National Federation of the Blind
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, JULY 4, 1995
by Marc Maurer
The activities of the past twelve months have signified growth and change for the National Federation of the Blind although the solid substance of our organization and our enduring purpose have not altered in the slightest. Our representative character as the voice of the nation's blind and our paramount objective to serve as the vehicle for collective action by the blind and by the parents of blind children remain the fundamentals on which we have built the organized blind movement. All that we have done, all the programs that we have built, all the recognition that we have achieved must be understood in this perspective.
Blind sheltered shop workers, blind teachers, blind students, blind parents, blind people in the professions, the parents of blind children, blind scientists, professionals in the field of work with the blind, the blind from every cultural setting, those with disabilities in addition to blindness, those who have recently become blind, those who are older and those who are not, those with education and those without itthe blindthis is what we are and why we have the strength that we have. We have one overriding goal, to respond to the needs of the blind and we will not permit differences of style or training or background to divert us from serving that end. This unwillingness to be sidetracked by unimportant details gives us the unity, the harmony, the single-mindedness, and the force of will that constitute the essence of the National Federation of the Blind.
On television and radio, in newspapers and magazines, in public meetings and private gatherings, the work of the Federation is becoming ever more widely known. Our former first lady, Mrs. Barbara Bush, published in 1994 the memoirs of her years in Washington. Contained among her recollections is a description of a visit to the White House by several members of the National Federation of the Blind. Mrs. Bush was particularly impressed by Second Vice President Peggy Elliott. Although Mrs. Bush had other duties to perform on the day of our visit, the work of the Federation was of such interest to her that she took additional time to devote to us. This is what she says about the Federation:
I was trying hard to keep up my regular schedule. One morning in early January, for example, I met with members of the National Federation of the Blind. They were so fascinating I visited with them much longer than scheduled. Their spokesperson was a young blind woman who was a Yale Law School graduate and a court trial lawyer. She showed me how she took notes with a pocket Braille device that looked like a ruler. They told me that only 25 percent of our blind children are taught Braille; the other 75 percent are locked into second-class citizenry. The group was petitioning to have Braille education made available to all children. I had never thought about this before, but everyone must know how to readwhether it is by sight or by feel.
This is the description of the Federation contained in the memoirs of former first lady Barbara Bush. Our name and the work we are doing are being distributed throughout the United States and the world.
It is not only in the memoirs of our nation's leaders that the Federation is being recognized. Paul Nelson and Judy Pearson are the authors of a book entitled Confidence in Public Speaking, 6th edition. This text incorporates quotations from the 1989 National Federation of the Blind banquet address "Language and the Future of the Blind." Not only is the talent for public speaking commended, but the purpose for doing the speaking, the need for blind people to achieve freedom, is acknowledged as well.
Our public service announcements, which depict the innate normality of the blind, also continue to be broadly circulated. During the past year our message appeared in all of the top ten television markets and on over 200 superstations, cable systems, and local television channels throughout the nation.
Late last summer the CBS television network featured the National Federation of the Blind on its overnight news program. The subject being discussed was the installation of detectable warnings on subway platforms. Certain uninformed people believe that bumpy surfaces should be installed along the edges of these platforms to warn blind pedestrians of danger. When the blind feel the bumps, these people say, the platform edge is close at hand. Unless the blind feel the bumps, they add, they will not know about the edge until it is too late.
These uninformed people demanded that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority install the bumps along the platform edges in all of its seventy-four rail stationsa distance of eighteen milesat an estimated cost of thirty million dollars. The bumps were required (they said) to make these rail stations accessible to the blind in accordance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The National Federation of the Blind has opposed installation of these bumpy surfaces. Our experience indicates that they are not necessary, and in certain instances they are actually hazardous. Those who want them installed say that many blind people have not been trained to travel safely. Failing to install the bumps (they say) will keep such untrained people from riding the subway. Putting the bumps underfoot would make it possible (they argue) for everybody to rideespecially the blind who have never learned how.
We responded to this specious line of reasoning on the CBS television network. Installing the bumps does not ensure that those who are blind will not fall. In fact, it is very likely to be precisely the opposite. If the installation of these bumpy surfaces will encourage untrained blind people to think that injuries cannot occur in the subway, these people will take fewer precautions than are advisable in the circumstances. Furthermore, the irregular surface underfoot will increase the instability of pedestrians and heighten the danger. With all of these factors in mind, we oppose the installation of the detectable warnings.
I am pleased to be able to report to you that this spring the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (with our assistance) came to an agreement with the Department of Transportation that the installation of the detectable warnings will not be required. Officials of the transit system agreed to install an experimental electronic warning system, and they have asked us to help design it. We will be working closely with them and with the Sensory Engineering Center and the Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University to produce it.
Last fall Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, President Emeritus of the National Federation of the Blind, provided staff training to counselors and others who work at the New York Commission for the Blind. This initial training session demonstrated that the collective experience of the organized blind movement can provide a kind of background and comprehension which is not available from other sources.
The government of Bermuda last fall invited Dr. Jernigan to make presentations regarding the ability of the disabled to the educational community, the government, and the public-at-large of Bermuda. The training program lasted a full week and included groups ranging from grade school children to news media representatives to the Governor General. Our message of independence for blind people was enthusiastically received.
Dr. Jernigan continues to serve as the president of the North America/Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union. As an officer of the world organization and a representative of the blind of this continent, he traveled last fall to Amman, Jordan, to participate in policy discussions and to study programs for the blind in that country; and this spring he visited Caracas, Venezuela, for meetings with leaders among blindness organizations from throughout the world.
This coming August Dr. Jernigan will be leading a delegation to Toronto to help plan for the 1996 quadrennial convention of the World Blind Union, which will be held there. The 1996 World Blind Union convention will bring together delegates from all parts of the world, and we of the National Federation of the Blind will be there to make new friends and to continue our work with those we have already come to know. Our interaction with blind individuals and organizations from throughout the world has given us a level of understanding and a perspective that have helped to enhance our ability to bring independence to the blind of our own country.
During the past year we have provided background and knowledge to a number of visitors to the National Center for the Blind. They came from Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Great Britain, Germany, Greece, India, Israel, Japan, Korea, Morocco, New Zealand, Nepal, Pakistan, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Ukraine, and the United Arab Emirates.
The World Blind Union technology committee, chaired by Ruperto Ponz Lazaro of Spain, chose as its meeting place in 1995 the National Center for the Blind. One segment of the meeting consisted of a tour and hands-on demonstration in the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind.
The International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind, as Federationists know, houses the most extensive collection of technology for the blind in the world. In addition to raised-line-drawing equipment and other specialized machines, there is at least one of every kind of device of which we are aware now being produced anywhere in the world (along with the programs and accessories to operate them) for producing information from computer equipment in speech, in Braille, and in refreshable Braille. Our commitment, made when the International Braille and Technology Center was opened in 1990, is to maintain the collection of equipment and to acquire all useful machines for the blind that become available. During the past year we have obtained or upgraded four Braille embossers, four Braille translation programs, one refreshable Braille display, eight DOS- based screen review programs, three Windows-based screen review programs, five Windows-based Braille translation programs, six speech synthesizers, two stand-alone reading machines, four PC- based reading systems, five portable note-takers, and one telecommunications device for the deaf-blind. We purchased five Pentium computers, two 486 laptops, and a number of other machines, accessories, and software.
We published one major review of PC-based reading systems, and we are currently completing two additional documents that analyze computer programs and hardware. The first is a comparative examination of screen reading programs. The second analyzes the performance of Braille printing machines. This means that we have written evaluations of the performance criteria of most of the products now in the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind. The writing of these evaluations covers hundreds of pages of print. Nobody else in the world has ever attempted a comparison of this scope, and nobody else has the array of products that would make such an effort possible.
One element of the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind is our computer bulletin board, NFB NET. Because of the continued growth of this service, we have added an additional telephone line and installed state-of-the-art high- speed modems. In addition to a substantial body of NFB literature, we have added programs of interest to blind computer users, electronic texts, and the resources of a CD-ROM shareware collection. There are presently more than 10,000 files on the bulletin board. If you were using the fastest modem, with absolutely perfect conditions for transferring information, it would take a solid week, twenty-four hours a day, to get everything from our computer bulletin board. While you were loading that information, we would have added still more.
Within the last few months the National Federation of the Blind has established an Internet site, which is part of the worldwide computer communications system known as the World Wide Web. The address for our site is "nfb.org" or "blind.org." Those who seek knowledge on the Information Superhighway will be able to learn the real meaning of blindness. We have already placed on the Internet our Kernel Books, our magazines, and other informational documents; and we are also offering the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act, the model Braille bill, Braille translation software, Social Security information, a compilation of computer resource information, and much more.
Our Coordinator of Public Information, my wife Patricia Maurer, who serves as a full-time volunteer, is selecting items to be included in the body of literature available on the Internet. Our objective in establishing this Internet site is to provide all useful information about blindness. The problem with most research libraries dealing with the blind is that they have incorporated into their collections the negative viewpoint that blindness is necessarily a disastrous deprivation while failing to present the more realistic view that blindness is merely one of many characteristicsa tragedy only if society and the individual make it a tragedy. We intend to use the Internet to correct this one-sided presentation. We will not attempt to restrict the distribution of the views of others about blindness, but the experiences of the blind must also be distributed on the Information Superhighway. The establishment of this site has cost us many thousands of dollars, and maintaining it will be an ongoing expense, costing many thousands more. However, we will be reaching many millions of people, and the education we provide will change forever the negative attitude about blindness. The Internet is one more mechanism for us to use to bring real opportunity to the lives of the blind.
The development of computer technology has in the past two decades been of considerable benefit to the blind. More information has become available through speech output devices and Braille printers than ever before. However, current trends indicate that ready access to information for the blind from computers is in danger. Computers formerly produced information in text format. The new machines are making the same information available in pictographs. Synthesized speech software and Braille translation programs cannot easily translate these pictures into words.
Therefore, in February of this year we invited individuals with knowledge about developing computer technology and programming for the blind to attend a Conference on Technology for Standardization of Information Interchange for Persons with Disabilities. The purpose of the conference was to identify a standard information transfer method that would let the blind get at the information. Will the telephone have a computer screen? Will the person making a call need to see the screen to understand what information is being transmitted? Will shopping be done by seeing images on a television and touching the image which is to be purchased? How can the blind use such devices? These and related questions were considered at the conference. Participants included representatives from computer companies such as IBM and Microsoft, scientists doing computer research and programming for the blind, individuals from government purchasing departments, and members of the organized blind.
Shortly before this convention Congress considered and adopted amendments to the Telecommunications Act. Part of the legislation is a requirement that communications devices be accessible to the disabled. The understandings we reached in our conference should be a tremendous advantage in implementing these amendments.
As the Information Age advances, it is of vital importance that the blind be able to reach the sources of that information with ease. We are committed to ensuring that this will happen. We will be participating later this summer in a top-level meeting at Microsoft headquarters to discuss information access for the blind and other disabled persons using the newest computer operating systems and applications programs. As it is with so many of our other activities, so it is with computer technology. We believe that the blind will be a part of the Information Age, and we the National Federation of the Blind are committed to seeing that it happens.
One of our most powerful initiatives this year, which will be considered at length later during the convention, is the development of the first nationwide talking newspaper service for the blind. This service, called Newsline for the Blind,■ takes the text of newspapers by telephone and transforms it into computerized speech, which can then be read by a blind individual using a touch-tone telephone. The advantage of full automation is that the service is extremely fast, low in cost, and high in quality. The first newspaper to join with us in providing this service is USA Today, which has now been a part of Newsline for the Blind■ for almost a year. Within the next few weeks The New York Times will become a part of the service. The pilot project to test the concept of the digital newspaper has been a resounding success. We are now seeking funding to establish this service in cities throughout the country. Our objective is to make the newspaper available to all blind people nationwide.
The Braille literacy campaign we initiated several years ago continues to be a top priority. Our new videotape, "That the Blind May Read," presents in graphic form the value of reading for the blind and the severe damage caused by the lack of literacy. This videotape has already been broadcast on television in dozens of markets and distributed to libraries and schools throughout the country. In the few short months since its release, this video program has been acquired by almost a thousand institutions. We have faith that, when the public, the governmental officials, and the educators come to understand the importance of literacy for the blind, they will teach what blind people need to learn. "That the Blind May Read" is among the most succinct and powerful vehicles for creating the climate for literacy for the blind.
Braille bills, which we drafted, have now been adopted in well over 50 percent of the states, and proposals for such legislation are actively being pursued in a number of others. The heart of the Braille bill is the policy that, if a blind student is to be taught to read and if the teacher or the parents want Braille to be taught, it will be taught. We have proposed that this policy be incorporated in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which is scheduled to come before the Congress later this year. We have been assured that a Braille literacy provision will be part of the legislation. The members of this organization have already submitted more than 1,500 letters to members of Congress urging that this provision be adopted. Because of the urgent necessity for the blind to be literate, we must ensure that such a proposal is incorporated in the Act. We who are blind intend to be able to learn to read.
Several years ago, before we began our work to promote the adoption of Braille bills, we attempted to discuss with the publishers of textbooks the need for their materials to be available in forms the blind could use. Each of the people with whom we spoke thought that we had a good idea but that it was somebody else's responsibility. The publishers took no action, and the Braille textbooks were still as scarce and limited as ever. Then we visited the legislatures, and the Braille bills became a reality.
I am pleased to report that we have now formed a tentative working relationship with the Association of American Publishers, the group of companies that produce textbooks for use in primary and secondary schools. The publishers, who will be making a presentation at this convention, indicate that they are spending several million dollars a year to produce electronic texts that can be used to print Braille. They recognize that the days of no Braille books are gone. They also have come to understand that working with the National Federation of the Blind will be much better than meeting us before legislative committees. Our developing relationship with the publishers is likely to result in an increased number of Braille texts for blind students, as well as streamlined operation and economy for the publishers.
Braille (we are repeatedly told) is difficult, bulky, and slow. If those who are expected to teach Braille believe that the end result will be mediocre at best, the effort to do the teaching will not be great. With ineffective teaching the inefficiency of Braille becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, we can do something about it. We have assisted with some of the teaching ourselves. Sharon Maneki, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland, co-authored an article with Barry B. Frieman, Professor of Early Childhood Education at Towson State University, which appeared in the Childhood Education magazine. In this article teachers are urged to give lessons in Braille to sighted students. Third graders (the article suggests) learn Braille with ease. They use the system to pass secret notes to one another, and they take the skill of reading for blind people as a matter of course. Sighted teachers who have blind students in the classroom are also much more readily able to give support to those students if they have an understanding of Braille. Braille must be regarded not as special but ordinary; not as unusual but part of the regular educational process; not as atypical but as an expected part of the routine for the blind. When this happens, literacy for blind students will be achieved, and literacy is exactly what we want.
In the spring of 1995 the Braille Research Center, an independent organization conducting research dealing with Braille, moved its location to the National Center for the Blind. Dr. Hilda Caton, who is the director of this Center, has extensive experience in dealing with educational materials for blind children. Ruby Ryles, the assistant director, is well known to Federation members from her position of leadership in the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. The Braille Research Center will be receiving its space at the National Center for the Blind without charge for the first few months, and the National Federation of the Blind has provided a grant to cover costs of the transition, but the ongoing financing of the corporation will be handled by the Braille Research Center. Because Braille literacy for the blind is of central importance to us and because those directing the Braille Research Center are so well qualified, we are pleased to be working closely with them.
In the mid-1960's the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC) was organized. This agency sought to gain control of programs for the blind and, thereby, control of the lives and activities of the blind. NAC, as part of its effort to achieve widespread recognition among agencies for the blind, officials in the field of education, and representatives of the government, requested that it be placed on the list of recognized accrediting bodies of the United States Department of Education. NAC has for all of its existence been controversial at best and sometimes unscrupulous in its behavior. NAC accreditation has often been a shield for shabby practicesor worseby agencies for the blind. Because of its behavior the organized blind had no choice but to oppose it.
In the spring of 1994 we requested that the Secretary of Education remove NAC from the list of accrediting agencies. I am pleased to report that United States Education Secretary Richard Riley has responded. The letter to NAC is clear. Recognition of NAC as an accrediting agency of the Department of Education has been withdrawn.
We have assisted a number of blind people with legal cases during the year. Barbara Kreisberg is a licensed nursing home administrator in North Carolina. A year ago she was supervising a nursing home for the Britthaven Corporation. Late last summer Barbara Kreisberg lost a substantial portion of her sight. With her own money she purchased magnifiers and hired readers, and she continued to administer the nursing home. Then she was ordered by her employer to stop using the readers and the magnifiers. As you might expect, without using these techniques she could not read, and she could not do the work. Barbara Kreisberg was terminated. Officials of the Britthaven Corporation will not spell out the reason for the firing, but before they imposed the arbitrary rule that techniques used by blind people were prohibited, Barbara Kreisberg was doing her work and doing it well. The reason for her termination is clear. It would not have happened if she had been able to see. She was dismissed because she is blind. However, such action is a violation of the law, and we are assisting with the lawsuit. I predict that before we are finished, Barbara Kreisberg will be back on the job at the Britthaven nursing home. Blindness cannot stop her, and we are not prepared to let her employer use phony excuses to stop her.
Wiscraft Industries, located in Milwaukee, is a sheltered shop for the blind. Two of the workers, George Washington and Verne Lind, sought help from the National Federation of the Blind earlier this year. Both blind employees were being paid between $1.00 and $2.00 an hourless than half of the minimum wage. However, when sighted people were hired to work alongside the blind at Wiscraft, their pay was $5.50 an hour$1.25 above the minimum wage.
With help from Scott LaBarre, George Washington and Verne Lind have filed complaints with the Wisconsin Equal Rights Division. When the National Federation of the Blind became involved, the managers of the workshop began to take the blind employees more seriously. Although the formal investigation has not been concluded, conditions for George Washington and Verne Lind have already begun to change. Both of them are now being paid at least the minimum wageor better. It is worth being active in the National Federation of the Blind. Ask George Washington and Verne Lind. They have evidence in their pay envelopes.
Corally Littrell and Sandra Rowley-Goldstein are blind special education teachers in the Long Meadow School Department in Massachusetts. Corally Littrell had been teaching a multiply- disabled blind child. When this student was transferred to a new school, problems occurred. The principal (unfamiliar with blindness and the capacity of a blind teacher) insisted that Corally Littrell could not continue to provide services to the child without a full-time sighted monitor. It is not reported whether the principal intended to protect the blind student from the blind teacher, the blind teacher from the blind student, or both of them from each other. Finally, Corally Littrell was removed from her teaching assignment altogether.
The principal at the school must have been astonished when the new special education teacher arrived. Her name is Sandra Rowley-Goldstein, and she is also blind. Once again, the principal insisted that a sighted person must be present during the lessons at all times. Such practices are, of course, discriminatory. Consequently we have become involved. A hearing was held before the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination only a few days ago, and we expect a decision shortly. Blindness does not prevent us from performing the duties required of special education teachers, and the fear and misunderstanding about blindness by officials at the Long Meadow School Department must not be permitted to bar us from the profession. We in the National Federation of the Blind intend to help Corally Littrell and Sandra Rowley-Goldstein resume their special education duties. We believe that this is a part of the special education program that we should provide to the Long Meadow School Department.
Barbara Braun is a blind person living in Eugene, Oregon. About ten years ago she began working in the accounting department of the Fred Meyers Corporation, which operates a large chain of retail stores. For ten years Barbara Braun performed her duties satisfactorily. Then, when the company changed to a new computer system, her duties could no longer be done without computer access technology. Rather than acquiring this technology, company officials circulated a rumor to other employees that accommodations for Barbara Braun would cost $200,000 and would reduce the end-of-the-year bonuses that might otherwise be paid. Imagine how popular that made Barbara Braun. She was forced to leave, and we are helping with the complaints a workers' compensation claim and an employment discrimination action. Although we are not finished with the Barbara Braun matter, part of it has been completed. In the workers' compensation action a cash settlement has been paid, and we expect to win the discrimination case as well.
There have also been a number of Social Security cases this year. Harvey Heagy lives in New Orleans. He came to the National Federation of the Blind several years ago with notices from the Social Security Administration which claimed that he had received almost $20,000 more in disability benefits than he should have. Furthermore, his monthly checks were terminated even though he earned a small enough amount to remain qualified.
Appropriate appeals and a new claim for benefits were filed. When the payments were reinstated, Harvey Heagy began receiving an amount twice as high as the benefit that he had been getting before the termination. But that is not all. The claim that there was an overpayment has also been settled. Harvey Heagy will not be required to repay the $20,000, but he will be receiving an additional check from Social Security for $8,000.
Janet and Joe Triplett, who live in Tulsa, Oklahoma, have been active leaders of the National Federation of the Blind for many years. Joe Triplett was elected this spring to serve as President of the National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma. The Social Security Administration has been attempting to require Janet Triplett to repay over $10,000 in benefits. Earlier this year we challenged the overpayment claim. The decision of the hearing officer was unequivocal and immediate. Janet Triplett owes the Social Security Administration not one penny, but she will be receiving several thousand dollars in back benefits.
Charles Allen of Louisville, Kentucky, is the able President of the Merchants Division of the National Federation of the Blind. As a vendor in the Kentucky Business Enterprise Program Charles Allen has been faced with the practice of splitting vending facilities. If a particular vending location can generate enough income for one vendor (agency officials say), it can probably generate enough for two. The Kentucky Business Enterprise Program has made a practice of assigning a second vendor to the location and splitting the incomealthough, I should parenthetically insert, the program officials have not been willing to practice what they preach. That is, the business enterprise supervisors have not been willing to reduce unemployment and help the economy by lowering their income and splitting their salaries with the less fortunate.
Several years ago Charles Allen requested the opportunity to run his own business, but the Kentucky agency refused. There was a hearing and later an arbitration. The matter has now been resolved. The State of Kentucky has agreed that Charles Allen will operate his own business, and his income will not be split. Our assistance in eliminating the multiple vendor policy has been effective, and the earnings of blind vendors in Kentucky show it.
Carolyn Dodd is a long-time teacher in Hartford, Connecticut, and the sister of United States Senator Christopher Dodd. In the last few years she has lost much of her sight; and despite her continued effectiveness as a teacher, school board officials decided that she could not teach Montessori classes. They did not want a blind person teaching the sighted although they would have permitted her to teach the blind. Carolyn Dodd does not have extensive experience dealing with discrimination or blindness, but she has become a member of the National Federation of the Blind, and she requested our help.
Homer Page (President of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado, Commissioner of Boulder County, and Chairman of the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind), at the request of the National Office, met with Carolyn Dodd about her situation and agreed to make a presentation on her behalf to school board officials. The message of the presentation was delivered with courtesy and tact, but it was unmistakableeither Carolyn Dodd would cease to be a victim of discrimination or the Federation would take a hand. The school board thought the matter over. Within a week it had come to a decision. Carolyn Dodd was offered a contract, and she has been teaching Montessori classes throughout the school year.
Robert Holt is a blind man living in Roseville, California. Three months ago he tried to buy a car from the Ford dealership in his area. The sales personnel at the dealership declined to sell it to him because, as they put it, such a sale might violate the law. Robert Holt explained that he wasn't planning to drive the car. He just wanted to buy it. But the Ford people said: nothing doing. So Robert Holt called the National Federation of the Blind. We explained to the manager of the Ford dealership that the color of our money is just as green as it is for the sighted and that the law does not prohibit sales of automobiles to blind people but the exact opposite. Refusing to sell cars because the potential purchaser is blind is discriminatory. Robert Holt paid his money and got the keys.
It is necessary for the organized blind to become familiar with leaders in the business community. We need to provide information about the capacity of blind people, and we need to learn how business reacts to us. To expand our public education campaign, we have been working with senior management officials of the Kaman Corporation, a manufacturer of helicopters, and we have discussed literacy for blind children with Chip Mason, the president of the Legg Mason brokerage house, one of the largest in Baltimore. Mr. Mason has promised to make a substantial contribution to support the establishment of our digital newspaper service. The business perspective that these leaders bring to our work is invigorating, and the suggestions they have will expand our interaction with the business world and broaden the opportunities available to the blind.
In addition to the innovative efforts of the Federation in the last year, we have continued our ongoing activities. Bringing in new members is one of the most important things we do. Shortly before this convention the fiftieth chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina was organized. This affiliate has the largest number of local chapters of any state in the nation. Six new statewide Parents of Blind Children Divisions have been formed, bringing the number of state parents' organizations to twenty-eight. And we have also conducted state seminars, built chapters, and strengthened affiliates throughout the country.
Although the major remodeling at the National Center for the Blind has been completed, we have modified our headquarters and performed necessary maintenance during the past year. For example, air conditioning equipment which had been in a mechanical room on the fourth floor has been moved to the roof, and this room has been restructured to serve as an office. A large area on the second floor has been divided to create more offices there. A portion of the wooden floor on the ground level in the Johnson Street wing has been removed and replaced with concrete. This was necessary because the crawl space beneath that floor often contained standing ground water, which was causing the floor to deteriorate. In the process of remodeling, the crawl space has been drained. Before we poured the concrete, we filled this space with 27,000 cubic feet (sixteen hundred tons) of crushed rock.
We have distributed our literature to more parts of the world this year than ever beforeninety-nine nations outside the United Statesprecisely a hundred, including our own country. We continue to produce approximately 35,000 issues of our monthly magazine, the Braille Monitor; over 10,000 copies of our magazine for parents and educators of blind children, Future Reflections; and more than 110,000 copies of the Voice of the Diabetic. There are more than four hundred aids and appliances available from our Materials Center as well as more than a thousand different publications. The total number of separate items that we have shipped from the Materials Center this year is two million.
There are now eight books in the Kernel Book series, and this year we have published a volume about the history and the use of Braille, entitled The World Under My Fingers. Including our quick reference guide to matters dealing with blindness, entitled If Blindness Comes, we have distributed this year more than 67,000 books from the Materials Center.
We continue to record, reproduce, and circulate to the blind Job Opportunities for the Blind Bulletins, Presidential Releases, The American Bar Association Journal, and a number of other publications and books. More than 75,000 tape recordings were duplicated and mailed from our headquarters. And of course we receive information as well. The mail continues to arrive in large bundles, and our telephone linesall twenty-eight of thembring us information, requests, and suggestions in a constant streamnot to mention the data transmission lines, fax machines, and modem connections.
The intricacy of our organization and the diversity of our efforts indicate substantial growth. However, our effectiveness must be measured by the benefit that comes to the individual blind person. Our Federation is a people's movement created by the blind to be used by the blind. A letter came to me shortly before the convention from a young blind woman in Alaska named Soo Kee Reed. She indicated that she is a member of the National Federation of the Blind. She had become blind at the age of three because of a serious case of measles. Her parents did not know what to do or where to turn. Then they met a member of the National Federation of the Blind who encouraged their daughter to explore the world around her and to study Braille. This Federationist introduced Soo Kee to the techniques used by blind people in cooking, in shopping, and in traveling. But even more important she was given hope and encouragement. In grade school Soo Kee was told that she could not study in the regular classroom, but she and her parents objected. Science, they were told, was too difficult for the blind, but they had the example of the Federation to follow. They demanded that Soo Kee be given a chance. "My first year in science," she says, "I got a B, and I was satisfied with myself. My parents asked me to give all their thanks to the NFB for the encouragement in raising a blind child."
Whether it is a vendor in Kentucky or a teacher in Connecticut, a Social Security recipient in Louisiana or a student in Alaska, we are the blindorganized and on the move. Our programs may be complex, but our goals are notwe seek independence and a full life for the blind. We ask only to be considered on the basis of our ability. The means for achieving this objective is within our own hands. It is our strength, our understanding, our commitment, our willingness to sacrifice, our imagination, and our courage. We have been fortunate; we have come to know the power of collective action. We must also demonstrate that we are worthy of the power we possess. But I have no doubt that we have the judgment to make those decisions and take those actions which will propel us the rest of the way to first-class citizenship. The Federation has many assets, but our essential being is the spirit that we bring to our daily endeavorsand that spirit is unstoppable.
In the coming year I, as President, will do the best that I know to make our Federation all that it can beand I will not vacillate, or waffle, or compromise. But I will also expect you to do your part. I intend to ask each of you to contribute your effort, your energy, your resources, your initiative, and your boldness. I know the members of the National Federation of the Blind, and I have absolutely no doubt that we will meet the challenges of the years ahead. This is the commitment that we make to each other, to ourselves, to the blind who have gone before us, and to the generation still to come. We move to the year ahead with gladness and vigor. This is what I ask of myself; this is what I ask of you the members; and this is my report for 1995.
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Updated: March 14, 2002