(back) (next) (contents)

The Braille Monitor,  August/September 2001 EditionThis is a line.

Presidential Report

National Federation of the Blind

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

July 4, 2001

by Marc Maurer

 

Dr Maurer delivers his presidential report.
Dr. Maurer delivers his presidential report.

The National Federation of the Blind has had a year of unprecedented growth and progress. During the past twelve months we have accepted greater challenges than ever before in our history, and we have found a way to meet those challenges with results exceeding the expectations of us all.

Nevertheless, we have remained the same organization that we have always been--growing, developing, moving forward. We are the blind: the blind students, the blind teachers, the blind factory workers, the blind lawyers, the blind medical professionals, the newly blinded, the blind in the sheltered workshops, the blind vending-stand operators, the blind musicians, the blind in governmental agencies, the blind who have not yet found jobs, those who have become blind as senior citizens, and all other blind people who, along with our colleagues and friends, possess the imagination to dream of a day when our lives can be lived to the fullest and our talents employed as they deserve to be. From every state, from every segment of society, from every economic or educational background, we are the blind, and our strength comes from the combination of us all. We are the blind--the organized blind movement--the National Federation of the Blind.

In the mid-1970's the National Federation of the Blind began working with Dr. Raymond Kurzweil on the first reading machine for the blind. This invention demanded optical scanning technology, which became as useful for the sighted as it is for the blind. This was only the first of many inventions created by Dr, Kurzweil. A number of them came from the reading machine. Dr. Kurzweil currently believes it is possible, using techniques developed in speech recognition, to build an automatic language translator.

This past year I, serving as President of the National Federation of the Blind, nominated Dr. Kurzweil for an award offered jointly by the Lemelson Foundation and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). On April 25, 2001, I attended a gathering of scientists and other professionals held at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Each year the Foundation gives a Lifetime Achievement Award. This year's recipient was Raymond V. Damadian, the inventor of magnetic resonance imaging technology. However, the highest honor of the Foundation is the Lemelson-MIT award, the best-funded technology award being offered anywhere in the world. As the nominator of Raymond Kurzweil, I was (along with my wife Patricia) recognized publicly by the delegates. The 2001 recipient of the Lemelson-MIT award--a man honored for the work he has done on the reading machine for the blind and other related technologies--is Dr. Raymond Kurzweil, who received from the Foundation a cash grant of $500,000.

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) is that part of the Library of Congress that operates the Books for the Blind Program. Established in 1931, NLS has become one of the most effective programs for the blind in the nation. Its director is Mr. Frank Kurt Cylke, who is committed to excellent library service for the blind.

In the year 2000 NLS published a book entitled Braille into the Next Millennium. This book collects articles about Braille on virtually any topic. Some of the names of the writers who have contributed to this volume will be familiar to members of the National Federation of the Blind. They include Abraham Nemeth, Euclid Herie, Tim Cranmer, Fredric Schroeder, Curtis Chong, Ruby Ryles, and Marc Maurer.

The foreword is by Frank Kurt Cylke. The preface begins with these words: "This book on the value and history of Braille symbolizes the times in which we live. It highlights the importance of Braille in the life of every man, woman, and child who is blind and points the way to the future--a future of promise and hope." The preface, which appeared for the first time in the fall of 2000, was written by Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, the most outstanding leader and teacher of the blind of the latter part of the twentieth century. This book, which has been put into Braille, will encourage the learning of this vital skill for generations. It will provide not only hope but the opportunity for achieving the dreams that are part of that hope as well.

Equal access to information is as important for the blind as it is for the sighted. A little more than a year ago we told the banking industry and bank-machine manufacturers that the automated teller machine (ATM), which was fast becoming a standard for electronic commerce, must become accessible to the blind. In the intervening months we have worked with the premier manufacturer of ATM equipment, Diebold, Incorporated, to assure access to the electronic commerce of our nation. We will assist with the development of ATM machines that are accessible to the blind, and we will encourage the installation of such equipment. We are working with Diebold, Incorporated, to make the fastest, most broadly usable machines in the nation and to have them deployed in businesses, government agencies, and other public places. We recognize a spirit of common interest and generosity in Diebold, and we are joining with the computer developers within that company to design inexpensive, effective machines.

They also believe in us. They want to support enhanced technology for the blind, and they have promised to help us build the National Research and Training Institute for the Blind with a gift in the amount of one million dollars. The president of Diebold, Incorporated, Mr. Walden O'Dell, will be with us at this convention.

In 1994 we initiated the NEWSLINEŽ for the Blind Network, a telephone-based newspaper-delivery system capable of providing the text of newspapers to blind people in local service areas. For the past seven years this service has expanded steadily until it has reached more than seventy cities, providing daily newspapers by touch-tone telephone to tens of thousands of blind people each day.

Late last year Congress appropriated four million dollars in the budget of the Institute of Museum and Library Services for the purpose of expanding NEWSLINEŽ to every part of every state of the nation. To provide services on a nationwide basis requires a redesign of the network itself. The target date for the redesigned service is March 1, 2002. Continuation of the nationwide service beyond the first year depends upon the development of funding mechanisms to support it in each state. However, just as we will find a way to build the technology, so will we find a way to fund the continuation of the service. Blind people everywhere will be able to read all of the newspapers on the network--the seven national papers and dozens of local ones.

We have continued with a number of other efforts to expand access to information. We have revised our publicly distributed document describing adequate Web accessibility, and a number of companies have asked us for assistance. Among these are the Gap, Intuit, H&R Block, election.com, and votehere.net. At one time it was not possible for a blind person using screen-access technology to make online purchases through the Gap's Web site. Officials at the Gap noticed the legal challenge we had brought against AOL, and they were eager to work with us. Today shopping on the Gap's Web site is possible because of the close cooperation between the Gap and the National Federation of the Blind.

The working relationship with the Connecticut Attorney General to make Web-based tax filing services accessible to the blind has brought positive results. If we must pay taxes, we said, make the forms so that we too can read them. By the end of January 2001, the blind could file independently.

Members of Congress have decided (with the evidence of the last presidential election fresh in their minds) to pursue election reform. We have asked them to include nonvisual access to voting, and they have agreed. Several companies are coming out with voice-guided electronic voting systems, and many of them are seeking our help to ensure that these systems are usable, not only by the sophisticated blind computer user, but by the blind person who simply wants to vote without having to learn how to run a computer. We are in the process of obtaining all of the nonvisually accessible voting systems for display and evaluation in the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind.

The International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind has experienced significant growth during the past year. Many of the computers housed in the Center are being upgraded. We have embarked upon a project to replace old DOS computers with newer ones. We have acquired twenty-three Pentium computers running Windows 98 or 2000, and there are a number of other machines. During the past year we have acquired in the IBTC thirteen electronic notetakers with refreshable Braille displays, two electronic notetakers with voice output, two Braille embossers, eight tape tutorials for Windows and Windows applications, one commercial Windows-based calendar/organizer program, two refreshable Braille displays, two screen-reading program upgrades, three scanners, one talking globe with tactile markings for the continents, one solid state MP3 player with memory-stick technology, one talking numeric pager, one computer keyboard with Braille-entry capability, three upgrades to print reading systems for the blind, two low-cost self-voicing print reading systems for the blind, two commercial optical character recognition programs for converting print to text, one self-voicing calculator program for Windows, two force feedback mouse units for the blind, two Braille-music-translation programs, two voice-activated television remote control units, one voice-recognition program, one digital audio recorder, one internal speech synthesizer, one King James Talking Bible (using Road-Runner technology), eight audible traffic-signal demonstration units, one talking GPS system with laptop computer, one demonstration Diebold talking automated teller machine, one talking Diebold machine with money--the real thing, one Web search and summarization program, one self-voicing document reader program for Windows, one screen-magnification program, and all of the peripherals, cables, and other computer-related attachments to make them function.

We have made considerable progress with America Online (AOL) during the past year. AOL's online services were completely inaccessible to the blind, and AOL officials seemed indifferent to our need for information until we brought suit in federal district court in November of 1999. Suddenly there was an interest in discussion. After we agreed to withdraw our lawsuit, developers from the AOL accessibility team came to visit the National Center for the Blind for the purpose of learning how their software could interact with screen-reading programs--in other words how they could give AOL speech. The AOL 6.0 software, released last fall, demonstrated modest improvements in nonvisual access. It appears that the people working on the accessibility project know what needs to be done, and the team has already begun the work. Although AOL is slow, it may have gotten the message. If not, we will provide it once again.

We have also continued to maintain our Web site, with increasing numbers of people gaining access to information about blindness through it. Within the past twelve months people from sixty-three nations have received Web site information.

On January 19, 2001, the United States Department of Education adopted a final rule redefining "employment outcome" under the Vocational Rehabilitation program to exclude those placed in sheltered workshops. This advance in the rehabilitation program (drafted by Dr. Frederic K. Schroeder) was strongly supported by the National Federation of the Blind, which submitted more than 1,500 comments in support of the proposed rule. Rehabilitation is expected to assist individuals with disabilities to obtain high-quality employment in the integrated, competitive labor market. Because sheltered shop employment had not provided high pay, career choices, integrated work, opportunities for advancement, and the chance to learn transferable skills, continued vocational rehabilitation services should be available, and this progressive rule determines that they are.

A number of operators of sheltered shops have opposed the rule. Nevertheless, we believe that blind people should receive pay as high as sighted people receive for comparable work, and we believe in opportunities for advancement. Consequently we will continue to support the rule despite the attacks of those in the sheltered shops.

The National Federation of the Blind continues to be in the leadership of programming for the blind in the United States. On January 18 and 19, 2001, the Millennium Symposium on improving services for the blind was convened at the National Center for the Blind. Rehabilitation professionals from more than a dozen states participated along with leaders of the organized blind from those states. Working independently, we can accomplish a great deal, but joint effort between consumers of services for the blind and providers of those services can create greater programs with more positive results than have ever existed in work with the blind. This was true of rehabilitation in the state of Iowa when Dr. Jernigan served as Director of the Commission for the Blind, and the principle is equally applicable today. There will be more such seminars, and the National Federation of the Blind will continue to coordinate interaction and joint support of programming for the blind.

At our convention last year we heard a report of the establishment of specialized services for the blind in the state of Nebraska--a commission for the blind was created. However, in the Nebraska legislature this spring a bill was introduced to eliminate separate identifiable programs for the blind, and the blind moved into immediate action. By March 5, 2001, the bill to eliminate the Nebraska Commission for the Blind had met its fate in committee. The reason is straightforward and uncomplicated. The bill was killed because of the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind.

Pat Summerall conducts a daily television program in which he talks about entities that have helped to build America. Last fall on the Summerall program, in the segment designated "Captains of Industry," a two-minute feature appeared depicting the work that we in the Federation do. Among other things there are pictures of me standing next to the barbecue grill and others that show me with a chainsaw in my hand. Videos of the "Captains of Industry" program are available for use by individuals and chapters throughout the Federation.

One of our objectives within the Federation is the support and promotion of Braille. We cause more Braille to be produced than anybody else except the Library of Congress. We have created the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind, drafted model Braille bills, written language to ensure the teaching of Braille that has been included in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, distributed Braille material to individuals throughout the nation and the world, created videos about the importance of Braille, taught dozens of classes on the subject, and taken other steps to encourage production and use of Braille.

During the past year we have received support for the notion that Braille would become more widely used if it were more readily accepted. To promote this acceptance, we have created a program called "Braille is Beautiful," including videotapes on Braille with teaching materials and lesson plans for students to use to learn the code. If the sighted learn Braille, Braille will be accepted. Those who use Braille--the blind--will also be accepted. The techniques used by the blind are often as effective as those used by the sighted. If they are regarded as commonplace, there will be much greater emphasis on teaching them. Today the Braille literacy rate for blind students in school is in the neighborhood of ten percent. With the "Braille is Beautiful" project we believe Braille literacy will increase.

During the summer and fall of 1998 we began the planning for the construction of the National Research and Training Institute for the Blind. In 1999 we discussed the Research Institute at the convention, and we dedicated our 2000 convention to the building of the Institute. A full report of the progress of this initiative will be included later in the convention. However, fund-raising has gone well. We have received more than 18,000 gifts ranging in amount from a few dollars to one million. We have obtained outright gifts and pledges of more than ten million dollars, and the groundbreaking for construction will occur on October 19, 2001, at the National Center for the Blind. Following the groundbreaking there will be a gala celebration of the work of the Federation. Federation members and our friends are encouraged to participate--especially those who have dreamed of a new kind of research and who have worked to make our Institute come true.

In November of 2000 the National Federation of the Blind participated in the quadrennial General Assembly of the World Blind Union in Melbourne, Australia. Kicki Nordstrom of Sweden, who spoke at our convention last year, was elected to the presidency. She is a woman of spirit, and she will work diligently. However, the world organization is rarely unified in its objectives, and the progress it makes is often slow. Nevertheless, the National Federation of the Blind will continue to be a part of it and will put energy and resources into the world body to promote programs of self-organization of the blind.

Then there is the National Federation of the Blind Everest Expedition. Two years ago we decided to support a blind mountain climber, Erik Weihenmayer, in his dream to reach the highest spot on the globe--the summit of Mount Everest. Erik Weihenmayer will be making a full report later in this convention. However, our dreams combined with our support and the efforts of a climbing team have been successful. Erik Weihenmayer is the first blind man ever to stand on the top of the world.

Part of the reason for supporting the Everest Expedition is to let people know about the work of the National Federation of the Blind. When he returned from Nepal, Erik Weihenmayer's exploits were reported on CNN, "The Today Show," "Good Morning America," "CBS This Morning," and "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno. There were dozens of newspaper and radio interviews, and our expedition was featured as the cover story in Time magazine. It is estimated that there were something in the neighborhood of 500 million media hits for this expedition, and featured prominently was the National Federation of the Blind.

We have renewed our effort in Congress to eliminate the work disincentives caused by the Social Security earnings limit. Congressman Robert Ehrlich of Maryland and Senator John McCain of Arizona have introduced identical bills which would raise the current blind persons' earnings exemption from just under $15,000, where it is now, to $30,000 per year--$2,500 per month--toward the goal of its eventual elimination.

These bills have strong bipartisan support in Congress and a solid majority of cosponsors in the House. The battle to remove the economic penalties placed on blind people who go to work began decades ago, and much progress has been made. However, in this Congress we may be able to make a very substantial change for the blind of today and those of generations to come.

We have initiated an effort in Congress significantly to expand financial support for meeting the training and adjustment needs of blind people age fifty-five and older. This is by far the largest segment of the blind population, and the current level of service available is far from adequate to meet the growing need. Therefore our proposal would expand covered services under Medicare to include independent living services for older blind individuals. This proposed amendment would allow state vocational rehabilitation agencies to be reimbursed for at least a portion of the cost of services provided.

Three years ago we started the JoblineŽ service in partnership with the United States Department of Labor. This service provides convenient access to America's Job Bank by means of a standard touch-tone telephone. America's Job Bank is the largest database of job listings available anywhere in the world. Now we have created the technology to make this service available nationwide. Everybody in the United States--blind or not--can now reach the National Federation of the Blind Jobline***. So here is the toll-free number: 1-800-414-5748.

In July of 1998 the National Federation of the Blind, with substantial support from the United States Department of Labor, began an ambitious second generation of Job Opportunities for the Blind. The new initiative targeted competitive jobs for the blind through intensive training in our three NFB training centers and placement with both public and private employers. Prominent private companies such as the United Parcel Service, IBM, the Gallup Organization, Marriott Worldwide Reservations, and others have accepted our invitation to become partners in the JOB program. As a result of this work, through March of this year 125 additional blind people have been enrolled for services from this program and sixty-one have found competitive jobs since our last convention.

There have also been a number of legal cases this year. We have successfully represented the blind vendor program in a conflict with sheltered workshops over the operation of military mess halls as cafeterias under the Randolph-Sheppard Act. NISH (formally National Industries for the Severely Handicapped) is a conglomerate of workshops that employ persons with severe disabilities. The ongoing dispute involves attempts by NISH and its affiliates to claim a priority over the blind in being chosen to fulfill contracts for food service in military mess halls. There is a priority for such food service, but contrary to the assertions of NISH, it does not apply to them. It is created in the language of the Randolph-Sheppard Act, and it applies to the blind.

On April 18, 2001, in the only published and precedent-setting decision issued so far, a case involving food service at Fort Lee, Virginia, titled NISH v Cohen, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit agreed with us. Mess halls are cafeterias as defined in the Randolph-Sheppard Act, the Court said, and the blind have a statutory priority to operate them.

Building on the victory in the Fort Lee case, we are representing a blind vendor seeking to become the operator of the mess halls at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Although the Air Force fought us for a time, it has recently recognized that the Randolph-Sheppard priority applies, and a blind vendor should be employed soon.

Janet Mushington is a certified teacher whose job offer from the Baltimore City Public School System was withdrawn when the school system learned that she is blind and uses a guide dog for travel. The refusal to hire on these grounds is a violation of law, and the Department of Justice has agreed to bring her case in the Federal District Court with our help. Already negotiations have begun, and it appears that Janet Mushington will be properly compensated for the discrimination she has undergone. It is good to have friends in the National Federation of the Blind. Janet Mushington is with us at this convention.

Darlene Barker was a consumer credit counselor with Amerix Corporation who had received glowing personnel reviews. Amerix acquired new software and decided it would be too much trouble to make the new computer system accessible. Without discussing accessibility issues with her, Amerix fired Darlene Barker. Yet they tell us there is no discrimination--that the blind are treated equally with others. She was terminated without the opportunity to discuss the matter. We are filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of Darlene Barker, and we will take the matter to court if necessary. We are not prepared to let discrimination be unchallenged. We will talk if we can, but we will fight if we must.

Before last year's convention we sued Chevy Chase Bank, whose ATM locations (all of them inaccessible to the blind) include all the leading transportation, business, and tourist venues in our nation's capital, along with a number of locations in Virginia and Maryland. We have now reached a settlement. After a pilot program to deploy accessible ATMs at the airports and other public places, Chevy Chase will have accessible ATMs at each of its more than 700 locations. The entire rollout of accessible machines will occur within three years.

DeKinyon Baldwin was a Missouri high school student who wanted to attend the summer program at the Colorado Center for the Blind last year. The school system refused to pay for the program. The Federation made it possible for DeKinyon to attend and sued the school system. The school system backed down, paid for the program, and paid our legal bills. Proper training at an early age is vital for success, and we insist on it. If you need to know how it is done, ask DeKinyon Baldwin.

The Federal Communications Commission has promulgated a rule requiring broadcast television entertainment to have a portion of its programming audio-described so that the blind may know what is on the screen. At the same time the FCC failed to require audio description of text messages on the screen, such as weather alerts, emergency announcements, and other critical information. We have challenged the rule as arbitrary and capricious in the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and we expect to win.

Dennis Lindsey is a blind man living in Denver, Colorado, who is a member of the National Federation of the Blind. With a former wife, Tonya Lindsey, he had two children, Garry and Taylor. His ex-wife has had a history of mental illness. Furthermore, she physically assaulted Dennis last September and got arrested for it.

Shortly after the assault Tonya Lindsey filed an emergency ex-parte motion with the Court requesting that a restraining order be entered against Dennis Lindsey prohibiting him from seeing his children except for a brief time on the weekends. The reasons for the motion were that Dennis Lindsey is blind and diabetic and that blind diabetics cannot (according to Tonya Lindsey) care for children. The motion was granted.

We appeared on Dennis Lindsey's behalf, and the judge's order was vacated. Today the children are living full-time with Dennis Lindsey. Although permanent orders have not yet been entered, we expect them soon, and we will not permit the Court or anybody else to prohibit Dennis Lindsey from exercising his parental rights because of his blindness.

Mary Cullum is a member of the National Federation of the Blind living in Springfield, Missouri. She is a client of Missouri Rehabilitation Services for the Blind, RSB. She requested that RSB sponsor adjustment to blindness training for her at the Colorado Center for the Blind, but RSB denied the request. The reason for the denial was that no contract existed between the Colorado Center and Missouri Rehabilitation. The contract had been terminated in 1997 because the Colorado Center for the Blind routinely announces that meetings of the Denver chapter of the National Federation of the Blind will take place and encourages its students to participate in the Federation.

We filed an appeal, and a hearing occurred late in May. Missouri rehabilitation has violated the provisions of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended. Shortly before this convention a decision was reached. Mary Cullum's right to free choice has been violated by RSB. She will be receiving her adjustment-to-blindness training at the Colorado Center for the Blind. The decision was made because of the work of the National Federation of the Blind.

Tammy Pettyjohn is the mother of a blind child, Isa Hullender, now eleven years old. They live in Georgia, and they have been attempting to obtain Braille instruction for Isa for the past five years. Although the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act contains provisions which declare that Braille will be taught if a parent wants it taught, Isa Hullender has not been receiving instruction. Isa's mother insisted that Braille instruction be included in the education plan. But there was no teacher. When a teacher was found, she objected to teaching Braille.

Because of these circumstances the school system decided to eliminate Braille as part of the education curriculum for Isa. Isa's mother called for our assistance. Tammy Pettyjohn asked if we could identify a bright, well-qualified teacher of the blind to perform an independent assessment. We did; the assessment was performed; and the conclusion was unequivocal. Braille is a must for Isa Hullender.

When the hearing with the school district came to a conclusion, the education plan was as unequivocal as the assessment. Braille would be taught every single day. We know that Braille is an essential skill. The evaluators may fight us, the administrators may try to avoid us, and the teachers may object to us. But we will continue to insist on Braille. If Isa Hullender does not receive instruction in Braille, we will find a way to charge the school district with liability for its failure to give her the education she needs. It is that serious, and we are that determined.

There have also been Social Security cases. Kathryn Freetman, from Lincoln, Nebraska, contacted us in October 2000, concerning her application for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Despite the fact that she was making less than the current exempt earnings amount for blind individuals, she was told that she would not qualify. We immediately initiated an appeal, citing the regulations pertaining to blind recipients. In March 2001, Kathryn Freetman received a check in the amount of $21,700 in back benefits, and her monthly checks have begun to arrive.

We have continued with a great many educational programs, teaching classes for students of ophthalmology at the University of Maryland, for teachers of the blind at the University of Louisville, for rehabilitation professionals, and others. Leadership seminars have been conducted for students at the Colorado Center for the Blind, the Louisiana Center for the Blind, and Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions. Community leaders and business executives have attended a number of transformation seminars conducted at the National Center for the Blind to give them a notion about what blindness is, and especially what it is not.

A record number of individuals have visited the National Center for the Blind this year, more than 2,500 people from the United States and twenty other countries. We hosted librarians who have visited the Library of Congress in an international program sponsored by the Soros Foundation to encourage international understanding and cooperation. They came to us from the countries of Georgia, Russia, the Czech Republic, and the Slovak Republic.

In 1991 we initiated a program to distribute Kernel books, small volumes containing firsthand accounts of the meaning of blindness intended to take the mystery from the subject and encourage the public to comprehend us as we are. Last fall we released volume nineteen in the series, entitled I Can Feel Blue on Monday, and at this convention we release number twenty, Reaching for the Top in the Land Down Under. With a circulation approaching five million, these books that describe the real-life experiences of the blind are attracting attention from a growing number of individuals and are making blindness interesting and exciting for a perceptive audience. With these volumes we are altering forever the meaning of blindness and the future for blind people.

There are also the other ongoing programs of the Federation. We continue to print and distribute the Braille Monitor, the most widely read general interest magazine about blindness, with a circulation in the neighborhood of 35,000 per month. The Voice of the Diabetic, our magazine for blind diabetics and their friends, has reached a circulation of well over a quarter of a million. Future Reflections, the magazine for parents and educators of blind children continues to stimulate teachers and parents, being circulated to approximately 14,000 people per quarter. And there are the other publications, the recorded edition of the American Bar Association Journal, The Student Slate--a publication of the National Association of Blind Students, and state and local newsletters and publications.

The Federation is on the move, tackling more and bigger problems than ever before in our history and expanding our programs and activities. Despite our growing diversity, we are the same Federation that came into being in 1940 to plan for our future and dream of a time when our talents would be recognized. We gain our spirit from our positive philosophy and from each other. Sometimes, when we undertake an ambitious new program that will stretch our imagination and tax our resources, we wonder if it can be done. When we have completed the ambitious effort, we cannot imagine a time when it would have been beyond our powers. In just this way we expand our horizons and increase our opportunities for ourselves and for those who come after us.

In 1986 you gave to me the highest honor the Federation can bestow--you elected me president. I have tried to lead the organization with imagination and firmness. I promised my predecessor, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, that I would do my best to continue to lead the movement as long as the Federation wanted me to do so.

We have a bond in this organization of love and trust which spans the generations and does much to make us what we are. I will do my best to lead with all that I have and all that I am. I will not shirk or dodge or avoid hardships and confrontations. I will not imagine that the work is too hard or the challenges too great. And I will come to the daily tasks with as much optimism and imagination as I can muster. I will believe in our future, and I will believe in you, the members of the Federation.

But you too must do your part. When the attacks come and the setbacks occur, you must support the Federation, its leaders, and me. When the challenges to our methods and morals are made, you must tell me that you believe in our cause and in our people as much as I believe in you. Building our movement will not be easy or simple. It demands everything within us--our faith, our energy, our willingness to give, our capacity to comprehend, our commitment to care. However, whatever is demanded we will give. Whatever is needed we will provide.

With such a commitment, with such a shared responsibility, with such unshakable determination, with such an outpouring of love--our movement is unstoppable and unbeatable. We are the blind, and we will decide for ourselves what the future will be. Our movement cannot be hindered or slowed or turned back. As I have worked with you, the members of the Federation, during the past year, this is what I have had confirmed yet again with absolute certainty. This is the meaning of the National Federation of the Blind. This is my report for 2001!

(back) (next) (contents)