THE BRAILLE MONITOR
Vol. 33, No. 11 December 1990
Barbara Pierce, Editor
Published in inkprint, Braille, on talking-book disc,
and cassette by
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
MARC MAURER, PRESIDENT
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
THE BRAILLE MONITOR
PUBLICATION OF THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
Vol. 33, No. 11 December 1990
NEW ORLEANS--CITY OF DESIRES
by Jerry Whittle
REFLECTIONS ON THE
CALIFORNIA ORIENTATION CENTER FOR THE BLIND
by Tom Bickford
BOOK REVIEW: SNAKEWALK
by Kenneth Jernigan
FAIR LABOR STANDARDS:
WHAT BLIND WORKERS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THEIR RIGHTS
CHICAGO LEARNS ABOUT NFB IN SUN-TIMES TRIATHLON
A SEASON FOR GRATITUDE
by Barbara Pierce
BRAILLE BILL MEETS BIG ED
by William D. Meeker
IS THERE SHAME? AND IS IT MINE?
by Jan Kafton
DON'T COUNT DIALOGUE OUT YET
by Barbara Pierce
SOCIAL SECURITY AND TRIAL WORK: FACTS YOU NEED TO KNOW
by James Gashel
FROM THE PRESIDENT'S CLIPBOARD
EXPANDING OUR FEDERATION FAMILY
by Barbara Pierce
DISTINGUISHED EDUCATOR OF BLIND CHILDREN AWARD FOR 1991
by Sharon Maneki
BLIND EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR AWARD FOR 1991
by Steve Benson
by Tom Bickford
Federation of the Blind, Inc., 1990
3 LEAD PHOTOS/CAPTIONS: New Orleans, Louisiana, site of the 1991 National Federation of the Blind convention, June 30 through July 7, is a city of enchantment. There are tours and activities for every taste. Make your plans now to be a part of the largest group of blind people to gather anywhere in 1991. Pictured here are three of the landmarks you won't want to miss: the St. Louis Cathedral (above); the world famous Cafe Du Monde (below, left); and the stern wheeler Natchez (below, right), which plys the Mississippi. Come join us.
The time has come to plan for the 1991 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Denver in 1989 was breathtaking; the fiftieth anniversary in 1990 was unbeatable; New Orleans in '91 will be a combination of both. We have not held a national convention in New Orleans since 1977, and those who were there will remember what a tremendous experience it was. This one will be better. Reservations should be made directly with the Hyatt, and as soon as possible. As always, our room rates are the envy of all who know about them. Details about the rates, the hotel, and the city of New Orleans will be given in the following article by Jerry Whittle. This convention will be vintage Federation--interesting program items, exciting tours, plentiful door prizes, vital issues to be decided, and friendships to be made and renewed. Remember that door prizes should be contributed by individual Federationists and by state and local affiliates throughout the country. No prize should be worth less than $25.00 (cash is always acceptable). Either bring your prizes to convention or send them to: Mr. Nick Danos, Route 1, Box 237, Lockport, Louisiana 70374, phone (504) 532-2785. It will be helpful if door prizes are labeled both in print and Braille, giving the estimated value of the prize and listing the donor.
As you plan for the 1991 convention, do not forget that it is to be held in the wonderful city of New Orleans, rich in the lore of history and permeated by the atmosphere of the French Quarter. This will be a convention to enjoy and remember.
NEW ORLEANS--CITY OF DESIRES
by Jerry Whittle
Some people call New Orleans the "Big Easy." To others, New Orleans symbolizes the best of American art forms--music, architecture, and art. To many more, the city at the mouth of the mighty Mississippi fulfills a yearning for leisure and good times. For all these reasons, New Orleans draws millions of people each year, and all of them catch at least a touch of the spirit of the city--sometimes sublime, sometimes raucous, and sometimes a little of both. No other region of the city provides this curious mixture of beauty and carefree living as the French Quarter does.
Perhaps the most beautiful section of the French Quarter is the area known as Jackson Square. As the visitor strolls past the St. Louis Cathedral, he or she will soon discover that the little park nearby is a mecca for artists. Men and women display their watercolors and oils along the walls of the park. An old man sits with a dog in his lap; his beard is long and gray, his eyes sharp and full of mischief. Nearby, three men sit on a park bench singing "When Those Saints Go Marchin' In." Farther down the street a small boy tap dances on the pavement, circled by a ring of clapping, smiling spectators. People of every description and nationality stroll leisurely by, looking down the streets and studying the beautiful architecture of the cathedral or the picturesque charm of Chartres Street.
On Decatur near the Mississippi one is overwhelmed by the diversity of sounds and smells and sights. The Cafe du Monde has always been a focal point of this section, and people from all over the world sit outside and drink rich dark roast coffee and eat sugar-coated beignets. The conversation seems to come in waves. Across the street from Cafe du Monde a Dixieland band suddenly strikes up in an outdoor cafe called the Gallery. A crowd soon gathers and watches as an aged woman, bent and stiff, dances with an equally superannuated partner. Strolling past the Cafe du Monde, one can see a unicyclist or a one-man band or a sidewalk philosopher expounding upon the virtues of river life or politics. I can remember once walking to the banks of the Mississippi directly behind the Cafe du Monde. As I approached the river, I heard a man playing a trumpet for all he was worth. The Chamber of Commerce could not have planned it any better. The river is full of barges and tugboats, and periodically the mournful blast of the foghorn is easily discerned from any point in the Quarter. One of the most common sounds along the river is a calliope piping on board a steamboat like the Delta Queen as it anchors in the harbor.
Part of the great attraction of New Orleans is the food, the fine cafes and restaurants that dot the cobblestone streets. Breakfast or brunch at Brennan's; the haute cuisine and traditional setting of Antoine's; the noisy food stalls in Jax Brewery; the elegance of Mr. B's on Royal; the sumptuous lunches at Commander's Palace--all of these add to the charm of the great city. I can remember attending an early mass at the St. Louis Cathedral one Sunday morning. As I left the cathedral, I decided to walk down my favorite street in the French Quarter, Chartres. As I walked along the quiet street, I could smell the redolent aroma of dark roast coffee, bacon, and fresh-baked bread emanating from a little cafe. I suddenly desired a breakfast, and I entered one of the most wonderful breakfast experiences of my life, and it was most reasonable in price. Every time I return to New Orleans I plan to go there. It was my discovery, my own special place. New Orleans is filled with these kinds of special spots. To me, New Orleans means a quiet Sunday morning, full of grace and beauty, and a lovely breakfast nook, but to many others it means night life and good times and jazz.
The sensual blare of a saxophone, the blaze of multi-colored lights, the wild and boisterous guffaws of tourists, the press of crowds--these are the sights and sounds of the most famous street in the world--Bourbon. People stand in line for hours outside O'Brien's to buy a hurricane. As you stand in line some Saturday night, you might hear a group of college students suddenly break out in a loud chant. Tulane has won its football game, and the young people are filled with exuberance. Down the street, four couples wind through the crowd, arms linked together in a train so that they will not be separated from each other in the press. A man walks by wearing a purple wig; his girlfriend carries a golden wand and wears sequins in her hair. Inside Ryan's an Irish band sings and plays loudly above the din of happy customers. A glimpse of a woman stretched out on a table catches the eye momentarily in a place called Baby Doll's. She has mirrors all around her. People are lined up waiting to get into Preservation Hall to hear some of the older jazz musicians. The aromas of shrimp etouffee, fresh bread, beer, hot dogs, and crabmeat au gratin hover over the street. A huge man, dressed in cutoffs and a tee-shirt and sandals leans against the wall watching the crowd enter and exit a voodoo shop. Inside one can buy love potions, tarot cards, knives, and alligator feet. A skull stares through the dusty window of the shop. "Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him well." Near the voodoo shop Tony's Spaghetti House--where Thomas Wolfe used to dine--is filled with customers enjoying the pasta and the hundreds of autographed pictures of famous people that line the walls. A wax museum, a souvenir shop, a tattoo parlor, a street vendor selling hats that glow in the dark, more jazz, more Dixieland, Cajun music, the Neville Brothers, Pete Fountain, Al Hirt. The senses are overwhelmed, and the excitement is infectious. And just when you think there is no quiet place in the French Quarter on Saturday night, you turn down a side street and there it is like an oasis--Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream Parlor--with a quiet courtyard area. A couple of scoops of Rocky Road, and the weary tourist is ready to return to the procreant urge of Bourbon and Royal.
These are only some of the contrasts of the "Big Easy." The city offers so much more--book stalls, antique stores, streetcars, the River Walk, the Hard Rock Cafe, the Audubon Zoo, and hundreds of quaint shops and cafes. It is truly a city of desires; nothing is censored there, but it is also a city of tranquility and infinite charm. The joy of it all is discovering it for yourself. Come to the 1991 National Convention in New Orleans and find your own special place.
The elegant Hyatt Regency Hotel, located just eight blocks from the French Quarter, will be the site of the 1991 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. It features two towers-- Poydras, with twenty-seven floors; and Lenai, with eleven floors. The 1991 national convention should be the largest ever, and over 1,100 rooms have been set aside for accommodations. In addition to a swimming pool on the seventh floor, the Hyatt also features several restaurants, cocktail lounges, and a large shopping mall. This shopping mall includes a Walden Book Store, jewelry store, souvenir shop, a Cafe du Monde, Frank and Stein--hot dogs and beer--and many other fast food stalls. In addition, Macy's Department store is adjacent to the Hyatt and is easily accessible to any hotel guest. Passing through Macy's will lead to the Superdome, a colossal structure that is home to the New Orleans Saints, as well as many other gala festivities. A shuttle service to and from the French Quarter will be provided to hotel guests during the national convention.
The huge rooms on the third floor of the Poydras Tower will easily accommodate both the exhibit room and the general sessions, as well as the banquet.
The 1991 convention of the National Federation of the Blind should offer enough variety and enough space to make this annual event the best ever. As in the past, hotel room rates for the convention are phenomenally low: singles, $28; doubles and twins, $35; triples, $38; and quads, $40. An additional occupancy tax of $2 per night will be added to the room rates, plus sales tax of eleven percent. There will be no charge for children under twelve in a room with their parents. Room reservations should be made by writing to: Hyatt Regency New Orleans, 500 Poydras Plaza, New Orleans, Louisiana 70140; phone: (504) 561-1234. Do not call the Hyatt toll-free 800 number.
It should be noted that the 1991 convention will be one day forward from our usual schedule. Preconvention activities begin at the Hyatt Regency on Sunday, June 30, with the Parents of Blind Children Division Seminar, followed by the Job Opportunities for the Blind seminar; registration begins Monday, July 1; Board of Directors meeting, Tuesday, July 2; first general session, Wednesday, July 3; elections and tour day, Thursday, July 4; banquet, Friday, July 5; and adjournment, 5:00 p.m. Saturday, July 6. Convention rates will be honored by the hotel for a reasonable time before and after the convention.
Even though the New Orleans Hyatt Regency is a big hotel, our attendance is likely to be such that rooms may be hard to come by if reservations are made late. So contact the hotel today, and let's make New Orleans in '91 the biggest and best we have ever had, topping even the fiftieth anniversary.
REFLECTIONS ON THE CALIFORNIA ORIENTATION CENTER FOR THE BLIND
by Tom Bickford
From the Editor: As will be apparent from what he writes, Tom Bickford is a former student of the California Orientation Center for the Blind. When he and I first met there in the mid- fifties, both of us were younger, and the California Orientation Center was a different place from what it apparently is today. The director, Allen Jenkins, demonstrated some of the tendencies described in the lead article of the August, 1990, Braille Monitor--but his accomplishments were solid, and his overall philosophy and level of performance, by and large, positive.
When I left the California center in 1957, it was an active, going concern. Since that time I have had occasion to meet and talk with Allen Jenkins periodically through the years, and these meetings have been increasingly disappointing. My observations have seemed to confirm the commonly held belief among the blind of California that Jenkins spends less and less time at the center--coming later in the mornings, taking longer lunch breaks, going home earlier in the afternoons, and having progressively less involvement with the students and program during his time on the premises.
Despite his protestations to the contrary, Jenkins's Federationism was always a doubtful quantity at best, and he dropped out entirely in the late seventies. In view of his present membership on the NAC board and in the American Council of the Blind, this is not surprising. It is clear that his Federation philosophy was never more than a matter of cosmetics and surface tension. Certainly it was not based on understanding and belief. The repressive and custodial character of the NAC approach is the exact opposite of what an orientation center for the blind must be if it is to be successful.
The Federation approach, on the other hand, is a natural for a constructive training center. It minimizes red tape and promotes comradeship between staff and students, being the very essence of teaching by example instead of preachment. Above all, there must be love, generosity, a real belief in the innate normality of the blind, and long hours spent with the students. Whether he called it an orientation and adjustment center or not, that is exactly what Dr. Newel Perry conducted for his students at the California School for the Blind during the first part of this century, and the result was the generation of leaders typified by Dr. tenBroek.
Dr. tenBroek, in turn, conducted a training center of his own, though it was never called that. I know, for I was one of his students--working within the Federation and learning more than I knew I was learning by the association.
There is nothing mysterious about teaching a blind person to come from dependence and second-class status to first-class citizenship and full participation in society. It takes love and belief and a tremendous amount of hard work--what somebody has described as a mixture of sweat and the Holy Ghost. It means stimulating the student to work hard, believe in himself or herself, and become absorbed in a cause. The Federation is ideal since it concentrates on doing things for others but incidentally benefits the individual at the same time, but it could be another cause as well. The important thing is that the student stop dwelling on self-pity and introspection and move out to the broader perspective of doing something for somebody else, thereby achieving self-help without perhaps ever even thinking about it as such.
This is what a training center for the blind should be. If it is truly to meet the needs of its students, it cannot be just a purveyor of skills. It must be something much broader--something hard to learn from textbooks and often chilled by what some call "professionalism." Whatever it is and whatever it takes, the California Center once had it and now obviously doesn't. For an explanation, read the lead article in the August, 1990, Braille Monitor or the book Snakewalk. This brings me back to Tom Bickford's observations. Here is what he has to say:
I had arrived at the California Center fresh from college and was used to applying myself, and, for the most part, I did. The atmosphere at the center was informal, but the program was formal and structured. I was not the fastest learner, but I learned. I learned the skills and discussed the ideas. I participated in classroom studies and overnight camping trips. It finally occurred to this "bright college boy" that while I was learning the skills and techniques, I was also learning the philosophy straight from the NFB. The skills and techniques are necessary, but the true stock in trade of an orientation center is philosophy. And to the extent that Federation philosophy is taught by the staff and learned by the students, both will be successful. Over the years of bouncing around and finally landing on my feet, my Federation philosophy of blindness has never let me down.
Over the decades there have been many changes at the California rehabilitation center. It moved a few miles to a new location with new buildings, including a dormitory, no longer the single rooms I had known. There were outside pressures as to who should be on the staff. In recent years there has been a more obvious separation from the NFB.
In 1990, within two months, I read first a book and then a magazine article about the California orientation center. The book was Snakewalk by Charles Wheeler, copyrighted 1989, published by Harmony books. It is available from your regional library for the blind in the Library of Congress system as RC30292. The magazine article was the lead article in the August, 1990, Braille Monitor. They both tell the same story, but it is not one that I recognize.
When I find a book or a magazine article about a place I know, I take an interest in it. And that is why I read a book in which the story is set at the California Orientation Center for the Blind. In the mid-1950s I was a student at that center. That is where I met the National Federation of the Blind, and it became the third major influence in my life, along with my church and my family. The director of the center was Allen Jenkins, and in those days he made himself available to the students. He surrounded himself with a very good rehabilitation staff, and the outstanding staff member was Kenneth Jernigan. Let me tell you a little about my first counseling session with him.
Mobility is a dramatic point to make with a new student, and Jernigan told me he would be willing to take his cane and go anywhere. I asked if he would be willing to fly to Japan, and he said, "yes." I did not believe him, but I did not say so. Yet, I am sure he heard the disbelief in my voice.
Larry Lewis, a saint of the cause, was my cane teacher. In 1957 I went by Trailways, alone, to the NFB convention in New Orleans. In 1966 I toured Western and Eastern Europe, partly with friends and partly alone. I am not claiming credit but rejoicing in the freedom I gained. The credit is due to those who taught me, for thousands of other Federationists have done as much and more. At the center I learned cooking from Sally Jones, the loving mother superior of the kitchen. Later, as a bachelor, I cooked for myself or traded cooking duties with roommates, when I had them. Now, as a married man, I sometimes cook for my family. Again, the credit is due to the teachers and the Federation philosophy that made us believe in ourselves.
When telling a true story, one of the ways to make your point is to tell it in the form of fiction. Snakewalk is a semi- autobiographic novel about an ex-biker, who is blinded in an accident. Most of the book is about his five months at the California Orientation Center. The book, and in it the center, is full of drugs, alcohol, and sex. The atmosphere is not only informal. It is almost formless. Students may or may not attend classes. The director never appears in the book. There is no mention of an organized body of thought, a philosophy of blindness. There is no mention of any organization of the blind, much less the NFB. There is no expectation of levels of achievement by the students. If you look hard at the book, you can tell that some rehabilitation is going on, but how much? When I compared the book to the Monitor article, I said to myself, "I could have taken the article, fleshed it out a bit, and used it as an outline for the book." They are that close.
When I was a student, there were no drugs, and that was more than just a sign of the times. There was a moderate amount of drinking, but all off campus. I remember one student advising a newcomer to bring back all you want--in your belly. There were some romances among the students, but anything improper was at the level of infrequent rumor, not blatant common practice.
My experience at the orientation center in the 1950s was dynamic and positive. Most of my fellow students and I learned what to do, how to do it, and (most importantly) why. I recognize the thought in the phrase "boot camp for the blind" now current in the Federation, because that was my experience. It appears that the California Orientation Center no longer offers that experience.
BOOK REVIEW: SNAKEWALK
From the Editors: In the August, 1990, Braille Monitor we carried an item about the California Orientation Center for the Blind. Shortly afterward, we received two separate offerings on the same theme from different parts of the country--one, the preceding article by Tom Bickford, and the other, the following book review by Deborah Kent Stein, the well-known author who is a member of our Chicago Chapter. Both articles seemed worthwhile, and each seemed to reinforce the other. Here is the book review:
SNAKEWALK, by Charles Wheeler.
New York: Harmony House, 1990.
(Available from Recording for the Blind and the National Library Service.)
Reviewed by Deborah Kent Stein.
Back when I was a college English major I took a course called "The Novel of Education," which dealt with the theme of growing up as it appeared in nineteenth-century literature. In these novels the main character proves his manhood through a series of adventures, often spurred by the need to rebel against a domineering father who represents social conventions. Eventually, he learns life's tough lessons and settles down to be a solid citizen.
In contemporary fiction, when the protagonist is blind, the novel of education often becomes the novel of adjustment. In Gary Adelman's Honey Out of Stone, Jonathan Penner's Going Blind, Michael Stewart's Blindsight, and James Dickey's Alnilam, the main character (male in each case) loses his sight early in the story. As he struggles to master new skills and techniques, he proves to himself and to the rest of the world that he is still a real man.
Snakewalk, by Charles Wheeler, is the latest addition to the novel of adjustment genre. According to the dust jacket, the book is based upon the author's own experiences as a client at a rehabilitation center for the blind in California. Again we have the story of a blind man learning new skills and proving his manhood. But Wheeler's protagonist never quite manages to grow up.
Patrick Todd is a brawler, womanizer, and all-around hell- raiser, whose driving force is his contempt for virtually everyone and everything around him. When he loses his sight in a boating accident, he has few regrets, reflecting that there isn't much worth looking at anyway. Surfacing to consciousness in the hospital and realizing that he will never see again, he wonders "how to mow the goddamn lawn and avoid stepping in dog shit."
Though Patrick doesn't miss sunsets and murals, he fiercely resents the loss of his independence. In the first weeks he feels like a captive, utterly at the mercy of other people. In horror he reflects that "they" have him now, that "they" will shape him into the meek, obedient member of society he has always refused to become. With pity and disdain he discovers that the rehab center's switchboard operator, with her bright smiling voice and her cheerful efficiency, is blind. Will he end up like that--a happy blind person, tethered to a dull, respectable job, banished from the fast lane forever?
But soon after he arrives at the center (the California Institute for the Blind (CIB) in Brookings) Patrick sheds his stereotyped notions about bland, docile blind people. He decides that "blinks were no different than any flock of regulars out there on the avenue. We had quarterbacks and wide receivers dying for the flash and instant heroism. Others were down in the trenches, waiting for some regular to get the ball and call their slot. We had spectators and waterboys, commentators, cheerleaders, dissenters." It's a wonderful metaphor, but unfortunately the people Pat meets at the center are a discouraging collection--alcoholics, drug addicts, wall-climbers, social isolates, and pathetic whiners. If the blind folks he knows are a good cross-section of humanity, then the world is in deeper trouble than I ever even suspected.
His months at the center give Pat tremendous confidence in mobility. He quickly finds that blindness will not hinder him from performing any task he sets his mind to. But Wheeler makes it clear that Patrick is one of the exceptions. Early in the book, a counselor tells him that he is among the three clients at the center who have a hopeful future.
In one scene Gretchen, a lovely, intelligent young woman from an abusive family, is forcibly dragged from her room and sent home because her allotted six months at the center have run out. The counselor explains that there is simply no choice. There just aren't jobs out there for blind women of limited education. No one ever suggests that Gretchen could get an education and become qualified for a job, or even that some alternative living arrangements might exist for her. She, like most of the center's clients, is simply doomed to unhappiness.
Actually, nobody at the center seems to have any goals beyond the next party or the next jaunt to the corner bar. Job training, computer technology, and interviewing strategies are never mentioned. One of the center's clients, Geri Ciccone, holds a master's degree and has worked as an interpreter. But even she never speaks of future plans. At CIB the philosophy seems to be, "Live it up while you've got the chance, because the rest of your life won't be much fun."
After the first half dozen chapters I thought I had a pretty good idea where the author was heading. Blindness would teach Patrick Todd those tough lessons of life. He would emerge from the adjustment process a changed man--kinder, gentler, wiser, ready to put his wit and energy to some constructive use. After all, writers have long equated blindness with goodness. Considering Pat's temperament, improvement under any guise would be worth shooting for.
There were certainly early signs that I had guessed right. In one scene, sitting at a bar with a female counselor from the Center, Pat comments that he has never done this before--has never sat and talked with a woman, getting to know her as a human being instead of plotting how to lure her into bed. Elsewhere he reflects that he has grown less judgmental, more aware of his own failings, and concludes, "Maybe that's one of the advantages of going blind. They ought to make it mandatory. Take everybody for six months so they can get a good look at themselves." The snakewalk of the title--a winding, wooded path on the Center's grounds, is a symbol of Pat's new introspection. Sometimes he sits on a bench there for hours as he battles his inner demons and tries to sort himself out.
For a time, Pat seems to be aiming straight for the conventional life he has always despised. He falls in love with Geri and asks her to marry him. With only a few twinges he contemplates a future of diaper bags, trips to the supermarket, and family vacations on the Greyhound. He will go to college, get a job, and settle down.
Yet settling down is not in his make-up. When he and Geri attend a neighborhood barbecue, Pat gets drunk and picks a fight with one of the other guests. He even carries the hostilities into the car on the homeward journey, leaning over the seat-back to throw punches at the driver. Geri has the good sense to return his ring and disappears from his life without a trace.
Not even the loss of Geri is enough to jolt Pat into mending his ways. He makes no attempt to win her back. He goes right on brawling and carousing and, with his inimitable style, thumbing his nose at the world. In the book's closing scene two policemen approach as he sits drinking in an open field. When they try to talk to him, he pretends that he is deaf and answers them in Sign.
Snakewalk is not a book for everyone. Wheeler's language is rough and raunchy, and scene after scene merits the National Library Service's designation, "explicit descriptions of sex." Yet far more disturbing is Wheeler's view, not only of people who are blind, but of humanity in general. He fails to create a single truly sympathetic character. Though Geri is lively and adventurous, she is drawn too superficially to engage the reader on a deep level. The rehab counselor Weeds (so nicknamed because she used to be a flower child) is supposed to be caring and willing to buck the system. Yet she uses her position of power to taunt new clients publicly with embarrassing bits of information from their case files. Pat Todd does have his moments of compassion but remains self-involved and self-indulgent to the last page.
It is never the author's claim that blind people can enter the careers of their choosing and participate as full-fledged members of the community. (If, however, the blind reader aspires to become a bar-fly with a short fuse and hard fists, he offers endless words of encouragement.) Yet Wheeler does have something important to say. I think that the best, truest message in Snakewalk, buried beneath layers of invective, is that blindness does not really change underlying character. Techniques may differ, a few new insights may be gained, but one emerges from the adjustment process with basic personality intact. Whether Patrick Todd is blind or sighted, "they" will never reshape him against his will.
Perhaps Wheeler has one other bit of wisdom to impart as well. There are bound to be some readers, totally unfamiliar with blindness, who have always harbored a certain prurient interest in the sexuality of blind people. They have always wondered, but been afraid to ask, whether blind people can really "do it." A few random pages of Snakewalk will erase forever any last, lingering doubts.
by Kenneth Jernigan
As will be apparent from the two preceding articles in this issue of the Monitor, Snakewalk is a book that has received a good deal of attention in certain parts of the blindness community in recent months. After reading Tom Bickford's comments and the review by Deborah Kent Stein, I decided to get Snakewalk and read it for myself. As a former teacher at the California Center for the Blind (one who had something to do with shaping its policies in its formative years), I wanted to know what the book had to say.
I have not visited the California Center during the past ten or fifteen years, so I am unable to say from firsthand knowledge what the Center is like today. However, I have no doubt that present-day life at the California Center is pretty much the way Snakewalk depicts it, and a sad commentary it is. Regardless of that, the book Snakewalk is negative; pseudointellectual; and, above all, thoroughly phony. Moreover, it is dreary and tiresome. It takes more than a stringing together of incidents to make a readable book, and the fact that some things the author says are true doesn't mean that his overall product has merit. The phoniness comes through on every page.
The author tells us, for instance, that in Braille the letter "w" stands for world, and he then makes a preachy little speech about the world and his relation to it. The only trouble is that in Braille the letter "w" does not stand for world but for will. I will make no comment upon the irony of the misstatement but simply note it in passing.
Then there is the matter of how a blind person gets an impression of what other people look like. The hero of Snakewalk feels the faces of his associates--and usually other parts of their bodies as well. This is pure melodramatic soap opera nonsense. I have known several thousand blind people in my life, and I cannot think of a single one of them that I have ever seen feel of somebody else's face to determine what he or she looked like, nor have I ever heard one of them claim to have done it. I have read tear-jerking accounts of such events in newspapers and magazines, but I have never seen it happen in real life. Yet, the author makes a great production of it, one that supposedly leaves us touched emotionally and deeply impressed. The only thing that touched me about it was its phoniness. Let me hasten to add that I was not disgusted, outraged, or repelled. It was too crudely phony for that. The episode simply came off as tired and dreary-- no style, no class, no anything.
The author tells us that blind people refer to each other as "blinks" and to sighted people as "regulars." He acts as if this were commonplace and the terminology that is generally used-- which, of course, is not the truth. Phony. Also there is the overemphasis on a constant stream of swear words from anybody and everybody. Yes, swear words are used, but not in the manner and proportion depicted in Snakewalk.
And there are the descriptions of alcohol, drugs, and sex. The author may have been describing with great accuracy the physical events which occurred, but he did a poor job of it. Surely it is no great trick to work up interest in accounts of hell-raising and confrontation, not to mention sex and its ramifications--but even here the author fails. He just doesn't bring it off. You just can't lose yourself in the story. When you read what he has to say, you don't believe it; you know it isn't true; and beyond that, you just don't care.
I could go into detail and give illustrations, but why bother! It isn't worth it. Some books make you angry. This one doesn't. Some books stimulate thought or give you information. This one doesn't do that either. Mostly it doesn't do anything. Then why, you may ask, did I read it? A good question. My only answer is that I did it as a duty--and a tiresome duty at that. My advice, for anybody who cares to have it, is to ignore Snakewalk. The only value it has is boredom, and if that is what you want, you can get the product with better quality in almost any other activity you can think of.
[PHOTO: James Gashel sitting at head table microphone during 1990 NFB national convention. CAPTION: James Gashel (Director of Governmental Affairs of the National Federation of the Blind) takes part in a panel discussion at the 1990 convention.]
[PHOTO: William Brooks standing at podium during 1990 NFB national convention. CAPTION: William Brooks (Assistant Secretary, Employment Standards Administration, United States Department of Labor) addresses the delegates to the 1990 convention of the National Federation of the Blind.]
FAIR LABOR STANDARDS: WHAT BLIND WORKERS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THEIR RIGHTS
One of the most important program items at the 1990 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind was the Thursday morning panel discussion concerning the rights of blind sheltered shop workers. This is the way it happened:
President Maurer: From the organized blind we will begin this panel with James Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs for the National Federation of the Blind. Jim Gashel, a number of people have taken a lot of your time. You get twelve minutes.
Mr. Gashel: Mr. President, I can handle it in three words: what blind workers need to know about their rights is the National Federation of the Blind. I didn't count the "of the."
It would not be an exaggeration to say that employment for blind persons had its earliest origin in sheltered settings, where the blind could produce simple products with labor- intensive methods and routine and repetitive tasks. These sheltered work settings have been referred to by various names and various euphemisms. In ancient times we read about the medieval guilds and monastic societies. Well, today's guilds would be called associations, societies, or lighthouses. In at least one instance the sheltered work setting of which I speak was officially known as the Delighted Industries. I don't know whether that particular designation reflected the mood of the workers or the fact that the blind and blindness were not held in high regard by the managers. But I have my suspicions about what it meant, and I bet you do too.
Whether we are talking about Delighted Industries, the Lighthouse, or the Association, sheltered workshop is the generic modern day classification for this particular type of industry. The sheltered workshop is the place of employment for the largest single segment of American workers who are blind. Twenty percent of all working blind people are employees of sheltered workshops. Their wages and working conditions have a substantial impact on the economic and social well-being of the blind in this country. Beyond its purely economic or productive activity, however, the workshop is a social phenomenon of enormous significance in the lives of each and every blind person in this convention hall and this nation. In a very real sense the work history of all of us, the work history of the blind, goes right back to our beginning in the sheltered workshops, and we must never forget that fact.
Examining the laws is one way to know about the status of people, how they stack up in the larger society in which they live. Two laws are particularly related to the discussion at hand. They are the Wagner-O'Day Act of 1938 and the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Both of these acts, you will observe by their titles, were passed by Congress and signed into law two years before the founding of the National Federation of the Blind. What a different future there would have been for every blind person in this country if these laws had been passed after the founding and growth of the National Federation of the Blind. But that was not to be. For more than fifty years the Wagner- O'Day Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act have substantially prescribed the terms and conditions of employment for blind people in sheltered workshops. They still stand as the legislative underpinning for second-class employment, substandard pay, and treatment of the blind which in many instances is nothing more than exploitation--and brutal exploitation at that. And it is all done in the name of providing us with opportunities.
Now think about these laws one by one. Think about the social policy they prescribe in defining the legal protection and rights afforded to the blind. According to the Wagner-O'Day Act known more popularly now as the Javits-Wagner O'Day Act, sheltered workshops employing the blind can qualify for priority federal contracts if at least 75% of their direct labor hours are provided by blind persons. There is absolutely no requirement for the workshops to have any hours in which blind people perform supervision or management jobs. The philosophy for the 1938 act still stands--blind people can make the brooms, but they cannot manage or supervise the broom shops. That philosophy was false in 1938, and it is provably false today. Still, we have to live with this fact; it is the law of the United States. Blind people can make the brooms, but they cannot manage the broom shops. If anybody wonders why we need the National Federation of the Blind, just think about that philosophy. The place prescribed for the blind by the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act denies us our freedom, and it burns in our souls. From the newest scholarship winner to the most battle-hardened and seasoned veteran in our movement, all of us are diminished by that philosophy. This is why we will resist it. We will fight it. And we will change it.
Now we turn to the Fair Labor Standards Act. This is the second of the laws which prescribe our social status, especially in sheltered workshops. The Fair Labor Standards Act is best known for the fact that it guarantees all American industrial workers at least the federal minimum wage. However, in one form or another since 1938 there has been an exemption--they call it an exemption--for blind people from the minimum wage. They call it an exemption; I call it an exclusion--and a cruel exclusion at that. I have chosen the term exclusion deliberately. The exclusion from the federal minimum wage follows essentially the same philosophy as that I have already described in the Javits- Wagner-O'Day Act. We must prove individually that our productivity merits being paid at least a minimum wage. In other words, with all the legal niceties stripped away from it, there is really no minimum wage for blind people in America, and, as long as that is the case, we will face cruel discrimination. Within the terms of the law it is legal to pay us what is known as a commensurate wage, which is a percentage of the prevailing wage in the community, for essentially the same type, quantity, and quality of work that an experienced sighted person would perform. This commensurate pay is usually less than the minimum wage. Productivity, prevailing wages, and pay checks: all of them are determined by whom? The employer, and the employer exploits the blind. It is just like the fox watching the chickens. The Congress and the Department of Labor have let it happen.
The Southwest Lighthouse for the Blind in Lubbock, Texas, is perhaps the most recent illustration of what I mean by the fox watching the chickens. The Department of Labor did a Wage and Hour investigation of the Southwest Lighthouse in 1987 and gave the Lighthouse a clean bill of health. Most of the workers at the Lighthouse were being paid $2.05 per hour regardless of their productivity. The minimum wage was $3.35 per hour. Less than a year later (the same conditions existed) ten of the blind workers at the Southwest Lighthouse with our help filed to change their subminimum wages. They appealed those wages to the U.S. Department of Labor. That proceeding is now over. It ended late last year. For reasons including the fact that the Workshop attempted to claim bankruptcy, the Lubbock workers will never recover all of the money which should have been paid to them for several years. But, as we stand here today, it is a plain fact that these workers collectively are being paid over $30,000, which will partially recover the wages due them, and the reason for it is the National Federation of the Blind. Bankruptcy does not excuse a workshop from obeying the law. If the workshop cannot pay the wages that the law requires, then it is the managers of the workshop, not the workers, who should lose their jobs. That is exactly what would happen with General Motors, and it is exactly what should happen in sheltered workshops. It is exactly what happened in this case to the President of the Southwest Lighthouse for the Blind. He lost his job, and the reason is the National Federation of the Blind.
I would just say this much in conclusion. We have told the Congress a lot about this, Once we pointed out to Congress that most of the pay and most of the jobs in sheltered workshops go to sighted people and the lowest pay and the lowest jobs in workshops go to blind people, the workshops stopped reporting the facts that make that so. At the Connecticut workshop, run by the Board of Education and Services for the Blind in Connecticut, the highest pay is over $8.00 an hour. It goes to a sighted person. The lowest pay is $2.04 an hour--it goes to a blind person. That is wrong, and we must stop it. We have carried the banner of freedom for all of the blind for fifty years. Our struggle for equality in America's workforce has been one of the most difficult struggles we have ever faced. Through it all, through all of the fifty years, we have remembered the plight of the blind in sheltered workshops in ways that are far more than just symbolic. The workshops remain the modern day plantation, where all of us to some degree live every day. There we have our roots; there our struggle for freedom began. My brothers and my sisters, one day our struggle for freedom will be over. The blind everywhere, in sheltered workshops and throughout our nation's workforce, will be free. President Maurer, with your leadership and the devotion of this movement that day will come.
Mr. Maurer: The next person to speak on this topic is from the United States Department of Labor. He is the Assistant Secretary for the Employment Standards Administration. This agency is the largest in the Department of Labor, comprising the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, the Office of Worker's Compensation programs and the Wage And Hour Division. He is responsible for laws and regulations setting employment standards for most United States workers, providing workers compensation benefits to certain employees injured on the job, and requiring nondiscrimination in affirmative action by federal contractors and subcontractors to assure equal employment opportunity. I therefore give you the Assistant Secretary of Labor, Mr. William Brooks.
Mr. Brooks: Thank you, Mr. Maurer. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is a pleasure to be with you this morning and a special privilege to share the platform with Jim Gashel at the NFB's fiftieth anniversary convention. When I accepted this invitation, I had in mind to tell you about some of the demographic and sociological changes that are taking place across America and the effect they are having on our work force. I was going to tell you about what the Department of Labor is doing to build the work force we will need for the twenty-first century, focusing on the Office for Federal Contract Compliance Programs, which oversees equal employment opportunity and affirmative action laws. Then I was going to tell you about some recent activity on Capitol Hill regarding child labor law and other enforcement issues, but Jim tells me that you are not interested in all that. He tells me that you are a very tough audience that wants to know only two things from me: what the Department of Labor is doing to abolish the subminimum wage exception of the Fair Labor Standards Act, and what we are doing to apply Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act to sheltered workshops to make sure that blind workers have access to supervisory and managerial positions--not just entry level jobs or direct labor jobs.
This could be a very, very short speech. Actually, I was invited here today, I think, because of a recent talk I gave to the Department of Labor's Advisory Committee on Special Minimum Wages, where I talked at some length about my belief in fully utilizing people's abilities. You need to know that, in almost every audience that I speak to, I speak and focus on one thing; that is the fact that, if we are going to be a competitive nation in the year 2000, we are going to have to use the abilities of everyone. And in those audiences I indicate that everyone in that audience has some disabilities but that they have been able to use their abilities to be successful and do the things that they are doing. We cannot afford any longer not to use the abilities of all of our people if we are going to be competitive in the twenty-first century. At the outset I would like to thank David Shapiro for his substantial contributions to the Advisory Committee. Over the years he has had input, and he has been an effective voice for you. Along with a philosophical belief that utilizing people's abilities is the right thing to do, those demographic and sociological trends that I will now be talking about today point toward it's being smart business as well.
Many of you know that there are different schools of thought over sub-minimum wages. The prevailing thought is that minimum wage exceptions are useful in facilities such as workshops to induce entry level jobs and skills training. Once basic job skills are mastered, the hope is that workers will mainstream, moving out of the workshops and out into the work force at large. Consequently, minimum wage exceptions serve the social purpose of providing a base of employment and incentive to move on. I have also heard it said, by Chairman Kemp of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission among others, that, once a so-called disabled worker is hired and the necessary accommodations have been made, career progression is then up to individual skills, talent, education, and ambition just as with anyone else in the workplace. Evan Kemp and I have a fine relationship, and we are working together to ensure that all the laws that affect affirmative action in employment of everyone in this country are fully, fairly, and firmly enforced. Whatever your feelings are about this policy, I believe that abolishing the subminimum wage exception to the Fair Labor Standards Act is a legislative effort, as Marc Maurer, NFB President, and Jim Gashel know since they have been gaining on it for years.
They have made some powerful allies--most notably, Senator Howard Metzenbaum, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Labor of the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources. And I understand that Senator Metzenbaum told this very group last year about the legislative process, as he put it, a process requiring "everyone to get off their butts in order to participate and succeed." Commenting on such legislative efforts is not my purpose today.
But I want to talk about something else which frankly requires your participation, enforcement. At the Department of Labor we enforce firmly and fairly existing laws through regulations and policies and sometimes through special initiatives. If you want to discuss our enforcement efforts, start with me. I have an open door policy, and I will listen to anyone. I have been known to get pretty hot under the collar when things are not getting done in what I think is good time, such as the regulations regarding the Administrative hearing process for subminimum complaints.
One of the first things I did last year, when I was appointed, was push those through to publication. It was brought to my attention that they were still being debated. And I said, "No way. Let's get them out." And I am proud of that. What did I mean when I said that enforcement requires your participation?
It means, in the simplest possible terms, filing a complaint. Only one has been filed, yet the process is easy, and I commend it to you. The process is not difficult. All you have to do is write down your name, address, and that of your employer and ask for a review of the propriety of the subminimum wage you are receiving. Sign it, put it in an envelope, and send it to the Head of the Wage and Hour Division in Washington. The Secretary of Labor is required to appoint an Administrative Law Judge within ten days of receiving the complaint, and the hearing is to be held within thirty days after the judge is appointed. Hearings are held in the employment community. You have the right to cross-examine and to make sure that any evidence is meritorious. Anyone requesting a hearing can be represented by counsel, although the procedure was designed to be so simple that you don't necessarily need one. Most important, the burden of proof regarding the propriety of the wage is on the employer, not on you. In other words, the employer has to prove that he is justified in paying you below the minimum wage. Any of the several hundred Wage and Hour offices across the country can help you file a complaint, and certainly no one can help you better than your national office, which launched the one case Jim Gashel talked about that has been filed against the Southwest Lighthouse for the Blind in Lubbock. The eleven blind workers who filed the complaint won thirty thousand dollars, as he indicated, in back pay for all workers in the facility and a right for all to be paid the Fair Labor Standards Act wage.
Unfortunately, as he also indicated, the Lighthouse filed for bankruptcy. Although the back wages that have been agreed to have been contested, payment cannot be made until the bankruptcy court approves. My message here is that, while you are working on changing the Fair Labor Standards Act,use the hearing process to challenge individual wage determination. Believe me, it works.
And incidentally, the Southwest Lighthouse case was a learning process for us at Labor, too. In January, we sent a memo to our field offices to alert our investigators to the kinds of things they need to find out about to insure that workshop workers are being properly compensated. I have personally, as I travel around the country, visited sheltered workshops to make sure that the things that are happening there are happening in the right way.
Now for Section 503 enforcement. The Office for Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) insures that firms contracting with the Federal government abide by laws and regulations requiring equal employment opportunity and affirmative action. Specifically, it makes sure that these companies and their subcontractors comply with the two laws that interest this audience most--Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended. This law prohibits discrimination and requires affirmative action in all personnel practices for individuals with disabilities. It applies to firms with federal contracts of $2500 or more. The other is 38 USC 2012, the Vietnam Era Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974. This law prohibits discrimination and requires affirmative action in all personnel practices for special disabled veterans and Vietnam-era veterans. It applies to firms with federal contracts of $10,000 or more. And under the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act sheltered workshops are federal contractors, as well as Section-14C employers, for wage and hour purposes. Thus, they are covered under Section 503.
Again, knowing how to work the process is the best insurance for getting what you want out of it. With that in mind, I am going to describe briefly how OFCCP works and how to make it work for you. The OFCCP carries out its responsibilities by conducting compliance reviews of federal contractors' personnel policies and practices, investigating complaints of current and prospective employees of federal contractors, and providing technical assistance to both groups to help them understand the regulatory requirements and review process. Let me take those in order.
A compliance review begins when the OFCCP chooses a federal contractor to review, based on its employment profile in the OFCCP data base. Sheltered workshops are included in the data base. Conducted by a regional equal opportunity specialist, the review determines whether the contractor's affirmative action program complies with regulatory requirements, whether the contractor has demonstrated good faith efforts to implement its affirmative action program, whether the contractor's employment policies and practices are free from discrimination, whether the contractor needs technical assistance to understand the review process or to insure that its affirmative action program is complete and effective, and how best to remedy any discriminatory practices or regulatory violations. As more women, minorities, disabled, and veterans join the work force, the issues in reviews are covering accommodation, distribution, and advancement. Consequently, OFCCP has devoted attention to a broader examination of how employees are faring during the course of their employment, not just at the entry door. This obviously includes how blind employees are faring while working for covered contractors--whether they are getting promotions, pay, and training commensurate with their skills and contributions. A complaint investigation begins when OFCCP investigates employee and job applicant complaints, alleging individual discrimination under, for your purposes, the Rehabilitation Act or the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act. I am assured by Carrie Dominguez, director of OFCCP, that all complaints are investigated and tracked to completion and that over 1300 in all were completed last year alone.
As for technical assistance, along with the initial notice of the compliance review, the OFCCP advises contractors of the requirements of the affirmative action program and provides them with an overview of the procedures used in conducting that review. We also provide guidance to prospective company employees who believe they have suffered from discrimination to help them understand the investigative process and formulate their complaints. Incidentally, the regulations are in Braille and on cassette tapes for blind workers, and there is a teletype in each regional office. I want to be clear here. Complaint investigations require a solid foundation, showing a documented pattern of suspected discrimination. If you suspect that you are being discriminated against, crystalize your thinking in terms of how you are being treated, vis-a-vis others, in employability. Document the facts. Then come to the OFCCP office for assistance in making the case. It is only with a well-founded and documented case that the OFCCP can move forward and investigate. Our offices are all around the country. You can get them through directory assistance.
Section 503 does work to protect the blind. In fact, a Section 503 complaint involving discrimination against a blind employee was recently assigned to the Boston District office. An internal review process failed to resolve the matter. The case was assigned to a newly-appointed Equal Opportunity Specialist, Jay Gauthier, to investigate. When Jay appeared at the company's office with his laptop computer in one hand and his seeing-eye dog Promise's harness in the other, he established an OFCCP record for the fastest complaint resolution ever. As he was introduced to Jay, the contractor asked, "Where do I sign the settlement agreement?"
You know the best thing, in fact the most worthwhile thing that I have done in my life, is what I am doing right now. I believe that my agency can make a difference in people's lives, and I have worked with people that believe the same thing. Elizabeth Dole, the woman I work for, the Secretary of Labor, is very interested in moving forward on issues important to the so-called disabled population. She believes it so much that she enacted a secretarial initiative in February to increase the number of these workers within the Department of Labor. We practice really what we preach; or, as I tell my people, I walk the way I talk, which is why I can tell you that the Wage and Hour Division investigates eight to ten per cent of the Section 14C certificates we get each year. Thinking that that was not enough, as you do, according to my branch chief of special employment, we are making what I will delicately refer to as a special effort to investigate facilities qualifying for 14C exemptions of the Javits-Wagner-O'Day. There will be a special emphasis on these workshops and their wage scales.
There is something else that I would like to say this morning. It is something you have heard on the news, talk shows, and from the kids' teachers. That is that the push in the American workplace is on productivity. To ensure a more prosperous future, we must improve productivity; and therefore, as I said earlier, we've got to use all of our people.
The point I want to make in closing is that the first line of offense in career development is yours. Make sure you have the education and grab the skills to participate. It is your abilities and their full development and use that make the difference between failure and success, however you define it. You certainly have got what it takes to succeed. As Marc Maurer said in his keynote address last year, you are organized, confident, and prepared for what lies ahead, and no force on earth can turn you back. Your future lies in the individual determination of each of you and the unshakable power of your vehicle for collective action, the National Federation of the Blind. He's right: individual treatment and collective progress. I'm glad to be here with you today. Thank you.
Mr. Gashel: Mr. Secretary, I appreciate what you say about Section 503 and the potential it has for sheltered workshops. We found, over the years, that that potential has really not been realized. One reason it hasn't been realized is the fact that, as I was pointing out earlier, the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act requires that only 75 per cent of the direct labor hours be performed by blind persons. There is no standard for management or supervisory positions. It is our position that that criterion leads to a systemic form of discrimination. It's no accident that the sheltered workshops employing the blind have sighted managers and blind laborers. You can trace it right back to the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act. With that as background, what I'd really like to ask you to consider doing is using Section 503 as the authority and undertaking targeted reviews of Javits-Wagner-O'Day workshops for the blind (I'm not talking about individual complaints now but compliance reviews) where you examine to find out if, in fact, what we say is true--that the workshops have sighted management and blind labor. If you find what we have found, will you take steps to order them to comply with Section 503?
Mr. Brooks: I'm going to take a look at it. As I said earlier, my job is enforcing the law, and while I am there I don't make the laws and I am here to enforce them fully, fairly, and firmly where I find them. I think, if you look at my record the nine or ten months I have been in office, you find that is exactly what I have been doing. If you look at what we have done in child labor, what we are doing in sweat shops (we have been focusing our efforts in those areas), I will be glad to move to this area. Perhaps Carrie Domingez and others on my staff will either come to Baltimore and talk with you,or you come to Washington. Let's talk about it and find out how we can focus on it.
Mr. Gashel: All right Sir, you've got it.
Mr. Brooks: Let me say one other thing. I think we have to use people's abilities, and we should not be able to put people in sheltered workshops if they have the abilities to do other jobs. One concern I've had as I've visited sheltered workshops is that people are using them as an end in itself and not as a place to graduate to someplace else. I have a big concern about that.
President Maurer: Mr. Secretary, we find that either we agree with you or you agree with us, and anybody who is as sensible as that, we're mighty glad to have come to our convention.
Glenn Crosby: Yes, I would like to ask Mr. Brooks to think about some of this complaint process. We're mighty glad to have that process in place right now, but we all know that in preparing the complaints, oftentimes our shop workers have to have the aid of attorneys, and they incur attorneys' fees and other professional fees. Although we are glad to have the decision that we got in Lubbock, part of the decision was that the workers could not recover any of those expenses that were incurred. I wonder, sir, if you can help us change that around so that people who incur these expenses can be reimbursed?
Mr. Brooks: I'll look into that. I understand that what we we have tried to do is develop a process that was as simple as possible, that didn't really require a lot of technical assistance. I can only take a look at that. We want a system that is easy for the people and does not provide a chilling effect to cause people not to complain.
Fred Schroeder: We have heard, lo these many years, all the reasons why the workshops say they can't pay the minimum wage to blind people. They say that they are not in the business of employment; they are in the business of rehabilitation. As a result they take guys that aren't productive; and, no matter what you do with them, they are not productive. If they had to pay minimum wage, they would have to lay all these guys off. That's a lie--it's a flat-out lie, and we know it and have proven it. In 1986, when the New Mexico Commission for the Blind was established, we took a workshop that used to say that it couldn't pay minimum wage, and on July 1, 1986, we changed our minds and said that we would pay minimum wage. We didn't change any of the workers; we didn't lay anybody off; we didn't fire anybody who was currently there. We just paid them better. As a result, they produced better, and the shop has never lost a dime. What we are talking about is whether we really believe in blind people or don't believe in blind people. The shop has been managed now for four years by a blind person. We put into place what I regard as an upward mobility program, where we've taken those same blind workers that everybody said couldn't produce, and we have promoted them to line supervisors--legitimate upward mobility. It can be and is being done. We are tired of the shops' saying we can't produce. The General Council of Workshops for the Blind, two years ago, put out an upward mobility plan, which is designed to pad their statistics. They say that, if you did not have a rehab case open and then you open one, that is a promotion. If you got moved from direct labor to nondirect labor with no change in pay, that's a promotion. They made up all these little categories so that now they can publish statistics and say "look at our upward mobility." I guess the last thing I'd say is that the workshops have been around long enough to show that they can't learn how to do rehabilitation. If they've got a purpose, maybe it ought to be employment.
Mr. Brooks: I'm getting an education here today. Certainly when I get back, I'll be looking more closely at those, and I'll get with Mr. Gashel, and we're going to talk about them.
President Maurer: It used to be that we got together with the workshops, and we said, "You don't pay decent wages," and they said, "But we got a lot of multi-handicapped people around here." So they went to find out how many, and they made up categories of multi-handicapped people. If you were twenty pounds overweight, you had a handicap. If you were blind, you had another handicap, and that made you multi-handicapped. If you were albino, you were handicapped, and if you were blind you were also handicapped, so you were.... They make up a lot of these things, and Fred says they lie. Maybe he's right.
Mr. Brooks: If you know my reputation, I like to travel and see for myself. So I'm going to be going into a few of those sheltered workshops to find out.
President Maurer: I want to thank you, Mr. Secretary, for coming to be with us. I want to thank you for your open mindedness, for your willingness to work with us, and for your general good sense.
[PHOTO: Tony Burda standing with plaque in hand during NFB of Illinois convention. CAPTION: Tony Burda received the Gwendolyn Williams Award at the 1990 convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois.]
CHICAGO LEARNS ABOUT NFB IN SUN-TIMES TRIATHLON
From the Associate Editor: Virtually everyone holds distinct opinions about the merits of physical exercise. These range from the proverbial "When I feel the impulse coming on, I lie down until the impulse passes" to the exuberant "Tennis anyone?" But even those of us who restrict our exertions to occasional bouts of situps can admire the accomplishments of our friends who work out and build themselves up to astonishing feats of physical prowess.
Even more admirable are those who put their physical skill at the disposal of the National Federation of the Blind to help raise the much-needed funds that make our work possible. In September of 1989, Mark Plantz of Maryland swam a mile in the Baltimore harbor to raise more than $600 for our Maryland affiliate. In addition to the money, the publicity was very positive, and, first to last, the organized blind benefitted from his impressive effort.
On August 19, 1990, Tony Burda, Finance Chairman for the Chicago Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, raised about $8,000 for the NFB by participating in the Chicago Sun-Times Triathlon, which includes a 1,500-meter swim in Lake Michigan, a 40-kilometer bicycle ride, and a 10-kilometer run. He completed this test of endurance, not in the fortnight that seems appropriate to such an undertaking, but in two hours and fifty-five minutes. Along the way he collected a gratifying amount of positive press for the Federation and our constructive philosophy of blindness. Both major Chicago dailies did stories before and after the race. An Associated Press story went out over the wire the evening after the event, and several other area papers sent reporters to interview Tony and do stories. Television and radio were not behindhand. The powerful WGN did an hour interview and telephone call-in program that gave Tony ample elbow room for explaining why he had taken part in the triathlon and what the NFB stands for. All in all, it was a valuable opportunity to educate the public about blindness, the capacities of blind people, and the work of the National Federation of the Blind. Here are two stories that represent the kind of press accounts of Tony Burda's feat of endurance that appeared in late August. The first is the one run by the Sun-Times on Thursday, August 16. It was written by Len Ziehm. The other is the Associated Press story that appeared in papers around the country on Monday, August 20. Its writer was Michael Gougis. Here they are:
Blind Athlete on Mission in Sun-Times Triathlon Burda Eager to Demonstrate He's Not Handicapped
At least one of the 3,500 athletes competing in Sunday's Chicago Sun-Times Triathlon entered the race on a mission.
Tony Burda, a pharmacist residing in Oak Park, will be the first blind triathlete to compete in the Chicago event and one of just a handful who have competed in triathlons nationally.
The most notable blind endurance athlete is Harry Cordellos of San Francisco, who has done several Hawaii Ironmans among his feats. Roger Neppl, executive director of the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said Wednesday several other blind athletes had completed triathlons but emphasized that it was only a few.
Burda feels blindness isn't the handicap some may feel it is.
"I want to show that blind people can compete on terms of equality, not just in athletic events but in competitive jobs," said Burda, a technically certified poison information specialist. He does not dispense medicine.
Burda, 35, needed help from the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois in a three-year legal battle to obtain his pharmacist's license. He is a 1978 graduate of the University of Illinois School of Pharmacy.
Burda, who lost his sight in 1975 in an accident, was in the top 10 percent of his class and finished in the top 10 percent on the license exam. Still, he was denied his license until going to court.
The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that 70 percent of working age blind people are unemployed or underemployed.
"There are a lot of blind people who are trained and ready to work, but employers won't hire us because they believe blindness prohibits an individual from performing a job or because insurance rates will rise, or because hiring a blind person will necessarily increase the cost of doing business," Burda said. "These are misconceptions."
Burda, who had participated in several 100-mile cycling events, has been training for the triathlon for several months. Usually he works alone, running on a treadmill or a track and using an exercise bicycle.
In Sunday's race he will join forces with John Lager, a fellow pharmacist at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Hospital, who lives in Elmhurst. They will swim within shouting distance of each other, ride an 18-speed tandem bicycle, and run tethered.
"John and I have resolved to nail this thing in under three hours," Burda said. "I just want to finish and not embarrass myself or the organization."
You'll be able to identify Burda and Lager. They'll have special T-shirts on. The front will say `NFB--Philosophy of Champions.' The back's message will be `NFB--50 Years of Progress.'"
They hope their effort will raise public awareness and funds through pledges for the National Federation of the Blind's programs. For more information on them call 312-267-1123.
Triathlete Has Winning Attitude
by Michael Gougis
Triathlons are tough enough when you can see the finish line.
But Tony Burda didn't let his blindness stop him from hitting Lake Michigan Sunday morning with about 4,000 competitors.
"The swimming is pretty chaotic," said Burda, who completed the 51.5-kilometer race in an unofficial 2 hours, 55 minutes, five minutes under his goal for his first triathlon.
"There's no way to train for kicking other swimmers and swimming over people. There were times I just stopped (to tread) water while other people got out of the way," Burda said.
Mark Allen, the world's top triathlete, posted the unofficial winning time of 1:45:55.7.
Burda, 35, of Oak Park, entered the grueling competition to raise funds for the National Federation of the Blind, a Baltimore-based agency that helped him come to terms with the accident that blinded him 15 years ago.
"It's not so much what they did for me physically as getting me to think positively," Burda said Saturday. "I went through a period of worrying about what was going to happen about my life, my career.
"I needed to be around people who had been down that road-- not just people to tell me it could be done, but those who had actually done it.
"Blindness can be reduced to the level of a nuisance--I believe that," Burda said.
Physical challenges are nothing new to Burda, a poison information specialist at Chicago's Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center. He was blinded at a party in 1975 when his punch was poisoned. He declined to provide details.
In 1984 he rode 60 miles to raise funds for the federation.
"I thought I'd never do it again," he said, but he has since completed a number of long-distance rides on his 18-speed tandem bicycle.
He solicited pledges for each mile of the triathlon but said Sunday he was not sure how much money he raised.
John Lager, who guided Burda in Sunday's race, joked that he completed three previous triathlons this summer just to get in shape for guide duty.
Lager swam alongside Burda and shouted directions during the swimming competition. They shared the tandem bicycle during the 40-kilometer bike ride. Burda clutched a tether held by Lager during the 10-kilometer run.
"I had to make sure I was in good enough shape to tag along with this mad friend of mine," said Lager, who works with Burda in the medical center's pharmacy department. "I didn't want to be a handicap to him."
by Barbara Pierce
My parents always made a conscientious, though all too often futile, effort to teach my brother and me that the Christmas season was a time for reflection, for reassessment, and for gratitude, not only for the blessings we had received, but also for the opportunities to give. We understood about joy, after December 25, at least, but gratitude smacked unpleasantly of thank-you notes and visits to old ladies, where lively children were expected to sit still, answer silly questions, endure being patted on the head, and refrain from swinging their legs or squabbling.
My adult understanding of this holiday season is far nearer to that of my parents than to my own youthful views. And, if I am honest, I must admit that I have not been noticeably more successful in conveying this more meditative approach to the holidays to my children. I remember the year that each family member drew the name of another every week leading up to Christmas and then tried secretly to do kind things for that person every day. We placed a cradle in front of the fireplace and added one piece of hay for each good deed. The children loved the idea and even tried to remember to be thoughtful, but I'm afraid that the Christ Child did not have a luxuriously soft bed of hay by Christmas Eve.
The fact remains that both the Jewish and Christian faiths encourage us at this season of the year to reflect upon the blessings we have been given and the uses we have chosen to make of them. My trip to Jamaica this past fall and the deprivation I saw there have been a poignant reminder to me of just how much progress Americans in general and the blind in particular have made. Despite the great distance we still have to travel to achieve true equality, all of us have much for which to be grateful.
But I have been thinking recently of how lucky we are to be able to give. For much of the history of blind people, no one in society was particularly interested in anything we had to offer. Preoccupied with what we could not do--or what they thought we could not do--members of the community taunted or ignored or practiced charity upon us. Today, however, thanks to Braille, good travel skills, and increased technology, but most of all, thanks to the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind, blind people in increasing numbers are demonstrating to society that we do have many things of value to offer to our communities.
All this is important, and it is necessary that we take stock of such progress and be grateful for it. But we must also recognize how lucky we are to be able to help other blind people. How empty of satisfaction life would be, how distressing our encounters with one another if we had no encouragement, expertise, or support to offer to those who are coming to terms with blindness for the first time. The fact that we do possess a gift that is infinitely valuable to people who are desperate for even a little hope, dignity, and self-respect is a great blessing. Being a part of the National Federation of the Blind enables each of us to help other people every day. Each time we staff an information table in the rain, take part in a fund- raising project, or work to get our literature placed in libraries, we are offering the philosophy that rescues lives to people who need to know about it. Somehow it is all too easy to forget about this aspect of the work we do week in and week out.
These were the thoughts that ran through my mind as I read the following letter. It just appeared in the mail at the National Center for the Blind one day this fall. Each of us stands a little taller because of it. Here it is. Happy holidays to each of you.
Dear Mr. Jernigan,
I recently lost enough vision in my one remaining eye to be considered legally blind. This all started last December. My goal was to return to work this September. I was, however, worried about my ability and needed some advice. The people at the Lighthouse advised me to get "legal status" with the state. I set up an interview with one of their counselors. To my amazement the counselor told me to "quit work." He told me "I was a smart young man." As a shop teacher I would be placing myself in danger of losing the rest of my sight, going blind. I would be placing my students at risk. I would be doing a disservice to my family.
I was bewildered. I was forty years old and on my way to applying for S.S.D.I. At the Social Security office I was told about social welfare. That evening I came home and told my wife the news. I should quit work, retrain to become a counselor, go back to school; she must find work, and keeping the house seemed iffy.
I called my uncle that night. He went blind due to a chemical accident when his kids were small. He told me that newly blinded people are likely to accept anything that people tell them. He said, don't believe any of that crap! He got the same treatment. He told me to call the N.F.B. He told me the "OF" in National Federation of the Blind was very important. They are blind people helping each other. There is a difference.
The woman I spoke to in the Baltimore office was great. She told me how to get in touch with a member of the Federation in my state, and ten minutes later I was talking with him. In a few minutes more we were on a conference telephone call with a Federationist in another state who works in one of the Federation centers and knows about what the blind can do with machinery and shop work. We spoke about shop and my skills as a shop teacher. It gave me a new perspective and showed me possibilities.
Later that morning I called the state agency for the blind. I asked my counselor if he could legally stop me from working. He said no. I told him I would be returning to work. He told me again how foolish I was. He told me I'd be back when I saw things his way.
I tell you, I pray to God each day to watch over me. I also pray to be smart. I teach safety first. I maintain discipline. I ask for help with heavy things which have to be moved. In this way I provide for my family. I do the work I'm qualified for. I maintain my independence.
I know that I have a long way to go. I'm joining the N.F.B., and I am learning.
[PHOTO: Portrait of Bill Meeker. CAPTION: Bill Meeker is the newly elected President of the Milwaukee Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin.]
BRAILLE BILL MEETS BIG ED
by William D. Meeker
As Monitor readers know, Bill Meeker is an active Federationist. In writing to me about the following article, he says: "It depicts my first encounter with the organized education bureaucracy and my shock at realizing how little they were concerned with learning. I was particularly surprised by the shallowness of their response to what was, for them, a novel issue. With people like this in charge there is little wonder that our education system is deteriorating." Bill Meeker's experience in Wisconsin is one more example of the encounters blind people are having throughout the country in their attempts to help blind children secure the right to be literate, a right which sighted Americans take for granted. Here is Bill Meeker's statement of what happened.
The morning of March 16, 1990, dawned rosy with promise for the passage of the NFBW legislation to provide blind Wisconsin school children the opportunity to choose to be taught Braille. The Federationists from around the state who gathered in Madison to testify at the second annual final hearing before the House Education Subcommittee were optimistic. But we had yet to meet "Big Ed."
There was reason to be optimistic that morning. We had worked hard throughout the legislative process and had reaped positive results. We caused the proposed bill to be introduced, lobbied our respective representatives for co-sponsorship, worked closely with their staffs, and wrote letters of support for the Braille bill. In January we testified at the first subcommittee hearing, and the feedback from the legislators was favorable. But no one had reckoned on the intervention of "Big Ed."
Even the ACB'S inevitably negative reaction to the bill was unusually flaccid and tentative. But then, diligent work and weak opposition are no guarantee of success in the legislative arena, just ask "Big Ed."
This second hearing began much like the first. Legislators asked a wide range of questions, which Federationists fielded with thorough, direct, and substantive answers. ACB testimony was lackluster, vague, and, according to one legislator afterward, unconvincing. William English (that's "English," as in "Old English," the polish that camouflages marks and imperfections in wood furniture), the wily and eternally affable Superintendent of the Wisconsin School for the Visually Handicapped, spoke "for information only," and refused to opine for or against the passage of the bill, despite repeated questioning by sub-committee members. Never mind that his "information" consisted of a series of problems couched in rhetorical questions, whose thrust was clearly to cast doubt upon the wisdom and practicability of the legislation. Never mind that these rhetorically couched potential problems were exactly the issues that he and his staff of professional educators were charged with solving. Never mind that several of his staff of professional educators were, at this very hearing, voicing strong opposition to the bill for fear that, if it passed, they would be forced to learn Braille and adhere to a standard of proficiency that they now were unable to meet. And never mind that these professional educators were already responsible for teaching blind students to read and write Braille!
Legislators were understandably confused: professional teachers of the blind, at the state school for the blind, opposed to legislation that would give blind students the opportunity to be instructed in the tools of literacy which would, in turn, allow them to learn and function on equal terms with their sighted peers in a sighted world? These same teachers not proficient in the skills they were to impart? Their wily and eternally affable superintendent vigorously waffling on the issues of educational opportunity and minimum standards of proficiency? What's going on here anyway?
We had spent the first and the better part of this hearing explaining "what's going on here"; but the fear of change, feeling threatened because of basic incompetence, and lack of motivation to upgrade skills did not seem sufficiently complex. Some complicated answers involving money and large bureaucracies were in order. This job calls for an expert. Okay, call for the testimony of "Big Ed!"
"Big Ed", the 3-headed, 12-limbed, 500-pound juggernaut would make H. P. Lovecraft run screaming, "Big Ed, eater of money and people." "Big Ed," alias "Big Education," alias, in this instance, the president of an association of school superintendents, the president of an association of parents and teachers associations, and the "Big Education" lobbyist, who oozed familiarity with the sub-committee members. Concerned though they were with the administration and effectiveness of the educational system, they were apparently unaware of the NFBW effort to promote Braille literacy through this bill, until very recently when the wily and eternally affable superintendent of the Wisconsin School for the Visually Handicapped, Bill English, brought it to their attention.
Their presentations were muddled and lacking in cohesion, but their tactics were simple and effective: Cast enough doubt in the legislators' minds to keep them from voting the proposed bill out of committee. They used three strategies: (1) It will cost too much; (2) this proposal is new and untested so let's study it to death; and (3) let's make a deal.
The Superintendent led off by saying that he had only learned of this legislation recently and so was unfamiliar with it, but nevertheless he was sure that it would financially and logistically overload the system already unable to cope with special needs programs such as those for the retarded and otherwise disabled. Never mind that we are not retarded, that we can, and do, learn in mainstream settings. And never mind that there is already an administration (run by Mr. William English) and staff of accredited teachers of the blind in place, and that all that would be required would be remedial, in-service training. And never mind that my sister, a thirty-six year old full-time interior designer, could in three months of evening classes complete a Library of Congress Braille transcriber's course and write an error free letter in grade two Braille to me.
The Ph.D. Superintendent was sure that Braille was too complicated to be grasped by trained and degreed professional educators of the blind. And besides, it would cost too much to do all of this.
The testimony of the Parents and Teachers Association was difficult to follow through its rambling. The gist of the statement of the person giving the testimony was that since she had just heard of this legislation she didn't know much about it, so shouldn't it be studied? And who knows, it's probably going to cost lots to train all those people.
Never mind that the Federation was intimately familiar with the legislation and was participating in the most comprehensive and long-term study of all: everyday life without adequate Braille instruction.
And never mind that Federationists had, before her ears, discussed extensively the cost of implementation and concluded that implementation costs would be only those of in-service training of current Braille teachers.
Never mind that none of them would ever seriously consider the possibility of a print illiterate teacher's teaching their children to read.
Logic and rationality have their places, but not in the mind of "Big Ed."
The approach of the education lobbyist, while crass and arrogant, was refreshing in its practical directness. It went something like, "Look, you legislators and I know each other; we work together on a lot of things; I'm around here all the time. I don't know anything about this legislation, but I'm not opposed to these people learning the Braille. So let's delay this long enough so you and I can talk this over and work something out."
Never mind that it was not his right to intrude and make a deal on legislation that he had neither introduced nor was familiar with. And never mind that this was the last chance to vote the bill out of committee and onto the floor of the House of Delegates before the close of the legislative season.
"Big Ed" may not know a lot about a thing, but he sure knows how to kill it, his philosophy being to shoot first and ask questions later.
Hogs need slop and education bureaucrats need studies.
It came as no surprise to those of us who were there that twenty-four hours later the bill was recommended to be voted out of committee but amended into such a weakened state that it would have been of no use to blind people if it had been passed. The bill was killed in committee.
It has been argued that the social welfare system established to help the poor poses the greatest obstacle to those without resources. The same case may be made against the system of teachers and administrators who have been hired and paid by the citizens of this country to educate our blind children. Until educators move from a position which places self-interest above the needs of our children, we in the organized blind movement will continue to oppose their efforts, and they will in turn continue to oppose ours. The test of the current system which they support is whether or not it produces blind men and women capable of getting and keeping good jobs. The results thus far do not give the educational system a passing grade.
As more and more blind people speak out for the need to be literate, the confusion that was present in the halls of the legislature this year will be converted into anger and action by that body. Together the blind men and women of Wisconsin will do whatever it takes to make clear our need to have the skills to read and write, and together we will see that instruction in the reading and writing of Braille is the right of every blind citizen in our state and nation.
IS THERE SHAME? AND IS IT MINE?
by Jan Kafton
From the Editor: There are still those who tell me that, in the sense in which we use the term, there is no such thing as "the blind." These people also feel that there is no such thing as "the organized blind movement." The National Federation of the Blind, they say, is certainly an organization but not a movement. Those who say this are usually the die-hard professionals in the blindness field, and of course they have a vested interest in their view of the world. But their view is not reality. For a slice of that reality read what Jan Kafton, who is a Federationist from central California, has to say. Here it is:
There have been only a few events in my life which have had a tremendous impact on me. The most recent of these events occurred in March of 1988. This experience resulted in marriage. However, even more importantly, I was forced to re-evaluate my personal view of my own blindness. The circumstances and my thought processes merit an explanation.
For several months I had been using a dating service called Selective Introductions. This service involves calling a pay phone number which presents messages from men in a chosen age group. Then one has the opportunity to record a message, including the phone number. There were quite a few men I had met who were indeed friendly, courteous, and fun. Yet, there were a few of them who could not handle my blindness at all. In fact, one or two of them actually left after they had arrived and met me. In most cases I did not mention my blindness over the phone when the initial contact was made. Not one of the men had dated me more than twice, and my discouragement mounted a great deal.
On a Tuesday evening I received a call from an extremely personable, friendly young man, and we talked for a few minutes. I discovered that his background was very similar to mine. We shared a lot of common interests, including music, literature, and other recreational activities. Also, we are both musicians. At any rate we decided to meet and have dinner together that same night. Just before the end of the conversation I said to him that I thought he should know one more important item regarding me. I told him that I had a visual problem. He then asked me what that meant. I said that I had no sight. In every other instance I have always said that I was blind, without any hesitation. What caused my unwillingness to say that I am blind? Lon's response to my statement brought me up short. He simply said, "So what?" I knew very definitely he was right. That fact made absolutely no difference to him whatsoever. My mind went to the knowledge that I had a t-shirt which I purchased at a recent Federation national convention. The t-shirt says "Blind Pride" and has the NFB logo on it. Where was the pride? I really enjoyed wearing that t- shirt, too. However, the blatant inconsistency did hit me quite hard. The question kept on surfacing: How could I wear the t- shirt and still remain unwilling to use the word "blind?"
Yes, I did meet Lon that Tuesday night, and the rest is history. He has continually confirmed what I already knew to be true for me, that my blindness has been reduced to a physical nuisance. He is entirely supportive of that viewpoint and of my goal to be successful in life. As blind people, we do face discrimination on the airlines and in employment. Yet, that is why there is a National Federation of the Blind, which is always available for encouragement and collective action if necessary. After experiencing this inward perspective, I now can wear that t-shirt and actually feel the pride that it represents. After all, I do follow in the footsteps of a great heritage in the Federation. Many have led the way for our present progress and future first-class citizenship as blind persons. I not only owe a great deal to each of them, but I do owe a lot to my husband, Lon Kafton. He allowed me to look at my blindness and helped me to know there is indeed no shame in being blind. I choose to go on productively and proudly.
If you or a friend would like to remember the National Federation of the Blind in your will, you can do so by employing the following language:
"I give, devise, and bequeath unto National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, a District of Columbia nonprofit corporation, the sum of $_____ (or "_____ percent of my net estate" or "The following stocks and bonds: _____") to be used for its worthy purposes on behalf of blind persons."
DON'T COUNT DIALOGUE OUT YET
by Barbara Pierce
At about the time that the October edition of the Braille Monitor was being printed, the Board of Trustees of Dialogue Publications was gathering to give final approval to the decisions made by its specially-named dissolution committee to wind up the Berwyn operation. The date was October 4, 1990, and the final decision was to hand the publication over to Blind Skills, the entity that produces Lifeprints, a highly-respected magazine for young adults edited by Carol McCarl.
Considering that she lives in Oregon, McCarl notified the Braille Monitor of the decision very early Friday morning, October 5. When asked how she expected to underwrite the substantial costs that have always been associated with producing Dialogue, she admitted that she didn't know. She went on to say that she has never run a project that went into the red, and she does not intend to begin now. She seems to think that Dialogue can be made to pay for itself. She said that if it does not, she will of necessity cease publication.
McCarl said that she believes that the newly blind, the elderly blind, and some other blind people still need what Dialogue offers. Whether or not they will be prepared to pay for the privilege of receiving it remains to be seen. McCarl does not sound like a woman with sufficient spare time to engage in significant fund raising for a publication with Dialogue's discouraging record of attractiveness to contributors.
On the morning after the Dialogue Board's decision McCarl had not yet decided whether or not she would be able to pay writers for articles, stories, and poetry in the months ahead. She could not say when the next edition of the magazine is likely to see the light of day. She presumes that there is some material in the files, but she will not know what is possible until she takes a good look.
So there is nothing to do now but wait and watch. McCarl's track record is good. If she has the time and energy to breathe into Dialogue some of her own commitment and purpose, it may yet survive. One can only hope that, if the task proves too much for even her efficiency and energy, she will have the sense to let it quietly die.
SOCIAL SECURITY AND TRIAL WORK: FACTS YOU NEED TO KNOW
by James Gashel
As Monitor readers know, James Gashel is the Director of Governmental Affairs for the National Federation of the Blind. He is also one of the nation's leading experts on the Social Security regulations that affect blind people.
An inquiry from a woman in Rupert, Idaho, brought home to me the need to explain the Social Security policy on trial work. She said she was calling for her husband. He is blind and receives Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. She asked, "Can he work?"
The caller said she had asked someone at the Social Security office the same question. Her husband had been offered a job as a dispatcher. It would be part-time work during the holidays. He expected to work three weeks, all in one month. For this he would be paid $660. He had never worked before as an SSDI recipient. "How," she asked, "would the temporary work affect his checks, or would it?" That was the question the caller raised with the Social Security office.
But the answer she got there was troubling to her. She said she was told that her husband definitely could not work. If he did, his checks would stop, or so she had understood. She asked me to comment on the answer and help her set the matter straight. Could her husband work?
In the circumstances I have just described, the caller from Idaho and her husband would not need to worry. Working would not stop the checks. The work in question, with earnings of $660 or more, would only be counted as one month of trial work. That's all.
The rule is that a month of trial work is counted when earnings from the work are $200.00 or more. The trial work months need not be consecutive. Nine months of earnings over $200.00 will be evaluated to see whether a beneficiary is able to perform "substantial gainful activity."
Applying this rule, it is possible to use up an entire trial work period even though earnings may be intermittent and relatively low. Then, if a real job comes along, the beneficiary may be surprised to learn that all of his or her trial work months have been used. In the example from Idaho, that would be the only disadvantage of accepting the dispatching job. Otherwise, working would have no actual effect at all on the continuation of the checks or on their amount.
Something else you should know: After nine months of trial work have been used, the beneficiary who continues to work is still entitled to receive at least three more checks. These cover the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth months after work first begins. Remember, the first nine months may be interrupted by short or long gaps between periods of work.
After the twelfth month of work, a thirty-three-month "extended eligibility period" begins. During this period entitlement to benefits is suspended if the work continues to represent substantial gainful activity. In the case of anyone who is blind, substantial gainful activity will not be found if earnings are less than $780.00 per month during 1990. This monthly amount increases each year, beginning in January, 1991. Benefits will continue indefinitely after the twelfth month and beyond for any blind beneficiary who is earning less than $780.00 per month of "countable income."
Blind people who earn more than the monthly amount allowed cannot receive checks after the twelfth month of trial work. However, if work stops (or earnings fall below the monthly amount allowed) any time during the thirty-three month extended eligibility period (after the first twelve months of work), benefit reinstatement is automatic.
When someone at the Social Security office says that you cannot work, it helps to understand the context of the answer. It really means that you cannot continue to perform substantial gainful activity after twelve months of trial work. Anyone who can is working, according to Social Security. Anyone who cannot do so is not working and is (according to Social Security rules) unable to work. But if you consider the question of employment apart from the very special rules and limitations established by Social Security, you can work and have earnings of any amount during a trial work period of twelve months and up to $780.00 per month of countable income thereafter (at least in 1990). Higher earnings will be allowed in 1991. Those are the facts.
[PHOTO: Sharon Gold standing at microphone. CAPTION: Sharon Gold.]
FROM THE PRESIDENT'S CLIPBOARD
From the Editor: One of the pluses of our movement is that we share information with each other. Often a state affiliate, local chapter, or individual will get an idea from another affiliate or individual somewhere else in the country and then seek to emulate or improve it. This process is exemplified by what has recently happened in California.
For more than four years Don Capps, President of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina, has been issuing on a weekly basis a brief bulletin to inform and stimulate the individual members and local chapters of the Federation in South Carolina. Entitled "Positive Notes," this presidential message serves to bind the members of the NFB of South Carolina together and keep them informed about what is happening. The activities of the organization come alive through the weekly "Positive Notes."
Sharon Gold, President of the National Federation of the Blind of California, learned of the idea and thought it was a good one. She didn't just think about it. She acted on it. On August 9, 1990, she began her own weekly message to Federationists in California. Called "From the President's Clipboard," Sharon's publication is lively and informative. It does for California what the "Positive Notes" do for South Carolina. Unquestionably it is hard work to keep this stream of information flowing, but the results will almost certainly be dramatic. We thought that Federationists might like to share this first "Clipboard," so here it is:
From the President's Clipboard, No. 1
August 9, 1990
This is the first of a series of notes I plan to write and circulate to our leadership. Through the CLIPBOARD, we can increase our communication and keep ourselves informed and up-to-date on issues of importance to our growing movement. It is my intent that, through these pages, information can be gathered more efficiently by chapter presidents for inclusion in chapter meeting agendas. You may summarize the information contained in the CLIPBOARD for chapter meetings or you may read portions or all of the CLIPBOARD at the meetings. Also, I intend to continue recording an occasional AFFILIATE UPDATE, which should be played at all chapter meetings along with President Maurer's Presidential Release.
The idea for this series of "clips" is an outgrowth of the POSITIVE NOTES, which Don Capps, President of the NFB of South Carolina, has been writing for the past four years. You will remember that I concluded the July 20th AFFILIATE UPDATE with a quote from President Capps. That quote came from a recent POSITIVE NOTE.
There is a wealth of knowledge to be shared, and I wish to thank Mr. Capps for disseminating the POSITIVE NOTES so that we in California might benefit from this worthwhile and successful effort of our South Carolina affiliate president. I also want to thank Dan Frye, the immediate past president of the NFB of South Carolina Student Chapter who is working in our NFB of California Office this summer, for sharing his copies of the POSITIVE NOTES with me. It was through this sharing that I have come to write this first memo to you, which I have entitled FROM THE PRESIDENT'S CLIPBOARD. Your comments and suggestions concerning the CLIPBOARD will be appreciated.
You will note that you have received a copy of this memo in large print and a copy in Braille and that the paper has been punched for a three-ring binder for easy storage and reference. In the future, I should like to send one copy to each of you. The enclosed form and self-addressed envelope are provided for you to conveniently advise me of your preference of medium.
I am currently working on the agenda for our convention. I would appreciate suggestions for items to include on our agenda. Also, I am preparing committee assignments. If you have a particular interest in serving on a committee or if you know of others who have a particular interest to serve on one committee or another, please communicate these desires to me as soon as possible or request the individual to communicate directly with me.
Last Saturday our Tracy Chapter participated in the Tracy Bean Festival. Under the direction of Matt Millspaugh, chapter president, chapter members shared information about the NFB with members of the public. In true Federation style, Mary Willows, president of our Ala-Costa Chapter, and Ala-Costa Chapter board members Anita March and Paul McIntyre traveled from the Pleasanton area to Tracy to spend the day and help our Tracy Chapter at the Bean Festival.
Recently, our Shasta County Chapter, of which Jillian Brooks is the president, set up a booth as a part of a fair that was held on the campus of the Shasta Community College. Also, Sandy Ritter, President of our Antelope Valley Chapter, reported great success with a booth at the Littlerock Festival.
Within a few days, you should receive NFB of California scholarship application forms. An application is being sent to each known student, to rehabilitation counselors for the blind, and to all colleges and universities. However, we need to reach out to those students who do not know about our scholarships and see that they have an opportunity to apply. The application form may be photocopied if needed.
It is time to begin thinking about activities for White Cane Safety Day, which is annually celebrated on October 15th. This designated day gives us an opportunity to increase community awareness of blindness and the successes of blind people. Shortly after our National Convention, Diane Starin, president of the Glenn-Tehama Chapter, was interviewed by a reporter from the SACRAMENTO BEE. The subsequent article described Diane's activities in connection with her horse ranch.
Recently, our Santa Barbara County Chapter (Joy Smith, President) received a contribution from an estate. The Chapter donated one-third of the contribution to the NFB of California and one-third of the contribution to our NFB national treasury. It is this kind of sharing that makes our movement what it is.
Funding our movement is of major concern. Therefore, I trust that everyone is making an all-out effort to gather donations for chances on our Benefit Drawing. Also, we need to make an increased effort to sell Associates. Associate forms are available from our NFB of California Office or from our National Office.
As I write this, our treasurer, Donna Siebert, is recovering from surgery on her big toe to repair a serious wound condition caused by diabetes. Donna has been suffering with this wound for fifteen months, and we wish her a speedy recovery.
CLIPBOARD Clip: "Our daily objectives should include an honest effort to improve on yesterday."
EXPANDING OUR FEDERATION FAMILY
by Barbara Pierce
The Spring, 1990 edition of the Gem State Milestones, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho, carried an article by Patrick Barrett, which made me re-examine what my local chapter does to welcome new members. The Barrett family had occasion to move to another state for a few months, and they returned to Idaho determined to benefit from the experience of being a part, even temporarily, of another local chapter and state affiliate. I, too, think that we can all enhance the strength and warmth of our movement by remembering and applying a few common-sense principles.
New or prospective members need to feel welcome. This means that we each should take seriously the responsibility to introduce them to others in the group, particularly the leaders. It would also be helpful to introduce them to several members with whom they have things in common. Job-seekers, young parents, diabetics, etc.--all appreciate meeting someone else facing similar challenges. Moreover, it is not enough to be friendly at meetings; new members feel far more welcome when they receive calls between meetings and are given the phone numbers of people whom they can contact when they have questions or problems. Be sure that they have NFB literature in the medium of their choice and that their names, addresses, and format preferences are sent to the Braille Monitor if they are not already receiving our national publication. It is useful to keep a few extra copies of the Monitor, Future Reflections, and The Voice of the Diabetic on hand for the purpose of giving them to new members.
There is an art to drawing newcomers into the life and work of a local chapter. Some people prefer to slip in gradually, and others don't really feel that they are a part of things until they have been asked to roll up their sleeves and work. Making sure that every new member has an opportunity to get as involved as he or she is able to is very important. Every chapter has, or should have, more work to do than there are hands to do it. New members should be offered a choice of activities and committee assignments without being made to feel that they must commit hours and hours of time a month if they are to be accepted into full membership.
Transfer members offer a different set of opportunities and challenges to a local chapter. It is always wonderful to greet a new member who already knows about the Federation and believes in what we are doing. Such folks don't usually need as much education about the movement, but they certainly do need to know about the state affiliate and local chapter of which they are now a part. Federationists from other regions of the country will appreciate learning about the structure and traditions of their new NFB family. A real effort should be made to be positive in explaining about the affiliate. All families have their idiosyncrasies, but nothing is to be gained by grumbling about other people or chapters to new members.
The appearance of a transplanted Federationist in an affiliate or chapter is a fine opportunity for healthy cross- pollination of ideas and solutions to common problems. But visitors from other affiliates and transferring Federationists should remember that tact is essential when passing on ideas or offering advice. After only a few suggestions prefaced by the words "in my old affiliate we did it this way," people will begin to feel that they are being implicitly or explicitly criticized-- a reaction practically guaranteed to insure that they will reject the idea, be it ever so useful. New members would probably do better to offer suggestions and ideas as their own. Questions like "Have we ever tried it this way before?" Or "Would it work if we did that?" are much less threatening.
At the same time chapters lucky enough to have a seasoned Federationist as a new member should lean over backwards to take advantage of the different point of view and varied experience that have arrived with the new member.
Just because a newcomer is a veteran, that does not mean that the principles laid out for other new members do not apply. Even if a person from another state already knows a few people in the affiliate, introducing him or her to others and helping with the process of making friends is a very welcoming gesture. Remember, too, that a new member of the community--no matter how experienced a Federationist he or she may be--does not know about services available in the area. Chapter members who know the transportation system and geography of the city can be of invaluable assistance.
Even those of us who have not had the experience of moving to another Federation chapter and affiliate, can do a better job of welcoming new members. All it takes is the time and imagination to put ourselves in the place of the new member and then do something constructive that we would appreciate having done for us. As with any healthy family, there is always room for one more in the clan we call the National Federation of the Blind.
[PHOTO: Sharon Maneki standing at podium during the banquet of the 1990 NFB national convention. CAPTION: Sharon Maneki.]
DISTINGUISHED EDUCATOR OF BLIND CHILDREN AWARD FOR 1991
by Sharon Maneki
Sharon Maneki is president of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. She also chairs the committee to select the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children for 1991.
The National Federation of the Blind will recognize an outstanding teacher of blind children at our 1991 convention June 30-July 7, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana. The winner of this award will receive an expense-paid trip to the convention, a check for $500, an appropriate plaque at the banquet, and an opportunity to make a presentation about the education of blind children to the National Federation of the Blind Parents of Blind Children Division early in the convention.
Anyone who is currently teaching or counseling blind children or administering a program for blind children is eligible to receive this award. It is not necessary to be a member of the National Federation of the Blind to apply. However, the winner must attend the National Convention. Teachers may be nominated by colleagues, supervisors, or friends. The letter of nomination should explain why the teacher is being recommended for this award.
The nominee must meet two additional requirements: write a one-page letter describing his or her beliefs and approach to teaching, and answer the following ten questions:
1. List your degrees, the institutions from which they were received, and your major area or areas of study.
2. How long and in what programs have you taught blind children?
3. In what setting do you teach? (Example: classroom in school for the blind, special education classroom, itinerant program, etc.)
4. How many students do you teach regularly this year? What subjects do you teach?
5. How many of your students read and write primarily using: a) Braille, b) large print, c) closed-circuit television, d) recorded materials, e) small print?
6. How many of your students use both print and Braille?
7. At what age do you recommend that your students begin: a) reading Braille, b) writing with a slate and stylus, c) writing with a Braille writer?
8. At what age do you recommend that your students begin to learn independent cane travel?
9. How do you determine which children should learn cane travel and which should not?
10. a) At what age do you recommend that students begin typing? b) When do you expect them to be able to hand in typed assignments?
Send all material by April 15, 1991, to Sharon Maneki, Chairman, Teacher Award Committee, 9736 Basket Ring Road, Columbia, Maryland 21045; telephone: (301) 992-9608.
The education of blind children is one of our most important concerns. Attendance at a National Federation of the Blind convention will enrich a teacher's experience by affording the opportunity to meet other teachers who work with blind children, to meet parents, and to meet blind adults who have had experiences in a variety of educational programs. Help us recognize a distinguished teacher by distributing this announcement and encouraging teachers to submit their applications. We are pleased to offer this award and look forward to nominations from many well-qualified educators.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Portrait of Steve Benson.]
THE BLIND EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR AWARD FOR 1991
by Steve Benson
Teaching is, perhaps, the most noble of all the professions. "A teacher," said Henry Brooks Adams, "affects eternally; he can never tell where his influence stops." The National Federation of the Blind was founded by an outstanding scholar and teacher, whose influence upon us as individuals and as an organization has never stopped. Jacobus tenBroek took seriously his responsibility as a teacher. He understood the impact of his actions and those of the organized blind movement on future generations of Americans, blind and sighted alike.
Dr. Jernigan, too, has always been acutely aware of the consequences of his teachings and of the actions of The National Federation of the Blind. No one else in work with the blind has created a collection of writing that has had comparable influence on thought and action in this field.
President Maurer, while not a credentialed educator himself, has received his training as a teacher from Dr. Jernigan directly and from studying the writings of Dr. tenBroek. He understands and appreciates the heritage that has been passed, teacher to student, down the generations to him and to all of us in the Federation.
As an educational organization, the National Federation of the Blind is dedicated to improving the lives of all blind people. Among those who have been affected profoundly by the thought and actions of the NFB are blind teachers. We have worked hard to open this profession to able, qualified teachers who happen to be blind. Many of these teachers have responded to the challenge of the classroom with style and aplomb.
Several years ago the Blind Educator of the Year Award was established by the National Association of Blind Educators (the teachers division of the National Federation of the Blind) to pay tribute to individual teachers whose outstanding classroom performance, distinguished community service, and active commitment to the NFB merited national recognition. Recipients of this award to date have been Pauline Gomez, New Mexico; Patricia Munson, California; and Dr. Abraham Nemeth, Michigan. Beginning with the 1991 presentation, this award becomes an honor bestowed, not by a single division of the organized blind movement, but an honor presented by the entire national body. This change indicates our recognition of the importance of good teaching on all of us.
The Blind Educator of the Year Award is presented at the annual banquet of the National Federation of the Blind. Honorees, who must be present at the NFB's National Convention and at the banquet, receive an appropriately inscribed plaque and a check for $500.
The members of the committee which will select the 1991 Blind Educator of the Year are Steve Benson, chairman, Illinois; Patricia Munson, California; Homer Page, Colorado; Judy Sanders, Minnesota; and Lev Williams, Tennessee. Nominations should be sent to Steve Benson, 3032 N. Albany Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60618. Letters of nomination must be accompanied by a current resume and supporting documentation of community and Federation activity. All nomination materials must be in the hands of the committee chairman by April 30, 1991, to be considered for this year's award.
by Tom Bickford
[PHOTO: Tom Bickford standing with plate of Kuchen, wearing chef's hat and apron. CAPTION: Tom Bickford joined the Federation in 1956 in California. He has lived in California, Iowa, the District of Columbia, and now Maryland. Tom has filled a variety of offices in the Federation wherever he has lived. In 1968-69 he chaired the official NFB song selection committee. He now lives in Maryland with his wife Virginia and their two daughters. Tom works for the Library of Congress NLS/BPH, where he "reads books for a living." That is, he is a quality assurance specialist for recorded books.]
Concerning his activities as a chef, Tom Bickford says: "The second nicest thing my mother-in-law gave me was a set of recipes for German coffee cake called Kuchen. My wife Virginia and her entire family are of German origin, and they use the German pronunciation: two `k' sounds, and the `u' sounds like the double `o' in `food'. Also, whichever way the dough is topped off, it is still called Kuchen. Virginia tells me that in her teen years she baked Kuchen every Saturday morning, and by Sunday afternoon it was gone! In recent years I have taken up the weekend baking and often bake a double batch, twice the amount given here, just so I can get more than two or three rolls for myself. I admit that nothing smells or tastes as good as freshly baked bread. It is very flattering to have my family utter that smiling `mmm' and then help me eat up all my work. Just as I share the Kuchen with my family, so I share the recipes with you. Much love and good eating." --Tom Bickford, Sligo Creek Chapter, NFB of Maryland.
(Main Recipe for the Dough)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk, scalded
6 tablespoons margarine
1/3 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1-1/2 - 2 packages dry yeast
5 - 5-1/2 cups flour
Scald the milk and set it aside to cool. In the meantime cream together the margarine, sugar, and salt. Stir in the eggs. Pour in the warm milk, and sprinkle the yeast over it. Stir to a smooth mixture.
Stir in 2 cups of flour. Stir in another 2-1/2 cups of flour. Spread 1/2 cup of flour over the kneading board before pouring out the dough.
Knead the dough about 10 minutes to form a soft elastic dough. Put the dough in a lightly-greased bowl, then turn the dough to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with wax paper, then a dish towel, and put it in a warm place to rise. Let rise about 1-1/2 hours or until the dough is 3 to 4 times the original size. Shape the dough as described in the following recipes into rolls, buns, or fruit upside-down cake. Put the dough in greased baking pans and let rise in a warm place about 45 minutes, or until it is about double in size.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, depending on the thickness of the shape. Makes about 3 dozen rolls.
Your imagination is the only limitation for the shaping and the topping of this good dough.
In our kitchen when we divide the once risen dough into thirds, we have suitable quantities for our cooking pans. Therefore, most of the following recipes use one-third of the dough.
Fruit Upside-Down Coffee Cake (The Simplest)
Into a greased 9-inch pan, square or round, pour one can of fruit pie mix. My favorite is cherry. Roll or stretch one-third of the once risen dough to the size and shape to reach all edges of the pan. Let the dough rise again in a warm place about 45 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Turn out into a plate immediately after baking.
Apple Upside Down Coffee Cake (Even Better)
Grease a 9-inch pan, square or round. In a separate bowl mix: 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon flour, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Spread this mix over the bottom of the pan. For the next layer use three cooking apples peeled, cored, and thinly sliced. Roll or stretch one-third of the once risen dough to fill the pan to the edges. Let the dough rise in a warm place about 45 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Turn it out into a plate immediately after baking.
Caramel Pecan Rolls (My Favorite)
First the gooey sauce. In a small saucepan simmer together for five minutes: 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons margarine, 1 tablespoon white corn syrup, and 1 tablespoon water. Chop 3/4 to 1 cup pecans and cover the bottom of a greased 9-inch pan, deep dish if you have it, with the nuts. Pour the sauce over the nuts.
Prepare a separate mixture of 2 tablespoons brown sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Melt 2 tablespoons margarine, and get out the pastry brush.
Now the rolls: With a rolling pin, roll out 1/3 of the once risen dough to a rectangle about 6 by 12 inches. Brush on the melted margarine, and spread on the mixed brown sugar and cinnamon. Roll the dough into a long stick. At this stage I stretch out the rolled dough to about 16 inches. With a sharp knife cut off sections two fingers wide, and lay them (cut edge down) in the pan. Leave space for the dough to rise. Let the dough rise in a warm place about 45 minutes.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. You may want to place a cookie sheet on the rack below to catch drips. Turn out the rolls onto a plate immediately unless you like chipping out the pan with a mallet and chisel. Makes one dozen rolls.
Half Cut Circles
Roll out one-third of the once risen dough into a rectangle 6 by 12 inches. Brush about 2 tablespoons of melted margarine over the dough. Spread on a mixture of 2 tablespoons brown sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. If you like, sprinkle with chopped nuts, raisins, or the like. Roll the dough into a long stick. Place the dough on a lightly greased baking sheet, and bend it into a circle. With a sharp knife, cut most but not all the way through the dough, making the sections two fingers wide. Bend alternate sections in and out of the circle. Let rise in a warm place about 45 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. To serve, break off sections at the cuts.
Buns in Patterns
For this recipe you may use more or less than an even third of the once risen dough. Grab off lumps of dough the size of a ping-pong ball and place them on a lightly greased baking sheet. Arrange them in a pattern, perhaps a tree, and allow space for the dough to rise. Let rise in a warm place about 45 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. After the buns are cool, frost them with a mixture of 1 cup powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons milk. You might include a drop or two of food coloring. Exercise your imagination for designs and colors.
Sam Gleese, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Mississippi, writes as follows:
"I am pleased to inform you that on June 23, 1990, a new chapter was organized and added to our state affiliate. The new chapter was organized at Marks, Mississippi, hereafter known as the Marks Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Mississippi. The officers are: Mrs. Ruby Yarbrough, President; Mr. Alfred Morgan, Vice President; Ms. Janice Bracter, Secretary; Mr. Gay Turner, Treasurer; and Reverend Robert Yarbrough, Board Member."
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: "I have been studying Braille for just a few months. I work for the Wood County Department of Human Services in Bowling Green, Ohio. I became interested in Braille because I have a blind friend. I would be interested in corresponding in Braille with anyone who is interested in writing to me at the following address: Jackie Licata, 318 Colony Road, Rossford, Ohio 43460."
Jim Sanders, National Director of Government Relations and International Services of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, recently wrote to the Monitor Editor as follows: "I have not attempted to verify the attached article which you may already have seen about the blind person who made a safe emergency landing of an airplane in the Philippines. Based upon the source of the article, its validity is somewhat suspect but it certainly, if true, places the emergency row exit issue in perspective."
July 17, 1990
Blind Man Pilots Plane in for Emergency Landing
Honesto Balagog is blind--but that didn't stop him from landing a twin-engine aircraft filled with handicapped passengers after the pilot suffered a heart attack.
Sightless since birth, the 34-year-old businessman took over the controls of the plane after its pilot, Arnolfo Chez, collapsed. "Fortunately, the pilot remained conscious long enough to guide Honesto step by agonizing step to a perfect landing on a remote jungle airstrip in the Philippines," passenger Silvia Gadi told Western correspondents.
When Arnolfo realized he was unable to handle the controls, he tried to alert passengers to their predicament.
"His voice was so weak we could hardly hear him," recalls Honesto. "It took a while for me to realize I was the only one who could help.
"I swallowed hard and started to the cockpit."
The pilot, his vision fading, struggled to give his new partner a crash course in flying.
"Every breath was a major effort," Arnolfo recalls.
"But I knew if I didn't stay conscious we'd all die. So I just focused on talking to Honesto."
As Arnolfo's strength ebbed away to the point where he could no longer speak, the two men worked out a signaling system based on tapping Honesto's arm: Two taps meant move the control forward, one tap to pull it back.
Once Honesto had landed, the passengers sat in grateful silence.
"It's not something I'd want to try again," says Arnolfo from his hospital bed. "But if I had to, I'd want Honesto as co- pilot."
**Catalog of Braille Books:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
"The Naperville, Illinois, Area Transcribing for the Blind is pleased to announce that it has transcribed into Braille the complete catalog of materials for its general interest registry. The catalog contains over 2,000 listings of Braille materials from 28 agencies and individuals on the following subjects: career, children's literature, computer and electronics, fiction and nonfiction, food and cooking, health, hobbies, music, religion, and miscellaneous materials. The Braille edition is available in two volumes from: Braille Book Bank, National Braille Association, 1290 University Avenue, Rochester, New York 14607; (716) 473-0900. Contact the Braille Book Bank for costs of the Braille edition. The print edition is available for $3.50 (prepaid orders only) from: Naperville Area Transcribing for the Blind, 670 North Eagle Street, Naperville, Illinois 60563; contact person: Gloria K. Buntrock (708) 420-1863."
**Elected: We are informed that the White Sands Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico held elections on September 15, 1990, with the following results: Sharon Duffy, President; David Armijo, Vice President; Mary Valverde, Secretary; and Dick Davis, Treasurer.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: "TSI Navigator Braille System with a 40-character, 8-dot display; complete with tutorial tape manual, program disk, mounting brackets, and carrying case. In excellent condition. Price is negotiable, and all inquiries may be made by contacting Milena at either (212) 264-4164 or (718) 387-4860."
The National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky held its annual convention on the weekend of September 7-9, 1990, in Louisville, and the following were elected: President, Betty Niceley; First Vice President, T. V. Cranmer; Second Vice President, Robert Page; Third Vice President, Mary Ruth Maggard; Recording Secretary, Mary Beaven; Corresponding Secretary, Robbie McClave; Treasurer, Dennis Franklin; and Chaplain, Bill Deatherage.
**Braille Materials Needed:
From the Associate Editor: During my recent trip to Jamaica I inspected the library at the Jamaica Society for the Blind, which serves blind people on the island of Jamaica as well as doing what outreach work it can to people in nearby countries. Two years ago Hurricane Gilbert badly damaged the Braille collection as well as destroying much of the book storage space. The Society has recently been given two storage cabins to augment the single room in its building devoted to the library. The librarian is engaged in the slow job of cataloging and shelving the current collection, and he is very eager to obtain additional materials in good condition, particularly copies of the Braille editions of Readers Digest, Ladies Home Journal, and Playboy magazines. Many, many people enjoy reading these publications, so multiple copies would be put to good use. Braille materials should be sent to the attention of Mr. Lawson, Jamaica Society for the Blind, 111 1/2 Old Hope Rd., Kingston 6, Jamaica, West Indies.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Portrait of Patti Gregory and Ponch Chang. CAPTION: Patti Gregory and her husband Ponch Chang, proud new parents.]
Steve Benson, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, reports that on Saturday, September 14, 1990, Pat Gregory, a 1985 NFB scholarship winner and now one of the leaders of the Illinois affiliate, gave birth to a son, Jonathan Chang, who weighed 4 pounds 13 ounces. Jonathan Gregory Chang made his appearance several weeks early, but Pat and her husband, Ponch Chang, were able to take him home a few days after his birth. All three are doing well. Congratulations to the whole family.
Peggy Pinder, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa, recently made the following report to the Braille Monitor about this past summer's NFB of Iowa display at the State Fair: The National Federation of the Blind of Iowa has for years staffed a booth at the Iowa State Fair, developing displays and techniques for interacting with the crowds that surge through the fair's most popular display building, the Varied Industries building. The Federation's booth includes a blindness quiz, the obligatory sign-up for free prizes (some fairgoers carry rubber address stamps to sign up for everything), and the ever-popular offer to write names in Braille.
This year, the Iowa affiliate seriously underestimated the general public's interest in learning about blindness, or maybe it was our new signs, used for the first time this year, which explained the array of available literature better. Anyway, having on hand roughly the supplies, which had proved adequate in past years, blind Iowans ran out of every single item of literature except for a mere handful of Braille cards. Fairgoers scooped up the following: 10,000 copies of "What is the National Federation of the Blind"; 10,000 copies of "Do You Know a Blind Person"; 2,000 issues of Voice of the Diabetic; 1,000 fact sheets about Job Opportunities for the Blind; 250 issues of Future Reflections; and 250 issues of the Braille Monitor. In addition, Federationists gave away almost 6,000 Braille cards, every single one of which had the name of a fairgoer written in Braille by a Federationist as the person watched. The total was nearly 30,000 individual pieces of literature, or about one piece of literature for every ninety citizens of the state.
This amazing number was achieved despite the bad luck that plagued Federationists at the fair. Several members fell ill or fell prey to minor mishaps. Next year we hope that state fair volunteers remain whole and healthy, and we also hope that the Iowa affiliate can order enough literature so that it doesn't run out.
**Blind Poet In Trouble:
We have been asked by Debbie Kent Stein, an active member of the Chicago Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, to print the following:
As a member of PEN International, a worldwide organization of writers, I have recently learned of the plight of Esber Yagmurdereli, one of Turkey's leading poets. Blind since the age of ten, Esber is a lawyer and a widely respected man of letters in his homeland. In his legal practice during the 1970s he defended many union leaders and political dissidents. In 1978 he was arrested and charged with heading an organization which advocated the violent overthrow of the Turkish government. For the past 12 years, he has been serving a life sentence.
After an exhaustive investigation, Amnesty International has found no evidence whatsoever that Esber Yagmurdereli ever belonged to an organization which advocated violence. Furthermore, his trial was a travesty of Turkish law. In prison Esber has been tortured, and he was kept in total isolation for fourteen months. He has not been permitted to write in Braille because it cannot be read by the censors, and officials have forbidden him the use of his cane. This year he was offered a full pardon on health grounds (including his blindness). He refused to accept the pardon, asking instead for a fair trial and demanding better treatment for other political prisoners.
Esber Yagmurdereli may never have heard of the NFB, but he is spiritually one of us in his determination to lead a full life and his refusal to accept special treatment based on his blindness. I invite my fellow Federationists to join in a massive letter-writing campaign under the auspices of PEN. By deluging the Turkish Minister of Justice with requests, we hope to secure a fair trial and, ultimately, freedom for this deeply dedicated man. By his example he is a much-needed role model for the blind of Turkey and other developing countries.
If you would like to help Esber Yagmurdereli, please contact me for more information at 4666 N. Leclaire St., Chicago, Illinois 60630, (312) 286-8560.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: "A magazine for children, recorded on cassette, is available from Boomerang!, 123 Townsend, Suite 636, San Francisco, California 94107; (415) 882-7875. The cost for Boomerang! is $42 for a six- month (twelve-issue) subscription. Articles from the point of view of the young about turning points in history are included. For more information call (800) 333-7875. To subscribe call (800) 333-7858."
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: "In response to my own needs as a visually impaired person, I have published a Large Print Cookbook, which not only contains a collection of favorite recipes but also includes hints for the visually impaired. The book is also an excellent gift for persons who are not visually impaired because of the recipes, its readability, and size. For further information contact: Ramona Van Nortwick, 1106 East Rock Springs Road, Greenville, North Carolina 27858; (919) 757-1006."
Bonnie Peterson, President of the NFB of Wisconsin, writes as follows: I am very pleased to tell you that the North Central Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin was organized on September 15, 1990. At the meeting in Wausau the following officers were elected: President, David Schuh; Vice President, Connie Miller; Secretary, Rhonda Amundson; Treasurer, Dennis Schuh; and Board Members: Margie Schuh and Terry Willis. We welcome this chapter into our affiliate.
**Pen Pal Wanted:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: "My name is Maria Elvslen. I am eighteen years old and from Sweden. I would very much like to have a female pen-friend in the USA, preferably from New York. My interests are classical music, reading, languages, traveling, etc. Please send correspondence to: Maria Elvslen, Varggardsvagen 33, 79174 Falun, SWEDEN."
**TACTIC Available in Large Print:
We have been asked to print the following press release:
TACTIC, the popular Consumer Reports of access technology for blind and visually impaired people, is now available in a large-print edition. Begun six years ago as a Braille publication, TACTIC is a strictly consumer-oriented magazine, providing useful information to blind consumers, rehabilitation counselors, educators, and other professionals about computer hardware and software generating Braille, synthesized speech, or enlarged-print output.
Because TACTIC has no affiliation with any developer or distributor of access technology, all reviews are without product bias. The style of the magazine is concise, informative, and unburdened in highly technical language. Its readership since 1985 has included everyone from the novice student just entering the technological arena to many of the finest technical minds in our field.
Upcoming issues of the magazine are scheduled to carry reviews of the leading optical character recognition systems, new refreshable Braille displays, software packages for enlarged characters and graphics, and new and upgraded synthesized speech packages. Also frequently featured are little-known commercial products discovered to have particular value for blind users, reviews of related books in accessible formats, opinion pieces by blind professionals, and step-by-step instructions for using various on-line services.
TACTIC is published quarterly. The new large print edition runs approximately 28 8-1/2 by 11" pages, and is printed in an eye-appealing 2-column, 15-point format. The Braille edition is produced in standard NLS magazine format and runs approximately 60 pages per issue.
To subscribe, send $16 for large print or $10 for Braille to TACTIC, Clovernook Printing House for the Blind, 7000 Hamilton Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45231.
[PHOTO: Crowd seated during NFB of Illinois convention. CAPTION: Members attend a general session of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois 1990 convention.]
Steve Benson, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, reports as follows:
Nearly 140 Federationists and friends from across Illinois and five other states gathered at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Lisle, Illinois, Friday, September 28 to Sunday, September 30, for the 1990 convention of the NFB of Illinois. Rami Rabby, prize-winning author and management consultant in addition to being the president of the NFB of New York City, presided over an outstanding Job Opportunities for the Blind seminar Friday afternoon. The remainder of the convention sustained the quality and pace set by the JOB seminar.
At the Saturday evening banquet Joyce Scanlan, secretary of the National Federation of the Blind and president of the NFB of Minnesota, delivered a stirring and thought-provoking address. Tony Burda was presented with the Gwendolyn Williams Award for his exemplary work in and on behalf of the Federation.
On Sunday morning, September 30, the following officers and board members were elected to serve two-year terms: Steve Benson, President; Cathy Randall, First Vice President; Steve Hastalis, Second Vice President; Ruth Isaacs, Secretary; Bill Hafer, Treasurer; Rita Szantay, board member; and Tony Burda, board member.
**Test Your Knowledge:
In our continuing effort to provide new opportunities for learning about the field of work with the blind, the Braille Monitor offers this month a short quiz regarding rehabilitation agencies for the blind. Listed here are ten states. The question is: What do the rehabilitation agencies for the blind in these states have in common? In fact, maybe they have two things in common. See an upcoming issue of the Monitor for the answer. Meanwhile, test your knowledge: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Mississippi, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Virginia.