THE BRAILLE MONITOR
Vol. 42, No. 9 November, 1999
Barbara Pierce, Editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
MARC MAURER, PRESIDENT
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
National Federation of
the Blind of South Carolina
Saves Blind Vendors Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars
by Donald C. Capps
Proper Training for the
Blind:What Is It? The Fourth Ingredient
by James H. Omvig
Living My Dreams
by Ron Gardner
The Blind at Work
by Sharon Gold
Spelling Bees and Grammar
by Brian Miller
Doing What's Necessary
by Stephen O. Benson
A Reflection on Walls and
by Lisa Mauldin
Thomas David Schall
by Peggy Chong
by Barbara Pierce
Convention: A Pilgrim's
by Brook Sexton
Washington Seminar Job
by Anthony Cobb
Blindness, Travel, the
Environment, and Technology
by Marc Maurer
Copyright (c) 1999 National Federation of the Blind
[LEAD PHOTO CAPTION/DESCRIPTION: The buffet table of fruits and vegetables at Thanksgiving dinner held at the National Center for the Blind
LEAD PHOTO CAPTION/DESCRIPTION: NFB Board of Directors Member Bruce Gardner helps serve Thanksgiving dinner on the buffet line in the Center dining room. In the line from left to right are Betty Capps, wife of the Senior Member of the Board of Directors and her husband Don; Board Member Wayne Davis; his wife Carmen; and Carol Smith, wife of NFB staff member Mickey Smith.]
CAPTION: Each fall the NFB Board of Directors gathers for a two-day meeting during the Thanksgiving weekend. Thanksgiving dinner for the Board, members of their families, and National Center staff members and their families is a pot-luck affair. Guests bring their favorite dishes or whip them up in the Center's wonderful kitchen. Dr. Maurer always smokes a turkey, a couple of chickens, and perhaps some other meat. In short, enough food comes to the Thanksgiving tables that the Board can happily eat leftovers for the remainder of the weekend. After all, it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without leftovers. May your Thanksgiving, too, be filled with family, good friends, and delicious leftovers this year.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Don Capps]
National Federation of the Blind
of South Carolina
Saves Blind Vendors Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars
by Donald C. Capps
From the Editor: The June/July issue of the Palmetto Blind, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina, carried a story describing its successful fight to protect the livelihood of the state's blind vendors. This is the way affiliate President Don Capps told the story:
In February, 1999, the NFB of South Carolina learned that a subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee of the House of Representatives had approved a proviso which would result in blind vendors across the state paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in set-aside fees. The Federation contacted members of the subcommittee to voice its opposition to the proviso. Unfortunately, the Federation was advised by the subcommittee that the proviso had been adopted by the full Ways and Means Committee and that the provision had been included in the budget bill to be placed on the desk of House members March 15. We requested and were granted a meeting with the subcommittee on Thursday, March 4. Meanwhile the NFB of South Carolina took steps to mobilize all blind vendors immediately by sending them the following letter:
February 25, 1999
Memo to: All Blind Vendors
Interim Commissioner Michael Thompson
Important, please read carefully. At the outset it is appropriate to express appreciation to the Commission for developing a successful Business Enterprise Program which significantly benefits more than 100 blind persons and their families.
As background information, the old Division for the Blind, which was a part of the South Carolina Department of Public Welfare, had a set-aside program. However, in 1964, thirty-five years ago, the NFB of South Carolina initiated legislation when we appeared before the Senate Finance Committee headed by Senator Edgar Brown and successfully argued that blind vendors should not be required to pay set-asides. Thus for thirty-five years blind vendors have not been paying set-asides, resulting in savings of several hundreds of thousands of dollars for them and their families. This is now in jeopardy. We are enclosing a copy of the proposed legislation which would reinstate the set-aside program and drastically affect the take-home pay of blind vendors.
Wednesday morning, February 24, I talked with a legislator who serves on the subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee which is responsible for meeting with Commission officials on their budget. This legislator verified that such legislation was being proposed and arose out of this subcommittee investigation and from meetings with Mr. Earl Gardner, who as you know, heads the Commission's BEP program. My conversation with the legislator raised a red flag, and subsequently I talked with Earl Gardner, who agreed to furnish me with a copy of the set-aside legislation.
In carefully reading the legislation, you will agree that the proposed set-aside charges are exorbitant and even punitive. While different vending locations understandably result in different net annual earnings, it is my understanding that average annual net earnings are about $24,000. Using the information appearing in the legislation, a blind vendor with a net income of some $24,000 would pay a set-aside of 17.5 percent, amounting to $4,200, which is exorbitant. In higher earnings brackets the set-aside fees become even more exorbitant with a set-aside fee of as much as 35 percent being levied. While the legislation would provide for some offset by claiming certain expenses, under no circumstances would a blind vendor not be hurt by this legislation. You are already paying federal, state, and Social Security taxes and possibly other expenses, and the set-aside charges will simply amount to another tax being levied upon you.
I have talked with several blind vendors, including at least five members of the BEP Committee mandated by the Randolph-Sheppard Act. It was apparent that the BEP Committee and blind vendors were kept in the dark about this legislation. It is now essential that everyone involved in the BEP program come together and agree upon strategy to oppose the set-aside legislation or at least significantly reduce the drastic impact upon blind vendors if the proposed legislation is adopted. Thus, in conjunction with members of the BEP Committee and other blind vendors, we are calling a meeting to be held at the Federation Center of the Blind, 119 S. Kilbourne Road, Columbia, this coming Monday, March 1, at 4:30 p.m. All blind vendors across the state are urged to attend the meeting, and we are also requesting that Michael Thompson and Earl Gardner be present.
We must have complete unity and speak with a single voice to have any chance of being successful in our opposition to this legislation. It would be catastrophic if we fail to work together and wind up being divided and fragmented. The budget, now being finalized by the Ways and Means Committee of the House of Representatives, will go to the House floor within two weeks. Therefore, since the proposed legislation will be a part of the budget bill, we need to act swiftly, which is the reason for the meeting's being called for Monday, March 1. I realize this is not much notice and undoubtedly will result in some inconvenience to many of you.
By copy of this memo, I am requesting Mr. Gardner promptly to furnish us the following: (1) the total amount of sales in 1998 for all blind vendors, (2) amount of sales tax generated by these sales, (3) if known, the amount of income taxes paid on these sales, (4) a breakdown, without disclosing any names, of the number of blind vendors in the different income brackets, i.e., $10,000; $20,000; $30,000, etc. This information and other data are needed to develop a sound argument against the proposed set-aside legislation. The March 1 meeting at the Federation Center will enable us to work together, and while the meeting will be orderly, it is important that each blind vendor be given an opportunity to give his or her input in this very important issue.
I look forward to our meeting on Monday, March 1, at 4:30 p.m. The meeting will adjourn at a time enabling out-of-town vendors to arrive home at a reasonable time.
Donald C. Capps, President
There was outstanding response as some sixty-five blind vendors from throughout the state participated in the March 1 meeting held at the Federation Center of the Blind in Columbia. Some of the vendors were members of the NFB of South Carolina, and others were not. However, it made no difference because blind vendors were very much concerned about the possibility of their having to pay exorbitant set-aside fees, diminishing their hard- earned annual income. They were very willing to rely upon the leadership of the NFB of South Carolina to counteract this distinct possibility. We invited Commission officials to the March 1 meeting, and both Dr. Joe Ray, Acting Commissioner, and Mr. Earl Gardner, Manager of the BEP Program, attended the meeting. NFB of South Carolina President Donald Capps presided over the meeting and welcomed everyone.
It was a harmonious meeting with everyone present cooperating fully. Vendors were told that this was a winnable case but that it would require everyone's cooperation and support. Demonstrating its experience and know-how, the NFB of South Carolina had done considerable preparation for the March 1 meeting although time had been very short for this purpose. President Capps had secured a letter of support from Dr. Fredric Schroeder, Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, saying that this was a crucial issue facing South Carolina's blind vendors. The letter from Dr. Schroeder reads as follows:
United States Department of Education
Office of Special Education and
Rehabilitative Services Administration
March 1, 1999
Mr. Donald C. Capps, President
National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina
Dear Mr. Capps:
This letter will respond to your correspondence of February 25, 1999, concerning proposed set-aside legislation regarding the Randolph-Sheppard Vending Facility Program in South Carolina. We appreciate your bringing to our attention this legislation and giving us an opportunity to review and comment.
In looking at the proposed set-aside legislation, we note the following items as a basis for discussion. First, in your letter you ask if the Rehabilitation Services Administration had data concerning South Carolina's BEP Program and how these data compared to the Randolph Sheppard Program nationally. Perhaps a beginning reference point for comparative analysis would be the average annual vendor earnings of vendors in South Carolina as compared to the average annual earnings of vendors nationally. In this regard, the most recent "Report of Vending Facility Program," Form RSA-15, submitted by the South Carolina BEP Program is helpful. For the period October 1, 1997, to September 30, 1998, the average annual earnings for a vendor in South Carolina was $24,652 or $3,236 less than the national average, which was $27,889.
Moreover, in looking at the proposed scale for set-aside assessment for vendors in South Carolina, it is further instructive to look at the relationship between the average annual vendor earnings of South Carolina vendors and the proposed fee to be set aside from the net proceeds of each vending facility on a yearly basis. For example, in looking at the net profit range of $20,000 to 29,000, which encompasses vendors making the annual average of $24,652, one would note that according to the proposed scale those vendors would be assessed a 17.5 percent set-aside fee. For illustration purposes, using the average vendor income in South Carolina of $24,652, vendors in that category would be assessed an annual set-aside fee of $4,314, which would reduce the average annual vendor earnings to $20,338 or $7,551 less than the national average for blind vendors.
Another issue which you may wish to consider in your assessment of the proposed legislation is its potential impact on individuals with the lowest earnings. The legislation proposes a 5 percent set-aside for individuals earning $9,999 or less annually. Today an individual earning the federal minimum wage makes $10,753 ($5.15 per hour times 2088 hours) per year. Given that most vendors work in excess of forty hours per week, vendors making $9,999 or less per year are presumably earning less than the minimum wage for their work. While 5 percent may seem like a modest set-aside, the impact on a vendor making less than $10,000 per year may be significant.
Finally, you raise a question concerning the implementation of the proposed set-aside legislation and the input of the South Carolina Committee of Blind Vendors. Regarding the setting aside of funds by a state licensing agency (SLA), I would reference the Code of Federal Regulations implementing the Randolph-Sheppard Act at 34 CFR 395-9. Specifically, 395.9(c) speaks to the question of the participation of the Committee of Blind Vendors. It states in relevant part, "...The State licensing agency shall further set out the method of determining the charge for each of the above purposes listed in paragraph (b) of this section which will be determined with the active participation of the State Committee of Blind Vendors...." We urge significant consultation with South Carolina's blind vendors to assist the legislature in assessing the full impact of its set-aside proposal.
In conclusion, all proposed set-aside fee schedules must be submitted by the SLA to RSA for review and determination of its reasonableness. If I can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Fredric K. Schroeder
cc: James Stuart, Acting Interim Commissioner
South Carolina Commission for the Blind
Dr. Ralph N. Pacinelli, Regional Commissioner
Regions III and IV
Before the March 1 meeting the NFB of South Carolina did its homework by carefully evaluating the proposed legislation as well as reviewing the BEP manual and putting together a fact sheet which would outline why blind vendors should not be charged an extra tax. The fact sheet reads as follows:
Why 112 Blind Vending Facility Operators
Should Not be Charged Excise Tax
Facts about the South Carolina Commission for the Blind's Business Enterprise Program:
In 1936 Congress adopted the Randolph-Sheppard Act. The goal is to provide remunerative employment for citizens who are legally blind and to provide public and private locations with high-quality food service operations. Vending facilities present gainful employment and self-sufficiency for blind vendors, and they become taxpayers, not tax consumers.
Vending facility program contributes to state's economy: In federal fiscal year 1997-98 gross sales generated by blind vendors amounted to $7,233,843. Merchandise purchased by blind vendors amounted to $3,732,599. These purchases from suppliers such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Lance, Tom's, etc. are reinvested in South Carolina's economy, helping to create additional jobs for the state.
One-hundred-twelve blind vending facility operators gladly pay their share of taxes. During federal fiscal year 1997-98 blind vendors paid approximately $753,742 in federal, Social Security, state, and local taxes. During federal fiscal year 1997-98, blind vendors paid state sales taxes amounting to $300,803. Thus the amount of sales tax ($300,803) paid to the state is in excess of the cost of the administration of the vending facility program.
Blind vending facility operators earn an average of $23,822 per year: According to the Commission, the average annual earnings of blind vendors for federal fiscal year 1997-98 was $23,822. This average is comparable with the average earnings of sighted South Carolinians. The average national earnings for blind vendors is $27,889 or about $4,000 more than the earnings of South Carolina blind vendors.
Breakdown of income ranges for blind vendors: Of the 112 blind vendors seventy-seven earn less than $30,000 a year. Twenty-eight blind vendors earn less than $10,000 per year or less than the minimum wage. Twenty-seven blind vendors earn between $10,000 and $20,000 per year. Twenty-two blind vendors earn between $20,000 and $30,000 per year. Only fourteen blind vendors earn between $30,000 and $40,000 per year. Only seven blind vendors earn between $40,000 and $50,000 per year. Only six blind vendors earn between $50,000 and $60,000 per year. Only seven blind vendors earn $60,000 or more per year.
Excise tax on blind vendors is punitive: While blind vendors are already paying their fair share of taxes, the proviso in the budget bill imposes an additional excise tax on the earnings of blind vendors which is punitive, unfair, and unwarranted. It is unreasonable and unconscionable to charge blind vendors earning less than $10,000 per year an additional excise tax. Applying the sliding scale in the proviso, a blind vendor earning between $10,000 and $20,000 per year would pay an excise tax of as much as $1,550 annually. For a blind vendor earning between $20,000 and $30,000 per year, an excise tax of up to $3,500 would be imposed. Thus a majority of seventy-seven blind vendors would pay an excise tax which would seriously reduce their take-home pay and impose a burden which is entirely unnecessary and punitive.
If a blind vendor has been in the program for many years and has worked hard, he or she may earn as much as $40,000 per year but would be burdened with an excise tax of as much as $5,300, which would be in addition to all other taxes. The handful of blind vendors (seven) who earn between $40,000 and $50,000 would pay an excise tax of up to $7,800. Only six blind vendors earn between $50,000 and $60,000 per year, and they would pay an excise tax of up to $10,800. For the seven blind vendors earning $60,000 or more, the excise tax is at the rate of 35 percent. Thus, if a blind vendor earned as much as $70,000 per year, he or she would pay an excise tax of $14,800. An excise tax of $17,800 is due if there are earnings of $80,000 per year.
State-controlled entrepreneurs: For blind vending operators the South Carolina Commission for the Blind is charged with the management and supervision of the program in carrying out the Randolph-Sheppard Act. Additionally, the Commission for the Blind provides for the training and placement of blind vendors. The Commission for the Blind covers the cost of the initial stock as well as necessary equipment. In addition to providing supervision and management services, the Commission is also responsible for the maintenance of the facility, promotions for upper mobility, and disciplinary actions whenever necessary. The Commission may also discharge a blind vendor for serious infractions.
Other state employees and officers do not pay for equipment and repairs. The state of South Carolina provides the necessary equipment for other state employees and officials, including such things as desks, chairs, computers, telephones, and even automobiles. Any repairs or replacement of such equipment and items are paid for by the state since this is considered necessary for such employees and officials to carry out their responsibilities. State employees and officials are not forced to pay excise tax. Thus it is patently unfair and discriminatory for blind vending facility operators to be forced to pay excise taxes. The state appropriately provides substantial tax breaks for businesses to locate in South Carolina, which is in the best interests of its citizens. All vending facility stock and equipment are state property and consequently do not belong to the blind vendor.
Explanation of Savannah River Site vending machines: Through an agreement with the United States Department of Energy, the earnings from vending machines located on Savannah River Site property which are not serviced by blind vendors and which are in competition with blind vendors operating vending facilities on SRS property are paid to the Commission for the Blind. This program began in 1990. Between 1990 and 1993 the SRS vending machine earnings averaged about $250,000 per year. The Commission and blind vendors voted to use about one-half of these annual earnings for retirement or pension plans, for health insurance contributions, and for the provision of paid sick days and vacation time for blind vendors.
The remaining one-half of the SRS vending machines earnings was to be used by the Commission for maintenance and replacement of equipment, purchase of new equipment, management services, and assuring a fair minimum return to vendors. Beginning in 1994, SRS vending machine earnings have been placed in escrow or in reserve pending the outcome of the distribution of these earnings to all blind vendors. Presently, this escrow account or reserve fund has about $1 million which will ultimately be distributed to all blind vendors and the Commission, subject to a final ruling by the court. Thus it appears that it is only a matter of time until the Commission for the Blind will be in possession of substantial funds from this source, which will be more than adequate to cover such things as maintenance and repairs.
Other Commission clients helped by the vending-facility program: South Carolina blind vendors' payment of federal, state, and local taxes in federal fiscal year 1997-98 amounting to $753,742, including state sales taxes of $300,803 was substantially helpful in funding services for other blind clients and possibly other state employees. In some cases it may be necessary for the Commission to spend considerably more to prepare a client for a career than that spent for a blind vendor since this may include thousands of dollars for a college education, graduate school, or even law school.
Blind vendors shut out of legislative process: While all South Carolina citizens are entitled to be involved in the legislative process, especially when their interests and livelihood are negatively impacted, blind vendors were not permitted to participate in the legislative process (Ways and Means Committee hearings), resulting in a punitive proviso being adopted in the budget. The Randolph-Sheppard Act mandates a Business Enterprise Committee of blind vendors elected by all blind vendors from various districts. As mandated by federal law, the BEP manual, approved by blind vendors, the Commission and Rehabilitation Services Administration in Washington, D.C., states, "The Business Enterprise Committee shall actively participate with the agency in major administrative decisions and policy and program development decisions affecting the overall administration of the agency's vending facility program." Also the Rehabilitation Services Administration is to be consulted in such matters, and this was not done.
Excise tax would force retirement by some older vending facility operators: Many blind vending facility operators have spent much of their lives in the Commission's BEP program, only to have their success and hard work penalized by a punitive proviso and legislation which would drastically reduce their take-home pay--neither right nor fair. Already the employable blind have a 70 percent unemployment rate. Blind people like sighted people want an opportunity to enjoy the good life. Any perception which may exist that well trained blind persons cannot or should not be expected or allowed to earn an income consistent with the good life is harmful and misplaced. Blind persons pay the same prices as sighted people at the supermarket, department store, and automobile showroom. As a matter of fact, blind persons incur additional expenses because of blindness. While the offset of expense allowance listed in the proviso might be helpful in some cases, for the majority of blind vendors this will not be significantly beneficial.
Action requested: For more than sixty years the Randolph-Sheppard Act has resulted in the largest single program of employment for blind persons across the state and nation. For thirty-five years blind vendors in South Carolina have not paid an excise tax or set-aside fee. In its wisdom in 1964 the General Assembly enacted a law abolishing any excise tax or set-aside fees on blind vending operators. For reasons discussed above, blind vendors and the blind of the state request the General Assembly to delete the proviso (L24 Commission for the Blind) from the budget bill when it is debated beginning March 15.
That was the text of the fact sheet. The Federation Center staff had prepared three-by-five cards on every member of the House of Representatives showing their names, home addresses, and phone numbers, as well as their office phone numbers. These cards were distributed at the March 1 meeting to blind vendors with emphasis on contacts being made with legislators living in their areas for maximum effect. Vendors enthusiastically accepted their assignments and went to work immediately, contacting legislators all over the state.
At the March 1 meeting vendors were urged to have a good turnout at the State House, beginning immediately, to oppose this legislation. Three days after the March 1 meeting, Thursday, March 4, there was a meeting with members of the legislative subcommittee which had proposed this legislation. Attending the meeting were NFB of South Carolina President Donald Capps; Mack Nettles, Chairman of the BEP Committee; Earl Gardner, Manager of the BEP program; Commission attorney Bill Campbell; Representative Steve Lanford, Chairman of the subcommittee; and Representative Rex Rice.
Representative Rice explained the basis for the subcommittee's having made a decision to reinstate the set-aside charges, relying primarily upon his understanding that a number of blind vendors were realizing a good income from the operation of their vending facilities and should assume some of the cost of maintenance and repairs. Relying primarily upon information already supplied in the fact sheet, Mr. Capps led the discussion of why blind vendors should not be charged an extra tax, especially since they were already paying more than their fair share of federal and state tax. Mr. Nettles and Mr. Gardner gave additional information about the vending facility program. After hearing the discussion, Chairman Lanford indicated that he believed the proviso should be deleted from the budget bill when it was discussed by the entire House on March 15. At this point it was clear that the meeting with subcommittee members had been successful.
In the meantime blind vendors from across the state continued to turn out in force at the State House, contacting members of the House to be sure that they fully understood the impact of the proposed legislation. During the week of March in which the budget bill was being discussed, the proviso issue surfaced, and an overwhelming majority of the House of Representatives voted to delete the proviso.
Thus, in a matter of some fifteen days, under the leadership of the NFB of South Carolina a punitive proviso affecting well over 100 blind vendors had been removed from the budget bill. In short, this was a magnificent success. Because of this cooperative and successful effort, blind vendors will save about $250,000 in 1999 and more than $1 million in the next four years. We are proud to say that the NFB of South Carolina makes a real difference in the lives of blind South Carolinians.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: James Omvig]
Proper Training for the Blind:
What Is It?
The Fourth Ingredient
by James H. Omvig
From the Editor: In 1961 Jim Omvig was a student in the newly created Adult Orientation and Adjustment Center in Iowa directed by Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. He then went on to college and law school and worked in Washington, D.C., and New York City as the first blind attorney ever hired by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
Following successful legal work with the NLRB, Jim changed careers and entered work with the blind. He directed the Iowa Orientation and Adjustment Center and served as the Commission's Assistant Director; directed a program established by the Social Security Administration (SSA) in Baltimore to develop greater employment opportunities for the blind and disabled within SSA itself; and finally directed the Alaska Center for Blind and Deaf Adults, before retiring to Tucson because of ill health.
Therefore Jim's knowledge of the factors essential to proper training for the blind is based on a broad range of experiences--as a blind student at a residential school for the blind; as a state agency vocational rehabilitation client; as a blind adult orientation center student; as a blind college and law school student; as a competitively employed blind attorney; and as an orientation-center teacher and director. But perhaps the most compelling experience he brings to his advocacy work today is the practical understanding he has acquired over nearly forty years as colleague and friend to thousands of blind people from across the nation, members of the National Federation of the Blind.
The following is a paper presented by Jim at a training seminar conducted for vocational rehabilitation professionals, but it is equally relevant to educators of the blind.
For nearly sixty years the National Federation of the Blind has proclaimed the simple yet profound truth that, "Given proper training and opportunity, the average blind person can do the average job in the average place of business, and do it as well as his or her sighted neighbor."
Every day thousands of properly trained blind men and women work successfully as farmers and factory workers, machinists and maintenance men, college professors, public school teachers, chemists and other scientists, attorneys, mechanics, insurance or real estate agents, business men and women of all types, cooks, dishwashers and laborers, and legislators. Through the years the proper-training truth has sometimes been abbreviated something like this: "With proper training and opportunity, blindness can be reduced to the level of a physical nuisance or inconvenience." No matter how you state it, though, it must be understood that the word "proper" is the operative concept in this fundamental truth.
As an aside, before turning to a full discussion of proper training, let's take a look at how some of the opponents of the organized blind distort the truth of what we are saying. In purportedly restating our philosophy, they say something like, "Those people in the Federation say blindness is just a nuisance...," or that "Blindness is no big deal; blind people can do anything."
However, careful examination reveals that these detractors either mistakenly (because of their ignorance) or intentionally misstate our philosophy in order to ridicule us or to create the impression that Federationists are a bunch of kooks. They misstate the truth by conveniently leaving out that all-important operative concept, "proper training."
"So," you ask, "What's the big deal about this word "proper"? Can't we really state the same truth by simply saying, "Given training and opportunity, the average blind person..., etc."
I earnestly wish that it were so, but I can assure you that we cannot. Distressing as it is, I personally know thousands of blind people who could be said to have had training, but no one could reasonably argue that these individuals are independent, self-sufficient, or successful blind people. Far from it! The facts are that, even though they have had some type of training, the training wasn't any good; it wasn't proper. As a result blindness for them is much more than a nuisance or inconvenience. Blindness, without proper training, can be a veritable hell.
What then is this proper training? It sounds simple: proper training is that combination of training techniques which empowers--training which enables the average blind person to become truly independent and self-sufficient. But, while this statement of outcome may seem simple, the ingredients essential to the achievement of true independence and self-sufficiency cannot be taken for granted or viewed casually. Here is where real knowledge and expertise enter the mix.
For many years those in the Federation seriously involved in the education of children or the rehabilitation of adults have pointed out that there are three fundamental ingredients, three things every blind person needs in order to achieve that desired goal of true independence and self-sufficiency. And, since these three things are needed by every blind person for true independence, we have said it naturally follows that educational programs for blind youngsters or orientation and adjustment centers for blind adults must undertake to provide these three elements as a routine part of their services. Here they are:
(1) The blind person must come emotionally, as well as intellectually, to know that he or she truly can be independent and self-sufficient;
(2) The blind person must really learn and become competent in those skills (alternative techniques) which will make it possible for him or her truly to be independent and self-sufficient; and
(3) The blind person must learn to cope on a daily basis with the public attitudes about blindness--with those things that will be said or done to him or her because of other people's misunderstandings and misconceptions.
As I say, perhaps for as long as thirty-five years I have pointed out that these three ingredients are absolutely essential to any really good educational or orientation and adjustment program for the blind. But today, based upon a lifetime of work and thought in this field, I'm also going to discuss a fourth ingredient--one which I have come to understand is just as important as the three I have always discussed.
Before discussing this fourth ingredient, however, let's review the three we have always advocated. First, the blind person must come emotionally, not just intellectually, to understand that he or she truly can be independent and self-sufficient. It's easy to get the student to know this truth intellectually. Just get him or her to memorize the phrase and repeat it a few times.
But, of course, this little intellectual exercise will have nothing whatever to do with the adjustment of the emotions. It takes real expertise and a lot of somebody's time to help the blind person come to understand emotionally that true independence and self-sufficiency are possible for him or her.
In order for school or orientation and adjustment center personnel to deal effectively with this critical piece of the training program, they must first understand themselves that society's incorrect attitude about blindness, not blindness itself, is the real problem which must be addressed through proper training. A good training program should be an attitude factory. To be blunt about it, most people believe that blindness means helplessness, inferiority, total dependency, and incompetence. And, since the broader society holds these mistaken views, the blind students with whom we are working--mirroring as they do the attitudes of the broader society--will hold these same views. Something or someone must intervene and direct the student toward more healthy and constructive thinking and feelings.
I don't have space in this paper to lay out the entire training plan, but I'll discuss a sample of the key factors involved in reaching and stirring the emotions. First, you must get the individual to admit and accept the fact that he or she is blind. A basic truth on this point is that, no matter who you are, your problems will never be resolved if you insist upon denying their existence, and the school or orientation center which actively participates in perpetuating the denial can't be of any use whatever.
Incidentally, throughout this paper, when I use the word "blind," I don't just mean people who are totally blind. Included within my definition are those who are so blind that they can't function in a significant number of life's daily activities as sighted persons.
Part of acceptance is simply learning to use the word "blind" comfortably--to use it with neither shame nor embarrassment. Also it is learning to carry the long white cane everywhere you go, without shame or embarrassment. It is learning Braille and the other alternative techniques of blindness and then being willing to use them as needed wherever you are (including in the presence of others) without shame or embarrassment.
Another part of adjusting the emotions is accomplished by exposing students to activities which at first blush appear to the student to be difficult, if not impossible for the blind--running power tools, traveling alone with the long white cane in both familiar and unfamiliar surroundings, water skiing, rock climbing, cooking on a grill, sewing complicated patterns, etc. The student must learn that he or she can handle these or similar challenges competently, with or without vision.
If the student is only partially blind, then these and other class activities are performed using blindfolds called sleepshades. Otherwise the partially blind student will try to use his or her limited vision constantly, even when it is not efficient to do so. And, even more important (since we are discussing proper attitudinal adjustment in this section), the student will continue falsely to believe that the only reason he or she can do anything at all is because of the remaining vision.
Another piece of this attitudinal adjustment is handled simply by having students engage in everyday activities: going shopping, going to fashion shows, going to fairs, going bowling or horseback riding or to dances, etc. In my Iowa days we all got ourselves dressed to the nines and went to inaugural balls, to the theater, and to similar social events.
The purpose in all of these and like activities is to help the student come to understand that he or she is a normal person who can do what normal people do. I once had a young, newly blinded father exclaim, after he had stayed up and had a good ride on water skis, "By God, if I can do this, I can get a job and support my wife and my kids!"
Along the way, but as a routine part of the program, it is also essential for students to get to know and mingle with well-adjusted, successful blind adults. Good role models are invaluable in the adjustment process.
A final piece of coming to know emotionally that you're OK has to do with the concept of giving back by doing for others. In the beginning, of course, the student can't do much of this since a poor man doesn't have anything to give. But, as the student begins to grow and develop, an important step is serving as a role model and helping other blind people. The student can progress greatly by experiencing the joy and personal satisfaction which flow from real service to others.
The object of all these elements of the first ingredient is to get the student to the point where he or she can honestly say, or, more accurately, honestly feel emotionally, "I'm blind, so what! It's OK! I can have a normal, successful, and gratifying life--good vision isn't what makes for success or happiness. Blind or sighted, I really can be independent and have a good life. It is respectable to be blind."
The second ingredient involved in proper training doesn't need much discussion: The blind person must not only learn but also master those skills of blindness absolutely essential to independence and self-sufficiency--Braille, long-cane travel, typing and computers, homemaking and personal grooming skills, etc. It doesn't pay to talk about being independent and self-sufficient if you aren't.
But just learning those basic, specific skills which are common to all and essential to any blind person's independence and success isn't enough. The quality training program will also teach the student how to figure out other techniques which will become necessary throughout the routine activities of ordinary, daily life whenever new situations arise.
Even though not much discussion is needed here on the topic of skill training, I should point out that there are two troublesome aspects deserving comment. First, far too many in the field of work with the blind harbor the mistaken belief that learning the skills is all that is involved in proper training. Then, second and equally damning, far too many educators and rehabilitators also mistakenly believe that many of the alternative techniques used by the blind are too difficult for lots of blind people to learn, so they don't bother to teach them at all.
The third ingredient is a bit more complex: teaching the student how to cope with negative and erroneous public attitudes about blindness. Because of these negative and mistaken attitudes, lots of strange and unsettling things are said or done to blind people every day. These experiences run all the way from being treated as a tiny and helpless child to being thought of as incredibly marvelous--if, for example, you do something as simple and ordinary as slicing a tomato without cutting yourself.
Have you ever been around blind people who carry large chips on their shoulders? They never learned about this third ingredient, and they cannot be said to have adjusted to their blindness, no matter how well they have handled the first two ingredients. And they usually aren't very successful either.
In order to deal with this issue, the program must include a lot of discussion about society's negative and mistaken attitudes about blindness. The student must first learn just what those attitudes are; then he or she must do lots of thinking and talking about why they are what they are. And in these discussions the student must also search deeply into his or her own attitudes in order to learn to separate fact about blindness from fiction.
Eventually, as the student gains real knowledge about social attitudes about blindness and as he or she simultaneously begins to approach that emotional understanding that independence and self-sufficiency are really possible, it will get easier and easier to cope. By and by one learns simply to smile and say, "Thank you," when a well-meaning citizen grabs an arm and tries to drag you across a street, or when a waiter in a restaurant asks one's sighted companion, "What would he like?"
Finally, let me discuss what I'll call the fourth ingredient. Actually I've been aware of this issue for a long time and known that school programs and orientation and adjustment centers should be addressing it specifically, but it was only recently that it occurred to me that we should discuss and address it as one of the essential ingredients integrally involved in proper training. This fourth ingredient has to do with self-discipline, with reliability, with proper appearance and grooming, and with a healthy work ethic. It has to do with the reality that, whether we are educators or rehabilitators, our business is helping the blind prepare for eventual adult employment--successful employment. The fact is that no matter how well adjusted and well trained the blind adult may be, service providers also have to do what reasonably can be done to be sure that the blind adult is the kind of prospective employee a good employer will be eager to hire.
Why do I raise this issue in a discussion of proper training? Because I have observed far too much of the following: Blind kids in schools are not expected to perform on a par with sighted kids. They are often passed on from grade to grade, whether or not they can read or write or spell or even think. They are permitted to come into classes late or to leave early. They are given more time than their sighted peers to complete the same amount of work. They are permitted to dress poorly or to practice poor hygiene. It almost seems as if the attitude of some schools and teachers is, "Since poor little Johnny is blind, he won't ever be able to do much of anything anyway, so why bother with his personal discipline, his lack of a work ethic, or his appearance?"
You would think that adult orientation and adjustment centers would do better, and a few do, but far too many across the country really don't. Many of these can best be described as happy homes for the blind rather than places where proper training can be had. They have the same low expectations and low performance standards as many of the schools I just talked about. These are places where the blind can receive training, but not proper training.
I know of centers in which the students (and even the instructors) may or may not show up on any given day, but nobody cares. Students are continually late for class, but nothing is done. Come in late and leave early seems to be the norm. Students are permitted to look like bums and are dirty and poorly groomed, but nothing happens. There are no discipline, no structure, no expectation, and no notion that the student will ever go out and put in a hard day's work in someone's place of business.
I have observed another truly troubling problem in both schools and adult centers--students are actually taught dependence as a part of the program! One must understand that these students are people who have generally already been taken care of and taught dependence by family members and others around them--"Just sit here; I'll get it." "You can't do that; you'll hurt yourself," etc.
Take the school in which kids are waited upon hand and foot by special education teachers or aides. For example, if a student and an aide are working together and something is needed from a student's locker, the aide will say, "You just wait here. I'll get it for you." Apparently it has never occurred to such an aide that sending the blind student to the locker is just one more lesson in independence, and getting the item for the student teaches dependence.
Or consider this example. In supposed adult centers I have seen students assigned specific seats for meals. When meal time comes, the student simply takes a seat--probably having been led there by somebody--and a sighted staff member brings the student his or her food. Again, without thought, such a center is teaching dependence.
These are only two specific examples of a gigantic problem used here to illustrate what I mean. A student, whether in a school or adult center, must learn to pull his or her own weight as a part of the process of achieving true independence. To my mind it is nothing short of criminal for the educational or training program to foster dependence rather than to teach independence.
Let me contrast all of this with the training I received and the circumstances in which I found myself in Kenneth Jernigan's Orientation Center. First, it was residential and full-time. Our day began at 6:00 a.m. with men's gym class. If we accidentally overslept, we were unceremoniously rousted out.
Following a shave, shower, and then breakfast in a cafeteria where we selected our own food and carried our own trays to a vacant seat, our other classes began at 8 o'clock, promptly. If we were late, the issue was addressed. Regular classes ended at 5:30, but for those who wished to do so extra night classes were available from 6:30 until around 9:00 (our dinner would have been eaten in a public, downtown restaurant). I took advantage of all of these optional night classes. Then two other students and I (we were playing catch-up with too many wasted years of our lives) practiced Braille together until around midnight. At 6:00 the next morning we began again. And promptness was the rule for all classes.
In addition there was a dress code; cleanliness and good grooming were required; the courteous treatment of others was a must; and evening and weekend activities were scheduled. I soon learned that whatever happened during a given twenty-four-hour period was to be looked upon as a class.
Clearly, even though we never discussed it, Dr. Jernigan understood well that a fourth ingredient was a part of the proper training equation. His purpose was to provide us with all of the tools--the proper training essential to independence and real success. He wanted to make sure that, in addition to adjusting to our blindness and learning the skills which we would need to get along, we would have self-discipline and that we would have the kind of appearance and work ethic which would make it possible truly to succeed either in school or on the job. Putting this quite simply, he wanted to do everything possible to make certain that we would be the kind of quality employees a good employer would want to hire.
It goes without saying that I created the same type of atmosphere in the centers I directed. I firmly believe that, if we want to be truly independent, self-sufficient, and successful either in employment or in other of life's important activities, we must be reliable, socially acceptable, and competent--we must be able to fit in.
The questions of reliability and promptness don't need much discussion here. These are learned habits which will stand us in good stead whatever activities we pursue as adults. The point in raising the issue in this paper is that good educational programs for kids or proper training programs for blind adults must be mindful of teaching good, not bad, habits in this area.
Appearance must be discussed in a little more detail. Appearance--appropriate to the occasion--is important! Some wise person once said, "It is not just what a thing is, but how it sounds and feels that gives the value." While a person is not a thing, this concept is pretty much on target as we discuss the acceptance and full participation (the complete integration) of blind people into adult society.
In fact, not only personal appearance, but also what things look like must be examined, particularly for young blind children or for adults who were born blind but who have never received proper training. In his article, "The Barrier of the Visible Difference," Dr. Kenneth Jernigan addresses this topic. He discusses the fact that blind people are not less competent than others of their age and circumstance and that blind persons are not slow learners or inept. The point is that sometimes something which can be seen at a glance by a sighted person must be learned a different way by a blind person. The learning can be just as quick and just as effective, but it won't happen unless somebody thinks to explain it--to help either the blind child or the longtime blinded adult who has never received proper training.
The fact is that the blind child (or long-time-blinded adult) must either be unusually persistent or have somebody at hand who thinks to give needed information. Otherwise, insignificant details will multiply into major deficits.
More than anything else--at least, unless one is aware of it and thinks about it--meaningless visible differences can lead to confusion and misunderstanding. Sometimes these visible differences can even lead to misplaced feelings of superiority or inadequacy.
Let me briefly address one last point on the topic of appearance--what have come to be referred to as blindisms. Again, this problem specifically deals mainly with young blind children or with adults who were born blind but who have never experienced proper training. Rocking, twisting the head, rubbing the eyes, etc., are bad habits which can detract markedly from a proper and desirable appearance.
Many theories have been put forward through the years in an effort to identify the cause of this unacceptable behavior. I believe that most of it, at least, is pretty simple. All young children engage in a variety of unacceptable physical activities. If little Johnny is sighted, most parents or teachers will simply say, "No, you may not do that," and they will keep at it until the bad habit is forgotten.
But if little Johnny is blind, far too many are afraid to keep at it until the bad habit is broken--after all, "I can't be mean to a blind child."
I believe that this entire problem can be corrected when it is addressed early and consistently. I can also speak from experience and tell you that these bad habits are difficult to break if they have not been corrected before the young person enters an adult center for training.
Some blind people have tried to convince me that appearance makes no difference, but this, of course, is plain nonsense. We live in a world structured for the sighted, since sighted people make up the vast majority. Therefore, if a blind person intends to get along and compete on terms of equality, he or she must learn how the sighted feel and what they think is acceptable, beautiful, or attractive. This has nothing to do with pretending to be sighted or with competence, innate loveliness, or quality. It is simply a critical factor to consider in achieving acceptance, integration, and success.
From one point of view, of course, the people who claim that appearance makes no difference are correct. The substance of a thing or person is certainly more important than its appearance, but often we as fallible humans don't take the time to explore the substance unless the initial appearance is attractive or at least acceptable.
So educators or rehabilitators, help your students adjust properly to their blindness, and by all means help them develop their marketable talents, but also help them learn, as National Federation of the Blind President Marc Maurer recently wrote, "We must have talent, but we must also have the appearance of talent."
As an aside I want to let you know that the best textbook I've ever read on the topics of appearance and what things look like is Gray Pancakes and Gold Horses. It is the fourteenth in the NFB's series of Kernel Books.
This fourth ingredient also includes a special admonition which must be made to the students we serve. It involves an appreciation by the blind job seeker of the fact that, whether we like it or not, we as members of a visible minority are not judged merely as individuals but, rather, are judged each by the other. This is one of the side effects, one of the nuisances or inconveniences, of being a member of a visible minority.
To illustrate, a sighted man can go to an employer for an interview and show up half an hour late. He can be dressed badly, act stupidly, conduct himself rudely, and as a result fail to get the job. However, since he is not a member of a minority, his bad first impression will affect only himself. The employer won't judge anyone else by his poor conduct and appearance.
But let a blind person show up and perform just as badly (no matter how qualified he or she may be), and it won't result only in that person's failure to become employed. It will hurt the chances of other blind applicants to be considered seriously since that employer will tend to judge future blind applicants by the one who presented such a bad impression of the blind as a whole.
On this issue, too, I have heard blind people say that this should make no difference and that it isn't fair to involve them in the larger picture. They say, "I have enough trouble being responsible for myself, so I don't want to be held responsible for anyone else's success."
Unfortunately, these sad souls don't have the luxury of consulting their personal preferences, and they don't have the slightest choice in the matter. This is simply the way it is. And, since this is so, I believe we should teach our students to take advantage of the situation and go out of their way to present a positive impression of blindness.
These, then, are the four ingredients which nearly forty years of experience have taught me are absolutely essential to that proper training which can predict vocational success and a satisfying and gratifying life, that training which enables the average blind person to become truly independent and self-sufficient. I urge those of you who are education professionals to insist upon this kind of training in your schools.
I urge those of you who are rehabilitation professionals to help your clients understand that programs which offer proper training are the ones which should be selected as they exercise their informed choice. Before you can give this valuable assistance, however, you need to understand the concept of proper training completely yourselves, and you must understand the importance of each of these four ingredients as they relate to true vocational success.
In conclusion I also urge those of you who administer educational programs for blind children or who direct or work in orientation and adjustment services for blind adults to examine your policies and practices thoroughly. Be sure that none of these four essential training ingredients falls through the cracks.
I began by saying: "Given proper training and opportunity, the average blind person can do the average job in the average place of business and do it as well as his or her sighted neighbor." This statement is the absolute truth, and the techniques for providing proper training have been tried, tested, and proven. Insist upon proper training for those whom you serve.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ron Gardner]
Living My Dreams
by Ron Gardner
From the Editor: As part of a panel presentation on Monday afternoon, July 5, at this year's convention Ron Gardner, President of the NFB of Utah, delivered an inspiring speech about his work as an attorney and his life as a leader of the National Federation of the Blind. He had wonderful and inspiring stories to tell. This is what he said:
Dr. Maurer asked me a few weeks ago to tell you about some of the responsibilities that I have and some of the activities that I have engaged in as a blind lawyer in the practice of law. I've been a blind lawyer for over twenty-one years, most of that time as a senior trial attorney for the office of Chief Counsel of the Internal Revenue Service. But don't get too excited, I left them a few years ago.
I'm happy to respond for two specific reasons: 1) as a Federationist I respond to a specific request from our President, Dr. Marc Maurer, but 2) I want to demonstrate that belief in and adherence to the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind leads to independence, success, and achievement. It can also come to change what it means to be blind in the minds of society.
Notice I mentioned I was a senior trial attorney and a litigator for the office of Chief Counsel, and in that position I had opportunity on one occasion to speak with the Chief Counsel himself, a man by the name of Joel Gerber. Joel Gerber was the Chief Counsel and had been appointed by the President of the United States and came to Salt Lake City. I had the opportunity to meet with him. I left our personal interview saddened and discouraged because Joel Gerber was not interested in my abilities as an attorney; he was interested only in how a blind attorney could possibly litigate a case. He asked such questions as, "How do you conduct direct examinations or cross-examination?" and "How in the world could you possibly present documentary evidence to the court?" I assured Chief Counsel Joel Gerber that I had litigated many cases up to that point, and I thought I had the skills to continue doing so. He was as high as you could get in the office of Chief Counsel, and I was talking to my supreme boss, as it were.
It took guts, but I also had confidence. However, I must admit to you that my confidence waned a couple of years later when Joel Gerber left his position as Chief Counsel of the Internal Revenue Service and was appointed, again by the President of the United States, to be a judge of the United States Tax Court. Now fellow Federationists, that's where I did my job. I litigated in the United States Tax Court.
So when I was assigned to litigate a case involving two hundred million dollars in bank loans, I was just a tad nervous when I learned that I was assigned to litigate that case in front of Judge Joel Gerber. I can assure you that I was prepared. I did my research, and I learned that there were two tax court cases directly against me on the issue. That didn't help my confidence. However, with fire in my belly I went into the courtroom, and I conducted cross examination and direct examination, and I presented the necessary documentary evidence to Judge Joel Gerber. I was happy then, and I am exuberant today to tell you that a few weeks later Judge Joel Gerber entered a decision directly and completely in my favor. I am happy also to tell you that he wrote an opinion that was given the highest degree of authority for Presidential value that the United States Tax Court can give. It overturned the two previous cases directly on point, and it was also given the distinction of being a tax court en banc opinion.
Now fellow Federationists, as a litigator or as an attorney I've also had the opportunity and distinct pleasure, from my point of view, of leaving the Internal Revenue Service and becoming the legal director of the Disability Law Center, which is a protection and advocacy agency in Utah. A protection and advocacy agency has the direct responsibility to enforce and strengthen the laws that protect the rights of people with disabilities through legal advocacy. As its legal director I direct and supervise all of the litigation and legal activities of a staff of approximately thirty people in five different cities in the state of Utah.
I'd like to tell you, though, as legal director I have the responsibility, not only to supervise litigation, but to make the hard decisions about what cases we will select. One of my direct responsibilities is to determine and to insure that our funding and resources go as far as possible, which means that I have to look at each individual case and determine whether we should use litigation or whether we should use other means. In other words, I want the legal remedy that is achieved not only to solve the problem for the individual client but also to remove the systemic barriers that block the way for people with disabilities.
I remember a man who had severe schizophrenia and suffered from external voices that continually invaded his mind. He was housed in a facility that was operated by the Department of Corrections--in other words, the prison. On one occasion, in an attempt to escape the voices that were invading his mind, he pulled a pillow case over his head and attempted to escape these voices. But rather than receive mental health treatment from the doctors who were on staff, prison guards entered his room, stripped him naked, placed him on a restraint chair, and left him there. This didn't help the voices that were invading his mind, and it certainly didn't help his blood circulation either. A blood clot formed in his leg, and, when he was finally let up from the chair, the blood clot broke free, causing his instant death. In other words, the facility that was supposed to be giving him mental health treatment had caused his death. And of course local news media and national news media immediately became involved.
I was interviewed about what I as legal director was going to do about the case of this man's death. I can tell you also that the news media contacted Mr. Lane McCotter, the Executive Director of the Department of Corrections. Mr. Lane McCotter said that Ron Gardner and the Disability Law Center were going to see to it the restraint chair was never used again. He referred to me and to the Disability Law Center as a gadfly. I'm sure he meant something annoying, but nothing to be worried about. I think that as Executive Director Mr. McCotter expected me to enter his office and plead that the chair not be used.
I can assure you that that's not what I did. In fact, what I did do was to enter the office of the Governor of the State of Utah and speak directly to the Governor and to his chief legal advisor and explain to them the ramifications to the state of Utah if they continued to use this deadly restraint chair. A few weeks later Mr. McCotter was looking for a job, and the restraint chair has never again been used in the state of Utah.
I guess my response to Mr. McCotter's reference to me as a gadfly is, if I were a fly, I'm glad I didn't have to deal with the north end of that southbound horse. I can tell you, though, Federationists, it was not always this way. I did not always have this fire in my belly. Mostly as a young blind boy I was afraid. The only blind adult that I knew was a pitied and pitiful man who sold pencils on the street corner. I had an older brother who was blind; then we had a little brother who was blind. Mostly my parents were supportive, but they didn't know much what to do, and neither did the school system.
My second grade teacher said, "Now kids, we are going to have a spelling test," and she held a picture up in front of the class and said, "Spell what you see." I scampered up to the front of the room and scampered back to my desk and wrote the word, "dog." She said, "Now children, let's stay in our seats." She then held up another picture. I scampered up to the front of the room, looked at the picture, went back, and wrote "cat." Well this time she directed her wrath at me and said, "Ronald, I told you to stay in your seat." She then held up the third picture. Now what was I to do? I'll tell you what I did; as surreptitiously as I could, I scampered up to the front of the room, looked at the picture, went back to my desk, and wrote down, "cow." The next thing I remember was Mrs. Johnson's ruler being almost broken over the knuckles of my hand.
Now I don't think I thought of these two words, but for the first time the concept of alternative techniques came forcefully to my mind. I learned from my eighth grade teacher that you don't have to study all of the answers to the questions, just do the first ten. The next day, when I was prepared with all one hundred answers to the questions we were to be given in science class, he gave the exam to the other students and then called me up to the front of the class and asked me the first ten questions, and I answered them correctly. He then said, "That's all." I said, "Mr. Bowman, I know the answers to all the questions." He taught me a very depressing lesson. He said, "Ronald, you have got to learn to take what people are giving you." Now I think what he meant was, you've got to learn to take it when people dump on you.
I had an older brother who had gone to college, and I wanted to go to college because I knew I could. But my high school counselor told me, "Don't waste the time and money; enjoy bucking hay." Well, I did like bucking hay, but I didn't want to do it forever. "Enjoy irrigating." Well, I enjoyed working in the fields, but I didn't want to do it forever, and I knew that I could go to college. I didn't know anybody who had gone to law school. My dream was to go to law school.
I can tell you that during the last year of college I received a telephone call from my brother Norm Gardner. He called and told me that he had received a call from Jim Omvig and that Jim Omvig was going to be calling me directly. The two of them talked to me on the telephone several times along with Jim's sister Jan Omvig, and they started filling my mind with the truth about blindness. Not only that, but they sent me records with speeches from Dr. Jernigan that truly articulated what I felt in my heart. Norm Gardner opened the doorway to Federationism to me, and Dr. Jernigan opened the doorway for me to go to Washington, D.C. in the summer of 1975 and work with Mr. Jim Gashel in our office that was then located in Washington and go up to the Hill and deal with legislators, Congressmen and Senators, about important matters up on Capitol Hill.
Not only that, but later that summer I went to the Palmer House in Chicago, Illinois, and I met Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. It was a life-changing experience. But you know I met two additional people that changed my life forever. Those two people were Peggy Pinder (we know her as Peggy Elliott). Now here was a young woman who was blind, and she told me that she was going to law school. My ears perked up, and I got excited, and I thought somebody is living my dream. But I also met another young man who told me he had finished his first year of law school. His name was Marc Maurer. We know him as Dr. Marc Maurer, and he had finished his first year of law school, and I knew it could be done. If they could do it, I could do it. And I started feeling that fire in my belly again.
Fellow Federationists, I am here to tell you today that the dean of that law school I was told I could never go to just notified me last month--Dr. Maurer doesn't even know this yet--that I have been selected out of the thousands of lawyers of that law school to be the Honored Alumnus.[applause]
I have a very special place in my heart for blind children and teachers and parents of blind children, and I am here to tell you that your children can grow up and have normal educations and get normal jobs and have normal lives, and I am here to tell you that, if they get these normal jobs, they can own a normal house just like the one that I have.
My house has a swamp cooler on it, and I am going to tell you about my swamp cooler. One year I delayed getting up on the roof to fix that swamp cooler, and it was hot. It was well into June. Blind guys aren't supposed to get on the roof, but I got on the roof to fix my swamp cooler about every year. Now it was into June, and I decided I'm just going to wait until it cools down. So I waited until about ten o'clock at night. My neighbor came out, heard the commotion, and said, "Ron, what are you doing up there?"
I said, "Bob, I'm fixing the swamp cooler."
He said, "Ron, it's dark."
I said, "Bob, it gets dark once a day, every day about this time." The next day in church he cornered me along with some of our other mutual friends in the hallway at church and said, "Ron, you know you don't act like a normal blind person." (Now I'm not sure what a normal blind person is supposed to act like.) But he went on, "As I see it, you have two alternatives: either you act like a normal blind person, or you quit carrying that white cane."
I said, "Bob, as I see it, there's a third alternative--you can change what you believe blind people can do."
I want to end with one final, very personal story. When Bruce Gardner was fifteen years old and I was nineteen years old, and I don't know how old Norm was, I was serving as a Mormon missionary down in Guatemala when my mother died of cancer. Before she died, she called my brother Norm to her bedside and said, "Norm, I'm frightened; I'm afraid. I don't know what you and your brothers are going to do." This was before Norm knew about the NFB. She said, "Norm, promise me that you will find a way to take care of your little brothers who are blind. Help them find the way." Norm, I'm here to tell you that you found a way. I want to thank you with all of my heart for introducing me to the National Federation of the Blind, to Dr. Jernigan, and to my mentor and teacher, Dr. Marc Maurer, who not only told me in 1975 but showed me in 1975 that blind people really can live their dreams.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Sharon Gold, seated at her desk]
The Blind at Work
by Sharon Gold
From the Editor: Monday afternoon, July 5, Sharon Gold, President of Sharon Gold Enterprises, addressed the 1999 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind as part of a panel of Federationists talking about their jobs and their outlook on the working world. Sharon is a longtime leader of the NFB and was President of the NFB of California for many years. This is what she is now doing and what she said about it:
President Maurer and Fellow Federationists: recently a business associate of mine said, "If you walk down the street and see a turtle sitting on a fence post, you know he didn't get there by himself." This statement is true for each of us as blind persons. Were it not for the National Federation of the Blind, none of us would be where we are today.
I was born in 1940 just eleven days before the founding of the National Federation of the Blind. At that time the outlook for blind adults was bleak. Few blind people had jobs, and my parents had no idea what a blind child or adult could do. Unbeknownst to my parents, Jacobus tenBroek and a few other blind people were planning a gathering in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, that would influence my life and the life of every other blind person in America. The leaders of this organization had a vision and a dream of equality and opportunity for all blind people. Through the National Federation of the Blind we have received the support and encouragement to think beyond the restrictions imposed upon us by the sighted public and to dare to reach out and take the leadership when opportunity knocks at our door. Like sighted people, we blind people have dreams and aspire to success.
If you asked most people, they would say they want to be successful and financially comfortable. The good news is that people can be financially comfortable and even acquire real wealth, but they must learn to earn and play by the rules. If you truly want to be successful, find a person doing what it is that you want to do. Do exactly what that person does every day, and you will achieve the success that you desire. In our own organization the young leader Kenneth Jernigan moved to Berkeley, California, to learn from Dr. tenBroek. Some years later our distinguished President Marc Maurer, then a young lawyer, moved to Baltimore to learn from Dr. Jernigan. Each of these leaders followed in the footsteps of his mentor and gradually added his own personality to make his leadership unique.
A half century ago we were in the age of the job. People went to school, established a career, joined a company, and stayed in the employ of that company for life. These people spent their entire lives climbing the corporate ladder to attain the highest possible salary. They made a few investments along the way to augment their retirement, received a company pin or two, and expected to retire with the proverbial gold watch. They then went home to rest in the sun with the small pittance of a retirement income. We live in the richest country in the world, yet today the average sixty-five-year-old American doesn't have the discretionary funds to write an unbudgeted check for $500. What a tragedy!
Now I understand that when you start talking about money, a lot of people get uncomfortable, especially if you are talking about their money. People don't have any problem with getting by and even having some of the comforts of life, but if you start talking about wealth, all of the things that we've been taught about money being the root of all evil comes up, and we're quickly reminded that we shouldn't want to be wealthy. Contrary to what many people believe, the Bible does not say that money is the root of all evil. What it does say is that evil comes from the love of money.
I don't happen to think that money is the most important thing in the world unless, of course, you don't have any. Then money becomes pretty important. In my lifetime I have had money, and I have not had money. I can testify that having money is better. I think you would all agree with that. And there's nothing wrong with having an abundance of money. If you actually want to be wealthy, you can be wealthy. But most of us have not been taught how to become wealthy.
The age of the job, also known as the Industrial Age, is now gone. In one short generation we have moved from the Industrial Age to the Information Age or, if you prefer, from people power to mind power. Our values have shifted from being confined to land, factories, fixtures, and raw materials to the age of the mind. Today value is placed on knowledge, skill development, and the ability to apply these attributes quickly in a highly competitive marketplace. Value is not necessarily placed on a formal education.
We have moved from the era of lifelong employment to the era of lifelong employability. If you are a working-age person today, you will have a variety of jobs in your lifetime. You are likely to change careers three, four, or more times before finally reaching retirement.
The biggest mistake you can make today is ever to think that you work for anyone but yourself, even though you are employed by another individual or company. The wealthy have known this for a long time. The Bible tells us that, as a person thinks, so shall he or she be. If you want to be successful, you must think of yourself as the president of your own personal services company. You are the chief executive officer of your own entrepreneurial organization with one employee--you. You have one product to sell in the marketplace, your personal services. For the rest of your life your job is to operate your personal company efficiently and effectively so that you maximize your value. You can have value to others only when you are valuable to yourself.
You must manage your personal company in such a way that you offer the highest quality and quantity of personal services available anywhere. Your job will be constantly to increase your knowledge, develop new skills, recognize change, be vigilant of opportunity, and be ready to take some risk. Without risk little can be achieved. I am told that Dr. tenBroek used to put it like this. Sitting at the head of his dining room table, he would survey those sitting around the table and inquire of each, "And what have you done today to justify your existence?" Each of us must ask the same question of ourselves. We can use this self-evaluating question to determine that we are moving closer to our goals or that we need to reevaluate and redirect ourselves on the path that we are taking to achieve our goals.
You may choose to attach your personal services to the payroll of another or, in other words, to be an employee, or you may prefer independence and to be self-employed. Regardless of your choice, you will enjoy the greatest wealth if the management of your personal services company leads you to the creation of multiple sources of income, which may include income from a salary, investments, or other business income.
Although I didn't think of it in quite this way, I established Sharon Gold Enterprises many years ago when I realized that it was only through my personal services that I could create financial security. If I worked for someone else, which I did, I realized that I must be my employer's most valuable employee. If I worked at my own direction, I must be my own best employee. I tell others that I am my own best and worst boss.
Our Federation leader Dr. Jernigan was perhaps one of the best known blind entrepreneurs of this century, even though we do not think of him as an entrepreneur. He established the Kenneth Jernigan Personal Services Company when he was a mere boy. His brother Lloyd worked in the field, but the blind boy wasn't allowed to take his place as a field hand on the family's Tennessee farm. He used his entrepreneurial spirit to develop a business. He built and sold furniture to contribute to the family income. Much to the dismay of the sighted farm hands, the blind entrepreneur made more money working for himself each day than the field hands earned toiling in the fields.
After college Dr. Jernigan took his personal services to the Tennessee School for the Blind, where he made himself indispensable as a teacher and role model to the students. Ultimately he got himself fired because he wouldn't compromise his principles. Refusing to be a burden on society, Dr. Jernigan used his personal services company to sell life insurance and later to facilitate the advancement of the blind by heading the Iowa Commission for the Blind. Today many of us are successfully following in Dr. Jernigan's footsteps, creating financial independence through our own personal services companies.
One of the responsibilities I have as President of Sharon Gold Enterprises is to own and manage a more than 15,000-square-foot office building located in Sacramento, California. The purchase of this building was no small feat because financial officers wanted me to jump through hoops not required of sighted borrowers, and one potential lender tried to insist that, since I was blind, all of his conversations with me be tape-recorded. I refused to have conversations with him because the National Federation of the Blind had taught me that it was discriminatory to record conversations with me when conversations with sighted borrowers were not recorded. Ultimately my loan was finalized with another lender under the same terms and conditions as for any sighted borrower. This lender wanted my business and didn't care that I was blind.
Another responsibility that I have as President of Sharon Gold Enterprises is to work as an independent sales representative for a company that has been recognized this year by INC 500 as the eighty-fourth-fastest-growing, privately-owned company in the United States and the second-fastest-growing privately-owned manufacturing company in North America. The company has been recognized by Success and Entrepreneur magazines and Money Maker's Monthly. For the past three years the company has received the Five-Coin Rating from Business Bits 'n' Pieces as the Business of the Year. For the more than three years that I have been working with this company, I have been consistently recognized by the company as being in the top 5 percent of the sales force.
As an independent sales representative and sales manager for the company, I provide consultation and help to people across the United States and Canada. These people come from all walks of life and wish to establish their own businesses. Much of my work is done by telephone, and blindness is never an issue. The personal services that I offer are what is important. For these services the people respect me as a mentor, role model, and leader. When I later meet these people face to face at the many business seminars that I conduct or in which I participate across the country, blindness is only the mere characteristic that it is, no more important than my gray hair.
Some of the people with whom I work are following their dreams and taking their first steps toward financial freedom. Others have been forced into a change of career because of the loss of employment. Still others are in need of a part-time income to help make ends meet. By the way, did you know that a mere $500 a month in additional income can keep most people considering bankruptcy from having to file? I teach people how to create an immediate cash flow and make up to a six-figure or more annual income while working from home. I mentor people through a process that removes fear and shows them how to make money quickly and easily without having to reinvent the wheel. Success can come to anyone who is willing to follow a step-by-step process of duplicating the success of others.
The process of learning from successful people has been so valuable for me that I was recently inducted into Who's Who Among Executives and Professionals. The committee did not know that I was blind when I was contacted for the preinduction interview. However, I have requested that my personal profile that will appear in the millennium edition include my association with and leadership in the National Federation of the Blind. After all, I would not be there without the Federation.
I joined the National Federation of the Blind twenty-five years ago. When I joined the Federation, I had a twelve-year tenure as a teacher of sighted children in the public elementary schools of California. I got that job because the NFB had worked with lawmakers to shape the California statutes so that blind people had an equal opportunity to apply for and acquire teaching positions.
Today I am a successful business woman. I have had and continue to have the opportunity for success because the National Federation of the Blind has influenced public policies and laws. Because we are organized, we blind people have an equal opportunity to take our rightful place amongst our sighted colleagues and to compete on terms of equality.
We have all faced discrimination in employment at one time or another. Even though I have always managed to have successful employment or self-employment, we know that 70 percent of the employable blind are unemployed or underemployed. We are improving these statistics by becoming experts in our respective fields. We are also improving these statistics by becoming self-employed entrepreneurs and sometimes even the employer rather than the employee.
My brothers and my sisters, I invite you to dare to dream and to take action on your dreams. Never, never forget that our roots of opportunity and encouragement lie deep within the National Federation of the Blind. Like the turtle, we blind people cannot get onto the fence post without help. And, for that matter, neither can anyone else. I am grateful to this organization for being there for me when I could not be there for myself. May we forever honor one another and support our progress through the National Federation of the Blind.
Planned giving takes place when a contributor decides to leave a substantial gift to charity. It means planning as you would for any substantial purchase--a house, college tuition, or a car. The most common forms of planned giving are wills and life insurance policies. There are also several planned giving options through which you can simultaneously give a substantial contribution to the National Federation of the Blind, obtain a tax deduction, and receive lifetime income now or in the future. For more information write or call the National Federation of the Blind, Special Gifts, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998, (410) 659-9314, fax (410) 685-5653.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Brian Miller]
Spelling Bees and Grammar Gorillas
by Brian Miller
From the Editor: Brian Miller is the Secretary/Treasurer of the Old Capitol Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa. This article first appeared in the Spring, 1999, issue of the Student Slate, the publication of the National Association of Blind Students. When I first read this piece, the truth of it struck me between the eyes. How well I recall the caustic comment written on one of my college religion papers to the effect that a religious rite was not spelled "right," but since I couldn't be expected to have known that fact, the professor would not count off for what he would have considered an egregious error if committed by any other student. I can at least say that I have never since misspelled that particular word.
Learning to spell moderately well when one read neither print nor Braille as a child is a long, laborious job--but a perfectly doable one. Brian argues the case for making the effort, and he outlines how to begin. It isn't only students who should read and meditate on the truth of this article. Here is what Brian has to say:
It's the end of the school term, and your computer printer is churning out the final pages of a research paper due in twenty minutes. Perhaps you're feeling pleased because a semester's worth of diligent research and rigorous academic inquiry has enabled you to produce a paper that is fit for the MLA Hall of Fame.
Or maybe you're sweating bullets because you waited until three days before the due date to begin your paper and you're coming down from forty-eight hours of coffee-fueled, feverish scribbling. Either way, you're pretty sure your professor of transmigrational Zen historiography will be pleased with your work. You grab the final pages from the printer tray and lurch out the door and over to campus to your prof's office, where you slide the paper under her door and slink away unnoticed.
A few days later you're hanging around the department office annoying the secretaries and chatting with fellow students about grades and beer when the Zen historian pokes her head out from her office and waves you in. Reluctantly you follow her gesture, enter the office, and take a seat.
"Well," she begins, "I wanted to talk with you about your paper." You nod blearily. "It's quite good, and I should tell you that I gave you an A-." You nod again, a little miffed about the minus, but warming to the positive tone of her voice. "Your title, "The Sound of One Culture Clapping," is very clever, and your research is thorough. Your conclusion is lucid, and the academic elegance is impressive." You're smiling now. "But there are some problems." The smile vanishes. "I wasn't sure if I should bring this up," she says hesitantly. "I mean, I know this can't be as easy for you with your, well, visual impairment, but there are quite a few mechanical problems in this paper and a lot of spelling errors."
"Damn," you think, "this old song again."
"Well," she continues, "for example, you put `apostrophe `s' for the its possessive when there shouldn't be one, and you spelled Zen with two n's." Her voice becomes a dull drone in your brain like amplifier pink noise. "...And here you spell Canada with a K, and, well, I wasn't sure if I should mention this, but I think you misspelled your own name."
Is the above a cautionary tale against the insidiousness of procrastination? A tract put out by the Proofreaders and Editors of America Promotion Council? No, rather I think it is a nightmare scenario that many blind students will wake up to at some point in their academic careers. My point is not that the blind are so incompetent that we cannot spell our own names or that we lack some chromosome responsible for grammatical accuracy. I do hope, however, to draw on my own experience as a student to make some broader comments on the issues of literacy and self-esteem.
While I did not suffer through a scenario exactly like that described above, I have, both as an undergraduate and even as a graduate student, had to come to terms with the fact that I was seriously under-performing as a writer. The reasons for this shortcoming were related directly to my blindness or, more specifically, my attitudes and those of my professors about my blindness.
A writer since elementary school, I have always used style, the clever turn of phrase, to steam-roll over any criticism of my organization or mechanics. Writing was a tour de force, a manic assault on the cerebral cortex, with no time for revising and certainly no time for (gasp!) proofreading. When I started to consider graduate school and a career in academia seriously, I had to take some time to reflect on my habits. I remember being handed back a paper I had written on the "Shining Path" guerrillas of Peru on which my professor, someone for whom I had enormous respect and considered a mentor, had written, "This is your best paper yet, Brian," but went on to say later, "For future reference, shining path in Spanish is `sendero luminoso,' not `sandero luminoso.'"
Latin American politics was my gig, and I was a fluent Spanish speaker. How could I have flubbed something so simple? The answers, I believe, are not specific to me but may be all too prevalent a reality for the blind student.
The first of these is the impact of auditory learning on our knowledge of the form and shape of the words we use every day. By this I simply mean our preference for cassette books and our difficulty reproducing in writing what we hear on tape. The second component of this equation is the tendency for our teachers and professors not to hold us equally accountable when we make mistakes.
As many of us already know, the use of Braille as the principal medium of communication for the blind has declined radically in the past fifty years. This has had a tremendous impact on the level of true literacy within our community. This is because, when we see words with our eyes or feel them with our fingers, we imprint on our brains both the word as a whole and its constituent parts (i.e., the letters that make up the word). Conversely, when we hear a spoken word, either live or on cassette, we imprint only the sound component or the word as a whole unit. So when it comes time to reproduce this word later, say in a research paper, we must struggle to translate the sound into the written form. This is a tricky business, especially with the ever-quixotic English language.
If we are not careful, we can become prone to making errors of spelling in our writing that a literate sighted person would be less likely to make. For example, say you are doing a paper on the great Antarctic poet, Empress Penguinus Bumperschew. A sighted person reading her ponderous work would know the poet's name was spelled B-u-m-p-e-r-s-c-h-e-w. If you're listening to one of her epic poems on tape, however, and the reader failed to spell her name, you would be at a loss, and you would do a terrible disservice to Ms. Bumperschew.
We cannot blithely fall back on high-tech solutions, saying, "My spell-checker will save me." You'll quickly find the more specialized and advanced your studies become, the less reliable are even the best spell-checkers. As a radical young graduate student in political science, I became quite adroit at discussing weighty concepts like hegemonic transference and consocionationalism, but beads of sweat would form on my brow at the prospect of spelling such things in a paper. Even before we arrive as far as graduate school, we should know such basics as when to use "their" t-h-e-i-r, versus "they're" t-h-e-y-'-r-e since no spell-check program will show us when to use which form.
Professors aggravate the situation by cutting us slack because they imagine we are incapable of monitoring our own work for mechanical errancy. They will say, "I know this is harder for you." And they are right; it is harder, or at least it can be more work. Even worse is when no one wants to tell us when we've made a mistake because it will embarrass us or them. The professor might think it is unfair to hold us to the same standard as other students. They might think it is like saying to a person in a wheelchair, "I know you can't run as fast as the rest of us, so I won't even ask you to try."
I hope that my remarks here do not elicit facile retorts such as, "Yes, yes. OK, try not to misspell stuff. Sure. Thanks for the great advice." After all, you might well be a National Spelling Bee champion and haven't misspelled the thorniest of words since second grade. However, I know that my Achilles heel has always been mechanical errors in writing and my resistance to doing anything about it until well into my academic career. This shortcoming has derived from a potent combination of two factors. First have been my own fatalistic attitudes: "Why bother proofreading?" "My computer probably won't catch the mistake," and "I don't have a reader handy." Second has been the willingness of my academic mentors to forgive, forget, or ignore the issue altogether.
Plenty of people have always been around to assure me that I am articulate, witty, or glib. This may be ego-bolstering, but is not especially edifying. We cannot expect to grow on a Twinkie-like diet of compliments. We must be willing to take and make honest assessments of our strengths and weaknesses and never say, "Hey, this is pretty good for a blind guy."
We know that with enough grease on the axles that guy in the wheelchair might well roll right by the rest of us bipedal types, and with the right skills we blind people can and will meet the challenges of academia.
We should not be seduced into producing substandard work when we know we can do better. When we can't get Braille, we must insist our readers spell all those strange names and places and even hire a proofreader if we need to. We must budget time to check our work and hold ourselves to a high standard. If we fail to do this, if we settle for verbal glibness and charm as substitutes for real writing ability, we cannot honestly call ourselves literate.
As students we will inevitably make mistakes, embarrassing ones, mistakes that will make us want to move to Argentina. But with some effort these can become the exceptions--rare causes for mirth--rather than the standard by which we are measured. Being a competent blind student has little to do with buzzing about like a spelling bee or lumbering around like a grammar gorilla, but rather living up to the full measure of our abilities and never settling for second best.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Steve Benson]
Doing What's Necessary
by Stephen O. Benson
From the Editor: Sighted people are often curious about the simple modifications that blind people make in order to get on with ordinary life. Mostly they are not ingenious or complex. The simpler the better is a good rule to follow, and blind youngsters are particularly clever at applying the principle to their play.
Steve Benson, President of the NFB of Illinois and Member of the NFB Board of Directors, has struck up a friendship with one of his fellow commuters into downtown Chicago. He has passed along Kernel Books, which have been well received, but the woman recently expressed eagerness to know how Steve has developed the little tricks that he uses every day. Steve began thinking back to childhood and the modifications he and his friends made that enabled him to join in neighborhood games. The following article was the result. Here it is:
The Hawthorn was a fine old gray-stone, twelve-flat building in Chicago's Lincoln Park area across the street from De Paul University. It boasted polished, dark hardwood millwork; oak parquet floors; and formal marble entrances. Sometime in the 1920's it was converted to a fifty-nine-unit rooming house. It was there that my mother and I settled in 1943; I was just a year and a half old.
Two significant things occurred at about that time: doctors at Children's Memorial Hospital determined that I had retinitis pigmentosa, and my mother became manager of the Hawthorn. Since we lived where my mother worked, she was able to guide and mold her young son in ways she could not have otherwise. The Hawthorn and its inhabitants had much to do with who I have become.
When I entered first grade, I was unable to read standard print. So school officials placed me in what were then called "sight-saving classes." I did not and could not fully understand the implications of that placement. I could not identify facial features. I could not follow the flight of a batted or thrown ball. I could not see a bird in a tree. I had no idea what blindness was. At some point the notion of blindness was raised, but I did not regard myself as blind, for I could see. Somewhere along the line it was suggested that I was "half-blind," and that seemed okay.
As I moved from second to third to fourth grade, my visual acuity diminished while the print I was expected to read became smaller. Reading became more and more difficult. I have very distinct memories of sitting at my desk, staring out the window, trying to puzzle out the print figures on the page in front of me. It was like reading gray print on gray paper. My teacher printed my math problems in large figures in India ink, and still I struggled. That was the middle of fourth grade, and it was another year before I was transferred to a school where I could learn to read and write Braille.
The prevailing theory then was that vision should be used until it was absolutely necessary to learn Braille. That theory was based on age-old misconceptions about blindness, and to a disturbing degree that misguided theory persists today. Inevitably those beliefs colored my attitude toward my loss of vision.
For all practical purposes my formal education began when I reached the second half of fifth grade. Until that time I had never read a book from the library; I couldn't. I began learning Braille in September of 1952. By January of 1953 I was able to read a biography of Andrew Jackson. It was not easy. Many of the bad reading habits I had developed as I tried to read print carried over to Braille. In fact, some of those bad reading habits stayed with me well into adulthood.
Although school work was difficult for me, I mastered a variety of other skills at home with enthusiasm. Nick and I met in the backyard of the Hawthorn when we were about three years old. Both of us lived in single-parent households with no siblings, so we bonded like brothers. Though I was legally blind, neither of us had any idea that my limited vision should make a difference. Nick and I learned what my sight would and would not allow me to do. We invented alternative techniques or devices that enabled me to participate in virtually every childhood activity. Nobody instructed us in the design of devices or techniques; we just did what had to be done.
The Hawthorn was loaded with kids. The backyard was thirty feet wide and about a hundred feet long, all cement. It was like a Hollywood stage set, ever changing. One day railroad tracks were drawn with chalk, complete with switches and crossovers. Our wagons and tricycles traversed the cross-country paths until it rained or until we tired of it; then the yard became something else: a baseball diamond, a football gridiron, a site for statue maker or red light green light, and more. I participated in all of these activities. We organized teams and devised alternative ways for me to play ball. I was fully involved.
At about the time Nick and I were ten, we met Tom, who lived in the building next door. Nick, Tom, and I joined other kids in the neighborhood in softball, touch football, basketball, and track events. In each of these sports the alternatives we developed worked for me and for the rest of the kids. In softball (using the sixteen-inch ball that is common to the Chicago area), I was usually the pitcher. The catcher would position himself behind home plate, clap his hands, and receive my deliveries. When the pitches were too far out of the strike zone, he would tell me the location so that I could make a correction. My objective was to hit the corners so that the batter would be less likely to drive the ball up the middle since I could not field a line drive in the conventional manner. I also tried to keep the ball low so the batter would hit the ball into the ground.
Batting presented a different set of challenges. I could not hit a pitched ball with any consistency, so I balanced the ball on the finger tips of my left hand and swung the bat with my right. I became surprisingly skilled at hitting the ball, and I had the advantage of being able to place my hits pretty accurately. But I must admit that I did strike myself out on occasion, to almost everybody's delight. It was always challenging, and we had great fun.
The alternatives we devised for softball were typical of what we did for all sports. The modifications were really minimal. I played; I prevailed; I experienced ignominious defeat; but I competed and am richer for having done so.
Nick and Tom were extraordinary guys. They were imaginative, patient, and willing to learn along with me. I guess the only thing they eventually balked at was allowing me to work on their cars. They were adamant that they didn't want me to hurt my hands. I was never able to persuade them to change their minds. I suppose that by then we had begun to accumulate the caution of adulthood.
Arts and crafts were a way of life for my mother. She got me involved in puppetry when I was about six. By the time I was nine years old, I was performing before audiences of up to 300. Later I performed as a part-time professional puppeteer for seventeen years and was a charter member of the Chicagoland Puppetry Guild. Mother organized talent shows in which the kids in the building and the surrounding neighborhood participated. We kids were involved in every aspect of the productions, from printing and selling tickets to painting sets to setting up a hundred or so chairs for the audience. I remember thinking about the shows that this was not fun, but in retrospect those performances had tremendous value for all of us, especially for a blind kid. We learned something about team work and collective effort.
When I was about seven years old, my mother began to require me to do certain chores around the Hawthorn. I installed rolls of toilet paper, carried messages to the tenants, and counted linen and towels. As I grew older and taller, I changed light bulbs, took telephone messages which I typed, shoveled snow, and cleaned the yard and basement. By the time I was twelve or thirteen, I collected rent, recorded payment, and issued receipts. When I was sixteen, the building's owner paid me the staggering sum of $50 a month for my toil. It was my first paying job.
At nine years of age several of my friends and I joined a local Cub Scout pack. I was expected to participate in all of the pack projects, including weaving a reed basket and making plaster casts of animal heads. My lion's head turned out to be an astonishing shade of purple.
At eleven I joined Boy Scout Troop 300. All the boys and scoutmaster were blind. That was my first contact with a blind adult. We were expected to fulfill all of the requirements for promotion; there were no exceptions. We made a crystal set radio and a one-tube radio, and they had to work. We erected tents and cooked on fires we had to build. We learned to swim, and we competed in aquatic events at Boy Scout camp. Scouting, puppetry, and the backyard talent shows helped me build confidence.
My mother taught me how to use the public transit system in Chicago. She understood the necessity for a blind person to master its use, so I learned which busses and trains went where. During the summer of 1956 I began learning to travel independently with a forty-six-inch white cane. My travel teacher was blind. As a high school freshman I was required to get to and from school on public transportation. Mastery of independent travel skills and good judgment were essential. These skills have enabled me to travel confidently to thirty-four states for business and pleasure.
As I reflect on my childhood, it is difficult for me to imagine that I missed much. Had it not been for my extraordinarily talented mother, who had the sense to let me grow and learn, and had it not been for Nick and Tom, who were not for the most part afraid of blindness, growing up would surely have been different. Nick, Tom, and I are still friends. Our lives bear the scars of experience, but we often recall the many events of childhood that inspire a smile, a chuckle, or a back-slapping laugh.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Lisa Mauldin]
A Reflection on Walls and Doors
by Lisa Mauldin
From the Editor: Everyone who uses e-mail today in the course of doing a job grapples with the problem of controlling the number of messages that pile up in the inbox. I follow a couple of our listservs, but for the most part I depend on friends to pass along to me messages that are particularly interesting or thoughtful. This summer Scott LaBarre, President of the National Association of Blind Lawyers, performed exactly that service for me.
Lisa Mauldin is a blind woman who lives in Alabama. She hopes to become an attorney, and in the meantime she keeps an eye on the NABL listserv. She is a new member of the Federation, but it is already clear that she has a firm grasp on one of the most important reasons why many of us work hard to protect our own rights and those of other blind people by becoming active in the National Federation of the Blind. In the following message she expresses her point well and reminds me again what this organization is all about. This is what she said in answer to another post on the lawyers' listserv:
I am a blind woman who has grown up in a completely sighted world, raised by parents who did not force me into independence but rather encouraged my natural independence. I was blessed to be raised to believe that I could do anything anyone else could do, and probably better, and if I had a will, there was a way. My father--a quiet, eastern-Kentucky-born philosopher of great wisdom--said that the first thing I needed to learn was that life wasn't fair, and it was going to be less fair for me. Second, now that I knew the way the game was played and understood the rules, there was a way around every single obstacle that life--in its unfairness--would place in my way. For the most part I have found this to be true, and perseverance has become my trademark. (I'd like my epitaph someday to read "She persevered," but preferably many years down the road.) While this principle has served me very well over a lifetime, I think in some ways I became too independent, particularly concerning blindness issues.
I have not had a very satisfactory relationship with vocational rehabilitation through the years. When I expressed a desire to attend college instead of dutifully choosing one of the four or five vocations the state of Alabama offered at that time (1981), VR basically cut me loose. Applying my philosophy of independence, I found a way around them, and I have moved on through life quite nicely. But a funny thing happened to me recently. I met a very courageous lady from my home state who was blinded over a terrifying eighteen months. Possessing her MBA and working very successfully as a sales rep at the time, she frantically pursued VR for assistance to make accommodations so that she could remain employed in her present job. To make a painfully long story short, a full seventeen years after I had sat in a VR counselor's office being offered the big four choices, my new friend--after many months of delay--found herself sitting in another VR counselor's office being offered--you guessed it--the big four. Absolutely nothing had changed.
Is that my fault? No. Do I bear some of the responsibility for this? Speaking strictly for myself, yes. Had I chosen to fight the system way back then, perhaps my friend would have had a less traumatic experience. Is it arrogant to believe that one person could have made a difference? Well, everyone says I'll make a great attorney, but I'm not quite sure what they mean.
One final note: I am brand new to the NFB--I will join my local chapter in August--but my understanding is that this issue is not one of "I'm a poor blind person. . . . Give me a handout," but rather one of civil rights. Applying my there-is-always-a-way-around-the-wall philosophy, it should have been sufficient for African-Americans of the '50's and '60's to sit in the back of the bus and enter the restaurant through the back door. After all, they were getting to their destination and eating lunch. What the civil rights movement of Martin Luther King said was, "Yes, we have found a way around the wall, but we are entitled to sit in any empty seat, and we are entitled to eat our lunch at the counter with everyone else--not because we are Black, not because we are poor, not because we are special, but because we are Americans."
My philosophical journey of blindness has brought me to the point where I understand that, if I am going to be part of the solution, it is not always prudent to find my own way around the walls of life. Sometimes it serves the greater good to insist on entering through the front door like everyone else. Maybe at some point the next blind person who follows in my footsteps will not have to insist but rather will be invited through the front door. And maybe in my lifetime some future blind person who comes behind me will actually own the door!
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Peggy Chong]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Senator Thomas Schall of Minnesota (left) and Senator Thomas Gore of Oklahoma (right) pose with new white canes raised at a busy corner on Capitol Hill on May 31, 1932.]
Thomas David Schall
by Peggy Chong
From the Editor: Peggy Chong, who now works at the National Center for the Blind, served several years as President of the Metro Chapter of the NFB of Minnesota. When the affiliate celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary in 1995, Peggy did a significant amount of research into the history of the blind in the state. A version of the following article appeared in the Minnesota Bulletin in 1996. It's a delightful profile of one of the state's most colorful politicians. Here it is:
Many of us have heard of the young man, Torrey Westrum, running for the House of Representatives from northern Minnesota in this fall's election. The press has marveled at his courage. But he is just following several other blind Minnesotans into politics.
Our most famous blind Minnesota politician must be Thomas David Schall. Friends as well as enemies of Mr. Schall all would agree that in his day he was a strong force on our country's political scene.
Thomas David Schall was born in Michigan on June 4, 1878. After his father's death in 1880, his mother left Michigan to make a life for herself and her son. They eventually settled in Traverse County, Minnesota, where his mother took work as a cook. From early childhood Tom led a tough life. At an early age he was selling papers in the streets until late at night. He tells of sleeping in boxes in the streets of Minneapolis after selling his last paper for the night. Being able to dance and having a strong voice, he joined the circus for several months. After that he found himself back with his mother in Wheaton. Wanting the best for her son, his mother arranged for his adoption by a wealthy farmer with the understanding that Thomas would get a good education. Instead of school Thomas was put to work on the farm. His first attempt to run away was unsuccessful. But the second time he made it back to his mother.
Tom started school at the age of twelve in Wheaton. He went to Ortonville High School, where he was persuaded to enter an oratorical contest in which he won first prize. He went on to the state competition and won second place. Previously his interests had been fighting and baseball; now he turned to public speaking. His oratorical gift earned him a scholarship to Hamlin University. After transferring to the University of Minnesota in 1900, he continued to win honors for himself and his school in the Northern Oratorical League. While at the University of Minnesota, he also won the Pillsbury Prize. He once told a reporter that the more expensive the suit he wore for the contests, the higher his placement.
Thomas earned his A.B. degree from the University of Minnesota in 1902 and received his LL.B. degree from the St. Paul College of Law in 1904. He was admitted to the bar in 1905. He and his new bride set up housekeeping while Thomas began his practice in corporate law. He understandably felt that things had turned out right well for him.
In 1907 he was trying a case in Fargo, North Dakota. Court had recessed for lunch. Thomas and another attorney went to the cigar stand to purchase cigars. The other attorney lit his cigar with a match. But Thomas lit his with a new electric cigar lighter. The lighter exploded and hurled Schall backwards.
His arm was seared, but he still went back into court to finish the day. Thomas noticed that day that his vision was a bit unfocused. As the days progressed, he lost more and more of his sight. Within a year Schall was totally blind.
Schall and his wife went to doctor after doctor, hoping for a cure. They exhausted their savings and sold all their belongings, including his law library, and eventually everything they owned. Tom heard of a doctor who had a new surgical procedure. But it would cost a lot of money--money that they did not have. He had to go back to work. A friend gave him some space in his law offices. Gradually his confidence returned. He focused on personal injury law. Soon he forgot about chasing after a cure for his blindness and opened his office in the Security Building in Minneapolis, an office he kept for many years.
Margaret, his wife, became his personal secretary both in the law offices and in Washington. While attending the University of Minnesota before she married Tom, she had earned extra money reading to a professor who was losing his sight. Given Thomas's past and her knowledge of what the blind professor had accomplished at the University, she urged her husband to continue in his practice of law.
The Schalls also began their family at this time. Their first son, Thomas, Jr., was born in 1911. Richard was born in 1913, and their only daughter, Padget Ann, was born in 1920.
As a favor Schall began making speeches for his friends who were running for political office. These speeches were successful for his friends and himself as well. Soon he decided to run for political office himself, filing for the Congressional seat as a Progressive in 1913.
All of his life (just like his father) he had been a Republican. But when Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Schall's hero, bolted from the Republican Party, so did Tom. He rejoined the Republican Party a few years later but was always on the outside because of his defection and unwillingness always to follow the party line.
Schall began his term as the first blind Congressman on March 4, 1915. He was re-elected each year until 1925, when he began his first term as Minnesota's blind U. S. Senator. In the house he chaired such committees as the Committee on Alcohol Liquor Traffic and the Committee on Flood Control. He also served on the Rules Committee.
One thing he loved to do was to speak to the people. It is said that he would talk to any group at great length on current issues. Most of his supporters were the poor people of Minnesota. He would address crowds, primarily outdoors at community picnics or on street corners, from the back of a car. It didn't matter to him. It has been said that, if three people were found loitering outside his Lake Harriet home, he would take the opportunity to speak from his retaining wall to those who would listen.
He did not forget his blind brothers and sisters. Tom Schall was the first legislator to accept an invitation to speak to the convention of the Minnesota State Organization of the Blind in June of 1924. The MSOB counted Schall as a friend in the Congress and contacted him on issues such as the pension for the blind bill. While in the Senate, Schall met with MSOB representatives over the Robbins bill, the forerunner of the Randolph-Sheppard Act that gave blind people the preference in running vending stands on federal property.
The press of Minnesota was Democratically-controlled and therefore had little to say in support of Schall. But this did not bother him. He gave as good as he got. His associates described him as "unyielding" and "not afraid of any man." Schall took his work seriously, serving on his committees as well as attending and participating in committees he was not a member of. At one time he was described as "blazing forth in strong and vivid language" to make his point for the State of Minnesota. He also took great pride in the fact that he was able to answer all his letters within a twenty-four-hour period.
William Randolph Hearst was a big supporter of Thomas Schall. With his support came many front-page articles about the Senator in his many papers. This also prompted criticism back home. His opponents tried to paint him as part of an Eastern block of politicians and not interested in the affairs of Minnesotans. Yet with each election Schall's popularity grew.
Schall voted to repeal prohibition so that men and women would be able to purchase better liquor openly. He was the first Senator to stand up and strongly oppose President Roosevelt's New Deal. Tom lobbied hard for an import ban because he believed that eliminating imports from other countries that duplicated American goods would allow more Americans to go back to work and end the depression. He openly commended people and communities that refused federal support in order instead to make it on their own. Politics was not his only love. Since childhood he had loved working on farms and taking care of the animals, particularly horses. In October of 1935, while visiting his daughter's school in Virginia, Tom showed off his skill as an equestrian. Using a buzzer system that he had devised, Schall rode the horse around the arena and then took it over four-foot jumps.
Other hobbies included flying and shooting. He was seen many times flying from D. C. to his home in Maryland on an autogiro. When he could, he chose to fly across the country. Both of his sons had pilots' licenses. He also enjoyed target shooting at his Maryland home. He would focus on sound. Sometimes a person would stand at a great distance and hit the target with a stick. It is said that he was a pretty good shot.
Thomas was never ashamed of blindness. Most often he could be found in the front row of the Senate House with his cane between his knees. Early photos of Thomas Schall show him using a walking stick. Many times he traveled with his wife or one of his staff. A German shepherd police dog named Lux was given to Schall to walk through the streets of Washington. Lux earned a following of his own. The dog's picture was used to sell dog food.
In 1926 Schall and Senator Wadsworth introduced a bill that would allow a guide dog to accompany his master on public transportation and in other public places. Traveling back and forth between Minneapolis and Washington alone, Schall was forced to put Lux into the baggage car on every occasion. The railroads would not allow Lux to accompany his master into the public train cars or a private compartment.
Lux died in 1933 and was replaced by Rex. Schall found that things were different with another German shepherd dog that had not been raised at his Lake Harriet home.
Thomas Pryor Gore and Senator Thomas Schall, the two blind Senators, posed for press photos in 1932 carrying new white canes with contrasting red tips that would make it easier for motorists to see a blind person using a cane while crossing the street.
On December 19, 1935, Thomas Schall stopped on his way home in Maryland to do some shopping. As he and a sighted aide who worked in his office were crossing the street, they were hit by a car. Thomas Schall died two days later on December 22. He was buried at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis. The state and the nation mourned the loss of a strongly opinionated and tireless supporter of the poor and working classes.
After his death there was some talk of a conspiracy that may have caused Thomas Schall his life. Within a short period three of the strongest opponents of FDR's New Deal died in terrible accidents. Some of Schall's staff asked for an in-depth investigation into the accident, but nothing ever came of it. The man who hit Senator Schall and his aide had no political connections.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Barbara Pierce using her educated fingers to knit]
by Barbara Pierce
From the Editor: The following little piece first appeared in Gray Pancakes and Gold Horses, the fourteenth in the NFB's Kernel Book series of public education paperbacks. It begins with Dr. Jernigan's introduction:
Barbara Pierce is the wife of a college professor, the mother of three children, the editor of the leading magazine in the blindness field, and the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio. As indicated in the following article, she leads a full and active life. Here is what she has to say about some of her experiences.
From the time my daughter Anne was a tiny child she has had a sharp eye for detail. Before she could speak, she could point correctly to where I stored each piece of kitchen equipment. If there was a coin on the sidewalk or a four-leaf clover in the lawn, she would find it.
Since her marriage she has been working in the local jewelry store. Her gift of visual observation is now being trained in very specific ways. Her eyes are being educated to notice and appreciate subtle detail and to draw conclusions from what she sees.
Everyone who is neither blind nor colorblind can distinguish colors, but artists, interior decorators, and house painters notice shades and blend and contrast them with a sureness unmatched by the rest of the population. Similarly, auto mechanics, musicians, and linguists in very different ways have educated their ears to notice subtle differences in pitch and tone that escape the rest of us.
In the same way, while learning to function efficiently, a person who has become blind or a blind child must actually educate his or her fingers to discern nuance and appreciate small variations. As a young child I remember often being confused when I was handed unfamiliar objects. It took time and patience to learn to sort the shapes and make sense of what I was holding.
Take cookie cutters for example. The star, valentine, and Christmas tree were easy to identify. The gingerbread man, Santa Claus, and angel were almost as obvious. Animals were a little trickier. The Easter Bunny and chicken were simple, but I had trouble distinguishing between the dog and the sheep.
Then one day some friends handed me a cookie and asked if I could identify the shape. It was unlike anything I had ever handled. All the lines seemed to sweep in one direction, and one portion reminded me vaguely of a robe or skirt. I had not the remotest idea what the thing could be, but I felt great pressure to make a guess, and I was afraid of making what they would consider an absurd mistake.
In desperation I said, "a girl airplane." I knew perfectly well that aircraft did not have gender, but I hoped by making up an answer that was patently absurd to protect myself from being laughed at for making an actual mistake. To my surprise, they burst into delighted laughter and announced that my guess was more or less right. The cookie was a witch flying on a broomstick. I considered myself extremely lucky.
At the same time I recognized that a whole new range of outlines had just opened to me. I was used to identifying the shapes of objects standing still, looking like Christmas stockings or birds or cows. Suddenly I realized that lots of things moved and therefore could be depicted in motion and that I would have to build that concept into my efforts to recognize the shapes of things.
Having a visual knowledge of shape does not, however, translate directly into tactile understanding. Last Christmas my daughter Margy gave me a wooden puzzle of the United States in which each piece is a state. I had never had access to such a map as a child and had always wanted to know more particularly how the various states fit together.
As an elementary school teacher Margy knew where to find the puzzle, and I thoroughly enjoyed learning to assemble it. It took a weekend of intermittent fiddling to be able to identify all the states. After watching me explore the puzzle pieces, Margy decided to try putting it together with her eyes closed. Of course she had the advantage of knowing the map well to begin with, but she was surprised to discover that she could not immediately identify many of the states by touch even though she had a mental image of what she was looking for. She is bright and as the daughter of a blind woman has had lots of tactile experience, so she mastered the skill quickly.
Like all other kinds of education, educating the fingers takes practice. But the more experience they get, the more easily fingers learn. Often you don't even realize how much your fingers know until they are put to the test.
When my children were small, I came home one day to discover that the baby-sitter had not kept as close tabs on the three as I could have wished. The labels had systematically been removed from all my canned goods. I have never bothered to label my cans in Braille as I would if I lived alone or with another blind person. I can usually identify the can I want by knowing its size and shaking all the cans of the right dimensions. When I ask a member of the family to confirm my choice, it is pretty frequently proven right.
But it is one thing to have your guesses confirmed by having someone read a label and quite another to check your guess by opening the lid and living with the consequences. On the whole, however, I did pretty well in this emergency. There was no way to distinguish among the various kinds of condensed cream soups, but pumpkin, kidney beans, and black olives all sound different from each other when shaken.
Folks often assume that blind people depend on always having things returned to their original positions in order to manage their lives. There are certainly advantages to being able to glance around a room and see where your toddler has shed her socks or the dog has dropped your slipper. But actually in our household and among my friends I am often the one to find things that have gone missing.
One day I was out with a friend who had dropped her car key into her purse, but when we were ready to leave, she couldn't find it. She searched and researched her handbag and then got out and began looking on the ground around the car. I picked up her bag and fished out the key in about ten seconds. It had fallen into a letter. As soon as I moved the folded sheet, I knew it was too heavy to be a single piece of paper. When I slipped my fingers across the surface of the letter, I felt the outline of the key. She had been so busy looking for the key that she had not paid attention to what her fingers were telling her about the weight and balance of the paper.
Having educated fingers provides wonderful benefits. When our children were babies, I could get up at night and feed and change them without ever opening my eyes or waking up fully. The disadvantage was, of course, that my husband had a strong argument for giving me the lion's share of the night duty.
One of the reasons we bought our current home was the fireplace in the dining room. We were assured that it functioned well, but when we tried to build our first fire, we discovered that the damper, which was obviously quite new, would not open. The previous owner had repaired the fireplace and then not used it for years. Debris had sifted down over time and now prevented the damper from swinging open.
I covered the screen with a drop cloth and reached through with one hand. Working back-handed, I forced the damper open enough to slip my fingers through. Then I began flicking bits of ash, brick, and bird's nest out through the slit and eventually, as the damper opened wider, through the widening crack on the hinge side. It was hard work, and I banged up the backs of my hands and fingers, but I was eventually successful in freeing the damper so that we could use the fireplace.
Even though I had a little vision when my mother taught me to iron, I could not see the wrinkles in the pieces I was working on. From the first I had to learn how to smooth a panel of the garment and work close to the iron without burning myself. Though most sighted people don't believe it, this is actually quite easy to do. Now my favorite time to iron during the summer is late in the evening when a breeze blows through the windows of the converted sleeping porch that is my laundry room. I can read a talking cassette book in the darkness and iron while the birds go to bed and the crickets begin their chorus.
Our neighbors seem finally to have adjusted to the fact that I often weed the lawn and flower beds beginning at twilight. At first they questioned me about what I was doing sitting in the middle of my lawn in the dark and listening to a cassette book. Buckets of dandelions and ground ivy have convinced them that I actually am accomplishing something useful out there in the cool of the evening.
I was not always so comfortable letting others observe how I do things. Society exerts lots of pressure on blind people to do things like everybody else. It was members of the National Federation of the Blind, at ease with who they were and how they did things, who taught me that it was far better to get things done efficiently than to look like everybody else while I did nothing. This attitude makes eminently good sense, but it helps to know that members of the general public are now reading books like this one and learning why I search for things with my educated fingers and, as often as not, find them.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Brook Sexton]
Convention: A Pilgrim's Journey
by Brook Sexton
From the Editor: Brook Sexton is a 1996 NFB scholarship winner. She currently serves as President of the Utah Association of Blind Students. She is a junior at Brigham Young University, where she majors in human development. The convention bulletin for the 2000 gathering in Atlanta will appear in the December issue. Brook's little essay should whet everybody's appetite for the information about how to make plans to be part of this wonderful experience. This is what she says:
The Pilgrims who came to America on the Mayflower in 1620 suffered many afflictions. Two passengers died on the voyage, and half of those who landed died during the first winter. Playing a critical role in the success of the first real colony, the Wampanaog Indians saved the remainder of the Pilgrims. These Europeans needed to find food and learn to survive in an unknown wilderness, a very different world from their lives in England. Today the spiritual descendants of those humble people still engage in the struggle for success, freedom, and happiness. The conventions of the National Federation of the Blind forge the same fortitude and self-reliance learned by the Pilgrims.
This year's convention was no exception. I watched a mock trial and participated in a humbling memorial service. In-depth conversations took place, and I heard creative ways to express old ideas. I applauded Mrs. Jernigan and recognized several honored individuals. The memorable banquet will linger in my mind for months, especially the lifted candles in memory of Dr. Jernigan. I also took strength from the exceptional words of our president, Dr. Maurer, reassuring and rededicating us all to the Federation.
As I face life's challenges in the future, I will cherish and take comfort in the sensitivity and love expressed. I will never forget my struggle to know my purpose and goals as a Federationist and the discoveries I made. The speeches provoked such thoughts--pricking my conscience, nudging me to take advantage of every opportunity.
I watched my younger brother soak up the speeches for the first time and begin the trek of accepting his blindness. My mother, also blind, sought education and taught parents of blind children. I met old friends and noted the transformation that has occurred through the years as they have learned and grown in the Federation's philosophy. Most important, I perceived conventioneers reap strength from each other and store it for the pilgrimages ahead. People talked and dreamed each other's dreams. By helping to pick up those without faith in themselves and give them a purpose in life, I partook of the Federation spirit. Dr. Jernigan's influence and accomplishments inspired me, and I will always remember the unveiling of the bronze bust of our beloved leader.
Like the pilgrims of Plymouth, I drank from the waters of power and unity. I experienced rejuvenation when I heard the great words of duty and necessity spoken to us at the banquet and in the Presidential Report; my work in the Federation resumes. I must take this tenacity home with me.
The students met, forever influencing and touching many new conventioneers. Traveling home, I spoke with one student who had experienced his first convention. I found hope in him that had not existed before. He spoke of creating a new chapter in his area and involving others. He told me he was grateful he had not finished school a year earlier, for he had met people who had changed the way he will live his life.
The pilgrims learned from the Wampanaog Indians how to survive in a harsh world. They received invitations to the Indian tables and developed friendships. Our leaders and the long-time members gave such a meal of Thanksgiving to the newcomers in Atlanta. I took on the role of Indian at my banquet table surrounded by eight pilgrims making the journey for the first time. I wanted to cry as I heard from them how they had learned and grown throughout the week. Their joy signifies the pinnacle of my convention journey.
Conventions offer courage, hope, and invigorating power. In turn, each conventioneer must bring home the knowledge discovered to those who could not attend the Atlanta convention. I hope to provide a feast for the blind people I meet at college and in the community. As convention energy dissipates, a gradual return to old customs and social pressures is all too likely to occur. We who attend conventions must not allow this to happen to us.
Someday I hope all blind people in our nation may make the pilgrim's journey to National Convention. New members will join our ranks as they learn the importance of attending conventions, of drawing from our pooled strength, and of beginning where others end their efforts. Their participation will lessen the weight of the challenge so that our struggle for success, freedom, and happiness will keep moving forward. We must contribute our efforts to help build the organization and open a new world of opportunity. Our goal is clearly set before us; we must not bicker or hesitate. We must build our new building and help each member reach a little higher, try a little harder, and together change what it means to be blind.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Anthony Cobb]
Washington Seminar Job Fair
by Anthony Cobb
From the Editor: Tony Cobb is Director of the Job Opportunities for the Blind Project at the National Center for the Blind. With help from IBM and other major employers of the blind, he is planning a Job Opportunities for the Blind-sponsored seminar. Here are the details:
The 2000 Washington Seminar is fast approaching. The NFB's Job Opportunities for the Blind is working in partnership with IBM and other major national employers to conduct a job fair in conjunction with the seminar and the meeting of the National Association of Blind Students the preceding weekend. Approximately twenty employers' representatives will be exhibiting for those interested on the morning of Monday, January 31, 2000, at the Holiday Inn Capitol. The morning exhibits will be followed by a gala employers' luncheon and program. Individual interviews arranged at the exhibits by appointment only will take place in the afternoon. For Federationists looking for work this will be a rare opportunity to meet with representatives of employers who are by their presence committed to providing equal employment opportunities to blind applicants.
Interviews and luncheon reservations must be prearranged through the JOB project in the National Office. Federationists interested in participating should forward a current resume in print, as well as on computer disk if possible, by December 15, 1999, and indicate whether or not you plan to attend the luncheon. There will be no cost to JOB registrants who make advance reservations for the luncheon since it is being supported by the job fair's employers.
Limited help with updating resumes will be available from the project to those registered with JOB, and registration forms will be supplied on request. Please send resumes, luncheon reservations, and other requests to Job Opportunities for the Blind, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. Additional information can be obtained from JOB job fair coordinator Bethel Murphy, Louisiana Center for the Blind, at (318) 254-1404 or the national JOB project at (410) 659-9314.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Marc Maurer]
Blindness, Travel, the Environment, and Technology
by Marc Maurer
Recently in connection with work of the World Blind Union I traveled to Stockholm, Sweden, to participate in meetings of the Executive Committee. I stayed at a facility operated by the Swedish Association for the Blind called Almasa. It is on the Baltic Sea several miles outside Stockholm. It consists of a number of buildings, some of which contain sleeping rooms. There are also a beach; a dock; a building containing a shooting range; and a substantial facility housing meeting rooms, administrative offices, dining facilities, and other accommodations. Almasa is located in a rural setting. Not only is it in the country, but it is several miles off the main highway.
Because many of the people using Almasa are blind, the Swedish have installed devices that produce a number of different sounds to assist in guiding blind residents from one building to another. One of these sounds reminded me of the noise created by a tennis racket hitting a tennis ball. Another was a slight intermittent buzz. I did not count the variations in tone and sound patterns, but I believe five or six different kinds of noise may have been produced by these audible signs at Almasa.
When we went into Stockholm to explore the city, we found audio pedestrian signals incorporated in traffic lights. These had two different sound patterns associated with them, which not only indicated to the pedestrian when the signal was appropriate to cross the street, but also specified the direction of the crosswalk. Both the audible signs at Almasa and the audible traffic signals in downtown Stockholm produced unobtrusive sounds.
One of the advantages of participating in the World Blind Union is learning about the methods and techniques used by the blind of other countries to address the problems blind people face everywhere. How can blind people best travel, communicate with others, interact with different parts of society, earn a decent living, and manage the hundreds of details of life with efficiency and ease? It is good to compare the techniques we use in the U.S. with those used in other lands. Sometimes the techniques used by others are worth using here. Whether they are or not, it is good to know about them.
As I observed the audible signals to assist the blind with travel in Sweden, I wondered whether such devices offer enough benefit to be used in certain places in the U.S. Some people believe that audible traffic signals are vitally important to the blind; other people believe passionately that they should never be used. For my own part I don't know enough to form a firm opinion. I think some audible traffic devices are not only objectionable but also dangerous. However, I am not convinced that all of them are, and I wondered what we might learn from the experience of the blind in Sweden.
From the Editor: Bill Bridgeman is a member of the Metro Chapter of the NFB of Minnesota and lives in the greater Twin Cities area. Several years ago he sent me a group of his favorite recipes and invited me to use them in the Monitor sometime. The list is an interesting combination of dishes with something for everyone. So here they are:
by Bill Bridgeman
3 pounds well drained beef stew meat, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 can condensed cream of celery soup
1 envelope Lipton's onion soup mix
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 cup burgundy wine
Method: Mix all ingredients together in a large casserole dish with well-fitting cover or Dutch oven. Place in a preheated 300-degree oven to cook for three hours. Serve over noodles.
Portuguese Chicken and Rice
by Bill Bridgeman
3/4 pound Polish sausage, kielbasa, or any other garlic smoked sausage (I like to use Mexican churrizo or medium flavored Italian sausage)
2-1/2 pounds cut-up frying chicken
2 medium onions, chopped
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup long grain rice, uncooked
2 cups chicken broth
3-1/4 ounce can pitted ripe olives, well drained, and cut in half
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Method: Brown sausage in a little oil; remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Brown the chicken in the same pan, adding more oil if necessary. Set aside. Stir in the chopped onions and continue cooking until the onions are softened. Add pepper flakes and rice, stirring until the rice is coated. Add the olives and return sausage to pan. Mix together. Add the chicken broth and arrange the chicken over top. Sprinkle with cider vinegar, bring to a boil, cover, and cook in 375-degree preheated oven for thirty minutes. Uncover and cook another five to ten minutes, or until the chicken is done.
by Bill Bridgeman
3 or 4 slices bacon, cut crosswise
1 cup chopped onions
1 can well-drained whole kernel corn
1/4 cup chopped or thinly sliced green pepper (optional)
Method: In a large skillet cook the bacon until it starts to crisp. Add the onions and cook stirring until they become soft and translucent. Add the corn and green pepper, stir, and heat through. Season well with salt and pepper. Add the eggs and cook continuously, stirring until the eggs are set. With bread and butter and cold milk, you have a wonderful lunch or late supper, or whatever. I served it to someone a couple of weeks ago, and she said she was going to have it for breakfast the next morning.
by Bill Bridgeman
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onions
1 to 3 teaspoons curry powder
3-1/2 cups chicken broth
8 ounces spaghetti, broken into 3- to 4-inch lengths
1 2-ounce jar sliced pimentos, drained
3/4-ounce can pitted ripe olives, drained and cut in half
1/2 green pepper, seeded and sliced or chopped
Method: Cook onions in butter in a medium saucepan till softened. Add curry powder and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, stir in spaghetti, return to a full boil, and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for fifteen minutes. Stir in the green pepper, pimento, and olives and cover for another five minutes. The spaghetti should be very moist but free of any unabsorbed liquid. This makes a good side dish, and I've even known people who use it as a main course.
Hot Fudge Sundae
by Bill Bridgeman
7-ounce bar Hershey's milk chocolate
1/4 cup milk
Method: Break the chocolate into a double boiler; or, if you know how to melt chocolate in a microwave, that will also work. Add milk, heat until the chocolate is melted, and stir vigorously until mixture is smooth. If it is too thick, thin with a little more milk. Serve over ice cream.
Standing Rib Beef Roast
by Bill Bridgeman
Here is a helpful hint for the coming holiday season.
Standing rib beef roast (any size)
Method: About noon on the day you are going to serve it, take the meat out of the refrigerator and let it stand at room temperature for about an hour. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, season the roast as you like it, and place it in a low-sided roasting pan. (If you aren't sure what this means or you have no opinion about herbs, you might try slipping slivers of garlic into slits in the roast and sprinkling it with salt, pepper, thyme, marjoram, and ground cloves.) Place roasting pan in oven for one hour. Turn off the oven. Do not open the oven door. Let roast sit in the oven until an hour before you want to carve it. Turn the oven back on to 300 degrees for three quarters of an hour. Remove the meat to a cutting board, cover loosely with foil, and let rest for about fifteen minutes. You will have juicy, medium-rare beef every time.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Abraham Nemeth]
Federationist Dr. Abraham Nemeth, creator of the Nemeth Braille Code for mathematic and scientific notation used by blind students in performing arithmetical computations and mathematical problem-solving, received the American Foundation for the Blind's 1999 Migel Medal. The award was presented at a ceremony and reception on November 4 at the Chicago Marriott Downtown.
Dr. Nemeth holds a bachelor's degree from Brooklyn College and a master's degree and doctorate from Columbia University. He taught at Manhattan College and Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York. Blind from birth, Dr. Nemeth is a retired professor of mathematics at the University of Detroit. During his thirty-year career, he was instrumental in launching the institution's graduate program in computer science. He is a long-time Federationist and served as chair of the Michigan Commission for the Blind from 1991 to 1993.
In an AFB press release, Susan Jay Spungin, Foundation Vice President for Education and International Programs, said: "Abe Nemeth's determination to pursue his love of math and science despite the lack of Braille materials in these fields led to the creation of the Nemeth Code. Braille users around the country are no longer limited in their choice of careers, and for that, we are honored to present Abe with the Migel Medal."
Federationists join in congratulating Dr. Nemeth.
Blind Workers Have Comparable Rates for Occupational Injuries and Illnesses:
We recently received an interesting press release from National Industries for the Blind. In significant part, here it is:
The Future Trends and Research Committee of the General Council of Industries for the Blind (GCIB), a coalition of eighty-nine non-profit organizations associated with National Industries for the Blind (NIB), recently released a study on occupational injuries and illnesses among workers who are blind. The study debunks the commonly held belief that workers with disabilities have a higher incidence rate than the national average. Thirty-eight NIB-associated non-profit agencies (NPA's) representing 64.3 percent of total employees participated in the study, which incorporated data from 1995 through 1997. At least 75 percent of the direct labor operations of all NPA employees are performed by people who are blind.
Results of the study include:
* Incidence rates of injuries and illnesses with NPA's decreased by 30 percent between 1995 and 1997, while the national average rates reported by OSHA increased by 5.5 percent during the same period. The incidence of injuries and illnesses within NPA's is either comparable with or lower than the weighted national average rates, particularly during 1996 and 1997.
* The experience factor used by insurance carriers to determine insurance rates for NPA's varied between a low of 0.88 and a high of 0.96 over the three-year period, indicating that the insurance carriers generally recognize that the NPA's have marginally lower incidence rates than for-profit industry. As the incidence rate comparison for 1997 indicates, the actual experience factor used by insurance carriers should have been even lower.
* During 1997 the Workers Compensation Insurance as a percentage of payroll dollars paid by NPA's as a group was 3.27, which compares favorably with the 3.88 national average.
The study findings clearly indicate, that given the proper tools, working conditions, and safety devices, blind workers can achieve the same rates of injuries and illnesses as their sighted counterparts performing similar operations or still lower rates. Anecdotal information collected from several NPA's suggests that the rates of injuries and illnesses for the blind employees are even lower than for their sighted employees.
A summary of the report, "Incidence of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses Among Workers Who Are Blind," is available on the NIB Web site, <www.nib.org>. For a free copy of the summary or the full report, please contact National Industries for the Blind, 1901 North Beauregard Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22322, (703) 998-0770; fax (703) 998-9053, e-mail <nib.org>. Braille and large print copies are also available.
New Publication on Adaptive Technology:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
AccessWorld, Technology for Consumers with Visual Impairments: call to reserve your subscription today. Beginning January, 2000, there will be a comprehensive resource for obtaining the latest information on adaptive technology and visual impairment. Clearly written text provides a wealth of information on new products available, current techniques, new books and videos, practical tips on using adaptive technology, reports from the field, and more. You'll receive six issues a year in your choice of on-line, print, audio cassette, or Braille format containing helpful and valuable information on recent technology for the home and office for $29.95 a year.
Features include Product Evaluations, New Product Announcements, Question and Answer column, Calendar of Events, On-the-Job Profiles, Conference Reports, Book and Video Reviews, Surveys, Trainer's Corner, Beyond Computers, Reader's Corner. To subscribe or for more information, please contact AFB Press, 11 Penn Plaza, Suite 300, New York, New York 10001, Telephone, (212) 502-7651, Fax (212) 502-7774, e-mail <email@example.com>. Visit our Web site at <http://www.afb.org>.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Telesensory CCTV for sale. Contact Thelma Richman, 13800 Derrickson Avenue, Ocean City, Maryland 21842, or call (410) 250-5831.
Betty Niceley, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky, reports that on September 29, 1999, Ms. Inam Shalati of Louisville, Kentucky, received the Belle of Louisville Award from the Spirit of Jefferson Foundation for her efforts as a volunteer in working with blind and blind multiply handicapped children who are learning to read Braille. She was one of ten individuals chosen from 125 nominees.
Inam is blind and uses a walker. She relates well and is an excellent role model to these children as she demonstrates her ability to deal with public transportation and the public in general despite the extra demands of cerebral palsy. She travels by public transportation to many schools to meet with children of elementary and pre-school ages. She shares with them her love of reading Braille as they learn to appreciate literacy. It is worth mentioning that Inam has read, if not all, then nearly all the NFB literature available in Braille. Inam is a member of the NFB of Greater Louisville.
This year has been especially fruitful for Inam. In addition to the Belle of Louisville Award, she has won the prestigious Volunteer Vision Assistant Award for Jefferson County, an award for volunteer work, given by the Kentucky Board of Education, and an award for volunteer work at the Kentucky School for the Blind. Congratulations, Inam, and well done!
E-Mail by Telephone:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Send and receive e-mail by telephone with Mail-Call. This service provides a simple way for anyone to send and receive e-mail messages without using a computer. All you need is an e-mail address and access to a telephone. If you don't have an e-mail address, Mail-Call will provide one for you free. Mail-Call has a toll-free access number that gives access to the system all day, every day.
Mail-Call delivers a user's e-mail in an easy-to-understand computer voice with user control of voice and rate of speech. You can reply to any message just by speaking your reply message into the phone. You can also send your message to a fax machine. A free demonstration of Mail-Call service is available by calling (888) 462-4348. When the system answers and asks for an account number, just press the pound key on your telephone to hear the system demo.
Mail-Call service is available anywhere in the United States for $.30 a minute. Mail-Call does not require a contract or monthly minimums. You pay only for the actual minutes you use. There is a one-time set-up fee of $2.50. The service is billed monthly to the user's credit card. To set up a user account, call (900) 299-4722, or visit the Web site, <www.mail-call.com>.
Attention Would-Be Typists:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I Can See Books presents Talking Typing Teacher (TTT), designed to help teach you to type or increase your typing speed. TTT has built-in speech, so speech-output devices are not required. In most cases you don't even need a sound card. You do need an IBM-compatible computer (386 or faster), 2.5 MB of disk space, MS-DOS 4.0 or higher, and a 16-bit sound card (optional).
For more information, contact I Can See Books, 88 Captain Morgans Boulevard, Nanaimo, British Columbia, V9R 6R1 Canada, phone (250) 753-3096, or e-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Web site: <www.ncf.ca/~dr100>.
Web-Braille on the Internet:
We recently received the following information of interest to Braille readers:
Braille readers can now read books on the Internet thanks to a technological breakthrough by the Library of Congress called Web-Braille. Readers now have access to more than 2,700 electronic Braille books recently placed on the Internet for the use of eligible Braille readers by the Library's National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). Web-Braille materials can be made available only to eligible users who are residents of the U.S. or American citizens living abroad. For further information contact Robert E. Fistick, Head, Publications and Media Section, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, the Library of Congress, 1291 Taylor Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20542, (202) 707-9279 or e-mail <email@example.com>.
John TeBockhorst, newly elected secretary of the Writers Division, reports the following results of the July 2, 1999, election during the NFB Convention in Atlanta. The new officers are Tom Stevens, President; Lori Stayer, First Vice President; Jerry Whittle, Second Vice President; John TeBockhorst, Secretary; Helen Stevens, Treasurer; and Patricia Morrow, Martha Young, Alma Hinkle, and Toby Longface, Board Members.
Attention Those Interested in Acting:
At next year's convention in Atlanta we will conduct a meeting for all those interested in forming an actors division. You are encouraged to memorize a monologue to be performed at the meeting, and information will be provided about acting companies looking for blind actors. Bring your ideas and be ready to make your premiere. Please contact Angela Sasser, 2610 Whitis Avenue, No. 1, Austin, Texas 78705, (512) 495-1010.
The River City Chapter of the NFB of California elected the following new officers: Debbie Bacon, President; Nathanael Wales, First Vice President; Bryan Bashin, Second Vice President; Jean Glick, Treasurer; and Ellen Paxon, Dennis Russak, and Chris Foster, Board Members.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The Philomatheon Society of the Blind in Canton, Ohio, has vacancies for legally blind people who are in need of a boarding home. For more information call (330) 453-9157 or (330) 453-0045. You may also contact Jerry Dessecker, President of the Philomatheon Society of the Blind, 2810 West Tuscarawas Street, Canton, Ohio 44708.
Writers Division Contest:
The NFB Writers Division announces its poetry and fiction contests for 1999-2000. The postmark deadline for entries is May 1, 2000. A $5 fee must accompany each entry. Checks should be made payable to the NFB Writers Division. Please include a stamped, self-addressed envelope and a cover page with your name, address, and phone number. A three-line bio is optional but useful. Entries must be typed. The contest is open to members of the Writers Division, whether blind or sighted, and to legally blind non-members. Entrants must be eighteen or over.
Poetry: Send previously unpublished poetry to Lori Stayer, 2704 Beach Drive, Merrick, New York 11566. Poems may be up to thirty-six lines.
Fiction: Send previously unpublished fiction, typed, double- spaced, of up to 3,000 words (approximately twelve typed pages), to Tom Stevens, 1203 S. Fairview Road, Columbia, Missouri 65203.
Entrants are asked not to submit contest entries elsewhere while the contest is running or for six months after it ends, if the entry wins. Prizes are $50, $40, $25, and $15 for each contest. Winning entries may be published in Slate and Style.
Caution: entries must be postmarked by the contest deadline. Please do not send your first draft. Proofread your work. Why lose a contest because of spelling errors or faded ribbons? Winners will be notified separately. Otherwise, winning entries will be announced in the Summer, 2000, issue of Slate and Style.
Students' Writing Contest:
The National Federation of the Blind Writers Division is sponsoring two contests for students, open to legally blind students under the age of eighteen. Older students are invited to enter the adult contests. Both contests opened September 1, 1999. The contest deadline is May 1, 2000. Entries must be postmarked by the deadline date.
Entries must be accompanied by a cover sheet, including name, address, and phone number of the student; the title of the piece; and the student's age and grade, as well as a $3 entry fee per poem or story. Students may enter as often as they like. Work must be unpublished, typed, and double-spaced. A self-addressed, stamped envelope must accompany each entry. Prizes are $30, $20, and $10 in each contest.
Fiction: Send your story, up to 3,000 words, to Tom Stevens, 1203 S. Fairview Road, Columbia, Missouri 65203. A short bio, about three lines, must be included. Be sure to include the entry fee.
Poetry: Poems up to thirty-six lines will be accepted for this contest. Send your poetry, bio, and entry fee to NFB Writers Division, in care of Loraine Stayer, 2704 Beach Drive, Merrick, New York 11566. There is no limit on the subject for poems or stories.
Note: if a student prefers to write his or her story in Braille, it must be accompanied by a typed copy.
For more information call Loraine Stayer at 516) 868-8718 or email: <LoriStay@aol.com>. Make all checks out to the NFB Writers Division. Please distribute this contest notice to local schools, local organizations of Parents of Blind Children and your library for the blind.
Gourmet Salad Dressings Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The perfect gift for any occasion--a gift pack representing a San Francisco cable car, containing three bottles of Carmela's Gourmet award-winning salad dressings and one jar of chocolate sauce is available for $20, including shipping and handling. Three dollars per gift pack will be donated to the National Federation of the Blind. For Braille readers these salad dressings are labeled in Braille. You may send your check to Carmela's Gourmet, 415 English Avenue, Monterey, California 93940.
Braille Fortune Cookies:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Lucky Touch Fortune Cookie Company, a student-operated business, specializes in Braille fortune cookies. You can customize an order to fit your event, e.g., birthdays, anniversaries, conventions, seminars, holidays. Special orders require three months notice. Contact Lucky Touch Advisor, Judith Lesner, at (510) 794-3800, or California School for the Blind, 500 Walnut Avenue, Fremont, California 94536.
The NFB of Florida elected new officers at its state convention in September. They are Wayne Davis, President; Dan Hicks, First Vice President; Kathy Davis, Second Vice President; Gloria Mills-Hicks, Secretary; Donna Evans, Treasurer; and Jim Elsworth, Brenda Gillis, and Barry Feazell, Board Members.
Braille Resource for Children:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The Braille Institute in Los Angeles has introduced a new program that provides Braille classics to children for their personal enjoyment. For more information contact the Braille Institute, 741 North Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90029-3594, (323) 663-1111, fax: (323) 666-5881.
I pledge to participate actively in the effort of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.