Winter, 1994



Barbara Cheadle, Editor

                        Published by the

                National Federation of the Blind

                       1800 Johnson Street

                      Baltimore, MD  21230

                         (410) 659-9314

ISSN 0883-3419

Vol. 13, No. 1 Barbara Cheadle, Editor Winter, 1994


Snapshots from the 1993 NFB National Convention
Michigan: Host of the 1994 National Parents Seminar and National

Federation of the Blind Annual Convention
Reflections from Home: Report on the 1993 National Convention of

the National Federation of the Blind, Dallas, Texas

by Jude Lincicome
Through the Screen Door

A poem by Nancy Scott
NFB Recognizes Outstanding Individuals
Gift of Independence: Teacher Helps Blind Find Their Own Way
1994 Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award

by Sharon Maneki 
1994 Application 
Childhood on the Lower East Side

by Dr. Abraham Nemeth
Meeting the Needs of the Deaf-Blind Child
1993 Gus Gisser Memorial Braille Readers Contest Report

by Sandy Halverson
Chesnee Girl Wins Braille Award
The Scholarship Class of 1993
NAPUB Plans National Braille-A-Thon for Detroit

by Jerry Whittle and Betty Niceley
The Nature of Independence

by Dr. Kenneth Jernigan

Each year the National Parents of Blind Children Seminar gets

bigger and better. This day-long seminar has become one of the

traditional kickoff events of the annual convention of the National

Federation of the Blind. Sponsored by the National Organization of

Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC), (formerly the Parents of Blind

Children Division), the seminar attracts parents, educators, and

interested members of the Federation from all over the country, and

a few foreign nations as well. And the 1994 seminar and convention

in Detroit, Michigan, promises to be the best, the biggest, and the

most informative we have ever had.

The focal point of the convention activities will be the Westin

Hotel at the Renaissance Center in Detroit. From Friday, July 1, to

Thursday, July 7, over 2,500 blind people and hundreds of parents

of blind children will converge upon the hotel to listen, learn,

share, discuss, debate, and otherwise participate in the week's

activities. It is a unique opportunity for parents and educators to

learn about blindness from the real experts on blindness■the blind


For parents, the first big event is the National Parents of Blind

Children Seminar on Friday, July 1. The seminar agenda includes

topics that are always appropriate■"Planning Your Child's

Individualized Education Program (IEP)" and "How to Choose the

Right Technology for Your Child"■as well as some topics never (or

seldom) explored in previous national parent seminars, such as

"Readers and Drivers: The Other Alternative Techniques" and

"Learning Through Play: A Panel Discussion about Toys, Games,

Hobbies, Recreation, and Sports." Other subjects on the agenda

include: "Parents: The Blind Child's First Mobility Teachers" and

"From Taking Notes to Taking Out the Trash."

Registration for the seminar will begin at 8:00 a.m.  The seminar

will begin at 9:00 with the keynote address, "Cheap Mistakes: When

Children Need to Fail." The registration fee for the seminar is

$8.00 per family for those who wish to join, or renew their

membership in, the NOPBC. The fee is $5.00 per person for those who

do not wish to become members. The seminar will conclude at 5:00


As usual, a special field trip has been planned for children ages

five to twelve. Donna Posont of Michigan is organizing and

supervising this year's trip to Greenfield Village. Donna Posont is

a blind mother, an active member of her local chapter and state

affiliate of the NFB, and an active member of the Parents of Blind

Children Division of Michigan as well. She has conducted many local

field trips and other activities for children for the Michigan

parent division. Here is what she has to say about the  field trip:
On Friday, July 1, 1994, children between the ages of five and

twelve are invited to take a field trip to Greenfield Village,

which is one of the most extraordinary places you can visit. It

provides unique educational experiences based on authentic objects,

stories, and lives of America's famous inventors. On this

ninety-three-acre outdoor exhibit stand the Wright brothers'

bicycle shop, Thomas Edison's Menlo Park laboratory, and the Logan

County Courthouse in which Abraham Lincoln worked as a lawyer.

These are not replicas■they are the actual buildings. You will also

find a working blacksmith's shop, an 1880's farm, and a 1913

carousel. These are one-of-a-kind exhibits you don't just look

at■you experience them! And, because of a contact we have with a

member of the Greenfield Village staff, we will have a special

guide for our group who will be dressed in colonial costume and who

will explain the exhibits as we examine them. 

We will gather in the hotel near the parents' seminar room on

Friday morning between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. The price for the trip is

$20.00 per child. This includes the cost of transportation and

lunch. We will return by 5:00 p.m. or before. Parents will be told

Friday morning where to pick up their children.

Since the number of children who can be accommodated for this trip

is limited, we urge you to pre-register your child(ren) for the

Greenfield Village daytrip. Children will be accepted on a

first-come, first-served basis. Please contact Donna Posont if you

have any questions about the day-trip, if you want more information

about pre-registration, or if you have a child with special needs.

To pre-register your child(ren), send your check for $20.00 per

child and the names, ages, and indication of special needs of each

youngster (including whether the child is blind or sighted) to

Donna Posont. Her contact information is 20812 Ann Arbor Trail,

Dearborn Heights, Michigan 48127; phone (313) 271-3058.
Two other very special workshops for qualified parents, teachers,

and other members of the Federation will take place Friday

concurrently with the afternoon session of the 1994 National

Parents of Blind Children Seminar. These workshops, "Braille

Methods," and "The Nature and Nurture of Cane Travel and

Independent Movement in the Early Years" will be conducted from

1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. These workshops are open to two groups of

people: blind adults and parents of blind children who are  willing

and able to work within their Federation affiliates to use and

share their new knowledge for the benefit of others and teachers

and others who work professionally with blind children. 

The "Braille Methods" workshop will be conducted by Claudell

Stocker, a nationally known Braille expert. The National Library

Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped's (NLS) Literary

Braille Competency Test was developed under her direction as the

former head of the NLS Braille Development Section. Mrs. Stocker

also conducted the very popular "Beginning Braille for Parents"

workshops at our last three national conventions. Participants must

be able to read and write Grade II Braille. A maximum of twenty

persons may register for this workshop. 

Joe Cutter, who is both an early childhood specialist and an

orientation and mobility instructor, will be conducting the cane

travel workshop with the help of Carol Castellano, President of the

Parents of Blind Children Division of the NFB of New Jersey, and

George Binder, a children's cane travel instructor in New Mexico.

Mr. Cutter assisted Fred Schroeder with a cane travel workshop at

National Convention a few years ago. He has been a proponent of

giving canes to blind preschoolers, and even toddlers, for many

years. The purpose of this workshop is to train participants in the

concepts, philosophy, and strategies which undergird the successful

nurture of independent movement, confident cane travel, and good

orientation and mobility for young blind children. With this

knowledge participants will be  better able to advocate for quality

cane travel and O&M programs for children; and the teachers, O&M

specialists, and other professionals who attend the workshop will

be better prepared to provide these quality programs. The maximum

number of participants in this workshop is fifty. We urge NFB

parent's divisions and state affiliates to consider sending a

representative to this workshop. 

To pre-register for either of these workshops, send your name,

address (including city, state, and zip code), telephone number,

and a check in the amount of $10.00 (made payable to National

Organization of Parents of Blind Children) to NOPBC Convention

Workshops, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street,

Baltimore, Maryland 21230. Also, please indicate if you are a

parent, teacher, or other professional and whether you are blind or

sighted. If you are registering for the Braille Workshop, please

describe your level of Braille knowledge or experience. 

Other activities during the convention will include an opportunity

for blind youth to get together for a discussion. This will also

take place the afternoon of Friday, July 1. Friday evening the

NOPBC will sponsor a Parent Hospitality Room in the NFB Camp room

from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m. There will be food for everyone (specifics

will be announced at the seminar) and plenty of toys and space for

the kids to play. Susan Benbow of New Mexico and other teachers and

blind adults will be on hand to talk to parents one-on-one about

particular educational concerns. If you wish, they will also

demonstrate the use of the slate and stylus or other simple

activities to you and your child. 

As usual, the annual meeting of the NOPBC will also take place

during the convention. The meeting will be on Sunday afternoon,

July 3, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. An IEP workshop will also be held

for parents on the evening of Monday, July 4, from 7:00 p.m. to

10:00 p.m. 
General Child Care Information

As usual, child care will be available during the 1994 convention.

Again this year the volunteer director of child care services

(christened last year and now known as NFB Camp) is Mary Willows.

Mrs. Willows is an experienced educator, the mother of two

children, and a long-time leader in the National Federation of the

Blind of California. This volunteer job is a major undertaking. It

takes a tremendous amount of time from many Federation parents who

care deeply about making the NFB Convention an enjoyable and

enriching experience for every member of the family who attends.

Child care is provided not only during the parent seminar on

Friday, July 1, 1994, but also during the convention sessions, the

banquet, and other special meeting times (as resources allow).

Parents are asked to make these donations for child care: $50 for

the week (including the banquet) for the first child and $25 for

each additional child. Or, if you do not need the full week of NFB

Camp, $10 per child per day and $10 per child for the banquet

night. Parents who cannot contribute the suggested donation should

contact Mary Willows to discuss what donation they are able to

make. Mary will be available in the NFB Camp room before and after

sessions. Please contact Mary as soon as possible to indicate the

number of youngsters in your family who will be participating in

NFB Camp during the week. Be sure to tell her about each child's

special needs, if any. We also need to know the age of each

youngster and whether each is blind or sighted. Checks for child

care (made payable to NOPBC) and registration information should be

sent to Mary Willows, 3934 Kern Court, Pleasanton, California

94558; (510) 462-8557. Since the suggested donation does not cover

all expenses, other donations from individuals and groups will be

much appreciated.
Hotel Reservations

As usual, our hotel rates are the envy of all who hear about them.

For the 1994 convention they are: singles, $38; doubles and twins,

$43; triples, $45; and quads, $48. In addition to the room rates,

there will be a tax, which at present is twelve percent. There will

be no charge for children in the room with parents as long as no

extra bed is required.

To make hotel reservations for the 1994 convention you should write

directly to Westin Hotel, Renaissance Center, Detroit, Michigan

48243, Attention: Reservations; or call (313) 568-8000. Westin has

a national toll-free number, but do not (we emphasize NOT) use it.

Reservations made through this national number will not be valid.

They must be made directly with the Westin in Detroit. The hotel

will want a deposit of $45 or a credit card number. If a credit

card is used, the deposit will be charged against your card

immediately, just as would be the case with a $45 check. If a

reservation is canceled prior to June 20, 1994, the entire amount

of your deposit will be returned to you by the hotel. Requests for

refunds after June 20, 1994, will not be honored.
Convention Dates and Schedule

Here is the general outline of convention activities:

Friday, July 1■seminars for parents of blind children, blind job

seekers, vendors and merchants, several other workshops and

meetings, and Parents' Hospitality (evening).

Saturday, July 2■convention registration, exhibit hall open for

business, first meeting of the Resolutions Committee (open to

observers), some other committees, and some divisions.

Sunday, July 3■exhibit hall open all day, meeting of the Board of

Directors (open to all), division meetings (including the National

Organization of Parents of Blind Children annual meeting),

committee meetings, continuing registration. 

Monday, July 4■opening general session, exhibit hall open before

session and during lunch, evening picnic and gala, and evening IEP


Tuesday, July 5■general sessions, exhibit hall open before session

and all afternoon, tours.

Wednesday, July 6■general sessions, exhibit hall open before

session and during lunch, banquet.

Thursday, July 7■general sessions, exhibit hall open before

session, adjournment.

Miscellaneous Information

NFB information tables will be set up in the hotel (usually near

the hotel registration area). Details about where the Friday, July

1, workshops will be held, location of the NFB Camp for kids, and

so forth will be available at these tables. The complete convention

agenda, in print or Braille, is available to all those who register

for the convention. Registration opens on Saturday, July 2. The fee

is $5 per person. There is no pre-registration for the convention.

Each person must be present to register him- or herself. 

Banquet tickets generally do not exceed $25 to $30 and should be

purchased at the time you register. We have a system called the

Banquet Ticket Exchange which gives you the option of selecting in

advance the people with whom you wish to sit at the banquet. The

procedure is explained at registration and again early in the

convention session. 

Hospitality and convention information will be available at the

Presidential Suite and the NFB of Michigan Suite throughout the

convention. The location and phone numbers of these suites will be

listed in both the pre-convention and convention agendas. 

The NFB of Michigan is putting together some wonderful tour

packages for convention. Details will be in the Braille Monitor and

at the NFB Convention Information table when you arrive. If you do

not get the Monitor and would like some information in advance,

write or call:
National Organization ofParents of Blind Children Convention

Information 1800 Johnson Street Baltimore, Maryland 21230 (410)


REFLECTIONS FROM HOME Report on the 1993 National Convention of the

National Federation of the Blind Dallas, Texas

by Jude Lincicome

Editor's Note: Jude Lincicome, a parent from Maryland, received a

scholarship from the Parents of Blind Children Division of the NFB

of Maryland (POBC/MD) for herself and her son, Jeremy, to attend

the 1993 NFB Convention. Jude later gave a fascinating report about

their convention experiences to the annual meeting of the POBC/MD.

That report (which was published in <M>Horizons<D>, the Maryland

Parent Division newsletter) became the basis for the following

article. Here is Jude's "Reflections from Home":
Jeremy and I arrived in Texas on Friday afternoon, July 2, feeling

a little bit of apprehension and a lot of excitement. The Hyatt

Regency DFW was quite comfortable, and we found our room easily. We

stayed in the West Tower. NFB Camp and the swimming pool were also

in the West Tower. Across a quarter-mile corridor was the East

Tower where the majority of convention activities were held. 

While parents were attending sessions, children went to NFB Camp,

which was directed by Mary Willows, a blind educator. The week was

abundant with activities in the hotel and about the Dallas area.

The children had a great time not only sharing adventures but

making new friends with true peers■other blind children and/or

siblings of blind children. For one week they were just like

everybody else. 

Our busy week began early Saturday morning at 8:00 a.m. with the

Parents of Blind Children all-day seminar for parents and teachers,

"Meeting the Needs of the Blind Youngster." How reassuring to hear

speaker after speaker reinforce the importance■no, the

necessity■for early Braille and cane travel instruction. It was

during this seminar that I realized that I was not demanding enough

independence in cane walking for Jeremy. For those who do not know

us, Jeremy is five years old and attends the Maryland School for

the Blind. How about that!  Me, the one most folks who know me say

demands too much from her children, guilty of not expecting enough.

Just for this, the whole trip seemed worthwhile.

The morning included recognition of the Braille Readers Are Leaders

contestants, discussion of the role of parents, blind role models,

and alternative techniques. There was also an excellent panel on

the needs of deaf-blind children. Dr. Abraham Nemeth, inventor of

the Nemeth Braille code for mathematics, spoke of his upbringing

and education as a blind child in an earlier era. Both the progress

we have made and, sadly, the regression since his days as a youth

were most enlightening.

For the afternoon we broke into specialty groups. The choices

included: Current Trends and Legislation in Special Education;

Deaf-Blind Children; Integrating Braille at Home and in the

Classroom; Alternative Techniques for Junior High, Middle, and High

School Students; IEP Workshop; Blind Multiply Handicapped Children;

Cane Travel; and Personal Independence and Daily Living Skills.

Since I write a column for parents of the multiply handicapped

blind child for the POBC of Maryland newsletter, I attended the

group led by Colleen Roth, who chairs the POBC Network for the

Blind Multiply Handicapped Child. 

While I was busy learning all I could about how to be my son's best

advocate and how to more effectively meet his needs, Jeremy spent

the day at a Dude Ranch with his friends from NFB Camp. His

favorite story about the trip is about the hayride and what

happened on the way to the petting zoo. "...The wheel came off and

we tipped." What an exciting start of NFB Camp!  For me the most

impressive part of the ranch trip was that all the children

participating were given canes (if they did not already have one),

no matter what level of vision they had. What a great message to

everyone about the importance of using a cane. Since this trip,

Jeremy uses his cane everywhere he goes; a habit I've tried for a

year to instill in him. Saturday evening we went to a pizza party

with high-steppin' fiddle music. We made new friends at the party,

then went for a swim before bedtime.

Sunday was less structured, giving us time to go into town for a

whataburger and shop for a few forgotten items. Then it was on to

the convention exhibit hall to shop again■-this time for

information, ideas, trinkets, gifts for friends and family, and a

tee shirt in Braille. This was my first of many trips around the

exhibit hall, and I dare say I probably still missed a few things

to see. Registration was quick and easy with one stop to register

and purchase tickets for trips and the banquet. Lines were only a

couple deep despite the fact that over 2,500 persons registered

during the week. Sunday afternoon Jeremy and I took our turn

working the POBC table in the exhibit hall. Toys we thought would

be attractive for kids were a hit with the adults. Our

print/Braille tee shirts with the cartoon Pluggers<191> character

Zacharoo (a blind kangaroo) and the words "Braille is Finger-food

for the Blind," were liked by young and not-so-young. We sold out

of several items the first couple of days. 

Monday morning was spent again at the exhibit hall and the Sensory

Safari, a hands-on exhibit of stuffed animals sponsored by the

Safari Club International. Jeremy had a rare and wonderful

opportunity to touch and explore, in detail, huge elephant tusks,

tiny squirrel feet, hippo teeth, wolf fur, mountain lion claws,

monkey tails, and bird feathers, just to name a few. Each animal

had a knowledgeable guide to answer any question. Some animals had

tape recordings of their special call or sound. How many of us can

say they have plunged their whole hand into the mane of a buffalo

or felt the tongue and back teeth of a hyena?

Monday afternoon was our Parents of Blind Children Annual Meeting.

Speakers again reinforced the necessity of Braille and cane

independence for blind children, giving example after example of

kids successful at learning Braille or cane walking. We vicariously

experienced each child's triumph and were all  encouraged by these

examples to renew our own resolve to have our child be the best

that he or she can be.

Ruby Ryles, who is currently working on her Ph.D. in the education

of blind children, gave an enlightening presentation of her

research which documents the positive link between Braille literacy

and employment of the blind.  Officers and board members were

elected and state POBC reports were given. Networking■exchanging

names and addresses■was also a highlight of the meeting.

A swim in the pool after dinner was about all the activity Jeremy

and I could handle as by now we were both feeling the effects of

early to rise, late to bed. Reluctantly we missed the "Yah Sure Can

Do Carnival" sponsored by the NFB of Minnesota affiliate and 

BLIND, Incorporated (the NFB of Minnesota orientation and training

center for the blind).

Tuesday morning the magnitude of the convention became evident.

Eight halls were joined to form a huge room to accommodate some

2,500 registrants from not only our 50 states, Puerto Rico, and

D.C. but from many other countries,■such as Thailand, Japan,

Canada, and Saudi Arabia■as well. People of every variety, size,

color, shape, ethnicity, and station who carried canes or used dogs

(and some who used wheelchairs, too) were coming together in one

place for a common cause. It was truly an awesome sight!

As I sat watching the people in the room, it occurred to me that

something seemed to be missing■something that perhaps had not

happened■yet. Then it came to me. We had been here for four days

now, here in a strange place with people we've never seen before,

doing things we've never done before, among people who like my son

are blind. How strange that my level of stress and anxiety was so

low. There were a few people who during the first days seemed to

carry a lot of emotional baggage. But they, too, seemed to have

been able to leave it behind and join the spirit of our single

purpose■learning about blindness and how to be the best that we can

be. And whatever each of us is, is okay. As if this realization was

not exciting enough, the roll call of the states brought my

awareness back to the convention hall. 

As each state represented was called forward, conventioneers

responded with a resounding cheer. Our tiny state was third in

numbers attending. Not bad!  Albeit, it does seem most fitting that

the state of Maryland, under our President, Sharon Maneki, should

assume a role of leadership since we are the home of the National

Center for the Blind, headquarters of the National Federation of

the Blind. If only we can sustain that enthusiasm when we get home! 

Just think what we can accomplish.

The afternoon session was highlighted by the Presidential Report by

Marc Maurer. The scope and power of the National Federation of the

Blind seems to touch us at all levels of our lives. I hope you will

read his report in the Braille Monitor. No less inspiring was an

address by the Honorable Sam Johnson, Member of Congress, Third

District, Texas: "Blindness:  Meeting the Challenge Through

Self-Organization and a Fighting Spirit■Lessons From One Who

Knows!"  Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, President Emeritus of the National

Federation of the Blind, both amused and instructed us with his

presentation of "The Nature of Independence." Dr. Jernigan gave a

very personal, sensitive, and instructive answer to a group of

letters he received from blind students at a training center for

the blind concerned about what they perceived to be a rift between

Dr. Jernigan's choice of using sighted-guide techniques over

independent cane walking at convention, and the position of the

National Federation of the Blind concerning the importance of

independent cane travel. Again, I hope you will read this also.

[Editor's note: This speech is reprinted in this issue on page 44.]
Tuck Tinsley, III, Ed.D., President of the American Printing House

for the Blind, Louisville, Kentucky, gave us a good look at what we

can expect from the American Printing House in his talk "Tomorrow's

News Today." Some of the joint projects now taking place between

the National Federation of the Blind and the American Printing

House for the Blind will help prepare the future generation to meet

the challenge of competitive employment in the age of computers and


As my head was reeling with possibilities for my son, I hurried to

pick him up from NFB Camp to go to the Texas Barbecue Under the

Stars. To think I had to travel all the way to Texas to meet the

President of my NFB Baltimore County Chapter. That night Ken

Canterbury met my son Jeremy. This was Ken's first real experience

with a blind child. I have asked Ken to be my son's big brother.

Role models are important for children, and I am glad to find a

blind man for my son to look up to. Just think, several times I

almost gave up on coming to the barbecue. Food, friends, fun,

dancing, and music were abundant. We had a great time. I'm so

grateful we went.

Wednesday morning came all too soon, beginning with election of NFB

Board Members. Greetings from the Congress of the United States

were then delivered to the convention by the Honorable Greg

Laughlin, Congress member from the fourteenth district, Texas. His

remarks were a firm reminder of the responsibility the National

Federation of the Blind has to lead the nation's blind and to

advocate for them and the high regard held for the National

Federation of the Blind by those who govern this great nation.

Turning to other serious matters, the remainder of the morning was

spent in a discussion of issues around "Fair Labor Standards ■ Fact

or Fiction for Blind Workers in the Sheltered Workshop."  James

Gashel was moderator of a panel which included: Joe D. Cordova,

Assistant Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind and

Administrator of the Industries Division; Richard J. Edlund, Member

of the Kansas House of Representatives; Fred Puente, Chairman of

the Board of Trustees of  Blind Industries and Services of

Maryland; Donald Ellisburg, labor lawyer and consultant; William

Gross, Assistant Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the

Employment Standards Administration in the U.S. Department of

Labor; and Austin Murphy, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Labor

Standards, Occupational Health and Safety of the Committee on

Education and Labor in the House of Representatives.

General consensus was that there is a serious double standard in

the wage earnings of blind and sighted employees in workshops for

the blind. Ironically, the majority of the monies allocated to a

workshop go to the salaries of the sighted administrators and

supervisors, and what is left is paid to the blind employees. The 

legislation, which was originally designed with the intention of

increasing employment possibilities for the blind by allowing

employers to pay sub-minimum wages, is now responsible for unfairly

keeping blind employees in sub-minimum-wage-paying jobs. However,

studies show that productivity is higher when wages are at or above

minimum-wage standards. This was a very sobering panel. Reality

shock has certainly made me concerned, even frightened for my son's

future. I'm really glad I insisted on a strong Braille component

for Jeremy's IEP this year! His opportunities in the future will be

better with good Braille skills and cane independence.

Wednesday afternoon and evening was left open for Federationists to

relax, enjoy local sights, or do whatever they wished. Our

afternoon was spent riding the train to the airport and exploring

the shops. This was Jeremy's choice, and I'm so proud that he is

telling me what he wants to do. During our afternoon he wanted to

go about with his cane "all by myself." Before, when we were in the

mall or the airport and even when he had his cane, he has always

wanted to touch either myself or his brother's wheelchair. So this

was a real gain.

Most of Thursday morning's general session was devoted to issues of

education. Those speaking included Frank Kurt Cylke, Director of

the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically

Handicapped of the Library of Congress, and Ramona Walhof,

Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind. Mr. Cylke's

presentation was entitled, "Twenty Years of Service and Twenty

Years to Come." Ramona Walhof's inspiring speech was called,

"Braille: A Renaissance." 

Next was a panel discussion called "Mainstreaming, Schools for the

Blind, and Full Inclusion: What Shall the Future of Education for

Blind Children Be?" Panel members were: Fred Schroeder, Executive

Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind and formerly

Director of Low-Incidence Programs in the Albuquerque Schools; Dr.

Phil Hatlen, Superintendent of the Texas School for the Blind and

Visually Impaired; Dr. Michael Bina, Superintendent of the Indiana

School for the Blind and President of the Association for Education

and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER); and

Dr. Ralph Bartley, Superintendent of the Arizona State Schools for

the Deaf and the Blind. The morning ended with a presentation by

Patricia Stenger, Senior Vice President of the American Diabetes

Association; the title was "Diabetes: A Leading Cause of Blindness

in the United States."

Issues of modernizing the Social Security and SSI systems were

addressed by Louis Enoff, Acting Commissioner of the Social

Security Administration, first thing during the afternoon session.

Excellence in the workplace was demonstrated by the next panel of

speakers: Richard Realmuto, teacher of technology, Stuyvesant High

School in Manhattan, New York; Kathy Kannenberg, teacher of

mathematics in Raleigh, North Carolina; Michael Gosse, Ph.D.,

Electrical Engineer at Atlantic Aerospace Electronics Corporation

in Greenbelt, Maryland; and Alan R. Downing, a high-performance

engine builder. Under the topic, "Diversified Tasks: The Blind in

the Workplace," each spoke of their success as blind professionals

in a diverse cross section of employment. 

Finally the Honorable Jim Ramstad, Member of Congress, Third

District of Minnesota spoke about pending legislation, the

Americans with Disabilities Business Development Act, and what it

could mean to the blind for self-employment opportunities. Reports

from Dr. Kenneth Jernigan as representative of the World Blind

Union of North America/Caribbean Region were deferred to Friday

because of time.

Thursday night's banquet was a most phenomenal success due to an

incredible banquet address presented by President Marc Maurer. A

look at the past and people's perceptions of blindness were

presented in a hilarious walk through the writings of several

scholars of the day. It was clear that President Maurer enjoyed

presenting his address as much as we enjoyed hearing it. 

Neither Jeremy nor I had the energy left for the Colorado Hoe-down

following the banquet. The spirit was ready, the flesh weak. Jeremy

had stayed busy at NFB Camp with trips to the park, puppet shows,

and fun in the Oyngo-Boyngo, a marvelous net-enclosed trampoline.

And Friday would bring with it a field trip to the Science Center

and lunch at McDonald's.

Friday's general session was devoted to the business of running a

big organization. Reports, finances, resolutions, and a report from

our NFB Director of Governmental Affairs, James Gashel, filled both

morning and afternoon sessions.

I made a last trip to the exhibit hall to make sure nothing was

overlooked, then went to the NFB Camp to collect my son for the

last time. The tears in the eyes of his caretakers were a sure sign

of the loving care my son received while at Camp. After exchanging

addresses and promising to write, we left for one more ride on the

airport train, dinner, then bed.

My only disappointment from the entire week was that we had not won

any of the hundreds of door prizes, ranging from chips to $1000 in

a leather briefcase. My secret wish was to take home a box of

Armadillo Droppings, the caramel and pecan confections that had

been taste-tested in general session by President Maurer himself.

Saturday's return trip was spent enjoying the quiet and remembering

the past week with friends. How richly blessed we are by the

vision, wisdom, information, friendships, networking with other

families, and the reassurances we received at the Federation

Convention that after all is said and done, blindness need not be

a crippling handicap. And with Braille literacy and competence in

cane walking, blindness may be reduced to nothing more than a

nuisance. I returned home with a renewed hope for my son and his

future, and a resolve to make certain he has the Braille and cane

skills he must have. I, too, am learning Braille.

In closing I would like to share a funny anecdote from our final

train ride to the airport on Saturday. I sat across from a father

with his young daughter. The man sat staring at me for quite a

while before he spoke. I answered his questions about where we had

been and where we were going. Then he asked "What do you use that

for?" looking at my purse with his eyes. "What do you mean?" I

asked, "That's my purse."

"Then what do you keep in that?" he asked, again pointing with his

eyes, but now at Jeremy's book-bag with noticeable Braille on the

flap. Confused by his odd questions, I said, "It's my son's


"You see well" replied the man, seeming pleased with his test of my

vision. I was simultaneously amused by his `beat-around-the-bush'

way of determining my visual acuity, and offended by his obvious

thought that because I was also carrying a cane (Jeremy's small

cane that we replaced at convention) that he needed to determine by

trickery whether I was really blind or merely pretending by also

carrying a cane. For a brief moment, I felt like I could have been

proud to be blind like Jeremy. And then I wondered if it was that

I would be proud to be blind or proud to be associated with the

blind; for I had just spent eight days in the company of the blind

learning about blindness, and I had been privy to some measure of

their courage, determination, and caring for one another. And I do

feel proud to have been at the convention■the National Convention

of the National Federation of the Blind.


by Nancy Scott
I am on my back steps, my squirt gun ready, but I need something

good to shoot. I already shot the house. The water thuds if I get

close, but that's no fun anymore.
I hear the hiss of Mom's iron in the pantry. I could shoot her, but

not really. There's a door for the water to hit so I could shoot

her in my head. I aim at the spitting iron.
I fire. The water sisses with the force of my wishing. Buzz against

the screen so I know its going where I want. Buzz. Siss. Pull. Feel

the water going from the gun. Siss. Buzz.

"Stop that." What? That's not supposed to happen. Mom must be

hearing me think. I know she can do that sometimes. "There's water

all over the floor." No. There's a door there.
I'm six and I'm not stupid. "You're shooting through the screen.

Water goes through the door." That can't be. Water is big. It stays

in one place, not like air  and noise. I tell her. 

Mom sighs from mad to show-and-tell; puts my left hand inside, my

right with the gun out and says "shoot."  Pull. Buzz. Wet against

my inside hand. "Yes. Come look." She puts my right hand in the

puddle on the floor.
I could have shot her after all. How far wouldwater go through the

door? How high could I make it reach? Good thing she isn't hearing

me think. Maybe if I reach real high  No, I'll try for the tree. 

Three special awards were presented at the 1993 NFB Convention.

They were: the Blind Educator of the Year Award, the Distinguished

Educator of Blind Children Award, and the Golden Keys Award. These

awards are not bestowed lightly. If a worthy recipient does not

emerge from the pool of candidates for a particular award, it is

simply not presented that year. These awards are, therefore,

meaningful expressions of recognition and gratitude to outstanding

individuals who have made a difference in the lives of blind


The Golden Keys Award was presented for the first time in 1993 at

the Convention banquet Thursday evening. The National Association

to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB), a division of the National

Federation of the Blind, created the award; and Betty Niceley,

President of NAPUB, made the presentation to the 1993 winner. The

winner had, in Mrs. Niceley's words, " worked for us and with us to

increase the use of Braille. [He] sought us out, wanted our

comments, listened to us, and put into action the suggestions we

made." She then presented a beautiful plaque with seven gold keys

emulating the keyboard of the Braille writer to Deane Blazie,

inventor of the Braille 'n Speak and many other outstanding Braille

products for the blind.

The two educator awards were presented at the Monday morning

meeting of the Board of Directors. Emerson Foulke was the 1993

winner of the Blind Educator of the Year Award. Stephen Benson,

Chairman of the Selection Committee, described Dr. Foulke's many

accomplishments, then presented him with a plaque and a check for

$500. Dr. Foulke has a Ph.D. in psychology from Washington

University in St. Louis. He has written literally hundreds of

articles, authored and co-authored many books, and taught at the

university level for thirty-three years. He has long been involved

in technical research and research on human perception. Beyond

that, he has done extensive work in Braille and is involved in the

construction of the Braille Code. 

Sharon Maneki, Chairperson of the Distinguished Educator of Blind

Children Selection Committee, presented that award. She said:
We in the National Federation of the Blind constantly challenge

ourselves to find new ways to meet our goals. In 1987 we created

the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award because we not

only believed in excellence in education, but we believed that the

best way to help blind people is to make it better for the next

generation. The members of the Committee have a difficult task.

Those members were Jacquilyn Billey, Allen Harris, Fred Schroeder,

Joyce Scanlan, and I. We were able to find a candidate who reflects

what we stand for. She is a candidate who has been teaching for

nine years in the classroom. Some may say that's like combat duty,

but she is a person who believes in students and passes on the

torch, not only of knowledge, but of confidence in their abilities.

This year's Distinguished Educator of Blind Children is a teacher

in Zia Elementary School in the district of Albuquerque, New

Mexico, Gail Katona.[applause] I'm going to present Ms. Katona with

a check for $500 and also with a plaque, and I will read the

The National Federation of the Blind honors


LIST = for your skill in teaching Braille and the use of the white

cane, for generously donating extra time to meet the needs of your

students and for inspiring your students to perform beyond their

expectations. Our colleague, our friend, our ally on the

barricades, you champion our movement, you strengthen our hopes,

you share our dreams. July, 1993

After Ms. Katona accepted her plaque, she said:
I'm overwhelmed. Thank you very much for this wonderful award. It

is a great pleasure and honor to receive it from an organization

such as yourselves. I would like to thank Mrs. Maneki and the

members of the selection committee for selecting me this year. I

would also like to say thank you to Mr. Fred Schroeder, who, when

I was first hired into Albuquerque, was the coordinator of the

program. So Fred was the one who hired me initially and gave me the

opportunity to start the program in Albuquerque and to teach these

wonderful blind children. 
I'm a niece of Karen Mayry from South Dakota, so it's no wonder

that I've been a member of the NFB since I was about sixteen or

seventeen years old, and it is through this organization that I

have learned my philosophy and my attitude about teaching blind

children. Blind children are children first■they're kids. They're

little. They need to be taught. Our blind children need to be

taught the skills of blindness. I do my best to make sure that all

of my students get the opportunities to learn and to grow to their

full potential. I think that is done through the use of teaching

Braille so that we have proficient Braille readers, and we always

encourage the use of a long white cane so the students can become

very independent cane travelers. Thank you again. This is a

wonderful honor.

GIFT OF INDEPENDENCE Teacher Helps Blind Find Their Own Way
From the <M>Albuquerque Journal<D>, September 21, 1993, by Tracy

Jefferson Middle School student Jennifer Espinoza shuffles down the

crowded hallway, tapping her white cane uncertainly and hunching

her shoulders as if to shield her body form students charging

around her toward class. Her eyes see nothing, and her ears strain

to hear clues from her cane over the din.

From a spot down the hall, Jennifer's teacher Gail Katona watches

but makes no move to help. "If I walk with her, then she depends on

me," she whispers, as Jennifer slowly makes her way to class.

For the ten years Katona's been teaching visually handicapped

children, that's been her passion: to keep such students from

thinking they must depend on others to live happy, educated, and

successful lives.

This past summer the National Federation of the Blind named Katona

its 1993 Distinguished Educator of Blind Children. The prize means

a lot to a woman who grew up inspired by a blind aunt, a "really

regular, normal person" who skied, golfed and worked as a probation


"Through her and the National Federation of the Blind, I met blind

people from all walks of life■successful, capable people," said

Katona, 30. "Then I met some blind people who were not very

independent, and I tried to figure out what the difference between

them was."

What did she find? "It all boils down to education, attitude, and

the expectations others have of them," she said.

Katona learned Braille at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania and

earned a degree in elementary education of the visually

handicapped. Her first job was at Zia Elementary in Albuquerque,

where she co-founded a program to teach visually handicapped

children from throughout the district in one classroom. The program

is the only one of its kind in New Mexico public schools and has

been nationally recognized, Katona said. It was for her work

there■her last year at Zia■that Katona won the Federation's top


This year Katona moved to Jefferson to start a program that

concentrates services for visually handicapped middle school

students at one school. Four students from Zia, including Jennifer,

came with her.

For most of the school day, Katona follows her students to the

classes they attend with regular students, staying to help them

with especially difficult subjects such as math and science.

"Middle school is tough for any kid. It's been a rough transition

for both of us," said Katona last week while watching Jennifer

navigate the crowded halls.

But the Jefferson program makes it easier for such students.

Visually impaired students at other middle schools have only the

help of one part-time special teacher, who travels from school to

school, Katona said.

At Jefferson, Katona also tells staffers about the special needs of

blind students. And she punches out all of her students' lessons in

Braille and translates their work from Braille for their regular


Katona spends considerable time dispelling the fears and

stereotypes kids have about blind people. "We sure had some stares

the first week. We had kids stopping dead in the hallway," she

said, smiling wryly. Katona has since talked to all sixth-graders

about what it's like to be blind. "I've had several students say,

`Can you teach me Braille?'" she said. 

Kids at the Jefferson program can also look to each other for

support, Katona said. Jennifer and her best friend, Michelle Lopez,

went to school together at Zia for years, and now they help each

other at Jefferson. Michelle is legally blind but can make out

large letters. Like Jennifer, she walks with a cane and reads

Braille. But they can't be together every minute.

Jennifer's sighted lab partner in science class Friday happens to

be Abby Browder. The task■looking at various objects through a


"You're going to have to be Jennifer's eyes as you actually look at

it," Katona tells Abby. "You've got to give good verbal


"It's veiny," says Abby, peering through the microscope at a leaf.

Abby said later she enjoys working with Jennifer.

"I've never really had any experience with blind people, but

Jennifer's nice," she said. "It's different. It's interesting."

Across the room, Michelle scrutinizes a hair and crystals of salt

with her lab partner.

Jennifer doesn't say much, but bubbly Michelle makes it clear how

they feel about their special teacher."Very fun, very intelligent,"

she says. "She's a really neat person."


by Sharon Maneki

Editor's Note: Sharon Maneki is President of the National

Federation of the Blind of Maryland. She also chairs the committee

to select the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children for 1994.
The National Federation of the Blind will recognize an outstanding

teacher of blind children at our 1994 convention, July 1 to July 8,

in Detroit, Michigan. The winner of this award will receive an

expense-paid trip to the convention, a check for $500, an

appropriate plaque at the banquet, and an opportunity to make a

presentation about the education of blind children to the National

Organization of Parents of Blind Children, a Division of the

National Federation of the Blind, early in the convention.

Anyone who is currently teaching or counseling blind children or

administering a program for blind children is eligible to receive

this award. It is not necessary to be a member of the National

Federation of the Blind to apply. However, the winner must attend

the National Convention. Teachers may be nominated by colleagues,

supervisors, or friends. The letter of nomination should explain

why the teacher is being recommended for this award.

The education of blind children is one of our most important

concerns. Attendance at a National Federation of the Blind

convention will enrich a teacher's experience by affording the

opportunity to meet other teachers who work with blind children, to

meet parents, and to meet blind adults who have had experiences in

a variety of educational programs. Help us recognize a

distinguished teacher by distributing this form and encouraging

teachers to submit their credentials. We are pleased to offer this

award and look forward to applications from many well-qualified




Home address: 


State:                                                  Zip: 

Day phone:                        Evening phone:



City:                                 State:            Zip:

List your degrees, the institutions from which they were received, and your

major area or areas of study.
How long and in what programs have you taught blind


In what setting do you teach? Itinerant program[    ] Residential school

classroom[  ] Special education classroom [   ]   Other [   ] Please

How many students do you teach regularly this


What subjects do you teach?_____________________
How many of your students read and write primarily using: Braille [     ]

large print [     ] closed circuit television [     ] recorded materials [ 

   ] small print [      ].

Please complete this application and attach your letter of nomination; one

additional recommendation, written by someone who knows your work and

philosophy of teaching; and a personal letter discussing your beliefs and

approach to teaching blind students. You may wish to include such topics as

the following: 
What are your views on the importance to your students of Braille, large

print, and magnification devices, and what issues do you consider when making

recommendations about learning media for your students? 

When do you recommend that your students begin the following: reading Braille,

writing with a slate and stylus, using a Braille writer, and learning to

travel independently with a white cane? 

How should one determine which children should learn cane travel and which

should not?

When should typing be introduced, and when should a child be expected to hand

in typed assignments? 
Send all material by May 15, 1994, to Sharon Maneki, Chairman,

Teacher Award Committee, 9736 Basket Ring Road, Columbia, Maryland

21045; telephone (410) 992-9608.


y Dr. Abraham Nemeth

From the Editor: A basic ingredient in every NFB National Parents

Seminar is the blind adults who talk about what it is like to grow

up as blind children. Parents■including myself, and I have been

organizing and attending these seminars for the last ten

years■never get tired of these talks. Year after year I have been

inspired, informed, and challenged by Federationists who are

willing to share their insights into blindness. What I find

especially intriguing is that despite the different circumstances

and environment in which these speakers grew up, they always have

something to say which is relevant to the problems we■today's

generation of parents■struggle with. 

As relevant and as inspiring as any of our speakers was Dr. Abraham

Nemeth who gave the following presentation at the NFB Convention,

July, 1993, Parents Seminar in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Nemeth,

distinguished college math professor and creator of the Nemeth code

for Braille mathematics, grew up on the Lower East Side of

Manhattan, New York nearly 70 years ago. Here is his inspirational

I was very lucky. I had parents who knew nothing about blindness

but who had an innate understanding of what was necessary to do to 

raise a blind child. I was also lucky because I went to the New

York City public schools, where I had a very, very good resource

teacher. Not only was I integrated, but I was really integrated.

Let me tell you a little about that. 

The New York City public schools had a resource room for blind kids

in each of the five boroughs. It so happened that the one in

Manhattan was within walking distance of where I lived, so I went

there. Every day my aunt (my father and mother were busy taking

care of the store they operated) walked me to school and walked me

home. We had a wonderful teacher. Her name was Miss Roberts. She

taught me Braille, and she made sure that I learned it. 

There were other kids in the resource room; some of them with no

sight, some of them with a lot of sight; and everyone learned

Braille. There was no such a thing as you didn't learn Braille.

Even those who could ride bikes learned Braille. 

Now I did not go to the resource room for arithmetic, or geography,

or history. I went to my regular classroom for these subjects. I

went to the resource room during times when the other kids were

doing penmanship, drawing, art, and so forth. It was there that the

resource teacher would teach me blindness skills; for example how

to read a map. I remember one day she put me at a large globe of

the world. This huge globe had nice smooth surfaces for the oceans,

was raised for the land masses, and was even more highly raised for

the mountain areas. And then she put a problem to me. You know the

sun rises in the east and sets in the west, she said. Now, this

globe spins. Which way should the globe spin in order for the sun

to rise in the east and set in the west? Finally I figured that

out, and it was a wonderful educational experience.

My father, (maybe some of you heard me tell this story in Denver

four years ago at the NFB Convention) whenever we were out walking,

he would tell me, "Now we are walking west, and when we make a left

turn, we will be walking south. Listen to the traffic. All of it is

going in the same direction on this street. But when we get to the

next street you will notice that all the traffic starts traveling

in the opposite direction." And he would let me touch mailboxes,

fire hydrants, police call boxes, and fire call boxes and let me

read the lettering on them. You know in our neighborhood on the

Lower East Side the kids would all open the fire hydrants in the

hot summer. He never encouraged me to open a fire hydrant, but he

showed me where and what the firemen would do if they had to open

the fire hydrant.

Anyway, my mother was equally perceptive. She would send me on a

trip to the grocery store. She would give me five or six items to

memorize when I was six years old, tell me exactly what to buy and

in what quantity, and send me to the grocery store for them. Where

was the grocery store? Around the corner, no streets to cross. And

who was the grocer? My grandfather. Anyway, I was very diligent in

remembering every single item and would bring back everything she

sent me for. This was wonderful memory training. 

I had an uncle who was a handyman. He taught me how to fish

electrical wire through a wall, how to replace a burnt out bulb and

screw in the new one, and just generally how to do electrical work.

I developed a wonderful sense of mechanics. I knew how things had

to go together. My grandfather, I told you, had a grocery store.

And he had an icebox, not a refrigerator, but an icebox. A large

block of ice kept all the cheeses and butter and things cold. And

from the icebox, which was high overhead, there was a rubber hose.

As the ice melted the water would drain through that rubber hose

into the sink below. Well I was a curious little fellow, and one

day I went around the back of the store and discovered this hose

trailing in the sink. Now my mechanical sense told me that no

mechanical mechanism could work right if there were loose parts

around. Things had to be connected. It was clear to me that the end

of that hose had to be connected somewhere. So, I felt around. Aha,

I thought, the faucet, that's where it goes. So, I connected the

hose to the faucet and, proud of myself for having corrected my

grandfather's obvious oversight, I walked out of the grocery store.

A few hours later I was confronted by my grandfather. I will end

the story at that point. 

As a boy I had a tricycle. Now, remember, I had no sight at all. My

father told me that I could ride the tricycle around the block, but

to remember to make a right turn every time I came to a corner.

Ride slowly, he told me, don't bump into anybody, and come back

here. That's what I did. I rode my tricycle around the block and I

came back where I was supposed to. One time my younger brother and

I went on some kind of an expedition. We got separated, and my

brother, who had perfect sight, got lost. I came home.

When I grew up on the Lower East Side I had a wonderful playmate.

We used to filch empty orange crates from the grocery stores, and 

then we would go to the junk yards and take the wheels off

discarded baby buggies. Then we would find planks of wood and make

a wagon or a skateboard. I would hop on the back of it, and he

would drive it. Now that little buddy of mine became famous. He was

Zero Mostel. I spent almost every Saturday night in his home. Why

did I spend every Saturday night in his home? Because my father

took me there. What was my father doing? He and all the other men

were poring over the account books. What were they doing in those

account books? They were making interest-free loans to immigrants

coming into this country. After a year or two these people had

acquired furniture and a business and were as affluent as you could

be in those days. They would repay the loan with a little

appreciative addition, and then we would have more money to lend to

more immigrants. And that's what my father and those men were doing

on those Saturday nights■keeping records of those free loans. It

was a wonderful experience in morality, in human feeling. And so I

knew all of Zero Mostel's family. I knew his mother and father and

his brothers and sisters and so on. 

Because of my family, because of their expectations and what they

taught me, it never occurred to me that I couldn't do whatever I

wanted to do. I just had to think of a way of doing it. 

Take this problem, for example. A lady who was blind called me one

day in desperation. She's having a problem. She has a family and

she wants to broil a pan of hamburgers. She knows she has to turn

those hamburgers over. But she can't see which ones she has turned

over and which ones she hasn't. How can she solve this problem? I

told her it's very simple. You make the hamburger patties and you

put them in the broiler pan. Then you take some toothpicks and you

implant one in each patty. You time the hamburgers and when they

are half done you pull out the broiler pan, pick up the spatula,

and feel above the hamburger. When you locate a toothpick, take it

out and turn the burger over. When there are no more toothpicks,

all the burgers have been turned. The lady was very thankful for

this idea. 

There are all kinds of ways of doing things. Let your kids

participate in household activities. Let them change a bulb. Let

them do the dishes. Teach them to pour water from a bottle into a

glass. Let them do this over the sink at first if you don't want a

mess. Pretty soon they will be able to pour any liquid■hot or

cold■without spills. It's not a problem. They will learn if you

expect them to do it and you give them the chance to experiment and

learn. But don't give them the idea that they are wonderful because

they are able to pour a glass of water. Everybody pours a glass of


I once had a teacher, a vision teacher as they call them these

days, who told me I was a genius because I was able to read Braille

at the rate of a high school student. Now maybe I have other

qualifications that would rate me as a genius, but certainly

reading at the rate of a high school student is not one of them!

Expect your kids to do the normal things, and then react normally

when they do. Encourage them and do not overprotect them. 

My father did not overprotect me. You know kids will tease a blind

kid in the street■particularly on the Lower East Side where I grew

up. They would get after me, and I would want some protection from

my father. I would say, "Pa, he hit me." My father would say, "So,

why didn't he hit me?" In other words, my father was trying to

teach me to fend for myself. Which I was very well able to do. One

time, in the park, a sighted kid was teasing me. When I ran after

him, he shimmied up a ladder on one of these jungle gyms which had

a trapeze, a pair of rings, a chinning bar, and all that stuff. I

went right after him. Well he wanted to get out of my way so with

his hands he grabbed the upper bar and moved himself to the right.

He ended up dangling above the ground some distance from the

ladder. The poor fellow got so scared he was unable to move back to

the ladder and get down. However, I wasn't scared so I did get back

to the ladder and get down. But somebody from the park had to come

with a ladder and get him down. He didn't start up with me too much

after that.

I did participate in physical activities. I was on the high school

swimming team (I'm still a good swimmer). I climbed ropes and

jumped and did all kinds of physical activities. It was very good

for me. 

Well, all I can tell you is that I have led quite a normal life. I

think I have been able to do this because I was not overprotected

as a child. I had a wonderful, wonderful support system in the form

of relatives, parents, and teachers who expected me to be normal

and do the normal things. They gave me opportunities to learn. And

that's what made it all possible. And that's what can make it

possible for your kids to have a normal childhood and life, too.

"At first everything looked real bleak for us. We cried a lot the

first few years. But our child is now thirteen and she's absolutely


Those who met Keri-Ann Ruemmler at the 1993 NFB National Convention

couldn't help but agree with this statement by her mom. Keri-Ann is

a delightful young teenager. Her engaging smile, lively curiosity,

and pleasing personality captivated everyone who crossed her path

at the 1993 NFB National Convention, which she attended with her

mother, Sally Ruemmler of Kansas. Deaf-blindness was certainly no

deterrent to Keri-Ann in making friends and generally having a

great time at the convention. 

But it was no easy journey for the Ruemmlers to go from a bleak to

a wonderful outlook for their daughter. It required attitude

adjustment, information, courage, persistence, some very specific

training strategies, alternative techniques in communications and

mobility, and support from the National Federation of the Blind. 

Sally Ruemmler shared some of her experiences with other parents at

the NFB Convention through the panel discussion "Meeting the Needs

of the Deaf-blind Child." This panel was one of the items on the

agenda of the all-day Parents Seminar. Sally shared the podium with

Kathy Arthurs, the mother of a three-year-old deaf-blind and

multiply-handicapped daughter; Kathleen Spear; and Don Petty■both

of whom are deaf-blind adults who grew up as deaf-blind children.

Julie Hunter, president of the NFB Parents Division in Colorado and

chairman of the Concerns of Parents of Deaf-Blind Children

Committee, moderated the panel discussion. 

Julie began the discussion by giving a little bit of background on

deaf-blindness. She pointed out that most of us think immediately

of Helen Keller when we think about deaf-blindness. But this image

is inaccurate. Helen Keller, Julie explained, is representative of

only one of four general categories of deaf-blindness. The four

categories, according to Julie, are based upon when the individual

became deaf, and when he or she became blind. Helen Keller

represents the category made up of those who are born both deaf and

blind or who lose both vision and hearing very early in life,

before the development of language. Another category is made up of

those who are born deaf (or, again, become deaf very early in

life), then later lose their vision. Ushers Syndrome is a common

medical condition among persons in this category. Sally Ruemmler's

daughter, Keri-Ann, fit into this category. Then there are those

who are blind from early childhood and only later in life (after

the development of language) lose a significant amount of hearing.

Julie explained that her teenage daughter, Lauren, fell into this

category. The fourth category consists of adults who became deaf

and blind through disease or injury. These individuals had learned

language and developed life skills as seeing and hearing children.

Julie Hunter explained that the significance of these categories

lies in the manner in which the children who are deaf-blind have

historically received services. What has happened, and still

happens, is that children who are primarily deaf have their special

education programs planned by educators of the deaf, and children

who are primarily blind have their programs initiated and conducted

by educators of the blind and visually impaired. This was the

pattern of education, for example, for both Lauren Hunter and

Keri-Ann Ruemmler. Keri-Ann, being first and primarily deaf, for

many years received services from only the deaf program. Lauren,

who was blind many years before she began to lose her hearing, had

her special education planned by the teachers of the visually

impaired. As a consequence, the programs for these children are

often inadequate.  Sally Ruemmler, in her presentation, explained

that it wasn't until her daughter attended a program for the blind

at the Kansas School for the Visually Handicapped, that they

understood the nature of Keri-Ann's vision loss. It turned out that

she has tunnel vision, which affects her mobility (she couldn't see

to the side or straight down without turning her head). This

explained why she frequently fell and bumped into things and why

she had trouble with interpreters who signed so broadly that much

of it was outside her field of vision. 

As troublesome as it was for the Ruemmlers to piece together a

program for their daughter, parents of congenitally deaf-blind

children have far more difficulties in finding suitable programs

for their children. Mrs. Hunter pointed out that very little has

been available to these children, in spite of what was learned from

Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan regarding the need for

intensive total-waking-hour intervention. The lack of an

appropriate education for these children, Julie explained, has

often led to a misdiagnosis of mental retardation. This problem

highlights the need, Julie Hunter explained, for public recognition

of the special character of deaf-blindness as a unique disability

distinct from both deafness and blindness.

This basic information set the stage for the four panel speakers.

The first speaker was Kathleen Spear, a congenitally deaf-blind

mother, grandmother, and college graduate. Kathleen addressed the

crowd in her own voice without an interpreter. Kathleen explained

that her parents knew that she was blind by the time she was six

months old. At first, they feared she was also brain-damaged.

Although all but one doctor advised her parents to put her in an

institution, she was raised at home with her six brothers and

sisters. When she was four, her parents were told that there was no

evidence of brain damage but that she was deaf. This was

devastating to her parents. "Until the day my father died,"

Kathleen said, "he could not say the word deaf-blind."

Nevertheless, her parents demonstrated considerable insight and

good sense in raising her in those early years. "My dad was an

immigrant, my mother the child of immigrants. Neither had any

experience with disabilities. [But] my first speech therapist,

believe it or not, was my dad, who had the equivalent of a

sixth-grade education. He would sit with me by the window in his

armchair after going through the comics with my brothers. Putting

his hand under my chin, he would point to his pipe and say, `What

is this?' Then he would say, `Who am I?' He would give me the

answers■pipe and dad■and I would try to emulate him. I didn't do a

very good job then. The only people who could really understand me

were my parents. But it was the beginning of the idea of language

for me."

The frustrations she must have experienced in learning to

communicate as a small child were poignantly expressed in her

description of going to Mass on Sunday. "As a little girl the thing

I looked forward to all week was going to church. In church I could

sit for an hour and watch the glow of the candles (I had some

residual vision in my right eye then) and smell the incense. And

for one solid hour nobody pulled me or pushed me or tried to make

me understand."

Even as a toddler, Kathleen had an independent spirit. "I was a

tenement kid. I learned independence by roaming the neighborhood by

myself. Years later my father would say that I was the only

four-year-old on the block with a police record because sometimes

the cops had to go and find me and bring me home."

Education consisted of a series of five different schools before

she entered an apartment for the deaf-blind at the age of eleven.

By then, however, Kathleen explained, she had learned Braille. "A

blind person can talk about Braille as an alternative technique,

but to me it is not an alternative technique. It is salvation. I

read Braille faster than most people read print. I went through

college using Braille." 

Of her college experience, Kathleen said, "I didn't graduate summa

cum laude, but I did graduate in four years with a B average. I can

tell you I didn't sleep much during those four years." 

It was while she was in college that Kathleen learned to use a

cane. "I had not learned to use a cane because the deaf-blind

weren't supposed to be able to do this. But while I was in

Manhattan attending Hunter's College I taught myself to use the

cane and went about the city with it."

Of all the successes in her life Kathleen stated that she most

valued the fact that she had been a successful parent. As a child

she never believed she would ever marry or have a child, but she

did. Tragically, however, she was widowed when her son was nine

years old. She raised her son, who is now 30 years old and a

lieutenant in the United States Navy, as a single parent. Kathleen

ended her presentation with a poem she had written about Helen

Keller. In one line of the poem, Kathleen refers to the message of

Helen Keller's life. But she could just as well have been referring

to her own life. Here is the line: "The message that she left to us

who are both deaf and blind is symbolized in hope that life need

not leave us behind. If people would accept us, life wouldn't be so

hard. For we possess potential; who knows how much save God."

Don Petty was our next speaker. When Julie Hunter introduced him

and his wife, Marilyn, (who was interpreting for him), she

explained that Don and his parents, Bob and Charlene Petty, had

written a book called Out of the Shadows. The book described their

difficulties in getting education and services for Don when he was

a child. 

Don explained that his speech would be given by reverse

interpretation. He would speak first, then his wife would repeat

his speech for the audience. Don's disability came about because of

a bout of encephalitis he had as a baby. The loss of vision came

first. He learned Braille in the third grade, but he could

understand speech until about the eighth grade. By age eighteen he

was learning to sign. 

Don especially emphasized the importance of his parents in his

life. At one point, as a young adult, he was doing nothing but

sitting at home, depressed about his life. His father came into his

room where he was sitting in front of the t.v. and asked him, "Do

you want to spend your life in front of the television?" Don

decided that this was not what he wanted to do with his life.

Today, he is married and has a job. After his brief presentation

Don invited everyone to come and speak with him, his wife, and his

parents at the exhibit hall where they had copies of his book for


Our first two panelists were living proof of the ability of

deaf-blind children to grow up and become happy, productive adults.

They were representative of what can be if parents dare to dream

and expect the most from their child.

But we all know that dreams are not achieved without hard work and

persistence. Our next panelist, parent Kathy Arthurs, described the

nitty-gritty reality of life with a deaf-blind infant and toddler.

Here is the edited text of her remarks:

My name is Kathy Arthurs. I have two children. Kristin is eight,

and Kaylee is three and a half. Kaylee is here with me at the

convention. She is a spunky three-year-old. You'll hear me calling

her as she runs and runs down the hallway. Kaylee was born blind

deaf. She was born with a cleft-lip palate. She has epilepsy. It's

a depressing thing to hear the doctors tell you that your child

will never see well, hear well, speak well, or even develop

cognitive skills■that she'll never do much of anything. Naturally,

I went home depressed. My husband didn't know what to do with me.

But I thought about it, and I came to the conclusion early on that

the only person who should put limitations on my daughter was my

daughter. I decided I had to be positive. I know that's been said

a lot today, but it is so true. You have to be positive. You have

to be positive, and you have to understand what your child needs.

For example, I decided that Kaylee needed to know when I was

around, even when I wasn't touching her. So, from the time she was

a small infant I wore the same perfume so that no matter where I

was, she could smell me. It just seemed like common sense to me

that Kaylee needed to learn to use her hands to explore things

around her. So I wore interesting jewelry and interesting clothing.

I painted t-shirts with fabric paint. I sewed appliques on my

clothing and on hers. I did anything I could so she couldn't avoid

touching different textures from the very earliest age. I had a

rule when she was an infant: If you wanted to admire my baby, you

held my baby. This way she could see your glasses, your beard■God

help you if you had false teeth!

When she was a little older, we needed to find a way to get her

interested in moving about. Kaylee does have light perception, so

for stimulation we used a small flashlight. We used it to help her

pick up her head and to motivate her to move across the floor. My

husband would push on her feet, and I would use the light in front

of her. We strung Christmas lights from toy, to toy, to toy. This

really motivated her and got her moving. Then I put my Christmas

lights around my child's room so she could see the perimeter of the

room. This has made for an interesting childhood, let me tell you.

She thinks Christmas is year-round. 

Dealing with food was terrible! She was scared to death of touching

her food. So I devised a method of putting plastic wrap across the

food so she could feel the food through the wrap. This way she

could discover a lot of things about the food■shape, temperature,

hard, soft, thin, thick, even bumpy or smooth■without actually

getting her hands on its surface. And little by little I pulled

back the wrap so that, with a lot of encouragement from me, she

began to feel the unwrapped part. We still have some trouble with

gooey stuff, but for the most part she is feeling everything now. 

Very early on I Brailled all of her children's books with clear

contact paper and a slate and stylus. I didn't know Braille well,

so I found a Braille chart■a cheat sheet■and used that to help me. 

When Kaylee started to cruise around and walk on her own at

eighteen months, I gave her a cane. I had three rules: she had to

hold onto it, she had to hold it in front of her, and she had to

keep the point down. I confess my shins were definitely raw for the

first six months or so after she got her cane, but she finally got

the idea. Now she has confidence and independence. The cane is an

extension of herself. She doesn't leave home without it. We keep it

in the same place by the door so when we go someplace she always

knows where it is. 

When she runs into something she hasn't seen before, I take the

time to let her feel that object. We spent an hour at last year's

convention on a grate on the sidewalk in downtown Charlotte.

Parents, please, I urge you, get your child a cane. If it doesn't

work at first, put it up for a while and give it to them later. 

Education and IEP's■what a nightmare it was at first! My school

system said "We've never had a deaf-blind child in our preschool

classroom," and I said that's okay, Kaylee's going to be the first.

I stood my ground and the school system, when they realized they

couldn't push me around or make me change my belief in Kaylee,

backed down. From that experience I learned that parents have

power. This is my advice to parents: Get yourself educated. Know

the rules. Stand your ground. 

Kaylee is now in preschool. Regular, ordinary,

toddlers-running-everywhere preschool. For support she has me and

an interpreter in the classroom in addition to the regular

preschool teacher. And all the children in there love her. She has

taught them as much as they have taught her. With the right

support, why not regular preschool for the deaf-blind child? 

Everybody asks me how I deal with Kaylee's disabilities, how do I

raise her? The answer is simple. Mostly it's just like raising any

other three-year-old. We go places together as other families do:

to church, to the YMCA, to the park, to the mall, wherever. I don't

tell Kaylee she can't do something. I've always said she can try.

Yes, she can play with other kids in school, the neighborhood, or

at church. Yes, she can ride her tricycle■even if it means crashing

into a few things. And Kaylee has rules and regulations to follow

just like other kids her age. She has to pick up her own toys. She

has a regular bedtime. She has chores. For example, she takes the

clothes out of the dryer and puts them in a clothes basket. She

puts the silverware in the drawer. (Mind you, it doesn't always get

in the right place, but it gets in the drawer.) I always remember

that Kaylee is first and foremost a child like any other child.

Yes, she is deaf-blind, but that comes second. First, she is a


In our three-year journey with Kay, I have discovered that I can

still have the same dreams for her that I had before she was born,

before we knew about her physical disabilities.  I expect her

...[emotionally overcome and cannot speak for awhile, applause] I'm

sorry. I expect her to get a higher education. I expect her to have

a career, to marry, to have children, and to aid her community. 

And if you see my little toddler at this convention, please say

hello to her■that is, if you can catch up to her as she's running

through the hallways. [applause] Thank you.

Sally Ruemmler, who was introduced at the beginning of this article

as the mother of deaf-blind teenager, Keri-Ann, concluded the panel

with her remarks. Unlike the other panelists, Keri-Ann was deaf

first. The gradual loss of peripheral vision did more than create

a mobility problem for her. Because of her blindness, she began to

lose friends and was rejected by many in the deaf community.

Interpreters at the public school she attended did not understand

why they needed to modify their signing for her. (Interpreters,

Sally explained, tend to sign widely and Keri-Ann, because of the

loss of her side vision, could only see signs if they were kept

within the very narrow range of her central vision.) 

Finally, with the help of their new friends in the Federation,

Keri-Ann got a cane and some mobility training. Her parents

enrolled her in a private residential oral school where her

specific communication needs were accepted and understood. Although

many parents are understandably reluctant to send their child away

from home to school, Sally said that for Keri-Ann this move "was

absolutely the beginning of independence for her." "I am," Sally

explained "the original overprotective mother. Now my child flies

home every other weekend by herself. She is quite independent." To

further increase that independence Keri-Ann, her mother explained,

had enrolled in a summer program for youth at the National

Federation of the Blind's Colorado Center for the Blind. She would

be attending that program after the NFB Convention. "She is very

excited [about going]," Sally said. "She is going to come back more

independent than she left, I'm positive." 

Sally concluded her remarks with a declaration of her commitment

and gratitude to the organization■the National Federation of the

Blind■which truly changed what it means to be deaf-blind for

Keri-Ann and her family. She also invited everyone to take a moment

at the convention to stop and talk with her daughter. "She's quite

a character," Sally proudly boasted. "You will be in for a treat."

It was obvious from the audience's warm, enthusiastic response to

this panel that one did not need to be the parent of a deaf-blind

child to draw inspiration and increased understanding from the

deaf-blind and their parents who have become an important part of

this movement.



by Chris Craig

I am a doctoral student in the Special Education department at

Peabody College of Vanderbilt University, majoring in visual

impairment. I strongly believe that research involving families of

children with disabilities should center on the needs of the

family, rather than the needs of the researcher. Thus, I deeply

appreciate the cooperation of the NFB on some research which I hope

will benefit children with visual impairments and their families.

The professional literature has discussed how reading aloud to

children is the most important way to foster literacy development.

Selecting stories with repetitive passages, using tactual books and

material which adequately represents visual concepts, and promoting

Braille awareness through exposure to the medium in a variety of

contexts have all been identified as ways to enhance the shared

reading experience for parents and their children who are blind. In

general, the literature has emphasized the importance of family

involvement in the literacy development of young children with

visual impairments. Unfortunately, there is very little research on

how children with visual impairments "emerge" into literacy or how

home literacy experiences impact on learning to read and write in

either print or Braille. Thus, my doctoral dissertation will

examine the nature of family support of emergent literacy practices

in the homes of children with visual impairments.

Fifteen families attending a week-long preschool evaluation program

at the Tennessee School for the Blind assisted in the development

of a survey instrument for the study. The survey measures family

support of literacy practices, home literacy opportunities, and

parental attitudes toward Braille and low vision devices. Over a

three week period, these families reviewed drafts of the survey and

made suggestions as to how to improve the instrument. In addition,

the research staff at the American Printing House for the Blind

(APH) has provided both technical and financial assistance for this

research, and I am very grateful for their support as well.

During the month of September, 1993, the NFB assisted me in my

research by sending out survey packets to over 250 of its members.

The study includes primarily families who have a child with a

visual impairment ages two to eight and who believe that their

child has the ability to learn to read and write in either print or

Braille at some level. Families who received the packets were asked

to fill out the survey and return it using the self-addressed

stamped envelope enclosed in each packet.

I am very excited about beginning my dissertation as I believe the

outcome of this research will help to increase literacy

opportunities for children with visual impairments. I hope to be

able to share with you the preliminary findings of this study

sometime in 1994 through the Braille Monitor or Future Reflections.


by Sandy Halverson

Editor's Note: Sandy and John Halverson of Kansas City, Missouri,

voluntarily serve as the judges for the annual Braille Readers are

Leaders Contest co-sponsored by the National Association to Promote

the Use of Braille (NAPUB) and the National Organization of Parents

of Blind Children (NOPBC). Sandy is a Braille teacher, and both she

and John have been Braille readers since childhood. 
Ten years ago, the boards of NAPUB and NOPBC established the

Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest for the purpose of promoting

Braille reading among school-age children. The members of our

organizations were appalled by, and deeply concerned about, the

growing Braille illiteracy among our blind youth. Even bright

children were in danger of remaining mediocre or poor Braille

readers. For numerous reasons, blind children were not catching on

to the excitement and thrill of reading via Braille.

We finally decided that if the kids were motivated to read, they

could overcome other obstacles to reading Braille (such as less

instruction time with teachers, fewer books, and so forth). And

they have! Once motivated by the contest we have seen both good

readers and lackadaisical readers catch fire with the excitement

and pleasure of reading. Although originally motivated by the cash

prizes and other awards, the students soon become self-motivated as

reading becomes its own reward.

In the 1993 contest we had 226 contestants■our largest number

ever■from 35 states plus Canada. We had a nice mixture of students

who have been in the contest off and on for several years, and

students who were entering the contest for the first time. We also

had four deaf-blind contestants who were given special recognition

and prizes in honor of Gus Gisser, a deaf-blind, long-time member

of the National Federation of the Blind. A memorial donation from

the National Federation of the Blind of New York made these special

prizes possible.

Judging for the contest is based entirely upon the number of

Braille pages read by the contestant. All students competed in one

of five categories: grades kindergarten through first, second

through fourth grades, fifth through eighth grades, ninth through

twelfth, and Print to Braille. Those who had participated in

previous contests were also eligible to compete in the Most

Improved category. This category honors students who show the most

improvement in number of Braille pages read from one year to the

next. First-, second-, and third-place winners in each category

receive cash prizes■$75, $50, and $25 respectively■a contest

t-shirt, and a certificate. Most Improved winners also receive a

cash prize and a certificate. All contestants receive a Braille

certificate and a ribbon of participation. Here is the list of

winners by category:

Kindergarten■First Grade

First place: Krystle Zamudio■1,656 pages Salinas, California

Second place: Jessica Culley■1,329 pages Steubenville, Ohio

Third place: Amber Jo Kineard■1,268 pages Pineville, Louisiana
Second■Fourth Grade

First place: Blake Earl Roberts■8,366 pages Felton, Delaware

Second place: Gabriela Gonzalez■6,317pages Alexander, Alabama

Third place: Jessica Leigh McCracken■5,678 pages Dorchester, South

Fifth■Eighth Grade

 First place: Stacy Kruger■13,694 pages Worthington, Minnesota

Second place: James Konechne■12,510 pages White Lake, South Dakota

Third place: Jennifer Espinoza■10,643 pages Albuquerque, New Mexico

Ninth■Twelfth Grade

First place: Chastity Morse■15,838 pages Anoka, Minnesota

Second place: April Swaim■12,649 pages Arlinton, Texas

Third place: Matthew E. Weaver■6,955 pages Berlin, New Jersey
Print to Braille

First place: Hillary Anne Bates■2,361 pages Ceville, Indiana

Second place: Joshua Jungwirth■2,044 pages Ishpeming, Michigan

Third place: Laura Ann LaDuke■1,802 pages Frankfort, Michigan
Most Improved

Jocelyn Dore, Ontario, Canada

J.T. Fetter, Sterling, Virginia

Katherine Gresh, Flourton, Pennsylvania

Melissa Saylor, Kentucky

Jennifer Warner, Green Springs, Ohio
Deaf-Blind Award Winners

Second■Fourth Grade

First place: Robert Riddle■3,498 pages Vancouver, Washington

Fifth■Eighth Grade

First place: Janna Nelson■2,699 pages Aliquippa, Pennsylvania

Ninth■Twelfth Grade

First place: Jennifer Baker■4,884 pages Rockville, Maryland

Print to Braille

First place: Hillary Anne Bates■2,361 pages Ceville, Indiana 

Editor's Note: The following article by Steven Shultz appeared in

a South Carolina paper, the <M>Spartanburg Herald-Journal.<D> It

was later reprinted in <M>The Palmetto Blind<D>, the newsletter of

the NFB of South Carolina. Jessica is the daughter of Mrs. Sarah

Jane McCracken, president of the Parents of Blind Children Division

of the NFB of South Carolina. The contest is, of course, the

National Federation of the Blind's Braille Readers are Leaders

Contest. Jessica was one of the fifteen national winners in the

1992-1993 annual contest.
For third-grader Jessica McCracken, learning to read was more than

just another accomplishment on the way through school. Blind since

she was born, Jessica struggled with Braille reading for years. She

and her teachers worked at it month after month with little

success. Then Jessica suddenly had a breakthrough, and the

meaningless mass of bumps that had been so frustrating opened up

into a whole new world of meaning.

Now Jessica reads every spare moment she has. And last week, the

South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind where she studies

honored her for having won third place in the National Braille

Literacy Reading Contest. 

Between November and February, Jessica read 5,678 pages of Braille.

She reads stories, poems, children's books■everything she can put

her fingertips to.

"She just zooms through everything," her teacher, Terrie Randolph,

said, as Jessica sat nearby, her hand flying over a maze of raised

dots on a white page. She's insatiable for a dot."

Jessica's parents, Joel and Sarah Jane McCracken of Chesnee, said

learning to triumph had changed their daughter's life.

"We thought she'd never learn to read," she said. "Then one day,

after three years, it was like a light came on. It's been so


Both her parents teach in Spartanburg County public schools and

knew the importance of not giving up on teaching Jessica to read.

"She is such a good example," Mrs. McCracken said. "That's what I

tell my students: Reading opens so many doors."

Like other children her age, Jessica reads Nancy Drew mysteries,

the "Ramona" books by Beverly Cleary, and Judy Bloom.

Even though the McCrackens learned a little bit of Braille,

Jessica's abilities are in a different league. Mrs. McCracken said,

"People say, `How on earth is she reading?' And I say I have no

idea. It's a miracle." 

Reprinted from the September-October, 1993, issue of the <M>Braille

The task of the National Federation of the Blind Scholarship

Selection and Award Committees is never easy. During the spring the

members of the selection committee must pore over many hundreds of

scholarship applications to choose the group of finalists, who will

attend the convention to compete for the various awards. Then

during convention week, when there are always at least five things

one wants to do with every free moment, the awards committee

members must find the time to get to know each of the twenty-six

winners in order to make the final judgments in the competition.

This year the job was particularly difficult. The Class of '93 is

talented and energetic. A number of its members are already active

in the Federation, and during the convention many others began to

demonstrate deep interest in and personal response to our

philosophy and commitment to changing what it means to be blind.

Here are the 1993 scholarship winners as they presented themselves

to the Board of Directors at its Monday, July 5, meeting. Peggy

Pinder, Chairman of the Scholarship Committee, introduced each

person and listed first the state from which the winner comes and

then the state in which he or she would be a student this past

fall. This is what the winners had to say in the few seconds they

were given in which to introduce themselves:
Jack Allord, Wisconsin, Wisconsin: "Good morning, everyone. I'm

Jack Allord from Shawano, Wisconsin. I went to Illinois School of

Technology and studied mechanical engineering. After that I went

into the Army, and they saw fit to make a Korean interpreter out of

me. After the Army I went to Northern Illinois University and got

a degree in biology, studying genetics. After that I went to

Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, and got a doctor of dental

surgery degree. Right now I'm at the University of Wisconsin in

Green Bay, studying administration science. I hope to go into

health care administration. Extracurricularly, I'm on the

Independent Living Council of Wisconsin. I'm a speaker for the

visual impairment program at North Central Technical College. I am

very active in Free Masonry■I'll be the Grand Master of Free Masons

in Wisconsin in 1996. Thank you."

Laura Biro, Michigan, Michigan: "Good morning, fellow

Federationists. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the

National Federation of the Blind not only for honoring me with a

scholarship, but for your continued love and support. I am

currently a junior at Sienna Heights College in Adrian, Michigan,

where I'm pursuing a career in social work. My ultimate goal is to

obtain a master's degree and work with handicapped children. Thank


Matthew Brink, Michigan, Michigan: "Thank you, Miss Pinder, and

good morning to you all. I am presently at Western Michigan

University, academically focused right now in psychology,

specifically working with clients with traumatic brain injury. I

also co-instruct in a class in abnormal psychology and just

finished an internship in Battle Creek. I am also learning from the

National Federation of the Blind, for which I am grateful and hope

to contribute to the '93 convention, as well."

Maren Christensen, Montana, Montana: "Hello. My name is Maren

Christensen. I'm currently a student at the University of Montana.

I'm enrolled in a joint degree program, receiving my law degree and

a master's in public administration. I intend to work as a lawyer

with particular emphasis on implementing progressive public

policies. I am honored to be here. I have enjoyed the last two days

of meeting, talking with, and listening to this group of dynamic,

intelligent, and active, dedicated individuals. I'm real pleased to

be here, and I'm particularly pleased with my new NFB long white

cane. Finally I can move as fast as I want to. Thanks."

Bill Cuttle, Massachusetts, Massachusetts: "Hello, everyone. This

is my first convention. I'm very grateful to be here, not only for

the scholarship, but also I have just met so many nice people. To

be honest, I'm a little overwhelmed with everything that's here.

I'm going to be going to Boston College Law School in September,

and I'm going to be focusing on the field of family and juvenile

law. I received my bachelor's degree at Bridgewater State College

in psychology and a master's degree also in counseling psychology

from the University of Massachusetts and have been working in the

field of mental health for the past seven years as a clinical

director of programs for kids. I'm thirty-one, and I'm going to be

trying a new career. I'm hoping to combine my background with law

to help other people. Thank you."

Marvelena Desha, California, California: "Hello. My name is

Marvelena Desha, and I'm from San Francisco, California. This is my

first convention, and I must say that I am very impressed with the

Federation. In September I am going to be attending the University

of California at Berkeley with a major in linguistics and foreign

language. I hope to pursue a career as a foreign language


Brigid Doherty, Oregon, Oregon: "Good morning, everyone. I am a

junior at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. I am

majoring in international studies. I have been out in the work

force for the past twelve years, working as a legal secretary and

office manager among other things. I'm very pleased to be back in

school, working toward a better understanding between cultures. I

would like very much to work either in a governmental capacity or

in business, helping people to learn to communicate with other

cultures as they are traveling overseas■also just to have a better

understanding door to door, neighbor to neighbor. We're all living

in an increasingly interdependent world, and I think it's very,

very important that we learn to understand one another better. I

thank you for the opportunity of being here."

Ann Edie, New York, Massachusetts: "Good morning and thank you all

for the opportunity to be here at the NFB convention. My background

is teaching Asian studies and Chinese. In the fall I'll be going to

Boston College to study teaching of the blind. I hope eventually to

combine these two interests by teaching blind people the skills

that they need, by teaching sighted people Braille and other skills

that will help them understand the abilities of blind people, and

by teaching both sighted and blind people Chinese and Asian studies

and Asian cultures. I'm very happy to be here, and thank you very


Tina Ektermanis, Missouri, Missouri: "Hi. My name is Tina

Ektermanis. I'm a senior at Northwest Missouri State University

with a major in computer science and a minor in mathematics. I

ultimately plan to go on for a master's degree. I'm not exactly

sure where yet, but I plan to work in the field of adaptive

technology or network administration. Thank you."

Al Fogel, New York, (Washington, D.C. this summer) and New Jersey:

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Al Fogel. I've just

completed my first year at Rutgers Law School in Newark, New

Jersey. This summer I'm working at the Department of Justice with

the ADA. I have a bachelor's degree in accounting and Talmudic law.

I hope to be a corporate attorney with an emphasis on bringing more

disabled people into the corporate field. I can say that starting

next year, working with Rutgers, we'll be getting the first

disabled student to go into a New Jersey law firm. I'm glad to be

here. I'd like to thank the Scholarship Committee, and I'd really

like to thank the Texas people for some down-home hospitality.

Thank you."

Christopher Foster, California, California: "Good morning. I'd like

to thank the Federation as well as the committee. This is my first

convention, and I have learned a lot in the last few days. I also

have my brand new long white cane. Again I'd like to thank you all.

I'm going to be a freshman at Sierra Community College in Rockland,

California, where I will start my studies in English and computer

science. I hope to then go on to the University of California at

Davis, where I will continue and hope to get a master's in computer

science. I would like to go into possibly design engineering or

something like that, just to sort things out and do the

follow-through work at companies and things. Thank you very much."

Saeed Golnabi, Ohio, Ohio: "Good morning, everybody. My name is

Saeed Golnabi. I am very happy and pleased to be here. This week I

have had the best experience in my whole thirty-two years. Right

now I am at the University of Cincinnati. I'm working on my Ph.D.

in mathematics, and I hope I will graduate in a couple of years.

Thank you."

Kathleen Hart, New York, Washington: "Thank you. Good morning. I

previously have been a teacher of special education and a

counselor. I hold both a bachelor's and a master's in education. I

am currently a senior at Colgate Rochester Bexley Crozer■that is a

seminary. I am working on my master's in divinity and will be

graduating next May 14. I am looking for ordination in the

Episcopal Church as a deacon and have about four more years to go

till that happens. I have been a Federationist for two years. My

first convention was two years ago. About a month after that my

state affiliate's president invited me to a state leadership

conference, and I also met my fiance at my first convention, so the

Federation has been wonderful!"

Denise Howard, Georgia, Georgia: "Good morning. My name is Denise

Howard, and I'm from Savannah, Georgia. I recently graduated from

high school. In the fall I'll be a freshman at Spelman College. I

plan to double major in English and elementary education. Thank


Mary Hurt, Kentucky, Kentucky: "I'm Mary Hurt from Louisville,

Kentucky. My first convention was in '87. I'm a past treasurer of

the Diabetics Division and Kentucky State representative for the

Diabetics Division. In 1991 I raised $10,000 for that group, and I

am a senior at the University of Louisville, studying business

administration. I plan to pursue a career in the world of corporate

finance, and I'm very honored to be here."

Jennifer Lehman, Wisconsin, Minnesota: "Good morning, everyone. My

name is Jennifer Lehman. I'm a recent graduate of BLIND, Inc. in

Minnesota. I am President of the Minnesota Association of Blind

Students, and I was elected last night to be the Secretary of the

National Association of Blind Students. I'm also a member of the

Metro Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota.

Right now I am a junior at the University of Minnesota. My major is

sociology. My minor is communication and speech and hearing

science. I would eventually like to be a speech clinician, working

with preschoolers. I want to say that I am very honored to be a

scholarship winner and very glad to be here for my third


Zuhair Mah'd, Florida, Florida: "Good morning, fellow

Federationists. I've always been told how hard it was to speak in

public, but I guess I know now what it means. My name is Zuhair,

and I am studying computer science at Florida Atlantic University.

I also work for the Office for Students with Disabilities as a

computer consultant in assistive technology. I'd like to take the

opportunity here to thank the National Federation of the Blind

very, very much for the help and the honor it has bestowed upon me.

I'd like to make a pledge here to be, for everyone else that I

meet, as helpful as the National Federation of the Blind has been

to me. Thank you very much."

Angie Matney, West Virginia, Virginia: "Good morning. My name is

Angie Matney. I recently graduated from Iager High School in Iager,

West Virginia, and I will be attending Washington and Lee

University in the fall, where I plan to major in English and/or

computer science to pursue a career either in post-secondary

education or in the field of adaptive technology for the blind. I

would just like to thank each and every one of you for the

opportunity that you have given me to attend my first NFB

convention as a national scholarship winner and also to thank you

for my new long white cane. Thank you very much."

Janelle McEachern, Arizona, Arizona: "Good morning, everybody, and

greetings from the great state of Arizona, the home of the almost

world champion Phoenix Suns■almost, I say. My name is Janelle

McEachern, and I hold my bachelor of arts degree from Arizona State

University. It's a history degree in American and European military

history. I am currently in law school, ASU College of Law. I'm

studying to be a lawyer, and I am also taking my master's degree in

American and British constitutional and legal history. I'm doing

both at the same time, so I'm either desperate or crazy■I haven't

figured out which yet. I hope to be both an attorney and a

professor of constitutional and legal history for either American

or British■I haven't figured out which. I guess I'll cross that

bridge when I get to it. In my spare time I do disability advocacy.

I am a prospective board member for the Arizona Bridge to

Independent Living. I am a volunteer consultant on ADA

accessibility guidelines for area historical museums and zoos. I

also do local missionary work for my church, and I am a civil war

history buff. Thank you."

Jonathon Mize, Texas, Texas: "Good late morning, close-to-lunch

late morning. Welcome to Texas, where you have wide-open spaces and

always pleasant-smiling faces■the only place where it costs a $10

cab fare just to get out of the airport. My previous background in

education■I got an associate in science degree with emphasis in

public administration from South Plains College in Levelland,

Texas, and transferred to Stephen F. Austin University as a junior

majoring in public administration. I will continue to get my

master's degree at the University of Texas at Austin, where I will

also have the public administration master's. In the near future I

plan to be a city manager or work in some of the state

agencies■Lord knows they need help. Thank you."

Sally Nemeth, West Virginia, Ohio: "Good morning. How y'all doing

out there? Good, I hope. I thought I'd try a little bit of Texan.

This is my first NFB experience, and I have to say, what an

incredible initiation! My background is in communication and

psychology. I have a strong interest in the area of wellness. I am

a member of the ADA Training and Implementation Network. This fall

I'll be beginning a degree in counseling at the Franciscan

University of Steubenville. I hope eventually to obtain a Ph.D. in

either counseling or counseling psych and with that to teach, to

conduct seminars on a national basis, to write, counsel, engage in

community service, and eventually join the Peace Corps. I thank you

for your generosity in helping me to obtain my goals."

Jim Salas, New Mexico, New Mexico: "Good morning, everybody. I'm

Jim Salas. I'm attending Webster University, pursuing a master's

degree in human resources development. I'm interested in the people

side of organizational effectiveness. For the last four years I've

been the associates program chairman in New Mexico. Over that

period of time we've quadrupled the number of associate recruiters,

and we are the two-time defending national champion. They're going

to be telling us in a little while who the champion is for this

year, and we have some pretty good numbers again. If we win, great,

congratulations to us. If Missouri or Maryland or California or one

of those pretenders happens to get in this year, well

congratulations to them; but remember there is always next year! In

the immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, `Vi'll be back!'"

Carolyn Scharkey, Missouri, Missouri: "Hi. It's good to be here. I

was the first licensed hairdresser in the state of Missouri as a

blind person, and I then had three children of my own, two foster

children, and just loved people. I decided to go into social work

so will be entering the University of Missouri, St. Louis, in the

fall. Thank you."

Christopher Smith, New Jersey, Rhode Island: "I just recently

graduated from Ridgewood High School in northern New Jersey. I'll

be a freshman at Brown University this September, and I plan to

major in English, creative writing, with the goal to become a

professional writer. This is my first experience with the

Federation. I'd like to thank everyone for their truly sincere

welcome, and I look forward to a long and committed future with the

Federation. Thank you."

Chuck Strickland, California, California: "I have a master's degree

in physics with a minor in computer science from Southwest Texas

State University, which is where I've mostly been, in Texas. I was

a participant in the Young Scholars program sponsored by the

National Science Foundation, and I was a science counselor there.

It was held at SWT. I'm now going for a Ph.D. in physics. I hope to

teach at the university level and do theoretical physics, make some

contribution. I'm attending the University of California at

Riverside. Thanks for your consideration."

Colleen Wunderlich, Illinois, Indiana: "Good morning. I would like

to begin by thanking the Federation for the opportunity they have

given me to be here today. I feel very fortunate to have received

influence from these Federationists. I feel that they have a great

sense of inner strength and pride, and I hope that I will achieve

my dream of becoming a psychiatrist. Right now I will be attending

Purdue University in the fall, where I will major in pre-med and

psychology. Then I plan to go to medical school. I believe that the

Federation will be here to help me achieve my dream. When I do so,

I'd like to give that back to future generations to come. Thank you

very much."
Peggy Pinder: "And there, Mr. President and members of the National

Federation of the Blind, are the twenty-six scholarship winners

this year."
As you will observe, it was an impressive group of students this

year. Here are the awards they received:

$2,000 NFB Merit Scholarships: Marvelena Desha, Tina Ektermanis, Al

Fogel, Saeed Golnabi, Kathleen Hart, Denise Howard, Jonathon Mize,

Christopher Smith, and James Strickland.

$2,000 Ellen Setterfield Memorial Scholarship: Janelle McEachern, 

$2,000 Hermione Grant Calhoun Scholarship: Angela Matney.

$2,000 Kuchler-Killian Memorial Scholarship: Ann Edie.

$2,500 NFB Scholarships: Jack Allord, William Cuttle, Christopher

Foster, Mary Hurt, and Zuhair Mah'd.

$2,500 NFB Educator of Tomorrow Scholarship: Sally Nemeth.

$2,500 NFB Humanities Scholarship: Colleen Wunderlich.

$2,500 Frank Walton Horn Memorial Scholarship: Carolyn Scharkey.

$2,500 Howard Brown Rickard Scholarship: Maren Christensen.

$3,000 Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship: Matthew Brink.

$4,000 NFB Scholarships: Brigid Doherty and James Salas.

$4,000 Anne Pekar Memorial Scholarship: Laura Biro.

$10,000 American Action Fund Scholarship: Jennifer Lehman 
In introducing Jennifer during the banquet for brief remarks, Peggy

Pinder said:

Jennifer took time out during her undergraduate years to go to a

training center for blind people when she met the Federation and

realized that she needed what the Federation and its training

centers have. She hasn't been in school this last year. She's going

for the first time to the University of Minnesota (ranked as a

junior), where she is earning a bachelor of science degree in

sociology. As I think many of you know, Jennifer is an active and

loved member of both the Minnesota and the Wisconsin affiliates and

intends to be a pre-school speech clinician. Now here, for a few

remarks, is this year's $10,000 scholarship winner, Jennifer


Jennifer Lehman: Thank you all so much. I am very, very honored to

be chosen as this year's top scholarship winner. I want to thank

President Maurer and Dr. Jernigan and everyone in the National

Federation of the Blind for all the help and support you have given

me during the past three years.

I would not have been able to make it through a lot of situations

that have happened in the past three years if it had not been for

all the support from the members of the Federation family. I can't

even tell you how I feel right now or how much the NFB means to me.

So I just want to say that I will continue to be active in this

organization and help to change what it means to be blind. I want

to help get more people into the movement so that everyone's life

can be changed as much as mine has been by this wonderful

organization. Thank you all.[applause]


by Jerry Whittle and Betty Niceley

For the past five years, the National Federation of the Blind of

Louisiana has held a Braille-A-Thon  at its state convention as a

means both to promote Braille literacy and to raise funds for the

state affiliate. During the past five years, the NFBL has raised

over five thousand dollars and has received some excellent

publicity about Braille literacy in almost every major city in


Volunteer Braille readers pledge to read a set number of Braille

pages between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on the Friday before a state

convention begins. For several weeks prior to the state convention,

these volunteer readers procure sponsors, and then the volunteers

gather in a large room in the hotel where the state convention is

held and complete their page goals. Some read as many as three

hundred pages, and others read just a few pages. For example,

Harold Wilson raised over $1,300 on just ten pages the first year

the event was held.   

Because of the success of the Louisiana Braille-A-Thon, the

National Association to Promote the use of Braille (NAPUB) has

decided to hold a similar event at the 1994 NFB Convention in

Detroit, and if successful, it will be continued at each National

Convention. "We expect to have excellent Braille readers and

brand-new Braille readers participating on Saturday from 9:00 a.m.

to 4:00 p.m. in Detroit," said Betty Niceley, President of NAPUB. 

"We should have at least two hundred people reading Braille in one

room in Detroit, and we will try our best to have every major

television station and newspaper in the Detroit area there to cover

the event. We will be calling on our membership in NAPUB to pledge

to read their pages and to find sponsors in their home states who

would be willing to pay them handsomely for their hard work. Half

of the money will go to NAPUB and half will go to the national

organization. If Louisiana can raise two thousand for state

convention, there is no reason why we couldn't raise over one

hundred thousand for national Braille-A-Thon," said Niceley,

smiling. "We want to make this an annual event. I bet it will be

one of the quietest fund raisers we could ever have."

If you would like to participate and receive some sponsor sheets,

you may contact either Betty Niceley, 3618 Dayton Avenue,

Louisville, Kentucky 70402, (502) 897-2632, or Jerry Whittle, 101

South Trenton Street, Ruston, Louisiana 71270, 1-(800)-234-4166. 


An Address Delivered By Kenneth Jernigan At the Convention of the

National Federation of the Blind Dallas, Texas, July 6, 1993

Shortly after last year's convention, I received a number of

letters from students at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. It was

clear that the letters were written as the result of discussions

held at the Center and that, although the apparent topic was

independent mobility, the real issue was independence in general,

and how blind persons should live and behave. I want to share those

letters with you, then tell you how I answered them, and finally

say a few things about what I think independence really is. The

letters are all dated July 23, 1992. Here is a composite of them:
Dear Dr. Jernigan:

I am a sophomore in high school. Right now, I am in a teenage

program that the Louisiana Center for the Blind is sponsoring. It

is the STEP program. That means Summer Training and Employment

Project. We are allowed to get jobs and make money as well as have


A few weeks ago I attended the national convention. I really

enjoyed all your speeches and everything. People noticed that you

and Mr. Maurer walked sighted guide sometimes, [I interrupt to call

your attention to the almost code-word use of the term "sighted

guide." Not "walking with a sighted guide" or "walking with a

sighted person" or "holding the arm of a sighted person," but

"walking sighted guide." This makes it clear that the concept of

"sighted guide" has been the topic of considerable conversation.

But back to the letter.] and we thought you all would never walk

sighted guide, because you all are so highly involved in the NFB.

I never thought sighted guide was OK until then. So why did you all

use sighted guide? I know there are many reasons why this might be.

We discussed this in one of our talk times and came up with one

reason this might be. We know that you all have to be at meetings

all the time, and it would be faster if you would use sighted

guide. [I interrupt again to call your attention to the use in the

following sentences of the depersonalized "it." Now, back to the

letter.] I am sure you don't use it so much that you lose your cane

travel skills. I am not trying to say this is wrong. I was just

wondering why you do this. Someone brought up that if we, as the

people being trained at the moment, were caught using sighted

guide, they would fuss at us. And I realize that you are not the

one in training, so it is not wrong. We couldn't use sighted guide,

because we might want to use it more than the cane if we use too

much of it.
Yours truly, ____________________
Dear Dr. Jernigan:

During this past convention in North Carolina some of us noticed

that you did not walk with a cane. I do not understand this at all.

I can understand that you have to be in many places in a short

amount of time at the conventions, and that might be the reason you

went sighted guide. But I also know that when you came for a tour

of the Center, you also went sighted guide. We do not understand


We all have our own theories as to why you went sighted guide, but

we want to get the correct answer straight from the horse's mouth.

Your fellow Federationist, ____________________

That's a very clear-cut letter, and I am pleased to be called that

end of the horse. Here is the last one:

Dear Dr. Jernigan:

This year I came to Charlotte to attend my third national

convention of the NFB. I am currently a student at the Louisiana

Center for the Blind in the STEP program for blind teenagers. This

program stresses cane use, Braille literacy, employment readiness,

and self-confidence based on achievement. While at the convention

I heard from a friend that you were never actually seen using your

cane. I discussed this with a group of friends, and it was decided

that you most likely had many places to go and had to get to them

quickly. This made sense, and the question seemed settled. Then one

of the group remembered you using sighted guide during a tour you

took of the Center while passing through Ruston on the way to the

Dallas convention in 1990. This was such a hectic situation, and

the question was no longer settled because the only alternative

travel technique anyone noticed you using was sighted guide.

I do not mean this letter to imply any disrespect towards you, the

Federation, or its many achievements. If the Federation had not

pushed so hard for independence for the blind, I would have no

grounds on which to write this letter. It is because of my own

personal convictions about independence that I ask why the

figurehead of the NFB is not himself using the alternative

techniques that his student, Joanne Wilson, has been teaching for

nearly ten years in Ruston.

I would prefer to end the letter on a positive note. I realize that

you are responsible for the training I am currently receiving, and

I am grateful for it. I am not implying that you have no cane

skills, because I do not honestly know.

Sincerely, ____________________

These are straightforward letters, seriously written. They raise

fundamental questions, questions that deserve a reasoned answer.

Here is the expanded substance of what I wrote:

Baltimore, Maryland July 29, 1992

Under date of July 23, 1992, the three of you wrote to ask me why

I didn't travel alone with a cane during the national convention in

Charlotte and why on a visit to the Louisiana Center in 1990 I took

a sighted person's arm instead of walking alone with a cane. I

appreciate your letters and will tell you why I do what I do. 

In the first place let us assume that I didn't have any cane travel

skills at all. This might be comparable to the situation of a

parent who had no education but dreamed of an education for his or

her child. That parent might preach the value of education and

might work to send the child to high school and then to college.

The parent might, though personally uneducated, feel tremendous

satisfaction at the learning and accomplishment which his or her

effort had made possible. In such circumstances what attitude

should the child have toward the parent? The child might be

critical of the parent for his or her poor grammar and lack of

education and might even be ashamed to associate with the parent■or

the child might feel gratitude for the sacrifice and the work that

had made the education possible. 

This is not an apt analogy since I have perfectly good cane skills,

but it has elements of truth about it. When I was a child, there

were no orientation centers or mobility training. The only canes

available were the short, heavy, wooden type, and we youngsters

associated carrying a cane with begging, shuffling along, and being


It was not until I finished college and had taught for four years

in Tennessee that I first carried a cane. It was made of wood and

had a crook handle. I might also say that it was longer than most

of those in vogue at the time, forty inches. I started using it in

1953, just before going to California to work at the newly

established state orientation center for the blind. The Center had

been in operation for only a few months and had enrolled only four

or five students by the time of my arrival.

In those days the California Center was using 42-inch aluminum

canes. They were a tremendous improvement over the 40-inch wooden

cane I had been carrying, and I immediately adopted the new model.

Even so, it seemed that something better was needed. I worked with

the person who had been employed as the travel teacher, and we

experimented with different techniques and canes.

In the mid-1950's the solid fiberglass cane was developed. It was

first made by a blind man in Kansas, but we at the California

Center popularized it and brought it into general use. We also

worked to improve the tip. Our students received intensive

training, those with any sight using blindfolds (or, as we called

them, sleep shades), and our students and graduates were

identifiable in any group of blind persons because of their

competence and ease in travel. Since they had enjoyed the benefit

of our study and experimentation, as well as intensive instruction

and the time to practice, many of them probably became better

travelers than I■and I felt pride and satisfaction in the fact. We

were advancing on the road to freedom and independence.

In 1958 I went to Iowa as director of the state commission for the

blind, and I carried with me the experience and knowledge I had

acquired in California plus a 48-inch fiberglass cane and a head

full of new ideas and hopes for the future. I hired a young sighted

man who had no experience at all with blindness and spent several

days giving him preliminary instruction in mobility, using blind

techniques. First I had him follow me all over Des Moines, watching

me use the cane while crossing streets and going to various places.

Then, he put on sleep shades, and I worked with him to learn basic

skills. Next I sent him to California for three or four weeks to

gain further experience and to compare what I had taught him with

what the California Center was doing. Finally he came back to Des

Moines, and I spent several more weeks working with him until

(though sighted) he could (under blindfold) go anywhere he wanted

safely and comfortably using a cane.

During all of that time I worked with him on attitudes, for unless

one believes that he or she is capable of independence as a blind

person, independence in travel (as in other areas) is not truly

achievable. This travel instructor's name is Jim Witte, and he

developed into one of the best I have ever known.

Iowa students rapidly became the envy of the nation. You could

single them out in any group because of their bearing, their

confidence, and their skill in travel. As had been the case in

California, some of them undoubtedly traveled better than I, and I

felt a deep sense of fulfillment in the fact. Joanne Wilson (the

director of your own Louisiana Center) was one of those students,

and I am sure she has told you how it was at the Iowa Center■how

students were treated, what was expected of them, the relationship

between staff and students, our dreams for the future, and how we

set about accomplishing those dreams. Arlene Hill (one of your

teachers) was also an Iowa student. Both Joanne and Arlene are

living examples of what we taught and how it worked. So are

President Maurer, Mrs. Maurer, Peggy Pinder, Ramona Walhof, Jim

Gashel, Jim Omvig, and at least fifty others in this audience.

It was in Iowa that we developed the hollow fiberglass cane. It was

an improvement over the solid cane, lighter and more flexible. We

also gradually began to use longer and longer canes. They enabled

us to walk faster without diminishing either safety or grace. As I

have already told you, I started with a 40-inch wooden cane. Then

I went to 42-inch aluminum■and after that to solid fiberglass, then

to hollow fiberglass, and (three or four years ago) to hollow

carbon fiber. As to length, I went from 40 inches to 42, then to

45, 48, 49, 51, 53, 55, and 57. At present I use a 59-inch cane. It

seems about right to me for my height and speed of travel. Will I

ever use a still longer cane? I don't know■but at this stage I

don't think so. Obviously there comes a time when a longer cane is

a disadvantage instead of a help.

I've told you all of this so that you may understand something of

my background and approach to independence in travel, and

independence in general. The doctors who established the medical

schools a hundred years ago were (with notable exceptions) not

generally as competent and skilled as the doctors they trained, for

they did not have the benefit of the kind of concentrated teaching

they themselves were providing. Obviously they could not stand on

their own shoulders. Through their students they extended their

dreams into the future, building possibilities that they themselves

had not known and could never hope to realize.

So it is with me in relation to you. You are the third generation

of our mobility trainees, having the benefit of what I have learned

and also of what Joanne and the other Iowa graduates have learned.

Unless you make advances over what we have done, you will, in a

very real sense, fail to keep faith with those who have gone before

you and those who will follow. In this context I would expect and

hope that some of you will become better travelers (and, perhaps,

better philosophers and teachers) than I, and if you do, I will

take joy in it.

Having said all of this, let me come back to my own travel skills.

During the 1950's I traveled completely alone on a constant basis

throughout this entire country, going to almost every state and

dealing with almost every kind of environment■urban area, city bus,

taxi, complicated street crossing, rural setting, hired private

car, country road, and almost anything else you can imagine. During

late December and early January of 1956 and 1957, for example, I

traveled alone to fourteen states in eleven days, writing testimony

for the NFB's Right to Organize bill. It was no big deal, and not

something I thought about very much. It was simply a job that had

to be done, and the travel was incidental and taken for granted. I

have taught travel instructors and have developed new techniques

and canes. I travel whenever and wherever I want to go in the most

convenient way to get there■and sometimes that means alone, using

a cane.

Once when I was in Iowa, students observed that I walked to a

barber shop one day with another staff member, and they raised with

me some of the same questions you have raised. That afternoon in

our business class (you may call it by some other name■philosophy

or something else) I dealt with the matter. I told the students

some of the things I have told you, and then I went on to say

something like this:

"Although what I have told you should mean that even if I couldn't

travel with much skill at all I might still not merit your

criticism, we don't need to leave it at that. Follow me. We are

going to take a walk through downtown traffic■and see that you keep


I took the lead, and we walked for eight or ten blocks at a fast

clip. When we got back to the classroom, I didn't need to tell them

what kind of travel skills I had. They knew.

Then, we talked about why I had walked to the barber shop with

another staff member. In that particular instance I had matters to

discuss, and I felt I couldn't afford the luxury of doing nothing

while going for a hair cut. As a matter of fact, in those days I

often made a practice of taking my secretary with me to the barber

shop and dictating letters while getting my hair cut. Of course, I

could have made a point of walking alone each time just to make a

visible demonstration of my independence, but somehow I think that

such insecurity might have made the opposite point and would

certainly have been counterproductive.

In the Iowa days I was not only director of the state Commission

for the Blind but also First Vice President and then President of

the National Federation of the Blind. Both were full-time jobs,

requiring me to use to best advantage every waking minute. 

I was up before 6:00 to go to the gym with the men students; I

wrote over a hundred letters a week; I entertained legislators and

other civic leaders an average of two or three nights a week to

gain support for our program; I traveled throughout the state to

make speeches; and I spent long hours working individually with

students. Besides that, I handled the administrative details of the

Commission and the NFB on a daily basis. At the same time I was

doing organizing in other states and dealing with problems brought

to me by Federationists throughout the country.

In that context it would have been a bad use of my time (and both

Federationists and Iowa students and staff would have thought so)

for me to spend much of my day walking down the street to make a

visible show of my independent travel skills. I traveled alone when

I needed to, and I gave demonstrations to students, legislators,

and others when I needed to do that■but I never did either to

convince myself or to establish in my own mind the fact of my

capacity or independence. It didn't seem necessary.

So what about the NFB convention in Charlotte? I was in charge of

convention organization and arrangements, and there were a thousand

details to handle. There were four hotels and a convention center,

each with its own staff and each requiring separate handling and a

myriad of decisions. Sometimes I had not only one but two or three

people with me as I went from place to place, talking about what

had to be done and sending this person here and that person yonder.

Even so, I might (you may say) have refused to take the arm of one

of the persons with me and used my cane to walk alone. But for what

reason? When a blind person is walking through a crowd or down a

street with somebody else and trying to carry on a meaningful

conversation, it is easier to take the other person's arm. This is

true even if you are the best traveler in the world and even if

both of you are blind.

In fact, I contend that there are times when refusing to take an

arm that is offered may constitute the very opposite of

independence. If, for instance, you are a blind person accompanying

a sighted person through a busy restaurant closely packed with

tables and chairs, do you create a better image of independence by

trying to get through the maze alone, with the sighted person going

in front and constantly calling back, "This way! This way!" or by

simply taking the sighted person's arm and going to the table? What

is better about following a voice than following an arm? From what

I have said, I presume it is clear which method I favor. Of course,

if no arm is conveniently available, you should be prepared to use

another method, regardless of how crowded the restaurant or how

labyrinthine the path. In either case you should do it without

losing your cool. But I'll tell you what alternative is not

acceptable in such circumstance■pretending that you don't want

anything to eat and not going at all. That's not acceptable.

But back to the convention. When you are trying to get through

crowds quickly to go from meeting to meeting, and possibly also

trying to find different people in those crowds in a hurry, the

efficiency of sighted assistance multiplies. Incidentally, even if

I were sighted and doing the things I do at national conventions,

I would want two or three persons with me■to look for people in

crowds, to send for this and that, and to talk and advise with.

As an example, consider what happened at last year's convention

with respect to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander. He has

normal eyesight and is in every other way, so far as I know,

able-bodied and energetic. I am sure that he can drive a car and

walk vigorously. Yet, he sent an assistant to Charlotte a day in

advance of his arrival. The assistant scouted out the convention

and then went to the airport to meet the Secretary. The assistant

drove the car from the airport to the convention, accompanied the

Secretary into the meeting hall, went with him to the platform, met

him at the edge of the platform when he finished speaking, and

drove him back to the airport. If the Secretary had been blind, I

wonder if somebody would have said, "Just look! He's not

independent. He has to have a sighted person with him at all times,

accompanying him everywhere he goes and driving his car."

Since I am not a student trying to learn to travel independently or

to establish within my own mind that I can compete on terms of

equality with others, and since I can and do travel by myself when

that is most convenient, I feel no particular obligation to make a

demonstration when it is more efficient to do otherwise. If I were

a student, I should and would behave differently. As an example, I

think a student should always use a rigid (not a collapsible) cane.

But I generally use one that is collapsible. Why? Students often

are uncomfortable with canes, and if they are allowed to use those

that fold or telescope, they may tend to hide or conceal them

because they think (even if subconsciously) that it will make them

look less conspicuous. I have carried a cane for so long that I

would feel naked without it, and I always carry one whether I am

with somebody or not. Because they were so rickety, I refused to

carry a collapsible cane until we developed the telescoping carbon

fiber model. I pull it to such a tight fit that it doesn't collapse

as I use it, and I almost never collapse it unless I'm in close

quarters. Again, it is a convenience, and my sense of independence

is not so brittle that I think I have to carry the rigid cane to

prove to myself or others that I am not ashamed to be seen with it

or uncomfortable about blindness.

When I was teaching orientation classes in California and Iowa, I

often said to those in attendance that students at a center tend to

go through three stages: fear and insecurity, rebellious

independence, and normal independence■FI, RI, and NI. During fear

and insecurity one tends to be ultracautious and afraid of

everything, even if at times putting on a good front. During

rebellious independence one tends to be overly touchy, resenting

anybody who attempts to offer him or her any kind of assistance at

all, even when the assistance is appropriate and needed. In the

rebellious independence stage one is likely to be a pain in the

neck, both to himself or herself and others■but this is a necessary

step on the road from fear and insecurity to normal independence.

Unfortunately some people never get beyond it.

Hopefully one will eventually arrive at the stage of normal

independence, with relatively little need constantly to prove

either to oneself or others that one is capable of independence and

first-class citizenship. This means maturity in dealing with

condescending treatment, and it also means flexibility in accepting

or rejecting offers of assistance, kindness, or generosity.

Sometimes such things should be graciously or silently taken,

sometimes endured, and sometimes rejected out of hand■but the

reason should never be because you doubt your own worth, have inner

feelings of insecurity, or wonder whether you are inferior because

of blindness.

Normal independence also means not rationalizing your fear or

inability by saying that you are just doing what is convenient and

efficient and that you don't feel the need to prove something when

in reality you are just covering up the fact that you are as

helpless as a baby■and it means not going so far the other way and

being so touchy about your so-called independence that nobody can

stand to be around you. It means getting to the place where you are

comfortable enough with yourself and secure enough with your own

inner feelings that you don't have to spend much time bothering

about the matter one way or another. It means reducing blindness to

the level of a mere inconvenience and making it just one more of

your everyday characteristics■a characteristic with which you must

deal just as you do with how strong you are, how old you are, how

smart you are, how personable you are, and how much money you have.

These are the goals, and probably none of us ever achieves all of

them all of the time. Nevertheless, we are making tremendous

progress■and we are farther along the road now than we have ever


I am pleased that you wrote me, and I am especially pleased that

you are able to receive training at the Louisiana Center. It is

grounded in Federation philosophy, and it is one of the best. You

are getting the chance while you are young to learn what blindness

is really like, and what it isn't like. You have the opportunity to

profit from the collective experience of all of us■the things we

tried that didn't work, and those that did. On the foundation of

love and organizational structure which we have established, you

can make for yourselves better opportunities than we have ever

known■and I pray that you will. The future is in the hands of your

generation, and I hope you will dream and work and build wisely and


Sincerely,<Kenneth Jernigan
That is what I wrote, and there have been a number of subsequent

developments. One person, hearing these letters, said, "I can see

your point, but don't you think you should try to be a role model?"

To which I replied, "I thought that was what I was doing."

Then, there was the letter I got about a month ago from a person

who attended a seminar at the National Center for the Blind last

Christmas. She said in part:

The discussion about the letter from the students at the Louisiana

Center for the Blind has stuck with me and helped me in two ways.

I no longer feel the deep embarrassment I had been experiencing

about being unable to read Braille and having less-than-perfect

travel skills. I remain painfully aware that I could be much more

efficient than I am, particularly if I could read and write

Braille, but I no longer feel that I am less worthy because of the

lack. And, by the way, I hope to take care of my deficiencies in

that area soon.

The discussion also helped me better to appreciate and respect my

dad, who was blinded by an on-the-job accident when he was 26.

After he became blind, he went to law school, and I have always

admired his relatively quick adjustment to blindness. On the other

hand, I have always felt somewhat embarrassed that when traveling

he uses a sighted guide the majority of the time. (For instance, I

was horrified and disbelieving when I heard my dad flew to Alaska

by himself to go fishing without his guide dog or a white cane!) He

has a guide dog but only used him when he was going to work. I have

never seen him use a white cane although I have just learned that

he used one while in his office at work. However, the seminar

discussion helped me to understand that everyone's situation

differs and that the opportunities available are not uniform. My

dad has accomplished a lot: He was an administrative law judge

until he retired last month; he is an avid fisherman; and he is as

pro-Braille as anybody I have ever met.
That is what the seminarian wrote me, and her letter makes a point.

It is simply this: We absolutely must not become so rigid and

dogmatic about the means and precise details of achieving

independence that we make ourselves and everybody else around us

miserable. Down that road lies bigotry, as well as the loss of any

real independence or true normality.

Usually when I go to bed at night, I read myself to sleep with a

recorded book. A few months ago somebody took me to task for this.

The person said something to this effect: "You should not read

recorded books. You should use Braille. After all, the Federation

advocates Braille literacy, and if you use tapes and talking books,

you decrease the circulation of Braille from the libraries, and you

also set a bad example. What kind of statement are you making? What

kind of image are you creating? You have an obligation to serve as

a role model."

I didn't argue with the person. It wouldn't have done any good.

Yes, I use Braille; and as you know, I find it helpful. More than

that. My life would be poorer without it. But Braille is a means.

It is a vehicle, not an article of faith. I am conscious of the

fact that I have an obligation to be a role model, and I do the

best I can to meet the requirement. But the kind of role model I

want to be (for anybody who cares to see me that way) is that of a

competent, well-balanced human being, not a caricature. The fact

that I don't want to die of thirst doesn't mean that I want to


What is independence? I would define it this way. With respect to

reading, it means getting the information you want with a minimum

amount of inconvenience and expense. For me that means Braille, but

it also means using live readers, recordings, and (despite my

limited competence in that area) a certain amount of work with

computers. For somebody else the combination may be different, but

any active blind person who lacks skill in Braille will be

limited■not necessarily unable to compete but definitely limited.

As to travel, independence is the ability to go where you want when

you want without inconvenience to yourself or others. Probably none

of us (blind or sighted) ever fully achieves that goal all of the

time■and almost all of us achieve at least some of it some of the

time. Usually we are on a continuum.

If I could not travel by myself without discomfort or great

expense, there are times when it would be a real problem. What

about the trip I made to Kansas City in May of this year to meet

with local Federationists and speak at a JOB seminar? My wife had

other things to do, and it would have been inconvenient to take

somebody else. I went alone. Did I have any assistance during the

trip? Yes. At times■when it was convenient for me and not

inconvenient to others.

What about the time last month when I was called for jury duty? It

would have been very difficult for a guide to have accompanied me

to the jury box or the jury room■so, of course, I went by myself.

Does that mean that nobody showed me where the jury box was or gave

other assistance? No. It means that I went where I needed to go

without inconvenience to me or those around me. That is what I call


Just as with the sighted, there are times when you as a blind

person want privacy■want to go somewhere (to see a boyfriend or

girlfriend, for instance) without being accompanied by your daily

associates, want to buy a present for a friend or a loved one, or

just feel like following a whim. In such cases a dog or a cane is

helpful. On the other hand, there are times when the assistance of

a sighted person is extremely beneficial. Taken by itself, the use

or lack of use of a sighted guide has very little, if anything at

all, to do with real independence. In fact, the whole notion of

independence (not just in mobility but also in everything else)

involves the concept of doing what you want when you want, and

doing it without paying such a heavy price (either monetarily or

otherwise) that the thing is hardly worth having once you get it or

do it.

In conclusion, I say to each member of this organization: Hold your

head high in the joy of accomplishment and the pride of

independence■but not because of dog or cane or human arm, and not

because of your ability to read Braille or use a computer. These

are the trappings of independence, not the substance of it. They

should be learned, and used when needed■but they should be regarded

only as means, not ends. Our independence comes from within. A

slave can have keen eyesight, excellent mobility, and superb

reading skills■and still be a slave. We are achieving freedom and

independence in the only way that really counts■in rising

self-respect, growing self-confidence, and the will and the ability

to make choices. Above all, independence means choices, and the

power to make those choices stick. We are getting that power, and

we intend to have more of it. That is why we have organized. That

is why we have the National Federation of the Blind. We know where

we are going, and we know how to get there. Let anybody who doubts

it put us to the test. My brothers and my sisters, the future is

ours! Let us meet it with joy; let us meet it with hope; and (most

important of all) let us meet it together!