TOOTHPASTE AND RAILROAD TRACKS
Kenneth Jernigan, Editor
Large Type Edition
A KERNEL BOOK
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
by the National Federation of the Blind
All Rights Reserved
Printed in the United States of America
Table of Contents
Of Toothpaste and Shaving Cream
Looking Back at Trains and Tracks
The Axe and the Law Book
Learning to Read
Keeping the Rent Current
Pioneering in the Courts
We Don't Have North Here
The Blind Beak of Bow Street
What do toothpaste and railroad tracks have in common? Just
about the same that axes and law books do--nothing and
everything. They are the building blocks of the routine of daily
existence. In a very real sense they are the essence of humanity
When I was younger (maybe 40 years ago), there was a popular
song called "Little Things Mean a Lot." It dealt with what the
title implies, but its message was much more than that. It was
that each little incident (relatively unimportant in and of
itself) combines with all of the other trivial events that are
constantly happening to us to form the pattern of our lives. It
is not the major events but the recurring details that make us
what we are--that determine whether we will succeed or fail, be
happy and productive or sad and miserable.
This is the eighth Kernel book, and it is the logical
extension of those that went before it. Some of you have been
with us from the beginning, but for those who haven't, let me
give you in the order of their production the titles of the first
seven Kernel books. We began with "What Color is the Sun" in
1991. Then we followed with "The Freedom Bell," "As the Twig is
Bent," "Making Hay," "The Journey," "Standing on One Foot," and
"When the Blizzard Blows." Now we come to "Toothpaste and
The Kernel books have a constant theme and a common purpose.
It is to let you know something about the details of everyday
life as blind persons live it. Mostly we are not world famous
celebrities but ordinary people just like you--people who laugh
and cry, work and play, hope and dream--just like you.
The stories that appear in these pages are true. They are
written by those who have lived them. These are people I know
personally--former students, colleagues in the National
Federation of the Blind, blind men and women of almost every age
and social background. There is, of course, one exception. I
did not know the blind beak of Bow Street. He lived before my
time, but his story is so interesting that I wanted you to have
Since I am blind myself, I think I know something about
blindness; and since I am a member of the National Federation of
the Blind, I think I know what blind people as a group are trying
to do and how they feel.
We feel about the same way and want about the same things
that you do, and when we fail (which all of us do now and again),
it usually isn't because of our blindness. Rather, it has to do
with lack of opportunity and the fact that too many of the
general public believe we are unable to make our way and do for
ourselves. Since we are part of the broader society, we
sometimes tend to accept the public view of our limitations, and
thus do much to make those limitations a reality.
But overwhelmingly the future is bright for the blind.
Because of our own efforts and because of help and understanding
from an increasing number of sighted friends, we are changing
what it means to be blind. And the Kernel books are helping make
it happen--just as you who read them are helping make it happen.
The National Federation of the Blind is a nationwide
organization primarily composed of blind people. It is the blind
speaking for themselves with their own voice, and the Kernel
books are an important part of that voice.
I hope you will enjoy this book and that through its pages
you will make new friends. I also hope that you will also gain
new insights concerning both toothpaste and railroad tracks.
WHY LARGE TYPE?
The type size used in this book is 14 point for two
important reasons: One, because typesetting of 14 point or larger
complies with federal standards for the printing of materials for
visually impaired readers, and we wanted to show you what type
size is helpful for people with limited sight.
The second reason is that many of our friends and supporters
have asked us to print our paperback books in 14-point type so
they too can easily read them. Many people with limited sight do
not use Braille. We hope that by printing this book in a larger
type than customary, many more people will be able to benefit
OF TOOTHPASTE AND SHAVING CREAM
by Kenneth Jernigan
Almost everybody who thinks about blindness begins with the
assumption that if you are blind, you are at a tremendous
disadvantage in dealing with the everyday tasks of getting along
and managing your life. To some extent, of course, that is true.
Regardless of other things, the world is structured for the
sighted. Most books are in print, not Braille; an increasing
number of electrical appliances have lights that flash and
flicker instead of knobs that turn and click; and pictures are
replacing words on everything from the cash register at
McDonald's to the sign on the bathroom door.
Most of these items and appliances could be marked and
produced in nonvisual ways, but the fact that they aren't (and
that they won't be) is not an overwhelming problem. There are
techniques for dealing with the reading, the flickering lights
under transparent plates, and the pictures that tell you where to
go and what to do.
Functioning as a blind person in a world designed for the
sighted keeps you on your toes, but with a little thought and
ingenuity you can manage. In fact, you can manage quite well.
But that isn't the way most people look at it. They figure
that if you are blind, your days are miserably bleak and limited.
I've been blind all of my life, and I think I am about as happy
and successful as most of the sighted people I know. It is true
that I haven't made a million dollars or been elected president
of the United States--but I get along, pay my bills, and look
forward to a good dinner and a Sunday afternoon. So do the
majority of blind people I know. And I know a lot of them--some
successful, some just managing to get by, and most somewhere
And let me hasten to add that I am not just talking about
people who have been blind from birth but about all of the other
variations--those who became blind as children, those who became
blind as young adults, and those who became blind in middle age
But if blindness is how I say it is--if you can have as much
fun, make as much money, and be as successful as anybody else--
why do people think blindness is so tragic and limiting? I have
given a lot of thought to that question, and I believe the answer
is less involved with the major activities of life than with the
It is true that over seventy percent of working-age blind
people are unemployed--not because they can't do the job but
because people think they can't do it and because they haven't
had opportunity. But most people don't know that. More to the
point, they don't think about it, and even if they did, they
would simply take it for granted that the majority of blind
people are not unemployed but unemployable, and then they would
pass on to something else.
No, it is not the big things that cause the average member
of the public to think of blindness as tragic and limiting. It is
the routine activities, the details.
More specifically, it is the fact that when there is more
than one way to do a thing and when one of those ways involves
using sight, the sighted person will almost inevitably use the
visual technique. It will be done without a second thought, with
the automatic assumption that the visual technique is superior.
Some visual techniques are superior, of course; some are
approximately equal; and some are inferior.
Let me give you an example. A few mornings ago, my wife
(who, incidently, is sighted) expressed some annoyance that her
toothpaste had fallen off of the brush. I was quite surprised,
for I realized that something I had always taken for granted
"Do you squeeze your toothpaste on to your toothbrush,
looking at it as you do it, and then put the toothbrush loaded
with toothpaste into your mouth?" I asked.
"Why, yes," she said. "Doesn't everybody do it that way?"
"I don't," I said. "I put the tube up to my mouth, bite off
what I want, and then put the brush on my teeth and go at it."
My wife was as surprised by my technique as I was by hers.
"It makes sense," she said. "I'll try it."
She did, and she said how much more efficient my technique
was than the visual method she had been using. About a week later
I asked her if she was still using my toothpaste technique, and
she rather sheepishly said that she wasn't. When I asked her why,
she thought about it a minute and then said, "I guess I'm so used
to looking at it that it's just too hard to change."
Here's a case where the nonvisual technique is clearly
superior but where the visual method is automatically used even
though it is not as good. My wife (along with most of the other
sighted people I have asked) has always, without even thinking
about it, taken it for granted that the sighted technique is
If she had considered it at all before our conversation, she
would probably have felt that my method of putting toothpaste on
the brush would be the same as hers except that I would need to
feel for the brush, which would be a little harder than just
looking at it.
Certainly the world doesn't turn on whether you bite your
toothpaste or squeeze it onto a brush, but life is a matter of
daily routine, not dramatic events. So let me move from
toothbrushes to razors.
I shave everyday (or almost everyday), and I do it with an
ordinary razor with a blade. Many of the sighted men I know tell
me that they shave in front of a mirror. Yet, I have known a
great many sighted men who have worked at schools or training
centers for the blind and who, after seeing blind boys and men
shaving in the shower, have tried the technique and adopted it. I
have never known one of them to return to the visual technique.
In fact, even those who shave in front of a mirror almost
always rub their hand across their face to feel if it is clean
shaven. Even so, the average person tends to think that shaving
without sight is difficult. It isn't. The nonvisual method is
easier and offers more flexibility.
Like most men who shave with a blade, I use shaving cream,
the kind that comes from a can under pressure and makes a big
pile of foam. Since I have to wash my face anyway, I combine the
operation with shaving. I get my face (including my forehead)
wet, and I then spread shaving cream all over it. When I am
finished, I rinse and am done.
A few years ago, when I was making television announcements
for the National Federation of the Blind, I thought it might be
interesting to demonstrate different techniques used by the
blind. I had shots made of me walking down the street, carrying
wood to a fireplace, tying my tie, and shaving.
As the TV editors looked at the pictures, everything was all
right until they came to the shaving sequence. One of them said,
"We can't show that. It would look like a vaudeville act, like
somebody throwing a pie at your face."
I gathered from my questions to them that they were
accustomed to seeing TV commercials about shaving and that in
those commercials a small amount of shaving cream is put on a
part of the face. Those commercials, it would seem, had formed
their image of what was normal and acceptable. As with some of
the other things I have been discussing, I had always assumed
that other men used shaving cream the way I did. Apparently such
is not the case.
I said to one of the TV editors: "Don't you wash your face
in the morning?"
"Yes," he said, "but I don't do it with shaving cream. I
wash my face and forehead with soap. I rinse my face; and then I
put shaving cream on and shave." It seemed to me that this was a
time-wasting, inefficient way to do it, but I thought I would
keep my opinion to myself.
When I was Director of Programs for the Blind in the state
of Iowa, we bought an old YMCA building for a headquarters and
training center. It had seven floors, and the only way to get
from the basement to the top was either by climbing the stairs or
by using the elevator.
It was, to say the least, not a modern elevator. In fact, it
was one of the old-fashioned kind using direct current. It had a
grille-work at the front of the cab and a lever that you pushed
one way to go up and the other way to go down. There was no way
to tell when you got to a given floor except by looking--or, at
least, that's what we thought when we moved in.
But those of us who were blind had the strongest possible
incentive to devise a nonvisual technique, for we couldn't afford
to hire an elevator operator--and we didn't want to walk up and
down the stairs between the seven floors all day.
My first thought was that if we couldn't see the floors,
perhaps we could string a cable from the top to the bottom of the
elevator shaft with some kind of tabs on it that would brush the
elevator car and make a noise at each floor. That would have been
expensive and complicated and we never got around to it. In the
meantime we walked--at least, those of us who were blind did.
Then, one of the blind trainees found that he could stick a
knife or comb through the grille-work and touch the bar on the
elevator door at each floor, thus allowing a blind person to
operate the elevator easily and efficiently. A little later we
learned that we had been going about the whole thing wrong. If we
paid attention, we could feel the air currents coming off of the
floors as we passed them and could level the elevator without any
mechanical devices at all.
Why did it take us so long to discover this technique? I
believe it was because it never occurred to us to think in any
other way except in visual terms. We thought that if we couldn't
see the floors, we needed to devise a substitute to do the same
thing, to touch them in one way or another. Only when we opened
our minds and let our imaginations run free did we get the
The elevator technique we developed was not superior to the
visual technique used by the sighted occupants of the building,
but it was just as good. The fact that it was different didn't
make it inferior. It just meant that it was different.
There is more opportunity for blind people today than there
has ever been in the history of the world, and we are only
beginning to realize our possibilities. We are truly changing
what it means to be blind, and one of the ways we are doing it is
by coming to understand that visual techniques are not
necessarily superior to nonvisual techniques. And it isn't just
blind people who are learning this. It is also an increasing
number of the sighted public. We who are blind must lead the way
and do for ourselves, but we must do it in partnership with the
sighted. And we must do it with imagination and new ways of
LOOKING BACK AT TRAINS AND TRACKS
by Maureen Pranghofer
An unnamed terror, needless and debilitating accompanied
Maureen Pranghofer from early childhood to middle age. In the
story that follows Maureen tells of her struggle to get on the
right track. Here is what she has to say:
My fascination with trains began on the north side of the
living room and gradually spread south. For it was on the north
side that the television was located just a little to the right
of the front door. And it was just south of this where I played
"train" with my great aunt Nora.
As it did with other young children in the early 1960's,
television was playing an increasingly important role in my daily
life. There were certain TV programs which were rallying points
for the entire family. Paramount among these were the famous ones
which grabbed the rest of the U.S.--"The Flintstones," "The
Jetsons," and the "Mickey Mouse Club."
But the most central fixture on the tube which came blasting
into the north side of the living room was the program featuring
the train of Casey Jones. At noon channel 11, an independent
station, delighted area children by presenting "Lunch with
As the sound of a chugging train was heard in the distance a
booming voice would announce "Now arriving on track 11..." Casey
Jones would get off the train, which had come to a tooting
screeching halt, and run into the club house. He would sit down
at his lunch table and remove the napkin from atop his meal and
say something like "Well, well, what do we have here? It looks
like a peach and cottage cheese and oh yes, a chicken sandwich
and a big glass of milk. I'm ready for my lunch. How about you?"
Then the cartoon-filled half hour would progress along as
quickly as an Amtrak train speeding along to its destination. I
liked hearing the sound of that train. I liked watching Casey hop
off. And I was always interested in what he had for lunch.
My concept of tracks, trains, and railroads would have
probably just remained in a television realm had it not been for
my younger brother's birthday gift. In a large square box came a
present meant for my 2-year-old brother which I immediately
claimed. It was a train set, complete with plastic tracks,
switching mechanism, and little cars which hooked together.
Truthfully I can never remember playing with the cars much, but
the tracks and switching device were major highlights in my
At least three times a week I built and then tore down my
railroad empire which was situated just south of the TV and which
usually ran in an east-west direction. Building was accomplished
by arranging the tracks in whatever way seemed to fit my fancy at
There were countless possibilities. One had only to use
imagination and hook the tracks together. Hooking the track
together meant simply that you would take each piece of plastic
track and fit the end with the round notch sticking out into an
accompanying piece of track which had the round notch indented.
These track pieces were of various lengths, shapes, and sizes.
When fit together they formed one continuous track.
This in and of itself was not all that wonderful, but the
switching mechanism was the hallmark and centerpiece of the
This mechanism was plastic like the tracks and was shaped
like a capital "T." There was a small crank which when rotated
turned the track until it cut across the opposite track and thus
made the train turn around.
Now, if you have been around trains you already know how all
this works. But for me, a seven-year-old who had only seen two
minutes of an engineer disembarking from a television locomotive
it was a big deal.
In addition to my younger sisters and brother I had an
occasional lunch time buddy who was equally fascinated with
trains. That was my great aunt Nora. Now Nora was the dream fairy
godmother of any child. When she came to visit her purse was
stocked full of surprises like gum and Life Savers.
If you wanted to read, color, play a game or watch
television, your wish was her command. She would read as long as
one was willing to listen, talk about important childhood things
which were seen as being silly to any other adult, and enter into
a child's world of play as though she, too, were a kid.
Whether or not she was in actuality personally as interested
in Casey's train as I was is something I'll never know. But if I
was interested in trains then she, too, could be captivated by
them as well in order to please me.
So I was not surprised when one noon hour while we were
jointly watching the tube, she said, "Maybe we'll take the train
somewhere. How would you like that?" I was beside myself with
delight. Awaiting the day when we would actually be real live
passengers aboard a for real train ride was almost more than I
could stand. But finally the day arrived.
Nora, my mother, two younger sisters and younger brother
drove into Minneapolis where we would catch the train which would
take us across the river to St. Paul. There we would eat dinner
at the depot and meet my father, who would drive us home. The
entire time on the train was less than a half hour but that
didn't matter to me.
With a stomach full of butterflies I walked into the depot.
Tickets were purchased, and then a voice over the loudspeaker
boomed, "Now arriving on track 29, train bound for St. Paul."
"Just like TV," I thought as I walked out of the main area
of the depot and over to the waiting train.
The moment I stepped through the glass doors out into the
boarding area my excitement turned to fear. It was an intangible
eery feeling, but one I was sadly familiar with and was to
experience for years to come.
The first time I'd experienced this unnamed fear was after
visiting a friend. My mother was carrying me out to the car. It
was night and, though I was in her arms, I felt totally panicked.
Later I again recognized this nightmarish feeling when my aunt
Carla took me to a theater to see "West Side Story." And again
this envelope of fright would surround me while riding in the car
at night, alone in the back seat, while my mother and grandmother
talked in the front seat.
It was a feeling I couldn't put into words--a terror which
would leave me crying at times and unable to explain to
questioning adults what was happening. It was a fear which left
my palms sweaty and my heart pounding. And as I grew older, it
did not diminish as do childish fears of the monster under the
bed or the boogieman in the corner.
As a nine or ten-year-old, I was followed by it when I
walked across the busy street by my grandmother's home. It
accompanied me to restaurants and to new places. It accompanied
me as I was walking at night.
Finally as a 40-year-old woman, I now understand what caused
my joyful fascination of trains to turn to fear. I now know why
going out to eat in a fancy restaurant was nerve-racking and why
an evening walk in our quiet neighborhood was not enjoyable.
It all had to do with blindness. As an individual born with
partial sight I did not live in the world of blind people. I used
my vision and was not considered to be blind as far as my family
was concerned. Yes they knew I had "problems seeing" but they
were never talked about openly.
Like a train on the right track I did fine as long as I
could use my vision. But, put me into a situation where this
wasn't possible, and I immediately became derailed.
It took an accident in the summer of 1993 which left me
totally blind to get me truly on the right track. Not having any
sight was at first terrifying, confusing, and depressing. But
through the help of the National Federation of the Blind, I have
learned at long last that blindness does not have to be a scary
thing. I have learned that independence is possible and that
travel, in even in unfamiliar environments, does not have to be
equated with terror.
I think of all the times when I couldn't enjoy evening
walks, couldn't enjoy dimly lit restaurants and of the special
time with Nora and the "real live train" that I could not enjoy
because I couldn't see where I was going in the unfamiliar poorly
lit boarding area. How many others are uneasy about doing these
same things and too ashamed to talk about it?
Today I travel confidently thanks to the National Federation
of the Blind. I know where I'm going, and I'm glad I'm on the
THE AXE AND THE LAW BOOK
by Marc Maurer
Abraham Lincoln wielded and axe, and he also became a
lawyer. Although Marc Maurer has never been elected President of
the United States, he has followed Lincoln's footsteps with the
axe and the lawbook. Living in different centuries, both Lincoln
and Maurer had hardships to overcome--and both succeeded when
they might have despaired and given up.
No, Marc Maurer has never been elected President of the
United States--but he has been elected President of the National
Federation of the Blind, a position he holds today. And the
lives of countless blind people are better as a result. Here is
how he tells the story of his development.Many of the toys I was given as a child were mechanical. Toy
cars and trucks often contained mechanisms attached to the wheels
that made a noise when the vehicle was pushed across the floor. I
wanted to know what was inside, and I took them apart. But this
was not all. Alarm clocks, mechanical ice-cream dippers, egg
beaters, door knob assemblies, electric motors, our family lawn
mower, the vacuum cleaner, and anything else I hadn't been
forbidden to touch--I took them all apart.
Then came the question of putting them together again. Those
who have taken an alarm clock to pieces know how difficult this
can be. The spring shoots out, and the pieces go everywhere. Even
if you can find all the parts, it is hard to tell which tiny
wheel or spring goes where.
The first time that I dismantled a piece of machinery which
was not working and reassembled it so that it functioned
properly, I was delighted. I began to examine everything with the
idea that I might "fix it."
Although I was then--as I am now--blind, I became the fixer
for our family. My father was the principal fixer, but he was a
traveling salesman, and he was often away from home. If an
electrical cord needed a new plug, if a curtain rod needed
hanging, if a hinge on a door had become loosened, if the washers
in a faucet needed to be replaced--I was the one to be called
upon to put it right.
I even got to work on our second car, a nineteen fifty-four
Plymouth. My Dad forbade me to monkey with the internal
mechanisms of the new car. He drove that one for work, and he did
not want me fiddling with it. He would let me change the tires if
they were flat or put the new license plates on. He would even
let me look at the engine if I wanted to. I just couldn't do
anything to it.
My father had many tools, and he shared them with me and
taught me to use them. But he had very little experience with
blindness, and he did not know how blind people use power
machinery. He gave me an electric drill, and he let me use his
disk sander, but he did not encourage me to use the power saws.
He thought that using them was beyond the capabilities of a blind
boy, and I agreed with him.
In 1969, I met Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, who was then serving as
President of the National Federation of the Blind. I was a
student in Dr. Jernigan's program for training blind adults. In
that program there was no prohibition against blind students
using power tools.
There were hand tools, of course, but there were the big
ones, too--a table saw, a planer, a radial arm saw, a joiner, a
wood lathe, a metal lathe, a vertical mill, a drill press, and
more. And best of all, I was not prohibited from using them. I
was expected to make them function. I was expected to learn how
to use the machines and to demonstrate my knowledge by building
something. During the time that I was in the program I hoisted an
engine out of a car, tore it to pieces, and rebuilt it.
One cold winter day we traveled to a wooded area. I took one
end of a two-man cross cut saw, and before the day was through we
had cut down a tree more than three feet thick. It was exciting
Although I was a student in Dr. Jernigan's program, I knew
that the time was approaching for me to go to college. The fun
that I had had manipulating tools made me wonder whether I should
Dr. Jernigan encouraged me not to be limited by a single
perspective. How mechanical things fit together can be
interesting, he told me, but there are other fascinating ideas as
well. How do organizations accomplish their goals? How do
governments achieve their objectives? What is it that makes
people persuasive? What are the characteristics that cause an
individual to be a leader? How is opportunity created? What are
the driving forces behind social change? How are the decisions
reached within society to select one direction over another? Not
only did Dr. Jernigan pose these challenging questions, but he
also introduced me to a startling new idea.
I, as a blind person, could--if I possessed the ability and
the willingness to work--help to decide the answers. If I could
learn how social structures worked, and if I could discover how
change was created, I might be able to help contribute to the
building of a nation.
Before I became a part of the National Federation of the
Blind, I believed that I might be able to replace a broken leaf
spring or to balance a flywheel. But I never imagined that I
would be able to participate in determining broader questions.
With the help of my friends in the National Federation of
the Blind, I enrolled at the University of Notre Dame. After
graduating with honor from Notre Dame, I entered law school. For
many centuries the law has been among the honored professions.
In law school I learned that the law, the courts, and the
judicial system are not mysterious or unknowable--not beyond the
mental capacity of a blind student--not an unattainable goal. The
law is a tool to be used to achieve a stable and a civilized
society. It changes to meet the demands of that society. In the
hands of a skillful artisan the law can be used to bring about
the most worthwhile results. And it possesses a great deal of
Early in my legal career I learned that a seventy-six year
old woman had (four years earlier) been declared criminally
insane. Agnes had been placed behind bars in the mental hospital
for criminals. When I questioned the doctor about her case, he
told me that Agnes was perfectly sane. I asked for permission to
interview her in the hospital, and she asked me to represent her
in the courts.
Agnes had been good friends with her neighbor Clara--a woman
somewhat younger than she. To Agnes' amazement, Clara stole
Agnes' husband. There was a fight, and Agnes was hauled off by
the police. Clara told the arresting officer that Agnes was
having strange hallucinations, and she repeated her testimony in
the court. Agnes was adjudged to be insane.
Unless something could be done to change the circumstances,
Agnes would live out the remainder of her life in the mental
hospital. I prepared a petition of habeas corpus and presented it
to the court. The prosecuting attorney refused to consider an
adjudication without court proceedings. The matter came on for
hearing, and I prepared witnesses to present evidence. The doctor
repeated under oath what he had told me in our private
conversation. Medical evidence indicated that Agnes was sane.
After the evidence had been presented it was time for
argument to the court. Locking a person who is sane in a hospital
for the criminally insane is the same as putting that person in
jail. Our law states unequivocally that no person may be put
permanently in jail unless that person has been convicted of a
crime. Even if a conviction has occurred, a judge must decide how
long the sentence will be.
Agnes had already been in the hospital for four years and
she was facing the real possibility of life behind bars. I asked
the court to release this seventy-six year old lady. The judge
gave the order that we wanted.
Although I have handled many different kinds of cases in my
career, most of the legal practice that I do today involves
individuals who are blind, or corporations established to assist
the blind. The diversity of experience I have had in the courts
has helped to give me perspective and understanding in the things
I do today.
As I think about the tools that I have used in my lifetime
(both those that are mechanical and those that are not), I am
astonished and pleased to note that the learning never stops. In
1993 my son David joined the Cub Scouts. A new pack was being
formed at the church we attend. Despite my inexperience (I had
never been a Scout), I was asked to serve as an assistant leader.
As a part of my responsibility, I participated in the 1994 fall
In this event the scouts go out into the woods, set up
tents, build fires, cook their meals, and practice outdoor
skills: recognizing and following tracks, tying different kinds
of knots, building shelters with the materials at hand in the
forest, learning to load a backpack, and chopping wood. The wood
chopping exercise demands precision. A wooden match stick is
placed on the chopping block with its striking end up. The Scout
is expected to split the match with a hatchet. Extra points are
given (they say) if the match lights as you cut it.
I was the leader, so I was not asked to perform this feat. I
was glad not to be expected to perform in public. Even though I
have a great respect and a great appreciation for good tools, I
had never used a hatchet or an axe.
I thought about why this was so. I remember quite well the
story of the tin woodman from the Wizard of Oz. He made a number
of mistakes with his axe. One at a time he cut off each of his
legs and each of his arms. They had to be replaced with tin. Then
he slipped once more and cut his body so that it had to be
replaced as well.
I came to understand that using an axe was a dangerous thing
to do. Although I would probably not have said so, I thought it
was too dangerous and too impractical for a blind person.
Consequently, I never tried. All of this is what I thought on
that camping trip. How often we create our own limitations and
restrict our activities because we don't believe there is any
possibility of doing otherwise.
Later in the fall of 1994 I borrowed a hatchet and, working
with my son David, chopped out a stump in the yard of one of my
neighbors. I have always liked physical work with tools. Perhaps
this is because I spend most of my working days in an office,
meeting with people and managing documents.
The fireplace in my house needs wood to make the evenings
pleasant. Each fire requires kindling. I suppose it is possible
to buy it, but my son and I have begun making it ourselves. He
uses the hatchet he got for Christmas, and I use an axe. Neither
one of us is very good at it yet. But we enjoy being with each
other; we enjoy the outdoors; and we enjoy the physical exertion.
We also feel good about learning a new skill. We hope to become
competent at using the tools that helped to clear the forests
from our nation to give us the productive farm land that has fed
this country for so many years, and we like to have kindling for
We keep the tin woodman in mind. We don't want to have
artificial legs, so we play it safe. But we don't let the worries
about safety keep us from using the tools.
In the National Federation of the Blind we offer hope and
encouragement to blind people who believe that the possibility
for having a full life is ended by blindness. We know that blind
people can perform most jobs that are done by the sighted. We
know that blindness is not the thing that will stop a blind
person but that negative attitudes about blindness are. I learned
this when I joined the organization in 1969, and I have had this
learning reinforced from time to time throughout the years.
In the fall of 1994 with an axe in my hand, I learned it
again. I may never spend a significant amount of my time using
an axe, but it isn't because I'm blind. I thought that it
couldn't be done--that my muscles might do many things, but they
would never feel the bite of the axe blade in the wood. Because
the Federation taught me to explore what I thought I could not
do, and because my son wanted to go camping, I have learned to
swing an axe.
LEARNING TO READ
by Patricia Maurer
Patricia Maurer, the wife of the President of the National
Federation of the Blind, didn't learn to read until she was well
along in school. Her blindness wasn't the problem. It was
simply that nobody had offered her the opportunity and the
stimulation to learn Braille. Today she has a college degree, is
a certified teacher, and is the mother of two active sighted
children--a boy named David and a girl named Dianna. Here, as
she tells it, is the story of how she learned to read.
I was standing in the check out line at the grocery store
with a friend. She was reading from the front covers of the
magazines displayed on the rack. She read quickly and fluently.
She was reading aloud because she knew I was interested in the
information on the cover if only in passing.
As she read to me, I thought of the millions of things that
are out there to read and how people often take reading for
granted. At this stage in my life, I suppose I do myself, but I
doubt I will ever do so in the way that others may do.
I have been blind all of my life. As a child I had some
residual vision. I grew up in a small town in Iowa, where my
family had very little contact with any programs serving the
blind, and certainly no direct contact with blind people--not, at
least, when I was a child.
Although I had very little sight, my parents decided to send
me to the public school in our community. In kindergarten I
noticed that the other children did not have to get so close to
their work. They did not have to bend way over to see the paper
on their desks. When I cut things out of paper I very often could
not see the line which was there for me to follow. I think I knew
then that school work was different for me from what it was for
As I progressed through that small town public school, my
teachers, my friends, and my parents read the material aloud to
me. I would tell them the answers to the questions on the tests
and they would write them down for me. If I wrote the answers
myself, very often neither the teacher nor I could read what I
As the material to be read grew in volume, I was spending
more and more time in the evenings reading with my parents. There
were hours and hours of homework. Many blind people will find
this story familiar.
When we would take trips to the library, I would check out a
few books and bring them home. I would sit by a strong light or
use a lighted magnifier to try to make out the words on the page.
I finished very few library books that way.
When I was in the sixth grade my family learned about the
library for the blind in Iowa. We contacted it and I began
receiving books on long playing records. For the first time in my
life I could read books whenever I wanted to do so. It was
wonderful then, and it still is.
I still had the problem of getting my school work done.
Someone had to be there to read for me and to write down answers
to questions. There was a teacher who decided that it would be
advantageous for me to learn to touch type. This was a great
Now I could write things down for others to read, but I
still could not read them myself. Looking back, I think math was
the most difficult thing for me to do. I would be given the
problem and I would try to figure it out in my head. I would try
to recite the steps for solving the problem, and the person with
me would write them down. I still could not read and write for
myself. By this time I was in high school.
One evening on the television I heard a public service
announcement regarding services for blind people. My father and I
spoke to Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, and he told us that I should learn
to read and write Braille. He gave me a Braille textbook to take
home. It contained the alphabet.
I was to enroll in the training program in two weeks for my
first lesson. I met my Braille teacher. Oh, I was thrilled. I
took that book home and learned the alphabet. When I went for my
first lesson I knew it all. At the end of that summer I could
read and write Braille. For the first time in my life I could
read and write.
I went on to college and got a teaching degree. I used a
combination of methods for getting the work done in the
classroom. I used Braille. I used books on record and on cassette
tape. I used a person to read materials and I often Brailled
portions of textbooks. I worked hard. I discovered how much
easier it could be with a variety of options--lots easier when I
could read and write for myself.
Yes, I got my degree. It was a degree in teaching elementary
school. My first job was teaching remedial reading to third and
fourth graders. The children could see. They needed help learning
As I sat in that classroom working with those children, I
thought about what a joy it is to be able to read. I hope that I
was able to pass on to those children a little of that joy. It is
a joy which is with me now and I know that will stay with me for
the rest of my life.
KEEPING THE RENT CURRENT
by Hazel Staley
The strength of the National Federation of the Blind lies in
its members from the very young to the not so young. Here one of
our senior members tells about her life. Her story reminds me of
something I frequently tell people about us: We laugh and cry,
work and play, hope and dream--just like you. Here is what she
has to say:
I was number five in a line of six children born to a farm
family in Union County, North Carolina in August of 1916. I lost
my sight when I was two years old as a result of meningitis. I
graduated from the North Carolina School for the Blind and
received by A.B. degree from Flora McDonald College (now St.
Andrews) with majors in French and English and a minor in
When I first entered Flora McDonald, the faculty was at a
loss as to how to deal with me. There had been blind students
there before, but they had all majored in music and the faculty
didn't know how I was going to do the lab work in science, which
was a requirement for an A.B. degree.
After considerable discussion they decided to put me on
probation for the first semester to see if I could make it.
Science just isn't my bag, but I felt diminished by being on
probation; so I decided to do whatever I had to do to prove that
I could handle the lab. My other subjects came easy to me; so I
zeroed in on science and made the honor roll that first semester.
I had hoped to teach English in the state secondary school
system; but finding this field closed to blind people, I enrolled
in the graduate school of social work at the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill. I was employed as a social worker with
the North Carolina Commission for the Blind for almost six years.
I met and married Bob Staley and resigned my position. Bob
was in the U.S. Army, and I wanted to be free to go wherever he
went. That was in 1947. Our only son, Ken, was born in 1951. Bob
died of lung cancer in 1986. I have two lovely little
We were stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, when Ken entered
school, and I immediately got involved in the PTA. I served as
vice president and president of the PTA, and I think I must have
served as the chairman of almost every committee there was. I
received a lifetime PTA membership from the state of Georgia.
One day in 1969 (I was again living in Charlotte, North
Carolina) my employer, the director of the local agency for the
blind, told me that a group of blind people wanted to meet in our
conference room on Sunday afternoon, and that I should come and
be responsible for opening and closing the building.
That meeting turned out to be one of the best things that
ever happened to me. Leaders of the National Federation of the
Blind had come to organize a chapter of the Federation in
Charlotte. I had never heard of the Federation, but I realized at
once that its philosophy had been mine all my life. I joined that
day and immediately became active in the movement.
I have lived a very full life. I served two years as
president of my homeowners' association and have been teaching
Sunday School for more than twenty years. I have also served as
president of my church's Women's Missionary Society and as
director of church training. In 1978 I was named Charlotte's
Outstanding Citizen and in 1989 I received the Jacobus tenBroek
Award for my service in the National Federation of the Blind.
Someone has said that service to others is the rent we pay
for the space we occupy on earth. I plan to keep the rent on my
PIONEERING IN THE COURTS
By Sandy Halverson
Kernel book readers are accustomed to encountering in these
pages blind people who are pursuing unusual careers. In the story
that follows, Sandy Halverson (totally blind) tells of her work
as a court reporter. Here is what she has to say:
I am a blind person who has a wide range of job skills.
Besides working as a telephone solicitor for Olan Mills
Photography Studios while I was in college, I have performed a
variety of jobs in a sheltered workshop as well as working for
several years as a medical transcriptionist.
As happens with many careers, I reached a point where I felt
I could go no further in medical transcription; I didn't want to
assume responsibilities of an Accredited Records Librarian and
was not particularly interested in returning to school to obtain
a Master's degree in psychology.
Therefore, I decided that my combination of skills could be
most useful in court reporting. I obviously had the medical
background (spelling, grammar, punctuation, and keyboard skills
necessary) needing only to learn another keyboard and shorthand
code. The rehabilitation agency where I lived said it couldn't be
done, since no technology existed which would allow a person to
read back the notes taken on a stenograph machine. But what this
agency failed to consider was the fact that members of the
National Federation of the Blind have accumulated a great deal of
expertise in developing specialized technology to help blind
people function productively on the job.
A blind electrical engineer, who is a member of the
Federation, researched the computer equipment that would be
necessary, wrote the program to translate the shorthand symbols
into Braille, and taught me how to use the equipment and system
After completing my training, I became employed as the first
totally blind court reporter in the country using stenograph
equipment. Although the court reporting school I attended had
reservations about whether a blind person could do the work, I
was given the chance to try and completed the work without any
more difficulty than the other students had.
When it came time to compete for a job, I was lucky. Very
often when an employer interviews a blind person, the only
characteristic considered is blindness. But the judge
interviewing me was different. He wanted someone who understood
medical terminology and who could take medical testimony and get
He was delighted to find someone with both court reporting
and medical terminology skills. In his view my years of
experience in transcribing medical records outweighed my
inexperience in court reporting. I guess he figured that my
blindness was my problem; and if I had worked out the techniques
to be a successful medical transcriber, I could do the same for
court reporting. How refreshing it was to find this common sense
attitude, and how many of our problems will be solved when more
employers come to view blindness in this way.
I loved my job as a court reporter; and I am grateful to the
National Federation of the Blind not only for the technical
expertise, which made it possible, but for the emotional support
as I waded through these untried waters.
My job ended with a legislative decision to replace county
court reporters with tape recorders--a decision I'm confident
will be reversed at a later date, but because of my positive
experience, many other blind persons are considering this as a
career opportunity, which never would have happened without the
National Federation of the Blind.
WE DON'T HAVE NORTH HERE
by Barbara Pierce
People tend to be curious about blindness. Perhaps the
single item which arouses the most curiosity is how a person can,
without seeing where he or she is going, move about without
assistance both inside and out. Despite appearances there's no
magic involved. Barbara Pierce addresses the subject in the story
that follows. Here is what she has to say:
Blindness is both frightening and puzzling to most people.
It's frightening because most people depend completely on their
eyes to tell them about the world, so the idea of moving and
working and playing without that information is more than
unnerving. It's puzzling because people have no notion how
anybody could gather enough information using a cane to travel
Some years ago the five-year-old daughter of an acquaintance
began talking to her mother about the magic lady who passed their
house every day. My friend could not imagine what the child meant
until the day she called her mother to the window to see me
walking past on my way to the hospital where I served as
chaplain. I was moving my long white cane in an arc in front of
me, and the little girl triumphantly explained that I had to be
magic since I was there, and the leash was there, but the dog I
was walking was invisible.
Even without believing in invisible dogs, many people tend
to behave as though some sort of magic were associated with the
use of the white cane. It doesn't seem possible to them that a
person could move safely and confidently by moving a cane,
listening to traffic noise and the echoes made by the cane tip,
noting wind and sun direction, and feeling the contours of the
In reality blind people depend on finding objects with a
light tap of the cane and then avoiding them. The long white cane
is very good at identifying cars parked across sidewalks, holes
in the street, and parking meters.
It is hard for sighted people to believe that blind people
really do know where they are and where they are bound. I have a
blind friend who entered the elevator in her office building one
morning to find that the only other passenger was a gentleman. As
she stepped in, he inquired, "Do you know what floor you want?"
She smiled and pushed the correct button, but she wondered what
he thought she was planning to do in the elevator if she didn't
know where she was going.
As a blind traveler I always appreciate receiving accurate
information in an unfamiliar area. In my work I travel a good
deal, so I frequently find myself in unfamiliar airports. I was
once walking toward the ground transportation area of an airport
new to me when I became aware that a man was following me down
the almost deserted concourse.
My cane touched a sign post, and I detoured around it and
continued toward the exit. The man said, "I don't understand how
you walk so straight." I commented that I had obviously not been
walking quite straight or I would not have touched the sign. He
replied, "I have been watching you for a hundred yards, and I
know what you've done. I explained that the public address
speakers in the ceiling, the periodic metal strips running across
the concourse, and the conversation of other people all helped me
walk along the proper path.
As we came to the terminal, I asked him for directions to
the escalator. Without a pause he said, "Thirty feet ahead at two
o'clock." I thanked him and commented that he must be a pilot. He
was surprised that I had guessed his occupation, but pilots, too,
have to know where they are and how to talk about it.
Many people find it hard to give good directions to a blind
person, and sometimes the stress of giving directions is just too
much. I will never forget a conversation I had with a member of
the staff of a hotel in which I was staying for a week.
On the first morning of my visit I was standing in the lobby
with my secretary, asking her questions about the floor plan of
the area. We were having a hard time communicating without using
the points of the compass for reference. So I stopped an employee
to ask which way north was. The woman paused a moment and then
announced, "We don't have north here."
I assured her that even though the river flowing through the
city meant that the streets did not run exactly north-south and
east-west, compasses still indicated north in that part of the
world, but she couldn't tell me which way it was. In the end I
had to put my question to someone else.
In short, there is nothing magical about using a long white
cane. It takes practice, common sense, and good information. You
THE BLIND BEAK OF BOW STREET
by John Dashney
Can a blind man be a policeman? This one was--and he lived
more than 200 years ago. Here is his story as it appeared in
One of England's first and greatest policemen was blind.
Sir John Fielding, the younger half-brother of the great
English novelist Henry Fielding, was born in 1721. He joined the
navy as a youth, but an accident cost him his sight at the age of
nineteen. This was in 1740, nearly 70 years before Louis Braille
would be born. There were no radios, no tapes--no known way for a
blind person to be able to read. So what did John Fielding do?
He opened a business which he called the Universal Register
Office. This was a combination labor exchange, travel agency,
information office, real estate agency, and insurance company.
John ran it single-handed. In his spare time, his brother Henry
taught him law.
Henry Fielding, when not writing novels such as Tom Jones,
had become a magistrate. This was an office something like that
of a justice of the peace.
Henry had the power to investigate crimes, question
suspects, and then either release them or order them held for
trial. He was successful enough to be given the title of Chief
Magistrate. He was, in fact, what we today would call a chief of
police--except that London of the 1750's had no organized police
Imagine a city of over half a million people, terrible
slums, a high crime rate, and no real police. The few parish
constables were chosen by lot, much as we choose juries today, to
serve for one year. Most paid substitutes to take their place,
and many of the substitutes were as dishonest as the criminals
they were supposed to control. Most of the rest, along with the
night watchmen, were too disorganized, too feeble, or too
frightened of the powerful street gangs to be of any use.
Henry Fielding tried to change all this. He drew up plans
for controlling crime, turned his house in Bow Street into a kind
of police station, and hired a few of the best constables to
serve as more or less permanent police officers--"Bow Street
Runners" was the name by which they would soon be known.
But Henry's health was failing, and in 1754 he had to
retire. The position, which would become known as Chief of the
Metropolitan Police, was offered to his blind half-brother. John
Fielding accepted it and held it until his death in 1780.
John immediately set out to put Henry's plans to work.
Within two years his runners had broken up most of the gangs of
street robbers. John then organized a horse patrol to combat the
mounted highwaymen who prowled the roads leading to and from
London. He set up systems of rapid communication and published
descriptions of wanted criminals and stolen goods. We take these
things for granted now, but the Fieldings were the first to think
John's main skills were in questioning witnesses and
suspects. Usually he left the legwork to his runners. But
sometimes he investigated cases personally. When, in 1763, Lord
Harrington's house was robbed of more than three thousand pounds
worth of silver, gold, and jewels (nearly one hundred thousand
dollars in today's money!), John investigated the theft
Using one of his helpers for his eyes, he spent the whole
day and most of the night examining and questioning. He
determined that what was made to look like a burglary was really
an inside job. His suspicions fell on a servant, who later
Elementary? Perhaps. But this was more than one hundred
years before the first Sherlock Holmes story was written.
About this time John was knighted for his services and
became Sir John Fielding. The common people, though, gave him
another title--"The Blind Beak of Bow Street." ("Beak" was the
18th century slang for anyone in a position of authority.)
A contemporary described Sir John as wearing a black bandage
over his eyes and carrying a switch, which he flicked in front of
him as he entered or left his courtroom. He was strict with
hardened criminals and was responsible for sending many men (and
some women) to the gallows. But he was lenient with young people,
especially first-time offenders.
There was no welfare or aid for dependent children in the
1700's. Most of London's slum children died before they grew up.
Most of the boys who survived became thieves, and most of the
girls who survived became prostitutes.
Sir John tried to save as many as he could. He helped
organize charities to feed and clothe abandoned children, and
institutions to teach them reading, writing, and some kind of a
trade. As a police official, he saw that the best way to stop
criminals was to get to them before they became criminals. In
this he was almost two hundred years ahead of his time.
In his role of keeper of the peace, Sir John Fielding often
had to intervene in labor disputes and sometimes even control
rioting, angry mobs. As a negotiator, he became known for his
fairness toward the workers and apprentices, the poor and
Curiously enough, the one group that Sir John Fielding did
not make any special efforts to help was the blind. This was
because he considered his own blindness as no great handicap, and
assumed that other blind people felt the same way.
London would not have a regular police force until nearly
fifty years after Sir John Fielding's death, but many of the
rules and guidelines he set down for his Bow Street Runners are
still used in police training manuals today.
People often feel that law enforcement is no field for a
blind person even to consider. They don't realize that one of the
first and greatest police officials ran the London Metropolitan
Police for twenty-six years without the aid of any sight.
A LESSON FROM MARSHA
by Barbara Walker
Almost all children test their parents to see just what they
can get away with. What if the parent is blind? And what if the
parent is blind and the child takes advantage of the blindness?
Is it fair? And what does it say about the child's attitude
toward the parent and the parent's blindness? With sensitivity,
love, and true understanding of herself, her blindness, and her
daughter, Barbara Walker (one of the leaders of the National
Federation of the Blind) explores these questions in the story
"Mom, someone asked me today if I can read Braille because I
was wearing my Braille Readers are Leaders sweatshirt." I felt
again the depth of my daughter Marsha's acceptance. I know that
as she grows, a time may come when she won't want to champion the
cause of the blind. I thought that junior high might be that
time. But not only has she worn that sweatshirt, but she has also
proudly worn her "Braille is finger food for the mind" T-shirt
with the "cool Federation logo" on the back.
One day she took a copy of some titles she had Brailled
along with the print version to show her teacher. She did them on
an IBM Braille typewriter which was recently donated to our
affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind. Without much
thought, I can bring to mind many times she has promoted our
There was the time when she took copies of our first Kernel
book, What Color is the Sun, to each of her teachers. Inside, she
had tucked a Christmas tree shaped note pointing out that the
title article was written by her aunt.
When she ran for student council in the fifth grade, she
wanted to mention in her speech that I was president of the
National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska. I told her how
pleased I was that she wanted to do that, but suggested that
since she was the one seeking office, it would be more
appropriate for her to talk about some of the things she herself
has done to further our cause--stamping and stuffing envelopes,
helping younger children at our conventions, assisting in sorting
and distribution of literature, participating in fundraising, and
That same year, she involved friends of hers in our walk-a-
thon, created Braille art, and made a Braille picture card game
with me. She is very interested in art, and believes people
should be allowed to touch three-dimensional creations whether or
not they can visually see them because you experience them more
fully that way.
I have complimented her insight and have encouraged her to
present that perspective often to others. Since our society tends
to emphasize visual learning and to underestimate the value of
education through other senses, many, including some artists, may
otherwise never consider the treasure which feels so natural to
Last summer, while volunteering at a day care home, she took
copies of The Encounter (a cartoon book about blindness) for the
children to color in. She said, when asking to do that, "If they
take them home to their parents, which they usually do with
things they make, their parents will read it and learn about
On another occasion, when I was not present, a man in our
church suggested to her that she should see to it that her
brother wore clean and appropriate clothes to church. When I
heard that this had happened, I asked her what she had said. She
told me she had been a little embarrassed about how to answer
him, but had ultimately said, "I think that's mom's job."
In the midst of all of this, there was one situation which
at first seemed to contradict all of the foregoing. Marsha had
been wanting to have someone over one evening, and I had said she
couldn't because she hadn't earned the privilege. A little while
later, she went to the door. I asked if someone had come. She
said something noncommittal which, since her brother came in
shortly thereafter, I took to mean that he had been the one who
was out there.
Moments later, John asked why Seana's bike was in our
driveway. I felt stunned. Trembling in disbelief, I went to
Marsha's room and knocked on the door. I asked if she was alone
in there. When she didn't immediately answer, I opened the door.
The smell of Seana's perfume brought with it a suffocating
mixture of hurt, anger, mockery, and betrayal.
When I found my voice, it was surprisingly low, even, and
cool. I asked Seana to leave at once, saying that I was
disappointed in both of them. She started to speak, but I cut her
off, stating that I didn't want to hear from her then. I added
that if she was intending to have me consider her innocent, I
didn't. She could have, at several points, rejected the idea,
even if Marsha had initiated it.
After she left, Marsha wanted to talk to me. I said I would
seek her out when I was ready. I went to my room and cried. There
are many kinds of tears. Mine, on that occasion, were not tears
accompanied by audible sobs which invite sharing. They were
silent tears, spilling unbidden from one too full of pain to
contain them; too deep in the aloneness of betrayal to seek human
I prayed for guidance and strength as I again approached
Marsha's room, believing that our relationship would be forever
changed by this incident. I was not prepared for what followed.
She received me calmly, continuing to tape a poster to her
door as I began to talk to her. I asked how she felt about what
had happened. She said she didn't feel good about it. I said I
felt for the first time that she had deliberately included
someone outside our family in taking advantage of my blindness
and in doing so she had shaken my trust. She said she knew she
had done that and she was sorry. Then she added, "If you were
sighted, I would have found a different way to have Seana come."
Again I felt stunned. What was she really saying to me? I
said to her that I was willing to rebuild our trust. She said she
As I left her room, I began to consider that perhaps we had
taken a step forward. Why, after all, should the characteristic
of blindness be some sort of touch-me-not fortress protected by
delusion from the throes of children's testing? And had it
really, through the years, been untested?
When, at last, I felt the fresh air sweeping through his
deepest hole in my cover, I realized that it was riddled with
snags and I was finally willing to let it fall away.
We have all known, all along, that blindness brings with it
opportunities for the creative tester. But we often succumb to
confusing equal with identical--that is, it's o.k. to acknowledge
that children of blind parents will test them in the usual ways,
but it's not o.k. to put blindness-related tests in that same
category. They are worse, somehow. They take the child beyond the
realm of fair game testing into the arena of the dirty player.
That night, I had to ask myself why that is.
Over time, I have come to understand that the answer relates
to perceptions about blindness. All of us, blind and sighted
alike, consider blindness a characteristic with so much on the
negative side that even children, whose natural bent is to test
limits and explore ramifications of human characteristics, should
treat this one with kid gloves. The unfortunate outcome of that
process is that the unexplored trait becomes stagnant or brittle,
and neither parent nor child knows what it's made of.
I believe, of course, that Marsha's actions were wrong. Both
the disobedience and the conspiracy were unacceptable. She
endured consequences of that behavior. But after the initial
shock of her having included someone outside of the family in
this test passed, I realized that it was not in any way a
contradiction of the positive approach to blindness she has
She is not bamboozled by the facade we so often build when
we want to be treated identically rather than equally. Blindness
is, in her mind, no more or less sacred than other potentially
fertile testing grounds of her parent. I hope we've all learned
the lesson well enough that we won't need a refresher course any
time soon. If we haven't, it won't surprise me at all if younger
brother John steps up to teach it.
You can help us spread the wordž
About our Braille Readers Are Leaders contest for blind
schoolchildren, a project which encourages blind children to
achieve literacy through Braille.
About our scholarships for deserving blind college students.
About Job Opportunities for the Blind, a program that matches
capable blind people with employers who need their skills.
About where to turn for accurate information about blindness and
the abilities of the blind.
Most importantly, you can help us by sharing what you've
learned about blindness in these pages with your family and
friends. If you know anyone who needs assistance with the
problems of blindness, please write:
Marc Maurer, President
National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street, Suite 300
Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998
Other Ways You Can Help the National Federation of the Blind
Write to us for tax saving information on bequests and
planned giving programs.
Include the following language in your will:
"I give, devise, and bequeath unto National Federation of
the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Suite 300, Baltimore, Maryland
21230, a District of Columbia nonprofit corporation, the sum of $
_______ (or "______ percent of my net estate") to be used for its
worthy purposes on behalf of blind persons."
Your contributions are tax deductible.