The National Federation of the Blind is not an organization speaking for the blind—it is the blind speaking for themselves.

Printed at 2652 Shasta Road, Berkeley, California 94708

MARCH 1969


Published monthly in braille and distributed free to the blind by the National Federation of the Blind. President: Kenneth Jernigan, 524 Fourth Street, Des Moines, Iowa, 50309.

Inkprint edition produced and distributed by the National Federation of the Blind.

EDITOR: Perry Sundquist, 4651 Mead Avenue, Sacramento, California, 95822. Associate Editor: Hazel tenBroek, 2652 Shasta Road, Berkeley, California, 94708.

News items should be sent to the Editor.

Address changes should be sent to 2652 Shasta Road, Berkeley, California, 94708.


If you or a friend wish to remember the National Federation of the Blind in your will, you can do so by employing the following language:

"I give, devise, and bequeath unto NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND, a District of Columbia non-profit corporation, the sum of $_______ (or, _____" percent of my net estate", or "the following stocks and bonds:_________") to be used for its worthy purposes on behalf of blind persons and to be held and administered by direction of its Executive Committee."

If your wishes are more complex, you may have your attorney communicate with the Berkeley Office for other suggested forms.


by Kenneth Jernigan


by James Gashel

by Florence Grannis

by John Nagle

by Manuel Urena

by Charles G. Bennett


by Anthony G. Mannino




by John Bermingham




by Pamela Buckler

by Esaakiy Litvinoff




by Dean Huber


by Evelyn De Wolfe





Preview: The NFB in the 91st Congress
by Kenneth Jernigan

At the recent meeting of the NFB Executive Committee held over the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend, the Federation's Legislative Program in the 91st Congress was developed.

Acting in furtherance of convention-adopted resolutions, long-established policies, and consistently and constantly pursued organized blind objectives, the following decisions were reached:

1. We will make an all-out effort to secure Congressional approval of the two remaining provisions of our disability insurance for the blind bill, which would reduce from twenty to six the number of required quarters worked under Social Security to establish eligibility, and which would allow continuing receipt of disability payments so long as blindness continues and irrespective of earnings.

2. We will again sponsor legislative proposals to amend title X, the aid to the blind title of the Social Security Act, i.e., abolition of liens, limited relatives responsibility, minimum presumed need, and other proposals already well known to all Federationists and all directed toward the improvement and liberalization of the Federally supported state programs of Aid to the Needy Blind.

3. But we will also offer a new title X amending measure to establish a guaranteed minimum income for recipients of Aid to the Blind—as a different approach to assure adequacy of blind aid grants.

4. We will continue our efforts to persuade Congress to extend Medicare to include Disability Insurance Beneficiaries.

5. We will also offer a bill to exempt Social Security payments from consideration as an available resource when a Social Security beneficiary also receives Aid to the Blind—thus putting an end to the unhappy experience, so many times repeated, of an increase in social security payments meaning a proportionate decrease in blind aid grants, leaving the needy blind persons, just as needy as before.

6. In the 91st Congress, the Federation will resume its against-odds struggle to improve the lot of handicapped workers in sheltered workshops by offering two bills:

7. We will introduce a measure to prohibit discrimination in employment by reason of a physical disability—and in this bill, we will seek to outlaw not only job discrimination, but we will also try to outlaw discrimination in housing, transportation, and in the use of public facilities.

8. The National Federation of the Blind will also attack discrimination by the offering of amendments and the presentation of supporting testimony when hearings are held on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (employment of blind teachers), the Higher Education Act (to assure blind persons the opportunity to pursue graduate studies), the Federal Housing Act (to make federal housing and other federally financed residental structures available to occupancy by blind persons with or without guide dogs), and similar legislation.

9. The Federation will work for passage of a bill to amend, strengthen, and improve the Randolph-Sheppard Vending Stand Act, this bill to be developed, by organizations of and for the blind, or failing to get agreement on such a bill, then to be drafted and supported by the NFB alone.

This, briefly, is the Legislative Program of the National Federation of the Blind to be offered and supported in the 91st Congress.

And as our bills are introduced, as hearings on them are conducted, you will be advised of the progress we are making.

Back to Contents


In its 1968 Report to the Governor, the Iowa Commission for the Blind sketches a decade of stimulating progress. Highlights of that ten-year period include the study in 1957 which revealed that Iowa had the worst program for the blind in the nation. There were few jobs and little training. In fact, the Iowa Commission itself reported to the Executive Council of Iowa in 1958: "Presently the Commission is accomplishing virtually nothing. Blind persons in the state are receiving almost no service. If the present situation can not be improved, the state would do better to spend its money on some more productive program for it is largely wasting what it is spending on the Commission for the Blind now."

In 1958 a new Director of the Commission was selected, goals were set, and the public aroused. In 1959 the Iowa Legislature and the Executive Branch supported the new Commission effort. A training program was established. In 1960 a headquarters building in Des Moines was secured; a library for the blind established, and the new Director received a National Award for pioneering effort. In 1961 the headquarters building and training center was fully occupied and in use. Employment of the blind was up by 350 percent. In 1962 the build-up in training began to pay off with even more varied jobs—secretaries, farmers, and machinists. In 1963 the Legislature continued its strong support of the Commission effort and approved reorganization of the Commission's Board. In 1964 world recognition was accorded this pioneering effort when representatives of twelve foreign countries came to study the program in Iowa as a model. The phone company hired its first blind person. In 1965 South Carolina was the first state to remodel fully its program for the blind on the Iowa pattern. In 1966 an Iowan was the first blind electrical engineer. The employment of the blind was up 550 percent. The 500,000th book was sent out by the library of the Commission. In 1967 Idaho adopted the Iowa model blind program. The Iowa library for the blind became the world's largest. The Commission Director received the American Library Association Award. Finally, in 1968 there was a record number of blind persons working, employment being up 750 percent and a record low in Aid to the Blind welfare recipients. The Commission Director received a Special Citation from the President of the United States and was elected President of the National Federation of the Blind.

To provide resources, proper training, and job placement-these are the aims of the Iowa Commission for the Blind. The blind of Iowa want to be and can be full, productive citizens. The last ten years not only prove this but point to an even brighter decade ahead—where hope supplants despair, training replaces idleness, and successful work removes unwanted dependency.

Thus briefly is told the story of ten short years—a decade of employment. Where in 1958 the blind of Iowa, for the most part, sat at home, crippled by apathy and poverty and with despair closer to their lives than hope—in 1968, after a decade of employment, hundreds of blind Iowans are working and supporting themselves, with additional hundreds in training and soon to be rehabilitated into employment.

This story of remarkable achievement by the Iowa Commission for the Blind points up what can be done through vigorous, bold and imaginative leadership. The blind of Iowa lead the way for all to follow who will.

Back to Contents


by James Gashel
President, NFB Student Division

Plan now to attend the Student Seminar at the NFB Convention in South Carolina! All Federationists are welcomed, but blind college students are especially encouraged to attend. Those who attended last year's Seminar will testify that the meetings and activities were stimulating, and certainly the results in terms of newly formed student chapters bear this out. These seminars are a vital part of the stimulation and continuation of the blind student movement, so make your plans to attend; we strongly urge representation from each NFB state affiliate! The Seminar will be Saturday, July fifth.

As for the content of this year's Seminar we have decided to elicit your suggestions. We hope that this will increase participation and interest in the discussions. For most of us the organized blind movement in the area of student affairs is quite new, and as a result many questions arise about organizing, about projects, about techniques used by blind students, about relations with agencies, and the list is almost endless. In these seminar meetings we can bring our collective thinking to bear on these questions and arrive at some reliable answers. Also, many of you have developed excellent ideas on student matters, and you may want to share them with the rest of us. To meet both of these objectives in the best way possible we are asking you to submit your suggestions for discussion topics. These may be quite specific topics for small groups or more general ones for a meeting of all who attend. If you have recommendations for discussion leaders, panel members, or individual speakers, we will be happy to receive them. All suggestions, recommendations, or comments about this year's Student Seminar should be sent to James Gashel, 2303 Olive Street, Cedar Falls, Iowa 50613. Since it is necessary to finalize the Seminar plans and publicize its activities, we will need to have all suggestions by April first, so act now—make this Student Seminar even better than last year's!

Back to Contents


by Florence Grannis*

NOTE: In the following article the extension of the free mailing privilege adopted by the 90th Congress [Part 138, Postal Manual, Title 39, United States Code 4653] is only dealt with as it concerns the use of the mails by blind persons or for their benefit. However, the 90th Congress included in the free mail provisions of the postal rate law persons who cannot use or read conventionally printed matter because of a physical impairment and that which is said about the use of the mail by or for the blind also applies to this other category of disabled persons.
When the 90th Congress revised the postal rates the same public law contained provisions which greatly broadened the free mailing privilege available to the blind. Since there seems to be considerable misunderstanding as to what letters may be sent postage free, and who may send such letters without postage, as to what other matter may be mailed postage free, by whom and to whom, the types of matter covered and how large or how heavy the packages of such matter can be, we call the following to your attention.

Unsealed letters in Braille, large print**, on tape or disk may be mailed by blind people to anybody postage free! The "free letters" authorization is only available to blind people themselves, but it may be used by them when writing to other blind people, to sighted people, to organizations, when they write to anybody, but all such stampless letters must be unsealed and they must be written in Braille, large print, or on disk or tape. Letters written by sighted people to blind people must bear postage even though such letters are written in Braille, in large print, or on disk or tape. If a letter is sealed it must bear postage even though it is written by a blind person in Braille, large print or on disk or tape. The postage free letters for the blind provisions of the postal rate laws do not apply when a blind person writes a letter on a standard typewriter or writes a letter in any form other than Braille, large print, or on disk or tape. Additional matter specified in the postal rates amending statute may be sent through the mail stamp free if it is marked "For The Use of the Blind". Under this provision, the described matter may be sent to and received by blind people, sighted people, agencies, organizations—in short, anybody may send to anybody—the only test is whether the matter is intended "For The Use Of The Blind", and whether it is of the kind approved in the statute.

The following items are mailable free so long as "no charge or rental subscription or other fee is required for such matter or a charge or rental subscription or other fee not in excess of the cost thereof”:

1. Reading matter and musical scores.

2. Sound reproductions (tapes or disks).

3. Paper, records, tapes or other materials for the production of reading matter, musical scores or sound reproductions.

4. Reproducers or parts thereof for sound reproductions (tape recorders, talking book machines).

5. Braille writers, typewriters, educational or other materials or devices or parts thereof used for writing by or specifically designed or adapted for use of blind persons.

The size and weight limitations which apply to the above listed matter intended "For The Use Of The Blind" and mailed postage free are 70 pounds in weight and 100 inches in length and girth combined. Thus, a kitchen stove which is excluded from the mail because of its size and weight cannot be shipped postage free through the mail as matter intended "For The Use Of The Blind" simply because raised dots have been placed on control dials to facilitate the stove's use by a blind housewife.

The postal rates statute further provides that matter which is sent through the mail postage free under the special "blind" provisions must show the words "Free Matter For The Blind or Handicapped" in the upper right-hand corner of the address side.


Who can mail free?

    1. Blind individuals.
    2. Institutions, agencies, organizations, or associations and publishers mailing to blind individuals or to transcribers.

What can be mailed free?

    1. Unsealed letters.
    2. Books.
    3. Pamphlets, magazines (subscription charges, if any, may not exceed the cost of producing the material), or other materials.
    4. Musical scores.

NOTE: The four above items must be in Braille, large print, or on disk or tape.

    5. Paper, records, tapes, or other material for the production of reading matter, musical scores or sound reproduction.
    6. Reproducers (talking book machines and tape recorders) or parts for them.
    7. Braille writers, typewriters, educational or other materials or devices or parts thereof used for writing by or specifically designed or adapted for the use of a blind person.

NOTE: These materials or devices must be related to reading or writing. Such items as canes, Braille clocks, etc. are not included.

What conditions must be met?

1. Except letters which must be sent unsealed, the items must be such as can be readily opened for postal inspection.
2. There must be no profit to the person sending the material.
3. There must be no advertising.
4. The weight of such materials must not exceed 70 pounds and the combined length and girth must not exceed 100 inches.
5. Materials sent must contain the words "Free Matter For The Blind or Handicapped" in the upper right-hand corner of the address side.


Q. Can the postage free items be mailed by a blind person to another blind person?

A. Yes, if the letters are unsealed and parcels are such as can be readily opened for postal inspection.

Q. Can the postage free items be mailed by a blind person to a sighted person?

A. Yes, if the letters are unsealed and parcels are such as can be readily opened for postal inspection.

Q. I understand when a letter is unsealed, but when is a parcel, for instance a carton containing tapes, such as can be readily opened for postal inspection?

A. A parcel containing tapes is considered to be such as can be readily opened for postal inspection when it is wrapped with paper and string, no staples, metal bands, or screws (in the case of wooden boxes), and no scotch tape or other adhesive sealing the ends of the paper, so that it may be opened for postal inspection without damage to the outside wrappings.

Q. Can a three-inch letter tape be sent in a box with flaps?

A. Yes; although as stated above, parcels do not have to be unfastened which a box such as you describe would be. For the security of the material contained in the box, the flap should be tucked in, at least, or the package bound with string.

Q. About equipment for the blind. Suppose I wanted to send my sister a regular typewriter. Can I send it free of postage fees?

A. If it is adapted for the use of the blind or used by a blind person. In other words, the use function is the controlling factor. (Your sister, of course, would have to be blind, also.)

Q. Can aids and devices such as rulers marked with Braille, specially adapted sewing aids, adapted cooking aids, etc. be mailed free?

A. No, the aids and devices which can be mailed free must relate to reading and writing.

Q. Can musical records be mailed free?

A. No, only spoken records.

The good will between the blind person or agency and the post office and/or postman is a very important factor. If any blind or physically handicapped person encounters a problem in mailing or receiving mail, the matter should be taken up with the local postmaster. Blind persons will find that postmasters are invariably considerate of their needs.

* Mrs. Grannis is Assistant Director in Charge of Library and Social Services for the Blind, Iowa Commission for the Blind, Des Moines, Iowa.

**An opinion of the United State Post Office Department defines large print or large type as 14 point or larger.

Back to Contents


by John Nagle

The national elections have come and gone again! And the result—two long-time Congressional figures who contributed much to the success of our Federation endeavors in past Congresses will not be members of the 91st Congress. Congressman Thomas B. Curtis failed in his bid for a Senate seat from Missouri, and Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon was defeated for re-election. Each of these men will be greatly missed by the National Federation of the Blind, for each was a stalwart supporter of our cause; each was a staunch and vigorous proponent of our Congressional proposals.

Yes, the national elections have again come and gone! And the result—the 91st Congress will probably continue the conservative bent of the 90th Congress, and the new Senate will have more Republican members than the last one. But with twenty-eight years of experience of operating in Washington in furtherance of its national legislative goals, the NFB has found: Some of our most ardent supporters have been conservatives while some fire-brand liberals have failed to help our cause and have been indifferent to our efforts!

Over the years, the Congressional backing we have received has always been bi-partisan. It has always transcended ideological barriers. For example, no measure introduced in the United States Senate during the 90th Congress had among its backers a greater diversity of political opinion and economic and social philosophic conviction, than did S. 1681, our Disability Insurance for the Blind bill sponsored in the Senate by Senator Vance Hartke of Indiana, joined by 47 co-sponsoring Senatorial colleagues.

So the National Federation of the Blind will wait and see! We will not prejudge the coming Congress, nor the newly arriving Congressmen and Senators. We will wait and see, filled with hopeful expectancy. But just as we do not prejudge newly arriving Congressional members, we do judge long-time Congressional members, and we judge them on their record, we judge them on our experience of dealings with them!

And our judgment of Congressman Curtis and Senator Morse, is that they were good and kindly men, humane in their motivations, wise in their understandings, and generous in their strength and efforts with those they accepted as comrades, and with those whose fate they shared. We, Federationists, were comrades of Congressman Curtis and Senator Morse, and because these men believed in us, we gained a greater belief in ourselves. Because these men made our cause theirs, our cause achieved increased dignity and acceptability. And because these men worked so tirelessly with us, we worked with greater zeal ourselves. Congressman Thomas B. Curtis and Senator Wayne Morse will long be missed, but they will be remembered even longer.

Surely veteran Federation campaigners will never forget the frequently recurring extinction threat which haunted the continuance of the solely state-financed Pennsylvania and Missouri Aid to the Blind programs. Five separate times, Congressional reprieves of these programs were obtained by the National Federation of the Blind, and finally, permanent Congressional reprieve was enacted into Federal law. And it was Congressman Curtis who, recognizing the value of the Missouri and Pennsylvania pension programs as meritorious experiments and pioneering ventures, lead the battles in Congress after Congress to save these programs for the blind of Pennsylvania and Missouri, for the blind of the whole nation!

Extension of the earnings exemption as a rehabilitation mechanism in the Federal-State programs of Aid to the Blind; abolition of residence requirements in such programs; Federation measures to humanize and liberalize publicly-provided financial assistance to the needy blind; our Disability Insurance for the Blind bill—all of these and other Federation measures had the support of Congressman Tom Curtis. And the word "support" to this man, meant far more than introducing a bill, giving his name to a bill! It meant understanding the reasons for the changes the bill proposed to make in Federal law. It meant being present in a hearing when a Curtis-endorsed bill was to be considered. It meant arguing for the adoption of a Curtis-believed-in bill in Executive Sessions of the House Ways and Means Committee, in House-Senate Conferences on Social Security matters.

Congressman Thomas B. Curtis will not be a member of the 91st Congress, and the Federation will miss his courage in comradeship and the strength and forcefulness of his advocacy of our concerns.

An then there is Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon!

For twenty-four years, Senator Wayne Morse represented the State of Oregon in the United States Senate, and no member of the Senate has ever been more responsive to Federation requests for support, more appreciative of our goals, or more active in the furtherance of our Congressional proposals than was Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon.

Sponsor of the NFB-bill to secure minimum wage protection for handicapped workers in sheltered workshops, Senator Morse successfully steered this measure through Senate subcommittee and committee, and then, faced with the probability of total defeat on the Senate floor (the professionals and shop management had their spokesman, too, unfortunately!), Senator Morse reluctantly accepted a bill-diminishing compromise.

But even this Morse Minimum Wage for Sheltered Shop Workers compromise was one of the greatest legislative achievements of the organized blind in its long list of Congressional achievements!

For the first time in the century's long unhappy history of sheltered workshops, federal minimum wage statutory standards were at last applicable to the wages of handicapped workers in sheltered workshops! Because of the unfaltering support of Senator Morse—and much effort was expended to persuade him to abandon our minimum wage bill—because of his constancy and belief that handicapped workers, too, had a right to federal law protection of their wages, productive workers in sheltered workshops may not now be paid less than 50 percent of the prevailing Federal Hourly Minimum Wage!

Although Senator Morse was one of the busiest members of the United States Senate, he was not too busy to introduce a mandatory reporting and blind register for the District of Columbia bill in the Senate, and painstakingly guide this measure through the Congressional committee pitfalls to ultimate enactment as Federal law.

Always a willing sponsor and co-sponsor of NFB measures in the Senate, Senator Morse pledged his help when he gave his name—and this help was always forthcoming when it was most urgently needed.

Yes, the national elections have come and gone again, and Congressman Thomas B. Curtis and Senator Wayne Morse will be missing from the 91st Congress as a result. Fortunately for our prospects in the new Congress, however, many established Federation friends still remain to work with us toward the realization of our Congressional objectives.

But Tom Curtis and Wayne Morse will be greatly missed nor will they quickly be forgotten by the blind of the Federation, by the blind of the nation! For the consequences of their efforts for blind people have been benefits in the lives of blind people.

And the lives of blind people have been bettered because these two men understood that issues, small when compared with world-shaping affairs in our nuclear age, still, such issues may loom large in the every-day living of men and women disabled by blindness. Though Congressman Tom Curtis and Senator Wayne Morse were leaders and spokesmen for many national and international causes, and concerns, they were never too preoccuppied with such matters to withhold their thoughts and efforts and refuse their strength and support to help the blind in their uphill struggle to gain normal, self-dependent lives.

Back to Contents


by Manuel Urena

(For complete background information see BRAILLE MONITOR article by Manuel Urena, "The Blind and Insurance Discrimination", October, 1967, and the NFB publication, "Insurance Discrimination Against the Blind", by Dr. tenBroek.)

Several noteworthy developments have occurred in the area of insurance and the blind since the NFB 1967 convention at Los Angeles. Those who were present at that meeting will recall that the Federation had accumulated incontrovertible evidence to prove that insurance companies discriminated against the blind in almost every category of insurance. In order to eliminate such arbitrary practices the Federation attempted to obtain in Iowa an administrative ruling from the Insurance Commissioner. In Iowa he has the authority to make firms conducting business in the state cease and desist such activities unless adequate cause can be shown for doing otherwise. However, all efforts to bring about a change proved fruitless.

Additionally, in December, 1966, the Federation appeared before the Life Accident and Health committee of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners in Dallas, to present its case. Although approximately eight months had elapsed between the Dallas meeting and our convention in Los Angeles, it was felt by the insurance people that not enough time had passed to permit a thorough study of the problem. The organized blind wanting to demonstrate patience and reasonableness agreed to wait a little longer, and watch to see what impact, if any, would emerge from the presentation in Texas. Hearing nothing, we decided to move once again in April, 1968—a full nine months later.

The Federation contacted the Iowa Insurance Commissioner in order to obtain a clarification of the issues outstanding. Needless to say he counseled additional patience. When informed that the Iowa Association of the Blind wished to review the matter at its convention during the first week in June, he promised to have something definitive to report to the delegates. As the time drew near for the state meeting further communcations made it clear that little progress would be forthcoming. Because of these events the delegates attending the 1968 convention unanimously adopted a resolution. The text is as follows:

Resolution 68-01
Insurance Discrimination

Whereas, the Iowa Association of the Blind was organized to secure equal opportunities in every endeavor for the blind, and,
Whereas, for three years, the Iowa Association of the Blind has failed to persuade insurance firms to alter their present policy of issuing insurance on a discriminatory basis to the blind, and,
Whereas, the Iowa Association of the Blind has been carrying on fruitless negotiations with the office of the Insurance Commissioner of Iowa in an attempt to achieve the objective of fair insurance of the sightless of the state, and,
Whereas, the Insurance Commissioner has failed to move with all deliberate speed to rectify the prevailing situation, therefore,
LET IT BE RESOLVED by the Iowa Association of the Blind in convention assembled this 31st day of May, 1968, in Vinton, Iowa, that this association of sightless Iowans urges the State Commissioner of Insurance to move quickly in the direction of obtaining equal insurance for the blind, and that through the utilization of his discretionary power he make insurance firms doing business in the state show cause for discrimination against the blind, and,
LET IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED that the Iowa Association of the Blind authorizes the committee for insurance matters to institute, if necessary, legal proceedings, and secure a writ of mandate to make state insurance officials comply with the state and federal anti-discrimination statutes.

One newspaper published the significant portions of the resolution with the result that the Commissioner agreed to meet with a committee of the IAB. It is not clear what the ultimate achievement will be from that encounter, but it is evident that our voice has been heard.

Meanwhile, significant developments were occurring along another front. Every Federationist is fully aware of the reorganization in programs for the blind that took place in Iowa in 1958. By 1965, the vending stand program was reaching maturity. The relevance of the stand program with insurance difficulties may be gleaned from the following account.

Needing to find a comprehensive health and accident insurance plan for the vending stand managers, Commission personnel, together with the stand operators, consulted with many firms to determine what alternatives were available. In February, 1966, a contract was negotiated with Interstate Assurance Company which provided comparable health and accident benefits to the more commonly known plans. The purpose of this article is not to go into detail respecting the merits of the insurance scheme for the Iowa stand operators; rather it is to clearly show that blindness itself does not create additional insurance liabilities. Suffice it to say here that Interstate Assurance is completely convinced after almost three full years of administering a program, that the prevailing relationship—upheld by a vast majority of insurance firms—between blindness, accidents, frequency of other disabilities, and other insurance liabilities is unwarranted. Moreover, this firm is willing to back its stance with concrete steps.

The Interstate Assurance Company has been so impressed with the favorable record achieved by the stand operators that they are now ready to offer a standard rates life insurance with the options of waiver of premium and double indemnity. The firm is also willing to sell health and accident insurance on a standard basis to interested blind individuals. This is truly a significant development. Heretofore a few firms would offer life insurance at standard rates but hardly any would agree to issue these options. With respect to health and accident insurance it was next to impossible for sightless individuals to purchase such protection without being rated. According to the company's officials the health and accident record of the stand operators compares favorably with other groups.

Besides fully vindicating the Federation's contention that present policies of most insurance firms, which steadfastly maintain that blindness itself automatically creates other insurance risks, is based more upon myth than fact; this development may prove to be the first of a number of breakthroughs. Certainly, if the Interstate experience continues to be positive along these lines, other firms will have to fall in line.

A word to the wise might be in order at this point.

We should all understand exactly what is the position of the company. Any blind individual may now purchase a contract for health and accident insurance and life insurance. A blind person may buy if he so desires, with his life protection the options of waiver of premium, and accidental death benefits. It must be precisely understood that if blindness is accompanied by other diseases, such as heart condition, or some other difficulty, of course, that factor will have to be taken into consideration. The waiver of premium would mean that if a blind person was injured for example, suffered the loss of both legs, his policy would be fully paid. Naturally, a blind person could not purchase a waiver of premium option on the basis of no vision.

At the present time Interstate Assurance is conducting business in twenty-seven states. Everyone may be certain that this is a very reputable firm with a history of six decades. Blind people wishing to secure insurance should take note of the list of states below and contact the main office for the address of the local agent. Hopefully this opportunity may yet prove to be the Achilles heel we have been seeking, and perhaps provide the means through which sightless citizens will be able to secure insurance on a fair and equitable basis.

Interstate is licensed in twenty-seven states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Back to Contents


by Charles G. Bennett

[Copyright 1968 by the New York Times Company. Reprinted by permission.]

Mayor Lindsay signed a bill extending the protection of the city's law against discrimination to physically handicapped people.

The bill, recently passed by the City Council, would bar discrimination against such handicapped people in jobs, housing, restaurants, bars, resorts and theaters. Passage of the measure followed receipt by its sponsors, Councilmen Mario Merola and Aileen B. Ryan, of complaints by some crippled people that they had been discriminated against, especially by employers and landlords.

Under the law, drawn up by the two Bronx Democrats, handicapped people will have the right, beginning January 1, to appeal to the city's Commission on Human Rights for redress.

In signing the bill, with warm praise for its sponsors, Mayor Lindsay declared that it placed on the city the obligation to provide the funds "to enable effective service by the [Human Rights] Commission in the light of this expanded jurisdiction." Accordingly, the Mayor said, he was instructing Budget Director Frederick O. Hayes and William H. Booth, chairman of the Commission on Human Rights, to submit a draft enforcement plan to him "at the earliest possible date. There can be little doubt," Mr. Lindsay asserted, "of the extent of discrimination which exists in this or any community against the handicapped. In the areas of employment, places of public accommodation and housing in particular, the humiliations and deprivations which our handicapped citizens needlessly suffer do indeed cry out for a source of remedy. This law will provide it."

The Mayor's approval of the measure came after opposition to it had been expressed by Chairman Booth. In a statement to the City Council last October 31, Mr. Booth wrote that jurisdiction over discrimination against the handicapped should not be added to his commission, "which is unqualified to deal with it by reason of insufficient budget and lack of expertise." If the human rights agency were to assume such jurisdiction, he said, its budget would have to be "considerably" increased. "In my opinion", Mr. Booth said, "the better course would be to establish a separate agency which would be specially qualified and solely responsible for the enforcement of a law prohibiting discrimination against the physically handicapped."

At a brief hearing held before the bill was signed, Criminal Court Judge Joel J. Tyler, chairman of the Mayor's Advisory Council on the Handicapped, urged Mr. Lindsay to sign it. "There is discrimination against the handicapped," Judge Tyler declared. "Only by vigil and education can we smite this ignorance."

Back to Contents


Professor Edwin Lewinson, who is proving himself to be a frontline warrior, followed up on the new act [see the story above] just signed by Mayor Lindsay of New York City which forbids discrimination against the handicapped. The act had been limted to those discriminations involving ethnic origin.

Dr. Lewinson, who previously fought discrimination against him when he was barred from jury duty because of his blindness, had been looking for a place to live in New York City. He found a ninth floor apartment large enough to accommodate him and his library. The landlord refused him a lease because he feared liability for any mishap which might occur due to the prospective tenant's blindness-especially if the elevator broke down. The fact that a blind man might have to walk up and down stairs, as would other tenants living above the ground floor, somehow seemed more than the landlord could absorb.

The Human Rights Commissioners are concerned about whether the new law contemplated discriminations of this type. Since no one has yet seriously propounded the theory that physical handicaps are handed around on the basis of race, it is to be hoped that the Commissioners will not be "blind" to this kind of discrimination under "color" of office. The suit may also be turned down because the event occurred on December 3, 1968 and the law did not come into effect until January 1, 1969.

The complaint is being pursued with the usual vigor which the Seton Hall professor brings to the cause of the blind.

Back to Contents


by Anthony G. Mannino, Chairman

Once again we are moving up to National White Cane Week, May 15-22, that short 1/52nd segment of the year set aside for a united fundraising effort by the affiliated state organizations of the National Federation of the Blind. Each year we keep telling ourselves that we will start to prepare sooner but we find time rushing by so swiftly that we barely meet the deadlines. However, we are happy to report that all seems in readiness with those affiliates conducting White Cane Week campaigns.

The warning signal was sounded by the Federation White Cane Week Committee early last October. The response was very gratifying, especially since most of the affiliates quickly made their decisions to participate in the nationally concentrated drive. Alaska, California and Washington State were this year joined by New York in the 25,000 or over class in the mail solicitation field. Maryland has arranged a state-wide mailing project to be carried on by its local chapters. Our new Illinois affiliate is initiating a mail appeal in connection with a public relations endeavor by the organization. Nevada has raised its quota in their mailing project and is hopefully confident of a corresponding increase in results. Colorado, Hawaii and South Carolina are holding firm with their well organized and thoroughly efficient annual effort. Some of the states now find that even a small mailing can be profitable if they have been diligent in accumulating regular donors through their previous mailings. Other states are constantly working at keeping their organization and its programs before the eyes of the public. One of these is Alabama which is experiencing an enthusiastic resurgence. Other affiliates are involved in various fundraising ventures such as tag days, dances, dinner functions and merchandise sales. Among these are two states, very generous to the White Cane Week Committee, Iowa and Massachusetts. This is strongly indicated by the many orders for plastic white cane lapel pins, braille cards and brochures which have been placed with the Federation. This wide-spread participation, not only in fundraising but in bringing the organized blind movement and its philosophy to the attention of the general public is importantly instrumental in gaining support for Federation goals. Our members have learned to use the local communications media to great advantage. Many of them are now veterans of radio, television, and public appearances before interested listeners. Federationism is the by-word during White Cane Week.

For the very few who might be lagging in their plans, there may still be time to contact the NFB White Cane Week Committee for materials and literature. Act now if you need help. Write to White Cane Week Committee, NFB, 205 South Western Avenue, Los Angeles, California, 90004.


Almost immediately following the election in November. President-elect Nixon appointed some 22 task forces to study and make recommendations in various areas of governmental activity, including one on public welfare. One week before the inauguration of the new President, the public welfare task force reported to the Secretary-designate of HEW, Robert Finch, setting forth its recommendations.

The most important recommendation—and the one having top priority as far as the task force was concerned—calls for the federal government to assume a much greater share of the costs of public welfare and to impose national minimum standards of payment for the nation's nine million welfare recipients. It is estimated that this recommendation would cost the federal government an additional one billion to two billion dollars each year, depending on which of two alternative approaches is selected by the new admininistration.

The first alternative would place all needy blind, aged, and disabled persons under the insurance title of the Social Security system, thus relieving the states of their present share of aid and administrative costs. It would raise the minimum benefits under Social Security to $70 a month. This approach would also establish minimum benefit standards for children under the AFDC program of $40 per month per child.

The second alternative would not use the Social Security approach but would establish minimum benefit standards for all welfare recipients and would greatly increase the federal government's share of the costs.

Whether or not one of these particular alternatives is adopted, the task force urged the Nixon administration to begin giving serious thought to replacing the present welfare system with a wholly different plan such as some form of a national guaranteed income.

It is probable that the new administration will ask the 91st Congress, sometime within the next twelve months, to adopt one of the two alternative approaches recommended by its task force. If one were to hazard a guess as to which approach President Nixon selects to recommend to the Congress, it would be the second alternative which would retain state administration of the aid programs but would require the federal government to set minimum standards for aid payments and greatly increase federal financial participation. This approach has, from the Nixon' administration's point of view, two advantages—it would cost only half as much as the first alternative, and it carries out the Nixon philosophy of decentralized government.

Back to Contents


The first meeting of the University Association of the Blind was held in Iowa City on October 5. Officers were elected and projects were selected for the coming year.

Members elected to office were: president, Dan Tigges of the University of Iowa; vice-president, Shirley Lansing of the University of Iowa; and, secretary, Lloyd Rassmussen of Iowa State University. Each was elected unanimously.

Initially, four projects were chosen by the Association, and committees were appointed by the president.

One project, which is being continued from last year, concerns textbooks which contain unfavorable references to blindness. After collecting a representative sample of such passages, the committee will report on its findings. This will be used in an attempt to eliminate such references in the future.

A second committee will investigate the existing policies of Iowa colleges and universities in the hiring of blind students for part-time and summer employment. If findings are unfavorable, the Association will work to eliminate these discriminatory practices and to guide the universities in forming better policies.

The University of Northern Iowa made a study of the academic standards at the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School. After reading and discussing the report which followed, the University group decided it would be beneficial to write a critical analysis of the UNI study.

A final committee was formed also concerning the academic situation at the residential school for the blind. They have been instructed to analyze and report on another study done by superintendents of schools for the blind.

The University Association will also be participating in the annual White Cane Candy sale. The candy will be sold on the university and college campuses by students belonging to the university group.

Back to Contents


Mr. David Brenneman, President of the Granada Hills (California) Junior Chamber of Commerce, announced that Robert J. Acosta has been named as one of America's Ten Outstanding Young Men for 1968 by the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce.

Acosta, who is 29 years old, is a teacher at Chatsworth High School and has been blind since birth. Born and reared in the San Gabriel Valley area, young Acosta has been an outstanding leader in proving that an individual, although blind, can and should fulfill a meaningful and productive role in society. He attended U.C.L.A. and received his Bachelors degree from California State College at Los Angeles, where he is one course short of receiving his Master's degree. In addition to being the first completely blind teacher in the Los Angeles School System, Acosta has been very active in efforts to aid his fellow blind men. He has organized and founded several organizations directed toward constructive assistance for the blind (he firmly believes in self-help for the blind, not charity) and is extremely active in numerous other organizations and activities for the blind. He is an honorary Life Member of the Granada Hills Jaycees and was also named as one of the Five Outstanding Young Men in California for 1968, by the California Jaycees, in ceremonies in Pasadena last April. He was cited by the United States Congress late last year for his efforts in behalf of the blind.

The national award, as well as that for California, is limited to men between the ages of 21 and 35, and the basis for selection is the man’s achievement or contribution of importance in his chosen field, organization, community, state or nation. Past recipients have included John F. Kennedy (1946); Richard Nixon (1947); Dr. Tom Dooley (1956); and Edward Kennedy (1967). The award was presented to Mr. Acosta at ceremonies in Syracuse, New York, on January 17-19.

Back to Contents


by John Bermingham

At the retirement of Director of Indiana State Agency for the Blind, State Board of Health, many blind persons thought that a well qualified blind person would get a chance to head the Agency, which is responsible for rehabilitation, employment and welfare of the blind of Indiana. The Agency also administers federal and state programs for the blind.

Most blind persons of the state were surprised to find that several highly qualified blind persons with broad experience in the field were ignored and a sighted person with far less experience and education was given the job.

The selection committee of the Advisory Committee of the Agency had unanimously recommended a blind person to fill the position. This committee had also recommended the names of eight other persons including two very highly educated and experienced blind persons.

The Governor, who makes the final appointment, did not appoint the person who received the unanimous recommendation of the selection committee, because this person was not a resident of the state.

Most of the Hoosier blind had high hopes the appointment would go to one of the two other blind persons recommended by the committee.

Some officials of the Health Board asked the Advisory Committee of the Indiana Agency to reconsider all applicants. One of these officials is supposed to have personally interviewed the candidates. None of the blind persons recommended by the Selection Committee was interviewed by this official. The whole thing seems to have been hurried through by the officials of the State Board of Health under whom the Agency functions. Finally the State Health Commissioner recommended a sighted man with no experience with adult blind and he was appointed by the Governor.

Today when every effort is being made throughout the country to give positions of responsibility and leadership to the blind and other minorities, one fails to understand this appointment. Indiana is one of the states of the Union that has very limited and rather poor services for the blind. It was hoped that a well qualified, sensitive and dynamic blind person would understand the problem and try to correct the situation.

However, blind Hoosiers, earnestly hope that the new Governor and the new State Health Commissioner will take a new look into the problem and try to listen to blind persons as well. We also hope, that the Agency will be transferred to the State Board of Technical and Vocational Education, as this Board is charged with responsibility for rehabilitation, employment and welfare of other handicapped persons, such as the deaf, the crippled, the retarded and others. This Board has highly qualified personnel that could help the Agency.

We would also like to see the present Advisory Committee of the Agency for the Blind represent all political divisions and include more professional, independent blind persons of the state. In fact we would like to see the advisory committees of both the Agency for the Blind and the State School for the Blind comprised of more than half of blind persons. Many blind citizens of Indiana would like to see discrimination stop against blind persons in hiring at the State Agency for the Blind, State School for the Blind, other public schools and state departments.

Blind persons can achieve their objective by writing to the new Governor of the State and to their state representatives and senators. They should ask for better state welfare laws, and a model white cane law. Also laws prohibiting discrimination against the qualified by employers.

It is blind persons who have to change the present state of affairs in Indiana. Let us unite like blind persons from California, New York, Iowa and other progressive states.

Back to Contents


The new Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Robert Finch, faces many problems in administering the nation's welfare programs. President Nixon has called on Bob Finch whenever there has been a tough nut to crack, ever since the two first met some twenty years ago. That may be why the President gave his close friend of years the HEW post in the Cabinet.

Robert Finch has been Lieutenant Governor of California for the past two years. He received his bachelor's degree from Occidental College in Los Angeles and his law degree from the University of Southern California in 1951. He soon developed a lucrative law practice. Finch served as campaign manager of Nixon's unsuccessful race for the presidency against John F. Kennedy in 1960 and also in the unsuccessful bid for the governorship of California two years later. Finch, 43 years of age, goes to Washington with its costly welfare program generating both problems and proposals for sweeping change. He brings to his new job virtually no background of experience in welfare save for the past two years when he was chairman of an interdepartmental committee in Sacramento to try and solve minority problems in housing and jobs. However, the so-called professionals in the field have failed dismally to cope with the problems, due largely to their lack of boldness and imagination, clinging rather to the outmoded Elizabethan Poor Law concepts of four hundred years ago.

In the past ten years almost three million persons have been added to the welfare rolls, making nine million Americans receiving public assistance, and costing five and one-half billion dollars a year. In New York City alone some one million persons receive public welfare, one out of every eight residents of our largest city. Other large cities are having similar problems.

Welfare benefits vary greatly from state to state, even from city to city, in spite of the fact that the Federal government pays more than half of the entire bill. The Aid to Families With Dependent Children program, despite the sporadic attempts to retrain and employ these younger recipients, has more than five and one-half million recipients; Old Age Assistance has two million recipients; general assistance, 740,000; Aid to the Disabled, 670,000; and Aid to the Blind 81,000. Aid to the Blind is the only one of the programs which has actually decreased in the number of recipients, due in part to the system of incentives which the organized blind have induced the Congress to enact.

Not only is the present welfare system expensive to the point where it now threatens to bankrupt our largest cities, especially in funding the skyrocketing Aid to Families With Dependent Children program, but it has fallen into general disrepute-with the recipients, the news media, the politicians, and the general public. This has been due largely to the inept methods of administration of the programs by most of the states—rigid eligibility requirements, over-investigation, lack of adequate incentives to induce recipients to attempt to earn money, and pitifully low grants of aid. All of these facets of the welfare problem have given a sharp impetus to proposals for sweeping changes in the structure of public welfare in the United States.

While a major source of the dissatisfaction of clients with the present system is the pernicious means test whereby the welfare administrators attempt (in a very costly manner) to count each penny into the third and fourth generation, another of the problems from everyone's point of view is that public assistance provides a hedge against abject poverty for only one-third of the 27 million Americans who are below the poverty level in income. More and more responsible groups and knowledgeable individuals are coming to believe that the only solution to the many old problems of public welfare lies in the direction of a system of guaranteed income paid for and administered by the Federal government. This growing group of adherents includes leading economists, government officials, and business leaders, as well as recipients and those who.should be recipients. While there are many different proposals, the essence of all of the guaranteed income plans is that everyone is entitled to a basic income as a matter of right.

Today some 62 nations, including all of the European countries, have a fixed minimum allowance system, and the United States spends less proportionately on social welfare than any other industrial country. With these facts in mind, if the new Secretary of HEW tackles the old problems with vigor, boldness and imagination, he may well do what professional welfare administrators have thus far failed to do—devise a system of public welfare which more adequately protects the poor against the chilling winds of poverty.

Back to Contents


[Editor's Note: In this month's installment of the series we take you to the Paradise of the Pacific, the nation's western-most State.]

The NFB's "aloha affiliate"—the Hawaii Federation of the Blind—may well claim to be the foremost exponent of "flower power" among our state organizations. That claim was colorfully staked out in last summer's national convention in Des Moines, when the visiting Hawaiians decked the halls with exotic blooms and bedecked practically everyone with orchids.

The elective chief of this blossoming tribe of island Federationists, well remembered by conventioners as an ardent and active delegate at Des Moines, is a 42-year-old American businessman of Japanese descent, Warren Toyama.

Association with large groups comes naturally to Warren—who was born the eighth in a family of nine children settled in the country town of Kohala, on the "big island" of Hawaii. Born partially blind, Warren alternated schooling in public schools and in the old Territorial School for the Deaf and Blind. Before graduating from Kohala High, he marked up a brilliant record both as a scholar and a student leader; among other accomplishments, he was president of the "Future Farmers," class valedictorian, and winner of the Merit Shield (the school's highest honor).

Transferring his energies to the University of Hawaii in Honolulu—where he ultimately received his B.A. degree in sociology with the class of '58—Warren continued to be active in student affairs, with particular attention to church-sponsored work with youth groups (notably under the aegis of the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and the United Student Fellowship). After graduation, he joined the World Book Company as a sales representative, rising within two years to become area and then district manager—the first visually handicapped person to blaze such a trail in Hawaii.

Warren left the book company after four years in order to organize, together with a number of other blind persons, a remarkable business called State Vendors, Inc. As head of the enterprising group, Warren engineered a break-through of great potential significance to blind Americans elsewhere; bidding in open competition against other groups, his organization won the newstand concession at the Honolulu International Airport, and has since extended its holdings to three airport stands. This action is believed to represent the first time that any blind group, operating independently of the state licensing agency has established a vending-stand "beachhead" in a major U.S. airport.

In August of 1968, Warren was married to Julia Shimabukuro, a pretty island schoolteacher and fellow-officer of the Hawaii Federation who also took an active part in the Des Moines convention. The Toyamas, having joined hands, have now pooled their considerable talents—along with vice president Roger Dinwiddie, recording secretary Valerie Lloyd and treasurer Maxine Tyau—toward making the Hawaii Federation of the Blind a recognized force for progress in the state.

Founded in 1967, the HFB staged an impressive first convention last February with the powerful assistance of Kenneth Jernigan, who delivered the banquet address. That meeting became the springboard for an ambitious agenda of programs and projects, of which the following are among the major ongoing features:

To conduct a complete study of Hawaii's state laws for the blind for the purpose of proposing specific legislation; to prepare the ground for a research team from the National Federation to assess the state's programs for blind people; to strengthen the state library for the blind, especially its braille transcribing unit, and to eliminate all censorship of reading materials: to plan for a great second state convention in March, designed to match the success of the '68 meeting; and to bring the organized blind of the Island State into greater prominence, prestige and pride than ever before.

Back to Contents


In legal actions taken by the California Council of the Blind against two state agencies, the organized blind of California seek to compel the agencies to discontinue alleged illegal practices.

The first law suit was instituted by the Council against the State Department of Rehabilitation, seeking an injunction to prohibit the department from operating a cafeteria as a training facility. The Council contends that state law requires that cafeterias in state buildings be operated by blind persons, thus affording such persons long-term remunerative employment. The cafeteria in question is located in a large new state office building in Sacramento and could provide a lucrative income for some blind operator. The Council further contends that there is no authority in law to allow the department to use public funds to establish a cafeteria as a training facility.

The second suit was filed against the State Department of Social Welfare alleging that nearly 450,000 welfare recipients were receiving too small a grant. The dispute between the Council and the department arose from the cost-of-living increase which went into effect December 1, 1968. The Council charges that the increase was figured too low. "If it had been figured correctly," said B. V. Yturbide, attorney for the Council, "the cost-of-living increase would have been $1 more for aged and disabled welfare recipients and $2 more for blind recipients." The suit was filed directly with the California Supreme Court. It asked the high court to mandate the payment of increased grants calculated in a proper manner and retroactive to December 1, 1968. "We have reviewed the state and federal laws and regulations and we think it is clear that the Department of Social Welfare has erred in calculating the cost-of-living increase for welfare recipients," said Yturbide. "When our requests for correction of this error were turned down, the only alternative was to file suit to protect the rights of blind, aged, and disabled welfare recipients." If the suit is successful, welfare grants will be increased by $5 to $6 million annually.

These lawsuits are yet another instance in which three thousand blind persons in fifty chapters work through the Council to improve conditions for all blind Californians.

Back to Contents


by Pamela Buckler

[Editor's Note: The following letter to the Gateway Arch Passenger Transportation System tells its own story. Pamela Buckler is Student Body Secretary at the Iowa Commission for the Blind.]

Iowa Commission for the Blind
524 Fourth Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50309
November 26, 1968

Gateway Arch Passenger Transportation System
818 Olive Street
Suite 619
St. Louis, Missouri 63101

Attention: Mr. John D. Kuziel


Recently, students and staff from the Iowa Commission for the Blind spent a weekend in St. Louis. We enjoyed a variety of activities including shopping, eating in fine restaurants, and visiting several of the city's famous tourist attractions. Among the attractions we visited was the Gateway Arch.

Like most tourists, we began our inspection of the arch by walking around the outside of the structure. The first portion of the organized tour was completed without incident. As you know, when passengers are preparing for the ascent, they must walk down a flight of stairs leading to capsules parked on several different levels. Our group completed the boarding process without difficulty. We were aided by our white canes and the railings located beside the stairs. After a short stop at the top of the arch, two guards requested passengers to board the capsules for the descent.

An unnecessary incident occurred while passengers were reboarding the capsule. The process of reboarding the capsules is identical to that which passengers use in preparing for the ascent. Fourteen members of our group passed the guards and safely boarded the capsules. As the last four members of our group approached the stairs, the guards asked them to wait. They were afraid that these members of our group would hurt themselves if they were allowed to walk to the foot of the stairs and board the last capsule in the train.

While passengers from our group waited, they tried to convince the guards that blind people are capable of negotiating stairs. It is commonly said that "seeing is believing", but the sight of fourteen blind people negotiating the stairs safely did not convince the guards that blind people are competent travelers.

A feeling of benevolent paternalism prevented the guards from making judgments based on common sense. The action taken by the guards caused great inconvenience for blind and sighted passengers alike. Sighted tourists were unnecessarily delayed because traffic became congested as people attempted to pass those who had been forced to wait on the stairs. Our group was inconvenienced in several ways. The entire group was obliged to wait for those who had been asked to ride a different train. When the four passengers finally reached the ground, they had to relocate the rest of our group. The delay unnecessarily imposed by the guards ultimately meant that our group had to concel plans to visit other attractions in the city.

There is no doubt in our minds that the guards acted with our best interests at heart. It is clear, however, that the guards acted on the dictates of emotion rather than those of common sense. Attitudes based on misconceptions and emotion have the potential of doing great harm to blind people; therefore, such attitudes must be recognized and altered. If attitudes such as those held by the guards were to be implemented, blind people would not climb stairs at all. Such restrictions in travel would lead to sheltered, useless lives void of the prospects of equality and a chance to seek and pursue goals a man holds dear including a job, the right to speak for oneself, and the opportunity to gain acceptance on personal and social bases.

I speak frankly in the hope that negative attitudes will be changed to positive ones. I hope that this letter will not offend you; but I am convinced that change is needed. I am also sure that you will give careful consideration to my letter, and that incidents such as the one I have called to your attention will not happen in the future. If you would like to comment on what I have said, please feel free to contact me.


Pamela Buckler
Student Body Secretary

Back to Contents


by Esaakiy Litvinoff

It was exactly twenty years ago on October 19, 1968 that a group of twenty-four blind men and women came together to get acquainted with each other, to discuss their problems and to see what could be done about them.

Their leader, Mr. Newton E. Ottone, who was working at that time for the American Bosch, was elected president. They didn't know very much about rehabilitation to blindness but they all understood that they could not sit and tell each other their troubles and be sorry for themselves but must do something constructive to get adjusted to their blindness, to be able to work, support themselves and their families and maybe even do something for other blind. At that time it was about impossible for a blind person to find work at any place. Thinking along these lines, they decided it would be a good idea to have a special shop for blind people only.

Mr. John Pierce Lynch, a Senator from Springfield at that time, took a deep interest in the local blind, and together with Mr. Ottone worked out a project for a bill which was presented to the Senate. After a very long fight, the bill was passed. It took some time, but finally a shop was opened in Springfield where blind men and women received training to do some assembly work, and the shop is still successfully operating. This was the first shop in Massachusetts where women had equal rights with men. This chapter participated in many projects sponsored by their headquarters.

Finally, after many years of work, a long dream came into life and they were able to build a one story, comfortable and large building at 910 Liberty Street, where they have held all their meetings and where the celebration of the 20th Anniversary took place. This group progressed each year until Mr. Ottone's unexpected death.

With deep sorrow and broken hearts, they looked around for a successor, and the natural one was a young man who had served as second vice president for several years, Bill Normand. This young blind man successfully graduated from St. Paul's Rehabilitation Center in Newton, Massachusetts. He was very well adjusted to his blindness. He held a very difficult job as a manager of one of the local cafeterias. Under his leadership, the Springfield Chapter of the Blind kept progressing, attracted more and more members, and his entire energy and enthusiasm was reflected in the work of the members.

Bill Normand was a giant as far as ability, energy and initiative were concerned. But physically he was a sick man, and after being president for about two years, we lost him at the age of thirty. At this time, the large and heavy boots of the presidency were passed to a young lady, a picture of health, knowledge and very strong will, Miss Anita O'Shea, the able assistant to Bill Normand. For the past three years, in addition to her full time job as a medical secretary at the Providence Hospital in Holyoke, Miss O'Shea has led the blind through many storms. With the confidence of a leader, Madame President listens attentively to the experts discussing problems connected with building a new parking lot, getting an air conditioner repaired, the most effective heating system, and what kind of soap dispensers to install with lavatories. The building is loved by all the members and it is kept in ideal repair and cleanliness as in a well managed private home. One of the most important qualities of Miss O'Shea is her ability to surround herself with many active committees and she coordinates their work as a expert conductor does a symphony.

For many years this chapter supplied the blind with white canes. Since Miss O'Shea took office, the Association is helping sick members with crutches, wheel chairs and private nursing care. The Greater Springfield Association of the Blind is considered one of the best in Massachusetts and received two awards from the ABM for outstanding work in the field of the blind and blindness.

Back to Contents


[Editor's Note: The following is reprinted from Performance, the publication of the President's Committee on Employment of the Handicapped.]

This is a story of a turret lathe operator. The reason that this particular operator is so outstanding is that he is blind.

Raymond McGeorge is a fourteen-year veteran with the Eberhardt Denver Plant of the Morse Chain Company in Denver, Colorado. At the present time he is their highest paid turret lathe operator, based on quality and quantity of work and length of service.

But to go back to the beginning, Mr. McGeorge was blinded when thirteen years of age as the result of an accident. However, he went on to complete his high school education and went from there to vocational school. While there he studied and worked in the area of machine shop practice and also attended a school for the blind.

An opportunity to become gainfully employed in machine shop work was the result of Eberhardt's policy of hiring handicapped people. Over the intervening years they have hired five blind people—two of whom have retired. They also have employed four amputees.

This policy had proved mutually beneficial. These men have obtained much needed employment and Eberhardt has derived skilled and topnotch machinists. Eberhardt's foreman, superintendent, and industrial relations manager are quick to point out that their handicapped people compare equally with other shop personnel in respect to quantity and quality of production....

Ray McGeorge operates, sets up, and inspects his own work. When a new job comes to Ray's machine the foreman hands him a finished part. The foreman then reads the dimensions and tolerances for the various diameters and bores, and Ray files this away in his memory as he feels the size and shape of the part. He then retains this information and proceeds to set up and produce acceptable parts.

Ray frequently suggests new tooling ideas to the Eberhardt tool engineers and, while skeptical at first, they now find that most of his ideas are sound and practical.

In the many years that he has been working at Eberhardt he has had no machine accident, only minor hand cuts from chips and sharp edges on parts. As the foreman expressed it, his only accident was stumbling over a skid which some sighted knucklehead left in an aisle.

As Ray so aptly expressed it, accidents are the result of carelessness, "and I cannot afford to be careless." He even knocks the burrs off of his parts in usual turret lathe fashion by the use of a file as the piece is revolving in the chuck. This brings his hands in unusually close relationship with the spinning chuck jaws. However, he has no qualms whatsoever. It is always the observers that get jittery.

Back to Contents


The California Council of the Blind during its thirty-four year history has always had as one of its major goals the development of employment opportunities for qualified blind persons, including blind teachers. A carefully conceived and well carried out plan of action to achieve an affirmative program for blind teacher placement was the Council's latest effort. The program was devised by Tony Mannino, President of the Council; Russell Kletzing, Executive Secretary and General Counsel; and Lynda Bardis, Field Director. The plan consisted of four initial phases.

First, Council representatives met with Dr. Max Rafferty, Superintendent of Public Instruction, and received his wholehearted support, including an arrangement for the Council's spokesmen to meet with the full membership of the State Board of Education.

Second, the formal presentation to the State Board of Education was made and testimony presented by Lynda Bardis, as follows:

"There is a crying need for competent teachers in California today, and blind teachers have proven their competence. Although sixty-six blind teachers have conclusively proven the ability of the blind to teach, most school districts in the state refuse to employ them because they are blind. We are here today to urge the establishment in the Department of Education of an affirmative program to eliminate the discrimination that prevents the employment of blind teachers.

"In the school year 1967-68 sixty-six blind teachers were employed in the public schools and colleges of California. Nineteen of these are teaching blind children in resource classes and forty-seven teach sighted students in regular classes. Thirty-one, nearly half, are totally blind, the rest having some vision. Thirty-five of those teaching sighted students are at the high school or college level, while the rest teach elementary school classes. They teach in all fields—English, History, Science, Math, Foreign Language, Art, Music, etc. An overwhelming majority of these are doing a satisfactory job and most have tenure. (Jones, Blind Teachers, Their Problems and Progress in Certification and Employment, the Braille Monitor, Vol. 33, No. 9, April 1968; Vol. 33, No. 10, May 1968.)

"The high level of performance of blind teachers was confirmed by a survey carried out by the Senate Fact Finding Committee on Education, 1965, under the Chairmanship of Senator Donald Grunsky. (Senate Daily Journal, May 17, 1968, p. 2381.) Of the forty-five principals who answered the questionnaire, more than ninety percent rated their blind teachers as "good", "excellent", or "superior".

"Its conclusions were supported by a similar survey carried out by the personnel division of Los Angeles City School System in 1963.

"Despite this clear and convincing record of successful teaching experience, most school districts in California discriminate against applicants on the grounds of blindness. Our major school districts either employ no blind teachers to teach sighted students or only a token number. For example, of the 33,000 teachers in the Los Angeles City school system, only three are blind. Two were hired in the last year but have been given only full-time substitute status with no credit toward tenure. Moreover, Los Angeles does not even allow blind students to practice-teach in its schools. Other major school districts, Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Juan, have records as bad as that of Los Angeles.

"Let me make this a little more concrete. Last year two girls received Master's degrees from the University of California, one in English, one in French. Both have scholastic records far above the average. Between them they sent out over two hundred letters and applications. The net result was that one of them will have a part-time evening position this fall at a Junior College, and the other girl has no teaching job at all. Incidentally, I am the one with no teaching job. Fortunately, I now have this very exciting job as Field Director of the California Council of the Blind.

"This continuing discrimination persists despite the state law which declares the right of blind teachers to equal opportunity to training and employment in the clearest possible terms. This declaration is contained in Education Code Section 13125.

No person otherwise qualified shall be denied the right to receive credentials from the State Board of Education, to receive training for the purpose of becoming a teacher, or to engage in practice teaching in any school, on the grounds he is totally blind; nor shall any school district refuse to engage a teacher on such grounds, provided that such blind teacher is able to carry out the duties of the position for which he applies in the school district.

"Why is it that administrators do not hire blind teachers? The first question that usually comes to the minds of personnel directors is that of discipline. How will a blind teacher maintain control in the classroom? In most cases, discipline in the classroom depends upon the personal respect felt by the students for the teacher, not upon constant surveillance. Discipline is a problem for blind teachers as for all others, and some are better at solving it than others. The Grunsky survey mentioned above shows that the record of blind teachers with respect to discipline is better than that of sighted teachers.

"Another question: How does the blind teacher correct papers? All professional people have a certain amount of written and clerical work to do. Blind teachers usually hire a competent person to read them the student's work and they dictate corrections. The answers to other questions you may think of are just as simple.

"How shall we overcome discrimination against blind teachers? What shall we do to remove the barrier that exists between this human resource and the real need for qualified teachers?

"The problem is that the people responsible for the hiring just do not understand the proven capabilities of blind teachers. Most have never had the chance to learn what blind teachers can do.

"We believe that what is needed is an organized educational program.

"Although the causes of discrimination against other minority group teachers are different, the same techniques and solutions are applicable.

"We urge the Board and Department of Education to take affirmative leadership in furnishing information to administrators so that they can consider blind applicants objectively. We ask that no preference be given—only that blind teachers be considered on their merits. We ask only that if a blind teacher is qualified, he should be hired.

"We pledge our full cooperation in carrying out this program."

Third, the State Board of Education was asked to take the affirmative step of adopting a strong resolution, which it did and which reads as follows:

The State Board of Education at its meeting in Sacramento on November 14, 1968, adopted the following resolution:

"WHEREAS, Section 13125 of the California Education Code provides that "no person otherwise qualified shall be denied the right to receive credentials from the State Board of Education, to receive training for the purpose of becoming a teacher, or to engage in practice teaching in any school, on the grounds he is totally or partially blind; nor shall any school district refuse to engage a teacher on such grounds provided that such blind teacher is able to carry out the details of the position for which he applies in the school district"; and

WHEREAS, Persons who are blind or have partial visual handicaps can make significant instructional constributions in the public elementary and secondary schools; and

WHEREAS, Persons who have such visual handicaps have made outstanding contributions through the years to the teaching profession, to the public schools, to the independent schools, and to the many students they have taught, fully sighted as well as blind and partially sighted students; and

WHEREAS, Both State and National interests will be served best if the greatest use possible is made of totally blind and partially seeing persons in teaching positions;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, That the State Board of Education urges every school district in California to increase its efforts to recruit and employ more blind and partially seeing persons for service on their faculties, and support in every way possible the instructional efforts of these persons;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the State Superintendent of Public Instruction distribute this resolution to every school district in the State."

Finally, at a state-wide meeting of all of the school administrators, six blind teachers put on a demonstration showing actual classroom techniques used by blind teachers in instructing the children—and many of the children were there also in their roles of pupils. A panel discussion followed for answering questions—how to achieve and maintain rapport with students, feelings of both students and parents about having a blind teacher, leading fire drills and other extracurricular activities, etc. Most of the school administrators present seemed thoroughly convinced that blind persons can teach successfully.

This affirmative program for blind teacher placement will continue and will concentrate on showing schooladministrators face-to-face how blind teachers do it!

Back to Contents


[Editor's Note: The following article appeared in the 1968 Yearbook of the West Virginia Federation of the Blind.]

Josephine and Sadie Attanasio were just like many other little girls who grew up in Ozone Park in New York City, except that they were blind. Today they are members of the congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity in Wheeling, West Virginia. However the story of Sister Mary St. Gemma and Sister Mary St. Anthony is not that simple. Theirs is a story of blind girls who were among the pioneers in showing the world that this handicap could be overcome.

Catholic Career Conferences, which acted as an instrument in the attainment of their vocations, published an autobiographical sketch of Sister Mary St. Gemma and Sister Mary St. Anthony. As a young child Sister Mary Gemma was stricken with spinal meningitis which paralyzed her optic nerves. Three years later Sister Mary Anthony was born with poor sight. Together they began their lives in a world of darkness. In a public grade school they were taught braille by a teacher equipped to instruct blind students. Their local high school was reluctant to accept them but with prodigious effort the two sisters proved they could handle the courses with the use of braille, typewriter, disciplined memories, and the generous help of fellow students who read to them. Joining friends in extracurricular activities. Sister Mary Gemma relates that "the artificial barrier gradually fell away." Their schoolmates, as well as each teacher in turn, became convinced that they were entirely normal and that their affliction was not a handicap.

Following high school, Sister Mary Anthony secured a position at the Lighthouse for the Blind in New York City. Sister Mary Gemma decided to continue her studies and applied to a Catholic college but was turned down because they felt they were not equipped to handle a blind student. She then enrolled in a state college where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Spanish and a minor in Italian. Disbelief in her ability was dispelled again and again during these four years, especially in the college trigonometry and algebra courses where her grades ranked among the highest.

The year after her graduation proved to be a trying one for Sister Mary Gemma as she attempted to enter the business world with its preconceived notions of blindness. Two temporary jobs and occasional interviews brought discouragement and defeat. Finally she was hired by the Dictaphone Corporation with the understanding that she would be on trial for a three month probation period. During this time she was under observation and compared to sighted transcriptionists. "Inasmuch as I was one of the first among the blind to secure employment in private industry doing regular office work," Sister said, "it was clearly and emphatically pointed out to me that much responsibility of future placements for similar handicapped rested on my success or failure. In other words, I was to be a guinea pig." During this period she was asked to give a demonstration of typing and dictaphone transcribing to a group of professionals and businessmen at the Biltmore Hotel in New York City. Due to the success of this demonstration, other employers began to take on blind help. Satisfied with her efforts, the Dictaphone Corporation confirmed her position with their firm as permanent. Fellow employees no longer offered sympathy but became convinced that blindness was neither a hindrance to work nor to the living of a normal life. Sister Mary Gemma felt a goal had been achieved—a position with security and all that went with it.

Josephine and Sadie were blessed with full and happy days of work. Their evenings became increasingly occupied with parish activities and the lay society. Associations with friends and co-workers reflected an exterior contentment, but an interior restlessness was shared by the two sisters and slowly emerged into a beautiful dream to serve God more fully. They well realized the stark reality which faced them as they questioned who would accept them. Trials followed as they met the many rejections, with religious directors explaining that convent life was not suited to the blind, that the work of an active community would be too difficult, and that they could accomplish much more good through their endeavors with the lay apostolate. Joesphine recounts how each disappointment was viewed by Sadie as just another cross. She said that nothing had been easy in their lives and that God would work everything out. Her strong faith and hope never faltered.

The two sisters then joined a group of young people called Catholic Careers Conferences which was under the direction of Father Andrew Ansbro. They spoke to Father Andrew of their vocations and he agreed to help them as he believed in the right of the handicapped to enter the religious life. For two years his constant inquiries met only with rejections. Meanwhile the girls participated actively in the activities of "CCC", helping to further the ideals of the Legion of Mary. Their projects consisted of visiting homes for blind persons, aiding parish confraternities, contacting lax Catholics, tending a book borrow and information stand and entertaining the inmates of a nearby state hospital. During this period, a guide dog by the name of Queenie became an important part of Josephine's life. She became an independent traveler, and Sadie often held the other side of the leash, chatting gaily with her sister as they walked walked along the streets of the city. Although Sadie was able to make her way along the street alone, her failing vision made it difficult and she felt more secure with Queenie.

In September of 1952 the two girls accompanied a friend on a visit to the convent of Our Lady of Refuge in Wheeling. The Reverend Mother there told them she would consider their application for entrance but she was sure the bishop would not approve it. The Bishop granted them an interview and told them of the impossibility of fulfilling the duties of a religious life and the difficulty they would have getting around in the large convent. When they convinced him that they had done the various tasks he had mentioned and had traveled throughout New York City, he relented and gave them his permission to enter. Thus, on November 11, the barrier to the blind was broken when two courageous women entered the Order of Our Sisters of Charity. Their dream had been fulfilled for now they belonged entirely and forever to God. Sister Mary St. Gemma recalls. "The whole chronology of tears and heartache and struggle paraded before me, then disappeared into the shadows of yesterday."

This does not end the story but only begins it. With their complete confidence in God, the two new Sisters set about to learn the ways of religious life, transcribing the Office into braille to enable their participation as chanters. A braille map was made which facilitated their learning the layout of the convent. Soon Sister Mary St. Gemma was fulfilling her duties as portress and as secretary to Reverend Mother. Sister Mary St. Anthony's charges included the public laundry which was operated at the time. Now she assists as a group mother for the underprivileged and delinquent girls who come to Our lady of the Valley school to find the love and care they have never known. The rehabilitation of these girls results from the dedicated work of Our Sisters of Charity.

Sister Mary St. Gemma was recently transfered to West Palm Beach, Florida, where the Sisters have a home for unwed mothers called Maurawood. A home teacher in this area has started her instructions in cane mobility. Sister Mary St. Anthony remains in Wheeling, but has taken a few weeks off from her work at Our Lady of the Valley school to attend classes at the Vocational Rehabilitation Center in Institute, West Virginia. She speaks enthusiastically about her instructions in cane mobility, and by the time of publication, she will be an experienced traveler. "Sister Mary", as she is called at the center, laughs about her experiences there, commenting on the fact that although most of her life she has been teaching the public that the blind are normal persons and able to do a lot more things than one might think them capable of handling, now she has been presented with the task of showing the non-Catholics with whom she comes in contact, that a nun in a religious habit is also a normal human being.

So the story of the "Two Sisters" continues to be written through their daily work for God and their dedication to their fellowmen. Their triumph over some of the obstacles and trials of blindness provides inspiration for all blind persons, no matter what their different vocations might be. The members of the Sightless Workers' Guild of Wheeling feel privileged to know Sister Mary St. Gemma and Sister Mary St. Anthony, and to have Sister Mary St. Anthony as its newest member.

Back to Contents


by Dean Huber

[Editor's Note: The following article tells of an unusual occupation being pursued by a blind man and is reprinted with permission from the Sacramento (California) Bee.]

In a thumbnail description of his job, Tom Joe says he presents state legislators with "reasonable alternatives" to administration proposals.

His formal title: Research specialist for the Assembly Office of Research. A University of California political science major who abandoned his quest for a doctorate in favor of an internship in the Capitol in 1961, he specializes in health and welfare matters.

Of Korean descent, Joe was born in Milwaukee and has been blind since the age of eight. He uses readers to help him digest the mass of information he sifts through in his work. As "a stagehand to the main actors," Joe has positive and emphatic opinions about the role of the legislature and the drama of state government.

"I think it is very important that the legislature retain its preogative to formulate policy rather than abdicate it by default to the administration by being outnumbered in staff," he says. "There are thousands of California civil servants serving the executive branch. The legislature may not need equal staff," but it does need some independent staff.

"The legislators have to be more than just passive receivers of proposals presented them by the administration, and thus be forced to say yes or no. They can't be rubber stamps. They can't be just 'yes men' or 'no men'. This is where the research staff comes into play. We present legislators with reasonable alternatives. This takes just plain hard work that cannot necessarily be limited to an eight-hour day. You have to be flexible, resourceful and committed to getting things done."

Joe sees his function in the Office of Research as "dealing with subject matter cutting across committee lines and offering a broad perspective." Research specialists help solons to screen "thousands of bills that come through," says Joe, and conduct special studies for the legislators.

Citing an example of cutting across committee lines, Joe recalls a preschool program for children of low-income families authored by Assembly speaker Jesse Unruh in 1965. He points out that the year-round program, in which the State Department of Social Welfare contracts with the State Department of Education and gets matching federal funds, was implemented before the more-publicized Head Start Program of the federal government. "This is an example," he says, "of a program initiated by the legislature."

Currently, one of Joe's prime projects is to supervise a major study of the welfare system, due for completion early in 1969. The Assembly Social Welfare Committee, he says, "has approved the revamping of welfare and poverty programs. Legislators will constantly review and participate in the fact-gathering and analysis, according to Joe, and will make their own recommendations as well. This kind of involvement by legislators is crucial," he says "They don't delegate or abdicate their responsibility in this kind of study. They're kept abreast and on top of it."

In his work, Joe says, he observes both "good theory and bad practice, and good practice and bad theory. Every action taking place does not necessarily have good theory behind it, but it can be good practice. So, in fact, no direct application of theory can be applied to many of the activities in the legislature. But I find most legislators in both parties to be down-to-earth, bright, energetic, full of common sense and practical."

The Assembly researcher was sent to Pennsylvania from May to September last year under a contract between the State of California and the American Public Welfare Association. His job was to review the public welfare program in Pennsylvania, designated a "demonstration state" for combining state and federal funds so effectively. Joe's report led to a U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare grant and another from the Office of Economic Opportunity. The welfare association, he says, requested the study because many state administrations "were not aware of the possibilities available to them in more fully utilizing federal dollars and local resources."

Joe and his wife, Barbara, met and married at the University of California at Berkeley. They are the parents of a nine-month-old adopted son, Andrew. Mrs. Joe also has a master's degree in political science from U.C. She earned a bachelor's degree there in sociology. A full-time worker for various state and county welfare agencies before Andrew was added to the household, she now limits her professional activity to serving as a part-time preschool consultant for the State Department of Social Welfare.

Back to Contents


[Editor's Note: The Haile Selassie I Foundation Quarterly, published in Addis Ababa. Ethiopia, recently carried the following article.]

Isabelle Grant, M.A., Ph.D.-Visitor, Dr. Grant who was born in Lossiemouth, Scotland, went to the United States nineteen years ago. She became blind in 1949. She then took up the profession of teaching blind students until her retirement five years ago. Dr. Grant has visited several countries and came to Ethiopia in April 1968. She had this to say about the blind school at Sabata:

"Ethiopia is my eleventh country in this safari I am making voluntarily over the continent of Africa. I now wanted to see what was being done in this vast continent regarding the interest of my life, and one to which I am dedicated as a retired school teacher—the education and training of blind youth. At Sabata School for the Blind, I have met with over thirty blind students, individually and collectively. I have addressed the faculty of teachers at the school, and have addressed the students in their morning assembly. I have spent many hours with individual, young, thoughtful, serious minded young men who happen to be blind. I have been overjoyed to hear them speak of their plans, their aspirations, their goals—all of these with the same common denominator, namely participation in open society, contribution of each in his or her own way, to the progress of the nation. That surely was reason for joy on the part of a former teacher, herself blind.

"One most encouraging 'difference' from many other countries I observed is the strong insistance on the integration of blind students with the seeing world, enunciated by His Imperial Majesty, and incorporated in the programme of the school.

"The accusation has often been made of schools for the blind in Africa and elsewhere, that they tend to create colonies of the blind. Here it is not the case, as I have observed, for the emphases placed on integration above grade six, and on living out at the secondary school and above, tends to include a sense of independence in the students. The possibility too of open education in areas on the periphery of this central area, makes the outlook for the education of blind youth in Ethiopia truly forward looking, and one to be seriously considered by other developing countries in the continent, planning for the development of their programmes of education for the exceptional child."

Back to Contents


by Evelyn De Wolfe

(Editor's Note; The following story, reprinted from the Los Angeles Times (California) with permission, tells of an interesting activity which was founded by Tony Mannino, now President of the California Council of the Blind, and which is being ably carried on by Carolyn K. Helmer.]

To the newly blinded, the 3 Rs are of a new kind. They are Reacceptance—of themselves as blind persons; Revaluation—of their lives, and Renewal—toward new goals.

This becomes meaningful in the framework of Active Blind and its Recreational-Educational-Adult-Program (REAP), a new concept implementing the philosophy that the blind can lead the blind. REAP has blind faculty members and a blind director, Mrs. Carolyn K. Helmer. who lost her sight through glaucoma in 1962. It is affiliated with the Los Angeles Adult Education Program and offers the same courses as many other adult education centers.

"REAP is unique because it deliberately steers away from conventional training methods for the blind which tends to make them passive recipients," explained Mrs. Helmer. "REAP is totally committed to the philosophy that the blind shouldcontribute their full share to the community. Long past is the day when the blind person expects to be the recipient of directed effort.

"The activist—the thoroughly involved citizen—is the keystone of our modern society. Without this motivating human spark our social aims will never be realized. And we at Active Blind believe that in this scheme there is a place for everyone."

In the past few months members of Active Blind, who number approximately 95 newly blinded adults has been involved in the screening of foster homes for the CATHY program (Community Assistance to Homeless Youngsters). Other current projects have included participation in the Watts Festival and packing glasses for Pakistan. Everyone at Active Blind contributes his share of work on a volunteer basis. In addition to duties as director of REAP and president of Active Blind, Mrs. Helmer is active in the Women's Division of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters.

Mrs. Helmer's training and background has always been in teaching. She is a graduate of UCLA with postgraduate credits from both USC and UCLA. She was honored recently with a Community Service Award from the Los Angeles Adult School system for her work with REAP. "When I lost my sight, blind school teachers were then not acceptable for employment. It was a terrible blow not to be able to do what I knew best. It was then that a newly formed group, the Active Blind (an affiliate of the California Council of the Blind), asked me to participate in its teaching program as a volunteer. It was just what I needed. When you are newly blinded you are in a state of trauma. You need to do something immediately. If you can transfer your former talents to some usefulness, it is the greatest therapy in the world. When blindness comes to any adult, it's a catastrophic blow. The fearful darkness shuts out the brilliance of the sunset, the friendly smile, the colors of nature and even familiar paths and objects become strange. And you ask yourself; 'Is it possible to go on?'"

Mrs. Helmer explained that the focal point of the REAP project is the emphasis on self-acceptance. When this is accomplished, integration into the main stream of society and job placement becomes possible, she said. "The greatest need in the blind movement is not in how many skills you are taught, but the kind of motivation that is generated. Unless you are motivated you will never adjust to blindness. At REAP we have courses which we alternately title dynamics of the personality, psychocybernetics and psychology of self-imagery. We teach our fellow blind that there is dignity in carrying a white cane and we direct them toward constructive living and leadership." Mrs. Helmer added that while Active Blind is committed to the philosophy of for, by, and of the blind, it welcomes sighted volunteers to help in driving, proofreading of type and help in the kitchen at the old mansion at 1419 S. Wilton Place where they are headquartered.

Back to Contents


Recently opened was the Texas Homestead for the Blind, located in Fort Worth. It is designed to provide a residence for the elderly blind who are without immediate family ties. The facility offers complete home facilities at low cost, including room and board, laundry, health care, and transportation. Mr. Edwin Wilson is the Director, P.O. Box 11456, Fort Worth, Texas 76110.


Each week every day's editorials and columns of The Atlanta Journal and the Atlanta Constitution (Georgia) are voiced taped by the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.


Less than 2,000 of the 200,000 licensed ham radio operators in the country are blind, according to the American Radio League.


A new program to establish centers to serve deaf-blind children was recently announced by the U. S. Office of Education. It is estimated that between 20,000 and 30,000 children were victims of the German measles (rubella) epidemics of 1963-65. Many of these children suffered impairment of both vision and hearing. The centers will be situated strategically in various areas of the country.


A new pamphlet explaining Braille to the layman has been published by the American Foundation for the Blind, New York. The 12-page booklet entitled "Understanding Braille" explains the history of the touch system and why it is so important to blind persons.


Recently a man was hailed before a municipal judge in Sacramento on a charge of driving a car without a license. When the defendant had to be led up to the judge's bench by a bailiff, it became apparent he was virtually blind. He had had five other traffic citations since his license expired in 1959—but no accidents.


Last year a pilot class of twelve blind persons were trained as computer programmers at System Development Corporation in Los Angeles, California. For almost nine months the students spent 120 classroom hours each month in learning scientific and commercial methods of computer programming. The students practiced their programming skills daily on the most modern large and small computers. Of the first class, all but one of the graduates was immediately employed, earning in excess of $600 a month and with bright futures. This year twelve additional blind students are undergoing the same rigid training and it is confidently expected that they, too, will win jobs and high praise from their future employers.


Dr. Peter Putnam of Princeton, New Jersey is a blind author and lecturer. In 1960 Dr. Putnam was chosen to succeed Adlai Stevenson as a special lecturer and in 1965 he was appointed Vice-President for development and fundraising of the Unitarian-Universalist Association.


The Ohio Council of the Blind Bulletin tells us that there is a town in Oregon named John Day. This town is unique because there is a blind man on its police force. Robert Shoun, who is twenty-four, and his guide dog have charge of the night desk at the police station.


Will Braille for reading someday be supplanted? A research associate at Stanford University recently described a small machine to provide direct translation of type. The blind would read through their fingertips coded vibrations set up by the transistorized machine, about the size of a small radio. These vibrations result from a scanning device that "reads" each letter on a printed page. Learning to read these vibrations will entail a lot of ability and training. Vibration reading at present is much slower than Braille reading. Many improvements in the machine are anticipated, including one that, instead of producing vibrations, would feed information from the scanner into a computer which would be translated into the spoken word.


Jack McSpadden is a blind man who works for the Internal Revenue Service as a tax information representative. Recently he was named Arkansas Rehabilitant for 1968.


Blind workers at a knotting factory operated by the Society for the Blind in Hong Kong smashed windows, chairs, and equipment in a protest which started when the Society refused to grant the workers a guaranteed monthly income. It seems the workers, about sixty of them, wanted only a guaranteed monthly income of $26, but the Society felt this was too much and continues to pay them much less on a piece-rate basis.


The Beaver County (Pennsylvania) Federation of the Blind is small but active. Presently in a fundraising effort the members are selling a combination key-chain, flashlight and whistle. Recently the group realized a substantial income from selling tickets to the Pittsburgh Symphony Concert. The Columbia Gas Company of Pennsylvania underwrote the entire expense of the concert and so every ticket sold was clear profit to the Federation.


According to the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, eighty-four percent of the clients rehabilitated during fiscal year 1967 became wage or salaried workers either in the competitive labor market or in sheltered workshops. The remaining sixteen percent were rehabilitated into occupations related to the home and family. The highest percentage of clients placed into professional, technical, and managerial positions were found among the blind, accounting for seventeen percent in these classifications.


Readers of the Monitor (November, 1968 issue) will recall that Russell Kletzing (who is Executive Secretary and General Counsel of the California Council of the Blind and Secretary of the NFB) caused a minor turmoil at the California Exposition grounds when he protested that he should not be discriminated against merely because he was blind. He was arrested and charged with disturbing the peace. All charges have now been dismissed against Russ. In fact, the court dropped the charges when none other than the Deputy District Attorney himself made the motion to dismiss the case "in the interest of justice". However, Russ and his attorney reserved the right to appeal the original arrest in the event that Cal Expo ever again discriminates against a blind person.


Ralph Sanders, totally blind student at San Fernando State College (California) has been named to the post of Editor of the college newspaper, The Sun Dial. The Sun Dial is considered one of the outstanding publications among college newspapers.


A member of the Kansas Board of Regents recently told a budget hearing in Topeka that living conditions for blind boys at the State School for the Blind in Kansas City were intolerable. He urged that new living quarters be provided immediately. The blind boys were living on a third floor of the building and that a major fire could cause heavy loss of life. No play area, lounge area, or other recreational areas are provided. Children must sleep, play and live in rooms where nine to twelve beds are located with little space for any other activity. The State Board of Health criticized the conditions. Overcrowding in addition to fire hazards are of immediate concern, the Superintendent admitted.


A highly trained choir of eleven young blind men and women from Hong Kong are giving concerts in churches throughout the United States. The six women and five men are graduates of the Hong Kong Music Center for the Blind. They have performed before the King and Queen of Thailand and other leading Asian officials.


More than one million persons have been trained in schools and colleges in nearly one thousand different occupations during the first six years (1962-1968) of a Federal program designed to get unemployed and underemployed youth and adults into the job market or to upgrade their skills. The U.S. Office of Education estimates that today total enrollment exceeds 1,034,000 persons in courses conducted under the Manpower Development and Training Act. Most training is carried on in public high schools and community colleges offering vocational education. Cost of the program over the six years was $1.25 billion in Federal funds—S670 million in allowances, such as family living costs and transportation, and $580 million for the costs of training.


The Montana Association for the Blind in its Observer reports that ten members and friends of the Association met to organize a group of blind persons in Bozeman. The Association also says that calendar sales are booming, a total of 12,000 having been ordered.


The proposal that the San Francisco (California) Municipal Railway give free passes to nonresident blind persons won unanimous approval from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. The free passes, long available to San Franciscans, will now be made available to blind residents of adjoining counties.


A. P. reports from Cleveland, Georgia, that Miss Harriette Anne Martin, who as a three-month-premature 29-ounce baby in 1949 became the tiniest surviving "preemie" ever born at Atlanta's Crawford W. Long Memorial Hospital, is a freshman at Truett-Connell Baptist College here. Although she has been blind all her life, she plays the piano and cello, swims, dances, skates, reads, dates, does church work and sings in a big, clear soprano. She attended regular schools, learning to type and to read braille, joined the Girl Scouts and attended regular summer camp. "Blindness is an adjective that describes the condition of the eye", she says matter-of-factly. "There still are plenty of other ways a person can see."


The Toppenish (Washington) Association of the Blind has a small membership but a healthy treasury as a result of candy sales, rummage sales, and baked goods sales. Our Toppenish friends point out that there are many larger places which do not even have an organization of the blind due to the indifference of many blind persons who fail to see the necessity of organizing to improve conditions for the blind everywhere.


Associated Press reports from Dar Es Salaam that nine blind East Africans will attempt to climb 19,340-foot Kilimanjaro. Africa's highest peak, next month to prove the blind can compete with sighted people. The only concession to their handicap will be the period of the climb—nine days up and down instead of the usual five. Three blind Tanzanians with three Kenyans and three Ugandans will have three weeks training at a mountain school before attempting to scale Kilimanjaro early in February. The project is financed by the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind through contributions from children at 35 British schools.

Back to Contents

The American Health-Care System and the Poor

A Social Organizational Point of View

[Welfare in Review, November-December 1968, Vol. 6, No. 6]

[Dr Reid is Chief, Long-Range Research Branch, Intramural Research Division, Office of Research, Demonstrations, and Training, Social and Rehabilitation Service. Mrs. Arnaudo is a social science analyst in the Office of Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Development, Social and Rehabilitation Service. She formerly served in the same capacity in the Intramural Research Division. Mrs. White was a social science analyst with the Intramural Research Division at the time this article was prepared.]

The need for a systematic examination of the Nation's health-care system is growing steadily and with considerable urgency. Of vital concern in determining what health care is readily available and how effectively it is organized is an understanding of many of its essential aspects such as the way in which health-care units and health-care practitioners are organized into health-care systems. Also of vital concern in such a determination are the fact that the health care the poor receive is farther from adequacy than that of persons at higher income levels and the belief that it may be more nearly accurate and more useful to attribute this fact to the design and activities of the health-care system rather than to the attitudes of the poor. In this article we will discuss these vital issues.

Health-Care Problems and Practices

Low-income persons have more health-care problems than persons at other income levels; their health-care problems are often more severe and longer lasting; and they use health-care services less frequently.1 The most obvious deficiency in their use of health-care services is failure to use these services to prevent illness and to seek advice as soon as they should. Rather, they tend to use services only after illness has become serious.

Although many of the health-care problems of the poor can be attributed to the direct effects of poverty—to inadequate diet, bad housing, poor sanitation, and overcrowding—many are due to underuse of health-care facilities and services.2 For the poor the cost of services has been a major barrier to full use, especially when preventive measures and aftercare are concerned.

The cost of health-care services, however, has not been the only great barrier. Even when free care is available, the poor use health-care services less frequently than others (though some of the differential in use declines3), and they tend to use them only after medical conditions are serious.

The poor more often use unacceptable and inadequate health-care services than persons at other income levels. Particularly when pain or discomfort is minimal, they are likely to seek advice from friends or relatives or the corner druggist rather than from physicians. They are more susceptible to the lures of medical quacks and faddists, and they are more likely to try to treat themselves and to use home remedies.4

The Psychological Point of View

Why do the poor fail to use health-care services as they should? The fault may lie in them—in their individual psychology—or in the system—in the way health-care is organized and delivered.

In the past it was common to seek explanations for the health-care practices of the poor through the study of the individual characteristics of the potential recipients of such services. Research has shown that the deficient use of health-care facilities is associated with, if not explained by, a person's beliefs, opinions, attitudes, motives, and personality.5 The low-income person frequently lacks knowledge of or information about physiology, medical etiology, good health practices, and the work of the health-care practitioner.6 He often lacks ability to use information intelligently or to follow the practitioner's advice. And he is more likely than persons at other income levels to have inaccurate information concerning health and the treatment of disorders, to be more fearful of ill health and of using health resources,7 to be more uncomfortable in health-care facilities, and to be more distrustful of practitioners.8

Some investigators link deficient use of health-care facilities to particular ethnic origins, social class, and cultural background.9 Others link such individual characteristics to the particular life situation of the poor in the United States.10 Still others hypothesize a generalized worldwide culture of poverty to account for why the poor everywhere are more ignorant about important aspects of living such as health and are more apathetic toward or distrustful of actions designed to remedy their situation.11 Other investigators have found an apparent connection between the readiness of a person to act to safeguard his health and his perception of the likelihood of illness occurring, the seriousness of the illness, and the effectiveness and feasibility of treatment.12

All-out health education programs might seem to be the answer. But health education programs directed at persons with inappropriate attitudes, especially low-income persons, have shown disappointing results.13 One difficulty is that the persons most in need of health education are those least likely to be reached or convinced by education—those who cannot or will not read, those who read the wrong things, those who reject information inconsistent with entrenched beliefs and opinions, and those who are emotionally dependent on beliefs that forbid them to consider other points of view.

Explaining health-care practices through psychological or individual characteristics has its use, particularly as a means of pointing out the directions programs might take to shape practices. This is especially true when characteristics spring from social milieu.

The Organizational Point of View

Another method of accounting for the health-care practices of the poor is to describe the logical consequences of the health-care system in operation. It may be more feasible to count on changing the practices of organizations that influence the attitudes of clients than to count on the reverse sequence.14

Medically desirable behavior can be affected by the social interaction required of the person in need of care and the way in which health-care units and health-care practitioners are socially organized to dispense healthcare.15 A person learns what to do about health and health problems from others. Likely, interaction with health-care practitioners in health-care settings shapes many of the attitudes, thoughts, motives, and practices of people concerning health care. The way in which health-care practitioners deal with low-income persons and the way health-care units are organized are vital in determining what health care is readily available and how feasible, convenient, and free of problems it is to use.16

Many insightful descriptions (but as yet few research findings) indicate that the health-care practices of low-income persons are often due to these conditions: the behavior of health-care practitioners is often not the same with low-income persons as with persons at other income levels and the kinds of health-care practitioners who deal with low-income persons are usually different from the kind who deal with others; typically, low-income persons are served in social-medical settings far different from those used by others; and social attitudes favor the client who can pay his way and handicap those who cannot.17 In other words, the practitioner, the setting, and the attitude of the general public have much to do with the poor health practices of low-income persons.

Health-care practitioners.—It is logically possible to account in part for the inadequate health care the poor receive by focusing attention on the actions of a different group of persons—the health-care practitioners. Although deficient health-care practices may be due to the inadequate attitudes, motives, and the like of the poor themselves, they might also be due to the attitudes, motives, and practices of health-care professional persons that interfere with the delivery of good services to the poor. The major thesis of this article, however, is that ultimately the attitudes, motives, and practices of both the poor and the health-care practitioner are powerfully shaped by the way in which health-care units are organized and the organizational structure that links units together. Both health-care practitioners and users of service can only partly overcome the limitations of the compulsion exerted by the system.

Health-care units.—Several studies point out that, in the specific use of the term social organization, the kinds of medical units used by low-income persons are different from those used by others. Low-income persons are more likely to get health-care services from more poorly staffed and inadequately equipped hospitals than are other persons and to be treated by health-care practitioners with lesser academic qualifications and heavier work loads.18

American society and culture.—Social influences affecting the use of health-care services can include not only interpersonal relations but also the abstract extrapersonal characteristics of social structure, social organization, and culture. Social structure affects both the health and the health-care practices of low-income persons in that many of them live in urban slums or in isolated rural areas poorly supplied with health-care facilities and health-care practitioners, both in number and in quality. Unemployed persons and persons employed in short-term jobs and jobs requiring little skill are unlikely to have employer-supported health insurance or facilities. The child of a migrant worker is less likely than the child of a worker in a geographically fixed occupation to find himself in a school providing periodic health checks and medical referral or to have a regular source of medical care.

The cultural characteristics of society in the United States affect both the nature of the health-care system and the place the low-income person has in it.19 Americans seem to value more than any other a fee-for-service system in which private practitioners care for those who can pay for service. A different form of delivering health-care services is typically provided for those who cannot pay out of pocket or by health insurance. Other cultural characteristics affecting health care may also include such social attitudes as the belief that wealthy and important persons are entitled to more costly goods and to better services than others because they have earned it and that persons without money should be grateful for whatever free services they receive.

Moreover, many Americans relegate the poor in general and some poor persons in particular—usually Negroes and Spanish-speaking persons—to lesser consideration. They feel that poverty, especially in the midst of wealth, reflects such undesirable characteristics as slothfulness or desire to exploit the rich. They have unfavorable attitudes toward persons they consider immoral, slovenly, or hostile. Health-service practitioners do not escape from having such bias: many of them reluctantly work with the poor.20 The public tends not to be outraged by the delivery of less than adequate health-care services to the poor and is less likely to support action to change conditions than when the inadequacy works against middle and upper class persons. Part of the problem is the matter of distribution. Some experts maintain that there are not enough licensed and practicing physicians or other health-care specialists to provide health-care for all persons in the United States. Others emphasize the fact that the geographic distribution of health professional workers and their availability to low-income persons are far from equitable.21

Their effect on the poor person.—At the least a person's characteristics probably interact with organizational influences to cause certain kinds of behavior. The low-income person may be more reluctant to use health-care services than others in large part because such services actually are less convenient and costlier for him than they are for the middle- or high-income person.22 Even when basic medical services are available at no cost, he must spend more time and face more inconveniences to get to services; he must wait longer and in more dismal and uncomfortable surroundings for services; and he is more likely to have to go to several locations to receive care.23 Transportation and incidental medical costs, although smaller for him than for others, take a larger portion of his assets. The higher income person is often permitted to take time off with pay from work to get medical care, but the low-income person on hourly wages often loses income when visiting health-care facilities during working hours.

The small faith in medical practice that low-income persons seem to have may derive from this fact: services are less accessible to them and are of poorer quality than those received by paying clients. They may lack confidence in physicians because those they see are not so competent or so eminent as those paying clients see or they are not furnished a single and primary physician with whom they can have a continuing relation.24

The attitudes of all persons toward health-care are not always rational, of course, be they rich, middle class, or poor. Many persons grow less willing to see a physician the more convinced they are that something is seriously wrong with them.25 The low-income person, however, is more likely to be correct in his assessment that he has many serious complaints and that for one reason or another he will not be able to follow the physician's recommendations.26

What we are saying is that from a social organizational point of view the attitudes, thoughts, and motives of the poor that inhibit desirable health action could be conceived of as consequences of the operation of the social system generally and of the health-care system specifically, rather than as ultimate explanations of their inappropriate health-care practices. It may be the health-care system itself, reflecting social attitudes, that limits the pursuit of preventive health-care measures by low-income persons, particularly when individual initiative is required, and makes it less desirable or beneficial, at least in their minds, for them to use the health-care system.

The Organization of the System

Before we can discuss how the health-care system can be changed to bring better health-care services to the poor we must look first at the system as it now operates. We particularly need to look at how it is organized to serve the poor.

Health care in the United States is delivered through a complex system of organizations such as hospitals, clinics, and health-care centers, as well as through individual practitioners. The relation of these practitioners to the organized health-care system varies greatly; some work exclusively within organizations, others work almost independently.27 But even the most individualistic practitioner is dependent on a network of organizations and services and on other practitioners for aid, advice, and service. Virtually all physicians are part of the health-care system of a particular community and of the Nation as a whole—a system whose parts are more or less independent but which in its entirety provides for the Nation's health care.28 Although the health-care system is often a cooperative effort, competition for services and resources (and even for the most desirable clients) exists.

Structural arrangements through which health care is delivered to various kinds of persons vary greatly in the United States. Physicians may practice in groups, by themselves, or in hospitals; they may be salaried or independent or be in partnership; they may teach or conduct research; or they may hold that serving a heavy and extensive patient load in community-supported health units is the role that best expresses their professional commitment. Hospitals and other health-care settings also vary in objectives and sponsorship; some are organized to treat large groups of patients as efficiently and inexpensively as possible; some are affiliated with medical schools and post-graduate educational centers; others are managed and controlled by the physicians who practice in them and offer little opportunity for objective evaluation of practices; some are large, others small; some emphasize community medicine and continuity of care; some have large endowments and are heavily supported; others barely survive economically from day to day.

Any complex system of social service develops through the collective efforts of many persons and groups. As the outline of the system becomes codified in the social structure, social organizations operate by more or less recognized blue-prints. Ideally, hospital staffs, physicians and other health-care practitioners, pharmacists, members of public health units, and members of health-care policy organizations are all involved in a complex network of operations aimed at meeting the Nation's health needs.29

It is neither possible nor desirable to specify a "best" model of structural arrangements for patient care.30 Some attributes of the social organization of care are not easy to evaluate. Within each kind of arrangement, undoubtedly some health-care units give excellent care. Practitioners in some hospitals and in private practice do treat low-income persons, as do many tax-supported hospitals.

The System and the Poor

Persons in need of health-care services cannot invent or create what they need—they must choose or accept services from what is available. In a society as complex as ours, the choice is often not free: a man's position in society determines how much he knows about resources, what part he is informed about, and what parts he is encouraged or even permitted to use. This rule in operation is apparent in the health-care practices of the poor and the way health-care is delivered to them.

Low-income persons frequently receive ambulatory care in the out-patient clinics of public and voluntary hospitals with free clinics, and they tend to use emergency clinics as their source of health care (because emergency clinics have unlimited hours and do not require appointments).31 The implications for the kind of health care they receive are many. For certain it tends to be different from and inferior to that delivered to the paying patients of physicians with hospital staff privileges.32 The services they receive are often impersonal, fragmented, and inferior.

The structure of the typical clinic almost insures that the low-income person will be attended by a health-care practitioner who knows little about him as a person or about his medical history. Particularly in hospitals not affiliated with universities, the attending physician may be an intern with little medical experience. With the exception of a few university hospitals, senior physicians supervise junior staff members in rotation. Even the best teaching hospitals have supervisory problems. In some public and community hospitals, many junior staff members are physicians trained in foreign institutions, some of which are generally regarded as less capable of offering good training than U.S. institutions', or in the less highly regarded U.S. medical schools. The attending physician, even when highly qualified and a full-time staff member, is likely to have a much larger number of patients than those caring for paying patients. Further, the poor are sometimes regarded as "teaching material" from whom interns and resident physicians acquire practical experience.33

Even the well-trained, full-time physician in the high quality university-affiliated hospital—if the hospital depends on public funds—is likely not only to have a large patient load but also to lack the helpers, supplies, and facilities he needs. Many dedicated physicians eventually leave such facilities because they feel they cannot continue to deal with the frustration of attempting to treat seriously ill patients without good resources.34 Because of such conditions, the kind of health care delivered in clinics, especially in emergency clinics, tends to be fragmented or at best episodic.35 Moreover, even if the practitioner is able to provide excellent care for the immediate complaint, he may be forced to give fragmented care because he can give little or no time to the patient's condition in other respects or to followup care. In many cases the followup care is given by another physician.36 Preventive care, particularly diagnostic screening, is rarely furnished in such settings.

Further fragmentation of services rises in that it is often necessary for the adult members of a family to go to separate clinics depending on the kind of illness—the mother to a prenatal clinic, the father to a general clinic, for instance—and to take the children to still other clinics—for well baby services and for pediatric care. The inconvenience of the process sometimes results in overlooking the "less serious" health-care problems of some of the family's members. It also means, occasionally, that the potential influence of the health problems of one family member on other family members is overlooked.

Units serving the poor are often their last or only resort. If they are turned away, they have nowhere else to go. The person paying for care more often obtains the services of a board-certified physician affiliated with a medical school who can call on other board-certified specialists as needed.37 He is more likely to receive instructions about health care than the patient using free services. He tends to get clearer instructions because he and the physician speak a similar language and have more in common.

Except in a few recently established programs, the charity patient does not have a personal physician. Rapport tends to be low between physician and patient.38 The physician is usually too busy to instruct the patient or to be concerned about the possibility of later medical complications, and he has trouble making the poorly educated patient understand his instructions.

The client who is poor is not in the habit of asking the physician to clarify instructions. He is often unable to judge what is good care and is less able than others to effectively object to what he may see as inadequate diagnosis, treatment, or explanation. He is less able to demand that the physician reconsider what he has done. The low-income person is often referred to medical services by a social worker, a person who does not have the same amount of knowledge about medical resources as a physician and who often does not have time to add concern for such matters to activities more nearly central to his profession.39

Health-care units receiving full payment for services from clients can compete successfully for the best qualified practitioners, can hire a sufficient number of ancillary workers, and can purchase necessary supplies. They can turn away applicants when they are overloaded or can restrict their services to specialties. In contrast, administrators of health units supported primarily by taxes, who must justify their requests for funds to taxpayers and government officials, are at a competitive disadvantage when resources are scarce.

Research into Organization

In recent years the amount of literature bearing on the theoretical foundations of the operation of social organizations has grown to considerable proportions. The effort involved in producing these works and the thinking behind them have truly represented many fields and professions, and has included representatives of the fields of sociology, political science, psychology, business management, economics, and even the physical sciences and mathematics.40 These theoretical efforts have only infrequently been focused on the study of health and welfare units or on the operation of the health-care system.41 The integration of theory with the practical study of those concerned with improving health care is one of the most vital research steps in the Nation's efforts to find answers to current problems in the health-care field.

Research problems centering on the social organization of health-care services and of the health-care system itself are many. It would serve no purpose to try to draw up a comprehensive catalog of the research needed, but it should be useful to indicate some aspects of research problems that seem important and timely. Three particularly important aspects concern intraorganizational characteristics, interorganizational relations, and changing behavior through organizational change.

Intraorganizational characteristics.—Social organizational theory has had much to say about the consequences of the structural characteristics of organizations on their ability to function (and the manner in which they function) and on the way they deliver services.42 Research on health-care services is needed to delineate the consequences of such characteristics as size, hierarchical structuring, physical arrangements, and method of coordinating complex services on the quality of health-care services and the efficiency and effectiveness with which such services can be delivered. Typical interactions, both between health-care workers and between them and their clients, have many unknown implications for meeting the purpose of the units in which they operate.

The many insightful hypotheses about the consequences for health-care when delivered in various organizational settings need more explicit verification by experiment. The proposition that the settings in which low-income families typically receive health-care relegate them to fewer and poorer services requires more definite confirmation by carefully controlled research. Whether less common organizational methods such as pre-paid group-practice plans continue to show the superiority indicated by some groping research comparisons is also a question of considerable interest to those concerned about the health-care system and its effects on the poor.43 The consequences for the cost, quality, and effectiveness of health-care services of various current and proposed health-care delivery and financing mechanisms constitute an important field for research.44

Interorganizational relations.—Some of the more complex research questions involve the study of how diverse individual social units and social organizations operate and how they can be welded into effective and efficient systems for delivering health-care services. We need to find out under what circumstances interagency cooperation and coordination are most likely to be achieved and how barriers to such coordination can be minimized or eliminated.45 Social organizational theorists have indicated that competition among units may be constructive as well as restrictive.46 The limits within which the competition facilitates or interferes with the accomplishment of local and national purposes need to be identified. Specific research could include examination of contrasting communities in which health-care units form an effective chain as contrasted with those in which relations are minimal and cooperation is rare. The role of welfare and other kinds of social agencies, a role commonly defined as the identification and referral of persons in need to the most appropriate source of service, requires study as a potentially powerful locus for coordination.

A research question at once of great consequence and complexity is how decisions are made concerning the allocation or withholding of resources required to meet national or local needs such as the expansion of resources for delivering more and better health-care services. Social organizational theory is beginning to recognize that individual organizational units and even whole systems operate in a physical and social environment, just as do individual persons.47 Research is needed to determine to what extent and in what ways the operations of health and welfare units and the health-care system are shaped by social forces lying outside their boundaries. Indeed, questions asked and answered by agents for such influential social groups can sometimes become research questions in themselves. In point would be questions such as whether, with limited national financial resources, expenditures to improve the national system of health-care service do more or less to promote health than comparable expenditures to assure that everyone has enough money to follow a healthful diet. Would comparable funds spent for other measures—say, to persuade people to drive with safety belts fastened, or to carefully control their weight, or to stop smoking cigarettes—more effectively improve health?48

Changing behavior through organizational change.—A major purpose of Federal expenditures for health is to change the health status of the Nation's citizens and to distribute health resources more equitably among all.49 Social organizational theory (and expressions of the insight of many members of the health-care system) suggests many possibilities for improving the health-care practices of the poor through changing the organization of health-care services to make them more rewarding than they have been—to improve the quality of care delivered, to make facilities more pleasant and convenient, and to assure more nearly adequate communication between health-care practitioners and the low-income client. Research must be designed to test the efficacy of such efforts, as well as to test whether other choices suggested by critics of the system succeed in generating new emphasis among low-income families on using health-care resources to ward off illness and to seek treatment long before symptoms leave no alternative.

Critics of the system have suggested a number of changes in the method of operating health insurance programs and health-care units capable of generating change. Questions as to the most effective role of service workers, who are generally community resource persons rather than specialists in a particular field such as health, have relevance for this issue. For example, visiting nurses, social workers, rehabilitation workers, home health aides, and Office of Economic Opportunity neighborhood service workers are all suggested by persons in health, government, and research agencies as crucial in promoting better use of health services and in maintaining health. The problems of how to make the best use of such resource persons is a field of study promising useful results.

SRS Research: Effects of Title XIX

The Title XIX Medical Assistance Program (Medicaid) of the Social Security Act, administered by the Social and Rehabilitation Service (SRS), aims at reducing, then removing, the major barrier—lack of money—to the receipt of good health care by persons in low-income families. Once this barrier is removed, the aim can shift to the effective use of free or low-cost health-care services.

The Intramural Research Division of SRS, working with the research staff at the Graduate Schools of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh, is investigating the extent to which Title XIX and other Federal health-care programs are generating changes in health-care units, in the practices and procedures of health-care practitioners, and in the health-care delivery system. A complementary project, on which SRS is working with the School of Public Health and Administrative Medicine at Columbia University, is investigating whether Title XIX is favorably affecting the health-care practices of low-income persons. The Columbia project will investigate how use of services looks to the low-income recipient, whether he sees the receipt of services under the Title XIX program as having undesirable consequences, and whether he still meets barriers in his search for health care. For instance, it will try to determine whether he is now more ready and able than formerly to use health-care services at more appropriately early stages in the development of health-care problems.

The University of Pittsburgh's research will focus on the agencies, persons, and procedures for delivering health care to Title XIX recipients and to others in low-income families. Research questions cover a wide range of theoretical and practical considerations. Can an all-out effort by the Federal Government promote desired changes in organizations and systems, even though much research has shown a powerful resistance to organizational change?

Critical research questions in this respect concern whether increased financial support for health-care units provided through Title XIX programs (as opposed to the old medical vendor payment programs) is sufficient in itself to improve their capacity for delivering better health services to more persons and whether State and local governments are thereby enabled to increase all local effort for health care. The research will examine the effect of the permissible range of Title XIX programs adopted by each State and of the particular administrative arrangements developed for easing or obstructing Federal objectives for the program.

The Title XIX program may achieve the effects desired by increasing the resources, facilities, and capability of health-care units that have been serving the poor or by providing incentive to encourage other health-care units to serve the poor. If so, it will relieve the burden on such units. The research will be alert to both possibilities.

Generally, the research will be sensitive to such improvements in health-care services for the poor as this: an increase in the numbers of low-income persons receiving higher quality care with greater (and more appropriate) frequency under circumstances less likely to discourage search for such care. It will examine whether both health and welfare agencies give more effort than before to identifying persons in need of health-care services, whether referral procedures will be more nearly precise, whether organizations will develop more concern for ensuring adequate followup of health-care services, and whether social services are more freely and appropriately provided to support the therapy required. In this research it will be crucial to determine whether effective cooperation between health and welfare agencies is being achieved. The research design will include a baseline examination of a national sample of communities at an early stage of the Title XIX program to provide benchmarks against which to assess later change in the capability of health-care units to deliver health-care services to the poor, to increase the number of units delivering services, and to increase the amount and quality of health-care services delivered.

The research we have described in this article represents an untypical and potentially valuable method of interfacing intramural and contract research. The original development of the scope, focus, and purpose was carried on in the Intramural Research Division. It was further developed in close collaboration with the research staff of the contract agencies. A Medicaid Research Advisory Committee, composed of experts on research from universities and hospitals and research and program staff members of the Federal agencies concerned with the advancement of knowledge about health care, provided consultation in perfecting the plan. The collaboration between the academic research contractor and the Government agency will, if its purpose is attained, coordinate the theoretical base essential to the design of superior research with the practical concern vital to decision-makers.

FROM the social organizational point of view, the flaws and weaknesses of the American health-care system are at the root of many of the inadequate health-care practices of the poor. However, more research is needed to establish the utility of this point of view in promoting better health care. In this article, after taking a look at the health-care system and how the poor use--and are permitted to use--it, we have attempted to describe some of the unresolved issues and to suggest topics for research that could help resolve them. The research problems discussed, of course, are not the only ones needing resolution, but they are illustrative of some potentially important subjects. A social organizational point of view appears to offer a fresh and challenging method of reaching a better understanding of the operation of social organizations and systems of organizations generally and health-care organizations and health-care systems specifically.

1Excellent documentation of the statistics of the status of health care and the use of health-care services has been done by the National Center for Health Statistics, U.S. Public Health Service. See especially—
Medical Care, Health Status, and Family Income, Washington, D.C., U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, PHS Publication 1200, Series 10, No. 9, 1964.
Geraldine A. Gleeson and Elijah C. White, "Disability and Medical Care Among Whites and Non-Whites in the United States," Indicators, October 1965.

2For data on differential use of health-care services by various income groups see—
Daniel Rosenblatt and Edward A. Suchman, "The Under-utilization of Medical Care Services by Blue-Collarites," in Arthur Shostak and William Gomberg, eds., Blue Collar World: Studies of the American Worker, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1964.
Robert Nolan, et al., "Social Class Differences in Utilization of Pediatric Services in a Prepaid Direct Service Medical Care Program," American Journal of Public Health, January 1967.
John Ross, "Social Class and Medical Care," Journal of Health and Human Behavior, Spring 1962.
Jay Brightman, et al., "Knowledge and Utilization of Health Resources by Public Assistance Recipients," American Journal of Public Health, February 1958.
Eliot Friedson, Patients' Views of Medical Practice, New York, Russell Sage Foundation, 1961.

3Earl L. Koos, The Health of Regionville: What the People Thought and Did About It, New York, Columbia University Press, 1954.
David Mechanic, "The Concept of Illness Behavior," Journal of Chronic Diseases, vol. 15, 1962.
Daniel Rosenblatt and Edward A. Suchman, "Blue Collar Attitudes and Information Toward Health and Illness, in Arthur Shostak and William Gomberg, eds., op. cit.

4For a good discussion concerning use of quasi-medical services, see—
W. Richard Scott and Edmund H. Volkart, eds., "Laymen and the Medical Institution (Lay Belief Systems) (Part II)," Medical Care: Readings in the Sociology of Medical Institutions, New York, John Wiley and Sons, Inc. 1966.
Beatrix Cobb, "Why Do People Detour to Quacks?" in E. Gartly Jaco, ed., Patients, Physicians and Illness, Glencoe, III., The Free Press, 1958.

5Herbert Gans, The Urban Villagers, Glencoe, III., The Free Press, 1962.
Paul B. Cornely and Stanley K. Bigman, Cultural Considerations in Changing Health Attitudes, Washington, D.C., Howard University College of Medicine, 1961, vol. I, ch. 5; vol. II, passim.
Lyle Saunders, "Healing Ways in the Spanish South-west," in E. Gartly Jaco, op. cit.
Mark Zborowski, "Cultural Components in Responses to Pain," in E. Gartly Jaco, op. cit.
Irving K. Zola, "Problems of Communication, Diagnosis, and Patient Care: The Interplay of Patient, Physician, and Clinic Organization," Journal of Medical Education, October 1963.
____, "Culture and Symptoms—An Analysis of Patients' Presenting Complaints," American Sociological Review, October 1966.

6Edward A. Suchman, "Medical 'Deprivation,' " American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, July 1966.
Daniel Rosenblatt and Edward A. Suchman, op. cit. (both articles).
Lola M. Irelan, "Health Practices of the Poor," in Lola M. Irelan, ed., Low Income Life Styles, Washington, D.C., U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, WA Publication No. 4, 1966.
Jules Henry, "White People's Time, Colored People's Time," Trans-action, March-April 1965.
Albert K. Cohen and Harold M. Hodges, "Lower Blue Collar Class Characteristics," Social Problems, Spring 1963.
Edward A. Suchman, "Socio-medical Variations Among Ethnic Groups," American Journal of Sociology, November 1964.
U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Policy Planning and Research, The Negro Family: The Case for National Action, Washington, D.C., March 1965.
Lee Rainwater, And the Poor Get Children: Sex, Contraception, and Family Planning in the Working Class, Chicago, Quadrangle Books, 1960.

7See footnote 2.

8Oscar Lewis, Five Families: Mexican Case Studies in the Culture of Poverty, New York, Basic Books, Inc., 1959 (introduction).
____, The Children of Sanchez, New York, Random House, 1961 (introduction).
Jerome Cohen, "Social Work and the Culture of Poverty," in Frank Riessman, et. al., eds., Mental Health of the Poor, New York, The Free Press, 1964.

9Herbert Gans, op. cit.
Paul B. Comely and Stanley K. Bigman, op. cit.
Mark Zborowski, op. cit.
Daniel Rosenblatt and Edward A. Suchman, op. cit. (both articles).
John Ross, op. cit.

10Lola M. Irelan, op. cit.

11See footnote 8.

12Godfrey M. Hochbaum, Public Participation in Medical Screening Programs: A Sociopsychological Study, PHS Publication, No. 572, Washington, D.C., U.S. Department at Health, Education, and Welfare, 1958. (An early statement of a similar theory.)
Irwin M. Rosenstock, "Why People Use Health Services," Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly, July 1966, pt. 2 (A later, modified statement of this general theory.)

13Camille Lambert, Jr., and Howard E. Freeman, The Clinic Habit, New Haven, College and University Press 1967. {These authors show that children who have used free dental clinics are, after they stop using clinics, more neglectful of their teeth than children who have never used such clinics.)
Benjamin D. Paul, et al., eds., "Trigger for Community Conflict: The Case of Fluoridation," Journal of Social Issues, vol. 17, No. 4, 1961. (Describes unsuccessful campaigns to alert people to the benefits of fluoridated water.)
Kerr L. White, "Organization and Delivery of Personal Health Services: Public Policy Issues," Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly, January 1968, pt. 2.

14Recent reports on research findings about the health-care system include—
Howard J. Brown, "Delivery of Personal Health Services and Medical Services for the Poor: Concessions or Prerogatives,” Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly, January 1968, pt. 2.

15Avedis Donabedian and S J. Axelrod, "Organizing Medical Care Programs to Meet Health Needs," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, December 1961.

16Richard H, Schlesinger, et al., "Outpatient Care—The Influence of Interrelated Needs," American Journal of Public Health, November 1962.
Avedis Donabedian and S. J. Axelrod, op. cit.

17For a discussion of discrimination against the poor in the health-care system, see—
Alonzo Yerby, "The Disadvantaged and Health Care," American Journal of Public Health, January 1966.
Dorothy Harrison, "The Health Care Situation—Summary and Recommendations," The Health Status of the Negro: Conference Proceedings, Washington, D.C., Howard University, March 1967.
Ozzie Simmons, "Implications of Social Class for Public Health," Human Organization, Summer 1967.
Talcott Parsons, "Social Change and Medical Organization in the United States: A Sociological Perspective," Annals of the American Society of Political and Social Science, March l963.

18Apparently, there is little if any disagreement with such accounts as—
Mark Lepper, et al., "Approaches to Meeting the Health Needs of Large Poverty Populations," American Journal of Public Health, July 1967.
Alonzo Yerby, op. cit.
Howard J. Brown, op. cit.
John D. Stoeckle and Irving K. Zola, "Views, Problems and Potentialities of the Clinic," Medicine, May 1964.
Anselm L. Strauss, "Medical Ghettos," Trans-action, May 1967.

19Tolcott Parsons, op. cit.
Milton I. Roemer, "Changing Patterns of Health Service: Their Dependence on a Changing World," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, March 1963.

20lrma H. Strantz and Winston R. Miller, "Development of Interagency Coordination in a Program of Comprehensive Medical Care," American Journal of Public Health, May 1966.
Alonzo Yerby, op. cit.

21Apparently, there is and will continue to be an acute shortage of health-service manpower. See—
Department of Survey Research, American Medical Association, Distribution of Physicians, Hospitals, and Hospital Beds in the U.S., Chicago, 1966.
W. H. Stewart and M. Y. Pennell, "Physicians' Age, Type of Practice and Location," Health Manpower Source Book;, Section 10, U.S. Public Health Service, Washington, D.C., 1965.
Avedis Donabedian and S. J. Axelrod, op. cit.
William L. Kissick, "Health Manpower in Transition," Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly, January 1968, pt. 2.

22Alonzo Yerby, op cit.
Mark Lepper, et al., op. cit.
Theodore McKeown, "Limitations in Medical Care Attributable to Medical Education," Lancet, February 1961.
Mark Lepper, "Health Planning for the Urban Community: The Neighborhood Health Center," (paper presented at) First National Congress on the Socio-Economics of Health Care, January 1967.

23Herbert Notkin, "Excellence in Public Welfare Medical Care," Public Welfare, July 1963.
Osier Peterson, "Quality and Quantity of Medical Care and Health," (paper presented at the annual meeting of the) American Sociological Association, 1962.
Irving K. Zola, "Problems of Communication, Diagnosis and Patient Care: The Interplay of Patient, Physician and Clinic Organization," Journal of Medical Education, October 1963.

24See footnotes 2 and 22.
Howard J. Brown, op. cit.

25lrwin Rosenstock, op. cit.

26Samuel Bloom, The Doctor and His Patient, A Sociological Interpertation, New York, Russell Sage Foundation, 1963.

27Avedis Donabedian and S. J. Axelrod, op. cit.

28Sol Levine and Paul E. White, "Exchange as a Conceptual Framework for the Study of Interorganizational Relationships," Administrative Science Quarterly, March 1961.

29Eugene Litwak, "Models of Bureaucracy Which Permit Conflict," American Journal of Sociology, September 1961.

30Some researchers, however, have argued for the superiority of neighborhood health centers. See—
Ruth Covell, "Delivery of Health Services for the Poor," Occasional Paper, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Program Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Washington, D.C., 1967.
Mark Lepper, op. cit.
Researchers expressing other opinions include—
Lester Breslow, "New Partnerships in the Delivery of Services—A Public Health View of the Need," American Journal of Public Health, July 1967.
John D. Stoeckle and Irving K. Zola, "After Everyone Can Pay for Medical Care: Some Perspectives on Future Treatment and Practice," Medical Care, January-March 1964.

31E. Richard Weinerman and Herbert R. Edwards, "Yale Studies in Ambulatory Medical Care: I. Changing Patterns in Hospital Emergency Room Service," Hospitals, November 16, 1964.
Sidney Lee, et al., "How New Patterns of Medical Care Affect the Emergency Unit," Modern Hospital, May 1960.

32Mark Lepper, op. cit.
Alonzo Yerby, op. cit.

33See footnote 30.

34See footnote 21.

35Differences between the ideas of "fragmented care" and "episodic care" are explained in Jerry Solon, et al., "Delineating Episodes of Medical Care," American Journal of Public Health, March 1967. Cecil Sheps, M.D., former general director of the Beth Israel Medical Center, New York City, maintains that preventive care and the kind of pressure exerted by acute clinical activities as cited in Howard Brown are incompatible.

36We are indebted to Isadore Falk, Dean, School of Public Health, Yale University, for this thesis.

37See footnote 23.

38See footnote 22.

39Joseph C. Meyers, Jr., "Medical Care for Our Clients,” Public Welfare, January 1965.
Thomas Brooks, "The Caseworker and the Client,” New York Times Magazine, January 29, 1967.
Leona Baumgartner and James R. Dumpson, "Health in Welfare: A Joint or Divided Responsibility," Public Welfare, July 1962.

40Contributors to the Administrative Science Quarterly, a journal of theory and research on organizational subjects, represent all these fields.

41Most social organizational literature has centered almost entirely on the bureaucratic structure of the hospital, See—
Basil S. Georgopoulos and Floyd C. Mann, The Community General Hospital, New York and London, Macmillan, 1962.
Albert Wesson, "The Social Structure of a Modern Hospital," unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Chicago, 1949.
Mary Goss, "Physicians in Bureaucracy, A Case Study of Professional Pressures on Organizational Roles," unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, 1959.
The few works about community efforts are—
Ivan Belknap and John G. Steinle, The Community and Its Hospitals: A Comparative Analysis, Syracuse, Syracuse University Press, 1963.
Eugene Litwak and Lydia Hylton, "Interorganizational Analysis," Administrative Science Quarterly, March 1962.
Sol Levine and Paul E. White, "The Community of Health Organizations," and Irwin Sanders, "Public Health in the Community," in Howard E. Freeman, et al., eds, Handbook of Medical Sociology, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1963.

42James G. March, ed., Handbook of Organizations Chicago, Rand McNally and Company, 1965.

43Sam Shapiro, et al., "Patterns of Medical Use by the Indigent Aged Under Two Systems of Medical Care," American Journal of Public Health, May 1967.

44Social and Rehabilitation Service(SRS) is supporting a comprehensive program of research on this aspect that will involve the Social Security Administration, U.S. Health Services and Mental Health Administration, Bureau of the Budget, and Office of Economic Opportunity, as well as SRS.

45Sol Levine and Paul E. White, "The Community of Health Organizations," in Howard E. Freeman, et al., eds., Handbook of Medical Sociology, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1963.

46Eugene Litwak, op. cit.

47W. Richard Scott, "Theory of Organizations," in R.E.L. Faris, ed., Handbook of Sociology, Chicago, Rand McNally, 1964.

48Such questions have been raised by staff members of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and priorities have been tentatively identified, sometimes necessarily based on less than fully and adequately verified data.

49For a comprehensive guide to Federal aid for health-care programs see To Improve Medical Care, U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, April 1966.
For a discussion of the meaning of recent legislation concerning health care for the poor see Ellen Winston„ "Health-Welfare Partnership in Programs for Low-Income Groups," American Journal of Public Health, July 1967.

Back to Contents


The white cane has become the hallmark of the National Federation of the Blind, a symbol of equality, independence and mobility of the blind which enables them to cut a path to the mainstream of society. The emphasis of recent years by state and federal governments—the self-care and self-support provisions of the Social Security Act, state and national rehabilitation programs, special education and education in the public schools—has been on developing as much independence for each person as is "feasible" so that disabled people can be integrated into society.

To foster this program the National Federation of the Blind secured a joint resolution by Congress requesting the President to proclaim October 15 of each year as White Cane Safety Day. These campaigns are not limited to conveying word about the white cane laws. They are generally designed to inform the public about the social and economic conditions among the blind and the otherwise physically disabled, and the aspirations they have for full and useful lives. As Professor tenBroek so ably stated: The disabled, too, have a right to be "on the streets, the highways and byways, in public buildings, and other public places, in the schools and colleges, in the public service and private callings, in the factories, shops and offices, in short, in all the places where men are, go, live, work, and play. . . . The policy of the law should be by negative ban and positive fostering, to permit, enable and encourage men to be a part of their communities to the full extent of their physical capacities."

The Model White Cane Law has been adopted by California, Iowa, New Mexico, Nevada, North Dakota. Some other states have adopted important provisions of the model law but have rejected the policy sections. Because of the great demand by states now seeking original introduction and others attempting to broaden their statutes, the Model White Cane Law as first published in 1966 is produced in full below.


[Note: This draft proposal was prepared by Russell Kletzing, an experienced legal practitioner, and by Professor Jacobus tenBroek, an experienced law teacher and writer. Both are blind. They performed the work on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind, the nationwide organization of blind men and women.

This draft is distributed in the hope that it will commend itself to the legislatures of the various states and that they will enact it into law.

The draft is an outgrowth of an article by Professor tenBroek published in the May 1966 issue of the California Law Review entitled "The Right to Live in the World—the Disabled in the Law of Torts." Copies of that article may be secured gratis from the Berkeley office of the National Federation of the Blind, 2652 Shasta Road, Berkeley, California 94708. The article contains a detailed analysis of existing white cane laws and other relevant legislation and judicial decisions. It provides support for the enactment of the model law.]


1: It is the policy of this State to encourage and enable the blind, the visually handicapped, and the otherwise physically disabled to participate fully in the social and economic life of the State and to engage in remunerative employment.

2(a): The blind, the visually handicapped, and the otherwise physically disabled have the same right as the able-bodied to the full and free use of the streets, highways, sidewalks, walkways, public buildings, public facilities, and other public places;

2(b): The blind, the visually handicapped, and the otherwise physically disabled are entitled to full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of all common carriers, airplanes, motor vehicles, railroad trains, motor buses, street cars, boats or any other public conveyances or modes of transportation, hotels, lodging places, places of public accommodation, amusement or resort, and other places to which the general public is invited, subject only to the conditions and limitations established by law and applicable alike to all persons;

2(c): Every totally or partially blind person shall have the right to be accompanied by a guide dog, especially trained for the purpose, in any of the places listed in section 2(b) without being required to pay an extra charge for the guide dog; provided that he shall be liable for any damage done to the premises or facilities by such dog.

3: The driver of a vehicle approaching a totally or partially blind pedestrian who is carrying a cane predominantly white or metallic in color (with or without a red tip) or using a guide dog shall take all necessary precautions to avoid injury to such blind pedestrian, and any driver who fails to take such precautions shall be liable in damages for any injury caused such pedestrian; provided that a totally or partially blind pedestrian not carrying such a cane or using a guide dog in any of the places, accommodations or conveyances listed in section 2, shall have all of the rights and privileges conferred by law upon other persons, and the failure of a totally or partially blind pedestrian to carry such a cane or to use a guide dog in any such places, accommodations or conveyances shall not be held to constitute nor be evidence of contributory negligence.

4: Any person or persons, firm or corporation, or the agent of any person or persons, firm or corporation who denies or interferes with admittance to or enjoyment of the public facilities enumerated in section 2 or otherwise interferes with the rights of a totally or partially blind or otherwise disabled person under section 2 shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

5: Each year, the Governor shall take suitable public notice of October 15 as White Cane Safety Day. He shall issue a proclamation in which:

6: It is the policy of this State that the blind, the visually handicapped, and the otherwise physically disabled shall be employed in the State Service, the service of the political subdivisions of the State, in the public schools, and in all other employment supported in whole or in part by public funds on the same terms and conditions as the able-bodied, unless it is shown that the particular disability prevents the performance of the work involved.

Back to Contents