AUGUST, 1974


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If you or a friend wishes 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 nonprofit 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."

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






[See more on this exchange on page 426]
















Editor's Note.—Ted Young is the able and energetic president of the Liberty Alliance, one of the chapters of the Pennsylvania Federation of the Blind. The following speech was given at a meeting of the Pendell Chapter of the AAWB which met in York, Pennsylvania.

Today I am going to speak to you about the activities and philosophy of the Liberty Alliance of the Blind, Inc., which is now proud to be a part of the Pennsylvania Federation of the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind. I will be talking to you about two things: discrimination and some cases that we have handled; and why the blind people in this group should join the organized blind movement. In fact, whether or not you agree with what I will be saying, if you as blind people feel strongly about the thoughts expressed here, the Federation needs and welcomes your ideas and input. For both the sighted and blind in the room, I hope that what I say will cause you to examine your own stereotypes and the effects they may be having in your work in agencies serving the blind.

I am not here to condemn the imperfection of mankind. I believe that it would be inconceivably dull to live in a world where, perfection implying a standard, all men would be exactly alike. There are, however, certain imperfections in man's nature which are negative and undesirable because of their effects on other human beings. One such characteristic with which our history is replete is the inability of man to accept his fellow man who happens to be physically different. There are a number of psychological theories that one could cite to explain this defect in our nature, and numerous books have been written on the subject. I have mentioned it because it gives rise to an undesirable type of discrimination—the denial of opportunity to a person or group based on preconceived stereotypes and ideas about the physical differences of that person or group. As I should not need to enumerate the stereotypes about the blind to a group of blindness workers, I shall spend my time discussing them as ramifications of some cases we have handled.

Gypsy Joe Harris has been blind in one eye since he was hit by a brick at the age of nine. He became a boxer and, after winning twenty-seven amateur bouts, he turned professional and won twenty-four out of twenty-five fights. At that point, two bouts away from the championship in his division, the Pennsylvania Boxing Commission revoked his license on the basis of blindness in the long-injured eye. He then became a visually handicapped black man in our society who had been emasculated by the decision of others to deny him a career in which he had been achieving money and fame. Add to this the fact that he is unskilled, and perhaps it is easy to understand why he felt defeated and turned to drugs.

We took this case for two important reasons. First, to deny a competent person a license on the basis of vision has tremendous ramifications for all of the blind. Other professions, such as radio, require a license and to deny a blind person a license is to deny him a livelihood. In fact, the case of Gypsy Joe is not unique. Several years ago the Federal Communications Commission decided to deny first class radio operator's licenses to blind people on the grounds that they must work with high voltage electrical circuits. A young lady named Mary Jane Keener asked the National Federation of the Blind to fight this decision; and she and the blind already working in radio at the time, and those blind people who will choose to do so can be thankful that the battle was won. Some recreational activities such as fishing require a license and it is conceivable that those who issue such licenses could decide that the blind should seek their recreation elsewhere.

The second reason we fought this case is more complex. The denial of a license to Harris is based on a great number of stereotypes about blindness which lead to the overwhelming conclusion that blindness is the worst possible thing that can happen to a person. Before exploring this theme it is important to note that all of us are products of the society in which we live, and that no individual is totally free of the attitudes that society holds concerning him or the group to which he belongs. Cobbs and Grier in their book, Black Rage, point out the effects of society's attitudes on the black population of our country, and Robert Scott in his book, The Making of Blind Men, has made this concept relevant to the blind. It is, therefore, natural for us all to have varying opinions on the above conclusion about blindness. What this conclusion suggests in its fullest meaning is that if you take the worst possible lout you can imagine, depending, of course, on your values of what constitutes a lout, we are to believe that this person is "better off" than say King George the Fifth of England who was blind, Moshe Dayan, the brilliant military strategist of Israel, who is blind in one eye, or, than any successful blind man no matter how rich and full his life. I do not believe that anyone can prove that a blind man bowling, reading, working, eating, or loving is more tragic than a sighted person doing the same things. The ramifications of such thinking is obvious since this theory denies us our humanity and the true essence of equality.

We could not accept the belief that Gypsy Joe Harris is happier as an unemployed drug addict than he might be if he were blind. We could not accept the belief that a man who had lost control of his own destiny and an accompanying belief in himself is a better man because he has sight. The case is now in the courts and it is interesting to note that it took us six months to persuade the American Civil Liberties Union of the fact that Harris should have a right to risk.

Another case may demonstrate how resistant stereotypes are, and how early in the life of a blind person society seeks to teach him his role, or, to show him his place in the world. Scott Cavna is an 11-year-old blind boy who wants to play Softball in a private athletic association. The management of this association assures us that this is not a league based on competition. Any child can play regardless of his talent. After all, they assure us, the important tiling is to teach the rules of good sportsmanship. Scott's vision is such that he barely meets the Federal definition of legal blindness, and, in fact, we have a statement from an ophthalmologist that he should be given a chance to play. The board of the 69th Street Athletic Association refuses to allow us to appear before them and discuss the situation. One of the board members has stated that he is "ignorant as to what the blind can do and intends to stay that way." If we had not taken this case we would have taught Scott that it is all right for the sighted to dictate his place in the world and deny him the chance to succeed or fail on his own merits. We would have taught the adults who govern this association that it is all right to allow their stereotypes to dictate the life of a blind person, and the other kids in the league would have developed an unhealthy attitude about blind people which would accompany them into adulthood. We fought this case with picketing, despite the threat of being jailed, and we will take this case to court. One can only wonder—and believe me I often do—just how many blind youths have been molded into society's stereotypes about the blind through accepting statements about what they can and cannot do as they grow into

Perhaps by now you are saying that "these cases are fine but they do not affect me and they are only the actions of some uneducated people." I believe that this is an illusion, because if you acknowledge that stereotypes exist you must also acknowledge that, regardless of success or comfort, they affect us all. The most successful among us can walk down the street and hear the famous words "there, but for the grace of God, go I."

Studies and our experience have shown that education, in and of itself, does not erase stereotypes. A member of the Attorney General's staff recently wrote an opinion that it is not discriminatory for the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation to require a driver's license as a condition of employment since traveling is a requirement of the job. Here is at once an educated and benighted person. Education has given him the ability to write the opinion; ignorance and stereotypes have given him the opinion that the blind cannot travel. By the way, we fought this opinion, and we understand that it is being rewritten.

Many of us in this room have some connection with the profession of social work and know that it is a basic tenant of that profession that, regardless of an individual's differences he should be helped to maximize his potential. The March 1972 edition of Social Work contains an article by Harvey L. Gochros entitled "The Sexually Oppressed." This article suggests that society's mores which govern the activities of certain groups (the aged, homosexuals, the hospitalized mentally ill, and the imprisoned) are oppresive as they do not accomodate the reality of their needs. It suggests that social work can do a lot for these groups by advocating a change in the way the profession looks at such mores. In that same article, it is stated that "paraplegics and the blind have physical conditions which prevent them from assuming the regular roles associated with sexual fulfillment." Perhaps, we should have expected such garbage in the publication of a profession that sanctions some agencies which discriminate against the blind through their employment practices. This statement is important for one final reason. It is difficult to convince someone that he is discriminating if he does not believe that the blind are capable individuals in the first place. Think about it! If you believed that the blind couldn't have sex would you consider the above statement discriminatory? If a social worker refused to advocate for an elderly blind person's sexual rights, would you consider that discriminatory?

Few individuals have been able to change the attitudes of a society. However, history has shown that individuals combined into groups can be most successful in this endeavor. There are only two ways that I know of to prevent the types of discrimination cited above and the countless other unrecorded cases. First is the direct action, or case-by-case approach.

In this approach, accompanied by publicity, the individuals doing the discriminating, and society in general, are forced to reexamine their value structure and stereotypes. The second way is the legislative route. Although legislation may not change human values and stereotypes, it prevents the application of such values and stereotypes against the human rights of another. If you believe that change in society is needed, come and join the Pennsylvania Federation of the Blind. We need you.  

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The Hawaii Federation of the Blind on June 12 filed suit against the Hawaii State Department of Education and its division of Library Services because the library chose to change the name of that part of its services relating to the blind. We are asking that the word "blind" be put back in the title of library services until the hearing is held. In 1935, the Hawaii State Library began its library for the blind. Several years ago, some additional equipment for persons with other physical disabilities as well as mental disorders was included in the facilities used for the blind. At that time, the name was changed to the Library for the Blind and the Handicapped. In October 1973, the word "blind" was omitted from the name of the library. This was done without the consultation of blind consumers.

The Federation is charging that the Library is violating Hawaii's State Administrative Procedures Act (APA). The APA clearly provides that when any State agency makes a policy change, such agency must give public notice and make sure concerned parties are made aware that there will be a hearing on the matter. The library gave no public notice and held no public hearing but simply omitted the word "blind" from the title of the library services. The Federation is contending that in this case the name change is in fact a policy change. The blind have lost public recognition of an outstanding service originally set aside for us. This is simply another case of so-called professionals playing paternal games with their consumers without any recognition of the needs and desires of those they are supposed to serve.

Our case is to be based partially on the idea that the library is an instrument of education and pleasure and something very worthwhile, and that the blind use this facility to great advantage. More often than not, less creditable things like beggars, workshops, and brooms are associated with the blind.

We also want to show that the name change is contrary to State and national policies in certain areas. The State has a Department of Rehabilitation but within that department there are still specific services for the blind, as bad as they are. The Library of Congress has services specifically denoted for the use of the blind as do most state library services.

The State Librarian claims that she does not understand why we filed the suit, since the Library services for the blind have not changed and she hopes they will be expanded. First of all, we recognize that her statement is after-the-fact and therefore not relevant. Secondly, we have as much right to speculate on the future and possible erosion of services as she does on how they will improve.

The Federation attempted to discuss the name change with the library prior to filing our suit, but no communication was evident. They acted much like NAC by telling us they would gladly meet with two of us at an appointed time in the library. Two of our members were assigned the task of discussing the issue with the library people. There was no meeting of minds, however. According to Joe Peters, one of the Federationists who attended the meeting, the conversation got downright silly. When Joe raised the question about the equipment for the deaf, he was informed that the library was getting new films and the blind were at liberty to use them.

According to Hawaii State Law, the library has twenty days in which to respond; otherwise the name must be changed back to include the blind automatically. If we win this suit, the name would also be changed and the public hearing would have to be held in order for further action to take place.

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May 28, 1974

MY DEAR CHIEF: Please forgive the Braille letter but this is a difficult communication for me and I am more comfortable writing in my own language. First a brief background: I am 55 today and have just completed three years of study at the college nearby. I will receive my B.A. in sociology as soon as I turn in an incomplete. My studies have been directed toward rehabilitation because I am interested in working with the senior blind, and this direction gave me the double advantage of delving into the history of both the education and the oppression of the blind while at the same time preaching the gospel of Federationism to on-campus blind and the faculty through my term papers. My own education into blindness was vitally necessary for I lost my sight only nine years ago. I have been a Federationist for almost seven years.

Many people declare that I am antisocial, for this is the easiest answer for cataloguing a quiet, unsociable workhorse. Frankly, the ability to mingle, Uke everything else, is a learning process and the Depression years put me among those who began to earn their keep while still young. I keep hoping that attending Federation luncheons and conventions will someday break down this barrier and complete my education as a human being.

At most of our functions I am primarily a silent listener, and the growing aura of discontent among the under-forty group distresses me greatly. For instance---

It is being said that the Federation is a vulture, referring to the reference to wills at the beginning of each Monitor issue. Most people feel that such a reference would be in better taste if made only once, or at most twice, a year. It is being said that one can even have too much of a good thing, referring to your constant repetition of past correspondence with NAC, as if childlike we must be constantly reminded of previous events; a reference to a previous issue might well suffice. The NAC issue stresses the undemocratic structure of that organization, but in emphasizing this you have merely laid bare the same distressing fault in our own organization. Everyone is aware that voting within the Federation is an empty gesture, for we have been primed in advance how to vote if we value our political skin. For instance, at the spring convention the state president announced his forthcoming retirement and followed with the statement that Blank would be our new president, which would be confirmed at the election in November. Is this an expression of democracy at work? With such practices flagrant at every level, what right do we have to criticize another organization for employing the same tactics? You have stressed the need for letters regarding our disability insurance bill, but the reason you are not getting the necessary response is because a great many of your people think it is hypocritical to ask the general public for an equal status in our society and at the same make requests for special privileges—privileges which they feel will only benefit the eighteen percent who are able to work. This prevailing attitude negates the letters that are written.

Another wave of discontent has erupted over octogenarian Whitehead being railroaded in to head a new affiliate when younger and more energetic men and women are on the scene.

The Federation is headed for rough weather ahead. Personally, I am delighted that Blank will be my next president for I greatly admire his abilities. Unfortunately, Blank is not a great leader and his ability to hold the people together is questionable. The attitude is one of wait and see. Therefore I would not expect the storm to break until the election of '76.

The political atmosphere in general does not seem to be auspicious, for in handpicking the executive boards of the state and national executive committees one runs the risk of surrounding one's self with "yes" people and of cutting one's self off from the true feelings and pulse of the people one has vowed to serve, which expresses my own feelings most decisively; for, unfortunately, I can see both sides of the situation. Yet in all truth I feel it is better to trust the opinion of the majority without undue manipulation and give them the freedom to make their mistakes, for then one can be certain that his power is valid and bonded by mutual love and respect.

I have enjoyed immensely your taped releases, for I live alone and readers are hard to come by. There is no need to answer my observations, but 1 do need to know where to return the used cassettes.

With sincere esteem,

Des Moines, Iowa, June 12, 1974.

DEAR BLANK: I have your letter of May 28, 1974, and I have read it thoroughly and carefully. You did me the compliment of writing to me candidly and without reserve. I shall do the same with you. I tried to read your letter objectively. Certainly I read it without annoyance. I ask that you do the same with mine. First let us deal with democracy. In your letter you say:

The NAC issue stresses the undemocratic structure of that organization, but in emphasizing this you have merely laid bare the same distressing fault in our own organization. Everyone is aware that voting within the Federation is an empty gesture, for we have all been primed in advance how to vote if we value our political skin. . . . What right do we have to criticize another organization for employing the same tactics?

As I see it, you have simply not "told it like it is." I think the Federation is democratic and that NAC is not, and I think I can prove it—although the fact is so obvious that it should not need to be pointed out.

Any blind person in your State (or in any other state) may join the local Federation affiliate. He may do so regardless of his political views. In your State the local affiliates elect delegates to the State convention. The State president has a perfect right to get up and announce that Blank will be the next president in the fall. Political leaders do this all of the time. He also has the right to try to persuade delegates to vote the way he wants them to. Go to any state legislature or to the Congress, and you will find the pressure and maneuvering and promising going forward at full tilt and fever pitch. This is what democracy is all about.

As I say, the State president has a perfect right to announce that Blank will be the next president. Whether it will come true depends on the vote of the people. Blank does not have the right (and I doubt that you would accuse him of ever having tried any of these things) to prevent members from joining the local affiliate because they may not vote his way; to falsify the count of the votes; to threaten people with physical violence; or to throw out a local affiliate without just cause. He has the right not to appoint opponents on committees; he has the right to try to keep opponents from being elected—that is if he uses only persuasion and political punishment and reward to get it done; and he has the right to decide what persons he will appoint to committees and try to get elected to board positions. In fact, he has an obligation to do these things. He is not simply an impartial moderator, drifting with every wind and having no definite program or policy.

He is the elected leader of the organization. It is his responsibility to lead. If he does not do it effectively or in the way that the people want it done, it is the responsibility of the electorate to throw him out and get somebody else.

I tell you (with pride, not apology) that this is exactly what I do at the national level. I politic and try to get people elected to the board that I think I can work with and that I think can do the best job. I am not playing a game. I am leading a movement—one which vitally affects the lives of all of the Nation's blind. When the national administration decides what person it will back for a national board position, a number of things must be considered: geographic spread, balance of age, balance between men and women, minority representation, political following of the individual (thus, the votes and strength he can bring to the administration), his intelligence and capacity, the kind of occupation he has (thus, his impact on the public with respect to our image), and a variety of other things. It cannot be merely a matter of personal likes or dislikes. It cannot be based on friendship or whim. The board must emerge as the viable, collective leadership of the organization—able to propose programs and capable of mustering the political support to put them into effect.

If I as President am really the leader of the movement (as I should be), I could probably get any person elected to the board that I wanted, regardless of his merit—that is, I would probably do it once or twice. However, if I were to engage in such political activity and if I were to make foolish or unmeritorious choices for a few times, then I will lose the power to get anybody elected. In fact, the Federation would soon have a new President, and justifiably so.

To compare what I have just told you with the way NAC operates is like comparing nuts and bolts with peanuts. The problem with NAC is that rank-and-file people have no way of becoming part of the electorate. The NAC Board operates in secret; it is self-perpetuating; and (worst of all) it makes decisions affecting the lives of tens of thousands of blind people without giving those people an opportunity to become members and vote concerning policies and leaders. Surely this is an easy distinction to understand.

With this as background, let me now comment on the rest of your letter. You say that some people allege that the "Federation is a vulture" because it refers to wills at the beginning of each Monitor issue. This is a common practice with many magazines. It is almost the rule rather than the exception with organizational journals. People are free to give or not as they choose. Some of the very ones who complain probably never give any money at all to the National Office of the Federation (even a dollar), let alone the $10 or $15 per year which is required to produce and bring them The Monitor. In the animal kingdom (if one is compelled to choose) it is probably better to be a vulture than a leech. I have no apologies to offer for reminding people that they are welcome to support the cause. Whether they do it is a matter between them and their conscience.

Nor do I have any apologies to make concerning the reproducing of NAC correspondence in The Monitor. Overwhelmingly my mail tells me that the rank-and-file members want it that way. If enough of them feel as you do, they will let me know and I will make changes—or I won't, in which case (if I know the strong-minded character of the people in our movement) they will toss me out and get somebody who is more perceptive or more responsive.

You tell me that I have been asking for letters on the disability insurance bill and that I haven't been getting them. You say this is because people feel that we are asking for equal status in society and, at the same time, making "requests for special privileges—privileges which will only benefit the eighteen percent who are able to work." Nonsense! Almost everything about that statement is wrong. Federation conventions have repeatedly and overwhelmingly endorsed the disability insurance bill. Its benefits are not limited to eighteen percent of the blind or only to those who can work. We are getting the letters; and furthermore, the bill will be passed—hopefully this very year. If not, then next year. Get with it. Stop being a whiner and a complainer, a gloomer and a pessimist; and help us get some of these things done.

In your letter you say as follows: "Another wave of discontent has erupted over octogenarian Whitehead being railroaded in to heading a new affiliate when younger and more energetic men and women are on the scene." What in the world are you talking about! Bob Whitehead is by no means eighty years old. His affiliate (Kentucky) has been in existence for over twenty-five years, and he has been president of it for a great part of that time. If you are talking about his election to the National Executive Committee, I certainly supported him, and I am glad of it. I thought he was the best person available, and I have had no occasion to change my mind. Do you know of any shortcomings which he has, or is this wave of discontent based on the same complaining and misinformation that mistakenly alleged he was eighty years old and in charge of a new affiliate? Besides all of this, is youth necessarily wiser and more stable than age?

With respect to your State, you tell me that you greatly admire Blank's abilities but that he is not a great leader and that his abilities to hold people together are questionable. You tell me that the attitude is one of wait and see.

I tell you that no Federationist has the moral right to sit back with a neutral "wait and see" attitude. You and all of the rest should either try to keep Blank from being elected or help him succeed if he gets in. If he can't do the job, then the electorate will deal with him—and rightly so—maybe in 1976, as you surmise. But I know Blank, too; I wouldn't bet on his lousing up the job.

You go on to tell me, with a tone of sadness, that "The Federation is headed for rough weather ahead." Don't you believe it! We have never been stronger or more united. We can weather the toughest hurricane and come through in good shape.

I have more faith in the rank-and-file people than you do. Come to Chicago in July, and you will see. There will be over two thousand of us there making policy. We know who we are; we know what we want; and we know how to act in concert to get it. Contrary to a great deal of current popular oratory, dissent is not healthy, but unhealthy. However, the right to dissent is essential. The two things are vastly different.

As I said at the beginning of this letter, I appreciate the candor of your communication and have taken the liberty of responding in kind. The Federation is in good health. It is built upon a veritable rock of democracy, goodwill, integrity, self-respect, and self-confidence; and the very gates of hell shall not prevail against it.


National Federation of the Blind.

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Editor's Note.— Dan Leventhal is an employee in the NFB Berkeley Office and a student at the University of California. This paper was written for a political science course.

The internal democracy of a mass-organization is of central importance in modern pluralistic societies, because political associations and interest groups constitute very necessary components of any democratic system. In his study, Political Parties, Robert Michels presents us with a very pessimistic assessment of the viability of democracy in modern mass-organizations. The author effectively demonstrates that there is little on-going democracy in organizations such as the pre-World War I German Sozialdemokratische Partei, the French Confederation Generale du Travail, and other similar associations. However, the "iron law of oligarchy" does not necessarily characterize all mass-organizations. One can find many instances of organizations displaying a high degree of internal democracy, which in effect disproves Michels' hypothesis. The democratic prospect does not have to be portrayed so negatively. In order to demonstrate this, an examination of a contemporary mass-organization will be attempted. The National Federation of the Blind, a nationwide association of blind persons with membership now in excess of fifty thousand, will be the subject of this analysis.

In stark contrast to Michels' theory, the National Federation of the Blind has compiled an impressive record of achievements while at the same time maintaining great internal democracy, even though it is more often than not on a "battle" footing. The organization was founded in 1940, and has since expanded from an association of several small state affiliates to the mass-organization it is today, with affiliates in almost every state in the Union. The late Professor Jacobus tenBroek was long a prime force in the movement. The goals of the Federation have been multifold—education of the public on the nature of blindness, legislative and legal efforts to combat discrimination, research on problems affecting the blind, and financial support of projects benefitting the blind cause. Blind persons have traditionally been regarded as helpless individuals, and systematic inequality in this society provides for little more than a second-class citizenship. This is the situation the organized blind are trying to change. Some of the Federation's achievements in recent years have been the organization's crucial role in the passage in many states of the White Cane Law, a bill of rights for the blind; the ending of discriminatory hiring practices in the civil service; and an important part in the modification of unjust welfare laws affecting the blind.1 But the struggle continues to be largely an uphill battle.

Before proceeding further with this analysis, a restatement of the essential points of Michels' argument is necessary. In Political Parties, Michels asserts that the prospect for democracy in any mass-organization is bleak indeed. The author's goal was to prove "the existence of immanent oligarchical tendencies in every kind of human organization which strives for the attainment of definite ends."2 Greatly contributing to oligarchy is a tendency toward centralization, which results in a wide chasm between leadership and membership. The leadership in a mass-organization is then unresponsive to and unrepresentative of the needs and aspirations of the membership. Secret deals and "sell-outs" are engaged in without the knowledge of the members. Another characteristic of leaders is that they tend to remain in office for long periods of time, and their "independence ... increases concurrently with their indispensability."3 A leader's outlook is usually "le parti c'est moi!" Dependence upon the leaders reflects the incompetence of the members, for the masses are led out of necessity. They are "powerless and disarmed vis-a-vis their leaders. Their intelligence and cultural inferiority makes it impossible for them to see whither the leader is going, or to estimate in advance the significance of his actions."4 Furthermore, widespread apathy in large organizations helps to give leadership an uncontested control over policy. Perhaps the most important aspect of mass-organizations is the dilution and co-optation of principles, an indirect result of oligarchy. In order to attain those "definite ends," organization is of great importance, but it often becomes the end in itself in the process. While building up the organization, goals are lost sight of and compromised to gain greater support. Perhaps the aforementioned points constitute an oversimplification of Michels' survey, but they suffice as a summation of the basic reasons as to why mass-organizations rate very low on democratic performance. Why is it that the National Federation of the Blind does not exhibit these tendencies and instead displays a high degree of internal democracy, even though it is a very large organization?

Firstly, as described above, one of the central themes in Michels' analysis is the tendency of organizations to become quite centralized, which contributes to a distant and oligarchical leadership. The organization being described herein has been able to combat this, and this is primarily due to the fact that it is a federation. It is basically a balance-of-power scheme that prevents an overabundance of power in any one sector. The Federation is a three-tiered system, with programs and policies originating at the national, state, and local levels. There is a significant amount of decision-making at the national and state levels, as would be expected. But this does not automatically mean oligarchy, for it is recognized that "the Federation derives its existence by reason of its components",5 and if the organization is to succeed, it must be strong on all levels. Policies affecting the blind may occur in the national arena, in the various state legislatures, or in a city council. Moreover, this author posits that because there is an emphasis in the Federation upon the activity of the local organization of the blind, a significant check on oligarchy is made. The local group is the basic unit of the organization and where members meet regularly to discuss and act on problems facing them as blind persons. With the above in mind, one can understand why the state and local affiliates have not succumbed to any over-centralization of the national authority.

The democratically oriented leadership in the Federation also contrasts Michels' assertion that the leadership of a mass-organization will ultimately be unresponsive to and unrepresentative of the majority of members. While doing the research for this paper, this author has been unable to uncover any significant instances of behind the scenes maneuvering by Federation leadership, and this can mainly be attributed to structural contingencies. If there is to be effective democracy in an organization, there must be from the outset suitable structural mechanisms to allow for it. At the national level in the Federation, all authority emanates from the national Convention, which is held yearly. Delegates from every state collectively determine policy for the coming year at that time. The constitution states explicitly that "consistent with the democratic character of the Federation, Convention meetings shall be so conducted as to prevent parliamentary maneuvers which would have the effect of interfering with the will of the majority on any question, or with the rights of the minority to full and fair presentation of their views."6 It is at the Convention that the election of the president and the executive committee occurs, and however broad their powers may be, leadership still has to answer to the Convention yearly. The state affiliates also hold similar conventions.

There are other factors which contribute to the accountability of leadership in the Federation, and at the same time negate Michels' model. Comprehensive information dissemination within an organization helps to prevent oligarchy, and in the Federation one observes widespread intra-organization communication, especially through The Braille Monitor, the Federation's monthly publication. If an organization does not conduct its business out in the open, an unresponsive oligarchy will quickly result.

Also important is the fairly regular leadership turnover, which prevents an entrenched, out-of-touch leadership. Only the Federation's national presidents tend to remain in office for long periods of time. But it is a very taxing job, and requires an exceptional person willing and able to put in a tremendous amount of work. It is interesting to note that Federation officers serve on a volunteer basis, as they receive no remuneration, and this accounts for the absence of a "professional" leadership. Although volunteer leadership is for the most part the exception and not the rule in mass-organizations, it is an intriguing concept. It seems to be a fairly successful policy in the Federation, and could therefore be instituted in other organizations whenever feasible. Without the possibility of personal monetary gain, leaders will undoubtedly be more inclined to work for the good of all. The above necessitates the accountability of leadership and helps make a leader's ideology not "I'organisation c'est moi" but rather "I'organisation c'est vous."

As Michels recognizes, much of the responsibility for maintaining internal democracy within a mass-organization belongs to the members. Poor participation and widespread apathy will give leaders a free hand in decision-making. Here again, effective information dissemination plays an important part, for awareness on the part of the membership makes for a more active and critical body. But this alone does not prevent apathy—there must be an all-out effort on all fronts in any organization to promote interest and participation. The behavior of Federationists is perhaps unique in this respect, in that the nature of the organized blind's struggle demands an active and alert membership. Because almost all members are blind and share well-defined common goals, a great deal of cohesion and consensus is understandable. When one peruses the Federation literature, the overall spirit of determination strikes one as remarkable, and thereby sheds more light on the Federation's active and united front. But problems of apathy will in the end plague almost every organization in one form or another. The Federation President, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, perceptively observes that "if all the blind were well-fixed financially, well-educated, intelligent, knowledgeable, well-trained, thoroughly consistent in their philosophy, and filled with self-confidence, there would be no need for an organized blind movement . . . any minority group which has lived in second-class citizenship will have troubles in the beginning of its self-organization."7 However, the caliber and participation of the rank and file membership has steadily increased over the years, and will undoubtedly keep on doing so. There is a great deal of participation in the conventions, and attendence is heavy. Evidently a suitable strategy has been discovered to promote participation. But such a strategy will differ for every organization, and the successful solution of the problem will always remain difficult and, at the same time, important in ensuring internal democracy.

Crucial to this analysis is the addressing of the question of goal dilution and co-optation in mass-organizations. How has the National Federation of the Blind surmounted this problem? The principles of the organization have remained basically the same since their inception in 1940, but what accounts for this? A conscious and concerted effort must be made to keep from losing sight of goals, which has been the case in the Federation. A refusal to compromise for immediate gain can make a struggle more difficult, but the end results may prove to be more beneficial. It is significant that as the Federation grew in size, some members in the late 1950's began to "resent and resist the 'hard line' adopted by the Federation . . . ."8 That and other factors almost destroyed the organization, for rather than compromising its principles, the Federation lost a number of affiliates and leaders. The organization has since recovered from that setback, and its goals have remained intact. It can thus be sometimes a very uncertain policy, but a mass-organization will have to often sacrifice numbers and support to maintain its goals. (The old axiom "quality, not quantity" applies here!) Some compromise is, of course, inevitable, but after a certain point too much compromise becomes a liability and not an asset. Again the solution to the problem turns out to be somewhat subjective; it requires a good amount of dedication and determination. In the Federation's case, the nature of the movement has also prevented goal dilution. Michels asserts that organizations, and especially socialist ones, will often be infiltrated by outside interests. The Federation's constitution, however, will not allow more than a small minority of sighted members; it is still the "blind speaking for themselves," and after thirty-four years the organization is still ''controlled by the blind themselves . . . and free from domination by outside interests."9 A structural contingency of this sort may well be a valuable tool for other organizations when applicable.

Robert Michels' negative view of democracy in mass-organizations cannot be totally disproved, due to the undeniable existence of oligarchical organizations fitting his model. But it would not be acceptable to think that the "iron law of oligarchy" applies to all mass-organizations—the National Federation of the Blind clearly demonstrates that effective democracy within a large organization is within the realm of possibility. The picture painted here of the Federation is thus a very positive one, as it does not exhibit the oligarchical tendencies Michels prescribes. We are instead presented with an alternative model for democracy in mass-organizations: structural contingencies, effective information dissemination, an active effort to promote participation, and other factors are all necessary preconditions. Michels' study provides us with a highly informative partial view of political reality, but it is not always applicable.


1. National Federation of the Blind, The First Thirty Years: A History of the National Federation of the Blind, (Des Moines, 1970)

2. Robert Michels, Political Parties, (New York, 1959), p. 11.

3. Ibid., p. 161.

4. Ibid., p. 401.

5. History, p. 14.

6. National Federation of the Blind, Constitution, (Berkeley, 1970), p. 3.

7. Why the National Federation of the Blind, (Berkeley, 1972), p. 15.

8. History, p. 30.

9. Ibid., p. 13.


Jernigan, Kenneth. Local Organizations of the Blind. Berkeley, 1971.

Michels, Robert. Political Parties. New York, 1959.

National Federation of the Blind. Constitution. Berkeley, 1970.

________. The First Thirty Years: A History of the National Federation of the Blind. Des Moines, 1970.

________. Why the National Federation of the Blind. Berkeley, 1972.

tenBroek, Jacobus. The Blind and the Right to Self-Expression. Berkeley, 1958.

________. The Role of the Blind in a Democratic Society. Berkeley, 1958.  

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Editor's Note.—The following appeared in the Summer 1974 issue of Dialogue magazine, in a column by its managing editor, B. T. Kimbrough.

In announcing his organization's recent decision to permit limited observation of its board meetings, National Accreditation Council president Daniel Robinson said, "The environment has changed recently and the public has become concerned about closed meetings. In order that the public trust in NAC not be affected by growing suspicion of secrecy in high places, NAC's policy was broadened."

I find this statement interesting in a number of ways. First of all, I should explain that my views on meetings where public matters are discussed are firmly held and well defined. I think such meetings should be open to the public. The National Accreditation Council regularly receives Federal moneys. It also sets guidelines for agencies who raise their operating funds by public solicitation, so there can be little doubt that NAC's Board of Directors is engaged in transacting public business. Thus, I believe that NAC Board meetings should have been open to the public from the beginning, and that they should be open now.

The privacy of Council Board meetings has been defended on grounds that accreditation reports on individual agencies are discussed there, and that the clients have the right to have these things kept private. But what is accreditation, if not a positive representation of the need for ongoing public accountability? If agencies serving the blind have nothing to hide, wouldn't it be to their advantage for a report on their operations to be heard by all who are interested; and if agencies are poorly run or fail to provide needed services, shouldn't that failure be communicated to the public with the greatest possible speed and clarity? Under NAC's new rules, observers can be excluded from so-called "executive sessions," and I infer from that that accreditation reports will continue to be discussed in private.

What interests me most about Daniel Robinson's statement, however, is its reference to "growing suspicion of secrecy in high places." If this is meant as a reference to that problematical package of matters political and constitutional commonly known as Watergate—and I believe it is—then it is at best misleading and irrelevant, and, at worst, an unworthy cop out. It is not an enraged general public which has attacked NAC's policy of closed board meetings, but a particular segment of the blind persons in the United States—by name, the National Federation of the Blind. While I think NFB's efforts to have the organized blind represented on the NAC Board on a quota basis are misplaced and unlikely to succeed, I think it conceivable that their protests of the closed meetings have been heard and joined by certain Congressmen, and that this is the real reason for the change of heart registered in last December's National Accreditation Council Board meeting. If that is the case, it would be better to say so openly than to hide behind generalizations, because people are apt to be distrustful of future NAC pronouncements if they do not think that past ones have been completely candid.

I think that the National Accreditation Council has an important job to do, and that the Council has at its disposal dedicated, competent people for the task. But the job of standardizing services for the blind cannot be done by catering to the agencies involved, and it cannot be done in closed sessions from which the public is told only what the Council and its clients want it to know.

The American Foundation for the Blind is, in my opinion, on the verge of making a similar error, though in a completely different cause. The Foundation is apparently exploring the possibility of entering that burgeoning new field of communications with blind persons known as the radio talking book, or talking library. Accordingly, a meeting was set up between a Foundation staff member and selected directors of radio talking book stations already on the air. Since the Foundation is a national organization and its interest in the radio talking book is likely to have national effects, Dialogue sought to send a reporter to the meeting. The answer came back something Uke this: "This is a private planning session. Later, we’ll have a bigger meeting to which you and everyone else interested will be invited."

I have seen the results of these planning meetings before. The so-called "main meetings" which follow are entirely based on what was said and decided behind closed doors in the planning session. I do not think that agencies serving the blind should operate or control what is broadcast on the talking library, because agencies sometimes have axes to grind, and this promising new medium should not be exploited in that way. Nevertheless, the American Foundation for the Blind could make very useful contributions to this field if its staff members take care to listen to all interested parties before making decisions. The closed planning session of which I have spoken would seem more promising if the directors of all existing radio talking libraries had been invited; but apparently some were invited and others were not. That's what I call a closed closed meeting!

During my ten years or so of reporting news for several radio stations, a newspaper, and Dialogue, it has seemed to me that public relations as practiced by large organizations works out to be the art of telling people what you want them to hear and concealing everything else. The main disadvantage to that approach is that the rumors and distortions which people make up in the absence of the real story usually end up doing far more damage than the simple truth would have done.  

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New York, New York, June 13, 1974.

President, National Federation of the Blind,
Des Moines, Iowa.

DEAR DR. JERNIGAN: We regret that you did not receive my letter of May 23 until May 31 or perhaps later.

However, now that you have it, we hope we can proceed.

As you mention, we do think it important to keep in mind who has sought a meeting between our organizations and why. You have sought a meeting with NAC and NAC has sought several meetings with NFB to discuss matters we believe to be of common concern.

You may recall our invitation of November 22, 1972, and follow-up letter of December 5, 1972, suggesting alternate dates for your consideration. These letters invited representatives of NFB to meet with NAC's staff to discuss the scope and structure of NAC's proposed project to develop standards for consumer participation in agency policy making, program development, and service delivery. We regret that you refused to send
representatives to such a meeting.

You may also recall the letter to you of April 13, 1973, from our then president Dr. Salmon in which he suggested an informal meeting of just the two of you to discuss "a better approach to our mutual problems." While you and Dr. Salmon did have lunch, it was not the informal situation Dr. Salmon had expected and nothing was accomplished.

In addition to these earlier attempts at meetings, we have sought contacts with NFB along with other national organizations of the blind in order to get more input from organization members and to facilitate our working together.

Further, as you know, we have invited NFB, along with other agencies of and for the blind, to participate in the review and revision of NAC's standards currently under way. The first invitation was extended by Dr. Geraldine Scholl, chairman of the Commission on Standards, on December 12, 1973, and, after your negative response, the second letter, repeating the invitation to participate in the review, was sent on March 18, 1974. We regret that, although other organizations of the blind are participating, NFB has not chosen to join in the review and revision of standards to date. We hope you will decide to do so.

We have believed that working together on specific substantive matters could provide a realistic basis for the solution of more general problems.

Since you have desired a meeting to deal with general matters such as NAC's structure and viability, however, we have attempted to accommodate ourselves to your desires by suggesting an agenda which includes opportunity to raise all the points you state you wish to discuss and further, to raise these points within the framework of the purposes and activities of our respective organizations, so our discussions may be practical and realistic.

As I see it, you are objecting only to the last two sub-items on the proposed agenda, since everything else on the agenda appears to be relevant to the points you list. The last two sub-items, NFB's application of Standards of Accounting and Financial Reporting for Voluntary Health and Welfare Organizations and NFB's criteria for determining and reporting membership, were placed last because they would not be discussed in relation to NFB and NAC unless some resolution of other matters is reached earlier.

In view of this, I hope we can proceed to set a time and place for our meeting. In accordance with your desire to meet on a weekend in Chicago, I suggest 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, July 20, in a private room at the Chicago O'Hare Airport's Seven Continents Restaurant. In my experience this restaurant can provide a comfortable private room, divided so we can meet in one section and lunch in the other. The hotel most convenient to this site is the O'Hare International Tower—in case any of your members plan to stay overnight. We should be glad to reserve the meeting room, if it is agreeable to you.

With me at the meeting will be no more than six other people.

We look forward to hearing from you. Very truly yours,



Des Moines, Iowa, June 18, 1974.

President, National Accreditation
Council for Agencies Serving the
Blind and Visually Handicapped,
New York, New York.

DEAR MR. ROBINSON: This will reply to your letter of June 13, 1974. I write (as one often must when dealing with NAC) to set the record straight.

You say: "NAC has sought several meetings with NFB to discuss matters we believe to be of common concern." As I see it, in the context of our discussion this is simply not the truth. You cite as examples your letters of November and December 1972. I ask you to reexamine those letters. We had been trying to get you to meet with us at the policy level to discuss basics, and you suggested that our leaders might talk with one of your research associates, a relative newcomer to the NAC staff and a person with no policy making authority at all. You refer to Dr. Salmon's letter of April 13, 1973, in which he suggested that the two of us meet privately. I challenge you to review that correspondence and see whether you have told the truth as to its thrust and meaning. In my opinion, you have not.

You tell me that NAC has sought contact "with NFB along with other national organizations of the blind in order to get more input from organization members and to facilitate our working together." You know as well as we do that there are no "other national organizations of the blind" of the same type as the Federation. To the best of my belief and knowledge, the American Council of the Blind (by its own admission, much smaller than we) and the Blinded Veterans (also quite small) are the only other groups which even purport to be "national organizations of the blind." Since you know these facts as well as I do, I can only conclude that your language is deliberately deceptive, meant to confuse and mislead.

In any case your letter continues the old concept that NAC will discuss the content of its standards but that it is under no obligation to discuss the more basic questions of its structure and viability. You refuse to recognize any accountability to the organized blind, the only group which can meaningfully give voice to the views and desires of the real consumers of your services.

What you say happened with respect to my correspondence with Dr. Scholl simply did not, as I see it, occur. Your insistence that we accept your view of your role and function and that we then work in that context is not reasonable, and it is not going to get results. Until you will discuss basics with us (that is, the lack of representation of the organized blind on your board, the lack of democracy in your proceedings, the lack of responsiveness on your part to the views of the blind, and similar matters) we will not discuss with you the details of this or that standard. Surely this is not a difficult concept to grasp.

You have repeatedly tried to evade and sidestep when dealing with us. Over and over we have asked you to meet with us to talk about NAC's structure and performance. You have taken turns being "cute," belligerent, dilatory, and worse. As I see it, you and the other NAC members have demonstrated bad faith and have not dealt honestly with us, with the Congress, or with the public at large.

Consider, for instance, our invitation to you to send a representative to speak at our convention in Chicago this summer. You were not straightforward enough to say that you wouldn't do it. You said that, unfortunately, one of my letters to you had now made your attendance at our Convention "inappropriate"—whatever that might mean. You said that we could discuss the matter at a future meeting to be called for the purpose of discussing whether we should have subsequent meetings. What a shameful display of lack of forthrightness!—especially, in view of your statements made to Jennie Owens (one of the people attending your Cincinnati meeting) as reported by her. She says that you told her you were not coming to our convention because Mr. Brandon was "crucified" when he was there.

Are you prepared to stand up and say that she did not tell the truth? I doubt it. It will be the same old story of evasion input from organization members and to facilitate our working together." You know as well as we do that there are no "other I should not attribute your failure to come to the Convention to any other reason than the one you gave.

You suggest that we meet at the Chicago airport on July 20. Instead, I would propose that we meet at the Palmer House Hotel on the morning of July 6. Our Convention will be over, and you will not be compelled to come face to face with large numbers of blind people. I will be present, and I will not have more than six other people with me. As I have told you all along, the National Federation of the Blind will provide the meeting space. I suspect you will find some reason why you cannot accept this invitation and then say that we refused to meet with you. Do it if you will. It will not profit you.

Mr. Robinson, we are not going to give up, and we are not going silently to go away. Whether you like it or not, NAC must deal with us. We hope you will do it without being dragged to the conference table.

Very truly yours,

National Federation of the Blind.

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Editor's Note.—The following remarks were delivered in the House on May 30, by the Honorable Paul W. Cronin, Representative from Massachusetts.

Mr. Speaker, recently I met with a representative group of the Greater Lawrence Association of the Blind, Inc., which is an affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind. The National Federation has chapters in forty-eight States with a membership that exceeds fifty thousand and is the largest organization of blind people in the United States.

The meeting was requested in order that the Greater Lawrence Association could express its profound disappointment and disillusionment with the National Accrecitation Council—NAC. In the course of our meeting, several instances of discrimination were highlighted.

Since the National Accreditation Council is a federally funded organization, I would greatly appreciate a report from your office concerning the NAC and its functions. I understand there are no representatives of the blind on the National Accreditation Council. Furthermore, the NAC is actually hurting the blind people by accrediting inferior agencies which provide inferior services. The members of the National Federation of the Blind have tried over three years to make the NAC respond to their needs, but have met with resistance and have not been allowed to even observe the NAC Board of Directors' meetings.

The demands of the NFB seem to be most reasonable, and I cannot understand the failure of the NAC to respond to any of their points. In the original legislation it was the intent of Congress to help the blind. It is my belief that the National Accreditation Council has not fulfilled this intent. I urge you to investigate the responsiveness of the NAC and take the necessary steps to remedy this situation. You may be assured that I will not vote for funding for that organization and will urge my colleagues to withhold their vote until and unless the NAC becomes responsive to the needs of the blind people it serves.

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During the past several weeks, I have had an opportunity to travel around the country some as a representative of the National Office of the Federation. Perhaps one of the questions which most arises is "what can I do to help you in Washington?" The answer is not hard to come by, and I think most Federationists have an idea of what my usual answer is—"write letters!"

Very early in one's Washington experience, one learns the value of a helpful word from the folks back home, but having been one of the "folks back home" (in the not too distant past), I know that the impact of our efforts at the grass roots level is not always fully felt or appreciated by us. To remedy this, I have tried to think of some way to communicate how much it means to our work (the work of all of us in the Federation) if we all take part and do our bit to have our voices heard. It occurred to me that perhaps a series of letters illustrating how our initiatives pay off might be sufficient to make the point.

During February 1974, a number of letters were written by members of the National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina to their Senators and Congressmen. One such letter was sent by John B. Niceley, legislative chairman of the National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina, to Congressman Roy A. Taylor. I think that the chain of events which followed illustrates how what we do can help.


Rockingham, North Carolina,
February 15, 1974.

The Honorable ROY A. TAYLOR,
Member, House of Representatives,
Washington, D.C.

DEAR CONGRESSMAN TAYLOR: Recently Mr. John Nagle, the Washington representative for the NFB resigned his due to ill health. He had done an excellent job for some twenty-five years and we hated to lose him. It is quite likely, I am sure, that you have either met him or seen him during that time.

To replace him we now have Mr. and Mrs. Gashel, Jim and Arlene, and you will be meeting them from time to time as they present the views and represent the interests of the blind people of the Nation through the NFB.

You have always received me with warmth and interest, and I am sure that you will not only do for them the same, but also that the natural graciousness of North Carolina will be pleasantly evident to them.




February 25, 1974.

Mr. and Mrs. JAMES GASHEL,
Washington Representatives,
National Federation of the Blind,
Washington, D.C.

DEAR MR. AND MRS. GASHEL: It has recently come to my attention that you have accepted the position as Washington Representatives for the National Federation of the Blind and I would like to extend congratulations upon your new assignment.

As a member of the Lions Club down through the years, I have been very close to the problems and concerns of the blind people and want to assure you of my continuing interest in programs specifically designed for them. In this respect, I would welcome your comments and recommendations from time to time concerning legislation of special interest to blind citizens.


Member of Congress.


February 26, 1974.

The Honorable ROY A. TAYLOR,
Member, House of Representatives,
Washington, D.C.

DEAR CONGRESSMAN TAYLOR: I have your letter of February 25, congratulating us on our new assignment here in Washington. Thank you very much for those kind words. I especially want to thank you for sharing an interest in the problems and concerns of the blind.

Personally, my wife and I feel very close to the Lions, since we have had many occasions to attend Lions' meetings and state conventions. The Lions of our home state have provided a great deal of personal and meaningful assistance to us. I certainly do look forward to meeting you in person after having had this opportunity of introduction. In a few days I will be over to visit your offices and I do hope that we will have a chance to talk.

Please feel free to call upon this office for any information and assistance we might provide. We are experienced in the field of work with the blind and want to share that experience with all of the Members of Congress. Once again, I thank you for your letter and especially I thank you for your interest in our cause.

Cordially yours,

Chief Washington Office.


Early in March I visited Congressman Taylor. Our meeting together was most productive because the input from members of the NFB of North Carolina remained at a high pitch. In the short run the results were these: The very day I visited Congressman Taylor, he wrote a letter to Daniel Robinson expressing his hope that NAC would become more open and responsive to the blind. A few days later, he introduced H.R. 12016, a bill identical to H.R. 6554 introduced by Congressman Burke. Federationists will immediately recognize that this is the disability insurance for the blind measure which we have hoped would be adopted. To me this illustrates that we have made a friend in Congressman Taylor of North Carolina. By we, I mean the Federation from the local level to the Washington Office.

This is by no means an isolated example. I can show you other letters of a similar nature and I could tell you about even more telephone calls. But the important point is that we are spreading the word. The NFB is known in Washington and its continued prominence depends upon what each and every one of us does. Letters, mailgrams, telegrams, telephone calls, and personal contacts are all methods which each of us must use to make our voices heard so that our views will be known. In this process, each and every one of us must take a part since if our organized movement means anything, it means collective action.  

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Date: 9 VI 74

From: H. tenBroek

To: The Chief

Re: Separate and Unequal—Civil Rights for the Disabled

In a statement in the Congressional Record for April 11, 1974, Congressman Vanik, speaking of §504 of the Rehab Act of 1973 said: "Its similarity to title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, in this respect, gives reason to describe section 504 as a Civil Rights Act for the Handicapped."

I am not against having civil rights of the handicapped guaranteed at every possible point; but I am disturbed by their growing exclusion from laws aimed at the protection of the rights of the rest of the population. Why are not the handicapped written into those? We, meaning the NFB, have been making efforts in that direction and I, as you know, am always impatient with delay. But we may be faced with "Oh, you cannot be considered under the regular Civil Rights provisions; there are special ones for the handicapped."

The existence of special civil rights sections, separate vocational sections, separate education sections—as separate and distinct entities—not only leads to separate and distinct and different administration but to administration which is not as exacting, under standards which are lower than for the "regular" population. It cannot, and in these circumstances, will not, in most cases, be equal. If we had equal standards included in the provisions demanded by the rest of the population, we would not now be contending with NAC. Will we be faced with a NAC-run civil rights commission for the handicapped?

Many groups handling civil rights and similar provisions say that it will take a "special" commission to deal with the rights of the handicapped. You recall that this is what happened to Ed Lewinson when he confronted the Rent Control Board in New York and demanded to be treated like everyone else.

I worry about the fact that we may be confronted with civil rights laws which are different and not equal to those of the rest of the population. When will the happy day arrive when physical handicaps will be considered at face value as characteristics like baldness, or red hair, or the marriage status, or the color of the skin, or the country of origin?

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After the first several months of operation of the Supplemental Security Income program (SSI), what do we find?

First, of course, and after an initial gigantic mess resulting in no checks or underpayments for many of the 3.3 million recipients of SSI, the rate of error is now claimed to have stabilized at around five percent—not at all good, but a big improvement over earlier months.

Second, the Nixon Administration has asked the Congress to enact an escalator clause in the SSI program so that recipients will not suffer a cut in their grants when cost-of-living increases are added to those who also receive Social Security checks, which increases are scheduled to begin in June of 1975. This means that the same language will be used in the SSI program as now exists in the Social Security programs—whenever the Consumer Price Index rises by three percent or more, the grant will be increased accordingly. This will not only protect those who receive both SSI and Social Security checks, but also will mean an increase for those who receive only SSI. The National Federation of the Blind had already made this one of its top priority legislative goals. The proposal should be implemented by legislation this year.

Third, let's look at the effect on the grants of aid to needy blind persons across the country as a result of the SSI program. In December 1973 (the month before the SSI "take-over"), the average monthly Aid to the Blind grant for the United States as a whole was only $112. According to charts released by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare on March 22, 1974, there were thirty-five states which have supplemented the Federal grants under the SSI program of $140 a month for an individual and $210 for a couple. The flat grants for blind individuals now range all the way from $140 to $267 a month and, for blind couples, from $210 to $534. This is, by any manner of figuring, a tremendous improvement.

Fourth, the Social Security Administration ruled, without one scintilla of legal backing, that blind persons 65 years of age or older who are new SSI recipients must apply for the grant of aid to the aged, rather than the grant to the blind. This is an untenable interpretation for the following reasons:

(a) Title XVI of the Social Security Act provides for SSI payments to the aged, blind, and disabled. Section 1602 reads: "Every aged, blind, or disabled individual who is determined under Part A to be eligible on the basis of his income and resources shall, in accordance with and subject to the provisions of this title, be paid benefits by the Secretary of Health,
Education, and Welfare."

(b) Section 1614(2) of the Act merely sets forth the standard definition of economic blindness to determining those who will qualify for SSI payments due to blindness, and it will be noted that there is neither a minimum nor a maximum age limitation of any kind.

(c) HEW, in its charts issued March 22, 1974, clearly shows differing amounts of supplementation for the blind as opposed to the aged in many states. In fact, of the thirty-five states making supplementations of the SSI basic amounts, fully thirteen states (or more than thirty-seven percent) provide for higher grants for the blind than for the aged.

(d) In his letter of March 20, 1973, to the president of the NFB of Iowa, Director of the Bureau of Supplemental Security Income Sumner Whittier wrote: "States may provide funds to supplement one category without being obligated to supplement either of the remaining categories."

(e) Finally, it must be remembered that the supplementation of the SSI payment is the money of the state, not of the Federal Government, and is determined by each state legislature.

Fifth, those blind persons who were converted from Aid to the Blind to SSI on January 1, 1974, cannot suffer any more rigid eligibility requirements than those imposed by their own states as in effect in October 1972. This is assured by the specific provisions of Sections 1611(g) and (h) of the Act. For instance, instead of $65 a month of exempt earned income plus one-half over that amount, such persons can have $85 a month of such income plus one-half over that amount, plus, of course, the $20 of unearned income from any source. If a blind person has no unearned income, then he can have exempted $105 a month of earned income plus one-half over that amount.

Sixth, undoubtedly the new SSI recipient will face far more restrictive eligibility requirements than one who converted last January. For instance. Section 1616(c)(1) of the Act provides that any state making supplemental payments may, at its option, impose a state residence requirement. Also, a state making supplementary payments may place a lien upon the property of an individual or may require that a relative of the individual contribute to the support of the individual. The portion of the grant consisting of Federal funds is not subject to liens or encumbrances. A couple applying for SSI for the first time can have only $2,250 in cash or other liquid assets and cannot have life insurance policies whose face value (not cash surrender value) is more than $1,500. Real property, as well as other personal property, is considered at the market value without regard to any encumbrances.

Seventh, Section 1614(f)(1) of the Act provides that if a recipient is living with an ineligible spouse, the recipient's income and resources shall be deemed to include any income or resources of such spouse, whether or not available to such recipient, except to the extent determined by the Secretary to be inequitable under the circumstances. The Social Security Administration interpretation is said to be to the effect that the ineligible spouse can retain only up to $135 a month for his or her own support before allocating the remainder of his or her earnings to the recipient. This interpretation is not only niggardly, it is outrageous! If the working spouse of an SSI recipient is to remain a self-supporting and productive member of society, rather than quitting the job and applying for indigent aid in order to protect the small income of the SSI recipient, then the regulation should permit the ineligible spouse to retain at least $300 a month of his or her net earnings for his or her own support, plus job-related expenses, the support of any minor children, and payments on debts incurred for the necessities of life before any allocation is made to the SSI recipient from the earnings of the working spouse.

Eighth, Section 1612(b)(4) of the Act provides that additional amounts of income may be disregarded if the blind individual has a plan for achieving self-support, approved by the Secretary, in such amounts as may be necessary for the fulfillment of such plan. However, here again unimaginative guidelines have been set by the Social Security Administration. Such exemption would be limited to an initial period of eighteen months. An extension up to an additional period of eighteen months may be granted. Approval of a plan for up to forty-eight months is possible when the plan includes an educational goal which extends beyond the initial and extension periods. Actually, when a blind person has as his goal for achieving self-support the practice of a profession, such as law, teaching, or social work, this involves forty-eight months for a bachelor's degree plus two or three years of graduate study. Thus, there is just no way to encompass such plans for self-support within the proposed rigid guidelines.

In conclusion, the Supplemental Security Income program is probably here to stay for a long time. As far as misinterpretations are concerned, we must first protest such regulations to the Social Security Administration. Failing that, we must go to the courts. If we lose there, then we must go to the Congress itself. Obviously, this shapes up as a long, hard fight for some time to come if the National Federation of the Blind is to protect the rights of our neediest citizens.

So be it!

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Oftentimes when someone spends many of the best years of his life in outstanding and unremitting service to the betterment of his fellow travelers, little or no tangible recognition may come his way till it's time for the eulogies and the funeral flowers. "That's life," we are prone to say.

A notable and heartening exception to this rule can be seen in the case of John F. Nagle. All through the fifteen years during which he has served so ably as Chief of the Washington Office of the National Federation of the Blind, compliments and gratitude for his fine work have been a part of NFB Conventions, coming both from Federationists themselves, and from noted guest speakers who have come to know and respect him. This has been equally true at conventions of state affiliates. Ever since last fall, when he announced his retirement from this position, tributes have come from far and wide.

If a pun may be permitted, a high point in this flood of tributes and congratulations was reached at Chicopee's Highpoint Motor Inn, in John's home State of Massachusetts where, on Saturday evening, May 25th, the NFB of Massachusetts hosted a testimonial banquet in his honor.

Earlier in the day, the State organization's executive committee meeting was held at the Inn, and the members stayed on. As the hour approached, people began arriving, not only from all over Massachusetts, but from Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina, the District of Columbia—and the list goes on! The NFB was officially represented by its First Vice-President Capps, who arrived Saturday morning with his wife, Betty.

The banquet was preceded by a receiving line, enabling everyone present to exchange personal greetings with John and with the dignitaries assigned to the head table. The meal itself was much enjoyed, with a spirit of good cheer and good fellowship much in evidence.

Then came the "orchids." The Honorable Foster Furcolo, former Massachusetts Governor and Congressman, and a close personal friend of John's, presided expertly as master of ceremonies. Every speaker was given a limit of three minutes, but there was no limit to the variety and interest of what they had to say. Each had something very personal to share with us, an inside look at the character and accomplishments of our honored guest as seen from his or her particular viewpoint. There were all sorts of anecdotes—some serious, some humorous—presented informally by people who had, at one time or another, been closely associated with John as Federationists at national and local levels. Among those who spoke were representatives from other organizations in which he has been active, including the Lions, Unitarian Church, Junior Chamber of Commerce, and United World Federalists. John F. Mungovan, Massachusetts Commissioner for the Blind, reminisced about John's brief term of service on the State agency's advisory board, which was cut short by his appointment to the Washington position. Letters and telegrams were read from members of the U.S. Senate and House who, for various good reasons, had been unable to accept invitations to attend the banquet in person. The evening was climaxed when John was presented with a diamond-studded gold watch, as a token of the affection and esteem of his fellow members of the NFB of Massachusetts.

However, with all the festivity and all the expressions of admiration and appreciation, there was one sad note which cast an unwanted shadow over the whole affair, both for John and for the many close friends of his wife, Virginia. She had looked forward to being by his side to share in this important event, as she has in every aspect of his life during the sixteen years of their marriage, but at the time it took place, she was hospitalized for major surgery. Thanks to the magic of tape recording, she was at least able to listen, later, to all the proceedings. We wish her a speedy and complete recovery, and hope she will be well enough to join us at the NFB Convention in Chicago.

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President Jernigan says, "Given proper training and opportunity and using alternative techniques, the blind person can do virtually anything he would do if he were not blind." The aids and appliances discussed here make possible some of those alternative techniques.

Please keep in mind that prices for almost everything are very much in flux, and, while we are listing the prices at the time of the writing of this article, they are likely to change for the higher. Please also remember that shortages of certain raw materials are causing many items to become altogether non-available.

Are there aids not listed here which are available and which you would like to see your National Office supply? If so, please tell us what they are, where they may be obtained, and their cost.

Send check or money order made payable to National Federation of the Blind with your order. Items will be sent postpaid. The Federation cannot be responsible for repair of any items purchased from us. Therefore, be sure to keep any warranties and if repairs are needed, contact the manufacturer.

As you can see from the listing, we will carry mainly items specifically manufactured for the blind and will not be stocking items that can readily be purchased elsewhere. We want to be of service to you in every way possible, but please remember that prices are subject to change, without notice, and that at times we may not have the particular materials you want. Also, do not return items to us for repair as the National Office cannot be responsible for this.  

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As times change, so do people's needs and expectations. In the case of the blind person this change is going to be a new type of long cane. For many years we have become accustomed to a fiberglass cane made of solid material which has served very well indeed. Because of our problems of natural resources and the increase in pricing of many products we have felt it necessary to pursue the development of a cane which would be more competitively priced and also an improvement in design over what we are now able to procure.

During many years of extensive use, the fiberglass cane has proved its durability and seemed to be the most logical choice for future development. The long fiberglass cane as we now know it is made of extruded fiberglass, which means that all the strands of glass are linear and parallel in layout from one end of the cane to the other. This in itself creates a very strong cane, but also creates some problems, the most obvious of which is eventual shattering from fatigue when excess strain is applied: for instance, when the cane is caught in a door. The second problem which many of us have experienced is the peeling of the outer strands of fiberglass, allowing a person to get slivers of glass in his hands when he handles an older cane. Many other ideas for improvement were passed on, some of which were incorporated in the new cane design.

John Taylor and I discussed the cane problem at one time and through a contact of his among the Iowa manufacturers that he knows, we got in touch with a young fellow who was making tubular fiberglass arrows and fishing rods. I called the man and explained what I wanted and asked if he thought this tubular fiberglass process might work for our cane. He definitely felt that it would and he also explained some of the advantages of this type of manufacture over the extruded unit we are now familiar with. The most obvious advantage turned out to be the extreme light weight of the tubular cane with a strength factor very comparable to the solid cane. Two samples were made and sent to me for the purpose of experimenting and they were found to be highly satisfactory with many people choosing the tubular cane over its counterpart.

The tubular cane has allowed the development of a new type of tip which resists removal far more than the slip-on tip normally associated with the extruded fiberglass cane. It was found that many people also desired a slightly larger tip so that it would not slip into holes and slots such as manhole covers and drainage grates quite so easily. You will therefore notice with the new cane that if you do get the tip stuck in a hole or slot that you can probably remove the cane without losing the tip. You will also notice that the new tip is somewhat more sound responsive than the older tip.

The new cane will also come with a slightly different handle—just a little bit larger than that of the older cane and of a slightly more resilient material. This should make carrying the cane somewhat more comfortable and far less fatiguing because of the cane's light weight.

The new light white cane, from now on to be known as the NFB cane, should be an improvement and a great assistance in your travel experiences. Try it—you'll like it!  

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White cane travel techniques, of course, are a vital key to a blind person's mobility and independence. The National Federation of the Blind has developed its own long cane, the "NFB cane." Cost—$6. This is described elsewhere in this publication.

While the long cane offers a resiliency to the touch and other advantages, for those who like a fold-it-up, tuck-it-away type of flexibility, there is the folding cane. This folding cane has been stocked in sizes of 40, 42, 44, 46, 48, 50, 52, and 54 inches in length. The price is $5.95. The brand name is "Mahler Standard Folding Cane." Also available is the "Mahler Heavy-Duty Aluminum Folding Cane" in sizes of 44, 47, 50, 53 inches. The price of this cane is $6.95. Another cane is the "Mahler Telescopic" with plastic grip, priced at, $8.50.

Cane tips are available at 25 cents each. Please be sure to specify whether it is for the new "NFB cane" or for the old-style cane.


Braille Paper

9"x12" lightweight brown magazine paper. Four-pound package with approximately 45-55 sheets per pound. $1.00

8 ½”x11" manila paper, three-hole punched. One ream package with approximately 500 sheets. $3.75


Desk slate with board. Solid wooden board with a hinged metal clamp that has two pins at the top for holding paper in place. Nickel-alloy slate is 4-line, 40-cell, with pegs corresponding to holes on the board, $7.00

File-card slate. 6-line, 19-cell aluminum slate. Special design to be used with 3"x5" cards
only. No pins or hinge, $4.25

Open-back slate. 4-line, 28-cell aluminum slate. Has an extra frame to hold the pins for mounting the paper so that it is possible to drop open the bottom part of the guide and read what has been written without taking the paper out of the slate itself, $5.75

Plastic slate. 4-line, 28-cell, bottom-pin slate, made of plastic, $.60

Pocket slate. 4-line, 2 8-cell, bottom-pin slate, made of aluminum, $3.50

Postcard slate. 6-line, 19-cell, bottom-pin slate, made of aluminum. This slate will also accomodate Dymo tape. Dymo tape slips through two slots at each side of one of the lines of the slate and is held firmly in place while being brailled, $3.50

Postcard slate. 4-line, 19-cell, bottom-pin slate, made of aluminum, $3.25

Single-line slate. 25 cell slate to be used with Dymo tape, $3.25

Cubarithm slate. Used to do arithmetic with standard Braille characters. Cubes fit into square openings in a bakelite frame which measures 7 1/2"x10" and is 1/2" thick, providing 15 by 20 cells. Cubes 3/8 square carry Braille symbols on five sides and a raised line on the sixth. Dot one has been placed in the corner so that this side can be used to supply three additional manipulative signs in addition to the number "1." Dots one-two are similarly placed so that this side can be used for the numbers "2" and "3" as well as two additional symbols. Other sides of the cube provide the rest of the numbers depending on the portion used. The sixth side with the raised line can be used for four more manipulative symbols.
Slate and 100 cubes, $10.50


Heavy-point stylus. Cadmium-plated steel points with black enameled wooden handle. $.15

Medium-point stylus. Cadmium-plated steel points, black enameled wooden handle, $.20

Tuckaway stylus. With teflon eraser; steel point may be unscrewed and inserted in an aluminum handle for safe carrying. Conventional size and shape stylus handle, $1.65

Braille Eraser

Made of hard maple, natural finish, 2 1/2" long, round tip, with handle knob of similar size and shape as that of a large stylus, $.30

Dymo Tape

Brown polished-finish vinyl. Self-adhesive. Vi-inch wide, 12-foot roll, $.95

Clear plastic. Self-adhesive. 1/2-inch wide, 12-foot roll, $1.25

Braille Notebook and Filler

Handy, pocket-size notebook, with overall dimensions of 6 1/2" x 4 1/2" x 7/8". The notebook covers are made of heavy board covered with waterproof imitation leather cloth. The metal binder contains 6 rings 1/2" in diameter which will hold approximately 50 sheets of regular brown Braille paper, size 3 3/4"x 5 3/4", punched with 6 holes to match the rings. The front inside cover carries a pocket which will hold the APH 19-cell, 4-line postcard slate. A black tape is attached to the cover to act as a bookmark, as well as to tie the stylus so it will not become lost. By mounting the slate the 4 3/4" length of the paper, 8 lines, of 19 cells each, can be written on one sheet, $1.35

Filler for the above notebook, fifty-sheet package, $.35


Needle Threader

Plastic needle threader will thread small, medium, and large needles, including large darning needles. Needle is dropped into appropriate funnel, thread placed in a groove and when button is pushed, the thread is inserted in the needle. Complete instructions are included with each threader, $.25

Self-threading Needles, Milward

British colyx-eye needles, assorted. Slit eye. Thread is stretched across slot at end of needle, then pulled into eye. Package of six, $.30


Channel Master AM/FM Pocket Portable Radio, Model 6221

Dimensions: 5 1/4" high by 3 1/4" wide by 1 5/8" deep. Weight: 3/4 lb. Features: telescopic antenna for FM, automatic gain control for AM, carrying strap and earphone. 120-day replacement guarantee. (Without battery—9 volt.)* $10.00

General Electric Television Audio-FM-AM Radio, Model P4930

Dimensions: 6 1/2" high by 10 1/2" wide by 3" deep. Weight: 2 3/4 lbs. Features: two-way power, telescopic whip antenna, automatic frequency control (AFC) on FM, receives audio portion of VHF (channels 2-13) TV broadcasts, earphone. 90-day guarantee. (Without batteries-4 "A" size.)* $36.00

RCA Audio Receiver, All Channel TV, FM-AM ("Audio Center"), Model RZC 375

Dimensions: 3 ¾” high by 13 5/8" wide by 7 1/4" deep. Weight: 5 1/2 lbs. Features: audio portion of both VHF and UHF television broadcasts. Braille markings on operating controls, instruction booklet printed both in Braille and inkprint, automatic frequency control, built-in antenna systems, AC power operation only. 90-day guarantee, $40.00

Channel Master Portable Cassette Recorder, Model 6393

Dimensions: 6 1/4" wide by 9 1/4" deep by 2 1/2" high. Weight: 2 1/2 lbs. Features: AC- or DC-power operation, separate and built-in microphones with remote ON/OFF, automatic level control recording, earphone automatic shut-off. 120-day guarantee. (Without batteries-4 "C" size.)* $30.00

Craig Portable Cassette Recorder, Model 2622

Dimensions: 5 1/4" wide by 2 3/4" high by 9 1/2" deep. Weight: 2 1/4 lbs. Features: AC- or DC-power with automatic recharging, automatic shut-off, manual record-level control, separate microphone with remote switch, single-control operation. 90-day guarantee. (Without batteries-4 "C" size.)* $23.00

*Note.—If you would like NFB to send batteries with the machines that do not come with them, the following retail prices apply: 9-volt transister—$1.00, "AA"—$.30 each, "C"—$.65 each.

General Electric Cassette Recorder (APH-Modified), Model M8355A

Dimensions: 10"x 10 1/2"x3". Weight: 5 lbs. Features: two speeds (1 7/8 and 15/16 inches per second), tone indexing, variable playback speeds (increase by 40% and decrease by 30%), function-select keyboard with raised symbols, automatic record-level control, detachable shoulder strap, fold-away carrying handle, pause button, separate microphone with remote ON/OFF switch, jacks for use with patchcords and foot-pedal switch, AC- or DC-operation, Braille instruction manual. 1 -year guarantee. (With 6 "C" batteries.), $72.50

Metacom Cassette Tape, C-90

Low Noise. Polyester. With label and chipboard box, $1.30

Shamrock Magnetic Tape, 1800 feet

1 mil. Polyester, $1.15


Aids and appliances are not confined to devices of a purely utilitarian nature, as there are available a variety of games for fun and relaxation.


The checkers set consists of a plastic board with sunken squares and round and square men to distinguish colors, $1.35


The dominoes are molded plastic with prominent raised black dots on white backgrounds; a metal carrying case is included, $3.95


The Scrabble game is equipped with Braille indications. The tiles, possessing both print and Braille letters, fit snugly into a plastic waffle-like mat with Braille symbols that is placed on top of the inkprint board. The board is equipped with a turning device that allows it to
revolve easily. Tile racks and instructions are included. The latter are both in print and Braille, and a plastic Braille card giving the value and distribution of tiles comes with them, $9.35


A hand-altered version of the ordinary game. On the inkprint board the squares and the prices or instructions on them are marked in Braille, and Chance cards, Community Chest cards. Title Deed cards, and instructions are both in print and in Braille, $9.00

Playing Cards

Ordinary brand playing cards marked with Braille dots $.50 per deck
Giant face cards, with oversized symbols and numbers but no Braille dots, $.25 per deck
Kem brand brailled plastic cards, which are washable and more durable, $5.95 per deck
Ordinary brand Pinochle cards, $.65 per deck
Giant-face Pinochle cards, $.45 per deck
Kem plastic Pinochle cards, $5.95 per deck

Cribbage Board

This aluminum board has easily located raised scoring pegs, all of which are marked for identification. Rubber feet protect table tops from the metal board, $5.95


Plastic with raised dots—and a metal cup, $.80


Bacon Press

Keeps bacon from curling. Cooks both sides at once, eliminating need to turn bacon. Knob handle in center, which screws on and off, allows grease to be drained easily. Made of lightweight perforated metal to fit 9" or larger round pans, $.65

Food Cutter

Chop vegetables, nuts, et cetera, with this hand-held heavy-duty metal cutter. Bevelled cutting edge, 3" in diameter, $.45

Liquid Probe (limited supply only)

Powered by two 575 hearing aid batteries in white egg-shaped plastic case, this probe has 1" prongs on one side, 3" prongs on the other side. Probe is hung over lip of container and beeps when liquid reaches level of prongs. Probe can be hung by either short or long prongs, so that level of liquid can be varied, $7.75

Liquid Probe

Designed and manufactured by G. A. Gamble of Des Moines, Iowa, this probe consists of two units connected by a cord. One unit is a very small device with 1/2" prongs which hang over lip of container. This device is connected by an electrical cord to another unit 3 1/2" long, 2 1/4" wide, and 1 1/2" high, which contains the batteries and an ON/OFF switch. When this switch is turned on, the unit will buzz whenever liquid in the container reaches the level of the prongs. Use to pour coffee and other liquids, $23.00

Light Probe

Black cylindrical tube 3/4" in diameter is open at one end; other end is attached to egg-shaped unit containing batteries. ON/OFF switch is located on tube. Entire device is 4" long and can be held comfortably in your hand. When switch is turned on, unit will beep whenever open end of tube encounters light. Switchboard operators have found this probe helpful in locating lighted or blinking buttons. Designed and manufactured by G. A. Gamble of Des Moines, Iowa, $22.30


This ceramic ashtray, 6" in diameter, features the Braille alphabet. Raised print letters of the alphabet encircle the edge, and the corresponding Braille letters form an inner circle. In the center is a white cane. Available in blue, green, gold, or white, $.80

Pie Cutter

Knife-like metal dividers mounted on round metal frame can be used to cut pie into six equal pieces. Pie cutter can be placed over pie and pressed down firmly so that pie is cut by means of the dividers, or it can be placed lightly on top of the pie and used as a guide for
cutting by knife. Designed for 9" pie pans, $4.70

Pie Cutting Guide

Wire frame fits over 9" pie; knife can be inserted between heavy wire guides so that pie can be cut into six equal pieces, $4.50

Steak Weight

Heavy cast aluminum weight with waffle design is placed on top of steak as it cooks. Prevents curling and eliminates need for turning. Weight has large wooden handle on top for ease in handling. 9"x 4 1/2", $3.45

Measuring Cup and Spoon Set

Matching set in harvest gold plastic includes five graduated cups (1/8, 1/4, 1/3, and 1 cup) and six graduated spoons (1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 1 tsp., 1/2 Tbsp., and 1 Tbsp.) with raised letters and numbers on handles. Handles snap together for easy storage, $.60

Measuring Cups

Set of four graduated cups (1/4, 1/3, 1/2, and 1 cup) in heavy-duty stainless steel. Long-handled saucepan design allows quick warmups and melting. Full cup measure is marked by indentations at 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, and 1/3 and 2/3 levels, $1.95

Measuring Spoons

Set of four graduated stainless steel spoons (1/4, 1/2, 1 tsp., 1 Tbsp.) includes metal rack which can be mounted for wall or cupboard storage, $ .95

Recipe Cards

Flexible clear plastic sheets can be used to Braille recipes. These waterproof cards can be wiped clean with a damp cloth. 5"x8" $.18

Household Scale

Platform scale, 8"x 8 1/2"x9", has total weighing capacity of 25 lbs. Dial is 5 3/4" in diameter. A raised dot indicates each 1/4 lb; double raised dots indicate 1 lb; triple raised dots indicate 4 lbs. Platform and trim are light green; dial is white. Manufactured by Chatillon, $14.95


This Lux "Minute Minder" can be set for periods of 1 to 60 minutes. The center dial is marked counterclockwise with raised bars for each minute and raised-print number and bar at each five minute interval. The length of the ring increases with the length of the time period setting. The longest possible ring can be obtained even for short time settings by turning the dial all the way to the 60 minute mark and then back to the desired setting. White with gold trim. 4 1/4"x 3 1/4"x 2 1/2", $4.60


Baby Ben Alarm, $5.00
Big Ben Alarm, 5.50
Westclox electric alarm, 7.45
Travel alarm, 7.50

Lady's wrist watches:
Chrome, $20-$25
Gold, $20-$45

Man's wrist watches:
Chrome, $12.75-$45
Gold, $25-$45

Pocket watches:
Chrome, $20-$35
Gold, approximately $30 each


Cranmer abacus, $2.50
Using The Cranmer Abacus
Braille, 3.00
large print, 2.85
Abacus Made Easy, by Mae Davidow
Braille, 3.65
large print, 3.95
Rotomatic Rule,6" length, 10.20
Folding ruler, 2.75
Protractor, 2.00
6-foot steel tape, 3.75
25-foot steel tape, 7.95
Tape measure, 1.95
Brailled directional compass, 11.25
Folding pocket magnifier, 2.30
Grooved fiber handwriting cards, .25
Ridged script pad, 2.50
Sleepshades, 3.00
Aluminum signature guide, .35
Rubber-back signature guide, 1.60
Large numeral telephone dial, .30

Cane Minders

Both minders combine a magnet and suction cup for use on any surface. One version has a metal clip, with a connecting chain and suction cup, attached to the magnet. A cane can be tended either by the clip or the hanging chain loop. The clip can also fix the minder to clothing. The second version is a simple magnet backed by a suction cup with an attached
plastic loop for the cane, $1.00 each


The following articles are on order and should be available in the near future.

Slates and Styli

Micro-dot slate, $5.35
Micro-dot stylus, .35
Teflon-tip erasers, .15

Sewing Aids

Handy magnet $ .50
Hem guage, 3.75
Wire loop needle threaders, $.15 for package of 3


Bingo cards, $2.45 each
Chinese checkers, $7.95
Crossword puzzles, 16.75
Nine Men's Morris, 2.95
Parcheese, 6.95
Rack-0, 4.95
Rook, 3.25
High-Q Puzzle, 1.50
Brokma Puzzle, 1.00
Score Four, 4.95
Pythogoras Puzzle, 1.30
Mini Tic-Tac-Toe, 1.30

Cooking Aids

Pie cutting guide, $5.50

Note. Please order all items from the Federation Office, 218 Randolph Hotel Bldg., Fourth and Court, Des Moines, Iowa 50309. Do not order from the Iowa Commission for the Blind in Des Moines.



Items listed below have been designed and manufactured by Mrs. Berneice Johnson and can be ordered directly from her at the following address:

Mrs. Berneice Johnson
717 Fourth Street, Apt. 114
Des Moines, Iowa 50309
(515) 283-1645

Magnetic Labels

Custom-made plastic labels are permanently mounted on heavy magnetized backing, so that labels are firm and sturdy, but flexible. Ideal for labeling tops of canned goods. Can be used over and over again indefinitely. Any wording can be specified, but maximum length of labels is 2 1/2". Available in two widths:

1" wide. Upper half of label is white and is Braille; lower half of label is black and is in raised print, which allows sighted guide to attach correct labels if desired. $ .50 each.

1/2" wide. Label is black and is in Braille. No print letters. $ .25 each.

Magnetic Board

White magnetized porcelain is framed in attractive heavy aluminum and can be mounted on wall. Magnetic labels can be stored on this board when they are not in use. The board can be ordered in any size or dimensions. Cost is based on the number of square inches and figured at the rate of 5 1/2 cents per square inch. For example, 12" square board will cost $8.00.

Label Holders for Frozen Food Packages

A thin metal plate 1"x3" is mounted on 1/2"-wide white elastic loop. This slips around the frozen food package (or any other similar container) in the same manner as a rubber band. The appropriate magnetic label can be placed on and will adhere to the metal plate. $.25 each.

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Editor's Note.—Beth Cassidy is past president of the San Francisco Chapter and of the Alumni Association, NFB of California.



3 pounds large (shelled and cleaned) cooked shrimp
1/2 pound cooked crab meat
3 cups cubed cooked ham
1/4 pound butter or margarine
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 cups chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
1 large can sliced mushrooms
1 12-ounce can V-8 juice
2 cups sliced okra
salt and cayenne pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon shrimp boil
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup Sauterne


In 3-quart sauce pan or large dutch oven, melt butter and stir in flour; stirring constantly, cook over medium heat until lightly browned. Add onions, celery, bell pepper, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add ham, shrimp, garlic, mushrooms, V-8 juice, okra, and shrimp boil. Add 8 cups of water and bring mixture to boil for 20 minutes. Add crab meat, lower heat, and simmer for two hours.

Just before serving, add wine. Serves six.

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Laura Sloate, formerly a research analyst for a major securities house on Wall Street, opened her own securities firm in March of this year. This would not be newsworthy but for the fact that Ms. Sloate has accomplished this while dealing with three disadvantages in her business. She is young, female, and blind. According to Time magazine, Laura Sloate grossed more than $100,000 as a research analyst before setting out to start her own firm with two associates and a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. Now that she has her own firm, she spends four hours each day and nine hours on Saturday listening to readers in order to get the volume of technical information necessary to advise her clients.

The St. Louis Globe-Democrat reports that the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners has authorized changes in the procedures for absentee voting aimed at assisting blind and disabled voters. A blind person may now be assisted by another person when choosing, depositing, or delivering the ballot envelope. For the first time in Missouri history, blind persons will be able to vote absentee with a designated person to assist them.

Twenty-six years ago doctors had given up on J. W. Beachum. They said he would not live after being hit in the face by a shotgun blast. But today, according to the Dallas Times-Herald, Beachum is alive and well and operating a shop specializing in transmission work and motor overhauling in Mexia, Texas. He is one of two such skilled blind people in the State of Texas. Beachum says that his sense of touch, remembering the order in which he takes out parts, and the ability to differentiate between oils by smell makes his job easy.

The U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare has published an interesting book entitled "Services to the Blind: A Community Concern." In its forward, the book states that the decision by the Internal Revenue Service this year to devote the efforts of one of its major study groups to services provided blind persons of all ages was most timely. In addition to a continuous expansion of the number, quality, and variety of employment opportunities, rehabilitative possibilities for the blind have been significantly improved by the passage of Title XVI (the SSI program). In addition, there are others who will benefit from the liberalization of Title II (Disability Insurance). Perhaps the legislation that will effect the greatest number of blind persons is Title VI (grants to states for the aged, blind, or disabled), which is designed to make available a cluster of social services leading to maximum independence in self-help and self-care.

The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner reports that Southern Oregon College's new student body president is the oldest person ever elected to the position. He is also the first blind person ever elected president. Gary Manlove, formerly of Newport Beach, California, is thirty-nine years old. He is studying to be a teacher.

The newsletter of the Employment Development Department of the State of California recently reported that a study conducted by Lawrence Loban, member of the Governor's Committee for Employment of the Handicapped, showed that hiring the handicapped does not increase insurance rates. On a questionnaire sent to fifteen insurance companies doing business in group insurance in California, Loban asked for comment on the statement "I can't hire the handicapped because my insurance company won't let me." The companies all reported that they clearly do not tell their clients who they may or may not hire. The companies also reported that they do not charge higher rates for companies employing the handicapped.

The National Federation of the Blind of Seattle elected new officers on May 18, 1974. They are: president, James E. Dotson; vice-president, Charles McNeil; treasurer, Kathy Simmonds; secretary, Winifred Scott; and three-year trustee, Marie Bosia. Other trustees are Clifford
Good and Robert Scott.

A thumb-sized electronic sensor that hangs on the side of a coffee cup has been invented recently to alert blind persons against painful or embarassing overspills. The device was developed at the General Electric Research and Development Center in Schenectady, New York, by Dr. Roberts.

Last year Roberts was appointed by President Nixon as Director of the National Bureau of Standards. He got the idea for the sensor while sitting next to a blind traveler during a cross-country airplane flight. The battery-operated sensor buzzes when the beverage level rises within a half-inch of the cup's lip.

The Braille-Rotary fully automatic calculator is a modified Marchant Rotary Calculator. There are three basic modifications which adapt it for use by the blind. First, standard Braille symbols are embossed over the numerical markings on all three sets of dials. Second, special dial openings on the carriage and keyboard are long, open slots, which permit easy fingering access for the Braille reader. Third, the tops of the keys on the keyboard are varied as to height and surface to give additional assurance of correct hand location. Automatic, simultaneous "push-button" multiplication produces the answer the instant the problem is entered into the calculator. Division is not only completely automatic, but the remainder clears out at the end of a problem, leaving nothing to read but the answer. Automatic single and repeat addition and subtraction are simple and extremely rapid. The alignment of the unique three-dial proof makes possible the instant checking of all three figures in each problem. This calculator is distributed with the cooperation of the National Federation of the Blind and is produced and sold by Noller Engineering Services, 222 Scofield Drive, Moraga, California 94556.

The Denver Post carried an article recently about Diane McGeorge, a medical records secretary at the University of Colorado Medical Center. Mrs. McGeorge, who is blind, took part in a Career Fair in Denver where she demonstrated the magnetic data recording machine she uses in her work. She has been a records secretary for eight years. Her interests other than her career include skiing and water-skiing.

The Tuscon Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind held its second annual election of officers May 17. The new officers are: president, Sally Tsosie; vice-president, Graig Tullis; second vice-president, Evans Honhoinewa; secretary, Pam Tullis; and treasurer, Ted Wewere.

A ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case appealed from New Jersey cleared the way for the resolution of a long-standing national controversy over whether striking workers should be eligible for welfare benefits. A number of courts in the past have refused to rule on the issue on the ground that it had reached them after the strike was over and thus there was no live dispute to demand the court's attention. The high court held 5-to-4 that an employer had the right to a court decision on the validity of welfare benefits for strikers, even though the labor dispute involved had been settled before the court hearing on it. The court held that the potential for welfare payments prolonging a strike and tipping the balance in favor of the union "has not evaporated or disappeared" because a single strike was settled, but has a "continuing and brooding presence" for the employer involved and others. The ruling sent the case back to Federal District Court for a decision on the merits. That court initially denied the employer any injunction against payment of welfare benefits and dismissed the request for a declaratory judgment that such payments were an unconstitutional interference with federal policy favoring free collective bargaining. At present New Jersey and twenty-one other states permit strikers to collect welfare benefits.

The Merced (California) Sun-Star reports that Richard P. Schmidt of Modesto is a successful audiologist-therapist at the Modesto Hearing and Speech Center. On Wednesday mornings he administers diagnostic hearing tests at a nearby hospital. Schmidt, who has been blind since birth, considers his sense of hearing to be more acute than most sighted persons. He is interested in noise pollution and often takes his acoustically-treated mobile trailer to industrial sites for noise level testing.

Richard D. Edlund, president of the NFB of Kansas, reports that as the result of the hard work of his affiliate over the past two years the Kansas Legislature passed, and the Governor signed into law, an amendment to that State's discrimination act making it unlawful to discriminate on account of physical handicap. This new law will have a particularly profound effect on the status of sheltered shop employees, since these workers are classified as public employees and the shop management will be forced to arbitrate disputes over working conditions, pay scales, et cetera.

Mike Keithley is currently a blind assembly line worker—but he doesn't intend to remain one for long. According to the San Jose (California) Mercury, Mike took his present job to "get his foot in the door" at an electronics firm. His goal is to become an electronics engineer. The company he works for—Hewlett-Packard—is helping him to achieve his goal by assisting him in purchasing an Optacon and in being trained to use it. With the Optacon, Mike expects to be able to read the many dials, counters, and calculators necessary for his job.

Marc and Pat Maurer of the NFB Student Division write that the Massachusetts NFB Student Chapter recently came into being. This Student Chapter, with thirty-two members, promises to be an active unit of the NFB of Massachusetts.

An article in the Owensboro, Kentucky Messenger and Inquirer describes Cassie Mayer as a college student who likes to unwind after classes by drawing. This is unusual only because Ms. Mayer has been blind since birth. Her drawings are of objects she has never seen, done with colors she has never seen. She says she associates certain colors with certain moods or feelings, and with certain objects. She uses crayons so she can feel the lines she has drawn and carefully returns the colors to the box so she can always find the one she wants. Her philosophy of life is that life is to be enjoyed and shared with as many people as possible. She doesn't spend a lot of time worrying about the future. She says, "I just want to be free and easy."

The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare has announced the creation of a special Office for the Handicapped to deal more effectively with the special needs of the Nation's millions of handicapped citizens. The Office for the Handicapped will do the following: prepare a long-range projection for the provision of comprehensive services to the handicapped; continually analyze the operation of programs for the handicapped and evaluate their effectiveness; encourage coordination and cooperative planning among programs serving the handicapped; develop ways to promote the utilization of research related to the handicapped; and provide for a central clearinghouse for information and resources available to handicapped persons.

Jim Willows, an involved member of the NFB of California, is in both Who’s Who in the West and Who's Who in America. Jim is an electronics engineer at the University of California's Lawrence Radiation Laboratory in Livermore, California.

Jerry Sanders of International Falls, Minnesota is out to prove to people that blindness does not automatically carry with it stupidity. The International Falls Journal quotes Sanders as saying, "Because I'm blind, some people think I'm stupid and that's what bugs me the most." Sanders lost his sight six years ago in an industrial accident. He says that many people think a person who is blind is so insecure that he can't accept his situation and therefore becomes totally dependent on others to think and act for him. Sanders certainly does not depend on others in that way. He works for a company that makes fishing tackle and considers it very important to make a living for himself and his family. He and his wife hope to buy a farm where they can raise chickens, turkeys, and cattle and have a garden. Sanders has advice for young couples eager to make their own way in life. "Be content with what you have, start little, don't go into debt, and walk instead of driving. You'll sleep much better at night."

Volunteers of Vacaville, Inc., Post Office Box 670, Vacaville, California 95688, maintains a volunteer service for the visually handicapped. They read for the blind on tape and also repair Perkins Braillers. The coordinator of the service is Robert G. Goetz.

In the recent Primary elections in California, one of the candidates for Secretary of State was a blind man. Tom Smith feels that blindness is not necessarily a handicap in California politics, pointing out that in recent history the State has had two blind legislators who successfully campaigned numerous times. The late Herbert W. Slater of Sonoma County served in the upper house from 1915 to 1947 and Assemblyman Ernest C. Crowley of Solano County represented his district from 1930 to 1952.  

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June 24, 1974

DEAR CHIEF: Confronted by your letter of June 18 I stand reproved, corrected, advised, and somewhat chagrined. Perhaps in the future I will be more able to ascertain idle scuttlebutt from the truth.

I am financially unable to attend the Convention this year. In my opinion, the important thing is to live the philosophy of the Federation on a daily basis, and this I strive earnestly to do.

Very sincerely,


Des Moines, Iowa, July 18, 1974.

DEAR BLANK: Your first letter was thoroughly in order, and I was pleased to have it. Your second letter was a testimonial to the spirit, and I was delighted to receive it. Of such as this is the Federation made. Of such as you (as you have revealed yourself in your letters) is the strength of our movement composed. Your own words and reactions are the best proof we can have of the worthwhileness, viability, and democracy of our Federation. I am pleased to be able to work with you as a colleague and friend.


National Federation of the Blind.

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