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Braille Monitor

Vol. 56, No. 7                                                     July 2013

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

National Office
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Baltimore, Maryland  21230
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES

        ISSN 0006-8829


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Contents

Vol. 56, No. 7                                                       July 2013

 

Illustration: Braille Brings Music to Life       

Singing Our Story: Federation History in Song
by Barbara Pierce

The Nature of Independence
by Kenneth Jernigan

Randolph-Sheppard: Our History Calls Us to Action
by James Gashel

Me, Myself, and Seattle
by Emily Zitek

Technology for the Blind: Blessing or Curse?
by Gary Wunder

An American Hero Remembered
by Jim Omvig

Low-Vision Specialists: An Impediment to Meeting Patients’ Rehabilitation Needs?
by Sean Ziadeh

Rehabilitation: A Contract Between America and Her Blind Citizens
by Gary Wunder

I Was Reported to the Police for Crossing the Street
by Glenn Ervin

Hiring Blind: The Misconceptions Facing America’s Visually Impaired Workforce
by Belo Cipriani

What Did You Say? What’s That? Say it Again?
by Agnes Allen

Recipes

Monitor Miniatures

 

Copyright 2013 by the National Federation of the Blind

Braille Brings Music to Life

In the May issue we published an article about Jean Dyon Norris and her work in creating Twin Vision™ books, provided by the Kenneth Jernigan Library, which is operated by the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults. Caleb Hyndman is a student finishing kindergarten at Webster Elementary in Lewiston, Idaho. His teacher, Nora Mayton, signed him up for services from the library. In an end-of-year report she mentioned his interest in music and asked that the Library look specifically for books about music for next year. A few weeks later a book showed up with a note from the Library director that Caleb could keep the music book she sent. Nora explains: “He was absolutely delighted. He immediately began jumping up and down and took the book into his classroom, where he shared it with other students. His grandmother tells me that he keeps it on his piano at home and looks at it often.”

Singing Our Story
Federation History in Song

by Barbara Pierce

From the Editor: Barbara Pierce has been involved with this publication for at least twenty years, and for most of that time she served as the editor—looking at every word, touching ever so lightly to add the special shine we have come to expect from the Braille Monitor. In this issue we feature her tribute to songs of the Federation as our lead article, and, for those receiving the recorded edition, we have included performances in lieu of the text. Songs performed in the audio edition are marked with stars for the convenience of those who wish to go to the web to enjoy them. Here is what Barbara has to say about our Federation history in song:

For almost forty years I have been a Federationist. While a number of organizational traits have endeared the NFB to me—care for individual blind people, the passion to fight injustice and discrimination, and the mutual devotion of the Federation family, to name a few—the role and importance of NFB songs in our life together is virtually unique in the blindness field.

In the seventies and eighties we were still defining our movement and establishing our voice. The first songs I became aware of were those that identified and defined what we began calling “the organized blind movement.”

** Battle Song of the NFB
Tune: “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”
Words by Floyd Fields and Josephine Huff

1. Blind eyes have seen the vision of the Federation way.
New White Cane legislation brings the dawn of a new day.
The right of the blind to organize is truly here to stay.
Our cause goes marching on.

(Refrain:) Glory, glory, Federation,
Glory, glory, Federation,
Glory, glory, Federation,
Our cause goes marching on.

2. We have seen it in the action of four hundred chapters strong.
Good leadership and courage have righted many a wrong.
Let’s aid NFB’s program and join in its battle song.
Our cause goes marching on.
(Refrain)

3. TenBroek has sounded trumpet which shall never sound “retreat.”
We have sifted out the hearts of blind before our judgment seat.
Oh, be swift all blind to answer, and be jubilant your feet.
Our cause goes marching on.
(Refrain)

4. To aid the blind’s long struggle we have formed the NFB
To free them from their bondage of workshop and agency,
To give a hand to all the blind wherever they may be.
Our cause goes marching on.
(Refrain)

We Shall March Together
Words and original tune by James Omvig

We shall march together to gain equality.
Through our common effort we’ll make opportunity.
When we reach our goal of security, brave effort we’ll applaud.
We shall march together “Within the Grace of God.”

At about the same time as I learned these songs, a group of workshop songs and what one might characterize as songs about ineffective rehabilitation began appearing. These resonated in the hearts and minds of thousands of Federationists, so we sang them whenever numbers of us got together.

**I’ve Been Workin’ in the Workshop
Tune: “I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad”

I’ve been working in the workshop
All the livelong day,
And with the wages that they pay me
It’s just to pass my time away.
And when I ask about more money,
They give me the big lie.
“We’d like to give you lots of raises,
But you’d lose your SSI.”
“Work is therapy,”
They keep telling me.
I’ve heard it till I’ve had my fill.
‘Cause if it’s therapy,
I wish they’d let me be.
This therapy’s a bitter pill.

**Blind Workshop Blues
Tune: original
Words by Arthur Segal

1. When you’re working in the workshop, you’ve got no money in your pants,
For the bosses in the workshop don’t give a blind guy a chance.

(Refrain:) Baby, I’ve got those blind workshop blues.

2. You’re dining on steak and salad like a mogul at the Ritz.
Blindness lands you in the workshop, and you’re eatin’ greens and grits.
(Refrain)

3. The bosses in my workshop drink champagne before they sup,
But the workers in the workshop wind up with an empty cup.
(Refrain)

The Rehab Song
Words and music original

Today I am happy. Today I am glad.
I finished my five-year course in rehab.
I’ve learned chair caning. I’ve learned basketry,
And now there’s not a damned soul who wants to hire me.
(Repeat)
Rehab, I’m glad, rehab.

**The Bureau Song
Tune: “In the Garden”
Words by Ted Young

1. I went to the bureau alone
Straight from school and a little bit nervous.
I asked for a job, then the counseling slob
Signed me up for two years rehab service.

(Refrain:) Then they tested me, and they rested me,
And they told me there was some hope.
With the anger I bear as I tarry there
No blind guy should have to cope.

2. I took all my medical exams
And the best eye tests I could get.
Then they tested my means, which was four cans of beans,
Three cans of beer, one cassette.
(Refrain)

3. I finally got a job on my own
Breaking loose from the bureau’s long tether.
I called and said, “I found work,” and the counseling jerk
Said, “Close case, ‘cause we’ve done this together!”
(Refrain)

Though it was written much later and comments on unwise use of technology as powerfully as it does on inept efforts at rehabilitation, “A Technology Song” also belongs in this category. By the way, this was one of Dr. Jernigan’s favorite songs. He was especially moved by the ending.

A Technology Song
Tune: "The Marvelous Little Toy"

1. When I wrote my rehab plan, my counselor promised me
The hottest screen access program of the twentieth century.
I waited for six months, then gave my counselor a call;
He said, "Our budget's frozen; you must wait until next fall."

(Refrain:) It went zip! when it moved and pop! when it stopped, and whir! when it stood still.
I've never done a thing with it, and I guess I never will.

2. When my equipment finally came, my counselor explained
That I couldn't get my hands on it till I'd been thoroughly trained.
I said, "Let's start tomorrow!" but my counselor told me,
"We have a six-month waiting list at our facility."
(Refrain)

3. I said I'd get trained on my own, but rehab made a fuss.
They said, "You won't get funding, unless it's done by us."
Now my training's finally done, and I've come home to wait.
If I ever get a job, my skills will be out of date.
(Refrain)

4. Today I had an interview, but I didn't get to go;
I called for paratransit, but my vehicle didn't show.
The finest new technology won't help us, it's quite plain,
Without good blindness training and a thirty-dollar cane.

(Refrain:) It went zip! when it moved and pop! when it stopped, and whir! when it stood still.
I've never done a thing with it, and I guess I never will.
I've never done a thing in life…and I guess I never will.

The largest group of Federation songs emerged out of our decades-long battle to rid the blindness field of the devastatingly dangerous influence of NAC, the so-called accrediting body created solely to provide its seal of approval to any school for the blind, workshop for the blind, or rehabilitation agency serving the blind that was prepared to pay colleagues to step in and apply accreditation standards that blind consumer representatives had had no part in developing. During the decades when NAC tried to “take over the field,” the NFB showed up to picket on the street and talk to the press every time a large NAC gathering took place. Those who participated in these exhausting picket lines remember them with great fondness and much laughter. We walked the line for three or four hours at a time, up to three times a day, and we did so in biting cold, pouring rain, or stifling heat.

**We Shall Not Be Moved
Tune: civil rights song of the same name
Original words

1. We shall not, we shall not be moved.
We shall not, we shall not be moved.
Just like a tree standing by the water, we shall not be moved.

2. NAC shall be, NAC shall be removed.
NAC shall be, NAC shall be removed.
Just like a tree that’s fallen in the water, NAC shall be removed.

3. We blind guys, we are on the move.
We blind guys, we are on the move.
Just like a ship that’s plowing through the water, we are on the move.

4. We’re moving, we’re the NFB.
We’re moving, we’re the NFB.
We’re going to lead the blind through troubled waters; we’re the NFB.

The next song was one of the most singable on the picket line. To understand the first line, you need a couple of pieces of information. One effort in the eighties to work around the NFB was the formation of the Affiliated Leadership League of and for the Blind (ALL). Mostly these were big agencies and NAC, but the ACB eagerly aligned itself under the ALL banner. And because it so often allied itself with any blindness group that opposed the NFB, the ACB often found itself singled out in our songs, as it did in this one:

**So Long to NAC and the Council
Tune: “So Long, it’s Been Good to Know You”
Words by Carol Hawk and Lee Kerr

1. I’ll tell you of NAC and the Council and ALL,
How they act just like babies; they scream and they squall!
They know they can’t beat us; they’re not very strong;
And we’ll be without them before very long.

(Refrain:) So long to NAC and the Council,
So long to NAC and the Council,
So long to NAC and the Council,
It’s been too long a time, and you’re still here,
And we wish you’d be movin’ along.

2. There’re prisons and dungeons of all different kinds,
But none can be worse than the shops for the blind.
They’ll work you for nothin’, and they’ll tell you why:
If we give you more money, you’ll lose SSI!
(Refrain)

3. We go to the workshops to slave every day.
We don’t want their handouts; we just want our pay.
An honest day’s wages for an honest day’s work,
And here’s what we say to those agency jerks!
(Refrain)

**With A Little Bit of NAC
Tune: “Little Bit of Luck”
Words by Jim Erhard and Maureen Sheedy

1. They say that blind guys have trouble with employment.
It appears to be a problem with the eye.
They say that blind guys have trouble with employment, but
With a little bit of NAC, with a little bit of NAC,
You can live your life on SSI.

(Refrain:) With a little NAC, with a little NAC,
With a little NAC you’ll live on SSI.
With a little NAC, with a little NAC,
With a little bit of bloomin’ NAC.

2. They say the agency has got the finest people.
The staff diplomas clutter up the wall.
They say the agency has got the finest people, but
With a little bit of NAC, With a little bit of NAC,
They will be no help to you at all.

(Refrain:) With a little NAC, with a little NAC,
With a little NAC, they’ll be no help at all.
With a little NAC, with a little NAC,
With a little bit of bloomin’ NAC.

3. They say a blind guy could be a secretary
If someone sighted will read the printed page.
They say a blind guy could be a secretary, but
With a little bit of NAC, with a little bit of NAC,
You would only get a workshop wage.

(Refrain:) With a little NAC, with a little NAC,
With a little NAC, you’d get a workshop wage,
With a little NAC, with a little NAC,
With a little bit of bloomin’ NAC.

4. They say that blindness is such a tragic hassle.
We need that extra expert help to get along.
They say that blindness is such a tragic hassle, but
With a little bit of NAC, with a little bit of NAC,
You’d get milk and cookies and a song.

(Refrain:) With a little NAC, with a little NAC,
With a little NAC they’ll sell you for a song.
With a little NAC, with a little NAC,
With a little bit of bloomin’ NAC.

5. They say that blind guys have trouble with our travel.
We get lost no matter where we try to roam.
They say that blind guys have trouble with our travel, but
With a little bit of NAC, with a little bit of NAC,
You’d get lost while you’re inside your home.

(Refrain:) With a little NAC, with a little NAC,
With a little NAC you’re lost inside your home.
With a little NAC, with a little NAC,
With a little bit of bloomin’ NAC.

6. They say that blind guys must have the best of training.
On this one point, I most certainly agree.
They say that blind guys must have the best of training, but
With a little NAC, with a little NAC,
You get sighted people who can’t see.

(Refrain:) With a little NAC, with a little NAC,
With a little NAC the sighted folks can’t see,
With a little NAC, with a little NAC,
With a little bit of bloomin’ NAC.

Like getting to national conventions, getting to NAC-tracking events meant lots of driving for many of the picketers. One year, perhaps it was the trip to St. Augustine, the Maryland affiliate sent two vans. The vehicles maintained contact with each other using the radios that would later keep us organized on the picket line. The passengers in van 2 entertained themselves on the trip by writing a song and singing it to those in the other van. To its creators and their friends, the following song was known as “The Van 2 Song.”

**Oh, NAC, You’ll Learn to Be Humble
Tune: “Oh, Lord, It’s Hard to Be Humble”

Oh, NAC, you’ll learn to be humble
While falling apart at the seams.
We’re glad to give you trouble
By ruining all of your schemes.
To know us is to fear us;
We get more determined each day.
Our NFB is a winner!
The blind are here to stay!
(Repeat)

Somewhere along the line NAC moved its annual meeting from the fall to just before Christmas. Who knows why that decision was made; at the time we simply assumed that it was in an effort to cut down on the numbers of picketers outside the meeting to at least fewer than the number of attendees inside the meeting. If that was NAC’s hope, it was a forlorn one. Our numbers were always close to a hundred, and the longer we carried out our demonstrations (we called them the primary event of the NFB fall social season), the fewer members attended the NAC meetings. The great thing about a December meeting was that we could and did create what we called “NAC Carols.” At this time the head of NAC was a man named Dennis Hartenstein.

**Dennis Hartenstine Looked Out
To the tune of “Good King Wenceslaus”
Words by Peggy Elliott

Dennis Hartenstein looked out
Oozing sanctimony.
The blind were marching all about,
Picketing that phony.
We had come from far and wide
Though the winds were cruel
To proclaim the truth to all:
A NACster is a fool!

**We Have Come to Greet the NACsters
To the tune of “Deck the Halls”

We have come to greet the NACsters,
Falalalala, lala la la.
Agency money is what they’re after,
Falalalala, lala la la.
Quality ethics and standards are lacking,
Falalalala, lalala, la la la.
That is why we go NAC-tracking,
Falalalala, lala la la.

**Hartenstine Hurts the Blind
To the tune of “Jingle Bells”

Hartenstein hurts the blind;
NAC should go away.
Many of their agencies are not with them today.
Hartenstein hurts the blind;
NAC’s standards are a waste!
The NFB will help you see
For NAC there is no place.

In Little Rock we could walk from our block of hotel rooms to the banquet space where the Saturday evening NAC dinner was being held while we remained cozily indoors. By that time, after eight hours or so of singing NAC carols on the picket line, our voices were shot, but we certainly did have the words of the carols down pat. Late in the afternoon someone ran out to buy tiny flashlights that looked like candles, so we dressed as nicely as we could and set out for the space outside the banquet room, singing NAC carols, carrying our flashlight candles, and using our white canes and well-behaved dogs. People in the lobby of the hotel who looked up to see where the Christmas carols were coming from, obviously thought they were watching an inspirational choir of blind people walking and singing. We really did not sound very musical, and of course they could not hear the scathing words we were singing, so they applauded us madly, much to our amusement and probably the frustration of the NAC guests who were gathering at the time.

Another battle that inspired songs through the years was a fight we called “the cane wars.” The airlines were determined to stow our canes in coat closets, make us demonstrate our ability to fasten our seatbelts, and occasionally sit on blankets in case of incontinence. And of course they did not want us sitting in exit rows, even when they had assigned us those seats. The first airline song was the following:

**We Fly Through the Air with the Greatest of Ease
Tune: “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze”

United Airlines and the old FAA
Say blind folks can't carry their white canes today.
They say they're a hazard and get in the way,
But we say our white canes will stay.

(Refrain:) We fly through the air with the greatest of ease.
Our white canes won't shatter in emergencies,
So take your hands off of my cane if you please.
United, we are NFB.

At the height of the cane wars in the eighties, the 1985 national convention took place in Louisville. On Wednesday afternoon lots of NFB members toured the Ohio River on the paddle wheeler, “The Belle of Louisville.” Waiting in a very long line to board the ship, a group of Federationists wrote this airline favorite:

**Let’s Go Out to the Airport
Tune: “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”

1. Let’s go out to the airport.
We’re just part of the crowd.
If you insist on preboarding us,
The NFB will make a national fuss.
So let’s go down to the jetway.
It’s time for us to go,
And we’ll keep our canes and our dogs in the exit row.

2. We are all in our seats now.
The plane is still on the ground.
If you say that moving is best,
We will stay till we’re under arrest.
And then the blind will gather.
We’ll come from all around.
And we’ll win the seat of our choice
When we close you down.

Skeptics may wonder about the promise made in that last line to close down an airline. But, following the 1985 Washington Seminar, a group of Federationists accompanied Russell Anderson to the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, where their sit-in inspired U.S. Air to close its gate for some little time. The demonstration took place because airline personnel would not allow Russell to sit in the exit row seat to which he had been assigned.

Our problems with hybrid and electric cars capable of moving silently gave birth to a couple of NFB songs, though the loss of opportunities to learn NFB songs has meant that they never became familiar.

The Hybrid Car Song
Tune: “Surry with the Fringe on Top”
Words by Mary Ellen Gabias
Copyright 2007, National Federation of the Blind

Kids and dogs won’t know when to scurry.
Silent death arrives in a hurry.
All who walk have reason to worry
'Bout the hybrid car.

We all want to stop the polluting,
Save a lot of gas while commuting.
If they made sound, there'd be no disputing
With the hybrid car.

Saving the planet we all hold dear,
Nobody wants to destroy it.
Please make cars pedestrians can hear
'Cause we want to be 'round to enjoy it.

We don’t need a noisy vrum-vrumming,
Just a simple audible humming,
So that we can know when you're coming
In a hybrid car.
Then we all can walk with safety on the street
Without fear that we will accident’lly meet a hybrid car.

The Quiet Car Song
Tune: “Found a Peanut”
Words by Sandy Halverson

1. I was walking down the sidewalk
Thinking of what I would eat
When I got up to the restaurant
And the friends I was to meet.
 
2. I was so close I could smell it.
Didn't have to go that far
When my life was quickly altered
By that sneaky quiet car.
 
3. I approached my destination
When my cane broke at my feet.
Never heard the car approaching--
I was lying in the street.
 
4. Heard the siren of the ambulance
As it carried me away.
Lost my hunger in the ER.
Guess we'll meet another day.

A number of blindness topics have resulted in a single, memorable song. Perhaps the most popular is “The Library Song,” reputedly a favorite of longtime NLS head Frank Curt Cylke.

**The Library Song
Tune: “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the Boys Are Marching”
Words by Curtis Willoughby

1. At the mailbox I sit thinking of the book I need,
And the library so cold and far away.
And the tears they fill my eyes ‘spite of all that I can do
When I think of what the library will say.

(Refrain:) “Wait, wait, wait, your book’s not in yet.
We’ll try to have it next year without fail.
We are not your corner store. We cannot do any more.
After all, we know just one percent read Braille.”

2. ‘Cause they’re running out of space. “For your book there is no place.
The demand for it, you see, is far too low.
How about a light romance or a novel set in France,
For we mostly serve the elderly, you know.”
(Refrain)

3. So at home and on the job I am waiting for the day
When the mailman will come up to my door
With the book that I have sought and not the one they thought
That my profile showed I should be asking for.
(Refrain)

In the 1980s the NFB took on the U.S. Department of State over the question of whether or not a blind person could qualify to serve the country in the Foreign Service. We won that battle, and this is the song that emerged from the tussle.

**The State Department Song
Tune: “Yankee Doodle”
Words by Paul and Mary Ellen Gabias

1. The State Department keeps us out. They say that we’re not able.
They won’t let our readers in to read their secret cables.

(Refrain:) State Department, let us in. We want to serve our nation.
We will fight until we win ‘cause we’re the Federation.

2. They say that we can’t go abroad. They say we’ll be in danger.
They tell us we will be attacked by every foreign stranger.
(Refrain)

3. The blind have traveled far and wide to every state and nation.
We can serve in every post and every foreign station.
(Refrain)

We may have more than one song about Braille but this is by far the most familiar:

**Ode to the Code
Tune: “Jingle Bells”
Words by Lloyd Rasmussen, Judy Rasmussen, and Debbie Brown

1. Going to the school to write an IEP--
The teacher says, “Use print because your child can see.”
The equipment is too big, and large print is too rare,
And fifteen words a minute will not get you anywhere.”

(Refrain:) Oh, Braille is here, Braille is here. Braille is here to stay.
We will keep on using it. We don’t care what you say.
Braille is here. Braille is here. We will sing its praise.
It’s the system for the blind to get a job that pays.

2. They say that Braille’s too tough to teach the newly blind.
Its codes and its contractions discombobulate the mind.
Contractions we’ve learned all, and codes we’ve mastered too,
For blindness has no negative effect on our IQ.
(Refrain)

3. They say that Braille’s complex. They say that it’s too slow.
They say that new technology’s the only way to go.
But we’ll keep using Braille because it is the key
To making sure that blind folks will be literate and free.
(Refrain)

Once the NFB adult rehabilitation centers began graduating blind people who were both competent and confident, it was no surprise for NFB songs to begin reflecting this new approach to the world and disdain for the old custodial model of rehabilitation.

Happy Home for the Blind
Tune: “Home on the Range”
Words by Students at the Louisiana Center for the Blind

1. Oh give me a home where the blind people roam,
And the canes don’t see traffic all day,
Where never is heard an encouraging word
From the certified staff with high pay.

(Refrain:) Happy home for the blind, where we sit around on our behinds,
Just listening to tapes, never touching our slates,
‘Cause Braille’s slow and tough on our minds.

2. The day starts at ten, or whenever I get in
On the arm of some sighted guide.
I don’t know my way, so it takes me all day.
Maybe next week they’ll let me outside.
(Refrain)

3. At noon they serve lunch to the whole helpless bunch
While we sit there and wait to be fed.
They carry our trays through the long lunch line maze,
And they serve twenty napkins per head
(Refrain)

4. In classes we’re shown how to dial a phone,
And to tell apart nickels and dimes.
How to shake hands and clap, how to take a sponge bath,
And to punch talking clocks for the time.
(Refrain)

5. When I do graduate, well for me it’s too late
’Cause for me half my life’s passed me by.
They say I’ll find work, but I don’t trust those jerks,
And now my best hope’s SSI.
(Refrain)
(the sound of all yawning)

Probably since the beginning of Federation history NFB members have been frustrated and annoyed by individual blind people who affiliate themselves with agencies rather than with the blind people trying to bring about reform of worn-out ideas and ineffective rehabilitation methods. The following song has always been popular generally, since even nonsingers can join in by adding pig snorts at the end of the first line of the refrain.

**Big Old Blind Uncle Tom Pig
Tune: “Truck-Drivin’ Man”
Words by Ted Young

(Refrain:) He’s a big old blind Uncle Tom pig. (snort, snort)
He hangs with the sighted. That makes him feel big.
They think he’s the best they can find,
A model and an expert on all of the blind.

1. As a child he sold out his soul.
He learned and adopted the agency role.
And as he grew older, he earned his reward;
He’s got a big spot on an agency board.
(Refrain)

2. He’s learned every sighted cliché, (You’re amazing!)
And he lives them all in his own special way.
He’s the first to jump up and to follow a plan
As long as the planner is some sighted man.
(Refrain)

3. He’s been known to feel somewhat maligned
When he tries to advise and be nice to the blind.
But the blind, they laugh at him. They know he’s abused
When the sighted parade him, and he’s being used.
(Refrain)

Not many years ago the Louisiana Center students arrived at the Washington Seminar with a new song.

The Blind Go Marching
Tune: “The Ants Go Marching”
Words by Louisiana Center for the Blind Students

1. The blind go marching one by one, hoorah, hooray.
The blind go marching two by two, hoorah, hooray.
The blind go marching three by three,
We're making NFB history,
As we all come together at Washington Seminar.
(Refrain:) tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap

2. The blind go marching four by four, hoorah, hooray.
The blind go marching five by five, hoorah, hooray.
The blind go marching six by six,
We're shaping national politics,
As we all come together at Washington Seminar.
(Refrain)

3. The blind go marching seven by seven, hoorah, hooray.
The blind go marching eight by eight, hoorah, hooray.
The blind go marching nine by nine,
We're keeping Jernigan's dreams alive,
As we all come together at Washington Seminar.
(Refrain)

4. The blind go marching ten by ten, hoorah, hooray.
The blind go marching ten by ten, hoorah, hooray.
The blind go marching ten by ten,
And next year we'll be back again,
As we all come together at Washington Seminar.
(Refrain)

5. The blind go marching all as one, hoorah, hooray.
The blind go marching all as one, hoorah, hooray.
The blind go marching all as one,
And we won't give up till the job is done,
As we all come together at Washington Seminar.

This compilation of NFB songs could go on for pages. Though we have more than scratched the surface, we have quoted many fewer than half the NFB songs that have been loved and sung through the years: “Where Have All the NACsters Gone?” “I Broke my Neck in San Francisco,” “Amazing Grace,” “The Paratransit Song,” and so on. No doubt the favorite songs of many did not make the cut for this article. We will close with a recent song that deserves to be better known than it is. And of course there are hundreds of songs still to be written. But we will close with “The White Cane Freedom March.”

The White Cane Freedom March
Tune: “As Those Caissons Go Rolling Along”
Words by the Sligo Creek Chapter of the NFB of Maryland

1. Over hill, over dale, we have hit the concrete trail,
As our white canes go tapping along.
Down the block, cross the street, walking on our own two feet,
As our white canes go tapping along.
On the job or at home, wherever we may roam,
Yes, independent and free, NFB!
We can find our way at night or in the day,
As our white canes go tapping along.

2. On a bus, on a train, even flying on a plane,
As our white canes go tapping along.
As we board, find our seat, no great danger shall we meet,
As our white canes go tapping along.
We’re the able blind, so leave your carts behind.
Don’t put us in your holding tanks. No Thanks!
We’ll meet no harm. Don’t view us with alarm.
As our white canes go tapping along.

3. On we go at full speed, no contraptions do we need,
As our white canes go tapping along.
No rough tiles for our feet, nor the traffic signal’s “tweet,”
As our white canes go tapping along,
No PhD’s, just skillful travelers, please,
Teaching blind people to be free, NFB!
And the rehab snobs can go and find real jobs
As our white canes go tapping along.

The Nature of Independence

by Kenneth Jernigan

From the Editor: Given the number of articles the Monitor has run lately about the issue of independence, it seemed appropriate to look back at this address delivered to the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind held in Dallas, Texas, in 1993. Never has there been such a cogent argument differentiating the tools and techniques to achieve independence from the attitudes and behaviors that express true independence. Here is what Dr. Jernigan said to the spellbound audience who responded enthusiastically to his remarks:

Shortly after last year's convention, I received a number of letters from students at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. It was clear that the letters were written as the result of discussions held at the Center and that, although the apparent topic was independent mobility, the real issue was independence in general, and how blind persons should live and behave. I want to share those letters with you, then tell you how I answered them, and finally say a few things about what I think independence really is. The letters are all dated July 23, 1992. Here is a composite of them:

 

Dear Dr. Jernigan:

I am a sophomore in high school. Right now, I am in a teenage program that the Louisiana Center for the Blind is sponsoring. It is the STEP program. That means Summer Training and Employment Project. We are allowed to get jobs and make money as well as have classes.

A few weeks ago I attended the national convention. I really enjoyed all your speeches and everything. People noticed that you and Mr. Maurer walked sighted guide sometimes, [I interrupt to call your attention to the almost code-word use of the term “sighted guide.” Not “walking with a sighted guide” or “walking with a sighted person” or “holding the arm of a sighted person,” but “walking sighted guide.” This makes it clear that the concept of “sighted guide” has been the topic of considerable conversation. But back to the letter.] and we thought you all would never walk sighted guide, because you all are so highly involved in the NFB. I never thought sighted guide was OK until then. So why did you all use sighted guide? I know there are many reasons why this might be. We discussed this in one of our talk times and came up with one reason this might be. We know that you all have to be at meetings all the time, and it would be faster if you would use sighted guide. [I interrupt again to call your attention to the use in the following sentences of the depersonalized “it.” Now, back to the letter.] I am sure you don't use it so much that you lose your cane travel skills. I am not trying to say this is wrong. I was just wondering why you do this. Someone brought up that if we, as the people being trained at the moment, were caught using sighted guide, they would fuss at us. And I realize that you are not the one in training, so it is not wrong. We couldn't use sighted guide, because we might want to use it more than the cane if we use too much of it.
Yours truly,

 

Dear Dr. Jernigan:

During this past convention in North Carolina some of us noticed that you did not walk with a cane. I do not understand this at all. I can understand that you have to be in many places in a short amount of time at the conventions, and that might be the reason you went sighted guide. But I also know that when you came for a tour of the Center, you also went sighted guide. We do not understand this.

We all have our own theories as to why you went sighted guide, but we want to get the correct answer straight from the horse's mouth.

Your fellow Federationist,

 

That's a very clear-cut letter, and I am pleased to be called that end of the horse. Here is the last one:

Dear Dr. Jernigan:

This year I came to Charlotte to attend my third national convention of the NFB. I am currently a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind in the STEP program for blind teenagers. This program stresses cane use, Braille literacy, employment readiness, and self-confidence based on achievement. While at the convention I heard from a friend that you were never actually seen using your cane. I discussed this with a group of friends, and it was decided that you most likely had many places to go and had to get to them quickly. This made sense, and the question seemed settled. Then one of the group remembered you using sighted guide during a tour you took of the Center while passing through Ruston on the way to the Dallas convention in 1990. This was such a hectic situation, and the question was no longer settled because the only alternative travel technique anyone noticed you using was sighted guide.

I do not mean this letter to imply any disrespect towards you, the Federation, or its many achievements. If the Federation had not pushed so hard for independence for the blind, I would have no grounds on which to write this letter. It is because of my own personal convictions about independence that I ask why the figurehead of the NFB is not himself using the alternative techniques that his student, Joanne Wilson, has been teaching for nearly ten years in Ruston.

I would prefer to end the letter on a positive note. I realize that you are responsible for the training I am currently receiving, and I am grateful for it. I am not implying that you have no cane skills, because I do not honestly know.

Sincerely,

 

These are straightforward letters, seriously written. They raise fundamental questions, questions that deserve a reasoned answer. Here is the expanded substance of what I wrote:

 

Baltimore, Maryland
July 29, 1992

Under date of July 23, 1992, the three of you wrote to ask me why I didn't travel alone with a cane during the national convention in Charlotte and why on a visit to the Louisiana Center in 1990 I took a sighted person's arm instead of walking alone with a cane. I appreciate your letters and will tell you why I do what I do.

In the first place let us assume that I didn't have any cane travel skills at all. This might be comparable to the situation of a parent who had no education but dreamed of an education for his or her child. That parent might preach the value of education and might work to send the child to high school and then to college. The parent might, though personally uneducated, feel tremendous satisfaction at the learning and accomplishment which his or her effort had made possible. In such circumstances what attitude should the child have toward the parent? The child might be critical of the parent for his or her poor grammar and lack of education and might even be ashamed to associate with the parent—or the child might feel gratitude for the sacrifice and the work that had made the education possible.

This is not an apt analogy since I have perfectly good cane skills, but it has elements of truth about it. When I was a child, there were no orientation centers or mobility training. The only canes available were the short heavy wooden type, and we youngsters associated carrying a cane with begging, shuffling along, and being helpless.

It was not until I finished college and had taught for four years in Tennessee that I first carried a cane. It was made of wood and had a crook handle. I might also say that it was longer than most of those in vogue at the time, forty inches. I started using it in 1953, just before going to California to work at the newly established state orientation center for the blind. The Center had been in operation for only a few months and had enrolled only four or five students by the time of my arrival.

In those days the California Center was using forty-two-inch aluminum canes. They were a tremendous improvement over the forty-inch wooden cane I had been carrying, and I immediately adopted the new model. Even so, it seemed that something better was needed. I worked with the person who had been employed as the travel teacher, and we experimented with different techniques and canes.

In the mid-1950s the solid fiberglass cane was developed. It was first made by a blind man in Kansas, but we at the California center popularized it and brought it into general use. We also worked to improve the tip. Our students received intensive training, those with any sight using blindfolds (or, as we called them, sleep shades), and our students and graduates were identifiable in any group of blind persons because of their competence and ease in travel. Since they had enjoyed the benefit of our study and experimentation, as well as intensive instruction and the time to practice, many of them probably became better travelers than I—and I felt pride and satisfaction in the fact. We were advancing on the road to freedom and independence.

In 1958 I went to Iowa as director of the state commission for the blind, and I carried with me the experience and knowledge I had acquired in California plus a 48-inch fiberglass cane and a head full of new ideas and hopes for the future. I hired a young sighted man who had no experience at all with blindness and spent several days giving him preliminary instruction in mobility, using blind techniques. First I had him follow me all over Des Moines, watching me use the cane while crossing streets and going to various places. Then, he put on sleep shades, and I worked with him to learn basic skills. Next I sent him to California for three or four weeks to gain further experience and to compare what I had taught him with what the California Center was doing. Finally he came back to Des Moines, and I spent several more weeks working with him until (though sighted) he could (under blindfold) go anywhere he wanted safely and comfortably using a cane.

During all of that time I worked with him on attitudes, for unless one believes that he or she is capable of independence as a blind person, independence in travel (as in other areas) is not truly achievable. This travel instructor's name is Jim Witte, and he developed into one of the best I have ever known.

Iowa students rapidly became the envy of the nation. You could single them out in any group because of their bearing, their confidence, and their skill in travel. As had been the case in California, some of them undoubtedly traveled better than I, and I felt a deep sense of fulfillment in the fact. Joanne Wilson (the director of your own Louisiana Center) was one of those students, and I am sure she has told you how it was at the Iowa Center—how students were treated, what was expected of them, the relationship between staff and students, our dreams for the future, and how we set about accomplishing those dreams. Arlene Hill (one of your teachers) was also an Iowa student. Both Joanne and Arlene are living examples of what we taught and how it worked. So are President Maurer, Mrs. Maurer, Peggy Pinder, Ramona Walhof, Jim Gashel, Jim Omvig, and at least fifty others in this audience.

It was in Iowa that we developed the hollow fiberglass cane. It was an improvement over the solid cane, lighter and more flexible. We also gradually began to use longer and longer canes. They enabled us to walk faster without diminishing either safety or grace. As I have already told you, I started with a 40-inch wooden cane. Then I went to 42-inch aluminum—and after that to solid fiberglass, then to hollow fiberglass, and (three or four years ago) to hollow carbon fiber. As to length, I went from 40 inches, 42, then to 45, 48, 49, 51, 53, 55, and 57. At present I use a 59-inch cane. It seems about right to me for my height and speed of travel. Will I ever use a still longer cane? I don't know—but at this stage I don't think so. Obviously there comes a time when a longer cane is a disadvantage instead of a help.

I've told you all of this so that you may understand something of my background and approach to independence in travel, and independence in general. The doctors who established the medical schools a hundred years ago were (with notable exceptions) not generally as competent and skilled as the doctors they trained, for they did not have the benefit of the kind of concentrated teaching they themselves were providing. Obviously they could not stand on their own shoulders. Through their students they extended their dreams into the future, building possibilities that they themselves had not known and could never hope to realize.

So it is with me in relation to you. You are the third generation of our mobility trainees, having the benefit of what I have learned and also of what Joanne and the other Iowa graduates have learned. Unless you make advances over what we have done, you will, in a very real sense, fail to keep faith with those who have gone before you and those who will follow. In this context I would expect and hope that some of you will become better travelers (and, perhaps, better philosophers and teachers) than I, and if you do, I will take joy in it.

Having said all of this, let me come back to my own travel skills. During the 1950s I traveled completely alone on a constant basis throughout this entire country, going to almost every state and dealing with almost every kind of environment—urban area, city bus, taxi, complicated street crossing, rural setting, hired private car, country road, and almost anything else you can imagine. During late December and early January of 1956 and 1957, for example, I traveled alone to fourteen states in eleven days, writing testimony for the NFB's Right to Organize bill. It was no big deal, and not something I thought about very much. It was simply a job that had to be done, and the travel was incidental and taken for granted. I have taught travel instructors and have developed new techniques and canes. I travel whenever and wherever I want to go in the most convenient way to get there—and sometimes that means alone, using a cane.

Once when I was in Iowa, students observed that I walked to a barber shop one day with another staff member, and they raised with me some of the same questions you have raised. That afternoon in our business class (you may call it by some other name—philosophy or something else) I dealt with the matter. I told the students some of the things I have told you, and then I went on to say something like this:

“Although what I have told you should mean that even if I couldn't travel with much skill at all I might still not merit your criticism, we don't need to leave it at that. Follow me. We are going to take a walk through downtown traffic—and see that you keep up.”

I took the lead, and we walked for eight or ten blocks at a fast clip. When we got back to the classroom, I didn't need to tell them what kind of travel skills I had. They knew.

Then, we talked about why I had walked to the barber shop with another staff member. In that particular instance I had matters to discuss, and I felt I couldn't afford the luxury of doing nothing while going for a haircut. As a matter of fact, in those days I often made a practice of taking my secretary with me to the barber shop and dictating letters while getting my hair cut. Of course, I could have made a point of walking alone each time just to make a visible demonstration of my independence, but somehow I think that such insecurity might have made the opposite point and would certainly have been counterproductive.

In the Iowa days I was not only director of the state Commission for the Blind but also first vice president and then president of the National Federation of the Blind. Both were full-time jobs, requiring me to use to best advantage every waking minute.

I was up before 6:00 to go to the gym with the men students; I wrote over a hundred letters a week; I entertained legislators and other civic leaders an average of two or three nights a week to gain support for our program; I traveled throughout the state to make speeches; and I spent long hours working individually with students. Besides that, I handled the administrative details of the Commission and the NFB on a daily basis. At the same time I was doing organizing in other states and dealing with problems brought to me by Federationists throughout the country.

In that context it would have been a bad use of my time (and both Federationists and Iowa students and staff would have thought so) for me to spend much of my day walking down the street to make a visible show of my independent travel skills. I traveled alone when I needed to, and I gave demonstrations to students, legislators, and others when I needed to do that—but I never did either to convince myself or to establish in my own mind the fact of my capacity or independence. It didn't seem necessary.

So what about the NFB convention in Charlotte? I was in charge of convention organization and arrangements, and there were a thousand details to handle. There were four hotels and a convention center, each with its own staff and each requiring separate handling and a myriad of decisions. Sometimes I had not only one but two or three people with me as I went from place to place, talking about what had to be done and sending this person here and that person yonder.

Even so, I might (you may say) have refused to take the arm of one of the persons with me and used my cane to walk alone. But for what reason? When a blind person is walking through a crowd or down a street with somebody else and trying to carry on a meaningful conversation, it is easier to take the other person's arm. This is true even if you are the best traveler in the world and even if both of you are blind.

In fact, I contend that there are times when refusing to take an arm that is offered may constitute the very opposite of independence. If, for instance, you are a blind person accompanying a sighted person through a busy restaurant closely packed with tables and chairs, do you create a better image of independence by trying to get through the maze alone, with the sighted person going in front and constantly calling back, “This way! This way!” or by simply taking the sighted person's arm and going to the table? What is better about following a voice than following an arm? From what I have said, I presume it is clear which method I favor. Of course, if no arm is conveniently available, you should be prepared to use another method, regardless of how crowded the restaurant or how labyrinthine the path. In either case you should do it without losing your cool.

But back to the convention. When you are trying to get through crowds quickly to go from meeting to meeting, and possibly also trying to find different people in those crowds in a hurry, the efficiency of sighted assistance multiplies. Incidentally, even if I were sighted and doing the things I do at national conventions, I would want two or three persons with me—to look for people in crowds, to send for this and that, and to talk and advise with.

As an example, consider what happened at last year's convention with respect to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander. He has normal eyesight and is in every other way, so far as I know, able-bodied and energetic. I am sure that he can drive a car and walk vigorously. Yet, he sent an assistant to Charlotte a day in advance of his arrival. The assistant scouted out the convention and then went to the airport to meet the Secretary. The assistant drove the car from the airport to the convention, accompanied the Secretary into the meeting hall, went with him to the platform, met him at the edge of the platform when he finished speaking, and drove him back to the airport. If the Secretary had been blind, I wonder if somebody would have said, “Just look! He's not independent. He has to have a sighted person with him at all times, accompanying him everywhere he goes and driving his car.”

Since I am not a student trying to learn to travel independently or to establish within my own mind that I can compete on terms of equality with others, and since I can and do travel by myself when that is most convenient, I feel no particular obligation to make a demonstration when it is more efficient to do otherwise. If I were a student, I should and would behave differently. As an example, I think a student should always use a rigid (not a collapsible) cane. But I generally use one that is collapsible. Why? Students often are uncomfortable with canes, and if they are allowed to use those that fold or telescope, they may tend to hide or conceal them because they think (even if subconsciously) that it will make them look less conspicuous. I have carried a cane for so long that I would feel naked without it, and I always carry one whether I am with somebody or not. Because they were so rickety, I refused to carry a collapsible cane until we developed the telescoping carbon fiber model. I pull it to such a tight fit that it doesn't collapse as I use it, and I almost never collapse it unless I'm in close quarters. Again, it is a convenience, and my sense of independence is not so brittle that I think I have to carry the rigid cane to prove to myself or others that I am not ashamed to be seen with it or uncomfortable about blindness.

When I was teaching orientation classes in California and Iowa, I often said to those in attendance that students at a center tend to go through three stages: fear and insecurity, rebellious independence, and normal independence—FI, RI, and NI. During fear and insecurity one tends to be ultra-cautious and afraid of everything, even if at times putting on a good front. During rebellious independence one tends to be overly touchy, resenting anybody who attempts to offer him or her any kind of assistance at all, even when the assistance is appropriate and needed. In the rebellious independence stage one is likely to be a pain in the neck, both to him or her and others—but this is a necessary step on the road from fear and insecurity to normal independence. Unfortunately some people never get beyond it.

Hopefully one will eventually arrive at the stage of normal independence, with relatively little need constantly to prove either to oneself or others that one is capable of independence and first-class citizenship. This means maturity in dealing with condescending treatment and it also means flexibility in accepting or rejecting offers of assistance, kindness, or generosity. Sometimes such things should be graciously or silently taken, sometimes endured, and sometimes rejected out of hand—but the reason should never be because you doubt your own worth, have inner feelings of insecurity, or wonder whether you are inferior because of blindness.

Normal independence also means not rationalizing your fear or inability by saying that you are just doing what is convenient and efficient and that you don't feel the need to prove something when in reality you are just covering up the fact that you are as helpless as a baby—and it means not going so far the other way and being so touchy about your so-called independence that nobody can stand to be around you. It means getting to the place where you are comfortable enough with yourself and secure enough with your own inner feelings that you don't have to spend much time bothering about the matter one way or another. It means reducing blindness to the level of a mere inconvenience and making it just one more of your everyday characteristics—a characteristic with which you must deal just as you do with how strong you are, how old you are, how smart you are, how personable you are, and how much money you have. These are the goals, and probably none of us ever achieves all of them all of the time. Nevertheless, we are making tremendous progress—and we are farther along the road now than we have ever been.

I am pleased that you wrote me, and I am especially pleased that you are able to receive training at the Louisiana Center. It is grounded in Federation philosophy, and it is one of the best. You are getting the chance while you are young to learn what blindness is really like, and what it isn't like. You have the opportunity to profit from the collective experience of all of us—the things we tried that didn't work, and those that did. On the foundation of love and organizational structure which we have established, you can make for yourselves better opportunities than we have ever known—and I pray that you will. The future is in the hands of your generation, and I hope you will dream and work and build wisely and well.

Sincerely,
Kenneth Jernigan

 

That is what I wrote, and there have been a number of subsequent developments. One person, hearing these letters, said, “I can see your point, but don't you think you should try to be a role model?”

To which I replied, “I thought that was what I was doing.”

Then, there was the letter I got about a month ago from a person who attended a seminar at the National Center for the Blind last Christmas. She said in part:

The discussion about the letter from the students at the Louisiana Center for the Blind has stuck with me and helped me in two ways. I no longer feel the deep embarrassment I had been experiencing about being unable to read Braille and having less-than-perfect travel skills. I remain painfully aware that I could be much more efficient than I am, particularly if I could read and write Braille, but I no longer feel that I am less worthy because of the lack. And, by the way, I hope to take care of my deficiencies in that area soon.

The discussion also helped me better to appreciate and respect my dad, who was blinded by an on-the-job accident when he was 26. After he became blind, he went to law school, and I have always admired his relatively quick adjustment to blindness. On the other hand, I have always felt somewhat embarrassed that when traveling he uses a sighted guide the majority of the time. (For instance, I was horrified and disbelieving when I heard my dad flew to Alaska by himself to go fishing without his guide dog or a white cane!) He has a guide dog but only used him when he was going to work. I have never seen him use a white cane although I have just learned that he used one while in his office at work. However, the seminar discussion helped me to understand that everyone's situation differs and that the opportunities available are not uniform. My dad has accomplished a lot: He was an administrative law judge until he retired last month; he is an avid fisherman; and he is as pro-Braille as anybody I have ever met.

That is what the seminarian wrote me, and her letter makes a point. It is simply this: We absolutely must not become so rigid and dogmatic about the means and precise details of achieving independence that we make ourselves and everybody else around us miserable. Down that road lies bigotry, as well as the loss of any real independence or true normality.

Usually when I go to bed at night, I read myself to sleep with a recorded book. A few months ago somebody took me to task for this. The person said something to this effect: “You should not read recorded books. You should use Braille. After all, the Federation advocates Braille literacy, and if you use tapes and talking books, you decrease the circulation of Braille from the libraries, and you also set a bad example. What kind of statement are you making? What kind of image are you creating? You have an obligation to serve as a role model.”

I didn't argue with the person. It wouldn't have done any good. Yes, I use Braille; and as you know, I find it helpful. More than that. My life would be poorer without it. But Braille is a means. It is a vehicle, not an article of faith. I am conscious of the fact that I have an obligation to be a role model, and I do the best I can to meet the requirement. But the kind of role model I want to be (for anybody who cares to see me that way) is that of a competent, well-balanced human being, not a caricature. The fact that I don't want to die of thirst doesn't mean that I want to drown.

What is independence? I would define it this way. With respect to reading, it means getting the information you want with a minimum amount of inconvenience and expense. For me that means Braille, but it also means using live readers, recordings, and (despite my limited competence in that area) a certain amount of work with computers. For somebody else the combination may be different, but any active blind person who lacks skill in Braille will be limited—not necessarily unable to compete but definitely limited.

As to travel, independence is the ability to go where you want when you want without inconvenience to yourself or others. Probably none of us (blind or sighted) ever fully achieves that goal all of the time—and almost all of us achieve at least some of it some of the time. Usually we are on a continuum.

If I could not travel by myself without discomfort or great expense, there are times when it would be a real problem. What about the trip I made to Kansas City in May of this year to meet with local Federationists and speak at a JOB seminar? My wife had other things to do, and it would have been inconvenient to take somebody else. I went alone. Did I have any assistance during the trip? Yes. At times—when it was convenient for me and not inconvenient to others.

What about the time last month when I was called for jury duty? It would have been very difficult for a guide to have accompanied me to the jury box or the jury room—so, of course, I went by myself. Does that mean that nobody showed me where the jury box was or gave other assistance? No. It means that I went where I needed to go without inconvenience to me or those around me. That is what I call independence.

Just as with the sighted, there are times when you as a blind person want privacy—want to go somewhere (to see a boyfriend or girlfriend, for instance) without being accompanied by your daily associates, want to buy a present for a friend or a loved one, or just feel like following a whim. In such cases a dog or a cane is helpful. On the other hand, there are times when the assistance of a sighted person is extremely beneficial. Taken by itself, the use or lack of use of a sighted guide has very little, if anything at all, to do with real independence. In fact, the whole notion of independence (not just in mobility but also in everything else) involves the concept of doing what you want when you want, and doing it without paying such a heavy price (either monetarily or otherwise) that the thing is hardly worth having once you get it or do it.

In conclusion, I say to each member of this organization: Hold your head high in the joy of accomplishment and the pride of independence—but not because of dog or cane or human arm, and not because of your ability to read Braille or use a computer. These are the trappings of independence, not the substance of it. They should be learned, and used when needed—but they should be regarded only as means, not ends. Our independence comes from within. A slave can have keen eyesight, excellent mobility, and superb reading skills—and still be a slave. We are achieving freedom and independence in the only way that really counts—in rising self-respect, growing self-confidence, and the will and the ability to make choices. Above all, independence means choices, and the power to make those choices stick. We are getting that power, and we intend to have more of it. That is why we have organized. That is why we have the National Federation of the Blind. We know where we are going, and we know how to get there. Let anybody who doubts it put us to the test. My brothers and my sisters, the future is ours! Let us meet it with joy; let us meet it with hope; and (most important of all) let us meet it together!

Randolph-Sheppard: Our History Calls Us to Action

by James Gashel

From the Editor: Jim Gashel is the secretary of the National Federation of the Blind, vice president in charge of marketing for KNFB Reading Technologies, and former director of governmental affairs and later head of strategic initiatives for the National Federation of the Blind. To newer members of the Federation, Jim is best known as the man who is always talking about books and reading technology, but to longtime members, and especially to those who have long been active in the Randolph-Sheppard Program, he is probably best known for his creative leadership in crafting legislation and implementing regulations to advance the rights of blind entrepreneurs.

The following remarks were delivered at the 2013 Business Leadership and Superior Training (BLAST) Conference, a place where the fruits of Jim's work are made manifest in the lives of hundreds of blind businessmen and businesswomen. Here is what he said to conference participants:

Thank you very much. What a pleasure it is for me to be back at BLAST, not to mention having the special privilege of being asked to speak to the whole crowd, and I don't think I am expected to talk about books or to demonstrate any technology. Wow! All I have to do is relax and say something meaningful about blind people succeeding in business—that I can do.

Although BLAST reflects an interest among blind people that goes beyond the operation of vending facilities alone, these business leadership gatherings certainly have a rich tradition of speaking to the needs of blind vendors. And, by the way, how about getting our more modern term, "blind entrepreneurs," officially adopted to express who we are and who we have become? According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, an entrepreneur is "one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise," and the same source defines "vendor" as "one who sells" or "vending machine." So here's your choice: you can organize, manage, and assume the risk of a business, on the one hand, or, on the other, you can be a vending machine—take your pick.

Now the Randolph-Sheppard Act was originally written in 1936 when two members of Congress—Jennings Randolph and Morris Sheppard—put their heads together to back an historic economic opportunity bill for the blind. Jennings Randolph served as a member of the House of Representatives from West Virginia, and Morris Sheppard represented Texas in the Senate. Their vision was to create business opportunities for blind people by means of a preference for vending stands run by the blind to be set up in federal buildings; the concept was really quite simple and amazingly elegant.

Elegant? I think so. Remember, we are talking about a bill developed in the 1930s in the midst of the Great Depression. Few blind people had jobs outside of working in workshops or making brooms or rugs at home. The chance to have a small business if you were blind at that time was all but unheard of, and here were two visionaries in the Congress working to create a business program for the blind. Even more amazing, they were working to create this program a full four years before the founding meeting of the National Federation of the Blind in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Imagine if Messrs. Randolph and Sheppard could be present here at BLAST 2013, how proud they would be; their vision lives in us.

But the vision that Jennings Randolph and Morris Sheppard had in 1936 was not the only vision for the blind at that time. In 1938 Congress passed two other laws about employment of the blind, and both are still on the books. One of these was the Wagner-O'Day Act, providing sheltered work opportunities for the blind to make products needed by the government. This is now called the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act, and the program is known as "Ability One." The second law enacted in 1938 was the Fair Labor Standards Act, for the first time setting up a minimum wage for all workers in the U.S., except for workers like the blind, who were presumed to be unable to be productive. Unlike the Randolph-Sheppard Act, which focused on enlarging economic opportunities, the abilities of the blind, and striving to become self-supporting, the Wagner-O'Day Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act focused on disabilities and limitations, promoting sheltered jobs at substandard wages for the blind on assembly lines but no jobs in the front office. All jobs in the executive suite were reserved for the sighted. This vision for the blind reflected a plantation mentality.

So what are the results of these visions from the 1930s three-quarters of a century later? Annual gross sales reported by blind entrepreneurs in federal fiscal year 2010—the most recent year available—$792,613,306, with net earnings to the blind of $134,412,036, and average earnings of $56,168. Although blind people can certainly find jobs individually that are more lucrative, as a group blind entrepreneurs do better than any other single subset of blind people in the U.S. and probably around the world as well.

Turning to Ability One, $557,700,000 was paid out in wages to 48,816 blind and disabled employees in fiscal year 2012. These 48,816 employees worked a total of 47,700,000 hours during the year, with the average number of hours being 977, or on average less than half-time employment. With an average hourly wage of about $11.24, the average annual compensation of Ability One employees was $10,983 and change during 2012. Now remember that the average net earnings of blind Randolph-Sheppard entrepreneurs was more than $56,000 even two years before these official figures from Ability One.

In Randolph-Sheppard, blind people are the managers, but not so in Ability One, where the amount paid to sighted, non-disabled managers is not even disclosed except through occasional press reports and annual charity filings. Imagine what life would be like to be the president and CEO of Goodwill International, perhaps the largest of the mega charities with contracts through Ability One. According to Goodwill's form 990, filed with the Internal Revenue Service for 2012, the president and CEO received an annual salary of $434,252 and total benefits and other compensation of $99,513, as well as retirement and non-taxable benefits of $103,554. Added all together, his total compensation and benefits package amounted to $637,319 in 2012. Also his eight other colleagues in the executive suite with pay high enough to report, collectively received salaries and benefits totaling $1,815,770 as a group. And all of this to produce average annual wages of less than $11,000 for their blind and disabled employees; and they wonder why we call it exploitation!

Looking at the results, the vision of Randolph-Sheppard, focusing on ability, has clearly delivered better opportunities for blind entrepreneurs than the so-called "Ability One" program has done with its focus on disability and limitations of blind and disabled workers. The reason why is not a mystery. If you're looking for the secret sauce that makes the Randolph-Sheppard vision work, look no further than the spirit of an entrepreneur—not to mention the collective power of several hundred entrepreneurs assembled for this conference and hundreds more working to support one another through the National Federation of the Blind and our merchants division.

To be fair, the Randolph-Sheppard program does provide blind entrepreneurs with space, resources, and support (including money) needed to set up shop. This help is vital, but businesses succeed over time with smart management, strategic planning, hard work, dogged determination, and serving the customer first to sustain and build demand. State agencies do not—cannot—provide these essentials, but all of them are job one for blind entrepreneurs.

In 1974 the law on federal property was changed to convert a preference for the blind when feasible into a priority, meaning a first-in-line status or prior right for blind people over other competing interests. The 1930s term "vending stand," was replaced by a far broader definition of vending facility, incorporating gift shops, cafeterias, and other services not thought of as falling within the more limited scope of a vending stand. The point is, blind people had outgrown the original concept of a single vendor in a small stand and were demanding more lucrative business opportunities.

In 1966, when a new federal building was constructed in Des Moines, Iowa, a great kerfuffle ensued over how food service would be provided to employees and the public. As late as the 1950s (according to the minutes of the Iowa Commission for the Blind), popcorn stands were the most common form of business operated by the blind in the state, so the idea that a blind person would operate the cafeteria in the new federal building was unthinkable, and the law did not support this outcome.

But the fact that the blind had popcorn stands but not cafeterias did not stop Dr. Kenneth Jernigan and the blind of Iowa. Never mind the limitations of the Randolph-Sheppard Act at that time; the tide of change was rising, and the newfound voice of the blind—the organized blind—would not be denied. So, when the cafeteria opened on the first day, Sylvester Nimmers, a blind person, was in charge. Regardless of the limits of the Randolph-Sheppard Act, and over the objections of the U.S. General Services Administration, a way had been found to honor the preference for the blind. Rather than calling the food service a cafeteria, which it was—no question—a permit was granted for operation of a manually operated snack bar. That's what they called it on the books at the GSA in Washington, DC, but in Des Moines this business was a cafeteria. Call it by any name you want—call it George or Kevan if you want—but this business was a cafeteria. The rising expectations of the blind would not be denied.

So it was by no means an accident that, when the 1974 amendments to the Randolph-Sheppard Act were written, cafeterias were specified as covered under the priority for the blind. Through our advocacy in Congress we made that happen. Today, although the Ability One executives don't like it, cafeterias even include military troop dining services. The businesses resulting from these contracts keep faith with the Randolph-Sheppard Act objective to support blind people in achieving their maximum vocational potential. In fact some blind entrepreneurs show higher annual earnings than the sighted executives at Ability One and its affiliates. Need I add that they do this without exploiting their blind or disabled employees? Business opportunities awarded to blind entrepreneurs resulting from the vision of Jennings Randolph and Morris Sheppard are among the best business opportunities available to blind people anywhere in the world.

And what of our counterparts, the state agencies and the Department of Education? Clearly some of the state agencies are our partners and stand with us in promoting the vision of Jennings Randolph and Morris Sheppard. Some of those agencies are represented at this conference, and others would be here, state funds and travel restrictions permitting. To those who support us and work with the blind to expand opportunities we say: your support deserves our support. When times get hard, when jobs are on the line and budgets get tight, you can count on our support, and you have nothing to fear from the blind.

But, I think I have to say this: there are other agencies that have turned their backs on blind entrepreneurs and view the Randolph-Sheppard program as an annoyance. Rather than taking pride in the success achieved by blind entrepreneurs, their administrators and staff resent the blind and especially resent those whose earnings exceed their own. Rather than sharing the entrepreneurial spirit of Jennings Randolph and Morris Sheppard, they view the blind as subservient. And to these agencies and their resentful staff we say: your days are numbered. Although you may not understand or believe this fact, the jobs you have depend on us. Trample on the blind if you will, but we will not forget what you have done.

To the Department of Education for failing in its statutory stewardship on behalf of the Randolph-Sheppard vision and mission we say: shame on you. Shame on you for putting bureaucratic inertia—the desire to go along and get along—ahead of doing your duty to build more opportunities and better lives for the blind. And shame on you especially for tying the hands of our friends and colleagues both inside and outside of the Department who share the vision of Jennings Randolph and Morris Sheppard. To the blind it matters not whether your failure comes from ineptness, indifference, or a conscious disregard of the law; the result for the blind in lost opportunities and wasted lives is all the same.

Finally, what of ourselves—America's blind entrepreneurs and our friends? To this group—growing in numbers and firm in purpose—we say: on behalf of the blind we salute you. In business and in life you are the finest examples of success and tenacity. Because of you the vision of Jennings Randolph and Morris Sheppard is still alive. For the blind of the present generation and the generations to come, we thank you. Through your entrepreneurial spirit you are changing what it means to be blind.

Me, Myself, and Seattle

by Emily Zitek

From the Editor: the following article is reprinted from the Spring 2013 Minnesota Bulletin, a publication of the NFB of Minnesota:

When I think of taking a trip or vacation, I think of going somewhere nice with the family or my husband. Together my husband and I have traveled all over the United States and even to Mexico for our honeymoon. Until now, any time I have taken trips, they have always included at some point during the trip at least one other person I already knew. Often I have taken a plane to a specific place where I would be meeting with a specific group of people. All I had to worry about was getting there, and the itinerary for the week or weekend had been set up for me. But I never imagined taking a trip out of the state, totally by myself.

In mid-August of 2007 I had been teaching a life-skills class at Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), Incorporated, where I had been working for almost ten years. After class that day Shawn Mayo, the executive director, asked if I would be interested in attending a seminar in Seattle about how to teach English to blind immigrants. The prospect seemed quite interesting, not only because of what I would be learning, but because I would be traveling completely alone to a new city. The other woman attending the seminar was someone I had known for quite some time, but I wouldn't be traveling with her or even staying at the same hotel. I recognized that this would be a challenge, something new that I would remember forever.

I told Shawn that I needed to think it over, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how exciting and challenging it would be to travel completely independently as a blind person. At first little voices in my head were nagging me with questions: what would I do to occupy myself during the days when the seminar wasn't going on? Would I just sit in my hotel? Would I be able to find stores and places to eat? What would happen if I got off the bus in the wrong neighborhood on my first night in Seattle? I am sure these are fears that sighted travelers also face when going to a new place by themselves, so I knew it had nothing to do with being an incompetent blind person.

Despite all my anxieties regarding the trip, I told Shawn that I would attend the seminar. Of course she had considered asking others, but I knew that this was an opportunity I would regret passing up because this kind of challenge might never come my way again. Ever since I was a little girl, whenever I put my mind to something, I could do just about anything. After all, I told myself, this trip would be fun. The seminar was to take place Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of the week I would be in Seattle, and on Tuesday and Thursday I could set up my own itinerary of things to do and explore.

Shawn told me to do some online searches for reasonable airfares and book my own flight. Then with the help of one of my longtime friends in the Federation, I got the names of decent hotels in Seattle. The hotel I chose wasn't very close to the seminar location, but I got the phone number for the transit center in Seattle, which is almost as efficient as the one in the Twin Cities area.

After I made my flight and hotel reservations, I began making plans for what I would do with my free time. By two days after I was invited to go on this trip, I had information about how to get from the airport to my hotel and then to and from my hotel and the Kaizen Center, where the seminar would be held. In fact, the people at the hotel were very friendly and helpful over the phone and gave me the names and addresses for some great restaurants and diners, and even a supermarket and drugstore within walking distance of the hotel.

By the time I left for Seattle, I felt more confident than ever, and an overwhelming sense of excitement had taken me over, especially when my week in Seattle started. I couldn't believe how simple it was to get around the city using the buses and how informative the people had been over the phone.

I had a great time that week. I had almost forgotten how much fun it was to sit up late watching my favorite TV shows and talking on the phone without worrying about disturbing somebody else trying to sleep. Married people don't always have the luxury of sitting up late at night, going out to dinner at midnight and coming in late from listening to a jazz band, or working out in the hotel's workout room whenever you want, even at 5:00 in the morning. As planned, I took the seminar on the designated days and learned a lot, and on the other days, when I wasn't studying, I ventured out to Pike Place Market and the Space Needle, and I went on a two-hour cruise around the lake, where I listened to detailed descriptions of different historical things we passed during that cruise. I found a nail shop and hair salon and spent an afternoon getting pretty. I visited many shops at Pike Place Market and bought a few souvenirs to bring home with me, and there I ate some of the best fish I'd ever eaten. Sharon (the other woman taking the seminar with me) and I met once for dinner at a New Orleans-style restaurant we had heard about, but other than that I was completely on my own, and I came home with a great deal of enthusiasm about the trip and self-confidence, because all my fears about traveling alone had been washed away by nothing but great experiences.

If you're ever up for a challenging adventure, I recommend taking a little trip by yourself if you haven't done so before. Even if the trip you take has no specific purpose, I can assure you that it will be very rewarding and will give you a great sense of freedom and independence. Even if you only have a day or two to spare and only want to go to the nearest big city, go ahead and do it. You'll realize how nice it is to take time out for yourself and set your own itinerary and schedule, and doing so will make you want to try it again. Doing research about the place you choose beforehand is a big help. Talk to friends, family, or other acquaintances who have gone there. This is where I began my research. Researching online was also helpful, but the things that made this trip so successful were my determination and ambition.

Technology for the Blind: Blessing or Curse?

by Gary Wunder

Just this morning I read an article from a blind journalist who talked about questions blind people are asked and how stupid or offensive they often seem. For example, when he was recently asked how he could be a blind journalist, his first reaction was to be offended that anyone would assume blindness would keep him from pursuing this profession, and he wanted to withdraw from the questioner and suspend the conversation. Happily, his better angel took over, and he decided to answer the question as honestly as it had been asked.

Before I discuss his answer, I’d like first to reflect a little about the reasons we are offended at questions about blindness when we loudly proclaim that one of our roles as blind ambassadors dedicated to changing the world is to educate the general public about blindness. It may sound trite to point out, but isn’t the only bad question the one not asked? Whether the silence comes from fear, political correctness, or arrogance born of unwillingness to admit that one simply doesn't know, the result is the same: the question not asked is the one not answered, and the question not answered is the stereotype that goes unchallenged, the opportunity missed, the possibility to instill a new paradigm lost, and the chance to build or strengthen a friendship based on mutual understanding thwarted before it can begin.

I certainly know how much fun it can be to sit in a group of like-minded people and marvel at the stupidity of the outsider, but do we really mean what we say when we exchange barbs about the silly or stupid people we meet? Are we simply having a little harmless fun, or are we actually forming and expressing our view of what the outside world thinks of us and how we should react to it? The woman who asks how we know whether our infant’s diaper is wet or dirty might reasonably be expected to realize that the answer is as close as her nose, but, if we were bounded by her world, a world in which marketers develop disposable diapers that change color when they are wet, would her question seem quite so unreasonable? When a person depends upon vision to determine whether or not it is safe to cross the street, should we be surprised when she comes running up to us to tell us that the light is against us? The initial reaction is one of compassion and concern based on what she has seen and the first thoughts that come to her mind. Although it makes for interesting conversation around a table of blind or enlightened sighted people, is it fair when we decide how informed or uninformed other people are about our condition and then use that judgment to decide how involved we will be with the so-called sighted world? Isn’t it inconsistent to be shocked and put off by the questions we are sometimes asked, and at the same time be critical of the sighted mother who hushes her child when she asks why we are carrying that stick or why that dog has a handle?

Getting back to the article I received this morning, the man who decided to answer the question about how he could be a blind journalist did so by explaining that he could because he had a Victor Stream, a laptop, and a Braille display. Is this really the case? Is it the technology I am using now that allows me to write this article, or is it what exists in my brain that makes what I am saying understandable and hopefully interesting? Certainly the technology makes it easier for me to put what I am thinking on paper, but could technology alone communicate my concerns and concepts to those who read my words? I love the technology that lets me speak into a microphone and have what I say appear on a Braille display and a screen. I love the technology that lets me sit on my back porch enjoying the springtime weather, free from the prison of my office, but does the article come from the notetaking device, or is that simply the mechanism I use to put my ideas in readable form?

The Braille Monitor devotes an enormous amount of space to the subject of making technology accessible, not so much because for the first time this technology makes things possible for blind people, but because technology is what our world uses today to communicate with others. The Braille Sense, PAC Mate, and BrailleNote are phenomenal devices for blind people, but they do not allow us to read and write--they are only devices that allow us to read and write using personal data assistants equivalent to those available to people who read and write print visually.

I am highlighting what may seem nitpicky differences because I think that our focus can easily be on technology when it should be on ourselves. Technology may be the most efficient way to accomplish something in our lives, but it is important that we ask ourselves whether it is the only way to do those tasks. If it is, all of our hopes and dreams for equality rest in the hands of creators of technology and in their ability to make it accessible. If, on the other hand, technology or a given piece of it is simply one alternative, then our hopes and dreams still rest in our own creativity, our ability to problem-solve, and our ability to find solutions for the problems that living in a predominantly sighted society throws at us.

As much as I enjoy technology, I want it to be my slave and not my master. I want to marvel at the size and the power of the hardware and software that make up the iPhone, but I want to marvel even more at the fascinating piece of biological technology we wear atop our shoulders. The well-constructed house is fundamentally the product of the creativity and craftsmanship of those who built it and not of the hammers and saws used in its construction. Similarly, I believe that the lives we make for ourselves are fashioned by what we want them to be rather than by what technology makes it easy and convenient to do. Of course blind people must play an active part in shaping the technology that is developed for us while simultaneously carrying the message of accessibility to technology we want to use to the designers of technology for the sighted. But let us always keep in mind that we are the reason for and the masters of technology, and it is our minds and our creativity that make technology valuable.

An American Hero Remembered

by Jim Omvig

From the Editor: Jim Omvig is one of the longtime leaders of the National Federation of the Blind. He has served as the director of both the Orientation and Adjustment Center operated by the Iowa Commission for the Blind, and the Alaska Center for Blind and Deaf Adults. His pioneering work at the Social Security Administration, his work with the National Association of Insurance Comissioners, and his contributions as an author only hint at the depth and commitment he has to better the lives of blind people, a passion he has demonstrated for more than fifty years.

Jim and his wife Sharon now live in Des Moines, Iowa. Here is what he has to say about a gifted Iowan who was encouraged to follow her dreams, who had the courage to do it, and whose work has been recognized by the University of Iowa with a scholarship lovingly endowed by members of her family:

It has been said that "The key to immortality is living a life worth remembering." Such a life was lived (all too briefly) by a young Dunkerton, Iowa, woman named Judy Young (she later became Judy Saunders). Because of the purposeful life she lived, the University of Iowa School of Education has established a scholarship, the Judith Young Saunders Scholarship in her name and memory. My wife Sharon and I recently attended the 2013 awards presentation. What a marvelous experience it was.

As longtime Monitor readers know, Judy was totally blind. She was an Iowa Commission for the Blind, Kenneth Jernigan student in the early 1960s, and like many of us she believed Dr. Jernigan absolutely when he said, "Judy, you can be anything you want to be."

Following her Jernigan "empowerment," the bold young Judy decided that she wanted to teach young children in the public schools, but she soon learned that, to that point in our history, no blind elementary teachers were working in Iowa. Then, to make matters worse, it wasn't much later that she learned to her dismay that the University of Iowa refused to accept blind students at all into its School of Education. Its administrators and faculty argued that one must have sight in order to teach young children competently and safely. (For the complete Judy Young Saunders story and what Kenneth Jernigan did to get her the opportunity for acceptance into the University of Iowa's School of Education and then to get her the opportunity for her first public school teaching job, see the article, “An Affectionate Validation,” in the November 1995 issue of the Braille Monitor.)

Judy did complete her Jernigan training; she did get into the University of Iowa; she did complete the School of Education's rigorous programs successfully; and then she did become Iowa's first blind elementary public school classroom teacher. In 1967 she traveled to Los Angeles to attend the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. While there, she met a young blind chiropractor from North Dakota by the name of Curtis Saunders. Eventually they married; Judy moved to North Dakota; and, before long, what do you know?--Judy became North Dakota's first blind elementary public school teacher, too. Wow, what an amazing accomplishment!

The popular couple soon had three children—all boys. Life was good in Devils Lake, North Dakota. Also before long Judy began providing incredible inspiration for the many blind public school teachers who were to come after her. Then tragedy struck. Judy developed cancer, and she died in 1981, at the age of thirty-six. Only a few short years later (1994), Curt also developed cancer, and he too died rather quickly.

By 1995 Judy's remarkable story had become ancient history and almost folklore in the National Federation of the Blind, when I made a trip from Tucson to do some staff training for Minnesota State Services for the Blind in Minneapolis. But, on my flight home to Tucson, I had an amazing experience. By chance I sat beside a young Minneapolis businessman named Mark Hewitson. Judy Young Saunders had been his fourth-grade teacher in Devils Lake, North Dakota. I had always known what a wonderful teacher she had been and also what a tremendous role model she was for the blind who would come after her in the blind civil rights movement. I had often used her success story in teaching and stimulating others. But what a heartwarming experience it was to have my personal knowledge validated by one of her enthusiastic and appreciative students. We had a joyous talk on our trip from Minneapolis to Arizona.

It was this experience that moved me to write the article, “An Affectionate Validation.” But now you need to know, as Paul Harvey used to say, "The rest of the story." For Judy's story doesn't end with the 1995 Braille Monitor article either. Judy's mother Kathryn continued to be a loyal Federationist and a Braille Monitor reader long after Judy's death. She saw the article, and, after she read it, she circulated it throughout the entire Young family. Eventually the article and the Braille Monitor itself became the impetus for the establishment at the University of Iowa of the Judith Young Saunders Scholarship.

The scholarship was established and funded in 2011 by Judy's uncle, James H. (Jim) Burke, and her brother, Richard J. Young. Jim Burke tells me that the family had always been proud of Judy and her many achievements (she was the family hero), but it was only when they read the Monitor article that they understood that Judy was actually an American hero. They decided then and there that it would be appropriate to create and fund a scholarship in Judy's memory for future blind students in the School of Education at the U of I.

Late last year I had to be in Iowa City for some medical care. Though Jim Burke and I had spoken by phone several times through the years, we had never met in person. So Sharon and I took this opportunity to get together with him for lunch. Jim is one very proud uncle. He told us that a scholarship luncheon and award ceremony would take place on Friday, April 5. He said that the dean of the School of Education, Dr. Colangelo, hosts this event each year both to honor the donors of the scholarships and to announce and recognize the new winners. He asked Sharon and me to come, and of course we were honored to do so.

So on April 5 we drove the 120 miles from Des Moines to Iowa City to attend and participate in the event. It was a fine affair. Sharon and I were proud to be able to sit with Uncle Jim Burke and the 2013 Judith Young Saunders Scholarship winner, Ashley Kielty, who is earning her master’s degree in English and Spanish at the U of I. She was blinded in one eye in an automobile accident.

We also had a very special surprise. I wrote earlier that Judy had three sons. Her middle son Mark, who lives and works in the Minneapolis area, was able to attend and participate. He was on a business trip from Minneapolis to Chicago and was able to squeeze in both a visit with his great uncle and attendance at the awards luncheon as a part of his trip.

Sharon tells me that Mark looks remarkably like his mom and that he is one handsome young man. His attendance and participation made our day complete. Talking with Mark, we learned much more than we had already known about Judy and her life. This should conclude the saga of Judy Young Saunders, and perhaps it will, but perhaps it won't either. What a wonderful tribute it would be both to Judy and to the Braille Monitor if, like “Validation,” this story were to motivate a family member or friend from another family to establish a similar university scholarship in the name and memory of yet another blind American hero! Who knows? Strange and unusual things do happen, don't they?

Finally, Jim and Richard, we of the National Federation of the Blind wish to thank you sincerely for establishing and funding the Judith Young Saunders Scholarship at the University of Iowa. What a fine expression of generosity, kindness, and love your action was. And Judy, as I remember and think about you, I shall never forget the emotions and words of that former student of yours when he said at the end of our plane ride together, "Without a doubt, she was the best teacher I ever had; I just loved her!"

Giving a Dream

One of the great satisfactions in life is having the opportunity to assist others. Consider making a gift to the National Federation of the Blind to continue turning our dreams into reality. A gift to the NFB is not merely a donation to an organization; it provides resources that will directly ensure a brighter future for all blind people.

Seize the Future

The National Federation of the Blind has special giving opportunities that will benefit the giver as well as the NFB. Of course the largest benefit to the donor is the satisfaction of knowing that the gift is leaving a legacy of opportunity. However, gifts may be structured to provide more:

NFB programs are dynamic:

Your gift makes you a partner in the NFB dream. For further information or assistance, contact the NFB planned giving officer.

Low-Vision Specialists: An Impediment to Meeting Patients' Rehabilitation Needs?

by Sean Ziadeh

From the Editor: Sean Ziadeh is a relatively new member of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois. As he relates in the following article, he knew he had a problem before the medical profession did, and, once they understood that they could not give him back his lost vision, they were done with him. We have heard this story many times, and the problem for most blind people is, not that they have been told that their vision can’t be restored, but that they are shown to the door with no discussion of resources, no examples of successful blind people, and no instructions about where to turn for information and inspiration. Here is how this story played out in Sean’s life:

I was eight years old when it became apparent that I had a vision problem. Our family eye doctor was puzzled. He could not detect an issue with the eye. Based on my reading of the eye charts, however, he claimed that I should not be able to see an eighteen-wheeler coming down the street. He could not reconcile his test results with my mother’s testimony that I rode my bike throughout the neighborhoods, played video games, and was an avid racquetball player. His conclusion: I must be lying about what I could see to gain special attention from my parents.

Unwilling to believe my poor vision was an elaborate hoax for attention, my mother took me to various vision specialists. For the next three years I was drawn out of school for an array of tests--everything from having probes attached to my temples, to immobilizing my head before a monitor for hours at a time, to CT scans. Often my mother dealt with a young child frustrated by having to go to another appointment. I did not understand what they were doing to me; all I knew was that I wanted it to end.

I was about thirteen years old when my parents and I received the definitive answer from a neuro-ophthalmologist. I was diagnosed with congenital optic nerve atrophy. Basically there was little function in my optic nerve, which conducts signals from the eye to the visual cortex in the brain. The bad news was that I am legally blind. The good news was that this specific cause of my low vision should not get worse. The low-vision specialist remarked that we must be happy to have a diagnosis finally. He then uttered what may have been the most unfortunate words. He wished us luck and directed us to the check-out window.

After all the years of uncertainty and unpleasant tests, we were left with nothing more than a diagnosis and a final farewell. For the next few years I struggled to get through school as the amount of reading increased and textbook fonts decreased, aided by nothing more than drugstore-purchased magnifiers. My grades were very poor, in significant contrast to those of my two older brothers, who excelled in their studies and extracurricular activities. For my part, not much was expected. I was just different.

As so often happens in life, coincidence and plain luck finally brought me some hope when I was approaching the latter part of my junior year in high school. For reasons I cannot recall, I was in the school library, which I seldom visited since reading was not my favorite task. It just happened that the regular school librarian was sick that day, and the substitute librarian was a former employee of the Michigan Commission for the Blind. When she saw me struggling to read, she approached me and asked what the problem was and whether she could help. I could explain very little since little had ever been explained to me about my condition.

This kind woman requested a meeting with my parents. She asked several questions regarding my condition and what assistance I was receiving, which was none. This was before the Internet and Google made researching medical conditions and available resources much easier. She was concerned and upset that we were not notified about the services and organizations available for the visually impaired and their caregivers. She made certain that for my final year of high school I would receive large-print books and become a client of the Michigan Commission for the Blind. Although there was some delay in my receiving the large-print books at the beginning of my senior year, I was admittedly excited about my ability to read assignments quickly and more accurately than I had been able to do with the drugstore magnifiers. This improvement was reflected in my grades as well.

My grade point average before large-print books hovered around 2.0. My grades quickly rose to over 3.7 my final year. I also recall taking a national standardized chemistry test during my senior year, which was offered in large print. I scored in over the 90th percentile, and I did not even enjoy chemistry. Being impressed by my academic achievement once I had been provided with some accommodations for my vision, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor accepted me into its undergraduate program.

My grades improved significantly once large-print text books were provided. However, I might have leveraged other skills and accommodations if only they had been offered. A closed-circuit television, audio books, reader services, cane travel training, and screen-magnification devices could have helped me. Rehabilitative services would have introduced me to these items and many other skills useful for the blind and visually impaired much earlier in life.

I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had not entered the library that day in high school and had a chance encounter with a former Michigan Commission for the Blind employee. I predict I would not have earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and then go on to receive both a law degree and an MBA from Michigan State University. In fact, I have no idea what would have happened to me at all.

One thing is certain: too often a significant gap in our health care system occurred for ensuring that individuals diagnosed with legal blindness or visual impairments are properly and expeditiously directed to rehabilitation services. Patients would be better served and their difficulties might be mitigated if rehabilitation occurs soon after diagnosis. Vision specialists are on the front line in suggesting opportunities to address the functional and psycho-social ramifications of living with low or no vision. Steps must be taken to ensure that all those newly diagnosed with visual impairments are headed in the right direction for available resources. Personal experience and conversations with other legally blind friends and colleagues suggest that little if any direction is being given to patients.

Theories offered for this lack of direction include: It is not the role of low-vision specialists to prescribe rehabilitation services. Their duty consists of making the diagnosis of the vision impairment, and no more. Another possibility is that doctors feel personal and professional failure when they cannot correct vision deficiencies. It is as if what they cannot cure, they will ignore. Other explanations for why low-vision specialists are not ensuring a seamless transition from diagnosis to rehabilitation may exist. However, understanding the motives of the vision specialists is of less importance than trying to change this tendency.

To influence change in the profession, low-vision specialists should consider this statistic: in 2011 the unemployment rate among the visually disabled was as high as 73 percent, depending on the location within the United States. These people were twice as likely to be below the poverty line.1 Half of people with a visual impairment suffer from alcohol abuse, and 35 percent experience drug abuse.2 More than a third of blind and visually impaired people may suffer from depression3 and face an elevated risk for suicide.4

If made aware of these secondary diagnoses, the professionals diagnosing the onset of low vision or blindness would likely try to do more for their patients. If not, an argument could be made that these doctors are violating the spirit of the Hippocratic Oath, vowing to do no harm. Unfortunately it appears the practice of leaving their patients without advice on rehabilitation opportunities continues. In a recent visit to my low-vision specialist in January of 2013, I inquired about this issue. It was her opinion that, once she makes the determination of legal blindness, it is the responsibility of school districts to provide the necessary accommodations.

Problems exist with this position, however. She did not elaborate on the accommodations that she might recommend or agencies that might help ensure that necessary accommodations are actually provided in a timely manner. And, if the patient is not of school age, she might not make any suggestions for rehabilitation at all. Even more important, providing accommodations for performing well in school does not address the many psycho-social and emotional aspects of living as a blind or visually impaired person, particularly at the time of the first diagnosis.

It is time for a change. Advocates for the blind and visually impaired must call upon low-vision specialists to direct their patients to crucial rehabilitation services. This could help patients face the new challenges of living with low or no vision and live a more fulfilling, independent, and productive life. Bringing awareness to the professional organizations or associations these doctors belong to is a start. Approaching state legislatures may be another avenue to follow, leading to implementation of public policy requiring counseling about rehabilitation options once a diagnosis is made.

A consultation as short as ten minutes and the provision of pamphlets to the patient or parents of the patient may go a long way toward improving the outlook for the patient. The key to such consultations is emphasizing the importance of rehabilitation and the negative impact vision loss may have on an individual if proper post-diagnosis measures are not taken. The financial expense of providing such direction is minuscule, but the devastating costs to the patient lacking necessary services after diagnosis may be immense. So what can we do to effectuate this change? It is an issue too important to be ignored any longer.

See Cornell University, Disability Statistics, accessed at <http://www.disabilitystatistics.org/reports/acs.cfm?statistic=2>, last visited February 14, 2013.

Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse as Coexisting Disabilities: Considerations for Counselors Serving Individuals Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired, Koch et. al. (2002), accessed at <http://www.360translations.com/educ533/blind.pdf>.

Cardiff researchers study blindness and depression link, BBC News Wales, September 24, 2011 accessed at <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-15042096>, last visited February 14, 2012.

Reported Visual Impairment and Risk of Suicide: The 1986-1996 National Health Interview Surveys, Lam et. al., JAMA Ophthalmology, July 14, 2008, Vol 126, No. 7 accessed at <http://archopht.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=420638#ref-eeb80001>, last visited February 14, 2013.

Rehabilitation: A Contract between America and Her Blind Citizens

by Gary Wunder

From the Editor: This presentation was made on April 5, 2011, at the statewide staff meeting of the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Bob Deaton, the assistant director of the agency, heard a version of these remarks at the 2010 national convention and thought agency staff would benefit from hearing them. They still seem relevant, so here they are:

I want to begin by thanking Bob Deaton for asking me to come. It's flattering when someone says he wants to hear you speak, and this is all the more exciting when he's already heard a version of it once and apparently likes it enough that he wants his colleagues to hear it as well. I don't often give the same speech twice. For starters, I question how many people want to hear me speak the first time, and frankly I get bored with speeches I try to do more than once.

When I was invited to speak to the rehab people last summer at the national convention, I was elated. I've never taken a single class in the field, and, unlike many who have been asked to address that conference, I have no certification demonstrating expertise. What I was given then, and what you are giving me today, is a wonderful chance to say thank you for something I value more than anything except the life given me by God and the love and support I get from my family and the parents who raised me. This is how much rehab has given to me, and only someone completely oblivious to the blessings he has been given could be anything but honored by the chance to express this gratitude.

As a customer who has benefited immensely from the rehabilitation system, I have learned a great deal about the good things America can bring to her citizens when she decides they are deserving and worth the investment. Unfortunately I've also learned how the granting of some money, a title, and a little bit of power can turn some very angry and bitter people, who believe they are generally underappreciated anyway, into real abusers of the students they are supposed to serve.

I should preface my remarks about rehab by saying that I have experienced it in only one state, Missouri. Some of you know that Missouri has a pretty bad reputation in certain quarters of the National Federation of the Blind because of its decision to block the distribution of our free literature to its clients, simply because the ACB, which has no similar information, claims that the agency's giving out our material amounts to proselytizing.

Putting all of this aside for a moment, over the last twenty to thirty years we have pressured the Missouri agency into sending people almost anywhere they want to go for an education and buying them any kind of equipment they need in order to be successful. I know this is not true in all states, but, if anything, my state goes overboard to say yes when asked to provide an education and the blindness-related equipment to make it happen.

When I came to the rehab system in the early 1970s, the general orientation was that we were spending tax money and therefore were handling a very limited resource for which agency officials were reluctant to risk their necks. Seldom were services just offered; if you needed something, you had better be prepared to argue for it. In many cases the argument had to go well beyond making a coherent case to your counselor. Getting what you wanted required that you engage in meetings with higher-ups, formal appeals, fair hearings, and the enlistment of an advocacy organization to help you. Over the years, with changes in the law and repeated beatings which we have administered to the agency, Rehabilitation Services for the Blind in Missouri has done an about-face. There is trust where once there was suspicion. We call the agency director our friend, and he welcomes the opportunity to visit with us as a reprieve from his administrative duties and a chance to mix with the people he really is working to serve. Mark Laird would rather be a counselor or a job specialist, but he is too competent for his superiors to let him stay there, so he finds himself at the helm.

Contrary to the practices of the past, the orientation of our Missouri agency is to give people what they want when they want it, with little regard for whether or not they are really ready to handle the rigors of the educational experience using the blindness skills they possess. If I could change the direction of rehabilitation and have a say in the way decisions get made, I would opt for a system which would almost never say no but which would much more frequently say “Yes, but after….” and then require and provide the blindness services necessary to ensure that a student’s performance is based on his or her ability and not some deficit in the skills of blindness.

Dr. Jernigan used to tell us that everybody has the right to fail, but there's a tremendous difference between having the right to fail and being set up to fail when an agency abandons its responsibility to help a client determine whether or not he or she is really ready to face the challenge of technical training or college. It is my observation that far too many students fail in their attempts because, when they say they don't have time to learn the skills of blindness, we acquiesce and send them into an environment where they are ill-equipped to cope. If you know that a client is unable to write you a literate letter requesting service, why in the world would you send him to a college or university which will presume a minimal level of competence even in its beginning English composition classes? If you have someone who clearly cannot travel from point A to point B in an area which should be familiar to her, how can you expect that she will succeed on a university campus where students routinely have to travel a quarter of a mile or more between classes in less than ten minutes? Some failures provide tremendous learning experiences, but some forever close doors. You won't be a clinical psychologist, a veterinarian, or a psychiatrist if after thirty hours of classes you are forced to withdraw from school. Why not condition vocational training on the completion of an intro to writing class and on a bit of O & M training? For some clients the key is a stay at a quality rehabilitation center, and we shouldn't be reluctant to say so and to put some teeth into what we say. I suppose the system that seems to say yes at every opportunity is better than the one that once took every opportunity to say no, but I think there is a wiser in-between course that would serve everyone involved better.

If you've managed to stay with me so far, then you've heard the worst I have to say about your profession. When I look at my own rehabilitation experience, I have to say that rehab ranks right up there with the National Library Service in proving that some government programs can and do work, that good things can happen when we decide collectively to invest in our fellow human beings, and that there is something magical in the contract we create when blind people and the rehabilitation system enter into an agreement which says, “I believe in you enough to invest a significant amount of money and time, trusting that in turn you will make this investment worthwhile by living the full and rich life desired by all Americans.”

I like to tell the story of rehabilitation at its best, for my own political view is that we spend far too much time kicking government and being sarcastic and degrading when we speak of programs that should belong to us. Too often we also fail to say good things about genuinely dedicated people who make their living by really trying to do good and changing lives for the better.

I understand that we in the Federation take our fair share of shots at the rehabilitation system, but I believe we do so for constructive purposes that not only serve to focus public attention on the shortcomings of the system, but also highlight how we can make it better. It may also be that the rehabilitation system sometimes serves as a convenient whipping boy: a group of agencies powerful enough to do good or cause harm, but not so powerful or high up in the government that they can simply ignore what we say and go on about their business.

I began by saying that my dealings with the rehabilitation system revealed to me the best and the worst in people. The best came through when a rehabilitation counselor assured me that I could indeed live alone, manage my own grooming and house cleaning, label my food, and learn to cook it. This was good news for a boy whose grandmother had told him that he was very smart but that the Welfare would still have to come in each day to make sure that he had brushed his teeth and washed his face.

I can't tell you how liberating it was when I started carrying around a writing pen rather than a signature stamp and a bulky and leaky ink pad because somebody in rehab said I could learn to write my name and taught me to do it. I don't have the best signature in the world, but it's good enough for most of the card companies in the country, and the utility companies never reject my checks.

On the not-so-positive side of my experience with rehab was the raw exercise of power which became clear to me as a high school senior when I received a letter saying I must attend a summer orientation program in Columbia, Missouri, some hundred-fifty miles from where I lived. My plan for the summer between high school and college was to go to the Seeing Eye to get a dog, for which I'd waited more than a year and a half. I was an early registrant, scheduled to attend in July of 1973, but the letter I received in May declared that the summer orientation program was mandatory. Being young, determined, and rather full of myself in the belief that I could persuade anybody to do anything I wanted, I set up a meeting with the district supervisor for the Kansas City office to discuss this letter and my summer plans.

When my mother and I entered the building, we were ushered into an office where the district supervisor pointed us to chairs, went behind his desk, reclined in his own swivel chair, put his feet up on his desk, and said, "Well, young man, let's hear it."

I went through a well-rehearsed speech about how I came to find out about guide dogs, how I already had summer plans to go and get one of these magical creatures, and how I was certain that this form letter, while well meant, could not have been written with the intention of changing my long-held dream to go to Morristown.

At the end of my presentation the district supervisor removed his feet from his desk, sat straight up in his chair, looked directly at me, and said, "Young man, you say you want to get a dog. Now why you would want to get one of those things is beyond me, for, if you can travel with a cane, I think it would be nothing but a nuisance in your life. Let me tell you a thing or two about your magical creatures. Dogs stink. Dogs shed. Dogs make messes you have to clean up or other people have to walk around. Dogs make other people uncomfortable. Few people will offer you rides in their cars. You'd be better off without a dog, but the real issue is that our agency has sent you a letter saying you're going to an orientation program in Columbia. Now, young sir, if your parents have the means to pay for your college tuition, your books, and your housing, then you're free to do whatever you wish with your summer. But, if you intend to attend college under the auspices of the Bureau for the Blind, you will be in Columbia from early June through the beginning of August. Go home; talk it over with your parents; the decision is up to you.”

When my mother and I left that meeting, I was humiliated. I had never heard the word “auspices,” but it was perfectly clear to me that I had not won the day. What bothered me more than that the decision hadn't gone my way was the arrogance and tone of the meeting. This man was not friendly. He was not courteous. My mother was ashamed and almost in tears. Never in her thirty-eight years had she been treated so dismissively by a person she was inclined to respect because of his position. Neither of us came away feeling that the man who had just spoken with us respected us or felt we had anything of consequence to say.

By disposition my mother was mild compared with my father. My dad didn't take guff from anyone, and, truth be told, he felt it his right to administer guff in whatever portion he pleased. So, with my confidence rising as we drove home, I thought about the anger which would be provoked in this strong giant of a man, my father, and, though I was saddened by the fact that I couldn't sell the idea of my summer plan on my own, I rather looked forward to the confrontation I was sure was to come. What I really looked forward to was the spectacular butt-kicking that would occur when District Supervisor Cordle met Mr. John Wunder. That would be a day one cocky state employee would remember.

When Dad got home after a twelve-hour workday, my mother and I barely gave him time to eat before we began talking about our visit to the rehab agency. His reaction was one I didn't expect. He let a bit of time go by, absorbing what we said in silence, and then, in a subdued tone, he said, "Son, I understand that what you went through today wasn't what you expected. The man you talked with should have treated you better, whether or not he agreed with what you had to say. Now I know you're ready for me to go down there and set things right, but son, the truth of the matter is that the state of Missouri is offering you something that I just can't give you. If that man says you have to go to a program and wait on getting your dog so you can get a college education, then that's what you have to do. Sometimes you have to play by other people's rules. I was in the army and the merchant marines. I got busted twice for trying to play by my own rules, so, believe me, I know. If you don't like that man's rules or the way he treated you, you go through school, get yourself a college education, and then see what you can do to fight with that man when he no longer has the upper hand."

That day changed my life forever. I was a reader of the Braille Monitor in 1973, and, to tell you the truth, I found it very entertaining but not very credible. So protected was I that I just couldn't believe the events chronicled there really happened to blind people. Either the people who were discriminated against were people who couldn't argue their way out of a paper bag, or the Federation was just making a lot of noise about nothing so they could raise a little money. But, when I learned that someone could shut me down with a word and treat me as if I were some kind of a fool whose opinion was worth far less than his time, I went back and reread those old magazines, and this time it was easy for me to substitute Gary Wunder as the main character in many of the stories.

Some of you who are still awake might be saying to yourself, I see a contradiction in what he's saying. He starts by arguing that the rehabilitation agency too often says yes, when the proper response should be first to require a bit of extra training to increase the chance of success. Now he's telling us that he became a committed member of the Federation, precisely because somebody made him take that extra training.

I readily concede the point, noting that my failure to get my way was far less difficult to swallow than was the way I was told no and to get about my business. You see, I did have skill deficits which the summer program helped me identify and begin to address. My original plan, almost laughable now, was to go off and get my dog (something I still think was a good idea), and then go back to the University of Missouri at Kansas City, where I would go to school during the day, go home to live with my grandmother at night, and visit with my parents every weekend.

When I got to Columbia, Missouri, a town which I now modestly claim to be the hub of the universe, I decided that Grandma's house was no place to spend the evening, and going home for the weekend was something I should try to work in once every four or six weeks, whether I could really spare the time or not. This fantastic city actually allowed me to walk from my dormitory to my bank, to restaurants, and to the local record store, which managed to get more than its fair share of my monthly SSI and maintenance checks. When I moved from the small town of Cleveland, Missouri, which at the time boasted a population of two-hundred and sixteen, the only place I could walk was the post office. Well, in fairness there was the gas station, but back then gas stations were really just gas stations and not the convenience stores we see today.

Being able to walk from place to place brought another change in my life, and it was probably the real reason I didn't want to go home to Grandma. When you live in a little town like Cleveland, the only way you can take a gal out on a date is to pick her up from her house and deliver her home again. Being blind made that impossible without a chauffeur or a chaperone, and on my family's budget it would have been a chaperone, my mother, and that was not, let me repeat, not cool. When you live in a town like Columbia and can walk everywhere you need to go, suddenly transportation isn't a barrier to dating, and, if you're Gary Wunder, you soon realize that girls are not repulsed by you, and, believe it or not, some of them even want to spend time with you. I will admit here to becoming a bit carried away with the romance part of things that summer. Once I even decided to live really on the edge and scheduled three dates in one night. If you start early and finish late and if you're willing to lie shamelessly to girls one and two about your crushing study schedule, it can be done. Yes, I was a jerk and I loved it!

Before I close today I want to thank you for something else. I looked for the words to say this when I gave my speech in July but couldn't find them. Maybe, thanks to David Foster Wallace, I have them today. I want to thank you for making my life difficult. When I was in high school, I thought I knew a lot about the world. I knew about people of different races who said they were treated unfairly and who rioted and burned cities to show their displeasure; I knew about women who demanded equality with men, when everybody in my small universe knew women had the world by the tail; I knew about patriotic people who went to war and those others of the same age who had the opportunity to go to college and wasted their time in public demonstrations and destroying the campuses we built for their education. I knew about the odd people who were confused about their sexual identity and the sex of those they should love. I knew about the dissatisfied of the world and wondered why they made so much noise. Then you people decided I should go away to the big university and meet some of these weird and different human beings. Slowly you made me confront and eventually question many of the things I had known to be true. I was forced to read books by people I had never credited with a reasonable point of view. Not only did I have to read their books, but I had to demonstrate an understanding of what they said. Dr. King preached nonviolence. Malcolm X was more than a radical spouting hate and leading demonstrations. Gloria Steinem had a reason for her anger and, horror of horrors, she was articulate. I still love one of the quotes attributed to her: "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle." She popularized that statement, but it was first coined by Irina Dunn, a spirited Australian who served for a time in the senate of her country.

Thanks for robbing me of the superiority I was convinced belonged to me in the same way kings believed they were the superiors of others, by divine right. Thanks for seeing that I was paired with a black man when it came time in my class on electricity to wire a house and for revealing that his was a kinder, gentler soul than the soul of his partner. He was also better at figuring out the power required to run our house and what circuit breakers to use in which parts. Thanks for introducing me to women whose mothers did the same jobs as men and made two-thirds of what they did. Thanks for shattering my image of the ill-tempered easterner by seeing that I hired a gal from the Bronx to work with me in computer science classes. She never once lost her temper when having to read lines of code over and over again or when she had to help me retype those old punch cards we used before there were computer terminals. "You can learn this, Hon," was her constant refrain as she gently encouraged me to try again. Oh, she was also the first person who tried to teach me to dance, and I'll never forget the warmth and tenderness of that embrace. We can sing about country girls if that's what sells records, but wow—what a woman this city girl was, and no, it never went further than the dance.

Mostly I thank you for putting me in touch with people who were less interested in telling me what to think than in showing me how to think; people who were less interested in my opinions than in how I came to them; people who cared less about whether I shared their view than they did how I had come to mine and whether those views could stand the light of day; the constraints and rules dictated by reason; and fair consideration for the feelings, wants, and needs of others. You made me look into the soul of the young man who functioned too much from default behavior and not nearly enough from a thoughtful and compassionate point of view. David Foster Wallace expresses this far better than I can, but you believers in the normality of blind people made me join a wider universe and helped to show me that I was not the center of it, the keeper of the keys to all wisdom, and the superior human being I thought I was because I was male, white, middle class, heterosexual, Christian, and from the Midwest. You put me in an environment where I had no choice but to consider points of view as something other than strange or bizarre or foolish or weird or perverted. My church taught me to recite the Golden Rule; your giving me exposure to a world far different from the one I had known taught me something about how to practice it.

Some people claim that college robs people of their values and turns conservatives into liberals. I disagree. College didn't convert a conservative into a liberal. It made me confront beliefs I thought so elemental and self-evident that they needed no defense. The college experience helped me become a man who tends to believe that “conservative” and “liberal” are labels that only hint at the complicated beliefs we employ. I am leery of the people who believe all the answers can be found in experiences of the past and equally leery of those who believe all good comes from collective action or a changed human nature which has advanced as a result of evolution.

My time is nearly exhausted, and so too is my audience, I'm sure. I want to thank you for the good you do, for your ability to take people who would otherwise sit at home and endure the passing of time and help them make something of that time. I want to thank you for being representatives of a government program that brings credit to the idea of a state-federal relationship that works to help her people become all that their drive and talent will let them be. Thank you for enduring the jokes about the government bureaucrats as you quietly go above and beyond the forty-hour week to change people's lives. Last but not least, let me thank you personally for what you have done for me. You took a kid who knew his family's work ethic demanded he make something of himself, and you gave him the means actually to do it. What more could any American ask, and what greater gift could any group of professionals give to America's citizens? You folks really shine, and I am blessed because you've given me that same opportunity.

I Was Reported to the Police for Crossing the Street

by Glenn Ervin

From the Editor: Sometimes it is tiresome to be blind: the extra effort required to read and label items, to get material in a form we can read, or to get where we want to go when we want to go there. But one other thing makes being blind difficult—the knowledge that we are always being observed. Whether this results from the curiosity of the sighted or a concern that we will need help, the outcome is the same. Sometimes even well-intended concern can get to be too much, as we see in this article in which Glen Irvin describes an evening walk that turned out to be more than he bargained for. Here is what he says:

We are fortunate to live in a country in which all citizens have the right to pursue the vocation of our choice and recreational activities, as long as they are legal and do not infringe on the rights of others. As pedestrians we have the right to travel in areas that are open to the public whenever we choose. But I was recently reminded that some people seem to think that these rights are not for everyone, namely the disabled.

I am a counselor with the state of Nebraska, and my job is to teach blind Nebraskans the alternative skills that will enable them to live independently, such as Braille, cooking and cleaning, and walking with a long white cane. One reality that I explain to my clients as well as to people who can see is that the most difficult aspect of blindness is not that we have little or no eyesight but that every day we have to deal with people who are unfamiliar with blindness and who don’t know that we can do pretty much anything we want other than driving a motor vehicle.

The other day I was taking my usual evening five-mile walk. Sometimes along my walk I cross a fairly busy street to do business in a particular store. When I was finished with my errand that day, I crossed back to the other side of the street, where I was called over by a couple of police officers who told me that they had been called because I was crossing the street. They had observed me, realized that I was safe, and concluded that they did not need to have been called. Often crossing a street takes a blind person a bit longer than it would take a sighted person to do visually because we rely on interpreting the sound of traffic. Sighted and blind folks with normal hearing can hear traffic blocks away and can determine its speed by the sound of the engines. When a car passes, blind pedestrians must wait until the vehicle is far enough away that its sound does not interfere with hearing oncoming traffic. This is not an amazing skill; it is just a technique people can easily develop if they give it the proper attention. I teach this skill along with the use of the long white cane, which when held upright should reach from the ground to one’s chin in order to give proper warning of objects in the path.

I must admit that I am outraged that this incident escalated to the point of sending officers to the scene. They clearly had more important things to do than making sure I was safe crossing a street. I know that some people think it must be difficult to do anything without sight or that they could never do the things they see blind folks doing and therefore assume that blind people must need assistance. At the beginning of blindness training it is understandably difficult for someone who used to have normal sight to adapt to doing things nonvisually. But, when blind people are out walking with a white cane, they are doing so because they have made the decision to travel independently, whether they are new at it or are skilled travelers. This is an individual choice, and happily people have the right to choose where they walk in this country. Others, blind and sighted, make the decision to take on far more dangerous activities, such as climbing a mountain or jumping out of airplanes, and we don’t call the police to check on them, because we live in a society where people have the right to choose their activities, whether or not others think they are dangerous. It seems to me that the person who made the call to the police should have been asked whether the blind pedestrian being reported was using a long white cane or a dog with a harness. In my case the caller should have been informed that the police had no business offering assistance to the blind person unless contacted by the person himself or notified that he appeared to be under attack or injured.

I want the public to know that, if blind people need assistance, we are totally capable of asking for the help we need. This may seem obvious, but surprisingly the public practices discrimination every day against the blind without even realizing it. This is why the difficult aspect of blindness is not that we don’t see, but that people treat us with little respect. This is largely why folks who should be using a white cane refuse to do so, preferring to fumble around like the cartoon character, Mr. Magoo.

For example, I am frequently at a restaurant with a sighted person, and the server refers to me in the third person with statements like “Would he like a Braille menu?” or “What would he like to order?” Another example of this lack of simple respect comes when people put their hands on me without asking. How often do people put their hands on a perfect stranger? Yet blind people are often grabbed and pulled somewhere, even though they haven’t asked for help. This is not to say that people who are blind don’t ever need assistance, but I believe that the experience of blindness would be far easier if others would just allow us the dignity of asking for assistance when we want it. A simple “hello” provides the opportunity for a blind person to ask for assistance or to provide the person wishing to help the assurance that it isn’t needed.

We all know that the pedestrian has the right of way in traffic. But something that most people don’t know is that since the 1960s the White Cane Safety Laws in every state give the blind the same rights as other pedestrians as long as they are using white canes or service dogs. Governors frequently recognize this law each year on October 15, in the form of a proclamation. But teaching the public about blindness requires more than proclamations—it requires personal contact. For this reason I have offered to do in-service training for our police department, for the emergency dispatchers, and for any other branch of local government that may be called upon to help the blind. My goal is someday to live in a society in which a blind person crossing a street is commonplace and hardly garners a second glance. Making this dream a reality will require work. This work is part of what I do, and the belief that it will make a difference is an important part of who I am.

Hiring Blind: The Misconceptions Facing America's Visually Impaired Workforce

by Belo Cipriani

From the Editor: Belo Cipriani is a freelance writer, speaker, and author of Blind: A Memoir. Belo was the keynote speaker for the 2011 Americans with Disabilities Act celebration in San Francisco and was a guest lecturer at both Yale University and the University of San Francisco. Amber Clovers, his first work of fiction, will be published in 2013. He welcomes anyone to contact him at <belocipriani.com>, or on Twitter @Beloism, and Google+. The following piece is reprinted from <http://www.hr.com/en/app/blog/2013/05/hiring-blind-the-misconceptions-facing-america%E2%80%99s-v_hgs2d55a.html#.UZkKB0yJ4ld.twitter>.

As a recruiting manager staffing for clients such as Google and Apple, I was concerned about three things: experience, unemployment gaps, and the probability of the person becoming a long-term employee. I interviewed few disabled candidates and rarely considered their job prospects. As a recruiter I rarely debated if or how they would perform the duties of a position. I soon found a new perspective—one that changed the way I viewed both the role of the recruiter and the place of people with disabilities in the job market.

A Shift in Thinking

I was attacked more than six years ago—a beating that caused severe retinal trauma which left me blind. A year after the attack I found myself at California’s Orientation Center for the Blind, learning new ways to complete necessary daily tasks. Most significant, I learned that, while I had helped place hundreds of people in positions at top companies, my own opportunities and chances of finding a job were slim.

Members of the blind community warned me that I would need a lot of patience when I began my job search. I now belonged to a group of people erroneously viewed by recruiters as unskilled, unproductive, and more difficult. I didn’t need my guide dog Madge to sniff out the irony of my new situation.

According to University of Illinois at Chicago professor and disabilities studies scholar Dr. Lennard Davis, these stereotypes exist in part because people’s misconceptions of the blind are split between thinking they’re completely helpless and brimming with superpowers. These misconceptions carry over into the business world and can seriously confuse potential employers.

The Misconceptions of Managers

According to a recent study done by the nonprofit National Industries for the Blind (NIB), out of 3.5 million blind Americans of working age, a walloping 70 percent are not employed. And of the 30 percent working, the majority work for blind organizations. One major reason blind people struggle to find employment is that public misconceptions of the blind affect hiring managers’ perceptions of potential candidates who are visually impaired. I’d like to break down a few of these reasons—put out by the NIB study—and discuss why these misconceptions are fallacies. According to the NIB study:

“Among hiring managers, most respondents (54 percent) felt there were few jobs at their company that blind employees could perform, and 45 percent said accommodating such workers would require `considerable expense.’ ” The reality is that a blind person can do any job that involves a computer, and there are a slew of adaptive tech toys that make most jobs accessible, such as a portable scanner to read printed material. As for the purported expense, according to the American Foundation for the Blind, most accommodations cost less than $1,000, a negligible amount for a serious business.

“Forty-two percent of hiring managers believe blind employees need someone to assist them on the job; 34 percent said blind workers are more likely to have work-related accidents.” This fear can be attributed to some of our common idioms, e.g., “It’s like the blind leading the blind.” This phrase implies poor navigation skills, when the reality is that blind people often have superb orientation skills due to hours of training by mobility experts. Far from being clumsy, the visually impaired have an attention to detail that most sighted people lack. Insurance statistics back this up: blind people actually have better safety records than their sighted colleagues.

“Nineteen percent of hiring managers believe blind employees have a higher absentee rate.” In reality blind people don’t actually miss more time from work. A DuPont study, completed during a twenty-five-year span, found that disabled people in general have better attendance than 90 percent of their nondisabled colleagues.

The Realities of 2013

The disabled did not get their rights during the Civil Rights movement and had to wait until the 90s for the Americans with Disabilities Act to pass. Even now many people assume the blind are unemployable. As a former recruiter I realize different requirements and considerations need to be addressed when hiring a visually impaired individual, but, without changing our perspective on the capabilities of the blind, we can never end the discrimination that still takes place.

Some companies such as Google, Apple, and Yahoo! routinely hire visually impaired employees. The U.S. government—especially the CIA, the Rehabilitation Services Administration, and the Social Security Administration—also hires many visually impaired people. Jobs capitalizing on the unique skills the blind develop are also being created. Givaudan, a company in the fragrance and flavors business, has developed a special internship program designed to give the blind work experience. Participants evaluate fragrances, detecting subtle differences that aid the creative team. It will take some time to abolish blind stereotypes. However, both blind and sighted people can contribute to the shift.

How Managers Can Improve Inclusivity

Prejudices toward the blind workforce are not beyond repair. In addition to a lead-by-example role that managers can take, they can also become more inclusive by reaching out to groups that cater to the blind to recruit for potential new hires. Encourage your human resources department to diversify its pipeline of candidates by recruiting from employment programs at organizations such as LightHouse in San Francisco and The Lions Center for the Blind. Hiring a blind person for an internship not only gives him job experience but also will encourage others to be more open to considering a person who is blind for a position in the future.

If a company is serious about inclusivity, then it is also very important that its website and job application portal be ADA compliant. Companies can also demonstrate a commitment to diversity by portraying blind people in their recruitment advertising.

How the Blind Can Increase Their Chances of Hire

The reality is that we live in a sighted world, and stereotypes pervade the workplace. People without sight should bring their adaptive equipment along to interviews to demonstrate how they would complete required tasks to give the hiring manager the insight he needs to make a decision.

Blind job applicants should network in the blind community and get to know people in their line of work. When they know of a blind person doing a job similar to the one they are applying for, they should get advice from him and obtain a reference if possible. Telling a hiring manager about another blind person in a similar role can help land the job. Finally, no one should hesitate to report a company if he or she believes discrimination took place.

How Sighted People Can Help

If you work for a company that does not feature people with disabilities on its employment page, let your employer know he is not being inclusive. You can also ask your employer, school, and friends what they are doing to acknowledge disability awareness month in October.

Education helps young people crush outdated beliefs at an early age. In California the FAIR Education Act, which passed in 2011, requires public schools to include disability education. If you are a parent outside of California, demand that your school district add disability studies to its curriculum.

Finally, perform a quick Google search any time a disabilities stereotype crosses your mind. Educating yourself on the truth about disabilities is the best way to eliminate outdated stereotypes. It will take time to change the collective consciousness of society and root out wrongful discrimination against people with disabilities. However, people can help by educating themselves about issues facing blind people today, discouraging outdated stereotypes, and working to encourage inclusivity in their workplaces.

What Did You Say? What's That? Say It Again?

by Agnes Allen

From the Editor: In the April 2013 issue we published an article entitled “Blindness and the Value of Life,” in which we discussed the decision of two deaf-blind men to end their lives. Since that time we have received several letters and articles affirming the value of life as people who are deaf-blind. Here is the one we chose to print. The author, Agnes Allen, will be familiar; she had an article in the June issue. Here is what she says:

I ask you to look up at the moon and the stars—how shining and bright they are. I ask you to listen to a Beethoven symphony—how majestic and grand it sounds. Taste a sweet, juicy orange—how succulent. Come smell a lovely blossoming rose—how fragrant. Pet a soft, furry kitten—how silken. Can you imagine for a moment what it is like to be bereft of any of our five remarkable senses? I would like to share with you some of the ways in which I have personally experienced the loss of two of the sentient gifts bestowed upon mankind: total vision loss and partial but moderate to severe hearing loss.

Most people take sight and hearing for granted, and to be without one or both of them seems unthinkable. I have been totally blind since early childhood and have lived with a major hearing deficiency for much of my adult life. Since I lost my sight very young, my adjustment to my predicament was a relatively simple matter. Training and education made it possible to live normally and actively in my world. But developing a hearing impairment along with blindness as an adult was devastating. I was neither psychologically nor emotionally ready to cope with this double whammy, nor could I have foreseen adapting to it in the future. I could not make eye contact with someone, nor would I be comfortable in communicating freely with others.

Yes, wearing hearing aids to a degree enhanced the hearing I had left, but that is just what they are: hearing aids. I find them to be of very little help in certain situations. If a person speaking to me turns his or her head even slightly so as not to face me directly, the spoken words become unintelligible. I cannot understand what the person sitting across the table is saying if any other noise is occurring simultaneously, for example in a restaurant, where talking and clattering music create background noise. At a social gathering or a meeting, when a joke or funny remark is being passed along, I cannot join in the ensuing laughter; I sit in silence and let the whole episode pass me by.

The pastor of my church has kindly installed an audio system especially designed to improve the auditory quality of the mass or other services. When the system is working efficiently, I can clearly hear the homily and other parts of the mass.

Prior to the traumatic change in my life engendered by the hearing loss, I was a successful student, productive employee, and dedicated mother of three girls. But with the onset of my hearing difficulty I was compelled to meet new challenges. One of the most important of these was to search for employment in which sight and hearing were not absolutely crucial. The skills of Braille literacy had become second nature, and a friend who was a professional Braille proofreader suggested that I try to find employment as a proofreader for a nonprofit agency for the blind in Philadelphia. I followed up on my friend's suggestion and arranged an interview with the head of the department. After serving in the field of Braille proofreading, I found employment as a tutor of two blind students in the Vineland, New Jersey, public schools.

From time to time I am invited to speak to various groups about blindness and Braille. Often, if the audiences wish to follow up with questions or comments, I am besieged by the nagging fear that I will be unable to hear or understand. To alleviate this anxiety somewhat, I like to ask someone in the front to repeat what was said when I cannot hear the original speaker clearly.

I am certain it would be less stressful to remain at home and avoid such situations, but how could I live as a recluse and remain happy? I would become less a person for doing so. It is very easy to isolate oneself and begin to question, "Why me, Lord?" and feel inferior to those around me who can see and hear. At such times I must take stock of my own talents and capabilities, focusing on what I can do, not what I can't do.

A sense of humor lightens the pain of most hardships. It softens the vicissitudes imposed by the condition. This is no less true of deaf-blindness. For example, Bill, a hearing-impaired man said to his friend, "Joe, I just received a new hearing aid, and it is simply wonderful!"

Joe replies, "Oh, yeah, what kind is it?" Bill responds, "2:30." Then there was John, who said to his wife, "Susie, go do the bills." Susie retorts, "Did you say, `Go take a pill?’" In the foregoing witticisms unintelligible speech is the culprit.

Hearing technology seems to be keeping moderate pace with general technology. I have benefitted exceedingly from digital hearing aids, comparatively speaking. Without them the hearing world shuts down. My digitals contain a built-in switch which, when activated, allows my hearing to adjust to different environments. When the switch is on program one, it sets the tone for normal conversation. When on program two, it reduces background noise. This mechanism homes in on the targeted voice. When I am riding in an automobile or a bus, my digitals can be set to diminish the roar of outside traffic, making it easier to converse with the driver.

Once I attended a wedding reception at which the surroundings were so fraught with noise that I could scarcely hear what was being said by the woman sitting next to me. I could hardly await the return to my peace and quiet at home. If an interesting topic is introduced at a meeting or social gathering, it is difficult for me to follow the discussion, no matter how much I would like to contribute. In such a situation I feel isolated and excluded. If I ask a question or make a comment, I do not know whether what I say has any relevance. My tendency is to remain quiet in order to stave off embarrassment. The acoustics of a room can affect the quality of hearing. An entire lecture or discourse can be lost or muffled. A sighted and hearing person may be able to salvage some of the information by watching the speaker's gestures and other visual clues, but not me.

When speaking to someone by telephone or face to face and I miss a word or sentence, I may ask the person to say it again or question, “What's that?” My companion may patiently repeat the missed word or phrase the first time, but on the second or third try I sense mounting frustration for both the other person and me. When I am on the telephone and listening for an important number, I can write down a wrong number because a nine and a five, for instance, contain the "i" vowel and are easy to confuse. Consonants are not always clear.

When one learns that someone has a hearing difficulty, the tendency of the person communicating is to raise the voice when all that is needed may be a clear, modulated voice and clearly enunciated consonants, because loudness can distort the sound. High frequencies in some women's higher pitched voices can play havoc with communication.

Although the human ear has never been replicated, the miracles of technology are phenomenal. Hearing technology has really made great strides over the past decades. Gone are the days of old-fashioned hearing contraptions, which little improved the hearing of the affected individual. As sophisticated and revolutionary as modern hearing technology has become, it has yet to transform the original and natural hearing function of the human ear. Nor do I ever expect it to do that. Of course no one can predict the future. Who can tell what miracles may be produced for people with hearing loss? I look forward to a time when it will no longer be necessary for me to ask, "What's that?" or "Say it again?" or "Beg pardon?" How spectacular that day will be!

Recipes

This month’s recipes come from members of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota.

Boboli Spread
by Becky Bergmann

Becky Bergmann is the home management instructor at BLIND, Incorporated, the NFB’s adjustment-to-blindness training center in Minnesota. Federationists who have bought items from the NFB Store at national convention have likely met her since she is one of those who take the payments for purchases.

Ingredients:
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
4 to 6 ounces (1/2 to 3/4 cup) prepared Hidden Valley ranch dressing, to taste
1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 large Boboli pizza crust

Method: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix cheeses, dressing, and artichoke hearts in bowl. Spread on pizza crust. Bake for twenty to thirty minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Allow to sit about five minutes before slicing. Slice into pizza-style wedges before serving.

Cheese Scalloped Carrots
by Becky Bergmann

Ingredients:
12 medium carrots, sliced and cooked till just done
8 ounces American or cheddar cheese, shredded
1 small onion, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 cups milk
1 cup buttered bread crumbs

 Method: Alternate layers of carrots and cheese in a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking dish or two-quart casserole dish. In a medium saucepan melt butter and cook the onion, stirring often, until tender. Stir in flour, salt, mustard, and pepper and heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir for one minute. Remove from heat; gradually stir in milk. Heat to boiling again over low heat, stirring constantly. Boil and stir for one minute. Pour sauce over carrots. Sprinkle bread crumbs on top. Bake at 350 degrees for thirty-five to forty-five minutes. Serves 10.

Mini Quiches
by Joyce Scanlan

Joyce Scanlan served on our national board and was the NFB of Minnesota’s president for many years. She is the president of our seniors division. Dinners at Joyce’s house are a real treat, and the bidding goes quite high when such a dinner is auctioned off at our state conventions.

Ingredients:
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed (or one 17.3-ounce package of refrigerated biscuit dough)
2 cups cooked ham, diced
2 cups cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
1 cup sliced mushrooms, cooked
6 large eggs
1 splash of cream or half-and-half
Ground black pepper and salt to taste

Method: Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Cut puff pastry sheets into four-inch squares or separate individual biscuits. To make the biscuit dough go further, you can cut each buscuit in half at this point. Press puff pastry squares or biscuit dough into well-greased muffin tins, forming a cup in each compartment with your fingers. Fill with ham, cheese, and sautéed mushrooms or any other ingredients you like, leaving a half inch at the top. Whisk eggs and cream with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon egg mixture over toppings in each pastry cup. Bake until pastries are puffed and golden and toppings are set, about 25 minutes.

White Bean Chicken Chili
by Sheila Koenig

Sheila Koenig teaches English to ninth graders. She serves on our affiliate board and chairs our scholarship and social media committees.

Ingredients:
1 to 2 pounds chicken (I use boneless, skinless chicken breast)
1 48-ounce jar Great Northern Beans
1 16-ounce jar salsa of your choice
2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon or so of cumin
1 can chicken broth
2 cups or so of shredded cheese

Method: Simmer the chicken until cooked. Let cool and chop. Combine chicken, beans, salsa, cumin, and chicken broth. Let this mixture simmer covered on top of the stove for ninety minutes and then add the cheese before serving.

Almond Poppy Seed Bread
by Sheila Koenig

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons canola oil
3 eggs
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups 2 percent milk
 
Glaze Ingredients:
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Method: In a large bowl combine the sugar, oil, eggs, poppy seeds, lemon juice, and extracts; beat until well blended. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; alternately add dry ingredients and milk to sugar mixture, beating just until moistened. Pour into two greased 8-by-4-inch loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for fifty-five to sixty minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Meantime, combine glaze ingredients until smooth. Drizzle over hot loaves. Cool for ten minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely. Yield: two loaves (sixteen slices each).

Monster Cookies
by Sheila Koenig

Ingredients:
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 pound margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
4 1/2 cup uncooked oatmeal (not instant)
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 pounds M&Ms

Method: Combine all ingredients and mix well. Shape into cookies and place at least two inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for ten to fifteen minutes. These cookies should be large.

Monitor Miniatures

News from the Federation Family

In Memory of Hazel Staley:

We have received news of the death of Hazel Staley from James Benton of North Carolina. This is what he has to say about a wonderful American and a dedicated Federationist:

The passing of an icon--for more than seven decades she stood on the front lines, defending the rights of people who are blind and visually impaired in the state of North Carolina. Sadly, her journey has ended. On Thursday, May 30, 2013, Ruth Hazel Staley was lifted from this world to take her place with the angels above. Hazel was a graduate of the Governor Morehead School for the Blind, then known as the State School for the Blind, and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. With support from Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, Don Capps, and others from the National Federation of the Blind, Hazel formed the North Carolina affiliate of the NFB in 1969. Living most of her life in Charlotte, Hazel did everything she could to embody and embrace the signature mission of the NFB: security, equality, and opportunity for all blind or visually impaired people. In 1989 she won the tenBroek Award, which is the highest award given by the Federation. She has touched the lives of many over all these decades and made North Carolina a greater place, a richer place, a deserving place for those of us with visual disabilities. With sadness we say goodbye to Ms. Staley, and we will all work together to enhance the legacy she left us.

Anyone wishing to make a donation in her memory is urged to contribute to the Robert and Hazel Staley Scholarship Fund.  Be sure to make checks payable to the NFB of North Carolina, mark all such donations clearly, and send them to Boyce Locklear, P.O. Box 2633, Lumberton, NC 28359.

That was what James Benton eloquently wrote. We conclude our tribute to Hazel by including a letter she wrote to Dr. Jernigan a month before his death:

Ruth Hazel Staley
Charlotte, North Carolina

September 3, 1998

Dear Dr. Jernigan,

For the past year I have prayed hard daily for your recovery, but apparently that was not to be. Now I try to console myself with the belief that God has something very special in heaven that He wants done, and, having carefully surveyed the whole world, He chose you as the person most likely to do it and do it well. I know you will serve Him well there as you have served Him and us here. I can't imagine life without you. You have been there so many times for me when I needed help or encouragement. I probably don't have many more years here myself, so I shall look forward to meeting you again when my turn comes.

I have been where Mrs. Jernigan is now, and I know the pain and frustration she is experiencing. Please convey to her for me that, if she ever needs a shoulder to cry on or just an understanding friend to talk to, I will be here.

Until we meet again, I am

Ruth Hazel Staley

In Memoriam Dorothy Kirsner Dies:

On Monday, May 20, 2013, Dorothy Harriett Kirsner died at the age of ninety-four. In 1958 Dorothy Kirsner chaired the three-person Iowa Commission for the Blind board that hired the young Kenneth Jernigan to run the Iowa Commission for the Blind when it occupied three rooms in a rundown state office building in Des Moines. At the time the Iowa Commission was independently rated as among the worst agencies serving the blind in the nation, according to the Mallas Report. Under the leadership of Kenneth Jernigan as director and Dorothy Kirsner as Commission chair and employing the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind, the Commission transformed itself and its programs until in 1968 a federal official said in an award presentation, “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!”

As a young woman in the early forties, Mrs. Kirsner qualified as a Braille transcriptionist. These volunteers were so highly prized that her certificate was actually signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Early in her career she transcribed a long textbook for Kenneth Jernigan, then a college student in Tennessee. That was the beginning of a long association between the two.

In 1958, when Dr. tenBroek and his chief lieutenant Kenneth Jernigan were looking for a larger platform than a regional adult training center on which to demonstrate convincingly the effectiveness of the NFB’s rehabilitation ideas, the Iowa agency’s director’s job opened, and Dr. Jernigan noticed that his old friend, Dorothy Kirsner, was chairing the commission that would hire the new director. With extraordinary energy and creativity Dr. Jernigan contrived to get himself to Des Moines with a majority of the Commission for the Blind ready to vote for him as the new director. Thus began the most exciting transformation of a rehabilitation program for the blind that this country has yet seen.

In 1966 the conference room beside the director’s office at the Commission was officially named the Dorothy Kirsner Conference Room. In addition to transcribing books into Braille herself, Mrs. Kirsner and a friend established a program at the Fort Madison Penitentiary to record and transcribe books into Braille for the blind. For a number of years she was a member of the board of the Iowa Radio Reading Information Service. She is survived by Alvin, her husband of seventy-two years, her four children, four grandchildren, and one great-grandson. Federationists everywhere salute the life and work of Dorothy Kirsner and offer our sympathy to her family and friends.

Son of Longtime Federationists Honored:

Steve Benson is a former member of the national board of directors and served for a long time as president of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois. He and his wife Peg are the proud parents of Patrick, who teaches music in a Chicago high school. Recently Steve sent along this note about an honor Patrick has received:

Patrick has made a significant difference in the music program at Hubbard High School, and it has been recognized by a number of people, including the president of his college. At Hubbard's spring concert the senior class paid tribute to his effectiveness by presenting him a snare drum with the signature of each band member on the drum head. The formal presentation brought tears to Patrick’s eyes, and several of the band members began crying. As Patrick described the scene while driving home, I could tell that he teared up again. It was very moving for Peg and me—I guess one could say we're just a little proud of that young man. He is only in his fifth year of teaching; it is all quite remarkable.

Honored:

As we were going to press, we learned that Denise Brown, president of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the NFB of Pennsylvania and a member of the affiliate board of directors was selected by the Quaker City Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., as its awardee at the eighth annual Greek Gala on Friday, May 3, 2013. The award was for outstanding social action in the community. Congratulations to Denise.

In Brief

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.

Correction:

In the May 2013 issue we published an article entitled "My Constant Search for Accessibility" by Robert Kingett. In it the author says his research while in high school led him to believe the cost of Window-Eyes was $1,250. The good folks at GW Micro have requested that we explain that this figure represents the cost of Window-Eyes when purchased on a payment plan with a concurrent Software Maintenance Agreement. They correctly state that they have always charged less for their screen-reading program than their competitor, JAWS for Windows, developed and marketed by Freedom Scientific.

In response to the same article we have also received a note of concern from the developers of NVDA suggesting that the use of Eloquence through the plug-in that the article referred to may constitute a violation of copyright. Short of a finding by a court, we have no way to verify this opinion, but we pass along their cautionary note.

New iOS/iPad User Guide Available:

iOS technology is a game changer. School districts across the country are purchasing and deploying iPads to students across grade levels—even integrating them into classroom curricula. But how many teachers and parents are ready to ensure that their blind students have equal access to all the iPad has to offer?

iOS Success: Making the iPad Accessible—A Guide for Parents and Teachers, written by Larry L. Lewis, a blind iPad user and instructor, gives step-by-step instructions for every pertinent accessibility feature the iPad has to offer—including getting acquainted with VoiceOver and Zoom, setting accessibility options, pairing external devices such as keyboard and refreshable Braille displays, setting up Apple accounts to buy apps, use iBooks, the Cloud and Dropbox, and much, much more. The last chapter includes tips from blind students who use their iPads daily and one very committed parent who is mastering iOS technology alongside his blind sons.

The book assumes that the reader has never used an iPad. Although it is geared to parents and teachers, there is plenty of useful advice for blind users as well. Join the iOS revolution! Order online from National Braille Press at <www.nbp.org>, or call toll-free (800) 548-7323. Large-print edition costs $28; in Braille, eBraille, DAISY, ASCII, MP3, or Word, cost is $20.

Video about Inaccessible Websites Available:

We recently received the following announcement from Dr. Jonathan Lazar, a Shutzer Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University who is currently on leave from his duties as a professor in computer science in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences and Universal Usability Laboratory at Towson University. He has worked closely with the National Federation of the Blind to study and highlight access problems that limit opportunities for the blind. Here is his announcement:

I am pleased to announce that the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University has posted a video (fully captioned) of my fellowship presentation on February 13, 2013, titled "Locked Out: Investigating Societal Discrimination Against People with Disabilities Due to Inaccessible Websites." The video is at <https://www.radcliffe.harvard.edu/video/jonathan-lazar-locked-out>.

BANA Accepts Two New Member Organizations, Approves Addition to Nemeth Code:

We recently received the following press release from the Braille Authority of North America:

The Braille Authority of North America (BANA) held its 2013 spring meeting April 11 to 13 in Washington, DC. The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), a BANA member organization, hosted the meeting at the Library of Congress. During its three-day meeting the BANA board reviewed and acted on semiannual reports from its eighteen committees, considered committee recommendations, and deliberated issues and challenges facing Braille users and producers.

The UEB Task Force reported on the development of a plan for the transition to UEB in the United States as well as the collaborative steps that have been taken to initiate dialogue and planning among the various Braille communities that will be affected.

Actions taken at the board meeting included the following: the review and approval of a major revision of the organization’s entire set of bylaws and policies as recommended after intense study by the BANA Bylaws Committee. Approval of the applications for two new member organizations: the Council of Schools for the Blind (COSB) and the Hadley School for the Blind. BANA welcomes both of these organizations and looks forward to working with them. Approval of a recommendation from BANA’s Braille Mathematics Technical Committee that the following be added to the Nemeth Code:

Rule XIV, §86c.
When the expression being modified is a single digit or a letter, lower-case or capitalized, from any alphabet, and in any type form, and when the modifier is the horizontal bar directly under such a single digit or letter, the digit or letter, followed by the directly under symbol and the bar, serves to express the modification. This construction should be regarded as a contracted form of expression and must be used whenever applicable. If the modification includes a superscript, subscript, or prime, the five-step rule of “a” above must be followed. The five-step rule may be used in conjunction with the contracted form without fear of confusion.

On Saturday morning BANA hosted an open forum at the Arlington Public Library, Arlington, Virginia. The forum was quite well attended by DC-area Braille readers, students, and teachers. Participants also traveled from West Virginia and Maryland to attend. BANA board members and forum participants engaged in a dialogue that centered on the characteristics of UEB and the coming transition. The tone of the forum was extremely upbeat with numerous questions and comments about the importance and future of Braille; the well-spoken students added their individual and open-minded perspectives. For additional resource information visit <http://www.brailleauthority.org>.


NFB Pledge

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.

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