INK PRINT EDITION
VOICE OF THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
The National Federation of the Blind is not an organization speaking for the Blind--it is the blind speaking for themselves
N. F. B. Headquarters
2652 Shasta Road, Berkeley 8, Calif.
Digitized by the Internet Archive in 2010
with funding from National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
THE BRAILLE MONITOR- -February 1958
Fifteen Congressmen Join Walter Baring
New Jersey Council Affiliates with NFB
New Yorker Magazine Features NFB President
Who Tells the Blind What They may Read
Oregon Conference Clarifies New Public Assistance Bill
Baring-Folsom Correspondence on Right-to-Organize Bills
The Helpless Blind
Misconceptions--"Three More Myths," by Alma Murphey
Chapter Bus by Donald Capps
Is This "Disruptive?"
A Hopeful Development
Skilcraft in Michigan
Nevada Blind Defeats Racketeer
Blind Win Important Victory
Here and There
As reported in the last issue, Federationists in almost every State, singly and in delegations, were very active in contacting members of the Senate and the House of Representatives who were home between sessions. Striking evidence of the effectiveness of this work, and of the strong follow-up by the Federation's Washington staff, is now becoming manifest. As we reach our deadline, 15 of Congressman Baring's colleagues in the House have introduced bills identical with H.R. 8609. Their names and the numbers of the companion bills they have introduced follow. If you see the name of a Congressman from your State, be sure to write him and express your appreciation.
Elmer J. Holland, Pa., H.R. 9659; Leo William O'Brien, N. Y. , H.R. 9695; Adam C. Powell, N. Y. , H.R. 9702; James Roosevelt, Calif. , 9720; Edward P. Boland, Mass., H.R. 9857; Harold D. Donohue, Mass., H.R. 9858; George Huddleston, Ala., H.R. 9916; Thomas L. Ashley, Ohio, H.R. 9964; Ross Bass, Tenn. , H.R. 9965; Jackson Betts, Ohio, H.R. 9997; John L. McMillan, S. C. , H.R. 10019; John B. Williams, Miss., H.R. 10032; John Jarmen, Okla. , H.R. 10057; Clifford Davis, Tenn., H.R. 10110, and Gordon L. McDonough, Calif., H.R. 10179.
The statement which accompanied the bill introduced by Congressman Thomas L. Ashley, of Toledo, Ohio, is especially worthy of note: "Mr. Speaker, during the recent congressional recess I was privileged to receive a delegation of constituents representing the Toledo Council of the Blind and to discuss with them the need of a law to safeguard the right of the blind to self-expression through organizations of the blind. As a result of this and other discussions, I have prepared legislation which I am pleased to introduce today for this purpose. As you are aware, countless organizations of blind persons exist today throughout the country. They have been formed by the blind quite naturally to advance their own welfare and common interests and provide to our blind citizens an opportunity for collective self-expression--an opportunity to voice their views on Government-financed programs for their aid and rehabilitation. It is important that these views be heard and considered. Unfortunately, however, it appears that the freedom that each of our blind citizens should have to join or not to join organizations of the blind has been prejudiced by certain professional workers who through official action have exerted undue control and influence over the lives and conduct of their sightless clients. It is important that our blind citizens be protected against this kind of authority to interfere with their freedom of self-expression through organizations of the blind.
"The bill which I am introducing is similar to that offered by Senator John F. Kennedy and would do two things. It would direct the Secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare to consult and advise with representatives or organizations of the blind in his formulation and administration of programs for the blind and encourage State agencies to do likewise. Secondly, the bill requires that no Federal officer or employee concerned with the administration of programs for the blind shall exert the influence of his office against the right of blind persons to join organizations of the blind and, further, the bill shall condition Federal grants to State programs for the blind so that employees in these programs will refrain from exerting the influence of their office against organizations of the blind.
"I earnestly commend this meritorious legislation to the prompt and favorable consideration of my colleagues. "
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On Sunday, January 19, the New Jersey Council of Organizations of the Blind, meeting at Perth Amboy, voted unanimously to affiliate with the National Federation of the Blind. The New Jersey Council consists of ten organizations of the blind, including the New Jersey Blind Men's Association, the former NFB affiliate in New Jersey.
The BMA had joined the Federation in 1942. Its membership, however is restricted to men. With the adoption of the Code of Affiliate Standards in 1955, the BMA no longer qualified because of this restrictive membership policy. The BMA was notified and for a time considered a basic change in its constitution which would have admitted women members, but finally decided against this. In September of last year it sent word to Dr. tenBroek that it was surrendering its charter and that it recommended that the charter be transferred to the New Jersey Council.
As a result, we now have a far more representative affiliate in New Jersey, since membership is open to women in all the other nine Council affiliates. We have not lost the BMA and have gained more than 600 additional members.
Mr. George Burck, 27 Burlington Ave., Leonardo, N. J., was elected president of the New Jersey Council on Oct. 20. He is thoroughly conversant with NFB philosophy, having served as president of our former New Jersey affiliate.
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The New Yorker, one of the most widely read and highly respected American weeklies, published an article in its Jan. 11th issue entitled, "The Right to Compete. " Judging from the volume of mail being received at national headquarters and at the other two NFB offices, the article has aroused nationwide interest. The Monitor has received permission from The New Yorker to reproduce this material and the article follows in its entirety:
Jacobus tenBroek, a hearty, vigorous man of forty-six with aquiline features, a ruddy complexion, and a carefully groomed reddish goatee, is an authority on government and constitutional law, a field in which he has published a number of highly regarded books and monographs; the chairman of the Speech Department of the University of California at Berkeley; a member of California's Social Welfare Board; and the country's leading lobbyist and campaigner against an adage that he deems mistaken, mischievous, and far too commonly accepted--the one that goes "When the blind lead the blind, they all fall into the ditch. " As president and one of the founders of the National Federation of the Blind, Professor tenBroek, who lost his sight when he was a boy, has a formidable spare-time schedule of speeches, conferences, and caucuses, through which he seeks to spread his organization's belief that the blind are much more capable than is generally realized of holding down normal jobs and running their own affairs. "I've had to make ten flying trips throughout the country on the last twelve weekends, " he told us when he called on us at our office during a stopover of a few hours in New York, in route from Washington, D. C. , where he had been talking with congressmen about legislation that his organization is advocating, to Springfield, Massachusetts, where he was scheduled to make a speech before one of the Federation's local chapters. "As a rule, I board the plane Friday evening, right after my last class, " he said, "I prepare my speeches during the trip, and usually manage to pick up a return flight that gets me to Berkeley just in time for my Monday-morning eight-o'clock class. " He laughed. "My children--I have three--are getting fed up with this routine. They say they're beginning to forget what I look like. "
One of Professor tenBroek's chief ambitions as he flies about the country is to persuade people he meets that he is not exceptional in either talent or character but pretty much an ordinary man who has simply refused to accept the widespread assumption that a blind person must live a dependent and sheltered life. "I've got a neighbor in Berkeley--a blind man I've known since we were classmates at school--who built his house entirely with his own hands," he said. "It's quite a good-sized house, too--about twenty-seven hundred square feet. He built the forms, poured the cement, put in the plumbing, did the wiring--everything. The place is on a fairly steep hillside, and before he could start he had to make himself a large power-operated boom, for hauling his materials up to the site. Now, there's a man that someone like me --someone who has no aptitude for that sort of thing--would call an exceptional person, but he doesn't seem to think he is. He says he just happens to be handy with tools. " The Professor shook his head in admiration.
"As things are now, " he went on, "most of the country's three hundred and twenty-five thousand blind people who work are employed in the special sheltered shops that society--with the best and most charitable intentions--has set up for us, where we can make baskets and such, and come to no harm. Only about two or three per cent of us are holding normal jobs out in the world. My organization is convinced at least twenty times that many could be doing so if they had the chance. What we seek for the blind is the right to compete on equal terms. In this, the Federation-- the only national organization in this field whose membership and officers are all blind--is very much at odds with most of the traditional organiza- tions and agencies set up to help us, which are sure they know better than we do what is good for us. But we've been making considerable progress. In the last few years, we've succeeded in persuading the Civil Service to let blind people try out for many categories of jobs from which they used to be excluded. "
We asked Professor tenBroek what jobs he himself thinks are impossible for the blind to hold. He laughed, stroked his goatee professorially, and said, "Well, airplane pilot, I suppose--though, for that matter, planes fly most of the time nowadays on automatic controls, don't they, and someday may be completely automatic. Actually, I can't say what the limits are. Every time I think I have hit on some job that a blind man couldn't conceivably hold, I find a blind man holding it. One of my friends in the Federation is an experimental nuclear physicist, and you wouldn't think of that as a promising field for a blind man to be in. Dr. Bradley Burson is his name, and he's at the Argonne National Laboratory, near Chicago. When he was working on problems involving the decay of radio-active matter, he invented some devices for himself that measured the decay in terms of audible and tactile signals, rather than the commonly employed visual signals. Some of the devices turned out to be more accurate than the standard ones, and are now widely used at the lab. I'd always assumed that being an electrician would be impossible for a blind man, but not long ago I found a blind electrician--a fellow named Jack Polston. I went and talked to his boss, and he told me that Polston does everything any other electrician can do--wiring, soldering, and all the rest. While I was there, Polston was doing the complete wiring for a service station, which I'm told is a particularly complicated job. To be sure, he had been an electrician before he became blind, but don't ask me how he solders without setting the place on fire. I couldn't, even if I had my sight. Any-way, now that I've found him I'm pestering the Civil Service not to disqualify blind people automatically from trying out for electricians' jobs. "
Professor tenBroek paused for a moment, and then said, "Don't let me give you the idea that it isn't a nuisance to be blind. To bump your head on an overhanging sign as you walk down the street, or to fall into a hole that anybody else can see--it's a nuisance, I can assure you, but it isn't a catastrophe." He stood up, buttoning his coat, and picked up his cane and his briefcase. "Well," he said briskly, "it's after two o'clock, and I'll have to step lively if I'm going to make it out to LaGuardia in time to catch the three-fifteen for Springfield. If you'll be so kind as to see me to the elevator, I'll carry on from there. "
As we go to press many more repercussions from The New Yorker article are becoming apparent. Dr. Bradley Burson has been interviewed by all three international press associations and by two of the great Chicago dailies. On Jan. 22nd he appeared on the Dave Garroway Show, which rates as one of the most important of all network television productions. Dr. Burson [who is a member of the NFB Board of Directors ], gave an excellent account of himself during this interview. The Sacramento Union devoted an editorial to Dr. tenBroek. The San Francisco Examiner is preparing to publish an extensive article on the NFB president and on the organization for which he has done so much.
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[The following article was contributed by a well-known blind educator. ]
When asked casually for their impressions of library facilities for blind borrowers, a number of blind adults, including several students, responded with expressions as "deplorable"; "inadequate"; "meagre"; "not fitting the needs and tastes of blind persons"; "hand-outs, not choices. "
There is little doubt that in this day of highly specialized communication media, library facilities for blind persons are lagging and unimaginative.
Many of the Braille libraries are somewhat strangely housed. The logical place would appear to be the public library, to allow for extensive reading of collateral material not in Braille, and, in addition, to foster that feeling of equality so highly cherished by all blind people. All too often, the Braille librarary is housed in the local agency for the blind, giving the unavoidable impression that the agency has provided the library as part of its welfare or philanthropic work, when in reality the Braille library is a branch of the Library of Congress, supported by congressional appropriations. This type of setup is misleading to the general public.
It is now over three years since the word "adult" was taken out of the law, yet we have fallen far short of satisfying the reading needs of the young blind in either Brailled or recorded books. There seems to be a sterility of ideas in this area.
Talking Book machines are still of the horse-and-buggy variety, with no provision for speeding up or slowing down as desired. The supply is pathetically inadequate. The small but progressive country of Sweden has practically discarded the old platter and substituted tape. Virtually every blind person in that country possesses a recorder purchased at a nominal figure. The tapes arrive in neat plastic containers. Books are run off from a master tape, fourteen at a time. In this day of refined mechanization, it is absurd that blind children, students, and blind people in general are still struggling with the scratchy disc (often almost unintelligible), a single speed, and an unpredictable mechanism.
A perusal of an article which appeared recently in the New Outlook for the Blind reveals a discouraging picture. It seems to me that the attempt to improve conditions described therein begins at the wrong end. The proposed "improvement" is focused on the already topheavy administration of the program. There is no mention of participation by the blind them- selves, who know through personal experience the frustrations arising from paucity of materials, restriction of selection and unsatisfactory distribution. It is not unusual for the borrower to wait for six months for a book which may be anywhere in the far reaches of the "region" in which he resides. It is not unusual for a person to wait the better part of a year for his Talking Book machine. Obviously this results in much inconvenience and is a source of constant irritation to all readers but is especially serious for students.
Yes, indeed, there are lots of Brailled and recorded books but this means little if the titles are not those which are desired or needed. Unordered books keep coming but those which are specifically requested seldom arrive. I asked for the "Roosevelts of Sagamore Hill" and they sent me "The Life of Jesus. " The book I wanted never came, and so it goes. The same title is all too frequently sent to a reader within the space of a few months.
Apparently some of those who select our books for us are convinced that we are not mature enough to be trusted with the more unconventional novels which are available to all sighted readers. They might be unsettling and affect our morals. We must be protected from anything "unsavory. " It is claimed that a small list of "prominent" blind persons is occasionally consulted but this, at best, can only elicit the opinions, preferences, and prejudices of a few individuals. No slightest effort has ever been made to obtain the composite views of the majority of intelligent blind readers, through systematic consultation with their own organizations. Perhaps it is our own fault, to some extent, for not being more articulate in calling attention to the shortcomings of a program which is either wholly unknown to the general public or assumed to be adequate. But the fact remains that no method has been provided by the program administrators by which majority views can be communicated. A few scattered and desultory communications from blind individuals can have but little effect. The development of the program has been left to the "professionals, " themselves nonusers of the facilities and unacquainted with the consumer end of the program. Sighted individuals can at best only theorize about the personal and social implications of blindness. It would seem desirable, practicable and feasible to call for the cooperation of organized groups of the blind, which could conduct surveys among their members and report the results. It would be honest-to-goodness common sense to call for representation from the organized blind of the nation to consult with, and advise, and help carry out a forward-looking program.
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A valuable and constructive discussion on the proposal of the Oregon Council of the Blind for an improved blind aid law was held in Portland December 31. Present were representatives of the Oregon legislature, the state welfare department, the Oregon Council, and the National Federation of the Blind.
Among those present at the meeting were Miss Jeanne Jewett, Administrator of the Oregon Welfare Department; Mrs. Grace Peck, chairman of the Welfare Committee of the lower house of the State Legislature; Professor Jacobus tenBroek, president of the National Federation of the Blind; Perry Sundquist, Chief of Aid to the Blind Division of the California Department of Social Welfare, and Oregon Council members Robert and Jeanne Schauer, Stanhope Pier, Ed Gehrke, Christine Zablocki and Raymond Leahey.
The conference, called at the request of the Oregon Council of the Blind, grew out of earlier efforts by the Council to gain adoption of a comprehensive measure reorganizing and reforming State public assistance for the blind, along lines of the law presently in effect in Nevada. The bill was introduced at the 1957 session of the Oregon Legislature, but failed of approval as a result of numerous objections on the part of Miss Jewett and the Federal Government, and as a result of its late introduction as well as other procedural complications. The Oregon Council thus was unable to secure its adoption last year--although, it may be added, the blind of the State had achieved remarkable success in gaining legislative approval of other features of their program.
The principal characteristics of the proposed blind aid measure, around which the discussion of the December conference centered, were: The creation of a "floor" to basic needs; establishment of a separate division for the blind, with separate rules and regulations; abolition of liens against estates, reduction of the residence requirement; elimination of relatives' responsibility provisions; insertion of material regarding self-care and self-support; and increase of personal property allowances for aid recipients.
Only one of these major features--the establishment of a separate division for the blind within the Welfare Department- -drew explicit objection from Miss Jewett at the conference. Her opposition was based on the claim that such a division would not conform to principles of good administration, which require the maximum integration and coordination with a minimum of subordinate units. Dr. tenBroek maintained, on the contrary, that welfare problems of the blind are intrinsically different from problems of the aged and of needy children, that the administration of aid to the blind accordingly must be specialized in order to be effective and constructive and that such specialization and efficiency can be achieved by a division or other unit devoted exclusively to administration of this program. Unfortunately, no reconciliation of these conflicting viewpoints emerged from the conference discussion.
In the view of the blind persons participating, the conference with State administrative and legislative representatives proved productive and helpful in clarifying misunderstandings and establishing constructive working relationships. Progress was made toward bringing the new bill into conformity with requirements of Oregon law and relating it to already existing programs such as those dealing with general assistance. The Welfare Department representatives, who included the chief of the Division of Public Assistance and the Department's legal counselor as well as Miss Jewett, displayed a cooperative and perceptive attitude; and Mrs. Peck gave assurance that she would reintroduce the revised bill at the forthcoming legislative session and campaign vigorously for its passage.
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Evasions, glittering generalizations and doubtful declarations marked the recent reply by Health, Education and Welfare Secretary Marion B. Folsom to a November request by Congressman Walter S. Baring, of Nevada, sponsor of H. R. 8609, for an endorsement by HEW of the bill protecting the right of the blind to organize for self-expression and providing for their consulation on programs directed to their welfare and security.
In his first communication to Secretary Folsom, dated November 22, Congressman Baring expressed confidence that "you and I have a deep mutual interest in the enactment of this proposed legislation" and reminded the Secretary of his earlier statement that "your Department, as a matter of standard policy, consults with Interested organizations, including those of the blind, in the formulation of sound policies in developing and admininstering the programs of the Department, and that your policy would further protect organizations of the blind from interference by an officer or employee of the Department."
Observing that he had followed closely the progress of the organized blind and "read and discussed practically every phase of their activities and programs, their objectives and philosophies, " Congressman Baring called attention to "an existing effort to impede their progress, because their progress has been detrimental to the interests of certain quasi-public organizations which have assumed the role of spokesmen for the blind. " As examples, he cited a resolution by the American Association of Workers for the Blind and a release of the American Foundation for the Blind and expressed belief that "these papers, together with reports of questionable activities in several States... fully justify the need of such legislation as set forth in H.R. 8609."
In his reply dated December 18--nearly a full month later--Secretary Folsom restated his earlier pronouncement that "It has always been the policy of this Department to consult with leaders and representatives of agencies and organizations of and for the blind in the formulation of policies and in the administration of these programs." His reply spoke serenely of making "maximum use of advice and consultation from many organizations and groups" so that "we may have maximum participation of all interested parties and groups, " and noted that "our responsibility as public officials... is to give the same service, consideration, and cooperation to all groups. "
The Folsom letter avoided any mention of the National Federation of the Blind and failed to specify what if any consultation had been carried out with this group--the only nation-wide organization for which all blind people are eligible. With reference to the request for support by Congressman Baring, the Secretary stated only that his Department is "at present in the process of preparing a report" for submission to the Senate committee on Labor and Public Welfare, "and as soon as it has been completed we will be happy to write you further regarding the Department's position on H.R. 8609."
Secretary Folsom in his letter repeated an earlier assertion (see The Braille Monitor, August, 1957) that "this Department has never taken any action to interfere with the rights of blind persons ... to organize for self-expression. I certainly would not condon e such interference by any employees of this Department and I have no knowledge or evidence of any instance in which such action has occurred. " No reference at all--let alone any expression of interest--was made to the statement of Congressman Baring that "I have compiled in my office voluminous data verifying conditions presently existing in several States where programs supported by Federal funds are administered" and that "I know of instances of personal threat to individuals who have proposed joining organizations of the blind." It would seem clear that the Secretary of Health, Education and "Welfare has abdicated Federal responsibility for the conditions under which State programs involving Federal funds are administered, and that his interest in "noninterference" with the rights of blind clients extends only as far as the boundaries of Washington, D. C.
Replying to this letter on January 8, Congressman Baring noted once again that, "in consideration of the goal sought to be achieved and the public policies at issue, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare is in a position to make a significant contribution to the welfare of the blind of the nation by adding its weight to that of Senator Kennedy and myself in support of these bills" (H.R. 8609 and S. 2411). Quoting the Secretary's statement concerning consultation policies with organizations of and for the blind, Congressman Baring continued: "Could I ask you to provide me with a list of specific instances in which agencies in your department have consulted with the organized blind of the nation in regard to policy or program determinations made within the past few years."
Members and friends of the organized blind will await with interest the reply of Secretary Folsom to this explicit request for information by Congressman Baring, whose earnest and continuing efforts to gather all facts necessary to proper legislative action attest once more to his courageous support and sympathetic understanding of the social problems faced by the organized blind of America.
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From The New York Times, Sunday, December 15: "A twenty-eight-year-old sociology professor, who has been blind for eighteen years, is establishing a record for research at the Rutgers College of Nursing here.
"The professor, Dr. Herbert M. Greenberg, has been a member of the Department of Psychiatric Nursing since last September. In his special studies on 'The Psychological Aspects of Social Problems' he has produced five research papers for publication this year and is working on a book, 'The Psychological Aspects of Blindness.'
"'My whole thesis is that blindness is not a differential trait in itself, he said, 'but just one of thousands of human traits. If society would permit it, the loss of eyesight would not be much more of a problem than the loss of teeth.'
"Dr. Greenberg's scholarly work is currently appearing in three academic journals. This makes a total of four articles for the year; one was published, with a fifth still to come.
"The problem of the handicapped would dissolve,' he declared, 'if only society would evaluate the handicapped person on what he can prove he can do rather than on preconceived notions of what he can do.' Dr. Greenberg stressed his conviction that 'the problem is society's reaction to blindness rather than the loss of sight itself.'
"Besides teaching courses in personality structure and minorities the professor is a member of a team project that is attempting to establish 'a clearer definition' of nursing. He is also engaged in an investigation of 'value systems' in nursing.
"He received his Bachelor of Science and master's degrees from City College of New York, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. In 1955, when he was twenty-five years old, he was awarded his Doctor of Philosophy degree from New York University ..."
Earl Stonefish was blinded in 1944, shortly after he had completed a mechanic's course. Nearly two years of training passed before he felt fully ready for a job in his trade. Then he asked for the toughest one that could be given him. The skeptical garage owner brought out a five-year-old automobile which needed a complete engine overhaul, including adjust- ment of tappets--one of the most exacting jobs a mechanic could be called upon to do. Earl finished the work in record time and stood by while the chief service man gave it a painstaking inspection. "Absolutely remarkable," was the verdict. " This is an excellent job. " The garage owner immediately offered Earl a full-time job at top pay. Earl said uneasily, "All right, boss, but I've got to be honest with you. I'm only taking this job to earn enough money to buy a garage of my own. " Not long afterwards he had that garage and was in business for himself. "
...A strong, personal drive for readjustment, plus extensive cooperation of his immediate supervisor, has resulted in a blind man at Tachikawa Air Base filling a position of executive responsibility. The record of Mr. Nyal D. McConoughey, a Department of the Air Force civilian employee here, is one more step forward in proving that the capabilities and talents of the physically handicapped can be effectively utilized if they, and conditions, are adjusted to their circumstances. The story of McConoughey's struggle for readjustment began on October 22, 19 54, when his eyesight failed as he was driving to work in the Directorate of Supply and Services at Tachikawa. Doctors diagnosed retinal detachment with severe hemorrhage and expressed doubt that he ever would see again. Determined to train himself in new skills, Mr. McConoughey shortly after left his wife, Fusako and young son, Wayne, at their home in Kokubunji and returned to his parental residence in Dayton, Ohio, to begin rehabilitation training.
The next two years proved to be a battle of determination against handicap as the blind man learned to touch-type, read Braille, keep track of his papers and money, and to make his way swiftly and surely using a cane, and otherwise adjusting to his new condition. After satisfying himself that he could be usefully employed, Mr. McConoughey applied for and was restored to active duty under the Air Force's special program of reemploying its civilian members who become handicapped. He subsequently returned to Tachikawa and a reunion with his wife and son in May of this year. Once having settled down, McConoughey plunged enthusiastically into his new work and soon developed a plan for controlling all Japanese personnel activities throughout the branch ... For those persons that have observed him in the actual performance of his work, Mr. McConoughey is a living rebuttal to the illusion shared by many, that the physically handicapped should be retired from active employment.
(Editor's Note: From the above account it might be supposed that Mr. McConoughey had an easy time getting back into foreign service. As a matter of fact, it was only after a very long struggle that he was given this chance. The National Federation entered this fight early and stayed with it to the finish. Active cooperation was received from Mr. Leonard Berman of the Air Force, Mr. Arthur C. Murr, Medical Division, U. S. Civil Service, and others.)
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Writing in Viewpoint , the Braille publication of the British NFB, John Jarvis, International Secretary of the Royal National Institute for the Blind, describes a recent trip to Jordan and Israel. John, (who is totally blind), may possibly be one of our speakers at Boston next July. I met him first at the Paris meeting of the World Council in 1954. Darlene and I were his guests in London in 1956.
His current article confirms what the world-famous Sir Klutha MacKenzie had previously told me--that in Jordan, as in almost all Moham-medan countries, the situation of the blind is even worse than in many more primitive cultures. Only in Turkey have the blind made even a start toward self-organization; while only in Turkey and Egypt has there been even the slightest indication of governmental concern for blind welfare. The attitude of the sighted public in these countries is almost universally one of indifference, verging on aversion and hostility. Except in wealthy families, the fate of the blind is to beg or starve.
John spent nine days in Jordan as the guest of the Bible Lands Missions Aid Society, which operates three little Christian schools for blind children. "The work goes on, " he writes, "in spite of the life of the world around it and not as a part of that world. " He was deeply touched by the simple, unquestioning faith of these youngsters--"that, thousands of miles away, there are people to whom these little blind children really matter! What are we going to do, " he asks, "to justify that simple trust? Little enough, maybe, but it's at least a beginning. Fifty-four years have passed since the first of these schools was founded, yet they are still without even a single specially trained teacher. "
After Jordan came eight days in Israel, as the official guest of the Government and in the capacity of advisor in the area of blind welfare. The contrast between the atmosphere in the two countries is almost unimaginable. In Israel men and women are eagerly building a brand new civilization. Seven out of ten Israelis have arrived during the past nine years. "Since the great majority of them are now coming from the other countries of the Middle East, and from North Africa, where the rate of blindness is alarmingly high, it is not surprising that Israel is, quite literally, importing blind people by the hundreds every year. Most of the blind welfare services which exist today are even newer than the country itself; indeed, there is only one notable exception, the Institute for the Blind, in Jerusalem, a school and training center for blind children and adolescents, which is already fifty-five years old. Even here the vested traditions of its elderly Board of Governors are not likely to remain long divorced from the dynamic drive for improvement--there are already plans for building a bigger and better school... Most training is still in traditional crafts, and most employment is still in workshops where these are practiced, but, as with us, open employment is proving to be an ever more hopeful alternative. The Welfare Ministry has already trained and placed ten blind telephonists, only one of whom has fallen down on the job--a remarkable record when it is remembered that those responsible for the training had no actual experience and had to depend on letters and glossy brochures from Great Britain and the U. S. Ten more are to be trained this summer. A few blind people are already in open industry but are mostly performing the simple operations of our early days of placement: packing oranges when they are in season, washing empty penicillin vials, and the like. For the rehabilitation of newly blinded adults, and of that greater number, already blind, who have come from other lands where nothing ... was available, generous donors in America have built a center so splendid that it looks almost too lavish for this land of enforced austerity. There is a much more modest little guide dog center from which seventy graduates are already enjoy- ing much more happiness and independence than before. There is a central Braille library, now in the process of adding talking books. There are homes for the aged and organizations of blind persons...; all this against a background of seething national effort in every direction, but always onward and upward... "
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IV. THREE MORE MYTHS--PAPER MONEY, KEENER HEARING, VOICE PICTURES
[This is the fourth in a series of articles written for a St. Louis newspaper by Jack and Alma Murphey and David Krause. Mrs. Murphey is the author of this particular instalment. ]
In my dealings with the public as a self-employed blind person, the question has often been presented to me: "Do you know what denomination this bill is?" Often surprise and sometimes disappointment are expressed when I admit that I do not know the denomination of the bill; that I am unable to distinguish paper money. It seems that my customer knew some- body who could, or feels that it would be possible if I just knew the trick. The impression that it is possible for us to detect the difference in paper currency is probably created by the fact that money in our possession is handled in such a way that we know just what we have. The way a bill is folded or the place in which it is kept indicates to us its denomination. In this way we are able to produce a specified bill upon request. Let me point out that the only tasks performed by blind persons are those in which sight is not required. Those things for which sight is necessary, we do not do. The numbers on paper currency can be distinguished only by sight. Therefore, I am unable, and I feel safe in saying all other people who cannot read with their eyes, are unable to distinguish paper money.
Blind people have better hearing than sighted people—this is another bit of widespread information with no real basis. In some instances this might seem to be the case. We who have been blind for a very long time depend upon our hearing for many things. It is not that our ears are capable of absorbing more sound, but the sounds are interpreted and made useful to us. On the other hand it has been pointed out by a man who has had much experience in work with the blind that in many cases a person who loses his sight as an adult loses some of the keenness of hearing. Being unable to see what has attracted his attention, he begins to doubt that he has heard it. So as time goes on his hearing becomes less acute. To further discredit the general belief that the blind have better hearing, there are hundreds of people in this country who are not only blind, but totally deaf as well.
Another question frequently asked is: "Do you know what I look like by the sound of my voice?" I am always a dismal failure where this is concerned. A voice can indicate something of one's mood and personality but it is just not sufficient to create a picture. To many blind persons, including myself, the color of one's hair and eyes and his features are of little or no importance....
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by DONALD CAPPS
[Editor's Note: Here is certainly a noteworthy addition to Mr. Jernigan's list of chapter projects. I can think of quite a number of other local groups where such a thing might be an ideal solution to a major problem.]
Among the many problems precipitated by blindness is that of transportation. The Columbia Chapter of the South Carolina Aurora Club of the Blind, Inc., South Carolina's affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind, has virtually conquered its transportation problem.
Some one and one-half years ago the chapter, whose membership numbers approximately seventy-five voted to purchase a used school bus. Since we were able to acquire the bus, at a very nominal cost, we were able to make many improvements to the bus. It was appropriately painted. In addition, we have recently installed a new engine. Other improvements have also been made such as tires, etc., and we are pleased to report that we expect this bus to provide adequate transportation for several years to come. We use the bus not only for chapter meetings but also for recreational activities.
Recently, the bus made a trip to one of South Carolina's State parks. When the bus was painted we also had the chapter's name painted on the side of the bus and when visiting the State park, which was some fifty miles from Columbia, the park superintendent wanted to know what was the Columbia Aurora Club. This question made me realize that we should have added the words "of the blind" under our club name, Columbia Aurora Club. The following week the bus was taken to a commercial sign painter for this to be done. When I returned to secure the bus, I noted that the words "for the blind" had been written under Columbia Aurora Club instead of "of the blind. " This was quickly called to the attention of the gentleman doing the work and after explaining the differences between "for" and "of" the bus now proudly carries the full name of our chapter.
It would be incomplete to state that the acquisition of the bus has not created some new problems. Chief among these are securing a driver when needed and maintenance. However, we have been able to meet these problems and the bus is so dearly loved by all the members that it has become a club fixture. We believe that the Columbia Chapter is the only chapter of the National Federation of the Blind which owns a bus and we feel that it would be beneficial to others to follow suit.
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To: Joseph L. Abel, Tucson, Arizona, January 8, 1958
"In reply to your letter of December 8, 1957, the original copy of your film is being forwarded to you under separate cover. We have obtained a duplicate which will be retained here in our office for those occasions on which it is needed. We have not received a request from the Texas Commission for the Blind concerning the film, but it should prove helpful to any agency seeking to place blind persons as telephone switch-board operators.
"The evidence which the film presented has played a major role in convincing the Federal Civil Service Commission that blind persons can successfully operate switchboards. The Commission is now ready to open this classification, but this matter is being held up by negotiations to provide a solution to the problems involved in the additional rental charges. Your efforts in this area have made a significant contribution to the advancement of our common cause and we expect that in the near future telephone switchboard positions with the Federal government will be open to the blind for the first time...
John N. Taylor. "
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The January issue of Coronet contains a remarkable, well-written article on the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and its directing genius, Col. E. A. Baker. Colonel Baker is also President of the World Council for the Welfare of the Blind, with which the NFB is affiliated. I have come to know him well and to respect him deeply.
After describing Colonel Baker's early struggles and his pioneering work in Canada with pitifully inadequate resources, the article continues:
Thirty-eight years later, in the spring of 1956, the CNIB built its new ultra-progressive Baker Wood on ten landscaped acres at a cost of $3,150, 000. Some seventy per cent of the money was raised by the Institute itself, the remainder through government grants and private bequests. It is one of the most advanced training centers for the blind in the world and the hub of twenty-two smaller "Baker Woods" strategically located across Canada, as well as another twenty-four administrative and job placement offices.
Its six buildings contain administrative offices, classrooms, work-shops and residences for use during the training period. Most of the ideas for layout came from the blind themselves. In the residences, every door knob is of a different design, to make for easy identification.
Included are recreational and craft departments, a library containing 80,000 talking books and touch-type magazines, a publishing house, and an auditorium where the blind put on their own plays and concerts, hold meetings and dances.
The hobby center is open at all hours, so the newcomer can increase his skills and develop the use of the special senses he will now need. In Colonel Baker's own case these compensatory senses are developed to the point where his favorite hobby is one that is considered highly hazardous even to sighted persons--a do-it yourself workshop equipped with power tools. Friends dropping by of an evening still cannot quite overcome an eerie feeling when they discover him working in his cellar, amid whirring saw blades--in total darkness.
Baker Wood's modern occupational facilities are designed to teach more than 100 trades, vocations and professions for use in every phase of industry and business. The national staff consists of 120 teachers, administrators and placement officers, most with university degrees, all of whom are blind, and another 30 who are experts in vocational training.
In addition to its training facilities, the Institute runs its own factories—which make such items as house and garden furniture, uniforms and dresses--and does subcontracting. As a result, it has now become more than fifty per cent self-sustaining.
As soon as the Institute hears that a man or woman has been blinded, efforts are made to get a counsellor to him immediately. This counselor, known as a field secretary, appraises what can be done, and gives the patient a boost in morale. Since the counsellor also is blind, this morale improvement is easier to bring about than it is for the average relative or physician.
The field secretary also makes an immediate decision as to the next step in rehabilitation of the patient. Has he had enough previous training in a field adaptable to blind occupation? Or should he be trained for something else? Does he need an aptitude test? Does he need only a limited amount of training at one of the twenty-two different centers across the country, or should he be sent to Baker Wood for more extensive training, perhaps leading to the university level?
He has brought a typewriter and set on the road to learning to type by the touch system. Through typing, he can write to his friends and relatives. Typing is perhaps the most important and satisfying of the immediate activities to be learned by the blind.
In the case of a housewife, a CNIB woman home teacher may come to live at her home for two or three weeks, to educate her family in how to help her, and to teach her how to arrange everything so she can carry on a competent life.
A course at Baker Wood may be completed in from three weeks to three years, depending on the individual needs of the student. The average is six months....
The most important adjustment the blind person has to make is learn- ing to get about in a normal way. Earl Green, who has been blind since 1920, specializes in teaching a fundamental: learning to walk. The training ground is the most difficult possible one--the busiest section of the city...
As a result of its diversified rehabilitation and training program, CNIB graduates enter the sighted world assured and competent. Colonel Baker derives great satisfaction from this, and from the knowledge that each has learned not only to accept the handicap of blindness, but to overcome it... As Colonel Baker says, "It is not what you have lost that counts, but what you have left. "
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One of the two objectives of the legislation sponsored by Senator Kennedy and Congressman Baring is to give the organized blind people of the United States an opportunity to be consulted and to express their views with respect to the policies and program which are formulated and put into effect for the benefit of blind people. The little clique of agency heads which dictates the policies and "guides the thinking" of the organized pro- fessional workers for the blind in this country has professed to be horrified by such a proposal. Some of its spokesmen have at times become almost hysterical in their public and private statements. Suggestions and criticism from such an "unqualified and unprofessional" source would, they claim, disrupt services to the blind. Meanwhile, in those States and communities where are liberal, enlightened, independent-thinking agency heads, (and the number is not inconsiderable), consultation with the organized blind continues and increases, with mutually satisfactory results.
In a State where the vocational rehabilitation agency has always been receptive to suggestions from the organized blind, our NFB affiliate recently requested and received a copy of the State Vocational Rehabilitation Plan. After giving this document long and intensive study, our affiliate submitted a series of suggestions for its future improvement. These are so carefully thought out and so eminently reasonable--in a word so constructive that we are reproducing excerpts below. Keep in mind that this is the sort of thing the AAWB resolution calls disruptive.
"...Since receiving the copy we have devoted ourselves to its study. From it we have gained a far better picture of the over-all administration of rehabilitation and other services in our State than we had before. Considering its general purposes the plan was understandably not designed to cover many important subjects in extensive detail.
"The questions, comments, and suggestions follow.
1. The plan indicates that the Agency cooperates with a number of other agencies carrying on related or similar functions. Could you tell us just how and to what extent there is cooperative action between the board and: (a) the State agency administering public assistance; (b) the State employment services; (c) the general rehabilitation agency.
"2. The plan provides for the establishment of a blind advisory committee. Will you tell us about the operation of this committee and the selection of its members? Hovt has it worked out? Is its review of programs penetrating? Does it produce a number of constructive ideas? What are the criteria for the selection of members? Does the Agency recommend names to the governor for appointments? Who are the present members and what are their qualifications for membership?
"Suggestion and Recommendation. The organized blind of the State as distinguished from workers for the blind or professional agency personnel should be represented on this committee. Of the six members at least two should be selected in this way and for this purpose. One method of accomplishing this would be to make appointments from a list nominated by this organization.
"3. Vocational Rehabilitation Service is a phrase defined in the plan as covering 'the establishment of workshops for severely handicapped individuals. 'Also remunerative occupation is defined as including: 'sheltered employment and home industries or other home-bound work of a remunerative nature. 'Preparation for and placement in sheltered shops or home-bound industries can only properly be regarded as a vocational rehabilitation service in the case of those blind individuals who for reasons in addition to their blindness cannot be prepared for and placed in competitive employment.
"Suggestion and Recommendation. This section of the plan should be amended so as to make this plain. Moreover, such work should only be defined as remunerative if it is in fact remunerative, i. e., at the level of a living wage. The plan should set up criteria and standards for judging the circumstances in which such employment is remunerative. If the work is not remunerative the client may still wish to engage in it, but it should then be regarded as work therapy or as a means of gaining supplemental income.
"Could you give us some data about the workshops? How many persons are employed in them? What are their wages? How many persons have been placed in the shops through rehabilitation and have been treated as closures?
"4. Under the heading of case-finding the plan indicates that cooperative working relations have been established with private and public agencies which come into contact with the blind. What are these relations? How many references are procured in this way and from what public and private agencies? What is the active program of information and publicity mentioned in the plan particularly with reference to the disabled themselves?
"5. It is our belief that final decisions and choices in the rehabilitation program should lie with the client. This is especially true with respect to the final choice of occupational or professional objective.
"Even where the counsellor does not select the job or profession for the client, his counseling may be so imparted as to leave the client little choice, little opportunity to act on his own feelings and interests and little alternative. Whatever the practice may be in this State... (and we assume and hear that it varies from counselor to counselor) the tone of the plan statement on this subject does not seem to us to be good. 'The diagnostic study will be adequate and will be used: (4) to select an employment objective commensurate with the individual 's capacities and limitations. ' The plan should be modified so as to make it plainer to all counselors that the client must play an essential role in evaluating the results of the diagnostic study especially so far as it deals with his aptitudes and limitations; that the counselor may guide him in interpreting the results but no more; and that in the end, if the client desires to move in a direction of his own choice, it is the function of the rehabilitation agency to aid him in doing so. The counselors, moreover, should be cautioned in the plan not to tie their thinking about occupations and professions for the blind to any stereotyped list. They must be urged to use boldness, imagination, and resourcefulness in stimulating clients to follow their own desires in this respect into paths previously untrod or little used and into new fields of endeavor.
"The tone of the present plan is again expressed in the statement that the diagnostic study will include an evaluation of the individual's employment opportunities. Since employment opportunities are listed along with personality, intelligence level, educational achievements, work experience, vocational aptitudes and interests, the employment opportunities are con- sidered an aspect only of the individual's personal traits and aptitudes. Far more, we believe on the contrary, they relate to the social environment. No reference is made as to what the staff should do about environment.
"Again the Agency formulates the individual rehabilitation plan based upon the data secured in the diagnostic study and specifies the vocational rehabilitation objective. True, the rehabilitation plan and vocational objective are to be formulated by the Agency with the 'client's participation. 'But this may be satisfied by his mere presence. His affirmative participation should be elicited by the counselor. Indeed it should be a specified duty of the counselor to stimulate this.
"The controlling rather than the stimulative role of the counselor is suggested by the present plan's section dealing with the guidance function of the counselor. The counselor is 'to acquaint' the client 'with the logic of choosing a vocation'; frequently this should have less to do with logic than with the client's strong desire. The counselor is to 'assist' the client 'in cultivating a self-understanding of his capacities, aptitudes and interests based on the data secured during the case study. 'This over-assesses the value of the diagnostic data. Such data are merely suggestive. They must not be taken as determinative. Often an insight of the counselor 'assists' the client in 'selecting suitable and realistic vocational goals. ' What are the criteria of suitability and realism? These words are likely to be ominously prescriptive in the final administration.
"Suggestion and Recommendation. The whole guidance function of the rehabilitation counselor and his role in the entire process as well as that of the client should be restated, in line with the above comments.
"6. Under the heading of economic need and needs factor services, the plan does not set forth the relevant criteria. It should do so. However, the plan does contain a statement that 'the board maintains written standards for measuring the financial need of clients with respect to normal living requirements and for determining their financial ability to meet the cost of necessary rehabilitation services. ' We should like very much to see these 'written standards. ' In general our feeling is that the means test used by rehabilitation should be far more generous than that used by public assistance. Rehabilitation is in the nature of education which should be free in this democracy. Hence the means test in rehabilitation should be abolished altogether. We realize, however, that this is a Federal requirement. The States are left a good deal of discretion in determining the standards of the means test. In view of the intimate bearing of the living standards of clients on their rehabilitation and the need to provide them every encouragement on their way to self-support, the rehabilitation means test should be at least as generous as that now set forth for rehabilitation services in the State of Nevada. We are herewith enclosing a copy of Nevada's draft proposal.
"The amount of real and personal property permitted to be retained by the client and which will be disregarded in determining available sources under the means test is inadequate in our opinion. $5, 000 assessed valuation of real property would only seem to make sense if the phrase 'less all encumbrances' is added. $500 cash and liquid assets is also far too small. Adequate cash and liquid asset reserves to maintain the morale of the client, to provide a cushion for him when he starts work, or to be used by him when he starts a small business or begins to practice a profession are highly desirable. In fact, the client should be allowed to retain all personal property used and useful in the achievement of the rehabilitation ob- jective. To require him to use it up in paying for rehabilitation services would seem a contradiction of the very purpose sought to be achieved.
"Suggestion and Recommendation. That the means test used by rehabilitation be liberalized along the lines suggested.
"7. The whole rehabilitation plan is individual centered. The focus is primarily upon the characteristics and traits of the individual client. As we understand the operation of the plan, when the focus turns to the employer it is again the individual employer. There is no reason at all why this can not be put upon a more systematic group basis. In the large cities several employers should be pulled together in a committee for the purpose of actively considering ways and means of increasing the employment of blind persons. In a pilot program in San Francisco that very thing was done. The employers soon began to call upon each other to employ blind people, and before long there were more employment opportunities than there were trained blind people. An official of rehabilitation in Ohio has informed us that their program of placing the blind in the teaching profession had been successful because of careful planning and a coordinate effort on the part of all concerned. He said that an advisory committee of school superintendents was established for the purpose of counseling with blind teacher trainees in college and of helping to break the way for them in finding employment. Many of these superintendents became so interested in the program and so convinced of the fact that the blind were capable of public school teaching that they employed blind teachers themselves.
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Two years ago Kenneth Jernigan gave up his Christmas holiday in order to make a whirlwind, seven-State tour, during the course of which he managed to bring some invaluable help to the affiliate organizations he visited. He has just now completed a similar mission but this time he performed the almost incredible feat of visiting fourteen State organizations in seventeen days! His principal objective this time was to coordinate NFB support for S. 2411 and to help in the preparation of testimony to be given at the coming Senate hearing on this measure. The whole trip was made by air, some stages of which involved an almost total abstinence from sleep. Fortunately, his vitality and energy are apparently inexhaustible.
His first stop was at Santa Fe, New Mexico, where, in addition to other matters, he went over a number of alternative plans for the 1959 national Convention with president Gonzales and others. From here he flew to San Antonio and a huddle with Marcus Roberson, the Texas president. Marcus has been very active in personally contacting many Texas Congressmen. Expansion of the Lone Star Federation into twelve more Texas cities was also discussed in some detail. Next came New Orleans, then Birmingham, then Atlanta. A meeting of the Georgia Federation's Board had been called to coincide with this last visit. Thence to Nashville, (where John Taylor was getting in a few days of well-earned rest from his strenuous activities in Washington). Here Kenneth managed to spend one night at the home of his parents. Springfield, Massachusetts, came next and an intensive conference with John Nagle, Newton Ottone, and others. John is General Chairman of the 1958 national Convention at Boston and, since Kenneth has personally managed two former national Conventions, (1952 at Nashville and 1956 at San Francisco), he was able to provide a great deal of helpful counsel. Akron, Ohio, and Clyde Ross came next, then Detroit, then Minneapolis. Darlene and I welcomed him in Madison on January 8, and he had alloted Wisconsin two full days--for which we were most grateful. Very little of that time, however, could be given over to socializing. It was his first visit to our home, and we wish it could have been a longer one.
The final phase of his journey involved Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska, and then back to Oakland, to resume his duties in the Orientation Center and the business of making a living.
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The subject of residence requirements for public assistance, which abridge the constitutional right of free movement of American citizens, including those who are blind, has been of increasing interest to the National Federation in recent years. Our President has been in the vanguard of those who are seeking to abolish this evil. At the last two national Conventions strong resolutions were adopted.
From The Capital Times, Madison, Wisconsin, January 13, 1958:
A bill to end residence requirements that deny federally-supported public assistance payments to new residents has been introduced in Congress by Rep. Henry S. Reuss (D-Milwaukee). The bill would strike language from the Federal Social Security law that allows States to impose residence requirements in administering the four public assistance programs that re- ceive most of their funds from the United States. These are old-age assistance, aid to the blind, aid to disabled, and aid to dependent children. The Reuss bill went into the hopper in the House on January 8. It is known as H.R. 9832. It has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.
In a statement to The Capital Times today, Reuss declared: "Passage of my bill will free welfare officials from the present requirement in many States that they turn down needy persons because they have not lived in the State for one year, three years, five years, or whatever the particular State's requirement may be. In addition, it may point out to States like Wis- consin, which just last year added a residence requirement to its general re- lief laws, the wisdom and justice of amending those laws to permit the granting of relief in hardship cases without reference to a residence period. Some States and territories have eliminated such requirements voluntarily, with New York leading the way. None of its public assistance programs carry residence requirements."
Reuss is a member of the Government Operations subcommittee. He said that in a public hearing before this subcommittee, Raymond W. Houston, commissioner of the New York State Welfare Department, made the following statement: "Out of our long experience without such residence requirements in New York State, we are convinced that people do not move from State to State to qualify for assistance. They move for all the many and varied reasons of all the free citizens of our great nation. We believe that when breakdowns occur, assistance should be available regardless of length of residence, wherever people may be found. The present patch-work system of varied residence standards results in a great amount of inquiry, paper work and indeed of human suffering and misery. We would urge, therefore, that the resident requirements be eliminated."
Another section of the Reuss bill would enable older people--often forced to choose between living with children or collecting needed old-age assistance payments--to join children across State lines without sacrificing their State old-age payments.
Reuss said he was told by an official of the Social Security Administration that the cost of public assistance programs would be increased only slightly by passage of his bill. Moreover, the resulting reduction in case work and red tape would offset most of these increased costs.
That bill, if passed, would become effective July 1, 1959.
As a result of its harsh and barbarous new law, a one year old Milwaukee infant died of pneumonia, contracted in an unheated one room flat. Its father had been imported by a Milwaukee employer seeking cheap Mexican labor but had soon been laid off and had been forced to ask for assistance--which was denied. The same issue of The Capital Times contains this editorial comment: "... America's Dairyland, through its legislature and governor, decided last year that we can't afford to feed little babies unless they show they can survive for a year without food. "
[From The Capital Times, January 17, 1958 :] A new "war between the States" has broken out in the public welfare field over Wisconsin's one-year residence relief law. As a result, the costs of administering the law have practically wiped out the savings to taxpayers which the measure's sponsors said it would achieve. The State of Ohio, The Capital Times learned today, has officially decided not to participate in the "send 'em back where they came from" feature of the new Wisconsin law. Several other States have also adopted the same attitude, it was learned today, but none has as yet made it official State policy as has Ohio.
...A warning that residence laws might create such situations, adding considerably to administrative costs, was issued as far back as last April by the United States Department of HEW's Bureau of Public Assistance. Jay L. Roney, director of the bureau, wrote then: "The investigation and the return process involves extensive costs to the States.
Question can be raised whether these costs, plus the cost of assistance sent out of the State to residents temporarily absent, do not balance the cost a State might have from giving assistance to needy persons who have lived in a State for a shorter period than is now specified in the law. The evidence points this way. "
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The December issue of the New Outlook for the Blind contains an article by Charles W. Foote, Sales Manager of National Industries for the Blind, describing with enthusiastic approval a new sales organization--Skilcraft. As will appear below, it was set up by a number of sheltered workshops to promote the sale of their products. Mr. Foote points out that Skilcraft requires its member workshops to maintain certain production standards, a specified percentage of blind workers, maintenance of eye cards and proper accounting records. What he fails to point out is that Skilcraft has thus far shown no interest in the working conditions or the wage scales paid the blind workers in these sheltered shops. He also avoids mention of the fact that it is apparently standard Skilcraft policy to hire only sighted door-to-door salesmen. I first heard of Skilcraft during my field work in New York and New Jersey last spring, and a good many-blind people with whom I talked were becoming extremely apprehensive-- especially those earning their living through the sale of blind-made products.
Last October the National Federation received an urgent call for help from the organized blind salesmen in the Detroit area and from other leaders of the blind in Michigan. Both the background and the course of subsequent events is discussed in some detail in the following letter, which I wrote to Governor G. Mennen Williams on December 6:
Dear Governor Williams: I believe you should be made aware of the fact that the more than 300, 000 blind people in this country are now watching a situation in Detroit with the deepest interest and anxiety. The National Federation of the Blind, (which is by far the largest organization of the blind in the world), has sent an investigating team to Detroit and there will be nation-wide publicity resulting.
The employment situation in the Detroit area, in so far as it affects blind people, has long been a national scandal. The Michigan Division of Services to the Blind has assigned only one placement counselor to this area, despite its almost unlimited potential for industrial employment and, even worse, it has assigned ineffective placement agents, one after another. The Detroit employment figures are nothing short of appalling. Aside from independent blind door-to-door salesmen, it is reported that only about seventy blind persons are now productively employed in the Detroit region--fifteen stand operators, twenty-five factory workers, twelve piano tuners, six typists, two phone switchboard operators and a scattering of small business enterprises. There are about 100 independent, self-employed blind door-to-door salesmen constituting more than fifty per cent of the total number of employed blind persons. The livelihood of these blind salesmen is now threatened by reason of the fact that Detroit is being flooded with sighted salesmen of blind-made products, employed by Skilcraft Products of the Blind, Inc. This invasion has received the blessing of the Michigan Department of Social Welfare, which has granted Skilcraft a license to operate in Michigan. Mr. W. J. Maxey, director of the department, has stated that he had no discretion in granting this license. We have been advised by a Lansing attorney, Mr. C. LaVerne Roberts, that the Michigan Statute, (Public Act 243, of 1941), empowers the Department of Social Welfare to grant or withhold such a license, in its discretion, and to revoke such license after it has been granted.
Skilcraft Products of the Blind is a sales organization which was formed some months ago by thirty-eight sheltered workshops for the blind, most of them in New York and Pennsylvania. Its purpose is to increase the sales of the products of these sheltered workshops through sales organizations set up in various parts of the country. HereWe selling activity has been largely confined to New York and Pennsylvania. Skilcraft contracted the various sheltered workshops for the production of specific items which it then attempts to dispose of through crews of sighted door-to-door sales-men. Its method is first to secure appointments by telephone and then to send its salesmen to fill such appointments.
Skilcraft exercises no control over the wages paid to blind workers in its contracting sheltered workshops. These shops are not covered by the wage and hour law and a considerable number of them, pr obably a majority, pay their workers substandard wages, far below competitive standards. For example, in the workshop operated by the Buffalo Association for the Blind, blind workers assigned to a product contracted for by Skilcraft were being paid thirty cents an hour last March. This was personally verified by me. I received confirmation from the superintendent of the workshop in question. Her explanation was that these workers were "apprentices." This is the usual pretext resorted to by the management of such sheltered workshops, but in a great many cases of which we have personal knowledge the status of "apprenticeship" seems to be rather permanent. The superintendent of the Buffalo workshop told me that, as soon as the workers reached a certain standard of production, they would be raised to forty cents an hour, or perhaps even fifty cents an hour.
The promoters of Skilcraft claim that, by increasing the sales of products made by the blind in sheltered workshops, employment in such shops will increase. It may be pointed out that even if such increased employment results, it will be of a very doubtful advantage to blind workers, who will presumably continue to receive sweatshop wages. As indicated above most of these shops are exempt from the requirements for minimum wages, collective bargaining, unemployment compensation, and workmen's compensation.
A much more serious result of Skilcraft door-to-door sales campaign, however, is that it can and does destroy the livelihood of blind door-to-door salesmen, who are now self-supporting, home-owning, tax-paying citizens. This is the tragic effect which the current invasion of the Detroit area by the Skilcraft organization is threatening.
Michigan citizens are now taxed to support a State agency whose principal function is to secure employment for blind workers in the State. It has failed miserably in the Detroit area. From sixty to seventy of the independent blind salesmen are members of the Association of Blind Salesmen of Michigan. To throw these struggling blind workers out of employment and back unto the public assistance rolls, will, of course, not only be disastrous to the victims, but will impose an additional burden on Michigan taxpayers. The Michigan Division of Services to the Blind has found it expedient to place many of its clients as door-to-door salesmen in Detroit. Such placements, incidentally, require much less effort on the part of the State agency than does the securing of jobs in any other competitive field.
Last summer Skilcraft submitted its plan to flood Detroit with sighted salesmen to the Michigan Division of Services to the Blind and the latter gave its approval on September 5. It is true that, prior to this decision, the DSB called a meeting of its Advisory Committee, on which there were representatives of the three major organizations of the blind in Michigan--the Michigan Association of Workers for the Blind, the Michigan Federation of the Blind and the Michigan Council of the Blind. No representative of the Association of Blind Salesmen of Michigan was present at this meeting of the the Advisory Committee which accepted the assurance of the DSB that the blind people of Michigan would benefit from the Skilcraft operations in Detroit. As soon as the real implications of such an operation became apparent, however, two of the three Michigan organizations of the blind--The Michigan Council of the Blind and the Michigan Federation of the Blind--re- versed their positions and now actively oppose the Skilcraft project.
Several statements appearing in a newspaper release issued last September by Skilcraft, after having been approved by DSB, are worthy of special attention : (a). It specifically states that only sighted salesmen will be employed. When pressed, Mr. George Lewis, (Detroit Manager of Skilcraft), admitted that no blind salesman had ever been employed by Skilcraft, anywhere, up to that time. Subsequently, one blind salesman has actually been hired in Detroit, (b). The implication is that a considerable volume of blind-made products will be purchased from the State operated sheltered workshop in Saginaw. As a matter of fact, Skilcraft has not agreed to purchase any stated quantity from this shop. It will merely become one of thirty-nine sources. And, if experience elsewhere is any guide, wages at the Saginaw shop may possibly be forced even lower than they are now through a Skilcraft purchase contract, (c). While it is quite true that many blind people make better craftsmen than salesmen, it is equally true that many other blind people make better salesmen than craftsmen. The segregated employees of the Saginaw workshop now earn substantially less than do the blind salesmen or any other blind persons in competitive employment, (d). The Skilcraft news release states that the present blind salesmen use a "Sympathy approach. " Any salesman of blind-made products, either himself blind or sighted, benefits from the natural sympathy which housewives feel toward the blind and purchases are largely motivated by this sympathy, (e). It is stated that Skilcraft will pay "regular" commissions to its sighted salesmen. The Skilcraft ceiling on such commissions is thirty per cent. The blind salesmen now realize an average commission of fifty per cent. Any blind salesman who accepts employment from Skilcraft will have to take a forty percent cut. A part of the difference (twenty percent of the sales price) will go into the substantial salaries which Skilcraft pays its managers and supervisors and the rest, it is claimed, will go into a fund which will eventually be divided among agencies for the blind. The vague hope is held out to the public that, at some time in the perhaps dim and distant future, this money will be used to create more and more sheltered workshops for the blind, where workers can be segregated and paid substandard wages. Theoretically, these blind salesmen who now make a living in Detroit, but who will be thrown out of work by the Skilcraft operation, will find their way to "employment" in such future sheltered workshops.
On November 4 a representative of the National Federation of the Blind was present at a conference between Skilcraft and the Association of Blind Salesmen of Michigan. By this time Skilcraft had found it advisable to modify its position with respect to the hiring of blind salesmen and offered to engage a few on the straight thirty percent commission basis--such employees, however, receiving no assurance of continued employment and being restricted to the sale of products bearing the Skilcraft label. Such an arrangement, it was felt by the salesmen present, would mean a complete surrender of both independence and job security. The Skilcraft proposal was rejected. The salesmen offered to purchase whatever Skilcraft products they found acceptable to the buying public and to resell these at a price which would bring them the same percentage of commission as they were already making on other sales. Skilcraft rejected this proposal and the meeting ended in a stalemate.
The organized blind salesmen then petitioned you, Governor Williams, for an opportunity to present their case to you directly. Your secretary replied that you would find it very difficult to grant such an interview and referred the salesmen back to the Department of Social Welfare. Before doing this, however, your secretary requested a report from W. J. Maxey, Director of the Department. Mr. Maxey complied. In this report Mr. Maxey fails to mention the fact that Detroit blind salesmen purchase a considerable amount of the products they sell from independent blind home-workers. Obviously, if the blind salesmen are eliminated, the blind home-workers will lose their market because Skilcraft will not buy anything from them. In this report Mr. Maxey also states that some of the merchandise offered for sale by blind salesmen has not been blind-made and goes on to insinuate that this has involved deliberate misrepresentation. It is freely admitted that, in the past, some blind salesmen have supplemented their lines with certain articles which were not blind-made but it is vehemently denied that these were ever claimed to be blind-made. The Association of Blind Salesmen of Michigan has now adopted a code of ethics which requires that its members sell blind-made products exclusively.
The organized salesmen then requested the Social Welfare Commission that it be permitted to appear at the November 20th meeting of the Commission to be held at the Pantlind Hotel in Grand Rapids. The organization was granted time to present its case, with Mr. Maxey and Mr. Conlan present. Mr. Anthony Tamer, of the Association of Blind Salesmen of Michigan, and Mr. Paul Kirton, of the National Federation of the Blind appeared before the Commission at the specified time. Three out of the five members of the Commission were present. The only comment during this appearance came from Mrs. Banks, who offered the view that this matter involved no more than a little competition for the blind salesmen and that no real harm could result because Skilcraft obviously had good intentions. Mr. Tamer and Mr. Kirton were then dismissed. Mr. Maxey and Mr. Conlan were asked to re- main and supposedly presented their rebutal in the absence of the spokesmen for the Blind Salesmen. It would seem that this was rather an unfair procedure.
Mr. Maxey subsequently notified Mr. Tamer that the Commission had decided to uphold the action of the Division of Services to the Blind taken on September 5 and referred to above.
Both the Michigan Council of the Blind and the Detroit League of the Blind have now adopted strong resolutions condemning the September 5th action of the Division of Services to the Blind.
In view of the repercussions which are now becoming evident both in Michigan and throughout the whole country, the National Federation of the Blind strongly recommends that you, as a State Governor with a nationwide reputation for fairness and for having a profound sympathy for the underdog, personally review this whole unfortunate situation. You can only do this by listening to both sides...
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From Reno, Nevada Bettye Powell writes: "The blind people in the State of Nevada had good reason for sighing in relief on December 9 just past, but perhaps the sigh was more pronounced in the Reno area as the blind persons here felt a keener concern and interest in the action taken by the City Council of Reno on that evening. The effort to stop Albert A. Morris from misrepresenting to the public through high-pressure, sympathy measures his blind and handicapped made products, was extremely slow in accomplishment. Mr. Morris and his salesmen had used the approach of sympathy for the blind and the idea that part of the proceeds went to the local blind. The local organization cannot account for any funds rec- eived from Mr. Morris, but it can account for much indignity received at his hands. His license has now been revoked in the city of Reno, and he was never granted one in Las Vegas; therefore it is felt that, though this revoking by the City Council was a long, tedious process, it was well worth the time and work involved...."
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[Reprinted from California Alumni Bulletin.]
In our last issue we reported to you the efforts of the California Council of the Blind to obtain the removal of the driver's license requirement for the job of Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor. This requirement, instituted last spring by the State Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation, barred blind people from taking examinations for or filling the approximately one hundred jobs for counseling handicapped workers who are not blind. Since Rehab--whose legal duty it is to place handicapped workers--would not agree to the reopening of this category to the blind and other seriously handicapped ap- plicants, the Council had obtained the scheduling of a hearing by the State Personnel Board on December 21.
The Council's efforts met with success, however, before the hearing date. Strongly urged by the Personnel Board staff, Rehab finally agrees) to the dropping of the general requirement for a driver's license. Through-out, the Personnel Board staff showed a better understanding of the capabilities of blind and other handicapped workers than did Rehab. It seems probable that Rehab decided to drop unjustified requirements because it was clear that its claim that no one could do its work unless he could physically drive a car could not stand the bright daylight of a full, open hearing.
... The staff member in charge of the proceedings stated orally: "Consistent with the requirements of Section 19701, a determination that a driver's license is necessary must be based on clear evidence that such a license is absolutely indispensable to the performance of the position. " This is indeed an enlightened and encouraging viewpoint.
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"Whereas, the recently concluded attack on the NFB greeting card program drastically curtailed NFB fundraising for more than a year, and; whereas, this reduction in revenue necessitated a temporary curtailment in some vitally important NFB services to the blind people of this nation, and; whereas, the NFB Endowment Fund has been created to guarantee a backlog of funds as a safeguard against any future attack against any NFB fundraising projects, and; whereas, the members of REAL INDEPENDENCE THROUGH EMPLOYMENT, INC. are firmly convinced that the steady growth of NFB Endowment Fund is essential to guarantee the perpetual continuance and expansion of NFB activities:
"THEREFORE, be it resolved by REAL INDEPENDENCE THROUGH EMPLOYMENT, INC. , in general meeting assembled this 15th day of November, 1957, that this organization hereby unanimously authorizes an annual contribution of $100 to the NFB Endowment Fund! "
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New Mexico's loss, Vermont's gain--rumor has it that C. B., President of the NCB flew recently to N. M. and that, after he left for home, V. A., the Recording Secretary of the NMFB, has been wearing an engagement ring--.
The following excerpt from a R. L. Thompson letter dated December 31, 1957, may be of interest to someone who is yearning for the heavenly climate of Tampa, Florida: "We have a blind member who lives in a beautiful home on Lake Tanodasassa about fifteen miles from the center of Tampa. He is in his eighties but in robust health. He offers his home to a family who wishes to have a home in that location . All he asks is that he be fed and that the family be responsible for all the food bill. He pays utilities. His home is a mile and a half from a store so there is necessity for an automobile.... The arrangement would not extend beyond the life of the owner." (Write to R. L. Thompson, 104 W. Hanlon St. , Tampa, Florida.)
The Oregon Council of the Blind has contributed another fifty dollars to the NFB Endowment Fund.
The Lone Star State Federation of the Blind, Inc., announces that it will hold its second annual convention in Houston, Texas, at the Ben Milam Hotel, March 22 and 23, and all adult blind persons are cordially invited to attend.
A report from Denver indicates that Herman Kline, the power-hungry director of rehabilitation services for the blind, is now attempting to add public assistance to his little empire. If he were successful in this, he would be in an even stronger position to control the lives of blind people in Colorado.
A three million dollar bond issue has just been approved by Alabama voters for the construction of new school buildings at Talladega. Some of those now in use are almost a hundred years old and their replacement has been long overdue.
In its issue of January 6, Francis B. Ierardi announced his retirement from the editorship of the Weekly News. He had served in this capacity for thirty-one years. He is succeeded by George Lorontos, who has been the Assistant Editor. Mr. Ierardi will continue as Managing Director of the National Braille Press. The Weekly News (Braille) features current events and reprints items of general interest from Time Magazine and Newsweek. It is highly recommended for its unvarying objectivity. I understand there is a waiting list at present but applications may be sent to: 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston 15, Massachusetts. Mr. Ierardi, who is himself blind, was at one titne a hardboiled case worker and still holds extremely conservative views, but he has never, to my knowledge, permitted his personal opinions and prejudices to affect his editorial policies.
Betty Crocker, the famous General Mills culinary expert, reports having sent out 4,000 of her first recording of recipes to blind persons a year ago. She now has three additional records entitled "Tips and Talking Recipes, " which she will send to any blind person free. Merely send ten cents to cover mailing and handling to: Betty Crocker, Dept. 920, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Paul Kirton traveled to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to attend a meeting of the Pennsylvania Blind Merchants Guild on January 11. May 3 was selected as the date for the next annual meeting of this organization, to be held at Wilkes-Barre. All interested persons are invited to attend. The Board was very enthusiastic about the possibility of forming a National Blind Merchants Guild, a matter discussed at the last Convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Those interested in such a project may write to Walter Moran, 6411 Woodcrest Ave., Philadelphia, 31, Pennsylvania.
Previous mention has been made in these columns of the fact that, in Denver, a totally blind man has been highly successful as a placement counselor in a general employment agency--obtaining jobs for sighted workers. News comes now that this man, Charles Brammer, has purchased the employment agency and is now operating it as his own enterprise.
Here are the names and addresses of the five chapter presidents in the Federation's 44th affiliate--Utah: Mrs. Tessie N. Jones, 1401 Hollywood Avenue, Salt Lake City; Mr. Jesse Anderson, 1164 21st Street, Ogden; Mr. G. Q. Farnsworth, 6Z3 N. 4th, W., Orem; Esther Elmer Clouth, Garland, and Mr. Allen C. Folster, 98 S. 1st, E. , Salina.
There have been a number of requests for reprints of "Local Organizations of the Blind; How to Build and Strengthen Them, " by Kenneth Jernigan, which appeared in our January issue. These are now available in Braille and may be obtained by writing to this office, Box 345, Madison, 1, Wisconsin.
A new Braille pamphlet describing the disability insurance provisions under social security, as they apply to the blind, is now available. It is estimated that perhaps 7,500 Braille readers may be affected by these provisions. It may be borrowed from any regional library, from the State vocational rehabilitation agency, or from the headquarters office of the National Federation--265Z Shasta Road, Berkeley, 8, California.
While guide dog maintenance may not be deducted for income tax purposes, as a business expense, it is now reported that such maintenance is deductible as a medical expense.
On November 25, Clyde Ross, of Akron, Ohio, president of the Ohio Council of the Blind, and second vice-president of the National Federation, delivered a ringing address to the Detroit League of the Blind, which is considering affiliation with the Michigan Council of the Blind, the NFB affiliate in Michigan.
On November 27 the Association of Blind Salesmen of Michigan voted to become a chapter of the Michigan Council of the Blind. Paul Kirton was present and spoke at this meeting.
Word has just reached us that Mr. Cooper Sontag, head of the Indiana rehabilitation agency, together with his chief assistant, have just resigned. Mr. Sontag had displayed a remarkably cooperative spirit and the news of his departure has been received with keen regret by most of the blind people of Indiana. His successor has not been appointed at this writing.
Describing the opposition of the BVA to the Kennedy bill in the November issue of Visually Handicapped Views , Agnes Zachte writes: "It would be interesting to know if any State has a veteran in its State association. There is none in the South Dakota Association to my knowledge. Failing an interest in their State organization how can they feel that they should go on record opposing something of which they are completely ignorant? Unless they feel they can take some other organization's opposition as a criterion for their move. It would be interesting to know all the answers to these questions but since none of us is omniscient I guess we'll have to struggle along with our feeble brain and work harder to oppose the forces which are now marshalled against us. "
Both our Dakota affiliates are engaged in all-out struggles to obtain new locations for their State residential schools for the blind. The two schools are now located at Gary, South Dakota and Bathgate, North Dakota, two tiny villages, each in a remote and almost inaccessible part of its respective state. The NDAB is busily securing 10,000 signatures from the general public.
An excerpt from another John Taylor letters: "I know you will be pleased to learn that just prior to leaving Washington before Christmas, I talked with Rosie (Rosario Epsora), by 'phone. He has changed doctors and is much improved. It turns out that his principal difficulties were not blood pressure and heart problems, but stomach ulcers and gall bladder. At the time I talked with him he was feeling much better and planned to return to work on January 6. Certainly this is heartening news to all of us and especially to the Blind Brotherhood of Maryland because Rosie 's energy has always been the mainstay of that organization. "
Don Enterline, a former vice-president of the Tulsa chapter of the Oklahoma Federation, is now a home teacher in New Mexico. Harold Bruce, one of the two New Mexico rehab counselors (blind), has recently returned from Columbia University after completing some graduate work. Both are members of the New Mexico Federation.
The New Mexico Federation of the Blind will hold its 1958 convention on the Memorial Day weekend.
From the Colorado News Bulletin: "At the so-called Christmas party for the blind so generously provided by the Division of Rehabilitation, there were approximately two hundred present. Of this number, about thirty-five were blind. Local merchants, who do business with vending stand operators, were 'asked' to contribute sandwiches, coffee, candy, and other merchandise to the Christmas party for the blind. We wonder if they actually know that their contributions were largely intended for unsuspecting public dignitaries invited for the apparent purpose of bolstering certain agency personnel in their precarious positions. Since the merchants deal directly with the vending stand operators throughout the year, doesn't it seem a bit strange that the stand operators were not included in the Christmas party activities? ..."
On January 18 Don Cameron, president of the Tampa chapter of the Florida Federation, and Miss Bernardine Wait, also of Tampa, were united in marriage.
A conference will take place at the Bedford Springs Hotel, Bedford, Pennsylvania, on April 15-18, the subject of which will be "The Role of the "Workshop in Rehabilitation. " The National Federation has accepted an invitation to send two official delegates.
It is with real regret that we receive news of the resignation of Mr. Malcolm Jasper, who became head of the Iowa Commission for the Blind only a few months ago. Mr. Jasper suffered a serious heart attack last October and his continuing poor health has made it necessary for him to relinquish his official duties.
Mrs. Arda Carter and Mrs. Pauline Salter have become members of the Board of Directors of the Arkansas Federation, taking the places of Joe and Martha Strawn, who have moved to California. Dr. Ray Penix has become second vice-president.
The Ways and Means for the Blind Appreciation Fund No. 20, administered in honor of Walter R. McDonald, provides 50 four-row, 28 cell pocket slates annually, to be distributed among blind persons, who are unable to pay for them. Applications should be sent to the Walter G. Holmes Foundation at 334 Masonic Building, Augusta, Georgia, and a slate will be sent postpaid to the first fifty applicants.
Last minute flash--a long distance call has just come from John Miller, president of the Indiana Council, with the information that Mr. Howard Carroll has been appointed as head of the State rehabilitation agency, to succeed Cooper Sontag, who has joined Good Will Industries, of Cincinnati, Ohio. Mr. Carroll has operated a stand in Ft. Wayne and, if memory serves, is a former president of the Indiana Association of Workers for the Blind.
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