Vol. 33, No.
Barbara Pierce, Editor
Published in inkprint, Braille, on talking-book disc,
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
THE BLIND IS NOT
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 33, No. 2 February 1990
TOURING IN THE HEART OF TEXAS: MAKE YOUR PLANS NOW
OF CHANDELIERS AND SHODDY PRACTICE IN ALABAMA:
ANOTHER NAC AGENCY ROCKED BY SCANDAL
by Barbara Pierce
WHAT USE IS THE LONG WHITE CANE?
by Sharon Duffy
CONSUMERISM: IMPROVING THE SERVICE DELIVERY SYSTEM
by Kenneth Jernigan
COMMENTS ON THE AUDIT OF THE
IDAHO COMMISSION FOR THE BLIND
by Ramona Walhof
ALABAMA REVISITED IN THE IOWA PEPPER MILL
by Kenneth Jernigan
THE FIGHTING ELVES
by Michael Baillif
REFLECTIONS ON THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT
by Kenneth Jernigan
THE PROBLEM WITH COALITIONS
by Ted Young
REPORT FROM THE NATIONAL LIBRARY SERVICE
FOR THE BLIND AND PHYSICALLY HANDICAPPED
TROUBLE CONTINUES AT
ASSOCIATED SERVICES FOR THE BLIND IN PHILADELPHIA
I DON'T SEE HOW YOU COULD POSSIBLY WASH OUR DISHES
by Ron Schmidt
LETTER TO HORIZON AIRLINES
BLIND MEN AND ELEPHANTS
by Hisham H. Ahmed
IS PATRICK CRAZY?
by Zach Shore
REPORT FROM BLIND INDUSTRIES AND SERVICES OF MARYLAND
by Richard J. Brueckner
by Barbara Pierce
Copyright, National Federation of the Blind, Inc., 1990
TOURING IN THE HEART OF TEXAS: MAKE YOUR PLANS NOW
Attending Federation conventions always provides an excellent excuse to enjoy the sights in various cities around the United States. As you might expect, the opportunities available to us in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area during our golden anniversary convention Saturday, June 30 through Friday, July 6, 1990 will be unparalleled and unforgettable.
As usual, Wednesday is our free afternoon and evening. This year it falls on the Fourth of July, and Texans really know how to celebrate a birthday be it a Texan's or a nation's. Amusement park enthusiasts already know about the wonders of Six Flags Over Texas, but they will be able to check out for themselves the claims of hair-raising rides and unforgettable spectacles. For those fans of the television program, Dallas, there will be a tour of the buildings in Dallas in which filming has been done as well as a lunch and tour of South Fork, the ranch home of J. R. Ewing. The bus trip, luncheon, and tour will cost about $25 a person; the fantasy is free.
Kennedy buffs and committed shoppers will be attracted to the tour that explores both the Kennedy Memorial and the Kennedy Museum at the Book Depository before unloading the tour group at the West End shopping area, which includes some of the finest retail stores in all of Texas. Shop till you drop sounds like a formidable promise in Texas heat, but this tour features air conditioned comfort for those who want ample time for selecting their mementos.
As plans stand now, Wednesday evening will offer a real Texas barbecue with all the trimmings, out under the Texas stars. Plans are not final, but it should be lots of fun for everyone who can't go home without sampling real Texas hospitality. At the close of the convention a lucky busload of Federationists will be able to enjoy a steak dinner followed by a true Texas rodeo, which Texans assure us is very different from the television version. So if this idea tickles your fancy, sign up for this opportunity as soon as you arrive at the hotel. Space is limited.
On the other hand, if you have your heart set on going horse-back riding yourself while you are in the Lone Star State, you will be pleased to know that if enough of us are interested in riding, Glenn Crosby, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas, and the rest of the Texans will be able to organize a tour of a working ranch and enough riding to make us careful about sitting down for a day or two. The cost will probably be in the neighborhood of $40 a person, and the tour will take place on the Saturday following the convention, July 7. If you are interested in this proposed expedition, drop a line to Glenn Crosby before May 1, 1990, so that you will be included in the count. Those on his list will be contacted with further information.
There are a surprising number of interesting museums in Dallas which you can get to easily if you have a car available or if you want to hop the airport bus into downtown Dallas. These include a wax museum; a transportation museum; a radio museum; and the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum, which includes simulations of an earthquake and a tornado. If you would like to cast a vote for organizing an actual tour to any of these attractions or if you want to get your name on the list for horseback riding, contact Glenn Crosby at 1403 Cheshire Lane, Houston, Texas 77018. It's easy to organize a tour if there's enough interest in it, so let Glenn know what you'd like to do while you're attending the best Federation convention ever.
And as you think of Dallas, don't forget all of the other possibilities: Nieman Marcus; the stadium where the Dallas Cowboys play, with possible interviews of personalities and examination of memorabilia; wonderful restaurants; and a great deal more.
While you're making your plans for convention week, don't forget to make your reservation with the Hyatt Regency Hotel DFW, Post Office Box 619014, International Parkway, Dallas- Fort Worth Airport, Texas 75261; or call (214) 453-1234, or toll-free (800) 233-1234. The hotel will want a deposit or a credit card number. Our hotel rates continue to be the envy of all who know about them. For the 1990 convention they are: singles, $27; doubles, $30; triples, $33; and quads, $37. For more detailed information about the convention, see the November, 1989, issue of the Braille Monitor. The 1990 convention will be here before you know it. Don't miss out because you didn't get around to making your plans early.
OF CHANDELIERS AND SHODDY PRACTICE IN ALABAMA: ANOTHER NAC
AGENCY ROCKED BY SCANDAL
by Barbara Pierce
Maybe there is something about work with the blind that attracts disreputable people or encourages the proliferation of despicable human impulses. Maybe, like televangelists, agency personnel in this field are held in such reverence by the public at large that some of them begin to think they are above the law. Or perhaps it is merely the presence in the field of an accrediting body (NAC) that provides protection for virtually any shoddy practice (as long as only the blind are injured), perpetuating a network that inflates or fumigates professional reputations as required. NAC (the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped) may be dying, but it still provides a facade behind which many of its member agencies, and most especially their senior officials, seem to believe they can snuff out the dreams and sometimes the very lives of their clients or students while reaping substantial public commendation and personal financial rewards.
Many of the blind in Alabama feel that Jack Hawkins, Dr. Jack Hawkins (who until July 2, 1989, was the President of the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind at Talladega) is a perfect example of this breed. In the ten years (1979-1989) during which he served as president of this NAC- accredited agency, he severely damaged the Institute's sheltered workshop, using its entire $900,000 nest egg, according to workshop officials, to handle bills the Institute failed to pay after an agency reorganization. His administration consistently invested more funds in the School for the Deaf than the School for the Blind, with such unfairness that even the deaf raised objections. In the opinion of many of the alumni, the AIDB Foundation, which Hawkins established, materially contributed to the increased segregation of both blind and deaf students from the larger community.
The casual hiring practices of Hawkins' administration led, according to many, directly to bringing a man to the Institute who murdered four people associated with the agency. And as if all this were not enough, when in the summer of 1989 he moved out of Talladega to take the position of Chancellor at Alabama's Troy State University, he left behind him police investigations and Ethics Commission probes into two separate matters. He also took with him without authorization thousands of dollars worth of Alabama state property. Last year it was the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind (see the March, 1989, Braille Monitor). Now it is Alabama. What NAC-accredited agency will be next, and what has yet to be uncovered?
But back to Alabama. Has Hawkins' reputation been destroyed by these revelations? It has certainly been tarnished, but astonishingly he continues to serve as a member of the American Foundation for the Blind's Board, and he has moved onward and, one presumes, upward to a university presidency. As to the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind, it is not at all astonishing that it continues to enjoy NAC accreditation. After all, what is NAC accreditation for?
The job at the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind which Hawkins left last summer at age forty-four paid him a reported salary of $85,000 a year with an additional expense account of $4,000, and his business travel and entertainment costs were, of course, reimbursed in addition. But there is more: He lived in the President's Mansion (their apt terminology, not ours) at the Institute a residence which included the services of a maid and gardener, and there is still more: To keep the wolf from scratching the paint from the door of this NAC-accredited mansion the state also reportedly paid for utilities (including phone). But even all of that was apparently not enough. The Hawkinses (as press accounts make painfully clear in minute detail) were permitted to purchase with state funds and to use a mind-boggling array of luxuries. It is hard to believe that the Troy State Chancellorship can be more attractive than what Hawkins had, but why else would he leave the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind, where he had (as the saying goes) the world by the tail with a downhill drag?
The Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind (AIDB) in Talladega essentially provides such services as there are for the deaf and the blind of the state. The Institute consists of the industries program (a large sheltered shop, producing an impressive array of products and providing jobs for more than 300 blind and physically handicapped people); the E. H. Gentry Technical School (offering limited rehabilitation and post-secondary training in some fifteen trades); the Helen Keller School (serving deaf-blind and other severely handicapped children from a number of states); the School for the Deaf; and the School for the Blind. The Governor of Alabama appoints a Board of Trustees to oversee this conglomerate, and the board hires the President of the Institute.
Until the early 1980's the adult programs at the Institute had a more or less autonomous director, who (like the Institute's President) answered directly to the Legislature and prepared and managed a budget separate from that of the rest of the Institute. But all things change, and in September of 1979 thirty-four-year-old Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., was appointed President of the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind. He was (according to those who observed him for the past decade) young, energetic, and ambitious so ambitious that he was not content merely to be president of AIDB. He persuaded his board to give him extra power and responsibility. In addition to the presidency of the Institute they appointed him to be director of Adult Services so that he alone would report to the Legislature and so that only through his office would flow the budget appropriations for the entire conglomerate. Presumably it was argued that this reorganization would result in eliminating duplication and waste, thus increasing the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the entire administration.
But the financial figures that have now come to light reveal that something else happened instead something that had drained funds from Adult Services to the great benefit of the School for the Deaf. In 1988 the Alabama Legislature budgeted just under ten million dollars for the Institute's Children and Youth Services, which includes the School for the Blind, the School for the Deaf, the Helen Keller School, and the Parent-Infant Preschool Program. Adult Services received an appropriation of about three and a half million dollars, and the Industries Program got about one and a half million. According to sources close to the Industries Program, this last appropriation is intended to cover the expenses incurred in providing daily transportation for workshop workers and in subsidizing the wages of those workers who cannot work competitively. Though Industries' staff members seem not to have access to the figures that would reveal how much profit or deficit their program is running, they report that Adult Services was expected in 1988 to find almost three quarters of a million dollars as its contribution to what was called Shared Services the concept here being that each component of the Institute should contribute toward defraying the costs of the services that they all share. With a combined budget of less than half that of the Children and Youth Allocation, Adult Services was suddenly asked to cover sizable new chunks of the Shared Services budget and to do so without any increase in its budget. One is left to conclude that the Industries program must have been showing a profit since Adult Services did manage to produce the funds demanded for shared programs.
According to a confidential document, which was inadvertently released by the Institute, during the first eleven months of the 1988 fiscal year Adult Services contributed the following amounts in several categories of these Shared Services: $47,954 of the $65,000 salary paid to the Vice President whose duties included supervision of the Industries program; $134,000 for health services (according to Industries sources, this bought workers three hours a week of a nurse's time); $44,598, a little more than half of the President's salary; $13,739, about one quarter of the salary of the Executive Assistant to the President; $147,410, for the business affairs office; $26,583, half of the Development Officer's salary; $13,062, half of the cost of running the Publications Office; $9,966, about a fifth of the Public Affairs Officer's salary; and $5,424, half of the salary of the President's maid a salary which, unlike those of the professionals on the staff, would seem to be anything but queenly.
Annualized, Adult Services assessments for shared services for the 1988 fiscal year total $720,000, and Adult Services officials and area legislators reportedly pleaded with the Institute's President and the Board to reduce the amount for fiscal 1989. But for whatever reason, the 1989 assessment against Adult Programs was set at $801,000. Also effective in 1989, the Board voted to transfer $500,000 from the Adult Programs unrestricted fund money not provided by the state for specific uses and therefore, almost certainly, profits earned by the blind workers and plowed back into the Industries Program to be used for future funding projects, according to a resolution passed at the August, 1988, Board of Trustees meeting. Apparently the fund transfer will enable the institution to use the money for construction projects on its school campuses.
At the same time all this was happening, the sheltered shop staff was learning the hard way that their bills seemed to be the last ones paid by the Institute, now that the Industries Program was not independently responsible for its own budget and bill-paying. According to those close to the Industries Program, by March of 1988 the shop owed some 1.3 million dollars to suppliers a revelation which the staffers found astonishing and infuriating. Even National Industries for the Blind made inquiries about when the Alabama shop planned to pay its outstanding bills. Rumor has it, however, that by September of 1989 the amount owed was down to $198,000 and that at the end of the year the slate had been wiped clean. But a decade ago the Industries Program had a nest egg of $900,000 set aside for large equipment purchase and meeting emergencies a pot of gold which seems to be entirely gone now. Shop workers and management don't usually agree on much at Alabama Industries for the Blind, but the one clear exception is the notion that merging their Program with the rest of the Institute under Dr. Hawkins has been bad for the shop and bad for the state's blind adults.
In the Alabama Code of 1975 the Legislature clearly established the separation between Children and Youth Services and the Adult Programs, so when Hawkins made his grab, there was a growing restiveness. By the late 1980s concerned citizens encouraged a local legislator (Clarence Haynes) to request the Alabama Attorney General to render an opinion on the legality of the Hawkins reorganization. On February 24, 1989, the Attorney General handed down his opinion, clearly stating that the Hawkins reorganization is illegal. Here is what the Attorney General said:
February 24, 1989
Honorable Clarence E. Haynes
Member, House of Representatives
Dear Representative Haynes:
This opinion is issued in response to your request for an opinion from the Attorney General.
Question: Can the department of adult blind and deaf be combined with the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind? Facts and Analysis: The statute establishing the department of adult blind and deaf is found at Code of Alabama 1975, Section 21-1-15. It states:
There shall be at the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind a separate department of adult blind and deaf. Legislative appropriations for the department shall be made separate and apart from the legislative appropriations made for the support and operation of this institute. The department shall have the authority to establish and to operate a library service for blind, visually handicapped, deaf, or severely handicapped persons, and the department is hereby designated as the official agency to operate a regional library for the blind, visually handicapped, deaf, and severely handicapped. [In 1976 then Governor Wallace transferred authority for the library to the State Library.]
The fundamental rule in construing a statute is to ascertain and effectuate legislative intent as expressed in the statute. This intent may be gleaned from the language used, the reason and necessity for the act, and the purpose sought to be obtained. Shelton v. Wright, 439 So.2d 55 (Ala.1983).
Section 21-1-15 states that the department of adult blind and deaf is to be a separate department in the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind. According to the statute, legislative appropriations for the department are to be made separate and apart from legislative appropriations made for the support and operation of the institute. These appropriations are to be used solely for the operation of the Adult Deaf and Blind Department. The department is authorized to establish and to operate a library service for blind, visually handicapped, deaf, and severely handicapped persons and is designated as the official agency to operate a regional library for such persons.
Therefore, the language used in Section 21-1-15 and the purpose in enacting the statute indicate that it was the intent of the legislature that the department of adult blind and deaf was to be separate from the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind. Furthermore, my research does not reveal any authority that would permit the department to be combined with the Institute for the Deaf and Blind.
Conclusion: The department of adult blind and deaf cannot be combined with the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind. I hope this sufficiently answers your question. If our office can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.
That is what the Attorney General said, but almost a year later it is still not clear what impact the opinion will have on business as usual at the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind. The Board is the body that will have to change the institution's course, and forcing that action may require a lawsuit, which several people with whom we talked seem prepared to undertake if necessary.
In the meantime one might be pardoned for hoping that, even if the blind adults in Alabama are suffering because of shared services and mingled funding, blind children, at least, might be benefiting from the skewed system. Alas, this does not seem to be the case. A document circulated to the Board of Trustees at their August, 1989, meeting indicates that during the past ten years $16,272,000 has been spent for renovation of existing structures, construction of new buildings, and maintenance of the buildings and grounds. Of this amount $9,569,000 was spent on the School for the Deaf and $2,411,000 on the School for the Blind. In fact, the physical plant of the School for the Deaf received about one and a half times the amount spent on the facilities of all other programs combined. The disproportion has become so lopsided that the Board of Trustees' deaf consumer representative recently recommended that more money be allocated to the School for the Blind, though there is no evidence yet that her plea will be heeded. Parenthetically one might inquire whether the academic programs of these schools are so sound that there really is sixteen million dollars available to lavish on physical plant and presidential luxuries, important as buildings and luxuries may be. Many in the blind community and several in the Alabama Legislature believe that the answer should have been no. But Dr. Hawkins clearly recognized the advantage of heading a facility that looked attractive, whether or not the students were flourishing or, for that matter, safe.
For example, the two vans used by the School for the Blind both have driven, according to the School's principal, more than 200,000 miles. One is a 1975 model; the other was built in 1977. The Institute's director of transportation has said that one of the two is not road-worthy for any extended driving, but as far as is generally known, there are no imminent plans to replace either vehicle.
We are informed that according to a recent furniture bid, the cost of furnishing and equipping the new student center at the School for the Deaf was $198,000 (with $105,000 being spent on furniture alone). On the other hand, the amount spent on furniture in the entire School for the Blind during the decade was $220,000. The new deaf student center contains a conference table, costing a princely $5,500, and 448 stacking chairs, each of which cost $46. During a recent alumni event at the School for the Blind, attendees report that the folding chairs they were using kept collapsing under them. The only other startling expenditures on the furniture bid are a $2,000 desk and several $238 trash baskets. It is puzzling to know how one could manage to spend $238 on a single indoor trash receptacle, but it must be gratifying for the deaf students to know that even their trash is departing in high style.
If the school-age blind population being served in Alabama had been shrinking more rapidly than the deaf population during the past decade, marked differences in the funds expended on the schools might be understandable. But ten years ago 480 deaf students were enrolled at that school, and today there are 240 a decrease of 50 percent. In 1979 140 students attended the School for the Blind; today there are 130 a decrease of less than 10 percent. The Helen Keller School served 135 children in 1979 and enrolls 90 today, 60 of whom are visually impaired. The Parent-Infant Preschool Program works with about 125 blind children and roughly the same number of deaf children. The E. H. Gentry facility has historically served a population, sixty percent of whom are visually impaired, and about two-thirds of the adults working at Alabama Industries for the Blind are blind and about one-third sighted or otherwise handicapped. It is clear from these figures, reported by an Institute official as having been drawn from the Alabama Institute's own annual report, that today a majority of the people served by the institution are blind.
Some observers have worried about what they see as the Institute's increasing tendency under the Hawkins administration to segregate its students from the greater Talladega community. Hawkins' AIDB Foundation one of those convenient nonprofit reservoirs of money that officials can channel in directions not approved by the legislature built a chapel that, according to members of the alumni, the students didn't need. These members of the alumni believe that it was preferable for youngsters to attend churches in the town rather than having separate services in a private facility. But the chapel was built to serve the students whether they liked or needed it or not, and as a result, the inmates of the Institute were separated still further from the town.
During the early eighties, apparently as a cost-cutting measure, the Hawkins administration decided to reduce the Institute's security staff. At the same time observers close to the institution report that it was engaging in the kind of sloppy hiring practices that led to such catastrophic results at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind. (See the March, 1989, Braille Monitor.)
We are told that a man was hired to offer both deaf and blind youngsters at AIDB firsthand experience in artistic expression, without an interview or research into his background. The new employee brought a friend (Daniel Spence) to Talladega with him who had jumped bail in San Francisco and escaped from prison in Nevada, where he had been serving a sentence for stabbing a man to death in a homosexual brawl. This second man, too, began establishing contact with blind and deaf students as a volunteer aide. He described himself around town as working at the Institute, according to sources close to the situation. But again, so far as we can determine, no effort was made to learn anything about the man.
Probably on February 21, 1986 (not all the bodies were discovered for some time), Danny Lee Siebert (also known as Daniel Spence) entered an apartment building housing disabled people and killed two deaf women and the two small sons of one of them. Sometime later in the rampage he also killed his next door neighbor and abandoned her body in a wooded area. Perhaps a routine background check, a face-to- face interview, or the presence of security officers on campus would have done nothing to prevent what happened, but one wonders. NAC, of course, showed no public concern. Whether they were privately concerned, we have no way of knowing. Only one of the deaf women was actually a current Institute student (the other was an alumna), so neither was enrolled in the School for the Blind. The fact that blind Institute students could just as easily have been the ones killed was immaterial. Cavalier hiring practices and cost- cutting in security measures presumably have nothing to do with standards and quality of services in the NAC lexicon.
In May of 1989 Dennis Hartenstine, Executive Director of NAC, boasted to blind consumers in Michigan: I assure you, if anything ever occurred and our commission [NAC's Commission on Accreditation] was concerned about the safety of the organization, the safety of the individuals being served and the accredited body did not take action to make changes, the Commission would withdraw accreditation.
Viewed in the uncompromising light of Florida and Alabama, NAC's promises, like its standards of excellence, can be seen for what they are a sham and a mockery.
Apparently everyone in Talladega worked together to hush things up. Only a few people, labeled by the Institute as blind trouble-makers, asked difficult questions, and no one in the administration of the Institute or the accrediting body that was supposed to lend it respectability was visibly interested in seeking hard answers. Hawkins did summarily fire the art instructor, but the instructor was, of course, no longer in touch with the murderer, who had fled the scene of the crime in a car belonging to one of his victims. The murderer was caught eleven months later and is now appealing his sentence to die in the electric chair. In summary it seems clear that during the years of the Hawkins administration students and clients in general, and the blind in particular, have gotten short shrift at the Alabama Institute.
Two things happened in the spring of 1989, however, that suggested a change might be in the wind. In May, Calvin Wooten (one of the two blind Trustees) was elected Chairman of the Board the first blind person to be so honored. But according to the blind, he has remained deaf to their concerns. Staff members at the School for the Blind report that he does not visit the school or talk with them about their problems. He does, however, attend some School for the Deaf football games.
As the situation worsened throughout 1989, the blind of Alabama collected about 250 names on a petition asking the state's governor to remove Mr. Wooten from the Board. The signers included virtually everyone who could be considered a leader in the blind community in Alabama. Unanimity among the blind has rarely before existed on any issue in the state, but the governor refused seriously to consider either their request or the underlying crisis that the very existence of two hundred-fifty names on such a petition demonstrated. It goes without saying that NAC did not disaccredit the institution or show any visible concern. Wooten can hardly be blamed for all the difficulties facing the blind at the Institute. After all, he has only chaired the Board since May of 1989. Hawkins is clearly much more responsible for the damage to the programs for the blind.
Just about everyone in the blind community was, therefore, delighted to learn that on July 2, 1989, Dr. Hawkins was to resign in order to take the post of Chancellor at Alabama's Troy State University on September 1. In a state with a well-entrenched old-boy network and with an official as tightly tied into that network as Hawkins appears to be, there was no hope of making him accountable for what he had done to damage the Institute or the blind, but at least he would be leaving. Perhaps someone else could be encouraged to assist the blind. So Hawkins was wined and dined. The Alumni Association of the School for the Deaf presented him with a $1,500 set of golf clubs. The AIDB Foundation (the one he had established) bought up the remainder of his country club membership; the new chapel that no one wanted was named after him; and in general he was told what a fine fellow he was and what a wonderful job he had done. The blind, for the most part, remained silent.
Then bits of information began to surface. Alabama has an ethics law with a provision that prevents the president of an institution from influencing the hiring of his wife. It appears, however, to an objective outsider that Hawkins wanted his wife to do some consulting work for the Institute in the Parent-Infant Program. According to some sources, she had been doing the work for years, and it only seemed fair for her to be paid for it. Others maintain that she didn't even begin to earn the salary she was eventually paid. Hawkins apparently dreamed up a scheme which would enable him to funnel some $24,000 of Institute money to his wife through the University of Alabama at Birmingham, an institution with which Mrs. Hawkins had previously been associated. When the story eventually blew open, it was covered by the Daily Home , the local Talladega paper. This is the way the Daily Home reported the story in late September, 1989:
Preuitt [State Senator]:
Power as AIDB President
by Denise Sinclair
Controversy continues to surround former Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind President Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr. This time state Senator Jim Preuitt is questioning whether a contract allowing Hawkins' wife Janice to work as a consultant through the University of Alabama at Birmingham is ethical.
Preuitt said Tuesday, He (Hawkins) primarily contracted with the University of Alabama for $24,350 for a part-time job for Mrs. Hawkins. The money was funneled from AIDB to UAB. It may not be illegal, but it sure sounds unethical.
Preuitt said there is no indication the Board approved the contract, which ran from June, 1988, to May, 1989.
The contract was a cooperative agreement between AIDB and UAB for the exchange of professional and expert services. It involved the AIDB Parent-Infant Program, which provides quality services to the hearing and visually impaired pre-school child. According to the contract terms, Mrs. Hawkins developed, promoted, and evaluated the program.
Under the contract, Mrs. Hawkins received $22,000 for consultant services, $1,350 for travel and $1,000 for materials and supplies.
AIDB reimbursed the University of Alabama for the services at a rate of $2,030 per month under the contract. Also, according to the contract, the services were for a two-thirds position. Hawkins signed the contract for AIDB. Signatures of Mr. Dudley Pewitt, senior vice president for administration at UAB, and Dr. Keith D. Blayney, dean of the School of Health Related Professions, were also on the contract, which was dated May 17, 1988.
Preuitt pointed out that the contract doesn't say Mrs. Hawkins would be the recipient. I do know she paid into the Alabama Retirement System for a salary of $22,000 during that period. I think it was cut and dried. It's a cowardly way to put your wife on the local payroll. I questioned Hawkins about this in January in Montgomery as to whether or not his wife was on the payroll. He said I was getting too personal. The senator said he had the AIDB minutes researched and there is no authorization by the Board for this contract. This is another thing where the public will have less confidence in schools. These misuses of funds are reasons the public will not vote on new taxes. Institutions must be accountable.
Preuitt added, The local legislators have been trying for five years to get redirection of funding at AIDB to children and adults rather than beautification. We did not want to do what we did in Montgomery. But that was the only way we could get Jack Hawkins' attention. We wanted questions answered. Many people thought we were too tough on him at that time.
We've just scratched the surface. There is so much abuse by this (Hawkins) administration. It got to the point where he thought he was above the law.
Rep. Clarence Haynes said he questions the legality of the contract or agreement. I understand the contract was typed at AIDB. This is just another example of mismanagement of funds. We have been trying to correct this for a couple of years. It's one of many incidents that are not right. We've (the local legislative delegation) been outgunned and outwritten in the newspapers.
AIDB Board member Ralph Gaines said he had no knowledge of the agreement between the Institute and the University of Alabama. I've been on the Board 2-1/2 years. I don't recall any discussion or Board action on this contract between UAB and AIDB, particularly Mrs. Hawkins. Jim Bosarge, assistant director of University Relations at UAB, said, The consulting agreement was new in 1988. Mrs. Hawkins had maintained a part-time position with UAB since moving to Talladega. She is a long-term employee of UAB since the mid-1970s. The AIDB Field Services Office requested a person for consultation purposes prior to the agreement. She had been serving AIDB needs on a voluntary basis for several years. They requested more of her time, which led to the consulting agreement.
Bosarge said the University had information from the Ethics Commission regarding Mrs. Hawkins' employment. It's my understanding it was OK for her to consult with AIDB in one of her specialties if it occurred through another institution. She was a part-time employee of UAB. There was no reason for her not being hired as a consultant. No one else in the area had the skills to do the work.
AIDB Board Chairman Calvin Wooten of Anniston declined comment on the agreement.
The Daily Home was unable Tuesday afternoon to obtain information from the Ethics Commission in Montgomery regarding the matter.
Preuitt and Haynes both stressed they feel strongly about public institutions' being more accountable for citizens' tax dollars and the recent abuses at AIDB point to this fact.
That's what the newspapers were saying, but that was far from all. Alabama also has a law that prevents anyone from buying state property except at auction. The salary and perquisites a tax-free expense account and a mansion with maid, gardener, and utilities bestowed upon Dr. Hawkins by the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind out of funds provided by the state's taxpayers can go a long way in a small southern town, where the cost of living is lower than in most cities; and plenty of people, like the Hawkinses' maid, scrape along on less than $11,000 a year. If the state had provided Dr. Hawkins nothing more, this job would still, by any standard, have been generously (perhaps too generously) remunerative. But apparently Alabama (whether it knew it or not) was prepared to provide the Hawkinses with the use of a kingly array of luxuries in their residence. One state official told the Braille Monitor with disgust that Mrs. Hawkins loved wallpaper more than any woman he had ever seen. Seemed like there was new wallpaper and carpet about every six months.
When the time came to move from Talladega, the Hawkinses apparently couldn't bear to leave behind some of the lovely things the state had purchased. According to Dr. Hawkins, on August 17, 1989, he wrote a check in the amount of $2,781.65 to cover the cost of the items he wished to purchase no doubt appropriately discounted because they were used merchandise. It is clear that Dr. Hawkins knew about the state prohibition on outright purchasing of Alabama property because he had someone from the Institute call the state's Ethics Commission to inquire how a person could legally buy a desk from the state. Probably assuming that the desk in question was an old and beloved memento of years of service, the state official said that if a check were written for the market value of the piece, it would pass muster, or at least no one would probably bother to ask questions. This is the way the Daily Home told the story on September 28, 1989. As you read, ask yourself what happened to the desk in question. Was the initial question asked about a desk simply because it would sound more innocuous that way? Was the desk in question never returned? How many other objects slipped through the cracks? Here is one of the many news stories printed at the time:
Ethics Complaint Filed Against Dr. Hawkins
by Denise Sinclair
An ethics complaint was filed Tuesday against former Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind President Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr. for purchasing furniture and china from the president's mansion. Tom Mills of Tuscaloosa, a 1981 graduate of AIDB's E. H. Gentry Technical Facility, filed the complaint with the state's Ethics Commission. In his complaint to the Commission, Mills said Hawkins improperly used his position to buy the furniture that belonged to the Institute. Wayne Hall, assistant chief examiner with the state Examiner of Public Accounts Office, said Wednesday afternoon that state law prohibits such a sale.
State property must be declared surplus property and sold according to the rules and regulations of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, Hall said in a telephone interview from Montgomery.
Hawkins resigned from AIDB in the summer to become chancellor of the Troy State University System on September 1. Before leaving AIDB, Hawkins bought the furniture and china for $2,890. The items had been in the president's home on South Street. The items were a nest of tables, curio cabinet, a set of Lennox China (six place settings), two place settings of Lennox China, a set of queen size bedding, one bed frame, an entertainment center, a butcher block, and one desk. These items were returned to the mansion Wednesday afternoon, according to an AIDB official, and Hawkins will receive a refund for the items he purchased.
AIDB officials have said they were advised in mid-August by an official of the state examiner of public accounts that the sale would be legal provided Hawkins paid fair market value. Hall said his office records show the initial contact was made by an AIDB official on Monday. We received a call on Monday from someone at the school concerning the sale of a desk and the proper procedures. The other items were not mentioned, he said. Ethics Commission Director Melvin Cooper would not comment on the complaint, saying state law prohibits him from doing so.
Mills said, I'm not accusing Dr. Hawkins of anything. I'm concerned about the public picture statewide regarding presidents of universities and institutions such as this who spend money on lavish lifestyles instead of education. The voters in this state have a right to put their feet down when it comes to boards of trustees around Alabama who buy things like the entertainment center and china. Bibb County next door to me can't afford textbooks. The public should be incensed by this. Mills said that until this lavish spending is stopped by presidents of institutions, the public will keep saying no to any additional tax moneys or funds for education.
Until these big educational people quit living lavish lifestyles, education in Alabama will suffer, he concluded. State Representative Clarence Haynes and Senator Jim Preuitt are calling for an investigation concerning other items that were removed from the president's home before Hawkins left office. The items were returned Sunday. Hawkins said the items were inadvertently packed by movers. Bibb Thompson with Thompson Company, which moved some of the Hawkins' furniture, said, My company employees only inventory and load what they are told to load by the person or family we are moving.
So said the Daily Home, and a careful reading of this article reveals that the entertainment center, nest of tables, Lennox china, etc., is not all that left Talladega with the Hawkinses. In fact, some who lose no love for Dr. Hawkins suggest that the financial transaction on August 17 provided convenient camouflage for the disappearance of a much longer list of items a list as astonishing for its variety as for its value. But this is only speculation. The facts are clear enough. The Hawkinses have explained and explained that they were both running in and out of the house all day while the movers were there to pack up their possessions. They maintain that they had no idea what was being packed because the movers insisted on wrapping the things they were to move. But the maid reports that Mrs. Hawkins told her to instruct a workman to take down a chandelier for packing, so one suspects that a good deal of planning went into the preparations for moving despite the protestations of the Hawkinses that they never intended to take state property with them.
When the absence of the valuables was noticed, the Hawkinses agreed to return them. Hawkins arranged to bring back the items on a Sunday so that he and members of the Board of Trustees could go over the inventory list and check off the returned goods. Hawkins just happened to arrive in Talladega Sunday morning instead of Sunday afternoon as agreed. He says he decided to stack the things in the president's mansion just to get them deposited before going to a luncheon engagement. He says he didn't know that the door locks had been changed, which meant that his key (it isn't clear why he still had a key to the mansion at all) didn't fit in the front door. He reports that he then found a side door unlocked, through which he carried the things he was returning. There is now no record of how closely the list of items Hawkins returned resembles the list of those reported as missing one of the objectives that the Institute should have had in mind when it arranged to have its Trustees present when the goods were returned.
A neighbor, however, had noticed someone carrying goods between a van and the house and apparently concluded that the mansion was being burgled. She called Representative Clarence Haynes, who in turn called the police. [It is worth considering why a citizen, seeing such unusual behavior, would not call the police directly. Could it have been fear of tangling personally with the powerful Alabama Institute? If the observer recognized the ex-president, one can hardly blame her for wishing to avoid being pulled into a legal matter.] In any case, the police dashed to the scene to find the esteemed ex-president of the Institute surreptitiously slipping state property back into the house. Perhaps it really was all an unfortunate mistake perhaps. But credulity has its limits somewhere. Here is an excerpt from the Daily Home's account of the story on September 27, 1989:
Legislators Call for Investigation of AIDB Matter
by Denise Sinclair
TALLADEGA State Representative Clarence Haynes and Senator Jim Preuitt are calling for a full investigation into an incident in which items, pieces of furniture and silver, were taken from the president's mansion at the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind.
Former AIDB President Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr. and several others returned Sunday the items, which were discovered missing following an inventory of the mansion. Hawkins assumed the chancellorship at Troy State University on September 1.
Haynes got a phone call Sunday morning from someone who saw a van parked at the mansion, and thought the residence was being burglarized. Haynes reported it to the Talladega Police Department, who on checking found Hawkins there returning the missing items.
Haynes picks up the story from there. I had zero knowledge of any of this happening before Sunday morning. I received a call that someone had broken into the president's home at AIDB. I don't know who called. I assumed it was someone in the neighborhood who spotted the van. I called the police. The police later called me. I met them there at the home. I was told the Hawkins family had brought some things back from Troy State in a Troy State University van. I understand two weeks ago some AIDB officials had reported a list of items missing from the home after Dr. Hawkins left.
Through business services and controller's office inventory and with the aid of purchase orders, a list of items was put together that were taken from the home. Hawkins was called and ordered to bring the items back. Had it not been for AIDB Board member Ralph Gaines, these items probably would not have been returned. It was reported by other news agencies in the state and in the Daily Home Tuesday afternoon the incident was a misunderstanding according to Gaines and Board Chairman Calvin Wooten.
In a statement to the Daily Home Tuesday afternoon, Gaines said, The Daily Home has reported I have said there was a `misunderstanding' regarding recent events involving the President's home at AIDB and some of its contents. I have not communicated with anyone at the Daily Home until I saw this report in the paper. The only misunderstanding I know of was the time and manner certain items which had been removed were to be returned to the home. Gaines went on to say that Hawkins had done a good job at AIDB and as a Board member he hopes no adverse effects on the Institute, its children, and adults would occur because of this issue. I hope we can continue with the good work that's going on, and I am sorry these things have occurred. After learning of the incident and not knowing the full story, Haynes asked Board Chairman Calvin Wooten, What's going on? Wooten, Haynes noted, said the items had been inadvertently taken by movers.
Wooten in a telephone conversation Tuesday afternoon called the incident a comedy of errors. He said, Everything has been brought back to the mansion. I knew myself he was coming Sunday. I didn't go into any details with him on returning the items and volunteered to help him if he needed assistance. He said he had it under control.
It didn't cross my mind the former president would be accused of breaking into his former home. I contend it was no break-in. All the items are inventoried and everything is back in place. The representative questions why Hawkins returned to Talladega Sunday morning instead of the appointed time of 3:30 p.m. the same day. He had an appointment with the Board at 3:30 Sunday to return the items. I have not talked to him. I do know he and the others went in the house early and put the items back unknown to the current resident, Dr. Erskine Murray. I did not know at the time when I called the police it was Dr. Hawkins. But I want to point out he had no business in that house.
Haynes said that in talking with Wooten, he feels the Board chairman wants to cover up the matter. This is the kind of thing that has been going on for years, and this proves what some of us have been trying to point out about the Hawkinses' blatant disregard of the taxpayers' money. I will ask for further investigation by the Board into this, and also I want the Board to check out the possibility of items bought without purchase orders that are not on the inventory list.
Haynes commended board member Gaines for his effort to do the right thing. He added, I only wish the chairman (Wooten) could see things the way Gaines does.
He concluded, Wooten has tried to shield some of this from the public. It is not right, no matter who it is, to take property that doesn't belong to you. I think people deserve to see the truth good, bad, or indifferent. Preuitt echoed Haynes' sentiments and said he will call for a full investigation.
From all indications the items were taken from the mansion and moved to Troy. The big question is do these items belong to the school, the state, or the taxpayers, and why would they be moved? The merchandise was asked to be returned.
Hawkins had moved out almost 30 days ago, and he returned with the items Sunday. Why move the items out if they didn't belong to you and then slip them back in? Dr. Murray is living there, and he was not home when this took place. It's wrong. Why take the goods to begin with when they belong to the taxpayers? This warrants a full investigation, Preuitt said.
He, too, thinks a coverup is occurring. They say the movers got the items by mistake. That will not hold water. Most of the merchandise belonged to the Institute and the taxpayers. The movers were directed to move the items. This is not a mistake on the part of the movers, and it deserves being investigated because it is taxpayers' money. A list of the items returned to the president's home are: one tea set, one ginger jar with base, one dresser, one lamp globe, two entrance rugs, two small round tables (one with marble top), one brown narrow table, two mirror runners, one octagon mirror, four crystal candle holders, one tea pot with two cups, one large Revere bowl, one soup tureen, two glass decanters, one crystal compote;
One china plate, four figurines, one cup and saucer, three silver wine goblets, 12 small Revere bowls, one large brass planter, one capa de onte planter, Buttercup silver (22 cocktail forks, eight knives, eight forks, six butter spreaders, eight salad forks, seven tablespoons, one sugar spoon, eight teaspoons, and eight soup spoons), 17 silver napkin rings, one lace table cloth; One casserole dish in silver holder, one silver wire basket, two oblong silver platters, 18 silver coasters with three holders, three silver trays, one set of blue stoneware, one set flatware, two brass lamps, one side table, one soup tureen, three decorative apples, 41 glass serving plates, one waste basket, one gate leg table, one chandelier, one two-drawer file cabinet, one chaise lounge, one padded headboard with bed accessories, one brass floor lamp, one oak desk, one bookcase, one bedside table, one quilt stand, and one VCR.
There it is as it was reported all over the state at the time. And what about the investigation being conducted by the state's Ethics Commission? From the beginning there was next to no chance that the Commission would find against Jack Hawkins. The Old Boy network in Alabama is alive and well, and the blind are not a part of it. As we go to press in December, the Ethics Commission has found in Hawkins' favor. As one person close to the case, who asked not to be identified said, He may have broken the law, but not the ethics law, so he is exonerated.
This leaves only the police investigation of the Hawkins purchase of state-owned goods and his removal and return of still other state property. The District Attorney is not saying what he intends to do. The current grand jury is about to stand down, so he may wish to wait until a new one is impaneled. Maybe justice will yet be done, but the blind of Alabama are understandably skeptical. Why should it begin now?
A new President of the Institute was named on November 9, 1989. He is Thomas Bannister, who was the Superintendent of the Utah School for the Deaf and Blind. He was the only one of the five finalists who had any past experience at all with blindness, so (although as we have seen in the case of Hawkins, experience with blindness is not necessarily a proof of rectitude) perhaps the luck of blind people in Alabama has changed. One can only hope but may be pardoned for doubting.
With a united voice the blind of Alabama have called for redress. The governor has ignored them, and Legislators James Preuitt and Clarence Haynes (whose blind mother is an active Federationist) have demanded reform of the Institute to no avail. And where was NAC when questions about the quality of services to blind people were being raised and condemnation of the Institute's President was filling virtually every newspaper in the state? In bed with the establishment, of course, where it always wants to be. In May of 1989 Dennis Hartenstein explained with sanctimonious condescension to a group of blind people that NAC's mission is to improve agencies in the field. If accreditation were to be withdrawn or refused, he asked rhetorically, what incentive would there be for that agency to improve its services to the blind? To which one is driven to reply: What impetus is there now? Alabama has never been a good place for blind people, but its attractiveness has been declining during the past decade. Jack Hawkins is clearly the immediate cause of this sorry state of affairs, but the ultimate responsibility must lie at NAC's door. Whether NAC likes it or not, the general public understands the concept of accreditation to be a way for experts to indicate their approval of an agency's actions and policies. NAC must decide whether it would rather claim that the morally bankrupt activities and policies of the Hawkins administration are outside the purview of its standards or that it has simply been looking the other way in an effort (one supposes) to improve the Institute. Both alternatives are damning, and both are probably, to one degree or another, true.
We will say it once again in case we have been misunderstood. We have no quibble with the concept of accreditation. If it were done with commitment to improving the welfare of blind people, if it reflected society's commonly held notions of legality and ethics, if one could ever see a pattern that suggested blind people were flourishing and growing in competence through the work of accredited agencies, then one could embrace NAC accreditation with enthusiasm. The Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind, and its checkered history under the leadership of Jack Hawkins, is only the latest chapter in the NAC scandal. The corruption at the Alabama Institute demonstrates once again the true degree of NAC's commitment (or lack thereof) to quality service and high principles. When NAC and its agencies cozy up together and claim to be taking care of the blind, the blind lose every time. We will keep fighting for justice in Alabama, as we have so often done before. Through hard experience we have learned that if we who are blind do not fight for ourselves, no one else will do it for us.
WHAT USE IS THE LONG WHITE CANE?
by Sharon Duffy
Sharon Duffy is Mobility Instructor at the Orientation Center of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind. She is a good teacher and a perceptive author. The following excerpts are taken from Miss Duffy's The White Cane, copyright, 1987. Apparently they appeared a few months ago in the publication of the NFB of Florida. Although we did not catch them at that time, we picked them up in the October, 1989, Insight, the publication of the NFB of South Dakota. They make a lot of sense. Here they are:
Cane travel is one of the most valuable skills a blind person can attain. It not only means independence for the individual but is more often the means of acceptance of blindness than any other skill.
1) A blind person who uses a cane is not only making a statement to others that he is blind but, more importantly, is acknowledging his own blindness. In dealing with the challenges that blindness brings, the first step must be this acceptance of blindness, and then the ability to look at each problem unemotionally and logically to work out its solution.
2) It is respectable to be blind. It is respectable to use a cane, and it is normal for blind persons to use canes.
3) Why is the denial of blindness so prevalent? Throughout time blindness has been portrayed as helplessness, and today it continues to get bad press via commercials, movies, and literature. Most blind people recognize that they do not fit the negative stereotypes presented. Therefore, many blind individuals' reaction is to deny that they are blind. Pride in ourselves as human beings and acceptance of what we are is the real solution.
4) We should take our white canes with us wherever we go. It is important in identifying ourselves as blind persons in terms of public awareness. Identifying oneself as blind can reduce the number of uncomfortable situations which would arise without it. The blind person who asks where something is, something in plain sight, spares himself and the sighted person embarrassment. Since the incidence of blindness is so low, a person probably would not immediately conceive that the individual asking the question is blind.
5) Many blind people mistakenly believe that they appear more normal if they don't carry a cane. The fact is that the public may not recognize that a person is blind but does realize that there is something different mental retardation, drunkenness, illiteracy, to name a few. Ultimately it is more comfortable for blind people to identify themselves as blind, allaying the confusion that results from the misidentification that would otherwise inevitably occur.
6) Self-confidence is the goal of cane travel. It can be achieved through promotion of the respectability of blindness, learning good technical skills, and challenging ourselves to do what we did not believe we could do. Do whatever it takes to attain this end.
CONSUMERISM: IMPROVING THE SERVICE DELIVERY SYSTEM
by Kenneth Jernigan
The following address was delivered at the conference of the Penn-Del Chapter of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, on November 17, 1989.
There are those who say that nothing ever changes. I am not one of them. There are those who say that especially nothing ever changes in the blindness field. Again, I am not one of them. I believe that the past half century has brought unprecedented changes, not only in the world at large but also and particularly in the blindness field. Moreover, I think the changes have overwhelmingly been for the good.
However, as is almost always the case, with progress has come problems both in the world at large and in the blindness field. Today we are talking about consumerism. The fact that we are, along with the popularity and recurrence of the theme, means that there is a felt need and that there are problems. In the summer of 1988 I participated in a panel discussion on this topic at the AER convention in Montreal. Some of the things which I said at that time bear repeating, for they deal with basic questions matters concerning relationships and performance in our field.
At the National Federation of the Blind convention in Chicago in 1988, 2,443 people registered as attendees. No other group has that kind of attendance. You know it, and I know it. In October of 1989 the National Federation of the Blind distributed (on cassette, on flexible disc, in Braille, and in print) over 29,000 copies of its magazine the Braille Monitor. Again, no other publication in our field has that kind of circulation, or anything even approaching it.
At my first NFB convention in 1952 barely 150 people were present, and we had no monthly publication. At that 1952 convention we spent more than fifty percent of our time talking about the rehabilitation system what it was doing, how to improve it, and what we wanted from it. At our 1988 convention we had twenty-five hours of program content, and we spent a total of forty-five minutes (or three percent of the time) dealing with the rehabilitation system of the United States. Of that forty-five minutes, fifteen minutes was spent hearing from the federal Rehabilitation Commissioner; fifteen minutes was spent hearing from our Director of Governmental Affairs, who talked about problems blind people were having with the system; and the final fifteen minutes was spent with questions and comments from the audience, indicating their concern with the failure of the system to deliver. In short, only one percent of the program time was used to hear from the rehabilitation system, and none of the time was spent talking about threats to the system or how to save it. Why?
Is it simply, as some have charged, that the members of the Federation (all of the thousands and tens of thousands of them or, at least, their leaders) are negative and destructive irresponsible radicals and agency haters? No. Such a thesis cannot be sustained. The facts do not support it. Let us turn again to the statistics of the 1988 NFB convention.
Kurt Cylke, head of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, was with us for the entire week, and so were several of his staff. Day after day they answered questions, talked with our members, and planned with us for the future. There was an atmosphere of partnership and mutual trust.
Likewise, top officials of the Social Security Administration were present to speak and participate. The Deputy Commissioner for Policy and External Affairs had a forty-minute segment on the program, and other Social Security personnel conducted a seminar and answered questions for most of an afternoon. As with the Library, there was no tension or confrontation only partnership and a feeling of shared interest and mutual concern. Moreover, with Social Security it must be remembered that many blind people throughout the country experience problems with underpayments, demands for return of overpayments, denial of applications, and similar difficulties; and more often than not, the National Federation of the Blind represents those blind persons in hearings to reverse Social Security's actions. Millions of dollars and numerous professional judgments are repeatedly called into question. Yet, there is no hostility only friendliness and joint effort. On a continuing basis the National Federation of the Blind and the Social Security Administration share information, exchange ideas, and work together in a spirit of cooperative harmony.
In short, our problems come only with the rehabilitation system, with some of the private agencies which function as part of that system, and with a group of educators. And even here there must be a further narrowing and focusing, for the problem is with the system itself and some of its more vocal spokespersons, not with all of its component parts or personnel. An increasing number of those in the system are beginning to take a new look and work with us. The very fact of our discussion here this morning is an evidence of that trend and the shift in thinking.
This brings me to our topic, Consumerism. I think blind people must have not an exclusive but a major role in shaping the blindness system. Otherwise, the system will die. Moreover, when I say blind people, I do not mean just blind individuals. I mean democratic membership organizations of the blind. I mean effective participation by the blind, and the only way that can be achieved is through organizations of the blind. In a sense, of course, blind people have always shaped the system, as indeed they do today. In most cases blind persons started (or played a major part in starting) the agencies. There have always been blind agency directors, and individual blind persons prominent in the community have from the beginning served on advisory and policy boards and lent their names and prestige to funding and public support.
Even so, the system has traditionally been custodial in nature and high-handed in dealing with meaningful input from the blind. This is why the system is in trouble. It is in danger of being absorbed into generic programs for the disabled, starving for lack of funds, and losing its position of centrality and perceived importance in the lives of the blind. This would not be the case if the average, thinking, responsible blind adult in this country felt that the system really mattered excluding, of course, the blind people who work in the system.
Let me be clearly understood. I am not saying that rehabilitation, training in mobility, assistance for the newly blinded, or education are not important urgently important; for they are. Rather, I am saying that year by year more and more blind persons have come to feel that the system is not effectively providing those things and that it is both unresponsive and irrelevant. Remember that I am talking about the system as a whole, not individual agencies or particular people working in those agencies.
It is not, as a few have claimed, that the organized blind wish to take control of the agencies. It is, from the point of view of the system, far worse than that. It is that more and more blind people are coming to feel that, in the things that count in their daily lives, what the agencies have to offer won't help and doesn't matter.
If I felt that the system was hopeless and that nothing could or should be done to improve it, I would not be here today talking with you. It is late, but if honest evaluation and forthright action occur, I think the system can be saved and that it is worth saving.
However, certain things must be said without equivocation. As a beginning, the agencies must change their attitudes about criticism and about the role of the organized blind in decision making. The matter of Fred Schroeder is a case in point. As most members of this organization know, Mr. Schroeder is blind. He is currently Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind. Before taking that job, he taught mobility professionally, received all of the academic credentials for doing so, and then was denied certification by this organization (the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired). The denial was based on the belief that a blind person cannot safely and competently teach another blind person how to travel or, if you like, teach another blind person mobility. The National Federation of the Blind as an organization and I as an individual thought you were wrong in that decision, and we were entitled to that opinion. On the other hand, it was perfectly proper for your organization to believe that you were right to attack our position, but it was not proper for the members of your organization to attack us (as some of you did) on irrelevant grounds denigrating our character and morals because of our beliefs. Of course, the same would obtain for our treatment of you.
Moreover, workers in the blindness system must resist the growing tendency to hide behind the term professionalism and must stop treating professionalism as if it were a sacred mystery. There is a teachable body of knowledge which can be learned about giving service to the blind; but much of that knowledge is a matter of common sense, good judgment, and experience. Most thinking blind persons (certainly those who have been blind for any length of time and have had any degree of success) know at least as much about what they and other blind people want and need from the system as the professionals do, and it must also be kept in mind that not every act of a professional is necessarily a professional act or based on professionalism. Just as in other fields in America today, the professionals in the blindness system must be judged on their behavior and not merely their credentials.
Consider, for instance, the question of whether children with residual vision should be taught Braille. After careful consideration the members of the National Federation of the Blind believe that every such child should at least have the option of being taught to read and write Braille. Some of the educators (especially those who cannot fluently read and write Braille) resist this view. Is their opinion a professional judgment, or is it a decision based on vested interest? Whichever it is, the views of the organized blind are entitled to serious consideration and not simply a brush-off, with the statement that the blind don't know what they are talking about and that they probably have bad motives and morals into the bargain. This brings me back to what I said about Kurt Cylke and the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. The libraries are not in trouble, and (regardless of economic conditions or changing theories) the libraries won't be in trouble. They won't because the blind of this country won't let it happen. And, yes, we have the power to give substance to our feelings. We don't control Kurt Cylke or the libraries. We don't want to and besides, he wouldn't permit it. Neither does he control us and for the same reasons. We support the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped because we need it, because it gives useful and good service, and because its leaders understand that they exist to give us service, and that they have accountability to us. What I have said about the Library is also true of the Social Security Administration and an increasing number of agencies and individuals in the fields of rehabilitation and education.
But the hard core of the blindness system still resists, to its detriment and ours. It tries to say that it speaks for the blind because the head of an agency is blind or because blind people serve on a staff or board. No great intellect is required to understand that in a representative democracy only those elected by a group can speak for that group; that the heads of agencies can have vested interests which transcend their blindness; and that when an agency can pick and choose individual blind spokespersons from the community, it can get people who will say whatever it wants them to say.
Unless things change, I believe the central core of the blindness system will sink into obscurity and wither away, but I believe this need not happen and should not happen. Blind people (and that means the organized blind) must have a major voice in shaping the blindness system and the programs which operate within it whether those programs be sheltered shops, residential schools, state agencies, or private nonprofit organizations. It must be a partnership and not a partnership of dominance and subservience but of consenting equals a partnership based on trust, respect, and mutuality. Let these things happen, and all else will follow. Let these things happen, and the system will thrive.
If those who work in the public and private agencies want broad support from the blind community, they must be responsive to the concerns which the blind perceive as important. Today there are relatively few major issues which divide the organized blind and the agencies. Twenty years ago it appeared (at least, on the surface) that there was at least one such issue the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC). But the problem was more apparent than real. NAC (despite its few remaining vocal supporters) has never been a significant factor in the lives of the nation's blind and is now rapidly becoming a dead letter and a subject only for the historians. It has never been able to get more than twenty or twenty-five percent of the nation's eligible agencies to accept its accreditation, and increasingly as the larger and more prominent agencies have pulled away from it, it has been forced to try to keep its numbers up by accrediting smaller and less well-known organizations. Let the dead be dead, and let the rest of us move on to better things.
The real question we face is not how to resolve controversies between consumers and the agencies but whether consumers can continue to feel that the agencies on balance are relevant enough and important enough for the consumers to nurture and save them in short, whether there can be common cause, shared purpose, mutual respect, and true partnership. Certainly the problems which face us are formidable and challenging. We still have a long way to go in improving the climate of public opinion so that the blind can have opportunity and full access to the main channels of everyday life. We have made tremendous progress in this area, but much yet remains to be done. All other things being equal, the job can best be handled through joint effort by the blind and the agencies, but handled it must be whether the agencies participate or not.
Likewise, there is a broad spectrum of specific programs and activities, ranging from technology to education to employment, which need urgent and sustained attention and again (all other things being equal) the job can best be handled by joint effort on the part of the blind community and the agencies. But one way or another, the blind intend to achieve full equality and first-class status in society. The question is what part the agencies will play and what relationship they will have with the increasingly powerful consumer movement.
The story is told that one evening a nightclub patron approached the bandstand and said to the drummer, Does your dog bite? No, the drummer said, he doesn't.
The man reached down to pet the dog, and it almost bit his arm off. He leaped back in a fury and said to the drummer, I thought you said your dog didn't bite.
He doesn't, the drummer said, but that isn't my dog. You see, the man asked the wrong question, so he got an unsatisfactory answer. Let us be sure that in dealing with consumerism in the blindness field we not only try to get the right answers but also ask the right questions. Otherwise, we may lose an arm.
COMMENTS ON THE AUDIT OF THE
IDAHO COMMISSION FOR THE BLIND
by Ramona Walhof
From the Editor: The following article appeared in the Winter, 1989, issue of the Gem State Milestones, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho. Whether or not our opponents would agree, this article is most significant for its gentleness. It discusses audits of the Idaho Commission for the Blind for a period beginning July 1, 1986, and ending June 30, 1989. The Administrator of the agency for those three years was Howard Barton. Supervisor of the Business Enterprise Program was J. Scott Fenwick. Chief of Rehabilitation Services was Ed Easterling. These names are not mentioned in the Walhof article, but Monitor readers will remember that the administration of the Idaho Commission for the Blind was not supportive of the blind of the state or responsive to them. The audit shows serious financial problems for which Barton, Fenwick, and Easterling were responsible. The new Administrator of the Commission for the Blind in Idaho was hired July 31, 1989. He is Ed McHugh, formerly of Massachusetts. McHugh is reputed to work well with all blind persons and organizations. Federationists in Idaho were content with the selection of McHugh and report that improvements appear to be taking shape although more slowly than might be hoped. As the Walhof article makes clear, members of the National Federation of the Blind want nothing more than a good working rapport with agencies serving the blind. In states where this occurs (and it does with increasing frequency) blind clients, employed blind persons, and agency staff members receive more respect and better benefits from the public at large and the government than in states where the rapport between the blind and the agency is poor. No more valuable support for a good agency for the blind can be found than support from the National Federation of the Blind. Even when an agency is mediocre, the NFB tends to be tolerant; but when an agency is downright bad, we have no choice. We must fight. That is the only way to get improvements. When changes are made, we do what we can to help. If change is for the better, we say so. If change is for the worse, we go back to the fight. In Idaho change seems to be for the better. It remains to be seen whether the change will mean programs are a little better or a lot better. Here is the article which appeared in the Gem State Milestones :
One of the functions of the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho is to monitor government-funded programs for the blind. When an audit is released which is critical such as the one for the Idaho Commission for the Blind that was completed in October of 1989 our office gets calls and questions: What does it mean? What should we do about it?
In this audit, six findings and recommendations were made for fiscal years 1987 and 1988. These dealt with relatively minor problems, which can be corrected. The audit for fiscal year 1989 included the same six findings and recommendations plus one additional item. This seventh matter is serious. Probably a total of at least $140,000 was misspent, incorrectly accounted for and/or improperly committed. The situation so identified has to do with the management of one cafeteria for about one year, and only one blind person could have benefited from the expenditure of all that money and it is doubtful that he did. The blind have been concerned about this situation since it started. The money has already been spent, but this does not end the matter. Serious mistakes were made. Three top people at the Idaho Commission for the Blind were responsible. The administrator was replaced last summer, and the two supervisors in question were replaced before that. Since the audit did not do it, it seems important to let those who care about the Commission program know that these replacements have occurred. It does not seem necessary to name the names of the three who did the damage. The names are easy to obtain and besides, knowledgeable people in the state know who they are. The new administrator, Ed McHugh; the two new supervisors; and the Commission board are quietly going about the business of trying to improve the programs and correct the mistakes of the past.
If the blind of the state thought serious mistakes were being made by these three former officials, and if the auditors found what they found then it is not surprising that there have been questions raised about the administration of the Idaho Commission for the Blind during recent years. On the other hand, the new people must be given the opportunity (including a reasonable amount of time) to make the improvements that are needed. Most, if not all, of the staff who remain are conscientious. We do not expect magic. We do expect change and we are beginning to see it. Many examples could be given, but here is one which will require at least a certain amount of time. The former administration threw away the Job Development position at the Commission. This was done in spite of the fact that there is a seventy percent unemployment rate among the blind of our state and that the loss of the position was not necessary. No more important position can exist than one for the purpose of job development and placement for the blind. Yet, it was eliminated. The new administration must get the governor and legislature to fund a brand new position for this purpose always a harder job than maintaining an existing position. The request has been made and is supported by the governor. It goes without saying that the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho supports it. Even if it passes the legislature (and we are doing everything we can to see that it does), the job development position cannot be filled before July 1, 1990 and even after that, it will take some time for all of it to translate into new jobs for blind people. There is probably no way to speed up the process.
We have no reason to question any of the information in the audit, but we hope and believe that the most serious problems are being corrected and that progressive changes are in motion. Since it is part of our function to monitor agencies for the blind, the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho will not hesitate to report the fact if improvements are not made within a reasonable time.
ALABAMA REVISITED IN THE IOWA PEPPER MILL
by Kenneth Jernigan
In the January, 1990, Braille Monitor we carried an article about the goings on at the Iowa Department for the Blind (formerly the Iowa Commission for the Blind). Now, there is more much more. It will be remembered that Terry Pepper, the person responsible for accounting at the Iowa Department for the Blind, was accused of stealing funds from the agency, that he pleaded innocent and resigned, and that there was every indication that he would be prosecuted.
Under date of January 13, 1990, the Des Moines Register carried an article giving further unbelievable details. The headline Ex-State Official Admits Stealing Taxpayer Money summed up the new developments, but it did not do justice to what was to come. In general the article detailed a lurid account of the misuse of state funds for the purchase of everything from Pepper's underwear to a $101 gravy dish. The state auditor was quoted as saying that in June of 1988 a state check in the amount of $20,342 was sent to a local department store to make a partial payment on Pepper's personal charge accounts. The list of items rivals the one which appears in the article (printed elsewhere in this issue) concerning the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind.
But one thing about the Iowa case is particularly disturbing and requires comment. It is that section of the article which reads: Had Trust of Boss The manipulation was made easier because Pepper, who can see, had won the trust of agency director R. Creig Slayton, who is blind. As a result, Slayton, on at least one occasion, signed an authorization document, the purpose of which had been misrepresented by Pepper. Having the confidence of his boss `put him in a position of trust that allowed him to engineer some of these transactions,' Kiplinger [the auditor] said.
This is what the article says, and the thrust of it is unmistakably clear. After all, the auditor is saying (and there will doubtless be many to agree with him), what can you expect? Slayton, the director, is blind so how could he prevent this sort of thing from happening? He is at the mercy of any sighted person who can get his trust and hoodwink him. Perhaps there is room for pity, but none for respect.
To all of this I say nonsense. For twenty years (from 1958 to 1978) I was director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind, so I know from personal experience how the procedures work and what can and cannot be done. While I was there, I administered the receipt and expenditure of tens of millions of dollars; I am totally blind; not every person with whom I had dealings was an angel; and the audits indicate that not one dime of money was misappropriated or stolen. This is no accident. I am not saying that there is no conceivable circumstance under which someone could have engaged in theft of funds, but I am saying that I do not believe an incident such as the one involving Terry Pepper could have happened under the rules I established. I am saying that there was plenty of advance warning in the Pepper case and that it happened because of carelessness and ineptitude, not blindness.
To tell you why I say this, I must give you some of the particulars of the operation of the Iowa agency. As I have already said, it was known as the Commission for the Blind in those days, so I will simply refer to it in that way. The Commission does not write its own checks. It prepares vouchers and supporting data, which are then sent to the office of the state comptroller for review. The comptroller's office writes the checks and returns them with supporting data to the Commission. In my day (surely they still do it) we submitted to the comptroller a list of the names of the people authorized to sign the voucher documents. I suppose I need not add that the accountant's name was not on the list. Only the director or his designee could sign the voucher documents, and neither the director nor his designee could (by the rules I established) prepare the documents. As a general practice I had my deputy director (sighted) sign the voucher documents, but the deputy was required to check with me before signing any document involving more than $500 or which in any way seemed unusual. (In the event there was any question about it, it was defined as unusual. ) Did I ever sign a voucher document? Yes. But I never did it without asking a sighted person (not the accountant who brought it to me) to verify it.
Did this mean that I didn't trust my associates? No. Did it mean that I didn't administer the program? Ask the people who were there. I administered it, and I trusted my colleagues but it is not only foolish but sinful to place needless temptation in the way of fallible human beings.
In this connection let me quote from the state audit which was recently issued. It says: Board minutes were altered on one occasion to fraudulently show that the Board authorized purchases for furnishings which were delivered to Mr. Pepper's personal residence. When I was Director of the Commission, the accountant did not have access to the minutes. They were kept locked in the administrative office and for the very reason here illustrated. There were other safeguards. When the mail came to the Commission, my deputy opened and reviewed it all of it: that for the accountant, and that for every other department. It would, of course, have been easier (some would probably say more efficient Pepper, for instance) simply to have given the accounting mail to the accountant. That procedure would have prevented annoying delays and after all, who has more knowledge about the finances than the accountant? Some people were irritated with our mail policy, but I believe that most saw the sense of it. The mail policy applied, as I have said, to every aspect of the program, not just to accounting.
Regardless of how some felt about it, it worked and we did not have a Terry Pepper case. Moreover, whatever people may have thought about the Commission for the Blind or its director, never once did I hear even a hint of weak administration because of blindness. I heard plenty of other things but not that. The audit which was triggered by the Pepper caper is entitled:
Special Report, Iowa Department for the Blind, Special Investigation Misappropriated Funds, January 13, 1982 through September 15, 1989. A review of the document indicates that Pepper signed authorizations, prepared voucher documents, wrote letters of purchase, intercepted the incoming mail, had access to the agency's minutes, and presumably did anything else he pleased. Why did the office of the state comptroller not raise questions about such a policy, and where (in the name of sanity) was the agency's director and his assistant? Again I say that we are not dealing with blindness but an astounding lack of understanding and responsibility.
So where does the Iowa Department for the Blind go from here? And while we are on the subject, where does the public image of blindness go in the state of Iowa? What the auditor has said and what the Register has printed will be much more in accord with the general notions of blindness than with what we worked (with some success) through the years to build. What impact will the Pepper case have when the next blind applicant for Director is considered? What will it do to the agency's credibility and flexibility in authorizing innovative expenditures to help blind clients?
Most of the staff at the Iowa Commission for the Blind (and I am sure that many still are) were thoroughly competent and good people but when one considers what the Iowa Commission for the Blind was and what it has now become, one can only turn away in disgust and say, YUK! It is no wonder that some now call it the Iowa Pepper Mill.
In this discussion I have not dealt with the proposed treatment of Pepper, which is nothing short of nauseating. If Pepper is guilty (and apparently he says that he is), then he ought not to be let off with a mere public tongue lashing and a pay back with blue smoke and mirrors. The damage he has done to the blind of Iowa and their programs is incalculable. But there are also others. The damage which has been done by the people who initiated the sloppy procedures that permitted this miserable fiasco to happen is almost equally incalculable. They, too, should be held to account.
There is one final thing that I want to say. If an unsigned article appears in this magazine, it ordinarily (not always, but ordinarily) means that I either wrote it or edited it so substantially that it comes to the same thing. I did not write the article on the Iowa Department for the Blind which appeared in the January, 1990, Braille Monitor. It was written by Associate Editor Barbara Pierce and published without my reading it, something which is unusual. But I wrote every word of the present article, and did so after careful consideration and reflection. I, for one, am sick and tired of hearing a few apologists defensively tell me that the Iowa Commission for the Blind is just as good as it ever was. Surely we can now lay that insult to intelligence to rest and get on with the business of trying to rebuild decent programs for the blind of the state. Here is the article from the Des Moines Register:
Admits Stealing Taxpayer Money
by Thomas A. Fogarty and Lou Ortiz
A former state administrator who used taxpayers' money to decorate his West Des Moines condominium to suit his champagne tastes pleaded guilty Friday to theft charges.
He also agreed to repay the state of Iowa nearly $103,000. Terry Pepper's guilty pleas in Polk County District Court followed by hours issuance of a report by State Auditor Richard Johnson's office outlining an elaborate scheme in which Pepper was able to charge thousands of dollars in home furnishings, clothing, and stereo equipment, then have state government pay the bill. Deputy State Auditor Kasey Kiplinger said Pepper's case is perhaps the largest case of misappropriation of public money in Iowa in his two decades in the auditor's office.
Until he resigned last September, Pepper, 40, was the No. 2 administrator at the Iowa Department for the Blind, where he had worked for eight years. According to the audit report, Pepper was able to steal from the state in two ways: by depositing checks written to the agency in his personal bank account, and by arranging the issuance of state checks to pay personal charge accounts.
Had Trust of Boss
The manipulation was made easier because Pepper, who can see, had won the trust of agency director R. Creig Slayton, who is blind. As a result, Slayton, on at least one occasion, signed an authorization document, the purpose of which had been misrepresented by Pepper. Having the confidence of his boss put him in a position of trust that allowed him to engineer some of these transactions, Kiplinger said.
The audit report suggests that Pepper spared little expense when it came to redecorating his condominium at 1100 50th Street in West Des Moines.
On three occasions Pepper managed to have the state issue checks to Younkers department store or its home furnishing store to pay off personal charge accounts he had there. They totaled $35,219.
$101 Gravy Dish
Among the Younkers purchases paid off with government money, and the prices paid, were: carpeting, $4,004; a bamboo chair, $272; a gold stallion, $230; a brass table, $562; a gravy dish, $101; a covered vegetable dish, $162; a cream and sugar dish, $108; and a coffee pot, $115.
In addition, he charged hundreds of dollars worth of sheets, underwear, and clothing, much of it of the expensive Ralph Lauren Polo line. Pepper also managed to have the state pay Best Buy Stores $4,102 for television and stereo equipment. Other personal purchases billed to the state include a $340 brass lamp and a $570 floral arrangement. Pepper was able to make his scheme work by generating fake documentation that led state officials to believe they were issuing state checks for legitimate agency expenses.
On June 1, 1988, for example, the audit report says Pepper mailed or personally delivered it isn't clear which a $20,342 state-issued check to Younkers to be applied to his personal charge accounts. The audit report showed that Pepper had fabricated documents to make officials believe they were paying Younkers for remodeling in the Department for the Blind's district offices.
Pepper triggered an investigation into his activities last August when he attempted to deposit into his personal bank account a $346,146 check from the U.S. government to the Department for the Blind. A Des Moines bank questioned the legitimacy of the deposit, which was made at an automatic teller machine. Following that investigation, the Polk County attorney's office charged Pepper with theft for earlier deposits of checks totaling more than $61,000 written to the state agency. He pleaded innocent to the charges in October.
Pepper quit his state job last autumn when criminal charges appeared imminent.
In a hearing before Polk County District Judge Arthur Gamble, Pepper changed his plea on the theft charges to guilty. Prosecutors didn't file an additional charge on the $41,598 that state government paid to satisfy his personal charge accounts. Pepper faces up to 20 years in prison and up to $20,000 in fines when he is sentenced February 26. Under a plea agreement, prosecutors will refrain from recommending a prison term.
Pepper declined to comment after the hearing. His lawyer, Robert Kromminga, said as much as $25,000 of the promised restitution would be in the form of forfeited pension money and vacation accumulated during the time Pepper worked for the state. An additional sum, which Kromminga said he could not estimate, will come from the sale of the West Des Moines condominium and from investments. The balance will be in monthly installments, Kromminga said. He has a master's degree [in public administration], so he's employable, Kromminga said.
THE FIGHTING ELVES
by Michael Baillif
Michael Baillif is the President of the National Federation of the Blind Student Division. This article is reprinted from the Spring/Summer issue of the Student Slate, the newsletter of the Student Division. Mr. Baillif, who is a first year student at the Yale University School of Law, delivered The Fighting Elves at the 1989 meeting of the Student Division, which took place during the national convention in Denver, Colorado. Here is what he had to say:
Ye fighting elves of the world, unite, for you have nothing to lose but your diminutive status. So read the banners which fluttered from the battlements in a distant place in a time long, long ago. Elves from throughout the land were being summoned to a desperate and determined elvish muster. From far and wide the elves marched, heeding the call for unity and answering the summons of their elvish leaders, for it was clear to one and all that the time for a last stand short though it might be was upon them. By the thousands the elves gathered at their stronghold, The Bastion De Minutia. Their mission? Once and for all to confront and destroy the tyranny practiced over them by the Big People. You see, this distant land was cohabited by people of all sizes. Yet for uncounted ages, those labeled (through lack of height) as elves were subject to foolish and malicious, prejudicial and discriminatory treatment. Finally, the elves had simply had enough. They were no longer willing to accept the inferior status to which they had been relegated solely on the basis of reduced stature.
So the elvish muster went forward. All who arrived at the Bastion De Minutia were outfitted with appropriate weapons and armor. The atmosphere was grave and determined, yet also festive and full of life. Battle plans were slowly and carefully forged while jubilant parties sprang up throughout the camp. The elves believed that their battle was destined to be a difficult and perilous one. Yet the very act of confronting their oppression was, for many of them, a relief and a victory.
When the battle plan was finally announced, it first met astonished silence, and then tumultuous cheers rose from the Bastion De Minutia. The elves were to march upon the capital of the Big People, Long Island, as it was commonly known. The assault was to be undertaken boldly and openly. The elves would face not only the weapons and war machines of the big people, but also the demeaning misconceptions of others and their own feelings of inferiority which had for so long held them down. Cries of Reduced stature, yes; reduced rights, no! and With elvish might, we will fight! rang out and would probably have continued all night long had not one of the elvish leaders climbed to the top of the battlement and gestured for silence. He then proceeded (for the next five hours) to chronicle the many grievances of the long-suffering elves. There are varied accounts of his lengthy oratory. Here is an excerpt which, from our perspective as students, we may find particularly interesting and relevant. Midway through his declamation, as some listened with rapt attention, others snored noisily, and still others passed bottles of wine to and fro, the elvish leader waxed eloquent on the subjects of job opportunities and educational possibilities.
The current situation is disgraceful and unacceptable, said he. It is the negative stereotypes and ignorant misconceptions about shortness which keep us down. People of height assume that simply because we are short we can work only half as well and half as long as they. In most cases they are not even willing to give us the opportunity to disprove this limiting and ridiculous assumption. Since almost no one will hire us, the big people see that most of us are not working, then claim that we lack not only ability, but motivation as well.
If some of our number do succeed in finding work and do well for themselves, they are designated as `super elves' and set apart from the rest of us as the exception. What is truly tragic, my short friends, is that some of our community actually believe what they are told by the tall people. They accept the notion that being an elf is shameful and try desperately to pass as something that they are not. In fact, rather than being proud of themselves as they are and claiming that it is respectable to be short, they choose to assert that they are not elves at all, but only `height-impaired.' These people do not help us in our efforts to gain equal treatment and status. But even more tragically, they hurt themselves by selling themselves short, by not demanding of life all it has to offer, and by not believing in their hearts that they can do and be whatever they dare to dream. Such are the bitter fruits of oppression and discrimination which we have been forced to eat for too long!
Now let's talk about some of the weeds in the garden of our land's educational system. The big people take tests for admission into what they call `institutions of higher learning.' As elves we are effectively prevented from competing in these same tests. Why? Because these tests (when taken by elves) are not valid. They say that we take the examinations under non-standard conditions. And what may these non-standard conditions be? Our desks are shorter and our pencils not as long as those of the tall people. Do these alternative accommodations affect the evaluative outcome of our test scores? Of course not! I know it; you know it; but, until now at least, the big people in their tall ivory towers have slammed their windows upon our cries for common sense and equitable treatment.
Within the educational institutions themselves, unfortunately, things are often no better. Our young people enter these institutions of higher learning in the same frame of mind as all other students rather timid, apprehensive, and unsure of their own abilities. Nevertheless, they are willing to put in the work and take their chances in an attempt to feel a sense of accomplishment, to achieve success, and to gain that personal development which can occur only through the process of trial and error. Some altruistic big people, however, believing that we elves are at a disadvantage and cannot conceivably do well in school without their aid, have established Offices of Abbreviated Student Services. Some of these ASSes, as they are affectionately known, provide services which help (or at least do not hinder) academically oriented elves. Unfortunately, many of them patronize and custodialize us elves. They attempt to do for us what we ought to be doing for ourselves, taking a hand in our academic endeavors, speaking with our professors, and standing as the on-campus authority on shortness. They work to eliminate the possibility of failure; and in doing so, they obliterate our potential for true success. If we are never challenged, how can we ever hope to develop? I ask you, what have we come to as a class when our best and brightest young people are custodialized by ASSes?
The elvish orator spoke through the night, firing his elvish legions up to a fever pitch, inspiring them for their legendary march, which would commence with the sunrise.
Now let us leave the elvish hordes for the moment in order to address two very important questions, the first of which you may already be asking yourself and perhaps your neighbors as well. It goes like this: What in the world does the elves' struggle for liberation have to do with the Presidential Report which is listed in the Student Division agenda? The answer is simple nothing. Don't worry, though. The Student Division Board is a sociable group, and I know that, if you are interested, any of us would be very pleased to discuss with you over a drink, or two, or three, our accomplishments in the past year. Much more important than our recent achievements, however, is our present reality, and about this we can learn much from our elvish contemporaries. As to the second question, let me ask you this, and please consider the answer carefully and honestly. Do you ever feel small because of your blindness? Do you ever feel as though you are an elf, filled with feelings of insecurity, incompetence, and inadequacy, attempting to function in a world of giants? When people have told you (either directly or indirectly) that, because you are blind, you are somehow less a human being with less to offer, less ability, and less potential for a meaningful life, has any part of you ever believed it? If you are human and if you are honest with yourself, then the answer for you, as for me, is yes.
Now we must consider why this is so and what we must do about it. The first part is easy. It is so because of negative and ignorant public attitudes about blindness. We must overcome these attitudes by educating the general public as well as ourselves that blindness is just a characteristic which (with proper training, positive attitudes, and the opportunity to put them to work) can be simply a nuisance and nothing more. If deep down you doubt this statement, look around for the rest of the convention, and you will see many, many blind people who confidently and competently lead lives as fulfilling and achievement-oriented as anyone who is sighted. While you are looking around this week, apply a slightly altered version of the Biblical Test of Gomorrah to the National Federation of the Blind.
See if you encounter just one person who has something to offer you be it friendship, leadership, or a role model. If you find this person, then stay, take what that person has to offer, take what this organization has to give; and then, in your own way, in your own time, give what you can to other individuals, to the National Federation of the Blind, and ultimately to yourself. Let us undertake together the education of society, which also includes ourselves. As we accomplish this education, there will be times when the intransigent few who simply will not listen who will not be educated must be decisively dealt with if they stand in our way. On these occasions regrettably, sorrowfully, but nonetheless determinedly, we march side by side to war just as do our elvish friends whom we have left waiting for too long. After the orator had ceased and the sun was rising on the eastern horizon, the elves assembled in orderly ranks line upon line stretching away beyond sight. Then, after a great clashing of weapons and loud shouts of exortation, the elves commenced to march toward their destination. On their road a very strange and surprising circumstance befell the zealous elvish troops. They began to grow. The very act of coming together, of organizing, of taking a stand for their own dignity and self-worth and the very act of confronting those attitudes and institutions which had for so long held them down inspired in the elves a growth which made their armed assault on Long Island unnecessary. In overcoming the inertia and feelings of isolated powerlessness in order to take the initial step on their march, the elves had fought and won the greatest battle which they would ever face.
As a result of this event, only a few with the physical qualities of the elves still exist today. Nevertheless, their spiritual legacy is part of us. Within each of us is the tendency to shrink or grow, depending upon how we deal with our own characteristics. Circumstances summon us daily to march. We need only gather within our own organization, the National Federation of the Blind, and take those initial steps on the warrior road in order to move decisively toward ultimate victory. Let us learn from the example of our elvish forerunners and, by working together, help each other to grow. Our battle is perhaps destined to be longer than that of the elves, but it lies down the same road. Like the fighting elves, we should unite, for we have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Through shared effort and commitment, let us march together toward, not only security, equality, and opportunity, but also toward the personal confidence, competence, and stature which we need to live in the world, succeed in the classroom, and excel in life. We have much to do and many challenges to undertake. The days of our diminutive status are past; let us march together into a promising future in which our collective action aimed at achieving first-class citizenship is marked by shared comradeship, effort, and commitment.
REFLECTIONS ON THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT
by Kenneth Jernigan
No proposed piece of legislation during the past thirty years has created more comment and soul searching among the disabled of this country than the Americans with Disabilities Act. The bill passed the Senate in 1989 and at the time of this writing (early 1990) is awaiting action by the House of Representatives. At first glance it would seem that no disabled American could possibly object to this bill. It would be like opposing motherhood, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny but some do oppose it, and even more have serious reservations about it in its present form that is, the form in which it passed the Senate and is now being considered by the House.
At its 1989 convention in Denver, Colorado, the National Federation of the Blind passed a resolution declaring that if the bill could not be amended to cure its weaknesses, it should be opposed. In the circumstances it seems desirable to examine the proposed law and consider its possible advantages and drawbacks. Obviously it is not easy to oppose such legislation, for the enthusiasm of those who favor it is at such a fever pitch that any cautionary comments (regardless of how sound or constructive) are likely to be taken out of context, distorted, or twisted to convey meanings they were never intended to have. Nevertheless, this legislation is so far-reaching and all-inclusive that it cannot be allowed to go forward without analysis so here is how we see it, how we think it affects the blind as it is currently written, and how we think it should (at a minimum) be amended.
The bill as it passed the Senate says that the purpose of the Americans with Disabilities Act is To establish a clear and comprehensive prohibition of discrimination on the basis of disability. The proponents of the legislation say that it will give to qualified individuals with disabilities the right to equal participation in employment, public accommodations, transportation, and other activities. They say that it will do this by mandating special accommodations for the disabled. But some of us who have doubts about the requirements of the Act feel that by eliminating certain problems and discriminations it may actually create others. Particularly, we are concerned that the bill is so written that the disabled may (whether they need them or not) be required to accept the special accommodations mandated by the bill and (regardless of their abilities, desires, or circumstances) be prevented from using the same facilities and services that are available to others.
Background on the Americans
with Disabilities Act and its
Comparison with Existing
Civil Rights Laws
The Americans with Disabilities Act has been proposed to prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities. Under the bill it would be discriminatory to deny disabled persons access to (1) employment;
(2) services, programs, and benefits of state and local governments (including public transportation);
(3) public accommodations and transportation provided by private entities; and
(4) telecommunications services.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was the first federal nondiscrimination statute of general applicability to handicapped individuals. The law itself originally consisted of one sentence, specifying that recipients of federal aid could not subject otherwise qualified handicapped individuals to discrimination under any program or activity receiving or benefiting from federal financial assistance. The Americans with Disabilities Act significantly extends this requirement and vastly expands its reach.
Following the language and concepts of the section 504 regulations, the Americans with Disabilities Act identifies physical barriers to the disabled as discriminatory. The premise of the bill is that limits on physical access lead to restricted participation or outright denial of opportunity. Under the bill, opportunities are to be barrier free. A legal standard of what is called accommodated participation is used as the rule of thumb for nondiscrimination. Physical accessibility requires modifications to architectural design features. Changes in programs in order to accommodate them to the physical limitations of the disabled are also required.
The premise of the section 504 regulations has been that the standard for prohibiting discrimination against disabled persons differs substantively from the standard used in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The standard used in that Act (the Civil Rights standard) is that race, sex, national origin, and religion must not stand in the way of equal opportunity. Equal participation must be afforded to everyone regardless of differing traits. The Americans with Disabilities Act uses the accommodated participation standard first developed with the section 504 regulations. Rather than being disregarded, disability must be considered. Equal opportunity as contemplated in the Americans with Disabilities Act means participation, with or without modifications. Failure to accommodate programs to the disabled (or failure to provide services that are separate or different from the services provided to others) is expected to result in a denial of opportunity and is, therefore, to be considered discriminatory.
The Americans with Disabilities Act does not outwardly reject the equal participation standard of the Civil Rights Act, but in emphasis the bill strongly favors accommodation modifying buildings, buses, airplanes, and the environment in general as well as the establishment of separate programs. In some instances (with respect to some disabilities) it may be reasonable to argue that accommodations must be made to prevent discrimination. In other instances (such as in the case of discrimination against the blind) so-called accommodations may often themselves be discriminatory. This fact must be considered in the further development of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Otherwise, the Act itself could become a source of unintentional discrimination against some persons with disabilities.
Nature of Discrimination on
Grounds of Blindness
Blindness is unquestionably a disability as that term is defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act. This inclusion implies that discrimination against the blind arises primarily from lack of physical access or lack of special accommodations. The implication is not only incorrect; it is dangerously incorrect. Structural characteristics do not ordinarily prevent blind persons from having full and equal access to any buildings or facilities used by anybody else. Blind persons are customarily able to use programs, services, and facilities without modification. Discrimination against the blind comes from the false assumption that sight is essential for successful performance of most tasks. Blindness is the inability to see, but it is not generally disabling. Alternative techniques used by blind persons work as well, and as efficiently, as visual techniques used by sighted persons. It is, therefore, discriminatory to require the blind to be treated differently from the sighted when such treatment is not warranted. Unwanted accommodations for the blind discriminate by falsely portraying the blind as limited in ways that they are not.
Increased attention to civil rights for the disabled has led to misplaced and discriminatory uses of accommodation. One example is offering a wheelchair to assist a blind person in moving through an airport or similar facility. If the blind person rejects the offer, preferring to walk, it is not unusual for airport officials to try to force the blind person to use the wheelchair. What starts as an attempted accommodation is now discrimination. Another example is insisting that all blind people must sit at the front of public buses because those seats are designated for the elderly and handicapped. In either example, the blind person who can walk and move as well as anybody else is made to appear as limited. The person may, indeed, be permitted to have access to the building or the bus, but the access is certainly on discriminatory terms for that blind individual or for the blind as a class.
The experience of the blind with Section 504 should be instructive. Programs are now established to, as the terminology has it, take care of the needs of the blind. In the bus example, Section 504 clearly prohibits denying service to the blind. It does not clearly prohibit the bus driver from insisting that a blind person sit in one of the front seats designated for the elderly and handicapped. Some may regard disputes about seating as quibbling, but Rosa Parks and others brought the entire civil rights movement to a national focus by exactly this type of issue. Section 504 requires that disabled persons be accommodated on the bus. If blind persons who are capable of sitting anywhere are forced to accept seating accommodations and use the seats designated for the elderly and handicapped, they are being subjected to arbitrary and unreasonable restrictions. It is exactly this type of situation, resulting from Section 504, that the blind find objectionable. We are expected (in fact, often required ) to act as if we are disabled in ways that we are not. Accepting the blind on terms of full equality is the proper policy of nondiscrimination. Conversely, it is discriminatory to assume that participation for the blind is made possible only by means of what are called accommodations. When that assumption is applied, the result is discrimination treating the blind as disabled in ways that they are not.
Need for a Participation
without Modification Amendment In
the Americans with Disabilities Act
Serious problems of unintentional (but very real) discrimination arise from the accommodated participation standard in the Americans with Disabilities Act. As with women and minorities protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the most appropriate legal standard for the blind and others is equal participation. This means that the terms and conditions of participation are applicable alike to all persons. Accommodated participation means that modifications must be made so that persons with disabilities will be given an opportunity. Disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act is treated as a generic condition. This leads to inappropriate use of accommodated participation. The fact is that the blind have the unique condition of not seeing, which is not generally disabling. Discrimination occurs against the blind when blindness is treated as generally disabling. The experience of the blind with the airlines exemplifies the problem.
The advent of federal civil rights laws for handicapped individuals brought pressure on commercial airlines to serve persons with disabilities. Physical barriers of aircraft and equipment had prevented service in some instances particularly, to those using wheelchairs. This was never a problem for the blind. In the case of the blind, air transportation was almost always provided on essentially nondiscriminatory terms. We bought our ticket, got on the plane, sat where we chose, left the plane at our destination, and went about our business like anybody else. Certainly (in contrast to the situation of some disabled persons) there were no policies to deny or restrict service to the blind. Blindness was not regarded as a disability for purposes of air travel.
The pressure brought on commercial airlines by persons with certain disabilities (particularly, those with orthopedic problems) may have been necessary, but the effect it has had on blind persons has been a civil rights disaster. When the airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration began to plan ways of, as the term is used, accommodating the handicapped in order to (again, as the jargon has it) serve them, they included the blind in the general category. All of a sudden it became unacceptable to think of the blind as not disabled for purposes of air travel. So the blind were made to be disabled and restrictions, thought to be appropriate for the disabled, have been wrongfully imposed on the blind ever since. This policy has now been pursued (first condescendingly and then when the blind objected, aggressively and with hostility) by the airlines. Ironically, the net effect of the civil rights laws for the disabled has been to place new and unwarranted restrictions on the blind in air travel. This is the result of the generic disability approach in setting the standard for nondiscrimination.
Relying on federal law, the airlines are now attempting to make the blind disabled in ways that they are not. This and many other examples justify the concern of the blind that the Americans with Disabilities Act will cause unintentional, massive discrimination. The bill (as introduced and passed by the Senate) presumes that disability (every disability) implies the need for what is called an accommodated form of participation. Covered entities will want to comply with the Act by making accommodations, especially those of minimal cost. As with the airline example, the blind will be expected to accept policies which apply to the generic disability class, including accommodated participation and the restrictions that necessarily accompany it.
The accommodated participation standard is perhaps appropriate for many persons with disabilities. This standard may help make their participation possible. For blind persons, however, the accommodation standard incorrectly assumes a degree of inability and directs unwanted and even harmful changes. The individual's true abilities are overshadowed by accommodated participation, and the changes made become the focus of everyone's attention. It is assumed that the individual could not participate were it not for the accommodation.
To use another example, some people now assume that blind people cannot cross street intersections without special signaling devices. The devices are audible traffic signals which emit a sound (often a bird call) to indicate the changing of the traffic lights. The modification has been promoted by persons who assume that blind people will not know when or where to cross the street if they are not given a special audible cue. But rather than being a form of assistance to the blind, this adaptation becomes (in the minds of most blind persons) a hindrance, falsely presuming that blindness is an impairment to street crossing.
The fact is that blind people cross streets by themselves every day without audible traffic signals. We have been doing so ever since cars, street crossings, and traffic lights were invented. The sound of the traffic and the direction of its flow give all the information that is needed. An audible traffic signal adds nothing, and many blind people say that the additional sound only confuses them. Most significantly, this modification implies that the blind cannot cross ordinary streets. In this respect, it is a damaging and false public statement that the blind are disabled in ways that they are not. To give only one example of the damage, potential employers will be less likely to offer jobs to the blind because of the implication of helplessness and the specter of added costs for special modifications and accommodations in these businesses and neighborhoods.
It is harmful to blind persons to have accommodations being made for them that falsely imply limitations caused by blindness which do not exist. Opportunities necessarily depend on public understanding and social acceptance. This will be the case with or without the Americans with Disabilities Act. Blind people want to be accepted on terms of equality with the sighted, having the opportunity to succeed or fail on merit and being judged on their ability to perform. This is a proper and realistically achievable objective. Our equality will be blocked, however, if we are faced with a federal law that implies a degree of permanent inequality.
Explanation of the Right to Participate
Without Modification Amendment
The amendment we propose would prohibit discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities by clarifying each person's right to participate in programs and activities that are not separately established for the disabled or modified for their use. The bill already requires accommodated participation when necessary to give persons with disabilities opportunities that would otherwise be denied.
The amendment, entitled Right to Participate Without Modification would provide each person with a disability the right to participate in programs and activities that are not separate or different from the programs and activities used by others. It would provide that the existence of separate forms of participation for the disabled may not be used to deny an individual the opportunity to participate in the same programs that others use. The amendment would require that modifications made for persons with disabilities shall not impair the choice of any such person to participate without modification. Despite our resolution at the 1989 NFB convention in Denver in July, which stated that we would oppose the Americans with Disabilities Act unless it could be amended, Congress and the Administration moved forward in steamroller fashion to pass the bill as it was written. When word began to circulate in Washington in mid-November that the National Federation of the Blind meant what it was saying and might actually come out against the Americans with Disabilities Act, a number of the proponents of the bill became concerned. This is where a man named John Wodatch comes into the picture. He is the Deputy Section Chief, Coordination and Review Section, Civil Rights Division, United States Department of Justice. Mr. Wodatch is the Bush Administration's foremost legal expert on disability-related federal civil rights policy. His involvement in this area dates back to the original Section 504 regulations issued by the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. He did most of the staff work in the negotiations, development, and writing of HEW's original 504 regulations, which were published in 1977. By virtue of his background and position, Wodatch has become one of the Bush Administration's key staff level negotiators on issues relating to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
After hearing of our potential opposition, Mr. Wodatch called us to attempt to negotiate language for an amendment that we could support.
It was at about this same time (just before Thanksgiving) that Congressman Christopher Cox agreed to offer our amendment in the House. Wanting to coordinate his efforts with the Administration, Congressman Cox sent our amendment to John Wodatch. At the time of this writing, Congressman Cox is prepared to offer our amendment particularly, if it can be negotiated with the Administration first.
To this end Mr. Gashel and Mr. Maurer met with White House Staff on January 19, 1990. They felt that the meeting was quite successful and that the likelihood is that an amendment which we can support will be agreed to. Otherwise, we must oppose the bill as vigorously as we can if it is to remain in its present form. But are our concerns exaggerated and overdramatized? For instance, is it really conceivable that if a hotel has set aside one room with a visible fire alarm for the deaf or special markings or devices for the blind that a deaf or blind person would be denied the right to rent any other room in that hotel? Is this not far-fetched and unrealistic? Not at all. John Wodatch sent us the following statement last December, and this is a direct quote:
Problem: In a case where a deaf person refuses to take a hotel room with the visible fire alarm system because another room has a better view or is near a friend, is the hotel liable for harm if fire breaks out? Does the statute need some form of assumption of risk doctrine specified? (E.g., language like provided that the entity providing such service shall not be liable for harm resulting from the refusal to accept such accommodation or modification.)
This is what Mr. Wodatch said, and much of the discussion which we have had with Congressional and Administration leaders has centered around the point of liability and responsibility. As the bill passed the Senate, it seems likely that many of the old discriminations and stereotypes which we had thought were long behind us will be revived. Hotels may refuse to permit blind persons to rent rooms above the ground floor, claiming that the stairs or elevators would be a hazard. We could be segregated in specially modified rooms and not permitted to have rooms near those traveling with us. We could find ourselves forced by bus drivers to sit in special seats, segregated from family or friends and all in the name of safety and protecting our civil rights. Moreover, the courts might well use the language of the Americans with Disabilities Act to support these decisions and cause major setbacks in our struggle for equal treatment and enlightened policy.
We do not want to hinder the progress of other groups of the disabled, nor do we want to engage in controversy or scare tactics. But we have lived with discrimination and unreasonable treatment, and we do not intend to lose our hard-won gains even if it be in the name of civil rights.
Although it seems unlikely that the Americans with Disabilities Act can do very much to help the blind, we will not oppose it if it can be amended so as not to deprive us of our civil rights, but if it cannot be so amended, we will do anything we can to slow it down and block its passage. This is the only responsible course of action which the blind of this country can adopt. Simply because a thing calls itself civil rights, that does not mean that it is civil rights.
THE PROBLEM WITH COALITIONS
by Ted Young
Ted Young is the energetic President of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania. His reflections on and analyses of the philosophical positions of the Federation are always worth reading. (See his July, 1988, Braille Monitor article, On Traffic Signals.) The October, 1989, edition of the Blind Activist, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania, includes the following article. People in other disability rights organizations are often puzzled and frustrated when they learn about the Federation's policy against forming or participating permanently in coalitions. Here is Ted's explanation of our position.
It must have been the early Seventies when the notion of coalitions was first presented to me. At the time I hadn't really made up my mind whether the idea was good or bad. But the National Federation of the Blind did make up its collective mind in a quick and firm fashion, stating that we would not join coalitions on a permanent basis. Now, almost twenty years later, it may be useful to look at the concept of coalitions again. Was the movement right or wrong in its initial assessment of the situation?
The arguments for coalitions are several and appear logical. The problem is that one needs to accept their underlying premises in order to make the logic work. Let's set forth those arguments, then analyze each of them.
1. Since all handicapped persons have similar disadvantages in our society, it makes sense to pool our resources and numbers to seek change.
2. In a coalition you don't really give up your autonomy since your organization continues to function independently, and the coalition acts only on matters of mutual concern.
3. Politicians respond to numbers, so legislative efforts will bring about more results if handicapped persons coalesce.
4. Since people are working in coalitions, we the blind had better join and get on board, or we will be left out.
The first argument is the foundation stone of coalitions and is the fundamental premise that must be bought if the other arguments are to work. Do we, as disabled people, have similar problems? I think not. The problems of the blind are unique, and we must not forget that fact. In what follows I am not saying that other disabled persons do not have problems or that they are not severe. I am simply maintaining that the problems of blind people (whether real or imposed by society) are different from and most often have nothing to do with the problems of people with other disabilities.
To survive and prosper as a blind person in our society, it is necessary to learn a number of alternative techniques, which touch every area of our lives reading, writing, travel, household maintenance, cooking, sewing, matching clothing, etc. They are not simply modifications of general techniques, but a set of distinctive skills which are in many instances different systems, e.g., Braille, cane or dog guide travel.
Once these alternative techniques have been learned, a blind person can function independently. The problems we encounter are not the same as those of the orthopedically handicapped, the deaf, or persons with most other disabilities. For example, while we do not need architectural modifications in order to move around inside a building, people in wheelchairs understandably need ramps, wider doorways, etc. But while they can, having gained admission to the building, read the signs and readily fill out print forms without readers (another alternative technique), we need to employ our adaptations. While a well-trained blind person can jump onto public transportation and go where he or she wants to without modifications to the system, a person in a wheelchair needs to fight for special adaptations to assure access. I could go on and on listing such differences, but I think my point is clear. Then and this may be the most telling point of all there are a number of problems of the orthopedically handicapped which I cannot begin to think of while I sit here typing.
By now some of you may be saying to yourselves, Of course this is true; tell us something that we don't know. Unfortunately, as important as these differences are, many blind people have been convinced by fashionable notions to forget them and to put them aside in favor of a few supposed similarities.
Society treats us the same, says the well-trained coalition advocate. You can't deny that we are all considered helpless and dependent and that we are all paternalized.
Any blind person who is honest with himself or herself will know that this argument does not even resemble fact. A Gallup Poll in 1976 showed that, after cancer, the American public most feared blindness. Blindness is imbued with a special set of stereotypes, myths, and misconceptions that transcend the physical difference and make statements about the personality and mental capacity of the blind person. Let anyone who doubts this refer to two of the most significant treatises on the subject: Blindness: Is History Against Us and Blindness: Is Literature Against Us by Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. I am not saying that other handicapped people are not pitied or paternalized. They do not meet the present day all-American macho image and will be treated accordingly. I am not saying that persons with other physical disabilities do not need to work to overcome their own problems caused by societal treatment. Those problems are as important to them as the problems of the blind are to us, and I wish them the best in their struggle to overcome them. I am saying (and those blind persons who are honest with themselves know this to be true) that blindness is not generally perceived simply as the lack of sight. Rather, it is wrapped in a cloak of myths that additionally presume sinful causes, mental weakness, hearing deficits, and total inability to function.
As an employer I am likely to believe that, if the building is accessible, the employee in a wheelchair can easily talk on the phone, read the case records, and conduct interviews. On the other hand, I will most often believe deep in my gut that the blind person cannot handle the job because he or she cannot read print visually or see the person he or she is interviewing. Without special effort I will not accept the fact that Braille is as valid a means of reading and writing, nor will I understand that there are innumerable ways to detect the nonverbal clues in the interview or even that the blind person can get around the building safely. These attitudes are the real handicap of blindness, and they are different and more exaggerated than those faced by people with other disabilities even though good training can reduce the physical barriers of blindness to a nuisance level. The real work of creating equality and opportunity for the blind has to do with tearing down the attitudinal barriers we face.
If this is true, argues the coalition advocate, Why are so many blind people active members of coalitions?
Here we come to one of the most interesting and probably most controversial thoughts of this article: blind persons are taught in a myriad of ways from birth that we should consider ourselves inferior to the sighted. As a result of this constant bombardment, many blind persons come to internalize this belief. Having done so, such people have a number of options available for expressing their impaired self-image. They include:
1. Deny or minimize the reality of blindness and emulate the sighted. One manifestation of this is choosing to read print at ten words a minute rather than studying Braille, which could increase one's reading rate sharply and decrease eye strain.
2. Assume the traditional role assigned to blind people and conform to that role in a manner that reinforces the image of the idealized blind person in order to gain status and recognition from the sighted. Yes, you recognize in this option the blind Uncle Tom.
3. Totally accept the notion of inferiority and stop trying to accomplish anything.
I am sure that we have all known blind people who use one of these adaptive techniques in their daily lives. Now, what does this have to do with coalitions? Well, for openers, although the other members of the coalition may have various physical disabilities, they do have sight, and it can be expected that the blind person without a healthy self-image will fall into the traditional pattern of revering and following the sighted as outlined in the second adaptive technique just listed. Yes, although he or she would deny it vigorously and seek to justify it in a flood of rationalizations, we are describing our Uncle Toms packaged in an up-to-date wrapper. Indeed, because the coalition needs the blind to increase its stature as a full coalition, it is as natural for that body to treat its blind members with special attention as it is for agencies serving the blind to give special recognition to its token blind (usually Uncle Tom) board members. Why not? Both the agencies and coalitions use and treat the blind specially because they depend on the blind to some degree for their very existence.
This brings us to the question of autonomy. The theory holds that, just because an organization or individual belongs to a coalition they are not really giving up autonomy as an individual or an organization. Surely such an idea defies everything that we know about human nature. One of the first goals of a coalition is to get people to modify their views and needs in order to agree on things for which they can all work together. Now, if we assume that blindness is no different from other disabilities, this would be an easy thing to do since there would be few differences to put aside. On the other hand, if blindness is truly a distinct disability, which presents different problems from those of, let us say, the deaf or the orthopedically impaired, then it requires different solutions.
Some of these solutions must necessarily be subordinated to the needs of the coalition. For example, it might be important for the blind to fight hard for paratransit expansion to areas in which no public transit system exists at the same time as persons with other disabilities are pressing the same transit system to modify buses and rail systems to allow wheelchair accessibility. Both goals are important and both should be sought, but both goals necessarily compete for the same funds. Further, even if the coalition had adopted both paratransit goals as important, it would almost certainly have to agree to defer one of them for political expedience. It would naturally defer the one for which it had the fewest votes; and, because the blind are always a minority among disability groups, it is not difficult to imagine which one that would be.
Having already modified one's goals and priorities for the sake of the coalition, it is difficult or impossible to work in opposition to those goals. Cooperation, and not what is best for the blind, becomes the rallying cry of the day. The blind representatives to the coalition must do their best to help their separate organizations to modify their approaches in order to preserve their personal status in the coalition and to maintain the organization's membership. By agreeing to become part of the coalition in the first place the organization has agreed to modify its goals and approaches in order not to conflict with that coalition regardless of the cost of such an alliance to the blind. Further, and even worse, since the coalition's habit of thought is what the participating blind organization is most exposed to, it may well cease to assess important issues independently. Well, says the coalition advocate, suppose I concede to you that we will have to give up some things that the blind want in order to make overall progress, it is still true that politicians prefer working with coalitions. Yes, the point is well taken. Everyone would prefer the least complicated approach to any subject, and politicians are no exception. The cry used to be that the blind should get together and decide what they want, as if the blind were not like any other minority with differing points of view and conflicting philosophies. Then, as the handicapped formed organizations and became effective lobbyists in their own right, the blind were pressured to work with the rest since that made things easier for the politicians. The problem is that politicians would prefer to bury the real differences and even the contradictions between various groups of the disabled in order to simplify their job of preparing legislation. We know that those differences cannot be buried. When we participate in coalitions, however, we tend to reinforce the view that blind people don't have different needs, and our participation becomes self-defeating. It is my belief that no state would ever have established a separate agency for the blind in this country if persons with other handicaps had become politically sophisticated earlier or if coalitions had been the strong force that they are today.
Finally, let's examine the argument that says, Since coalitions are the accepted forum, we had better get on board or the blind will be left out. Although it is more difficult to fight for one's rights and needs separately, if those needs are separate, then we must do so. To the argument that the pace may be slower, the thoughtful person will respond by questioning what the blind have gained out of twenty years of working with coalitions. Although our weaker blind brothers and sisters have participated in these groups, one sees very few or no accomplishments that directly benefit the blind. The coalition's activities are devoted, as they should be, to the needs of the majority, which is not blind. Just as important as the lack of actual gains for the blind won by coalitions over the past twenty years is the question of what damage such participation has done to the cause of the blind as a separate group with unique needs. That cannot be measured now, but we should make no mistake about it; there will be a future cost for such activity.
Finally our coalition advocate takes a parting shot. If blind people enjoy participating in coalitions, for whatever reason, maybe even the fact that they enjoy the special status bestowed by their sighted colleagues, where is the harm? Why not just let them go enjoy themselves. Even if the goal is social, what's wrong with that? If the coalition did not pretend to speak for the blind, then there would be no harm in it at all. If the presence of the blind in a coalition did not reinforce the view that we have no differences from other handicapped persons and can be served effectively by the same legislation, regulations, and agencies, then no harm would be done. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and the participation of the blind in coalitions is taken as proof that our needs are similar; this makes our work that much harder. Considering the work that remains in order for blind persons to achieve first class citizenship, we cannot afford to have the tide of change slowed or reversed by the confusion that the participation of blind people in coalitions brings about.
REPORT FROM THE NATIONAL LIBRARY SERVICE FOR THE BLIND AND
From the Editor: The October-December, 1989, periodical entitled News (a quarterly publication of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress) contains a number of items of general interest to the blind. Therefore, we are printing these items in the following composite:
CERTIFICATION STUDIED FOR TEACHERS OF BRAILLE
The people who teach our children to read Braille should know Braille themselves. This attitude, expressed in various ways by parents, organizations of blind people, and other groups in the field of blindness, is the guiding force that led to a meeting held at NLS on October 13 to discuss the feasibility of Braille certification for teachers.
The meeting was a direct result of a priority identified by the Ad Hoc Committee on Joint Organizational Effort, which brought together in March, 1989, seven major North American groups concerned with blindness. The resolution called for proven proficiency in knowing and teaching all Braille codes, and certification by the Library of Congress. That resolution, along with many requests we have received from individuals and organizations, gives us a mandate to study the matter, says Frank Kurt Cylke, NLS director.
Topics being explored, according to Claudell Stocker, head of the NLS Braille Development Section, include:
* What constitutes a basic level of proficiency,
* Methods for establishing that that level has been attained, including the possibility of a special certification,
* Whether the availability of such certification would have the desired impact on educational standards, and
* Whether NLS is the proper entity for development of such certification.
Participants in the October 13 meeting included experts in education, rehabilitation, and blindness. Two other meetings are scheduled for spring, 1990. No action will be decided on until recommendations from all three meetings have been evaluated. Handling this issue is not simple, Mrs. Stocker says, and explains that there are different practices and requirements for special education teachers throughout the country and variations even in schools for the blind. There are no national standards, and very few state standards.
She continues, And the problem is not limited to teaching children. There is a great shortage of qualified Braille teachers in the rehabilitation area.
If this study indicates that certification is the way to go, she says, the certification will deal with Braille proficiency only knowledge of the material being taught. Teaching methods are not in our province, and shouldn't be.
The only national certifications in Braille proficiency are now provided by NLS, as are materials for courses leading to certification. Currently individuals can be certified as Braille transcribers in the literary, music, and mathematics codes and as Braille proofreaders.
Most certified Braille transcribers are volunteers who work alone or through organized groups to produce materials on request for individuals, school systems, and network libraries. In a few places, people who teach Braille have been required to be certified in literary Braille transcription, and some teachers have taken the course on their own to improve their skills.
On-Demand Braille Books
RESEARCH SHOWS POTENTIAL FOR NETWORK LIBRARIES
An experimental project is testing the feasibility of producing Braille books in a library setting using a computer-controlled high-speed embosser developed under contract for NLS. The technology should prove valuable at network libraries to supplement the basic press-Braille collection and provide on-demand materials for patrons.
Henry Paris, chief of the NLS Materials Development Division says, The major advantage of this technology is that a lot of material can be stored in a small space, which is not usually the case with Braille.
The NLS-sponsored project has been operating at the Florida regional library for approximately three years, using a TED- 600 embosser and computer disks containing coding for the Braille to be produced. This phase of the project was designed to test the reliability of the embossing equipment, ease of use by professional and volunteer staff, time required for production, cost, and consumer satisfaction with the Braille product. Approximately 100 titles available as press-Braille books were used in this experiment. They were obtained from an NLS contractor, using files converted from those prepared for press-Braille production. The patron test group consisted of 300 people who requested one or more of these titles. More than 952 volumes were produced and distributed. A patron survey during the first year of testing indicated satisfaction with books received and identified a few production problems, primarily with the binding method and missing Braille dots. Costs, time of production, and ease of use were all sufficiently promising for continuation of the project. NLS staff, the test team at the Florida library, and the TED-600 contractor have addressed the problems. The TED-600 has been reworked to prevent sticking pins and therefore missing Braille dots, a quality-assurance procedure for the embossed books has been established, and a new binding method is being reviewed.
The next phase of the project, now underway, deals with introducing new material to supplement the collection, using volunteers to produce on computer disks local material or books requested by patrons, in much the same fashion as volunteer narration teams supplement the recorded program. Equipment tests, similar to those in the first phase, will continue. An additional 100 press-Braille titles are also being added.
This phase is expected to last at least two years and involves the cooperation and efforts of the many active volunteer groups located in Florida.
The National Advisory Group on Collection Building Activities made twenty-four recommendations for improvements in the NLS collection at its thirteenth annual meeting August 24 and 25. The group again called for additional titles in the subject areas of westerns, romances, and mysteries, a recommendation that ranked among the fifteen high-priority items.
Other top priority recommendations included:
* that all TB titles be withdrawn in the same manner as the CB collection was;
* that re-recorded and reissued titles be predominantly fiction selections and that the choices focus on westerns, romances, mysteries, classics, and family-type books; and
* that no action be taken on an earlier recommendation to produce in both cassette and flexible disc format about twenty westerns and romances that are not bestsellers.
The group asked NLS to establish a quota of no less than 55 percent fiction selections over the next three-year period. It also recommended that half of the titles produced annually be current titles and the other half be retrospective titles, and added the caveat that the advisory group review this percentage on a yearly basis.
The advisory group also called for the production of a typing and keyboarding title, as recommended in 1988; about six titles dealing with rape and incest; more titles on the principles of spelling, grammar, and usage; more titles in the hard sciences; more books by and about handicapped people; more light and humorous titles; more books by and about black persons; and additional NLS funds to increase the foreign-language collection. The group felt that identifying and producing more clean, wholesome books should remain a high priority.
The advisory group gave its support of the recent recommendations of the National Audio Equipment Advisory Group calling for research to improve mailing containers, primarily for Braille materials, noting that current packaging presents a deterrent to the reading of Braille. Additionally, the group recommended that NLS make Talking Book Topics (TBT) permanently available on recorded cassette, but with improved packaging, NLS standards for recording, and an order form similar to that in the flexible-disc version of TBT.
The advisory group suggested that annotations for series, both juvenile and adult, contain the book numbers and titles for both prequels and sequels.
The group made four recommendations for children's and young adult materials:
* Produce more biographies of historical figures for all grade levels in Braille and on cassette.
* Produce more books on parenting for young adults.
* Produce a new, separate catalog for young adult readers; meanwhile, list young-adult titles in a separate index in the current catalogs.
* Obtain funding as soon as possible to produce a young-adult magazine.
Members of the advisory group represent network librarians, patrons, and consumer organizations. They recommended that representatives be appointed in a more timely fashion and that names and addresses of those appointed be published (in advance of the meeting) in Talking Book Topics and Braille Book Review.
COMBINATION MACHINE GETS FINAL PRE-PRODUCTION TESTS
Staff at regional and subregional libraries and at machine- lending agencies recently tested a new combination machine that plays both cassettes and discs. After further field testing and refinement, the combination machine, to be known as the CT-1, is expected to join the NLS family of playback equipment as a special-use machine. Just as the E-1 (easy) machine was produced for the reader willing to trade versatility for easy play, says NLS Materials Development Chief Henry Paris, the CT-1 is for the reader who will accept complexity in return for versatility.
As its name implies, the combination machine combines in one case a cassette player and a disc player, so that the one machine can play all of NLS's recorded materials. About the size of a regular talking-book machine, the CT-1 costs and weighs approximately the same as a regular disc player and cassette player together. Although it is portable and can play on batteries, it is not as convenient to travel with as a regular cassette player. The cassette deck in the CT-1 is similar to that of the E-1, which was developed at the same time, but the CT-1 allows the reader to choose manual or automatic control of side changing.
The CT-1's disc player offers new features: it has a variable-speed capability and a limited review option, and its tone arm is positioned by pressing down gently, rather than picking up. The tone arm is designed to help the reader find the edge of the disc and drop the needle into the first groove. Some readers now using a cassette player and a talking-book machine will probably request a CT-1 in exchange for the other two machines, Mr. Paris says. Like the E-1, the CT-1 will offer readers a special playback option. Mr. Paris expects early production of the CT-1 machine to be limited, with the quantities increasing if the combination machine becomes popular and demand for other types of machines decreases. In the first phase of the machine's field testing, each regional and subregional library and each machine-lending agency received one machine along with a videocassette and brochure that show how to operate the machine and demonstrate its special features. Staff members experimented with the machines and sent NLS written reports of their findings. The National Audio Equipment Advisory Committee, meeting in late October, studied this preliminary information and advised on the distribution policy to be used when the new machine is added to the NLS family of playback equipment.
A second testing phase is already beginning. NLS is sending some 800 additional machines to regional and subregional libraries for testing by readers. Patrons will use the machines for three months and will then report their experience and suggest changes if necessary.
The CT-1's operations are monitored and controlled by a microprocessor chip with Electrically Programmable Read Only Memory (EPROM). When patron evaluation is completed, the NLS engineering staff will analyze any problems encountered in the machine's operation, and will adjust the microprocessor's software as needed. Once the program is perfected, subsequent machines will have ROMs that cannot be changed.
After the testing has been completed and adjustments to the EPROM have been made, NLS's contractor, Telex Communications, is expected to begin producing the CT-1s. Once we see how the CT-1 fits into the NLS family of playback equipment, Mr. Paris says, we expect to adjust the numbers of the various machines produced, according to patron need.
TROUBLE CONTINUES AT ASSOCIATED SERVICES FOR THE BLIND IN
From the Editor: In the February-March and the July, 1989, issues of the Monitor we carried stories on the labor problems at Associated Services for the Blind in Philadelphia. An article from the October 23, 1989, Philadelphia Inquirer entitled At Agency for the Blind, Turmoil Over Labor Practices makes it clear that those problems continue unabated. Obviously there is widespread unrest among blind employees of the agency, a circumstance not limited to the case under discussion. Is it any wonder that sheltered shop employees feel exploited? Is it any wonder that in increasing numbers they join the National Federation of the Blind and seek assistance from it? Is it any wonder that the more regressive agencies attack the National Federation of the Blind with slogans like radical and militant? Is it any wonder that NAC (the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped) continues to accredit these workshops and that National Industries for the Blind is giving $200,000 to NAC and trying to pressure all of the workshops to join up? Is it any wonder that members of Congress and others are beginning to question the legality of the NIB contribution to NAC since it comes from money which should be going to increase the pitifully meager wages of blind shop workers?
The answer to all of these questions is: Of course not. Here is the article from the Philadelphia Inquirer.
At Agency for the Blind,
Turmoil Over Labor Practices
by Lisa Ellis
Inquirer Staff Writer
Nobody has walked a picket line in front of Associated Services for the Blind on Walnut Street since September, 1987. But neither time nor a contract negotiated four months after that eight-day strike has brought normalcy to the labor- relations climate at Associated Services, where layoffs and alleged threats and harassment on both sides have produced continued tensions and a slew of charges of unfair labor practice.
And in a bizarre twist, the agency for nearly four months has refused to admit Louis McCarthy, the employee union's feisty president, to the ASB building at 919 Walnut Street. Despite his 13-years of seniority and experience with most union jobs at the agency, McCarthy, the most senior of 15 people laid off in February, 1988, was the only one not rehired.
An administrative law judge of the National Labor Relations Board ruled three weeks ago that the agency discriminated against McCarthy for his union activities and ordered that he be rehired. In all, Judge Elbert D. Gadsden found 13 violations of labor law. Now, both employees and administrators are waiting to see what happens next. Executive director Vince McVeigh said the agency had not decided whether to fight the decision and had been granted a 30-day extension to decide.
But employees interviewed last week said they had little hope that the agency would bring back McCarthy or that this victory for their union, the independent ASB Employees Group, would change what they described as the climate of fear at the agency. A lot of people are terrified to speak out, said Dave McMahon, a union member who is a maintenance man at the agency. Many of the employees, like him, are handicapped, he noted. They're blind, they're visually impaired, and they're afraid they can't find another job.
It's nice to win things, but they do appeal everything, said John Wilson, an administrative assistant. There's no feeling that things are suddenly going to turn around and they'll start listening to employees.
Union membership has declined, McCarthy said, from a peak of 32 members out of 56 people in the bargaining unit in 1987 to 14 members out of about 50 eligible now.
Employees interviewed attributed the low membership to fear. My feeling is that people don't forget their job was eliminated, said one employee, who did not wish to be identified. That's kind of a bitter experience, I guess. They're afraid for their jobs. McVeigh denied such an atmosphere existed. If even [a few] people say that, that disturbs me. I think we have fairly tight staff now, and I think morale is pretty good.
They just don't want to deal with the union, said McCarthy, who sees only dimly, and only out of one eye, as a result of glaucoma and cataracts. They make it seem that you should be thankful we've given you employment.
But McVeigh suggested that union membership might be down because we're working hard to address some of their concerns. For example, he said, the agency last month started a committee designed to gather employee suggestions in the department that transcribes books and magazines from print to Braille. It is the department where the union was born and where McCarthy worked as a computer operator before the layoffs.
Both sides have begun bargaining to replace their first contract, which was negotiated after the strike and expires January 14. McVeigh acknowledged that relations remain rocky.
We have this personal conflict with McCarthy, he said. Here's the head of the union, who's not employed here. He's not allowed to come into the building. I have my reasons for doing that. But it makes it difficult to negotiate.
He said McCarthy was excluded from the building and was not rehired when laid-off employees began to be rehired last winter because of his behavior on several occasions when he was visiting the building after he was laid off.
There's a lot of reasons why you don't employ somebody, he said. It's not performance. We've never said that.
The administrative law judge, in his September 29 ruling, found that union activity was the reason McCarthy was not rehired. McVeigh would not describe what kind of behavior by McCarthy he found disturbing. But he said he acted after an incident that was witnessed by four people, including two who were not agency employees. The incident occurred May 19.
McVeigh declined to describe that incident, either. But McCarthy said he was accused of making a threat in front of two managers and two visitors on an elevator.
I supposedly said, `if I had a grenade, I'd get everybody,' he said. Actually, I said, `if somebody had a grenade, they'd get us all,' and we all laughed. McCarthy filed an NLRB charge after the agency cited the incident as a reason for excluding him from the building effective June 30.
McVeigh, who was not present, would not discuss the specific wording attributed to McCarthy, but denied that anyone laughed. The people who heard the incident took it as disturbing, he said. McCarthy said there were no other incidents that he knew of. To me, this is their pattern harassing me and getting me to defend my character all the time rather than focusing on the union. McVeigh said the agency delayed its decision on contesting the recent NLRB ruling to see what would happen to McCarthy's NLRB charge concerning the May incident.
Francis Hoeber, assistant to the NLRB's Philadelphia regional director, said that an investigation of the May incident was under way and that it was not known whether the board would decide within 30 days on whether to file a formal complaint against the agency.
Even union members acknowledged that McCarthy can be hot-headed, as one put it. He never went to Dale Carnegie, let's put it that way, McMahon said. But I have a lot of respect for him because he was the guy who stood up.
An employee who did not wish to be identified contended that Association Services would not bring McCarthy back, almost at all costs. Why? Because of what they had to go through to get rid of him. They eliminated 15 jobs so they could get as far down as Lou. They want to keep him out because he's the leader. In his ruling, issued September 29 after a hearing in March, Gadsden ruled that the agency had discriminated against McCarthy because of his union activities when it issued him a written reprimand on August 14, 1987, after a supervisor accused McCarthy of threatening personal harm against him. The reprimand was what led to the strike.
The administrative law judge found that the agency had made little effort to investigate the charge, and he accepted McCarthy's story that he told the supervisor he would slap him with a charge, referring to the NLRB process.
The supervisor, who the judge said appeared to have problems understanding English, had contended that McCarthy told him he would slice you in your ear.
The judge also found that Associated Services violated labor law by telling McCarthy it would not rehire someone who was disruptive ; by unilaterally changing its policy in August, 1988, and requiring McCarthy to obtain clearance to be in the building; by refusing to rehire him for jobs he was qualified for; by unilaterally removing two bookkeepers from the bargaining unit; and by failing to bargain on several other issues.
When the agency announced the layoffs, all of which came in the Braille department, officials said they had lost one of their contracts to do Braille transcribing.
Immediately after the layoffs, Associated Services found employment for six of the 15 displaced employees through a bumping procedure in which employees could claim the jobs of those with less seniority. McCarthy did not get one such job because he failed to meet a deadline set by McVeigh for choosing which employee he would bump.
McCarthy protested that the deadline and other procedures were not bargained but imposed unilaterally.
McVeigh said he never intended to get rid of McCarthy but assumed he would be bumped to another job because of his seniority. That was an absolute shock to me, he said.
I DON'T SEE HOW YOU COULD
POSSIBLY WASH OUR DISHES
by Ron Schmidt
Ron Schmidt lives in Maple City, Michigan. Here is his story as he tells it.
Over the past three years I have looked forward to the Braille Monitor each month for encouragement in my search for a suitable and fulfilling job. The articles about persons who found ways to get the jobs they wanted gave me ideas and determination to keep trying, and I now have a job I am happy with and that I feel can lead to bigger and better things. Please pass my story on to Monitor readers if you feel it may encourage others.
Today I am heading for work at the Homestead Resort to take reservation calls and plug the necessary information into my computer. My computer talks quite well to me, and we have become good friends in the past two months. It is the talking computer which has enabled me finally to get the job in reservations I had tried for for three years. It was also the result of a lot of perseverance on my part in the face of continuous discrimination and negative attitudes. The saying, When the going gets tough, the tough get going, came to my mind many times when things looked bleak since that spring of 1986 when our family farm, where I was a manager, was forced out of business by the farm credit system, and I had to face the real world of being blind and looking for work in the real world. Farming, I found, did not qualify you for anything but farming in most employers' eyes, and since I wanted to move on to other kinds of work, all the skills I had developed in the past ten years on the farm were discounted as worthless. I was told I might be able to wash dishes, but although this is a worthy job, it was not my hoped-for job. Nevertheless, after six months of rejections by other kinds of employers, I needed money to support my family so I started applying for dishwashing jobs.
As Dr. Abraham Nemeth stated in the November, 1989, Braille Monitor, I felt I should inform employers in my applications and letters of introduction that I was blind. Big mistake. Employers are looking for reasons to eliminate most of the people who apply for a job and interview only the top few. They do not have the time to consider everyone equally even if they want to so by telling them I was blind, I immediately lost all chances at even an interview for a job.
I therefore started making sure I applied for jobs in which my blindness would not prevent me from doing the work. I still only received offers of interviews for dishwashing jobs, mainly due to my farming background and employers' beliefs that farmers had few skills or mental abilities. I remember the first interview when the owner of a French restaurant, seeing that I was blind, said I don't see how a blind person could possibly wash our dishes. Another employer told me he had a small kitchen and things had to be stacked up, which I would surely knock over and break. Other employers, upon having their receptionist inform them a blind person had come, would have me told that the job open fifteen minutes before was now gone, but They would keep my application on file.
I finally found an employer who said quite frankly, I don't know what a blind person can do, but I have a job that needs doing and you can try it. It was washing dishes for the Homestead Resort, and I took it. I figured I would have to show someone I could do a better job than their former dishwashers. I was watched closely for a few days and then left alone to do my job. After three months my supervisor told me I was definitely the best dishwasher he had had in seven years, and all of those former dishwashers were sighted. I worked with over thirty other employees, who gained new respect for the capabilities of blind folks, and I was glad of that.
But I still had my heart set on a job in reservations, so I finally applied for it again and was not immediately turned down. I had shown an employer I was a dependable and hardworking employee, and if I could get the equipment to show I could handle the job, he would be willing to consider my promotion from dishwasher to reservation clerk. The Michigan Commission for the Blind came to my aid at this point, and I made contact with Bob Tinny, the Commission's computer specialist. Bob learned what equipment I would need and what software would be required for communicating with the Homestead main computer. He then brought the equipment over 200 miles and took a day showing my prospective employer how everything would work. Bob is also blind, and I think his incredible knowledge of computers and software helped convince everyone that I might really be able to handle the job. After a month of discussion and my calling once a week to see if a decision had been reached, I was finally informed I could have a shot at the job.
Now I am starting my third month as a reservation clerk. I am still learning and trying to increase my speed in processing information, but I am doing the job and everyone is happy I am working there. For anyone who starts to feel that a good job will never come his or her way, take heart. Keep thinking and trying every idea, and if you have to, start at the bottom of an organization and show management what you can do. Keep moving toward the job you really want and if you are denied it, try somewhere else. Find out what special equipment and technology can help you do jobs you think you maybe couldn't, and never give up. There is always someone who will let you get your foot in the door and then you have to use your own drive and abilities to get the door all the way open. It may take you three years to get the job you want as it did me, but you can get if if you don't give up or believe what most employers tell you.
I am forty-three years old and now embarking on the most exciting part of my life. I have my sights now on getting a program started to teach other blind compatriots the skills to do the kind of job I have. Every move up for any of us helps all of us. So read the Braille Monitor, and be willing to wash dishes.
LETTER TO HORIZON AIRLINES
From the Editor: As Monitor readers know, Ramona Walhof is President of the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho and a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind. For quite some time she has been engaged in correspondence with Horizon Airlines. Here is her latest letter:
November 27, 1989
Mr. Dennis Decker
Dear Mr. Decker:
I have your letter dated October 11, 1989, and I thank you for it. It makes it clear that you have given the matters I raised some attention.
You indicate that the FAA considers seating a safety issue. Certainly some individuals who work for the FAA have that opinion, but I am not sure that the FAA itself has any policies or directives on the subject. If I am wrong, I would be glad to see what you have.
I would like to put aside the talk of written requirements and deal with good sense. Blind people who use a white cane or a dog guide are making a statement that they are blind. The cane or dog is a tool, but it is also an identification card that says I am a blind person. Most well- trained blind individuals are not ashamed of blindness and have no desire to hide it. Many persons who are newly blind and have poor or no training do feel ashamed of blindness and hide it successfully from airline personnel. I sat next to such a person recently on an aircraft. The man was seventy years old, had macular degeneration, and could see only vague shadows. He did not carry a cane and discussed his eye condition with me only because I had more experience with blindness than he did. Airline personnel dealt with me in a condescending and patronizing manner frequently, but not constantly. They did not treat the gentleman beside me the same way. Chances are (if he had been seated in an exit row) no one would have objected.
Yesterday I returned from Baltimore to Boise, traveling on three different aircraft. On one of them I was seated in front of a family of three, two parents and a mentally retarded girl. The girl was probably about twenty, physically mature. She walked normally and did not appear to be handicapped. Yet, the conversation among the three made it clear that this girl's understanding was that of a small child. She was outspoken about being overweight. Her interests were very unusual for a twenty-year-old woman. She caused no trouble. She was not seated in an exit row. If she had been, however, it is unlikely that she would have been identified as unable to cope with an emergency.
I bring these two examples to your attention because they point out the problem now faced by the blind and the airlines. I would have been better able to cope with an emergency including a fire outside an exit row window than either of the two people I just described. Because I carry a cane, airline personnel have been taught to treat me as though I have very little experience and very little intelligence.
The attitude would not be stated that way, but that's how it is. Well-trained blind people are confronted with this problem constantly. Exit row seating is only one example. When airline personnel pretend that a blind person like me is a risk in an exit row and at the same time are unable to identify individuals who are far greater risks and are unwilling to exclude senior citizens who are more likely to have health problems, we are dealing with unreasonable and irrational behavior. It is discriminatory, and it has nothing to do with safety. Serving alcohol to people seated in exit rows is equally irrational. I realize that Horizon has many flights that are so small that beverages are not served. I also realize that no airline has ever skipped rows when serving alcohol.
Your last letter would indicate that you have the capacity to understand the dilemma we now face. The airlines and the blind have taken different positions, but we face the same problems. An honest examination of exit row seating and the blind will demonstrate that safety is not the primary issue.
So what do I expect you to do about it? If you behave in the standard recent airline pattern, the answer is nothing. On the other hand, if you are as perceptive and sensitive as I hope you are, you may realize certain things: Because this is a matter of basic civil rights, the blind are not going to give up and quit. In short, the problem will not simply go away. In fact, unless the airlines change their behavior, it will get worse and time is running out. Think about what I have said, and see whether it makes sense. If it does, help us do something about it.
Very truly yours,
Ramona Walhof, President
National Federation of Blind of Idaho
BLIND MEN AND ELEPHANTS
by Hisham H. Ahmed
Hisham Ahmed teaches in the Political Science Department at Florida
International University in North Miami.
North Miami, Florida
December 31, 1989
Professor John T. Rourke
c/o The Dushkin Publishing Group, Inc.
Dear Professor Rourke:
I am writing to you primarily regarding the introduction to your Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in World Politics , second edition, pp. xii-xxi. Choosing to entitle your introduction Elephants, Blind Men, and World Politics, you state: There is a classic allegorical tale about several blind men who attempt to describe an elephant. Each touches the animal, and, depending on whether he is feeling the trunk, ear, leg, or tail, each variously describes the elephant as a snake, a fan, a tree, or a rope. The study of world politics is something like that.
In this opening statement you depict persons who are blind as stupid, confused, and unable to figure out whether an elephant is an elephant. This is not the first time authors have associated blindness with ignorance and incapacity to comprehend their surroundings. Nor, I believe, will it be the last.
World politics is indeed a murky subject and a field not easily understood. But to equate blindness with the lack of ability to understand life, even the simplest basics in life whether the tail of an elephant is a tail, his trunk a trunk, his ear an ear, or his leg a leg does not provide students of world politics with useful tools for understanding this complicated subject. To the contrary, telling them that blindness is synonymous with incomprehension distorts their very thought process. I want to assume that you did not consciously intend to give a negative portrayal of blind persons. But it is incumbent upon me to indicate to you that your characterization of blindness not only does tremendous disservice to blind persons and to the process of thinking things through without distortion, but that it also resembles the obsession with commercialization which is frequently observed in the media.
My feeling is that you presumed that your opening remarks would attract teachers and students to your textbook. The tragic fact is that you perhaps succeeded in your endeavor.
But what detriment did this success cause to blind persons? Blind persons are lawyers, engineers, computer programmers, laborers, and university professors despite the fact that society's overall trend is to exclude them from its tasks, duties, and obligations. Your opening remarks not only preserve this exclusionist phenomenon of society, but also nurture it by enveloping it in academic discourse. Consciously, I decided to adopt your book in my fall, 1989, World Prospects and Issues course, despite the fact that I am myself blind and in spite of my apprehension that your negative opening remarks would taint students' thinking about blindness. I decided to adopt the book because I believe that, on the whole, it provides students with useful insights regarding world politics, and in order to satisfy my curiosity with respect to what students would think about blindness after reading your introduction. Out of approximately thirty students, one student thought the association of blindness to ignorance was appropriate.
Another important element of your book which drew the attention of many of my students, in addition to the above- stated point, is the lack of objectivity when you present the issues of Palestinian statehood, terrorism, and the status of the PLO mission to the United Nations. For example, several students pointed out that your juxtaposition of two Israelis on the issue of Palestinian statehood diminishes the credibility of your selections. Since Palestinian statehood concerns the Palestinian people first and foremost, they argued, why was the work of a Palestinian scholar not presented?
I seriously hope that you will consider the implications of the points I have raised. Standards of education are already declining, and it is our duty, yours and mine, to provide our students with the best education that can be attained. The students of today are the generation of the future: They will either lead or mislead. The main determinant in this process of construction for the future is whether students are now given the tools to perceive or misperceive.
Hisham H. Ahmed
Political Science Department
Florida International University
cc: Dr. Kenneth Jernigan
National Federation of the Blind
IS PATRICK CRAZY?
by Zach Shore
From the Associate Editor: Zach Shore is the Editor of the Blind Activist, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania. This article is reprinted from the October, 1989, issue of that newsletter. What he has to say about well-adjusted and informed sighted children is right on target. Reading about Patrick, I am reminded of Anna Cheadle, the young sighted daughter of staff members at the National Center for the Blind. One day when she was a toddler, she picked up a curtain rod, began using it like a cane, and announced that she was Mrs. Maurer, President Maurer's wife. When Jim Omvig, a long-time leader in the Federation was serving as a high official at the headquarters of the Social Security Administration in Baltimore, he lived next door to a four-year-old boy who very much enjoyed talking and playing with Jim. One day a family friend asked the child what he wanted to be when he grew up. The answer was immediate, I'm going to be blind. For these sighted children blindness was a characteristic one that they rather admired since the blind people whom they knew were admirable. This is the opportunity all sighted children should have. So now meet Patrick and the friends whom he enjoys being with:
Who is Patrick, and why would anyone call him crazy? Patrick McCuller is the seven-year-old son of Claire McCuller, the director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind's Buddy System Program this summer. The purpose of this innovative project was to work with blind children on developing positive attitudes toward blindness. The amount of energy devoted to this task by Joanne Fernandes, Director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind; Claire McCuller; and the six counselors (including me) was colossal. None of us expected Patrick to pitch in as well. Modeled after the adult program at the Louisiana Center, our Buddy System included classes in Braille, typing, cane travel, computer use, and independent living. In addition we provided countless activities like camping, horseback riding, water-skiing, swimming, bowling, inner-city bus travel, a Bon Jovi concert, and more. All of these classes and activities greatly increased the self-confidence and independence of the kids, but possibly it was our weekly Talk Time sessions, in which we discussed our feelings about blindness, that helped us grow the most.
During one talk time someone noted Patrick's peculiar behavior. While many of the other kids hated carrying their canes and had to be told repeatedly to use them, Patrick, who is sighted, never left home without his cane. And not only did Patrick always have his cane with him, but he even used it properly: tapping it from side to side, checking for curbs, and so on. One of the blind teenagers in the program (whom I'll call Tom) exclaimed that he would never use a cane if he didn't have to. He said that Patrick had to be crazy. Angrily, he shouted, Why would anybody in their right mind want people to think they were blind when they're not? Tom was really saying, I wish no one could tell that I am blind.
Tom had only light perception, yet he had never used a cane before he came to this program. Often he bumped into things, fell down, cut himself, or worse, all because he thought he would look more blind with a cane.
So why did Patrick carry a cane? After all he didn't need it, and he ran the risk of having people think that he was blind. Part of the reason was that Patrick simply wanted to fit in with the group. Since everyone around him was using a cane, he stood out without one. In a similar way many of these blind kids had been doing the same thing by not using canes. They didn't want to stand out in a crowd of their friends who were sighted. The critical difference is, however, that Patrick was not at a disadvantage with a cane, while blind people most definitely are handicapped without them. It is perfectly natural and normal to want to fit in and be part of a group. We all want to be liked and accepted for who we are. The danger comes when we allow the group to limit us and make us act in ways which are hurtful to us. In my own case I spent years not using a cane and pretending to see when I really couldn't. I was first given a cane in high school, but I never used it. I thought I had too much sight to carry a cane, and I was afraid of what other people would think and say. Everyone I knew thought blindness was something bad, so naturally I did too.
Patrick, however, didn't view blindness as shameful. Because so many of the people around him for that month had positive ideas about blindness (including his mother), he absorbed those attitudes. It did not matter to him that people in the community might think he was blind because he understood that blindness is respectable. Unknowingly, Patrick helped to give Tom this message. Is Patrick really crazy? Not on your life. He is a Federationist through and through. I am not suggesting that all sighted people should begin carrying canes to prove their acceptance of the blind, and I would not encourage Patrick to continue using a cane forever. His attitudes about blindness, however, I hope will continue for the rest of his life. I think that our ultimate goal in this movement is to help the rest of the world to think more like Patrick.
BLIND INDUSTRIES AND SERVICES OF MARYLAND
by Richard J. Brueckner
As Monitor readers know, Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM) has not enjoyed an unruffled relationship with the organized blind. Richard Brueckner assumed the presidency of the agency at the beginning of 1989, and early on he began sending signals that he would like to establish constructive relations with the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. Sharon Maneki, President of the Maryland affiliate, invited Mr. Brueckner to address the convention on November 5, 1989. His message was constructive and sensible. It is too soon to be certain how things will develop, but the early signs are hopeful for a positive relationship with an industries program that employs a number of blind people. Here are the remarks that Richard Brueckner made to the Maryland convention:
I would like to start off this morning by thanking all of you for inviting me and my family here to share this experience with you. Before I get started, I would also like to extend a special thank-you to NFB of Maryland President Sharon Maneki, Maryland Vendors Committee Chairman Don Morris, NFB National President Marc Maurer, and especially to my friend and your Executive Director Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. Without the help and support of these fine leaders, I would not be standing before you this morning and presenting such a positive BISM update. As most of you know, BISM (Blind Industries and Services of Maryland) has existed in one form or another since 1908. I did not come here today to dwell on the past, but rather to talk about the present and future of the new BISM, which started on January 1, 1989. The theme of my speech today can be summarized in two words, Responsibility and Accountability.
As President of BISM, I can say that we expect to meet these awesome responsibilities and are perfectly willing to be held accountable for our actions and results. Who are we at BISM accountable to? In response to that question, I list the following:
1. The Governor of the State of Maryland
2. The Legislature of the State of Maryland
3. The BISM Board of Trustees, who are appointed by the Governor and ratified by the Legislature
4. All the blind people in the State of Maryland
5. The National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
6. The employees of BISM
7. The vendors in the Maryland Vending Program for the Blind
8. The Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR)
9. National Industries for the Blind (NIB)
Ladies and gentlemen, we are eager and enthusiastic about accepting these challenges. You may be asking yourselves, How does BISM plan to be accountable to such a diverse list of organizations and individuals? We know that we can't be everything to everyone, nor can we make everyone happy all the time. None of us can be everything we want to be. We must learn how to say no to the good so that we can say yes to the best! After all, life is not easy however, I believe if you are tough on yourself, life will be easier on you!
BISM has a mission statement which says, We are a private, not-for-profit state-aided corporation, created to provide employment, rehabilitation, and services at no cost to all blind adults in the State of Maryland. We have established long and short-range goals which, if accomplished, will lead to the fulfillment of our mission. Later, I will discuss in more detail some of our accomplishments to date and our goals. However, at this point I believe you are more interested in hearing from me the approach we are using to accomplish these goals and how BISM will be dealing with each of you.
We have assembled a staff at Blind Industries and Services of Maryland that live their lives by virtues, or unifying principles. I know that what you believe (your unifying principles) will directly determine how you perform. I believe in and expect BISM staff members to follow these six unifying principles which will lead to the highest form of personal productivity and proper interaction with you as well as the other groups and individuals we are accountable to.
1. Be honest with myself and everyone around me. Free myself from any form of hypocrisy. Be open and fair with my boss, employees, family, and friends. See that justice is properly administered. See that all my business dealings are fair, completely aboveboard, and impeccable.
2. Have high self-esteem. Continually develop and maintain a strong sense of personal worth as I relate to myself and others.
3. Love my family. Build a close interpersonal fusion with my spouse and children, showing care, respect, and kindness. Take sufficient meaningful time with them and help each realize his or her maximum potential and self-fulfillment.
4. Be humble. Free myself from boasting, arrogance, egotism, and self-centeredness. Be teachable. Keep in close touch with reality and know myself as I really am. Minimize my personal accomplishments in favor of building other people.
5. Grow intellectually. Expand the mind with depth and breadth by reading and thinking. Seek discussions that will expand the mind. Weigh all knowledge within the framework of my unifying principles.
6. Be a leader. The most powerful leaders show the right way by going first and have a following that is voluntary. They guide themselves and others with clearly defined, mutually agreed-upon goals, and demonstrate the best method of achieving these goals.
To this point I have shared with you our mission and the principles you can expect to be used by the BISM staff you will come in contact with. Now, I would like to talk about goals in general and BISM's specific goals.
We have tried to balance our goals so that we can meet the responsibility and accountability mentioned earlier. We have asked ourselves the following question: Will reaching our goals make BISM more secure, win us friends, give us peace of mind, or improve family relationships? We truly hope that fulfillment of our mission will result in the development of positive attitudes in a fundamentally negative world. We have long-range goals that require stretch and time to reach them. Long-range goals are necessary to smooth over the small temporary setbacks we get from some of our smaller on-going goals. Goal setting is a continuous process of revising and adjusting as conditions change. A philosopher once said, Go as far as your mind can see. When you get there, you will always be able to see farther.
I personally ask myself two questions when I am trying to reach a decision or set a goal on any important matter. I encourage BISM staff members to use the same approach, and I am sure that many of you will also find these questions helpful:
1. Is it morally right and fair to everyone concerned?
2. Will it take me closer to or farther from our major objective? Let's stop and think about these questions for a second. Correctly answering these questions will help everyone make the best decision. Abusing others, walking over them, taking advantage of them to achieve our objective simply is not valid in the environment we operate in today. We must work in cooperation with others to achieve our goals. We have used our principles, mission statement, and long- range goals to set our direction. Positive results will not come only from ability; it is thinking and direction that will make the difference.
You can expect us to take these factors into account as we deal with you.
1. Do we know where we are today so that we can get the right
starting point for heading into the future?
2. What are the benefits of what we are considering? What are the risks?
3. What are the obstacles we must overcome to reach our goal?
4. Who are the individuals, groups, and organizations we must work with to reach our goal?
5. What is our detailed plan of action to reach our goal?
In our dealings with everyone that we feel accountable to, we are working diligently to overcome F.E.A.R.:
An organization operating on F.E.A.R. presents a danger to all that it comes in contact with since the conclusions and outcomes drawn from the false evidence have the same impact as if they were true. Last, in our dealings with everyone, we try to present and cultivate a positive self-image. People from every walk of life perform or behave in accordance with the image they have of themselves. Positive thinking will not work with an individual who is negative about himself. I hope that you all are able to see that, as my talk continues, I am moving from generalities to specifics. Continuing on that course, I will now share with you BISM's long- and short-range written goals. Our Board of Trustees and key staff members will meet later this week in a retreat to refine and extend these goals.
* Enhance working relationships with the following organizations: National Federation of the Blind, Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, National Industries for the Blind, Maryland School for the Blind, State Legislature, blind vendors and their elected committee in the Maryland Blind Vendors Program.
* Significantly improve BISM's communications and community relations activity in order to enhance:
a. Recognition and outreach in the blind community,
b. Understanding and image in the general community.
* Enhance revenues by:
a. Initiating fundraising and grantsmanship,
b. Increasing state appropriations for operating and capital needs,
c. Improving Industries operations.
* Enhance Braille production by purchasing state-of-the-art equipment.
* Re-establish an effective Rehabilitation Program designed to meet the needs of all blind adult Marylanders, not just those in need of vocational training.
* Modernize and automate our accounting system and develop and implement a computerized management information system. * Identify products and services for the commercial market suitable or advantageous to blind employment that would enhance the capability and revenues of the Industries Division, ultimately leading to more jobs for blind adult Marylanders.
* Develop a plan for encouraging and assisting blind entrepreneurship through identifying prospects and linking them to state economic and small business development efforts, such as the Maryland Corporate Partnership.
* Following an assessment of employee need and demand, develop a program for remedial education and enhanced skill training for BISM'S employees.
* Develop an active upward mobility program for employees to enable them to work in jobs that are more suitable and challenging to their abilities and prepare them to leave BISM to accept employment in the private sector.
* Continue as the Nominee Agent for Department for Vocational Rehabilitation to manage the Maryland Blind Vendors Program. Make necessary changes in attitude, philosophy, and management, to create an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust between the vendors and BISM so that the Randolph Sheppard Program in Maryland can once again be something we can all be proud of.
* Hire, develop, and train an effective motivated management team capable of assuming the responsibilities necessary to run the organization professionally, in a business-like manner, without losing sight of the special needs of many of our employees.
* Review BISM compensation and incentive programs and make appropriate changes at all levels so that employees can live comfortably and independently.
* Improve attitudes to be more positive in dealing with staff, employees, outside individuals, and organizations and especially in dealing with the capabilities of blind employees. During the past 10 months we feel that significant progress has been made on all of our stated and written objectives. Specifically, I would like to mention the following accomplishments:
1. I hope that you all as well as the folks at the Department for Vocational Rehabilitation, National Industries for the Blind, the Maryland School for the Blind, the vendors, and their committee have sensed a change in our willingness to enhance our working relationships. I would like to think that proof of that effectiveness lies in the fact that I am here today, speaking with you in this forthright manner.
2. BISM has raised the level of community awareness by printing a new brochure and attending health fairs and schools.
3. We have hired a Director of Public Information, as well as a full-time fund raiser. A volunteer program is currently being developed.
4. We have purchased a new TED-600 interpoint Braille embosser, and we have on order a new Kurzweil Reader.
5. We have re-established the Rehabilitation Program, and as you heard Glenn update you yesterday, we have four students and two instructors and are modernizing our daily living skills area. This is a flexible program designed to meet the varying needs of many different kinds of blind Maryland adults.
6. We are in the process of automating our accounting system with the addition of microcomputers and upgrading our mainframe from an IBM 34 to an IBM 36. An effective management information system is substantially completed, and we are using it to make better decisions every day.
7. The following changes have occurred in the Industries Division:
a. Hired 15 new blind employees.
b. Increased sales 35%.
c. Reduced inventories 32%.
d. Improved Cash Flow.
e. Developed new business in these areas: microfilming, vending, sub-assembly work, sub-contract work, sub-contract packing, handsoaps and detergents.
f. Developed upward mobility programs and moved 3 blind employees forward through them.
8. We have significantly improved our relationship with the blind vendors and are beginning to work together to solve problems that have not been addressed for years. Active participation by the Committee has now become standard operating procedure. We are opening 4 new stands, moving 4 others, and renovating 5 more.
Major strides have been made in establishing vending machines at the rest areas on interstate highways under Kennelly legislation.
9. Many new faces from all walks of life have been added to the BISM staff. This includes the addition of 4 new blind staff members.
10. All hourly employees were given an across-the-board twenty-five-cent-an-hour wage increase in August in addition to the regular yearly increase. The average hourly wage at all locations now exceeds $5.00 per hour.
11. I believe BISM attitudes have changed both internally and in dealing with outside organizations. Rather than my commenting on our success in this area, I would rather you be the judge. At this time I would like to extend a permanent invitation to every one of you to visit BISM at any time. You are always welcome at any of our three locations. Additionally, I would like to remind you that our Board meets the third Thursday of each month at 8:30 a.m. at BISM. I encourage you to attend any of these meetings if you so desire.
In closing I would like to address success and the measurement of it. How do you measure success? Success has a different meaning to each of us. I would like to define success as follows: The self-direction in acquiring whatever one desires of life that contributes to the peace, happiness, and personal achievement of oneself and others.
It is difficult for me to separate success from self-esteem. Self-Esteem: Belief in oneself. Having a sense of personal worth. Self-respect. Self-love. The most fundamental of all attitudes for high productivity in anything you do.
Is BISM successful? I hope so. Are we trying our best to be more successful? Yes we are. Can we be totally successful without the help and support of everyone here today? No we can't. Are we asking for your help and support? Yes we are. Are you willing to work with us on the many things we agree on that directly lead to a better and more independent life for people who are blind? I hope you are. The National Federation of the Blind logo displays the words security, equality, and opportunity. Your mission statement says, The National Federation of the Blind is not an organization speaking for the blind it is the blind speaking for themselves.
I hope you leave here today knowing that BISM is an organization committed to working with and for the blind to create independence through security, equality, and opportunity. Thank you for your kind attention.
From the Associate Editor: February strikes me as a month of doldrums. I find comforting the fact that seventy-five percent of the time it has only twenty-eight days. Where I live (Ohio) the days are still some of the coldest in the year even though they are getting noticeably longer, and such birds as have not had the good sense to retire to warmer climes for the winter are beginning to sing more energetically, which I am told by people with more scientific knowledge than romance is the bird's response to increased light and not its heart-felt conviction that spring is on the way.
So what is one to do to wile away these days between the January white sales and the invigorating winds of March? Have you noticed that February seems to have more than its share of holidays? Perhaps it is society's instinctive response to our need for a pick-me-up. I don't know that there is much to be done in celebration of Groundhog's Day, but Valentine's Day is another matter. How about making a cake? A boxed mix will do; just choose a flavor that makes you (or your valentine) smile. Bake the cake in one eight-inch square pan and one eight-inch round pan, instead of two identical ones. When the cakes have been removed from their pans and cooled completely, cut the round layer along the diameter so that you have two semicircles. Then arrange the square cake with one corner near the edge of a large serving plate, and carefully place the two semicircular cakes against the two adjacent sides of the square nearest the center with the eight-inch sides touching them. The rounded edges then form the top of the valentine. Ice the whole thing with a fluffy frosting (either seven minute or butter cream is a good choice) and decorate the masterpiece if you desire. It is always fun to tint the frosting pink as it is being made.
I don't believe in Presidents Day. Generations of children will now grow up not remembering that Lincoln's birthday is February 12 and that George Washington's is February 22. A month that witnessed the arrival of both these great men can't be all bad, regardless of its cold and gloom. I haven't found a culinary way of saluting Honest Abe, but anything with cherries makes a fine tribute to the Father of our Country. How about preparing baked ham with this warm cherry sauce poured over it just before serving?
Cherry Sauce for Baked Ham
juice and fruit from 1 1-pound-14-ounce can bing cherries
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup dry sherry
Method: Combine all dry ingredients in a medium sauce pan and stir well to break up the lumps of corn starch. Add the cherry liquid and cook over a moderate heat, stirring constantly, until sauce is thickened and clear (about two minutes after it has come to a boil). Add fruit and sherry before heating through again. Do not allow mixture to boil unless you wish to have the alcohol evaporate.
Or, in these days of women's liberation, bake Martha Washington's currant pound cake. I have no idea whether Martha ever baked it, but I have been making it for years, to the gratification of all.
2-3/4 cups sugar
1-1/2 cups margarine or butter
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
5 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated is best)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
11 ounces currants
Method: Using an electric mixer or a very strong arm and wooden spoon, beat the butter and sugar together for five minutes, until very light. Add the eggs, beating well after each. Add the vanilla. Then sift the dry ingredients together (does anyone bother to do so anymore?) and add alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and beating the mixture each time just enough to work in all the flour. Fold in the currants and bake in a greased and floured tube pan at 350 degrees for 1-1/3 hours or until a tooth pick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the pan after about ten minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.
Finally, here are a couple of wonderful recipes that you could whip up to celebrate the last full month of winter.
by Hazel Staley
As Monitor readers know, Hazel Staley is the President of the National Federation of Blind of North Carolina. She is also an excellent cook. This recipe makes a comforting Saturday night supper or a delicious center piece for a brunch.
1 pound hot bulk sausage
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
6 slices white bread, cubed
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Method: Brown sausage; drain and crumble. Beat eggs with milk, salt, and mustard. In a generously buttered nine- by thirteen-inch baking dish toss bread, sausage, and cheese. Pour egg mixture over ingredients in dish. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight. Remove foil and bake at 350 degrees for forty-five minutes. Serves six to eight. As a variation, try spreading a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup mixed with a half cup of milk over the surface of the casserole just before baking.
by Mary Pool
Mary Pool is the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Stark County, Ohio. She does lots of catering for her church, and this is one of her favorite recipes.
1/4 pound butter
1 large chopped onion
1 cup rice
1 can mushrooms
2 cans beef consomme
Method: Fry onion in butter until transparent. Add mushrooms just before onion is done. Put in casserole with rice (do not pre-cook). Pour in consomme. Stir. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.
Under date of December 6, 1989, a letter was sent from Rose Mofford, Governor of Arizona, to James Omvig, who now lives in Tucson. The letter said in part:
Arizona State Government and I are both grateful that you have agreed to serve as a member of the Governor's Council on Blindness and Visual Impairment . One of the satisfactions of holding office is the opportunity to recognize outstanding citizens by naming them to positions of leadership within our state government.
The Governor's Council on Blindness and Visual Impairment is an advisory body to oversee and coordinate programs for the blind in Arizona.
Ruth Swenson, President of the NFB of Arizona, and Bruce Gardner already serve on the Council.
**Sue Viders Tapes Available:
We have received the following communication from Nancy Scott: The Sue Viders Seminar, held in July, 1989, at the NFB national convention is now available on four ninety-minute cassettes. The cost is $14 per copy. Sue Viders, nationally known author and lecturer, provides a practical guide to motivation for writers and how-to's for marketing their work. Discussions include where to get ideas, how to focus and organize ideas, how to write query letters, manuscript submission, copyright, and attitudes that will help to get work published. To order this seminar or to obtain information about other cassettes available from the NFB Writers Division, contact: Nancy Scott, 1141 Washington Street, Easton, Pennsylvania 18042. Make all checks payable to the NFB Writers Division.
We have received the following announcement from Janiece Betker: Parent Tips; The Challenge Years Most of the comments and questions I received from readers of the original Parent Tips book concerned issues relating to school age children. How can we help our child with homework or work with him to improve his reading? How can we get involved in her dance recital or his Little League games? How comfortable are our children with our blindness, and what can we do to minimize any discomfort that may exist? Will our blindness be perceived by the school system as the reason our child is having difficulty learning, is a discipline problem, is shy, or has certain talents? Where does a parent's blindness fit into the broader scheme of things? Will your child's school personnel treat you in a different way from the way they relate to other parents? Can you help with that school play or fund-raising event, or should you be content to let others handle these tasks? What about transportation? Can you sign your child up for hockey, knowing that there may be times when your best efforts to find a ride for him will fail?
These and many other issues are discussed in a new book, available on standard format cassettes at $12.95. Those who have purchased the first Parent Tips on cassette or who wish to purchase both at once at $22.90 will recieve a six-slotted cassette storage album that will house both books. Cassettes are tone-indexed for convenience in locating the beginning of each section. A resource guide and bibliography are included. The book is not available in print at this time but will be made available if there are enough requests for the print edition.
For your cassette copy, send check or money order to: Janiece Betker, 1886 - 29th Avenue N.W., New Brighton, Minnesota 55112, phone: (612) 639-1435. Cassettes will be sent via Free Matter unless you specify UPS, in which case you must add $3 shipping. Orders from outside the U.S. must include postage for surface or air mail on the basis of five ounces for an individual Parent Tips , twelve ounces for the two books with the album, where Free Matter does not apply. This postage must accompany all foreign orders. Payment must be in US dollars only. Agency purchase orders accepted.
**Braille Proofreaders Wanted:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Triformation Braille Services, Inc., is looking for Braille proofreaders to move to Stuart, Florida, for employment. Anyone interested please call Judy McQuae at (407) 286-8366.
**North American Van Lines:
In the spring of last year we entered into an agreement with North American Van Lines regarding members of the National Federation of the Blind who use North American to move household articles from one place to another in the 48 lower, contiguous states, (that is not including Alaska and Hawaii); if you arrange for North American Van Lines to move you, you will get a contract that will let you move with 35% off the normal moving costs and 25% off the normal storage costs. (There are published tariffs that say how much moving companies should charge for moving materials from one place to another by truck. The Interstate Commerce Commission establishes the rates.) In addition to the rate reduction, North American Van Lines will make a contribution to the National Federation of the Blind equal to 2% of all costs of moving for those who use this program.
If you want to contract with North American Van Lines to move your materials you should call Cindy Rupples at 1 (800) 873-2673. Tell her that you are a member of the National Federation of the Blind, that you have heard about the agreement between the National Federation of the Blind and North American Van Lines, that you understand North American will give these discounts, and that you want to sign up to get moved. Then remind her that 2% of the moving costs will be contributed to the National Federation of the Blind. During 1989 several of our members used this program and did receive the discount; and the NFB received close to $500.00 in donations from North American Van Lines. This program is also available to families and friends of the National Federation of the Blind if they indicate their connection with the Federation.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: For sale: A 128 K Apple 2E with an Echo Speech Synthesizer, Braille Edit Software, and Pro-Comm Modem with talking transcend software. The system contains an RF modular for TV display, Appleworks, and Print Shop software. The cost for the entire package is $500. For more information you should contact Sarah and Ed Edwards at (301) 247-9395. Their address is: 4704 Belwood Green, Arbutus, Maryland 21227.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: BIT Corporation has just published its Winter, 1989, catalog. The seventy-two-page large print catalog contains over fifty products, many of them never before available. In addition to the Talkman line of four-track cassette players, BIT now offers a desktop cassette recorder with speech compression, the Optonica line of talking VCRs, a new voice-recognition telephone, new talking watches and clocks, and a host of other products for independence for blind and visually impaired people. BIT's catalog is also available in Braille and cassette recorded versions. For more information call BIT at (800) 333-2481 or (617) 666-2488.
We recently received the following letter from Carolyn Colclough, Director of Marketing for Multiple Services Media Technology, Inc.: Recently Multiple Services Media Technology completed the Braille translation and production of a Sunset cookbook called Light Cuisine. The Braille has 385 pages in two volumes, spiral bound, with hard vinyl covers. The recipes are delicious and, as the name implies, this is cooking for healthy living. Each recipe has calories per serving and the protein, salt, fat, and cholesterol contained in a serving. The prepaid cost is $39 sent to: Multiple Services Media Technology, 3917 Mayette Avenue, Santa Rosa, California 95405. Please contact me at (707) 579-1115 or write me at the address given if you have any questions or need additional information.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Would you like to know more about God and serving him through the Catholic faith? A free home study course is available in ten cassette tapes. These lessons are taken from the Paulist Fathers' home study course and have optional questions and answers for each lesson. We invite you to send for Lesson 1 on cassette tape and our free catalog by contacting: Catholic Inquiry for the Blind, 228 North Walnut Street, Lansing, Michigan 48933, (517) 342- 2500.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Make Braille work for you! Sixteen lessons will enable you to master a usable reading system. Pocket sized contraction list included. To order Making the Alien User- Friendly , send $12.25 to: Lois Wencil, 19 Parkview Drive, Millburn, New Jersey 07041.
**Bible in Different Languages:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement by Bible Alliance, Inc., Post Office Box 621, Bradenton, Florida 34206: The New Testament on audio cassette is now available in three new languages Russian, Indonesian, and Korean. Blind people from around the world are requesting cassette Bibles in all of the 28 languages that we have available. We distribute the Bible on cassette completely free of charge to those who cannot read because of blindness and visual impairment. This is not a lending program. All of our materials are free of charge and are meant to be kept. We have recorded the New Testament in twenty-eight languages and in several languages have also recorded portions of the Old Testament, Bible Studies, and Messages. These audio cassettes run at commercial speed and will play on most cassette players. One set of Bible cassettes and Bible Studies is offered to each eligible person in the language of his or her choice.
All that is needed is a request from the individual with a valid certification of the visual impairment. This certification can come from an agency, library, or medical doctor that specializes in work with or service to the blind. The certification should be written on organization/doctor letterhead stationery and give the name and address of the recipient and specify the nature of the impairment. We will ship directly to the recipient Free Matter for the Blind. Entry fees or custom taxes, if any, are the responsibility of the recipient.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: For Sale: Toshiba 1200 Laptop, 2 3.5-inch disk drives, Arctic Speech Synthesizer, external disk drive. Asking $2,000. Contact: John P. Olsen, 15 West Walnut Street, Islip, New York 11751; (516) 277-5899, or (516) 277-0765.
**Cooperative Effort in South Dakota:
Writing in the October, 1989, Insight , the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota, Karen Mayry says: There is a promise in the air; a new breeze; a glint of better things for the blind in South Dakota. For the very first time the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota and the South Dakota Services for the Visually Impaired will jointly sponsor Job Opportunities for the Blind seminars, Focus on Success.
These events will take place in Watertown and Sioux Falls on October 10 and 11, 1989. The morning agenda will focus on the employer, both those who employ or have employed blind persons and those who are potential employers of the blind. The afternoon will be directed toward the blind employee. Our own Rami Rabby and Curtis Chong will conduct the sessions.
Mr. Rami Rabby (New York, New York), a Fullbright Scholar and honors graduate of Oxford University, has been employed by the Ford Motor Company of Britain, Hewitt Associates, and Citibank of New York. He also holds a master's in business administration from the University of Chicago, has authored two books, and has had several articles published in prestigious management magazines. His recent publication, Take Charge A Strategic Guide for Blind Job Seekers, is viewed as one of the leading resources available to blind persons seeking employment. Mr. Rabby is currently a consultant, writer, and speaker on employment of people with disabilities. Mr. Curtis Chong (Minneapolis, Minnesota), Senior Systems Programming Specialist for IDS Financial Services, has been employed by the Federal Aviation Administration and the State of Minnesota. Mr. Chong has attended the University of Hawaii, the University of Minnesota, and is a graduate of Brown Institute, Minneapolis. In addition to numerous honors, Mr. Chong was selected by the National Jaycees as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Americans in 1986. Mr. Chong will lead a round table discussion of employers and employees in addition to addressing the noon luncheon about Technology and the Job. We are excited and hopeful as we look towards a better relationship with Services for the Visually Impaired and the future of blind South Dakota citizens.
**Almost A Hundred:
In mid-December of 1989 the Associated Press carried the following story:
Nashwauk, Minnesota Attorney M. B. Ben Rustan tried to negotiate a 20-year lease for his law office back in 1981, when he was 91 years old.
When he turned 99 he told a bank cashier he wanted to buy the longest term certificate of deposit possible.
Rustan expected to be practicing law July 4, 1990, on his 100th birthday. But the man who hung his law shingle in this Iron Range town of northwestern Minnesota in 1918 died Sunday of a heart seizure.
What made Rustan's achievements even more remarkable was the fact he was blind. His eyes were removed when he was 5 as the result of spinal meningitis.
But no one seems to mention his blindness until they've talked about how dedicated to his job he was, how meticulous in dress he was, how serious he was.
He couldn't be considered an elder statesman because he never retired. But he garnered that type of respect. It was appropriate that his home address was 1 First Street. Rustan suffered the seizure, his first serious one, November 28, 1989, in a car on his way to work with his secretary. Rustan worked mainly in real estate transactions, transfers of deeds and titles. When he went to the courtroom he took Braille notes with a slate and stylus.
We recently received the following letter from Nancy Martin: The Clark County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington held elections this month on December 16, 1989. The officers are the following: President, Doug Trimble; First Vice President, Mike Freeman; Second Vice President, Kaye Kipp; Secretary, Nancy Martin; and Treasurer, Charlie Rogge.
**Multiply Handicapped Children:
Mrs. Colleen Roth writes as follows: Barbara Cheadle has appointed me chairman of the Committee on the Multi-handicapped Blind of the National Federation of the Blind Parents Division. Through this committee we will be sharing information and ideas with parents, professionals, and other interested persons. We will also link people together whose children have similar disabilities. Please indicate name, age, and type of disabilities your child has. If you are an educator, please describe the types of disabilities you work with. If you know of any parents of multi-handicapped children who would be interested in this network, please share this information with me. Any correspondence will be kept confidential. If you would like to receive material from this committee or would like to network with others, please contact me: Colleen Roth, Chairman, 1912 Tracy Road, Northwood, Ohio 43619, telephone: (419) 661-9171 or (419) 666-6212.
**In the High-Tech Vanguard:
From the Editor: I first met JoAnn Giudicessi in the mid-seventies when I was Director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind and she was a student. In the beginning she was withdrawn and self-effacing, but as those who have seen the film We Know Who We Are can testify, that changed. In those days many people from the country and the world came to the Iowa Commission for the Blind. One of them was Allen Becker, a young man from the newly established Kurzweil Company, and he and JoAnn found that they had more than electronics to talk about. Soon she went to Massachusetts, and later she and Allen were married. Today the Beckers (Allen sighted and JoAnn blind) are working together building a new company and an exciting product. The name of the company is Reflection Technologies. Allen handles the electronics, and JoAnn works on public relations, including entertaining potential investors at dinner parties and the like. It is clear that the company is going to succeed in a big way. It is equally clear that the Beckers are succeeding in a big way. Here is an item which appeared about Reflection Technologies in the December 7, 1989, Wall Street Journal:
This Device Has People
Staring Into Space
Cyberspace Corporation, a Norcross, Georgia, start-up, has added an eye-catching twist to the conventional laptop computer: no screen. Using a lightweight eyepiece worn on a headband, the Cyberspace display appears to float in midair about two feet from the user a crisp, full-sized image that no one else can see. The trick is in the eyepiece, which is being designed into scores of new products from more than a dozen companies. Developed by Waltham, Massachusetts-based Reflection Technologies, Inc., it uses light-emitting elements, lenses, and a tiny oscillating mirror to make the image appear in front of the user. The device has potential wherever a portable, high- resolution screen is required. Hughes Aircraft Company is developing a line of portable information equipment around the product for military use. PortaFax Corporation, New York, is building a palm-sized fax machine that lets users see fax transmissions away from the office.
Then there's the electronic book from Selectronics, Inc., of Pittsford, New York, that will allow a bookshelf of information to be carried in a shirt pocket or clipped to a belt.
**Narrative Television Network:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: National Network Offers Television and Movies for the Blind The Narrative Television Network was launched October 1, 1989, to serve our nation's blind and visually impaired and their families. NTN is currently presented on over 500 cable and broadcast stations nationwide. NTN programming consists of a talk show, followed by the narrated version of a motion picture. Guests who have been interviewed for the NTN talk show include: Katharine Hepburn, Cesar Romero, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and many of Hollywood's brightest stars. After the talk show, the unobtrusive voice of a narrator is inserted between the existing dialogue of a movie or television show to describe the visual elements of the program. This makes NTN enjoyable for fully sighted, partially sighted, and totally blind audiences. NTN is currently offered on the Nostalgia Channel nationally and many other independent cable systems. There is no cost for NTN to the cable system or the cable audience, and NTN requires no special equipment. If you do not yet receive NTN in your area, please write: The Narrative Television Network, 5840 South Memorial Suite 312, Tulsa, Oklahoma 74145.
Norma Baker writes as follows: The Austin Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas elected officers for 1990 at the regularly scheduled January meeting. They are as follows: President, James Bradley; First Vice President, Tommy Craig; Second Vice President, Jeff Pearcy; Secretary, Norma Gonzales Baker; Treasurer, Margaret Cokie Craig; and Board Members: William Johnson and Zena Pearcy. The chapter is looking forward this year to a productive year and joins the other Texas chapters in welcoming all the delegates to the national convention in Dallas this summer.
During a conference telephone meeting of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind on Tuesday night, January 9, 1990, Bob Eschbach of Ohio told us that his wife Patricia was going into the hospital later in the week for surgery. At the same meeting Fred Schroeder of New Mexico said that his wife Cathy had just come home from the hospital. Our prayers and best wishes are with both Patricia and Cathy. May their recovery be rapid and complete. At the time of this writing we do not have further details.
**Ohio Parents Elect:
We recently received the following announcement: The Parents of Blind Children Division, NFB of Ohio, held a luncheon meeting on November 5, 1989, during our recent state convention and elected the following individuals as officers and board members: Lori Duffy, President; Colleen Roth, Vice President; Tom Anderson, Second Vice President; Debbie Robinson, Secretary; and Diana Felice, Treasurer. Board members elected were Bernadette Dressell, Julianna Wilson, and Shirley Hammond.
Sharon Gold, President of the National Federation of the Blind of California, writes to report that on August 9, 1989, Annis McClendon, President of the Pathfinder Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of California, died following an extensive illness. Annis was a long-time member of our Federation and served the Pathfinder Chapter continually and faithfully for many years. She regularly attended national and state conventions and worked hard to improve the lives of the blind in the South Los Angeles Area. Annis will be missed by all of us.
Karen Mayry, President of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota, reports that in May of 1989 the Northern Hills Chapter of the South Dakota affiliate was formed. The officers of the new chapter, which serves several towns at the northern end of the Black Hills, include the following: President, Verna Butterfield; Vice President, Ida Mary Koskela; and Secretary/Treasurer, Ladonna Barden. Congratulations to the new chapter and to our South Dakota affiliate.
We recently received a press release from Amway Corporation publicizing honors received by Sharon Gold, President of the National Federation of the Blind of California, for distinguished accomplishment. The release said in part:
Ada, Michigan, November 10, 1989 Sharon Gold of Sacramento earned recognition from Amway Corporation in Ada, Michigan, for reaching the level of Direct Distributor of the company's products. In honor of her achievement, Sharon was awarded an expense-paid seminar at the network marketing company's world headquarters in Ada. The seminar allowed her to meet other new Direct Distributors from across the nation, tour Amway's corporate offices and manufacturing facilities, learn about the company's newest products and services, and obtain advice on how to make her distributorship more profitable. Sharon became a Direct Distributor through her sales and sponsoring success. One million independent distributors in more than 40 countries and territories around the world sell Amway products and services.
So says Amway, and the Monitor says: Congratulations Sharon; knowing you as we do, we are certain that Amway is learning a good bit about the competence of blind business people.
**Somebody Bet on the Bay:
The National Federation of the Blind of Sacramento reports: On August 3, 1989, we participated in A Night at the Harness Races. The second race was named the National Federation of the Blind of Sacramento Trot. During its running some of the members went to the field to help cheer the winning horse across the finish line. As a part of our participation in the event, chapter members raised money for our treasury by helping with the sale of general admission tickets to the California Expo Raceway.
The National Federation of the Blind of Sacramento elected new officers at its September, 1989, meeting. The newly elected officers are President, Linda Milliner; First Vice President, Lon Sumner; Second Vice President, Mona Sweeney; Secretary, Sheryl Pickering; Treasurer, Donna Siebert; and Board Members: Charles Coe and David Estes.
**Write Them! Phone Them!:
We have just received the following letter from Jonathan P. Ramsdell:
January 1, 1990
Dear Mr. Jernigan:
Enclosed you will find a cartoon clipped from the January, 1990, issue of Penthouse magazine. It depicts a highway on which there are the splattered remains of six blind people. White canes, dark glasses, blood, and bodies are strewn all over the road. On the opposite side of the highway is a red brick building with a sign announcing that it is the Highway House Home for the Blind. A 65- mile-per-hour speed limit sign is prominent in the illustration. The artist and I use the term loosely has signed his or her name, W. Deceti, in the upper corner.
I find this cartoon extremely offensive. Its implications are obvious: blind individuals are not capable of safely crossing streets. Proper mobility training, including the use of a white cane, apparently doesn't assist the blind individual successfully to negotiate in moving traffic at least, in the warped opinion of the cartoonist responsible for this disgraceful misrepresentation of the blind as a whole.
I am appalled that the editors at Penthouse let this run. Granted, Penthouse has never been noted for its good taste, but this goes a bit too far. The cartoon isn't the least bit funny. I believe that, in allowing illustrations such as this to run, the editors at Penthouse have done us all a grave disservice. As a Federationist, and as a legally blind individual who tries to dispel the myths of the blind as being incapable of self-sufficiency wherever and whenever possible, I feel that Penthouse magazine owes us all an apology. I would urge all Federationists, as well as anyone else with a modicum of interest in the ending of blind stereotypes, to write to Penthouse magazine and register a complaint about this offensive cartoon. Letters should be addressed to: Penthouse Magazine, Post Office Box 3039, Harlan, Iowa 51537-3039. In addition, their telephone number is (800) 289-7368.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: I make a Reading Center cabinet to hold the talking book machine and the tape player at armchair or bed height. For information contact: John Postma, 1466 West Michigan, Battle Creek, Michigan 49017.
The Pueblo Chapter of the NFB of Colorado held their election for new officers for the coming year on November 11, 1989. Officers elected at the regular chapter meeting were: Kay Howard, President; Dave Elgin, Vice President; Catherine Tonne, Secretary; and Arthur Williams, Treasurer. Elected to the Board were: Cora Williams, first chairman; Mike Massey, second chairman; and Darlene Stanton, third chairman. Outgoing president Alice Bouy was presented with a silver and gold pen and pencil set for serving seven years as a dedicated and faithful chapter president.
**Descriptive Video Services: We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Descriptive Video Services (or DVS) is a new national service from station WGBH in Boston that makes television programs accessible to blind and visually impaired persons through the use of stereo television broadcasting. DVS provides narrated descriptions of a program's key visual elements without interfering with the program audio or dialogue. The narrated track describes action, settings, scene changes, costumes, and body language. The narrations occur in the pauses in dialogue.
DVS is delivered to the home TV set or VCR through the Separate Audio Program Channel, referred to as the SAP channel. Every stereo TV receiver or stereo VCR is equipped to receive the SAP channel in order to hear the descriptions. You select the SAP channel. The television station must be broadcasting in stereo with the SAP channel. It is currently estimated that 14.8 million homes have stereo receivers, and over 25 public television stations broadcast the SAP channel.
For information or to be on the mailing list for the DVS newsletter, contact: Laurie Everett, Director, DVS, WGBH, 125 Western Avenue, Boston, Massachuetss 02134.