features.

When my daughter was in second grade, she joined Bluebirds. They were supposed to make red felt vests, and none of the mothers wanted to take on this project. I thought felt vests were not sensible for second graders. One slip of the scissors would be ugly, and felt was expensive. I offered to have the group make skirts at my house. Other mothers thought I was crazy, but agreed. It was simple--use navy blue rectangular pieces of polyester knit fabric. Turn down the top enough to pull three-quarter inch elastic through. Turn up the bottom two inches and sew red rickrack around at the top of the hem. Only one seam was required and no hand sewing. The girls could use the sewing machines if their mothers would let them. The skirts were cute as they could be, and the girls were proud as peacocks.

By the time my daughter was in sixth grade, it was clear to me that she wanted more clothes than I was willing to buy. I told her she could probably have more clothes throughout junior high and high school if she would learn to sew. She was more than eager. She chose to make a three-tiered white skirt with purple trim. The gathers on three tiers wore her out, so I helped, but she did the rest. She wore it for her sixth grade graduation and looked great. When she was called to the front for the top award from the school, I had tears and wished one more time that my husband could have been there to share the moment with us.

Anyway Laura was a confirmed sewer, although she still had a lot to learn. We began to learn about new kinds of patterns together. While she was in high school, she made casual clothes, but I did the more formal ones. When kids need something for school, you don't always get much notice. When Laura joined the orchestra, she needed a black formal. Her friend's mother knew the right pattern, and I made it. For her first formal dance, I made her a long, mint green satin dress with puffed sleeves and an inverted "v" below the bust. She had a good bustline, and the dress looked good on her. She took it to college with her when the time came. Now Laura does more sewing than I do. She got practice during college and made a friend's wedding dress.

Today for me sewing is a hobby, but it is there when needed or wanted. I love to share this experience with others. It is a way of being creative and busy. One summer I went looking for clothes and just couldn't find much. Before long I switched to shopping in fabric stores and had the clothes I liked. Making a work dress can be done in about the time needed for two shopping trips, and if shopping isn't going well, sewing is more satisfying. I also can make clothes fit the way I want them to. If I ever have grandchildren, there will probably be things to do for them. Time will tell.

If I have an opportunity to teach sewing again, I will be much more confident about what projects my students should attempt. One more thing: for a blind person who likes to read recorded books and magazines, sewing is one of those things you can do while reading.


Recipes

 

The recipes this month are contributed by leaders of the Blind Merchants Association.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Don and Shirley Morris]

O'Leary's Irish Coffee
by Don Morris

Don Morris from Maryland is President of the merchants division. Although he is not much of a cook, he wins praise for the following recipe, which is named for his business, O'Leary's Emporium.

Ingredients:

1 ounce Irish whiskey

1 ounce Kahlua

5 ounces strong, fresh, hot coffee

Whipped cream

Creme de menthe (green please)

Method: Pour coffee into large mug containing Irish whiskey and Kahlua. Top with whipped cream. Slowly pour one-third teaspoon creme de menthe on top of whipped cream.


Strawberry-Watercress Salad

by Shirley Morris

Shirley Morris is not herself a vendor, though as Don's wife she volunteers lots of hours for the cause. She is, however, an excellent cook.

Ingredients for Poppy Seed Dressing:

1/4 cup sugar

6 tablespoons orange juice

3 tablespoons raspberry vinegar

1 tablespoon minced shallots

1 tablespoon olive oil

1-1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds

1 teaspoon honey

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon salt

Method: In a small bowl whisk together sugar, orange juice, vinegar, shallots, oil, poppy seeds, honey, mustard, and salt until the sugar dissolves.

Ingredients for Salad:

2 heads Belgian endive, torn into small pieces

1 cup sliced strawberries

about 2 cups fresh watercress

2 cans (14 ounces) hearts of palm, rinsed, drained, and cut into 2-inch pieces

Method: In large bowl combine watercress, endive, and strawberries. Add the sliced hearts of palm to the salad. Pour the dressing on top and toss well. Refrigerate for five to ten minutes before serving. Serves four.


Don's Snack Bar Breakfast Burritos
by Don Hudson

Don Hudson from Colorado is the merchants division treasurer and the manager of several vending facilities at the Denver Federal Center. Don serves hundreds of meals daily, including the following offering. This is a breakfast favorite at his restaurant, Don's.

Ingredients:

1 16-ounce package hash brown potatoes, browned

6 eggs, scrambled

16-ounce can green chili sauce (Stokes canned green chili works well)

8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

5 flour tortillas

Method: Mix all ingredients except tortillas together. Place one-fifth of mixture in the center of each warm 8-inch flour tortilla. Roll up from one side and serve plain or smothered with more green chili.


[PHOTO/CAPTION: Priscilla Hudson]

Sour Cream Potatoes

by Priscilla Hudson

Priscilla Hudson from Colorado is a member of the merchants division although not exactly a blind vendor. Priscilla is the manager of the Boulder County Library and is a great resource person for many members of the division.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup melted butter

1/2 cup chopped onions

1 teaspoon salt

1 can cream of chicken soup

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 pint sour cream

2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

2 pounds frozen hash browns

Method: Mix all ingredients and pour into greased casserole dish. Top with one-fourth cup melted butter. You may also use crushed cornflakes or plain bread crumbs. You can also sprinkle with hot salt (garlic salt and cayenne pepper mixed). Bake at 350 degrees for fifteen minutes or till potatoes are heated through and bubbly.


[PHOTO/CAPTION: Lora and Joe Van Lent]

Patchwork Quilt Country Inn Buttermilk Pecan Chicken

by Lora Van Lent

Joe Van Lent from Iowa is First Vice President of the Blind Merchants Association. He and his wife Lora are long-time members of the division as well as leaders in the Iowa affiliate.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter

1 cup buttermilk

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 cup flour

1 cup ground pecans

1/4 cup sesame seeds

1 tablespoon paprika

1 tablespoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

2 3-1/2 pound broiler/fryers, cut up

1/2 cup pecan halves

Method:Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place butter in large shallow roasting pan and melt in oven. Remove and set aside. Mix buttermilk and egg in shallow dish. Combine flour, ground pecans, sesame seeds, paprika, salt, and pepper in medium bowl. Dip chicken in buttermilk mixture, then coat each piece with flour mixture. Place in roasting pan, turning to coat all sides with butter, finishing with skin side up. Scatter pecan halves over chicken and bake until chicken is deep golden brown, about one-and-one-half to one-and-three-fourth hours.


Pastitsio

by Nick Gacos

Nick Gacos from New Jersey has recently joined the merchants division and was elected to serve on the board. Nick has organized blind vendors in New Jersey and brought them to the NFB as well. Nick and his family have been in the restaurant business for decades. In addition to serving hundreds of customers daily, Nick also provides training to would-be blind vendors who seek to enter the New Jersey Vending Program.

Nick's family's version of this recipe is double this amount. If you have twenty-five or so to feed, you might want to try it in the original, using a commercial sheet-cake pan. Nick says that Greek cooking is done to taste and favors lots of Parmesan cheese, so don't be afraid to adjust this version to suit yourself. And if you like cheese, use a liberal hand in measuring amounts.

Meat Filling Ingredients:

1-1/2 pounds ground round beef

1 medium onion, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1 clove garlic, minced

3/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

half of an 8-ounce can tomato sauce

1/2 cup white wine (optional)

3 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon salt (to taste)

1/4 teaspoon pepper

about 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, to taste

Method: In three tablespoons butter brown onion and saute ground beef until golden brown. Add parsley, garlic, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, pepper, tomato sauce, and wine and simmer for twenty to thirty minutes. Remove from heat.

Sauce Ingredients:

4-1/2 cups hot milk

6 tablespoons flour

1/2 cup butter

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 beaten eggs

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Method: Heat milk. Melt butter in large pan, add flour, and stir until smooth. Lower heat and gradually add the hot milk, stirring constantly until sauce thickens. Add salt and cinnamon. Beat eggs in a bowl and slowly stir in a little sauce. When blended, add this warmed egg mixture to the sauce. Add cheese and reheat sauce; do not bring to a boil.

Pasta Ingredients:

1 pound macaroni or ziti

3 eggs, beaten

3/4 cups grated parmesan cheese

1/2 cup butter melted

more cheese and butter

Method: Cook macaroni as directed on package. Drain and return to pot. Add 1/2 cup melted butter, three beaten eggs, and 3/4 cup grated cheese and toss lightly until pasta is well coated.

Generously butter a 13-by-9-inch casserole dish. Spread half of macaroni mixture in an even layer. Evenly spoon 1-1/2 cups sauce over macaroni. Then spread meat mixture. Spread remaining macaroni over meat. Cover with remaining sauce. Sprinkle another 1/2 cup grated cheese over surface and dot with butter. Bake for one hour at 350 degrees.


[PHOTO/CAPTION: Billie Ruth Schlank]

Fruit Cobbler

by Billie Ruth Schlank

Billie Ruth Schlank from Virginia is a leader in her state as well as a member of the merchants Board of Directors. Although Billie Ruth prepares no food on her vending facility, her family and friends all gather around when she prepares this fruit cobbler.

Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat flour (white flour is okay too)

1-1/3 cups milk

2 eggs

1/3 cup oil

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 quart any fruit in season

Method: Mix dry ingredients together. Add oil, milk, and eggs, which you have whipped lightly, to the dry ingredients. Stir just enough to moisten the flour. Pour into greased pan. Add the fruit. If using blueberries or other fragile berries, be sure not to break the berries. Use sugar to sweeten the fruit before pouring onto the batter. Dot with butter. (Spring is the season for rhubarb, so rhubarb cobbler would be delicious.) Bake at 350 degrees for forty-five minutes. Billie Ruth also uses this batter recipe to make muffins. For muffins she uses one cup brown sugar in place of granulated sugar and also mixes bran and whole wheat flour. She says she often adds two handfuls of raisins.


[PHOTO/CAPTION: Pam Schnurr]

Lasagna

by Pam Schnurr

Pam Schnurr from Indiana is Secretary of the merchants division and a leader in the NFB of Indiana. She is the manager of PJ's Snacks and an active leader nationally and in the Indiana vending program.

Ingredients:

1/2 pound ground beef

1/2 pound pork sausage

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon basil

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons oregano

1/2 teaspoon pepper

16-ounce can tomato sauce

10-ounce package lasagna noodles

3 cups fresh ricotta or cream-style cottage cheese (optional)

1/2 cup grated parmesan or Romano cheese

1 pound Mozzarella cheese, grated

Method: Brown meat slowly. Spoon off excess fat. Add next six ingredients. Simmer uncovered thirty minutes, stirring occasionally. Cook noodles according to package directions until tender; drain and rinse. Layer one quarter of the noodles in a 13-by-9-inch pan. Spread with a quarter of the meat sauce and cheeses. Repeat this step to make four layers. Bake at 375 degrees about thirty minutes. Let stand ten minutes before serving. Makes eight to ten servings.


Monitor Miniatures

 

[PHOTO description: Pictured here is the GreaterGood.com logo.]

GreaterGood.com:

President Maurer writes as follows:

In the latter few days of February, 1999, the National Federation of the Blind became a part of a growing Internet shopping network entitled GreaterGood.com. This shopping network offers those who are online at the National Federation of the Blind Web site (<www.nfb.org>), to go to the National Federation of the Blind shopping village. This is a place at which Web surfers can select and purchase merchandise from a large number of stores such as Amazon.com and J. Crew.

The officials who have put this company together include some of the most notable business people in the United States. Some of these have been top members of the administration and senior politicians. The agreement we have made with them is that we will receive 5% of the purchase price for each item purchased through our Web site. In addition, those who enter the shopping services throughout the GreaterGood.com Web site may select the National Federation of the Blind to receive the 5% charitable donation from among the charities listed on the Web site.

Some people have contacted us saying that not all of the vendors listed in the National Federation of the Blind shopping village have accessible Web sites. This is quite true. However, we are working with the vendors to encourage them to increase accessibility to their Web sites, and we hope that we will be able to make this whole service much more usable by the blind. In the meantime we believe that this service will be usable in many instances by blind people and that it will raise funds for the continuing work of the Federation.

If you have suggestions for improving this service, please let me know. I cannot promise that we will do everything you might want, but we will do our best to improve the accessibility of the service.


Large-Print Archaeological Magazine Available:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Beginning July, 1999, the magazine Discovering Archaeology will be available in large print. This edition will carry informative articles about the latest ground-breaking archaeological research from around the world on land and under water. The magazine is published quarterly, and the large-print edition will be in 17-point type on non-glare paper and will carry the NAVH seal of approval. The annual subscription rate is $19.95 (plus $7 if mailed to non-U.S. countries) and will be sold on newsstands for $5.95 per issue. Readers can subscribe by visiting the Web site at <www.discoveringarchaeology.com> or by calling (877) 383-0878.


For Sale:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Type 'n Speak with a revision date of July 26, 1994, for $700 or best offer. Also for sale, Toshiba laptop computer with 4MB RAM and a 260MB hard drive. Also included is the Keynote PC voice card, best offer. E-mail: sklug@cyberstation.net. Call (940) 761-3431 or write to Sharon Klug, 12 Chip-n-Dale Circle, Wichita Falls, Texas 76303.


APH Announces Listening to Windows 95:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Listening to Windows 95, a new training kit for users who are blind or visually impaired, is now available from the American Printing House for the Blind. The kit includes tactile and large-print guides to screen layouts, a manual available in four accessible media, and interactive auditory software in CD-ROM format to teach Windows basics.

Unlike other tutorials, the CD-ROM format of Listening to Windows 95 allows random access to a structured training content. Users can learn the main system and application features of Windows 95, including Introduction, Desktop features, Explorer, WordPad, Help, Control Panel, and Internet Overview. The CD-ROM contains quality audio, produced by APH's professional narrators. The product was developed as a joint project of TECSO, Inc., (Technology and Society) of Montreal and APH.

To order, contact American Printing House for the Blind, 1839 Frankfort Avenue, P.O. Box 6085, Louisville, Kentucky 40206-0085, (502) 895-2405, (800) 223-1839, or fax (502) 895-1509. The e-mail address is <info@aph.org>. The Web address is <www.aph.org>.


APH Announces Speech Expressor™:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Speech Expressor™ is now available from the American Printing House for the Blind (APH). It allows the audio book listener to change the speed of recorded material without the change in sound quality usually experienced using older compression systems.

Since Speech Expressor™ users can digitally adjust the pitch of the recorded voice to compensate for a change in speed, they will be able to 1) speed up audio recordings to read more material more quickly without an increase in pitch, 2) slow recorded material down for more concentrated listening without a decrease in pitch, 3) compensate for hearing loss in certain higher pitch ranges.

Speech Expressor™ is compatible with any sound source with variable-speed control, including several APH cassette recorder/player models and National Library Service Talking Book players. It will also work with devices that do not have a variable speed control, such as commercial tape players and radios. In these only the pitch of the voice can be changed, not the speed.

The cost is $125, and the unit can be ordered from the American Printing House for the Blind, 1839 Frankfort Avenue, P.O. Box 6085, Louisville, Kentucky 40206-0085, (502) 895-2405, (800) 223-1839, or fax (502) 895-1509. The e-mail address is <info@aph.org>. The Web address is <www.aph.org>.


Atlanta Lunch Link:

Lynn Mattioli, President of the Baltimore Chapter, reports the following:

It's back and better than ever. Many people participated in the Lunch Link in Dallas. We have heard rumors that some new friendships and romances were started, so we are going to do it again. Thanks to the feedback we received from last year's participants, the questionnaire has been improved so that we can link you with the best match possible.

Don't miss out on the fun. If you are looking for a new friendship or a bit of romance at the NFB convention in Atlanta, join the Lunch Link today. Here's how it works. You answer a series of questions about yourself and the type of person you would like to meet. The questionnaire is available in large print and Braille. It is quick and easy to do. Then we put your information into our computer, which will find the best match for you. We will share your name and state affiliate with that person and vice versa. Your name may be given to up to three additional people. The service is confidential. Remember that we can not guarantee that the person you are linked with is someone with whom you are not acquainted.

Why stand in long lines in Atlanta to get your questionnaire? Request one today by contacting Lynn Mattioli, 817 Park Avenue, Apartment 7, Baltimore, Maryland 21210, or call (410) 625-0076. Be sure to tell us which format you prefer (large print or Braille). Once you have circled your answers, return it to the above address with your payment (make checks payable to the NFB of Maryland). The cost is $5 per submission. Or you can get a questionnaire at our table in the exhibit hall on Thursday, July 1, or Friday, July 2. The deadline for joining the Lunch Link is 5 p.m. on Friday, July 2. Friday night the computer will do its magic. You must return to the exhibit hall on Saturday, July 3, to pick up the name of your match (which will be in a sealed envelope). We will give you this information in person only. Don't miss out on your link. Join the Lunch Link today. You have nothing to lose except wondering whom you will be dining with in Atlanta.


[PHOTO/CAPTION: Julaine Arient-Rollman]

Honored:

Karen Mayry, President of the NFB of South Dakota, reports that Federationist Julaine Arient-Rollman, a senior rehabilitation counselor at the South Dakota Division of Rehabilitation Services, was honored on February 11, 1999, for her assistance to people with disabilities. She received the NISH excellence award. The National Industries for Severely Handicapped is a national non-profit organization that helps provide employment for people with severe disabilities. Congratulations to Ms. Arient-Rollman.


Large-Print Puzzle Books Available:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Enliven Enterprises announces two new Word-Hunt books designed for the pleasure of visually impaired puzzle lovers. Word Safari games come in two sizes of print (one-half-inch and one-inch). These books sell for $3.49 each plus $1 shipping and handling. (Pennsylvania residents must add sales tax.) A quarterly magazine is in production to begin sale in the spring of 1999. For more information contact Mari-Cay Hartman, 2330 Grove Street, Allentown, Pennsylvania 18104-2529, (610) 439-3552, e-mail: <enlive@enter.net>.


For Sale:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

I have a Betz music notation device for sale. It is a board representation of a printed music staff, accompanied by a myriad of music symbols, including notes and other markings, which can be stuck onto the board to show what printed music looks like. Includes case and Braille instructions. The case is slightly scratched, but the device is like new; it has hardly been used. Great for the music student. Will sell for $175. We paid much more than this. For more information contact Olivia Ostergaard, 2740 West Olive Street, 104, Fresno, California 93728-2457, (559) 486-2126.


Arkansas School for the Blind Reunion:

The Arkansas School for the Blind Alumni Association will hold its annual convention/reunion at the school during the weekend of June 4, 5, and 6, 1999. All graduates, former students, and friends of the school are invited to attend. Registration fees, including meals and lodging, will be $22 per person. For more information contact Travis or Margaret Johnson, 302 Woodford Place, Paragould, Arkansas 72450, (870) 236-8498. If you know you will not be able to attend this year but would like to be added to our mailing list, please contact us.


Corrections:

In the March, 1999, issue we carried an announcement about a number of tours available through the Campanian Society. The URL for the organization has recently changed. The new Web site address is <http://www.campanian.org>.

Also, in the March issue Joe Mar invited correspondence from those who share his interests. He now stipulates cassette letters only and corrects his address to read 20401 Soledad Canyon Road, Space 522, Canyon Country, California 91351-2556.


For Sale:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Xerox Outlook vision aid machine, 14-inch black and white screen; magnification 5 to 25 times; dimensions are 16 inches wide, 23 inches deep, and 20 inches high; one year old; hardly used. Asking $1,500. Call Chris at (330) 633-0025, evenings.


[PHOTO description: Pictured here is the National Buyers Group logo]

Something New for Vendors:

In the spring of 1998 the National Federation of the Blind established an independent company called the National Buyers Group (NBG). The company was organized to assist the growing number of blind entrepreneurs who participate in the federally-sponsored Randolph-Sheppard Program. Blind vendors throughout the United States take advantage of the National Buyers Group's collective buying strength. By identifying with the NBG, individual operators in the Randolph-Sheppard Program gain eligibility for allowances, discounts, rebates, marketing programs, and reduced or national pricing. The NBG's mission is to assist blind vendors in forming these types of relationships with their suppliers.

Working with state licensing agencies and committees of blind vendors, the NBG promotes approximately twelve to fourteen food and technology shows each year. Traveling throughout the United States, these shows give suppliers an opportunity to network with vendors to create a vendor sales base within the promoted regions.

The NBG also produces a bimonthly publication, the National Buyers Group Magazine, to keep Randolph-Sheppard operators in touch with their suppliers and up to date on important issues that may affect their businesses. Its readers are owners, managers, and key decision-makers from over 3,500 Randolph-Sheppard facilities across the United States. The magazine's features include new products, recipes, market analyses, business tips, calendars of events, legislative beats, regulatory issues, and feature articles.

NBG on the Web is the companion to the bimonthly magazine. It offers rich sponsor content and opportunities for advertisers to showcase their products and services with features such as company profiles, products, incentives, rebates, special promotions, recipes, and contact information. Check out the NBG Web site at <http://www.NBGMAG.com>. The NBG Web site is hot-linked to the National Federation of the Blind Web site at <http://www.nfb.org>.

For further information about the National Buyers Group or the National Buyers Group Magazine contact John Martin at (410) 727-4027 or (410) 659-9314.


Division Organizing:

Donna Balaski, DMD, of Waterbury, Connecticut, is interested in organizing a division for those in medical professions. The group will meet from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., Friday, July 2. For more information contact Dr. Balaski at 66 Devon Wood Drive, Waterbury, Connecticut 06108-2302, (203) 753-7174, or e-mail <dlb13@snet.net>.


Extraordinary Art, Call for Entries:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Exceptional Art by Artists with Exceptional Challenges, Second Annual Juried and Invitational Show, October 21 to 24, 1999. This show is part of the Eighth Annual USArtists Exhibition at the 33rd Street Armory in Philadelphia. It is presented by the Women's Committee of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Two-dimensional and three-dimensional pieces by artists with visual and auditory impairments, physical or mental challenges, personal or domestic violence, trauma and post-traumatic stress syndrome, and chronic or terminal illness will be eligible.

Deadline for entry is June 15, 1999. For a prospectus send a stamped, self-addressed #10 envelope to Thom Duffy, USArtists99/PAFA Prospectus, 1301 Cherry Street 8th Floor, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107. For more information call the USArtists office at (215) 972-0550.


More about Electronic Books:

Peter Donahue sent us the following report:

The International Braille Book Depository has been going forward rapidly. We've been posting new titles daily. The site will open with a minimum of 1,000 titles, ranging from your favorite children's bedtime stories to literary classics. There will be something for everyone. To help raise money for this project, we plan to bring a limited number of electronic books to sell during the 1999 National Convention. Included will be Walking Alone and Marching Together and the NFB Kernel Books. However, we want your suggestions about what else to have on hand for your reading pleasure. In addition to specific titles, we will offer sampler disks containing excerpts from various books in the depository. We will have both a children's sampler and an adults' sampler to give away during the convention. For those who do not yet have access to the Internet, there will also be a way to purchase these titles during the coming year. Those with Internet access will be able to download the titles from the depository.

For more information about this project or to suggest books to translate during the coming year, become a translator, or assist with scanning books for translation, contact Peter Donahue at the following: Peter Donahue, Coordinator, International Braille Book Depository, International Braille Research Center, 100 Lorenz Road, Apartment 1205, San Antonio, Texas 78209, phone (210) 826-9579, e-mail <pdonahue@texas.net>.


An Offer You Can't Refuse:

So you say you are attending the 1999 national convention in Atlanta, and you say you plan to gather recorded NFB literature in the exhibit hall. But do you have proper storage systems for all this vintage NFB material?

The NFB of Illinois has the perfect solution for you. For a mere $3 each you can have your very own attractive white vinyl albums that accommodate a dozen cassettes. Our cassette albums come complete with clear sleeves front and back for print labels and ample space on the spine for Braille labels.

Find the Illinois table in the exhibit hall, and take advantage of an opportunity to free yourself from toppling tapes. If you are unable to attend this year's National Convention, you may still avoid the dreaded cassette avalanche by sending a check or money order, made payable to NFB of Illinois, in the amount of $3 for each cassette album, to Stephen O. Benson, NFB of Illinois, 7020 North Tahoma, Chicago, Illinois 60646.


New Cassette Fashion Publication:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

D Square is a new fashion publication dedicated to making the feel and look of fashion design accessible. Our publication covers the latest fashion trends for men and women, reveals unbeatable shopping deals, reviews mall designs and happenings, and even interviews on-the-go designers. For more information call (610) 642-4442 or send an e-mail to <denise@touchthearts.org>. Call today and bring the world of fashion to your door.


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