JANUARY ISSUE -- 1962
PUBLISHED BY THE AMERICAN BROTHERHOOD FOR THE BLIND
A CHARITABLE AND EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION
2652 SHASTA ROAD BERKELEY 8, CALIF.
THE BLIND AMERICAN
Published monthly in Braille and inkprint and
distributed free to the blind by the American
Brotherhood for the Blind, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek,
President. National headquarters and editorial
offices at 2652 Shasta Road, Berkeley 8, Calif.
Editor: Floyd W. Matson.
Executive Secretary: Anthony Mannino, 205 South Western Avenue, Room 206, Los Angeles 4, Calif.
VOLUME II No. 1 JANUARY, 1962
Digitized by the Internet Archive in 2010 with funding from National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
"A NEW PUBLIC WELFARE PROGRAM"
"TIME FOR A CHANGE": THE WICKENDEN REPORT
THE RIBICOFF PLAN: A DOUBLE- FEATURE PREVIEW
EDITORIAL: WHITHER THE NEW FRONTIER?
BLIND TEACHERS HOLD SECOND CONFERENCE
AURORA STILL LIGHTS THE WAY
By Donald C. Capps
BROTHERS ... & OTHERS
"To help those least fortunate of all, I am recommending a new public welfare program, stressing services instead of support, rehabilitation instead of relief, and training for useful work instead of prolonged dependency."
So spoke President John F. Kennedy in his January State of the Union address before the opening session of Congress. His few suggestive words on the broad topic of welfare foreshadowed a variety of more detailed and explicit proposals to be submitted in subsequent weeks to the legislature and the nation.
Well before the delivery of the President's message, however, many of the main lines of welfare policy and program to be pursued by his Administration in the coming year had already been hammered out and made public through a series of official or quasi-official documents and reports, Two of the most significant of these studies were authorized by HEW Secretary Ribicoff last year with a view toward making recommendations to Congress in all major areas of the welfare system. The report of an Ad Hoc Committee on Public Welfare, composed of 25 persons broadly representative of social welfare leadership both public and voluntary, was released in September. A second report by George K. Wyman, a former Assistant Commissioner of Social Security and presently Executive Director of the Los Angeles Region Welfare Council, made its appearance in August.
(A third study, more independent but in the long run of perhaps still greater influence upon policy, is discussed below. It is "Public Welfare: Time for a Change," a report by Elizabeth Wickenden and Winifred Bell of the Project on Public Services for Families and Children, prepared under sponsorship of the New York School of Social Work of Columbia University.)
Report of the Ad Hoc Committee
The 25-person Ad Hoc Committee based its numerous concrete recommendations upon the premise that drastic changes in American society and economy over the past quarter-century have deeply altered the responsibility of the public welfare system and the needs which it should be designed to meet. "Public welfare must contribute to the attack on such problems as dependency, juvenile delinquency, family breakdown, illegitimacy, ill health, and disability; reduce their incidence, prevent their recurrence, and strengthen or protect the vulnerable or helpless in a highly competitive world," the report asserted. Welfare measures could no longer be limited to the palliative efforts of old-fashioned relief: "Public welfare should be a positive, wealth-producing force in society. It must be more than a salvage operation, confined to picking up the debris from the wreckage of human lives."
In this new and affirmative welfare perspective, the Ad Hoc Committee observed, the foremost role must be that of the national government. "The scope, the intensity, and the cost of the nation's social problems demand vigorous national leadership in working toward their solution. There must be a consistent and positive policy in using the resources of the federal government to raise the level of assistance and rehabilitative services in public welfare throughout the country, to establish and maintain standards for assistance and services, and to support the analysis of welfare needs and ways of meeting them," the report stated.
In the modern field of welfare, according to the committee, "there are few problems that are strictly local, state, or even regional." While state and local government are of course intimately concerned, "needs that are nation-wide in scope demand national attention." In particular this was said to be true of those problems centering in the family unit: "A new and dynamic approach to strengthening family life in America must supply the [main] dimension of social welfare endeavors in the 1960's. The recommendations of this report are designed to reinforce and support family life through rehabilitation, prevention and protection. They are also intended to reduce the wide disparities in the contributions made to this goal by welfare programs throughout the country."
The recommendations for improvement contained in the Ad Hoc Committee's report were divided into a set of proposals for immediate action and another set of proposals for long-range major revisions. Under the heading of "immediate steps" the following were listed:
1. Rehabilitative services to strengthen Aid to Dependent Children: "aimed at reducing family breakdown and chronic dependency and helping families become self- supporting and independent".
2. ADC legislation: extending present provisions relating to unemployed parents and foster home care, and providing for coverage of disabled and unemployed fathers living at home.
3. Measures for studying and dealing with the problem of illegitimacy.
4. Federal participation in community work programs.
5. Improvement of care for children -- including federal support for day-care services.
6. Earnings of youth on ADC--partially exempting such earnings "to provide incentive for work and development of responsibility."
7. Removal of residence requirements for public assistance: entailing "financial incentives to states to encourage progress toward elimination of residence requirements as an eligibility factor for public assistance."
8. Safeguarding the principle of cash payment through limited use of vouchers.
9. Extension of aid to the disabled--by including temporarily and partially disabled persons in eligibility for assistance.
10. Experimentation and progress in research and demonstration.
Under the separate heading of "Proposals for Further Action," the Secretary's Ad Hoc Committee recommended these specific steps:
11. Assistance and rehabilitative services to families--involving the creation of a "single category of assistance" aimed at giving "service to the complete family as a unit through intensified rehabilitative services." The single-category concept was defined as including those now receiving aid to dependent children and aid to the permanently and totally disabled, as well as permitting states to include persons now covered by state and local general assistance measures. (The committee report made no mention of aid to the blind or of old age assistance, both of which would presumably remain as distinct categories under public assistance.)
12. Improving personnel for rehabilitative services. The committee's discussion of this recommendation made clear that it presages a "major attack" on the problem of personnel qualifications. Specifically, said the committee, "the goal should be established that within 10 years, one-third of all persons engaged in social work capacities in public welfare should hold masters' degrees in social work" -- an objective which would call for stepped-up federal grants to states and direct support to accredited schools of social work.
13. A stronger role for basic child welfare services.
14. Provision for continuing program of research and special demonstration projects.
The Wyman Report
The report submitted to Secretary Ribicoff by George K. Wyman also presented specific recommendations for governmental action, both administrative and legislative, which at many points parallel those of the Ad Hoc Committee but in other respects diverge considerably. Thus the Wyman report also emphasized "the necessity, even the demand, for strong , active federal leadership in public welfare," and underscored the urgency of measures to strengthen family life and opportunities. Like the Ad Hoc Committee also, Mr. Wyman called for a new aid program, which he designated "Family Aid and Services," to combine the present categories of ADC and Aid to the Permanently and Totally Disabled. Both reports may be said to share a common concern for welfare measures of a preventive and rehabilitative character, looking toward the reduction of dependency and restoration of productivity, as against what are usually called "relief" programs.
Notable in this respect is the introductory declaration of the Wyman Report that "the time is ripe for positive action to put into effect the fine principles of the 1956 Social Security Act Amendments to help needy people maintain and strengthen family life, to attain self-care and to achieve self-support. These principles are accepted as the guide for the Department's public welfare program. But they have never been put into full effect because clear public understanding and support is lacking."
Another significant recommendation of the Wyman Report (not explicitly contained in the Ad Hoc Committee report) had to do with medical care under social security. The Secretary of HEW, the report stipulated, should "use federal appropriations for research to study medical care under public assistance, the extent to which it is meeting needs, and be in a position to help states with medical care programs, standards and quality of service."
Possibly most affirmative of all was Mr. Wyman's recommendation of "incentives for employment"; namely, that states be permitted "to provide incentives for children and adults to accept employment by allowing the retention of a portion of individual earnings for future identifiable needs, thus meeting legal requirements to 'take into consideration all other income and resources' in determining the grant of assistance." This proposal is, of course, an extension to other aided categories of the exempt-earnings principle already established for more than a decade in Aid to the Blind.
Among other recommendations of the Wyman Report was the controversial suggestion (not made by the Ad Hoc Committee) that states be permitted (or authorized) "to establish Work for Relief projects for all employable recipients, with statewide standards and local determination of work project necessity."
The report also called for a reduction of state residence requirements for all aided categories to a permissible maximum of one year; use of vendor payments for other than medical care "in proven cases of mismanagement and social adjustment"; changing the name of the Bureau of Public Assistance to the Bureau of Social Welfare; and designation of the Deputy Commissioner of Social Security as head of "a permanent Task Force to develop and coordinate programs, policies and procedures between the Children's Bureau and the Bureau of Public Assistance."
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One of the most deeply thoughtful of recent inquiries into the problems and prospects of American public welfare appeared in print last month (December, 1961) under the title "Public Welfare: Time for a Change." Prepared under the directorship of Elizabeth Wickenden with the assistance of Winifred Bell, the report was the outcome of a year-long Project on Public Services for Families and Children sponsored by the New York School of Social Work of Columbia University.
As the project title indicates, the Wickenden study was not concerned equally with all phases of welfare assistance (as were the Wyman and Ad Hoc Committee reports) but focused its attention on a particular area of public policy: governmental welfare services for children and their families. More specifically, its emphasis was on "the effect of federal policies under three separate but related programs affecting families and children: public assistance, child welfare, and welfare services concerned with juvenile delinquency." Both in the scope and depth of its scrutiny of the welfare scene, however, the Wickenden report carries important implications for all programs of public aid, including those for the blind and the disabled.
Much of the distinctive character of the report undoubtedly stems from the breadth of its sources and resources. Supervised by Dean Fred DelliQuadri of the New York School of Social Work, the study drew upon a special advisory committee of nine prominent welfare authorities plus five consultants for specialized areas. The central procedure of the study was the preparation and distribution of a detailed letter of inquiry to hundreds of welfare experts throughout the country. Aimed primarily at stimulating reflection and opinion on basic issues (rather than seeking quantifiable replies along scientific lines), the inquiry was sent "to all state and many local commissioners of public welfare; to all directors of national voluntary organizations concerned with family and child welfare; to all deans of schools of social work; and to a considerable number of other persons in leadership positions in the social welfare field. Altogether 349 letters of inquiry were sent out; 182 replies were received."
The comprehensive report which has resulted from this survey (running to a total of 124 pages including appendices) is divided into two sections, one of broad discussion of the problem and another containing more detailed analysis of the range of opinions and proposals received on specific welfare questions. Something of the perspective governing both sections of the report is indicated by the authors' statement that "while the Project centered its initial interest on the welfare needs of families and children. . . this report has tended to approach their situation in the context of a total public welfare policy."
The relevance of the study to all who are concerned with the direction of public welfare policy -- whether as clients, as workers or simply as responsible citizens -- is further underlined by the assertion that "the needs of any one segment of the population cannot be effectively met except in their relationship to the needs of all others in that population. Children belong to families and the family, as our central social institution, encompasses all individuals. Over-emphasis on any one age or condition can only result in a distortion of the needs of all. To the extent that all human beings are inter-dependent, to the same extent public welfare policy must embrace the needs, entitlements, and obligations of all."
Statement of the Problem
"Public welfare is the ultimate instrument of social conscience in the modern world," declare the authors. "Yet today in America it is under attack from many sides. Why?" Part of the answer to the controversy is seen to lie in "the substantial absence of any common base of understanding concerning its role in the social order." Everyone, whether participant or bystander, seems to have a different notion of what that role should be and "few will say an unqualified good word" on behalf of the sprawling system of aids and services -- even while most are prepared to admit that in some sense it is indispensable to the functioning of our society.
As a result of this confusion and misunderstanding, complicated by sporadic changes in popular attitudes, the uneasiness of the general public "tends to seek expression in boil-like eruptions of rebellion on exposed points of specific policy," the authors point out. In one year the rebellion may find expression in demands for the release of confidential assistance records; at another time the cry may be for more severe residence requirements in order to ward off the shiftless and vagrant.
"And now most recently the ancient Poor Law requirement of a 'work test' has been revived: assistance caseloads will disappear if applicants are obliged to show their good faith by 'working out' the amounts they receive," the report continues. But all such desperate remedies mistake the symptom for the cause: "In all of these instances the responsibility for high welfare costs is presumed to lie in some willful choice of the applicant rather than in general social circumstances."
But it is not only the public and the beneficiaries of the welfare system who argue about its nature, according to the report: there is wide difference of opinion even among those regarded as experts and professionals. In general, the authors believe, this disagreement stems from "differing appraisals of the time factor in an evolutionary process"; people may agree on the direction in which we are moving but disagree on the rate at which we can or should move. Thus it is at least as important to decide what public welfare is in process of becoming as to know what it has been in the past.
The Historical Evolution of Welfare
"Public welfare as we know it today," observes the Wickenden report, "is an inevitable concomitant of modern industrial organization" and therefore must be understood within the context of its evolutionary history. In tribal or localized societies few public provisions for welfare are needed; the family or clan may be counted on to take care of its children, its disabled members and its oldsters. With the growth of modern socioeconomic development, marked by industrialization and urban massing of populations, "casualties of social disorganization begin to appear," We see the process happening today in countries now moving into industrial development: "slum squatter colonies around the outskirts of sprawling cities; beggar children in the streets; women cast adrift without social moorings; bewildered old people who feel themselves robbed of the dignity conferred by the old order; rebellious young people."
Faced with such conditions -- there as in our own industrialized society -- people experience "a profound uneasiness: part guilt, part fear. People will be heard to extoll the values of the old society and deplore their loss; they will relieve their own anxiety about social upheaval by expressing their disapproval of its most obvious victims," the report asserts. Gradually, however, nations learn to cope with their new problems through organized measures to alleviate miseries which once were taken care of by family or tribe. The paradoxical dilemma in which such nations are caught lies in the fact that "the very social change which creates new problems simultaneously tends to raise the level of social expectation . . . people find themselves running into new kinds of problems at the very time when they are beginning to expect better things from life."
The first step in the historical development of public welfare is defined by the report as a "process of selective limitation" -- i.e., the enactment of special measures directed toward "certain groups in the population whose claim to social protection is transparently obvious, most typically children or persons with particularly anxiety-provoking disabilities such as blindness, leprosy, or insanity." Even for these selected groups, service is restricted by a tendency to institutionalization": the erection of islands of welfare such as orphanages, homes, and rehabilitation centers in which a small number of the needy may be aided at a high standard.
But at the same time, the authors note, welfare history reveals "a companion pressure toward inclusive minimal quaranttees" to all members of a given group. These two processes, selective and universal, have developed together in our own Anglo-American history, notably in "the early provisions for selected groups, largely under church auspices, followed by the inclusive provisions of the Poor Law of 1601." This fact leads the authors to put in a good word for the much-maligned Poor Law: "Even though it is currently fashionable to denigrate the original Poor Law and its subsequent modifiers, it stands as a major landmark in the history of public welfare. For the first time, under the Poor Law, a minimum floor of economic security was stipulated for an entire nation . . . for the first time inclusiveness replaced selectivity as a determinant in social welfare."
The subsequent historical development of public welfare is viewed by the Wickenden report as a process of continuous interaction and alternation between the two principles of selective programming and universal minimum guarantees. "It is difficult at times to tell which leads and which follows. Selective programs tend to raise both standards and expectations with a resultant demand for universally applicable minimum protection. ... In fact the adaptive capacity of public welfare may well be said to depend to a considerable extent on its ability to adjust at a new level of equilibrium between minimal protection and selective pioneering when new needs and expectations require it," the report maintains.
Welfare and the Social Standard
The level and quality of public welfare services in any society is seen to depend fundamentally upon what the Wickenden report calls the "prevailing social standard" -- the minimum level of protection that the society is able and willing to guarantee. Thus "the public welfare function in any sooiety consists in the furnishing by government of such benefits and/or social services as are needed to maintain this minimum standard for particular individuals within the economic and ideological limits fixed by its productive capacity, knowledge, and social philosophy."
The formula of the "social standard" embraces a host of variables which are constantly in flux, forbidding static solutions and dogmatic principles. Social expectations and public responsibilities vary with time no less than do living standards and economic conditions. But the Wickenden report suggests that there is often a lag between the appearance of genuine human needs and the willingness of the public to give them affirmative support along lines which break with traditional mores and institutions.
"Everyone understands, for example, that a small child needs adult protection and that, if he loses his parents, substitute care must be assured. The helplessness of persons in a condition of extreme debility due to age or illness is also well understood," the report states. "But the complexities of modern life produce many examples of social handicap or inadequacy for which the measure of social responsibility is far harder to fix.
"Consider, for example, the problem of the alcoholic mother: is hers a situation which deserves help or censure? And, if the latter, what about her children? Or what about the discouraged young man who has lost his job and fled in panic across state lines, leaving his wife and children to the conscience of the community as expressed in its welfare program? Should he be pursued by the police or encouraged back to responsible parenthood by welfare workers? This interaction between social responsibility and personal capacity has baffled philosophers through the ages. . . In the meantime public welfare, as the ultimate source of social protection, must make its way through the maze of public confusion and ambivalence as best it can."
The authors note that our national efforts to "set limits on public responsibility" for welfare gradually gave rise to objective criteria of selection which might be as free as possible from political patronage or discretionary whim. "It was for this reason that the framers of the Social Security Act adopted the categorical approach, required that within these categorical limitations, benefits be equally available to all eligibles, and gave individuals the right of appeal from bureaucratic decisions." Although elsewhere the report finds much to criticize in the categorical approach in assistance, it is emphasized that "these were all requirements designed to reconcile the advantage of a minimal guarantee with the need for selective responsibility and constituted a major forward step for their time. ..."
Another "central dynamic" which the Wickenden report perceives to lie at the heart of the welfare system is the relationship between measures designed to relieve needs on an individual basis and other measures designed to prevent the same needs. "Thus, for example, contributory social insurance prevents dependency by anticipating the need for substitute income when people can no longer work while assistance relieves needs that people are currently experiencing." The function of public welfare is primarily to meet and relieve those current needs; the responsibility of a society as a whole is to seek and find the longer-range answers of prevention and cure.
"This then is the basic social role of public welfare: it fixes the minimum social standard which a particular society is willing or able to tolerate and then proceeds -- by meeting it -- to reveal the extent to which other aspects of social functioning fall short of meeting it . . . . The number of children dependent on public welfare support because they have been deserted by one or another of their parents reveals a serious flaw in our pattern of family functioning. In these situations one cannot either blame or laud public welfare for picking up the pieces. It is performing a necessary first aid and rescue function. In the long run the social remedy must be sought elsewhere," the report declares.
Where Present Provisions Fall Short
For all its affirmative growth and permanent values, according to the Wickenden report, the American public welfare system today falls short of its potential promise in three basic ways:
"1. Its help is not equally and universally available to those whose economic and social condition falls below the minimum level appropriate to a society of our productive capacity and organizational complexity.
"2. It does not in many instances extend help in such a way as to serve the best interests either of those helped or the social organization as a whole.
"3. Its organizational and jurisdictional arrangements do not lend themselves to the most effective and adaptive policy development."
The principle of "universality" is said by the report to demand the relaxation or elimination of all restrictions upon eligibility which withhold services from those genuinely in need of them. Thus "we cannot honestly claim, for example, that our social standard prevents the death of children by reason of economic deprivation so long as a child, ineligible for public aid because of residence requirements, froze to death virtually in the shadow of the Capitol last year," the authors maintain. "This was not the result of a mistake but a policy, one of many policies that constitute weak links in the protective chain of what we like to consider an advanced social standard."
On the issue of residence, the report argues that state laws which presently require as high as five years' residence as a condition of eligibility for assistance are contrary to the public interest of the nation as a whole: "In a country which requires a high mobility rate to maintain its economic health and make needed economic adjustments such restrictions are patently contrary to the public interest. They inhibit desirable movement, impose a social injustice on individuals who move -- however socially desirable their motivation -- and endanger the whole concept of a federally-aided, state-administered public welfare responsibility."
Another welfare practice brought under attack by the Wickenden report -- with, in THE BLIND AMERICAN'S view, less justice as well as less justification -- is the public assistance system of categories, which places under separate titles such programs as Aid to the Blind, Old Age Assistance, and Aid to Dependent Children. "Widespread social insurance has replaced the pension concept of assistance with one which emphasizes individualization of treatment," the report declares. "Assistance has become less a 'right' to which certain groups have earned special entitlement than an obligation on society to keep its own protective devices in order. . . Public assistance, if it is to set any sort of minimal standards for individuals and society, should be equally available to all who fall below that standard for reasons that lie beyond their own control."
A further restriction on the principle of "universality" of assistance, according to the Wickenden report, is that implicit in "moral judgments" as well as ethnic and social prejudices which lead to the rejection or condemnation of various needy groups. "Several states have approached the problem of illegitimacy by enacting laws defining such homes as ipso-facto 'unsuitable' and hence ineligible for the receipt of public assistance," the report states. "But unless the child is removed from that same unsuitable home by court order and placed in a substitute foster home . . . the home is rendered even less suitable by its lack of any legitimate source of income. .. Fundamental in this situation is the question of whether the responsibility of the state for protecting the welfare of children can be effectively challenged by public disapproval for the behavior of their parents.
"Closely related is the question of prejudice toward persons of minority status: Negroes, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Indians and occasionally other identifiable cultural or ethnic groups. Long-standing discrimination and isolation from the center of social acceptability tends to produce for those at the bottom a compensatory sub-culture in which adaptation is achieved outside the norm of social responsibility. In such situations illegitimacy and the defection from responsibility of the father do not involve the same degree of social onus as with the majority group. Once again public welfare carries the burden of compensating for a social failure it did not create, while public censure readily fixes on the victims of social discrimination rather than on its source."
Still another source of restrictions attacked by the report are those that "seem peculiarly designed to perpetuate dependency." The most obvious example, in the authors' view, is the limitation implicit in the categorical title of the "permanently and totally disabled," which includes persons with a specified degree of blindness. "Even liberally interpreted, the concept of 'permanent and total' seems to assume a static condition which is consistent neither with current rehabilitative practice nor the rapid advances of modern medical science," the authors point out. "Moreover, it is a very poor public economy to deny aid to the very person who can be helped -- through such aid -- to recovery and self-support."
In this connection, the Wickenden report calls attention to "a most baffling problem in assistance policy" -- namely, "how to encourage paid employment under an eligibility standard which equates need and resources." Noting that "as the recipient begins to earn, his wages become a resource and he either ceases to be eligible or his grant is reduced proportionately," the authors proceed to emphasize a point long familiar to recipients of aid to the blind: "This is particularly inhibiting in the case of people whose working capacity and self-confidence have been limited by illness,disability and discouragement. They need not only the incentive of higher income but also the security of assistance to help them through the transition process." But the authors reject the solution of a flat earnings exemption, long operative in Aid to the Blind, as "inflexible" and "contrary to the concept of individualization." Instead they appear to favor a policy which would recognize "earnings as a factor in an individually developed rehabilitation plan, proceeding on a progressive basis toward self-support."
On the score of program limitations generally, the Wickenden report expresses particular concern over the inadequacy of the standards of assistance now employed. Pointing out that these standards necessarily tend to settle "at a point below the lowest prevailing level" of the community, the authors voice strong apprehension that levels of assistance may fall so far beneath community norms as to damage seriously the health and self-respect of recipients. Their conclusion is that "on an over-all basis our present standards of assistance fall far short of any level which could be considered logical in terms of average national income or average living standards."
What We Can Do
Among the numerous constructive proposals for improvement of the welfare system set forth in the Wickenden report, the following are of particular pertinence:
On assistance categories: "Public assistance should be available to any individual or family whose actual or available economic resources are insufficient to meet [the minimum standard of economic and social security] as applied to their personal needs and situation.
On residence: "Restrictions of eligibility based solely on length of residence in a state or locality are inconsistent with inclusive protection and should not be permitted under a federally-aided program."
On assistance adequacy: "A reasonable level of assistance benefits is a matter of social justice for those like the needy aged who have already fulfilled their obligation to society and a good investment of public funds for those needing temporary help to regain their self-sufficiency."
Toward more flexible policies: "Public welfare policies should be sufficiently flexible to meet special as well as average needs, especially when this will help to restore a family to self-support or independent functioning."
On other social services: "Public social services for other groups whose social needs are not necessarily combined with economic dependency should be expanded on a selective project basis . . ."
With respect to welfare administration, the Wickenden report calls for "a coordinated public welfare responsibility at the federal level comparable to that of a state public welfare commissioner." In particular, the report recommends (along lines paralleling the Wyman Report) the creation of "a new Office of Public Welfare or Office of Family and Child Welfare" to include the responsibilities now vested separately in the Bureau of Public Assistance and the Children's Bureau.
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The public welfare program which the Kennedy Administration will seek to bring into reality in coming months -- both through new Congressional enactments and administrative revisions -- was given advance disclosure by HEW Secretary Ribicoff in December and January by means of two separate pronouncements. The first - a memo to state welfare directors -- revealed a series of ten administrative changes in welfare programs; the second, a letter to an influential Senator, presented a set of nine legislative proposals to be submitted later to Congress.
In announcing the Administration's proposed changes, Secretary Ribicoff emphasized that his department's year-long review of programs had resulted in "a clear recognition of the fact that today the outlook of 1935 is not up to date. Born of depression emergencies, the original federal welfare legislation well met the problems of that time, but the quarter of a century that has passed has taught us many new things."
The government must now move, he said, toward two primary objectives: "eliminating whatever abuses have crept into these programs and developing more constructive approaches to get people off assistance and back into useful roles in society."
The ten decisions on administrative changes, which Secretary Ribicoff sent in December to all state public welfare administrators, were heavily oriented toward revision of the ADC program. "In addition to moving more effectively against such problems as locating deserting fathers and fraud," the Secretary wrote, "these administrative changes are designed to (1) promote rehabilitation services and develop a family-centered approach, (2) provide children with adequate protection, support and a maximum opportunity to become responsible citizens, and (3) reshape our administrative structure so it may be more helpful to the states in accomplishing these objectives."
Specifically, the ten steps were:
1. More effective location of deserting parents -- through the establishment of a special unit in state Public Assistance agencies to be responsible for locating deserting parents of children receiving aid. Its principal objectives will be "to reunite families whenever feasible and to obtain financial support."
2. Administrative actions to reduce and control fraud. Noting that the proportion of ineligible persons who recieve assistance is not more than 1.5%, the Secretary pointed out that willful misrepresentation accounts for a still smaller fraction of the rolls. Nevertheless concrete actions were outlined to identify instances of fraud and prevent their recurrence.
3. Allowing children to conserve income for education and employment. Secretary Ribicoff observed that existing policies permit an eligible dependent child having income to use it to meet stipulated current needs, but ordered changes permitting the states also to exempt income to meet "appropriate future needs" -- such as those for education, medical services and preparation for employment.
4. Safeguarding the children in families of unmarried parents -- through a series of special welfare services centering around additional home visits and intensive casework assistance.
5. Safeguarding children in families in which the father has deserted -- mainly through similar specialized attention and services.
6. Safeguarding children in hazardous home situations through "preventive and protective services" aimed at reducing threats to the physical and moral development of children. "These families may have special problems such as money mismanagement, or may have home conditions or conduct by the parents that is likely to result in inadequate protection or neglect of the children. Such families should be made a third group subject to the same standards of intensive casework service, using the best available personnel, that are established for the families whose problems arise from unmarried parents or desertion," the Secretary stated.
7. Improvement of state staff training and development programs. Pointing to "an alarming shortage" of trained personnel in welfare posts, Secretary Ribicoff called on the states to develop staff training programs with federal financial assistance which will include both in-service training and opportunities for professional and technical education.
8. Developing services to families. Announcing that "the name of the Bureau of Public Assistance shall be changed to the Bureau of Family Services," the Secretary declared that "too much emphasis has been placed on just getting an assistance check into the hands of an individual ... we must come to recognize that our efforts must involve a variety of helpful services, of which giving a money payment is only one, and also that the object of our efforts must be the entire family."
9. Encouraging states and localities to provide more effective family welfare services -- mainly through the creation within the newly designated Bureau of Family Services of a division to be called the Division of Welfare Services, with the responsibility generally of working toward the "prevention and alleviation of dependency among aged, blind, and disabled persons." The new division will absorb the functions of the former Division of Program Standards and Development, the Secretary said.
10. Coordination of family and community welfare services. The Secretary announced in this connection the establishment of a new position of Assistant Commissioner in the Social Security Administration, concerned with directing the coordination of programs and the efforts of community organizations in the welfare field.
In a memorandum of January 5 to Senator Harry F. Byrd, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Secretary Ribicoff outlined a set of nine legislative proposals which he said would later be formally presented to Congress. They were:
1. "Provide for federal financial participation in community work-training programs with adequate safeguards to protect the health and safety of the individual and to encourage the re-employment, re-training, and conservation of skills of employable persons on the aid to dependent children program."
2. "Provide for permitting the states to make protective payments to a very limited number of individuals where the individual is having difficulty in satisfactorily managing funds. Such protective payments could only be made to some individual who had a direct interest in the welfare of the recipient such as relative, neighbor, friend, or person in a private or public welfare agency."
3. "Authorize additional federal funds to give the states an incentive to provide services to rehabilitate persons on welfare and to provide preventive services to those who might otherwise come on the welfare rolls."
4. "Provide for increasing federal funds for child welfare services including specific authorization for day care of children of working mothers . . . [and requiring the states] to extend their child welfare services to all children in need of such services in the state."
5. "Provide for extending on a permanent basis the provisions of the temporary law making available federal funds for (a) children of unemployed fathers, (b) foster family care where the child has been removed from the home, and (c) increase of $1 in the federal financial care of the aged, blind and disabled."
6. "Provide for the first time federal financial participation in the assistance costs meeting the needs of both parents of the needy child."
7. "Provide that the existing authority for 100% federal funds for the training of employees be directed to providing services to children in the aid to dependent children program and the child welfare program."
8. "Establish an optional new single category for the aged, blind, and disabled and for medical assistance for the aged which may be substituted by any state for the three present programs under the existing law."
9. "Provide for a number of other technical and administrative changes which are designed to emphasize rehabilitation and service to welfare recipients."
In concluding his memorandum, Secretary Ribicoff declared that the legislative proposals he had outlined "can reorient the whole approach to welfare from an eligibility operation to one in which the emphasis is on rehabilitation of those on welfare and prevention ahead of time. . . I believe this is the time to take leadership in making what will be a tremendous improvement in our welfare programs which will greatly help to strengthen family life and prevent continued dependency of many families."
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By the time of the President's State of the Union address in January -- as the preceding articles serve to demonstrate -- certain of the broad lines of the Kennedy Administration's new welfare policy had begun to be apparent, The forthcoming program will "stress," as the President put it, "services instead of support, rehabilitation instead of relief, and training for useful work instead of prolonged dependency,"
Much of the substance of this broad directive -- as implemented in the Ad Hoc Committee and Wyman reports, and still more authoritatively in the pronouncements of Secretary Ribicoff -- would appear to be affirmative and un-exceptionable. Few individuals on either end of the administrative chain of welfare aid are likely to oppose an emphasis (if that is what it is to be) upon vocational rehabilitation and training, or a corresponding de-emphasis of prolonged dependency and static relief measures.
Insofar as the new welfare policy leads to practical translation of the high goals of self-support and self-care promised under the 1956 Social Security Amendments (but never yet delivered), it deserves the vigorous support and encouragement of all who are genuinely concerned with the improvement of the welfare system. That this may indeed become one dimension of the New Frontier in welfare is suggested by the introductory statement of Mr.Wyman's quasi-official report to the Secretary of HEW: "The time is ripe for positive action to put into effect the fine principles of the 1956 Social Security Act Amendments to help needy people maintain and strengthen family life, to attain self-care and to achieve self-support. These principles are accepted as the guide for the Department's public welfare program. But they have never been put into full effect because clear public understanding and support is lacking."
More specifically the apparent emphasis of the Administration upon rehabilitation and economic independence will take on definite and progressive meaning if it moves in another direction also advocated by the Wyman report: that of providing "incentives for employment" to recipients of public assistance by extending to other categories the principle of exempt earnings which has been so successfully pioneered in Aid to the Blind. Mr.Wyman's words on this subject deserve to be underlined:
"One of the deterrents for public assistance recipients to accept employment is the interpretation of the law that 'all income and resources must be taken into consideration' in determining the grant of assistance. It is human nature for people to expect to receive some benefit from their work effort. If they receive no net gain as compared to sitting at home, they will do the latter."
And that, the Wyman report indicates, is exactly what has happened; the penalizing of earned income under this requirement plainly discourages recipients of aid from taking the initiative in efforts to reduce their dependency. "For a long time the Department construed the law very narrowly because it didn't wish to encourage a pension program in public assistance. Later regulations allowed an employed recipient the cost of transportation expenses, union dues, uniforms, etc., in computing his grant, but since these are out-of-pocket expenses anyway there is no net gain to the individual," the report points out.
The recommendation of the Wyman report refers specifically to ADC recipients, but it may well serve to reinforce the "incentive" principle wherever the paramount welfare objective of self-support is applicable: "Therefore, as an incentive to recipients to seek employment the Department should change its regulations to permit mothers who have appropriate child care facilities available, and adolescent youth particularly, to retain a part or all of their net earnings for future identifiable needs. These needs include school clothing, books or tuition, better quality clothing for office employment, cosmetics and other aids to appearance in seeking better jobs, etc.," the report proposes. "These changes in regulations should be disseminated widely in order to encourage recipients to take employment and for better public understanding of the purposes and objectives of the program."
This express recognition of the positive role of "incentives," in the form of realistic exemptions of earned income, is potentially a step forward. But it is to be noted that the income allowances referred to by the Wyman report -- and now incorporated in the administrative program changes ordered by Secretary Ribicoff -- are pinpointed "for future identifiable needs," rather than for the improvement of current conditions, however pressing. And it is, of course, in the immediate present, in the ongoing effort to raise one's living standards and better one's circumstances, that "incentives" have their most direct reference. Yet neither present regulations nor those anticipated under the Ribicoff plan permit recipients to meet without penalty those of their current needs that are not remunerated by the aid grant.
Moreover, even to provide for future contingencies requires the possibility of accumulating resources; but at this point recipients of welfare aid find themselves frustrated by the arbitrary limitations of personal property and resources universally imposed under the program. For the incentive principle underlying exempt earnings to become a meaningful reality, therefore, the states must take action to liberalize their unrealistic restrictions on the retention of personal property; and at the same time the federal administration must make clear the genuineness of its own conversion to the principle of incentive exemptions of earnings -- toward which, unfortunately, it has shown a notable lack of enthusiasm ever since Congress approved the principle over its strenuous opposition more than a decade ago.
While this anticipated move of the Kennedy Administration's new welfare policy is generally a constructive one, another of the President's terse phrases is (at least in the absence of explicit definition) both less clear and less promising. That is the phrase which expresses his preference for "services instead of support." At bottom, of course, financial support to the needy is itself a service, often the moat appropriate service of all. What is ambiguous and worrisome about this phrase of the President's is the implied suggestion that "non-supportive" or non-economic services may be expected to supplant the traditional economic basis of public assistance (and conceivably of vocational rehabilitation as well).
The operative word in the President's message is "stress." No one is likely to oppose an emphasis upon "rehabilitation instead of relief," nor even perhaps a less happy emphasis upon "services instead of support." But if what is intended by the word "stress" is not simply an indication of top priorities and preferred goals but the active elimination or rejection of the stated alternatives, then there is cause for concern. For a certain measure of "relief" surely remains an indispensable (if residual) ingredient of public assistance for those whose economic need is urgent and whose condition is irreparable. And a more substantial measure of "support" remains, for a but as a wholly positive and desirable expression of that "social standard" so well described by the Wickenden report -- i.e., the minimum guarantee of security and health which a a responsible society is able and willing to provide for all its members.
It may be hoped that the Kennedy Administration will not continue to stress "services," or anything else, "instead of support" -- but that it will place its emphasis rather upon constructive forms of support instead of short-sighted policies inadequate or destructive of that purpose. All this renewed emphasis upon services, which so pervades the official and quasi-official pronouncements summarized above, has other dubious features as well. The kinds of services which seem generally to be contemplated -- mainly those associated with individualized casework such as diagnosis, counseling, adjustment, and the like -- have undeniable merit in certain places and certain programs. But their merit is not universal and rarely paramount. The stubborn fact which no amount of professional sophistication can push aside is that the overriding deprivation faced by many recipients of public assistance is neither psychological nor physical but economic and sociological . Specifically, it results from absence of employment and of opportunity for employment. Nor is there anything novel in this situation. "In the early days of World War II," as David S. French has pointed out, "social workers saw persons whom they had not been able to help through individualized casework services suddenly become self-directing, self-supporting individuals. The reason was simple. They were wanted in the economy."
No less plainly, many of those whom it is now proposed to help through individualized casework services suffer from an identical pestilence: they are not wanted in the economy. Particularly is this true of those minority-group members who comprise the bulk of the caseload in such programs as ADC (where, paradoxically, the push for "services" is most adamant). Their need is dominantly and unmistakably for jobs, and for the opportunities and skills which will open the gates of employment to them. Their need for other services -- however individualized, professionalized, or sympathetic -- is entirely incidental and minimal.
Indeed, it is not too much to say that the conventional services of casework, misapplied to such instances of hard physical and economic want, may often be negative and even actively destructive in their effect. What is the relevance of orientation" and "adjustment" services for, say, the Negro father who cannot find work? Is it to teach him resignation and polite submission to a nomadic second-class destiny? And what of the young blind person who finds himself the victim of a similar, if less conspicuous, discrimination? Is he to be "oriented" to an acceptance of the sheltered workshop as his predestined fate?
This is not, let it be plainly stated, in any sense an "attack" upon the established concept of casework services, the values of which are immense and permanent. It is intended rather as a caution against uncritical acceptance of the retrogressive dogma which lurks behind such glib expressions as that of "services instead of support." For if there is much to be said for services, in their proper place and perspective, there is no less to be said for support in its own rightful place -- more precisely, for those constructive forms of economic support which stimulate and pave the way to ultimate self-support.
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At the request of many who had participated in the first Conference on Exchange of Ideas and Techniques for Blind Teachers and Student Teachers (see THE BLIND AMERICAN, May 1961), a second day-long conference was convened in Los Angeles on December 2 under auspices of the University of Southern California's School of Education.
General Manager of the teachers' conference was Jack Swanson, a teacher at Hawthorne (California) Intermediate School. Co-chairmen for the morning and afternoon sessions were Dr. Isabelle L. D. Grant, famed blind educator who teaches at Washington Irving Junior High School in Los Angeles, and Miss Onvia Ticer, a teacher in the Grant Elementary School, San Lorenzo, California.
The opening speech of the conference was delivered by Dr. Wendell E. Cannon, director of teacher education at U.S.C., who emphasized his university's policy of considering only the individual applicant, his abilities and suitability for his profession, rather than the condition of blindness.
Delivering the keynote address, Dr. Grant pointed out that the purpose of the conference was not to delve into teaching methodology but to present a forum for the exchange of ideas and techniques which experienced blind teachers in the field had found practical and helpful over the years. Through such exchange and communication it was hoped that all teachers might gain confidence in themselves as well as improve the efficiency of their instruction, Dr. Grant said.
"Practical Techniques in Classroom Management" was the subject of Miss Ticer's presentation as leader of the morning discussion meeting. The handling of children both individually and in groups, playground management, the use of chalkboard and bulletin board, and cafeteria duties were among the topics covered by the San Lorenzo teacher, who gave particular stress to the importance of preparation and organization in assuring the smooth operation of any classroom.
Miss Ticer introduced the gathering to Ben Sanamatsu, a San Jose resource teacher, who demonstrated various techniques in the teaching of geometry and penmanship, emphasizing the need for mastery of the latter skill by every blind instructor. An introduction to the group's discussion of "Aspects of Individual and Group Discipline" was presented by Don Erickson, sixth-grade teacher of Costa Mesa, California, who was unable to attend the conference but submitted a tape recording of his talk. Noting that the task of classroom discipline is part and parcel of the teacher's preparation and his close attention to detail in every class procedure, Mr. Erickson drew the conclusion that blindness by itself is not a decisive factor in the maintenance of class discipline.
Robert Acosta, a young teacher currently in training at Los Angeles State College, gave the conferees his impressions of "Problems in Practice Teaching." A related topic, "Problems of a Beginning Teacher," was informatively treated by Miss Carol Hardacre, a novice teacher of second-grade classes in La Puente, California.
Main speaker during the afternoon session of the conference was Richard Haley, director of teacher services for the California Teachers' Association (southern section), who focused his talk upon legal aspects of the employment problem faoed by blind teachers. He pointed out that blind teachers, like all others, are eligible for workmen's compensation coverage and that in cases of classroom accidents the fact of a teacher's blindness cannot by itself be construed as "negligence." Mr. Haley's address was followed by lengthy discussion centering on the wide-spread practice of discrimination against blind teaching applicants by local school boards. Declaring that the authority of such boards to make their own rules and regulations is governed by consistency with state laws (which in California contain no requirement of visual acuity for receiving a teaching credential), Mr. Haley voiced confidence that the mounting success of blind teachers already on the job would eventually be sufficient to end local discriminatory practices.
Implementing Mr. Haley's legal approach was a talk by a young San Rafael (California) high-school teacher, Arturo Baca, who analyzed his own year-long experience of "Interviews and Applications" -- and frustrations -- culminating in final success through the assistance of the University of California teacher placement service. He counselled young applicants against displaying attitudes of immaturity or over-aggressiveness, pointing out that interviewers are practical persons who genuinely desire to know how a blind teacher plans to go about his job.
Dr. Grant, in a report on "The Blind Teacher in the Teaching Profession -- a National Viewpoint," discussed recent developments across the oountry with particular reference to newly published studies on blind teachers in the public schools.
Present at the conference, in addition to the 61 participating teachers and students, were representatives from the American Brotherhood for the Blind and the California Council of the Blind, along with numbers of rehabilitation officers, social workers and administrators. A full account of the conference proceedings may be obtained by readers of THE BLIND AMERICAN upon application to Dr. Isabelle Grant, 851 West 40th Place, Los Angeles 37; or to Miss Onvia Ticer, 63 Dutton Avenue, San Leandro, California.
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By Donald C. Capps
(Editor's note: Mr. Capps is second vice president of the National Federation of the Blind and past president of the South Carolina Aurora Club of the Blind, a state affiliate of the NFB.)
The South Carolina Aurora Club of the Blind, Inc., is proud to announce the inauguration this month of the state's first PBX braille switchboard training program. The bold new venture has been made possible through the cooperation and assistance of the Columbia Council of the Telephone Pioneers of America, together with the Columbia chapter of the Aurora Club. With facilities located at the Columbia chapter's new $30,000 Center, the switchboard training program will be under the direction of Miss Lois Bolton, the state's first PBX braille switchboard operator and presently its only one.
Many readers will recall "the Lois Bolton Story" -- relating how Miss Bolton with the help of the Aurora Club received training at the Minneapolis Society for the Blind, subsequently found employment at Kohn's and Company in Columbia, and has since been hailed by her employer as the best switchboard operator his firm has ever had.
A few months ago, when the new center of the Columbia chapter was approaching completion, contacts were made with the telephone company concerning the possible installation of a braille switchboard in the center. It soon turned out, however, that the financial cost of installation and rental of this elaborate equipment would be prohibitive. At that point our club approached the Columbia Council of the Telephone Pioneers of America -- an organization well-known for its interest in various endeavors of the blind. In view of the special character of the Telephone Pioneers, we felt that a braille switchboard project might well be found pertinent to their concerns. Our thinking proved entirely correct, as this fine organization of telephone employees with its background of more than 20 years' service immediately demonstrated keen interest in the new program. A few weeks ago we were advised by the Pioneers' President, J. W. Harris, that the group had unanimously voted to finance our braille switchboard training program -- including not only its installation but also rental and maintenance of the switchboard. Jubilation reigned supreme in the Aurora Club -- and still does.
As evidence of the excellent opportunities this type of training affords to blind persons, it may be noted that Kenneth Jernigan, former NFB vice-president who is director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind, has successfully placed no less than six blind persons within two years as braille switchboard operators. We believe that the potential opportunities in our own state are no less than those of Iowa. Under the skilled direction of Miss Bolton, the Aurora Club looks forward to an ever-expanding program of training and employment in this promising new line of enterprise for the blind.
"The rung of a ladder," as someone has said, "was never meant to rest upon, but only to hold a man's foot long enough to put the other a little higher."
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Blind Strikers Sign Up with AFL-CIO. Blind sheltered workshop employees of the St. Louis (Mo.) Lighthouse, on strike for improved wage and working conditions, recently turned to organized labor for help in their campaign, according to a news report in the St. Louis POST-DISPATCH (November 26, 1961). About 75 of the Lighthouse workers were said to have joined the International Leather Goods, Plastics and Novelty Workers' Union of the AFL-CIO.
The blind workers' strike was the outcome of long and futile efforts by employees to gain the ear of Lighthouse officials for their petitions, the newspaper indicated. "A Shops Progress Committee, established three years ago to represent the employees before the Lighthouse board of directors, has had little success in obtaining better working conditions or settling matters of job security and wage rates in discussion," according to a spokesman for the sheltered workers.
Lighthouse employees were said to have sought the help of the leather-workers union after a blind worker in the shop was discharged for refusing to work overtime. Subsequent efforts by the union to gain approval for a union election in the Lighthouse, however, were turned down by the National Labor Relations Board.
Wesley Johnson, president of the Lighthouse board, reportedly said the board had decided it cannot enter into a collective bargaining agreement with a union because the board is "not empowered, as a non-profit corporation, to delegate any responsibility for operation of the agency. To recognize the union would not accomplish a thing except to take money out of the workers' pockets for union dues," the official stated.
Are there still any who would like to argue that "no one is opposed" to the right of blind people to organize?
"Riesel Named to President's Committee". Victor Rlesel, widely syndicated newspaper columnist who was blinded five years ago by an acid-hurling assailant, was recently appointed by President Kennedy as vice-chairman of the President's National Committee on Employment of the Physically Handicapped. Riesel, whose New York- based columns focus upon exposures of alleged labor racketeering practices, will serve under the continuing chairmanship of General Melvin M. Maas.
"New Policy on Recordings". Reprinted from the NEWSLETTER of Recording for the Blind, Inc.: "With some 16,000 blind students in the elementary and secondary schools this year -- a number expected to increase to over 17,000 next year -- it is obvious that the demand for recorded textbooks is increasing to a point where no one organization can possibly handle it all. The Executive Committee of Recording for the Blind has therefore recommended that after this winter we should limit our service to what we can do efficiently and well -- that we should offer primarily a quality program in higher education -- for high school students preparing for college, for blind college students and for blind adults in education or professional training. Therefore we shall discontinue recording books for grade school use. The only exception to this will be our recording of books for blind children in the Connecticut public schools, which we shall continue under special arrangement with the Connecticut State Board of the Blind."
"Survey of Blind Technical Aids". An international survey and analysis of technical devices designed for the education, rehabilitation and personal aid of blind persons has recently been begun by the American Foundation for the Blind as a result of urging by the World Council for the Welfare of the Blind and the American Foundation for Overseas Blind.
Planned to culminate In an international conference on technical devices this coming spring, the global survey of "success and failure in efforts to alleviate the effects of blindness upon an individual" is said by the AFB to arise from the pressing need for an efficient system of "international exchange and cooperation" in the field of technical aids.
The project reportedly has been made possible through grants from the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, the Irene Heinz Given and John LaPorte Given Foundation, the Howe Press of Perkins School for the Blind, and the Gustavus and Louise Pfeiffer Researoh Foundation, Inc.
What about $100 Bills? A new device said to be capable of identifying the denomination of bills up to $20 -- thus hopefully freeing blind merchants from dependence upon the honesty of their customers -- has been perfected by a Texas inventor, according to an item in LISTEN. Produced by Surber Electronics Corporation of Wichita Falls, Texas, the "Surber Teller" reportedly fits on desk or counter and is simple to manipulate. After the operator wraps the bill around a special plate, inserts the plate in a machine and twists a knob, he holds four fingers over a set of four plunger buttons. If the number one button pops up, the bill is a $1; number two button means a $2 bill, number three $5, and number four $10. If all four buttons pop up, the inventor promises, the bill is a twenty.
Blind Rehab Training Program. America's Second college program designed to prepare graduate students for employment in the rehabilitation of the blind and visually impaired was inaugurated last fall at Western Michigan University in affiliation with the Veterans Administration hospital at Hines, Illinois, according to a report in the BVA BULLETIN (Publication of the Blinded Veterans Association). The first such program was instituted at Boston College a year earlier.
Operating under a grant from the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, the Western Michigan VA program expects to accommodate 12 graduate students per year in two semesters of studies, followed by a semester in clinical training at the rehabilitation center of the Hines VA hospital. On completion of their training students will receive master's degrees as physical orientation and mobility specialists for the blind.
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