30, No. 1 January
Kenneth Jernigan, Editor
in inkprint, Braille, on talking-book disc,
and cassette by
National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, President
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
NFB Net BBS: (612) 696-1975
Web Page Address: http//www.nfb.org
the president, address changes,
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National Federation of the Blind
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
THE BLIND IS NOT
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 30, No. 1 January 1987
SOCIAL SECURITY, SSI, AND MEDICARE FACTS FOR 1987
by James Gashel
WHOSE BLINDNESS IS IT?
by Lauren L. Eckery
A PARENT'S PERSPECTIVE ON THE 1986 NFB CONVENTION
by Barbara Cheadle
IMPRESSIONS OF A NATIONAL CONVENTION RECREATION OR REHABILITATION
by Matt King
SOMETHING WAS MISSING FROM THE CONVENTION THIS YEAR
by Mary Main
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND RESPONDS TO DEPARTMENT OF
TRANSPORTATION REQUEST FOR COMMENTS
SENATOR GRASSLEY WRITES A LETTER ABOUT AIRLINE DISCRIMINATION
MIKE HINGSON AND PACIFIC SOUTHWEST AIRLINES REACH OUT-OF-COURT SETTLEMENT
AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR THE BLIND CRITICIZES NAC
by Kenneth Jernigan
FAIR LABOR STANDARDS AMENDMENTS OPEN NEW DOORS FOR SHOP WORKERS
by James Gashel
MORE ABOUT DOG GUIDES AND GUIDE DOGS
MONEY TALKS: NFB WINS BIG FOR VENDORS IN MARYLAND
by James Gashel
SOCIAL SECURITY, SSI, AND MEDICARE FACTS FOR 1987
by James Gashel
In January of each year there are several adjustments made in Social Security-related rules, requirements, and programs. These include changes in tax rates, exempt earnings amounts, Social Security and SSI benefit levels, and deductible and co-insurance requirements under Medicare. Here are the facts for 1987:
FICA (Social Security) Tax Rate: The tax rate for employees and their employers during 1987 (effective January 1) is 7.15%, just as it was in 1986. Self-employed persons will pay at the same rate that they did in 1986--12.3%. During 1987, however, the amount contributed from general revenues on behalf of self-employed persons will decrease from 2.3% in 1986 to 2% during 1987.
Ceiling on Earnings Subject To Tax: Social Security contributions will be paid during 1987 on the first $43,800.00 of earnings for employed and self-employed wage earners. This compares to the 1986 ceiling of $42,000.00.
Quarters of Coverage: Eligibility for retirement, survivors, and disability insurance benefits is based in large part on the number of quarters of coverage earned by any individual during periods of work. Anyone may earn up to four quarters of coverage in a single year. During 1986, a Social Security quarter of coverage was credited for earnings of $440.00 during any calendar quarter. Anyone who earned $1,760.00 for the year (regardless of when the earnings occurred during the year) was given four quarters of coverage. During 1987 a Social Security quarter of coverage will be credited for earnings of $460.00 during a calendar quarter, and four quarters can be earned with annual earnings of $1,840.00.
Exempt Earnings: The earnings exemption for blind people receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits is the same as the exempt amount for individuals age 65 through 69 who receive Social Security retirement benefits. The monthly exempt amount during 1986 was $650.00. During 1987 the exempt amount will be $680.00. Technically, this exemption is referred to as an amount of earnings which does not show "Substantial Gainful Activity." Earnings of $680.00 per month or more for a blind beneficiary of disability insurance during 1987 will show Substantial Gainful Activity if no further deductions permitted by law can be made.
Social Security Benefit Amounts for 1987: All Social Security benefits (including retirement, survivors', disability and dependents' benefits) are increased by 1.3% beginning January, 1987. The exact dollar increase for any individual will depend upon the amount being paid.
Here are some average Social Security benefit amounts payable beginning January, 1987: average Social Security retirement check, $482.00; aged couple, both receiving benefits, $821.00; widow or widower and two children, $1,020.00; average check for disabled workers, $482.00; disabled spouse and children, $882.00; maximum retirement check for worker reaching age 65 in 1987, $789.00; average retirement check for worker reaching 65 in 1987, $593.00; minimum retirement check for worker reaching age 65 in 1987, $391.
SSI Resource Increase: There is an annual increase (effective January 1, 1987) in the amount of resources permitted for SSI recipients. In 1986 individuals could have resources of $1,700.00, and couples could have $2,550.00. These amounts increase to $1,800.00 for individuals and $2,700.00 for couples. Resources include checking accounts, savings accounts, cash value of insurance, stocks and bonds, and similar assets. Anyone who was previously denied SSI checks on the basis of excess resources should reapply if current resources are within the 1987 limits.
Standard SSI Benefit Increase: Beginning January, 1987, the federal payment amounts for SSI individuals and couples are as follows: individuals, $340.00 per month; couples, $510.00 per month. These amounts are increased from: individuals, $336.00 per month; and couples, $504.00 per month during 1986.
Medicare Deductibles and Co- Insurance: The basic co-insurance amount for Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) was $492.00 during 1986. During 1987 the basic Part A co- insurance amount is $520.00. This is the amount which an individual Medicare beneficiary must pay before Medicare's hospital insurance coverage takes effect during the first 60 days of a stay in the hospital during 1987. Also, the Part A co-insurance amount for a hospital stay from the 61st day to the 90th day is increased from $123.00 in 1986, to $130.00 in 1987.
The Medicare Part B (medical insurance) deductible remains at an annual $75.00 amount, just as it was during 1985 and 1986. The medical insurance premium which Medicare charges for Part B coverage increases, however, from $15.50 per month to $17.90 per month. This is the amount withheld from Social Security checks for Medicare Part B coverage. With this increase in the Medicare Part B premium, and the correspondingly small increase of 1.3% in Social Security benefits, some individuals may actually receive a lower Social Security benefit in 1987 than they did in 1986.
WHOSE BLINDNESS IS IT?
by Lauren L. Eckery
(This article appeared in the Fall, 1986, News from Blind Nebraskans, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska. As Federationists know, Lauren and Jerry Eckery are part of the leadership of the NFB of Nebraska.)
In an article I wrote when my daughter Lynden was two years old, I praised the child care setting she was in. I praised its children for seeing blindness more as we blind adults do. It was evident, through their questions and their observations of me as I spent weekly two-hour sessions at the school, that these young children saw and believed the reality of my blindness.
The director of the preschool, who had become a good friend of mine, whose skill with children was obvious, was pleased to have me at the preschool--not just to sing with the children but also to give them an education about blindness. I trusted that Lynden was in good hands. I trusted a friend who knew and understood about blindness, from my example.
Was I naive? Did Lynden, her father, and I eventually experience deprivation because of "our limitations" or those of someone else? Let me relate some examples of the "progress" of our relationship.
When Lynden was two, I did not take her to preschool on a regular basis. If she missed out on some of the activities at school, it was purely due to her sporadic attendance--or was it? She was too young to know or care that the rest of the children, on a certain day, were dressed in western outfits or that the rest of the children had brought paper valentines to pass out--everyone but Lynden. I let it pass; she was too young. I suspected a problem but didn't want to be labeled a "paranoid," and I reasonably expected that Lynden would eventually tell me about special occasions coming up at school. No problem.
Last fall, when Lynden was four and a half and "River City Roundup" was happening all around Omaha, we bought her a western outfit that could double as a Halloween costume. It was pretty enough to be worn anytime. When I asked which day the children would be dressing up for "River City Roundup," the director informed me that she hadn't decided--that she would let me know.
One day Lynden came home in tears. "Mommy, the other kids weared western clothes, and you didn't let me wear mine." I told her that no one had informed me that this was the day for such clothing to be worn. She was angry because she was convinced that I "should have known." Could she trust me as much after that?
When Valentine's Day rolled around, once again I asked to be informed as to when the children would be exchanging cards. Lynden piped up, "I'll tell you, Mommy." The director assured me that she would tell me. I bought cards, typed them up, and had them ready in early February. The night before the day, Lynden announced that she would be taking the cards tomorrow. Only because I was beginning to understand that the preschool director, my friend, "was a little scatter-brained" was I able to stay on top of this situation. Still, I was not particularly angry.
In March Lynden had a birthday--her fifth. She wanted to have Amanda, her best friend--the preschool director's soon-to-be adopted child--over for the birthday celebration at Showbiz Pizza Place. We invited her. Three days before the party when we had not been given a definite answer, I made one of the most frightening but also one of the most real phone calls of my life.
The director's reason for not answering the request was that she didn't know if the girls would behave in such a noisy place. She stated in no uncertain terms that the only way that Amanda could come was if they dropped her off at Showbiz and one of them stayed.
Suddenly it was apparent to me that I was expected to be as obedient and as much under her control as the preschool children she supervised each week. I was at a turning point at which I could either choose to back off and say, "That would be fine," or to do as I did.
I asked if they were worried about our blindness. At first there was total denial. When it came down to the details, though, she was afraid to have us walk the children home for fear that Amanda, who was not "trained to obey us like Lynden is," would run off; that she might dart into the street while we waited for the bus, and we wouldn't see it happening; that we might lose the girls on the way from the bus to Showbiz and "How could you keep track of them in that noisy place?"
When I explained, she stated that I was being defensive, not caring about the concerns of other people and risking the children's safety just to make a point. I said that I had a right to "defend" our position, and that she could choose whether that was really behaving defensively or not.
She said that she had no idea that I was so "angry about being blind;" that she had been so proud of me for the way "I handled it with the kids." She eventually stated that she thought Jerry and I should learn our limitations, just as everyone else does, for Lynden's sake if not for our own; that we were deluding ourselves if we thought we could function as independently as sighted people. And I was horrified to hear her say, "And you know that Lynden is going to know the difference. She's going to understand that she can't have friends over without parental supervision like other children do because of your limitations. She won't be angry about it, because she will understand."
I answered that Lynden would be puzzled and, indeed, angry when other people (teachers, other children's parents, etc.) decide for us that she and/or her blind parents "have to do things differently," when she is going to know from living with us daily for all the years of her childhood that such limitations are unnecessary. She may even begin to think that there is something wrong with her because she's being consistently left out of normal activities.
At length I told her that I thought the whole situation boiled down to a matter of trust, to which she immediately replied, "Laurie, I trust you implicitly!" She explained that she could tell when children came from less than desirable parenting, and that she would hold me up as an example of one of the best parents in the neighborhood; that she was proud of the way that Jerry and I were carefully teaching Lynden, taking her places, keeping her dressed neatly, and so forth, and she knew that we loved her.
It was difficult for me to believe that I really could not trust this "friend," and she could not believe that I thought she did not trust me. I said, "When someone says to me on the one hand that they trust me implicitly but on the other hand will not allow their child to be with us without sighted supervision, something doesn't fit." My stomach turned at the thought of how I, with my unusual amount of assertiveness, had probably changed the direction of our relationship forever. I would probably lose a good friend; I had "caused" a chasm between Lynden and her best friend. And would I be forced to put Lynden in another preschool? I realized quickly through my panic that the problem wouldn't be solved in this way. It was more likely that this same kind of situation would occur again and again. I could not trust as implicitly as I had trusted previously, but Lynden's education at this preschool had, up to now, been excellent.
But if the director couldn't see blindness for what it really is any more clearly even after observing it, what other "blind spots" might there be in Lynden's education there? (I now know that they also sex role stereotype children--"boys wear doctors' hats; girls wear nurses' hats"--and I am aware of other issues which are upsetting to me.)
However, much as I might have wished for it, there is no such thing as "the perfect school setting" for Lynden or for any other child. I knew, therefore, that I had to negotiate.
Our compromise, after talking with other Federationists (I thank God for other Federationists), is that the next time Lynden is asked to Amanda's, she will be allowed to go only if one or both of us is along. Will the director and her husband squirm? Will they be angry? Time will tell.
We thought things had blown over by the time Lynden enrolled in dance class with several other children. However, on one occasion she was kept from going to dance class because she had a rash. Although we had paid for this class, we were not consulted about this decision. Later Lynden did not inform us of her recital. Neither did the preschool.
The night before the recital, at 9:30 p.m. with no chance for us to invite friends along, the director called us, realizing that "we might not know about it." The children were to have brought a letter home from the dance class. We did not get Lynden's letter. Thinking that Lynden had accidentally forgotten it, I asked her about the letter. I was informed that the letters had all been taken away from them at preschool and given to the parents later.
We attended the recital, knew very little about Lynden's dancing, and I really began to wonder if I was being deprived because of my blindness. At home I cried about what I had missed.
The next day when I asked Lynden why she didn't tell us more about her dancing, she said, "You can't see." Suddenly I realized that lately she had begun to play tricks on us and to get very angry. I realized that she was angry about our blindness. She was also feeling that we "missed out" on her dance.
We learn from our mistakes. When I mentioned this last situation to one of the most competent Federationists I know, he cleared up my own doubts about my blindness by asking, "Did you have Lynden show you what she was learning?" We had alluded to it, but we had not gotten down on the floor to have her show us. When I explained to Lynden that we missed out on her dance not because we couldn't see but because we had not asked her to show us what she was doing, she was immediately relieved. She gleefully showed us the entire dance routine, taking on the role of the dance instructor. It was hilarious, entertaining, and enlightening.
Suddenly it appeared that she understood that we could be trusted, that we didn't necessarily not know what was going on just because we can't see. Her general behavior was back to normal.
I know that we will have to deal with situations similar to the ones I have described in this article. I know that I must continue to improve on my own assertiveness. I know that I must be wiser than to trust even good friends when it comes to dealing with issues of blindness, and I know that I must trust my own knowledge and stand by it. I know that Lynden will be confused for some time, but I hope that someday she will read what I have written and will be reminded of what she said to me when she was not quite five years old: "Mommy, I wish you could see."
Oh, dear, I thought. Not a pity party from my own kid! "Lynden, what would be different if I could see?" I inquired.
"'Cause then, Mommy, people wouldn't talk to you like you were a kid."
EDITOR'S NOTE: In an addendum to this article, Laurie later wrote:
It is one thing to be able to verbalize our Federation philosophy well; it is sometimes quite another thing to be able to live by it. In our childhood most of us were not properly prepared to meet the blatant prejudices--not to mention the subtle ones-- faced by blind people in our daily lives. Assertiveness skills and awareness of discrimination come slowly to those of us who have spent most of our lives influenced by non-Federationists.
The poignancy of this article will, perhaps, be enhanced for you by the fact that my sister, who is also blind, is (with the cooperation of all the parents involved) very successfully supervising several other children besides her own.
by Barbara Cheadle
Note: I joined the National Federation of the Blind in 1975 and that same year attended my first NFB convention. This happened one year before I married and nearly three years before I became the mother of an adopted blind son. Many people assume, erroneously, that I became involved in the NFB because I have a blind child. In fact, I have a blind child because of the National Federation of the Blind. It was the knowledge and understanding we (my husband and I) gained from the NFB which gave us the confidence to adopt our blind son. So, though my first NFB convention was one of the most memorable, most important events in my life--one I remember vividly--the experience was not in the context of being the parent of a blind child.
At the 1986 convention I asked several parents who were attending for the first time if they would write and give me their impressions of the convention. One of the parents I asked was Debbie Hamm.
Debbie is the mother of Jonathan (one and half years old), who has been blind from birth. Although Debbie is new to the NFB, she has leaped right in and demonstrated lots of enthusiasm and willingness to work. She is the treasurer of the Northwest Chapter (Oregon and Washington), NFB Parents Division, and was elected secretary to the Parents Division's national board at the annual meeting in Kansas City.
Late in August I received Debbie's letter describing her reaction to the National Federation of the Blind convention. The letter is one of the most moving I have ever read and it is reprinted in full in this article. In it, Debbie doesn't talk about the agenda or what dignitary said what when, or even discuss the pressing issues of the convention. Yet, her report is as accurate as any ever written about what the National Federation of the Blind convention really means to every blind man, woman, and yes, child, in this country.
It is not uncommon for parents of blind children to try and dismiss the National Federation of the Blind as only being for blind adults. As if the rights and welfare of blind adults are somehow distinct and separate from the rights, needs, and welfare of blind children. However, more and more parents like Debbie Hamm are rejecting that false notion and coming to understand that the true nature of the problem of blindness is a bond that ties all the blind together regardless of age or any other characteristic. And it is recognition of that bond that leads to true freedom. Nowhere is this more evident than at a national convention of the National Federation of the Blind.
But enough said. Debbie's letter speaks for itself, so here it is:
Roseburg, Oregon August 12, 1986
I am writing as you requested regarding convention. It is long overdue, as I have agonized over what I wanted to say. One, because I am sure there are many versions to the same story and two, because it was such a profound experience for me I find it difficult to describe.
I became interested in the NFB not because of literature that was sent to me, but because a "real" person (Denise Mackenstadt) called me and invited me to a parent seminar in Washington. There I met blind adults, students, and parents of blind children. They were people who understood our needs and concerns regarding our blind children's futures.
As I became more involved, I observed these people wanting the same education for children that I wanted for mine: Braille and cane travel at an early age to increase literacy and independence. The basics, yet a necessity that I didn't see some blind children receiving in my community. It wasn't just the system's fault, it was lack of knowledge. I wanted to know what Jonathan needed based on the experience of other blind people, so I could ask for it.
And then I was invited to the national convention. What an experience! At first a little overwhelming. I had never known a blind person (except those recently met). I had to face and accept that I had many misconceptions about blindness and the abilities of blind people. But I quickly threw those notions out!
Never in my life have I been with so many intelligent, well-educated, capable, and articulate people. I have joined other organizations but none with the high quality of leadership, motivation, and dedication of the membership that this one has.
There were many notable speakers within and outside of the organization. It would be unfair to say any one was better than another. However, I listened carefully to each, and they all moved me with what they had to say.
With so much to absorb in one week, the thing that will be my fondest memory is the love and acceptance I received from so many new friends. People willing to listen (no question too ignorant) and to share their experiences. Unafraid to give advice and offer suggestions. People that I laughed with and cried with and who helped me move into new and healthier attitudes about blindness. And to accept that my son is O.K., my expectations for his education are reasonable. He can be anything he wants to be.
Yes, there will be frustrations dealing with ignorance. But there will always be the NFB and the wonderful people in it to support and love him. And who are out there today convincing the world that blind people are worthy of all the dignity and respect a sighted person receives. For that I am relieved and grateful in a way I can't put into words. I can only hope I will be able to give back to the NFB as much as I received in one short week.
I look forward to bringing my husband and children to convention next year. And even more, to rekindling those wonderful friendships I was fortunate enough to start in Kansas City.
God Bless You All, Debbie Hamm, Treasurer
Northwest (NFB) Parents Chapter
IMPRESSIONS OF A NATIONAL CONVENTION RECREATION OR REHABILITATION
by Matt King
(Matt King is a resident of Centralia, Washington. He attends college at Notre Dame University, where he has a double major in electrical engineering and music. Matt was a 1985 NFB scholarship winner and also attended the 1986 convention in Kansas City. In order to receive intensive training in both philosophy and alternative techniques, Matt was a resident student at the Louise Rude Center for Blind Adults in Anchorage, Alaska, during the summer of 1986. He wrote the following article for the Louise Rude Center's newsletter.)
We all know the value of teamwork. It is often said that two people can do as much work as one in one-third of the time. Now, after having attended just two national conventions of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) I know this concept can be extended to a much larger scale: 2,000 people, in eight days, can do what may take eight rehabilitation teachers eight months to accomplish. Eight months of rehabilitation in eight days? Yes, almost, if one considers the purposes--as opposed to purpose--of a training program for the blind to be not only the acquisition of skills of independent living but also the development of a positive attitude toward blindness and the building of self-confidence. With their surprising influence, every year during the week of the fourth of July, the NFB conventions provide an amazing boost in the development of these latter essential aspects of rehabilitation. These conventions have turned around the lives of many blind people, giving them previously undreamed-of fortitude, vigor, and hope to help battle the challenges of life.
Before my first convention I was not blind--or, at least, I did not think so. I was partially sighted, visually impaired, partially blind, or (when necessary) legally blind--anything but blind. Blind people, except for those exceptional few, were those helpless, strange, out-of-touch types who awkwardly got about by tip-tapping their white canes.
As a legally blind person, I took advantage of the services that I felt I needed, such as talking books and rehabilitation funding for school. But I would not have been caught dead with one of those white canes--someone might think I was "blind" (inferior). I felt I was handling my "visual impairment" quite nobly, always operating on the premise that I would not let it keep me from reaching my goals. There was much I did not realize.
To that point in my life the words "National Federation of the Blind" were Greek to me. I had only found them at the top of a scholarship form application, which I had decided to fill out in the spring of 1985. That was one of the wisest decisions I ever made. I was awarded a scholarship, and as part of it the NFB paid my way to the 1985 national convention in Louisville, Kentucky.
I arrived at the Louisville airport on the morning of Saturday, June 29, and followed my usual procedure of asking for someone to assist me in getting my luggage and a cab. As I waited for my assistant, I wondered if I would be this dependent on others for the rest of my life--the image of a fifty-year-old businessman in a three-piece suit being led around like a child did not appeal to me.
At the main entrance to the hotel I was greeted by Peggy Pinder, NFB Scholarship Committee Chairman, who advised me to check into my room and find the Parents Seminar which was in progress. I looked for the desk. Immediately fear and nervousness replaced my excitement and anticipation--the place was too dark for me to get around well. I eventually fumbled my way to the seminar, all the time wondering if the whole week would be this rough. At the lunch break I was relieved when I met some Federationists who eventually helped me through the rest of the day.
As a scholarship winner, I was assigned a mentor for each day of the week--usually a member of the Scholarship Committee, who was to get to know me, introduce me to others, and help me understand the week's activities. On Sunday I met Joyce and Tom Scanlan of Minnesota, who were my mentors for that day. We went to the Resolutions Committee meeting, which always takes place on the first Sunday afternoon of the convention. There I began to see what the NFB is all about as Federation policy was being debated. I never imagined there were so many political and social problems facing the blind. Shocked, I learned of discrimination against the blind that went on in the job market, in sheltered workshops, on the airlines, in public transportation systems, and on and on. That evening in the Student Division meeting I learned of some of the issues facing blind students. A comprehension of the purposes and philosophy of the NFB began seeping into my brain.
Monday my mentor was Steve Benson, a totally blind Chicagoan, who is a member of the Federation's national Board of Directors. We arranged to meet in the elevator lobby and go to breakfast. And meet we did. I nearly ran him over, prompting him to ask me where my cane was. I nervously responded, "I do not have one. . .yet." He remarked that something should be done about that, and we headed for the hotel restaurant.
The waitress asked if we wanted Braille or print menus, and not being able to read either, I declined both. Steve asked if I knew Braille. After learning that I had Braille skills only sufficient to make and read labels in Grade One Braille, he offered to read the menu to me. I made a selection in short order. I had no desire to prolong the agony of being read to by a totally blind person.
Over breakfast we discussed the order of the next two days. The Monday morning session would consist of an open meeting of the national Board of Directors. The Tuesday afternoon session would mostly be devoted to the Presidential Report (analogous to the U.S. President's State of the Union address).
After breakfast it was a fairly long walk through the hotel to the meeting room where all the convention sessions were to be held. Steve is an excellent cane traveler and moved quickly. Initially I was walking beside him, but I soon discovered it was not safe for me to move that rapidly in such dim lighting. So I fell into step behind him. At one point I knew we were approaching some stairs, so I slowed down to make sure I would not stumble, whereas he did not slow down at all. Feeling somewhat embarrassed, I asked him to slow up a bit; he did. When it struck me that I, a person who thought he could see, was finding my way about by following a totally blind person, I was squarely put in my place.
After the morning session Steve introduced me to Sharon Duffy, who is the cane travel teacher at the Chicago Guild for the Blind, which Steve directs. He announced that she would take me over to the exhibit hall, where the NFB was selling canes and help me select one. By this time I was all for it. I had heard of these new NFB "telescoping" canes that I thought would be ideal for me; it would give me the chance to pack up my cane and hide it whenever I felt I did not need it. Once in the exhibit hall Sharon asked my height and handed me a 59-inch "straight" cane. Thinking of how conspicuous this big white thing would be when I returned home, I asked to see one of the new telescoping canes--without voicing my true reasons, of course. She went round and round with me for about fifteen minutes trying to convince me that I should buy a straight cane. It was not until she persuaded me that a telescoping cane stood very little chance of surviving the week, especially in the hands of a neophyte like me, that I decided to purchase both. (At least during the convention I would not be conspicuous since there were probably over a thousand others using them, and when I returned home I could simply put this big white thing in my closet and carry the telescoping one, I thought to myself.) After a three-minute explanation of the basic technique of using a cane I was off and immediately feeling my new freedom.
By Wednesday I had gained a fair amount of confidence and more than regained all of my original excitement and enthusiasm. I was becoming more and more impressed with the Federation: its size, its power to make change, its consistent philosophy, and its spirit. Equally impressive was the convention itself: over 2,000 people were registered; all fifty states and the District of Columbia were represented; there were Congressmen and federal officials there to speak and listen; it was extremely well organized; and it ran very smoothly. Every direction I turned there were competent blind people to be had as role models. Of course, there were also many untrained blind persons, many of whom were feeling the same inspirations as I.
The most inspiring blind person was Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, the leader of the blind of America and then NFB President. Seeing him at work running the convention, hearing him rattle off Brailled announcements as fast as I have ever heard anyone read print, listening to his eloquent and forceful speech--it all made one realize the truth and sincerity of the Federation's philosophy.
On Wednesday noon I was to meet my mentor, Dr. Norman Gardner of Idaho, for lunch. Like Steve Benson, he was also a member of the national Board of Directors. Also like Steve Benson, he was blind. Unlike Steve Benson, he had some usable vision--probably more than I had. Because of this, when he had learned that I had been using a cane for only three days, he apparently knew what many of my inner thoughts were, having had many of the same feelings himself when he first learned to deal with his blindness. He asked me to tell him honestly what I thought I would do with my cane when I returned home. I told him what I had been thinking--hide it whenever I could. He asked what would be wrong with continuing to use my straight cane when I was at home. I made up excuses to try to justify my desire to use the telescoping cane. He asked if the real reason I did not want to carry my straight cane was because I could never hide it and because I was afraid of being thought of as blind. No answer! Would it be demeaning to be thought of as blind? Did I think partially blind people were more fortunate than totally blind people? Did I think sighted people were more fortunate than all blind people? Did I think I was better than a totally blind person? The agony and embarrassment that I had felt earlier in the week flooded my thoughts. He was right, and I knew it. The proof of it was all around me. I had questions and doubts that yet remained to be conquered. However, that was the first day I was ever able to say to myself with comfort and ease, "I am blind. There is nothing wrong with being blind. It is respectable."
Besides being a time of meetings, business, policy making, and philosophy, the convention is a time of friendship and sharing. It has a very warm atmosphere. Throughout the week there is a myriad of social activity teeming with opportunities to meet people. Through the Student Division I met several friends with whom I have spent some very memorable moments. Friday night several of us left a party together and spent the night talking, remembering, wondering, and laughing. Six of us remained in the cool morning air near the fountain. As the water rose and fell, we looked to the east for something else that also rose and fell-- it was the sign of a new beginning, the dawn of a new life, a sunrise which cannot be forgotten.
Now at the Louise Rude Center for Blind Adults in Anchorage, Alaska, I am learning the skills necessary for me to reduce my blindness from a handicap to a mere physical nuisance so that I may live as an equal with my sighted peers. Of course, we spend time not only learning skills but also discussing how one should think about his or her blindness and how one should deal with the only true handicapping force that every competent blind person must face--poor social attitudes based on the very same misconceptions I held myself before the 1985 NFB convention. And, thanks to the efforts of Jim Omvig, I had the opportunity to reinforce my training with a trip to the 1986 NFB national convention. This time, however, I went with a year's experience in cane travel, a year's experience in dealing with the public as a blind person, and a fairly solid background in NFB philosophy. Consequently, the convention was even more helpful and inspiring.
I was better able to draw on the enormous wealth of information and opportunity to learn. There were both old friends to see again and new ones to meet. Most important of all, one leaves the convention with new knowledge, new energy, new motivation, and new hope--all of it unattainable elsewhere--ready to forge through the new challenges of another year. A successful rehabilitation program in only eight days? You bet!
SOMETHING WAS MISSING
FROM THE CONVENTION THIS YEAR
by Mary Main
(This article appeared in the Fall, 1986, Federationist in Connecticut.)
Our national convention in Kansas City this year was one of the best, but for those of us from Connecticut, and for many others, something was missing. Howard and Betty May were not there. It was the first national convention they had missed since the Connecticut affiliate was inaugurated in 1971. They were not able to attend because Howard fell early in March and severely injured his back. He is almost well again, but it has been a slow and painful progress.
Howard E. May was born in Toledo, Ohio. He graduated with a law degree from the University of Toledo. It was at that time that he met Betty and, when he changed his mind about the law, she agreed to become a minister's wife. They went on together to Rochester, New York, and Howard graduated from the Colgate Divinity School in 1947. His first church was in Hubbard, Ohio, but in 1950 he was assigned to a ministry in Cordova, Alaska. In 1957 he and Betty came to West Wilington, where they still live.
Howard became blind in 1971--a by- product of diabetes--but blindness did nothing to decrease his activities. Not only did he continue as minister of the Confederated Church of West Wilington until 1977, but he became President of the Connecticut affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind when it was organized in 1971 and continued as its President for the next twelve years. He has been extremely active both in civic affairs and in the National Federation of the Blind. He was on our National Board of Executors and was Chairman of our National Scholarship Committee until recently. He is still on the committee of the Board of Education and Services for the Blind. He is on the board of the Connecticut Radio Information Service and on the board of the Connecticut Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. He is a director of the Sweeny Center for Senior Citizens in West Wilington and is on the West Wilington Board of Education. He is living proof that blindness need not mean an end to an active and productive life.
It is impossible to speak of Howard without thinking of Betty, who has been his loyal and devoted partner for over forty years. There can hardly be one of us who has not taken advantage of her unobtrusive helpfulness. At NFB meetings she has quietly taken a back seat ready to drive someone to the station, and only occasionally slipping away to do some painting on her own. Howard and Betty have four grown children, three of whom are adopted; one of these is an Aleut, another an Eskimo, and the third of Oriental extraction. They have two small grandchildren, Robert and Lisa. Betty, who had to postpone getting her degree in Education until she came to Connecticut, taught kindergarten in the West Wilington public school system until this year.
We missed Howard and Betty at the convention.
As the problems have multiplied and the tensions have mounted during the past few years concerning discrimination against the blind in air travel, it has become increasingly clear that a solution must be found. It has become equally clear that the federal Department of Transportation must play a key part in that solution.
Under date of August 22, 1986, the Department of Transportation placed a notice in the Federal Register (see Braille Monitor for October, 1986) requesting comments on a number of issues affecting air travel by the blind. The closing date for the submission of comments was November 20, 1986, and something over 500 written responses were received. In addition, DOT officials had a veritable avalanche of telephone calls. Overwhelmingly the letters and phone calls came from blind persons who had either been the victims of discrimination by airline personnel or who had knowledge of such discrimination.
Since we are a law-abiding organization, the National Federation of the Blind followed the rules which DOT had prescribed for the submission of comments. Our response was hand carried to DOT's office on the afternoon of November 20, 1986. The Air Transport Association (the body which represents the major airline carriers of the nation) sent one of its officials to the DOT office at 5:00 on the same afternoon. Since the Air Transport Association official handed in a paper, we assumed that it was the ATA response. However, past airline shenanigans should have warned us that there would be an attempt at trickery.
Apparently the ATA representative was simply submitting a letter saying that the airlines would be commenting at a later date. DOT records show that the ATA comments were received on November 26, 1986--six days after the officially announced deadline. This gave the airlines time to study our documentation to see whether they could refute it. Their comments are the usual ineffective, sanctimonious double-talk about "safety ," but the ethics of the situation are not changed by their inability to make a good showing. Under date of December 4, 1986, the NFB sent a letter to Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Dole to protest the conduct of the airlines, as well as the behavior of the DOT officials who allowed it to happen:
Baltimore, Maryland December 4, 1986
The Honorable Elizabeth H. Dole Secretary of Transportation
United States Department of Transportation
Dear Secretary Dole:
This concerns your Department's actions on the administrative record pertaining to air transportation by blind persons. (See DOT Notice 86-7, Docket No. 56e.) For the reasons set forth below, we regard this as an extremely serious matter and intend to take whatever actions may be necessary to obtain a proper administrative or legal remedy.
We have evidence to show that the administrative due process rights of this organization, our members, and other commenters were violated by responsible DOT personnel. The evidence specifically shows that one or more commenters were privately granted extensions of time beyond the 90-day published comment period. The Air Transport Association of America (ATA) was one of those who received a privately arranged extension. ATA's comment is now placed in the record, although the document was not prepared or delivered to DOT until 6 days after the publicly announced closing date.
According to your notice 86-7, comments were due on or before November 20, 1986. The National Federation of the Blind and 500 or so other commenters (including a few airlines) complied with this requirement. In the case of the National Federation of the Blind, our substantial comment, consisting of some 300 pages (tabbed and indexed) was received by the DOT docket clerk at 2:40 P.M. on November 20. Thus, we complied with the rules, and ATA did not.
The extra time given to ATA in filing its comment was only for the purpose of favoring that group and its commercial airline industry members. Why else would an ATA staff member have been sent to the docket room to obtain copies of our comment late on the afternoon of November 20? ATA should have been filing its own comment at that time as we had done. But instead, the private request for an extension was honored. We did not receive any notice that an extension of the comment period had been granted. At the very least, this form of blatant favoritism shown to the industry and against the consumers is intentionally prejudicial and a gross transgression of fairness.
The issues identified in notice 86-7 raise very serious matters of civil rights and public policy pertaining to air travel by blind persons. Arrests of blind persons aboard commercial airplanes are now commonplace and universally expected by blind air travellers. Yet, the blind who have been seized by the authorities (and in some cases physically abused) have not violated any law, federal or otherwise. These facts are widely known among the blind. Just like any other group of self-respecting citizens, blind people will not stand idly by when airlines or law enforcement officers violate our civil rights and act without proper legal authority in doing so.
The responsible officials of your Department are fully aware of the sensitive issues involved here. In fact, airline personnel often make the government (DOT and FAA) the scapegoat for making unlawful demands upon blind passengers. In view of this, your Department's credibility is seriously jeopardized by the obvious favoritism your officials have shown to the airline industry in this instance. Even those among us who have wanted to trust DOT (at least to the point of fairness) have now lost faith. It now seems clear that DOT intends to side with the airlines and not with the blind whenever differences exist and a decision must be made. In dealing with DOT, we now feel that we are punished and placed at an unfair disadvantage for playing by the rules, while the airlines are rewarded for disregarding them.
Under these circumstances, our choice is either to ignore the prejudice and unfairness shown to us by DOT officials or to protest publicly with all the press and political intervention we can muster. That will not be necessary if you decide to exclude from the administrative record all comments dated after November 20, 1986. It is recognized that some comments may have been prepared and mailed to DOT on or before November 20 but not received until a few days after November 20. There is no unfairness to anyone in accepting such comments. The unfairness with respect to accepting ATA's comment arises from DOT's knowledge that the comment of ATA would deliberately be prepared and submitted after the November 20 closing date. This unfairly allowed ATA to review and respond to the comments of those who filed on or before the closing date.
Excluding any comments deliberately prepared and filed late would actually be fair to everyone. Different options for resolving this unfairness might have been available if advanced public notice of the extension had been given. Since it was not, anything prepared by the commenter and received by DOT after the closing date should be excluded.
Even with excluding its comments from the present record, there is no doubt that ATA and other late filers will have ample future opportunities to make their views known during a rule making proceeding soon to be held under Public Law 99-435, the Air Carrier Access Act. Meanwhile, in advance of that proceeding, DOT's prime concern should be to establish credibility. That can only be done with fairness to everyone by excluding comments prepared and filed late. If this is not done, blind people will perceive DOT as hopelessly biased toward the industry and against the blind. We could not control such an outcome or avoid its consequences.
The airline practices that are presently under discussion raise issues that are known to be volatile. Any conduct which aggravates the situation (such as a plain showing of government bias) must be rectified. Mistrust of government officials and processes can easily encourage uncontrollable, hostile confrontations between blind passengers and airline personnel. Therefore, we are asking you to remedy this condition as soon as possible. A response to indicate your intentions will be appreciated.
Very truly yours, James Gashel
Director of Governmental Affairs National Federation of
We now await Secretary Dole's response to our letter to see whether the Department of Transportation will behave in an even-handed, objective manner or simply line up with the air carriers, who have money and influence. We hope that Secretary Dole will be as incensed as we are at what has occurred. It goes without saying that we will bring this matter to the attention of the members of Congress and the public. In the meantime here are the comments which we submitted to the Department of Transportation on November 20, 1986:
Baltimore, Maryland November 20, 1986
Docket Clerk, Docket 56e Department of Transportation, 400 7th
Street, S.W., Rm. 4107 Washington, D.C. 20590
Dear Docket Clerk:
Please find enclosed for filing the comments of the National Federation of the Blind, prepared and submitted in response to notice 86-7 published in the Federal Register of August 22, 1986, 51 FR 30078-30080.
We appreciate the opportunity to submit this response to DOT's notice requesting information on a series of issues and questions concerning air travel by blind persons. We are mindful that the matters of interest to DOT in the instant notice also fall within the considerations that must be made during promulgation of new regulations to implement Public Law 99-435, the Air Carrier Access Act. The attached comments, submitted to respond to the questions posed in the notice, have also been prepared to assist DOT in the now legally required development of a federal nondiscrimination policy for travel by blind persons and others with disabilities on airlines. Accordingly, the Department is urged to consider these comments during administrative development of new nondiscrimination regulations.
Very truly yours, Marc Maurer, President
National Federation of the Blind
COMMENTS OF THE
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY NOTICE 86-7
REQUESTING INFORMATION CONCERNING
BY BLIND PERSONS
Statement of Interest--Experience
The National Federation of the Blind is the only major nationwide organized consumer voice for blind persons in air travel. Organizationally the Federation has a national membership of more than 50,000 persons, the vast majority of whom are blind. Local units, called chapters, of the Federation exist in most sizable population areas in the United States. There is a state affiliate of the Federation in each of the fifty states and the District of Columbia. Policies of the Federation are developed and adopted by vote of the blind. Therefore, we serve as the principal vehicle for self-expression by the nation's blind.
Air transportation issues have been dominant concerns among the blind for several years. Integration of blind persons into all areas of social and economic life in this country has made domestic and international travel the commonplace experience of ever-growing numbers of blind people. This trend will continue as opportunities for personal independence increase for blind persons who want nothing less than full integration. This is the modern day goal of the blind. It is supported by national policy declarations and by state and national statutes. As a result, air travel is now as much an essential service for the blind as it is for the nonblind.
Yet, problems in air travel for blind persons have reached epidemic proportion. It is not an exaggeration to say that a crisis atmosphere surrounds the series of issues identified in notice 86-7. The National Federation of the Blind is at the center of this matter to assure that policy-makers and airline personnel understand both the needs and concerns of the blind. The information we will provide in this comment is based on our analysis of the extensive, first- hand experiences of blind persons in using the services of commercial airlines. The attached exhibits (some of which are referred to in the text of this comment) underscore the widespread, serious nature of air travel problems for the blind and the Federation's strong policy commitment to pursue workable solutions.
Previously, as we do now, we have represented the interests of the blind in other relevant proceedings before the Department of Transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Civil Aeronautics Board, and the federal courts. Thus, our involvement with and experience concerning these issues is firsthand and substantial.
Air transportation for blind persons should not be a matter of controversy. The issues identified in notice 86-7 have come to light only in the last few years (since about 1977) as airlines have instituted procedures for transporting persons believed to be "handicapped." The procedures result from the federal government's first attempt to require airlines to transport persons that some airlines had refused to carry because of their particular disabilities. The regulation authorizing the procedures is 14 CFR Section 121.586.
This regulation was intended to make air transportation more available to persons who were facing denials of service and other difficulties in the normal use of airlines. However, no airline was denying service to blind persons, and there was not a discernible industry pattern of discriminatory conduct toward the blind. A federal mandate for special airline procedures to assure air transportation for the blind was unwarranted. Service denials only occurred very infrequently and were corrected or disavowed by written company policies in all but the rarest of cases.
Nonetheless, Section 121.586 and an accompanying Advisory Circular (120-32) provide a strong federal stimulus for airlines to have procedures that apply to passengers (such as the blind) who have had few or no previous problems in using air transportation. In that respect Section 121.586 oversteps the boundaries of a desirable or necessary federal regulation. The procedures of most airlines have actually made air transportation more difficult for blind persons than it was prior to their existence.
Customer service (not the following of procedures) was once the most apparent goal of the majority of the airlines in their treatment of blind passengers. Sensible and sensitive responses to individually expressed passenger needs were left to the discretion of flight crews and ground personnel. But the advent of the Section 121.586 procedures brought on an "image of the handicapped" which became a controlling factor in the behavior of the policy writers of the airlines. If the particular passenger is more able than the procedures envision, there will be tension.
In order to catch everyone in a kind of "melting pot" concept of the "handicapped" the procedures are typically designed to force everyone into a mold of being very dependent and very incompetent. But anyone who is not dependent or incompetent will resist or be forced to endure the personal indignities of demeaning treatment. The fact that the demeaning procedures are applied in public (with other passengers as witnesses) increases the humiliation, the tension, and the very real possibility of open confrontation.
This is precisely the situation in air travel for blind persons created by the Section 121.586 procedures of the airlines. Therefore, the problem which blind consumers and federal regulators now face is how best to correct an increasingly tension-charged and possibly explosive situation. No matter the posture of the federal government or the airlines, blind people (by numbers that are large enough to constitute what most courts would identify as a class) will not be forced or bullied into the convenient mold of a "model handicapped person." Applying such a concept to the able-bodied blind who are not handicapped for purposes of air transportation forces many people to use the airlines under conditions and standards which (as a matter of principle) they are unwilling to accept and which (as a matter of plain fact) they do not need.
The Safety Issue
Safety reasons are alleged by most airlines in imposing their special rules on the blind. The restrictions include the typical practices identified in notice 86-7, such as required pre- boarding, seating restrictions, special briefings, and discriminatory evacuation instructions with a required "last out" policy in some instances.
Officers and staff of the National Federation of the Blind have participated in high-level meetings with policy-makers and safety experts from several large and some small airlines, the major trade associations representing airlines, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Department of Transportation. Meetings such as these have been held over a period of time spanning several years. Yet, in none of these meetings or any of the less formal contacts, has any evidence been produced by the industry or the government that a safety risk exists in any respect in transporting blind persons on airlines. However, we have heard a great deal of speculation and supposition that a safety risk may exist.
The posture of the federal government through its regulations and enforcement procedures should be to assure that blind persons are not the victims of a "safety hoax." Indeed, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)--the government's authority on airline safety--has determined that, for purposes of safety, blind passengers need not be excluded from seat assignments in over-wing emergency exit rows. Thus, FAA will accept from an airline the Section 121.586 procedures which do not include emergency exit row restrictions for the blind. If a safety problem actually existed in this circumstance, it would be the FAA's acknowledged statutory responsibility to establish an industry-wide safety standard and require its enforcement. The failure of FAA to do so should be understood to be exactly what it is--FAA's conscious decision that exit row restrictions for the blind are not necessary for safe air travel.
In fact, it is not necessary to speculate on this matter. In the 1970's the FAA considered and rejected a rule which would have prohibited blind persons from sitting in exit rows. This action speaks eloquently.
Despite the safety reasons that airlines give for their restrictions, their policies are actually a matter of prejudice, not safety. Excluding any blind person from any exit row seat on any flight has no known relationship to improving airline safety in the slightest degree. However, allowing the serving of alcoholic beverages to exit row seat occupants (or failing to screen them for alcohol or drug content prior to boarding) has a known, provable negative effect on airline safety. The problem of such exclusions or testing in advance would be a severe public relations one, so the airlines and the government duck the issue while the safety of all passengers is knowingly compromised by the action.
Safe travel for everyone on airlines would not be compromised in the slightest if all restrictions imposed on the blind by every airline now having them were lifted. But, again, the airlines appear to feel that no public relations or corporate image problem is posed by placing restrictions on the blind. In fact, they can make a public relations plus by such restrictions.
Airlines want to have their employees seen by others as "caring for the blind who are traveling." Also, there is the almost instinctive but erroneous fear that the blind person unassisted will do something wrong every time and be injured, or injure others. Unfounded (and usually unspoken) worries about corporate liability if the blind are "neglected" or unsupervised in moving and functioning unaided are also doubtless involved. Feelings of superiority and status on the part of airline officials and employees are also involved.
Attitudes of custodialism, such as these toward the blind as a class, are commonly displayed in almost all forms of social contact involving interaction between the blind and sighted persons unfamiliar with the blind. But the environment of commercial aviation seems to call forth the apparently irresistible urge to exhibit unwarranted custodialism toward every blind person who flies, with "safety" as the stated reason.
Thus, to insure fair treatment of the blind in air travel, federal regulation of the airline industry must be grounded in common sense based on knowledge and must also take into account the widespread prejudice about blindness which, in the case of the airlines, parades itself in the guise of "safety" to give acceptance and respectability.
Unveiling the "safety hoax" and prohibiting its use would be a proper and effective regulatory posture for the federal government to adopt. In addition, the safety interests of blind persons must also be preserved and protected by the airlines and the federal regulators. Restrictions which predictably diminish prospects for safe air travel by the blind must be removed. Seating limits and "last-off" policies are examples. These and some other policies actually pose safety risks for the blind, while not removing any risk for other passengers or improving airline safety generally. In short, federal regulations should assure that air travel for blind persons is not made less safe by the "safety hoax."
Should the Department Take Regulatory Action?
Public Law 99-435, approved October 3, 1986, has already determined what the Department's response must be to this question. The statute requires implementing regulations. So the real question now becomes, how should the regulations address the issues posed in notice 86-7?
Federal regulation of airline practices pertaining to blind persons has been notably harmful to the interests of blind travelers and to the interests of commercial aviation. Similar results should be avoided in the present instance. Based on past experiences, blind people have become apprehensive about the federal government's motives, capabilities, and desires in dealing with the airline issues that confront us. A case in point is the present instance. Many blind people, assuming that the government and the airlines are in cahoots, have greeted notice 86-7 not as something positive but as a threat. One hopes that such is not, in fact, the case.
Resolving the issues identified in notice 86-7 will require very specific regulatory action to be taken in the context of implementing Public Law 99- 435. In a previous instance regulatory action was found necessary by the FAA to correct airline procedures that did not permit flexible travel canes to be stowed near their blind users. That regulation (14 CFR Section 121.589(e)) has proven generally to be effective. But even that regulation merely corrected a situation that arose from misdirected and ill-planned federal involvement in the first place. Correcting discrimination against the blind on airlines must in part be aimed at correcting other failures of past federal involvement.
Advisory Circular 120-32 Should be Withdrawn
Advisory Circular 120-32 was issued by the FAA in 1977 as an alternative to a regulation more specific than Section 121.586, but the Advisory Circular is full of material which oversteps the FAA's scope of knowledge and responsibility--to assure and regulate safe air travel. In general the Advisory Circular amounts mostly to public relations information that FAA thought airlines might want to have in relating sensitively to the handicapped. Properly understood, according to staff of the FAA, the Advisory Circular does not make safety mandates. Only the Federal Aviation Regulations can do that. Therefore, there is no real usefulness that the Advisory Circular has for improving airline safety. It is not the FAA's responsibility (nor does it have the expertise) to tell the airlines how to provide courteous treatment to the blind, and the Advisory Circular reflects the fact that the FAA is out of its depth in this area.
Moreover, the Advisory Circular creates confusion as to the actual direction of federal policy. For instance, the Federal Aviation Regulations do not contain seating restrictions that apply to blind passengers. However, the Advisory Circular does recommend a particular type of limit. Airlines, not wanting to run afoul of what they take to be an FAA preference on this matter, generally include the Advisory Circular's recommended limitation in their procedures.
But the FAA's regulatory position says there is no preference for seating restrictions. FAA's staff members say they accept procedures without limits because they do not regard the seating restrictions as necessary in the interest of safety. So the Advisory Circular and the federal regulations, working in tandem, are inconsistent and confusing. It appears that the government wants everyone to be happy with its policies, but the opposite effect is achieved.
The federal policy position currently being pursued by DOT was recently unveiled for us in a combined response to three complaints filed under 14 CFR Part 382 (see exhibits 1, 2, and 3). The letter describing the position of DOT (see exhibit 4) says that exit row seating limits will be upheld, consistent with Advisory Circular 120-32. Yet, the same letter acknowledges that FAA's safety regulations do not contain such limits.
The government's policies and decisions to enforce or not to enforce consumer rights should flow from federal regulations, not from "advice." Doing it the other way around only makes the Advisory Circular a federal regulation, which it is not. This confusion is unfair, deceiving, and inconsistent with Public Law 99-435. Therefore, Advisory Circular 120-32 should be withdrawn.
(Authority to Refuse Transportation)
Should Be Repealed
Public Law 99-435 is the single, operative statutory provision governing specific issues of air travel by blind persons. This is the clearest and strongest statutory mandate that the government has ever had to act against discriminatory airline conduct of the type identified in notice 86-7. Sections 121.586 (Authority to Refuse Transportation) and 121.571(a)(3) (Special Briefings) now take a direction and emphasis that are inconsistent with the statutory mandate that airlines must not discriminate. These Sections attempted to strike a balance between demands of some handicapped passengers for air travel (which was being denied to them) and the inability or unwillingness of some airlines to accede to the service demands of these people.
Now, Congress has intervened, and the President has concurred. Air transportation cannot be denied on the basis of handicap. Furthermore, air transportation must be provided in a nondiscriminatory manner. Nondiscrimination was not the avowed purpose of Sections 121.586 and 121.571(a)(3). In fact, the specific application of these sections has often resulted in discriminatory acts by airlines, rather than preventing them.
Therefore, in light of the statute now to be implemented, the interests of everyone would best be served by the government's adopting a single regulatory stance. Preserving these now outmoded Sections would only serve to continue confusion by airlines and consumers about the government's nondiscrimination policy. The Congressional mandate for regulations was clearly made with the expectation that existing confusion over the federal policy about discrimination by the airlines based on handicap must be resolved.
Recommendations For The Federal Nondiscrimination Policy
The nondiscrimination policy that should apply to blind persons in air travel must begin with a series of basic principles: Blindness poses no actual physical barrier to using air travel. Blind people are neither necessarily less able nor necessarily more able than other passengers. As with other passengers, the presumption should be that a blind passenger is as able as anyone else, unless there is compelling evidence to show the contrary. Angry and emotional demands made by airline personnel will not be greeted with submissive acceptance by blind travelers, especially when the demands falsely require a blind passenger to be more dependent than the facts indicate. Blind people are demeaned by custodial approaches. We will not meekly submit to practices which presuppose our helplessness and dependence and require us to behave and be treated accordingly.
An accurate, acceptable nondiscrimination policy will have to be built on recognition by sighted people that blind people know the nature and extent of the limitations that blindness presents.
Conduct toward the blind based on inaccurate and overblown negative assessments of the limitations of blindness is the most common form and cause of discrimination against the blind. Blind people are capable of determining their own needs and articulating them to airline personnel. If the needs of any particular blind person are interpreted and expressed for that person by airline personnel, it is most likely that the actions of airline personnel will be inappropriate. More important, if the blind are denied the right to make decisions about their conduct which other members of society are allowed to make as a matter of right, the blind are denied the freedom which other citizens possess. Such denials will be resisted by the blind with increasing vigor and determination.
Consistent with these principles, the nondiscrimination policy should be that airlines cannot subject blind passengers to required procedures or limits that are separate or different from the procedures or limits that apply alike to the blind and nonblind who travel by air. If any separate or different form of treatment or limit is to be allowed, the blind community must be convinced of the relevance of and compelling necessity for such treatment. We know of no such relevance or compelling necessity.
The nondiscrimination policy just expressed should be the starting point and touchstone for all airline practices toward the blind. Special assistance to meet individual needs is specifically not prohibited. In this respect the airlines need not overreact by having a stand-offish approach toward the blind.
Service to the customer, looked at as an individual, is the most desirable goal. Under this guideline it is not an act of discrimination to offer to give assistance to a blind passenger even though the offer may not normally be made to a nonblind passenger; but it is an act of discrimination to insist that the assistance be accepted. Nondiscrimination should only enhance customer service. It should not prevent it or make more rigid the interaction between airline personnel and blind travelers.
This nondiscrimination policy should be translated into regulatory language which preserves as much simplicity as possible. Avoiding discrimination based on blindness is not complex. There should not be mandatory limits that are placed on the blind to any greater extent than there are mandatory limits placed on the nonblind. Just as the airlines do in dealing with most sighted passengers, there should be a presumption that the blind passenger is capable. The general rule should be this: When in doubt about assistance, ask the blind passenger.
Unaccompanied Blind Passengers
The specific questions in notice 86-7 follow an implicit assumption that the circumstances might be different if a blind person is "accompanied" as opposed to "unaccompanied." That assumption is unwarranted. An unaccompanied blind passenger should not be a suspect individual to any greater extent than an unaccompanied sighted passenger would be. There is no automatic aura of competence that surrounds an accompanied blind passenger, nor should there be an automatic aura of suspicion surrounding an unaccompanied blind person. Furthermore, when a blind passenger is traveling with a sighted companion or colleague, it does not mean that the blind passenger is being cared for in the sense that the term "accompanied" is being used. Perhaps it is the sighted passenger (not the blind passenger) who is "accompanied" or being cared for--not an uncommon experience. It is demeaning and discriminatory to approach an adult blind passenger with the question, "Is someone with you?" If the passenger were adult and sighted (and apparently of normal intelligence) the question would not be asked. And if asked, it would be an insult. So it is with the blind.
From the standpoint of nondiscrimination, it should make no difference at all if a blind passenger is accompanied or unaccompanied. The assumption that it does make a difference is merely an unacknowledged impression that the blind are better off if they are cared for by the sighted. It also expresses the belief that blind people traveling alone are likely to be at greater risk than they would be if someone were watching over them. At the bottom line, the Department of Transportation must accept the fact that the blind as a class are generally as competent to travel as any other randomly selected class of passengers.
The foregoing comments have already touched on most of the specific issues and questions posed in notice 86-7. Shorter responses will therefore be given to each issue to provide increased clarity on our position while avoiding repetition.
(1) Pre-Boarding. The nondiscrimination policy on pre-boarding of blind passengers should be "passenger discretion." Pre-boarding may be offered as an option, but not required. Information as to the boarding method-- jetway or not--may be given. The passenger can then choose to accept or not to accept the pre-boarding invitation. There is absolutely no basis for any approach other than an invitation, stating that pre-boarding is allowed if desired.
(2) Deplaning. The non- discrimination policy on deplaning of blind passengers should be the same as that for pre-boarding--"passenger discretion." In addition, the blind passenger must have the choice of declining or receiving assistance to connecting flights, baggage claim, or getting ground transportation. The very existence of holding rooms (such as the one operated by United in Chicago) or special handicapped lounges is segregating and discriminatory. It is also an act of discrimination for passenger service personnel to take custody of a blind passenger's ticket for any reason other than normal preflight check-in, processing a lost baggage claim, or other uses ordinarily expected by any airline passenger. Ticket taking infringes upon passenger freedom and discretion to move independently beyond the range of the watchful eye and control of airline personnel.
(3) Emergency Evacuation. The nondiscrimination policy for blind persons in emergency evacuations should be "no limits." "Last off" instructions are plainly discriminatory. Blind passengers who feel they need special assistance can be expected to ask seatmates or flight crew members. Obtaining the assistance of other persons to the extent it is needed is a procedure that the blind understand for themselves. Blind people are experienced with blindness and any needs it may present to them as individuals. Therefore, the mandatory practice of assigning other passengers as "buddies" for blind passengers needlessly singles out the blind. This practice is discriminatory.
(4) Seating of blind persons with dog guides. The nondiscrimination policy for seating blind passengers with dog guides should be "passenger discretion." Such discretion is now the policy of most airlines. However, carriers sometimes express a preference for seating blind passengers with dog guides in bulkhead rows and in window seats if possible. The remaining seat or seats nearest the blind passenger are then normally blocked off. The dog guide occupies the space in front of the other seat or seats where another passenger's feet would have to go. Bulkhead seating in this manner is segregating. Most dog users have no difficulty in placing their dogs safely and acceptably in other seat locations.
Bulkhead seating requirements are, therefore, inconsistent with the needs and experience of most dog guide users. Also, safety concerns are not posed when dogs are properly stowed at other seat locations. Therefore, the seating limitations for blind persons with dog guides are discriminatory.
(5) Seats near emergency exits. The nondiscrimination policy for seating of blind persons near emergency exits should be, "If the choice of an exit row seat randomly arises, the option to accept or decline this seating is offered, and the blind passenger's decision will be honored." All passengers (blind or nonblind) assigned to seats near emergency exits should be told of their responsibilities and given the option of alternative seating. It is prejudical for an airline to assume that the characteristic of blindness necessarily presents any risk other than the normal risk of seating any passenger in an emergency exit row. Airlines admittedly have no knowledge of or ability to assess the risk of other passengers who might be assigned to exit row seats. The assumption is that the risk (whatever it is) can be tolerated. Making any other assumption in the case of blind people is unwarranted and discriminatory.
In April, 1985, the National Federation of the Blind conducted a planned, practice evacuation in cooperation with World Airways.
It involved evacuating a DC-10 aircraft parked at the BWI Airport near Baltimore. The passenger load consisted of thirty individuals--ten were sighted, and twenty were blind. Members of a World Airways flight crew were also on board. Evacuees were selected from blind and sighted persons living in the Baltimore- Washington area. Several potential evacuees were rejected, although they were sighted. By appearance, these individuals would pass for having normal health. However, each of them had known (but hidden) physical conditions that made participation in such an evacuation impossible. They certainly would have been good candidates for exit row seat assignments, not being blind and with no other apparent limitations.
The evacuation showed that there was no difference in time taken by blind persons and sighted persons. It also showed that flight crew members were excessively apprehensive and in some instances blocked the passenger flow toward the exit slide. None of the observers (people unfamiliar with the passengers evacuating) could tell who was blind and who was sighted. We know of no other such evacuation which has actually used blind persons. Moreover, a request we made to the National Transportation Safety Board for any data on blind persons involved in airline evacuations yielded the response that there is no such data available. We conclude, therefore, that there is no factual basis for a greater risk presumption if existing restrictions on blind people sitting in exit rows are lifted.
Passengers who are not blind are also not subject to a risk test before their assignment to emergency exit row seats. As stated above, airlines generally acknowledge that they have no assurance of a passenger's ability to act appropriately if seated near an emergency exit or responsibly to help in an evacuation. But the assumption is made that blind people will always be less able than sighted people. There is no more basis for that conclusion than to hold that short people will always be faster than tall people or that men will be more able than women and more cool- headed when seated near emergency exits. Should women, age fifty to sixty, be seated in emergency exit rows when there are men, age twenty to thirty, who could be moved to those seats? That is a fair question if the blind are to be singled out and required to move when sighted people are available to replace them. There would be riots on the airplanes if fifty-year-old women had to be moved for younger men--even, incidentally, if safety data showed that such a policy was indicated.
There is very little question that it would be safer not to serve anyone an alcoholic beverage during any flight. But the airlines would not want to suffer the severe economic consequences of flying dry. Short of that, it would certainly be better not to serve drinks to persons (blind or sighted) in exit rows. Unlike the case of excluding the blind from these seats, evidence can easily be assembled to prove a safety risk if liquor is served to exit row occupants. Yet, liquor is routinely sold in unlimited quantity to such occupants, airline denials to the contrary notwithstanding. Therefore, singling out the blind for an "increased risk test" when known risks exist by virtue of other allowed practices is patently unfair and discriminatory.
(6) Pre-flight and in-flight briefings. The nondiscrimination policy for briefing blind passengers should be, "Information beyond the normal briefings is offered, and the blind passenger's wish for such additional help (or expressed lack of need for it) is respected." The content of the normal public briefing has been judged sufficient by the FAA. There is no reason to think that it is not just as sufficient for blind passengers as sighted passengers. It is not necessarily discriminatory to offer additional information, but it is discriminatory to ignore the blind passenger's lack of need for this help while insisting on "hands-on procedures," like it or not. Discriminatory briefing practices can best be avoided by asking the blind passenger if more information than the normal briefing is desired.
(7) Emergency information. The spoken word is normally the best, most universal form of communication. Spoken instructions can also be modified instantly to relate to particular circumstances. Braille briefing booklets are certainly appropriate but need not be required as a matter of nondiscrimination policy. If the booklets are available, they should not contain discriminatory instructions, such as, "Wait until others leave, and a flight crew member will help you." Natural, spoken communication is generally the best policy.
(8) Personnel Training. The provision and extent of personnel training should be a discretionary matter with the airlines. Compliance with the various elements of a nondiscrimination policy will obviously require airlines to give information to their employees. How this is done may properly differ from one airline to another. However, the proper role for the federal government is to state a reasonable and clear nondiscrimination policy and then to enforce it. Complying is the responsibility of the airlines.
(9) Notification. The nondiscrimination policy for prior notice of intent to travel by blind persons should be, "No notice is required." Blindness is not a condition that necessitates special handling procedures, equipment, or personnel. If assistance is desired, arrangements for the help are (without exception) immediately available. The more common complaint of blind persons is that too much assistance is immediately available, even when no notice is given and the help is not needed. A blind passenger is not an "exceptional passenger" or a "special passenger" any more than any other passenger is "exceptional" or "special." Therefore, a notice requirement under any conditions is unwarranted in the case of the blind.
(10) No special procedures. The nondiscrimination policy for blind persons on airlines should be, "No separate or different treatment is required unless approved in advance by the FAA." The FAA's approval would have to be based on the determination of a safety risk greater than that posed by other airline practices. Moreover, the FAA's determination would have to be a formal finding, supported by substantial, factual evidence and expressed in a Federal Aviation (safety) Regulation. This policy would not ban special procedures for blind persons requesting assistance, as with any other passenger asking for help. It is not our position that special procedures must be prohibited, only that their acceptance by the blind passenger must be voluntary.
As for the safety and service implications of such a policy, in all of the recorded history of air travel (prior to the special procedures authorized by the FAA), blind people generally had very little difficulty in dealing with the airlines. Services (even special ones) were provided voluntarily and cheerfully by the airlines. It did not take a government requirement to get the airlines to serve the blind. Our money spends to the same extent as the fares paid by sighted customers. A return to the pre-procedure days (surrounded by a modern, enlightened nondiscrimination policy) would, therefore, be the most desirable outcome of the present consideration.
SENATOR GRASSLEY WRITES
A LETTER ABOUT AIRLINE DISCRIMINATION
Senator Charles Grassley (Republican from Iowa) has been a champion of the rights of the blind to have first-class treatment and equal status in society. He has been particularly active in attempting to help solve the problems which the blind have had with the airlines. Under date of September 22, 1986, he wrote to the Docket Clerk of the Department of Transportation as follows:
Dear Docket Clerk: I appreciate the opportunity to comment on airline practices and procedures affecting the travel of blind passengers.
I am not in a position to make judgments on technical airline safety issues; however, I would like to comment on the general framework that DOT should use to determine which airline procedures are appropriate. The Senate and House of Representatives have both approved legislation, S. 2703, which prohibits discrimination against handicapped travellers. During the debate on this bill in the Senate I had a colloquy with Senator Dole and Senator Metzenbaum in which we discussed this issue in greater detail.
One of the points that we emphasized in our discussion was that DOT should carefully review every restriction that the airlines place on blind passengers and if these restrictions cannot be justified in the name of safety, they shouldn't be allowed. It is not enough for the airlines to demonstrate only that their restrictions don't pose a threat to the safety of blind passengers. The burden of proof should be upon the airlines to demonstrate that any policies that single out blind or handicapped passengers for special treatment are necessary in the interest of safety.
The second point that we emphasized was that different disabilities impose different limitations on air travellers. It is not our intention that DOT force the airlines to adopt policies that are identical for all handicapped travellers, but rather that the airlines take into account varying abilities to use air transportation. My constituents who are blind have argued persuasively to me that they are able to use air transportation in the same manner as all other travellers who are not handicapped. On the other hand, individuals with different disabilities may need assistance. The nondiscrimination policy in S. 2703 is intended to ensure that every air traveller is treated in a manner appropriate to his or her abilities.
I would encourage DOT to take regulatory action to see that the airlines abide by both the letter and the spirit of S. 2703.
Sincerely, Charles E. Grassley
MIKE HINGSON AND PACIFIC SOUTHWEST AIRLINES REACH OUT-OF-COURT SETTLEMENT
As Federationists know (see Braille Monitor, September, 1981) Mike Hingson's lawsuit against Pacific Southwest Airlines has been long and hard fought. Early in October of 1986 an out-of-court settlement was reached on favorable terms to Hingson and the blind. There was an undisclosed cash payment to Hingson and an agreement that PSA would enter into negotiations concerning their rules affecting the blind.
One would have thought this would have been the end of the matter--but not so. Almost before the newspapers had time to report that a settlement had been reached, Pacific Southwest Airlines went back to court to claim that Hingson was in contempt for disclosing terms of the settlement in violation of the agreement. The judge dismissed their claim. Again, one would have thought that would have ended it--but back to court went PSA, claiming that they had unearthed new evidence that Hingson had said something to somebody and was, therefore, in contempt of court.
At the time of this writing (December of 1986) the court has not ruled on the second contempt claim, but it seems likely that the court will recognize PSA's action for what it is--petty spite because they did not win in the original case and an attempt at harassment.
The airline battle drags on, but there are signs of progress. Here is the article which was widely carried throughout California under date of October 4, 1986:
PSA Settles Blind Man's $1 Million Suit
A blind man who sued Pacific Southwest Airlines for $1 million after he and his guide dog were forced off an airliner in a seating dispute has settled out of court for an undisclosed sum, officials said Friday.
Michael Hingson, 36, and San Diego- based PSA reached agreement before U.S. District Judge Francis Whelan on Thursday, settling a six-year legal battle over charges of physical abuse and discrimination against the blind.
"It is a victory for blind people and we certainly think this is a landmark case," Sharon Gold, President of the nonprofit National Federation of the Blind in California, said from Sacramento.
The suit charged that Hingson was denied his right to join other passengers aboard a PSA jetliner in Los Angeles while he was on a business trip. Gold said PSA officials demanded that Hingson sit in a bulkhead seat with his dog. She said Hingson tried to explain that it would be more comfortable and safer to take a regular passenger seat with his dog settling in front of him. "He was bodily ejected from a PSA plane by PSA-summoned police who injured his hand, tore off his Braille watch and took his guide dog by force," Gold said.
PSA spokesman Bill Hastings said, "There was a settlement and there was a compensation item and agreement to meet at a later date."
Hingson, who now owns The System Connection computer firm in Mission Viejo, said Friday he was pleased with the outcome: "We (blind people) are all going to benefit. The biggest thing is we are going to get a meeting with PSA to work with them on policy and come up with training procedures."
AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR THE BLIND CRITICIZES NAC
by Kenneth Jernigan
A miracle has been defined as an occurrence we cannot explain. In the 1960's the American Foundation for the Blind appointed COMSTAC (the Commission on Standards and Accreditation for Services Affecting the Blind). The Foundation, which has sometimes done good things and sometimes done bad things, by creating COMSTAC probably earned the distinction of performing the one single act which did more than anything else which has occurred in the twentieth century to lower standards and reduce the quality of services in work with the blind in the United States.
As everybody in the field knows, the COMSTAC board (with Foundation money and Foundation staff) created NAC (the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped). This was 1966, and NAC proudly announced that within a five- year period it would have accredited the majority of the approximately 500 eligible agencies in the nation. It was a blatant attempt by the Foundation to grab power and control all work with the blind in the country. But something went wrong. From the very beginning there were both dissatisfaction and resistance, and NAC has never been able to attract real acceptance or meaningful financial support.
During all of its existence it has been largely funded by the American Foundation for the Blind. In 1986 (twenty years after its founding) NAC was still receiving more than half of its budget from the Foundation. This is the way it has been from the beginning. Repeatedly there have been attempts to find other sources of funding. Repeatedly those attempts have failed.
Through the years the Monitor has reported on NAC's controversial maneuvers to gain respectability and prestige, maneuvers which have always gone wrong and come short. With a few notable exceptions the agencies that have agreed to accept NAC accreditation have been in trouble with the public and poorly regarded by the blind, but in recent years it has become increasingly clear that NAC is approaching the end of its tortured and controversial existence, that it is moving toward the peace of oblivion.
While the Foundation has continued to provide the money and the political support, the agencies that once thought it expedient to seek NAC accreditation have begun to fall away. The list is long and distinguishable. To name only a few: the Massachusetts Association for the Blind, the North Carolina State School for the Blind, Rhode Island State Services for the Blind, the Michigan School for the Blind, and Kansas State Services for the Blind.
In July of 1986 at the convention of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) in Chicago an urgent attempt was made to rally support for NAC, but to little avail. The urgency of the plea was symptomatic of the disintegration which has been increasingly apparent in recent years. At its mid-November meeting in 1986 in New York City NAC was obviously in disarray--and somewhat bitter.
One of the principal speakers at its banquet talked about a nearby church and how its most important financial supporter was a man named Kidd. This man named Kidd was much respected, but he turned bad and became a pirate--the notorious Captain Kidd. The speaker drew a moral from this story. He said that NAC must be careful in dealing with its respected benefactors, who (presumably like the infamous and perfidious Captain Kidd) might defect and betray.
And what was he talking about? For an answer we must go back to that July day in 1986 at the AER convention in Chicago. AER's President (Dr. Richard Welsh, the Superintendent of the Maryland School for the Blind) gave the reason in his report to the members. He said in part:
Before closing, I would not feel that I have exercised the responsibility you have entrusted in me if I did not alert you to a serious concern that may become a real crisis prior to the next time we meet in 1988. [AER meets biannually.] This problem relates to the continuing viability of the very important accreditation services provided by the National Accreditation Council. As a member of the American Foundation for the Blind Board of Trustees, I know of a significant concern among the members of that board's executive committee regarding NAC's inability to come up with sufficient funding from other sources to carry out its accreditation program without the same level of AFB support which it has received for the past eighteen years. The dream, when NAC was originally established, was that it would be financially independent eventually. But after fifteen years, that appears highly unlikely.
Last June, the American Foundation for the Blind Executive committee sent NAC a resolution which said that the grant for 1986 would be the last it would make to NAC as it is currently structured. Since that time, NAC has attempted to change its structure and reduce its costs of accreditation in response to the concerns of the AFB executive committee.
As another part of its response to the concerns of AFB, NAC has instituted a comprehensive study of its own operations. I have been asked to participate on the self-study committee which will look at what are the essential elements of the standard-setting and accreditation processes, what has worked successfully and should not be changed, what can be changed and done in a less costly manner, and how should we go about getting feedback on any changes that seem possible as a result of this study. It is my feeling that any study such as this which deals with the serious and sensitive issue of accreditation must necessarily seek broad input from all parts of the network in order to be valid and to have the confidence of those who will be asked to voluntarily submit their programs to such a review. My primary reason in raising this topic is to seek your help with this study. If the findings and recommendations of such a study are put out for general review and reaction, which I will strongly recommend, I ask you, as AER members, to regard this request as extremely serious and to please give it your attention and your time.
It is my personal opinion, both as the head of a NAC-accredited school and as the participant on a number of NAC on- site review teams, that NAC's accreditation process has been responsible for more positive changes in programs serving blind and visually impaired people than any other force or factor that we can identify in the history of such services. I think it would be disastrous for us to lose this essential and effective tool. It could very well be that NAC's process can be improved and its structure could be streamlined. Only broad-based feedback can help us decide. . . .
If we are serious about the expressed purpose in our bylaws that this association should assist in the development of professional standards for specialized programs serving blind and visually impaired persons, then we will have to be ready to become very active in making sure that our field's accreditation process as provided by NAC continues to be available and effective.
On this point, perhaps the most serious and most important of any that I have made, I will end my report to you.
So said Dr. Richard Welsh, who is generally recognized by the blind of his state as running one of the most regressive programs in the country and as being hostile to consumerism and the aspirations of the blind to achieve first-class status in society. When one reads between the lines, it is not hard to tell what he is saying: NAC is on the ropes, and we must bail it out--but there was no enthusiastic wave of response. Not at the AER convention and not at the meeting of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind in November.
When American Foundation for the Blind officials were asked to comment on their ultimatum to NAC, they seemed nervous and ill at ease--but they admitted that they had sent the resolution. When pressed for the reasons for their criticism, they said that perhaps the onsite reviews had been too expensive, that perhaps fewer people could have done the work at less cost. They said that perhaps the NAC board was too large and could operate more efficiently and economically if its size were reduced. Of course, the blind have been making these criticisms for years.
Certain key members of the AFB board have been quoted as feeling that the NAC onsite reviews are a waste of money and time. The blind of the nation would agree. Surely it is clear that the NAC experiment has been a costly and disastrous failure, but who would have thought that the American Foundation for the Blind would have finally asked for an accounting? Whatever else may be said, the fact of the Foundation ultimatum cannot be denied or dismissed. As I said at the beginning, a miracle has been defined as an occurrence which cannot be explained--but maybe in the present instance an explanation is possible. Regardless of how heavy the investment has been or how much prestige may be riding on the outcome, there comes a time when one decides to bite the bullet and cut the losses. We commend the Foundation for its apparent willingness to speak out in the present instance even though it is bound to know that the price will be high and the implications far-reaching.
FAIR LABOR STANDARDS AMENDMENTS OPEN NEW DOORS FOR SHOP WORKERS
by James Gashel
Almost from the beginning of our movement, the National Federation of the Blind has struggled to bring an end to the practice of paying blind people less than the federal minimum wage. Sheltered shops use the subminimum wage to exploit the blind. In some respects the law itself has encouraged exploitation as the government has looked the other way in the face of known wage abuses. So the blind who have fought this system have had to confront not only their sheltered workshop employers but the power of the federal government as well.
Now, perhaps we have the opportunity to change all of that under a new law which Congress passed in October of 1986. Like a lot of legislation, the new law has both bad and good elements. However, it appears that (at least, for the blind) the good will almost certainly outweigh the bad. President Reagan signed this measure on October 16, 1986, as Public Law 99-486. It is a complete and dramatic revision of the Fair Labor Standards Act's provisions relating to subminimum wages paid to blind and handicapped workers. For reasons which will be made clear later, it is fair to say that the National Federation of the Blind played a pivotal role in determining whether Congress would or would not pass this bill.
The Fair Labor Standards Act is the basic federal law setting wage standards and related requirements for minimum working conditions in most manufacturing and service trades. Section 6 is the well-known federal minimum wage requirement, under which most employees must be paid at least $3.35 per hour.
However, since 1938 (when the law was first passed), there has been an exemption (now Section 14(c) of the Act) allowing pay rates for handicapped workers to be less than the minimum wage required under Section 6. We have said that blindness is not a disability that prevents normal productivity. Therefore, the exemption from the minimum wage is wrongfully applied to the blind.
The United States Department of Labor (DOL) gives minimum wage exemption certificates to sheltered workshops (and also to other employers who meet certain conditions) whenever they fill out and submit the proper forms. Then DOL's Wage and Hour Division may check later to see if the proper wage is actually being paid. Actually, however, the employer is on the honor system. Now, that will change under the new law as sheltered workshops and other employers are required to "prove" that the subminimum wages they are paying are justified.
Here is how it works: The bill gives any employee on a subminimum wage the automatic, absolute right to challenge the wage determination of the employer. Nothing like this has ever existed before. Under the new law anyone who is being paid a subminimum wage has the right to request a hearing, which will be conducted by an impartial hearing officer appointed by the Secretary of Labor. The law says that at the hearing it is the sheltered workshop or other employer who has the "burden to prove" that the subminimum wage is justified.
This hearing procedure is bound to become an important new safeguard against the well-known subminimum wage abuse. The hearings will not be perfunctory. Anyone requesting a hearing may be represented by legal counsel. All statements and evidence presented by the employer will have to stand the test of examination and cross-examination in a proceeding not unlike a regular courtroom trial. Given what we know about how the subminimum wages have been determined in the past, it is hard to imagine how they will be justified in the future under this new form of legal scrutiny.
Under the law, as it was before the President signed Public Law 99-486, there was no effective or fair way to appeal a subminimum wage determination. The best one could do was to file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S Department of Labor. The complaint would then be investigated administratively. The person filing the complaint would never be able to examine or cross-examine the employer. There would not actually be a hearing. The Wage and Hour investigations simply consisted of interviews separately with the complainant and the employer.
Prevailing in a challenge to a subminimum wage under those conditions was often very uncertain. Even so, Wage and Hour investigators still found plenty of violations of the old law. For example, only a few years ago the General Accounting Office (an investigative arm of Congress) found that sheltered workshops had underpaid 11,482 handicapped workers $2.7 million during fiscal years 1977 through 1979. Findings like that show only the tip of the iceberg. DOL investigators actually see less than ten percent of the sheltered workshops annually.
Now, with the new law, no one has to wait for a Wage and Hour investigation. The Secretary of Labor is required to appoint an administrative law judge within ten days after receiving a complaint, and the hearing is to be scheduled within thirty days after the judge is appointed. Whether the workshop managers like it or not, they will have to participate in these hearings or else be ordered to pay the federal minimum wage. Of course, many more workshops may "voluntarily" decide to pay the minimum wage under the new conditions of the law rather than face their blind employees in hearings before the Department of Labor.
If one thinks about it, there is really no doubt that the hearing procedures of the new law can truly bring about an entire revolution in the subminimum wage practices of sheltered workshops. This is especially true in the case of the workshops that employ blind people. This is so (if for no other reason) because we are organized better than anyone else to take advantage of the provisions. It is true that winning the right to be heard by a DOL administrative law judge on the question of whether the subminimum wage is justified is not quite the same as winning the right to be paid the minimum wage, but it is a big step in that direction. For that reason, under date of September 23, 1986, we sent the following letter to Senator Howard Metzenbaum, chief sponsor of the subminimum wage amendment, to provide procedural safeguards:
Baltimore, Maryland September 23, 1986
The Honorable Howard Metzenbaum
United States Senate Washington, D.C.
Dear Senator Metzenbaum:
I am writing to advise you of the support of the National Federation of the Blind for your amendment to S. 2148. If enacted as part of section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), your amendment would provide much needed procedural due process safeguards for individuals or groups subject to the section 14(c) subminimum wage. For blind persons whose subminimum wages more often result from employer inefficiency and exploitation than from lack of worker productivity, the appeal rights provided by an amendment would be a distinct improvement over current law.
The position we are taking on your amendment does not alter our opposition to subminimum wages for all blind workers. Modern production techniques, coupled with technological advancements, allow blind people to work as productively as other industrial employees covered by the FLSA. The employer- controlled wage-setting practices now used under current law are patently unfair and encourage employers (especially sheltered workshops) to exploit the blind by obtaining cheap labor. Moreover, the abuses permitted under the law are compounded by the lack of effective monitoring by the Department of Labor (DOL) and the automatic approval by DOL of workshop requests for minimum wage exemptions.
Nothing short of the termination of authority to pay blind workers less than the minimum wage will remove the substantial exploitation that now occurs. Nevertheless, we believe that your amendment can be a significant step toward combatting unfair and illegal low wages. For this reason we support and applaud your effort.
Director of Governmental Affairs
National Federation of the Blind
That letter set the legislative process into high gear. The compromise had been struck. We would agree to provisions of the bill aimed at relaxing paperwork requirements on workshops to obtain subminimum wage certificates--but we got a great deal in exchange. Workshops will now have to "prove" that the wages they are paying are justified under the law. What a compromise! With this legislation our effort to obtain the minimum wage for all blind people is strengthened. Hearing by hearing we will move ever closer to the goal. That is what the new law offers. So the National Federation of the Blind agreed, and the measure was cleared for action. The sheltered workshops can no longer write their own ticket.
As matters now stand, most blind people who are paid a subminimum wage actually earn no lower than fifty percent of the minimum wage. Many are paid seventy-five percent of the minimum wage, or more. These individuals who are already very close to the minimum wage will no doubt find the hearing procedure to be a very attractive mechanism. Based on what we already know of the frequency of violations committed by sheltered workshops, it is not too hard to imagine that the avalanche of hearings that are sure to come will give us an effective new means of winning the minimum wage for all blind people.
As we contemplate the new law, let us remember our victories before the National Labor Relations Board in recent years. Once we got the Board to understand that the sheltered workshops are regular factories, it was virtually assumed that their employees (who happen to be blind) should have the right to be represented by labor unions. Those victories before the National Labor Relations Board were won through hearings of a very similar type to the kind which we will now begin to have under the Fair Labor Standards Act amendments.
Moreover, there is nothing on earth that the sheltered workshop employers can do about the fact that they will have to face their blind employees in these hearings. They cannot hide behind the excuse that they are performing rehabilitation or therapy for the blind. Congress has spoken, and the blind will be heard. With the advantages of the new law the practice of paying subminimum wages to blind people may soon be at an end. It will take organizational skill and resources to make it happen, but the goal is attainable--and the future is bright. This is the message of our movement. Each day brings tangible progress. We are truly changing what it means to be blind.
In the May-June, 1986, Monitor, we carried an article entitled "Of Dog Guides and Guide Dogs." The article provoked considerable reaction. Here is what Cherie Heppe of Connecticut had to say:
June 21, 1986
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
Your introduction to the article: "Of Dog Guides and Guide Dogs" in the June, 1986, Monitor summed the whole thing up nicely. However, I would like to add the following comments.
Some of the information presented by Professor Ed Eames et al is accurate; some is exaggerated; and some is omitted.
Dog Guide Schools? The number of dog guide schools in the U. S. might depend more on how the term "dog guide school" is defined, rather than on how many organizations exist which train and provide dogs to blind travelers. In Europe the term "dog guide school" may apply to a center with a physical plant, staff, set administrative, financial, and training practices and regularized training for dogs and blind students. It may just as often mean a person, usually a man working out of his home, having on occasion the trappings of training in evidence--such as a few dogs, a guiding harness, and a blind person or two--but being otherwise quite unaccountable for any work done or money raised or spent.
In the United States The Seeing Eye introduced and pioneered a modern, scientific, standardized, workable and largely predictable means of selecting dogs and blind students and educating them to work successfully together. For the most part, subsequent dog guide schools have worked toward similar high standards in their work, thereby making dog guide ownership and work in the United States standardized, widely accepted, and successful. We blind people and members of the public must be thorough in investigating schools training dogs for blind people to be sure the term "school" is applicable.
Professor Eames cites Peter Putnam's book: "Love in the Lead" and says that Mr. Putnam uses the term "guide dog" instead of "dog guide." This is true. Professor Eames does not mention that Putnam's stated reason for using "guide dog" reflects simple personal preference. Mr. Putnam goes on to explain that in the 1940's the three major schools operating then (Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc.; Leader Dogs for the Blind, Inc.; and The Seeing Eye, Inc.) met and agreed that to avoid confusion, the term "dog guide" would be adopted by them when referring generically to a dog guiding a blind person.
Guide Dog in the Title? Just as with any other commodity that has been discovered to be salable, many dog guide schools must have wanted the public and the donors to have no question as to who their worthy efforts were being directed toward. Perhaps, unsure that their reputation in their chosen area of service would bring enough recognition, many schools incorporated the words "for the blind" or "guide dog" into their official titles. For example, instead of Fidelco Foundation, we have Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation; instead of Leader Dogs, we have Leader Dogs for the Blind; and finally there is Second-Sight Guide Dog Foundation for the blind. I have wondered who would be receiving dog guides if not the blind.
A Grammar of Common Sense. We are very fortunate that the English language is still a growing and dynamic language. This, however, makes learning it especially difficult, since it is noted for the many exceptions to rules.
Protocol and etiquette for business and professional writing exemplifies a more static and structured form than personal letter-writing. In business and the professions accuracy, neatness, proper punctuation, spelling, and business format convey a clear sense of the company, as well as the letter writer. When I sign my business correspondence I use my given name and surname, no nicknames, and a title--if appropriate. When I sign personal correspondence I may add a greeting from my dog guide, although I am not one for anthropomorphizing. My dog guide is to me a highly valued working guide with many commendable canine qualities, but she is nonhuman. She cannot "talk" as humans talk or "think" as humans think. She cannot sign letters and does not know what letters are, except perhaps as an object I have dropped and asked her to "fetch."
It looks childish and unprofessional for Ed Eames, Professor of Anthropology; Toni Gardiner, a rehabilitation counselor with a master's degree; and Charles Warnath, whose qualifications are not known to me, to sign their dogs' names to business or professional correspondence, such as the article in the June Braille Monitor. Or is it just another cuteism, tolerated because we are blind? Would a sighted business person or professional writing to a corporate head or university president sign a letter: Sincerely, Dr. Smith and the Wife Jane, with the Kids Sally, Dick, and Tabatha?
Sincerely, Cherie Heppe
(The following article was taken from the November, 1986, Palmetto Blind, the official publication of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina. It shows what can be accomplished by vigilance, courtesy, persistence, and determination. Because the NFB of South Carolina is strong and active, the blind of the state are moving at an accelerating pace toward first-class citizenship and equal status in society.)
In recent months there has been a rash of restaurant operators in South Carolina denying access to blind persons with their dog guides. In an effort to alleviate this situation the NFB of South Carolina secured the cooperation of the South Carolina Restaurants Association, which agreed to carry an article on this matter in their newsletter. It was pointed out in the newsletter that it is against the law for restaurant operators to deny access to blind persons with dog guides and that all restaurant association members should cooperate. The following correspondence also deals with this issue:
August 27, 1986
Conway, South Carolina
The National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina has been notified by Billy Bratcher, Route 5, Box 362, Conway, South Carolina 29562, that he and his seeing eye or leader dog guide were denied access to your eating establishment Saturday, August 23. It is our understanding that you made this decision because you did not wish the dog to enter your establishment. If our understanding of this situation is correct, it would appear that you are in violation of state law. We quote from State Law No. H. 3071 as follows:
"Section 2.(a) The blind, the visually handicapped, and the otherwise physically disabled have the same right as the able-bodied to the full and free use of the streets, highways, sidewalks, walkways, public facilities, and other public places;
"(b) The blind, the visually handicapped, and the otherwise physically disabled are entitled to full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of all common carriers, airplanes, motor vehicles, railroad trains, motor buses, street cars, boats or any other public conveyances or modes of transportation, hotels, lodging places, places of public accommodation, amusement or resort, and other places to which the general public is invited, subject only to the conditions and limitations established by law and applicable alike to all persons;
"(c) Every totally or partially blind person shall have the right to be accompanied by a guide dog, especially trained for the purpose, in any of the places listed in Section 2(b) without being required to pay an extra charge for the guide dog; provided that he shall be liable for any damage done to the premises or facilities by such dog."
We ask that you please give us a prompt response to your position in this matter including what will be your position in the future should Mr. Bratcher with his dog guide wish to patronize your eating establishment.
Yours very sincerely,
Donald C. Capps,
National Federation of the Blind
of South Carolina
August 29, 1986
Dear Mr. Capps:
I appreciate very much your letter dated August 27 informing us of the state law No. H. 3071 concerning guide dogs in restaurants. We acted out of a lack of knowledge of that law when we asked Mr. Billy Bratcher if he could leave his guide dog outside.
We at Shoney's have a desire to serve anyone who wishes to dine in our restaurant. On the day Mr. Bratcher came in we had no intention of refusing to serve him. Since he was accompanied by three or four other people we thought that he may be able to leave his dog outside. Not knowing the law, we were concerned about violating a health law. We apologize to you for our actions. I have spoken to the President of the Lions Club in Conway as well as the Secretary. I have also spoken with Mr. Bratcher.
Our policy on guide dogs in our restaurants is the same as the law. We will welcome guide dogs into our restaurant. Thank you again for providing a statement on the state law on guide dogs in restaurants. All members of our management staff have been informed.
Sincerely, Ken McNeill, Manager
MONEY TALKS: NFB WINS BIG FOR VENDORS IN MARYLAND
by James Gashel
When Dr. Kenneth Jernigan went to Iowa in 1958 and pioneered by installing a truly fair grievance procedure for the blind vendors of that state, most of today's vendors (regardless of where they may be throughout the country) were not even in business. Still, the vendors of today have benefited immeasurably from those decisions made in Iowa almost thirty years ago. The Iowa model is now firmly established as an integral part of the law. This came about because the Federation insisted that it be done if there was to be a solid front in approaching Congress for new Randolph-Sheppard amendments. Today any blind vendor who has a grievance against the state licensing agency has the right to a fair hearing followed by the convening of an arbitration panel if the results of the fair hearing are not satisfactory.
And (as the Federation has proved in repeated appeals and court cases) the process works. The vendors of Maryland can now give firsthand testimony to the fact. The National Federation of the Blind has assisted the vendors of that state to win an important victory. As is so often the case, all of the vendors (not just those who are Federationists) have benefited. But the non-Federationists are taking a new look at becoming vendors. In the business world (as elsewhere) money talks.
In mid-September of 1986 a total of $45,000.00 was distributed to blind vendors throughout the state of Maryland. The payments were reimbursements for equipment repairs owed to the vendors from as far back as August, 1985. There was never any certainty that the vendors would collect on the past due payments from the state. The money was owed to them. That much was clear. But the state was not paying.
Then, the National Federation of the Blind entered the picture.
After that, it was not whether the vendors would be paid but when. Formal complaints were filed for eight vendors, using the appeals process provided for under the federal Randolph-Sheppard Act. Of course, the initial decision from the State Division of Vocational Rehabilitation was unfavorable. It acknowledged that the vendors had paid for their own equipment repairs since August, 1985. Also, the state had promised to reimburse them. By law, it is the state agency's responsibility to pay for all equipment repairs. We knew we could win eventually on that point, but the initial decision was that there was no money available to pay the vendors. We pressed on.
Under the Randolph-Sheppard Act any blind vendor may have a hearing. There is no way for the state to avoid it unless the matter is settled. Under date of August 14, 1986, the following letter requesting a hearing for Betty Couch--one of the eight blind vendors who had decided not to take "no" for an answer--was sent to the director of the Maryland State Agency. Letters for the seven other vendors who also had complaints were identical. Incidentally, each complaint mentioned Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM) as one of the agencies responsible for not paying the vendors. BISM was identified since that agency receives and distributes funds for the Maryland Blind Vending Program, acting as agent for the state:
August 14, 1986
Mr. Richard Batterton
Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
RE: Request for Appeal Hearing, Maryland Blind Vending Program
Dear Mr. Batterton:
This is a request for an Appeal Hearing filed on behalf of Ms. Betty Couch pursuant to COMAR (Code of Maryland Administrative Regulations) 13A.05.02.03. I am authorized to act as a representative for the complainant in the matter pursuant to a written authorization filed with the request for an administrative review.
The issue to be addressed in the Appeal Hearing is the failure of the Maryland Blind Vending Program to fulfill its equipment maintenance and repair responsibilities pursuant to COMAR 13A.05.02.02E and relevant provisions of the Randolph-Sheppard Act (20 USC107 et. seq.). The COMAR provision states in relevant part: "The State Board of Education is responsible for furnishing each vending stand with (1) adequate suitable equipment and for maintenance and repair of the equipment...."
Beginning in August, 1985, Ms. Couch, along with all other vendors in the program, was advised that there might be instances when it would be necessary to pay for equipment repairs and to obtain reimbursement later from the program. Following these instructions, Ms. Couch has obtained authorized repairs of program-furnished equipment, amounting to at least $3,000.00. All invoices documenting these costs of equipment maintenance and repair have been submitted to Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, the nominee agency for the program. However, to date, the nominee agency has failed (and continues to fail) to reimburse Ms. Couch for the costs of equipment maintenance and repair.
This failure of Blind Industries and Service of Maryland to reimburse Ms. Couch in the amount of $3,000.00 plus interest is a violation of the COMAR regulation and relevant provisions of the Randolph-Sheppard Act. An adverse Administrative Review decision dated July 16, 1986, has been received. Therefore, Ms. Couch requests an Appeal Hearing in a further attempt to secure reimbursement for the amount of unreimbursed equipment repairs plus interest.
Please advise me of the scheduling of the Appeal Hearing and the procedures to be followed in resolving this matter. I can be reached here in Baltimore by telephone at 659-9314. Thank you for your cooperation.
Director of Governmental Affairs
National Federation of the Blind
Thus, the vendors had taken the first major step to challenge the state's decision not to pay them. They would take the matter to a hearing if necessary, and they would win. On August 28, 1986, their answer came. The state agency director (Richard Batterton) miraculously announced that the money (which had not existed only a few weeks earlier) had been found--something in excess of $45,000.00. All repair bills would be paid and all accounts brought current through the end of the 1986 fiscal year.
Could anyone imagine that such a result would have happened without requests for hearings from a united front of vendors, backed by the National Federation of the Blind?
Here is Mr. Batterton's so-called "offer of settlement," followed by a further response on behalf of the vendors. Now that the vendors of Maryland have found their way into the National Federation of the Blind, all of them (even those who have not yet joined the Federation) can expect improved treatment from the state agency. It is not that the agencies are necessarily bad (some are--some of them are not). It is only that t hey are tiny cogs in a giant mechanism, a mechanism which tends to dehumanize and be unable to respond to individual needs and moral justice. Agencies respond best to organized groups--groups which have know-how, resources, and determination. They understand strength and respect power. Anyone who does not comprehend this elementary point should consider carefully the case of the Maryland vendors:
August 28, 1986
Mr. James Gashel
National Federation of the Blind
Dear Mr. Gashel:
I am in receipt of your requests for an Appeal Hearing for the following individuals: Mr. Pat Capuano, Mr. Bruce Carter, Mr. Harold Cochran, Mr. Rodger Cochran, Ms. Betty Couch, Mr. Charles Guetler, Mr. Jack Haden, and Mr. Ed Mulligan.
The issue being addressed is reimbursement of costs of equipment maintenance and repair on their respective vending facilities.
I am pleased to report that the Department has received authorization to utilize Fiscal 1986 funds toward the purpose of meeting the aforementioned costs. Accordingly, the Division is making a grant of $40,000.00 state funds to the Maryland Blind Vending Program to be used for the purpose of reimbursement of equipment maintenance and repair costs paid by vendors. Required additional funds--something around $5,000.00--will be paid out of Program operating expenses to liquidate the total payable to all vendors, (not just those filing appeals), who had incurred such costs through June 30, 1986.
The grant should be available to BISM (Blind Industries and Services of Maryland) within approximately 10 days to two weeks and payment to vendors should follow within approximately a week.
As appropriate, for those individuals who previously claimed the repair cost as an expense and did not remit set aside, unpaid set aside will be assessed against the reimbursement due. There will, however, be no interest paid.
Given the above information, if the vendors who you are representing still wish to request an Appeal Hearing, please advise me as quickly as possible.
Sincerely, Richard A. Batterton
Assistant State Superintendent in Vocational
Rehabilitation Maryland State Department of Education
Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
October 29, 1986
Mr. Richard Batterton
Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
RE: Hearing request of Pat Capuano, Bruce Carter, Harold Cochran,
Rodger Cochran, Betty Couch, Charles Guetler, Jack Haden, and Edward C. Mulligan.
Dear Mr. Batterton:
This is in response to your letter of August 28, 1986, regarding the hearing request of the above-named blind vendors. Each of the vendors has agreed to accept as a settlement the reimbursement now received by each for equipment repairs during the fiscal year ending June 30, 1986, subject to the following agreement by you:
(1) That you agree to meet with any of the affected vendors (or other vendors) and with me to reach an understanding of the equipment repair procedure that will exist throughout fiscal year 1987;
(2) that a prompt payment policy be established in order to avoid the necessity for similar appeals by these or other vendors in only a few months; and
(3) that vendors will be paid interest on all overdue accounts under the same terms and to the same degree as the program would pay such interest charges as may be incurred in the course of its normal dealing with commercial suppliers.
Please call me at your earliest convenience in order to schedule a meeting with us to discuss these points. If I do not hear from you within (30) days, I shall assume that the Division has made a conscious decision again to withhold the equipment repair reimbursements.
Further recourse to the appeals process is always an option for us. On behalf of the vendors, however, I want you to know that we are grateful for your efforts to secure funding for a reasonable settlement of these grievances. In that spirit, we are also looking forward to your cooperation in resolving the remaining issues described above.
Director of Governmental Affairs
National Federation of the Blind
So what does it all mean? For one thing, of course, it means that the vendors of Maryland have $45,000 which they would not have had if it had not been for their united action in concert with the National Federation of the Blind. Of even more importance, perhaps, is the process which has been established--and, hopefully, the lesson which has been learned. Yes, money talks--but there is more to the Maryland vendor case than that. When the blind work together through the National Federation of the Blind, they increase their likelihood for decent income and first-class status. When they do not, the odds are considerably lower and the results more chancy.
(Patricia Eschbach needs no introduction to Monitor readers or members of the National Federation of the Blind. She is dedicated and competent. She is also a whiz at organizing food preparation and cooking. Here are two of her recipes.)
NEVER FAIL PIE CRUST
3 cups flour
1 cup lard or 1-1/2 cups shortening 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 beaten egg
5 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon vinegar
Method: Cream shortening and flour, add salt. Add one beaten egg and 5 teaspoons cold water with vinegar and blend into shortening and flour mixture. This will seem very moist, but do not change the recipe.
NO PEAK--NEVER FAIL COOKED RICE
(For those that don't want to buy a cooker.)
Bring 1-1/2 cups of water to boil in a 2-quart pan which has a tightly fitting lid. Add 1 cup rice and 1 teaspoon salt (or less if you desire) and 1 tablespoon butter or margarine and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to lowest setting, cover, and set time for 40 minutes. Do not remove lid until ready to serve.
Stir with wooden or nylon spoon. This should be light and fluffy. This will serve about 4 people. Leftover rice makes a good ingredient for rice pudding or casseroles calling for cooked rice.
(Mr. Moyer handles building maintenance at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore. He has many assets, not the least of which is the fact that Mrs. Moyer turns out some of the finest baked items to be found anywhere on the continent. Here is her carrot cake.)
MRS. MOYER'S CARROT CAKE
3 cups grated carrots
1-1/2 cups Wesson oil
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup crushed pineapple (optional)
2 cups flour--sifted
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Cream oil and sugar, add carrots, then eggs one at a time. Beat well. Add other ingredients with nuts. Bake at 350 degrees 1 hour and 20 minutes.
8 ounces cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 stick margarine
1 box powdered sugar
(Ray Harmon is a member of the Baltimore Chapter. Here are two interesting recipes which he recently submitted.)
1 cup corn meal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup corn cut from cob
1 4-ounce can chopped green chilis
1 8-ounce carton commercial sour cream
4 ounces shredded cheddar
cheese 2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 spondaflex pan
Combine the first 5 ingredients; mix well. Stir in remaining ingredients except butter. Heat butter in an 8-1/2 inch cast iron skillet until very hot. Pour batter into a hot skillet. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour or until browned. Makes 8 to 10 servings.
2 cups cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup minced onions
1 cup peeled shredded potatoes
1 cup evaporated milk
Combine the first 5 ingredients, mixing well. Stir in onions, potatoes, and milk. Drop by tablespoon into hot oil (375 degrees). Cook until golden (3 to 5 minutes), turning once. Drain on paper towel. Yield: about 1-1/2 dozen.
JEWISH COFFEE CAKE
by Sue Null
(Sue Null is a member from Missouri. Her recipe sounds
1 yellow cake mix
1 box vanilla instant pudding
1/4 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon margarine
3/4 cup water
Blend all ingredients for four minutes. Grease and add sugar to sides of a bundt pan. Add batter and topping alternately in pan. Add slices of butter on top if desired. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Cool and remove from pan.
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup sugar
Rhanda Hasley, Secretary of the NFB of Oklahoma, sends a report concerning the Oklahoma convention, held in Tulsa Saturday, October 4, 1986. She says that even though one of the worst floods ever to hit Oklahoma was taking place, the convention went forward with spirit and enthusiasm. Fred Schroeder, Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind and a member of the National Board of Directors, was present to represent the National Office of the Federation. The following people were elected to office: Mark Noble, President; Jerry Halstead, First Vice President; Bob Sellers, Second Vice President; Rhanda Hasley, Secretary; Charlotte Bellmyer, Treasurer; Eva Chaney and Gus Burge, One-year Board Members; and Doug Elliott and David Dowland, Two-year Board Members.
Federationists Scott Lewis and Barbara Clucas met during our national convention in Kansas City. Scott is former President of the NFB of Washington, and Barbara is a member of the Board of Directors of the NFB of Alaska. The couple met again during September at the Alaska state convention in Anchorage and were married October 18, 1986, in Port Angeles, Washington, where they will reside, along with Barbara's daughter Tania.
Del Gray, Route 1, Box 1794, Holts Summit, Missouri 65043, is interested in purchasing a used Perkins Brailler.
On October 26, 1986, at Maire Elementary School in Grosse Point, Michigan, in a public ceremony a mural was unveiled which shows the history of Maire Elementary School. Among the thirty-three people depicted is Eddie Ball, a blind student using an NFB cane. Blindness didn't keep him out of school, and the artist didn't keep him out of the picture.
Regina Farrington, Secretary of the Pathfinders Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa, writes that the Pathfinders Chapter met in Ottumwa, Iowa, on Tuesday, October 21, 1986, and elected James Canny President.
**Reguest for Braille and Pen Pals:
Mildred Baugh of Naples, Florida, asks that we carry the following announcement:
May Ladah, House of Hope, Box 27, Bethlehem, Israel, would like Braille copies of the Reader's Digest. She would also like pen pals in Braille.
Jim Willows, one of the leaders of the Federation in California, writes:
"Alice Preston, a long-time member of the Federation, died after a short illness in early September of 1986. Alice was living in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the time of her death. Alice was most active in the NFB of California during the decades of the 60's, 70's, and 80's. She held many offices and chaired several important committees during that era. Those of us who knew her remember Alice's enthusiasm and cheerful determination in all of her activities. Alice was a source of strength to many of us through the chaotic year of 1978. She was less active after leaving California, but she continued to live Federationism until her passing."
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: "CL Productions is now making available The Microwave Times in Braille (approximately 88 pages per issue) and on tone-indexed cassette. It is a bi- monthly microwave cooking magazine featuring an average of 45 pre-tested recipes per issue, tips, and techniques of microwave cooking. This magazine has been produced in print since 1975 and is for use with any microwave oven. Prices: 1-year subscription in Braille, $34.00; tone-indexed cassette with binder, $31.00. Contact: CL Productions, 2905 Berkshire Lane, Mesquite, Texas 75150, (214) 681-2771."
Brett and Marie Winchester announce the arrival of their daughter Evelynne Marie, who was born November 18, 1986. Evelynne weighed in at seven pounds, one ounce. Brett and Marie Winchester are leaders of the Boise Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho. All are doing well.
**St. Louis Report:
Deborah Worley writes: "The St. Louis Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri held its annual elections on Sunday afternoon, October 10, 1986. Kevan Worley was re-elected President. Also elected to serve on the 1987 board were the following: Vice President, Mark Harris; Secretary, Susan Ford; Corresponding Secretary, Deborah Worley, Treasurer, Charlene Hedgecorth; and Board Member, Adam Dempsy. The St. Louis Chapter is in a period of tremendous growth. Our chapter is very proud that we have recruited twenty-three members over the past nineteen months."
Ernest Robbins, President, and Tyron Palmer, Secretary, of the Chatham County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Georgia, write:
"The National Federation of the Blind of Chatham County held its Annual Gospel Musical Extravaganza on Sunday, November 16, 1986, at the Bethlehem Baptist Church. The theme of our musical extravaganza was 'We Won't Give Up.' In other words the National Federation of the Blind has taught us that it is indeed respectable to be blind. Our musical extravaganza is not just entertainment, it also gave us the opportunity to convey our Federation message to the public. Also we held a Mr. and Mrs. National Federation of the Blind of Chatham County Pageant, and the winners were: Mrs. Lillian Jenkins and Mr. Clarence M. Green. Our musical extravaganza as well as our Mr. and Mrs. National Federation of the Blind Pageant enabled us to raise some much needed funds for our local affiliate."
The National Federation of the Blind of New Hampshire announces with pride the formation of its fifth chapter:
"The Tri-County Chapter of the NFB of New Hampshire was recently formed and has elected the following officers: President, Theresa Dufault; Vice President, Josephine Chick; Secretary, Robert Pinkham; Treasurer, Paul Richards; and Mark Bennett will be handling public relations. Three of the officers are from Dover and two from Somersworth. President Dufault transferred to New Hampshire with her family from the NFB of Massachusetts, where she was a member of the Worcester Chapter. She and Theresa Herron, State President of our New Hampshire affiliate, are pleased to be members of a chapter nearer to their homes. There is a wide span of years and experience in the group. Federation spirit is evidenced by some of our members discussing making themselves available to classroom teachers who have blind or visually impaired students in need of assistance. For information call Mrs. Dufault at (603) 749-0815, 59 Glenwood Avenue, Dover, New Hampshire 03820."
**Interface: To kiss.
**North Carolina Convention:
Hazel Staley writes: "The National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina held its seventeenth annual convention September 12-14, 1986, at the Hilton Inn in Raleigh. It was our biggest and best yet. Our national representative, Diane McGeorge, brought an excellent national report Saturday and a very inspiring banquet address that evening. Other items on the agenda dealt with radio reading service, current status and pending changes in the Division of Services for the Blind, and the future of the Governor Morehead School for the Blind. Consideration is being given to combining the school for the blind with the schools for the deaf. Federationists are speaking at hearings around the state opposing this move. We learned at the convention that the Governor Morehead School does not plan to seek reaccreditation from NAC. This frees the state of NAC: 'N.C. is NAC- Free.'
"This was our big election year. The following officers were elected: President, Hazel Staley of Charlotte; First Vice President, Jim Rowell of Greensboro; Second Vice President, Joe Hayes of Raleigh; Secretary, Mabel Conder of Charlotte; and Treasurer, George Best of Charlotte. The following board members were elected: Regina Evans of Whiteville, Wayne Shevlin of Raleigh, Patricia Tessnear of Wilson, and Byron Sykes of Greensboro. Archie Muldrow of Fayetteville and James Benton of Raleigh each have one year remaining of a two- year term. Our 1987 convention will be in Rocky Mount September 11-13. Consider this an early invitation. Y'all come now."
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: "The Alumni Association of the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children will make the convention of 1987 something special. We will be helping the school celebrate its centennial.
All graduates who are interested in this centennial should write to: The Alumni Association of the Western Pennsylvania, School for Blind Children, 291 N. Bellefield Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213."
On Tuesday, November 25, 1986, the Job Opportunities for the Blind program (JOB) sent out its 100th JOB Bulletin. During the time that the JOB program has been in operation more than half a million job listings have been analyzed. More than 3,500 people have been JOB applicants. Fifty-seven JOB seminars have been conducted. More than 150,000 tapes have been distributed. And finally--the most important fact of all--there are 664 blind JOB applicants we know about who now have jobs.
Terence Magoo Dorsey, a member of our Central Ohio Chapter in Columbus, married Joyce Ann Freeling at 10:00 a.m. November 2, 1986, at the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Grasonville, Maryland. They met at our Columbus, Ohio, chapter meeting October 2, 1984. We wish the Dorseys much joy.
Brother John Soehnel, one of the leaders of our Ohio affiliate, died on Tuesdsay, November 11, 1986. Brother John was a Marianist Brother. He had been a member of our Dayton Chapter for close to twenty years. Brother John attended our 1986 Ohio convention during All Saints Day Weekend, and he participated in our Dayton Chapter meeting on Saturday, November 8, just three days before he died. He brought quiet strength to the movement. When he found new people he made them feel welcome and a part of the Federation family. He was never one to seek the limelight, but Brother John brought steadiness, integrity, and rock-solid commitment. Of such is our Federation built.
Jeff and Zena Pearcy have a baby boy, Jeffery Wayne, who came into the Pearcy household October 6, 1986, weighing seven pounds, eight ounces. Jeffery Wayne was 19-3/4 inches long. Jeff and Zena are long-time leaders of our Texas affiliate, and Jeff serves as President of our Austin Chapter.
The members of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington are sponsoring a dinner in honor of Mrs. Hazel tenBroek's seventy-fifth birthday. They invite Federationists and friends from throughout the country to send cassette or written communications to Mrs. tenBroek to commemorate the joyous occasion. The dinner will be held on Saturday evening, January 17, 1987, at the Four Seasons Olympic Hotel in Seattle. The January Monitor will probably not arrive in time for readers to respond to this announcement, but we wanted to carry news of the event. A video tape will be made of the party and shared with us at the Phoenix convention. For further information about the birthday, you may contact: Suzi Spigle, Post Office Box 2516, Seattle, Washington 98111; (206) 328-9242. It is most fitting and appropriate that this birthday celebration should occur, for Mrs. tenBroek symbolizes what the Federation is and what it has done through the years. She was there at the founding in 1940, and she has lived and exemplified Federationism ever since. We honor her and congratulate her, and we express to her our appreciation for the continuing contributions which she has made and continues to make