Vol. 55, No. 11 December 2012
Gary Wunder, Editor
Distributed by email, in inkprint, in Braille, and on USB flash drive (see below) by
The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, President
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SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
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Vol. 55, No. 11 December 2012
Illustration: Holiday Party Photo
by Gary Wunder
Convention Bulletin 2013
Minimum Wage, Backlash, Shame, and Determination
by Marc Maurer
Louder and Prouder Still: Four More States
Join the BELL Choir
by Eric Guillory, Jackie Otwell, Casey West, Carlton Walker, and Meleah Jensen
Chapter Building, Program Innovation, and Finance
by Marc Maurer
A Monument to a Man and Our Movement
Yet One More Honor for Kenneth Jernigan
by Jim Omvig
Outside the Box
by Jerry Whittle
NFB Philosophy, a White Cane, and a Determined Old Street-Dog
by Pat Munson
Distinguished Educator of Blind
Children Award for 2013
by Cathy Jackson
Newel Perry and the California Council for the Blind
An Interview Conducted by Willa Baum
The 2013 Blind Educator of the Year Award
by David Ticchi
Blind Woman Files Complaint against Election Commission
Automark's Voting Machine Wasn't Ready for Early Voters
by Ryan Luby
The Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards
by James Gashel
National Convention from a Distance
by Raquel Aguirre
Social Security, SSI, and Medicare Facts for 2013
by Lauren McLarney
The holiday season is a special time, and each year we rejoice and celebrate it at the NFB Jernigan Institute with an annual holiday staff party. Last year Jessica Bachicha-Ewell, a project coordinator in the department of education at the Institute, generously shared her soloist voice with an appreciative audience.
She is pictured here in the dining room next to the Christmas tree singing “O Holy Night” and “It Came upon a Midnight Clear.” Not visible here is her piano accompanist Chris Danielsen. Jessica also read from the Christmas Story according to Luke, while Chris played an instrumental arrangement they wrote together for the occasion.
by Gary Wunder
In the October, 2012, issue we carried an article by Kevin Carey entitled Democratizing Braille: A World View. In it he talks about the need to lower the cost of Braille displays and says that the goal to lower the cost to $2,500 is admirable but that it must drop to $300. We mistakenly added an extra zero, meaning $300 was incorrectly written as $3,000. We regret the error.
Three popular Braille displays:
APH Refreshabraille 18, $1,695
HumanWare Brailliant 32 Second Generation, $2,595
HIMS Braille Edge 40, $2,995
It is time to begin planning for the 2013 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. We are returning to Orlando for our first stay at the beautiful Rosen Centre Hotel this year, July 1 through 6. Once again our hotel rates are the envy of all. For the 2013 convention they are singles and doubles, $79; and for triples and quads, $85. In addition to the room rates there will be a tax, which at present is 13.5 percent. No charge will be made for children under seventeen in the room with parents as long as no extra bed is requested. Please note that the hotel is a no-smoking facility.
For 2013 convention room reservations you should write directly to the Rosen Centre Hotel, 9840 International Drive, Orlando, Florida 32819. You can call the hotel at (800) 204-7234 after January 1. The hotel will want a deposit of $90 for each room and will want a credit card number or a personal check. If you use a credit card, the deposit will be charged against your card immediately, just as would be the case with a $90 check. If a reservation is cancelled before May 28, 2013, half of the deposit will be returned. Otherwise refunds will not be made.
Guest-room amenities include cable television; in-room safe; coffee maker; hairdryer; and, for a fee, high-speed Internet access. Guests can also enjoy a swimming pool, fitness center, and on-site spa. The Rosen Centre Hotel offers fine-dining at Executive Chef Michael Rumplik’s award-winning Everglades Restaurant. In addition, there is an array of dining options from sushi to tapas to a 24-hour deli. See later issues of the Monitor for details and information about other attractions in the Greater Orlando area.
The 2013 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will be a truly exciting and memorable event, with an unparalleled program and rededication to the goals and work of our movement. Make plans now to be a part of it. Preconvention seminars for parents of blind children and other groups and set-up of the exhibit hall will take place on Monday, July 1, and adjournment will be Saturday, July 6, following the banquet. Convention registration and registration packet pick-up for those who preregistered will begin on Tuesday, July 2, and both Tuesday and Wednesday will be filled with meetings of divisions and committees, including the Wednesday morning annual meeting, open to all, of the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind.
General convention sessions will begin on Thursday, July 4, and continue through the banquet on Saturday, July 6. Note that Friday, July 5, will include both morning and afternoon convention sessions. Sunday, July 7, will be available for tours for those who enjoy getting to know something about our convention city. To assure yourself a room in the headquarters hotel at convention rates, you must make reservations early. The hotel will be ready to take your call or deal with your written request by January 1.
Remember that as usual we need door prizes from state affiliates, local chapters, and individuals. Once again prizes should be small in size but large in value. Cash, of course, is always appropriate and welcome. As a general rule we ask that prizes of all kinds have a value of at least $25 and not include alcohol. Drawings will occur steadily throughout the convention sessions, and you can anticipate a grand prize of truly impressive proportions to be drawn at the banquet. Prizes should be sent to Dan Hicks, President, National Federation of the Blind of Florida, 504 South Armenia Ave., 1319 B, Tampa, FL 33609.
The best collection of exhibits featuring new technology; meetings of our special interest groups, committees, and divisions; memorable tours suggested by the host affiliate; the most stimulating and provocative program items of any meeting of the blind in the world; the chance to renew friendships in our Federation family; and the unparalleled opportunity to be where the real action is and where decisions are being made—all of these mean you will not want to miss being a part of the 2013 national convention. We'll see you in Orlando in July.
by Marc Maurer
Our policy in the National Federation of the Blind is to change the law to eliminate subminimum wages. The law that authorizes subminimum wage payments discriminates against the blind and otherwise disabled. I believe that legalized discrimination is worse than the unlawful sort because it uses the power of the state to say that discrimination is justified. Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act authorizes subminimum wage payments to disabled workers. We have been opposing the continued authority of Section 14(c) for as long as I can remember. Our first president, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, was writing to members of Congress about it in the 1940s. Today, more than seven decades after the founding of the Federation, Congress is considering a bill, H.R. 3086, that would eliminate the Section 14(c) authorization to pay disabled workers subminimum wages. This bill has come into being as a result of the work of the National Federation of the Blind.
I believe it is fair to say that most Americans do not know that disabled people may legally be paid subminimum wages. The system can exist only because members of the public are unaware of it. Whenever we take steps to bring it to the attention of the public, we are met with incredulity that the system exists at all. With this in mind we decided to conduct a number of public demonstrations in front of Goodwill establishments because Goodwill is probably the largest entity in the United States that pays workers subminimum wages. We have tried to initiate substantive conversations with Goodwill about its policy to pay subminimum wages, but the president of Goodwill has consistently refused to discuss the matter.
Consequently, it came as something of a surprise to me that the board of directors of one of our state affiliates and at least one of our chapters felt that the public protest against Goodwill’s policy should not take place in their localities. The reason behind the objection was that the local Goodwill did not follow the policy authorizing it to pay disabled workers less than the minimum wage. Some of our members thought that, if the local Goodwill store was paying at least the federal minimum wage, it should not be subjected to the ignominy of a national demonstration.
Why does the argument about local conditions appeal strongly to some? If the Goodwill store in my town is not paying subminimum wages, is it reasonable for me to challenge a Goodwill policy in my town that creates subminimum wage payments someplace else? Is it fair for me to demand of a local representative that equal treatment be established for all as a national policy?
The national policy to pay subminimum wages to disabled workers is in place at Goodwill, and the affiliates of Goodwill help to make the national presence of the organization what it is. Consequently, even though some good people participate in the Goodwill programs, the National Federation of the Blind has led a public demonstration that objects to a scandalous policy of discrimination against disabled people.
We have met a number of people in the halls of Congress who are trying to assure that our proposed legislation to eliminate the subminimum wage payments does not pass. Some of these people tell us that they represent Goodwill Industries. Goodwill Industries is a billion-dollar business with well over one hundred locations. It uses its name and its economic power to exploit disabled Americans, including the blind. It has a national policy that authorizes subminimum wage payments, and it uses the money it collects to pay the most expensive lobbyists to keep the exploitation system in place. This is why the protests have occurred. This is also why the conditions that apply to one Goodwill operation also affect all of the others.
When I shared these thoughts with some of my colleagues, they urged me to believe that I had missed something. Some people, they said, have multiple disabilities or intellectual disabilities which prevent them from being productive. “Do you not believe,” they asked me, “that it is fundamentally unfair to demand that an employer pay the minimum wage or above to people who are unable to be productive?”
I have several reactions to this question. First, Goodwill Industries makes money on disabled workers. It would not invite disabled workers to work in its places of business if it did not.
Second, implicit in the question is the assumption that disability indicates unproductiveness. I do not believe that there has ever been a demonstration that these are the same. I have met many people who thought, quite uncritically, that they are the same. Some of these people have been potential employers. Sometimes I’ve tried to get a job from some of them, discovering only that they could not imagine how I as a blind person might serve productively in their enterprises. My experience causes me to reject the question as it is propounded because it states quite unequivocally that those with multiple or intellectual disabilities are essentially unproductive. If this assumption is accepted at the outset, the conclusion is implied, and the disabled people do not work or do not get the protection to which others are entitled. It is not reasonable for employers to be required to employ the unproductive, but disability and unproductivity are not the same thing and should not be confused with each other.
Third, the system that employs disabled people implies that the task of demonstrating productivity is primarily placed upon the individual hired by the employer. However, the employment system has both managers and employees in it, and the tools that determine the nature of the employment are almost exclusively within the control of management. It is the task of the employees to be productive, and it is the task of the management to conduct the business in a way that permits employees to be productive. Because management has control of the business, if the individual workers are not productive, it is at least as likely that management has failed as that the workers have. How many systems employed in business expect individuals to use their vision? Many of these systems do not need to require blind people to use vision, but they are built to require it. When blind people are unable to be productive using these systems, it is not the fault of the blind person. Management is expected to manage in a way that uses the talents of the workers productively. A failure in the system is very likely the fault of management, not a reflection of the productive capacity of the worker.
All workers should be treated with respect. Part of the respect is to treat all workers as a single class—not to divide workers into those who have legal protection and those who have none. It is arguable that those who possess disabilities are in greater need of legal protection than those who are without them because the capacity of disabled people is very frequently misunderstood. In the struggle to obtain employment, it is likely that disabled people are more vulnerable than others.
Although the arguments contained in this summation demonstrate good reasons for taking the position that we have in the National Federation of the Blind, they do not address the uneasiness of some of our members about conducting public demonstrations. As I pondered what we are doing, it occurred to me that blind people are strongly encouraged to “fit in” and are discouraged from being “conspicuous.” A constant demand exists that blind people conform to a standard of acceptable, normal behavior established by somebody else. I find the constant barrage of instructions about my behavior to be annoying. Some people tell me that I should wait; others tell me that I should do certain things (and avoid other things) for my own safety; and still others advise me to be satisfied with my “lot in life” and not to seek to change it. I have long ago concluded that I will not accept the decisions of others about what I will do and what I will be. However, I have also come to know that being conspicuous can be uncomfortable.This leads me to an observation. We in the National Federation of the Blind must be prepared to set the standard of behavior for ourselves. We must not let somebody else determine the standards that will govern our lives. If we believe that a destructive national policy must be challenged, we must have the wit and the courage to take the steps required to challenge it. We must do so even if others think us conspicuous. We must do so even if others object to our right to express our own beliefs. We must not let a false sense of shame keep us from standing up for what we know is right. This reflection tells me once again why we have created the National Federation of the Blind.
by Eric Guillory, Jackie Otwell, Casey West, Carlton Walker, and Meleah Jensen
From the Editor: The National Federation of the Blind is committed to Braille because we know how important it is to be literate. Although many state and federal laws clearly say that Braille should be the presumed reading medium for blind students, we know that implementation of the law too often falls short and that, if blind children are to learn Braille from people who really use and believe in it, we must do some of the training ourselves. The BELL (Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning) Program is one way we introduce school-age children to the way blind people read and write. Here is a report from the most recent states to join the program:
Our NFB BELL Choir continues to grow. During the summer of 2012 Louisiana, Idaho, Nebraska, and Massachusetts all held Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) Programs for the first time. These four new states were joined by our seven veteran states, several of which had programs that grew. Utah and North Carolina each held one program; Colorado, Virginia, Maryland, and Georgia each held two; and Texas held four. In all eighteen programs took place in eleven states.
What follows are snapshots of the programs held by the four new additions to our NFB BELL choir:
Eric Guillory, who serves as director of youth services at the Louisiana Center for the Blind, is no stranger to planning and running youth programs. Even with all of his years of experience, he says he still felt a bit of trepidation. However, any nervousness he felt was eased by knowing that he was leading a great team of teachers and volunteers.
Louisiana got the bells ringing in Ruston in early June. Rather than using the more traditional two-week day-school model, Louisiana’s program opted to employ the residential capacity of the Louisiana Center for the Blind in order to serve more students from around the state.
In addition to the LCB, the NFBL also had help from the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University. Students enrolled in the Institute’s teacher of blind students program were a tremendous asset to this endeavor—serving as wonderfully knowledgeable and caring instructors.
In addition to the intensive instruction in the literary Braille code, students learned nonvisual techniques for cooking and basic cane travel skills. These skills were reinforced around the campus and when on community outings. Other vital components of the program were the social and role modeling opportunities provided for students. While skill development is critical, positive attitudes about blindness are equally so. And for some students the chance to interact with peers was one of the most memorable aspects of the program. Here is what one grandmother had to say about the program: “Being around the other kids and participating in such excellent activities has been tremendous for Baylee. She has enjoyed herself so much, as have I. Taking a tour of the Louisiana Center and interacting with the teachers and other mentors this past week has been very enlightening for me, and I look forward to Baylee’s involvement next year.”
Ramona Walhof, a longtime Federationist and past president of the NFB of Idaho, serves as the BELL coordinator for the state. She says, “I wanted BELL in Idaho because so many kids are not learning Braille or not learning it thoroughly.” The sound of the BELL is still reverberating throughout Idaho. Ramona says that she was told by parents of a couple of participants who attended an ice cream social that their children are still talking about the BELL Program. Not only did the kids learn Braille, but their attitudes about blindness were changed during these two weeks. The students proclaimed that BELL is “blind friendly.”
Carlton Walker served as Idaho’s core teacher. Below is her story of the Idaho BELL Program:
Spirits were as high as the peaks that overlook the Idaho capital of Boise as the Idaho BELL Program came to life on July 23, 2012. Full-time blind mentors Ramona Walhof and Susan Ford took the lead in teaching Braille-reading and Braille-writing classes. These sisters live their love of Braille in their instruction, and their students made great gains in a short two weeks. Students also benefited from the expertise of a certified cane travel instructor, a teacher of blind students, and blind role models. These three ladies used a variety of activities, including hide-and-seek games with school lockers and having the students use a Braille-labeled microwave to make breakfast and snacks.
Other activities included a rocking birthday party for Louis Braille on opening day. In addition to traditional birthday fare (decorated cookies and balloons), BELL students engaged in some serious decorating activities. Using patterned duct tape, tactile stickers, and different ribbons, BELL students individualized their canes, their BELL notebook binders, and even their sleepshades.
As terrific as the facilities and instruction were at St. Joe’s, BELL could not be contained in one building. Field trips included an afternoon trip to the pool at the Boise YMCA and a hands-on, ears-open trip to the Discovery Center of Idaho. On the penultimate day of BELL, we all traveled to the heart of downtown Boise to explore above-ground parking garages, elevators, escalators, busy traffic intersections, and ice cream.
When the Nebraska affiliate began to explore the possibility of bringing the BELL Program to its state, affiliate president Amy Buresh sent out an email in which she illustrated Nebraska’s need for BELL by citing a phone call from the parent of a three-year-old who had come to the NFBN for help getting Braille for her child. She ended her message with an enthusiastic “let’s do this thing!”
Although the excitement of the team was evident, several challenges and obstacles threatened to silence Nebraska’s BELL. Fortunately, in true Federation spirit, each of the obstacles was surmounted, and the Nebraska BELL Program was a success. Casey Robertson traveled to Nebraska to serve as the core teacher. Here is what she has to say:
Let’s Play Ball. Nebraska’s very first BELL Program was a grand slam hit. On the second day of the program BELL’s very own student Rachel Rockemann threw out the opening pitch for the Nebraska Storm Chasers minor league baseball team. That was just the start of the excitement for the six students who participated in Nebraska’s BELL Program. Each day was filled with entertaining ways of learning Braille such as Braille beach ball, Braille twister, and Braille baseball. They enjoyed activities such as making bird feeders and learning to cook using nonvisual skills.
Students also enjoyed interacting with blind role models who dropped in to help with various activities or to share story time. By the third day of the program students decided to remove the word “can’t” from their vocabulary. They decided that “blindness” and “can’t” should not be in the same sentence. Participants spent a lot of time encouraging one another to push beyond what they originally thought possible. By the end of the two weeks the students had accumulated over 150 BELL ringers or accomplishments to show off to their families on the closing day.
One student decided by the second week that he wanted to try Braille again at school because “it can be fun and I can read with it.” Another student wanted to teach her friends about her cane and why she needs it. Each student developed more than just Braille over those two weeks; they each developed a sense of being okay with their blindness. They felt better about themselves and believed they could do anything they wanted to do in their lives.
Kristina Constant is a student working on a degree to teach blind students. As a future teacher and as a life-long Braille reader, she understands the necessity for blind students to have access to quality Braille instruction. Although Massachusetts had the smallest BELL Program, make no mistake--their BELL was ringing just as loud and just as proud as the BELLs in our other new states. Jackie Otwell was the core teacher for the Massachusetts BELL Program. Here is what she has to say:
Although Springfield, Massachusetts, had a small cohort, consisting of two marvelous middle school students, each one walked away having increased Braille knowledge, nonvisual techniques, and daily interactions with positive blind role models. These teens also became well-rehearsed in the kitchen as well, making fudge, cookies, and Cheerios treats. Zahra learned how to Braille the entire alphabet. Brandon increased his knowledge of contractions. For example, he learned the saying “Drop it like it’s hot” for the contractions i-n and e-n, and that a-r is the pirate contraction. Although such crutches are corny, middle school students liked them, and we had a lot of laughs.
Zahra and Brandon had the opportunity to take the knowledge they acquired from the “Money! Money! Money!” lesson at a local Royal Farms store. The pair used cane techniques to cross a busy intersection to get to their goal of candy. The team also learned how to play and refine goalball skills from expert Nancy Bazanchuk, director of CHD Disability Resources. Brandon, familiar with goalball, showed off his throwing skills, and Zahra caught on to the basics quickly. Kudos to Christina Constant for taking on this new BELL Program!Interested in joining the NFB BELL Choir? We are looking for three new host states for the summer of 2013. If your affiliate is interested in enriching the lives of blind youth through increased access to Braille instruction, contact Meleah Jensen at <[email protected]> or visit <https://www.nfb.org/bell-program>.
by Marc Maurer
I have been told that money is power, and I have wondered whether it would be fair to reverse the statement to say that power is money. I cannot believe that money and power are equivalent, but I do think that money effectively spent can be very powerful.
Some years ago I wrote an article which appeared in the Braille Monitor called “Cabbage, Bread, and Dough.” In that article I observed that a powerful country will have a powerful currency. Whether the power of the country comes from its currency or the power of the currency comes from the country is irrelevant. A powerful country and a powerful currency exist together.
In the last five years financial receipts for the National Federation of the Blind have been consistently above $20 million. Some of the income has been specified for particular purposes, but a good deal of it has been available to support discretionary programs of the Federation. This has meant that we could undertake unusual efforts that others have not tried. For example, we have conducted biennial Youth Slam science programs even though the cost has been in the neighborhood of half a million dollars. The ambitious character of these programs has helped to change the educational system for blind students in the United States because we have dreamed of experimental models that expand possibilities beyond those previously known. In some places these models have been adopted.
In addition we have conducted programs to alter the way blind people get visual information. One of these has been the Blind Driver Challenge, which permitted a blind person to drive independently using a nonvisual interface adapted for the purpose.
In addition to these programs, we have invested heavily in the K-NFB Reading Technology company, which has devised a portable reading machine that is a computer program running on a cell phone. K-NFB Reading has also built Blio, a digital book reader that is useful for the sighted and accessible to the blind. This latter effort is of enormous importance because presentation of books and other printed information is quickly becoming almost entirely digital. In the National Federation of the Blind we have been spending enormous amounts of energy and a great deal of money in an attempt to cause digital information to be presented in accessible formats.
The primary purpose of the National Federation of the Blind is to offer blind people an opportunity to come together to share ideas and to combine efforts to make change that is positive for blind people. The National Federation of the Blind is a mechanism blind people can use collectively to determine the nature of blindness in the future. In order for this mechanism to operate effectively, our members must participate in the organization, express their feelings about which parts of the outfit are working and which are not, and imagine what changes might be achievable if we combine our energy and resources in single-minded ways. The money we get is important because it permits us to fund efforts that could not exist without it. However, of even greater importance is our membership. Without the individual experiences that blind people bring to the imaginative work we do, without the passion that personal knowledge can give to the arguments we create, we would not be the driving force that characterizes the National Federation of the Blind.
When I contemplate the assets we have as an organization, our membership is first. The spirit of independence that characterizes what we are (this spirit is often known as NFB philosophy) is a vital part of the organized blind movement, but it gets its inspiration from the people who live it. Then comes the money that we spend on program.
In the summer of 2012 I observed that the fundraising efforts of the Federation were not generating as much revenue as they had in the past. The trend continued into the fall, and at the time of this writing I estimate that there is likely to be a substantial shortfall in revenue over expenses for 2012. Furthermore, unless changes are made, the shortfall is likely to continue and likely to be significant in 2013. With this in mind we are undertaking certain new efforts, and a number of changes involving expenses have been made. Two significant expenses that we have are costs for legal actions and costs for staff members. Both of these expenditures are being cut in an attempt to bring our expenses into line with income. Undoubtedly other expenses of the organization can be reduced, but it is important that the fundamental parts of the operation continue.
In addition to the reductions in expenditures, we are creating programs to stimulate growth in membership, to develop opportunities previously unexplored, and to raise additional funds. Our members provide passion for the programs of the Federation and inspiration to develop new efforts. To take maximum advantage of this asset, we must build our chapters as we build our treasury. Among the most inspiring of our new programs in the last few years has been the Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) Program. Beginning in one community and expanding now to twenty of them, this program takes advantage of the efforts of chapter and affiliate members.
Do we need more Braille training? If we do, what is the most likely method of getting it? Do we need more attention to accessibility of websites? If so, how can we achieve this desirable outcome? Do we need the electronic systems in taxicabs to be usable by the blind? If this is so, how can we get the public service commissions or the offices of the mayors who control such things to address the urgency for equal access? Sometimes the work that we have done has been planned and conducted primarily through our central office, but much of the inspiration and labor that we have available to us is located in our affiliates and chapters. We must depend on our own efforts to take advantage of what we are as an organization and of what we can become.
Ramona Walhof has suggested that we create the cash and caring committee. She has noted that we have at least one significant event in each of our affiliates every year, our state convention. She has surmised that we might have additional significant events each year. She believes that it is possible to add a fundraising element to each of these events. The cash and caring committee intends to coordinate efforts to get this done. If the prime objective of the committee were merely to raise funds, it would be likely to be less effective than it could be by raising funds and building program at the same time. When we do this, we imagine activities that might not have occurred without these combined efforts, and we glorify the work we do in demonstrating its value to others.
In the meantime there are many ways to support the Federation with energy, imagination, and funds. Join the PAC Plan; make contributions to the SUN Program; pursue an activity to support the Kenneth Jernigan Fund; participate in your local chapter or start one if none exists. Bring people to the Federation, and help them share the joy that we create together. Sell candy; help with the raffle; join in the nut sale; or take action to help promote some other chapter activity. Share your ideas with friends from throughout the country, and let us bring the vibrant spirit of Federationists into the forefront of every part of our magnificent movement.
by Jim Omvig
From the Editor: Jim Omvig is well known to readers of the Braille Monitor for the many roles he has played in the civil rights struggles of the blind. In the following article his knowledge of the history of the blind of Iowa takes center stage. He brings to the story the perspective not only of one who has studied our history but of one who participated in it. He served with Dr. Jernigan at the Iowa Commission for the Blind and was featured prominently in the film We Know Who We Are, which was produced in 1977. He is now a commissioner overseeing the programs of the Iowa Department for the Blind. Here is what he has to say about an event commemorating the one-hundredth anniversary of the building where Dr. Jernigan transformed rehabilitation for the blind:
In the magnificently rich history of the National Federation of the Blind, five street addresses stand out: 2652 Shasta Road, Berkeley, California; 524 Fourth Street, Des Moines, Iowa; 4206 Euclid Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland; 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland; and now 200 East Wells at Jernigan Place, Baltimore, Maryland.
On Thursday afternoon, September 13, 2012, the 524 Fourth Street address in Des Moines, formerly known as the Iowa Commission for the Blind building, was the scene of what will come to be heralded as one of the truly significant Jernigan events in our recent history. A beautiful bronze plaque was unveiled at the main entrance to the building to recognize the 100 years of its existence and the work done there by Dr. Jernigan. The recognition was given by the National Register of Historic Places, a program administered by the National Park Service, which in turn is a part of the United States Department of the Interior.
As part of the dedication of the building and the unveiling of the plaque, I was asked to participate in the event at the Department for the Blind to speak about our history. It was only when I arrived that I learned--to my grateful satisfaction--that it was not really the 100-year existence of the grand old building which some of us love so much that was being recognized. In fact the building itself is not necessarily majestic. It would not have been recognized at all by the federal government had it not been for the magnificent and life-changing work Kenneth Jernigan did there. Nor would it have been recognized had it not been for Ms. Shan Sasser of the Iowa Library, who worked for several years to complete the required federal paperwork.
The text of the plaque reads:
FOR THE WORK OF
DR. KENNETH JERNIGAN,
DIRECTOR OF THE COMMISSION FROM 1959 - 1978,
WHO MADE SIGNIFICANT AND LONG-LASTING
CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE BETTERMENT
OF BLIND AMERICANS
If newer readers haven't figured it out yet, 524 Fourth Street in Des Moines is the address of what was in Kenneth Jernigan’s time known as the Iowa Commission for the Blind, now the Iowa Department for the Blind. It was the site of the Iowa experiment and the miracle of Iowa. It is where Dr. Kenneth Jernigan first worked his magic and proved once and for all the soundness and validity of the Federation's philosophy and our ideas about what proper training can and must be.
Although the history of what is being recognized by the Department of the Interior is laid out in great detail in my book, The Blindness Revolution, Jernigan in his Own Words, I believe it would be helpful to review the history so that readers can have a true understanding of just what really happened in Des Moines on September 13. Many will have neither the time nor the inclination to wade through this highly detailed volume. Therefore I'll offer a simple review here which summarizes the many separate facts and circumstances which fell together and let the Iowa experiment happen: an unconnected set of facts and circumstances which I refer to as serendipity in revolution.
First, just to tickle your fancy, hear this: In 1968, just ten years after Dr. Jernigan's arrival in Iowa, Harold Russell, the head of the President’s Committee on the Employment of the Handicapped, presented a presidential citation to him from President Lyndon Baines Johnson and said, "If a person must be blind, it is better to be blind in Iowa than in any other place in the nation, or the world!"
Now here is how it all happened. In 1940 a young Des Moines woman named Dorothy Kirsner became a certified Braillist. Sighted people, mostly women, learned and became expert in Braille writing using the Perkins Brailler. These volunteers were known as Braille transcribers, and their primary mission was to provide reading material to blind people who were in need of Braille. Imagine this: certified Braillists were considered at that time in our history to be so valuable that their certificates of capability were signed by the president of the United States. Mrs. Kirsner's, which she displays proudly, was signed by FDR.
Mrs. Kirsner was so passionate about her desire to help blind people that she gathered together several of her friends and organized a Braille transcribers group in Des Moines. They became known as the Temple B'Nai Jeshurun Sisterhood.
In 1943 a young blind man by the name of Norman Kenneth Jernigan (he was born in 1926) graduated from the Tennessee School for the Blind. He immediately entered Tennessee Polytechnic Institute in Cookeville, Tennessee, and graduated from that institution in 1947. Also in 1947 he applied for a scholarship from the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) based in New York City. Perhaps the most interesting and glowing recommendation of all for that AFB scholarship came from the dean of Tennessee Tech's College of Education and Psychology, and it is fun to reprint it here. It offers us an amazing introduction to Kenneth Jernigan--the man. The dean wrote:
"I am glad to reply to your letter concerning Mr. Norman Kenneth Jernigan of Route 1, Beech Grove, Tennessee, who is an applicant for a scholarship to assist him in his preparation for teaching.
"Mr. Jernigan is the most remarkable young man whom I have ever taught. Although totally blind from birth, he is a brilliant student. He has a straight A record with the exception of two Bs which he made the first quarter of his freshman year when he was forced to enter six weeks late on account of an appendectomy.
"Unlike most handicapped students whom I have known, he does not pity himself or appear different from normal students. On the other hand, he is one of the happiest and most cheerful students on the campus. He participates in many extra-curricular activities. He is a member of the Christian Association Cabinet; Parliamentarian of the Tennessee Tech Chapter, Future Teachers of America; a member of the local chapter of Pi Kappa Delta, national honorary forensic fraternity, with an outstanding record in public speaking and debating; he served for two quarters as president of the International Relations Club; and in a recent popularity election he was chosen by the student body as Prince of Personality for 1946-47. I understand that other campus honors are likely to come to him in the near future.
"He is neat in appearance, always appropriately dressed, makes friends easily; he has the better qualities of both introvert and extrovert and is very ambitious for his professional career. Incidentally, he reads Braille with unusual facility and has read more widely than the great majority of our students. He takes voluminous notes in class and rarely forgets anything he hears or reads. I believe that he will make an excellent teacher.
"In my opinion he is worthy in every way of any aid which he may receive. I know that he needs help and hope that you see fit to award him a scholarship."
Of course Dr. Jernigan won the scholarship. As I said, he graduated from Tennessee Tech in 1947 and began immediately to plan for the master's which he would earn at Peabody College in Nashville. But he ran into a problem: He couldn't find the Braille materials he needed.
In 1948 Jernigan and Kirsner met, but from a distance. Jernigan was in urgent need of Braille transcribers who could produce the tremendous amount of Braille the English and literature major would need, and he was unable to find anyone in Tennessee to do it. The record does not reveal how it happened, but he found Mrs. Kirsner and her enthusiastic Braille group in Des Moines, Iowa. They set to work, and over the next several years an astonishing amount of Braille was produced for the young scholar.
Mrs. Kirsner tells me that the most ambitious and challenging project the dedicated group of women ever took on for Jernigan was an English anthology, which four women produced in three years. The result was a fifty-four-volume Braille book that Kenneth Jernigan prized for the rest of his life.
Kirsner and Jernigan never met in person during this most productive period of both of their lives, but they became well acquainted through letters. Jernigan was very courteous and kind. He wrote frequently to thank the ladies for their relentless supply of Braille pages, and they truly became friends through letters. These friendships played a pivotal role in what was to come.
The adult state/federal vocational rehabilitation (VR) program for Americans with disabilities had been adopted by the Congress in 1920, but it did not include the blind within its programs. Apparently the 1920 Congress assumed the blind could not be rehabilitated at all. But the VR law was amended to let us in in 1943. Even so, the fact is that the VR system for the blind was an abject failure, and in far too many instances the programs hurt rather than helped the blind.
In 1940 the National Federation of the Blind was organized by Dr. Jacobus tenBroek and other blind leaders from California and six other states. One of the major reasons for the self-organization of the blind was the need for us to speak out concerning the nonexistence of VR services and to offer positive solutions. But the reaction of the professionals of the day was to reject our offers of assistance out of hand. As they put it, "We are the professionals! We know what is best for you. You are blind! What could you blind people possibly know or contribute?"
In 1949 Kenneth Jernigan did not go on to work on his doctorate as he had planned. Instead he went back to the Tennessee School for the Blind, where he taught until 1953. While at the Tennessee School, however, he became active in the National Federation of the Blind for the first time and became the local chapter president.
The 1952 NFB national convention was held in Nashville, and Kenneth Jernigan was key in its planning and execution. While they had corresponded by mail previously, this was the first time Kenneth Jernigan and Jacobus tenBroek met in person. Their affinity and mutual respect was immediate. Dr. tenBroek was so taken with Jernigan that he proposed that Jernigan be elected to the NFB's national board of directors at his very first convention. It is the only time in our history that an individual has been elected to our national board at his or her first national convention.
Things began to move quickly in the blind civil rights movement and the work to improve VR programs for the blind of America. By 1953 it was decided that young Jernigan should leave Tennessee and move to California to work in the newly established California Orientation and Adjustment Center for the Adult Blind. This, of course, put Jernigan on the scene where he could begin to work directly with the NFB's giants: Dr. tenBroek, Dr. Newel Perry, Perry Sundquist, Lawrence Marcelino, and others.
Within a short time these giants had clarified and begun to articulate what was coming to be described as the Federation philosophy. It can be summarized simply and straightforwardly in modern language as follows:
But even though NFB members became excited about these newfound truths and what it meant to bring freedom, high expectations, normality, and equality into their lives, the so-called blindness professionals of the day did not. In fact, the more the NFB promoted and pushed these marvelous truths about the blind and what state services should be, the more the regressive professionals pushed and fought back. They began to say that Federationists were crazy, that we were radicals, that we were troublemakers, and that our ideas would ruin the VR system for the blind. Just think of it, what a terrible thing it was for the Federation to go to work with vigor all around the country to convince the blind that they were normal people!
I'm not sure whose idea it was (I suppose Dr. tenBroek's), but in 1955 and 1956 several of our state affiliates convinced their state governors to embrace a plan to do something to improve the agencies. The governors would invite the Federation to come into their states to review and study the programs and activities of their VR agencies for the blind, and then the reviewers would make official findings and recommendations which would be submitted directly to the governors. These would contain proposed changes to improve the state agencies and make them useful to the blind. The young Kenneth Jernigan was sent to participate in some if not all of these studies. When you want some entertaining reading, dig out a copy of the report he wrote to then Governor Orville Faubus concerning the Arkansas program. As you might suspect, a little more hatred toward the blind was stirred up by these state studies.
By the mid 1950s, some professionals in the blindness field had declared open war on the NFB. Many told their blind clients, "You stay away from that National Federation of the Blind, or you will receive no services at all from this agency!" This, of course, frightened many blind Americans away from the organized blind movement. Incredible as it now seems, the hatred for the members of the organized blind movement on the part of certain agencies was so profound during this black hole in American blindness history that some blind clients were physically beaten by agency staff members.
This outrageous hostility toward the blind by some of the blindness professionals prompted us to take dramatic action. We contacted then United States Senator John F. Kennedy and got him to introduce and promote our "Right of the Blind to Organize" bill.
With this background we come to the real significance of Kenneth Jernigan's coming to Iowa, what he did at 524 Fourth Street, and what was actually celebrated here on September 13, 2012.
Now to wrap up all of the preliminary information that led to the Jernigan arrival in Iowa, look at 1957 and 1958. An amazing number of serendipitous facts and circumstances finally came together in one neat package:
The Iowa Adult Orientation and Adjustment Center for the Blind opened officially on July 1, 1960. The tenBroek instruction, "Ken, we must conduct an experiment," was drawing ever closer to fruition. Now it was up to Jernigan, the state director, to go the rest of the way and prove that the philosophy worked.
Of course the rest is history. The validity of the National Federation of the Blind's philosophy and what it could do in a state agency for the blind was proven beyond anyone's wildest dreams. The elements of proper training, what later Dr. Alan Dodds of Great Britain called "structured-discovery learning," were validated. Before long, with our newfound philosophy of normality, blind Iowans were finding new areas of employment: newspaper reporter, electrical engineer, public school teacher, attorney, and many others. Because of the Jernigan success in Iowa, the lives of hundreds of thousands of blind people in America and all around the world have been changed forever.
As a kind and loving side note, in 1966 the conference room adjacent to the director's office was formally named the Dorothy Kirsner Conference Room in order to recognize and memorialize the tremendous contributions she has made to the blind of Iowa, the nation, and the world.
In April of 1968, just ten years after he arrived in Iowa with the weight of this momentous assignment resting on his shoulders, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan was given an award from the president of the United States. This presidential recognition helped solidify the understanding and recognition that Jernigan had been unquestionably successful in finishing the weighty tenBroek assignment. At a magnificent celebration at 524 Fourth Street the president's stand-in spoke those memorable words, "If a person must be blind, it is better to be blind in Iowa than in any other place in the nation, or the world!"
Finally we return to September 13, 2012, and what this celebration actually memorializes. The fine new plaque on the grand old building declares that the building will stand as a monument to what Kenneth Jernigan did here, and, for what he did here, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan will stand forever as a hero to the blind.
by Jerry Whittle
From the Editor: Jerry Whittle has recently retired after a long and distinguished career as the Braille instructor at the Louisiana Center for the Blind in Ruston. He is well known for the many plays he has written that have been performed by Center students for the benefit of those who attend the national convention. Here is what Jerry has to say about the blind as they do something many would consider beyond them—enjoying the rough and tumble of flag football:
It is time for another NFB football game at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. The summer sun has finally given way to a cool, crisp October morning that finds the big Louisiana Center for the Blind bus rolling up to the Ruston recreational park. Students and staff begin pouring onto the field, some carrying big rolls of plastic mats and some hefting shoulder pads and helmets. It is boisterous and exhilarating as several players begin engaging in a little trash talking. Robert Wilkerson, a student from Panama City, Florida, starts the badinage by stating, “This is a man’s game, man. Nobody should be playing unless you realize that.”
Someone else retorts, “Hey, man, we are out here to have some fun, not hurt somebody.”
The Center’s computer instructor, Josh Boudreaux, and other helpers unroll the seventy-five-foot mats and spread them down the sidelines. The mats are fifty yards long and are placed fifteen yards apart. What is being constructed is a playing surface half the length of a regulation football field; A forty-five-foot rope is used to identify the width of the field. Next they place a mat across the field at the goal line and set a large radio at the back of the end zone. The Zack Brown Band is bellowing out a song about relaxing someplace or other.
Students and staff members begin putting on their uniforms. All of them are wearing royal blue jerseys with black numerals on the back and a picture of a football across the chest. We affectionately call it our NFB football. The tricky part while suiting up is keeping the sleepshades on while the blue helmet is pulled on from the back of the skull. Chin straps are snapped, and the nervous anxiety and excitement are palpable. For some of the students this will be the first time to play football or wear a helmet and pads. One of the instructors walks up with the beeping football and a long chain, worn like a necklace, with a cow bell attached. “Here are the football and cowbell that the quarterback on each team wears, and here are the towel and bells that he wears in the center of his pants in the back. Listen for the sound and find the quarterback,” he says.
NFB football was designed for two five-person teams, but unfortunately only eight or nine people have wanted to play. Usually we play with two three-man teams. Each team has ten plays to score a touchdown from forty yards away. Each gets three chances to score a touchdown. Only the quarterback can run with the ball, and he or she moves toward the sound of the radio. The mats warn the player that he or she is about to go out of bounds.
Before the snap the offense state their positions and cannot move, so they might say, “Blocker, blocker, quarterback.” The referee announces, “Offense set.” Then the defense set up, but they do not reveal where they are located. The referee asks, “Defense set?” The captain announces, “Defense set.” Then no talking as the quarterback says simply, “Go.” Bodies begin to move around, and the crackling sound of pads smashing together and much grunting and laughing ensue as the defensemen converge on the cowbell. Bodies fly, and a large pile of players fall on top of a student named Tarik Suber, the hapless quarterback.
Tarik next tries an end sweep, but he is so excited that he fails to notice that his feet hit the mat, and he goes out of bounds with three defensemen in hot pursuit. Spectators yell, “Out of bounds,” but his momentum carries him into a chain-link fence, and he comes to a stop. He decides to sit out a few plays, and someone else takes his place. The offense scores despite the efforts of Ernic Eyma, a six-foot-seven, two-hundred-sixty-pound defenseman, who almost yanks the towel out before Josh Bishop, a student from Alabama, scampers across the mat for a touchdown. The team opts for a two-point conversion from ten yards out, rather than the easier one point try from five yards away; they run right up the middle and score.
The teams rest at the mid-point or half time, drinking much water and Gatorade to replenish and rejuvenate. Robert keeps up the banter. “Man, I haven’t played football since high school in Florida; this is fun. I’ve got my number 25 again. I played safety and cornerback in high school, but I like quarterback; that draws all the lightning. Wish we had some more people to play.”
Lakeisha from Georgia overhears Robert from her spot on the sidelines, and she says, “I’ll play next time; I just wanted to see what it was like.”
Robert retorts, “This is a man’s game, Keish. You don’t want to run into old Josh Boudreaux; he is like Troy Palamano out here. Man, he’s all over the place. I thought I was gone for the TD one time, and somehow he found me and wrestled me to the ground.”
DuWayne, a student from Louisville, Kentucky, agrees, “Yeah, and old Bishop ain’t bad either, but I haven’t played quarterback yet. Different outcome when I run the ball.
The students resume the struggle in the lush grass of the outfield at the baseball diamond. After three tries at a touchdown, the game depends on one series of downs. If Robert’s team does not score, the game is over. They fail to score when the opposing team pushes them out of bounds on their tenth and last attempt at about the ten yard line, scattering sideline observers in several directions.
As some of the students and staff members begin rolling up the mats and carrying the extra equipment to the waiting bus, Kelvin Smith, a student from Georgia, asks, “When are we gonna play again?”
Robert excitedly responds, “How about next Saturday? I graduate in two weeks, and I want to play again. Listen, I just got an idea. We could play that morning and then come back to the activity center and have a cookout. We can’t drive no cars, but we can still tailgate back at the apartments.”
“We have the chapter carwash next weekend,” Josh Boudreaux reminds him.
“Well shoot, I could come back from Florida. You just call me when you play again, and I will be back,” Robert says emphatically. “We want some revenge now that we know how to play the game.”
After the game the students and staff members head for Griff’s for some juicy double giant hamburgers and fries. Some even opt for the triple, affectionately known as the triple by-pass burger, and they wash it down with chocolate shakes. Still boisterous and excited about playing under the pads and surviving with only minor contusions and abrasions and plenty of memories, the students vow to have a rematch.
We first tried playing NFB football without helmets and shoulder pads, but it quickly became apparent that we needed protection. Thanks to many fundraising efforts and the generosity of Dr. Maurer and the National Federation of the Blind, we were able to buy thirteen helmets and pads and many NFB jerseys. We would like to offer a challenge to any group of five players to come down and play us while the weather is cool. We will furnish everything to the team except your mouthpiece and the courage and temerity to take us on. No trash talking, but second place won’t be too bad for your first try!
by Pat Munson
From the Editor: The following article first appeared in the summer/fall 2012 issue of the newly named Blind Senior Perspective, the publication of the NFB Seniors Division. Pat Munson, the newsletter editor, wrote it for a White Cane Day writing contest some years ago. Although the events described took place decades ago, they are still both instructive and inspiring. This is what Pat said:
I yanked myself out of my chair and marched to the door. I grabbed my long white cane and opened that stupid door. At that moment I hated all my friends because one by one they had all told me that they were not going to drag me around one more time. They had seen other blind students on our college campus getting around just fine with a cane, and they said I could do the same.
But those friends had not met my pals from the school for the blind who constantly made fun of blind people who used canes. They shuffled around as best they could but thought they were really cool without that dumb long white cane, which just told all the world that the user was blind. They had gained their spectacularly sad attitudes from their teachers and others at the school, and so had I.
Everything was against me on that fateful day; no one was there to help me cross four streets and board the first of three buses that would get me to the school where I was to student teach. Even the weather was at its worst. I had not yet opened the door all the way when the wind grabbed my cane and almost whipped it out of my hand. The door slammed behind me and so did part of my negative attitudes about blindness. There at the door I made up my mind that I was going to make this trip by myself or die trying. My career as a teacher would never begin if I did not have the guts to get to that school and act like a competent blind adult.
By the time the first bus arrived, my dress, shoes, long hair, and makeup had been ruined by the wind and rain, but what did that matter? My body was still intact, and that wonderful long white cane was doing what my friends used to do for me. It was providing me with a tool of independence. I remember finally climbing up those school steps and rejoicing that I had made it. I looked as if I had just climbed out of the shower, but my goal was to meet the faculty and my master teachers, and I had made it there to do just that. I took off my dripping coat in the office and hung it up. I rang out my long soggy hair and entered the faculty meeting. Later the teachers told me that they had never seen anyone with such a determined look on her face. They did not know about the NFB.
I did complete that student teaching and got a job, but only because of the work of many in the National Federation of the Blind. Until a few years before, those in charge of teacher credentials had maintained that normal vision was required to teach in the public schools in the United States. NFB members knew this was simply wrong. Many, many members of the NFB introduced legislation in every state, eliminating the vision requirement, which took years.
I was one of the first to take up that white cane and march by myself into a job in competitive employment in the public schools in the USA. As a member of the National Federation of the Blind I gained a job, blindness skills, and the philosophy to lead a normal life in the mainstream of society. Sometimes it is not easy to be a Federationist when sighted folks endlessly insist they know what is best for us, but I love being a part of the mainstream, so I do what I must to change people’s attitudes about what it actually means to be blind. I am like a very determined old street-dog, but I have an NFB smile on my face! As Dr. Jernigan said many times, “We know who we are, and we will never go back.” Now I wish I could thank all those NFB street-dogs who helped me become what I am.
From the Editor: Cathy Jackson chairs the committee to select the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children for 2013.
The National Federation of the Blind will recognize an outstanding teacher of blind children at our 2013 convention next July. The winner of this award will receive an expense-paid trip to the convention, a check for $1,000, an appropriate plaque, and an opportunity to make a presentation about the education of blind children to the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children.
Anyone who is currently teaching or counseling blind students or administering a program for blind children is eligible to receive this award. It is not necessary to be a member of the National Federation of the Blind to apply. However, the winner must attend the national convention. Teachers may be nominated by colleagues, supervisors, or friends. The letter of nomination should explain why the teacher is being recommended for this award.
The education of blind children is one of our most important concerns. Attendance at a National Federation of the Blind convention will enrich a teacher's experience by affording him or her the opportunity to take part in seminars and workshops on educational issues, to meet other teachers who work with blind children, to meet parents, and to meet blind adults who have had experiences in a variety of educational programs. Help us recognize a distinguished teacher by distributing this form and encouraging teachers to submit their credentials. We are pleased to offer this award and look forward to applications from many well-qualified educators.
Please complete the application and attach the following:
National Federation of the Blind
Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award
Deadline: May 15, 2013
City, State, Zip:_________________________________________________
City, State, Zip:_________________________________________________
Use a separate sheet of paper to answer the following:
An Interview Conducted by Willa Baum
From the Editor: This is the fourth and last in our serialization of an interview of Newel Perry conducted by Willa Baum. More about her and the project she headed can be found in the July 2012 issue of the Braille Monitor. In this final segment Dr. Perry discusses his work as a teacher at the California School for the Blind, his work in the organized blind movement, and the people whose hearts and minds he helped to shape.
Included in the Braille Monitor audio edition is a recording of a speech given by Dr. Perry on the occasion of Kenneth Jernigan’s leaving California to head the Iowa Commission for the Blind—a piece of audio that provides the voice to fill out our picture of Perry and which at the same time complements the tribute to Mr. Jernigan that appears earlier in this issue.
In the three parts of this interview that were published in June, July, and October, 2012, we changed California Council for the Blind to California Council of the Blind, considering it an error by the interviewer. Research reveals that the Council used the word “for” from its founding in 1934 until sometime in 1956. One may speculate that the hosting of the national convention brought about the decision to change the name of the organization, but we have no way to be certain. We are able to say that the change occurred slowly, with stationery and other supplies being used until they were depleted. Now to the interview:
Baum: What were your duties at the School in 1912?
Perry: I was the head teacher of the blind. It was pretty difficult for awhile.
Baum: Were you an actual teacher or an administrator?
Baum: Were you head teacher for the blind at the School all this time?
Perry: I was the head teacher for the blind until I became very interested in advanced studies. From then on I mainly taught college preparatory classes. Mr. Chapman took over the administrative duties of the head teacher for the blind.
Baum: When did you become director of advanced studies?
Perry: Well I guess I was formally appointed director of advanced studies in about 1921 or 1922--Dr. French was superintendent then--but I was practically that already. I helped the boys to get through the high schools. We had to get money some way to help them get readers.
Baum: When they were in the high school?
Perry: Yes. When I first came there, I had a class of eight boys, and they struck me as bright boys, but none of them had the slightest thought of going to college. One day I asked them what they had been thinking about how they would make a living when they got out of school. They didn't have the slightest idea. They didn't believe they'd ever be able to make a living.
Baum: It was just as bad as in the days when you were a student.
Perry: It was a little worse. After I had been there a little while, I said to one of the teachers, "I've got eight boys in there, and every one of those boys should go to college." She waited awhile and then she said, "But Doctor, they're blind boys."
Baum: She must have known you'd gone to college.
Perry: I don't know how she figured that. But every one of those boys went to college. Three of those boys became attorneys and have done very well. They all became successful men.
Baum: A big part of your job was guiding boys through the high school.
Perry: Yes, and through college too.
Baum: You had a reader bill in California by then. That was passed in 1913.
Perry: When I first started sending students to college here, the boys who had been up here at the School said, “That would be fine. Get me a place to live. I'd like to live in the same house with so-and-so," another blind fellow. I'd always write back and say, "No, I don't want you to live in the same house with another blind boy. I want you to go out with the sighted people." It was quite a task to get them over that. It brings you back to the fact that sensitiveness is the greatest obstacle in the way of the blind. Some blind people are not sensitive at all about their blindness. They forget all about it; they don't talk about it much. I don't think I ever think about my blindness. But sighted people think blind people think about their blindness all the time. You see, the sighted man looks upon blindness with the thought, "How would I be if I went blind in the next two minutes?" There's nothing he can do for himself. It is that view that makes them so desperate.
One day I was talking to the legislature about a bill for the blind, and they were rather unwilling to see the need of something I was trying to put over. I said, "Why, you fellows don't seem to understand. These people that go blind, they are really in a terrible state. If you want to know what he's thinking about, he's probably thinking about committing suicide." Well they were going to give me the ha-ha. I said to them, "Within a distance of less than a hundred miles from where you gentlemen are sitting now, the man who held perhaps the highest educational position in California just committed suicide two days ago. He was told he was going blind." He was president of the University of California. I didn't mention that, but they ought to have known who I meant. President Campbell, who was the head of the Lick Observatory for many years, a very distinguished astronomer, jumped out of the top floor thinking to kill himself, and he lived a few days after that. He said at the time, why the thought of his wife waiting on him--he couldn't do anything. Why bother other people; he'd be a nuisance to others, so the only fair thing would be to get out. If he'd known some other blind people at the time, he might not have felt that way, but he didn't.
But most blind people are sensitive about their blindness. I had one boy, a Phi Beta Kappa here at college, a brilliant man. He studied law, started practicing with $1,000 worth of promissory notes to people who wanted to help him out. He now owns six buildings in Modesto, a lot of land that is being developed. A few days ago I said, "How much would it take for me to buy you out of everything you've got?" He said, "Oh, it would be between $50,000 and $60,000." He's very highly respected by all the attorneys in Modesto.
Baum: What was the name of that attorney in Modesto?
Perry: Leslie Schlingheyde. (Leslie Schlingheyde passed away March 1956.) This boy had this sensitive feeling. He was going to the Berkeley High School. I said to him, "When the school is over in the afternoon, what do you do?"
He said, "I go home."
I said, "Well, the other boys all go down there to the track, where they race. Why don't you go down there with them?"
"No, no. What would they say?"
I said, "I don't know. They'd talk to you like they talk to the other people," He would finally say that he'd try it once. In about two or three weeks he'd come down again and I'd ask him, "Well, have you gone down to the track?" No, he hadn't. And we'd have the argument again. That went on for months. He would promise to do it, he intended to do it, but he was afraid.
Finally he came up one day and said, "Do you know what I did? I went down to the track."
I said, "Did you have an embarrassing situation?"
He said, "No, everybody came up and said, `Hello, Schling, …’ and they'd joke with him. He had a wonderful time. But he thought it would be very different.
That sensitiveness makes blind people timid, and they don't want to go to a dance for fear they might do something wrong. It's too bad. If we could find some way of breaking the young blind of their sensitiveness, it would be a great boon and help them greatly. I don't know how to do it, except to go and take them with you, force it on them.
Baum: Were most of your students at the School boys?
Perry: There were more boys than girls. No, we had a good many girls who went to college, and we do still. The girls have positions. They become stenographers ... we've got to keep opening up opportunities for the blind to get positions. If you don't, you simply rob them of life.
Baum: Do you think the blind girls have as good an opportunity to get a job as the blind boys have?
Perry: Well...I think so. A girl could become a lawyer, I guess, become a writer, a typist. We have girls who are typists, wonderful typists.
Baum: Did you have as many girls make a success as your boys? Some of your boys were pretty outstanding.
Perry: Yes, I've done a better job with the boys than I have with the girls, in the long run. Girls, I don't think, have as many opportunities, but they are getting them now. We have girls employed as typists, working in X-ray darkrooms; we have a good many girls doing that.
The great difficulty is that the blind need someone to get them a job. We have no one who does that. We have a state Bureau of Rehabilitation. They don't like to do placement work. The law calls for it, but they don't like it. It's hard work. It's much easier to sit around in the office and write notes and copy something off, go through the motions of doing something and get a good salary for it. Of course a placement officer could get jobs for a hundred sighted people with no more effort than he would expend getting a job for one blind person. Now it's getting a little easier getting a job for a blind person because we're getting the public somewhat educated to the idea.
We need someone who is told by the Bureau of Rehabilitation that he is employed as a placement worker and instructed to confine himself to working for the placement of blind people in jobs. He can't do that by sitting in his office. He's got to go out and wear out his shoe leather going from one businessman to the next and keep it up. In a little while he'd get to know all these businessmen, and he could easily approach them. It would be slow and hard, but it would get easier and easier as time goes by. He would get to know all the employers and not have to wait to get in and see the boss. He walks in, calls him by his first name. If a man spent six hours a day walking around, his first three months he might only land one job, but inside of a year he'd very easily get jobs. In fact the employers would ring him up and say, "Have you got a blind man to do so and so? Send him around, and I'll give him a job." That's not how it starts, but it gets that way. That is the only solution.
Baum: I understand you were instrumental in getting the Aid to Needy Blind bill?
Perry: Yes, I wrote the bill to get pensions for the blind. It had to be voted on by the people because the legislature could not give money to an individual without a constitutional amendment. We got a senator to introduce the amendment I wrote giving the legislature the power to give financial aid to the blind. A lady assemblywoman from Berkeley did the same thing for the aged, put in a bill for the aged to have a pension, so we had two bills on the ballot, both amending the same section in the [California]constitution.
Baum: One was for the blind and one was for the aged. What about the deaf?
Perry: No, the deaf never had a bill. Mrs. Anna L. Saylor, the assemblywoman from Berkeley, wasn't particularly in favor of the act for the blind because I think she thought the public wasn't. She assumed we had a very small organization and took it as a joke. But she worked for the aged and the aged worked very hard too. Of course I only had a few blind boys to help me advertise, a few in college, and one in the high school. And I didn't have the time because I was teaching at the School all the time, but we did it. To the surprise of everybody, our measure passed way ahead of any measure ever proposed, so the joke was sort of on the other people. The bill for the aged passed too.
That only gave the legislature the authority to grant us a pension. That was passed by the voters in November 1928. When the legislature met in January 1929, Mr. Crowley, who was one of my blind boys, an attorney, introduced the first bill for the pension for the blind.
Baum: He was in the legislature by then?
Perry: I think he was in the legislature a little before that. He was in the legislature for twenty-six years, until he died several years ago. We got the bill through without any trouble. The governor a few days after the election said, "Well, we certainly have to do something for the blind." He meant we had gotten such a deep vote that it was a mandate. Governor Young signed it without any trouble.
Mrs. Saylor had been in the assembly. She and the governor were very good political friends, and he appointed her the head of the Department of Social Welfare. It was a political office then. She was a very popular lady, very much respected by everybody. She wanted her department to have all the power over the pensions. She was a little humiliated because here we blind people had put the pension for the blind over. She hadn't put in any bill for a pension for the blind. When we walked off with the big vote, it embarrassed her.
We also had a blind boy, Ernest Leslie, run for the legislature against Mrs. Saylor, and he made a wonderful showing. She just got in by the skin of her teeth, and for a woman who had been so popular politically as she had, it was an awful blow. She only got 800 votes more than Leslie. It hurt her political prestige. Ernest Leslie had just gotten through college. While he was defeated, it was a great victory because he almost defeated the most popular member of the legislature.
Baum: I want to ask you about the founding of the California Council for the Blind. How did that come about?
Perry: The campaign for the pension showed us we needed more representation throughout the state. Through our propagandizing we naturally had gotten in touch with a great many more blind people than we had before. We thought we'd better have local clubs in different towns, and out of that grew the idea of the local organizations getting together to give a statewide expression to the blind of California so that we would be in a better position to influence the legislature.
Mrs. Anna L. Saylor had been appointed director of the Department of Social Welfare and, like the officials in many states, she planned to form some dummy organizations of the blind. The blind people in Los Angeles formed the Southern California Organization for the Blind, and Mrs. Saylor took that over.
In about 1929 a meeting was called in San Francisco. For some reason I couldn't go, but all my blind friends were there. (Dr. Perry telephoned Ernest Leslie during the interview to refresh his memory on this incident.) Mrs. Saylor came; Mr. Dodd of the rehabilitation bureau and his San Francisco assistant, Mr. Ballard, came. Mrs. Quinine of the San Francisco broom shop was there. Mrs. Saylor was simply going to take possession of the meeting. She got up and explained how she, in her position as head of the Department of Social Welfare, could do so much more for the blind than they could do for themselves. She wanted to be made president of the organization they formed, The Northern California Association for the Blind. Dr. Richard French, superintendent of the School for the Blind, was there with a big bouquet of flowers for the supposed president-to-be. Everyone listened carefully to what Mrs. Saylor had to say, and then they got up and nominated different officers, and they didn't nominate her at all. That hurt her feelings a good deal. She was taken completely by surprise. Ernest Leslie became the president.
Baum: Dr. Perry, I read that the California Council was organized in 1934 at Fresno and that the meeting was called by Mrs. Mary Carroll Scott LaFer and Mrs. Kathleen Michael Smale.
Perry: Mrs. Michael was the superintendent of Aid to the Needy Blind. (Mrs. Rheba Crawford Splivalo had replaced Mrs. Saylor as director of Social Welfare after Governor Rolph’s election.) She planned to be president of our new statewide organization and Mrs. Carroll planned to be secretary. Mrs. Michael was quite a politician. In a patronizing way the ladies suggested we ought to make Mrs. Michael president of the Council because she could do so much more for us. I was very surprised when Mr. William Groshell, an osteopath from Los Angeles, (Groshell passed away in 1956) got up and argued and protested and wouldn't let the thing stop. He wasn’t usually a leader or a man to say much, but he led the fight to make the Council a real blind man's club and not a tool of the social welfare ladies. They nominated me for president and I was elected; I don't remember if it was unanimous or not.
All that puzzled Mrs. Michael a lot, but still that lady was always on very good terms with us. I know every once in a while she'd have some trouble up in Sacramento about some pensioners, and she'd often want me to come up and help her. She wasn't as cultured and able a woman as Mrs. Saylor. After Merriam became governor, I went up to talk to him and ask him to keep Mrs. Michael, but he let me know he wasn't going to. He appointed Mrs. E. Clair Overholtzer as supervisor of Aid to the Needy Blind; she was a nicer lady than Mrs. Michael.
We propagandized around to get an organization started in San Francisco and one in Sacramento, and we tried to get one in Los Angeles, but they were a little slow about it. The people down there still don't seem to know what it's all about.
But we organized, got to work on a constitution, got committees, and away we went. It's been growing; different clubs are organized in different places, and they apply to the Council to take them in as a member. We now have twenty-eight or thirty member clubs. Each member club sends a blind delegate to represent them, and these representatives make up the California Council for the Blind.
Baum: One of the Council's first resolutions, Number 4, favored an assembly bill to grant blind persons and their guides reduced fares on streetcars.
Perry: That was a bill I wrote. It's a law now. I have it here. First it forbids any common carrier issuing any free or reduced fares to passengers within the state except to blind residents of California. Then it says, "All blind residents of California may be granted free transportation on all streetcars and may be permitted to travel on all other common carriers within the state for one-half the current fare, and when any blind person is accompanied by a guide, the combined fares of such blind person and his guide may be fixed at not to exceed the current fare for an individual."
Baum: When was that passed?
Perry: 1935. An interesting question is whether an airplane is a common carrier as the word is used in the statute. There is a federal interstate provision also which grants reduced rates to blind persons. Did you notice that the word "may" was used instead of "shall"?
Baum: Yes, I did.
Perry: I had to change the word from "shall" to "may" to get the thing through. I thought if it went through with "may" the people would demand it be permitted. You always have to go to court when it says "may" to find out what it means.
Baum: Didn't you have quite a bit of trouble with the Southern Pacific on that?
Perry: A little, but they finally came around. They now don't bother us. Of course we can use the federal act, but this is a more liberal act than the federal one if the railroad will recognize it. Under the federal act you can be made to travel on certain trains, and they are apt to sell you a ticket for half-fare, but require that you take a slow train. When people travel, as a rule they are in a hurry. The buses now let us go for reduced fare.
Baum: What was the idea behind this, that the blind have very little money?
Perry: Well, they have very little money, but many of the blind travel with a guide, and they have to pay two fares and also pay their guide for his time. So, if a blind man is peddling, he is whipped before he's started. The provision about free streetcar transportation has never been used. The blind do not get free transportation on streetcars, except in San Francisco.
Baum: You mean that the streetcars haven't permitted them to ride free?
Perry: That's right. Well, we haven't tested it out. I've thought once or twice I'd like to have a case and take it to court, but to get a good case some blind man would have to get on the streetcar and, when they demanded his fare, refuse to pay it, quoting this rule, then try to get them to put him off the car. If they just scold and quarrel and don't put him off, we haven't got a case. If they put him off, he can sue them for not carrying him on the grounds of this ruling, and then the judge will have to decide about that "may." We might get away with it.
There's only one way to find out, and that's take it to court, and I couldn't find anybody who was willing to take the brunt of the trouble. No one was willing to be put off the car.
Baum: In looking through the Council resolutions I notice year after year that you had resolutions trying to get the different agencies to employ blind persons to work with the blind.
Perry: Yes. We're still at it.
Baum: Did you have much luck?
Perry: They had some luck, yes. We created a bureau of home teachers for the blind who would travel around and visit in a certain district, to the homes of the blind people, and try to help adapt themselves, particularly the newly blind, to their new handicap. They used to sort of leave that to some sighted people to do. Now they put blind people on. I believe right now they have a staff of about twenty in different districts throughout the state.
Baum: Twenty blind persons?
Perry: Practically all blind. They help the blind, teach them how to get around by themselves, how to do a great many things that they did before they were blind. It's strange how a newly blind person thinks he can't do certain things when with a little instruction he finds he can go right ahead and do them. That's a good idea.
Baum: For a job like that a blind person can do better than a sighted person?
Perry: Yes. He can talk to the employers in placement work with more authority. In teaching these people in their homes, he can go right in and convince them right away by doing what he wants them to do. They say, "If you can do it, I guess I can."
Baum: Was that your main reason for trying to get blind people into these jobs--because they could work better with other blind people? Or did you think that maybe the public would be willing to see a blind man work with another blind man when he wouldn't employ them in a job with sighted people?
Perry: There are several reasons. One is that they would need that instruction for their living in their own home. A woman suddenly goes blind. Her husband, when he leaves in the morning, shows her to a chair and says, "Now you stay there till I come home. You might fall down the stairs if you walk around." All that kind of thing--horrible for her to sit and lose hope and be convinced that she can't go to the stove and cook dinner and keep house. Now, if a blind person comes in and says, "I'll do the cooking for you and show you how I do it," she's really not teaching the lady anything she doesn't know; the lady has been cooking all her life. But now her husband will come home one day, and she won't be sitting in her chair. She'll have dinner all ready. And it changes the atmosphere of the situation completely. She finds that she can do practically all the things that she did before.
Baum: And you felt it was important that a blind person should teach her this?
Perry: The sighted people wouldn't believe she could do it either. A sighted person wouldn't know how to teach her. The average sighted person would say to a blind person, "Don't go near the stove; don't turn on the gas; don't light a match; you'll burn your hair," and so on. Blind people can go ahead and take care of their homes, but you can't convince them by giving them a lecture. So, particularly for blind women who have to keep house, blind home teachers are a good idea.
Baum: It sounds as if the California Council, and you in particular, has had a great deal to do with California legislation concerning the blind.
Perry: Yes, and that was a bit of a problem for me because I was a state employee. I hesitated a great deal about taking the job because I was afraid all the agencies, the School for the Blind, the welfare people, would fight me, and they would have, I guess. In a sense they did, but they finally got more afraid of me than I was of them. I got the good will of the people in the legislature, but I was always running a risk. They could have fired me anytime, but they were afraid of the public reaction. They gave me opposition instead of cooperation in the hopes that we would die out in a little while. Instead of that the legislature cooperated with us very well.
Baum: With the California Council?
Perry: Yes. All those aid laws for the blind were written by the Council, most of them done personally by me. I went up to Sacramento and had the aid bill introduced by Ernest Crowley, and we got it through. A.B. 117 in 1929, if I remember correctly. The people in the administration object to individual people coming up and introducing bills because they want to set the policies. They at any time could have said that I had no business going up to the legislature, that I should be down at the School doing my school work and that I should be disciplined or fired. But they decided they'd better not.
Baum: You had too many friends?
Perry: They realized that, if they had done that, the Council would have gone out with a terrific attack, and we would have won. We could have easily shown the blind were in terrible need, and nobody was paying any attention to us. Administrators are all timid, you know. They want promotions, increases in salaries.
Baum: How did you go about getting a bill passed?
Perry: You have to get the good will of the legislators, which of course meant that I had to spend a lot of time in Sacramento. I've passed a lot of bills up there, pretty near a hundred of them by this time. Once in a while there's a real genuine argument, but a great deal of it is simply getting their good will and knowing them well enough so you won't call up your bill at the wrong time. If you have a man introduce your bill who's been in the legislature for some time, he knows all of these legislators and what their leanings are and how they feel about this, that, and the other thing. So, when his bill is called, he looks around the room, and he says, "I'll request you postpone mine until tomorrow," meaning that a lot of the people he knows are going to vote for him are not present, and a lot of the people who won't are present. So he puts it off. Of course a greenhorn doesn't know that. He doesn't know the man.
So it's a very good idea to get a man who knows his fellow legislators well, and he knows when to call it up. By using judgment that way, he can sometimes get a bill that won't have any argument about it at all; he introduces it and one, two, three, it goes through.
I had Ernest Crowley, a blind man in the legislature. One of the boys I had in school when I first came had become a lawyer, and then he got into the legislature, and he was there for twenty-six years, I think. He died a year or so ago. He was a great assistance to me. He was very popular in the legislature, and he was very devoted to me. Why, he'd get up when I'd be talking to the legislative committee and say, "That's my old teacher that's talking to you now."
Baum: I know you were largely responsible for the 1941 Aid to Partially Self-Supporting Blind bill. Could you tell me how you got that passed?
Perry: Just like the others. I sat down and wrote the bill, that's all.
Baum: Had you talked this over in the Council?
Perry: No. Oh, I might have with some of them, but at that time the Council was not very strong. They were just sitting back waiting for me to do something. I had introduced the bill a year or so earlier. It was a revolutionary bill.
Baum: Yes, it was.
Perry: There was nothing like it anywhere else. The pension bill, like the old age pension bill, gave the blind some money because they were poor, but no one ever gave any thought to trying to encourage the blind to earn a living. That seems absurd to most people. I wrote this bill to encourage the blind to work themselves off of the pension and become independent.
Baum: How did you get it through? The state didn't get federal aid on those aid payments.
Perry: No, but the number of people who take advantage of the bill is very limited. We have had up to three or four hundred in the state under Chapter Three, Aid to Partially Self-Supporting Blind, at one time, and of course most of those work themselves off in a little while. I got the legislature to be in favor of Chapter Three. The argument I gave them was that, if you don't give these people an opportunity to work themselves into freedom economically, you are going to keep paying this pension for each one's lifetime. If you put them on Chapter Three, in from three to fifteen years they will have established themselves and will be off the pension. Under Chapter Three, after a person earns over $1,000 a year, which he keeps, he keeps half of what he earns and the rest is paid back into the state treasury. So every time he earns a dollar over $1,000, the state is 50¢ better off and he is too. It encourages him more to go on earning. The pension now is $95 a month or $1,140 a year, so, when a person earns $3,280, he has paid back his pension entirely.
I remember going up there the last session of the legislature before adjournment, and the committee held a night session. They were not going to pass the bill, and I got excited and got up and made a speech. I don't remember what I said, but the boys can always tell me about it. I gave the legislature an awful stiff talk, and they switched and turned it out unanimously. Henri Bindt and Kingsley Price were there. Bindt is always talking about how I had him shedding tears when I made that speech. I had gotten to be friends with the legislature by that time, and it got so they would do almost anything for me.
Baum: But you had a real battle that time?
Perry: Yes, I did because there were two or three men in the senate who didn't know me very well. Oh, it is a wonderful law, but I rather think they are going to fight it this year.
Baum: Who is?
Perry: I'll give you an example. Last year the Assembly Interim Committee on Social Welfare had a committee consultant, Everett W. DuVall, who wanted to do away with Chapter Three. You see, the state gets matching funds from the federal government on Aid to Needy Blind, but not on Chapter Three payments. I told him it would be a terrible mistake. Then the committee held hearings around the state, and I guess they changed their minds and decided Chapter Three was pretty good. DuVall just wrote me that they want to strengthen Chapter Three now.
Baum: How about the Department of Social Welfare? They administer aid payments to the blind.
Perry: Well, I don't think the Welfare Department likes it.
Baum: Do they make it hard for blind people to get onto Aid to Partially Self-Supporting Blind?
Perry: They did when it started and, yes, many do still.
Baum: They'd rather keep them on Aid to Needy Blind?
Perry: Yes. And they have a new regulation too. A year or so ago the Welfare Department declared that a man earning over $1,500 a year would be taken off aid altogether, instead of keeping on with the 50¢ deal.
Baum: Then that would tend to cause a man to earn almost up to $1,500 a year and then quit earning.
Perry: Yes. It tends to discourage him.
Baum: I believe the Aid to Needy Blind pension was raised from $90 to $95 a month this year.
Perry: Yes, but I can't understand their position sometimes. Take a sighted man who is unemployed; he doesn't just get $90 a month. He gets around $150 a month unemployment compensation. Why wouldn't they assume a blind man gets just as hungry and needs as much as the sighted fellow, who can get employment easier too. Oh, they made a big fuss about raising the aid from $90 to $95 a month last year.
Baum: The Department of Social Welfare?
Perry: Yes, and the legislature too. Of course, they are influenced by the State Department of Finance, which wants to save money. But I should think they would give a blind man more than they give an unemployed sighted man, because the needs of the blind are much greater. A sighted man can do many things for himself and pick up money by little errands for his neighbors, things a blind man can't do as a rule. As for Chapter Three, that saves money for the state in the long run. Take tenBroek. He couldn't have gone to college without the pension and the reader bill, but now he is one of the leading members of the faculty, owns his own home, makes a good deal of money, raises his family very well, and does a tremendous amount of work for the blind also. That's an entirely different picture than the blind man who stands on the street corner trying to sell pencils. Do you see how Chapter Three saves money?
Baum: Yes, I see that, but I don't see why the Department of Social Welfare doesn't see that.
Perry: They do, but they don't give a darn.
Baum: Is it that they want to save a little this year, even though they have to keep paying it out every year?
Perry: Well, the Welfare is administered by the county governments and the boards of supervisors are elected people who like to brag about saving money for the state so as to get re-elected. Well, it really comes down to the point that they don't think blind people can make much money, and it's a waste of time trying all this. And it is very slow when you start out.
But things are changing now; a blind man can get a job. Take Kingsley Price, a very popular and highly respected faculty member at Johns Hopkins. He was never out of a job from the time he graduated. He has been totally blind since he was five or six years old. His parents brought him out here from Colorado after they heard what we were doing about the education of the blind.
Baum: You were speaking about Dr. tenBroek. I know he's president of the National Federation. I was wondering, did you have anything to do with the formation of that? Did the California Council have anything to do with that?
Perry: In a sense; our boys went to the meeting, and of course I propagandized for it and urged it, and so on and was the delegate to it from the Council for many years. But I'm sort of cutting that out a good deal now. Well, I guess I was at the last convention, too. Now we've gotten past the stage where one man has to do everything. We now have some able blind people around who are becoming interested themselves and are willing to give their time and work. TenBroek is one, but we have others.
Baum: Mr. Archibald is the executive secretary, isn't he?
Perry: Executive director of it.
Baum: Is he one of your boys?
Perry: Yes. And Kenneth Jernigan--do you know of him?
Baum: Oh, I did meet him once.
Perry: He's very enthusiastic, a very enthusiastic worker.
Baum: For the Federation?
Perry: Yes, he's on the board of the Federation. But he works for the blind generally. He is a very active member of the Council.
Baum: Did you work on the National Federation business much, or were you so busy with the California Council?
Perry: Well, I helped them and so forth, but I didn't want to give all my time to that, because it would weaken my work here, you see. My work here hadn't developed to the stage where I would have confidence enough in it to keep on running right without me. I thought I ought to devote my primary efforts here, and in fact it's a better idea, because you get a good law through in one place, you know, and then it's quite easy to duplicate it in another state. For instance, Washington State has our Chapter Three in its law.
Baum: I noticed in the 1940 minutes of the Council that you had given a certain amount of money, $100, to the National Federation from the Council. Do you remember that? I think it was when the Federation was just founded.
Perry: Yes. We wanted to get money to help the Federation. It wasn't ‘40, was it?
Baum: 1940 was when the Federation was founded.
Perry: Yes, but I don't know when we passed that ruling that we should contribute. We have a White Cane Week in which we make a public appeal for money, largely through mailing. Our agreement was that we should send half of what we collected, and we still do it. We spread this idea of the White Cane program so that practically all the states took it up and contributed half of what they collected to the Federation. But now the Federation has grown so that, while we contribute to them, they carry on this same propaganda every year for collecting money. I think they collected $75,000 last year. So they are quite independent. It used to be a very serious matter to send a man from the Federation to live in Washington, pay his hotel bills, secretary, and all those things; to propagandize to Congress takes lots of money. In the early days we had to do that, and largely we didn't have the money ourselves. Perhaps the man we sent paid a great deal of those expenses himself. It's gotten so now, I think, that we've passed that stage.
Baum: I understand you were sent by the National Federation to investigate the Idaho State School for the Blind and the Deaf this spring. (1956) Could you tell me a little about that work?
Perry: Yes. There had been many complaints by the parents of both the deaf children and the blind children in the school, and Frank Collins and his wife, of the Gem State Association of the Blind, and Don Pettingill of the Idaho Association of the Deaf, asked the National Federation to send a committee to investigate. Chick tenBroek appointed Mr. Durwood McDaniels, an attorney from Oklahoma City, chairman; Mr. Vernon Williams, an attorney from South Dakota; and myself. We went up there and found a committee from the American Foundation for the Blind already on the scene, composed of three sighted people: the superintendent of the newly established State School for the Deaf in Southern California; the superintendent of the College for the Deaf in Washington, D.C.; and a lady employee of the American Foundation. They looked over the school and issued a report that was more or less of a cover-up and very generous to the school and to the then-superintendent, whom they recommended be kept on since he had served so long. We thought there would be little value in going to the school, that they would not cooperate, so we talked mainly to alumni and parents of the children in there. The children were learning nothing, the teachers were not as well trained as they had to be in other schools, and they even had two totally deaf teachers to teach the blind children, a ridiculous situation. Some of the better teachers resigned in order to draw public attention to conditions there. The superintendent was a sick man; he couldn't handle the job.
Baum: Were you able to get any changes?
Perry: Not many yet. The State Board of Education was against doing anything and the governor was embarrassed and said all this agitation was not good for the children. But we stayed on and got a lot of favorable newspaper publicity, and we talked to the adult blind there and they can keep working on it. I think the Board of Education finally did publish the American Foundation report, and they removed the old superintendent and appointed a new young man who seems competent. They implied they would get some better teachers for the blind. So the struggle is still going on, but I think things will improve there.
Baum: Did your committee publish a report?
Perry: I don't know if it's written up yet. When it is, it will be turned in to the National Federation office, which is at Dr. tenBroek's home. They have lots of materials there, reports and minutes of the meetings and copies of speeches and all that sort of thing.
Baum: Dr. Perry, I'd like to ask you what effect you think the New Deal had on aid to the blind.
Perry: What do you mean by the New Deal?
Baum: I mean Democrats in the federal administration.
Perry: Oh, they've done a good deal for the blind.
Baum: Vocational rehabilitation came up then for the blind.
Perry: Yes, and the others too. It's a modern idea. It will eventually do a good deal for the blind, I think. You're naturally up against the same thing that the blind are always up against. It's assumed that there isn't anything that you can do for them.
Baum: You think the same thing is true in vocational rehabilitation?
Perry: Yes. The sighted people there don't know what blind people can do. When they read these stories about what they can do, they seem impossible to them.
Baum: You got the aid bill in California before the New Deal came in. Then you had a lot of trouble with the Social Security Administration. I wondered if you might think that things might have been better for the blind if the New Deal hadn't been elected? I mean, do you think they put things backward or forward as far as the blind were concerned?
Perry: They progressed. World's going to progress. I don't care whether you put Republicans or Democrats in, eventually they're going to progress. They're going to progress for the blind people slower because people don't understand them. The pension is the only good idea they've come up with. Things are better than they were. When I was a kid, I knew of one blind man who had a job; I didn't know of any others. Now loads of my former pupils are making a living.
Baum: Are you a Republican?
Perry: I have no particular feelings. I really don't know the difference between a Republican and a Democrat. I can't tell them apart, except to take their word. I think our country unfortunately--we're not divided into different philosophies. If you talk to a Republican now, he gives you the same song and dance that a Democrat gives you. So far as I can see, the country is divided into two kinds of people. Some people have a job and some people don't. I don't know why. Of course, they can't give jobs to all of them. I was raised as a Republican, and everyone who knows me around here says I'm a Republican. They say I'm an autocrat in everything except towards the blind, and for the blind, I'm a Socialist or something. People laugh about it, think it's quite a joke. I never can see that there is anything to that criticism. Of course my aim in life has always been to create opportunities for the blind, opportunities for becoming self-supporting and independent.
Baum: You think that is the key to everything?
Perry: Well, that's the key to the important things.
Baum: And you think college education is the best way for a blind person to fit himself for a job?
Perry: Oh yes. He's at less of a disadvantage. He can talk, he can communicate. Now, when it comes to thinking, a blind man can think just as well as the other fellow. So, if blind people will educate themselves, they have opportunities to work. They have difficulty in getting appointments, but that's temporary. I think that will pass eventually.
Baum: I imagine Miss Holt said that a lot of blind people don't have the ability to go to college, so handwork is better.
Perry: That's true, and you have to try to do something else with them, try to do what you can. I think a great many of them have the ability to go to college though who don't go because they don't see their way clear to do it. They've assumed from their early life that they couldn't do these things, and they don't even try them.
Baum: Someone told me that you had said that most of the work you did for the blind was not a part of your job, that you thought the most important things you did were things you weren't supposed to be doing.
Perry: Well, that's true.
Baum: What do you think was your most important work?
Perry: Oh, my most important work was my dragging the blind out of their sleep, stirring them up, putting some ambition into them, and then helping them. To say "go to college," they couldn't without money or readers. The thought of going to the legislature for money for readers sounded ridiculous to them. None of the schools had men who were revolutionary at all; they weren't big enough men.
Baum: Well, Dr. Perry, which would you think was the more important of your works, seeing that the blind student could go to college or organizing the blind into groups?
Perry: Oh, I think sending them to college was perhaps the most important thing I've done.
Perry: Because it puts a boy into a position where he believes that he can do things, and so he goes out and becomes somebody.
by David Ticchi
From the Editor: Dr. David Ticchi is an experienced educator in his own right. He was named Blind Educator of the Year in 1998. He chairs the 2013 Blind Educator of the Year Award selection committee. This is what he says:
A number of years ago the Blind Educator of the Year Award was established by the National Organization of Blind Educators (the educators division of the National Federation of the Blind) to pay tribute to a blind teacher whose exceptional classroom performance, notable community service, and uncommon commitment to the NFB merit national recognition. Beginning with the 1991 presentation, this award became an honor bestowed by our entire movement. The change reflects our recognition of the importance of good teaching and the impact an outstanding blind teacher has on students, faculty, community, and all blind Americans.
This award is presented in the spirit of the outstanding educators who founded and have continued to nurture the National Federation of the Blind and who, by example, have imparted knowledge of our strengths to us and raised our expectations. We have learned from Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, and President Marc Maurer that a teacher not only provides a student with information but also provides guidance and advocacy. The recipient of the Blind Educator of the Year Award must exhibit all of these traits and must advance the cause of blind people in the spirit and philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind.
The Blind Educator of the Year Award is presented at the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Honorees must be present to receive an appropriately inscribed plaque and a check for $1,000.Nominations should be sent to Dr. David A. Ticchi, Newton North High School, 457 Walnut Street, Newtonville, MA 02460. Letters of nomination must be accompanied by a copy of the nominee's current résumé and supporting documentation of community and Federation activity. All nomination materials must be in the hands of the committee chairman by May 1, 2013, to be considered for this year's award. For further information contact David Ticchi at (617) 559-6253.
by Ryan Luby
From the Editor: The following report was carried on television station KETV in Lincoln, Nebraska. At issue is the right of the blind to vote using a machine that ensures a secret ballot at the same time and at the same place as sighted voters have one. Here is the story that was carried on October 10, 2012, followed by a resolution passed by the Convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska:
A blind woman has filed a complaint against the Lancaster County Election Commission. Fatos Floyd claimed that she was turned away from early voting on a machine that allows disabled people to vote without assistance. “They said, 'Well, the machine is not ready, and probably is not going to be ready for another ten days,'" Floyd told I-Team Investigator Ryan Luby.
Floyd said she and a blind friend planned to use the Automark machine at the Lancaster County Election Commission on October 4. Early voting began on October 1. "I said I do have a right to vote like anybody else, when the voting started. So I said, `Who do I need to talk to?’” Floyd said she asked the election office's staff.
She first turned to the Nebraska secretary of state, then Adam Morfeld, who founded the group called Nebraskans for Civic Reform. Morfeld advocates for equal voting rights. "I think that it's really important that people with disabilities, people who are blind, are able to exercise a right that's been afforded to them by the federal law--to vote independently and privately," Morfeld said. Morfeld pointed to the Help America Vote Act, part of which requires disabled voters to have private and independent access to voting machines such as the Automark machine. Regarding what happened to Floyd, Morfeld said it's a "clear violation of federal law."
The KETV NewsWatch 7 I-Team reached out to Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale and Lancaster County Election Commissioner Dave Shively. Both declined to comment on-camera. However, Shively issued the following statement: “I have had the opportunity to review the complaint filed with the Nebraska secretary of state by Ms. Fatos Floyd. I certainly understand her concerns. I have done everything in my power to have the Automark available as quickly as possible for early voting. However, the logistics in making this happen, including very specific certification deadlines outlined in state law and the printing of ballots, which is required before all programming can be completed by our vendor, have made it impossible for us to have the Automark operational during the first several days of early voting."
The I-Team learned Lancaster County joins every other Nebraska county--except Douglas County--dealing with logistical problems for early disabled voters. Douglas County programs its own Automark machines. The I-Team also reached out to state senator Bill Avery, who said he and his staff are already looking at possible legislative changes. One option may be to require the secretary of state to certify ballots prior to mid-September, which is the current deadline. A second option may be to push back the start of early voting to the second week of October. Any possible changes are merely speculation at this time.
Avery said this is the first time anyone has filed a complaint on this particular early-voting issue. Regardless of what changes occur, Morfeld said it should have happened long ago. "Well what concerns me the most is that it appears as though this has been an ongoing issue for the last eight or nine years," he said.
That's troubling to Floyd too, who's a naturalized United States citizen originally from Turkey. She said she lost her vision when she was eighteen years old, after she suffered from complications associated with brain surgery. She said doctors had to remove a brain tumor. Floyd moved to the United States in the early 1980s and married her husband Mike, who is also blind. "Especially because I am a naturalized citizen, voting is really important to me," she said. "I never miss an election; I use that right."
Given what happened to her last week, Floyd questioned the state's commitment to voting rights for blind people. "That we are not really an important group, that they wouldn't make the effort to make it so that we can vote at the same time [as everyone else]," she said. Floyd will have a hearing on the complaint she filed with the Nebraska Department of State in weeks to come.
As of Tuesday morning the Automark machine at the Lancaster County Election Commission was available for disabled voters. Shively said his office received the proper programming from the county's third-party vendor.
That is what KETV reported on its website. Here is what the blind of the state had to say:
WHEREAS, the federal government passed the Help America Vote Act in 2002; and
WHEREAS, the state of Nebraska began the implementation and use of accessible electronic voting machines in 2004; and
WHEREAS, on October 1, 2012, and following, the accessible Automark voting machine in the Lancaster County Election Commission office was not ready and available for use by blind and other qualified voters who required it for fair and equal early balloting along with their sighted peers: Now, therefore
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska in Convention assembled this thirteenth day of October, 2012, in the City of Kearney, Nebraska, that we call upon all elections officials in the state of Nebraska and its ninety-three counties to insure the full implementation of the Help America Vote Act, with accessible voting technology to be operational at all polling places available for early voting, as well as on election day; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization declare its firm intent to take all steps necessary (including pursuit of state legislation, if needed) to secure the rights of blind persons to use accessible voting technology in all elections held for public office at all levels within the state of Nebraska.
by James Gashel
From the Editor: James Gashel is secretary of the National Federation of the Blind and chairs the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards committee. Here is his announcement about the 2013 Bolotin Awards program:
The National Federation of the Blind is pleased to announce that applications are now being accepted for the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards. These prestigious awards, granted each year as funds permit, recognize individuals, corporations, organizations, or other entities for outstanding work of excellence on behalf of the blind in the United States. The public recognition ceremony will be held during the 2013 annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Orlando, Florida. Each recipient will be given a cash award in an amount determined by the Dr. Jacob Bolotin award committee and will also be honored with an engraved medallion and plaque.
Dr. Bolotin was a pioneering blind physician who practiced in the early twentieth century, and the awards which now bear his name are made possible through the generosity of his late nephew and niece. Their bequest, the Alfred and Rosalind Perlman Trust, allows the National Federation of the Blind to recognize and support the most outstanding individuals and projects working to improve opportunities for blind people in the United States, consistent with Dr. Bolotin’s pioneering example.
As chronicled in his biography, The Blind Doctor by Rosalind Perlman, Bolotin fought ignorance and prejudice to gain entrance to medical school and the medical profession. He became one of the most respected physicians in Chicago during his career, which spanned the period from 1912 until his death in 1924. He was particularly known for his expertise in diseases of the heart and lungs. Bolotin used his many public speaking engagements to advocate for employment of the blind and their full integration into society. Interested in young people in general and blind youth in particular, Dr. Bolotin established the first Boy Scout troop consisting entirely of blind boys and served as its leader.
Jacob Bolotin’s wife Helen had a sister whose husband died suddenly, leaving her to raise a son, Alfred Perlman. The Perlmans moved in with the Bolotins when Alfred was eleven, and for four years (until Jacob Bolotin's untimely death at the age of thirty-six), "Uncle Jake" became Alfred's surrogate father. Alfred later married Rosalind, and the couple worked on a book about Dr. Bolotin's life. After Alfred's death in 2001, Rosalind dedicated the rest of her life to completing and publishing the book. Then upon her death and as part of her will, Rosalind left a bequest to the Santa Barbara Foundation and the National Federation of the Blind to produce Dr. Bolotin's biography and establish the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award program. Her book, The Blind Doctor: The Jacob Bolotin Story, has been published by and is available from Blue Point Books <www.BluePointBooks.com>.
In 2013 the National Federation of the Blind will again recognize individuals and organizations that have distinguished themselves in accordance with the criteria established to receive the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award. The committee will determine both the number of awards and the value of each award presented. The Federation determines the total amount to be distributed each year based on income received from the trust supporting the award program. The award categories for each year are blind individuals, sighted individuals, and organizations, corporations, or other entities. Individuals may apply on their own behalf or may submit a third party nomination, or the committee may also consider other individual or organizational candidates.
Individuals: Only individuals over eighteen years of age may be considered for a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award. Applicants must demonstrate that they have shown substantial initiative and leadership in improving the lives of the blind. Examples of such initiative include but are not limited to developing products, technologies, or techniques that increase the independence of the blind; directing quality programs or agencies for the blind; or mentoring other blind people. All individual applicants or third-party applicants nominating other individuals must demonstrate that the work to be recognized has been conducted within the twelve months preceding the application and/or that the work is continuing. Applications by or on behalf of individuals must include at least one letter of recommendation from a person familiar with or directly affected by the work to be recognized.
Organizations: Organizations may apply for a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award in order to further programs, services, technology, or techniques of unique and outstanding merit that have assisted and will continue to assist the blind. Applications from third parties nominating an organization will also be considered. The organization category includes corporations, nonprofit organizations, or other entities, such as a specific division within an organization. Organizations or third-party applicants must demonstrate that the programs or services to be recognized include substantial participation by blind people as developers, mentors, administrators, or executives, and not merely as clients, consumers, or beneficiaries. For example, an organization operating a program for blind youth might demonstrate that a substantial number of the counselors, teachers, or mentors involved in the program are blind. The organization or third-party applicant must demonstrate that it has substantially aided blind people within the twelve months prior to application and that an award would support efforts to build on previous successes. The application must also include at least one testimonial from a blind person who has benefited substantially from the programs or services.
To qualify for an award both individuals and organizations must be headquartered in the United States of America, and their work must primarily benefit the blind of the United States.
More information, including an online application, can be found on the National Federation of the Blind website at <https://www.nfb.org/bolotin-award-main>.
Online submission of nominations, letters of support, and other relevant materials is strongly encouraged, but applications sent by mail and postmarked by the deadline will also be accepted. The 2013 deadline for application submission is March 31. Recipients chosen by the committee will be individually notified of their selection no later than May 15. Receipt of all complete applications will be acknowledged; only those applicants chosen to receive an award will be contacted by May 15. All decisions of the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award committee are final.
The awards will be presented in July during the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Individuals selected to receive an award must appear in person, not send a representative. Organizations may send an individual representative, preferably their chief executive officer. Recipient candidates must confirm in writing that they will appear in person to accept the award at the National Federation of the Blind annual convention. Failure to confirm attendance for the award presentation by June 1 will result in forfeiture of the award.
Those employed fulltime by the National Federation of the Blind may not apply for a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award for work performed within the scope of their employment. Students may not apply for both a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award and a National Federation of the Blind Scholarship in the same year.
by Raquel Aguirre
From the Editor: Raquel Aguirre is the treasurer of the West Mesa Chapter in New Mexico. She wrote this article, which was carried in the September 2012 issue of Que Pasa, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico:
The first and only NFB national convention I attended was in the late 1990s. I worked during one summer for the Colorado Center for the Blind. As part of our summer job requirement, the NFB CCB sent me and other job coaches on a trip to the national convention to monitor our blind students. I knew nothing about the NFB back then. Since then I have become a little older and a bit more informed.
This year I attended the NFB national convention through live streaming. I want to let our membership know that this was an awesome experience for me. Some might argue that actually being there, physically sitting in each scheduled session was more exciting, energizing, and informative for the over two-thousand attendees and does not compare with my experience. However, I truly believe I was just as excited, energized, and informed as the rest of the NFB family.
Thank you, Tonia Trapp; had it not been for your national convention updates through email, I would never even have known live streaming existed. I appreciate the commitment of the national organization to make this possible for those of us who were unable to travel to Texas. My resolve to be a proud member of the Federation has been made stronger. Perhaps live streaming has been a part of national convention before, but, if so, this was the first time I had heard about it.
All the speeches were inspiring, informative, and eye-opening. Each orator in one way or another helped me understand more about myself as a part of a whole that has only become better as time goes on. Each day of the convention I linked into the stream and turned up the volume. Summertime allows me to change hats from busy teacher to busy mom, with never-ending responsibilities here at home. For instance, I made breakfast for my kids as Adelmo Vigil, our state president, came to the microphone. As he spoke during his few minutes of cyber-fame during the roll call of states, I felt proud to be from New Mexico and felt a sense of joy to recognize the names of people he mentioned. When he listed those who were present and would be representing New Mexico, I thought to myself, "Adelmo and New Mexico rock!"
As I was washing morning dishes, Brianne Kotschwar won a door prize. Of course I had to stop to text her with motherly advice: "Congrats on the door prize, spend it wisely."
Almost immediately my cell phone buzzed with her response: "Thanks, I will."
Later, as I was sweeping floors, I just had to stop and sing the National Anthem loud and proud. I was using the broom handle as a microphone stand, singing off key, and amusing my children in the process. After a while I just sat and listened, to show my respect for blind veterans from across our nation. I listened as each veteran introduced him- or herself and told what branch of the military they represented and the years they served. When Art Schreiber came to the microphone, my kids said, "Don't we know him?"
I said, "Yes, we do" with tears rolling down my cheeks, pride just gushing to be an American and a Federationist. As more information was presented, I was able to compose myself and continued my day with the speaker volume turned up loud enough to hear around the house.
Anyone who has ever met Jessica Bachicha knows that she has incredible talent and is an amazing role model for blind youth and adults around New Mexico. I am proud to say I had the privilege to work with her when we were a part of the New Mexico Association of Blind Students. As Dr. Maurer told her story from birth to PhD, I wondered how many other New Mexicans were thinking, "Jessica is one of our own. Yahoo!"
Of course anyone who understands NFB knows things are done well and in a grand fashion, so I tuned in to the banquet, because, by the end of the convention, I could not get enough of this live streaming stuff. While Jessica sang, I know I was not the only person to have chills tingling down my spine. “Outstanding” is a word that doesn't even come close to describing her performance.
When the question, "How was convention?" is asked, I will absolutely believe them when the response is a resounding "awesome!" My experience, even from a distance, confirms that it really was.
I realize the importance of a clean house, but I know putting those responsibilities aside for a week won't hurt. One year soon I hope to sit with fellow New Mexicans during general sessions to listen to speeches that will excite, energize, and inform this NFB member even further. Until that day comes, I will plan to link into live streaming so I don't miss out. I urge those of you who can't attend to take advantage of this completely free and very accessible means to be a part of it all. Though it is from a distance, you will get the feeling you indeed are there and will know you belong to a great organization.
by Lauren McLarney
From the Editor: Every December we publish the Social Security figures that have been announced for the coming year. Here is the 2013 information as prepared by Lauren McLarney of the NFB Governmental Affairs Department:
A new year means many changes as well as annual adjustments to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Medicare programs. The changes traditionally include new tax rates, higher exempt earnings amounts, and SSDI and SSI cost-of-living increases, as well as alterations to deductible and coinsurance requirements under Medicare. Below are the updated facts for 2013. The costs of Medicare for 2013 have not been released yet, but those numbers will be reported in the Monitor as soon as they are available.
FICA and Self-Employment Tax Rates: The FICA tax rate for employees and their employers is a combination of payments to the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Fund, and the Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund, from which payments under Medicare are made. For 2011 and 2012 the OASDI tax rate was temporarily reduced 2 percentage points for employees and for self-employed workers, resulting in a 4.2 percent effective tax rate for employees and a 10.4 percent effective tax rate for self-employed workers. Combined with the HI tax rates, the total tax rate for 2012 was 5.65 for employees and their employers and 13.3 for self-employed workers. These lower tax rates meant less tax revenue, and that difference was made up by transfers from the general fund of the Treasury to the OASI Trust Fund. Under current law this temporary reduction expires at the end of December 2012. If Congress does not decide to extend this reduction, the tax rate will go back to the original amount of 7.65% for employees and employers and 15.3% for self-employed workers. One thing is clear for 2013: an additional HI tax of 0.9 percent is assessed on earned income exceeding $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for married couples filing jointly.
Ceiling on Earnings Subject to Tax: During 2012 the ceiling on taxable earnings for contributions to the OASDI Trust Fund was $110,100. For 2013 the maximum amount of taxable earnings will be $113,700. All earnings are taxed for the HI Trust Fund.
Quarters of Coverage: Eligibility for Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (RSDI) benefits is partially based on the number of quarters of coverage earned by any individual during periods of work. Anyone may earn up to four quarters of coverage in a single year. During 2012 a Social Security quarter of coverage was credited for earnings of $1,130 in any calendar quarter. Anyone who earned $4,520 in 2012 (regardless of when the earnings occurred during the year) received four quarters of coverage. In 2013 a Social Security quarter of coverage will be credited for earnings of $1,160 during a calendar quarter. Four quarters will be earned with annual earnings of $4,640.
Trial Work Period Limit: The amount of earnings required to use a trial work month is subject to annual increases based on changes in the national average wage index. In 2012 the amount was $720. This amount will increase to $750 in 2013. In cases of self-employment a trial work month can also be used if a person works more than eighty hours, and this limitation on hours worked will not change unless expressly adjusted.
Exempt Earnings: The monthly earnings exemption referred to as Substantial Gainful Activity for blind people who receive disability insurance benefits was $1,690 of gross earned income during 2012. In 2013 earnings of $1,740 or more a month, before taxes, for a blind SSDI beneficiary will indicate Substantial Gainful Activity once any unearned (or subsidy) income is subtracted and all deductions for impairment-related work expenses are applied.
Social Security Benefit Amounts: There will be a 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for beneficiaries in 2013. Increased payments to beneficiaries will begin in December of 2012 and will apply to everyone receiving benefits in 2013.
Standard SSI Benefit Increase: Beginning January 2013, the federal payment amounts for SSI individuals and couples are as follows: individuals, $710 a month; SSI couples, $1,066 a month.
Student Earned Income Exclusion: In 2012 the monthly amount was $1,700, and the maximum yearly amount was $6,840. In 2013 the monthly amount is $1,730, and the maximum yearly amount is $6,960. The SSI program applies strict asset (resource) limits of $2,000 for individuals and $3,000 for SSI couples, which can be changed only by Congress.
Medicare Deductibles and Coinsurance: Medicare Part A coverage provides hospital insurance to most Social Security beneficiaries. The coinsurance amount is the hospital charge to a Medicare beneficiary for any hospital stay. Medicare then pays the hospital charges above the beneficiary's coinsurance amount.
The Part A coinsurance amount charged for hospital services within a benefit period of not longer than sixty days was $1,156 in 2012. From the sixty-first day through the ninetieth day, the daily coinsurance amount was $289 a day. Each Medicare beneficiary has sixty lifetime reserve days that may be used after a ninety-day benefit period has ended. Once used, these reserve days are no longer available after any benefit period. The coinsurance amount paid during each reserve day used in 2012 was $578.
Part A of Medicare pays all covered charges for services in a skilled nursing facility for the first twenty days following a three-day in-hospital stay within a benefit period. From the twenty-first day through the one hundredth day in a benefit period, the Part A coinsurance amount for services received in a skilled nursing facility was $144.50 in 2012.
Most Social Security beneficiaries have no monthly premium charge for Medicare Part A coverage. Those who become ineligible for SSDI cash benefits can continue to receive Medicare Part A coverage premium-free for at least ninety-three months after the end of a trial work period. After that time the individual may purchase Part A coverage. The premium rate for this coverage during 2012 was $451 a month.
In 2012 the Medicare Part B (medical insurance) deductible was $140. This is an annual deductible amount. The Medicare Part B monthly premium rate charged to each new beneficiary or to those beneficiaries who directly pay their premiums quarterly for 2012 was $99.90 a month, although higher-income consumers may pay more. For those receiving Social Security benefits, this premium payment is deducted from your monthly benefit check. Individuals who remain eligible for Medicare, but are not receiving Social Security benefits because of working, must directly pay the Part B premium quarterly—one payment every three months. Like the Part A premiums mentioned above, Part B is also available for at least ninety-three months following the trial work period, assuming an individual wishes to have it and, when not receiving SSDI, continues to make quarterly premium payments.
Programs That Help with Medicare Deductibles and Premiums: Low-income Medicare beneficiaries may qualify for help with payments. Assistance is available through two programs—the QMB (Qualified Medicare Beneficiary program) and the SLMB (Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary program). To qualify for the QMB program in 2012, an individual’s monthly income could not exceed $931 and a married couple’s monthly income could not exceed $1,261. The 2013 limits have not been announced.
Under the QMB program states are required to pay the Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance) premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance expenses for Medicare beneficiaries who meet the program's income and resource requirements. Under the SLMB program states pay only the full Medicare Part B monthly premium. Eligibility for the SLMB program may be retroactive for up to three calendar months.
Both the QMB and SLMB programs are administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in conjunction with the states. The rules vary from state to state, but the following can be said: Resources, such as bank accounts or stocks, may not exceed $4,000 for one person or $6,000 for a family of two. Resources are generally things you own. However, not everything is counted. The house you live in, for example, doesn't count; and generally one car also doesn't count.
If you qualify for assistance under the QMB program, you will not have to pay:
If you qualify for assistance under the SLMB program, you will be responsible for the payment of all of the items listed above except for the monthly Part B premium, depending on your circumstances.
If you think you qualify but you have not filed for Medicare Part A, contact Social Security to find out if you need to file an application. Further information about filing for Medicare is available from your local Social Security office or Social Security's toll-free number (800) 772-1213.Remember that only your state can decide if you are eligible for help from the QMB or SLMB program and also that the income and resource levels listed here are general guidelines with some states choosing greater amounts. Therefore, if you are elderly or disabled, have low income and very limited assets, and are a Medicare beneficiary, contact your state or local Medicaid office (referred to in some states as the Public Aid Office or the Public Assistance Office) to apply. For more information about either program, call the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on its toll-free telephone number (800) 633-4227, or go online to <http://www.cms.hhs.gov/ContactCMS>.
This month’s recipes have been contributed by members of the National Federation of the Blind of Kansas.
by Meg Silkey
Meg Silkey is the wife of the National Federation of the Blind of Kansas South-Central Chapter president. She has been a member of the NFB since moving to Kansas four years ago. Meg has been interested in the vegan and vegetarian life style for several years. Here are two of her favorite recipes.
1 pound tofu, mashed
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Pinch garlic powder
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
Sprinkle of turmeric
1/4 teaspoon sage, rubbed
1/4 teaspoon thyme, ground
1/2 teaspoon chicken-style seasoning salt or to taste
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon olive oil
Method: In non-stick skillet heat oil. Add tofu and seasonings. Cover and simmer on low, stirring occasionally. Place tofu in bowl and set aside. In same skillet heat oil and sauté onions, mushrooms, and red pepper. Return tofu mixture to skillet. Combine and let simmer on low for a few more minutes. Serve hot. Serves four to six. Can serve with soy sauce or salsa. Be creative and add your own favorites.
Cheesy Hash Brown Casserole
by Meg Silkey
1 24-ounce package frozen hash brown potatoes
1 cup melty cheese
1/2 cup tofu sour cream
2 teaspoons chicken-style seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup soy milk
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
Method: Thaw potatoes in large mixing bowl. Sauté onion and pepper in olive oil. Combine all ingredients with potatoes and place in a 9-by-13-inch glass casserole dish sprayed with oil or cooking spray. Bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees or until golden brown.
Chocolate Mint Thumbprints
by Susan Tabor
Susan Tabor is the NFB of Kansas newsletter editor. She has also served as her chapter’s secretary. She resides in Lawrence, Kansas, and is a member of the Jayhawk Chapter there.
1 cup plus 2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped semisweet chocolate pieces or chocolate chips
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
1/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
Method: Make cookies by sifting flour and cocoa together into a medium bowl. With a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Add the vanilla and salt; continue beating until blended and smooth, about one minute more. Add the flour and cocoa mixture and beat in on low speed until a soft dough forms, about one minute. Chill dough in the refrigerator until firm enough to roll into balls, forty to sixty minutes or longer. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment or nonstick baking liners. Using palms, roll heaping teaspoonfuls of the dough into one-inch balls. Arrange cookies two inches apart on the lined sheets. With a lightly floured thumb or index fingertip press straight down into the middle of each ball almost to the cookie sheet to make a deep well, or use the end of a thick-handled wooden spoon. Bake cookies one sheet at a time until the tops look dry, eight to nine minutes. Gently redefine the indentations with the end of a wooden spoon. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for five minutes, then move them to racks to cool completely.
Make the filling by putting the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl. Microwave in thirty-second bursts (stirring after each heating) until chocolate is melted and smooth. Stir in the mint extract. Let the filling cool, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and a bit warmer than room temperature, thirty to forty minutes. Spoon the filling into a small pastry bag fitted with a small, plain tip. (Or place filling in a small plastic bag and cut a tiny bit off a bottom corner to pipe the filling through.) Pipe the filling into the center of each cookie. Cool filled cookies completely before serving or storing.
Tips: You can also use Andes bits or Nestle Chocolate Mint Swirl chips (in place of chocolate). The cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for four to five days or freeze for several weeks.
Susan’s Homemade Kahlua
by Susan Tabor
4 cups sugar
2 to 4 ounces instant coffee crystals (Taster’s Choice is best; use the greater amount if you like your Kahlua with strong coffee overtones)
2 vanilla beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 additional vanilla bean for each bottle you’ve filled with Kahlua (for ripening)
6 cups water
1 pint brandy
1 fifth vodka
Method: Bring one cup of water to the boil and dissolve instant coffee in it. Combine sugar and the rest of the water in a large pot and bring to a rolling boil. Add coffee and let cool. Then add brandy, vodka, and vanilla bean pieces. Pour into bottles. Add a whole vanilla bean to each bottle, seal tightly, and let ripen. Makes about a gallon. Age for one month in bottles before drinking or giving as gifts. The older it gets, the better it tastes. The vanilla beans really add nice tones to the flavor. If you wish, you can store the Kahlua in a single large, airtight container with the vanilla bean pieces and can hold off adding the whole vanilla bean to each bottle until you have strained out the pieces of vanilla bean and poured the Kahlua into bottles. After it has aged for several weeks, you can strain out the pieces of vanilla bean from the large container. Use a funnel to pour the Kahlua into bottles and to strain out the vanilla bean fragments. Be sure that you have placed a whole vanilla bean in each bottle before sealing it.
by Donna Wood
Donna Wood is president of the National Federation of the Blind of Kansas. The following recipes came into her family when her mother married David Houck. Thank you David for so much more than a soup recipe. These recipes are submitted in loving memory of David, who passed away, May 19, 2010.
1 pound ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 8-ounce can tomato paste
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 can kidney beans
1 small package frozen corn
1 envelope taco seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
Method: Sauté chopped onion in a small amount of cooking oil. Add ground beef and brown. Add package of taco seasoning to ground beef. Then add tomato sauce, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, beans, and corn. Stir and let simmer for approximately one hour. For a spicier version replace diced tomatoes with Rotel tomatoes. Corn bread is delicious with this soup.
by Donna Wood
1 cup coarse corn meal
1/2 cup fine corn meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons olive oil
Method: Mix all dry ingredients together. Whip egg, add egg and buttermilk to dry ingredients, and mix well. Add olive oil and mix again. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. A cast iron skillet works best. Coat skillet with olive oil. Dust greased skillet with coarse corn meal. Pour batter into skillet and cook for thirty minutes on oven rack placed in the top position. Serve immediately.
The Blackhawk Chapter of the NFB of Illinois held elections at its October 13, 2012, meeting. Elected were president, Lois Montgomery; vice president, Patrick Olson; treasurer, Jean Rauschenbach; secretary, John Tebockhorst; and board members Donna Miles, Bob Gardner, and Mark Claybourne.
Hours of Operation in the Independence Market:
Please note that due to staff changes in the NFB Independence Market we are able to accept calls only Monday through Friday from 1:00 to 5:00 Eastern Time. We welcome visitors to the Independence Market from 9:00 to 4:00 and encourage you to stop by in the mornings so that we may better serve our phone customers in the afternoons.
Jessica Victoria Bachicha: Engaging Audiences through Song and Story:
Jessica’s album, Christmas Presence, offers reflections on Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Spe Salvi and invites listeners to hear well-beloved and lesser-known Christmas carols on a deeper level. Through song and spoken word, begin to unwrap the great gift that is Christmas. Experience the wonder of its meaning, mystery, and mirth. To buy Christmas Presence, go to iTunes or Amazon.com.
The NFB of Ohio conducted elections at its closing convention session on November 4, 2012. The following were elected to two-year terms: president, Eric Duffy; first vice president, Richard Payne; second vice president, Barbara Fohl; secretary, Shelbi Hindel; treasurer, Sherry Ruth; and board members, Bruce Peters and Crystal McClain. Barbara Pierce was elected to complete the final year of Richard Payne’s board term.
2013 NFB Scholarships
The National Federation of the Blind is now accepting applications to our national scholarship program, which recognizes achievement by blind scholars, for freshmen beginning college this fall on up through grad school level. Thirty top students will receive scholarships, ranging in value from $3,000 to $12,000, along with a trip to our national convention in Orlando this July! Applications must be received by March 31, 2013. To apply or learn more, please visit www.nfb.org/scholarships.
Notices and information in this section may be of interest to Monitor readers. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the information; we have edited only for space and clarity.
New Scholarship Offered by Oracle
The Oracle Scholarship for Excellence in Computer Science -- Oracle seeks to hire the best and brightest talent to build our products, basing our employment decisions only on merit, experience, and potential. We offer an optimized and fully integrated stack of business hardware and software systems. With more than 390,000 customers—including 100 of the Fortune 100—and with deployments across a wide variety of industries in more than 145 countries around the globe, we recognize the significant impact that our products and technologies can have on people with disabilities. This scholarship for $3000 is for a student in the field of Computer Science, Computer Engineering, User Experience, or related field. It will be made available through the 2013 National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Program. For further information or to apply, go to www.nfb.org/scholarships.
Global Explorers Applications Being Accepted:
We are currently accepting applications for two leadership-focused, adventure-filled travel expeditions. This 2012-2013 season we will be uniting fifteen- to twenty-one-year-old students who are blind, visually impaired, and sighted on two incredible Leading the Way Program expeditions. The first is the Rim to River expedition, where students will take part in engaging service and cultural immersion and then have the unique opportunity of rafting the Colorado River through the majestic Grand Canyon. The second is the Peruvian Highlands expedition, where students will experience the magic of the Quechua culture and hike through the Andes exploring Inca ruins, ending at the infamous Machu Picchu. The Leading the Way Program was developed in partnership with world-renowned blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer.
For more information and to apply, visit: <http://www.globalexplorers.org/programs/ leading_the_way>. Applications are due November 30, 2012. To nominate a student please visit: <http://www.globalexplorers.org/programs/forms/nominate/>.
Blind and Visually Impaired Runners Hit the Pavement at the California International Marathon:
In partnership with VSP® Vision Care, the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) is pleased to host the fourth annual USABA Marathon National Championship, which will be held in conjunction with the California International Marathon (CIM) on December 2, 2012, in Sacramento, California. Mark Lucas, USABA executive director, said, “The city of Sacramento and the race organizers exceeded all expectations of last year’s race, ensuring that USABA had a quality competition and event. We look forward to another outstanding race.”
In 2007 a small group of passionate athletes and volunteers helped create the first USABA Marathon National Championship, and today this event has become one of the premier distance running destinations for runners who are blind and visually impaired. The course provides runners and their guides a very fast, point-to-point, net-downhill marathon with a spectacular finish in front of the California State Capitol. The California International Marathon is certified and sanctioned by USA Track & Field and is a Boston Marathon qualifier and an Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier.
Currently USABA has seventeen blind or visually impaired runners from the United States and three runners from other countries signed up to finish a full marathon as well as five relay teams, including two military teams. These numbers far exceed past years and goals for this year’s marathon, and in the years to come USABA and VSP Vision Care expect growing participation. Richard Hunter, Blinded USMC veteran stated, “The USABA Marathon National Championship, sponsored by VSP Vision Care, is the highlight of the year for many athletes. It is great to be able to get to know other runners with vision loss. With the assistance of over forty sighted guides, we are able to inspire, educate, and change the public’s perception of those with vision loss.”
Athletes can expect a first-class experience and are afforded the opportunity to take part in a pre-race pasta banquet, logistics assistance, pre- and post-race support, and awards. Thanks to the support of VSP Vision Care and private donors, USABA is providing funding to offset expenses for USABA members. Funding will be made available to select North American runners as well as a limited number of international runners.
USABA would like to thank VSP Vision Care for sponsoring the 2012 USABA Marathon National Championship as well as the following donors for their support: Schermer, Bechtold and Roger Eyecare, Rocky and Kim Camp, Every Man Jack, and Folsom Lake Lions Club. For more information about USABA please visit <www.usaba.org> and for more information about VSP Vision Care visit <www.facebook.com/vspvisioncare>.
Attention Treasure Hunt Fans:
Register ASAP for the DailyConnection first annual Treasure Hunt Contest by midnight, January 16, 2013. A very cool prize awaits the best trivia buff and riddle solving contestant who can figure out the final clue to win. Make sure to drop into the Welcome Room, #1, from noon to 6:00 p.m. Eastern to ask Sweet P or Katy about contest rules and details. Have you been looking to join a women’s support group? Renee invites you to call DailyConnection at: (712) 432-6448 to join her in Room “Talk” or #8255 Tuesday nights starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, or sports fans can stop by Room #1 to talk sports or any hot topic of your choice with TJ evenings from 7:00 to 11:00 p.m. Drop into Room 3 and talk technology with Liz, or, if you are an insomniac, come to Room 5 to hang out with Jen and her Night Owls.
Do you like playing trivia or audio games? Then you will definitely want to sign up for the upcoming Skunk Tournament, and don’t forget our Treasure Hunt. If you have questions, call Daily Connection at (443) 732-0341 or email <[email protected]>. Visit us at <www.facebook.com/DailyConnectionCommunity>.
The notices in this section have been edited for clarity, but we can pass along only the information we were given. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the statements made or the quality of the products for sale.
Braille Embosser for Sale:
I have a Basic S. Index Braille embosser for sale. It has been updated to work smoothly with Microsoft Office 2007. It includes Winbraille software. All this will work smoothly with Windows XP; however, operating it with a Windows 7 computer requires downloading a new driver from the Index website because Winbraille does not work with Windows 7. This machine embosses on one side of the page and uses continuous-feed paper. It works with paper which is either 8 1/2 by 11 or 11 by 11 1/2 inches. I am selling this printer/embosser for $1,500. Please call me at (540) 899-7747 or email me at <[email protected]>.
I am selling a Freedom Scientific PAC Mate. The unit comes with two batteries but no charger. It came from the estate of a blind person, so I know nothing more about it. Freedom Scientific says that it can provide a charger for about $40. This unit has a Perkins-Brailler-style keyboard and only a couple other switches. I am asking $75 including shipping, or I would consider trading for something taking up space at your place.
I am also selling a new Perkins Brailler. It's still shrink wrapped in its original box. This is the older steel machine, not the newer plastic model. I’m asking $500. For more information contact me at <[email protected]>, or call (734) 658-2919.
Textbook for Sale:
I have a Braille text book for sale entitled A People and a Nation: A History of the United States, seventh edition, volume 2. The author is Mary Beth Norton. The book was published by Houghton Mifflin Company. The ISBN number is 0–618–39177–7. If interested in this thirty-volume book, you may reach Latrice at (336) 722-9018. Please do not call before 9:00 a.m.
Laptop for Sale:
I have an HP laptop computer with four gigabytes of memory that is one year old. It has Windows 7 and is in excellent condition. I paid $1,300 for it and am asking $200 plus shipping. Please call Donna Webb at (501) 313-9408.
I have a barely used PAC Mate BX420 with a twenty-cell Braille display and GPS. I’m asking $900. The unit comes with two carrying cases, a power supply/charger, a socket WIFI card, and a USB cable. I am hard of hearing as well as low vision, so please contact me using email by writing to <[email protected]> or by using the Video Relay Service by calling (858) 368-4194.
Items for Sale:
(1) Pac Mate Omni QX440 $2,900. The unit is one year old and in good condition. The price includes all accessories.
(2) Eye-Pal $700. If interested in any of these products, please email <[email protected]> or call (806) 886-1340.
Pen Friends for Sale:
My name is Jonathan, and I am offering two Pen Friends for sale. A Pen Friend is a device with which one records one's voice by placing the pen on a sticker that is required for playback, similar to a feature of the ID Mate. I wish to sell these for $175 each. One has never been used; all contents are still in their plastic box. The other I did try once or twice but is still in like-new condition with all contents in the original plastic box. Some stickers on the sheet have been used. I have no use for these and would like to help someone in need of one or both of these; they are beneficial for keeping track of prescriptions, seasonings, or spices, et cetera. If interested, contact me at <[email protected]>.
I pledge to participate actively in the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.