Voice of the National Federation of the Blind
The National Federation of the Blind is not an organization speaking for the blind--it is the blind speaking for themselves.
THE BRAILLE MONITOR
Published monthly in inkprint, Braille, and on talking book discs
Distributed free to the blind by the National Federation of the Blind
President: Kenneth Jernigan, 524 Fourth Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50309
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.
Printed at 2652 Shasta Road, Berkeley, California 94708
MONITOR FEBRUARY 1971
KINGS WHO LIVE IN GLASS HOUSES
by Perry Sundquist
SCRATCH ONE GLASS HOUSE!
by Hugh S. Koford
ILLINOIS CONGRESS OBJECTS
by John Myer
LET THOSE WHO THROW STONES
by Don O. Nold
by Kenneth Jernigan
AN IDENTITY PROBLEM
DARK NO HANDICAP FOR VINCENT LOPEZ
by Roger Wise
WHY A COMMISSION FOR THE BLIND
a) SOCIETY FOR BLIND ATTACKED AS VENDORS' TRUSTEE
by Timothy Hutchens
b) SOCIETY DISPUTES CRITICISM
by Harriet Griffiths
BLINDED MARINE VET MAKES IT ALONE
FELLOW MEMBERS OF WHAT--AND WHY
by Rosamond M. Critchley
A WHITE PAPER FOR THE EDUCATION OF OUR BLIND CHILDREN
by Dr. Isabelle L. D. Grant
WILLIAM TAYLOR, JR.
MEET OUR STATE PRESIDENT--ROBERT HUNT AND OUR STATE AFFILIATE--WEST VIRGINIA
DELAWARE FEDERATIONS NEW ROLE
by Charles P. Wilson
TRIBUTE TO HAZEL tenBROEK
PROFILE OF A PRESIDENT
by Sheila Samson
NEW JOB BRIGHTENS BLIND MAN'S WORLD
HOW TO BUILD MEMBERSHIP
INVITATION FROM SWEDEN
LETTER TO NFB MEMBERS FROM KENNETH JERNIGAN
LET'S TAKE UP BOWLING
by Oral O. Miller
CULTURAL EXCHANGE AND INTERNATIONAL PROGRAM COMMITTEE--A CORRECTION
THE FIRST THIRTY YEARS: A HISTORY OF THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
by Perry Sundquist
The Winter, 1970, issue of Dialogue magazine carries an article (reprinted elsewhere in this issue) entitled "Let Those Who Throw Stones." It is a slashing attack upon the National Federation of the Blind, filled with innuendoes and false assertions. Many blind people throughout the nation have been readers of Dialogue in the past and have had respect for its integrity. It is highly questionable whether such will continue to be the case.
From the outset the Dialogue article is characterized by split personality. On the one hand it deplores sweeping statements, half-truths, and wholesale damnation of those who have different points of view. On the other hand it indulges in what can only be called abusive language, poor taste, and downright falsehood.
As an example of the accuracy of the article, consider what it says concerning events in Iowa:
As recently as last January, the affiliate in the very state where this organization has its national headquarters, resigned in a group to seek affiliation with a rival national organization. In its first meeting, it drafted a resolution asking that state to relieve the perennial national president from his position as state director of services for the blind.
This statement is totally and provably false. The Iowa Association of the Blind has been an affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind for many decades. It is still an affiliate. It has more than 550 paid up members. Last January some twenty-eight of these members resigned and formed the nucleus of an American Council of the Blind affiliate in the State. They did this in conjunction with certain out-of-state officials of the American Council of the Blind, people who had been expelled from the National Federation of the Blind in 1961. This small group of people did, indeed, call for the resignation of the Director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind, making all kinds of charges and demanding that Commission books be audited. This spring, when the routine annual audit of the Commission's books was conducted by the Office of the State Auditor, everything was found to be in order, and the State Auditor himself at a public meeting of the Des Moines Association of the Blind commended the work of the Commission and its handling of funds. He said that he wished all State agencies in Iowa could get the results, operate as economically, and handle their funds as well as the Iowa Commission for the Blind.
These are the facts. They can be verified, and it must be repeated that the statements on the subject published by Editor Nold in Dialogue are false. If Mr. Nold wishes to dispute the matter, he is invited to bring action in the courts. When the Dialogue article accused others of being guilty of an irresponsible collection of half-truths and false accusations, one is led to wonder whether it was referring to others or to itself. Consider, for instance, the following statement from the Dialogue article concerning the National Federation of the Blind:
Originally claiming chapters in most of the 50 states, this national organization has been losing state affiliates by the dozen.
In the late 1950's the National Federation of the Blind underwent considerable internal strife. A small group from within the organization sought to gain power and failed. Their tactics were so disruptive and beyond the bounds of ordinary political practice and good taste that the organization purged itself in 1961 and expelled them Ten or eleven State organizations were removed by this action.
Since that time the National Federation of the Blind has been characterized by tremendous growth and harmony. It now has forty-five State affiliates. Its Convention in Minneapolis was attended by more than 1,200 people with 925 attending the annual banquet. Let any thoughtful reader place these facts along side of the Dialogue assertions and a quick determination can be made as to the source of the "irresponsible collection of half-truths and false accusations."
One of the most interesting passages in the Dialogue article relates to NFB fundraising. Editor Nold says of the NFB:
this organization raises its funds by methods considered totally unacceptable by established standards of ethics. Annually, it sends out Merchandise--Christmas cards, men's neckties--to thousands of individuals who do not order these items and, in many cases, do not want them Relying on the fact that their victims will be too conscience-stricken to keep them without paying for them and too frugal to throw them away, they annually collect thousands of dollars from their unwilling contributors.
The Federation does, indeed, send out greeting cards and neckties. Some people disapprove of this practice. Obviously others do not since the campaigns are eminently successful. The interesting thing is that the American Council of the Blind, an organization with which Mr. Nold is closely associated and identified, has used the same fundraising methods on a continuing basis over the years. Surely a man should not participate in the affairs of an organization which indulges in a practice and then condemn another organization for doing likewise. "Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones."
There is, of course, absolutely nothing wrong with using unordered merchandise as a means of fundraising. It is perfectly legal and respectable. It is used by many reputable organizations. The matter would not be worth mentioning at all except for the strange light it sheds on Editor Nold.
Another passage in the Dialogue article deals with the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped. This organization, as Federationists know, is the successor to COMSTAC, which was brought into being by the American Foundation for the Blind. The Dialogue article says on the subject:
Standards governing all phases of operation are being carefully drafted by the newly-formed National Accreditation Council With headquarters in New York City, this independent group made up of representatives of many leading agencies serving the blind, is conducting a series of conferences in several areas to design codes by which existing organizations serving the blind can be evaluated. Organizations that cannot pass the rigid requirements set by the Council will not get accreditation. Without this blessing, these organizations may experience difficulty in hiring capable staff members, raising funds, or receiving state and federal aid. While the N.AC, will not issue a "black list" of agencies not accredited, the mere fact that accreditation is not granted may seriously hinder public acceptance.
Editor Nold forgets to mention that the President of the National Federation of the Blind is a member of the Board of The National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped. Editor Nold is not a member of the Board Further, Editor Nold's statement that: "Without this blessing, these organizations may experience difficulty in hiring capable staff members, raising funds, or receiving state and federal aid. While the N AC will not issue a 'black list' of agencies not accredited, the mere fact that accreditation is not granted may seriously hinder public acceptance" is misleading It implies that the NAC is truly "independent" and that all reputable organizations will want to apply for accreditation by NAC It is as if Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler set up an "independent" accrediting organization and then said that the United Auto Workers might find that it could not qualify. As the saying goes, you can't sometimes always tell: maybe the UAW would not want to qualify.
In other words the NAC was established by certain agencies doing work with the blind. From the very beginning the organized blind protested that NAC was not representative and that its "standards" reflected a particular bias. Presumably no self-respecting organization of blind people would ask this group for accreditation Certainly the National Federation of the Blind has not indicated any wish to do so. Neither has the Federation insisted upon its right to accredit the American Foundation for the Blind or other agencies. The roles are different. The agencies for the blind are established to give service. The organized blind movement, on the other hand, is the vehicle by which the blind themselves come together to take united action and discuss common problems--including the effectiveness of the agencies.
Many of the agencies doing work with the blind are performing efficiently and providing meaningful service. The organized blind have been and are the strongest allies of such agencies. The Federation has worked to get appropriations for these agencies and continues to strive to keep them from being swallowed up in the large "umbrella" departments of State government which are now being created throughout the country. When the agencies do not perform responsibly or when there are abuses, the Federation offers criticism. This is a far cry from "tearing down the establishment" or acting as "indiscriminating agitators."
In some ways the very essence of the Dialogue article can be found in its statement concerning the workshop operated by the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind. The Dialogue article says:
Recently, in a televised broadcast on a Chicago channel, the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind was inaccurately described as an organization taking advantage of blind persons who were employed in their sheltered workshop for forty cents per hour. It was not mentioned in this biased presentation that the workers were mentally retarded and that there was considerable question as to whether these workers were able to produce even the forty cents they were being paid. Nothing was said to indicate that these people had been unable to learn basic skills necessary for them to gain outside employment. Little was said about the added services that add materially to its cost of operation. It was not indicated on this telecast that if these employees had been paid more than forty cents per hour, they would have been deprived of their blind assistance checks which would have left them in a worse financial condition.
What condescension! What arrogance! How often have Federationists heard from workshop management that the workers are incompetent and that they are not even worth the forty cents an hour they get! Are they all really mentally retarded? If they were paid adequate wages or trained for competitive employment, perhaps they would not need any public assistance checks. And is it really a valid argument for paying low wages that the management of an establishment provides recreational and educational programs? Such arguments were used quite frequently in the last century--before the advent of modern laws and minimum wages.
Besides all of this, Mr. Nold's statement is shamefully false when he says "It was not indicated on this telecast that if these employees had been paid more than forty cents per hour, they would have been deprived of their blind assistance checks which would have left them in a worse financial condition."
The National Federation of the Blind has led the way in establishing the principle of exempt earnings for blind public assistance recipients. The first $85.00 per month earned income is exempt and causes no reduction whatever in public assistance. Every additional earned dollar causes only a fifty-cent reduction until full self-support is achieved. If workshop employees work a forty hour week and are paid forty cents per hour, this comes to $16.00 per week, or just over $64 per month. The difference between this amount and $85.00 per month would cause no reduction in public assistance whatever. Earnings beyond $85.00 per month would cause a reduction in public assistance checks of only fifty cents on the dollar. There is no way that workers could be hurt by earning decent wages. Many of Editor Nold's readers may not know these facts, but Editor Nold does--or he should, before indulging in such misleading statements. Then why did he make such statements? Was it malice? Was it jealousy at the progress the Federation is making? Was it envy? Who can tell?
More--much more--could be said about the Dialogue article, but to what purpose!
Editor Nold tells us that "Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones." Perhaps it will be sufficient to reply with a story about a king who lived in a glass house of his own. This king was very fond of collecting thrones. Each day he purchased a new throne and discarded the old, placing it in storage in one of the upper floors of the palace. One day the accumulated weight of the thrones destroyed the palace entirely and killed the king. Moral: Those who live in glass houses should not stow thrones.
Back to Contents
by Hugh S. Koford
In the Winter Edition of a magazine called Dialogue an editor, Don O. Nold, has written an article titled "Let Those Who Throw Stones" in which he condemns critics of agencies serving the blind as "indiscriminating agitators", even though he admits the agencies which he presumes to defend are guilty of conducting their operations "with wanton disregard of acceptable standards". Editor Nold suggests that these critics live in glass houses and should not throw stones; but editor Nold neglects to consider his own glass house, and his article is full of innuendo, half-truths, misstatements, and derogatory inferences and conclusions. In short, editor Nold is not without sin, and we must report the imminent demolition of his fragile residence--scratch one glass house!
NBC television in the Chicago area on a recent "By-Line" program examined the policies and practices of the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind and found them wanting. Reporter Russ Ewing was distressed to learn from the lips of Director William O. McGill of the Chicago Lighthouse not only that some blind workers were paid only forty cents per hour, but that many workers had received wages of only eighty cents per hour for the past twenty years! Exactly how a worker is "trained" by such poverty-level wages was not explained by the representatives of the Chicago Lighthouse. Naturally the energetic affiliate of the NFB in Illinois--The Illinois Congress of the Blind--took note of the public interest aroused by the television broadcast, and renewed its efforts to communicate with the powers-that-be of the Lighthouse in order to rectify the working and other conditions there. A suitable demonstration was mounted, seeking unionization of the blind workers, a guaranteed minimum wage, and blind respresentation on the governing board of the Lighthouse.
Apparently the defense of the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind was the impelling purpose behind the "Let Those Who Throw Stones" story of editor Nold, and in his zeal he attributes origination of the television program to the National Federation of the Blind, or, possibly, the Illinois Congress of the Blind--his subtle implications being difficult to comprehend. In any event, the main body of the article will be seen by those acquainted with the wide-ranging and salutary programs of the National Federation of the Blind to be no less than oblique attack upon the Federation, with accusatory phrases such as "irresponsible collection of half-truths", "false accusations", "sensational revelation", "indiscriminating agitators", and the like. The suggestion is even made that the Illinois Congress is a "rival organization" and that it has declared that the Chicago Regional Library of the Library of Congress "will be it's [sic] next victim". Editor Nold further accuses the organization which "incited this diatribe" against the Chicago Lighthouse of conducting fundraising programs by the mailing of merchandise in a manner which editor Nold characterizes as "totally unacceptable by established standards of ethics".
We bear no malice towards editor Nold nor towards Dialogue nor towards the Dialogue Publications, Inc., which is responsible for the publication; but we are compelled to defend the good name and reputation of the National Federation and of the Illinois Congress of the Blind whenever and wherever attacked by any publication, no matter how disreputable or insignificant. Therefore the matter of the defamatory import of the article by editor Don O. Nold has been referred to legal counsel for review and advice. Since the statements in the article are untrue, and seemingly maliciously intended to defame the NFB and the Illinois Congress, legal counsel has advised that a formal demand for immediate retraction be made in accordance with the laws of slander and libel. The letter of demand is as follows:
KOFORD, McLEOD & KOFORD
Attorneys at Law
Financial Center Building
Oakland, California 94612
Dialogue Publications, Inc.
3100 South Oak Park Avenue
Berwyn, Illinois 60402
Please be adivsed that this office represents, as legal counsel, the National Federation of the Blind and the Illinois Congress of the Blind.
In an article in a recent issue of the magazine Dialogue published by you in manuscript and recorded form, which article was titled "Let Those Who Throw Stones", and stated to be an editorial by one, Don O. Nold, the charge is made that a television broadcast on a Chicago channel of the National Broadcasting Company describing the activities and employment practices of the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind was an inaccurate description, was a "biased presentation" and consisted of an "irresponsible collection of half-truths and false accusations".
The article further asserts by innuendo that our clients were responsible for the subject television program, that our clients engage in unethical practices, and that our clients are threatening public agencies, including the Chicago Regional Library of the Library of Congress.
All of these assertions, implications and innuendos are false, and known to you and to Mr. Don O. Nold to be false, and it is our belief that this article was prompted by the personal malice of said Don O. Nold towards our clients. In truth and in fact the subject television program was originated and produced by staff members of the broadcasting company who derived their information from many sources, including the director of the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind. In truth and in fact the Chicago Lighthouse has been paying workers infinitesimal wages and the television program was an impartial and factual presentation of the policies and practices of the Chicago Lighthouse In truth and in fact our clients did nothing to incite or initiate the television program, and it is also true that our clients have not engaged in unethical practices, and do enjoy a very cooperative and rewarding relationship with the Chicago Public Library and the Hild Branch of that library.
The clear purport and effect of the article as published is defamatory to our clients, being plainly libelous, and such defamation is wholly false and untrue and incited by the malice of the writer. In short, Mr. Nold's article is itself an irresponsible collection of half-truths and no-truths.
Therefore by this letter you are hereby advised, in accordance with the laws applicable to libels, that demand is made for a full and immediate retraction of all statements and implications made against the Illinois Congress of the Blind and the national organization with which it is affiliated, the National Federation of the Blind Unless such retraction is published in your next edition in the same form and manner and with the same prominence as the original article, we will advise our clients that appropriate legal action against you and your Board of Directors and your editors for compensatory and exemplary damages must be commenced.
Yours very truly,
Hugh S. Koford
Koford, McLeod & Koford
Back to Contents
by John Myers
Members of the Illinois Congress of the Blind were horrified and dismayed by what appeared as an editorial in the winter 1970 issue of Dialogue magazine. Throughout the past year especially, we have participated in numerous activities, our achievements have proved most fruitful and our membership has more than doubled It is no wonder that all of this progress has resulted in a proud and enthusiastic affiliate Apparently, our success has not been appreciated by Mr. Donald Nold, editor of the Dialogue publication.
Let us consider his creative effort. Although specific procedures and practices of both the Illinois Congress of the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind were painstakingly condemned, Mr. Nold had neither the courage nor the conscience to call us by our name.
Mr. Nold implied that the Illinois Congress of the Blind used an irresponsible collection of half-truths and false accusations, that we relied on pressure, poorly documented criticism, and shock publicity to achieve our ends. Yet, he has never made an inquiry of the Illinois Congress of the Blind to become knowledgeable of our positions and actions on the issues he raises in his editorial. For example, we were accused of being the "very organization that incited this diatribe" (making reference to a television special in February, 1970, on the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind) We, in fact, had not taken a stand on this issue until days after the program was viewed The fact that our views concurred with those presented on the NBC special should not have led Mr. Nold to draw his erroneous conclusion. It was only after the image of the independent, self-sufficient blind person was threatened and shattered, and, the blind population was being stripped of all pride, dignity, and self-worth at a Lighthouse press conference, that the Illinois Congress of the Blind deemed it necessary to take a definitive stand. We then held a peaceful demonstration in front of the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind and confronted its director with three demands (described in the August, 1970 Monitor) none of which was mentioned in this editorial. After several postponements on the part of the Lighthouse Board of Directors, we are currently in negotiation to implement our demands.
We found it both amusing and surprising that, according to Mr. Nold, we are a rival group bent on undermining the reputation of existing agencies and have publicly declared that the Chicago Regional Library of the Library of Congress will be our next victim. The facts are that the Illinois Congress of the Blind has worked cooperatively through the appropriate channels to bring about necessary changes for the benefit of library users, We have been instrumental in establishing an advisory committee to Chicago Public Library, Department of Books for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, composed of representatives of agencies for and organizations of the blind and physically handicapped. Because of the work put forth by the Illinois Congress of the Blind, the branch library is now open on Saturdays and plans are being made for a newsletter by the department. Not only do we feel that these changes are constructive but they are generally viewed in the same light by the chief librarian of the department, who is working vigorously with us to see them all to completion.
We conclude that the best interests of blind persons are not well served by vitriolic rhetoric, particularly from those who are not in the forefront of the effort to obtain social equality.
Back to Contents
[Editor's Note: In view of the unwarranted attack made upon the organized blind movement by Dialogue magazine, Federationists will be interested in the following letter from First Vice President Donald C Capps to Mr. Hubert Smith, president of Ways and Means for the Blind, Augusta, Georgia. There will undoubtedly be many more cancellations of Dialogue subscriptions by blind persons and their friends throughout the country since the validity of statements made by that magazine will be judged in light of their article dealing with the Federation.]
December 3, 1970
Since Dialogue and its editor have seen fit to attack the National Federation of the Blind in a special editorial in its winter edition, it is with sincere regret that I find it necessary to request you to cancel our subscription. As the second ranking officer of the NFB it does not seem right or proper for me to circulate to our membership material which viciously attacks the organization I represent. In addition, the editorial, in my judgement, is not only slanderous but most certainly it is inaccurate. The three most glaring inaccuracies in the editorial by Don Nold are as follows: (1) the Iowa affiliate of the NFB did not disaffiliate with the NFB and join the ACB as charged (2) the NFB has not lost a State affiliate since 1961 when it suspended several States, (3) the NFB raises operating funds no differently than does the ACB or the American Foundation and any talk about non-conformity with a code of ethics is pure bunk. Any editor with any gumption or insight will not put anything into writing without first checking his facts and Don Nold certainly did not have the facts when he wrote his editorial. In my opinion, he has set himself up for libel. I realize that you do not feel as strongly about the ACB as I do since I am an officer of the NFB On the other hand, I believe you would be reluctant, if not opposed outright, to circulate any publication which attacked Ways and Means for the Blind and in the process published highly inaccurate statements concerning your organization In light of these circumstances I ask that you please advise the editor of our request.
I fully realize that you had nothing but the best intentions in making Dialogue available to our membership and as long as it remained non-partisan I was glad to have the Aurora Center circulate this publication. However, the above, I believe, adequately expresses the reason why it can no longer be circulated by us. As you know, we put a great deal of effort into raising funds to carry on our work. At the present time we are in the midst of getting together the 1971 operating budget of the Aurora Center whose services to the blind are increasing in scope on a weekly basis We don't know what the cost of the Dialogue subscription is, but we would be glad to have you donate this amount to the operating budget of the Aurora Center as I can assure you this will serve the best interest of the blind of South Carolina. I guess I should not have been surprised at the article in Dialogue considering the fact that the Dialogue people are associated with the American Council of the Blind.
Back to Contents
An Editorial by Don O. Nold
[Reprinted from Dialogue.]
[Editor's Note: The Illinois Congress reports that "Raymond Dickinson, Associate Editor of Dialogue himself dismayed by Nold's crusade against change, has resigned from Dialogue We commend him for his courageous action."]
"Those who throw stones should not live in glass houses" is an adage that is applicable to many organizations of the blind who seem bent on pointing their accusing fingers at agencies serving the blind. This pattern of publicly damning all who do not see things as others see them seems to be a fad that can do nothing but harm when it is done by indiscriminating agitators.
Agencies serving the blind are not, according to observation, without blame in many areas. Some, in fact, are guilty of conducting their operations with wanton disregard of acceptable standards. But a "hell bent for action" manner that seems founded on nothing less than "tearing down the establishment" is not the way to correct faults.
Standards governing all phases of operation are being carefully drafted by the newly-formed National Accreditation Council. With headquarters in New York City, this independent group made up of representatives of many leading agencies serving the blind, is conducting a series of conferences in several areas to design codes by which existing organizations serving the blind can be evaluated. Organizations that cannot pass the rigid requirements set by the Council will not get accreditation. Without this blessing, these organizations may experience difficulty in hiring capable staff members, raising funds, or receiving State and Federal aid. While the N.A.C. will not issue a "black list" of agencies not accredited, the mere fact that accreditation is not granted may seriously hinder public acceptance.
As the National Accreditation Council is busy establishing rules of conduct, groups of blind persons are being organized under the banner of a long-established national organization that has labeled itself as a spokesman for all the blind. Dialogue has stated on several occasions that it questions the right of any person or persons, whether organized or not, to make demands upon the seeing world for special privileges for all the blind. This does not mean that organizations of the blind cannot work for better social and economic conditions for those who need advantages that they cannot provide for themselves. But it does mean these organizations, including Dialogue, should consider the needs of individuals, and respect individual rights and privileges.
Recently, in a televised broadcast on a Chicago channel, the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind was inaccurately described as an organization taking advantage of blind persons who were employed in their sheltered workshop for forty cents per hour. It was not mentioned in this biased presentation that the workers were mentally retarded and that there was considerable question as to whether these workers were able to produce even the forty cents they were being paid Nothing was said to indicate that these people had been unable to learn basic skills necessary for them to gain outside employment. Little was said about the added services provided by the Lighthouse, such as recreational and educational programs--services that add materially to its cost of operation. It was not indicated on this telecast that if these employees had been paid more than forty cents per hour, they would have been deprived of their blind assistance checks which would have left them in a worse financial condition.
This irresponsible collection of half-truths and false accusations doubtlessly influenced many seeing viewers who were quick to accept such sensational revelation Very few of those not acquainted with the fine work being done at the Lighthouse had any opportunity to hear the truth by way of a rebuttal because the station reportedly refused to give equal time.
Yet, the very organization that incited this diatribe is, by implication, far more disrespectful of welfare of the blind than is the Lighthouse. For example, this organization raises its funds by methods considered totally unacceptable by established standards of ethics. Annually, it sends out merchandise--Christmas cards, men's neckties--to thousands of individuals who do not order these items and, in many cases, do not want them. Relying on the fact that their victims will be too conscience-stricken to keep them without paying for them and too frugal to throw them away, they annually collect thousands of dollars from their unwilling contributors. Originally claiming chapters in most of the 50 states, this national organization has been losing state affiliates by the dozen. As recently as last January, the affiliate in the very state where this organization has its national headquarters, resigned in a group to seek affiliation with a rival national organization. In its first meeting, it drafted a resolution asking that state to relieve the perennial national president from his position as state director of services for the blind.
To offset this loss of membership, the national administrators have set up rival organizations in many of the states where affiliates have withdrawn their memberships. It is these rival groups who are bent on undermining the reputations of existing agencies. Publicly, they have threatened other agencies declaring, in Illinois for example, that the Chicago Regional Library of the Library of Congress will be it's next victim.
Dialogue feels strongly that the National Accreditation Council should take the lead in establishing standards by which agencies can be judged, and that competent persons be engaged to evaluate agency operations and grant or deny accreditation. Dialogue knows there are many shortcomings in work for the blind that must be eliminated, but it also feels that there are right ways and wrong ways to correct these deficiencies.
Consider what can actually be accomplished by groups which rely on pressure, poorly documented criticism, and shock publicity to achieve their ends. One such group has recently demonstrated that pressure and threat can secure a job where ordinary methods have failed. But the same pressure can not insure the permanence of the job or prevent employers, unwilling and unconvinced in the first place, from making unreasonable demands and being unfairly critical. This same group has demonstrated that its criticism can pinpoint the problems very accurately, but if a correct diagnosis is surrounded by inaccuracies which an agency, if confronted, could quickly correct, it will soon go unheeded by thoughtful people who would have power to help bring about change. Finally, it has demonstrated that it can get publicity, but publicity at the cost of increasing disunity among the blind, the very people who are supposedly being championed, will in the long run hurt their cause more than help it. Publicity of a sensational nature may, if widely and indiscriminately used, make the general public wary of contributing to programs for the blind, good or bad.
Dialogue strongly urges all readers to channel their energies toward constructive activity rather than toward destruction and slander of existing agencies. In so doing, the results they achieve may be less dramatic but more lasting. It also suggests that all agencies serving the blind and associations of the blind conduct a self-evaluation to determine whether or not its practices can comply with the standards established by a competent accrediting organization.
Back to Contents
by Kenneth Jernigan
[Reprinted from The Braille Monitor, October 1968.]
From time to time I receive various inquiries concerning our fundraising efforts--particularly our sending of unordered merchandise. Last year, before we purchased Fedco, I received such an inquiry from a lady in the State of Nebraska. I answered as follows:
Dear Mrs. Blank:
This will reply to your letter concerning the necktie which was mailed to your deceased husband. These neckties are mailed by the National Federation of the Blind, of which I am an officer. It is a legitimate sales effort. The necktie is worth the price asked, but the individual does not have to keep it or pay for it if he does not wish to. The Federation makes a fair and reasonable profit on every tie sold and is giving an article of value, not simply requesting a contribution as is usually the case.
I am not certain how familiar you are with the work of the National Federation of the Blind, but in my judgment the organization has done more than any other single group to improve the lot of the blind in this nation during the past twenty years This, of course, is a personal opinion, and others may have different views In any case, the Federation is a legitimate and reputable organization with a well established program and lists of accomplishments in behalf of the blind.
As to the other organizations which use one type or another of unordered merchandise as a method of financing their programs, no single answer can be given Some are legitimate; some are not. Some send worthwhile merchandise; others trash. Some are dignified and constructive in their approach; others sloppy and maudlin.
Local Better Business Bureaus tend undiscriminatingly to frown on unordered merchandise mail campaigns. There are several explanations which can be given as to why this is so. Let us suppose that a piece of merchandise costs the organization ninety cents (including the loss occasioned by the people who do not return the article if it is not wanted or who do not make full payment for it.) Let us further suppose that the organization charges one dollar for the item. The Better Business Bureau tends to say: "The organization is cheating the public, because the public is led to believe that the one dollar they give is going, in its entirety, to the support of the organization; whereas, in reality only ten percent is going to the charitable cause while ninety percent is going into the pockets of unscrupulous, unprincipled, mangy fundraisers."
The organizations tend to reply: "Any business which can make a steady profit of ten percent on the sale of merchandise is doing pretty well, and in fact, will make absolutely all of the money that it needs or wants if it can only sell enough merchandise. It is not reasonable to go to a local dry goods store and say to the merchant, 'I will not buy a suit from you for one hundred dollars because only ten percent really goes to you, the balance going into the pockets of the unscrupulous wholesalers, landlords, and light companies.'"
Since this is really not a complicated argument and since it does not require an extremely high degree of intelligence to unravel, one would suppose that the average Better Business Bureau would be able to understand it and see the justice of it without a great deal of difficulty. Such, however, is usually not the case, leading some cynics to say that the local Better Business Bureau represents local merchants (who wish to make at least the ten percent profit which we discussed earlier.) If merchandise comes into the community by mail (neckties, for instance) and if such merchandise is purchased in quantity then the local shopkeeper may well not make even ten percent.
There are, of course, some organizations (just as there are some local merchants and Better Business Bureaus) that send unordered merchandise through the mails and that are not legitimate. These tend to bring discredit upon all. There are also doubtless some people who genuinely believe that the practice of raising funds by the sale of unordered merchandise is a bad practice. I think this opinion is wrong, but each to his own notions.
The point that must be emphasized, however, is simply this: the National Federation of the Blind is a tremendously worthwhile organization. It is improving the lives of blind people If it is to continue to operate, it must have money. To the present time, it has found no way of raising money which is as effective and successful as the sending of unordered merchandise. As evidenced by the response, the public does not disapprove of the method. There is certainly nothing morally or legally wrong with the method. Therefore, I am sure that the Federation will continue and expand the project.
If I may provide further information, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Very truly yours,
Kenneth Jernigan, Director
Iowa Commission for the Blind
More recently the Kansas City, Missouri Better Business Bureau made some unflattering remarks concerning our mailings on a radio broadcast. Gwen Rittgers and others in the area took them to task. Ultimately I got into the act and had quite a spirited exchange of correspondence with some of the BBB officers. My final letter read:
Dear Mr. Buckley:
This will reply to your letter of August 5. The National Federation of the Blind owns FEDCO. The address is the one you listed in St. Louis. Every nickel of profit or contribution in connection with the sale of the neckties goes to the National Federation of the Blind. The Federation has a contract with FEDCO for technical and bookkeeping reasons, but I repeat that we own FEDCO entirely, the officers of the Federation serving as the officers and board of FEDCO. Let me hasten to add that the officers of the Federation receive no compensation whatever In case you think I may be playing at technicalities, let me 'also add that the officers of FEDCO receive no compensation whatever. If my earlier letter to you sounded somewhat crisp, it is because a number of us are getting somewhat tired of what appears to us the rather highhanded action of the Better Business Bureau with respect to the whole field of charitable endeavor. We believe that the attitude of the Better Business Bureau toward unordered merchandise has developed for the reasons I outlined to you. Further, we believe that the statements the Better Business Bureaus tend to make to the public on these matters are knowingly and deliberately deceptive, almost to the point of fraud.
We readily concede the right of any individual to his own opinion about unordered merchandise, but we do not condone unethical and deceptive behavior on the part of a group that holds itself out to the public as the watchdog of integrity. The officers and leaders of the National Federation of the Blind are men of reputation and standing in their States and communities. They do not take kindly to being smeared. I invite you to make inquiries in my own community and State, as to my personal reputation. The same would be true of any of our other officers and leaders In other words, we are not bilking the public by performing a charitable service, and we are not innocent dupes, being hoodwinked by unscrupulous promoters.
I hope this letter clears up the question you had in mind and that accurate statements can be made in the future.
Very truly yours,
Kenneth Jernigan, President
National Federation of the Blind
Back to Contents
[Editor's Note: The following is a letter written to Paul Flynn, editor of the Braille Spectator publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland.]
I have a paper or a card somewhere which indicates that I am a member of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland, (as they call it now). I believe what that card says about me, too. Yet, I must be either a slow learner or else have the poorest memory in the Free State, because I keep forgetting what it is to be a Federationist. In other words, it seems that I am subject to an unimpressive and recurring identity problem.
Well, I've been a member for a little more than two years now and have attended a number of chapter meetings during that time, but never until six weeks ago had I attended a State convention. In other words, I attended the nineteen seventy National Federation of the Blind of Maryland Convention which happened in Annapolis, our State capital, this year.
I arrived at the Hilton Hotel on Friday night in a rain storm, too late for the Hospitality Room, but not too late for the suds, song, and sociability in President McCraw's olympian suite. I was back in my room and asleep before midnight, and consequently did not turn into a pumpkin, even though that Friday was the eve of Hallowe'en.
Breakfast in the fifth floor dining room of the hotel was a lengthy and expensive, but otherwise uneventful experience. The opening session of the convention started about nine that morning, but the thing I want to talk about happened during one of the several Saturday afternoon meetings. But on the other hand, it's just possible that the session to which I intend to refer took place on Saturday morning. However, this doubt as to the time of the event doesn't matter, because what is important to me is not when it happened, but what happened.
It was this panel which consisted of State and Federal people who manage or serve blind clients and employees and the questions which were directed at the panelists by several of the Federationists in the audience that I want to talk about.
What happened was that four or five members of that panel told us what their agencies had done for the blind. From one man we heard that a new sheltered workshop was booming somewhere in the State; from another, that more blind people were given jobs in sheltered workshops this year than last year; from still another, we heard that vending stands have been springing up like gold mines all over the State.
Now I don't for a moment doubt the truth of what those men told us on that occasion; but the thing that bothered me then as I listened to them was that although I wanted to feel very impressed and enthusiastic, it did seem that they all were attempting to convince us that the life of the blind, in terms of jobs in this State, was already very good and getting better, very rapidly.
In other words, these administrators, these spokesmen for the government agencies, appeared to be giving us a favorable report in order to cheer us up and to make their agencies look good. I know, of course, that it's only natural for a man to present himself or what he does in favorable terms, but the listener is not bound on this account to see or evaluate what is reported in the ways which the speaker may suggest.
In other words, the work situation of the blind in Maryland is not hopeless, but, on the other hand, it isn't that great or heartwarming either. After talking to other blind people at the convention and recalling what I have read concerning the job picture of the blind in this State, the strong consensus is that most of the employable adult blind of Maryland are either not working, under-employed, or working in a sheltered workshop. To say the same thing in another way, most blind adults in this State are not gainfully employed in the normal range of competitive jobs.
The Federationists in the room during that panel discussion questioned and criticized the agency achievements, current programs, and operating principles. Such men as John Taylor and John Nagle, who are informed, confident, and articulate men, assessed what the agencies have done and are doing against what needs to be and ought to be done. These Federationists as well as others in the room, to my astonishment, were not lulled by the glowing, positive reports of the agency representatives into silent, nodding, smiling satisfaction. No, Taylor and Nagle and some others frankly challenged the reports, measuring and evaluating the reports on the basis of their own knowledge as mature blind men, on the basis of what could and should have been accomplished here long ago.
The blind men and women stood up in that meeting room and spoke clearly and with strength and confidence born of long experience and conviction, with belief in a cause--the right of every blind man to a whole life.
During the session of which I am now speaking and that night too, at the banquet, John Taylor told the agency people and us, in a dozen persuasive ways, that the talents, aptitudes, and actual abilities of blind people range as widely as they do in the sighted community What he was saying here, among other things, was that what one blind man cannot do, six other blind men can and are doing already somewhere in this country.
John Nagle hammered away, in skillful iambics, to the effect that those who work or train or advise the blind must always work hard to make their means and ends equal more and more, various and better jobs and increasing social and educational opportunities for the blind people whom the agencies serve.
All the discussion, the give and take, the questions and the incisive comment--all the informed, rational, and unabashed calls for action, for social justice that came from those blind men and women, was for me a rather heartening experience. They reminded me that I am not alone; and they reminded me of my human dignity, of my moral obligation and right to a good and full life. I think I began to realize as I sat there, not speaking myself, that I am a part of a worthy movement.
The thought, the feeling, came to me there in that room that those blind people around me were acting on what I already believed: life is good-not easy or without risks or the possibility of failure or even disaster, but good. I saw that they knew what I know, and more: those blind people, perhaps all of them there, to some degree, showed me that we must realize and keep alive our fundamental belief in satisfying work, in physical freedom, by working with those with whom we identify for common goals And finally, I think I began to learn as I listened to my fellow blind talk, that an important and continuing feature of the movement toward the good life for a blind man living in this country and in Maryland today, is a willingness to enter and stay in a good, hard, fair fight.
My convention experiences have confirmed what I had only suspected before--that the National Federation of the Blind was founded by individualists with social awareness, hope, energy, courage, and resourcefulness. I believe that such men and women are in Des Moines and in the State affiliates and in the hundreds of chapters of the Federation today. I hope that I have made it clear why I am glad to be a member of a chapter, a State affiliate, and the National Federation of the Blind--why I am glad to be a Federationist.
It appears that I have less trouble negotiating a journey with my cane than I have in reaching my destination with my stylus. I am, nevertheless, at the end of my long, groping exercise in self-identification.
Very truly yours,
Back to Contents
by Roger Wise
[Reprinted from the San Jose (California) Mercury-News.]
The world of darkness is no handicap for Vincent Lopez. The forty-five-year-old San Josean, blinded by a grenade blast in the Philippine Islands in 1945, won his Scuba Diving Certificate from the National Association of Underwater Instructors. The proficiency test took place in the seventeen-foot-deep diving tank at the International Swim Center in Santa Clara.
"There's a sense of freedom in being able to do whatever I want to do underwater," said the tanned and muscular Lopez. "I had to know if I could master the equipment and techniques. When I found I could, it gave me confidence that carries over into everyday life." He is the first blind American to pass the test, which involves going through a number of emergency procedures to prepare the diver for any mishap while he's down in the briny.
Lopez, a Pfc in the 25th Infantry Division in the Second World War, lost his sight in one eye during an assault on a hill during the Battle of Luzon, when a hand grenade exploded in front of him. Injuries from the blast caused him to lose the sight in the other eye about two years later. But Lopez didn't let total blindness stop him from what he wanted to do. In 1952, he took his bachelor's degree from San Jose State College, and in 1964, he received his master's degree in social work from the University of California at Berkeley.
Currently Lopez is a social work supervisor at the Department of Social Services in San Jose. The six-man unit he heads places and supervises children in foster homes.
He is candid about being blind. "I miss seeing things," he says. "It is a visual world. But I am not going to let it keep me from doing the things I want to."
After a few more lessons, Lopez will take his deep water test, at Monterey Bay--and he's looking forward to it. "Most divers go down to enjoy the sights and fish. But I can enjoy it just as much through feeling things, and through the feeling of freedom it gives me."
Lopez got interested in diving when his stepdaughter was staying with him and his wife, Channa. The stepdaughter, a diver herself, had friends over who talked of scuba diving often. "I began to think, if they can do it, maybe I can, too," relates Lopez. "I had to prove something to myself."
One of the problems that arose at once was the inability to keep in contact and pass messages with companions through visual hand signals underwater.
Lopez and his instructor, twenty-one-year-old Erick Borbons, worked out a set of touch signals.
The scuba diving test included a simulated situation at the bottom of the seventeen-foot-deep tank whereby a buddy loses his air through malfunction of the tank mouthpiece or gauges. Then the two breathe off one tank, passing the mouthpiece back and forth quickly. Another procedure calls for dumping the breathing apparatus and the belt weights and surfacing quickly. It simulates breathing equipment failure when no one else is immediately available.
His instructors, Rusty Clifton of Oceans Unlimited, a San Jose diving shop, and Borbons, said Lopez passed with flying colors.
Back to Contents
The District of Columbia Vocational Rehabilitation Administration contracted with the Washington Society for the Blind to run the vending stand program. The blind operators and the Advisory Committee contend that the Society is not only not doing a good job but that it has subverted set-aside fees to improper uses. The Society then attempts to refute the charges.
In the articles which follow is set forth the classic reason for establishing a commission for the blind. Neither the Rehabilitation Administration nor the Society seems willing to accept responsibility to use such authority as it has to resolve the problems. The current arrangement, thus, is ideal for buck passing, and, as usual, it is the blind client who is left with no recourse from their combined indecision.
Back to Contents
by Timothy Hutchens
[Copyright 1970, the Washington (D.C.) Evening Star. Reprinted by Permission.]
The District Vocational Rehabilitation Administration has received a recommendation from advisers to replace the Washington Society for the Blind as trustee for blind operators of vending stands because of "a paternalistic, fear-producing and poorly operated program."
The twenty-one member advisory council to the administration charged that the program "has led to the poor morale of those very people who desire to demonstrate their ability to live with their handicap with independence and dignity and not as wards of any governmental agency or charitable group."
Commenting on the recommendation of the citizens group, Norman W. Pierson, director of the rehabilitation administration, said, "I think we have to sympathize and generally concur with the council that there is no other alternative."
But the District's Human Resources Department, he indicated, has not made a final decision on the role of the society, which provides managerial services for the vending stands under agreement with the city and under the Randolph-Sheppard Act. The law gives blind persons first chance at operating the stands in government buildings.
The society, a nonprofit corporation, has come under attack this year from some of the eighty or so operators themselves. The DC Stand Operators Association, which represents about half the blind merchants, has sued for a court accounting of what they contend is about $500,000 that the society has "unreasonably accumulated" from stand receipts.
In the suit, which has not yet been heard, the vendors' association complained that the society was not using the funds to benefit the operators. The society answered that it had not accumulated the funds unreasonably and in fact benefited the vendors by training them and supervising their operations.
Nevertheless, the advisory council accused the society of thwarting the growth of the vending-stand program and failing to meet a challenge to it from automatic vending machines.
Specifically, the council reported that the program could expand by thirty percent if the society took advantage of locations for stands in more government buildings.
"Only great patience and perseverance on the part of the vocational rehabilitation administration," the council also stated, "has resulted in a reluctant acceptance of the vending machine procurement policy by the society."
The council criticized the program for allowing a wide disparity of income among operators ($1,495 to $20,069 annually), which meant that seven percent of the operators had to receive subsidies from the society in order to receive $3,600 annually.
During the last year and a half, the council further maintained, the society has allowed daily management services and financial records for the operators to deteriorate.
The vending-stand program began in the District in 1934 If the city decides to fire the society as the trustee for the operators, the Vocational Rehabilitation Administration could assume the control, Pierson said.
Back to Contents
by Harriet Griffiths
[Copyright 1970, the Washington (D. C.) Evening Star Reprinted by Permission]
The Washington Society for the Blind has challenged as baseless charges in a critical report by the Mayor's Advisory Council on Vocational Rehabilitation which has recommended the society be replaced as trustee for blind vending stand operators.
The advisory council accused the society of thwarting growth of the vending stand program and failing to meet the challenge of automatic vending machines. It reported the program could expand by thirty percent if the society took advantage of locations for stands in more buildings.
In a statement to Mayor Walter E. Washington by society president William H. Dyer, made public yesterday, the society said its contract should be renewed when it expires in June
The society's statement asserted the fault, if any, lies with the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation which is charged under the contract with obtaining new locations.
The society said a proposal for a new location at D.C. General Hospital had contained a provision for a percentage of the earnings to go to a planned welfare and recreational group The statement said the society had defeated this "deflection of the earnings of the blind to another source."
The statement contended, "We were not only trying to prevent an injustice, but were trying to increase the number of blind employed in the stand program and also their earnings."
"The society would be justified in ignoring this unilateral report . . but the compelling interests of the blind of this community are involved, and the society has fought since 1939 for their welfare and will continue to do so," it declared.
The society provides managerial services for the vending stands under agreement with the city and under the Randolph-Sheppard Act, a law giving the blind first option at operating stands in government buildings.
Challenging a criticism of day-to-day management operations of the stand program, the society said that, if the program were "in the dire straits that the report seems to indicate," there should be a department shakeup for allowing the condition to continue, in view of remedies available in the contract.
The statement also countered back at a council criticism that the program allowed a wide disparity of income among operators (a range of $1,495 to $20,069 annually) which means that seven percent of the operators had to receive subsidies from the society in order to receive $3,600 a year.
The society said the report is correct in stating that individual operators consistently earn the highest average take-home pay for operators in the country, $10,479 in fiscal 1969 and $10,080 in 1970.
The society went on: "It is difficult to conclude . . . whether the council feels that the average take home pay is too much for a blind person, or whether there are so many unproductive stands that they have to be subsidized in order to supplement the earnings of the operator.
"We see nothing wrong with subsidizing a stand if it will help a blind person to make a living. We cannot help but point out that the District, in the final analysis, under the contract, has the power to open and close stands."The statement said the council charges were made without proper investigation. It said the council report was prepared and circulated without consulting society officials.
Back to Contents
[Reprinted from the Elizabeth (New Jersey) Daily Journal.]
A Spanish philosopher once wrote, "The blind man moves his cane as if he is taking the temperature of human indifference."
But for Dennis Cadigan, Cranford, a sandy-haired ex-Marine and Union College student, a cane is just a means which enables him to be an independent young man.
"No, I'm not usually bitter about my state," Cadigan said, referring to the wounds he suffered in Vietnam which left him totally blind and his left arm disabled "I realize I must help myself and I don't like leaning on anyone."
Cadigan is independent. He also is responsible, intelligent, friendly, and optimistic. He wants to do something for others--to help those less fortunate than he. Dennis has started traveling that road toward making a lasting contribution to society.
He has enrolled at Union College in a liberal arts program. He wants to major in psychology and minor in English and hopes to work in the field of vocational rehabilitation or clinical psychiatry.
As a teen-ager, this future was the furthest thing from his mind.
After graduating from Sacred Heart High School, Elizabeth, in 1966, he entered Union College. He wanted to eventually study special education and work perhaps with handicapped children. But after a short while, Cadigan became disillusioned with the academic life and sought fulfillment elsewhere.
"I guess I was a typical young man," the ex-Marine reflected "I didn't see anything beyond my own immediate world and I wanted something different."
That "fulfillment elsewhere" Dennis thought he might find in the Marines and so he enlisted in February 1968. After basic training at Parris Island, he went straight to Vietnam where he was made a corporal. He was not there three full months when on Thanksgiving Day, 1968, he was critically wounded.
For eighteen weeks, he underwent rehabilitation training at a Veterans Administration Hospital in Chicago. He learned Braille and cane mobility and took some shop courses.
Cadigan credits this experience with having taught him "how to live with my problem."
After finding an apartment for himself in Elizabeth, Dennis decided to return to college again.
His favorite pastime is reading. He borrows books regularly from the Trenton Regional Library and Reading for the Blind Inc., New York City.
Cadigan enjoys going to the shore too--he likes the sun, although he is still not allowed to swim because of the injury to his arm.
Perhaps his greatest satisfaction is obtained from music He likes all types, but especially jazz, blues, and hard rock.
"Before I entered service, my outlook was very irresponsible; I thought of myself mostly. Now, I can see that there are others who need something I can give and I want to see that they have it," he explained
With his mind, attitude, and perseverance, Cadigan will prove that all one needs to succeed is the desire.
Back to Contents
by Rosamond M. Critchley
[Editor's Note: This was the keynote speech delivered at the Seventeenth Annual Convention of the Associated Blind of Massachusetts, in Boston last fall.]
Having been a musician for most of my life, and a public speaker for less than one minute at this point, I'd find it far easier to reach for the nearest piano, sound a chord and say, "Okay, there's your keynote!" But I don't suppose that's exactly what is expected of me, so I’ll try to do the next best thing.
I have just addressed you as fellow-members--but fellow-members of what? This may sound like a silly question, but I wonder. If I were to put it to a number of you as individuals, how many different answers would I get? I recall at least one member of one of our chapters who asked, in all seriousness: "Do we belong to the ABM?" This, of course, may be an isolated instance, but it did happen. Thus, some would answer my question with the name of a chapter, some would say the Associated Blind of Massachusetts--and I wonder how many, if any, would answer that they are members of the National Federation of the Blind.
Nor is this our only source of confusion. There is also the question of why we belong to an organization of the blind. Some, like myself, may have joined originally so that they'd get to know other blind people and have a little more social life; others, to learn what they can do to help blind people; and still others, to learn how they themselves can be helped.
This, in turn, leads to the question of why we should have organizations of the blind in the first place--or for that matter, should blind people organize at all? This was a burning question back in the middle and late '50's, when governmental and private agencies began to recognize the potential of the NFB and its affiliates, and didn't like what they saw.
In repeated instances they cut off employment and other benefits to clients, or threatened to do so, unless these individuals would agree to have nothing to do with the organized blind movement. Fortunately, this has never been the case in Massachusetts, where the ABM has always enjoyed a splendid working relationship with our State agency. Indeed, it was our own John F Kennedy, then a United States Senator, who in 1957 initiated Federal legislation which would guarantee the right of the blind to organize, and while this was never actually enacted into law, its purpose was accomplished by the national stir it created Nevertheless, the issue is not yet dead Evidence of this may be found even in our State, where some private agency workers still try to discourage newly blind and young blind persons from joining an organization of the blind, arguing that they should become integrated with the sighted world. This is true--but why can't we do both? We live in an organization-minded society. There are labor unions, manufacturers' associations, fraternal lodges, and all manner of groups banded together because of some common interest. Some years ago I even read of a national organization composed entirely of gentlemen whose names happened to be Fred Smith. Now, what sense would it make if someone tried to sell these guys the idea that it's a mistake for them to belong to a group made up entirely of their namesakes-that they should be integrated into society and mix with people whose names are different from theirs. I haven't the least doubt that many of them--probably most of them--did just that, and still do. So can we, and we should, whenever and wherever we have the opportunity, but should this prevent us from having an organization of our own? Without a doubt we, as blind people, have many more interests and problems in common than a collection of Fred Smiths could possibly have. This is not to say that blind people are all alike, any more than Fred Smiths are, but the fact of blindness does bring about a set of problems and situations which are common to most of us, to a greater or lesser extent. Get enough of us together in a group, and you are sure to find some who have had considerable success in coping with one or more of these difficulties, and others who are baffled and frustrated by them Mutual exchange of ideas and suggestions in such a group is bound to result in great benefit to all concerned We are all familiar with sighted people-professional workers and others--who claim to know more about what's best for us than we do; but can there be any real substitute for personal experience?
This is not to say that we should shy away from offers of assistance by sighted individuals, nor even by organizations of sighted people whose aims and purposes are similar to ours. Indeed, if we can work together with such persons and groups, and at the same time hold fast to our own identity and ideals, we and they will be the better for it, and our ends will be achieved so much more quickly.
This leads to a second reason why blind people should organize--the old familiar one about educating the public on the subject of blindness. We can do a lot of this as individuals, and this sort of approach is most effective, as far as it goes, but the trouble is, there's such a tremendous amount of it to be done! Even in this day and age we're constantly being told how wonderful we are, just because we can do some simple little thing--but we're still considered incapable of answering a simple question--you know, "Does she want this or that?" Once, when I was waiting in a doctor's office, a tiny child asked: "Mommy, why doesn't that lady open her eyes?" "Because she's sick, dear," was the reply. I was too taken aback to make any comment, but I sure wish I had! If this is the kind of answer little tots get, it's small wonder they grow up thinking of us as they do!
While it's up to each one of us to work constantly to clear up misconceptions in the public mind concerning blindness, only an effective organization can make real headway in acquainting the public with our needs and desires as a group--acceptance as contributing members of society, recognition of the significance of the white cane and of the training necessary for its proper use, elimination of discrimination in housing, employment, adequate financial aid for those unable to obtain gainful employment, a continuing supply of reading matter in forms best adapted to our needs, education and rehabilitation opportunities for children and adults.
Some blind people say they don't need to join an organization of the blind--they're getting what they want. Fine! But how much of their good fortune is the result of what' the organized blind have already accomplished, after years of constant struggle? Maybe they don't need our help now, but we'd more than appreciate theirs, in our efforts to enable other, less fortunate blind people to get what they want--and need.
It's a huge task--and we must watch out for one pitfall. When, as groups and individuals, we do a really good job of pleading our cause before the public in general and our lawmakers in particular, it's apt to be shrugged off with: "Oh, well, the blind are always asking for something." Our best answer to that one would seem to be to set out to prove that we can give as well as take--in other words, try to contribute something to the community. This, of course, can best be done at the local level, and the type of help we can give will vary from place to place, but a little imagination and a sincere desire to help should turn the trick.
So there we have three reasons why blind people should organize--to help one another in solving common problems, to educate the public concerning blindness, and to enable blind people to make a truly effective contribution to the community.But now, what about the organization itself? Here, you will recall, is where we came in. Do we think of it as a local, a State, or a National organization? I have heard the comment, at the mention of the way something is done by the NFB: "Well, just because the NFB does it that way, do we have to?" But actually, we are the NFB, just as we are the ABM, or a chapter of the ABM Because our Federation includes many organizations which have sprung up from the grassroots, calling themselves by a variety of names, the sense of belonging to one national organization may not come as easily to us as it does to members of the Lions, Rotary, or Kiwanis, but it must be cultivated if we really expect to work together. And it's only working as one solid unit that we can hope to accomplish what we have set out to do. Through The Braille Monitor and frequent letters to all affiliates, our national organization provides the means for us to keep abreast of what is going on in our movement, at all levels. It's up to us to keep informed and act accordingly by making ourselves effective parts of a complete whole. Then, and only then, will we and everyone else know exactly what we are members of--and why.
Back to Contents
by Dr. Isabelle L. D. Grant
[Presented at the Convention of the International Federation of the Blind, Ceylon, 1959.]
Four years of intense observation of the status of education of our world's millions of young blind in well over fifty countries, compels me, as a retired school teacher, to do more than observe. I must express my ideas as to what may and can be done to raise the present totally inadequate, even pitifully low standards and opportunities How often in my travels and in response to my discussions, I have had to listen to the refrain, "It can't be done, for it requires money which we do not have." How often I have had to listen to the absurd statement, "Well, suppose we did educate the young blind, they could not get jobs, would remain beggars, so why educate them?"
Such hopeless attitudes have no place in our space age, in any country, no matter how impoverished its circumstances. Human beings cannot be dismissed as derelicts, as second class citizens, today. Blind or sighted, they have their right to opportunity, to self-determination, to a "chance". Traditional and archaic attitudes toward blindness are dead as the dodo. Blind people, over the world in every country, have proved what opportunity can do for their acceptance as participating members of society. We are the ones who have not awakened to the reality--blind people are just normal human beings who happen to be unable to see.
One young man in Zambia demanded that the government provide him with an education I objected to his use of the word "demand", until I realized what it meant to be deprived of opportunity--of a chance to prove one's self, not because of inferior ability, but because of the ingrained fallacy regarding the hopelessness and helplessness of blindness. Are we so preoccupied in this busy hustling age that we have no time for members of our own families who happen to have a physical disability? Have we no time for our children if they happen to be physically impaired--our own children?
All children, blind and sighted, physically whole or impaired come from our home or the home next door. Tradition and history have tagged these children as incompetent, and we, in our ignorance unfortunately, have acquiesced and are still acquiescing.
It is time to wake up and open our minds to a simple slogan, which we have not yet learned, "Education of all of the children of all of the people!" This is their right.
As a teacher of some thirty years' standing, I have helped teach many children, bright ones and slow ones, white children and black children, blind children and sighted children, physically whole children, and those who were physically impaired. They are all children, our children and all educable up to their individual capacity. That capacity too often takes you and me, as parents and teachers, by surprise. We should see the child first and then his physical limitations. We must enrich his background no matter how impoverished it may be. Children need the opportunity for making desirable changes in their own lives. They cannot ask for this, for they do not know life. They are young. But we do know, and are doing precious little about it.
I visited many of the private missionary schools throughout Africa and South Asia. They are good--as far as they go, for in truth, they have taken many children, deserted and forsaken, off the roads, and have given them shelter. But, by and large, missionaries do not have teaching credentials in the accepted areas of general education, so as a result, the education of the average mission school falls short of the education provided in the adjacent government or private school. I found vast differences in achievement, in subject content, in breadth of offerings, and in quality of teaching. Equipment, books, and dictionaries were inadequate. Libraries were almost non-existent Even Braille paper and the tools of writing were lacking.
As a school teacher, I feel that arithmetic, geography, history, and language make for mental as well as for spiritual growth.
As a corollary to this introduction, I would add from my own experience of teaching blind children, that teaching blind children is a delight. As a rule these children want to learn. They are in fact easy to teach because they have the curiosity to know about a world which they do not see, but which they know exists around them. They want to be like other children--learning, doing, and working. They do not choose to be segregated from their sighted peers. Traditionally we have segregated them from their families, their villages, from their communities and placed them in artificial communities of blind people. The world is not blind but we have forced upon them membership in a blind community, a blind colony What can they learn from one another? It does not require segregation to teach a blind child tactual reading Segregation from his own natural society is an exorbitant price to pay for learning a simple skill like tactual reading. Admittedly, the question is controversial. It is difficult to break with tradition, break down sinecures, where sighted people have held lifetime positions, have picked up scholarships at home and abroad to be able to "teach blind children".
Blind children are taught and learn the same way as sighted children do. Their brains are not blind They may read by a different method, but they read and they learn from what they read as do sighted children Brailled books are not the monopoly of blind schools, but may be procured for any blind student in any school.
Volunteer Braille groups are too few in number for the need, and a drive for volunteer Braillists would meet with a warm response, were the need known. This has been proved in many countries around the globe. We need to do more of it.
Reading by ear is equally as important as reading by eye or finger. We need readers for aural reading, when Brailled materials are not readily available.
Now, I am not oversimplifying the question of the education of children who are blind I have studied and taught these children over a period of some twenty years, have observed innumerable blind schools all over the world, have listened to hundreds of blind boys and girls wondering, as they emerge from the blind school what their next step is to be. They are entering a new world, of which they know so little--a world in which they are expected to live and work.
To eliminate some of these shortcomings and to correct some of these mistakes I present the following fourteen points, as inexpensive, achievable guide posts, all of which lend themselves to some measure of accomplishment in every country.
1. Based on the number of school age children in the country, the percentage of blind children in attendance should be at least the same as the percentage of the sighted children.
2. Educational opportunities offered to blind children should be the same as those offered to sighted children, to equalize opportunity for all children.
3. To insure an adequate program of education in existing blind schools there should be government inspection of blind schools equal to that of sighted and private schools.
4. Education need not always be academic. Agriculture, poultry raising, fruit and crop raising should be part of the curriculum for blind students.
5. Advanced education should be made possible in regular sighted schools for those blind students capable of pursuing advanced academic or vocational studies.
6. The open, sometimes called integrated program of education of blind students with sighted children, should be made possible to give these children the opportunity of participating in their own community with their sighted peers. This makes for equality of opportunity, mutual stimulation, mutual learning, and preparation for acceptance by the community. Residential schools are expensive to build and maintain. Existing blind schools could well be used as hostels for the blind children who for one reason or another, find it necessary to leave home to attend school.
7. Training programs should be set up to train special or resource teachers for those schools which have blind children enrolled. These special or resource teachers should be recruited from those already holding a teaching certificate, and, at least for the present, should be given extra pay.
8. Equipment: Braille paper, frames and styluses, Braille machines, Braille maps, and Brailled books are readily available. This problem of equipment must be given adequate study.
9. The establishing of a library of Brailled books, starting even with a meagre list, a Braille dictionary in English and one in the national language, if available, together with Brailled maps, is a distinct incentive to education. The cost, over a period of time, is negligible.
10. Blind children must learn the skill of typewriting for purposes of communication with the sighted world. Braille writing is not sufficient for personal and vocational interests in today's world, but they should be instructed also in penmanship. The days of writing an "X" as his signature are over.
11. Literacy courses should be established in all agricultural training centers to combat illiteracy and enrich general living.
12. Blind girls should be encouraged to attend school classes in personal, community and social hygiene with emphasis on food values and nutrition in accordance with the needs of the community.
13. Local arts and crafts, music and dancing, and other indigenous cultural assets should be part of the educational curriculum of blind boys and girls.
14. Young blind people should be made aware of the work of the organized blind of the world, for encouragement, guidance and self-direction, and for leadership in the promotion of the INTERESTS OF BLIND PEOPLE OF ALL NATIONS, IN THIS TRANSITION PERIOD BETWEEN TRADITIONAL CUSTODIAL CARE AND POTENTIAL FUTURE SELF-DEPENDENCE
Back to Contents
William Taylor, Jr., of Media, Pennsylvania, was a man of action and manned the barricades on a number of issues. Just before his death he had filed a suit against the Rose-Tree Media School District because of his dissatisfaction with the school curriculum in the teaching of American and Pennsylvania history. He was working on a proposed amendment to the State Human Relations Act to eliminate discrimination against the blind and to provide them with the same protections in housing, employment, and accommodations now enjoyed by the non-handicapped. As a tribute to Bill's work, the sponsors of the bill in the Legislature are going ahead with it in the session which convenes in January 1971.
That every State should have a law acknowledging the white cane as a symbol of protection of the blind person abroad in the streets was one of Bill Taylor's earliest endeavors. He travelled on his own to many States talking with legislators, members of the Lions clubs, and anyone else who would listen. In 1949 he could write, "After discouraging indifference, the white cane campaign appears now to be moving right along, and there are heartening indications in a dozen States." Late in the next decade he reported that thirty States had some kind of white cane law on the books.
Bill Taylor was educated largely in the public schools. He attended the Overbrook School for the Blind for only a short while after losing his vision after a bout of infantile paralysis. He made Phi Beta Kappa at Swarthmore College and went on to the University of Pennsylvania Law School from which he graduated in 1935. He practiced law with his father in Media He was a member of the Providence Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.
A man of his many activities receives recognition from civil groups; Bill was no exception He received distinguished service and Man of the Year awards from Lions Clubs, Chambers of Commerce, and many other organizations.
When the National Federation was looking for means of raising funds. Bill wrote to Professor tenBroek that "anybody starting to collect money for the blind in Philadelphia should consider the advantages of using a revolver, as we have found resistance to all other methods remarkably strong."
When it seemed likely that the National Federation of the Blind would sue the Civil Service Commission in the Kletzing case Bill became quite excited and communicated with the Federation President: "Someone always says 'Maybe they will not like us if first we sue'. Here, I regret to say I am afraid they [the American Foundation for the Blind] despise us already In my opinion, and I think it is yours too, before anything can be achieved here, the Commission must first be jarred out of its complacence The bringing of this action should receive the widest publicity, and very careful plans will have to be made to accomplish this . . . These may be wicked thoughts I am expressing just after coming home from a most stimulating Quaker Meeting, yet I am afraid we must hit them where it hurts."
Professor tenBroek replied: "The main point to taking this minute out to write to you is to express my pleasure at your letter which has just arrived I think you ought to go to more Quaker Meetings. At least you ought to if the effect is to put the kind of fight in you manifested in your letter. Ever since I began to study the history of abolitionism, I became convinced that there's something awfully deceptive about Quaker pacifism."
And so it was. Bill Taylor was never a pacifist where the blind were concerned and his place at the barricades will be hard to fill.
Back to Contents
Robert L. Hunt, associate professor of history at West Virginia Wesley an College, accepted the presidency of the West Virginia Federation of the Blind, Inc. in August of 1967 and is now preparing to serve Iris fourth term of leadership.
Mr. Hunt was born May 22, 1924 in Junior, West Virginia and he began his elementary schooling in Barbour County. At the age of fourteen his vision was totally lost as a result of an explosion of a dynamite cap two years earlier. He completed his secondary education at the West Virginia School for the Blind in Romney and went on to receive a B.A. degree from Alderson-Broaddus College in 1947 and an M.A. from Marshall University in 1955, majoring in history and minoring in political science. While at Marshall he was initiated into Phi Alpha Theta, national history honorary society. He has also completed forty-five hours of doctorate level education at West Virginia University.
Mr. Hunt's previous employment has ranged from cab dispatching to teaching social studies at Guyan Valley High School to college professorship, and he is now in his tenth year as a member of West Virginia Wesleyan's History Department faculty where he teaches courses in West Virginia, English, and United States History.
He has held the office of president of the West Virginia Historical Association of University and College Teachers of History, and was also an officer in the local chapter of the AAUP. He is past president of the Alumnae Association and the Morgantown Sightless Guild. He has served on the Board of Directors of Camp Gallahad and the West Virginia Society for the Blind and Severely Disabled, and was at one time president of the West Virginia Camping Association for Blind Children, Inc.
In 1948 he was elected to the House of Delegates and served in the State Legislature for two terms as Delegate from Barbour County. He has recently served as a member of the Governor's Study and Planning Committee for the Physically Handicapped and is now a consultant for the West Virginia Department of Vocational Rehabilitation with the approval of the State Board of Education.
In June of 1970, Mr. and Mrs. Hunt adopted two children, Merrilee Ann, 5, and Robbie Lee, 4, and are now residing at 13 Myrna Street in Buckhannon.
In June 1954, with the assistance of the late Clyde Ross of Akron, Ohio, the West Virginia Federation of the Blind, Inc. was organized and became affiliated with the National Federation of the Blind. The WVFB consisted of four affiliates located at Parkersburg, Charleston, Huntington, and Wheeling with C. C White of Huntington as the first State president
From 1956 until 1967 the Federation was under the leadership of the late C. C. Cerone and the late Charles Monfradi, both of Wheeling, and Guy Parkes of Clarksburg. The WVFB has expanded to ten affiliates, the six additional ones being located in Clarksburg, the West Virginia School for the Blind Alumni Association at Romney, Beckley, Morgantown, the Student Division, and the Four County affiliate in the Princeton-Bluefield area of the State.
In the last convention there were delegations from nine of the ten affiliates. The total membership of the WVFB approximates ten percent of the estimated blind population of the State.
The most noteworthy accomplishment of the WVFB was the establishment of quarterly meetings of the Public Relations Committee, Victor Gonzalez, chairman, which brings together all the State agencies providing services for the blind of West Virginia.
Since the State has no commission for the blind, the quarterly meetings serve to coordinate the efforts of those agencies providing services for the blind. In addition, the meetings afford an excellent opportunity for the views of the Federation to be made known.
The WVFB has enjoyed a high degree of success with the State Legislature in the passage of legislation directly beneficial to its membership such as a Voter's Rights Act, a Model White Cane Act, and a Special Education Act which makes special provisions for the education of handicapped students in the public school systems.
In this coming session of the Legislature, the Federation will cause legislation to be introduced which if passed would benefit the vending stand operators and those blind students who attend the public schools as well as the State school for the blind. The Federation will also support the maximum budget requests of all agencies serving the blind in West Virginia.
The WVFB grants annually two one-hundred-fifty-dollar scholarships in tribute to C. C. Cerone and Dr. Jacobus tenBroek. The Federation also donates approximately one third of the cost of Camp Braille-Crest which sponsors annually a two-week camping session for blind children. The WVFB through its congressional delegation totally supported the Right to Organize Bill and the Disability Insurance Bill, NFB sponsored legislation. West Virginia has been represented at every National Convention since its affiliation.
Back to Contents
by Charles P. Wilson
[Editor's Note: Under the heading "Decision in Delaware", last month's Monitor reviewed Charles P. Wilson's series of articles which dealt with the effects of State government reorganization on programs for the blind. The author now follows up with recent developments in two articles in the Wilmington, Delaware Evening Journal which appeared on October 23 and 29, 1970 under the headings "State Takes Official Notice of New Blind Advisory Unit," and "Fear of Change Voiced by State Agency for Blind." They are set forth below.
The worst fears of the blind of the State are coming to pass. The old Commission functions are being scattered to other departments, where they will be lost in the mass of other programs. However, determined action by the Delaware Federation is having some effect.]
Delaware's director of social services has officially recognized the State's National Federation of the Blind group as a State advisory agency on problems of the blind.
The action came at a meeting of the federation's Delaware chapter, after a blind member of the State Advisory Council on the Blind said she believed that this group, as now constituted, cannot do its job.
Mrs. Eugene C. Coyner, who is a member of the State's federation chapter as well as the advisory council, said however that she felt the State has a need for both groups.
The National Federation of the Blind, of which there are about one hundred members in Delaware, is a private, nationwide group which works and lobbies for programs to aid the blind. The Delaware Advisory Council on the Blind is the old State Commission for the Blind which early this year lost its policy-making power for State blind programs but remained as an advisory group.
John E. Hiland Jr., director of the State Division of Social Services under whose agency the State Bureau of the Blind--formerly an independent organization--was placed when Delaware's government was reorganized this year, was a guest at the federation meeting in Wilmington this past Saturday.
After Hiland had addressed the chapter, which draws its membership from among legally blind residents of Delaware, Mrs. Coyner and other chapter members asked Hiland if he would meet regularly with the federation and allow the organization to act in an advisory capacity to him.
Mrs. Coyner said the seven-member State advisory council on the Blind "is not now a good working council. We need some retirements first."
The only blind member of the advisory council, Mrs. Coyner said, "I have worked my head off for years and have gotten nowhere." She said, therefore, that it would be of particular benefit at this time for Hiland to accept the federation's State chapter as an advisory group.
After her remarks, Hiland agreed to accept the chapter as an advisory agency to him. He noted that this is not unique within his organization, since his family special services operation has both a State Advisory Council on Family Services--the old State Board of Welfare--and a new Advisory Committee on Family Services.
This new advisory committee is made up to a significant degree by recipients of welfare or members of the State Welfare Rights Organization He said the federation chapter will now provide "consumers of the services" as an advisory group on blind matters, as does the family services advisory committee on welfare.
Talk of fear, charges and countercharges, and finally an apology were focal points of the State's advisory Council on the Blind meeting.
The meeting, which became emotionally charged at some points, began with a request that the five members present consider signing a petition to Governor Russell W. Peterson asking that the present Bureau of the Blind be kept entirely in its present form.
The petition, on which action was eventually deferred since one board member had not yet had an opportunity to study it, called on the governor to use his power to keep all facets of State assistance to the blind within the bureau's Wilmington facilities.
The petition was a reaction to the expressed intent of John E. Hiland Jr., State director of social services, to move some personnel now serving blind welfare recipients--as well as some related personnel--out of the blind bureau and into the broader organization of the social services division.
The blind bureau as well as organizations representing the State's approximately one thousand blind residents have been opposing any breakup of the present blind bureau's functions, which had been an independent State agency for sixty years until earlier this year when it was placed under the division's administrative control.
After several board members stated that the blind appeared to fear the breakup of the blind bureau's program and its fragmentation throughout other units of the social services division, they asked Howard T. Jones, the bureau's executive secretary, for his opinion.
"One of the fears (of the blind) is that there will be a splintering of the (blind) agency and its programs, and a fear of what is going to happen to them" if this occurs, he said.
Jones noted that the social services division's plans call for the transfer of nine of his thirty-six staff members into other division areas within the next two months--although they will still primarily handle work with blind clients.
Jones said that many staff members have taken years to build up programs they now administer and the blind fear that "In a short time, it is disintegrating." He said that is very unsettling for the blind.
After Jones' presentation, Harold W. Horsey, council member from Dover, asked Hiland if it were necessary to make all the anticipated changes in the blind bureau in a short period of time.
Hiland said he would agree to slow down the planned changeover in some areas at the council's request, but he said he felt some of the anxiety related to the changes--which he said will help make programs for the blind stronger and more efficient--"a fascinating phenomenon."
Hiland said he had received several phone calls from blind persons after his appearance at a meeting of the Delaware Chapter, National Federation of the Blind.
He said the callers generally expressed acceptance, not fear, about his ideas on the delivery of services to the blind.
The emotional development in the meeting came when Horsey told his fellow members that he had personally taken exception to the statements made by the seven-member board's only blind member, Mrs. Eugene C. Coyner.
At the time Mrs. Coyner had advocated that Hiland accept the federation as an additional advisory group since she felt the State advisory council, "as now constituted," was not adequate for the job in her opinion.
Mrs. Coyner said she felt some "retirements" were needed before things would change on the council.Mrs. Coyner said she was sorry about any implications her remarks had upon council members but said that they were made at a "very active meeting." Also, she said her comments as reported were not made "one after another" and therefore out of context.
Back to Contents
[Editor's Note: At long last some public tribute is being paid to Hazel tenBroek who has dedicated her life and has contributed immensely to our movement. The tribute accorded Hazel by the scholarly Dr. Jacob Freid in the Jewish Braille Review for November, 1970 is more than well deserved.]
This issue of the Jewish Braille Review is dedicated in loving and honored tribute to Hazel tenBroek.
Hazel tenBroek carries a most honored name to whose immortal stature she has made her own vital contribution. Her life has been bound up with the struggles and hopes of the blind and she represents to all of us everything that we eventually hope all sighted people will share in achieving that society in which the blind will live normal lives that give fulfillment to aspirations, talents and personality, rather than their frustrations.
From the beginnings of the National Federation of the Blind, Hazel tenBroek has been associated intimately with its trials and dreams. She is still a part of our movement as associate editor of The Braille Monitor, We wish her long years of health and happiness as an honored and distinguished colleague and friend.
Back to Contents
by Sheila Samson
Recently elected president of the Ohio Council of the Blind, Ray E. Creech, is an amiable and dynamic young man who, through his untiring efforts to improve the status and welfare of the blind, has garnered the admiration and respect of many persons throughout the State. During three of the four years he has been a member of the ranks of the organized blind movement, this Daytonian has served as president of local organizations of the blind. His capabilities as a leader are reflected in his making the Dayton Council of the Blind, which was organized only fourteen months ago, the largest and most outstanding of the OCB affiliates. During its recent convention, the Ohio Council of the Blind presented Creech and the Dayton Council of the Blind the Gavel Award for the development and implementation of a variety of successful programs and projects for the benefit of the blind in general and the OCB in particular. The members of the Ohio Council of the Blind also gave Creech an award for the contribution he has made during the last year to the organized blind movement and to the welfare of the blind.
Now forty-two years old, Ray is married and lives with his lovely wife, Judy, at 3034 Fairway Drive in Dayton. He is employed as a marriage and family counselor at Catholic Charities, where he also serves as a consultant and is actively engaged in program development and research At the present time, he is developing a family life education program which is soon to be undertaken in the Greater Dayton area by his agency.
Prior to the loss of his eyesight, Ray owned and managed for thirteen years a credit investigation, adjustment, and reporting firm. Through the operation of this business, he developed an understanding of and interest in the practice of law. At the time he enrolled in college, he planned to obtain a degree in law and to specialize in marriage counseling. Although granted a scholarship to the University of Notre Dame's Law School, he elected instead to pursue a career as a psychiatric social worker specializing in marriage and family counseling. In 1964, he was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree by the University of Dayton where he majored in both psychology and social work. In 1968, Florida State University conferred on him a Master of Social Work degree after satisfactory completion of the two-year academic program and internships at the Florida School for Boys and Bryse State Mental Hospital, He is an active member of the local chapter of the National Association of Social Workers as well as the Southern Hills Lions Club in which organizations he has been carrying out committee assignments.
Among his avocations and interests are music, public speaking, and bridge. An excellent musician, Ray has played in dance bands and headed his own combos ever since he was a freshman in high school. He is proud of a record collection of over 5,000 discs and in his spare time will be found in the music room of his home listening to music of all types. In the past, he worked as a disc jockey and continuity writer for a local radio station for a while on a part time basis. This experience has proven beneficial in speaking before various groups in the community, which he is frequently called on to do in conjunction with his work at Catholic Charities and for the Dayton Council of the Blind.
Although he is a busy man who demands as much of himself as he does of others, Ray is never too busy to show a sincere interest and concern for others, particularly those who are less fortunate. He places a high value on dialogue and firmly believes that better communication among the blind, as well as between the visually impaired and the sighted segment of society are paramount if not only better understanding, but also the goals of the organized blind are to be achieved.
Meet and talk with Ray at the NFB's 1971 Convention, and you will understand even better why the Ohio Council of the Blind is proud to have him as its president and ambassador.
Back to Contents
[Reprinted from the Pomona (California) Progress-Bulletin.]
David W. Coffman had measles when he was seven years old. The disease robbed him of his sight, and for the past thirty-six years, he's lived in a world of darkness.
But, he said, his dark world is much brighter since last Monday when he began his new job as science and English teacher at Pioneer Junior High School,
"It's an absolutely delightful experience," Coffman said. "It's a thrill to go to work in the morning."
On the first day of school, Coffman said, he told his pupils he was blind "I told them they were exceptional kids because they were the first in the Upland School District to have a handicapped teacher. Most of them were very responsive to the situation."
Coffman has a unique seating arrangement with seats on both sides of the room and an aisle down the middle where he can move about.
"I've numbered the seats and I'm learning who sits at each desk. Then I can speak to each student as I have to," he said.
Coffman favors firm discipline. "I believe kids need control. I'm not convinced you should let them do as they please," he said.
"Kids at this age are in a difficult stage of their development. They're exploding with energy. It's hard to control them. My problem in the beginning was trying to keep them on one subject too long They became restless. They moved in their seats and became noisy. Now I don't deal with one subject for more than fifteen or sixteen minutes."
Coffman has an assistant, Ann Reichling, eighteen, Claremont, who reads papers aloud to him and he tells her where to make corrections.
He has a Braille typewriter, and said he plans to teach his pupils the fundamentals of Braille.
Coffman's interest turned to teaching "over a period of time" while he worked at other occupations, and in 1958 he started studying.
He earned an associate in arts degree from Pasadena City College and a bachelor of arts degree from La Verne College and needs only three units to acquire a master of arts degree from La Verne.
All of his reading has been done in Braille.
"The biggest problem," he said, "is that you don't really get a clear insight into the teaching process--what teaching is really going to be like--in college. Working with students is not even closely related to the theories of education taught in college.
"Teaching is an art. In my opinion, after a prospective teacher completes his preliminary studies and starts to study education, he should begin to work with other teachers and students in classroom situations."
Coffman is married and has four children ranging in age from twelve to seventeen. The family lives at 4535 Rhodelia Avenue, Claremont.
He has many hobbies including music, writing, and bicycling. He has a tandem bicycle and with someone else up front often rides one hundred miles on a weekend.
Back to Contents
[Editor's Note: The following is reprinted from the V.F.B. Newsletter, publication of the Virginia Federation of the Blind, Ruth Drummond, Editor.]
Ladies and Gentlemen, Please come to Order! Such is the greeting at a typical Federation meeting in Anytown, U. S. A. The secretary reads the minutes of the last meeting. The treasurer reports, giving the current bank balance and itemizing all money which has come in since the last meeting. Then come the committee reports, and these can be mighty interesting or very dull. Now take the MEMBERSHIP COMMITTEE ...
The work of membership is a year round responsibility and requires the cooperation of all the members. The roster of any organization changes from year to year. New contacts must be made and new members taken in from time to time to maintain membership levels which drop when people move away or for one reason or another are no longer active in the group.
Where to find non-members could be somewhat of a problem. Local eye doctors, physicians, ministers, mailmen, all are excellent sources of names. Notices in local newspapers, radios, TV programs, appearing on TV talk shows may be tried. The important thing is to make a determined and sustained effort to locate every blind person in the area. The rest is simply a matter of persistence and enthusiasm coupled with a real understanding of our movement, its purposes, and objectives.
What kind of treatment do you accord the new members in your organization, the one who is bouncing up and down with enthusiasm, eager to get into the swing of things: Give the new member something to do. Don't just collect his dues, and then abandon him to attend the meeting or not as he chooses. No organization can afford to squander the resource they have gone to such lengths to accrue. Almost all new members act as a shot in the arm to any group they have just joined and promptly expect to be given the opportunity to participate actively in that program. It is a great temptation to look on new members as a relief party arriving on the scene to take over the less glamorous tasks of which other members are weary. Don't treat them like new army recruits and assign them to KP. The new member should attend every meeting from beginning to end.
The membership, all in good standing, should receive either a phone call or a card before every meeting, reminding them of the time and place and telling something about the program. This will stimulate interest among the general membership, giving each person a sense of belonging and participation.
A member feels he really belongs when he is included in the planning and carrying out of the projects undertaken by the group. Without such a tie a new member or regular members for that matter lose interest after a time, drift away, and eventually become one of the mysterious dropouts that plague so many organizations.
The membership chairman is probably the most conscious of attendance and will note the repeated absence of any members. Alerted by the danger signals of increased absences and aware of a noticeable dimming of enthusiasm on the part of some members the executive board should review the programs as a whole in an effort to locate the cause and find a remedy for it.
Really get down to the nitty-gritty stuff, perhaps they do not properly understand the real nature and purpose of the organized blind movement, what it accomplishes and how it affects them personally. In any case, they should be talked with. Visit them, and a committee member might offer to come by the home of such a person on the meeting night and accompany him to the meeting. The time to act is the moment you are aware the problem exists.
The group which constantly reviews its total membership to see that every member is being used effectively is a much more vital organization. This alert kind of organization, instead of looking back to an honored past, can anticipate continued growth and achievement.
Back to Contents
Last Summer a scuba-diving group of young Swedish people, including eleven blind youth, visited the West Coast and were entertained at the home of Henry and Carolyn Negrete, Henry is president of the Capitol Chapter (Sacramento) of the California Council of the Blind. Recently he received the following letter:
Dear Mr. Negrete:
First of all, all of us want to thank you very much for the splendid afternoon you arranged for us during our stay in Sacramento. It was indeed an experience to have luncheon at your restaurant among the Capitol buildings, and I assure you that the relaxing hours at your beautiful swimming pool were wonderful.
The contact we got with your other guests then and during the dinner gave birth to the idea of an exchange program between blind young people from the USA and Sweden. We have tried to work out some plans for such a program, and this letter is the first informal step. We, the Vasa Youth Club (Tre Kronor) N:r 178 of Vasa Order of America together with some members of BBU (Blinda Barna Utveckling) now want to ask you, if there is any possibility for you to send ten blind young people to Sweden next Summer, 1971, and this on a six-weeks stay. The intentions from our side would be to train these ten young people to become instructors in scuba diving.
The arrangements we kindly ask you to take care of are:
A. To see that the travel expenses to Sweden and back would be covered
B. To select these ten young people, keeping in mind
1. They have to be very good swimmers.
2. They have to be in the age 15-21 years old.
Everything here in Sweden will be arranged under the leadership of Sven
Nahlin. The program will probably be the following: We have the possibility to stay at Orbyhus, our week-end place for children from Tomteboda. There they would get a fortnight of hard training in scuba-diving as well as taking part in other activities such as truck-driving, sailing, riding, etc.
After these fourteen days they will go to the biggest summer-camp for children in Sweden (for about 1,300 children), and work together with a group of Swedish blind divers as diving-instructors for sighted children. They are supposed to stay there for another fourteen days.
After that the Swedish Marine Corps has given us permission to stay at their fort in the archipelago of Stockholm and this for one week. Close to this place is a 300-year-old wreck which has been discovered, and the children are allowed to dive and explore this wreck together with Sven Nahlin. This unique permission is obtained by Sven Nahlin.
This stay will also be combined with sailing and other summer-vacation activities. Concerning their last days in Sweden, there are plans of letting each of the ten Americans together with one Swede of corresponding age live in a Swedish family for about four days. After that they will get two days of rest at Orbyhus before leaving for the USA. During their whole stay, they will have the possibilities of coming in contact with Swedish young people of their own age, blind as well as sighted. As the Swedes are fairly well educated in English, we presume there will be only small language problems. Therefore, we hope to be able to function as their leaders or guides here in Sweden.
We will be very grateful to hear from you as soon as possible, if further steps will be taken in this matter.
With kindliest regards,
Mr. Negrete is answering this invitation with an enthusiastic letter of acceptance. He is also seeking the participation and co-sponsorship of both the California Council of the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind. This will be a rare opportunity for ten of our young people to spend six weeks in Sweden this coming summer, beginning about July 15th. It incidentally will bring to pass the dream of Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin (the second man to step on the Moon) to arrange for such an exchange between the United States and Sweden.
As mentioned in the invitation, the boys and girls selected should be between the ages of fifteen and twenty-one and be good swimmers. They must, of course, be in excellent health, able to get about readily, and be willing to teach others scuba diving, blind and sighted, upon their return home.
While the process of recruiting must begin at once, it should be clearly understood that the carrying through of this project is contingent on the interested organizations securing adequate funding to finance the plan.
Those interested should apply for application forms to Henry Negrete, 4510 Hillview Way, Sacramento, California 95822 Completed applications should be filed by March 20, 1971.
Back to Contents
In view of some of the plans which are now being firmed up for our Convention this summer in Houston, I thought I should write you this letter in case it might affect the plans you are making as to time of arrival. Increasingly in recent years we have been having difficulty in keeping within the time limits of our schedule Also, there is never an opportunity to include on the program all of the items concerning particular occupations and professions which we would like.
Accordingly, this year's Convention agenda will be somewhat different from the one in Minneapolis Registration will begin Sunday morning, July 4, and will continue throughout the Convention. The executive Committee meeting (open to all) will occur at 9:00 o'clock on Monday morning, July 5, and will adjourn no later than 11:30 At Minneapolis several hundred people attended the Executive Committee meeting and I hope we will have an even better turnout in Houston.
From 1:00 o'clock until 5:00 on Monday afternoon, July 5, a number of individual groups will meet to discuss problems of specific interest to them. These meetings will be open to anyone who cares to come. For many years, of course, we have had national organizations of blind teachers, vending stand operators, lawyers, and similar groups However, the time has probably come to expand these groups into full-fledged, functioning, national entities It is contemplated, for instance, that the National Association of Blind Secretaries and Transcribers (or a group with some similar name) will come into being Last year in Minneapolis, as Federationists know, our national blind lawyers organization took formal definition.
At any rate, on Monday afternoon for a four-hour period, the teachers, students, lawyers, vending stand operators, secretaries, and probably other specific groups will meet to discuss common problems Experts in the various fields will be on hand to speak and provide consultation Plans will be made for activities between Conventions.
These agenda changes plus the other items planned throughout the week should make our Houston Convention the best we have ever had. From what I keep hearing round the country, it should also be our largest The Kentuckians recently informed me that they were chartering a large bus, which they expected to fill, and Don Capps assures me that South Carolina will do likewise.Remember that the Convention is being held at the Shamrock Hilton Hotel in Houston from Sunday, July 4 through Friday, July 9. The Shamrock is one of the most elegant hotels in the nation, and the rates are $8 for singles and $12 for doubles and twins. There will undoubtedly be time for a tour to the Astrodome, and the prizes this year promise to be even better than the ones at Minneapolis (if such is possible). In other words, if you have not written to the Shamrock for reservations, do it today and join the fun.
Back to Contents
by Oral O. Miller
[Editor's Note: Mr. Miller is president of the American Blind Bowling Association.]
Would you honestly feel at ease if a friend were to ask you to go bowling with him? My question is directed to the totally blind, the partially blind, and the sighted alike. Bowling in some form has been a popular sport since the days of the early Egyptians, but I do not know when it was first tried by a blind participant. I made my first feeble effort at bowling in the late 1940's during a brief visit at the Ohio School for the Blind in Columbus. However, the fact that the American Blind Bowling Association (ABBA) held its 23rd national championship tournament in Detroit last May and June indicates that a lot of blind people were bowling in leagues in several cities before the late 1940's. The ABBA was formed in order to promote an interest in ten-pin bowling among the blind and to conduct an annual championship tourney The first annual tournament was bowled in Philadelphia and at it there were fewer than twenty teams, whereas in the 1970 tournament there were more than one hundred fifty five-man teams and approximately 1,000 bowlers altogether. In recent years the tournament has been held in New York (Madison Square Garden), Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Louisville, Detroit, and Washington, D.C. The 1971 event will be held in Portland, Oregon. In other words, the tournament is always held in a city within easy reach of most of our members. Nevertheless, many blind people throughout the country have not yet experienced the delight of rolling a bowling ball and, after hearing a resounding crash, learning that they knocked down all of the pins. Let it be known to those and everyone else that it is now more than merely possible for a blind person to bowl with and frequently beat his sighted friends.
Although there are other aids and helpful procedures, the most widely used aid is the portable bowling rail. It is nine to twelve feet long, three feet high, and it is erected, when needed, alongside the bowling approach. The blind bowler uses it as a guide by sliding one hand along it while walking forward and preparing to roll his ball. Other blind bowlers use it as a directional guide and then deliver their balls from a stationary position. By either walking near or far from the rail a bowler can control where he rolls each ball, although there are other factors which also influence where each ball goes.
A sighted scorekeeper then tells the bowler the location of the pins left standing. Bowling rails can be taken apart very easily and stored in bags or boxes. They do not have to be attached to the floor when being used; they are held in place by the weight of several bowling balls. Since they sit on small rubber bases, they do not damage the floor in any way. Rails are sold by the American Foundation for the Blind and they cost from twenty to twenty-five dollars.
Since practice is needed to improve any skill and since bowling itself is a delightful form of recreation, the ABBA encourages the formation of sanctioned blind bowling leagues. The ABBA furnishes certain guidelines for the conduct of regular league bowling, but leagues are free to make most of their own rules regarding league competition. At various times during the season the ABBA sponsors inter-league competition--such as the national championship tournament, an annual Mail-o-graphic tournament and a continuing program under which medals are awarded to bowlers who have bowled especially high scores. Tournament competition is categorized so as to match totally blind bowlers against other totally blind bowlers, partially blind bowlers against other partially blind bowlers, etc. When this arrangement is not used in tournament competition, a handicap is used to offset sight and other advantages. Since all blind bowlers must rely heavily upon sighted scorekeepers, categories have been created so they can also compete against other sighted bowlers in tournaments. In many leagues a sighted person is a regular member of each team during regular league competition.
This article cannot possibly answer all the questions that will arise regarding the formation and operation of bowling leagues, tournaments, etc. Anyone connected with the ABBA will be pleased, I am confident, to furnish any information he can, but I shall be especially happy to answer any questions and to give any assistance that the ABBA or I can give to anyone interested in taking up bowling or learning more about it generally Since it is necessary to bowl a minimum number of games in order to be eligible for tournament competition and the various prizes and awards given by the association as well as by most of the sighted bowling associations to which many blind bowling leagues belong, I urge you to contact me as soon as possible so I can give you the information you need to start bowling
As I said earlier, let's go bowling!
Back to Contents
The January Monitor mistakenly announced that Anita O'Shea would be chairman of the Cultural Exchange and International Program Committee. In fact, the chairman is Robert L. Hunt, president of our West Virginia affiliate. Apologies to Mr. Hunt, and may the committee have a successful year.
Back to Contents
According to the latest issue of The Month's News, publication of the Illinois Congress of the Blind, the Congress is quite active in its battles to secure equality of treatment for blind and other physically handicapped persons. Recently the group held a march against the proposed new Illinois constitution to protest the absence of guarantees in the matter of Illinois's citizens to freedom from discrimination in the hiring and promotion practices of employers and in the sale or rental of property and the right to bring suits against discriminating employers and landlords. Loren Schmitt met with the Director of the University of Illinois Rehab Center to discuss the possibility of having the Rehab Center stripped of any influence in decisions governing the admission of blind students to the University They are hoping to meet next with the University's Board of Trustees. Finally, ICB officials met with the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind to discuss its grievances.
Something new has happened in the appliance field--a portable microwave cooking unit with Braille dials. Blind persons who have tried the new Radarange have been impressed with the Braille dials and how fast it cooks food--like a five-pound roast in thirty-seven and one-half minutes, whereas in a conventional oven it would take two and one-half hours. The manufacturers, the Amana Corporation, displayed the new unit at the recent convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan.
The U.S. Office of Education is conducting a national campaign aimed at reaching and educating handicapped children at an early age. More than 7,000 inquiries have been received from parents and others concerned with handicapped children since the campaign was launched several months ago, with the assistance of the Advertising Council. Hundreds of teachers have also requested information on how to teach handicapped children. About two-thirds of parental letters reported that their children have more than one handicap, with the most frequent being learning disabilities, emotional disturbance, speech impairments and mental retardation. One may well wonder just how this new program will increase services in communities across the nation that now have little or nothing available for handicapped children. In fact, is this one more instance of the government's concern with appearance rather than substance? Certainly the program will raise many false hopes.
Mr. A. N. Venkatasubramanian of India writes: "The Library of the U.S. Congress and the Division of the Blind has now at long last responded to our call for sending books to the blind in overseas countries. We have received four large boxes of Braille and large type current brand new journals. They came under registered post and this is proof enough to show that this change of policy is deliberate. Hip, hip, horrah! We have forwarded the journals to the directors of public instruction in each State of the country for advice as to future direct deliveries."
Rising doctors' fees will probably force another increase this year in the premium paid for Medicare benefits by the aged. Currently Medicare's premium is five dollars and thirty cents monthly and it may go to five dollars and ninety cents. Each year about one-third of the nation's doctors increase their fees by an average of twenty percent to twenty-five percent. This emphasizes the persistent problem of steadily-rising medical costs and their impact on Federal health-care programs.
William C. Causey of Evansville, Indiana passed away last fall at the age of fifty-seven. He was a member and past president of the Vanderburgh County Council of the Blind. When the local chapter hosted the Indiana Council of the Blind's recent annual convention, Causey was the chairman. He was a crusader for the blind and worked all the way on it. Bill Causey will be sorely missed.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld unanimously California's regulations which bar welfare aid to needy children because their fathers work full-time. The Court, without explanation, refused the pleas of two Santa Clara men who claimed their full-time jobs did not produce sufficient income to feed their children adequately or clothe them properly One of the men has ten children and works as a guard and the other has twelve children and is an agricultural worker. Were the fathers not working, the families would have qualified for Aid to Families with Dependent Children. The cut-off level in California for working parents is 152 hours a month A family otherwise eligible for welfare cannot get any aid if one of the parents works more than that number of hours.
Recently the Capitol Chapter (Sacramento) of the California Council of the Blind voted unanimously to contribute to the Jacobus tenBroek Endowment
Fund of the NFB all money in excess of one hundred dollars in its Student Fund at the close of each calendar year. The Student Fund is maintained by monthly raffles at the club meetings and this means that around one hundred fifty dollars a year will be contributed to the Endowment Fund.
Nicholas Constantinidis is a noted blind Greek concert pianist who has won plaudits in music capitals around the world. Young Nicholas was blinded as a result of glaucoma. At the age of ten he was sent to Athens to study Braille and begin his study of music. Later he came to the United States where he learned English. He already knew German, French, Italian, Greek, and Arabic. Constantinidis became a U.S. citizen in 1965. This year he made his third European tour under the auspices of the State Department.
The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare reports that more and more women receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children are better fitted for work and their motivation to work is high, but serious problems block their way to a job. During the 1960's the proportion of AFDC women with high employment potential increased from 25.3 percent in 1961 to 44 5 percent in 1968. Despite this potential, these women had serious problems blocking their full employment. Over 80 percent of them could not take jobs because they had youngsters under eight at home, while more than 50 percent lacked day-care facilities and nearly 40 percent had poor general health.
The Hadley School for the Blind, 700 Elm Street, Winnetka, Illinois announced a new home study course on computer programming available to qualified blind persons wishing to prepare themselves for a career in computer programming. The School states that an estimated 500 blind computer programmers are already employed in the United States. This new course will, for the first time, enable a qualified blind person to gain a basic knowledge of computer programming through correspondence study and thereby to prepare himself for on-the-job training or advanced preparation.
In an open letter to California's 400,000 employers, the State Human Resources Development Agency attributes high taxes to "the massive cost of our welfare programs." It points out that 500,000 receive aged, blind, and disabled public assistance and 1,300,000 receive Aid to Families with Dependent Children. The letter continues: "In California we have about 1,800,000 people on welfare. About one-third of these are aged or disabled and thus almost completely out of the labor market." (That's giving the employable blind and disabled a fast shuffle). "The other two-thirds (1,300,000) consist of unemployed children and 400,000 adults. Of these, the number of adults who are potentially employable is estimated to be about 250,000. And this 250,000 actually represents 650,000 welfare recipients, when children are included. So . . . If jobs can be found for these 250,000 adults, the cost in taxes for aid to welfare families could be cut in half. If every employer receiving this message were to hire only one currently unemployed person on welfare, this major social and economic problem would be solved overnight." It is interesting that this "pitch" to employers so glibly writes off the potential employability of the disabled "as almost completely out of the labor market".
A New York eye specialist has developed a new technique for removal of some cataracts which requires only a tiny incision and allows the patient to go to work the day after surgery. It is estimated that there are a half million cataract operations performed each year. With this new method a special needle which vibrates 40,000 times a second enters the eye. This changes to liquid form the hard matter which forms the cataract. The needle is equipped with a tiny device which suctions out the emulsified material, while at the same time another device irrigates the eye. This new equipment will be marketed over the next six months. The eye specialist emphasized that not every case is suitable for treatment by this method. It is best for patients under fifty years of age, while most cataracts form when persons are well beyond that age.
The West Valley (California) News reports that as the first group activity in a program aimed at changing the image of the blind, members of the West Valley Chapter of the California Council of the Blind went bicycle riding in Griffith Park.
About fifteen of the chapter's members, who range in age from sixteen to twenty-four, joined an equal number of members of the Youth Section of the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club for a tandem bicycle outing.
Robert Turner, vice president-elect of the West Valley Chapter, said his group hopes to make other excursions into sighted society and to change the image the blind have of dependence and helplessness.
"We hope to become an integral part of society," he declared.
The chapter, formed two years ago, is headed by Bob Acosta, blind teacher at Chatsworth High School.
Turner and a number of other members are also affiliated with the Sierra Club and have participated individually in the club's outdoor activities.
The young people started their ride their itinerary, from Clyde's Cycle Shop in Glendale, which donated use of the bicycles.
A picnic lunch stop was included in their itinerary.
Back to Contents
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
KENNETH JERNICAN, PRESIDENT
FOURTH AND KEO
DES MOINES, IOWA 50309
THE FIRST THIRTY YEARS:
A HISTORY OF THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
1940 - 1970
Dr. Jacobus tenBroek founded the National Federation of the Blind in 1940 and served as its president from 1940 to 1961 and from 1966 to his death in 1968.
". . . it would be equally accurate to say that the man was the embodiment of the movement or that the movement was the expression of the man ... In the life and work of Jacobus tenBroek can be read the story of a man and a movement."
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Kenneth Jernigan, President of the National Federation of the Blind since 1968 and Director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind since 1958.]
"Organizations of blind persons exist today in many cities and communities throughout the country. Some of these organizations are community groups, some are alumni groups, some are trade and professional groups, some are associations of vending-stand operators, some are organizations of workshop employees. In most of our states today, organizations of the blind within the state have formed one or more statewide organizations. Forty-three of these statewide organizations of the blind are federated into a single nationwide organization, the National Federation of the Blind.
"Organizations of this kind have been formed by the blind to advance their own welfare and common interests. These organizations provide to our blind citizens the opportunity for collective self-expression. Through these organizations, these citizens are able to formulate democratically and voice effectively their views on the programs that our National Government and our state governments are financing for their aid and rehabilitation. It is important that these views be expressed freely and without interference. It is important that these views be heard and considered by persons charged with responsibility for determining and carrying out our programs for the blind."
—The Honorable John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts, in the United States Senate, June 27, 1957, introducing his hill "to protect the right of blind persons to self-expression through organizations of the blind."
[PHOTO/CAPTION: John Nagle, Chief of the Washington office of the N.F.B., shakes hands with President Richard Nixon, who has just signed the 1970 White Cane Proclamation.]
Statement of Purpose: National Federation of the Blind
New Adventure and Higher Ground
Background: Early Associations of the Blind
Birth of the National Federation
Building the Federation
Early Programs and Progress
Aid to the Blind: From Relief to Rehabilitation
Equal Opportunity: The Drive for Jobs
The Civil Service Story
The White Cane
The Right (and the Fight) to Organize
Leaders and Movers
Division and Recovery
The International Federation of the Blind
Progress and Prospects
"The ultimate goal of the National Federation of the Blind is the complete integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality. This objective involves the removal of legal, economic and social discriminations; the education of the public to new concepts concerning blindness; and the achievement by each and every blind person of the right to exercise to the full his individual talents and capacities. It means the right of the blind to work along with their sighted fellows in the professions, common callings, skilled trades, and regular occupations."
THE FIRST THIRTY YEARS:
A HISTORY OF THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
"There are two opposing conceptions of the nature of blindness at large in the world," said a blind man in 1970. ""One of them holds that it is a nuisance, and the other that it is a disaster. I think it is clear that the disaster concept is widespread alike in popular culture and in the learned culture of the professionals. Moreover, I would submit that the concept itself is the real disaster--the only real disaster that we as blind people have to live with--and that when we can overcome this monstrous misconception, we shall ring down the curtain forever on the fictional drama entitled 'The Tragedy of Blindness'."
The speaker of these words was an American, totally blind since birth, who is today the elected leader of tens of thousands of other blind men and women associated in the National Federation of the Blind. He is Kenneth Jernigan, a onetime furniture-maker and schoolteacher who now directs the Iowa Commission for the Blind as well as presiding over the largest association of blind people ever organized.
In his speech, delivered at a banquet of the N.F.B.'s thirtieth anniversary convention in Minneapolis, President Jernigan sought to put to rest forever the "disaster concept, the tragic sense of blindness," which he declared to be the worst handicap imposed by society upon its blind members. These were his concluding words:
Everything which we are and which we have become rises up to give the lie to the disaster concept of blindness. We, the blind people of this country, are now working as farmers, lawyers, scientists and laborers; as teachers, mechanics, engineers and businessmen. We are now functioning in all of the various professions, trades and callings of the regular community. We do not regard our lives, as we live them on a day-to-day basis, as tragic or disastrous--and no amount of professional jargon or trumped-up theory can make us do so. We know that with training and opportunity we can compete on terms of equality with our sighted neighbors--and that blindness is merely a physical nuisance.
The blind people of yesterday, and the day before yesterday, had little choice but to accept the tragic view of the gloom-and-doom mongers--the prophets of despair. Their horizons were limited to the bounty of charity, and their world was bounded by the sheltered workhouse. At every turn they were reminded of their infirmity; on every occasion they were coaxed into immobility and dependency. It is no wonder that they fulfilled the prophecy of despair; believing it themselves, they made it come true.
But that was another time, another era, another world. We, the blind people of today, have carried out a revolution and have won our independence. We have won it by finding our own voice, finding our own direction--and finding our own doctrine. That doctrine may be simply stated: It is that the blind are normal people who cannot see. It is that blindness is not a "dying"--but a challenge to make a new life. It is also that there are none so blind as those who will not see this simple truth.
The blind people of today, in a word, were not born yesterday. We who are blind do not accept the tragic prophecies of a dire fate. We have a rendezvous with a different destiny. The destiny we go to meet is that of integration and equality--of high achievement and full participation--of free movement and unrestricted opportunity in a friendly land which is already beginning to accept us for what we are.
That is where the blind are leading the blind. Let those who would resist or deny that destiny remain behind, imprisoned in their own antique myths and images--while the rest of us move on to new adventure and higher ground.
With those confident words, Kenneth Jernigan summed up the major lesson of thirty years--a full generation--of collective self-organization and self-expression among blind Americans, and charted their organized course into a more secure future. What is this remarkable social movement in which the blind lead the blind without any falling into the ditch? What stumbling-blocks has it survived and surpassed in the struggle to gain recognition for its proclaimed goals of "Security, Equality, and Opportunity" for all persons without sight? What good is it--and what good is it doing?
These pages are an attempt to tell the story of the first three decades of the National Federation of the Blind: its background and beginnings, its pioneer leaders and founding fathers, its friends and foes, its trials and its triumphs.
Organizations of the blind have existed in one form or another for many hundreds, possibly thousands, of years. Perhaps the earliest record of their existence comes, rather surprisingly, from the Orient. The blind paupers of China appear to have banded together for mutual protection nearly a millennium ago, and subsequently other associations and guilds composed exclusively of blind persons grew up to achieve full legal and social status.
But it was in Europe, during the Middle Ages, that the independent guilds and brotherhoods of the blind were most highly organized and successful in their purpose. One of the most impressive of these self-contained groups was the "Congregation and House of the Three Hundred," organized in Paris in the thirteenth century. In this brotherhood lived men and women who governed themselves through a popular assembly and were, within the monastic limits of the enterprise, apparently self-sufficient. Yet time and the tides of social prejudice worked against this remarkable experiment in self-government by the blind. "Both the administration and the statutes of the congregation," an historian tells us, "underwent in the course of time a number of changes, with a considerable loss to the blind of their original rights and a corresponding increase of the influence of the sighted."
Still other "free brotherhoods of the blind," as they were called, flourished throughout Europe during medieval times. Most of them were in the form of guilds, and it is worth noting briefly the character and function which these voluntary associations embodied. First of all, of course, they were a means of mutual protection--at a time when blindness was regarded either as a communicable disease or as punishment for sins, and the sightless might be cruelly exploited or even put to death with impunity. But the blind brotherhoods had a more positive function as well: they were a vehicle of self-expression and representation of the blind in the affairs of their community. Far from separating the blind from the rest of society, they were an effective means of their integration into society. For the guilds of the blind were not at all unique; they existed side by side with a wide variety of other associations, each with its own rights and status, which together made up the medieval community. Through these groups, largely voluntary, the blind and others of the handicapped gained a degree of identity and acceptance which was otherwise denied them. "The unattached person during the Middle Ages," as Lewis Mumford has written, "was one either condemned to exile or doomed to death; if alive, he immediately sought to attach himself, at least to a band of robbers. To exist, one had to belong to an association: a household, a manor, a monastery, a guild; there was no security except in association, and no freedom that did not recognize the obligations of a corporate life."
What was true of the prosperous and able-bodied--"there was no security except in association"--was still more profoundly true of the blind. For them, as for others of the disadvantaged and handicapped, the breakup of the feudal order and the emergence of the modern world was in crucial aspects not progress but retreat. The movement from group status to individual contract--and more particularly the exclusion of the needy from normal opportunity and participation through the separate legal system of the poor law— left the blind not only bereft of their protective guilds but individually disorganized and dependent upon the charitable impulses of a society indifferent at best and frequently cruel in its treatment of the handicapped. In this early modern atmosphere it is not surprising to find that organizations of the blind, like trade unions and other independent associations of the poor, were actively discouraged and dis- credited. Within the various separate institutions which grew up to care for them--schools, homes, lighthouses, and sheltered workshops--the blind were in effect segregated not only from normal society but also from each other.
It was not until the final quarter of the nineteenth century that voluntary associations of blind people began again to take shape in the form of local and specialized groups. One of the first on record was the Friedlander Union of Philadelphia, formed in 1871; six years later came the New York Blind Aid Association, also composed predominantly of sightless members. By the 1890's there were a number of such groups across the country, many of them associations of alumni of the state school for the blind.
One of the most remarkable of these alumni groups was that formed by graduates of the Missouri school in 1895. Within a year the group opened its doors to graduates of other schools and took on the name of the American Blind People's Higher Education and General Improvement Association. It drew support almost immediately from blind persons and groups in a dozen states from New York to California, and before the turn of the century had held conventions in Missouri and Kansas. But in 1903 the character of the group as an organization of the blind was abruptly transformed, when representatives of several schools appeared at its convention and broached a plan for a different type of association to include not only the blind but also school and program administrations. In 1905 the Association formally abandoned its old identity and became the American Association of Workers for the Blind--thus ending the first tentative effort of blind Americans to organize independently on a nationwide basis.
Another organization of blind graduates was the Alumni Association of the California School for the Blind, formed by Newel Perry and a handful of hardy colleagues before the turn of the century expressly to help blind people "to escape defeatism and to achieve normal membership in society." While few of the early associations among the blind were yet prepared to press for the goals of normality and equality, Dr. Perry's forthright declaration set the precedent and pointed the direction in which these groups were gradually to evolve. Over the next decades local organizations of blind men and women within various states joined forces in statewide associations in order, among other things, to present their case before the legislatures. Some of these state groups, by the mid-1930's, were: in Illinois, the Central Committee of the Blind of Illinois; in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Federation of the Blind; in Wisconsin, the Badger Association of the Blind; in Ohio, the Mutual Federation of the Blind; and in California, the California Council of the Blind.
The evolving purpose of the local and state associations of the blind in these years was fundamentally the same as that which once had animated the medieval "free brotherhoods": collective self-expression, mutual support, and the desire to prove to the wider public the capacity of blind citizens to lead normal lives and govern their own affairs.
Moreover, within these organizations were incubating the more practical objectives which were to find full expression in the national movement of the blind. Among them were the vision of full and open employment of blind persons in the mainstream of competitive pursuits, programs of public aid providing the incentives needed to enable the blind to achieve self-support, and vocational rehabilitation programs geared to individual talent and ability rather than to the stereotyped trades of the workhouse and the workshop.
Before the outbreak of the great depression in the 1930's, social provisions for the blind in the United States were generally limited to state and county programs. But with the vast increase of poverty and unemployment during the depression--and notably with the passage of the Federal Social Security Act in 1935--public welfare and job opportunity became a national concern, and with it the distinctive needs and problems of blind Americans.
In the years following the enactment of social security, with its special title governing public assistance to the blind, it became more and more apparent to the scattered organizations of the blind across the land that federal support for their state programs was not an unmixed blessing. While the Act injected new energies and new revenues into the old programs, it also introduced a battery of conditions and requirements which often bound the blind recipient more tightly than ever in dependency and red tape. In short, the expansion of public aid from the states to the national level did not eliminate the evils of the traditional system--it only made them national.
The negative side of the federal assumption of responsibility for welfare came to be felt most sharply under the 1939 amendments to the Social Security Act. These changes required that under any state program for the blind to which federal funds were contributed all the income and resources of the blind recipient must be counted in fixing the amount of the aid grant, if any. What this meant, in fact, was that a basic goal for which the blind had been striving--the exemption of reasonable amounts of income as an incentive to self-support--was to be eliminated by federal edict.
In various ways during the depression years the center of gravity in public welfare was shifting rapidly from the state capitals to the nation's capital. It was now Congress, along with the White House, which took the decisive steps forward or backward in the fields of welfare aid, vocational rehabilitation, public health, disability insurance, sheltered workshops, and a host of related services directly affecting the lives and livelihoods of blind persons.
Inevitably, the nationalizing of welfare led to the nationalizing of the organized blind movement.
This is how it began:
To the Blind of the Nation:
The time has come to organize upon a national basis! In dealing with the public, especially in its many governmental forms, we, as handicapped persons, have long known the advantage and even the necessity of collective action.
Individually we are scattered, ineffective and inarticulate, subject alike to the oppression of the social worker and the arrogance of the governmental administrator.
Collectively, we are the masters of our own future, and the successful guardian of our own common interests.
Let one speak in the name of many who are prepared to act in his support, let the democratically elected blind representatives of the blind act as spokesmen for all, let the machinery be created to unify the action and concentrate the energies of the nation, and the inherent justice of our cause and the good will of the public will do the rest.
So spoke a young Californian, Jacobus tenBroek, in the year 1940, in a broadcast appeal to his fellow blind to join in the formation of a national organization composed of blind people, led by blind people, and operated for blind people. In his first appearance as a spokesman for the nation's quarter of a million or more sightless men and women, tenBroek stressed that national needs and national issues require national solutions:
When the problems of the blind first began to be regarded as a proper subject of public concern, they fell within the jurisdiction of the county or township authorities. At that time, local organizations of the blind were adequate. But when, in the course of time, our problems were taken over by the state legislative and executive authorities, the local organizations of the blind had to be associated in a larger group capable of state-wide action.
Now that the national government has entered the field of assistance to the blind we must again adjust our organizational structure to the area of the governmental unit with which we must deal. The time has come to join our state and local blind organizations in a national federation. Only by this method can the blind hope to cope with the nationwide difficulties at present besetting us.
In that year, the condition of the blind of America was one of wide-spread poverty and all but universal frustration. In one of the largest states, California, no more than 200 sightless men and women, by official estimate, were actually at work in normal occupations. Thousands who were able and willing to work were without jobs, forced to live on public aid grants which in most states were beneath the level of minimum subsistence. Of those lucky enough to be employed at all, most eked out a starvation wage, as low as five cents an hour, laboring at ancient trades such as chair-caning and broom-making in noncompetitive sheltered workshops--with little hope of ever being transferred out into regular jobs. The very few who held decent positions were either teachers at the blind schools or employees of agencies for the blind. Only a token number had been able to secure vending stands under the Randolph-Sheppard Act of 1936, which had been enacted to give preference to blind persons in such employment within federal buildings.
Vocational rehabilitation service for the blind was even more in-effective and rudimentary. As for education, in 1940 only a handful of blind youth were attending colleges and universities; for the vast majority of those who graduated from schools for the blind, the prospects of a normal life and livelihood were almost as dismal as they had been a century before--when the annual report of one such school stated that "our graduates have begun to return to us, representing the embarrassment of their condition abroad, and soliciting employment at our hands."
It was in this bleak climate of frustration that a scattering of blind men and women from seven state organizations assembled at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in November 1940, to form a federal union. Specifically, there were sixteen delegates present at the founding convention of the NFB, representing a grand total of seven states: California, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
The guiding spirit of the new Federation then, and for the twenty-eight years to follow, was Jacobus (Chick) tenBroek, a blind college instructor, still in his twenties. With two law degrees, (a third was to be added later) and an M.A. in political science already behind him, young Dr. tenBroek was a veteran of the legislative wars being waged in his home state by the California Council of the Blind--which he had helped to organize six years earlier.
With him at Wilkes-Barre, forming the nucleus of the national organization, were his wife Hazel; Cayle and Evelyn Burlingame of Pennsylvania; David Treatman, Robert Brown, Enoch Kester, Harold Alexander, and Frank Rennard, all of Pennsylvania; Ellis Forshee and Mario Howell of Missouri; Mary McCann and Ed Collins of Illinois; Emil Arndt of Wisconsin; Frank Hall of Minnesota, accompanied by Lucille deBeer; and Glenn Hoffman of Ohio.
In an early order of convention business, the Federationists elected tenBroek as president and chose other officers to serve through the next two years: Robert Brown, first vice-president; Frank Hall, second vice-president; Emil Arndt, treasurer. Four others were named to the executive board: Ellis Forshee, Harold Alexander, Glenn Hoffman, and Ed Collins.
That first meeting of the National Federation at Wilkes-Barre was also a constitutional convention. The delegates then and there drafted and adopted a constitution and bylaws, which have stood ever since without substantial change. The four internal objectives of the NFB were declared by the convention to be the building of an organization (1) composed of the blind themselves, (2) democratically controlled by the members, (3) administered by officers responsible to and representative of the membership, and (4) free from domination by outside interests. Through thirty years of growth, opposition, and turmoil, those founding principles have ever since remained intact.
From the outset the NFB focused its energies in two directions: those of program objectives and of internal growth. The two were related and mutually dependent: as the objectives of the Federation became known, numbers of blind people rallied to the cause; and as the Federation grew in strength, its capacity to put through its legislative programs increased proportionately.
The growth of the National Federation through the first decade, in terms of the number and spread of its state affiliates, was steady if not remarkable. Organizations of the blind already in existence within the states were invited to join, and responded to the opportunity. At the same time efforts were actively begun to create new organizations wherever there was a vacuum-- an organizing drive that brought the Federation and its affiliates directly into collision with established agencies and commissions for the blind which had traditionally held the field uncontested.
In the fledgling years of the Federation, lacking both funds and staff, the chief method of building and organizing was that of personal correspondence. In Michigan, to cite a typical case, the Federation's leaders fired letters to blind men and women up and down the state, spreading the message of Federationism and soliciting their support for a state affiliate. The drive was climaxed with the designation of a willing and competent blind person to form such a statewide group and organize an inaugural convention.
The success of this organizing drive across the nation may be seen in the vital statistics. There were seven state affiliates, with only sixteen delegates, at Wilkes-Barre in 1940; just two years later 150 delegates from fifteen states attended the NFB convention at Des Moines. By 1946 the St. Louis, Missouri, convention brought together 250 delegates representing twenty-three state affiliates. Some 350 delegates from thirty-one states attended the Nashville con vent ion in 1952. At San Francisco in 1956 the total had climbed to forty-two state affiliates with more than 700 delegates. When the NFB convened in Miami for its twentieth anniversary convention in 1960, no less than forty-seven states sent a total of 900 delegates to the event.
That anniversary year represented a high-water mark of the Federation's expansion. At that point a combination of destructive factors, to be discussed later, produced a temporary roadblock to further growth and led to the defection of a number of existing affiliates. But it was not long before the Federation was on the move again, more united than ever and more effective at every level of communication and organization. As the NFB approached its twenty-fifth anniversary convention in Washington, D.C., it counted thirty-seven sturdy state affiliates and could anticipate a turnout of delegates numbering at least 700.
The standards to be met by affiliated organizations of the blind, and their obligations to their members and to the National Federation, were set forth in the 1950's in a binding Code of Affiliate Standards. That document stated in part:
The National Federation of the Blind has grown from the base up, and by its structural nature is the sum of its component state affiliates. Independence, representation and democracy are the fundamental qualities which inspired its formation and which justify its existence and growth. Since the Federation derives its existence by reason of its components, it follows that the preservation of these qualities depends upon their existence within the Federation's affiliates. An affiliated organization of the blind should be independent of other organizations and interests, and it should be truly 'of the blind.' By this is meant that an affiliated organization of the blind must be controlled by blind people themselves.
In a real sense, the National Federation has become both the expression of its affiliated organizations and their leader. It affords a sounding-board for the views of the blind throughout the country. It provides a means whereby the blind are able to develop and articulate programs for the blind. It works to support these programs and to put them into effect. It champions the causes of the blind, both organizational and individual. It carries on research on innumerable problems--legal, social, and Economic--affecting the blind. It contributes financial and other aid to projects helpful to the blind. It occupies, on behalf of the blind of America, a place in the world organizations concerned with problems of the sightless.
The organizations of the blind affiliated with the NFB adopt a great variety of forms and activities; some are new and some old, some large and some small. The one characteristic common to them all is that they are representative of the blind and independent of any conflicting interest. Each has been found to conform with the Affiliate Standards and Constitution adopted by the convention of the National Federation. In brief this means that a majority (usually more) of the membership is blind, as are their principal officers and governing board, and the leadership of each is free of any interest in conflict with those of the blind.
Almost before the NFB was fully hatched at Wilkes-Barre, its national legislative program had been mapped out and was operational. President tenBroek, in a series of ringing speeches during the summer and fall of 1940, spelled out both the long-range goals of the movement and its immediate aims. These declarations of purpose were quickly translated into action. In the spring of 1941 Dr. tenBroek went to Washington to press for the introduction of bills drafted by the Federation and to begin the process of buttonholing and converting the nation's lawmakers and administrators to the "radical" new message of opportunity and equality for blind Americans.
Here were the major goals of the organized blind, as they were envisaged by the Federation's founders and announced to the nation by President tenBroek a few months after the inaugural convention:
The ultimate establishment of a national pension which will eliminate the diversities of treatment of the blind among the states and insure an adequate support to all; the correction of the vices that have crept into the administration of the Social Security Act by seeking its amendment in Congress; the proper and reasonable definition of the blind persons who should receive public assistance; the proper type of statutory standards by which eligibility for public assistance should be determined; adequate methods for restraining the influence and defining the place of the social worker in the administration of aid laws; proper safeguards to prevent administrative abuse and misinterpretation of statutes designed for our benefit; legislative and administrative encouragement of the blind who are striving to render themselves self-supporting.
Legal recognition of the right of a blind aid recipient to own a little, earn a little, accept a little; governmental recognition of our inalienable right to receive public assistance and still retain our economic, social and political independence, our intellectual integrity and our spiritual self-respect--these are but a few of the problems that are common to the blind throughout the nation.
One of the Federation's earliest, most persistent, and most effective lines of action has been its campaign to improve the social security program of aid to the blind--specifically, to transform it from an inadequate dole perpetuating poverty to a program of incentives toward the attainment of independence and self-support.
The Federation's drive began on a note of militancy and anger directed at the federal ruling authority, the Social Security Board. Addressing the Pennsylvania Federation Convention Banquet in November, 1940, Jacobus tenBroek spoke as follows:
Ladies and gentlemen, I come before you tonight, in the first place, to say that so far as the blind are concerned the Social Security Act has not only failed to attain its plainly expressed goals but it has been used as a weapon to compel the states to treat their blind in a more niggardly fashion; and I come before you in the second place to proclaim to the wide world that the reason for this failure and the wielder of this weapon against us has been the Social Security Board at Washington.
So damaging have the activities of this Board become that it represents the greatest single menace to the welfare of the blind now in existence. Our salvation depends upon our ability to confine its operations within the limits of the law. Its unauthorized exercise of discretionary power must be terminated.
This can only be accomplished by a militant, aggressive, group-conscious organization of the blind.
From the beginning the effort to reform Aid to the Blind involved three essential principles. First was that the grant should be sufficient not only to meet minimum needs but to allow the blind recipient to proceed from a base of self-respect to the goal of self-sufficiency. In pursuit of this objective the Federation has battled ceaselessly for increased aid grants at the federal level and has worked with its affiliates to persuade state legislatures to increase their contribution. The struggle is still far from won--the national average grant ($100.15 per recipient in 1970), measured against high living costs, is substantially below community standards--but the gains are nevertheless impressive, and the prospects of future improvement are bright. If the needy blind person in Puerto Rico (where the NFB has no affiliate) still receives an average of $13.40 per month, in California (where one of the strongest state affiliates exists) the present minimum grant is $152.00 per month with a maximum of $202.00 plus an escalator clause insuring regular increases to accord with rises in the cost of living.
The second principle involved in the Federation's campaign to improve blind aid was (and is) that of incentive exemptions of income in the interest of self-rehabilitation. If, as was once the case, each dollar earned by the blind person was deducted from his aid grant, he had little incentive to augment his income gradually until it might provide the basis for financial independence. For many, the ascent from dependency to independence could not be made in a single bound. If Congress was slow to recognize the justice and economic soundness of this reasoning, the federal administrators of public assistance were still slower. Nevertheless in 1950, after a decade of argument and testimony--and much against the wishes of the federal agency--Congress approved a landmark amendment permitting the first $50 of earned income to be exempted from the calculation of the aid grant. Exactly ten years later, in 1960, a second breakthrough occurred when Congress authorized an increase in the amount of exempt income under the blind program from $50 to $85. It was also provided that half of the income in excess of $85 would be exempted until full self-support should be reached. In passing it is worth noting that this principle, pioneered by the Federation for blind persons, has now been extended to other public assistance categories and poverty programs.
The third principle in the public assistance battle was that personal resources, such as income and property, needed in a plan for self-support should be exempted altogether. This goal was first achieved in 1962, but the exemption was limited to a twelve-month period. In 1964 the limit was increased to three years; and at present the NFB is campaigning for the removal of all such time limitations.
The motto of the National Federation--"Security, Opportunity, Equality"--symbolizes the three paramount objectives of the organized blind movement. The goal of security is partially expressed in improved programs of social security, already discussed; but the goals of opportunity and equality have their focus on another front--that of productive employment in the full range of normal occupations and professions.
The drive for jobs--for more and better jobs--was carved into a central plank of the NFB's program before the organization was a year old. The long-range character of the problem was recognized by a speaker at the 1941 convention:
It is becoming increasingly manifest, [he declared] that before further progress can be made towards a solution of our employment difficulties our attitude and standard in this field will have to undergo complete revamping. We shall, as in other phases of our work, be compelled to substitute a national for a local perspective. We shall have to re-examine the whole question of employability of the blind, and perhaps develop new criteria by which to judge of their fitness to perform useful work. We shall have to ascertain whether or not blind people's capacity is limited to a few standard occupations such as chaircaning, broom and mop making, piano tuning and music, and news dealing. In short, we shall have to ask ourselves the question, 'Is the blind man a producer or a permanent dependent’?
The answer which the Federation gave to that question was direct and unequivocal: the organized blind were to be committed to the task of dissolving all barriers to the acceptance of blind persons in private industry, in the professions, including teaching, and the skilled trades. From the beginning the NFB adopted a firm position opposing the use of sheltered workshops as agencies of vocational rehabilitation, and fought to convert the public rehabilitation service into a means of fruitful training, guidance, and placement of the blind in normal competitive jobs.
At the same time Federationists worked to fortify the public vending stand program and to extend the governing Randolph-Sheppard Act to place blind vendors not only in federal but in state, county, and city buildings as well. Moreover, it has carried on a continuous struggle to loosen agency controls over stand operators and to give them the maximum possible independence. In recent years this struggle has been complicated by the infiltration into the vending field of a new and insidious foe: automatic vending machines operated primarily by employee welfare groups which dispense many of the same products sold by blind stand operators.
One of the Federation's most impressive victories--won through years of struggle in Congress, in the courts and in the executive agencies--has occurred in the field of government employment. Before 1948, the blind were systematically barred from taking examinations for the Federal Civil Service. In that year the Federation succeeded in getting Congress to pass a law that blind or physically handicapped persons could not be denied the right to take such examinations unless, in the discretion of the Civil Service Commission, sight was absolutely indispensable to the performance of the duties of the jobs in question. Unfortunately the Civil Service Commission promptly sidestepped this provision by declaring in effect that sight was indispensable to all jobs in the federal service, and the blind continued to be excluded.
In 1950, through an error on the part of a regional official, a young
blind lawyer named Russell Kletzing was permitted to take a Civil Service examination, which he passed. Subsequently officials in the Washington office discovered the mistake and removed Kletzing's name from the list--on the familiar ground that sight was indispensable to the job. Meanwhile, to make the irony complete, Kletzing had been employed to do exactly the same job by another branch of the federal government not covered by Civil Service--and had proceeded to perform the work with efficiency and success. (Kletzing has since gone on to become assistant chief of the legal section of a California state agency, and has twice won departmental citations for superior accomplishment in his senior executive position. Kletzing was also the president of the National Federation of the Blind from 1962-1966.)
Because of the obvious discrimination involved in the Kletzing case and the implications it held for future blind applicants, the Federation took the case to court and asked that the Commission be ordered to restore Kletzing's name to the register. A list of more than 100 successfully practicing blind lawyers was collected, and hopes were high for victory.
Then, just four days before the trial date, the Commission abolished the entire register and asked the court to dismiss the case on the ground that it was now a moot question--since Kletzing's name could not be restored to a register no longer in existence. The court decided in favor of the Commission and the case was dismissed. The Federation then appealed to a higher court, but in 1953 the case was again dismissed.
Although that battle was lost, the war against discrimination was eventually won by the blind through a series of concessions and ultimate capitulation by the Civil Service Commission. The first breakthrough came in the fall of 1953 when, as a result of mounting publicity and congressional interest, the Civil Service Commission opened one of its examinations (for Junior Management Assistant) to blind applicants. Although this was perhaps the toughest test in the civil service repertory, the Federation urged blind persons the country over to tackle it. The results fully justified the Federation's faith: twice as many blind applicants, proportionately, passed the examination as those applicants possessing sight.
After that experience, the Federation began to work closely with the Civil Service Commission to open up increasing numbers and varieties of jobs to the blind. By the early 1960's the last barriers came tumbling down. Today blind men and women are at work for the federal government in ever-increasing numbers as attorneys, chemists, switchboard operators, dictaphonists, skilled workers, and in many other positions.
A graphic demonstration of the new atmosphere in government service took place at the 25th anniversary convention of the National Federation. Although a few short years ago there were no blind persons at all in federal employment, one of the major events of the 1965 convention was a panel discussion in which all of the participants were blind lawyers in the service of the government.
The long campaign of the organized blind to abolish discrimination in the civil service has ended in total victory--a victory not only for the blind but for all the physically handicapped, whose disabilities can no longer be regarded as inability by public employers.
A white cane in our society has become one of the symbols of a blind person's ability to come and go on his own. Its use has promoted courtesy and opportunity for mobility for the blind on our streets and highways. To make the American people more fully aware of the meaning of the white cane, and of the need for motorists to exercise special care for the blind persons who carry it, Congress, by a joint resolution approved October 6, 1964, authorized the President to proclaim October 75 of each year as White Cane Safety Day.
Now, therefore, I, Lyndon B. Johnson, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim October 75, 7964, as White Cane Safety Day.
That Presidential proclamation marked the climax of an historic campaign by the organized blind to gain recognition by the states and the nation of the rights of blind pedestrians. It was in 1930 that the first state law was passed requiring motorists to stop when a blind person crossed the street with a white cane. Today white cane laws are on the books of every state in the Union, providing blind persons a legal status in traffic by virtually wiping out the traditional assumption of contributory negligence on the part of blind pedestrians in the event of accident. William Taylor, a blind attorney from Pennsylvania, became the acknowledged leader and publicist of the NFB's white cane activities.
The white cane is therefore a symbol of equality [said Jacobus tenBroek in a 1960 speech]. And still more it is clearly a sign of mobility. In the routines of daily living, as at a deeper social level, the keynote of our way of life is mobility: the capacity to get around, to move at a normal pace in step with the passing parade. In this race, until very recently, the blind were clearly lagging and falling ever farther behind . . . But today the blind of America are catching up. Just as they are gaining social and economic mobility through the expansion of vocational horizons, so they are achieving a new freedom of physical mobility through the expansion of legal opportunities centering upon the White Cane Laws.
In addition to working for federal and state enactments protecting the right of passage by blind pedestrians, the Federation has sought in other ways to increase public recognition of the values symbolized by the white cane. In 1947, the NFB established the third week in May as a period for special concentration on efforts to educate the public concerning the hopes and aspirations of the blind and to ask their support. White Cane Week is a cooperative effort of the National Federation and its affiliates, during which millions of envelopes have been mailed across the land enclosing a pamphlet emphasizing the ability of the blind to be independent.
For blind people everywhere [as Dr. tenBroek said] the white cane is not a badge of difference--but a token of their equality and integration. And for those who know its history and associations, the white cane is also something more: it is the tangible expression not only of mobility, but of a movement.
It is indeed appropriate that the organized movement of the National Federation of the Blind should have as its hallmark this symbol of the white cane . . . During the decade following the introduction of the white cane, statewide organizations began to emerge in numbers across the country, in the first wave of a movement which was climaxed by the founding of the National Federation in 1940. Through the adoption of the White Cane Laws, the blind have gained the legal right to travel, the right of physical mobility. And at the same time, through the organization of their own national and state associations, the blind have gained the social right of movement and the rights of a social movement.
In 1966 Dr. tenBroek published his definitive work on the subject, "The Right to Live in the World: The Disabled in the Law of Torts." Based on this analysis of existing law, the Federation developed a Model White Cane Law, which constitutes a veritable Bill of Rights for the blind. It has since been introduced in the Legislatures of more than half of the States and has been adopted in whole or in part by more than a dozen.
From its inception the National Federation was, by its nature, in direct conflict with many institutions in the field of work for the blind. The Federation had come into existence as a militant popular movement of protest and reform. Its protest was directed against all those practices, programs and policies which functioned to restrain blind Americans from full participation and equal opportunity in their society. The reforms which it sought embraced the whole range of public programing and private philanthropy affecting the blind. It was doubtless inevitable that an organization so conceived and so dedicated should meet with resistance and opposition at nearly every turn of the road.
To those sources of friction another was added in the 1940's and 50's. As the word of Federationism was carried to the cities and towns of America, new and independent associations of blind people sprang up by the scores, while old organizations which had grown dormant were stimulated into renewed activity. In state after state these local groups of the blind formed themselves into statewide bodies, which in turn sought affiliation with the National Federation. Each level of organization gained strength and confidence from the other--and together they exerted mounting pressure upon the public agencies and state commissions which furnished their services and provided for many the chief means of employment.
The response of the agencies to this independent activity was mixed. Some of them welcomed the blind organizations in a spirit of collaboration and dialogue. In such states the blind were regarded not as a threat to existing policies but as an invaluable source of information and advice in the shared effort to improve the state's programs and services. Typical of these cooperative responses by various administrators was a 1958 statement by Mrs. Barbara Coughlan, the director of Nevada's Welfare Department:
As an administrator I have found the Nevada Federation of the Blind a valued source of assistance in administering services for the blind. Its activities have been a key factor in the growth and improvement of our programs during the past few years . . . One means has been through its representation on the State Aid to the Blind Advisory Committee. This committee has assisted in recommending policy and legislation as well as in interpreting the program to the public and, in turn, reporting to the Department community reaction to the program . . .
As an administrator I would be handicapped seriously if there were not such an organized group. I feel it is of the utmost importance to know how the persons served feel about the services provided and how such services can be improved. The Federation of the Blind has been an excellent vehicle for this purpose. Our relationship has been one of mutual confidence and respect.
But if many public and voluntary agencies greeted the rise of the organized blind movement in a spirit of cooperation, there were as many others--both within the states and on the national level--which reacted with bitter hostility. Their opposition had many causes, of which perhaps the most fundamental was the simple disbelief that blind persons could be capable of managing their own lives and exercising the normal rights of other citizens. A peculiarly striking expression of this age-old custodial attitude, with its assumption of the general inferiority of blind people, was voiced in the mid-fifties by the executive director of the nation's largest voluntary agency for the blind:
A job, a home, and the right to be a citizen, will come to the blind in that generation when each and every blind person is a living advertisement of his ability and capacity to accept the privileges and responsibilities of citizenship. Then we professionals will have no problem of interpretation because the blind will no longer need us to speak for them, and we, like primitive segregation, will die away as an instrument which society will include only in its historical records.
An additional, and more immediate, motive behind the opposition of the agencies was the sense of threat to various programs and institutions--such as the sheltered workshop--which reflected a vested interest in the continued dependency of the blind. Managerial groups tended to look upon independent organizations of their blind workers as trade unions seeking to improve their rights and working conditions; and indeed the two were related, as the National Federation and its state affiliates pressed for a variety of reforms in the sheltered shops and vending stand programs and supported the affiliation of the workers with labor unions.
During the decade of the fifties the agency forces opposed to the organized blind movement retaliated in a multitude of ways. Blind workers in the sheltered shops, and blind operators of vending stands in state-controlled programs, were fired out of hand or threatened with dismissal if they dared to join or support the Federation. Blind employees of state agencies and commissions were subjected to a wide variety of pressures. Confidential case records of blind persons active in the Federation, who were receiving public aid or services, were opened and their contents exploited in an effort to discredit the individuals and groups concerned. At one point, in what must have been desperation, a special committee was formed by a combination of state agencies to seek ways of counteracting the Federation.
The National Federation of the Blind [said Jacobus tenBroek in 1957] stands today an embattled organization. Our motives have been impugned; our purposes reviled; our integrity aspersed; our representative character denied. Plans have been laid, activities undertaken, and concerted actions set in motion for the clear and unmistakable purpose of bringing about our destruction. Nothing less is sought than our extinction as an organization.
The response of the Federation to these attacks constitutes one of the most dramatic chapters of its history: namely, the campaign to gain protection for the right of the blind to organize, to speak for themselves, and to be heard.
In the summer of 1957 two identical bills were introduced into Congress--by Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Congressman Walter S. Baring of Nevada--expressly "to protect the right of the blind to self-expression through organizations of the blind." That measure, which has been known ever since as the Kennedy Bill, clearly reflected the commitment of the future President to the political and civil rights of disadvantaged Americans. When he rose in the Senate to introduce and speak for his bill, his words were forceful and to the point:
Organizations of blind persons exist today in many cities and communities throughout the country . . . In most of our states today, organizations of the blind have formed one or more statewide organizations. Forty-three of these statewide organizations of the blind are now federated into a single nationwide organization, the National Federation of the Blind.
Organizations of this kind [Senator Kennedy continued] have been formed by the blind to advance their own welfare and common interests. These organizations provide to our blind citizens the opportunity for collective self-expression.
Through these organizations, these citizens are able to formulate democratically and voice effectively their views on the programs that our National Government and our state governments are financing for their aid and rehabilitation. It is important that these views be expressed freely and without interference. It is important that these views be heard and considered by persons charged with responsibility for determining and carrying out our programs for the blind.
The Senator and future President minced no words in specifying the threat with which the Federation and its affiliates were confronted in 1957.
In some communities [he said] this freedom that each of our blind citizens should have to join, or not to join, organizations of the blind has been prejudiced by a few professional workers in programs for the blind who have allowed their personal views to be expressed in official action for or against particular organizations of the blind. Administrators and workers in welfare programs for the blind possess unusual power to control the lives and influence the conduct of their clients. It is important that our blind citizens be protected against any exercise of this kind of influence or authority to interfere with their freedom of self-expression through organizations of the blind.
The Kennedy Bill which the Senator then introduced was designed to do two things: to insure to the blind the right to organize without intimidation or interference; and to insure to the blind the right to speak for themselves and to be heard through systematic consultation with the agencies responsible for their public welfare.
Senator Kennedy's right-to-organize bill failed of enactment in Congress, although it gained wide bipartisan support. Against it were ranged the Federal Department of Health, Education and Welfare and its subdivisions such as the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation--along with such powerful agency organizations as the American Foundation for the Blind and the American Association of Workers for the Blind. The major arguments advanced by these interests were, first, that the legislation was superfluous because everyone has the right to free association; and, second, that the bill would give the organized blind a degree of authority and influence over public programs sufficient to counteract the combined power of the professional agencies.
That combined power was enough to bring about the defeat of the Kennedy Bill following its introduction in 1957. But the bill lived to fight another day. In March, 1959, extensive public hearings were held on the issue by a subcommittee on special education of the House Committee on Education and Labor. At those hearings the Federation's testimony alone, delivered over a period of three days, ran to several volumes of official transcript--supported by testimony from numbers of welfare administrators, labor leaders, educators, psychiatrists, and dozens of rank-and-file blind men and women who had fallen victim to the hostility of the agencies toward their independent activities.
Those congressional hearings--and the fierce resolve of the organized blind which they displayed--made an impact which was felt through-out the country. Although once again the right-to-organize measure failed in Congress, "little Kennedy bills" were introduced in several states and passed by some. Still more important, the twin objectives of the bill--to protect the rights of assembly and petition, the right to organize and the right to be heard--came to be widely achieved in fact where they were not formally granted in law. The forces of opposition, which had successfully brought their power to bear in the congressional hearings, called off their overt attack and beat a strategic retreat.
Although the Federation's battle for the right to organize never gained an official victory, the episode stood as a compelling demonstration of the moral force and resolution of organized blind Americans. Although they had lost the battle, they were on the way to winning the war.
Leadership in the National Federation of the Blind, in terms of the personalities who played prominent roles in the growth of the movement, may be divided for narrative purposes into three periods of a decade each--those of the forties, the fifties, and the sixties.
The prime mover and founder of the Federation was Jacobus tenBroek, who became its first president in 1940 and was re-elected every two years until 1961, when he stepped down for a five year period. Relinquishing the presidency, however, scarcely diminished the scope of Dr. tenBroek's contributions to the cause. He continued to be active as president of the International Federation of the Blind, delegate of the N.F.B. to the World Council for the Welfare of the Blind, editor of the BRAILLE MONITOR, and participant in the numerous programs of the movement.
During its first decade the National Federation, although aided by the contributions of many talented individuals, had not yet developed a strong body of leaders to assist its president. There were, however, two outstanding men in the early period both of whom rose briefly to prominence and were abruptly cut off by death in the same year. One of these was Cayle Burlingame, a Pennsylvanian who played a part in the founding of the Federation and in its initial years before passing on in 1945. The other pioneer leader was Raymond Henderson, a California attorney who became executive director of the Federation in 1943. Something of Henderson's stature and commitment to the organized blind was conveyed in a memorial speech delivered by Dr. tenBroek in 1945:
Of late years, the movement which claimed an ever-increasing portion of Raymond's wakeful hours was that of the blind. He saw in the National Federation all the elements of a cause that he could not resist. He envisioned the National Federation as a people's movement on the part of an underprivileged class of the citizenry.
He believed deeply that the problems of the blind can only be fully understood by the blind themselves and hence that the blind should formulate their own solutions by mutual aid and by unified collective action seek to achieve them.
By the nineteen fifties, the National Federation had broadened both its base of membership and its apex of leadership. During that second decade there gathered around President tenBroek a substantial number of unusually able and gifted persons. Among them were: Kenneth Jernigan of Tennessee (and later of California and Iowa); Perry Sundquist of California; Donald Capps of South Carolina; George Card of Wisconsin; John Nagle of Massachusetts; Durward McDaniel of Oklahoma; John Taylor of Tennessee and Iowa; and Russell Kletzing of California.
As the fifties drew to a close, two of these leaders--Card and McDaniel--became involved in the internal quarrels of the Federation and withdrew from prominence on the national scene. Kenneth Jernigan, who emerged from Tennessee in 1952 as organizer of the national convention in that state, rose in the ranks like a rocket; he held a succession of national offices, became a key political leader and organizer, and an inspired crusader for Federationism. Later Jernigan was to say of his introduction to the movement:
My first Federation convention was at Nashville in 1952. In more ways than one it was a milestone and a turning point in my life. I found a united, dedicated, aggressive organization working toward the achievement of goals which I could believe in wholeheartedly and support without reservation. Merely to be in the meeting hall and listen was an inspiration and a challenge. I made up my mind at that convention that the Federation was the greatest and most promising force in existence for the betterment of the blind, and that I would give to it all that I possessed in the way of effort, ability, and talent. I have never regretted that decision.
John Taylor first gained recognition as an able chief of the Federation's Washington office; later he served a brief tenure as president before the demands of his career as an Iowa rehabilitation official forced him to curtail his active participation.
Nagle, a Massachusetts attorney, rose swiftly in the fifties to the presidency of his state association and to a position on the national executive committee; then took over the Washington office which he has conducted ever since with skill and dedication.
Donald Capps emerged as the principal leader of the movement in South Carolina and surrounding states and worked with a spirit of vigor and determination which has resulted in unparalleled gains for the blind of his area. By the late fifties he was second vice-president of the national organization, a position which he held until 1968 when he became first vice-president.
Perry Sundquist, who along with Professor tenBroek was one of Dr. Newel Perry's "boys," brought to the national movement long experience in the battles of organization. He brought years of experience as a thoughtful draftsman of legislation affecting the blind and of administrative skills learned during a twenty-seven year tenure as Chief of the Division for the Blind in California. He has served the Federation in many capacities: briefly as president in 1961-62 and since in various positions on the Executive Committee. In 1968 he was appointed Editor of the BRAILLE MONITOR, the official publication of the N.F.B., filling the position with distinction.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Donald Capps, first vice-president of the National Federation of the Blind, stands in front of the South Carolina Capitol where he has helped pass many important legislative measures for the blind in his home state.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Perry Sundquist, Editor of the Braille Monitor, and Chief of the Division for the Blind of the California Department of Social Welfare for 27 years.]
As the Federation moved into its third decade in the sixties, it underwent a major and dramatic change of leadership. In 1961 Dr. tenBroek resigned his 21-year tenure as president in order to assume other roles and duties. The effect of his sudden departure upon the convention and the membership was described at the time by John Taylor, who became his immediate successor as president:
After 21 years as founder and as the continuously re-elected president of the National Federation, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek surprised and dismayed the convention by announcing his resignation from office on the first morning of the sessions. I cannot fully describe my own feelings as the new president of the organization which this man brought into being and has nurtured through a score of years. We have lost in Dr. tenBroek the greatest leader the organized blind have ever had or will have. In a unique way and to a striking degree, the Federation's philosophy is his philosophy, its character is his character, its accomplishments are his. In the hearts and gratitude of his fellows, he stands as the blind man of the century.
Following John Taylor in the presidential chair for a brief period was Perry Sundquist, a veteran of the organized blind movement in California and the nation who has been as universally liked among federationists as he is admired for the specialized knowledge acquired through almost three decades as administrator of California's blind welfare programs. In 1962 the N.F.B. convention chose for its highest office a rising young attorney, Russell Kletzing, who had served previously as secretary and executive committeeman. Kletzing brought to the office abundant vigor and executive ability.
During the early and mid-sixties the movement regained much of its former momentum and unity. By 1965 as Federationists met in the nation's capital to celebrate the organization's twenty-fifth anniversary, the N.F.B. was again on the march with all of its former force and enthusiasm.
At the N.F.B.'s National Convention in Louisville, Kentucky in 1966 the high mark was the restoration to the presidency of its longtime leader, Professor Jacobus tenBroek. The founder of the organization took the helm after an absence of five years with a ringing call for "reinforcement, reassessment, and renewal." This dramatic and wholly unexpected event followed the decision of Russell Kletzing, the Federation's president for the previous four years, not to be a candidate for re-election.
Kenneth Jernigan, as the one whom informal discussion among the delegates had generally singled out as the obvious successor to the office, took the floor in an atmosphere of suspense. "Mr. President," he began, "I wish to make a brief statement and a motion." As the tension in the audience rose still further, Jernigan went on to say that at the urging of other Federation leaders he himself had given serious consideration to permitting his own name to be placed in nomination for the presidency, but "I have never fell right about it." For him it was proper to be Dr. tenBroek's "chief lieutenant but not his chief." "During the last few days," Jernigan continued, "and again this morning, in this hotel, I discussed with Dr. tenBroek the reasons why he, our founder and leader, ought to run for the presidency at this time. Those shattering and best forgotten days of the civil war are over; and his spirit, his integrity, his value are now needed more than ever to carry us to new heights of unity and accomplishment--but not as President Emeritus--rather, as President."
Observing that Dr. tenBroek "this morning gave me a decision that permits this motion now," Jernigan went on to say, "that I will do everything that I can to assist Dr. tenBroek in the years ahead and that if the time comes when he cannot or will not allow his name to be placed in nomination for the presidency, I will definitely be a candidate for that office." Jernigan then moved that the convention "unanimously, by acclamation, elect as its president Jacobus tenBroek."
"Because of my unbounded faith in you, I am gratified to find that you have some faith in me." With these words Professor tenBroek resumed the office of president of the Federation and continued in that office until his death on March 27, 1968. He was succeeded by the first vice-president, Kenneth Jernigan.
In speaking of Jacobus tenBroek at the Memorial Assembly held in Berkeley, California in May, 1968, Mr. Jernigan said:
The relationship of this man to the organized blind movement, which he brought into being in the United States and around the World, was such that it would be equally accurate to say that the man was the embodiment of the movement or that the movement was the expression of the man. For tens of thousands of blind Americans over more than a quarter of a century he was leader, mentor, spokesman, and philosopher. He gave to the organized blind movement the force of his intellect and the shape of his dreams. He made it the symbol of a cause barely imagined before his coming: the cause of self-expression, self-direction, and self-sufficiency on the part of blind people. Step by step, year by year, action by action, he made that cause succeed.
There are those who will tell you it all started in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in 1940 when the blind of seven states came together to organize. But they are wrong. It started much earlier in the age-old discriminations against the blind, in the social ostracism, the second-class citizenship, and the denial of opportunity--it started in primitive times before the first recorded history, in the feelings of the community at large and the restiveness of the blind, the wish for improvement, the resistance to a system.
When he began the Federation in 1940 the plight of the blind was sorry, indeed. To start any organization at all was a monumental effort. It involved finding and stimulating blind people, licking stamps and cranking the mimeograph machine, finding funds and sources, and doing battle with the agencies bent on perpetuating custodialism.
During his years he lived more and accomplished more than most men ever can or do. He was the source of love for his family, joy for his friends, consternation for his opponents and hope for the disadvantaged. He moved the blind from immobility to action, from silence to expression, from degradation to dignity--and through that movement he moved a nation. He gave to the movement all that he had--his time, his energy, and his love. The only thing he took in return was such satisfaction as he derived from his labors. In the hearts of blind men and women throughout America and the world, his memory lives, and will live. In the life and work of Jacobus tenBroek can be read the story of a man and a movement.
Paradoxically, it was at the time of its most spectacular growth and achievement--during the decade of the fifties--that the Federation also went through its time of troubles. We have already discussed the external struggles with agency forces hostile to the independent objectives of the blind; for a time these were almost matched in severity by a wave of internal dissension which preoccupied the Federation for much of the decade.
The troubles within the movement were related in part to the troubles without; for at least a few active members came to resent and resist the "hard line" adopted by the Federation toward the agency opposition. Whether by reason of professional association or ties of sympathy, these members dissented from the militant attitude expressed by Dr. tenBroek in a 1957 convention address on the right to organize: "If the course of events is not altered, if these agencies continue in their present path, it may not be too much to say--as one blind man has said recently--that 'either these agencies will ruin the blind or the blind will ruin these agencies.' No disagreement can be greater than the disagreement with persons who seek to eliminate your very existence. No struggle can be more intense than the struggle for survival."
A deeper source of cleavage, however, sprang from the very success of the Federation--its rapid rise in affluence and influence. Whereas in the lean years of the movement there had been a dearth of volunteer leaders and office-seekers, during the prosperous fifties aspiring leaders sprang up from all sides--some of whom won national office and responsibility while others found their ambitions frustrated and accordingly felt themselves to be neglected and abused. Reinforcing this source of friction in the movement was a marked difference of personality and temperament among some of the more prominent members--differences which in a few cases became so deep as to be irreconcilable. Finally, added to these feelings of personal grievance were the quite common frustrations and suspicions aroused in many blind persons by virtue of the very real abuses and inequities which are part of the facts of daily life for the blind in a predominantly sighted world.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: In 1961 Dr. Jacobus tenBroek (left), the then president of the National Federation of the Blind and Kenneth Jernigan (right), the current president of the National Federation of the Blind examined the Braille blueprints of the new Iowa Orientation and Adjustment Center of the Blind.]
"A house divided against itself cannot stand." So declared the Federation's president in calling upon the organization to end the internal dissension which threatened to wreck its public stature, paralyze its program activities, and undo its achievements. The rank and file membership, represented in convention delegations, was reluctant to take strong measures against a minority of its fellows but in the end recognized the necessity and acted firmly. The cost of survival to the Federation was high: the total number of state affiliates was temporarily reduced from 47 to 37, and a number of able members withdrew from the organization.
The significance of this episode of struggle within the National Federation was assessed by Jacobus tenBroek in 1962, when the organized blind movement was recovering from its self-inflicted wounds. His speech said in part:
The last of the threats to the welfare of the blind is by no means the least. In many ways it is the gravest of all. It is the self-challenge of our own division and dissension--the internal peril of palsy and paralysis. Movements, too, have their diseases. And the worst of these, the one most often fatal, is the virus of creeping anarchy--the blight of disunity and discord which gnaws at the vitals of a stricken movement until its will is sapped, its strength drained away, its moral fiber shattered. The movement of the organized blind--we all know to our sorrow--has been so afflicted. If our movement is to rise again, there must be among us a massive recovery of the will to live: a revival of the sense of purpose and mission, indeed of manifest destiny, which once infused this Federation and fired its forward advance.
If we fail in that, more than a movement dies. The Federation has been, above all things, a repository of faith--the faith of tens of thousands without sight and otherwise without a voice. It has become a symbol, a living proof, of the collective rationality and responsibility of blind men and women--of their capacity to think and move and speak for themselves, to be self-activated, self-disciplined and self-governing: In a word, to be normal. Our failure is the death of that idea. Our success is the vindication of that faith.
I propose to you tonight that a new and grand objective be added to our established goals and purposes: namely, the inauguration of a World Federation of the Blind.
So spoke Jacobus tenBroek in a banquet address at the Federation's national convention in July, 1964. His appeal for the extension of Federationism to the blind people of all nations was promptly answered. At a special meeting following the convention banquet, leaders of the NFB joined with some fifteen distinguished foreign visitors from eight countries to lay the cornerstone of what was to be the International Federation of the Blind.
Less than a month later, on July 30, the IFB was officially inaugurated at a charter meeting in New York City of delegates and prospective members representing nations from all parts of the world. Dr. Jacobus tenBroek of the United States was unanimously elected president. Rienzi Alagiyawanna of Ceylon was named first vice-president, and Dr. Fatima Shah of Pakistan was chosen as second vice-president.
The goals and purposes of the worldwide organization were set forth in the Preamble to its Constitution adopted by the delegates at the New York meeting:
The International Federation of the Blind is the blind people of the world speaking for themselves--acting in concert for their mutual advancement and more effective participation in the affairs of their respective nations.
The International Federation of the Blind is an organization of the blind of all nations, operated by the blind of all nations, for the blind of all nations. It is an educational and fraternal association, nonprofit and nonpolitical in character, dedicated solely to serving the common needs and aspirations of blind men and women everywhere in the world.
We join in this common cause to:
Cooperate with the World Council for the Welfare of the Blind in achieving its objective providing the means of consultation between organizations of and for the blind in different countries.
Encourage self-organization and self-determination by blind people in all countries through their own voluntary associations, joined together in turn by membership in the International Federation
Serve as a world assembly for meetings, communication and interchange among blind persons of all nationalities, toward the end of reinforcing their confidence in themselves, in each other, and in their common cause.
Provide a forum for collective self-expression and discussion by the blind of the world, and to act as the articulate voice for their joint decisions and common objectives.
Work for the progressive improvement and modernization, throughout the world, of public policies and practices governing the education, health, welfare, rehabilitation and employment of the blind.
Disseminate accurate information, increase knowledge and promote enlightened attitudes on the part of the peoples of the world toward blind persons.
Solicit the support of national governments everywhere for the programs and policies of the organized world blind, and advise and assist those governments in their implementation.
Furnish a beacon for the underprivileged and disadvantaged blind people of the earth--and create a potent symbol through which blind people everywhere seek the rights and opportunities that are the birthright of all men.
Stand as living proof to the essential normality, equality, and capability of blind men and women as first-class citizens of the world as well as of their individual nations.
The background events which preceded the historic decision to form an independent global federation of blind people may be briefly summarized. For many years the National Federation had been represented by a delegate in the World Council for the Welfare of the Blind, the only international organization in the field. Formed and controlled by agencies for the blind (predominantly in Western Europe and North America), the WCWB faithfully reflected its agency character in the narrow scope and quality of its operations. All efforts to improve this situation, by the NFB and the few other national organizations of blind people represented in the World Council, were rebuffed by its agency leadership--which went so far in the early sixties as to oust the NFB's delegate from his rightful seat on the Council's executive committee.
At the same time as it was becoming apparent that organizations of the blind themselves could not hope to gain an effective voice in the WCWB, pioneering efforts were under way in many new and old nations of of Asia, Africa, and Latin America toward the formation of independent blind associations. A notable instance was Pakistan, where the NFB's "goodwill ambassador," Dr. Isabelle Grant of California, instilled the spirit of Federationism into an adventurous band of blind men and women. The Pakistan Association of the Blind has since taken its place in the vanguard of independent national organizations of blind persons which have arisen to parallel the newly won independence of their countries.
It was in order to meet this "revolution of rising expectations" on the part of the world's blind people, as well as to counteract the paternalistic and custodial character of the World Council for the Welfare of the Blind, that leaders of the organized blind from several continents in 1964 joined their talents and aspirations in the common cause of the International Federation of the Blind.
The nature of that common cause--the spirit of Federationism among the blind at home and abroad--was eloquently expressed by the first president of the International Federation, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, in his banquet address before the NFB convention in 1964. His words may stand as a fitting summation of the thirty-year history of America's National Federation of the Blind:
One score and four years ago, a little group of willful men from thirteen states met in a convention hall in Pennsylvania in order to form a more perfect union. If you find an historic analogy in that, so be it.
The union we formed on that distant day in Wilkes-Barre was far from perfect. It is imperfect still. But it has met the test of time and turmoil, trouble and tribulation; it has not perished from the earth.
The National Federation of the Blind is still standing--but it is not standing still. It is on the move once more, as it was in its first years of wrath and rebellion--more united than ever and more confident of its power, stronger in its faith and richer by its experience--an older movement and a wiser one, now revitalized and recharged by an astonishing vision, an idea even more fantastic than that which lured the handful of founders to the Pennsylvania cradle of Federationism.
The vision which moves us now is nothing less than the image of world federation. I propose to you tonight that a new and grand objective be added to our established goals and purposes: namely, the inauguration of a World Federation of the Blind.
And why not? Our own National Federation has blazed the trail and shown the way. We have demonstrated what blind men and women can do in freedom and in concert, through independence and interdependence. We have proved, in the fires of battle, our right to organize, to speak for ourselves, and to be heard. We have established beyond gainsaying our capacity to take the leadership in our own cause. We have slowly and steadily won recognition in the halls of government, in the agencies of welfare, and in the public mind. Through our deeds and programs, by argument and example, in action and philosophy, we have earned respect for ourselves and our fellow blind, the respect of free men and of equals.
All this, and more, Federationism has done for blind Americans. All this it can do for others. It is time that we shared these fruits of struggle and victory with our brothers in other lands. Let the word go out from this convention that we of the National Federation stand ready to lend our efforts and energies to the building of world unity among the blind. Let the liberating principle of federation--the spirit of democratic association and collective self-direction--catch fire among the blind people of Asia, of Europe, of Africa, of Latin America, as it caught fire and blazed forth in the hearts of blind Americans twenty years ago, and still sustains them by its warmth.
What is this peculiar potent spirit which we call Federationism? What are its explosive ingredients? What does it have to offer to the blind of all nations which they do not have and cannot obtain from their governments, their private agencies and public corporations?
Federationism is many things to many men. First of all it is an indispensable means of collective self-expression, a megaphone through which the blind may speak their minds and voice their demands--and be assured of a hearing.
Federationism is a source of comradeship, the symbol of a common bond, an invitation to commingling and communion--in a word, to brotherhood among the blind.
Federationism is a tool of political and social action, an anvil on which to hammer out the programs and policies, projects and platforms, that will advance the mutual welfare and security of the blind as a group.
Federationism is the expression of competence and confidence, the sophisticated construction of able men and women--not a retreat for the lost and foundered. It is a home of the brave and a landmark of the free.
Federationism is the synonym of independence--the antonym of custodialism and dependency. It is the blind leading themselves, standing on their own feet, walking in their own paths at their own pace by their own command. It is the restoration of pride, the bestowal of dignity and the achievement of identity.
Federationism is an agency of orientation--a school for the sightless--an incomparable method of personal rehabilitation and adjustment to the unpopular condition of being blind.
Federationism is a dedication--a commitment of the mind and heart, an act of faith and an adventure of the spirit, which issues a call to greatness and a summons to service on the part of all who volunteer to enter its ranks.
Federationism is a spearhead of revolution, be-speaking a rising tide of expectation on the part of the once 'helpless blind'--a blunt repudiation of time-dishonored stereotypes and an organized demand for the conferral of rights too long withheld and hopes too long deferred.
These are some--by no means all--of the features and faces of Federationism which are a familiar part of the experience of organized blind Americans. There is nothing about them that is exclusive to Americans or prohibited to others. They are not contraband but common currency. They are as universal as the claims of democracy. Federationism, like blindness, is no respector of persons or peoples. For purposes of democratic self-organization among us there is neither black nor white, lew nor Greek, Christian nor Brahman--they are all one within the universal community of the blind ……
A few years before the outbreak of World War II, Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared prophetically that his generation of Americans had a rendezvous with destiny. They did indeed. They kept that rendezvous--and all mankind is thankful that they arrived on time for the appointment. I am convinced that this generation of blind Americans now has a rendezvous with destiny: that we are the advance guard of a movement destined in time to transform the lives and fortunes of the blind people of the world. That transformation will not be accomplished in the first year, or in the first decade, or even in the first generation. But, in the well-remembered words of another President, Jet us begin. Let us reason together--to compare our experiences, to pool our resources and to combine our strengths. Let us act together, to build our common foundations and to erect our platforms. Let us march together, against the ubiquitous foes of ignorance and folly, prejudice and pride, which stand across our paths the world over. Above all, let us begin.
At the 1968 Convention of the NFB, held in Des Moines, Iowa, the actual attendance at high points was close to 1,000 delegates and members on the convention floor. Kenneth Jernigan was unanimously and enthusiastically elected president of the Federation for a two-year term. In his inaugural address, delivered at the banquet attended by 730 persons, President Jernigan reviewed past accomplishments of the Federation and set the course for the future. "With the death of our beloved President, Dr. tenBroek," he said, "we have lost a leader--but we have not lost direction. We mourn the passing of a man, but not the end of a movement." To a standing ovation, the address concluded with these words: "Let the word go out from this place and this moment that the torch has been passed to a new generation of blind Americans, a generation born in this century and fully belonging to it; a generation committed to the belief that all men (seeing or blind) are capable of independence and self-direction, of attaining equality and pursuing happiness in their own way, of serving each other and helping themselves--of walking alone and marching together."
From 1968 to 1970 (the time of this writing) a momentum was built up, sweeping the programs of the Federation forward at an accelerated pace. A sense of unity pervades all of its activities--a quiet but obvious determination that nothing can or will stay the organized blind in their progress toward a better day for sightless persons everywhere. These two eventful years have witnessed the following significant advances:
New state affiliates have been organized, bringing the number to 44 in 43 states. During the coming year several additional state affiliates are planned.
The Fedco Corporation, a subsidiary of the Federation, is now totally owned by the N.F.B., the purchase price of a half million dollars having been paid in full. To further diversify sources of revenue, the Board of Directors of Fedco (which consists of the elected officers of the N.F.B.) recently purchased a plastics company for $450,000.
The BRAILLE MONITOR has witnessed a phenomenal growth in its Distribution--not only in its Braille and inkprint editions, but in the newly established recorded version. In fact the circulation of the magazine more than doubled between 1968 and 1970, approaching the 10,000 mark. Funds placed in the Jacobus tenBroek Endowment Fund have now passed the $200,000 mark.
In the fall of 1969, the Executive Committee was appointed as a Constitutional Revision Committee and did a thorough job of examining every section of every article. For the thirty years of its existence, this was the first hard look at the entire basic instrument of the organization.
The new Constitution was adopted, after wide discussion, by an overwhelming vote of the delegates at the 1970 convention.
Special interest groups within the Federation are growing in strength and influence--the Student Division, the Blind Merchants, and the Teachers Group. Newly organized is the Blind Lawyers Croup, formed to increase the help which the N.F.B. can give to young blind people interested in the law as a profession and to those blind lawyers already in practice.
For the 1970 National Convention of the Federation, held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, more than 1,250 men, women and children converged on the Twin Cities from all parts of the United States and from foreign countries. A total of 930 persons attended the banquet alone. This was undoubtedly the largest meeting ever held anywhere in the world by an organization of or for the blind. Eloquent testimony to the unity of purpose and determination to continue the N.F.B.'s sweep forward was provided by the fact that the 1970 Convention elected by acclamation all officers of the organization. President Kenneth Jernigan, upon his re-election for a two-year term, stressed the necessity of maintaining the present momentum with its sense of purpose and dedication to the cause of self-organization of the blind.
Later, in his banquet address, he sounded the call to action for the coming decade.
How are we to reply to the prophets of gloom and doom [he said] who cry havoc and have nothing to offer us but whistles in the dark? We might use logic or theory. We might use history or precept. But the simplest and most effective argument comes from our own experience as blind people. Everything which we are and which we have become rises up to give the lie to the disaster concept of blindness. We, the blind people of this country, are now working as farmers, lawyers, scientists and laborers; as teachers, mechanics, engineers and businessmen. We are now functioning in all of the various professions, trades and callings of the regular community. We do not regard our lives, as we live them on a day-to-day basis, as tragic or disastrous--and no amount of professional jargon or trumped-up theory can make us do so. We know that with training and opportunity we can compete on terms of equality with our sighted neighbors--and that blindness is merely a physical nuisance.
The blind people of yesterday, and the day before yesterday, had little choice but to accept the tragic view of the gloom-and-doom mongers--the prophets of despair. Their horizons were limited to the bounty of charity, and their world was bounded by the sheltered workhouse. At every turn they were reminded of their infirmity; on every occasion they were coaxed into immobility and dependency. It is no wonder that they fulfilled the prophecy of despair; believing it themselves, they made it come true.
But that was another time, another era, another world. We, the blind people of today, have carried out a revolution, and have won our independence. We have won it by finding our own voice, finding our own direction--and finding our own doctrine. That doctrine may be simply stated: it is that the blind are normal people who can not see. It is that blindness is not a 'dying'--but a challenge to make a new life. It is also that there are none so blind as those who will not see this simple truth.
The blind people of today, in a word, were not born yesterday. We who are blind do not accept the tragic prophecies of a dire fate. We have a rendezvous with a different destiny. The destiny we go to meet is that of integration and equality--of high achievement and full participation--of free movement and unrestricted opportunity in a friendly land which is already beginning to accept us for what we are.
That is where the blind are leading the blind. Let those who would resist or deny that destiny remain behind, imprisoned in their own antique myths and images--while the rest of us move on to new adventure and higher ground.
On another occasion during the same year, President Jernigan placed the movement and the moment in perspective:
The National Federation of the Blind is well into its second generation, and not just going strong but stronger than ever--stronger in solidarity and commitment, stronger in achievement and effectiveness, strong enough to move mountains and to shake foundations. As Dr. tenBroek declared at our 25th anniversary convention in 7965. 'We have not only survived; we have not only endured; we have prevailed.’ We have prevailed over the agency system which once sought to keep the blind invisible, inaudible, and sheltered. We have prevailed over the welfare system handed down from the poor laws, which saddled the blind with a host of stigmas and pauper's oaths designed to keep them immobilized and destitute. We have prevailed over massive barriers of discrimination and exclusion in public employment, such as those erected by the Civil Service Commission, whose walls have now come tumbling down before the persistent trumpets of the organized blind.
Above all, perhaps, we have prevailed over the despair and disbelief in our own minds--the demons of doubt and defeatism which whisper to the blind man that half a life is better than none, that there is no place in the sun for him but only a shelter in the shade, that his destiny lies forever in the shadows of a blind alley among the brooms and bric-a-brac of economic and social futility. Those demons too have been routed.
This we have done, and more, in the span of a generation . . . And in the accomplishment of this great leap forward, no force has been more powerful than the inner force of self-organization among the blind themselves. In the unity and brotherhood of Federationism, in the crucible of our often embattled struggle to gain a voice and a hearing, in the gathering of strength and access of confidence which that movement has instilled in tens of thousands of blind Americans--in this remarkable adventure of mutual aid and common action we have found a new identity as free and responsible members of our society.
Back to Contents