The Braille Monitor
Vol. 30, No. 10 December 1987
Kenneth Jernigan, Editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by
The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, President
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FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Copyright © 1987 National Federation of the Blind
by Kenneth Jernigan
For more than a decade the blind of this country have been engaged in an increasingly strident conflict with the nation's airlines. Year after year we have cataloged the details of the struggle in the pages of the Braille Monitor. And now (finally) matters seem to be moving to a climax. As will be seen from the articles in this issue, the federal Department of Transportation in engaging in a regulatory negotiation (a "reg-neg" as it is called) to try to reach consensus.
It is hard to know how to compromise basic civil rights, not to mention which there is very little evidence of compromise or willingness to show any flexibility at all on the part of the airlines. This is not surprising since they begin with the view that the blind are incompetent and unable to perform on terms of equality with others.
As part of the "reg-neg" process, a federal mediator (Eileen Hoffman) has been appointed. She attended the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Phoenix in early July, and there was a long afternoon of spirited exchange. I began the proceeding (see article elsewhere in this issue) by outlining the problem and suggesting strategies for its solution. This was followed by spontaneous statements from members of the audience. These statements (printed elsewhere in this issue) are among the most compelling testimonials to human dignity and aspiration
I have ever witnessed. As another Federationist once said on a different occasion, it would have required a person with a heart of stone and the mind of a fool to have heard them and remain unmoved.
As part of the airline discussion at the convention, Rami Rabby suggested that we consider purchasing space in the Wall Street Journal and printing my speech and some of the other statements made that afternoon. That is exactly what we did, and a great deal of the material in this issue of the Monitor appeared in the Wall Street Journal on July 27, 1987, the Washington Post on July 29, 1987, and USA Today on August 18, 1987. Our message was read by millions of people, and the response was overwhelmingly warm and supportive. A few of the typical letters we received are printed in this issue. Ultimately, of course, our battle will be won in the minds and the hearts of the general public, and our newspaper articles did much to hasten the process.
The reg-neg process is about as time-consuming and tedious as any exercise in bureaucratic falderal I have ever witnessed. It consists of day-long meetings week after week and month after month, but thankfully it seems to be coming to an end. The first meetings were held late in the spring, and the accomplishments (at least, to present) have been few and modest.
On September 2, 1987, (after months of uneventful meetings) the reg-neg panel held public hearings to take testimony from anybody who cared to come and talk. As might have been expected, the blind (particularly, Federationists) were much in evidence. The statements of President Maurer, Mary Ellen Reihing, and Lauren Eckery are printed in this issue.
At the time I am writing this (mid-October, 1987) no one can be certain what the reg-neg panel will decide--or, for that matter, whether it will decide anything at all. The process is complicated by the fact that all of the disability groups are lumped together and treated as one. Never mind that this makes no sense and is not in accordance with reality. It is the way the airlines and, to some extent, the Department of Transportation and the mediator see it. This means that we spend days and even weeks talking about issues that have no significance for us at all and that every rule must apply to everybody--an undertaking which, on the face of it, is not only impossible but nonsensical.
Mostly all we want is to be allowed to buy our tickets and travel in peace, but since the Department of Transportation and the airlines think of us as part of the "disabled," they insist that the matter cannot be that simple. The bitterest and most continuing controversy which has developed during the reg-neg discussions has centered around the question of whether the blind may sit in emergency exit rows on airplanes. The question, of course, is not one of seating but civil rights, but very few of the reg-neg panel seem to understand. There has been talk of some sort of compromise, but it is hard to see how it can be done; and nobody is very happy about anything which has been suggested.
Nevertheless, we have participated in the reg-neg process (all dreary weeks and months of it) in good faith and with a will to try to find a reasonable and honorable solution if we can. In the meantime we have continued to pursue other initiatives. A major breakthrough has been the action (see article in this issue) by the Illinois Attorney General, who has ruled that blind persons may sit where they please on planes, having only the same limitations as those imposed on other passengers. This has far-reaching implications since Chicago is one of the major hubs for air travel for the nation. It also has moral and psychological significance and may help create a snowball effect. That will probably mainly depend on what the blind throughout the country do in follow-up contacts.
This issue of the Monitor is largely taken up with the airline battle since the outcome of that struggle has such importance for all of us, but we are also featuring other items of consequence. These are exciting times for the blind, and we are making tremendous progress. The thing that really counts is the fact that for the first time in all of recorded history we have an increasing voice in determining our future. We may (and I think we won't) really flub it, or (and I think we will) we may take the final steps on the road to equality and first-class status. One thing is certain. If we are to have equality, no one can give it to us. We must achieve it for ourselves. I, for one, have no doubt that we will.
An Address Delivered by Kenneth Jernigan
At the Convention of the National Federation of the Blind
Thursday, July 2, 1987
Sometimes it seems as if the airline hassle has been with us forever, but this is not the case. Prior to the 1970's blind people almost never experienced problems in air travel. We bought our tickets, went to the airport, boarded the plane, traveled to our destination, got off, and went about our business just like everybody else. If one of us wanted help in boarding a plane or making a connection, the assistance was requested and given without a thought.
Then, something happened. Ironically it was caused by the increasing emphasis on affirmative action for the handicapped. One would have thought this would have been a positive step, but it wasn't--at least, not for the blind. Airline personnel did not become knowledgeable overnight or lose their prejudices just because somebody told them to engage in affirmative action. Mostly (with respect to air travel) the blind didn't need any affirmative action. We were doing fine just as it was. But the airlines were into affirmative action, so they had to think up something to do to help us--whether we needed it or not and, for that matter, whether we wanted it or not.
They began by lumping all of what they perceived to be the handicapped together --wheelchair users, the blind, the deaf, the quadriplegic, the cerebral palsied, and everybody else they could think of--including, very often, small children. Next they cataloged what they believed to be the problems, needs, and characteristics of each of these groups and then assumed that each item on the list applied to every member of every group they had included in the category of the handicapped. The resulting mythical composite was a monstrosity--totally helpless, totally in need of custody, and totally nonexistent except in the minds of the airline officials. There is not now (nor was there ever) any such person as the "airlines' standardized handicapped air traveler," and the problem comes from the fact that the airlines (and, to some extent, the federal regulators) persist in acting as if there is.
In the mid-1970's there was talk of limiting the number of handicapped people
who could ride on the same plane
at the same time--and whether it made sense for anybody at all, it certainly didn't for the blind. Nevertheless, just because we were perceived as part of the "handicapped," we were caught in the net and included. By a good deal of rather strong persuasion we got that one stopped. Then, a short time later, there was the question of whether we could keep our canes with us at our seats. This time it took a court case, a series of angry confrontations, a few arrests, a lot of publicity, and a sizable amount of Congressional pressure--but ultimately (with some notable exceptions, which still continue on a sporadic basis) we mostly got that one stopped, too.
The problem was always the same. We were not individuals; we were not ordinary passengers, with the normal range of abilities and differences--we were "the handicapped." Air travel (which had once been a pleasant experience) rapidly came to be an ordeal; and as the confrontations continued, both airline personnel and the blind began to be sensitized and braced for trouble.
By the mid-1980's the blind were engaged in all-out war with the airlines, and although there has been measurable progress, that is where we still are today. Examples of occurrences during a two-month period in 1985 will make the point.
Dr. Charles Hallenbeck is a tenured professor at the University of Kansas at Lawrence. On Monday, May 13, 1985, he had occasion to fly on American Airlines from Newark, New Jersey, to Kansas City. As he said in a letter to an airline official, "My colleague, Professor Margaret Schadler, and I were returning from a professional trip aboard American flight 47 from Newark to Chicago, changing there to American flight 119 to Kansas City. I am a blind person and travel with a dog guide. Professor Schadler is a sighted person.
"The actions of personnel aboard flight 47: 1. prevented me from maintaining a pre-assigned seat adjacent to that of Professor Schadler; 2. required me, after being comfortably seated, to abandon my pre-assigned seat and move to a bulkhead seat for a patently false reason; 3. required another sighted passenger to abandon his seat in the bulkhead area so that I might be required to sit there; 4. required the other passenger to move to the seat with Professor Schadler which I was required to relinquish; 5. compensated the stranger, whom Professor Schadler later described as a 'less than sober cargo pilot, who insisted on conversation,' with two free drinks, courtesy of American Airlines, while making no similar gesture to me; and 6. required my dog guide to move from an ordinary seat (row 15, which is not an exit row), where floor space was generous due to the availability of storage area beneath the seat ahead and to move to the bulkhead area, where floor space is limited due to the absence of such storage area. The pretext for requiring us to move in the fashion just described was 'for the dog’s comfort.’ When I pointed out the more ample space and increased comfort which my dog enjoyed in our pre-assigned seat in row 15, the flight attendant shifted to another reason, which was that ‘we have our rules.’”
On the flight from Chicago to Kansas City Professor Hallenbeck was allowed to travel in peace in a seat next to Professor Schadler. The constancy and severity of abuse to which blind air travelers are being subjected can be seen in Professor Hallenbeck’s assertion upon leaving the plane in Kansas City that: "I felt irrationally grateful when the flight was over, grateful for the simple courtesy of having been treated like anyone else."
Early in July of 1985 Steve and Nadine Jacobson were traveling on a United Airlines flight. Knowing of the senseless abuse and humiliation to which blind passengers seated in exit rows had been subjected, they specifically asked not to be assigned to exit row seats. Nevertheless, they were assigned to exit row seats and then publicly embarrassed by being rudely and loudly ordered to move. When they felt that this was too much and refused to comply, they were arrested, bodily hauled off the plane, physically injured, taken to jail, strip-searched, and confined to a cell--and all in the name of safety.
When Peggy Pinder was traveling on an Ozark flight in July of 1985, she was treated in a manner which could hardly be believed if it were not irrefutably documented. Here is how she tells it: "Some time ago, Ozark transcribed into Braille the printed safety cards placed in the seat pockets for sighted passengers. I read one once, and it contained information I already possessed about safety on Ozark planes.
"On this particular day I boarded without incident. After the plane was in the air and the seat belt sign had been turned off, a flight attendant (later identified as Kay Damaso) came to my seat and stated she had a safety booklet that I was to read. I replied that I was a regular flier with Ozark and familiar with the material in the booklet. Kay replied that I was to take the booklet and read it anyway. I replied that Kay had done her job by bringing the booklet to me and that she was not responsible for making me read it. Kay then said that if I would not read the booklet in her presence, I must answer to her satisfaction a quiz concerning the safety features of the plane. At this stage I had had enough and refused."
During the remainder of that flight Peggy Pinder was threatened and victimized. She was falsely told that there was an FAA man on board and that if she would not read the booklet, she would be reported and fined. She was told that she would not be allowed to board her connecting flight unless she would read the booklet or pass the quiz. She was repeatedly insulted and badgered until the plane landed, and she was then pursued off the plane by the flight attendant, who still wanted her to read the booklet. Insanity? Of course--but it happened, and airline officials later admitted that it happened and disciplined Kay.
If this were an isolated instance, it could be chalked up to madness and forgotten, but it isn't. Considering the public statements and the everyday behavior of the airlines, it is exactly what can be predicted from airline cabin and ground personnel. They engage in their bullying and mistreatment of blind passengers in the name of safety, but this does not excuse what they do or make it safety-related. A thing is not necessarily what it is called.
During the past two years blind people have been ordered to pre-board, post-board, prove that they can fasten or unfasten their seat belts, and sit on blankets so that the seat will not be soaked or fouled in case they cannot make it to the bathroom. Attempts have been made by airline personnel to take children from their blind parents as they walked together from the plane, and efforts have been made to confiscate the tickets of blind passengers to force them to sit in a special "holding room" in Chicago to wait for a connecting flight, which might be hours later. Above all, blind people have been told that they cannot sit in exit rows.
The Federal Aviation Administration, which is charged by law with making rules for airline safety, is well aware of the exit row argument. Yet, they have made no rule prohibiting blind persons from sitting in exit row seats. They have gone farther. I have personally heard FAA officials say that they do not believe the exit row seating question has anything to do with safety. Then, why do the airlines do it?
Their actions probably result from a combination of factors. In the first place they have the standard misconceptions and false notions about blindness. To put it in its simplest form, they believe that a blind person is just about as capable and can do just about as much as they could do if they were to close their eyes--which is, of course, complete nonsense. It is about as reasonable as saying that the average member of the public can determine what a pilot can do by going into the cockpit of a modern jet plane and beginning to flip switches. Also, the airlines have been under pressure to prove that air travel is safe, and one way to make a visible demonstration is by showing that they have done something tangible--like telling blind people they can't sit in exit rows. After all, it doesn't cost anything, and in relation to the total traveling public there aren't many blind people flying. In other words they think they can do it and get away with it.
I am not suggesting that airline officials are bad people-only that they are human people. Whatever else may be said about their policies, they are certainly not based on safety. Since the question of whether blind people can sit in exit rows is at the heart of many of the recent confrontations, let us examine it. I have held conversations with top officials of United, American, and several other large airlines. I have said to them that if safety is their prime concern, perhaps they should refuse to let anybody fly. That way there would be absolutely no risk that anyone would ever be hurt in an air accident. But, of course, this is not acceptable, because there is a need for people to get from one place to another; so a certain amount of risk must be taken.
Then, since we are going to fly, perhaps the airlines should refuse to let anyone sit in exit rows except strong, vigorous, trained airline personnel. This would maximize the likelihood of the safe evacuation of the plane in case of emergency--but this, too, is unacceptable to the airlines. It would cost too much. Therefore, not only the need to travel but also economic considerations enter the picture.
Very well, I have said, if the planes are going to operate and if (despite reduced safety) trained personnel cannot be seated in the exit rows, perhaps it would be sensible not to serve liquor to anyone sitting there--but even this the airlines refuse to consider. They say that the flying public would not like it. So we are not only dealing with the need to travel and airline economics but also with people's feelings--everybody's, that is, except those of the blind. I have even suggested that the airlines might ask for volunteers who do not intend to drink to sit in the exit row; but this, too, they find unacceptable. They say that it would make the passengers uneasy and would be inconvenient. Yet, they are perfectly willing to inconvenience blind people to the point of public abuse, arrest, strip-search, and jail.
The airlines are probably the nation's biggest bartender. Despite their claims to the contrary, they knowingly and repeatedly (in order to make money) serve liquor to airline passengers to the point of making them drunk. Here is a case where they are not only not concerned with safety but are themselves deliberately and premeditatedly violating it by making passengers less safe and less capable in the event of an emergency than they would otherwise have been. Many states have dram shop laws, which say that the person who sells you the liquor is responsible for accidents or damages resulting from your conduct. Why should the airlines not be held to the same standard--not only while passengers are on the plane but also after they leave the airport and are driving in city traffic? It is because no one has brought it to the attention of the public and challenged them. We have not sought confrontation with the airlines, but apparently we must either accept custodial treatment and second-class status or fight a war. We are not prepared to have the one, so obviously we must have the other. Very well. So be it. We will try to acquit ourselves with credit.
I have a strategy to suggest to you concerning the liquor question. I call on every state affiliate, every local chapter, and every member of this organization to ask all of the sighted persons you know who are planning to fly to make careful and detailed notes from the time they board the plane until the time they leave it. Let them count the number of drinks sold to passengers--all passengers, but especially those in exit rows. Let them observe who is drunk and still being served liquor. Let them introduce themselves to drunk passengers and learn their names, not indicating the purpose. After the flight, let them continue to be on guard. If they hear of an accident, let them try to learn whether it involved a passenger who was on the plane. Let them put their notes into affidavit form, and let us collect such a detailed mass of evidence that it cannot be denied or refuted. Let the nation's biggest bartender prepare to meet us in the war which we never sought and never wanted but which we intend to win.
On April 14 of this year Mary Ellen Reihing (President of the Baltimore Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland) went to BWI Airport to talk with Wilfred Jackson, the Airport Manager, and Peter Taliaferro, Assistant Attorney General for the State Department of Transportation. Miss Reihing told Messrs. Jackson and Taliaferro of the problems blind people have been having in air travel and reminded them of the state's white cane law, which specifically prohibits discrimination against the blind in travel. She suggested that it was inappropriate for the police to comply with airline requests to remove blind passengers from airplanes because of their refusal to move from an exit row seat. She pointed out that under Maryland law (a law which applies at the airport as well as anywhere else) the right of the blind to equal treatment in travel must be protected. As evidenced by the following document, Messrs. Jackson and Taliaferro agreed:
Offices of the Attorney General
Department of Transportation
State Aviation Administration
Baltimore /Washington International Airport
TO: Wilfred A. Jackson Manager, BWI Airport, and
Cpt. Robert Graham, Commander Maryland State Police Airport Division
FROM: Peter W. Taliaferro Assistant Attorney General
SUBJECT: Seating rights of blind people on air carrier aircraft
DATE: April 14, 1987
The National Center for the Blind is located in Baltimore. Consequently,
BWI Airport accommodates a higher proportion of blind travelers than most
other airports. In dealing with air carriers at BWI, the following points
may be of value:
1. There is no federal or state statutory or regulatory law that compels air carriers to seat blind people in any particular fashion on aircraft. For example, there is no law barring blind people from sitting in seats near aircraft exits.
2. There are federal and state statutes barring discrimination against blind, and other handicapped people in the provision of air transportation. Section 404 (c) of the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 as amended October 3, 1986, by Public Law 99-435 (49 U.S.C. Section 1374 (c) (1)) provides in part, "no air carrier may discriminate against any otherwise qualified handicapped individual, by reason of such handicap, in the provision of air transportation." Article 30, Section 33(d)(1) of the Annotated Code of Maryland provides in part:
"The blind or visually handicapped are entitled to full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of all common carriers, [including]. . . airplanes. . ., or other public conveyances or modes of transportation. . . subject only to the conditions and limitations established by law and applicable to all persons."
As soon as we received this memorandum in the National Office, we made multiple copies of it and began distributing them to blind persons traveling from BWI Airport. The value of this practice was not long in being demonstrated, as witness the following declaration prepared by Sharon Gold, President of the National Federation of the Blind of California:
1. My name is Sharon Gold.
2. I reside at 1233 47th Avenue, in the City of Sacramento, which is located in the County of Sacramento, California.
3. On April 26, 1987, I was a passenger aboard American Airlines flight #885 traveling from Baltimore-Washington International Airport to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on my way home to Sacramento.
4. During my stay in Baltimore I met with Michael Baillif of California, who also happened to be returning home via American Airlines flight #885.
5. Mr. Baillif and I are legally blind, and at all times we each carry and use a long white cane.
6. At the airport and prior to the boarding of flight #885, Mr. Baillif and I approached the American Airlines ticket counter and requested a change in seat assignment so that we could be seated together during the flight. The ticket agent advised us that the flight was full and that we would have to keep our assigned seats of 9-B, for me, and 18-A, for Mr. Baillif, unless the gate agent would have more up-to-date information which would allow a change in seat assignment.
7. Mr. Baillif and I proceeded to Gate D-3, where we approached the gate agent and once again inquired as to the availability of adjacent seats. The gate agent advised us that we would have to keep our assigned seats unless we could find passengers onboard the aircraft who were willing to trade seats with us.
8. Mr. Baillif and I boarded the plane and took our assigned seats.
9. Mr. Baillif learned that the gentleman assigned to seat 18-B was traveling alone and that this gentleman was willing to trade seats with me so that Mr. Baillif and I could sit together. The gentleman came to my seat and advised me of his willingness to change seats. I, therefore, gave the gentleman my assigned seat, seat 9-B, and took his assigned seat, seat 18-B.
10. After I had occupied seat 18-B and before the flight left, a ground agent approached row 18 and advised Mr. Baillif and me that we were seated in an emergency exit row and that we would have to move because we were in violation of an FAA Regulation.
11. I explained that there was no FAA Regulation prohibiting the seating of blind persons in an emergency exit row, and I handed the agent a card on which is reprinted the current law relevant to the carriage of the blind and disabled by air carriers and, on the reverse side, a statement by Elizabeth Dole, Secretary of Transportation, issued to airlines prohibiting them from asserting FAA Regulations where none exist.
12. In addition to the card described in paragraph #11, I gave the gate agent a copy of an April 14, 1987, memorandum from Peter W. Taliaferro, Assistant Attorney General and Counsel to the State Aviation Administration for the State of Maryland, written to Wilfred A. Jackson, Manager of the Baltimore-Washington International Airport and Captain Robert Graham, Commander of the Airport Division of the Maryland State Police.
13. The ground agent left row 18 and walked toward the front of the airplane.
The flight left almost immediately
14. As the gate agent was leaving, the gentleman sitting to the right of me in seat 18-C, Joe Czarnecky of Crownsville, Maryland, began to complain that all of the carrying on by the airline officials was ridiculous and that he could see no reason why blind people should not sit in an emergency exit row.
15. Approximately three-quarters of the way through the flight, a flight attendant approached row 18 and said that the captain of the airplane wanted to know if I had an additional copy of the document which I had given to the ground agent. I gave the flight attendant the requested copy, which she promised would be returned to me.
16. As the flight attendant left, the gentleman to my right, who was described in paragraph #14, again grumbled as to the way Mr. Baillif and I were being treated as passengers, who happened to be blind.
17. Sometime later (when we were beginning to descend for landing at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport) a different flight attendant approached row 18 and said that the captain of the aircraft wanted to see me when we were on the ground. With a condescending tone, this flight attendant accused me of moving from seat 9-B to seat 18-B "for your little case."
18. A gentleman sitting in seat 17-A began questioning the flight attendant as to the qualifications of sighted persons who sit in the emergency exit row and the lack of instructions given to all passengers sitting in this row. He asked the flight attendant what made her believe that sighted persons knew how to get the emergency windows open.
19. When Mr. Baillif and I deplaned, we were met by a ground agent, who was reading the document which the flight attendant had requested for the captain.
20. The agent explained that the captain of the plane had radioed ahead and had summoned him to the plane. He said that there was apparently some trouble over the emergency exit row and asked us for an explanation.
21. The captain then approached us. The captain identified himself as Jim Cleary. Captain Cleary had with him an American Airlines Flight Manual from which he read Part I, Section 13, page 1, Paragraph 4-c. This citation advises that it is an American Airlines rule that blind persons are not to sit in the emergency exit row or in the row immediately in front of or immediately behind the emergency exit row.
22. Captain Cleary claimed that paragraph 4-c was an FAA Regulation. Captain Cleary further claimed that if an FAA agent were onboard the aircraft and found him in violation of the regulation, the FAA would fine him $1000.00 per person in violation of the rule, and in this case $2000.00.
23. I asked Captain Cleary for a copy of Part I, Section 13, page 1, Paragraph 4-c of the American Airlines Flight Manual, and he declined to give it to me because he said it is "copyrighted" and he "would get into trouble."
24. Captain Cleary and I discussed the difference between FAA Regulations and American Airlines Flight Rules, which are merely filed with the FAA and are not FAA Regulations. After some conversation, Captain Cleary acknowledged that Part I, Section 13, page 1, Paragraph 4-c is an American Airlines Flight Rule and is not an FAA Regulation. He continued to assert, however, that the FAA would fine him $1000.00 per person if he was caught in violation of this rule.
25. Mr. Baillif and I had a discussion with Captain Cleary concerning the whole issue of blind persons being seated in the emergency exit row. At first, Captain Cleary tried to say that as blind persons we would be a hazard to ourselves in an emergency because we surely would be trampled by the other 148 passengers aboard the aircraft, if there was in fact an emergency evacuation. Almost before concluding this statement, Captain Cleary seemed to realize the ridiculousness of it. After all, Mr. Baillif and I had just vacated the plane independently and as quickly as other passengers. We discussed with Captain Cleary that, if an emergency occurred at night and the cabin was dark or the occurrence of the emergency caused a smoke-filled cabin, a blind person unaccustomed to seeing could be at a greater advantage than a sighted person. We pointed out to Captain Cleary that airline personnel cannot discern the hidden characteristics of passengers--such as who will panic in an emergency, who has a bad heart, or who has some unrecognizable medical condition which might be the cause of extreme illness or sudden death from the fright caused by the emergency. By the time we concluded our discussion, I believe that we had pretty well dispelled Captain Cleary's reservations about blind persons sitting in the exit row--at least for that day and, hopefully, for future f lights.
This is Sharon Gold's declaration, and if we consider the entire sequence of events leading up to it, the implications are quite instructive. The local Federation President had talked with the airport manager and the Attorney General's office and had got a ruling. We had given a copy of that ruling to two blind air travelers. When they refused to move from their assigned seats, airline personnel (who would customarily have had them arrested) were stymied. The plane took off, and they remained in their seats. Ordinarily there would have been a long delay, public abuse and humiliation, and possibly a trip to jail.
As I have said, the airlines are probably the nation's biggest bartender. They are also perhaps the nation's biggest and most cowardly bully. I have a second strategy to suggest to you. Let us begin to strip the nation's biggest bully of some of his police backing and then see how he fares.
We have made and brought to this convention several thousand copies of the Maryland Attorney General's ruling. They are available in this room today. Get them, and make use of them. I suggest that every state and local affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind move quickly and firmly to set up meetings with every state attorney general in the nation and the manager of every airport. Show them the Maryland ruling, and remind them that their state has a white cane law, which has the same provisions that the Maryland law has. Get a ruling from your attorney general. Get an agreement from your airport manager. Once you get the ruling, make many copies of it, and see that every blind person who flies has one in his or her pocket.
Remember that the nation's biggest bartender and bully will know what we are doing and deploy his forces with what speed he can muster to try to block us. We must get there first and cut him off at the pass. We will not be successful in every attorney general's office or at every airport, but neither will the airlines; and we will begin to cut their support from under them on the ground. If, as at BWI, the police refuse to help them, the only alternative they will have will be to fly and deal with us in the air or on the ground at our destination--unless, of course, we have cut them off there, too. In the air (although it will be unpleasant) we can hold our own quite handily. As I have already said, this is not a war which we have wanted or sought; but since we are forced to fight it, we will do it with vigor, imagination, and relentless determination.
At present, as you know, a regulatory negotiation (in federal parlance a "reg-neg") is underway. In my opinion (although the nation's biggest bartender and bully would probably deny it) this reg-neg would never have occurred if it had not been for the airlines' mistreatment of the blind and our response. Since early June we have been meeting to negotiate the promulgation of new federal airline regulations. The Department of Transportation, the FAA, the airlines, other disability groups, and the blind are participating. The sessions (usually one or two a week) are day-long affairs presided over by representatives of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. As you know, Eileen Hoffman (the mediator who regularly presides at the meetings) is here today to speak to us, and I want to say publicly that she has demonstrated fairness and sensitivity in her chairing.
At the beginning of the reg-neg meetings, I told Ms. Hoffman and the others present that we would negotiate in good faith (as we certainly will) but that we would not in the meantime cease pursuing other initiatives and avenues of solution. We will continue to seek help from Congress; we will keep up our contacts with the media; we will go forward with our campaign of informing the public; and we will always stand ready to reach any reasonable understanding with the airlines. We will also pursue our new initiatives of documenting airline liquor abuses, getting rulings from state and local law officials, and thinking up every other means we can of bringing the abuse of blind people to an end. It is not a game we are playing, and just as the blacks could not compromise on the question of sitting at the back of the bus, neither can we compromise on sitting in the exit row.
What we want is simple. We want to pay for our tickets and travel in peace like everybody else. We are not a greater risk than others who ride the planes, and we are not willing to be treated as if we were.
To the airlines we say this: "First you tried to custodialize
us and treat us like small children. When (regardless of how courteously)
to accept such treatment, you resented us and tried to force us. In recent
months you have (on more than one occasion) jeopardized our safety, and the
safety of those around us, by publicly inciting other passengers to violence
against us--and you have done this in the name of promoting the very safety
you have jeopardized. You have humiliated us, prevented us from flying, and
caused us to be arrested and sometimes put into jail. We have been long-suffering
and patient, but there comes a time when patience ceases to be a virtue and
long-suffering meekness becomes cowardice. If you continue to make war on
us, we will stand forth to meet you with all the force we can muster. We
want no strife or confrontation, but we will do what we have to do. We are
simply no longer willing to be second-class citizens.
The following statements were made spontaneously from the audience by blind persons during the discussion concerning the airlines on Thursday afternoon, July 2, 1987, at the convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Phoenix, Arizona:
Finally I'd Had Enough
My name is Judy Sanders. I am an administrative assistant to Congressman Gerry Sikorski of Minnesota. From about 1978 I have experienced or observed many of the problems blind people have been having with the airlines. As the problems piled up, mostly there would be some kind of uneasy accommodation. Either they would let me keep my cane, or someone would move from a preassigned seat--but every time it happened, I became a little bit angrier, until I finally reached a point in my own mind where I said, "I'm not moving again. I'm not giving up my cane. I will do what other passengers are expected to do, and I will do nothing more nor less."
I had the chance to find out whether I really meant that when I was traveling (or thought I was going to travel) from Boston to Minneapolis in November of 1984. I boarded a People Express flight. They had open seating. It's kind of like boarding a bus. Everyone could choose his or her own seat. They asked me if I wanted to pre-board a couple of different times. I refused and said I would board along with everybody else. A flight attendant followed me and said, "Where will you sit?"
I said, "Well, I'll sit right here." I was by an empty seat. The flight attendant made no objection. I was sitting in an aisle seat with two women to my left. Then, another flight attendant came and said that I would have to move because I was in the aisle of an emergency exit row. I asked if the two women to my left would have to move. The flight attendant said no--that I had to move because I'm blind, and there is a federal regulation which prohibits my sitting there. I knew that wasn't true and told them so. The conversations went on with him and others until the police were brought.
The policeman said, "Ma'am, if you don't move, I'll have to arrest you."
I said (and this is one of the things that led to my anger), "The police have told blind people that before. They say you will be arrested. You get the blind person off the plane, and then you must leave the blind person there--and I won't let you do that to me."
And the guy said, "No, we'll really do it." I suppose he thought he had no choice, but it seemed to me that I just couldn't get off that plane and let it take off. That would accomplish nothing--besides which, I liked the seat I had. So they placed me under arrest--and kept my luggage.
I was in Boston for four days wearing the same dress. I pleaded not guilty. One of the reasons why I could take this action (Although I was very uncomfortable doing it) was that I knew I had the support of blind people all over the country. I knew this had to become public knowledge. We received a lot of press coverage.
Part of the reason was that we used a public relations firm. I mention this because a reporter said, "If this story is so important, why is it necessary to have a public relations firm?"
And I said, "Because we've been trying to tell you for years what is going on, and you wouldn't listen. We had to get people who could help us know how to make you listen, and here you are. Now you're here (hopefully listening) without a public relations firm. We shouldn't have had to use them in the first place."
Humiliating and Whimsical
My name is Homer Page. I am Deputy Mayor of the City of Boulder, Colorado. I am a member of the University of Colorado faculty. I hold a doctorate from the University of Chicago. In addition, I hold two letters in wrestling from the University of Missouri; I am a skier; and I am a technical rock climber. I'm also blind.
On April 13 of this year two other blind people and I were traveling from Baltimore to Denver, where we live. We boarded a Continental Airlines flight, went to our seats near the rear of the plane, and sat down. As it turned out, we were sitting in an exit row. The flight attendant said we would have to move. We gave her the cards that have been prepared which contain the statement regarding federal nondiscrimination legislation concerning air travel. She said she had seen them before and would have to talk with the pilot. Soon the pilot came. We explained to him that there was no regulation requiring us to move. We also explained that we were neither irrational nor incompetent and that, in fact, we were probably as competent to handle an emergency as anyone else on the plane. He went back to the cockpit, talked with his superiors in Houston and Los Angeles, and came back and told us we would have to move. Again, we said we wouldn't, and he went away. One of the flight attendants came to us and made what she called a "personal plea," as if we were small children. She said wouldn't we "please move" just to help her out.
By that time other passengers were beginning to make hostile remarks. They were saying things like, "Well, I'll bet you've got your case now." We tried to tell them that we probably had two hundred cases like this and that this was not a very big one--that for us it was a matter of principle. We certainly didn't need or want the kind of embarrassment and humiliation we were experiencing on that plane.
The pilot came and said he was going to call the state police. We said we were sorry but that we simply couldn't move--that we had to do what we had to do, and perhaps he had to do what he had to do. The police came, and rather than having a disturbance, we reluctantly left the plane.
That isn't the end of the story, though. We went to the front of the airport and got tickets on a United Airlines flight which was about to take off. We ran down the runway, got on the plane, went to our assigned seats, sat down--and it was an exit row. The flight attendant came and said, "Let me explain to you your nearest exit row." And then she said, "Oh, you're in one. Well, good." She went away, and we never heard another word about it during the entire flight. This is typical of the whimsical and humiliating treatment to which blind people are being subjected.
Understands the English Language and Can Also Walk
My name is Barbara Pierce. I am a Phi Beta Kappa magna cum laude graduate of Oberlin college. I am also the mother of three active children and am a college administrator. In my time I have served as a prenatal teacher and a hospital chaplain, so I am used to living an active and vigorous life and pretty much going and doing what I wish to do.
When I came to last year's convention of the National Federation of the Blind, I was assigned a seat by a TWA ticket agent, and it turned out that my seat was in an emergency exit row. I had the same sort of experience which has been delineated by others. We had the same kinds of discussions, and I regret to say that it ended in the same way. I was arrested.
I would like to call attention to certain things since it seems to me that my experience calls into question the objectivity of the federal Department of Transportation.
I had recognized that I was in an exit row and had taken seriously the responsibility that I think all of us seated in exit rows must take. I had prepared myself by reading that little card that virtually no one reads. I had checked out the handles on the window. I had had my seat companion read to me the vast amount of instruction printed on the fuselage. It consisted of the word "pull"--a word, by the way, which I did comprehend.
I was told that I was blocking the exit row. The discussions proceeded through my explaining my preparations to a member of the crew, who said to me: "Look, Mrs. Pierce, the issue is not your competence. It is clear that you are competent to deal with such an emergency, and you are the best prepared person seated in an exit row. The problem is that we have an airline policy, and the pilot will not take off in violation of that policy."
I called to his attention the fact that there was another passenger sitting in another exit row who had entered the plane heavily leaning on an orthopedic cane. That cane was taken away from the passenger, and it was clear to my seat companion, who is sighted, that without the cane the man was unable to move with any speed--and she wasn't sure he could move at all. Certainly he could not climb through a window exit. He seemed to be insulted when I pointed out his sitting in an exit row to one of the crew and wondered why he was not being asked to move as well.
Later I filed a formal complaint with the federal Department of Transportation--personally handed it to a Department of Transportation official. Months later I got the word that my complaint had been refused. They would not even take it to an administrative law judge. The reason pretty well came down to this: I had made the point in my complaint that this other passenger had been clearly an obstacle to rapid evacuation of the plane through the exit row on his side and that I, who was prepared, would have gotten out with expedition and facility. The Department of Transportation ruled that, because this passenger was able to read the word "pull" on the fuselage (despite his inability to move), he was not considered to be an obstacle to the evacuation of the plane. However (despite the fact that I knew what the word "pull" meant and could suit the action to the word), I constituted an obstacle, must be viewed as a blockage, and must move out of that row.
I worry about the objectivity of the Department of Transportation, and I wonder how long we are going to have to submit to this kind of unbalanced, unfair ruling by the federal agencies supposed to be giving us redress.
Wouldn't Refund His Ticket, Wouldn't Let Him Board the Plane
My name is Steve Hastalis. I work for the Chicago Transit Authority. My situation involves Britt Airways in Peoria, Illinois, and I didn't even make it to the exit row. I didn't even get out of the terminal building. I showed up with a valid ticket and was told that I must provide all kinds of personal information and fill out a special form for assistance, assistance which I neither needed nor wanted. I was asked to say where I was going in Chicago and how I was going to get there.
When I refused to comply with these demeaning requirements, the plane left without me. I asked them to give me a copy of the form they wanted me to fill out. They refused. I asked them to read me their customer service manual language pertaining to the form. They refused. Then they told me if I didn't leave the airport, they would have me arrested.
I asked for a refund on my ticket, and they refused to give me that. They said it was a nonrefundable ticket. I had to find people to drive me over sixty miles to Bloomington, where I got a Greyhound bus to Chicago, arriving home at one o'clock in the morning.
I took the matter to the Illinois Human Rights Department. Last April they ruled in my favor, saying there was substantial evidence that a violation of civil rights had occurred. Yet, the Federal Department of Transportation refused to take jurisdiction.
Invasion of My Person
My name is Diane McGeorge. I live in Denver. I have had a number of extremely unpleasant experiences with airlines. About four years ago, when I was seated with my dog guide in a middle seat on an airplane, they told me I could not sit there--that my dog guide and I had to be seated in the first row of the plane. I said it was not a regulation. We went through all of the regular discussions you go through with the airlines. Ultimately I agreed to leave the plane.
I was leaving. However, I stopped and asked for a copy of the regulation the airline said existed, a regulation that said I had to sit in the first row. I knew there was no such regulation.
While I was leaving under my own power, a policeman picked me up and bodily put me off of the airplane. I cannot begin to describe to you the humiliation and embarrassment, the invasion of my person, that I felt with that policeman handling me in that way when I was being cooperative--probably more cooperative than I should have been.
The National Federation of the Blind filed suit on my behalf. Let me tell you what the court said. The judge said I had not been discriminated against--that my dog had been discriminated against. It may sound funny--but it isn't funny. It is serious business when a judge will make a ruling like that. We are people. We are human beings. We deserve the same respect that everyone else deserves. We are appealing that decision, of course. People need to understand that we are serious and that the courts are going to take us seriously. The Department of Transportation had better take us seriously.
My name is Gary Mackenstadt. I work as a manager in a federal civil rights
office in Seattle, Washington
Last fall my wife, who happens to be sighted, and I were flying on American from Chicago to Seattle. We boarded the plane and walked toward our assigned seats, and my wife turned to me and said, "You've got an emergency exit row." A flight attendant came to my seat and told me I would have to move because of an FAA regulation. We went through the usual routine. I told her there was no regulation.
She went away and then returned and said I was right--that the reason I would have to move was because of a company policy. She also said that she agreed with me that there was no reason why I should move. However, she went on to say, "You will have to move because my supervisor says you have to move." I explained to the supervisor that I was a federal civil rights official and that I wanted to talk to the pilot. The pilot refused to talk to me. The flight attendant said I would have to get off the plane. I refused. She said she would call the police, and she did.
Five fully armed Chicago police officers came to the plane. Two of them came to my seat. Three of them waited in the jet way. I don't mind telling you that at that moment I was thinking about the problems other blind persons have had with airlines and the police--physical abuse, arrest, strip-search, and jail cells. I asked myself whether I had made the right decision and whether it was really such a good idea to stand up for principle.
I am proud to say that being a member of the National Federation of the Blind gave me the strength to stand up for what is right, and I'm also glad to tell you that the Chicago police were more reasonable than American Airlines. I was arrested, and when we were off the plane the police officer apologized for arresting me, saying that he had done it because American Airlines had told him that there was a terribly disorderly individual on the plane and that he felt I was right in standing my ground.
The police took us to the station, and the American Airline officials were very much distressed because what they had wanted was to have the Chicago police remove me from the plane and let them go their way; but since they had been forced to sign a complaint, they had to come to the station. They complained that they had to waste their time to come and deal with me. After about two hours they decided to drop the charges.
Hurt His Chances for a Job
My name is Paul Gabias. I am currently a professor at the University of Wisconsin and probably (no thanks to the airlines) have a job with the University of Nevada at Reno.
When I was interviewed for the Nevada job, I was (as is customary with visiting professors) escorted back to the airport as a courtesy. A panel of the interview committee went with me. At the gate an airline official said: "We'll pre-board this passenger; and, sir, would you mind taking this passenger down the stairs, please."
I said, "No, I will not pre-board, and this person does not need to take me down the stairs."
What the airlines were saying to the University was: "You are considering employing an incompetent baby." I don't want the airlines involved in my job interview-particularly, when there is a seventy percent unemployment rate among the blind. We're not just fighting about exit row seating but also about jobs and decency and dignity.
We of the National Federation of the Blind have repeatedly told the airlines that their argument about not letting blind persons sit in exit rows because of safety considerations is phony. As proof we have pointed to their serving of liquor to exit row passengers to the point of making them drunk. In answer the airlines sanctimoniously reply that their policy is never to serve liquor to excess. Regardless of stated rules, the fact is that as a standard routine passengers get drunk on almost every flight, and they buy the liquor on the plane from the flight attendant.
All of this is common knowledge, but there is growing confirmation of it in the press. We do not have the exact figures, but it will be observed that the following article says that the airlines sell more than four hundred million dollars worth of liquor to their passengers each year. Not safety, but profit, seems to be the motive. After all, four hundred million dollars is a lot of money. As we have said, the airlines are probably the nation's biggest bartender. The following article by Peter Greenberg appeared in the June 7, 1987, Newsday.
On a Continental Airlines flight between London and Houston, a passenger climbed into an overhead luggage rack and refused to come down until a stewardess took off her blouse.
On a Pan Am fight between Berlin and Zurich, a woman passenger rushed for the cockpit door, insisting she see the captain. When a flight attendant asked her to sit down, the woman took a swing at her. The flight attendant wrestled the woman to the floor and spent the next thirty minutes sitting on the passenger.
And thirty-eight members of an Australian football team on their way to the U. S. were thrown off a Qantas Airways flight in Honolulu after food fights broke out in the cabin and twelve airline seats were ripped out of the plane.
What do all of these incidents have in common? Excessive onboard drinking by passengers.
"We think the onboard drinking problem has become quite serious," says Cindy Yeast, spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants, an organization that represents 21,000 flight attendants. "Flight attendants are being physically abused by drunk passengers and there are safety problems as well."
In fact, the problem has become so noticeable that at least one Asian-based airline has equipped each of its airplanes with a set of handcuffs that flight attendants can use if necessary to restrain a drunk and unruly passenger. "We've had to anchor some people to their seats a number of times," says a spokesman for the airline.
The real problem, argues Yeast, "is that the airlines don't want to do anything about it."
One reason, perhaps, is that the airlines make a lot of money serving booze. Almost thirty percent of all air travelers order an in-flight drink. Last year, each major airline served more than twelve million tiny bottles of alcohol to passengers, earning the airlines more than $400 million in total sales. Most airlines sell you the drink for about $2.50. But it costs the airlines only about twenty-eight cents a bottle. That's a 900 percent profit!
Few airline captains want to press charges against drunk passengers; it means having to return to the city where the passenger was arrested to testify if the case goes to trial. As a result, most airline captains elect to land and deplane the drunk passenger rather than create a bigger scene.
"The problem," says one pilot, "is one of priorities. If some guy lit up a joint on an airplane, there'd be a quick nonscheduled landing, and the guy would be arrested without question. But if he goes through a fifth of liquor, becomes abusive and endangers safety, we put up with it. It's a terrible double standard, and we want alcohol considered in the drug abuse category."
Don't hold your breath waiting. Airlines spend a considerable amount of time planning and promoting their alcohol services. Brands are selected carefully and are often differentiated by class of travel.
Another problem with onboard passenger drinking--on international flights--is the additional consumption of duty-free alcohol that has been purchased on the flight itself.
"On a number of my flights," says one pilot, "it has not been unusual to walk the aisles after landing to see lots of empty bottles stuffed into seat backs or lying on the floor. We've complained, but no one wants to do anything about it."
In December, the International Civil Aviation Organization rejected a request by airline pilots from around the world which simply asked for a study of the possibility of having airlines collect and stow duty-free alcohol on board, returning the full bottles to passengers upon landing. The ICAO found the suggestion "impractical."
"I'll do anything I can not to work the smoking section," says TWA flight attendant Lenore Kadish. "Because that's where all the drinkers are. But my problems aren't just with abusive drinkers. . . .It's with the quiet drunks, the folks you can't wake up after the plane lands. And we feel it can seriously impact our ability to help people in an emergency."
In 1983, after an Air Canada DC-9 caught fire and had to make an emergency landing in Cincinnati, investigators discovered that one of the twenty-three passengers who died had a blood alcohol level of 0.2 percent, and two others had alcohol levels above 0.1 percent, which could have easily impaired their ability to make it to an emergency exit. Most states consider people with blood alcohol levels above 0.1 percent to be legally drunk.
"The drinking problem goes way beyond cocktails in the airplane," says Kadish. "The problems usually start at airport bars before passengers board. We need to monitor the boarding process more closely to prevent more problems once we're in the air." In Australia, the Airline Crew Association has asked airlines to make passengers to submit to breathalyzer tests before boarding.
Comment from the Editor: This article appeared in the July 11, 1987, Sacramento Bee (California). It helps to give perspective to the airlines' claim that the reason they try to keep blind persons from sitting in exit rows has to do with their overriding concern for safety. One wonders if the Delta pilot and crew would have tried to remove a blind passenger from the plane because that passenger did not wish to be publicly humiliated and badgered into giving up a seat which had been assigned to him or her.
Eavesdropping AF Plane Taped Discussion Between Airliners
Washington--The flight crew of a Delta Airlines jumbo jet that strayed sixty miles off course Wednesday and nearly collided with a Continental Airlines jet immediately attempted to cover up the incident, aviation sources said Friday.
The cover-up attempt was recorded by a U. S. Air Force jet that was in the area at the time and taped a radio conversation between the Delta and Continental flight crews.
Sources with access to details on the tape said that just after the near collision, which happened at 31,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean in Canadian airspace, the Delta crew suggested to the Continental crew that the incident not be reported.
But the Continental crew disagreed, pointing out that several Continental passengers had seen the Delta plane when it passed within 100 feet.
An American Airlines jet crew, flying 4,000 feet higher and about ten miles behind, saw the near miss and also joined in discussions about whether to report the incident, according to the sources. The American crew subsequently helped the Delta jet get back on course.
A Pan American World Airways Airbus A-310 reportedly was flying the track the Delta Airlines plane should have followed, and its crew also apparently participated in the radio discussions that followed.
The matter was raised when someone asked the Continental pilots whether they were going to file a report on the near collision, said the sources. When the Continental crew members gave their first indication that they would, the sources added, it was followed by a transmission to the effect that "nobody knows about it except us, you idiots!"
"I have passengers pounding on the door, and crying, that they saw the whole thing out the windows," was the gist of the Continental pilot's reply, according to a version of the radio exchange supplied by an airline industry source.
Transcripts of the tape recording were not immediately available, so accounts of the radio conversation were reconstructed from the memory of officials who had heard the tape or talked to some of the pilots involved.
One highly placed FAA official said agency officials who listened to the tape were "outraged" by what they heard.
Failure by U. S.-registered planes to report any deviation from course, whether in U. S. airspace or not, would be in direct violation of Federal Aviation Administration regulations, an FAA spokesman said.
Delta said Friday it is conducting an inquiry into the incident. But Jim Ewing, director of national media relations for the airline, said the airline had no knowledge of the existence of the Air Force tape.
"It is too early to say whose voices may or may not be on it or what they are saying. We will have to wait for the results of an inquiry," he said.
The main inquiry is being conducted by the Canadian Air Safety Board. But the Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday that it was conducting its own inquiry, in coordination with the National Transportation Safety Board.
The Air Force tape is expected to play a key role in those probes. The recorded conversations were analyzed Friday by experts at the NTSB in Washington before the tape was handed over to the Canadian Aviation Safety Board.
The U. S. Air Force jet is understood to have been on a training mission over the Atlantic when it eavesdropped on the conversations. It was close to the scene of the near-miss, which happened in clear skies shortly after noon off the coast of Gander, Newfoundland.
The Delta L1011-500 Tri-Star, with 167 passengers and crew members on board, was three hours into its flight from Gatwick, London, to Cincinnati when it strayed off course, encountering the Continental Airlines Boeing 747 heading for New York and carrying 399 passengers and 25 crew members.
According to the aviation sources, the Air Force jet took special measures preserve the conversations it records. Normally the tape would have erased itself after thirty minutes.
Sources said they believed that the airlines involved did not keep the relevant sections of their tapes.
The sources said the Delta crew requested that the incident not reported soon after they realized they had deviated sixty miles off course.
During the radio talks, the American Airlines crew suggested that the incident could be reported under FAA immunity procedures. These procedures allow a pilot to be given immunity from disciplinary action if he reports an unsafe incident and no independent evidence of the incident becomes available to authorities.
However, the Continental crew reported the near collision to Canadian authorities on landing at New York.
One source close to the investigation said Friday that the military jet's tape was raising serious concerns because it added to fears that unreported near misses are common over the oceans.
Aircraft flying over the Atlantic Ocean have no assistance from radar because the curvature of the Earth's surface prevents land radar stations from following their progress. As a result, extra care has to be taken pilots in plotting and recording their positions.
(Canada and the United States are different in many ways, but in some respects they are quite similar—for instance, in the battle which the blind are fighting for equal treatment in air travel. This article details the successful battle of Ruth Adelia to buy her ticket and travel in peace like any other first-class Canadian citizen. She appealed for justice to the Canadian Transport Commission – and she won.)
November 12, 1986
To All TDPIC Members and Task Forces Chairpersons
The attached copy of the Air Transport Committee’s decision concerning Ruth Adelia’s application for remedial action against Air Canada’s Tariffs is submitted for your information and retention.
Public Education Officer
Transportation of Disabled Persons Program
AIR TRANSPORT COMMITTEE
DECISION NO. 10205
November 4, 1986
APPLICATION BY Ruth Adelia, pursuant to section 10 of the Aeronautics Act, for remedial action against Air Canada’s tariffs.
APPLICATION APPROVED IN PART
File No. 7-A336-70
The facts as alleged by the applicant, Ruth Adelia, and undisputed by Air Canada are as follows:
Ruth Adelia is a secretary with the Department of Social Services in the Saskatchewan Government in Regina. She has required the use of a wheelchair for the past thirty-five years due to a physical disability caused by polio.
On May 9, 1985, Ruth Adelia arrived at 9:30 a.m. at the Regina Airport properly ticketed to fly with Air Canada to Ottawa at 10:45 a.m., in order to attend a meeting of the National Board of Directors of the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association. She had flown many times previously on Air Canada without the assistance of an attendant.
At approximately 10:40 a.m., a representative of Air Canada took Ruth Adelia to the boarding gate. Ms. Adelia was then met by a supervisor responsible for ground services with Air Canada who asked Ms. Adelia if she could walk. Ruth Adelia answered that she could not. Ms. Adelia explained that the usual procedure would be for Air Canada to provide her with a narrow wheelchair usually described as a “Washington chair” to assist her in boarding the airplane.
The Air Canada representative decided to attempt to board Ms. Adelia in her own wheelchair. As the chair reached the washroom area in the plane, it became apparent that the chair was too wide to be boarded. Ruth Adelia suggested again to the Air Canada representative that she be transferred into a “Washington chair.” The Air Canada representative did not respond to this request and proceeded to deplane Ms. Adelia.
The Air Canada representative asked Ms. Adelia if she was traveling alone. Ms. Adelia advised that she traveled along, lived by herself, worked, and drove her own van. The Air Canada representative asked Ms. Adelia if she could use the washroom in the airplane independently. Ruth Adelia responded that she could not use the washroom independently, but did not expect to have to use the washroom during the flight from Regina to Ottawa.
The Air Canada representative then indicated to Ms. Adelia that in his opinion she was incapable of self-care and, therefore, pursuant to the applicable tariff, she was required to travel with an attendant. He refused to allow her to travel by herself. This decision was confirmed by a pilot of the aircraft, who would not allow her to remain on board.
Ruth Adelia returned to her home and was prevented from attending the meeting in Ottawa.
By letter dated May 9 (and revised by the CTC on May 12) 1986, Ruth Adelia has filed with the Air Transport Committee pursuant to section 10 of the Aeronautics Act, an application in which she seeks the following relief:
(a) that Air Canada license be suspended or cancelled;
(b) that the word “normally” in section 33 (A) (2) (e) and section 33 (B) (1) of Air Canada’s tariff be disallowed;
(c) that Air Canada’s tariffs or license be amended so as to recognize the right of disabled persons to determine their own self-reliance for the purpose of air travel;
(d) that Air Canada pay the costs of this application on a solicitor and client basis; and
(e) such further and other relief as to the Air Transport Committee may seem just.
Attached as Appendix “A” to this Decision is Rule 33 of the relevant Air Canada tariff. The focus of the application is on Rule 33 A (2) (e), which reads as follows:
“(e) Determination of self-reliance – the carrier will normally accept the disabled person’s determination as to self-reliance.”
The word “normally” does not appear in Rule 33 (B) (1), contrary to the applicant’s assertion.
The applicant objects to the word “normally” for reasons expressed as follows at paragraphs 16 and 17 of the application:
“16. The vagueness of the tariff criteria concerning ‘self-reliance,’ the subjectivity and variability of an individuals needs, and the variety of airline personnel authorized to refuse carriage to a disabled person have resulted in arbitrary decisions being made. Every disabled person is aware of several others who were arbitrarily denied carriage because airline personnel misperceived the individual’s ability or need to feed themselves or use the washroom facilities. There is nothing these people could have done to have avoided these last-minute decisions. While the numerous arbitrary decisions are bad enough in themselves, it is the widespread apprehension felt by disabled people whenever they are required to travel by air which is most objectionable. Ruth Adelia can never be sure, as all non-disabled passengers are sure, that she will not be refused carriage whatever steps she may take to protect herself.
“17. Air carriage is the only mode of transportation which subjects disabled travelers to this kind of arbitrariness and uncertainty. All other modes of transportation allow disabled people to determine their own degree of ‘self-reliance.’
The applicant points out that the Railway Transport Committee of the Canadian Transport Commission has ruled, in the railway context, in its Order No. R-30742, dated April 24, 1980, that the decision that one is a self-reliant person, within VIA’s definition of the same, should be made by the disabled person concerned.
The applicant also points out that Recommendation 88 of the Report entitled Obstacles issued by the Special Parliamentary Committee on the Disabled and the Handicapped, in February of 1981, calls upon the Federal Government, through the Minister of Transport, to require that air carries adopt a policy of accepting the disabled traveler’s determination of self-reliance.
applicant goes on to indicate that the Minister of Transport released,
in November 1983, a document entitled Policy on Transportation of Disabled
Persons. Section 6.4 of this Policy states that “all disabled travelers
should be assumed to be self-reliant unless they, or their chose
state otherwise (…).”
The applicant also refers to Mr. Ed Ratushny’s Report of August 1984 to the Minister of Transport. This Report, entitled ‘Air Accessibility Standards for Disabled and Elderly Persons,’ sets out as follows at page 66:
“(…) As indicated earlier, under existing tariffs and practice, the air carriers ‘normally’ accept the disabled traveler’s estimate of self-reliance.
“That estimate should be made absolute, to establish firmly the passenger’s right to make this decision may be questionable have proven to be rare. The disabled passenger is highly motivated to take every possible precaution to avoid complications during the flight. Many reduce their liquid intake in the hours preceding the flight to avoid the necessity of using the washroom. Some, who have great difficulties in feeding themselves, choose not to eat on board. In the exceptional case where it proves unwise to have flown without an attendant, the consequences will seldom be serious. Against these marginal consequences must be weighed the serious burden that the requirement of an attendant can create. At present, the attendant flies at one-half of the disable passenger’s fare. In addition, there is the cost of food, lodging, and possible fees for the service rendered. (…).
“RECOMMENDATION: An accessibility standard should be adopted to require air carriers to accept the personal assessment of each disabled traveler as to whether he or she is self-reliant (i.e., does not require an extraordinary degree of care) or whether an attendant is required.”
The applicant points out that the recommendations in Mr. Ratushny’s Report were endorsed by the Minister of Transport.
In conclusion, the applicant pleads that Air Canada’s tariff provision violates policy, contravenes Section 113 of the Air Carrier Regulations, C.R.C. 1978 c.3, and is in breach of Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom, in that:
“(i) the tariffs deprive disabled
persons of equal access to air transportation.
“(ii) the tariffs subject the disabled person’s right of travel to the unfettered and unregulated discretion of the air carriers.
“(iii) the tariffs oblige disabled persons to incur expenses of an attendant in cases where such assistance is unnecessary, and make it impossible for a disabled, self-reliant person to determine when he or she will be accepted as such by the airline.
“(iv) the tariffs confer an unfettered discretion to the representative of the air carrier to decide the issue of self-reliance and when the decision of the disable person as to self-reliance will be accepted.
“(v) the tariffs are vague and uncertain in that they do not provide any guidelines to determine the question of self-reliance or the circumstances under which the decision of the disabled person as to self-reliance is to be accepted or who is to make the ultimate decision.”
AIR CANADA’S RESPONSE
Air Canada filed an Answer, dated June 12, 1986, to Ruth Adelia’s application. As mentioned earlier, Air Canada does not dispute the facts alleged by the applicant. Air Canada admits that it prevented Ruth Adelia from traveling from Regina to Ottawa on May 9, 1985. Air Canada expresses its regret at having failed to carry Ms. Adelia and extends to Ms. Adelia its sincere apologies.
Air Canada submits that this incident resulted from an incorrect application or interpretation of its tariff. Air Canada points out that this was an isolated incident of misapplication of the tariff, and argues that in the absence of evidence which shows that disabled passengers are being systematically denied transportation, no charge to its tariff provision is called for. Air Canada further argues that a license suspension or cancellation would be inappropriate.
Air Canada also takes the position that, to the extent that improvements to the handling of disabled passengers are required, these should be made on an industry-wide basis and not on an individual carrier basis. Air Canada argues that the applicant’s concern would be best dealt with if it were resolved within the framework of ongoing activities of the CTC and other bodies in relation to transportation of disabled passengers.
Air Canada provided documentation to illustrate the initiatives it has taken over the years concerning services to the disabled air traveler, and its efforts to communicate its policies and willingness to carry disabled passengers and to help sensitize its employees in order to provide a better service. Air Canada confirms its commitment to continued efforts to enhance services to disabled passengers.
In conclusion, Air Canada submits that the application should be dismissed and the each party bear its own costs.
The applicant filed a reply to Air Canada’s answer, under cover of a letter dated July 7, 1986. IN response to the argument that a tariff amendment is unnecessary because this was an isolated incident, then Air Canada should have no qualms about agreeing to the requested tariff amendment because the net result would be a recognition of the status quo, yet removal of the ambiguous language would ensure that there is no repetition of the isolated incident.
While confessing inability to document the difficulties that other passengers have encountered with Air Canada despite their assertion of self-reliance, the applicant nonetheless reiterates, as evidence of the existence of the problem, its earlier references to the reports, resolutions, and decisions of various bodies calling for acceptance of the disabled person’s assertion of self-reliance.
With respect to Air Canada’s argument that this application is untimely because of the ongoing initiatives of the CTC and other bodies in relation to transportation of disabled persons, the applicant counters that the issue of determination of self-reliance needs to be resolved in order to ensure the progress and success of those initiatives. The applicant contends that it has brought its request for a tariff amendment before a body vested with jurisdiction to bring about the amendment, and thus remove the “log-jam” that is troubling other initiatives. The applicant also submits that the ATC is also vested with authority to resolve the issue of determination of self-reliance by the enactment of regulations, and in that respect the applicant reminds the ATC that it has been studying this issue, as part of an industry-wide review, since 1983.
In conclusion, the applicant argues that is has discharged the onus of showing that the tariff provision is contrary to Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but that Air Canada has not discharged it onus, indeed has submitted no evidence, that the tariff provision is a reasonable limit to the applicant’s equality rights.
BY THE COMMITTEE
Although Air Canada did not dispute our jurisdiction to deal with this application,
we think it appropriate, in this case, to set out the source of our jurisdiction.
By virtue of paragraph 14 (1) (m) of the Aeronautics Act, R.S.C. 1970, c. A-3 the CTC may make regulations:
“respecting traffic, tolls, and tariffs,
and providing for,
“(i) the disallowance or suspension of any tariff of toll by the Commission,
“(ii) the substitution of a tariff or toll satisfactory to the Commission, or
“(iii) the prescription by the Commission of other tariffs or tolls in lieu of the tariffs or tolls disallowed.”
Such regulations were enacted by the CTC as Parts VI and VII of the Air Carrier Regulations, C.R.C. 1978, c. 3. Of particular relevance to Ruth Adelia’s application are subsections 113 (1) to (3) and Section 115 of the Air Carrier Regulations. These provide as follows:
“113 (1) All tolls and terms
or conditions of carriage established by an air carrier shall be just and
reasonable and shall always, under substantially
similar circumstances and conditions, with respect to all traffic of
same description, be charged equally to all persons at the same rate.
“(2) No air carrier shall in respect of tolls
“(a) make any unjust discrimination against any person or other air carrier;
“(b) make or give any undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to or in favor of any person or other carrier in any respect whatever; or
“(c) subject any person or other air carrier or any description of traffic to any undue or unreasonable prejudice or disadvantage in any respect whatever.
“(3) The Committee may determine whether traffic is to be, is, or has been carried under substantially similar circumstances and conditions, and whether, in any case, there may be or has been unjust discrimination or undue or unreasonable preference or advantage, or prejudice or disadvantage, within the meaning of this section, or whether in any case the air carrier has compiled with the provisions of this Section or Section 112.
“115. The Committee may:
“(a) suspend or disallow any tariff or toll that in its opinion may be contrary to Sections 112, 113, or 114;
“(b) require an air carrier to substitute a tariff or toll satisfactory to the Committee; or
“(c) prescribe another tariff or toll in lieu of any tariff or toll disallowed under paragraph (a).”
This is contemplated by Section 10 of the Aeronautics Act, which provides as follows:
“10. (1) The Commission has full jurisdiction to inquire into, hear, and determine any matter
“(a) where it appears to the Commission that any person has failed to do any act, matter, or thing required to be done by this Part or by any regulation, license, permit, order, or direction made there under by the Commission, or that any person has done or is doing any act, matter, or thing contrary to or in violation of the Part or any such regulation, license, permit, order, or direction, or
“(b) where it appears to the Commission that the circumstances may require the Commission, in the public interest, to make any order or give any direction, leave, sanction, or approval that by law it is authorized to make or give, or with respect to any matter, act, or thing that by this Part or any such regulation, license, permit, order, or direction is prohibited, sanctioned, or required to be done.
“(2) The Commission may order and require any person to do, forthwith, or within or at any specified time and in any manner prescribed by the Commission so far as it is not inconsistent with this Act, any act, matter, or thing that such person is or may be required to do under this Part, or any regulation, license, permit, order, or direction made there under by the Commission and may forbid the doing or continuing of any act, matter, or thing that is contrary to this Part or any such regulation, license, permit, order, or direction and, for the purposes of this section, has full jurisdiction to hear and determine all matters, whether of law or fact.”
The facts in this case clearly demonstrate that Air Canada does not always accept a disabled person’s determination as to self-reliance. Air Canada has described the Ruth Adelia incident as an “isolated” one. We think it is already one incident too many. Air Canada states that “it will carry Miss Adelia in the future under similar circumstances.” However, as Air Canada admits, it ought to have carried Ruth Adelia on May 9, 1985, and failed to do so. It happened once; therefore it can happen again, perhaps not to Ruth Adelia, but to some other disabled person. Is there something that can be done to prevent it from happening again?
Ruth Adelia asks us to effect a change in the tariff provision which states that “the carrier will normally accept the disabled person’s determination as to self-reliance,” by removing the word “normally.” However, Air Canada submits that “evidence which shows that handicapped passengers are being systematically denied transportation should be brought to justify such a change.” We hope such evidence does not exist. Moreover, we are of the view that evidence of one incident of this kind is sufficient to justify taking action that may assist in preventing the repetition of that incident.
Air Canada did not dispute the applicant’s submission that Rule 33 (A) (2) (e) contravenes Section 113 of the Air Carrier Regulations. Nor did Air Canada contest the applicant’s arguments that the tariff rule is inconsistent with national policy on the matter and is in breach of Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Air Canada also left unassailed the applicant’s statement that in all modes of transportation other than air, the disabled person’s determination of self-reliance is accepted by the carrier.
We agree with Ms. Adelia that the word “normally,” found in Rule 33 (A) (2) (e) of Air Canada’s tariff, gives rise to uncertainty in the application of that tariff rule. “Normally,” in this context, means as a general rule, Air Canada will accept the disabled person’s assertion, but there will be exceptions. Unfortunately, the tariff rule is unspecific as to who, among Air Canada personnel, has the authority to reject the disabled person’s assertion. Moreover, the word “normally” permits that a disabled person’s assertion of self-reliance be rejected arbitrarily, because no criterion is set out as to why a disable person’s assertion will not always be accepted.
Because of the uncertainty and arbitrariness of which it is susceptible, we find that Rule 33 (A) (2) (e) subjects disabled persons to the unreasonable disadvantage complained of by the applicant and, therefore, is contrary to Section 113 of the Air Carrier Regulations.
Accordingly, the Air Transport Committee hereby disallows Rule 33 (A) (2) (e) in the Airline Tariff Publishing Company Agent Tariff CTC (A) No. 241 in respect of its application to Air Canada, effective 30 days from the date of this Decision, and requires Air Canada to substitute therefore a new rule which shall read as follows:
“Determination of self-reliance – the carrier will accept a disabled person’s determination as to self-reliance.”
We have reached no conclusion respecting the submission that the tariff rule contravenes Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Given our conclusion that there is, in any event, a breach of Section 113 of the Air Carrier Regulations, it is unnecessary for us to deal with the “Charter” issue. Moreover, we would prefer to deal with this issue in a case where both sides of the issue have been debated before us.
Nonetheless, in the course of our deliberations, we exchanged some views concerning the “Charter” issue. It occurred to us that, arguably, the real focus of differential treatment within Rule 33 (A) (2) (e) is between two classes of disabled people: those whose assertion of self-reliance is accepted, and those whose assertion of self-reliance is not accepted. The fact that disabled people are treated differently than non-disabled people arises not out of Rule 33 (A) (2) (e) itself, but out of Rule 33 as a whole. The applicant has not challenged Rule 33 as a whole, as being contrary to the Charter, presumably because the applicant is satisfied that Rule 33, as a whole, falls within the discriminatory limits permitted by the Charter.
We hope that these tentative views concerning the “Charter” issue will be accepted in the spirit of sharing ideas, and wish to reiterate that no conclusions were in fact reached by any commissioner concerning this issue.
We have not ignored Air Canada’s submission that improvements
to the handling of disabled passengers should be
made on an industry-wide basis and not
on an individual carrier basis. It is apparent from
Airline Tariff Publishing Company Agent Tariff CTC
(A) No. 241
that Rule 33
(e) is applicable
not only to Air Canada but to several other carriers
as well. The Air Transport Committee intends to initiate
The applicant has asked that the license of Air Canada be suspended or cancelled. In our opinion, no useful purpose would be served by doing so; therefore, that request is denied.
There remains the question of costs. The applicant has requested costs of this action on a solicitor and client basis. On the other hand, Air Canada has submitted that each party hear its own costs. Pursuant to Section 73 of the National Transportation Act, R.S.C. 1970, c. N-17, the Commission has discretion to make an order as to costs. As a general rule, the Commission does not award costs. However, we feel that we should depart from our general rule in this exceptional case. We commend Ruth Adelia for having had the courage to file this application. Her own efforts and expenses will be of benefit to the public at large. In those circumstances, we think it is appropriate that part of her legal expenses be borne by her opponent, Air Canada. Accordingly, the Air Transport Committee hereby awards the applicant costs on a party and party basis to be taxed in accordance with the Federal Court of Canada tariff.
1. The Committee denies the request that Air Canada’s license be suspended
2. The Committee disallows Air Canada’s tariff Rule 33 (A) (2) (e).
3. The Committee orders Air Canada to substitute, in lieu of the disallowed tariff rule, the following:
“Determination of self-reliance – the carrier will accept a disabled person’s determination as to self-reliance.”
4. The Committee awards the applicant costs on a party and party basis to be taxed in accordance with the Federal Court of Canada tariff.
Paul Langlois, Chairman
D.H. Jones, Commissioner
J.M. McDonough, Commissioner
Mike Landers, Commissioner
J.C. Munro, Commissioner
[PHOTO/CAPTION: On September 25, 1987, Stephen Benson (right) and Steve Hastalis (left) presented Illinois Attorney General, Neil Hartigan, with a commendation for his effort to establish and protect the rights of disabled people and for his open letter to police officials and airport officials in Illinois outlining the right of the blind to equal treatment by air carriers. The Attorney General’s letter states that blind people are not prohibited from sitting in any seat on a commercial airliner, nor are there seats specifically designed for blind people.]
When Neil Hartigan, Attorney General of Illinois, examined the law, he found that there was no regulation prohibiting blind persons from sitting anywhere they chose on airplanes. Therefore, when he was asked to rule on the matter, he did so without equivocation. Moreover, he sent his letter of ruling to the police and the management of Chicago’s major airports.
When it was reported that some of the airlines might try to make him “back off,” he was unimpressed and undeterred. He said that he had sworn to uphold the law and that he meant to do it. His ruling stands:
September 4, 1987
Mr. Steve Benson, President
National Federation of the Blind of Illinois
Dear Mr. Benson:
I am pleased to enclose copies of letters I have sent to Police Superintendent Fred Rice, Aviation Commissioner Earl Hord, and Midway Airport Manager Richard DePietro regarding the rights of blind people on air carrier aircraft and in airport facilities.
As Attorney General of the State of Illinois, I continue to strive for the enhancement of rights of disabled people. I hope these communications will enable your membership to receive the accommodations they justly deserve.
Neil F. Hartigan
State of Illinois
September 4, 1987
Fred Rice, Jr.
Chicago Police Department
Dear Superintendent Rice:
My office, through he Disabled Persons Advocacy Division, has the responsibility of representing the interests and upholding the rights of residents with disabilities throughout Illinois.
Since Chicago is a major metropolitan area and O’Hare International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world, our city’s airports accommodate a high proportion of blind travelers. Due to continuing misunderstandings about the laws relating to the rights of blind travelers, the following summary of the applicable laws my be of value:
1. There is no state or federal law that requires that blind people be seated in particular areas of an aircraft or be prohibited from sitting in airplane exit rows.
2. Both federal and state laws prohibit discrimination against the blind (and other persons with disabilities) in the provision of transportation.
(a) The Section 404 (c) of the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 as amended, P.L. 99-435, 49 U.S.C. Section 1374 (c) (1) provides, in part, “no air carrier may discriminate against any otherwise qualified handicapped individual, by reason of handicap, in the provision of air transportation.” Specific regulations to implement this Act are pending.
(b) The Illinois White Cane Law, Ill. Rev. Stat., ch. 23, Section 3361 et seq., states that it is Illinois state policy to: “enable the blind, visually handicapped, and the otherwise physically disabled to participate fully in the social and economic life of the state.” To further that end, the Act provides that:
“… the blind, the visually handicapped, the hearing impaired, and the otherwise physically disabled are entitled to full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of all common carriers (including) airplanes,… subject only to the conditions and limitations established by law and applicable alike to all persons.”
Violations of this Act are punishable as a criminal misdemeanor.
This Act and the Criminal Code (Ill. Rev. Stat., ch. 38, Section 65-1) also provide that persons with disabilities may be accompanied by a specially trained support or guide dog in any place of public accommodation. The White Cane Law specifies that such a person cannot be required to pay an extra charge.
(c) The Illinois Human Rights Act, Ill. Rev. Stat., ch. 68, Section 5-101 et seq., provides that it is a civil rights violation to any or refuse to another, on the basis of discrimination due to physical or mental handicap, the full and equal enjoyment of the facilities and services of any public place of accommodation, specifically including airplanes.
laws make it clear that in Illinois, travelers with disabilities, including
the blind, must be treated in the same fashion as all
If you have any questions about the application of these laws, please feel free to contact he staff of my Disabled Persons Advocacy Division at 793-5109 (voice) or 793-2852 (TDD). Under separate cove I have also informed Richard DePietro, Manager, Midway Airport; and Commissioner Earl Hord, Department of Aviation, of the contents herein.
Neil F. Hartigan
State of Illinois
Cc: Mr. Steve Benson, President
National Federation of the Blind of Illinois
Identical letters sent to:
Richard DePietro, Manager, Midway Airport
Earl Hord, Commissioner
Department of Aviation
[ Mac Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, speaks to the delegates at the convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Phoenix, Arizona, June 30, 1987.]
By Marc Maurer
(This testimony was delivered by Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, before the Department of Transportation Regulatory Negotiation Committee on September 2, 1987.)
The problem with the airlines is that they very often begin by lying to the blind, and they act self-righteous about it. When the lie is exposed, airline personnel blame someone else. They don’t often say, “The devil made me do it,” but they do blame the Federal Aviation Administration.
We (the organized blind) begin by assuming that ordinary, rational sensible human beings run airlines. We believe that it is possible to speak with these people calmly and logically. We think they have the capacity to listen and understand. Despite our firm conviction that airline personnel are not fundamentally different from the rest of the human race, our experiences with the airlines (with a few notable exceptions) have not been characterized by rationality or logic on their part.
Consider American Airlines. The policy of American Airlines has been that blind people cannot sit in an emergency exit row immediately in front of the emergency exit row, or in the row immediately behind the emergency exit row. Senior American personnel came to discuss this policy with us at the National Center for the Blind. They said that the policy had been adopted to promote safety. Nevertheless, they told us that they would offer a compromise. If we would agree to be excluded from the exit row, they would permit blind people to sit in the row ahead and the row behind the exit row. They said this offer was made in the interest of conciliation. They wanted to get along with the blind—to have harmony, good will, and understanding. But consider for a moment what they are saying , and notice the presumption and the arrogance. If the rule were truly necessary for safety, no so-called compromise would be acceptable. This American Airlines-style compromise would increase the danger for blind passengers and everyone else. No airline official who is cognizant of the well-being and safety of passengers would permit an escalation of the danger. On the other hand, if safety is not really involved, then this proposed compromise is the cheapest and sleaziest of tactics. The airline should eliminate the rule and stop its discrimination without trying to gain prestige and honor for it. If safety were really at the heart of the problem, we would certainly not agree that the rules should be changed. We are at least as interested in safety as the rest of the flying public. Perhaps the years of attention we have given to this one problem makes us more son. However, the record makes it abundantly clear that safety is not the reason for the discriminatory behavior of the airlines. It is merely the catch phrase of self-justification.
Several years ago I was employed as an attorney in the office of the General Counsel for the Civil Aeronautics Board. I, along with a number of other staff members of that agency, went to the Civil Aeromedical Institute, operated by the Federal Aviation Administration in Oklahoma City. During our visit we examined an aircraft fuselage used by the Institute for conduction simulated emergency evacuations. While we were on board, a man from the civil Aeromedical Institute started a pulse-jet engine inside the cabin and filled the cabin with smoke. The results were revealing. The non-toxic smoke smelled funny to me, but I was otherwise unimpressed. My colleagues from the Civil Aeronautics Board, who were all sighted, did not have the same reaction. They were completely at a loss. They could not tell what to do or where to go. Because they were blinded by the smoke, these knowledgeable, competent people became frightened and disoriented. They wanted to be led to safety. I, on the other hand, was functioning in circumstances I found completely familiar. I was quite happy to escort my colleagues to the exit door.
The airlines have said—until the repetition has become tiresome—that we have planned the confrontations on the planes. The arrests, the harassment, the delays, and the public brow-beatings have, they way, all been a publicity stunt. Of course, this is another airline fabrication. But suppose that it were not. Suppose that we planned to bring the discriminatory behavior of airline officials to the attention of the public. The airline officials who accuse us of advance planning appear to read much significance into the allegation. But since when has it been illegal or immoral to devise methods and techniques for protecting your rights? I understand that a member of this regulatory negotiation committee (Walter Coleman, representing the Air Transport Association) repeated this calumny to the press. Of course, he know that the statement was not true. In fact, James Gashel, who represents the National Federation of the Blind, offered (at my direction) to put the matter to the test. He said that we would be willing for each of the blind people who are accused of planning a confrontation to be subjected to at lie-detector test in a public demonstration with the press in attendance. Mr. Coleman’s answer was predictable. Certain airline officials are willing to lie about the blind, but apparently they are afraid of exposure from a polygraph machine.
Two separate airlines (American and Continental), with whom there have been confrontations involving the blind, have stated in off-the-record comments that they believe our arguments are legitimate. Nevertheless, they tell us that they will not change their policies. They justify this deliberate practice of discrimination by saying that the airline might be sued. If they adopted nondiscrimination policies, and if a plane went down, and if a blind person were seated in the exit row, and if lives were lost, and if it were alleged that some of the lives might not have been lost if the blind person had been seated elsewhere, and if the judge permitted the speculation, and if the jury believed the argument, the airline might be subjected to greater liability. It has never happened in all the history of aviation. Besides, the “what if” speculation could easily go the other way. If a plane were to catch fire and its cabin were to fill with smoke, the ordinary blind air traveler would be more likely to know how to handle the absence of vision than the ordinary sighted traveler. As the members of this committee are undoubtedly aware, it is documented beyond doubt that aircraft accidents involving fire inside the cabin have killed people who would have been able to survive if they could have found their way through the smoke. In these instances the experience of being without vision is an advantage. Therefore, it is at least as reasonable to say that in the event of an aircraft accident involving smoke inside the cabin, an airline might face greater liability in a lawsuit by preventing a blind person from being seated in the emergency exit row.
Not all people and not all institutions are willing to sit passively and permit airline personnel to do as they please with blind travelers. The public is becoming increasingly aware, and the response has been overwhelming. The vast majority of those who have heard about this discrimination in recent months are shocked that such behavior is tolerated. Less than a year ago the Air Transport Committee of the Canadian Transport Commission issued a decision which said that Air Canada should be held responsible because it had refused to board a disabled passenger. I have the decision in my hand, and I am asking that it be distributed to you. The person who filed the complaint, Ruth Adelia, is commended by the Canadian Transport Commission for having the courage to bring the case. This no-nonsense decision by our sister country to the north is a striking and creditable statement of support for the right of handicapped people to self-determination and independence.
Why do the airlines pick on the blind? Apparently they believe that the blind will tolerate it—not because it is right, but because the airlines are big enough hat they can get away with it. A bully never minds lording it over the little kids. But the behavior changes dramatically when the big kids come around. Imagine what would happen if airline officials took the position that women could not sit in the exit row because they are not as strong as men. Or that African Americans must be excluded because their educational opportunities have often been less than those for Caucasians. The airlines would not dare to resort to such chicanery. The public would not tolerate it. And while we are on the subject, the blind are not such little kids either.
The National Federation of the Blind has agreed to participate in this regulatory negotiation for one purpose and only one purpose. The airlines have badgered, berated, abused, and harassed the blind. The blind have tried to reason, cajole, and persuade. Very often the response of airline officials has been to treat us as if we were children (and when this hasn’t worked) to resort to force. What the blind want most is simple, straightforward, uncomplicated, and reasonable. We want to be left alone to buy our tickets and fly in peace. Sometimes when we have said this to airline personnel, the reaction has been huffy and puerile. They say: “If you want to be left alone, that’s just what we’ll do. We won’t even respond to questions or offer the common courtesies. We will treat you with the same dignity and respect that we would offer to a piece of furniture.” However, childishness (like brute force) will not serve. The blind do not ask for more than is accorded to the average traveler, and we will not tolerate less.
Certain airline officials say that we have planned and orchestrated confrontation. This is not true, but it may come to be true. Those who believe that the occurrences to date have been orchestrated do not understand the capacity of the organized blind movement. We intend to use every morally justifiable means to our disposal to eliminate discrimination against the blind in air travel—including, if necessary, (as other minority groups before us were compelled to do) contact with the media, appeals to the public conscience, and (finally and reluctantly) whatever amount of ugly and direct confrontation it takes. We have the will, the resources, and the determination; and we intend to use them. We know the airline bully quite well, and the public is also coming to know him. We are now undertaking to accelerate the process. If you want to see planning in action, let the discrimination continue. Should the blind lie down on the runways in front of planes? That is a question that the behavior of the airlines themselves will answer. One this is certain. The harassment, belittlement, berating, and badgering of blind people must and will come to an end.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Mary Ellen Reihing talks about her experiences with the airlines.]
(This testimony was given on September 2, 1987, before the Advisory Committee to the U.S. Department of Transportation to develop a draft regulation implementing the Air Carrier Access Act.)
My name is Mary Ellen Reihing. I am blind. I live in Baltimore, Maryland, and I travel frequently by air. The capricious and discriminatory treatment I have received from airlines over the past ten years has changed my love of flying into stomach-wrenching dread.
The problem is not that individual airline employees are “insensitive” to my needs as a blind person. I meet the public everyday. I realize most people know little or nothing about blindness, and I am not offended by well-intentioned ignorance. I deal with shopkeepers, cab drivers, fellow pedestrians, and street corner drunks courteously, as one human being to another. The difference with airlines—and the thing I find most deeply disturbing—is their officially encouraged climate of disrespect. When I walk into an airport, I’m not longer one human being who is trying to get along with my neighbors. I become part of “the handicapped” who must be “handled” according to prefabricated, follow-the-dot, no-room-for-discussion procedures. If I have the audacity to express my preference for different treatment, some uniformed official will attempt to throw the weight of the federal government into a battle against me. Here are thirty of the federal regulations airline employees have ordered me to obey over the last ten years:
Blind people must preboard. If we do not preboard, we
must post board. Under no circumstances are we permitted to be part of
Blind people can’t use escalators.
Blind people must ride in electric carts.
Blind people cannot climb stairs.
Blind people must be accompanied everywhere in airports.
Blind people must ride in wheelchairs.
Blind people must wear big buttons identifying themselves as people needing help.
Information about a passenger’s blindness must be entered into the computer.
Blind passengers must say whether they are traveling alone and precisely who is accompanying them if they are not alone.
Blind people may not sit in the middle seat of a row.
Blind passengers must sit in a special waiting room for the handicapped.
Blind people may not walk down the jet way or across the tarmac alone.
Blind people may not sit in bulkhead rows.
Blind people must sit in bulkhead rows.
Blind people may not sit in aisle seats.
Blind people may not sit in window seats of exit rows.
Blind people may not sit in the row in front of exit rows.
Blind people may not sit in the row behind exit rows.
Blind people must demonstrate the operation of seatbelts and feel oxygen masks.
Blind people must read Braille brochures. (It is worth noting that print brochures given to the sighted tell how to open doors and escape in the event of an emergency, while the Braille documents omit this information and tell blind people where to find the bathrooms instead.)
Blind people must give up their canes.
Canes must be left behind in emergencies. (This negates the purpose of keeping canes at one’s seat.)
Blind people must sit next to someone of the same sex.
Blind people may not request information or assistance from fellow passengers but must deal with designated airline personnel only.
Blind people must say whether they are being met at their destination, and by whom.
Blind people must agree in advance to be the last off the plane in an emergency.
I was raised to respect authority and to go along with rules, whether those rules seemed reasonable to me or not. But the airlines were causing me confusion. So many people had told me about so many conflicting rules that I finally decided I should go to the source and find out which of those thirty orders were really federal regulations. It was clear that all of them could not be.
And what did I learn in my search of the federal regulations? Despite the solemn assurances of airline personnel, not one of the thirty regulations could be found. They were really not thirty regulations; they were thirty little lies! But they added up to one big lie—a lie that says blind people are a different sort of human being, an inferior breed. The minute a passenger is identified by an airline employee as blind, nothing else matters. Competence is irrelevant; dignity is beside the point. All that counts is following the rules! What are the rules? That doesn’t matter either. Airline employees who aren’t sure invent them on the spot, knowing they can count on their position and the prestige of their uniform to make it stick.
In my search of the regulations, I did find two which apply to the blind. One is 14 CFR Part 321.589 (e). The other is 14 CFR Part 382. The first says I may keep my cane with me at my seat. The second prohibits airlines from discriminating against me as a blind person.
It seemed to me that, as a law-abiding citizen who respects legitimate authority, I had some responsibility to see that federal regulations—the ones with the numbers, decimal points, and parentheses—were obeyed. I began informing airline employees that they were mistaken when they said their whimsical policies were regulations. I began refusing to knuckle under to arbitrary rules which violated existing nondiscrimination policies. Like many other blind people, I have paid a heavy price for insisting that airlines live within the law.
On Monday, May 19, 1986, I sat in an emergency exit row window seat on a Piedmont Commuter Airlines flight which was scheduled to go from Youngstown, Ohio, to Baltimore. The plane never flew. I was told that I would have to move because I was violating a federal regulation. I explained that this was not true and remained in my seat. An airline employee, Mr. Justin Hirche, attempted to remove me by force. He ceased the assault only after a police officer told him to cease. Nevertheless, the flight was canceled and the plane was driven off and parked—with me on board.
Since Piedmont Commuter Airlines had violated 14 CFR Part 382, I filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Department of Transportation blithely tells the world that it has had only one formal complaint, which was decided in favor of the handicapped individual. One way to look good is to arbitrarily classify all complaints one wishes to avoid as “informal.” That’s what the Department of Transportation did with mine. It was rejected (informally, of course) on the basis of an advisory circular issued by the Federal Aviation Administration more than ten years ago. An advisory circular is just what it says—advice. The language in 14 CFR Part 382, on the other hand, is a clear-cut prohibition against discrimination. The Department of Transportation is hiding behind advice given by the FAA. The Federal Aviation Administration denies that it has regulations keeping the blind out of exit rows. But, the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration say “Don’t blame us.”
All of this bureaucratic dodging leaves blind people absolutely unprotected. Part 382 is supposed to guarantee our civil rights now, but the Department of Transportation officials who are supposed to enforce it won’t even acknowledge that anyone has complained. Clearly, they have chose to play dead and hope the whole business will go away.
In one sense, what this committee does is irrelevant. The newest clerk in an airline uniform can invent a policy, call it a federal regulation, and set about enforcing it against a blind passenger. With all its resources, the Department of Transportation is unwilling the enforce regulations that are on the books now. Our fate as blind airline passengers depends on the whimsy of the airline employees we meet and upon our will to resist. It’s a grim situation with the potential for increasing violence against the blind and the possibility of someone getting hurt.
This committee could be a constructive influence if it would help set the tone and create a better climate for blind air travelers. Airlines are not required to discriminate now. Some already choose to treat blind people like passengers, no baggage to be “handled.” They understand that the best rules for the blind are the rules of common courtesy and mutual respect. They have stated that there are no special regulations for the blind. If all airlines would do that, maybe I could deal with airline employees the way I deal with shopkeepers and cab drivers—as one human being to another.
[PHOTO: Lauren Eckery, one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska, tells of her experiences with the airlines.]
(This testimony was given on September 2, 1987, before the Advisory Committee to the U.S. Department of Transportation to develop a draft regulation implementing the Air Carrier Access Act.)
I am Lauren Eckery. My husband, Jerry, and I are both totally blind. We have a six-year-old daughter, Lynden, who is sighted. I am afraid of both flying and public speaking (not, of course, due to my blindness), but I am here due to the enormity and the importance of our situation.
I am here to relate some experiences consisting of disrespectful treatment of us, as blind persons, by airline personnel—behavior I believe to be totally unnecessary and inappropriate. I am also here to ask that these inappropriate responses to blind people cease and that we have direct input into a process toward positive change for blind passengers in airline regulations.
My first flight, in 1975, was uneventful. I realize now that this was probably due to my traveling with my sighted parents. The airline staff probably figured I was “being taken care of.”
Jerry and I were married in 1976. We traveled occasionally, and our first few flights were generally uneventful. However, toward the late 1970’s and early 1980’s problems began to escalate. Blind people throughout the nation were being mistreated.
First it was our canes. Airline personnel decide for us where our canes would be stowed, but not without our rightful protest. In most cases Jerry and I were allowed to stow our canes by the window. However, there was always either the implication of the downright belligerent statement that “The FAA requires us to take your canes.” Although we knew this not to be true, we had little recourse, especially if we didn’t want to make a spectacle of ourselves. There were always other passengers watching and listening to these encounters. I think our greatest problem then was that airline personnel, like most of the general society, did not understand that we know best about our capabilities and we also know best how to handle our canes—we use them every day.
Then, it was where we could or could not sit. Ground personnel often automatically assigned us to the bulkhead seat, which is not our preference. We basically believed that we had a right to sit wherever we were assigned with no exceptions made. On more than one occasion we had be inadvertently assigned to an exit row seat, and as we made ourselves comfortable, we were informed that we would have to move. (By the way, this occurred before our daughter was born.) My husband and I , unlike some more courageous blind people we know, did not want to make unnecessary waves. Blind people who know themselves well and who really thoroughly understand their rights have stood up to such incidents more strongly. But regardless of our behavior, blind people are often demeaned by anything from verbal insults to being taken by the police, jailed, abused, etc. We were too frightened to go through all of that and, instead, suffered the indignity of hearing the airline staff ask other people to move from their seats so that we would no longer be sitting in the exit row. We notices, on more than one occasion, the double indignity of the other people being offered a seat in first-class for their trouble, while we were given no consideration for the trouble we were facing. And, again, other passengers were listening and watching.
Much of the trouble that has ensued has been on the ground.
Ground staff often refuse to give us directions; often they seem to be
incapable of doing
so. They become defensive with us when we request directions, demanding
that we “take the electric cart.” We are often almost forced to preboard,
almost always snide remarks are made to or about us if we choose not to
preboard or take the electric cart. Again, these incidents do not occur in
are observing—airline personnel are influencing how blind people are treated
and how society expects blind people to be treated. Although most of the
witnesses do not actually come to our assistance, they are there, and they
are seeing what is happening. Today they are reading about these incidents
in well-read journals. Some of them are remembering having been there when
the incidents occurred. We are not fabricating these incidents to cause
trouble—they are real.
The worst indignity to befall us as a family occurred on approximately June 19, 1985, when we were coming home from Minnesota, after having visited my parents. Our daughter was four-years-old at the time. The flight attendant on Republic’s flight number 846, bound for Omaha, Nebraska, first informed us as we sat down, “You should have been preboarded.” When we explained to her that we chose not to preboard, she snapped: “It makes it easier for us.”
As we were deplaning, our young daughter ran ahead of us, and the flight attendant (we presumed she was the flight attendant) stated: “I’ll take her. It’s my job.” Usually when something extremely terrifying happens to me, I freeze and am unable to speak. However on this day I heard myself say exactly what I thought needed to be said. In my terror, as our daughter was being snatched from us without our permission, I explained to her that the only time it was her job to take children was when they were unaccompanied by parents, guardians, or other adults. And I stated further: “She is not only accompanied by tow capable adults, but we are also her parents. She can come with us.”
Our daughter was frightened and confused. Who should she obey, as she was being pulled away from us? A we were barraged with angry words until we were off the plane and down the stairs, our young daughter must have wondered if she had done something wrong. She also might have thought that someone didn’t like her parents very well, because they were yelling at them and treating them like they were children—ore, even worse, as if we were not there at all. Most parents and children are aware that bus terminals and airports are tow excellent stomping grounds for would-be kidnappers. Was this woman one of those? Did she really have the right to take our daughter without our permission? Did she once think of the terror and anger which the three of us suffered from the incident?
This past July, when we flew to Phoenix and back, our daughter was apprehensive about flying. Openly, she feared that her ears would hurt. But I also noticed that during both trips she consistently walked either between or behind us as we deplaned. I believe that we and our daughter are strong enough to weather this trauma. However, some parents and their children may not be so strong. I also realize that this incident is unique. The good news is that I have not, to date, heard of another such similar incident. The bad news is that this incident shows just how arbitrary and insidious our problems are. It shows to what lengths airline personnel will go to be “right” or to control the situation. It shows the great misunderstanding of the competence of blind people and our right to be respected and our right to make free choices when we travel.
By the way, did you know that the word respect means “to look again?” I believe that if we can stop these unnecessary and very painful experiences from occurring in the first place; if we can establish not only reasonable regulations but also properly instruct both ground and air personnel regarding appropriate treatment of blind persons; if the final decisions can be made by us—the people upon whom these outrages are being perpetrated—then maybe we can all find it easier to “look again.”
Has anyone thought about how stressful it is, each time we fly, to wonder: “Is anything bad going to happen to me, as a person—as a blind person? Will things be okay? Will somebody bother me just a little, or a lot? Will someone talk down to me and insult me, or will they actually physically abuse me? Will something happen so that I can’t meet my schedule? Will other passengers be bothered or inconvenienced by how I am treated?” These are real fears, very justified, given the varying experiences we have had.
We are normal people going about our normal way, traveling by air for business, for pleasure, for sometimes frightening family reasons such as illness or death. We have the right to be treated with the same respect and to make the same adult decisions about any issues around our traveling by air that sighted people would make. I urge you to work with us—to look again—and let us help in the decision-making process regarding appropriate treatment of blind passengers by ground and air personnel. Let us also work toward absolute protection of blind persons when abused by airline personnel.
As Monitor, readers know, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and the Washington Post carried our message concerning airline discrimination in July and August of this year. There was widespread response from the public with offers of support and expressions of outrage at the behavior of the airlines. Here is a sample of the letters and postcards we received:
Please send me information on the subject of Air Travel and the Blind. Also convey to American Airlines (and any airline company that abuses the blind) that I and my family will NOT use them again unless they remedy their approach to the blind.
In response to your article in the Wall Street Journal on July 27, 1987, we are enclosing a check in the amount of $1,000.00. Please use this gift to help cover your expenses outlined in the article.
We wish you the best of luck in your efforts.
I have just finished reading your two-page ad in the USA Today dated August 18, 1987, and I am outraged from the abuse these airlines have placed on the blind.
It saddened me to think that these people are still getting away with this type of unfair behavior. Something must be done.
As stated in your article, I myself have been on many flights and have seen people so drunk that they could hardly stand up, and the flight attendants do not do or say a thing to them. And these people—the airlines feel it’s safer to put near an exit? As someone stated, a blind person would be more likely to escape from the exit door than someone who had one too many drinks. So don’t let them fool anyone when it comes down to safety. It is just plain discrimination. I believe that the blind person would be able to exit more quickly than most people. Some people don’t even bother to find out where the exits are located and are not informed because they do not care to be.
Keep fighting for your rights and stand up for what you believe in. You will win this unfair battle. Unfortunately, ignorance is an excuse for some people.
Huntington Beach, California
Saw your recent editorial advertisement in the Wall Street Journal and wanted to express my support with the attached $25.
I read your advertisement in USA Today. Please let me know how I can help.
I read your article about treatment by airlines. I support your struggle for rights. Peace.
I read, with great indignation, the advertisement you placed in the USA Today. I would like to help in any way possible. I will write protest letters to any person or organization you tell me to. I would appreciate a list of the main points you would like mentioned in the letters. I have enclosed a self-addressed, stamped envelope for any information you would like to send me detailing ways I can be of assistance. PLEASE let me help!!!
Brooklyn, New York
I read your advertisement in USA Today and was shocked to hear of the treatment blind persons receive on airplanes.
I notice that several of your members who offered testimony are college professors. I hope you and they will call the problem to the attention of the American Association of University Professors, and also the American Federation of College Teachers (AFL-CIO).
The address given by Kenneth Jernigan
on July 2, 1987, has awakened us to a problem we did not realize existed
and that we find inexcusable.
Enclosed please find a check for $100 to help in your campaign against the airlines.
Also, as frequent fliers, you can be assured that we will be on
the lookout for abuses toward blind people and document them as best we
If we can be of further assistance, please let us know, and keep up the good work.
Melville, New York
How do I help?
I read the advertisement that you place in the Washington Post concerning the difficulties that blind people are having when traveling on airplanes. As far as I’m concerned, there are only two possible ways of looking at the behavior of the airline companies.
Firstly, you can look at it from the point of view you have presented, which recognizes that the blind people are not totally incompetent and that if you leave one of them in an exit row, they are perfectly capable of leaving the aircraft in a timely fashion, in the same way that an non-handicapped person would. This makes the behavior of the airline companies totally senseless and unreasonable.
Alternatively, you can look at it from the airlines’ point of view and say that blind people are Handicapped (with a capital “H”), which means that it will take them five times as long to find the exit and three times as long to get out since they can barely handle even getting on the plane. If the airlines really believe this to be true, then it is obvious that there is only one thing they can do—put the blind people in the exit row! It is the moral duty of an airline to protect the lives of its passengers; and if they believe that a blind person will have difficulty in finding his way to an exit, then instead of placing him as far away as possible from the door, they should place him right next to it so that in the event of an accident it will be as easy as possible for him to escape. This is not a matter of being a handicapped person. It is simply a question of common decency, just like the way women and children were allowed to leave the Titanic first. Sadly, it is just that plain decency and ordinary courtesy which the airlines seem to be missing right now.
Enclose check in response to your most eloquent material in the Washington Post’s National Weekly Edition. Keep up the good work! You are not alone in despising the airlines and their high-handed ways!
Dear Ms. Dole
I am writing in regards to a full page advertisement dated July 27, 1987, in the Wall Street Journal. The article paid for by the National Federation of the Blind was quite moving. I could not believe some of the atrocities incurred by so many blind airline passengers. We who do not have any handicaps put up with enough bunk from the airlines. I was very angered by what I read. Isn’t it about time, and long overdue, to do something for our fellow sightless friends? Did the NFB really need to take out a full-page article in the W.S.J.? I am sure they felt the need to take some form of measures. Obviously no one was listening to them.
Dale City, Virginia
Yes, “We” the public will support you when we understand what the airlines are doing to the blind. This is unfortunately a late response to your July 29 article in the Washington Post. I am just re-settling into the Northern Virginia area. It was a few days before all was in order….But nonetheless I am moved by your article.
I have read with horror and disgust the disclosures that you made public in your July 27, 1987, statements in the Wall Street Journal. I would be happy to do anything by correspondence or lobby on your behalf in any way that you would advise.
I am a frequent flyer who travels constantly, and have witnessed many such abuses as you have described by the airline industry.
noticed that you haven’t, in at least this presentation, attacked Delta
Airlines. I use Delta, as I find them the most responsible and reliable
My suggestion to your organization is that you fist absolutely pursue legal remedies through the courts and take to task every instance that you can possible afford to litigate. I further suggest that you use a carrier, such as Delta, which has been in the past less abusive and boycott the other airlines through your Federation.
Please keep me advised on your progress on this matter. Thank you for your attention.
I read your advertisement in the July 27th Wall Street Journal. Please let me know how I can help.
Los Angeles, California
What a shock! Reading the letters written by the blind in today’s USA Today newspaper certainly opened my eyes. The manner in which the blind are being treated is a crime.
I will always, from this point forward,
support the rights of the blind on aircraft. I will carry with me a copy
of the memorandum to prove the points
Thank you for your courage and determination. Good luck. You have my support.
I was both surprised and appalled by what
I read in the August 18 issue of
USA Today concerning the experiences of the blind and the airline
The lack of respect for human dignity and discrimination was evident just in categorizing all disabled persons into one tidy label, “airlines standardized handicapped air traveler.” This is indicative of an industry, too large and impersonal, to carry out even routine judgment, preferring instead to perpetuate unfounded fears and prejudices by hiding behind a fraudulent claim to law.
Civil rights are at the heart of our American way of life, and I for one will not sit idly by while any industry flagrantly violates those rights. What can I do?
Los Angeles, California
I read the USA Today articles
of 8/18/87, and was outraged that blind people have been treated so badly
Your article said to contact you if I wanted to help. I do. Please let me know what I may do to assist.
I have saved the article and will carry it with me when I travel by air, and should I find any air crew abusing the rights of handicapped persons, I will certainly become involved.
If you have any material you wish to send, I would be very interested in receiving a copy. Good luck.
Estes Park, Colorado
Frank Lorenzo, Chairman
Dear Mr. Lorenzo:
We are absolutely shocked to read in the July 27, 1987, Wall Street Journal that Continental Airlines forcibly removed Homer Page on Aril 13, 1987, from one of its flights because he is blind and was seated in an exit row. My wife and I have flown Continental as our airline of choice for many years, completely unaware that your corporate policy was to prevent blind people from being seated like any other passenger.
Has it ever occurred to Continental Airlines that perhaps the blind may be more suited for being placed in exit row seats in case of any emergency? Our case is as follows: In a plane filled with dense, thick smoke—how can a sighted person get out of an exit door any better than on who is blind? We submit that perhaps a blind person may be better trained in being able to exit through an emergency exit than a sighted person in this situation. Does your policy really contemplate that a sight person will be better able to “see” in this situation than a blind person?
Although my wife and I have been satisfied users of your airline over a long period of time and have spent many thousands of dollars with your airline, we have had our travel agent cancel the tickets that were ordered and paid for on Continental Airlines for a trip to London on October 5, 1987. We are booking our flight with another airline. We cannot in good conscience use an airline which discriminates against the blind. In the future we will fly with an airline which does not practice this very reprehensible policy. We will be sharing this article with as many friends as possible so that they, too, can make an informed decision as to which airline they should use.
By this letter we are requesting that Senator Tim Wirth and Representative David Skaggs from Colorado institute hearings in the Congress of the United States about treatment of blind travelers by certain members of the airline industry, including your airline. We are greatly saddened that an airline, which we held in such high regard, would treat Mr. Page or any other passenger in the way he was treated.
Jersey City, New Jersey
I’ve never personally witnessed the reprehensible treatment to blind persons as noted in your Wall Street Journal ad today, but I’d like to know what I might do to aid your cause.
I am sighted but, I’m sure have my share of difficulties in dealing with ignorant institutional policies.
Please accept this contribution to help pay for the two-page
ad in the Washington
Post (July 29, 1987) documenting the abuses of blind persons by
Please let me know if there are particular Congressmen or Senators or officials who should be contacted regarding this matter.
As a flight attendant with Eastern Airlines, I read with much interest your article advertisement in the Washington Post.
Upon finishing the article, I immediately went for my manual to review policy toward blind passengers. Sure enough, it suggested seating passengers with guide dogs in a bulkhead row so that the dog would be more comfortable, though this certainly doesn’t make much sense. If I prefer not to sit in a bulkhead row because of reduced room, the same should hold true for a passenger with a guide dog.
Furthermore, our manual does state that blind people may not sit in an emergency exit row. Though this requirement may not always be necessary, I have several passengers of all handicaps that use their limitation as an excuse to do nothing for themselves. I do believe that this is a decision that must be made in each individual case.
If possible I would like to order several copies of your report, both for my own and fellow flight attendants’ use and to forward a copy to our training department. Please let me know how I may do this.
Thank you for educating me in this area.
I have just read your article in the Wall Street Journal. I never realized the abuse blind persons and other handicapped persons put up with. I cannot tell you how I felt after reading the article. I guess there is not much one person can do, outside of boycotting the airlines. Of course, that is quite impossible when one is in business. However, I make it my business to show the article to whomever I come in contact with, to make as many people aware of this terrible situation. I will certainly write to my Congressman and wherever else I can to make my feelings known.
New York, New York:
I read with interest and mounting dismay
your full-page advertisement in the Wall Street Journal today. I
am a sighted individual. However, please send me copies of the literature
you are distributing to the blind so that
if I am witness to such an incident, I can speak from a position of knowledge
in voicing my displeasure. I intend to follow your suggestion of contacting
appropriate federal authorities and my elected representatives to make
my opinion known.
Enclosed please find my contribution of $10 to help defray what I am certain must have been considerable expense in placement of the advertisement.
Having read your advertisement in today’s Washington Post, I was deeply disturbed by the testimony of those individuals who were deprived of their human and civil rights by the airlines in the name of rules and order.
May I suggest that the only way that you will get across to the airline companies that you mean business is to hit them where they hurt—in the pocketbook and in the image of the public. Sue the “bastards” and make them pay for their injuries. If the FAA and others ignore he law, sue them, too. Take everyone and anyone who prevents you form exercising your rights to court and make them pay in time, embarrassment, and money for treating you so shamefully.
Another tactic might be to get members of Congress and other legislative bodies to act a s blind people and try to fly back to their home districts on the airlines. Let them experience firsthand what you go through regularly.
Keep a scoreboard of those airlines that are reasonable and those that violate your rights. Get other civil rights-oriented groups to boycott the offensive airline companies and frequent those who treat all citizens equally and fairly.
May your plight be better, and may your message be spread.
Along that line, as a teacher in high school, I would appreciate any and all information that my Student Government might have to better inform students of the problems and solutions that blind people face in dealing with the sighted.
Star Tannery, Virginia:
Public Affairs Desk:
The Kenneth Jernigan speech, given July 2, 1987, in Phoenix and printed in the July 29, 1987, Washington Post, fascinated me, on several levels of awareness, and due to my own avocation of saving the heritage of the Civil War, has promoted me to write this letter.
Specifically compelling to me, and right
to the point on clarity of thought, was the last section of Executive Director
Jernigan’s speech: from the paragraph
on page A-15, initiated by the word/phrase: “Remember that the nation’s
biggest bartender-bully…” running to the end of the text in the paragraph.
I seek permission to paraphrase and use for a letter and speech the substance and style of a) the paragraph mentioned above (then skipping the next paragraph), b) the paragraph “At the beginning of the reg-neg meetings…” to the end of the paragraph, and c) the last part of the paragraph beginning with “to the airlines we say this….” The section I especially like: “We have been long-suffering…”
In all, I underlined about half of the text I wish to use, and the enclosed reflects the parts I would like to use. Primarily, the motivation for a Civil War site preservation issues near where I live, here in Frederick County, in the Shenandoah Valley.
Thank you for your review of my request. I do not mind writing to Mr. Kenneth Jernigan personally. The reason I took this approach was due to a sense of your office structure.
If I do not obtain the permission to utilize the stated sections, it will be a mere trifle compared to the lasting impact the speech gave to me, a person who had no idea the visually handicapped and blind were being treated in such a cold and hostile manner… that was truly a gift –one of enlightenment.
I am the owner and president of a small computer store in Hadley, Massachusetts. I am also not blind.
Yet, thanks to the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind, I am now aware of the kind of treatment our airlines have been giving blind members of our society.
I am rather shocked and appalled with this behavior and seriously expected a more mature and responsible behavior from the airline industry.
As a sign of protest, from this day on I will not fly with any airline that, as a matter of policy, treats the blind as second-class citizens. I will keep in touch with the NFB concerning which airlines are okay to fly with.
As a frequent flyer on American, I was moved to write to Robert Crandall, Chairman of the Board of American Airlines, after reading the depressing incidents in which blind people were confronted by airline personnel.
If it is at all possible, I would appreciate learning of subsequent incidents so that we can avoid doing business with these airlines. Enclosed you will find my check as a small token of what I can do. You and your organization have our strong support in your efforts to eliminate these harassments. God bless you.
Beverly Hills, California
I cannot remember ever feeling as angered and appalled as I did when I read your full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal finally informing the public at large of the abominable treatment accorded to blind persons trying to travel on airlines.
I am sending a small check in hopes that there are many more people like myself who have read the entire ad and who will rally to either aid your cause or perhaps be privileged to assist a blind person being harassed aboard an aircraft.
Please keep me advised of how I can further help or of new legislation to help your cause.
The National Federation of the Blind of Illinois is preparing for the biggest NFB convention in history. It will be held in July of 1988 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. Here are pictures to emphasize the theme.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: In Chicago at the foot of Balboa Drive and Columbus Drive stands Buckingham Fountain. This world famous landmark sends a central column of water several hundred feet in the air. During summer months (between 9:00 and 10:30 p.m.) it is illuminated by colored lights. Come to the convention. See the lights, and feel the spray.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Just east of Buckingham, across Lakeshore Drive and stretching north and south, is Monroe Harbor. The view of Chicago’s skyline from this vantage is one of the most spectacular urban vistas in the world. The harbor is typical of Chicago’s commitment to using its lakefront for recreational purposes. Almost twenty of Chicago’s twenty-nine miles of lakeshore are devoted to recreation.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: About a half mile south of the Chicago Hyatt Regency is the formal rose garden in Grant Park. In the midst of a metropolitan area of more than seven and a half million people it is quite remarkable to find this site of genuine tranquility. It is a beautiful setting in Chicago’s front yard.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Stephen Benson, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois and member of the National Board, goes to the park with his son Patrick.]
Send requests for reservations to: Hyatt Regency Chicago, 151 East Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60601.
These recipes were submitted by Peggy Hignell, Secretary of the Mid-Hudson Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of New York.
1 cup cottage cheese
1 cup chopped nuts
½ cup wheat germ
½ cup bread crumbs
1 onion, chopped
Method: Form into small balls. Place in greased pan. Bake at 350 degrees for twenty-five minutes. Cover with tomato sauce. Bake twenty minutes.
2 cups chopped apples
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup chopped raisins
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup vinegar
¼ cup wine
Method: Grind first three ingredients. Combine all ingredients. Heat well. Makes two pies.
MOCK PUMPKIN PIE
¼ cup boiling water
¼ cup grapenuts
2 cups mile
¼ cup sugar
4 tablespoons flour
¼ teaspoon each: ginger, nutmeg, cloves
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten
1 9-inch baked pie crust
Method: Pour water over grapenuts. Let stand ten minutes, then add milk. Mix together sugar, flour, and spices. Add to grapenut mixture. Cook in double boiler until thick. Pour over eggs, stirring well. Return to heat. Cook three minutes more. Cool. Pour into pie crust. Bake at 400 degrees for forty minutes.
MOCK APPLE PIE
Pastry for 9-inch pie
36 Ritz crackers
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
Method: Break Ritz crackers coarsely into pastry. Combine next three ingredients in saucepan. Boil fifteen minutes. Add juice and rind. Cool. Pour syrup over crackers. Dot with butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Cover with top crust. Cut slits in top crust. Bake at 425 degrees for thirty minutes.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Laurence Smith works in the booth to sell cinnamon rolls.]
Jan Gawith writes: I thought you might like to have some pictures of our cinnamon roll booth. The Western Chapter of the NFB of Idaho baked and sold thousands of cinnamon rolls at the Western Idaho Fair the week before Labor Day. Our booth has grown from little, to a trailer with tiled floor and restaurant equipment. It’s fun, hard work, tremendous public education, and not a bad fundraiser. There were times when we were pulling three dozen rolls out of the oven every ten minutes and running out before the next ones were ready.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dana Neely puts on the frosting.]
Under the date of September 28, 1987, we received the following letter:
“Dear Dr. Jernigan: We are pleased to inform you of the establishment of the Amy Reiss Blind Student Scholarship at Fordham Law School. The purpose of this scholarship is to assist needy blind students in obtaining a Juris Doctor degree from our Law School. The scholarship was initiated through the efforts of Amy Reiss, Class of 1989, and sufficient funds have now been raised to enable the Law School to offer a three-year, full tuition scholarship to the first blind student who qualifies for this award.
“The Law School will work with the recipient of the Reiss Scholarship as well as other blind or legally blind students, to ensure attention to their particular needs. Depending on individual circumstances, these efforts include assisting them in acclimating to the physical environment of the school, coordination of classroom requirements (e.g., tape recording classes, taking notes in Braille, etc.), examination accommodations, and assistance from the Career Planning Office. The Law School can offer the use of a Kurzweil Reading Machine, IBM PC with Talking Westlaw Computer Base, and a dictating mask.
“For further information regarding this scholarship, please contact James A. McGough, Assistant Director of Admissions and Director of Law School Financial Aid, at (212) 841-5619 or Amy Reiss at (212) 877-5776, or by writing to them at the Law School. Sincerely, William Moore, Assistant Dean.”
Braille Development Job Opening:
Under date of September 24, 1987, we received the following letter:
“Proofreaders, Braille Producers, and Other Interested Parties: As part of our effort to obtain qualified individuals to fill vacancies for professional position for the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, enclosed is a vacancy announcement in print and Braille for a Head, Braille Development Section, NLS/BPH, GS-13 $38,727--$50,346 for circulation to possible applicants. Interested applicants should obtain a Personnel Qualifications Statement (Standard Form 171) available at Federal Job Information Centers of by calling the Library’s Employment Office at (202) 287-5620 and submit to: Library of Congress, Employment Office, James Madison Memorial Building, Room LM 107, Washington, D.C. 20540. Closing date for receipt of application is January 4, 1988. Sincerely, Susan Kames, Staffing Specialist.”
Summer Research Opportunities:
Under date of October 19, 1987, Jim Mitchell, Federationist from North Carolina, writes:
I am serving on the advisory board for a National Science Foundation-funded project to provide summer research experiences for handicapped science students. The program is located at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. Dr. David Lunney, Professor of Chemistry, is the person in charge of the program. We have talked extensively, and I believe that Dr. Lunney has a creative and progressive approach to dealing with the alternative techniques used by the blind in laboratory work. Indeed, he has created a number of devices, using standard laboratory and electronic equipment.
One of Dr. Lunney’s inventions is a device which can be connected to any of the standard electronic instruments used today in the lab. With this, a blind person has voice output access to any digital or analog output from up to 15 instruments. In addition, there is built-in data analysis and storage capability with two floppy discs. This is the only device of this type that I am aware of. He has also worked on producing PC software which can be used to auditorially present and analyze graphical data.
I would appreciate it if you would run the following announcement in the Braille Monitor at your earliest convenience:
Summer Research Opportunities
Summer research opportunities are available for undergraduate students in the natural sciences. The specific fields of biology, chemistry, geology, and physics are offered for two five-week sessions in the summer of 1988 at East Carolina University. ECU is located in Greenville, North Carolina. These opportunities are provided through a grant by the National Science Foundation and are open to undergraduate science majors or undergraduates who may be interested in pursuing a career in science.
Participants will receive a stipend of $800 per session. Housing will also be provided on campus free of charge. Course credit will be earned for the research performed during the program.
For more information and applications, contact: Dr. David Lunney, Department of Chemistry, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina 27834.
Charles Biebl, Federationist from Maryland, recently received the following letter:
“The selections for the 1987 Outstanding Young Men of America awards have been decided, and our Board of Advisors is happy to inform you that you are among these exceptional young men. This is an honor of which you can be very proud, and we want to extend our wholehearted congratulations to you. We are also pleased to enclose your official Award Certificate, presented in recognition of your outstanding personal and professional achievements.
“Currently, our editors are concluding their work on the 1987 edition of Outstanding Young Men of America. This distinguished awards volume will include your complete biographical sketch and record of accomplishments….”
Maurice Mines, Federationist from the state of Washington, recently sent a letter to Amtrak which said in part:
“I boarded your Pacific Coast Starlight on Saturday, August 19, 1987, and received rude, obnoxious, patronizing, and custodial treatment. When I boarded, a conductor named Jimmy moved a family of five because another person on the train and I were blind. He insisted I sit on the lower level labeled “Handicapped Seating.” I tried to go back to the upper level, but he grabbed me and ordered me to remain in the lower level. He then yelled for the family of five to hurry up and get back to the upper level. Meanwhile, he interjected with very loud comments such as “Handicapped seating only! Give the handicapped a seat!” I do hope this does not happen again, either to me or to any other blind person. Please send me a copy of your handicapped seating policy.”
We are sorry to report the recent illness of Harold (Hal) Bleakley, the President of AIDS Unlimited. On the weekend of September 26, 1987, Mr. Bleakley was in Pittsburgh on business. While there he was hospitalized with a mild stroke. After several days he was able to return home and is now back at work. However, at the time of this writing he is still having some problem with balance and with sensation in his right hand. Hal Bleakley is a long-time Federationist. We wish him full and speedy recovery.
The following people were elected to office in the North Central Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin: Diane Kelker, President; Bob Raisbeck, Vice President and Treasurer; and Sharon Edington, Secretary.
When the Toledo Blade ran a cartoon critical of the supervision of city workers, they could think of no better symbol for depicting a supervisor unaware of his surroundings than the worn-out symbol of a blind man with a cane, dark glasses, and a cup full of pencils. Federationists are a vigilant lot, and we have never been afraid to speak the truth. Kenneth Reihing father of Mary Ellen Reihing) wasted no time letting the editor know what he thought. His letter, which appeared in the Toledo Blade on September 9, 1987, said in part:
“Your cartoon…is my idea of a cheap shot. The picture shows the supervisor as a blind man (tin cup, pencil, black glasses, etc.) – an image the blind and visually impaired have been trying to live down for years. As the parent of a blind daughter and for myself (I am slowly losing my sight), I think you owe the blind an apology.
“The blind people of our area had nothing to do with the problem. Your ‘cheap shot’ gives them another handicap to overcome.”
Seminar for Blind Parents:
Janiece Betker has asked that we carry the following announcement:
“Candle In The Window will be sponsoring a regional weekend seminar for blind parents to be held in June of 1988. It will be a time for getting together, sharing concerns, learning new techniques, and relaxing in the lush environment of the thousand acres that comprise Minnesota’s Wilder Forest. This regional event will include parents from the states of Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, and North and South Dakota. Anyone interested should contact Janiece Betker, 1886 – 29th Avenue, N.W., New Brighton, Minnesota 55112; phone: (612) 639-1435. So plan to leave the children with Grandma, and join us for a n exciting summer weekend in surroundings that some of us city folk have a hard time believing still exist.”
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Maurice Mines is an active member of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington State.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: David Hyde is the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon.]
The June 27, 1987, NFB seminar for parents of blind children was absolutely one of the best seminars we have ever conducted. Readers will recall that it was held in conjunction with our NFB national convention and that a good portion of our Winter, 1987, issue of Future Reflections was devoted to information about the seminar and convention. Anyway, even before the seminar adjourned we had people asking how and when they could get tapes of it.
The seminar tapes are ready now, and the set (four tapes) can be purchased for $8.00. To order, send your $8.00 with a request for the 1987 parent seminar tapes to: National Federation of the Blind, Aids and Appliances, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. Checks should be made payable to the National Federation of the Blind.
The following item appears in an article by Gary Mackenstadt in the Summer, 1987, Blind Washingtonian, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington:
“During graduation ceremonies at the Washington State School for the blind in June, a blind person’s cane was confiscated. Of the eight graduating seniors, four used canes. One graduate wished to use his cane during the ceremony. He was not allowed to do so.”
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
“I, Gayle Sabonaitis, would like to get in touch with blind NFB people who have multiple sclerosis. I am deaf-blind and have MS myself, but I read Braille. Audio tapes are of no use to me, so I use Braille or Apples or IBM discs. With IBM discs, I do the letters with the word processor. With the Apple discs, I do the letters in Apple Dos. I realize that some MS people cannot do Braille at all because their hands are inactive, but I would like to correspond with those who can. If this idea catches on, we can exchange hints to help each other. Contact me by writing: Gayle Sabonaitis, 11 Maxwell Street, Worcester, Massachusetts 01607.”
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
“The 1987-88 Option Central catalog is available in all formats. Large print is free, Braille costs $1.00, and the cassette version costs $1.00, or it is free if a C-60 cassette is supplied. The catalog includes: all-occasion, birthday, and Christmas combination print-Braille greeting cards, housewares, and talking products. Contact: Option Central, Fred Sanderson, Proprietor, 1604 Carroll Avenue, Green Bay, Wisconsin 54304; or telephone: (414) 498-9699. Thank you.”
Al Sanchez is one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington. The Summer, 1987, Blind Washingtonian (the newsletter of the NFB of Washington) says:
“Congratulations are in order to Albert Sanchez, Secretary of the NFB of Washington, who was appointed by Governor Gardner to the Advisory Council to the Washington Department of Service for the Blind.”
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Sharon Duffy is a teacher in the New Mexico state program for the blind.]
Scanning Laser Ophthalmoscope:
We recently received a release from the Eye Research Institute of Boston, Massachusetts, which said in part:
“Scientists at the Eye Research Institute have just finished ten years of work on a new instrument that will change forever the way some eye diseases are identified and treated. It’s called the Scanning Laser Ophthalmoscope, or SLO for short.
“How does the SLO work? While you sit looking straight ahead, a very dim and completely harmless laser beam moves rapidly back and forth inside your eye. This laser is several thousand times less bright than the lasers used in surgery. There is no discomfort, and your eye does not have to be dilated.
“You see only a small square of pale light as the laser moves. But your doctor sees a sharp, clear picture of the inside of your eye on a television screen!
“The SLO is the beginning of a new era in eye care. For example, children won’t even know their eyes are being checked if a modified SLO is used. Or consider this: because the SLO uses TV technology, retinal pictures can be transmitted live all over the world for long-distance diagnosis.”
We recently received the following letter from Sharon Duffy:
“I’m pleased to report that the White Sands Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico held a reactivation meeting on September 12, 1987, in Alamogordo. The following officers were elected: President, Larry Lorenzo; Vice President, Sharon Duffy; Secretary, Yolanda Thompson; and Treasurer, Helen Riddley. The chapter has seventeen members and counting.”
Pleased with Services:
Olivia Ferrante of Revere, Massachusetts, writes:
“You might like to publicize the following information sheet. I am a receiver of services from the Xavier Society for the Blind. I am so satisfied with their services that I would like to publicize their efforts.
“The Xavier Society for the Blind, 154 East 23rd Street, New York, New York 10010, offers a multitude of services for blind and visually impaired Catholics. These services include: Lending Library, Periodicals, Sunday mass Readings, Rite of the Mass, Manual of Prayers, Holy Scripture, CCD Religion Texts, and Deaf-Blind Weekly. For more information about the media for these services, whether Braille, large type, or cassette, contact the Xavier Society for the Blind.”
Karen Mayry, President of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota, writes:
“Have you utilized the JTPA Summer Youth Program in your affiliate? During the past summer the NFB of South Dakota had the pleasure to be involved with the program. We had a sixteen-year-old high school student working in our office for thirty hours each week. Her salary was paid by the Job Training and Partnership Act program, thus costing the NFB of South Dakota nothing. It was extremely successful for us. One does not have to have a n office to be eligible. Some affiliates have had students while working from their homes. Contact your local Job Services Office for more information in the spring in order to benefit from the program.”
The following item concerning David Hyde appeared in the August 20, 1987, Salem, Oregon, Statesman Journal:
Salem Man Named to Panel for Blind
Salem resident Dave Hyde has been appointed to the Oregon Commission for the Blind. He is President of the National Federation of the blind of Oregon and serves on an advisory committee considering a merger of the state School for the Blind and the School for the Deaf in Salem.
Sharon Duffy, Secretary of the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille writes:
“The National Association to Promote the Use of Braille met at the 1987 NFB convention in Phoenix. The following officers were elected: Betty Nicely, Kentucky, President; Dr. Emerson Foulke, Kentucky, First Vice President; Nadine Jacobson, Minnesota, Second Vice President; Sharon Duffy, New Mexico, Secretary; and Mike Freeman, Washington, Treasurer. Anyone wishing to pay or renew dues should write to Betty Niceley, 3618 Dayton Avenue, Louisville, Kentucky 40207. All members are entitled to the NAPUB Newsletter which will be sent to you in Braille unless you request print. Dues are one dollar per year.”
National Braille Association’s Braille Book Bank:
Under date of September
14, 1987, we received the following letter from Lois Wolkin, Chairman of
the NBA Braille Book Bank:
“Since the publication of our last General Interest Catalog in 1985, w\there have been many acquisitions which might interest your readers. Enclosed is a list of some of the most popular titles. We hope that you will be able to include this list, or at least part of it, in one of your next publications of the Braille Monitor. Those interested in purchasing any of the listed books should contact: The National Braille Association, Inc., 1290 University Avenue, Rochester, New York 14607; phone: (716) 473-0900 (Monday through Friday 8:30-5:00).”
Ms. Wolkin did not give us prices, and rather than print the list she sent, we suggest that those who are interested contact her.