Vol. 34, No.
Barbara Pierce, Editor
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
THE BLIND IS NOT
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 34, No. 4 April 1991
AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR THE BLIND NAMES DIRECTOR
by Kenneth Jernigan
THE WASHINGTON SEMINAR, 1991
by Barbara Pierce
LESSONS FROM THE REVOLUTION
by Peggy Pinder
HOW DO WE CHANGE THE WORLD
by Kenneth Jernigan
WHY THE NFB IS HELPING ME FILE A SECTION 504 COMPLAINT
A BLIND TEACHER ON THE JOB
by Judy Krecek
WALKING ALONE AND MARCHING TOGETHER: A Book Review
by Euclid J. Herie, LL.D., and Gerald Dirks, Ph.D.
ON BECOMING A WISE CONSUMER OF LOW VISION SERVICES
by Eileen River, M.B.A.
CRUTCHES, ROOMMATES, AND COMMON SENSE
by Manuel Abascal
by Gloria Whelan
Reviewed by Deborah Kent Stein
LOOK OUT TOMORROW, HERE SHE COMES
INTER-COMMUNITY NETWORK COMMITTEE
A STATEMENT FROM THE GOVERNOR OF CONNECTICUT
BLIND BOB THE BANK ROBBER
Copyright, National Federation of the Blind, Inc., 1991 [LEAD PHOTO: Front view of the entire Hyatt Regency complex. CAPTION: It's less than three months and counting until the 1991 convention of the National Federation of the Blind in New Orleans, Louisiana. The beautiful Hyatt Regency Hotel, pictured here, awaits you. A short seven-block shuttle ride from the French Quarter, it stands in easy reach of some of the finest dining and jazz in the world. In its spacious meeting rooms between June 30 and July 6, 1991, the blind of the nation will debate the issues and determine the policies that will affect our lives for years to come. Friendships will be made and renewed; information exchanged; and inspiration given. Don't miss our best convention ever. For full details, consult the March issue of the Braille Monitor. Make your reservations immediately by calling the New Orleans Hyatt Regency directly: (504) 561-1234. See you in New Orleans.]
PHOTO/CAPTION: Portrait of Carl R. Augusto.]
AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR THE BLIND NAMES DIRECTOR
by Kenneth Jernigan
Under date of February 5, 1991, the American Foundation for the Blind distributed an announcement which said in part:
Michael M. Maney, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the American Foundation for the blind (AFB), announced today that Carl R. Augusto has been named President and Executive Director of AFB.
Augusto, who has been Executive Director of the Cincinnati Association for the Blind, a private agency which offers habilitation, rehabilitation, and employment services for blind and visually impaired persons, replaces William F. Gallagher who is retiring from the Foundation after nearly 40 years in the blindness and low vision field.
"Mr. Augusto has a solid base of knowledge in the fields of blindness and low vision as well as proven administrative and leadership qualities," said Maney, who noted that Augusto has been an AFB Trustee since 1987.
"As a blind person who is a leader in the blindness field as well as an active advocate in the community at large, Mr. Augusto is extremely qualified to spearhead the efforts of AFB as it meets the challenges of the 1990s and beyond. I know the Board of Trustees joins me in looking forward to a long and fruitful partnership with him at AFB."
As Executive Director of the Cincinnati Association for the Blind (CAB) since 1985, Augusto managed an annual budget of over seven million dollars and a staff of 140 employees....
From 1978 to 1985, Augusto served in various staff and management positions with the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC) in New York City. Appointed Associate Executive Director of NAC in 1981, Augusto coordinated review teams responsible for evaluating services and management practices of agencies and schools for the blind nationwide, and assumed a leadership role in the revision of NAC's management standards.
Prior to his positions with NAC, Augusto served as a rehabilitation counselor for blind clients with the New York State Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped and Helen Keller Services for the Blind, a private multi-service agency in Brooklyn.
In addition to his affiliation with the AFB Board of Trustees, Augusto serves on the boards of the National Industries for the Blind and the Radio Reading Services of Greater Cincinnati, Inc. He is also Chairman of the strategic planning committee of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, and was President of the Cincinnati Host Lions Club from 1988 to 1989....
This is what the Foundation news release says, and it gives rise to interesting speculation and reflection. During the past decade relations between the organized blind movement and the American Foundation for the Blind have gradually but steadily improved. Many things have contributed to this positive trend, but certainly both the attitude and behavior of Bill Gallagher, retiring Foundation director, have been principal factors. We as a movement and I as an individual have not always agreed with Gallagher, but he comes to any issue with good will and a wish to find solutions. Moreover, he keeps his word and demonstrates integrity. Above all, he takes a pragmatic approach, assessing realistically the balances of power in the blindness field and dealing with them as they are, not just as he wishes they were. But this is not all of it. Bill reaches out with warmth and friendship. He may not always like the decisions he has to make, but he does not sulk or do what he does grudgingly. If from these comments you conclude that I like Bill Gallagher as a person, you are right. And does this have anything to do with organizational relationships? Of course it does--but it is not controlling, not on either side. Ask Bill Gallagher, and he will tell you.
There are also others at the Foundation who have contributed to the growing atmosphere of joint effort and good will. In this connection Susan Spungin comes to mind--and so does Michael Maney, the recently appointed chairman of the Foundation's board of trustees. Mr. Maney visited me at the National Center for the Blind on January 30 of this year, and we discussed a wide range of topics. As with anybody else, he will have to be judged by his actions, not just his words, but there is certainly every indication that he would like to continue and enlarge the areas of joint effort.
This brings me back to Gallagher's retirement, the appointment of Augusto, and future relations with the Foundation. Whether the move toward unity will continue will largely depend on Augusto--whether he correctly perceives the realities of today's world in the blindness field, whether he can put the past behind him, and whether he is truly motivated to work cooperatively and constructively with the consumer movement. All of us (both the blind and the agencies) will benefit if the answers to these questions are affirmative. All of us (and particularly Augusto and the American Foundation for the Blind) will pay the price if they are negative.
It is no secret that Augusto's past contacts with the blind have been less than positive. If he had done nothing else than serve as a NAC staff member for several years, that would be sufficient to raise questions about his motivation and intentions--but that is not all. His face-to-face contacts with our leaders and members have frequently been confrontive and unpleasant.
Nevertheless, we should not automatically conclude that the Augusto appointment has to mean hostility and a return to all-out war. All we need for evidence is to remind ourselves of the conflict and hostility which existed between the Federation and Bill Gallagher in the 1970s. It was to the advantage of all concerned to find ways to resolve differences, and we and the Foundation did it. There is also the fact that in recent years Augusto has shown some willingness to work with our state affiliate in Ohio. This is a positive sign, one which may foreshadow things to come.
With power goes responsibility--and if the National Federation of the Blind is not the strongest force in the affairs of the blind of this country today (which, incidentally, I think it is), certainly no one with any credibility would seriously contend that we are not a major factor. Likewise, the American Foundation for the Blind is a major factor. These are facts, and they should be dealt with as such.
We live in a time of budget crunches--a time of real danger that programs for the blind will be submerged in the larger disability mix if the blind and the agencies are not vigilant and realistic. This is the negative way of stating the reason for trying to find the means of working together. The positive way to put the proposition is that if the major agencies in the field (principal among them the American Foundation for the Blind) continue to move toward cooperative relations with the National Federation of the Blind, there is very little which our combined efforts cannot reasonably achieve.
This brings me to a final comment about Carl Augusto. It is no secret that we would have preferred somebody else as Foundation director, but as I have tried to make clear, we are pragmatists. We deal with what is, not just with what we would like. In fact, when we look back from the vantage of future years, we may come to feel that the Augusto appointment was a positive step. It will all depend on what Augusto does and whether he feels that he must (or hopefully wants to) treat the organized blind with respect and consideration, with the give and take which the situation demands and reality dictates. We would prefer not only peace but a positive era of constructive joint effort--but we are prepared (and, moreover, with a right good will) to meet whatever exigencies the morrow may bring.
[PHOTO: Crowded room of seated and standing assembled delegates attending the 1991 Washington Seminar. CAPTION: It was standing room only at 5:00 p.m., February 3, when President Maurer gaveled the Sunday night briefing to order in the Columbia Room of the Holiday Inn Capitol.]
[PHOTO: Visitors to exhibit table in the Mercury Room. CAPTION: The Mercury Room was the nerve center for the Washington Seminar. Federationists made reports and gathered the material they needed for meetings with members of Congress.]
PHOTO: John Halverson and Judy Rasmussen working with portable computer and organized notes. CAPTION: Judy Rasmussen and Dr. John Halverson work together to prepare the computer printouts that report on our progress with Congress.]
THE WASHINGTON SEMINAR, 1991
by Barbara Pierce
When you climb into a cab and have the driver announce your destination before you have time to say it, it is safe to draw two conclusions: first, we have lots of public education still to do so that people won't assume that all blind people must necessarily be traveling to the same place and second, the Federation must be in town. As usual during the first week of February in Washington, D.C., the Federation was in town, and before we left, everybody on Capitol Hill knew about it.
But things were in high gear long before we hit the House and Senate Office Buildings. Saturday, February 2 saw the second annual student seminar, and it was even better than the first. By Friday evening, February 1, the lobby of the Holiday Inn Capitol looked like the scene of a family reunion. The student party (everyone else was welcome too) was so good that rumor has it that some people never got to bed. But everybody was ready to go in plenty of time for the 9:00 a.m. registration.
Peggy Pinder, Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind and Chairman of the Scholarship Committee, delivered the keynote address, which was both funny and stirring. It is reprinted elsewhere in this issue. Then the students took over, filling the day with talks and panel discussions that were moving and thought-provoking. The fourth generation is well on its way to making itself felt both in the Federation and beyond. In a short business meeting at the end of the afternoon, Student Division President Michael Baillif, to whom much of the credit for the high quality of the seminar should be given, proposed that the Division change its name to fit the pattern of other NFB division titles. The group unanimously voted to become the National Association of Blind Students (NABS).
The Banquet (emceed by Scott LaBarre, First Vice President of NABS) was exuberant and warm, and the food was tasty. There was lots of singing, and with so many young attorneys and law students on hand, lots of lawyer jokes. But the high point of the evening was the banquet address by Dr. Jernigan, which is printed elsewhere in this issue.
Sunday morning a bus and three vans were on hand at 8:30 to take interested Federationists to the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore for tours and a good look at the new Braille and Technology Center. All the vehicles were packed as full as possible, and still one van had to return for a second load. More tours had to be scheduled later in the week to accommodate all the people who wished to see the Center and could spare the time to do so.
Sunday afternoon the Associates Committee sponsored a workshop on fund-raising, and attendees struggled valiantly with the complexities of raising money in today's complicated world.
By the time the workshop ended, the Mercury Room on the second floor of the hotel, which by long tradition is the control room of the Washington Seminar, was set up and open for business. Most state affiliates had made appointments with their Senators and Representatives ahead of time, so those appointment times were to be turned in on Sunday afternoon for entry in the master schedule. A member of each state delegation then gathered folders, literature, and fact sheets for use on the Hill the next day. A few things were also for sale in Mercury: canes, cane tips, and our new history of the Federation. From the doorway the scene in the Mercury Room appeared chaotic, but there was a clear order to the intense activity. Throughout the week people made telephone calls from the Hill or came in to deliver reports on each Member of Congress's views on the four issues we were discussing. These reports were written in Braille and filed in the appropriate file drawers. They were also entered into the computer so that at any time a report could be generated showing who would sponsor, co-sponsor, or vote for each issue. The smooth operation of this office is a great tribute to Sandy Halverson and her team of excellent volunteers.
Sunday afternoon everyone was ready for the briefing when it began at five. For the preceding half hour the area outside the Columbia Room resembled nothing quite so much as an eastern bazaar with people selling everything from stadium cushions to Easter bunnies. Nearly four hundred people wedged their way into the room for the meeting; and, as one who stood, I can testify to both the crowded conditions and the good temper of the group as we were briefed on recent activities of the Federation and the issues we were about to discuss with our senators and representatives.
The legislative memorandum at the front of our packet of materials lays out briefly the four issues that we consider to be most pressing for the blind this year. Each of the fact sheets then discusses in detail one of the issues and suggests the solution we believe would be best. The first fact sheet addresses the need for an amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ensuring the right of client choice in rehabilitation. The second warns Congress against the efforts of the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped to introduce internal politics into the discussion of the reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The third calls attention to a threat to the blind priority in highway vending created by the Kennelly amendment to the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 which is likely to emerge when it comes up for re-authorization this year. And the fourth requests that, in the wake of the Americans with Disabilities Act, people with disabilities be added to the list of identified minorities to whom the Small Business Administration can give assistance.
By Wednesday afternoon, February 6, all the appointments had been kept and the reports filed. We packed our bags and took our sore feet and tired bodies home in a glow of satisfaction. One more time we had taken our message to our nation's legislators: like everyone else, the blind can bring concerns to Capitol Hill and discuss them intelligently. The job has only started for 1991. We will be writing and calling for months to come as we remind some Members of their promises and continue to try to persuade others of our point of view. Our work has only begun, but it is well begun. Here are the legislative memorandum and fact sheets for 1991:
For more information contact:
Director of Governmental Affairs
National Federation of the Blind
LEGISLATIVE AGENDA 1991
From: Members of the National Federation of the Blind
To: Members of the 102nd Congress
Re: The Blind: Legislative Priorities for the 102nd Congress, First Session
Public policies and laws affecting blind people have a profound impact throughout our society. Most people know someone who is blind. It may be a friend, a family member, or a co-worker on the job. One-half million people in this country are blind, and fifty thousand Americans become blind each year. By themselves these numbers may not seem large, but the social and economic consequences of blindness directly touch the lives of millions. Less directly, blindness affects us all.
Blind persons as a group share a unique struggle. If a blind person has proper training and opportunity, the physical loss of eyesight itself can be reduced to the level of a mere nuisance. Misconceptions about blindness, coupled with lack of good training and limited opportunities, are the real problems. Although most sighted people have had some contact with blindness, it is still largely misunderstood and continues to be more a problem of public attitudes and perceptions than physical disability.
Public policies and laws that result from misconceptions about blindness or lack of information are often more limiting to the blind than loss of eyesight itself. This is why we have formed the National Federation of the Blind. The Federation is a private-sector resource of knowledge, encouragement, and support for the blind and for anyone (blind or not) who wants to join in the effort we are making to win understanding and opportunity. Blind people are well organized at the community and grass-roots levels throughout the United States. Our policy positions are developed and determined by vote of the blind themselves. This is why the Federation is known by lawmakers and the public as the "voice of the nation's blind." Our priorities for the first session of the 102nd Congress express our assessment of current issues requiring action by Congress on behalf of blind persons of all ages.
(1) Congress should amend the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to establish the client's right of choice in selecting agencies to provide rehabilitation services. Blind persons eligible for rehabilitation have the right to receive services, but personnel of designated state agencies are empowered to make most of the planning decisions and arrangements for service. The client's views must be considered if expressed, but state personnel make all of the final decisions. Funds to support rehabilitation can be and are withheld if the client does not cooperate. Cooperation means receiving services from programs prescribed by state personnel.
The proposed legislation will achieve better matching of clients with compatible programs by empowering them to take charge of selecting sources for all services. As persons with disabilities begin to experience and exercise newly won legal rights, there will be a growing demand and need for services chosen by clients, not by agencies. Students who receive Federal aid to attend post-secondary institutions choose their own schools and select their courses of study. Elderly and disabled recipients of health services paid for by Medicare choose the doctors they will see, and the bills are paid by Medicare. Not so in rehabilitation. Congress should change this policy. For more details and a description of the need for this legislation, see the fact sheet entitled "EMPOWERMENT IN REHABILITATION: EXPANDING CHOICES FOR BLIND ADULTS."
(2) Congress should insure that politics in the form of accreditation does not threaten programs serving the blind. Federal funds received by all rehabilitation agencies could be jeopardized by a proposal of the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC). NAC wants to convince Congress to require accreditation as a condition of eligibility for any agency to receive Federal funds. According to NAC this plan would promote accountability and program quality.
Here is the real story. NAC is struggling to survive. After twenty-five years of trying, NAC's standards and procedures have not been accepted by agencies serving the blind. Less than one hundred (not even 20 percent) of the blind service agencies have chosen to become NAC members. The dropout rate among NAC's affiliates is 21 percent and climbing. NAC's directors have now concluded that Congress could solve their problems by mandating accreditation, but the plan lacks widespread support. Strong opposition is expected from the Bush Administration and from most groups potentially affected by such a requirement. Federal funds, used to establish and support NAC in its early years, were withdrawn in 1975 in the face of low agency acceptance of the NAC standards and consumer concerns raised about the NAC accreditation process. These conditions still exist. For more details and suggested actions by Congress, see the fact sheet entitled "POLITICS IN THE FORM OF ACCREDITATION: A THREAT TO PROGRAMS AND SERVICES FOR THE BLIND."
(3) Congress should safeguard business opportunities for blind vendors on Federal highways. In 1982 Congress enacted legislation to promote economic opportunities for blind persons in the conduct of sales through vending machines at highway safety and rest areas. The provision authorizing this program is commonly known as the "Kennelly Amendment." Congresswoman Barbara Kennelly sponsored the amendment at the request of the National Federation of the Blind and worked closely with the Federation in steering this measure through Congress.
The Kennelly amendment could be threatened by proposals to commercialize services provided at highway rest-stops. Under current law, services (other than sales through vending machines) are prohibited at these sites. However, the American Association of Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) is seeking legislation to authorize roadside services to be provided through agreements with commercial developers. As many as 1,400 sites are planned for initial development with hundreds more to follow. Plans include using commercial firms to provide rest area services, motorist information services, food services, and fuel. Provision of services by blind persons is not contemplated by AASHTO's plan, but the popularity of Kennelly Amendment vending machine sites is acknowledged. For more details and suggested actions by Congress, see the fact sheet entitled "BUSINESS PRIORITY FOR BLIND VENDORS: PROTECTION NEEDED IN SURFACE TRANSPORTATION AMENDMENTS."
(4) Congress should amend Section 8(a) of the Small Business Act to include individuals with disabilities as a defined minority group for purposes of eligibility in the Minority Small Business and Capital Ownership Development Program. The Section 8(a) program is designed to foster business ownership by individuals who are both socially and economically disadvantaged, and to promote the competitive viability of such firms. To achieve these goals, Section 8(a) authorizes the Small Business Administration (SBA) to enter into all types of contracts with government departments and agencies for supply, service, construction, and research and development. Small Business concerns, owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged persons, can be eligible to receive subcontracts to fulfill SBA'S procurement obligations. Technical assistance is also made available to minority small business concerns.
This proposal is simply the recognition of disability as one condition of defined minority status for participation in SBA'S targeted efforts to provide economic and technical assistance to members of minority groups. The social and economic disadvantages which accompany disabilities are well-known and should be beyond dispute. Blind persons have traditionally had few opportunities to become employed and even fewer opportunities to establish and maintain their own businesses. Yet SBA has not recognized the blind (or individuals with disabilities in general) as being socially and economically disadvantaged. The problem for SBA has been to define disability and the extent of the class of individuals included. Another problem has been SBA's lack of legal authority to incorporate such a definition in the absence of a clear legislative mandate. The Americans with Disabilities Act (Pub. L. 101-336) now provides the basis for a legislative mandate as well as an appropriate legal definition. For more details and an explanation of the need for this legislation, see the fact sheet entitled "MINORITY STATUS and RIGHTS: A PROPOSAL FOR BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES AND JOBS."
Blind people are asking for your help in securing positive action by Congress in the areas outlined here. Legislative proposals will be offered to achieve each of our specific objectives. Many priorities confront this session of Congress, but the needs of the nation's blind must not be overlooked.
We of the National Federation of the Blind stand ready to assist our Representatives and Senators to understand our needs and to take meaningful action to address them. In partnership with the National Federation of the Blind, each member of Congress can help build better lives for the blind both today and in the years ahead.
For further information contact:
Director of Governmental Affairs
National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
EMPOWERMENT IN REHABILITATION:
EXPANDING CHOICES For BLIND ADULTS
BACKGROUND: Federal support for rehabilitation of the disabled began in 1920, but programs for the blind did not receive Federal assistance until 1943. At that time, job training and employment assistance were the goals sought through rehabilitation. These goals remain significant, but in the context of a much broader mandate.
Unemployment remains a chronic problem for working-age blind persons. Most must seek rehabilitation services from time to time. Federal spending for rehabilitation has increased substantially in contrast to the budget constraints imposed on other programs, but the unemployment rate among working-age blind people remains unacceptably high. Laws against discrimination may help, but relevant, individualized services, designed to prepare blind persons for work, must also be provided.
EXISTING LAW: The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Pub. L. 93-112), as amended, authorizes most of the current federally supported rehabilitation programs. In excess of $1.6 billion in Federal financial assistance is distributed to the states under Title I of the Rehabilitation Act. Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act also authorize the use of additional funds to pay for the costs of rehabilitation services for disabled and blind people who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
A state cannot receive Federal funds or Social Security payments for rehabilitation unless there is a specific state agency designated to conduct the rehabilitation program. States have the option of designating one agency specifically to serve the blind and another to serve persons with other disabilities. All rehabilitation services must be obtained through the designated state agency. The policies and procedures of the agency govern the provision of services.
Regardless of individual preferences, blind persons seeking rehabilitation (referred to as "clients") must use the agency designated for them. A counselor is assigned to represent the agency and to oversee the provision of services. The basis for each client's rehabilitation program is supposed to be an individualized plan jointly developed by the counselor and the client, but options for the clients to select among sources for training are not offered by most state agencies. This lack of a free choice is a major deterrent to effective and responsive training and employment services, leaving almost 80 percent of employable blind people largely outside of our nation's work force.
PROPOSED LEGISLATION: Congress should amend the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to establish the client's right of choice in selecting agencies to provide rehabilitation services. Blind persons eligible for rehabilitation have the right to receive services, but personnel of the designated state agencies are empowered to make most of the planning decisions and arrangements for service. Joint planning by rehabilitation clients and counselors is required in section 102 of the Rehabilitation Act, but all final decisions about anyone's rehabilitation plan rest with personnel of the designated state agencies.
The "client's right of choice" provision would maintain the principle of individualized planning with joint participation by clients and counselors. The difference would be that services provided under an individualized plan could only be obtained from sources of the client's choice. Few decisions more fundamentally affect the outcome of rehabilitation. The client's compatibility with the philosophy, policies, and personnel of any training program is highly individualized. Current practices in rehabilitation largely ignore this fact. The proposed legislation will achieve better matching of clients with compatible programs by empowering rehabilitation clients to take charge of selecting sources for all services they receive.
NEED FOR LEGISLATION: Opportunities for persons with disabilities (including the blind) are expected to expand dramatically during the decade of the 1990's and beyond. The recently enacted Americans with Disabilities Act will provide a major impetus for growth and change, but existing programs (such as rehabilitation) will face new challenges brought on by newly emerging demands. Experience shows that the growing opportunities which become available for the blind will lead to rising expectations by the blind to enter fields of endeavor previously closed to them. Effective rehabilitation programs will provide the kind of support and training necessary for the blind to take full advantage of expanding opportunities only if they are flexible enough to respond to individual needs.
Policies of most state agencies now mandate that services can only be obtained from agency-specified programs. Client preference is of little consequence. Decisions are most often made to suit bureaucratic convenience or arbitrary state rules. But as persons with disabilities begin to experience and exercise their new rights, there will be a growing demand and need for services chosen by clients, not by agencies. Students who receive Federal aid to attend post-secondary institutions choose their own schools and select their courses of study. Elderly and disabled recipients of health services paid for by Medicare choose the doctors they will see, and the bills are paid by Medicare. Yet in rehabilitation client choices are subordinated to counselor decisions and agency policies.
Restrictive approaches in rehabilitation are inconsistent with the modern policies of rights and empowerment for persons with disabilities. Empowerment implies choice. This is the next logical step in the evolution of rehabilitation to support empowerment and independence. The right of choice is a cost-effective approach which Congress should now enact.
For further information contact:
Director of Governmental Affairs
National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
POLITICS IN THE FORM OF ACCREDITATION:
A THREAT TO PROGRAMS AND SERVICES FOR THE BLIND
BACKGROUND: Programs of rehabilitation, education, and employment assistance for blind persons receive substantial Federal funding through grants made under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973--Pub. L. 93-112, as amended. State rehabilitation agencies receive formula grants which are used in part to purchase services from other public or private nonprofit agencies. Federal grants are also made directly to public and private nonprofit agencies and institutions to carry out special projects, research, and demonstration programs.
Accreditation is not a precondition for an agency or school to receive Federal assistance. The Secretary of Education through the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) makes Federal requirements for the distribution of formula grants and special project funds. State agencies provide rehabilitation funds only to private agencies which meet their standards. All agencies that receive direct Federal grants must comply with Federal funding requirements, and performance is monitored by OSERS staff. Federal regulations include extensive reporting requirements, and all recipients are subject to state and Federal program and financial audits.
POLITICS, "ACCREDITATION," AND THE STORY OF NAC: NAC is the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped. Although NAC offers to accredit all agencies and schools serving the blind, most programs that could receive accreditation have chosen not to become involved in NAC. In twenty-five years of trying to become accepted, NAC has accumulated only ninety-eight accredited member agencies, with a 21 percent dropout rate. NAC's membership includes less than 20 percent of the programs eligible to apply for accreditation. Federal funds, used to establish and support NAC in its early years, were withdrawn in 1975 in the face of low agency acceptance of the NAC standards and consumer concerns raised about the NAC accreditation process. These conditions still exist.
NAC's ultimate survival depends upon steadily increasing the number of its member agencies and acquiring stable financing, but the prospects for doing either are poor. Membership growth is especially unlikely, and financing hangs in the balance. As an act of desperation, NAC's leaders have launched a legislative campaign to require accreditation as a precondition for agencies to receive funds to provide services under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. They have concluded that Congress could resolve NAC's problems by mandating accreditation, but their plan lacks widespread support. Strong opposition is expected from the Bush Administration and from most groups potentially affected by such a requirement.
IMPACT ON FEDERAL FUNDS: The legislative campaign to save NAC is being orchestrated by NAC itself with support from National Industries for the Blind (NIB). NIB provided 27 percent of NAC's funding last year. The chairman of NIB's Board of Directors is also leading the legislative effort. NIB controls the distribution of Federal contracts worth nearly $200 million each year. The contracts are supposed to be distributed to sheltered workshops that employ blind people to make products for the U.S. government. The NAC/NIB alliance is part of the plan to save NAC by linking accreditation and Federal funding.
The Committee for Purchase from the Blind and Other Severely Handicapped is the Federal agency responsible for overseeing NIB in its distribution of Federal contracts and use of funds derived therefrom. The Committee's general mandate is to conduct a program of production and sales activities through which items made by blind and other severely handicapped persons can be sold to the Federal government at fair market prices. This has nothing to do with accreditation or requirements for its use as a precondition for Federal funding.
NIB distributes contracts to workshops approved by the Committee, and the workshops pay fees to NIB from government sales. These nonappropriated funds are to be used for program purposes as prescribed by the Committee. Lobbying in support of NAC's legislation is not a program purpose. NIB informed the Committee that it was making grants to NAC for the purpose of promoting NAC's accreditation program, but the plan to seek legislation was announced after NIB's funding was secured.
Congress appropriates funds directly to the Committee but not to NIB. Nonappropriated funds are expended by NIB with oversight by the Committee. This limited form of accountability in the use of nonappropriated funds can create the opportunity for abuse. At the very least, NIB's involvement in NAC's legislative campaign is a breach of the trust placed in NIB by the Committee. More seriously, NIB's tax-exempt status could be jeopardized if nonappropriated funds are used for lobbying, directly or indirectly. Leadership by NIB's Board chairman on behalf of NAC would certainly be a direct form of lobbying.
HOW CONGRESS CAN HELP:
(1) Congress should adopt appropriations language directing the Committee for Purchase from the Blind and Other Severely Handicapped to see that nonappropriated funds resulting from procurement activities in its jurisdiction are spent solely to provide commodities and services for Federal use.
(2) Congress should reject the proposal to make accreditation a precondition for receipt of Federal funds for agencies providing rehabilitation, education, and employment assistance to the blind.
For further information contact:
Director of Governmental Affairs
National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
BUSINESS PRIORITY FOR BLIND VENDORS:
PROTECTION NEEDED IN SURFACE TRANSPORTATION AMENDMENTS
BACKGROUND: In 1982 Congress enacted legislation to establish and promote a program of economic opportunities for blind persons in the conduct of sales through vending machines in rest, recreation, and safety areas on rights-of-way in the national system of interstate and national defense highways. The provision authorizing this program is commonly known as the "Kennelly Amendment." Congresswoman Barbara Kennelly sponsored the amendment at the request of the National Federation of the Blind and worked closely with the Federation in steering this measure through Congress.
The amendment, which became section 111 of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982, requires that state agencies which license blind vendors to operate vending facilities on Federal property shall also have priority in selling products and services through vending machines at interstate rest area sites. State highway departments are not required to permit sales of any kind at interstate highway rest-stops, but when they do, priority must be given to the state's program for blind vendors. The Kennelly amendment is similar in concept to the priority accorded to blind vendors under the Federal Randolph-Sheppard Act and is in fact an extension of that program.
EXISTING LAW: Section 111 of title 23, United States Code, prohibits the placement of automotive service stations or other commercial establishments for serving motor vehicle users on rights-of-way of the interstate highway system. There is one exception to this rule. Under the agreement between each state and the Secretary of Transportation, the state highway department may permit the use of vending machines for the sale of food, drink, and other articles. The vending machines may only be operated by the state, and the items to be sold must be approved by the state highway department. Sales may be through vending machines only. The costs of installation and maintenance of the vending machines cannot be charged to Federal highway funds. The law has been designed to curb the introduction of commercial enterprises in roadside areas. If vending machine services are provided, priority must be given to the state agency responsible for licensing blind vendors to operate vending facilities under the Randolph-Sheppard Act. The Randolph-Sheppard Act was enacted in 1936 to give blind persons a priority in the operation of vending facilities of all types on Federal property. Most states have enacted similar laws applicable to other public property.
CHANGES PROPOSED: The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) has announced a policy goal to commercialize services at interstate rest-stop and safety areas. As its name suggests, AASHTO's members are state highway and transportation department officials representing all states. By virtue of its membership, AASHTO's positions affect Federal highway policies and surface transportation legislation. AASHTO's commercialization plan includes the use of agreements between state highway departments and private developers to establish and operate travel service and rest area facilities throughout the interstate highway system.
Information provided by AASHTO suggests that travel service and rest area developments could occur at as many as 1,400 sites initially, with hundreds more expected. AASHTO notes that the vending machine services provided by blind vendors have achieved popularity and widespread use among motorists. According to AASHTO, commercial developers should be allowed and encouraged to enter into joint agreements with state highway departments to conduct travel service and rest area programs including "rest area services, motorist information services, food services, and fuel services to be constructed or located on the rights-of-way of the interstate system." AASHTO has requested support and assistance from the Federal Highway Administration in developing the legislation necessary to implement this commercialization program.
PRIORITY FOR BLIND VENDORS AFFECTED: Anticipating Federal legislation, AASHTO's member highway departments have largely suspended any plans to establish vending machine service programs through agreements with state licensing agencies for the blind. Through amendments to the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, expected during 1991, highway officials hope to be granted authority to undertake the broader commercialization and development of interstate rest area facilities. Efforts are already underway to accomplish AASHTO's goal in areas where commercialization is not prohibited by Federal law. Both existing and future opportunities for blind vendors are threatened by these developments. Without the protection of Federal legislation, opportunities for the blind sought by the Kennelly Amendment could be overrun by commercial interests.
HOW CONGRESS CAN HELP:
(1) Congress should oppose all efforts to eliminate the blind vendor priority granted by section 111 of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982.
(2) Congress should support legislation to permit the commercialization of traveler service and rest areas on rights-of-way of the interstate highway system with priority to be given to blind persons in the management and conduct of all services provided.
Director of Governmental Affairs
National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
MINORITY STATUS AND RIGHTS:
A PROPOSAL FOR BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES AND JOBS
BACKGROUND: Blind persons and persons with disabilities in general have traditionally had few opportunities to become employed and even fewer opportunities to establish and maintain their own businesses. This does not reflect a general lack of ability among this population. It does reflect a lack of opportunity and financial support necessary to achieve success in the competitive business world. Prejudices and fears of employers have left nearly 80 percent of the employable blind population either unemployed or substantially underemployed.
Congress has recently sought to address this situation by enacting the Americans with Disabilities Act. When the employment provisions of this Act become effective in 1992, employers having twenty-five or more employees will be prohibited from discrimination on the basis of disability. Employers having fifteen or more employees will eventually be covered. Regardless of enforcement activities, this Act is expected to improve work force opportunities for persons with disabilities. But complete equality will require more than employment rights. This fact has been recognized in our government's efforts to underwrite and support economic development programs among members of traditionally disadvantaged minorities.
EXISTING LAW: Sections 8(a) and 7(j) of the Small Business Act establish a Minority Small Business and Capital Ownership Development Program to be conducted by the Small Business Administration (SBA). This program is intended in part to foster business ownership by individuals who are both socially and economically disadvantaged and to promote the competitive viability of such firms. To achieve these goals, Section 8(a) authorizes SBA to enter into all types of contracts with government departments and agencies for supply, service, construction, and research and development. Small business concerns, owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged persons, can be eligible to receive subcontracts to fulfill SBA's procurement obligations. Section 7(j) of the Small Business Act authorizes SBA to provide technical or management assistance to individuals or minority small business concerns.
Participation in the Minority Small Business and Capital Ownership Development Program is open to anyone who can qualify as both socially and economically disadvantaged. Participants eligible by definition include members of racial and ethnic minorities. Other individuals not included by definition may be found eligible upon application to SBA. Criteria for determining social and economic disadvantage are not clearly specified in law or regulations. As a result program participants are almost exclusively members of the defined minority groups.
PROPOSED LEGISLATION: Congress should amend Section 8(a) of the Small Business Act to include individuals with disabilities as a defined minority group for purposes of eligibility in the Minority Small Business and Capital Ownership Development Program. The term "disability" is defined in section 3(2) of the Americans with Disabilities Act and includes any individual who has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment. Approximately one-half million blind persons are individuals with disabilities under this definition.
This proposal is simply the recognition of disability as a condition of minority status for participation in SBA's targeted efforts to provide economic and technical assistance to members of minority groups. The social and economic disadvantages which accompany disabilities are well-known and beyond dispute. The problem for SBA has been to define disability and the extent of the class of individuals included. Another problem has been SBA's lack of legal authority to incorporate such a definition in the absence of a clear legislative mandate. The Americans with Disabilities Act now provides the basis for a legislative mandate as well as an appropriate legal definition.
NEED FOR LEGISLATION: Defined minority status is an acknowledged advantage for persons seeking eligibility from SBA. Proof of both social and economic disadvantage can be both time-consuming and expensive. For persons who are not members of defined minority groups, SBA appears to have great discretion. It is difficult to challenge the decisions made by SBA in this area because the criteria are not clearly explained, and there is no established legal standard.
Firms needing SBA's assistance cannot afford the time and expense of application delays and appeals involved in proving social and economic disadvantage. In the absence of defined minority status, business failures and bankruptcies can result. This has been the experience of a blind owner of a Tennessee sand and gravel business, who is still waiting after six years for approval of his minority business enterprise application. After finally agreeing that he was both socially and economically disadvantaged, SBA has expressed doubt that the application could be approved because the business is not economically viable. If that is so, SBA itself has caused the very condition for this applicant that its program is designed to remedy. Most of the reasons for delays in this and similar cases result from not having defined minority status. Congress should resolve this injustice by amending the Small Business Act to include individuals with disabilities as a defined minority group.
[PHOTO: Portrait of Peggy Pinder. CAPTION: Peggy Pinder, Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind.]
LESSONS FROM THE REVOLUTION
by Peggy Pinder
From the Associate Editor: Peggy Pinder, President of the NFB of Iowa and Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind, chairs the organization's Scholarship Committee with great skill and organization. She is also friend and mentor to many of the blind students who are flocking to our movement. It is not surprising, then, that the planners of this year's student seminar (held on February 2, 1991, immediately preceding the Washington Seminar) invited her to keynote the event. She is a successful attorney and is active in local and state politics in Iowa. Here is what she had to say:
All indications are, as I'm sure you all know, that this will be the largest student seminar that has ever been held in conjunction with the National Federation of the Blind's Washington Seminar and, in fact, the largest Washington Seminar that we have ever held. I do want to stop for a minute and look more broadly at what we're doing and why we're here.
We could all probably agree that ours is essentially a people's movement. How does a people's movement function: how does it come to be, how does it grow, how does it change, how does it succeed? In order to ascertain the answers to all these questions, it is easier to look at someone else's movement than to look at our own because we are so close to what we are doing. I'd like to step back, not only in emotional space, but in time as well and examine another people's movement for some lessons that it has for us. That people's movement is more commonly known in history as the American Revolution, but for our purposes we can think of it as a people's movement. It had no legal authority. It simply evolved out of the people's sense that something needed to change, and that resulted ultimately in the establishment of the United States of America.
Let's look at two of the people who were active during the Revolutionary Period: Paul Revere and Thomas Jefferson. Paul Revere is celebrated for doing something he didn't do and not remembered for all the mistakes that he did make. Thomas Jefferson, on the other hand, is remembered for only one of about ten or twelve phenomenal things that he did do. All of us would be grateful to have any one of these to our credit. The fact that people are remembered in narrow perspective may help to illuminate the kind of people's movement that the Revolutionary War was.
What did Paul Revere do? He warned the entire countryside that the British were coming, right? Well no, he didn't do that. As a matter of fact, he almost didn't get across the river. Paul Revere was apparently not what you would call one of the best pre-planners that we have bred in this country. When he got to the river, he had to cross it amongst a whole bunch of British ships, which were bristling with guns and filled with the ears of hostile forces. The only way to get across the river in one piece in that situation was to have fabric of some kind to muffle the oars. Otherwise, everyone would hear creak, creak, creak, and the messenger would be doomed. So Paul Revere got to the river with a couple of guys to row him across. He managed to get that far with some manual labor in tow, but nobody had anything to muffle the oars. And there the enterprise almost ended.
After he finally crossed the river, the first thing that happened was that he got arrested. He was caught by a British patrol, and they asked him what he was doing. He of course said that he was out for a Sunday drive or whatever, and they allowed as how they would be glad to have his horse if he wouldn't mind. Since there were a lot of them and one of him, he gave them his horse and walked back to Boston. Now it so happened that he ran into and recruited a guy who was out courting a local beauty, so it was the courting fellow who went to rouse the countryside. Paul Revere didn't do any of the things that we think of him as doing. He blew it; he just plain blew it. And this is one of our heroes in American history, right?
Let's set Paul aside for a minute, and we'll get back to him. I want to mention the other hero and show you again how history becomes narrow in its perspective. Thomas Jefferson: What do we remember him for? The wonderful, wonderful words in the Declaration of Independence that capture not only what he believed and what we believe but also the glory of those beliefs. That's what we remember him for.
Here's a man who was the first American paleontologist. He discovered and identified dinosaur bones and shipped them back to Europe. He also took on and single-handedly changed the prevailing though primitive natural science of the time. European scientists, with absolutely no evidence to support their conjectures, had evolved the belief that all American life forms were stunted, that everything--insects, flowers, grains, vegetables, birds, cows, and people--were made in a smaller size on the North American continent. I guess this was some sort of scientific effort to prove superiority or something. Anyway, Jefferson, unusually tall himself, took on this nonsense masquerading as science and demolished it. He rounded up current species, like a very large American bull, and sent their remains to Europe, convincing the opinion makers that American versions were actually bigger than the European ones.
Due to his service to his state and country, Jefferson was always in debt in the precarious colonial economy, which had little actual money and ran substantially on barter. Nevertheless, he bought the financially useless piece of ground near his home which contains the beautiful natural rock formation known as the Natural Bridge. He just liked it, so he bought it to preserve it, making him America's first conservationist. He was the first true architect in our country, designing not only his own home but the building still in use at the University of Virginia and the Capitol of the State of Virginia. He didn't just pile bricks and boards on one another; he designed buildings for beauty as well as use and brought architecture to our country. He is the man who gave us our country's motto, "E Pluribus Unum." He designed our decimal money system that makes so much sense because all you have to do is use your fingers to count. He is the one who also doubled the size of the country by the Louisiana Purchase and the man who established world trade on a solid foundation by eliminating the Barbary pirates. This is the man who did the first of everything.
As John Kennedy said to a group of Nobel laureates dining at the White House: This is the most illustrious group of people to dine at the White House since Thomas Jefferson dined here alone. Thomas Jefferson was an amazingly prolific and wonderful man, and I have probably left out half of the things that he did. But he is remembered principally for the Declaration of Independence and not for these other things.
What does all this tell us? First of all it tells us that history and human memory are quirky. But second, I think it tells us things about how people's movements evolve. Paul Revere blew it when he got to the river, but he backed up, and one of the people in his party demonstrated the characteristic traits of a people's movement--inventiveness and creativity under pressure. The guy, discovering that they didn't have any muffles for the oars, went running back to his girlfriend's house, threw a rock at the window, got her attention, and said that they needed some material. She dropped her petticoat out of the window (still warm, mind you, from use); and he took it back to the river to muffle the oars; and off they went.
So Paul blew it, but he happened to have associates who were able to engage in the creativity under pressure that brings about success in a people's movement. Although Paul warned virtually nobody in the countryside (he just lost his horse and let the British know he was around), he succeeded in passing the word along to one other person, who then passed the word. In fairness I should mention that Revere did manage to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams, whom the British were actually after. That's what they wanted--the principal traitors. He got to the two traitors and nobody else, so he achieved one of his goals. Paul Revere was later courtmartialed, by the way, convicted of unmilitary behavior, and kicked out of the army, which is another thing people don't know about him. He then got a retrial and convinced the army that he had not been guilty and continued to serve as an honorable soldier.
Paul Revere's history, both the mistakes and the successes, tells us a couple of important things about what a people's movement does. First, why do we remember this man who was courtmartialed and blew his mission? We do because the people who knew him respected him. He didn't just row across the river and wake up two guys. What he did for years and years and years of his life was to go out at night and gather information, speak with other people, and encourage those who were disheartened. Night after night he went to meetings. When a job needed doing, he was always there, asking to be assigned to do it. He showed up in Philadelphia about every other week carrying messages from Boston to the Continental Congress. Over and over and over he did the things he was asked to do. No matter that he almost blew the mission that one time. He kept on doing things for about ten years until the revolution was successful. That's what this guy did. He spent the time, and he gave of his treasure and of his spirit. He encouraged and taught others, and when a job needed doing, he did it. When a job wasn't getting done, he assigned it to himself. For example, this guy was a silversmith, but we didn't have any cannons at the beginning of the war. So he figured out how to cast cannons and started making them. Not only did he do what other people asked him to, he learned what was needed and did it in a spirit of cooperation and collective action.
I think that Revere's life, with both its errors and its successes, is instructive for all of us engaged in a people's movement. The guy made mistakes, big mistakes. But he also kept going. He wasn't embarrassed or ashamed of something that was done wrong. He cared enough about the goal and the outcome that he went back and tried again. Likewise, he took the time. Anybody who has got a going business doesn't have any extra time. On the other hand, you've got all the time in the world if you want to do something. He took the time, he went to the meetings, he talked to the people who were discouraged, he made the plans, he revised them, he did the things that were necessary. That is one example of a person functioning in a successful people's movement.
The other example that I mentioned, Thomas Jefferson, is a completely different type of contributor to a people's movement. I know of no evidence that Jefferson and Revere ever met, though I'm sure each knew who the other was. Yet these two men from different backgrounds, different perspectives, different parts of the country, worked hand in glove. They supported each other and complemented each other to bring about the goal to which each of them had dedicated his life. This is the second characteristic of a people's movement as illustrated by the Revolutionary War-- working together for the same goal, whether you know your fellow workers or not. Jefferson and Revere demonstrate a quality of commitment, a willingness to find the good in other people and in other people's actions, a disposition to make common cause with others one does not even know in order to achieve the broad goals served in common. This building of an organizational infrastructure by finding the things people were good at, by emphasizing the good qualities of one's fellow workers, by working with and building upon the good done by others was key to the success of the people's movement that established our country. And it was also key to the stable administration of the future once the goal was achieved. While working in the present to bring about change, Revere and Jefferson recognized that they must do their work with the basic respect for their fellows that serves as a solid basis for any human endeavor.
The third lesson from the experience of the Revolution is expressed in Thomas Jefferson's later reflections. He's the man who wrote those glorious words in the Declaration of Independence about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Yet less than twenty years later a group of citizens were rebelling because they thought taxes were too heavy and services weren't being provided: the famous Shay's Rebellion. Most of the people in the United States government wanted to go out to Western Pennsylvania and wipe them out. It wasn't right. Now that we had our own government, everybody should obey it. Everybody should agree with it. Everybody should simply say "Yes." Jefferson was horrified, not by the rebellion, but by the reaction of his colleagues, the former revolutionaries. And in that context Jefferson said, "God forbid that we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and of tyrants."
You understand, Jefferson was not a fighter. He wasn't bloodthirsty; the fact of the matter is that, whenever he got near a battle, he went the other way. He certainly wasn't advocating that we actually go out and water the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants. He was saying that men and women forget very quickly and that less than twenty years before he and his colleagues were saying that their government had to be changed because it was unjust. He was saying that less than twenty years before they had embraced the principle that freedom of speech matters. If you believe something and you're right, then facing opposition can help you to believe it more firmly. If you believe something and you're wrong, then you need the opposition to tell you about it. The Jeffersonian notion that the tree of liberty must be refreshed is the final lesson that we can draw from this other people's movement.
If we in the National Federation of the Blind today look back to Paul Revere, it is easier to remember that we should go to the chapter meeting and that, if we need to muffle the oars in order to get there, to find transportation of some kind which will be efficient and effective, then we need to take that time because each of us, like Paul Revere, embodies the people's movement that we in the National Federation of the Blind have established. It isn't enough to believe something. We must do what is necessary to bring that belief into being. Revere spent that time, went to those meetings, and expressed in his daily life the future that he hoped to bring about. We partly remember Paul Revere, though, because somebody wrote about him. Some of us in this room will be the chroniclers of our movement, recording our successes and the reasons for those successes for others to recall.
We also remember Jefferson in part because he was a writer. But Jefferson's talk about the tree of liberty shows us the final lesson that we can learn from our revolutionary colleagues of two hundred years ago--you never stop learning. Jefferson knew that the only guarantee of political freedom was freedom of speech and thought, and he was convinced that one must learn and relearn and relearn again the principles, interpreting and applying them in new contexts. That, to me, is the most glorious part of the American Revolution and of the National Federation of the Blind: you learn something every time you talk to another blind person. You learn something every time you talk to a Congressman. You learn something about how the world works and about how you work and about how change can occur.
Thomas Jefferson said, "God forbid that we should be twenty years without such a rebellion." What he was really saying was that each of us individually grows in knowledge. All of us as a movement grow together in knowledge. Never, never think that you know it all, because there is always someone who can teach you something. There is always something that our movement can learn. That is the real beauty of our student division and of this student seminar. Learning for our future, planning those next twenty years, must mean that we take the time for re-learning and re-commitment, and that we remember that the tree of liberty must constantly be refreshed by individual people and by the movement as a whole.
So God forbid that the National Federation of the Blind should ever be twenty years without a student seminar. God forbid that the National Federation of the Blind should ever be twenty years without new members who raise questions, who challenge theory, and who put forth new applications of our principles. And God forbid that the National Federation of the Blind should ever be twenty years without a willingness to talk, a willingness to learn, and a willingness to grow. You students will be setting that agenda for the nineties and for the twenty-first century. God forbid that you should ever think you know it all or think that innovation isn't necessary. Most of all, God forbid that you should think you don't have to go to the meetings or arrange transportation or do anything to make the future come about, because the tree of liberty must be watered, not every twenty years, but continually. Not only did the American patriots do it, but we in the National Federation of the Blind are doing it still.
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."
[PHOTO: Kenneth Jernigan standing at podium microphone. CAPTION: Dr. Kenneth Jernigan was the featured speaker at the annual banquet of the National Association of Blind Students.]
HOW DO WE CHANGE THE WORLD
by Kenneth Jernigan
Many of the problems we face today--problems such as discrimination against the blind in air travel, seventy percent unemployment among the blind, unresponsiveness on the part of governmental and private agencies, and massive public misunderstanding about blindness--seem so big and all- encompassing as to be beyond our scope as individuals to do anything about. We tend to think that surely such major issues can only be handled at the national level by national leaders. But wait! A national problem is simply a lot of individual people having the same wrong attitude or misunderstanding. When you look at it that way, it takes on a different appearance.
If our problems are caused by individuals, they can best be solved by individuals. Each of us can do something to help, working on a one-to-one basis. Here is where the National Federation of the Blind is unique and particularly strong. We are not just national, state, or local leaders. We are individuals, working together and helping each other in a common cause with a shared philosophy.
Our understanding about blindness and public attitudes, our self-confidence, and our sense of united purpose did not come overnight. We have been at the task for the better part of a century, and there is still a way to go. But there are now tens of thousands of us throughout the country, consciously working on a daily basis to change what it means to be blind. This is the only way it can be done, individuals acting individually to change society's attitudes and improve the climate of public opinion. More often than not, the progress is not dramatic. This is the way people's movements are--and no one can say which particular incident on which particular day was the critical occurrence, the crucial happening, or the pivotal event. In fact, in a true people's movement, it may be that there is no such thing as a critical occurrence or crucial happening or pivotal event--just an accelerating accumulation of isolated acts which, taken together, change lives and weld a minority together with unbreakable bonds, determined to be free and never to go back.
I have worked in our movement for more than forty years, and this is the way I think the National Federation of the Blind has been built, individual added to individual and incident added to incident. This is why we are the strongest force in the affairs of the blind today. This is why we are unstoppable and unbeatable, moving with a mighty sweep toward equal treatment and first-class status. To the question how do we change the world, I answer: by individual actions collectively focused. Leaders can help with the focusing, but rank-and-file members (thousands and tens of thousands of us) must take the actions. Leaders cannot plan these actions. They cannot, that is, if the actions are to be effective. Too much is involved. Everything would bottleneck at the top. The system would break--or never grow to the proportion of a people's movement. The only way to achieve our objective is by individual actions collectively focused--walking alone and marching together.
The following letters perfectly illustrate what I am saying. A radio program was heard by a Federationist in Arizona in July of 1990. The Federationist took action and talked to others in his local chapter. The chapter secretary wrote a letter and followed it up with a second letter. Now (several months later) the chapter has called the matter to the attention of the Braille Monitor, and we are passing it on to our readers throughout the country so that others may think about it and do likewise.
Of course, this series of occurrences might never have been reported to the Monitor at all. Many such incidents are not--and even if they were, most of them could not be printed. There are too many. We are a people's movement.
As the correspondence will indicate, this matter has not been finally resolved. Perhaps it never will be. It makes no difference. The effect is the same. We are changing the world. We are doing it by individual actions collectively focused, by walking alone and marching together. Consider the following letters, and you will see what I mean. They are low key, undramatic, and unspectacular. Yet, in their cumulative effect they are earthshaking.
Then, there is what happened in Wisconsin. A sighted fourth grader receives a lesson about blindness from her teacher, and she comes home and tells her mother, who happens to be blind and who also happens to be the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin. The mother writes to the teacher, and as in the Arizona case, the matter (at least, so far as we know) still remains unresolved.
Also, as in the Arizona case, we are dealing with the undramatic and the unspectacular--or, viewed more broadly, with the earthshaking and the stuff of historic change. Every incident has a cumulative effect. In the present instance the action was taken by a state president, but it could just as easily have been somebody else, a member holding no office at all. The operative factor is that it was a Federationist. We act individually, but our actions are collectively focused to achieve equal rights and first-class status.
Arizona and Wisconsin. Then, there is what happened in Los Angeles on October 18, 1990. Two blind Federationists go to a meeting of the county board of supervisors to receive an official document, one which proclaims White Cane Safety Day in the county and pays tribute to the Federation--but in the very act of presenting the proclamation the supervisors treat the Federationists in a discriminatory fashion. And they do it without even knowing they are doing it. The Federationists, who are conscious of the long-term nature of the battle for first- class citizenship which they are waging, do not make an on-the- spot protest but respond graciously. Then they go home and write a letter--quiet, undramatic, and (taken in conjunction with what is happening in Arizona, Wisconsin, and elsewhere) ultimately earthshaking. The Federation is on the move--changing the world by individual actions collectively focused, by walking alone and marching together.
Here is the Arizona correspondence, followed by the letters from Wisconsin and California. Observe the pattern. Consider the long-term implications.
October 18, 1990
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
I have been told that copies of the following correspondence might be of some interest to you and the Braille Monitor. The issue described herewith, though still unresolved, is seemingly one of relatively low intensity. The correspondence relating to this matter has been sent to President Maurer, and any future
correspondence will be forwarded to you as well.
Tom Johnson, Secretary
National Federation of the Blind of Phoenix
July 25, 1990
Program Director, KUPD
Dear Mr. Johnson:
On Saturday, July 14, 1990, it came to the attention of some of the members of the National Federation of the Blind of Arizona that comedian Sam Kinneson made use of certain negative phrases and images pertaining to blind persons during one of his promotions for a then upcoming show. We feel that the stereotypes used by Mr. Kinneson do nothing to enhance a positive public image of blind people in this state.
Since your station is a vehicle for entertainment and information, we feel that a public service would be rendered if literature and other educational materials on blindness from our organization could be disseminated to counteract these much-too- prevalent stereotypes. We would be happy if you would be willing to receive such information. It would be further helpful if you or someone at your station could give us the name of Mr. Kinneson's promoter so that educational materials could be provided to him.
We would very much appreciate a response.
Tom Johnson, Secretary
National Federation of the Blind of Phoenix
August 2, 1990
Dear Mr. Johnson:
I am Sue Cook, Public Affairs Director of 98 KUPD. Curtiss Johnson gave me your letter concerning the stereotyping of blind people. In response, I am offering your organization the opportunity to be guests on Valley Voice, our public affairs program. This show is tape recorded in advance, so we can schedule your representatives at our mutual convenience.
As far as public awareness of blind people, we do run your national public service announcements on blindness, but if your organization would like to submit more information about Arizona's chapter, feel free to do so. Just mail anything you have to our business address.
And finally, Sam Kinneson's recording company is Warner Brothers. Their mailing address is: Warner Brothers Records, 3300 Warner Boulevard, Burbank, California 90909. Thank you for the time you spent writing us, and let's hope good things will come to pass.
October 16, 1990
Warner Brothers Records
I am writing on behalf of the Phoenix chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Arizona, an affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). We are not an organization speaking for blind people. We are the blind speaking for ourselves--and as such, we have something to say.
On Saturday, July 14, 1990, a member of the Tucson chapter of the NFB happened to be listening to radio station KUPD (the offices of which are located in Tempe, Arizona) when a promotion for a then upcoming show by comedian Sam Kinneson was broadcast. In this promo, Mr. Kinneson made use of certain negative stereotypes pertaining to blindness and blind people. For example, Mr. Kinneson said that not only could he not ascertain the time of day, but that he could not differentiate between the sexes when trying to "score" for the evening in a bar--that is to say, that blindness would make of him a fool.
We fully understand the use of promos in attempting to attract attention and attendance of crowds to upcoming performances. However, in this instance, we feel that such a caricature of blindness as that presented by Mr. Kinneson is a distortion and does nothing to enhance a positive public image of blind people. Indeed, such a presentation helps to slow the clock which measures the time taken and the time needed by the blind of this nation to complete the journey to social equality.
A letter concerning this matter was sent to KUPD and a response received. You will find copies thereof accompanying this letter.
As a suggestion, it might be a good idea for Mr. Kinneson actually to meet with some of the people who seemingly provide such amusement free of charge. Mr. Kinneson has an open invitation when he is in Arizona to attend any of our chapter meetings (second Friday of each month), or to attend the annual convention of the Arizona state affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind (held this year October 26-28).
For further information, please write: Ruth Swenson, President, National Federation of the Blind of Arizona, 311 West McNair Street, Chandler, Arizona 85224; (602) 892-4387. Or you can contact: Marc Maurer, President, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230; (301) 659- 9314.
Since you are promoting Mr. Kinneson, we thought we would make our views known.
Tom Johnson, Secretary
National Federation of the Blind of Phoenix
October 10, 1990
Ms. Vicki Laude
Dear Ms. Laude:
This correspondence is in response to the class you are currently teaching about blindness to the students of the fourth grade at Woodlands School. To teach our children about other cultures and groups is of course a very important and worthwhile endeavor. Since the blind are a recognized group, and because blind persons have contributed so richly to our society, it is fitting that blindness and the blind should have been chosen by you to be included in my daughter's curriculum.
However, I have been hearing about attitudes displayed about blindness that I find extremely distressing and false. It is my understanding that you turned off the lights in the classroom, blindfolded the students, and asked them to write the color of their clothing, the blackboard, and other items. After the students had completed this assignment and walked about the classroom bumping into each other, you announced that now they should have a better idea of what it is like to be a blind person and how difficult it is for blind people to remember colors, walk around, and find their television sets in their homes.
I believe this assignment left the students with many false impressions about blindness. Of course, they would have difficulty walking about. They have not been trained in the use of a long white cane as a blind child would have been. Of course they would have difficulty writing blindfolded with a pencil. A blind child would have written quite legibly with a slate and stylus in Braille or would have used a typewriter. Because your students could not remember colors does not mean that a blind person could not.
I also understand that you asked your students to write all of the things that they thought a blind person could not do, and then estimate how the blind could get those things done, thereby encouraging your students to investigate a perceived lack of competence on the part of the blind. Did you ever think about asking the students to list all of the many things blind people can do? Do you also plan to ask your class to list things they believe sighted, black, American Indian, Jewish, or bald people can't do? I expect not--and frankly I hope not, for such a stereotypic question would have the same prejudicial and discriminatory results.
The blind are sending their children to school, paying bills, mowing their lawns, going back and forth to their jobs, shopping for groceries, going to school, playing cards with their friends, washing dishes, cooking their meals, and painting their homes... even as you read this letter. In other words, the blind do the same things and have the same feelings as you. We do not live lives of drastic losses of memory, fear, or confusion any more than you do.
A most disturbing comment came from Candice, herself, when she came home from school today. She said, "Mom, you know, they're always telling us at school to respect all kinds of people (black people, the handicapped, and the blind), but they don't really mean it." That is what my daughter learned at Woodlands School today.
You must remember, Ms. Laude, that because of our family's association with the National Federation of the Blind, Candice has met hundreds of blind people throughout the country. She knows that blind people don't have the difficulties of mobility and intellect that seem to have been portrayed in your class. Because I myself am blind, Candice sees Braille and a white cane being used by me every day, and she views these objects as symbols of independence.
I know that you have the best interests of your students at heart. But if you really want to know about the blind, I suggest that you consult with a blind person. I am quite troubled about this recent learning experience relating to blindness. I am being as understanding as I know how to be. I would be willing to demonstrate to the class the alternative techniques (Braille, white cane) of blindness and answer any questions about blindness that the class may have.
Let me assure you that the real problem of blindness is not the loss of eyesight. The real problem is the misunderstanding and lack of information which exist. When a blind person has proper training and opportunity, blindness is nothing more than a physical nuisance. Knowledge about blindness is just not your strong suit. However, I do thank you very much for the excellent guidance you have given Candice in her other subjects.
Bonnie Peterson, President
National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin
San Fernando Valley Chapter
National Federation of the Blind of California
October 18, 1990
Los Angeles County Supervisor
Dear Supervisor Edelman:
Thank you for your motion on October 9th, 1990, for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to declare October 15 as White Cane Safety Day. Thanks also to the rest of the Board for approving your motion and thereby acknowledging the equality of blind persons and promoting opportunity and security for the blind.
Although I am pleased with the Board's proclamation, I must say in all candor that I was quite disappointed and offended at the manner in which the proclamation was delivered to my associate, Mr. Jerry Drake, and me. The previous speakers were invited onto the platform for their presentations and comments regarding the Board's actions. Mr. Drake and I were stopped at the edge of the platform and prevented from stepping onto it. As we stood on the floor in front of the platform, a hand-held microphone was presented to us for our comments following the reading of the proclamation.
Mr. Drake and I are blind. We are also capable of coming to the podium. For that matter, so would any other blind person be able to step up to your podium. The apparent assumption that we could not was not only wrong but also in contradiction of the Board's proclamation. How can we be equal if we are denied the opportunity to stand at the podium like every other person who is not physically prevented from doing so?
Because of respect for the Board, I chose not to raise this issue at the board meeting. But I must raise it now. I ask you, your staff, and the other Board members to examine your own actions in light of your proclamation that blind people in Los Angeles County are to be considered equal to the sighted. Equal means exactly that--equal opportunity, and (correspondingly) equal obligations. I assure you that Mr. Drake and I take our obligations seriously.
We will look forward to reappearing before the Board next October and on any other occasions when it becomes necessary. In the future we will expect to be treated as capable people and given the opportunity to take our rightful place alongside you on the platform.Sincerely,
These are representative letters, and they outline the blueprint for changing the world. They are as undramatic and unspectacular as everyday life--which, of course, is exactly what they are. Step by step, minute by minute we who are blind are marching to equality. Our actions are taken individually, but they are collectively focused. We walk alone, but we march together.
WHY THE NFB IS HELPING ME FILE A SECTION 504 COMPLAINT
(From the Associate Editor: In February, the National Federation of the Blind of Sacramento held a Seminar, "Blindness: Focusing on the Future." Blind people and their families traveled to this seminar from all over central California. This very informative seminar addressed many issues of importance to blind persons. One of the presenters was Jillian Brooks of Redding, a licensed radiological technologist who had recently been fired from her job. As happens so often, she turned to the Federation for help, and since then Sharon Gold, President of the National Federation of the Blind of California, has been working closely with her. Together they filed a Section 504 complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services in July of 1990, and early in 1991 they filed a complaint in federal court.
Jillian became so committed to what the NFB stands for that she began working intensively to organize a chapter, and in April of 1990 the Shasta County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of California was born with Jillian as its energetic president. The Summer, 1990 edition of The Blind Citizen, the publication of the NFB of California, included the text of Jillian's speech to the Sacramento seminar. This is what she said:
This is my first NFB conference, and actually my first experience in person with the NFB. Last week I was typing a letter to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, and my roommate said to me, "Life is like a refrigerator. You get out of it what you put into it." Sometimes it seems like we have to put in an awful lot to get out a small amount, and often when we open the refrigerator door, we're confronted by lots of bad-smelling, moldy things.
I lost my vision when I was in high school. I became legally blind at the age of sixteen. I didn't really pay too much attention to it at the time because the same thing had happened to my sisters, too, and we have all led fairly normal lives in spite of it.
When Diane Starin mentioned a little while ago that as blind people we are supposed to do some things and we are not supposed to do others, I had to laugh. My sister reminded me of the truth of this. When I first lost my eyesight, I was told in high school that I couldn't take a crafts class or home economics because I might be injured. I came home and told my dad, who said, "Well, that's stupid. You go back and tell them that you want to take the crafts class and that you want it to be before the home economics class. That way, if you saw your finger off in the crafts class, you can sew it back on in home economics." Dad taught me two important things with his comment: that I could do it, and that, if I made a mistake, I could fix it.
I went on to college and studied various subjects. I really had an interest in science and in the health field. I decided in junior college that I wanted to get involved in radiological technology. It really encompassed things I liked, so I applied for the program. Luck was with me. The woman running this program did not discriminate against me. (I find a lot of discrimination in the refrigerator.) But she said, "Hey, look. If you think you can make it through the program, that's fine. I'm not going to guarantee you a job, but I'll let you into the program." I made it through the radiological technician major and graduated summa cum laude.
Before I did so, I was offered a job at the hospital in which I had trained, so I didn't even have to go out job hunting. Actually, I was offered two jobs. I worked as an x-ray technician in that hospital for five years. Then I changed jobs for various reasons. During the last thirteen years I've worked in about four or five different x-ray facilities, and I've never had a problem. I would go in and say, "I've got a vision problem, but I use a Visualtek. I can do this, and I can do that, and I'm California and nationally certified. I also have extra training as a phlebotomist, so I'm qualified. In fact, I'm probably more qualified than my colleagues, simply because I'm blind and I've got to be better. I have all the certificates, and I have to prove myself to get my job, but I don't mind doing that. I just want to work."
I recently moved to Redding because there were a lot of really good x-ray jobs up there. I could afford to put a down payment on a house and get my life going nicely. So I moved to Redding, I bought a house, and I got a job with a clinic there. I wasn't really getting enough hours, so I found another job with Redding Radiological Associates. They were thrilled to have me. We negotiated the contract over a couple of weeks. I wanted more money than they were offering, and I got it. I went to work with Redding Radiological Associates on January 3, 1990.
On January 9, for the first time in my life, I was fired. It was a very humiliating experience. I was called into my supervisor's office, and she said, "I'm sorry but your eyesight's a problem, and we're going to have to terminate you." I kept my composure though I was shaking then just about as much as I am now, giving my first speech to the National Federation of the Blind.
I asked if I had made a mistake, and she said that I had not. I asked if I had caused any problems, and she said, "No, but you know, some day you might. You will prove to be a safety hazard on the job. You might stick somebody with a needle."
I responded, "Well, I've never stuck anybody I didn't intend to stick."
She said, "In an emergency, if somebody has anaphylactic shock, you might not be able to read the expiration dates on the medicine you have to hand to the doctor." I said, "You know I can read them. I use my magnifying glass." (I did not have my Visualtek at this job but simply used a magnifier because there was very little reading to do.)
The supervisor said, "We don't want you to use a magnifying glass. If patients see you doing your job with a magnifying glass, they will lose faith in your abilities as a technologist." I explained to her what a Visualtek was, that I had my own, and that I would be more than happy to bring it to work. I also explained that I had worked in emergency situations many, many times. I then realized that she wasn't going to be persuaded.
In commenting about the Visualtek, she said, "I'm sorry, but our doctors would not be accommodating to the idea of having this piece of equipment on the job site." I was then handed my paycheck and my letter of termination.
Was I in trouble! I went home to my mortgage and everything else. I was so depressed. The next morning, just by chance, my sister Jean called from New York City. She's also blind and is a bank Vice President. She asked me what was going on. I told her that I had been fired and that I didn't think it was fair. She said that she didn't think it was legal. I asked her what I should do. She suggested that I get an attorney. Then she said, "You know, I've heard of an organization of blind people. They might help you. It's the National Federation of the Blind."
I called Information and got Sharon Gold. Whoa! Boy! Talk about having the big guns. I've been working closely with her since then, and she has helped me step by step through this. I'm still unemployed, but I'm at least fighting. I'm feeling good about myself and have a very positive self-image.
Redding Radiology has a personnel manager, who serves as an arbitrator. Sharon and I met with her here in Sacramento. We had a pleasant meeting. You see, they couldn't find anything wrong with me other than the fact that I had to read with a magnifying glass and squint. I had made no mistakes. I had done nothing wrong. It was clearly--I've learned the term--a 504 offense.
The arbitrator suggested that Redding Radiology give me a job. We received a letter from them a few days later offering me a job as a darkroom clerk for exactly half my previous wages. This was almost as bad as being terminated. We've refused that offer.
Now I'm filing a complaint with the State Department of Fair Employment and Housing. We're also filing a 504 complaint with the United States Department of Health and Human Services because Redding Radiology receives funds from the federal government for Medicare and MediCal patients.
What I really want to say is that we've talked a little here today about support and what this organization means. The National Federation of the Blind offers an opportunity, not only for us to receive support, but to give it. I think the two are pretty equal in their importance. I'm probably the newest member, but I'm already a very loyal and devoted one. I promise that I'm going to do everything I can to try to get this organization a really good foothold up in the Redding area.
A BLIND TEACHER ON THE JOB
by Judy Krecek
From the Associate Editor: Sometimes we forget how much encouragement we can give one another just by sharing our reflections on our own jobs. It can also happen that talking with others about our work provides us with new insights and perspectives on our lives. In June, 1990, Judy Krecek, a member of the Kankakee-Heartland Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, spoke to her chapter about her job as a teacher. Her remarks were reprinted in the Summer, 1990, issue of The Blind Educator, the publication of the National Association of Blind Educators. Here is what she had to say:
Perhaps today is not the best time for me to talk to you about teaching because yesterday was the last day of school. I am suffering from burnout. I think I'm happier than the kids that we all made it through to another June. This has been a stressful year, but each one is very rewarding.
I was examining my conscience and asking why I am a teacher. My answer was "June, July, and August." But really, this is a rewarding job, for many times I can touch children's lives and make a difference. Even if I help only one child in twenty years, I feel my work has been successful.
Of course, when I was young, I played school; however, my goal was to be a waitress. But then I wondered who would ever hire me. Then I thought I would be an organist, but we did not have an organ, so that was the end of that. It was actually a junior high teacher who suggested that I become a teacher, but she thought I should teach the blind.
I think maybe I went into teaching because of my family. Neither of my parents had a happy childhood. My father grew up in an orphanage. For that reason he made sure that our family was very close. My mother was unloved and was encouraged not to further her own education, so education and affection were very important to her.
I spent my early years in a class for blind children, but they did not teach Braille, which was a big mistake. In fact, I did not learn Braille until I was in college. I did not enjoy my experience in school, for I was pulled out of regular class and sent to the special education class. I was encouraged not to play with the regular kids, and I was basically segregated from the mainstream.
In the sixth grade this program deteriorated because the teacher said that I should be able to read large print books as fast as the regular kids. Never mind that I had several eye problems. I ran home to my mother and told her that the teacher said my IQ was okay, but I failed every test I had taken because I could not read very fast and sometimes not at all. The truth was that no one knew Braille, so I was not taught, and as a result I was set up to fail. I simply could not see.
Finally, my parents decided to pull me out of that school and put me into a Catholic school. My family asked why the school was reluctant to take me and were told that there was a special class for me right down the street. In the end they said that I could enter the school but that I would have to repeat a grade because I was two years behind in math and three in English. Of course, no one recognized that I was behind because I could not see to do the work. I went back to the public school and told them I wanted to transfer. They told me that I could pass to the seventh grade even though I was behind. They were getting state and federal money to educate me, and they did not want to lose it.
My parents left the decision to me. I had always wanted to be in a regular class, so I repeated a year at the Catholic school. My mother tutored me in the subjects I was lacking, and everything was better. Again I must remind everyone that the problem was my blindness, but no one really understood that.
In those days, when a blind student went to private school, there were no materials, so my mother bought a tape recorder she could not afford and read all my books for me. She continued doing all my reading through college and even typed my Latin in large print. If I had not had a mom like that, I would not have made it through the system. Mom had three other kids, so she was very busy. She was invaluable to me. In high school I would sleep only three or four hours per night because it took me so long to complete my assignments; I simply could not see. This is why Braille is so important. I could not keep up using print. When I was sixteen, my mother asked if I wanted to quit because it was such a strain. Of course I did not.
When I was ten I did get a Talking Book Machine, but we had to fight for it. They said they did not have children's books and that if I had the machine I might not push myself to read. Again, I did not read because I could not see, but no one realized this. When it came time to decide about college, I had my mother's support, but my father thought it unnecessary. Of course, now he brags about how I have two degrees. At that time I think my father was afraid of what would happen in a new situation.
When it was time for student teaching, I was told I could not do it. The woman in charge said that she had wanted to be a doctor but that we do not always get what we want. She said she would not want her child in my class for safety reasons. I did not know how to answer, but I said that if they did not let me student teach, I would sue. They made me teach on campus, but I did do it. They gave me a rough time, but I still got the credentials.
I have had several parents who wanted to pull their children out of my class because it was too hard, but not because of blindness. I have always talked these parents out of moving their children. It is good for everyone to have challenging classes. What I am trying to tell you is that when you meet the people in your life who tell you that you cannot do something, you have to prove them wrong. All the way through school people would say that they admired my enthusiasm, but.... When people say "but," it is time for combat.
I had many interviews when I was looking for my first job. On my credential one line stated that I was blind. When the interviewers read that, there were all kinds of excuses about why they did not need me. I had a lot of rejections before I got my first job. The only reason I got the job I did was that Latin was my minor and the district was desperate for a Latin teacher. The superintendent offered me the job on the spot. It was August, and he needed a teacher that day. He asked if I had any questions, and I said that I did not but that he had not asked about my blindness. He simply asked if I thought I could teach, and of course I said I could. He said that was all that he wanted to know. I was thrilled because I was going to earn real money, $5,300 a year. I taught there for two years, but church was twenty-five miles away, and it was eight miles to a bus stop. The town had no theaters and maybe one restaurant.
After two years there, I saved up my money and went to Europe. I resigned before going on vacation. I realized later that it was foolish to have quit, but Kankakee did hire me. I was sure they would not choose me for the job because it was a rough class, but I interviewed because I could get to the job from Chicago by train.
I was offered the job but was not really happy there for about four years. It took me all that time to feel a part of the community. After eleven years I bought a house.
I do love my job. The first day of class I always tell my students in what ways I proceed differently. I have a closed- circuit television, which I use to enlarge material. I work from recorded tests. I have the students listen to prerecorded stories, which they love. When a student needs help with pronunciation, I instruct that student to spell the word rather than point. Even though the students know I am blind, they ask what kind of car I drive because everyone in their world drives. I have to remind them that blind people do not drive.
Of course, my students pull pranks, but they are all out of love. One day they turned my desk around so that, when I sat down, I banged my knees. They just wanted to know how I would react. We talked about people's feelings and how we must respect one another. I give them assigned seats and tell them why, and I hire a reader to do some of my grading. Also I teach computers and use one myself. I got roped into teaching the class because I had the skill.
I have two classes of three hours each--language arts, social studies, etc. Using the computers has really helped my students' writing skills. Every year I have them participate in the young authors contest, which is quite a challenge. I also use my talking clock calculator, which has other features as well.
A lot of people think that I am smart, but I, like many, have to work hard at my job. I insist on the best from my students. I know that the results are worth the struggle. One problem I see these days is that they want to give up too easily. I do my best to encourage them to keep on trying. Blindness does make for more challenges, but we all know that. All people face challenges; being blind simply makes them obvious. I have worked now for twenty-four years, and I have been happy to have a job that is very, very rewarding.
[PHOTO: Euclid Herie standing at podium microphone. CAPTION: Dr. Euclid Herie coordinates the programs serving the blind in Canada and serves as Treasurer of the World Blind Union.]
WALKING ALONE AND MARCHING TOGETHER
A Book Review
by Euclid J. Herie, LL.D., and Gerald Dirks, Ph.D.
From the Editor: Dr. Euclid J. Herie is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. Dr. Gerald Dirks is an Associate Professor at Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario. Walking Alone and Marching Together: A History of the Organized Blind Movement in the United States, 1940-1990 by Dr. Floyd Matson, c1990, 1116 pages, ISBN 0- 9624122-1-X, may be purchased from the National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, in print (photos, hardcover) or on cassette (4-track, 15/16 ips) for $30.00 plus a $3.00 shipping and handling charge per copy. Use VISA, MasterCard, Discover Card, check, money order, or institutional purchase order. Here is the book review:
This massive volume constitutes the official history of the National Federation of the Blind. This is the largest organization of blind people in the United States and likely in the world. Using extensive quotations drawn from the speeches and published writings of the National Federation of the Blind's two most prominent leaders over its fifty-year history, Drs. Jacobus tenBroek and Kenneth Jernigan, the author comprehensively chronicles the birth, evolution, and growth of this fifty thousand-member organization of blind Americans.
The book is substantively researched and based, to a large extent, on archival holdings, including back issues of the Braille Monitor, the monthly publication of the National Federation of the Blind, presidential addresses before the organization's annual conventions, and correspondence between the Federation's executives and a host of individuals representing diverse points of view from within and beyond the National Federation of the Blind. This living history breaks new ground by exhaustive thoroughness in the sense that rather than describing what has been done by agencies and associations for the blind, the focus instead is on what this segment of American society, labouring collectively for themselves within one dynamic organization, has striven to accomplish over the past half century.
Dr. Matson has chosen to concentrate upon many of the chronic and discriminating issues with which blind Americans have had to cope. He has described the connection between these varied issues and the development of a type of class consciousness or awareness within the blind community and has identified the dynamism provided by a few powerful leaders who transformed class awareness into committed collective action.
Through his writing style and approach, the author has successfully enabled the reader of this narrative to enter the world of the National Federation of the Blind's early and contemporary leaders and acquire a real appreciation for their trials, tribulations, and ultimate victories.
The National Federation of the Blind emerged as a result of the need to address a broad range of economic and social issues and has continued throughout its existence aggressively and innovatively to resolve both bread and butter, as well as attitudinal barriers that have together combined to impede the development of independence within America's blind population.
As Matson explains, discriminatory features associated with both the content and implementation of the newly established federal Social Security and welfare system, together with the appalling lack of meaningful employment opportunities, had much to do with the origins of the National Federation of the Blind in 1940. How this embryonic, but later mature, organization of the blind, set out to alleviate these economic and social conditions is a fascinating theme that runs throughout the book. Some of the monetary and attitudinal issues confronted by the National Federation of the Blind leaders and general membership as described in the volume include employment within the public service, the right to organize, access to a broad range of educational programs,and the perennial matter of custodial care for the blind.
If the number of pages in this book devoted to an issue in any way reflects the importance and depth of feeling about particular matters, two or three subjects over the years have truly dominated the agenda of the National Federation of the Blind's movement. Entire chapters are given over to a detailed reprinting of the devastating assault by the National Federation of the Blind leadership on agency operated sheltered workshops and everything they stand for, the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind, and the American airline industry. Triumph over these entrenched discriminating institutions is portrayed as essential toward the achievement of independence and first-class status by the blind of America. Any reader who possesses stamina and who is at all perceptive will end his journey through this book with the inescapable conclusion that seldom have emotionally laden attacks been as vitriolic, nor philosophic differences been so pronounced, by the participants on both sides of these troubling issues. However, the reader is left in absolutely no doubt as to who constituted the forces of darkness and who emerged as the saviours and liberators.
The volume in certain segments drops its harsh rhetoric and contains more upbeat and affirmative chapters. In these chapters, Matson discusses the debate over the teaching and use of Braille, praises the operation of the library system for America's blind, and describes the role the Braille Monitor has played and continues to play in popularizing and carrying out the programs of the National Federation of the Blind. The final chapter preceding the epilogue presents comparatively brief profiles and testimonials of a dozen or so active "Federationists" who over the years have both intellectually contributed to, and attitudinally benefitted from, this major organization of the blind.
Above all, this book is a record of the philosophy, attitude, and style adopted when dealing with governments, agencies for the blind, and a growing national organization of the blind by two distinguished and respected American leaders of the blind. The late Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, a university academic by profession and a committed activist where blindness issues were concerned, is generally credited with being the individual chiefly responsible for the founding of the National Federation of the Blind in 1940. He served as the Federation's President for almost all of its first quarter century. As portrayed by Matson, tenBroek's dynamic vision, charismatic leadership, and intellect set him far above the next level of the National Federation of the Blind leaders. His speeches before annual conventions of the National Federation of the Blind's delegates, as quoted in full, were crafted to inspire confidence in what a movement of America's blind people could do and arouse those present to action. According to the author, tenBroek's limitless energy enabled him to travel extensively organizing local affiliates, to embark upon lobbying efforts and to administer a growing staff, all while remaining a fully employed university faculty member.
His successor, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, building on the tradition, has led the National Federation of the Blind for its second quarter century. Not unlike Dr. tenBroek, Jernigan emerges as a powerful leader with his own unique style of leadership qualities. His speeches and correspondence differ only slightly in style, but not in substance, from those of the Founder. They remain true to the founding objectives and the Federation's goals. Dr. Jernigan's captivating leadership, whether as the National Federation of the Blind's President, Executive Director, or Braille Monitor Editor, has given him enormous influence over the policies and direction of the organization. Throughout page after page, Dr. Jernigan's stature is recognized and extolled. Examples of his activism bordering on militancy include his willingness to lead at demonstrations opposing unfair labour practices affecting the blind or unprofessional accreditation procedures for agencies and individuals ostensibly serving the blind.
The closing years of the half century are presided over by Marc Maurer, elected as the third president of the National Federation of the Blind. The published texts of several speeches provide an introduction to the early years of the Federation's most recent leader.
A happy coincidence with the International Year on Literacy is two-fold. First, the records and documents of the National Federation of the Blind are in enviably good order as evidenced by the clinical precision of the narrative, and secondly there is loyalty to the principle of access to information with the option of reading the book in print and professionally produced on audio cassette and in Braille.
Viewed as an historical document, but read to acquire knowledge and insight on blindness, those who care and take seriously the movement and its issues will add this book to their "must read" list.
Dr. Euclid Herie, LL.D
Chief Executive Officer
The Canadian National Institute for the Blind
Dr. Gerald Dirks, Ph.D.
St. Catharines, Ontario
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Portrait of Eileen Rivera.]
ON BECOMING A WISE CONSUMER OF LOW VISION SERVICES
by Eileen Rivera, M.B.A.
From the Associate Editor: Eileen Rivera is the administrative director of the Wilmer Vision Research and Rehabilitation Center at Johns Hopkins University. On July 1, 1990, she made a presentation to the Parents of Blind Children Division on the sensible selection and use of low vision aids. As frequently happens, Ms. Rivera found that she had more to say than time permitted her would allow. This article is an expanded version of the remarks she made to parents of blind children. They will be useful for anyone contemplating the purchase of such equipment, for Eileen brings both professional expertise and personal experience to her subject. This is what she has to say:
I want to share with you some practical information about low vision. My experience is both personal and professional. I will begin by explaining the nature of low vision programs. Then I will give you some pointers on how to get the best low vision services for your child. But first, let me share with you two conversations I have had with low vision specialists.
Recently one of my favorite low vision specialists at Wilmer related to me a most disturbing experience. After evaluating a middle-aged woman with low vision, she had recommended that the woman learn to travel independently using a white cane. When she relayed this to the referring ophthalmologist, he was irate and retorted, "This is the last time I will refer patients to you! I sent this woman so that you would help her see, not for you to make her blind!" You can see that even the best low vision specialists regularly encounter resistance when advocating nonvisual techniques.
This misguided physician thinks that a low vision technique which uses vision is by definition superior to an alternative no- vision technique, even when it is safer and more effective.
I have met low vision specialists who spend hours dreaming up reasons why blind people with residual vision reject traditional low vision solutions. One of the most outrageous explanations went something like this, "I get so angry when my patients insist on calling themselves blind! I tell them, `As long as you can see something, you are not blind!'" But it gets worse. This specialist is convinced that we insist on thinking of ourselves as blind because we enjoy some vague mystical secondary gains of blindness--gains like extra doses of paternalism and custodialism, I suppose. Luckily, this so-called expert does not work at Wilmer.
These conversations underscore the false assumption that our alternative techniques must be either completely visual or completely nonvisual. In reality, many effective systems are not either/or. Each of us, blind or sighted, regularly uses a combination of senses in everyday tasks. Well-informed blind persons with residual vision regularly use this vision when it is convenient and comfortable, which is a fine thing. Nevertheless, far too many legally blind individuals are encouraged to rely solely on vision even when such reliance is uncomfortable and inefficient. Once our low vision blind kids understand their options fully, they will be able to make sound decisions about when and when not to use vision.
Unfortunately many low vision blind people never have the opportunity to learn to make the most of their other senses. Hence they cling to their vision to the detriment of their overall efficiency.
One program at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute is different. When we started it, we began by challenging the notions of the standard delivery of low vision services and are now developing more sensible delivery systems. While the primary goal of other low vision clinical programs is to maximize the use of vision, our goal is to integrate both visual and nonvisual solutions to maximize true effectiveness and independence. We also began with the realization that, while some of the currently available low vision technology is very good, an awful lot of it is only narrowly useful--too expensive, restrictive and difficult to use. Therefore much of our energy is devoted to designing the technology of the future.
What is low vision? The professionals ordinarily define low vision as best corrected visual acuity below 20/70. The legally blind are only a subset of the entire low vision population. So it follows that not all low vision solutions will be appropriate for our blind kids.
Low vision specialists are trained to evaluate functional vision beyond visual acuity. In fact, visual acuity is only one measure of vision, and an imperfect one at that. While both my sister Mildred and I are highly myopic, with the same visual acuity, we have very different functional vision due to different secondary eye conditions. We respond quite differently to light, glare, colors, contrast, and motion. We do share a high risk for retinal detachments and further vision loss.
Visual field defects or blind spots have profound effects on vision. For example, a blind spot obscuring the central field can make reading impossible, even for a child with an overall visual acuity of 20/70.
Who uses low vision services? Well, the average low vision patient at Wilmer is a sixty-seven-year-old woman with age- related macular degeneration. She has a blind spot obscuring her central vision, and her visual acuity is at 20/120. Her reported prognosis is "better than legal blindness." Her goals are to find a way to write checks and read her phone bill, grocery price tags, and daily paper.
As you approach the low vision system, understand that the majority of patients in any low vision service are senior citizens encountering visual impairment for the first time. Accustomed to functioning visually, they are seeking a quick fix, a way to get by in their later years. These seniors are not seeking to compete effectively with sighted peers at school or work. And even though they might very well benefit from mastering the alternative techniques of blindness, their fears interfere with any prospects of successful rehabilitation.
I have found all sorts of misguided, damaging, and paternalistic attitudes in professional low vision literature of the 1980s. As parents you will want to be aware of the varied thinking in the field. Always ask, "Is this approach best for my child?"
In Irving R. Dickman's book, Making Life More Livable, with all that this title implies, I find extensive material about survival as an older visually impaired person. I read chapters about the need to modify the environment for the visually impaired. Twelve pages are sufficient to address the issues of employment and recreation for the blind. (Rami Rabby, how did you manage to write a 336-page print book on jobs?) In Dickman's book a mere two pages were devoted to the possibility of venturing outside the home as a blind or visually impaired person.
Making Life More Livable offers the following interpretation of life with low vision:
For the two thirds of older people whose vision has become noticeably weaker, the comforts of home may dwindle: television becomes radio, sewing and hobbies become guessing games, and the joys of cooking become fond memories. [p. 2]
Sharp edges can be lethal, and low coffee tables almost guarantee barked shins or worse.... Strategically placed furniture can help the visually impaired in crossing [the] seemingly vast spaces of an open living room. [p. 11]
For those with the most severe vision problems, home may no longer be the safe haven it used to be. Steps become icy slides, a hallway is a perilous passage... [p. 3]
Getting through the day can be fatiguing and deeply worrisome, because of the greater amount of energy needed to assimilate visual information. [p. 16]
If the prospects of low vision are so bleak, one has to wonder if it wouldn't be simpler to be totally blind. As you might expect, Braille and cane travel are barely discussed. Let's examine the alternative techniques which are offered--some of these truly are inferior:
Use a lighted magnifier to set your stove dial. (Very safe, unless you have hair.)
Use a magnifier to check the roast for doneness. (The authors obviously never tried this--the lens would instantly steam up!)
Vary the contrast of your dinner plate with that of your food. (What color plate might one use to serve both steak and potatoes? Should one avoid meals out, or should one just bring along some extra china?)
When evaluating a low vision technique, you must think, how would a totally blind person do this? Most of my blind friends have no problem locating and consuming all kinds of food. The piece of advice at the top of Dickman's list was for those who bump into doors because they are looking at their feet as they walk: "Have someone remove the door." Remembering to close the door made the bottom of the list.
The book provides all manner of low vision advice on carrying water from the sink to the stove without spilling it, finding and turning on the bedroom light, locating small objects on a bedside table, seeing how much water is in the tub (float a brightly-colored toy in the bath water, perhaps an orange rubber ducky), not scalding oneself, and finding the bath towel, soap, toilet seat, and toilet tissue (color-contrasting of course).
From these examples, one might conclude that common sense is as fleeting as vision and youth. But enough of such nonsense. There are truly good applications of low vision technology, and there are places in the country where low vision specialists are being trained to maximize function rather than vision.
What are the typical low vision devices? They include such optical systems as high-powered reading glasses, magnifiers, telescopes, binoculars, and Closed Circuit Televisions (CCTVs) as well as non-optical devices like bold line paper, felt tip pens, and large print materials, playing cards, games, and checks. At Wilmer we also consider nonvisual items such as long white canes, Braille watches, needle threaders, and talking clocks as low vision devices too. But such an inclusive approach is uncommon in the field.
Who provides low vision services? A number of professionals hold themselves out as low vision specialists. At Wilmer our standard is a doctor of optometry with additional training in low vision. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who specialize in the health of the eye, prescribe medications, and do surgery. Optometrists, on the other hand, are optical experts. They study four years to learn the ins and outs of lenses and visual function. In my opinion the low vision optometrist is better suited to prescribing optimal lenses and devices for a visually impaired child than is the ophthalmologist. In fact, most ophthalmologists are not interested in providing comprehensive low vision services and prefer to refer their patients to a low vision specialist for that part of their care.
If your child is obviously using vision, seek out a good low vision specialist and begin to develop a working relationship with him or her. It is perfectly natural and acceptable for your child to use residual vision, as long as it is comfortable and effective. Blind children with usable residual vision should have a low vision evaluation every few years. Through such an assessment one can begin to learn about existing optical systems that make using vision more comfortable. Since a low vision evaluation requires extensive participation on the part of the child, he or she must be old enough to articulate personal preferences and needs. A typical work-up can take hours, but the better specialists will customize the evaluation to match a child's attention span.
Parents should prepare for the low vision exam. Plan to be involved in all stages of the evaluation. Begin observing your child's visual function. What can he see? How and when does she use vision? Does he squint? Note reading endurance and typical working distance. Such information will complement the clinician's visual assessment. Remember to assure your child that the exam will not hurt.
In an evaluation, the specialist will usually assess reading, writing, distance viewing, mobility, and lighting. By defining concrete tasks or goals to be performed visually, parents can help the practitioner tailor the evaluation to the child. Some examples of goals include checking a price tag in the store, studying a road map, analyzing a graph, reading the ingredients on a cereal box, sorting mail, finding a phone number, and viewing a landscape or chalkboard.
Usually the specialist will explore the optical alternatives first. Be wise consumers. Feel free to ask candid questions about the practicality of any suggested techniques. For example, some practical advice for lighting at home might be offered, but ask for a plan of action for times when lighting is not ideal or controllable.
Children with progressive diseases may find low vision services frustrating since prescribed devices may become ineffective in short order. In such cases parents should evaluate whether time and resources might be better spent in refining nonvisual skills such as typing, Braille, and cane travel. These solutions will last a lifetime.
Feel free to ask questions along the way. Ask for an explanation of how vision will change as your child matures. Ask about the significance of presbyopia on low vision blind kids. This is important since most low vision children depend so heavily on their ability to focus up close.
Give the clinician permission to be frank. Very often, low vision specialists feel pressured into encouraging purely visual techniques in order to avoid resistance from the child, parent, teacher, or referring ophthalmologist.
Dr. Gary Rubin, one of my colleagues at Wilmer, studies the performance of low vision readers. His research indicates that a person must see a minimum of four characters at a time in order to read at all fluently.
A trained low vision specialist will systematically evaluate reading by measuring reading speed and accuracy at different print sizes and documenting the print size of the last good reading. Having determined the optimal print size, the specialist will select a magnification system which converts actual print size to the optimal size. (Incidentally, at Wilmer, we are currently developing a computerized testing system which will facilitate and significantly speed up this reading evaluation.)
Low vision reading devices are rather task-specific. One may need a number of different devices to read assorted print sizes. In prescribing a reading device, the practitioner must balance the tradeoffs among print size, field-of-view, and working distance. The stronger magnifiers require the eye to be less than one inch from the lens, a less than comfortable position for sustained reading. Powerful magnifiers also tend to have a small field-of-view and so can enlarge only a few characters at a time. These constraints reduce reading speed.
Beware of the quick fix. A vision teacher might insist upon a low vision exam in hopes of finding some reading device that might save her from having to teach Braille. If your child is significantly visually impaired or is legally blind, insist on Braille now. There is no effective substitute. Even if Braille is the secondary medium now, it will likely serve as an excellent resource in later years, as print size diminishes and reading requirements increase.
Think carefully about the long term visual functioning of your child. Endurance is perhaps the most important factor in determining an optimal reading system. The progressive nature of the disease must also be considered. Will a low vision optical system meet all future career needs?
Rarely will a low vision device enable one to curl up comfortably with a book and read for hours. If the only way your child can read is by holding a book up to her nose, chances are that the reading system will become more cumbersome and inadequate as she matures. This is true even when the visual condition is reported as stable. Start now to identify nonvisual alternatives. It's a tragedy to find so many low vision blind students dropping out of high school and foregoing college. I have observed that partially sighted kids lacking Braille skills are more likely to quit school than are their totally blind Braille-reading classmates.
Low vision consultations usually result in a series of recommendations based upon the pre-determined goals. The better low vision optometrists will provide you a shopping list of choices, usually ranging in price and effectiveness. The very best clinicians will be ready to explain the pros and cons of specific systems and will introduce nonvisual options as well. If the information is not offered, ask questions.
Don't expect the average optometrist to be well informed about nonvisual techniques. Such professionals did not study optics for four years to spend their time talking about non- optical systems. Still, ethically, they should be realistic about the ease of use, practicality, and comfort level of a prescribed device.
Consider the ergonomics (the working conditions) of a device. Ask about headaches, back pain, and eye strain. Understand the field-of-view limitations and required lighting conditions. Think about portability. (Currently available CCTVs are barely luggable.) Ask them how much practice one needs to use a system effectively. Is the investment warranted? Ask about the usefulness of the device as vision declines.
Finally, one must consider the economics. How much are you willing to spend? Can the school system or vocational rehabilitation agency purchase the recommended device? They can usually be persuaded to cover expenses for items used in class.
You might say that I am a classic high partial. I have had a visual acuity of about 20/200 since birth. As a low vision blind child, I was never introduced to essential nonvisual skills. My mobility lessons (if you can call them that) consisted of vision training, tricks to distinguish between the sidewalk and the grass. I was encouraged to watch my feet as I walked. Equipped with these fine travel skills, I never ventured far from home. Braille was never discussed. Hence I am playing catch-up as an adult.
Today I use a number of practical low vision devices on the job. I also have a drawer-full of useless gadgets prescribed for me in my youth. Perhaps my best low vision device is a pair of soft contact lenses. A long white cane enables me confidently to come and go as I please. My computer with large print display and capacity to produce large print text is a valuable tool. And a pair of sun filters help eliminate bothersome glare--all good things. Perhaps my favorite low tech low vision aid is a tinted piece of plastic which reduces glare when placed over a printed page. All of these are fine tools.
Would you like to hear what is in my reject drawer? Several pairs of reading glasses, prescription sunglasses, and a spectacle-mounted telescope. I never found much use for magnifiers because of the restrictive field-of-view and their annoying optical distortions.
The fact that these items don't work for me doesn't mean they are not helpful for others. The selection and use of low vision devices are highly individual. The best way to identify useful devices is to have a comprehensive low vision evaluation. A good service will allow one to borrow a device to test at home. Of course, this may not be possible with custom-made items. Remember that visual goals change as does technology, so plan to return every few years to see what's new.
Telescopic lenses are big ticket low vision devices. Telescopes definitely work. Many people with low vision keep a telescope handy for occasional spotting tasks, but I know very few who enjoy using them for extended viewing. My visual acuity improves significantly through a telescope of perhaps 20/80. However, this is only through a twelve-degree field-of-view, so there are tradeoffs.
Some commonly recommended applications of telescopes are reading a street sign or checking a traffic signal. I find it quicker to ask a stranger the street name rather than to search for the sign through the telescope. If the sun is too bright or too dim, I have difficulty reading the sign even after I have located it. I sometimes feel awkward and vulnerable standing at an intersection using both hands to focus my telescope. My fear is that someone might snatch my pocketbook while I am off guard. Listening for oncoming traffic before crossing is definitely more reliable than depending on the color of a traffic signal.
Telescopes are also recommended for viewing the blackboard or watching a play. I have tried to use a spectacle-mounted telescope in the classroom. For the first time ever, I could see the writing on the chalkboard! But, as I worked with the telescope, I became so absorbed with scanning, focusing, and copying the board material that I was missing the professor's entire lecture. After a two-month trial, I decided that using the telescope in this way was too fatiguing and actually interfered with my learning, so I returned to other alternative techniques.
Low vision enthusiasts recommend telescopes for extended TV viewing and watching sports events. I also find this draining. I do enjoy using the telescope to examine the costumes of a cast in a play, but then I usually forget about the telescope and enjoy the show.
Some professionals will blame this lack of enthusiasm for telescopes on insufficient vision training. But the way I see it is that the fact that vision enhancement is technically feasible doesn't automatically make it a good idea. Encourage your kids to keep their low vision tools in perspective; make sure they have other alternative skills from which to draw. This way they can have the best of both worlds.
When seeking low vision services, remember that some low vision specialists will encourage your kids to use vision at all cost. Remember that visual and nonvisual techniques need not compete. They should complement one another. By understanding the bias of the professionals, you can make the best, most informed decisions for your low vision blind child now and for the future. Above all else, trust your instincts!
Finally, let me comment on working effectively with your eye doctors. Many of them confess that they feel comfortable only when dealing with eye disorders and the health of the visual system. To them, blindness is a personal failure. After all, their careers are devoted to preventing and arresting blindness. This is their bias and expertise. The majority of physicians lack any specific training in advising blind patients. They feel unprepared to discuss vision loss with their patients. Furthermore, since ophthalmologists spend most of their energies on newly diagnosed visually impaired persons who lack any training and self-confidence, they understandably form erroneous conclusions about the helplessness and hopelessness of the blind. They know almost nothing about the alternative techniques and strategies used successfully by the blind.
While ideally we would like all physicians and optometrists to be fully informed about blindness and to think beyond purely visual solutions to truly effective and efficient ones, we must be prepared to make the most of their current knowledge base-- knowledge about vision and the physical workings of the eye. However, we must reach further. We must devote more energy to befriending and educating these important eye care professionals. By introducing them to competent and well adjusted blind persons, we can teach them where to turn with questions or for advice. We must begin to reach out to our eye doctors now, for our good, for their good, and for the good of the next generation.
CRUTCHES, ROOMMATES, AND COMMON SENSE
by Manuel Abascal
Manuel Abascal is a second-year student at the Yale Law School. His roommate is Michael Baillif, President of the National Association of Blind Students. It is sometimes instructive to glimpse ourselves as others see us. It can also be illuminating to them to find themselves in our shoes for a change. This article first appeared in the Spring/Summer, 1990, issue of the Student Slate, the newsletter of the National Association of Blind Students. Here it is.
Rooming with Michael Baillif has certainly been an interesting experience. Having started the year as a Braille- impaired twenty-four-year-old, I had to develop certain characteristics in myself to perpetuate a harmonious rooming experience with Michael. Foremost among these was patience, which I developed quite effectively through the countless hours of waiting for a free moment on the telephone. But Michael does occasionally work diligently on his NFB projects, often saying things like, "Hey Paul, I can't wait to go back to New Orleans and visit the French Quarter again." These projects have confused me somewhat ever since I met Michael five years ago. I understood the NFB's desire for equality and detestation of paternalism and patronizing behavior, but I was always somewhat skeptical. "Hey Michael," I would often ask, "I understand that you're annoyed, but why don't you give these airlines and other people a break. Maybe they are just trying to help you." Then I broke my foot.
It was not much, simply a fracture in the upper part of my foot, but nonetheless I was assigned a used pair of crutches and told to hop around only when necessary. I was somewhat scared to do the things I normally do, particularly since I felt that I would now have to rely on people more than previously--this circumstance did not please me in the least . Little did I realize what I was actually in for.
First came the dining hall--my first trip there since the fracture. Sympathetic stares and words of condolence abounded. I smiled, said it would be only a few weeks before I could walk again, and made my way to the kitchen. At that point a crutch- impaired person, not minding where she was going, accidentally bumped into me; well, more specifically, she bumped into my broken foot. After an inner screech of pain, I assured her that I was okay and grabbed a tray. She then asserted, "Here, let me carry that tray for you. I will get you your food." I politely said I could handle it myself and made my way to the food line.
After making my choices, I stared down at my tray and began to wonder how in the world I would carry it back to a table. I quickly discovered that I was in for a challenge. Nonetheless, I hopped away, tray in one hand, crutches in the other, and slowly made progress. Then, my nemesis appeared again. "No, no, no," she wailed as I hopped, "let me help you." I politely said thanks but no thanks and tried to hop away. She ran to the door and blocked my path. "No, no, no. We are not going to do it this way," she preached as she began to take my food off of my tray in front of a group of my classmates. "My roommate was a gymnast, and she broke her foot once and I did this for her all of the time," she muttered. Though I did not know this person, I began to contemplate whether the laws of physics and biology would allow me to relocate my crutches in an appropriate place on her person in order to express my sentiments at her unwanted help.
In a fit of self-restraint I merely demanded, "Give me my food back," and managed to take my plate of chicken and rice back. Unfortunately, she made away with my peas. I hopped away humiliated, gradually spilling more and more of my rice on the carpet with every hop.
Like the flu, I could not shake her. She got me a drink, carried my peas, and followed me at a distance of several crutch lengths. She continued to babble something about my tray. After losing half my rice, and most of my pride, I finally gave her my tray. When we got to the table, I was not too concerned about the spilled rice, since I had lost most of my appetite.
When I came back to the room and told Michael my story, I expected an ounce of understanding. As I should have expected, I received a big laugh and an unsympathetic "I told you so." Things began to be clearer, but little did I know what I was in for.
The following day stranger things began to happen. People I did not know began openly calling me the "field goal kicker." Kids stared at me and asked, "Mommy, why is his foot so big, and what are those sticks?" At which point Mommy shushed the little darlings. Classmates asked if I was still going to take my finals. Fellow students openly admired me and whispered to each other, "He's amazing." Friends began to ask me if I found that my hands had become more coordinated.
I was in utter disarray. What could be wrong with these people? Others began to tell me about their admiration of Jim Abbott, the one-armed baseball player for the California Angels. Finally, my seat reservations on my flight home were mysteriously changed. My travel agent assured me that it was merely a safety precaution. At this point I finally understood.
Through my experience I gained just a glimpse of the amazing misconceptions and maddening attitudes which blind people sometimes encounter. Because of a temporary characteristic, my broken foot, I did find that at least one of my senses improved-- my common sense.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Portrait of Deborah Kent Stein]
by Gloria Whelan
Reviewed by Deborah Kent Stein
From the Editors: As Monitor readers know, Deborah Kent Stein is a recognized author. She is also an active member of the National Federation of the Blind, making her home in Chicago. Here is her book review:
* * * * * *
by Gloria Whelan
Illustrated by Leslie Bowman
Alfred A. Knopf, 1991
64 Pages; $10.95; Ages 7-10
* * * * * *
Like many children growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, I read all of the books in Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" series. The "Little House" books recreated the hardships, delights, and adventures of life on the frontier in the late nineteenth century, and they were just the sort of fare I devoured when I was ten and eleven. Only one thing marred my enjoyment of Wilder's books--the depiction of Mary.
Mary was the blind sister of Laura, the protagonist of the series. While Laura and the rest of the family were always busy, fighting prairie fires and trying to save the wheat crop from clouds of grasshoppers, Mary remained in the background. She was usually quiet and passive, sitting in her rocking chair on the fringe of the action. The message seemed to be that Mary's passivity was the inevitable outcome of her blindness.
Hannah, a novel for children by Gloria Whelan, takes a major step toward setting the record straight. As the book opens, nine- year-old Hannah Thomas does not know how to fix her own hair, cut her own food, or find her way around her family's farm. But Whelan makes it clear that the main problem is not really Hannah's blindness, but the attitudes of the people around her.
"We've never pretended to Hannah that she is like other children," Hannah's mother explains to the new schoolteacher, who will be boarding with the Thomas family. "We believe in facing up to facts." In the Thomas family, struggling for survival on a Michigan farm in 1887, "facing up to facts" means not teaching Hannah to pour her own milk, because she would only make a mess. It means not wasting time teaching her to keep herself neat, since she can't see herself in the mirror anyway. And, of course, it means keeping her at home when her brother and sister go to school.
But the family's assumptions are shaken with the arrival of the schoolteacher, Miss Robbin. At the first family dinner Miss Robbin startles everyone by showing Hannah how to pour the milk by herself. After the meal, she takes Hannah on a tour of the farm. "I knew we had horses and cows and pigs," Hannah explains, "because Papa talked about them and I could hear them, but I didn't know where they were or exactly what they were like." Miss Robbin shows her the way to the barn, the stable, and the pigpen; and for the first time in her life Hannah has the chance to touch the animals and learn about them firsthand.
Not only is Miss Robbin convinced that Hannah can be independent at home, the teacher is also determined that she should join the other pupils in the one-room schoolhouse. At last, reluctantly, Hannah's parents agree to let her give school a try.
Hannah is overjoyed, but her first day at school proves a bitter disappointment. She cannot follow the lessons, and a boy taunts her, claiming that she looks "like a rag-bag with a haystack for her hair." Hannah is ready to give up in despair, longing "to be shut in the safe box of my house." But Miss Robbin persuades her to give school a second chance. Fortified by a pretty new dress, Hannah returns to school and starts the process of making friends.
Despite the deprivations she has known throughout her life, Hannah is a bright, imaginative child with endless curiosity about the world around her. With her teacher's encouragement, she begins to blossom into her full potential. As Hannah's horizons expand, her parents and neighbors must re-evaluate their notions about who she is and what she can do. "We can't let Hannah stay helpless," her father concludes. "She has to learn to take care of herself....The time will come when she's going to be on her own. She can't go getting lost every time she puts her foot out the door."
By the end of the book Hannah joins enthusiastically in the work of the community's annual potato harvest. "My back ached, and my shoes were filled with sand, and my knees hurt from kneeling. I didn't care, though...It felt wonderful to be doing what everyone else was."
In the final scene the neighbors who once brushed aside "Poor Hannah" raise money with which to buy her a slate and stylus. With her teacher's help Hannah has demonstrated her capacity to learn. The Thomas family must face the fact that Hannah is a capable person, someone who can contribute to the life of the community.
Throughout the book Hannah herself takes regrettably little initiative on her own behalf. Even at the potato harvest she sits on the sidelines until her sister urges her to join in. The book's message would have more force if Hannah could have shown a bit more spunk now and then, daring to test her own limits. However, perhaps her passivity is not so unrealistic. The book covers only a few weeks in Hannah's story. By the end Hannah's new image of herself is still fragile. Her journey has only begun.
Without promising easy solutions to Hannah's problems, Gloria Whelan offers a warm, believable picture of a blind child as she takes her first steps on the long road toward independence. Hannah is a welcome addition to the slender body of children's literature which seeks to break down ancient stereotypes about people who are blind.
LOOK OUT TOMORROW, HERE SHE COMES
From the Associate Editor: Occasionally one reads a newspaper article that restores one's hope for the future. The Summer 1990 edition of The Blind Citizen, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of California, reprinted such a piece. It was about a blind child, Lisamaria Martinez, and probably the writer's only purpose was to touch the hearts of his readers with a story about the courage and indomitable spirit of an eight-year-old blind child.
But strip away the sentiment and the family's longing for a miracle, and you have a busy, happy, active youngster who likes to help other people and isn't about to let a few obstacles get in her way. The fact that Lisamaria and others like her can grow up normally as contributing members of their families and communities is a ray of sunshine that should cheer us all. Here are the editor's notes and the article as they appeared in The Blind Citizen:
Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from the Los Angeles Times, June 16, 1990, and was written by Times Staff Writer Bonna M. De La Cruz. The subject of the article, Lisamaria Martinez, lives in Oceanside and is a First Prize Winner in the National Federation of the Blind BRAILLE READERS ARE LEADERS contest.
Lisamaria Martinez is a lot like other third-graders. She likes to talk, loves animals, wears braces, and laughs a lot. But in her spare time this 9-year-old from Oceanside has done some things few third-graders would even think of doing. She has started up drives collecting canned goods for the homeless and poor during holidays and delivered Christmas treats to the elderly in the hospital. She also spearheaded an anti-litter campaign at her school, San Luis Rey Elementary.
For this she was recently named California's winner of the Jefferson Awards for students, which is handed out to youngsters from kindergarten to sixth grade who do outstanding volunteer work and public service. Lisamaria was cited for her help in promoting food drives for the needy and for her environmental concerns.
Lisamaria said she enjoys going the extra mile for people who need a helping hand because she knows what it's like. Lisamaria has been blind since age five. "When I first got blind, I thought my whole world was ending, but look at me now," Lisamaria said.
She said it was hard at first, but she bounced back. In the four years since she lost her eyesight she placed first in a national Braille reading contest, where she read more than 2,000 Braille pages in three months.
On Monday, she flies to the nation's capital on a three-day trip with her mother to receive the Jefferson Award, along with 39 other students from across the nation, each representing a state.
"The way I got the award was for helping out the community, like in Brownies," Lisamaria said. "I also like to keep my school clean, so I pick up trash."
Although the Jefferson Awards for students is in its first year, other Jefferson Awards for public service have been given out to adults, including former President Jimmy Carter and celebrities like Bob Hope, since it was established 18 years ago by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Sen. Robert Taft, Jr.
"There are lots of things I don't expect my kid to do, and she pops up and does them," Lisamaria's mother Maria, said. "We're very proud of her. Even though her eyesight is gone, God gave her another way where she can be outstanding and help other people out."
Although there is hope that one day Lisamaria will regain her eyesight if experimental surgery techniques prove fruitful, she approaches her Braille and mobility lessons with gusto. "My mobility teacher teaches me, with my cane, to cross lighted streets and things like that," Lisamaria said.
Along with her regular class work, Lisamaria spends five hours a week in a class for the visually impaired with three other blind students, two hours a week in mobility lessons, and two hours a week in classes for the gifted and talented.
"She's an achiever," said Mary Tiesen, the school's teacher for the visually impaired. "Her blindness hasn't slowed her down at all. It's just changed how she does things."
Lisamaria's third-grade teacher, Mary Helper, nominated her for the award. "I knew that, if anybody deserved to win it, she did," Helper said. "I think she's done a lot for a kid that's just nine years old. Her blindness is secondary in winning that award."
Lisamaria was honored by Oceanside Pacific Kiwanis last year as a student of the month and was given a Hope of America Award. The Oceanside Unified School District's Board of Education also recognized her achievements in February when she attended a meeting to demonstrate a Braille writer she uses at school, which types in Braille and simultaneously makes a computer printout for her teacher. Not only has Lisamaria mastered her six-button Braille writer, but she also learned to type on a regular typewriter.
Lisamaria wears swimming goggles to protect her eyes from infection. "She has to wear them twenty-four hours a day because she doesn't have any tears or moisture in her eyes. So, if she took them off, her eyes would dry up," her mother said.
She can now see shadows and colors, although four years ago, her mother said, she could not tell the difference between night and day. "She would wake up at 3 in the morning thinking it was time to get up," her mother said.
At age five, Lisamaria contracted the rare Stevens-Johnson syndrome, an illness generally triggered by an allergic reaction that causes scar tissue to form over the eyes. As far as recovery is concerned, doctors say no one can predict whether she will see again, although Lisamaria has normal eyes under the scar tissue caused by the disease.
"She had some sort of allergic reaction to something she ate, drank, or medication. That's what made her blind," her mother said. "To this day, they don't know what the allergic reaction was to."
Lisamaria has planned a busy summer. She will spend a month taking classes for the visually impaired and will spend another month taking art classes.
"We don't force her to go to summer school. She wanted to do it," Lisamaria's father, Greg, said. But, before she takes on summer school, Lisamaria said, she will spend some time vacationing with her grandparents, who are visiting for the first time in four years from Puerto Rico, and with her six-year-old sister, Glorivette, and foster brother, Gregory, who is five months old.
Lisamaria has faced some setbacks. She said she can't check out books at the local public library because they don't have a collection of Braille books or cassettes for children. Also, the Braille watch the Kiwanis Club gave her broke, and no one in town can repair it. But she said she still looks forward to a brighter future.
"Just because I'm blind doesn't mean I can't do anything else except see," Lisamaria said. "That's what I always say."
[PHOTO: Portrait of Christine Faltz. CAPTION: Christine Faltz was a 1987 National Federation of the Blind scholarship winner.]
INTER-COMMUNITY NETWORK COMMITTEE
From the Editor: The Federation has a new committee, and the person who will chair it is Christine Faltz. Christine has energy, and she sparkles with initiative and enthusiasm. I think the Inter-Community Network Committee (Christine's idea) will make valuable contributions to our movement. Here is her open letter to Federationists:
Dear Fellow Federationists: Several things have occurred within the past year which have led me to reflect upon the availability of information about the National Federation of the Blind to the public, blind and sighted alike. I want to share with you my thoughts, as well as an idea recently implemented by the Greater Long Island Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of New York State.
Before I applied to college, I had no idea of the existence of the organized blind movement. While searching for scholarship applications, my guidance counselor found an application for NFB. Soon after that I visited New York University and met members of the NFB. They described the Federation's philosophy, and I found myself frustrated, angry, and happy all at once. Before you get the wrong idea, let me explain:
I began my education at a parochial school in Brooklyn. The principal was nervous about having a blind student, but after speaking with my mother and interviewing me, she decided to give it a try. She contacted Catholic Charities, which provided a nun, Sister Elizabeth, to teach me to read and write Braille. The first four years of school went smoothly. I had no problems socially or academically. There was no question about handing in assignments on time, attending gym, or participating in art class. I was expected to do everything the other students were expected to do. I never felt special or inferior. I was a straight-A student and was accepted as an equal by both teachers and students. In the fourth grade I was introduced to the typewriter and the Optacon. Blindness was not a problem. Nobody treated me differently--not yet, anyway.
My family moved to Merrick, Long Island, in July, 1979. In September I entered the fifth grade at a public elementary school. I had visited the principal several months prior to my first day of school, and I remembered feeling uncomfortable and uncertain with his presence and his questions. I thought I was simply nervous about attending a new school, so I told no one of my fears.
From the start, I was doomed to years of misconceptions and cruelty. Children on the playground tripped me, teased me, and threw lighted matches at me. The Girl Scout troop at my school did not want me. The PTA held a meeting with the hopes of finding a way to have me removed from school. Worst of all, the school psychologist--who was also the director of the committee on the handicapped (and unfortunately still is)--informed my mother that he could not understand how I would be able to function in a " normal" environment. He claimed that any social problems I had were probably my own fault and that my mother should consider having me enrolled in a part-time program for the learning disabled and emotionally disturbed.
In the midst of this relentless ignorance, insensitivity and complete unwillingness to look at the facts--that I was a normal, if not above-average, student who happened to be blind--I found myself alone. There was only so much I could articulate to my parents or my best friend. They could sympathize, probably empathize, but could not possibly understand without experiencing it themselves. I did not know any mainstreamed blind people at that time, and the ones I eventually met did not want to talk about people's attitudes toward us. I felt trapped by what others were calling a "handicap," "disability," or "physical challenge." It didn't matter what it was called. It hadn't made any difference before; why should it now? What was the big deal; I couldn't see. So what? Weren't there other blind people who could help me? Weren't there blind children who would accept me as the person I was, rather than the person the "experts" said I was? Of course there were. A large group of people who happened to be blind--the NFB--was out there, somewhere. But I didn't know. So, although I never quit, and although my social life improved as I grew older, I suffered for over five years, not being able to share my pain and feelings of rejection with anyone I felt could truly understand.
I took a "Contemporary Race Relations" course last semester. The class consisted of the members of minority groups at Princeton--women, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, homosexuals, and Jews. I was the only blind person in the class. (I am the only blind person at Princeton this year.) We studied "racisms in the plural"--that is, discrimination of all forms. As my presentation, I distributed NFB literature to the class and discussed my experiences and the NFB. None of the members of the class, most of whom were involved with numerous civil rights causes, had any idea that an organized blind movement existed. We are truly a minority. We need to inform the general public of our struggle for civil rights.
Last summer I attended a graduation party for a recent graduate of a residential school for the blind. She and another graduate of the school were at the party, along with their parents. None of them knew about the NFB. In addition, they knew virtually nothing of the available technology and wide range of opportunities open to blind people. I left the party.
The next day the Greater Long Island Chapter held its annual picnic. We discussed the possibilities of an inter-community network made up of NFB members who would visit places of business and education and speak with children, teachers, parents, and employers about blindness, the Americans with Disabilities Act, available technology, etc. David Stayer, president of the chapter, told me to write to President Maurer with our ideas.
On Saturday, January 26, I traveled to the National Center for the Blind to discuss this project with Mr. Maurer. The project has evolved into a committee--a committee which has its work cut out for it. The Inter-Community Network Committee of the National Federation of the Blind has quite a few items on its agenda:
1. NFB members who join the committee will work together on the local level to:
a. Get local newspapers to print press releases and/or articles about the Federation (at both a national and local level);
b. Coordinate and carry out presentations to children in all grade levels; PTA meetings; faculty; employers; public officials; etc.
2. The presentations in which committee members participate must be well-planned and geared toward specific audiences. For example, I have visited elementary schools for ten years and have spoken about blindness, demonstrated alternative techniques and technology, and answered questions of all kinds. Committee members should coordinate their presentations in accordance with what particular audiences will be most interested in and what will be mutually beneficial to both audiences and the blind people of America. Employers will be more interested in how to accommodate blind employees, while students may have many questions about how we take care of ourselves on a day-to-day basis.
3. The best way to find receptive and interested parties is through your local newspaper. In addition, PTA presidents, school district superintendents, principals, and businesses should be contacted. (Much of the information you will need toward this end can be found in your local phone directory.)
The Inter-Community Network Committee of the National Federation of the Blind requires commitment, patience, and a lot of personal effort. Every Federationist has something to contribute. If any Federationist would like more information on how to get started, please write me at: Christine Faltz, 33 Prospect Avenue, Princeton, New Jersey 08540; or call (609) 924-5310. After June my address and phone number will change. I will send them to the Monitor as soon as I know what they will be, but if you send inquiries to the following address, they will be forwarded to me: 25 Nancy Boulevard, Merrick, New York 11566.
I am looking forward to hearing from fellow Federationists who are interested in the goals of the NFB's new Inter-Community Network Committee. Let's teach the public about the NFB--most importantly, let's find the blind students who do not know about us. Judging by my own experiences and many of yours, they probably need us a great deal. Regardless of everything else we do, the fellowship of the National Federation of the Blind is vital.
I eagerly anticipate your responses, and I look forward to discussing your plans for the Inter-Community Network Committee this summer in New Orleans! See you all there!
Yours in Federationism,
A STATEMENT FROM THE GOVERNOR OF CONNECTICUT
From the Editor: As a general rule, we do not change the world by dramatic acts and large scale events. Rather it is done by seemingly unimportant day-to-day activities. If we try, most of us can get the governor of a state or the mayor of a city (or, more likely, the offices of those officials) to issue a public statement or proclamation. Is it worth our while to make the effort? The answer is yes. By repeated and persistent successful attempts to secure public statements and recognition from elected and appointed officials, we ultimately create an irresistible climate of public opinion. This is eminently worthwhile to do. Here is a good example:
State of Connecticut
By His Excellency WILLIAM A. O'NEILL, Governor: an
For fifty years the National Federation of the Blind, "the blind speaking for themselves," has been striving for equality, security, and opportunity for all blind persons. Believing that the real handicaps are misconceptions and misinformation about blindness, NFB members offer hope and encouragement to individuals adjusting to sight loss. Federationists are changing what it means to be blind through the media, public speaking, and the distribution of educational materials.
To foster independence, the NFB of Connecticut helps blind men and women obtain competitive employment through its Job Opportunities for the Blind (JOB) program.
The NFB of Connecticut advocates equal rights and nondiscrimination against the blind under Connecticut law. In addition, the NFB implemented the passage of the White Cane Civil Rights Law of 1973 and the nondiscrimination on the grounds of blindness insurance law in 1986. NFB members work with state officials to encourage and assist blind students in learning Braille and with federal officials to help blind persons who have had organ transplants and need special medications.
The NFB of Connecticut will hold its annual convention in Waterbury on November 2-4. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, will be the keynote speaker.
Therefore, as a tribute to the dedicated members of the Federation and in appreciation of their vital work, to commemorate the Golden Anniversary of this excellent organization, and to welcome national President Marc Maurer to Connecticut for the annual NFB convention, I am proud to designate November, 1990, as National Federation of the Blind Month in the State of Connecticut.
William A. O'Neill, GOVERNOR
BLIND BOB THE BANK ROBBER
From the Associate Editor: Often, in the face of skepticism, we in the National Federation of the Blind maintain that we are a cross section of the general population. Some of us are bright, and others are not, but most fall somewhere between the extremes. We have about as much virtue and as much vice as everybody else, and some of us are inclined to abide by the law while others remain unabashedly outside the legal system. On December 10, 1990, People Magazine published a story about a blind man who has robbed seventeen banks and attempted to escape from prison eleven times. One must regret the clear waste of any human being's talents, but Blind Bob, as his prison friends call him, is a powerful reminder that sight is not necessary for a life of crime. Here is the way People Magazine reported the story:
Armed with a White Cane,
Sightless Robert Toye
Tapped His Way to the Teller
and Robbed Seventeen Banks Blind
by Mary H. J. Farrell and Maria Wilhelm
The way Robert Vernon Toye sees it, he had no choice but to live a life of crime. But then the forty-two-year-old bank robber's hindsight has always been 20-20. It's his eyesight that has failed him. "My eyes got so bad I had to turn to robbery," says Toye.
Blind Bob, as Toye is affectionately known to his fellow inmates, is a veteran of seventeen bank heists and eleven attempted jailbreaks--an impressive rap sheet given that he has spent almost half of his life behind bars. Nowadays Toye is a resident of the hospital unit at Lompoc Federal Penitentiary, a maximum-security prison north of Santa Barbara, California. Suffering from the incurable degenerative eye disease retinitis pigmentosa, Toye has become completely blind.
Toye's sight may be absent, but as a criminal he has never lacked vision. At age sixteen he started his first mail-order scam: parties interested in an exciting career stuffing envelopes at home would send him a $5 application fee, then wait-- eternally--for the work to come in. While serving time in the Springfield, Missouri, federal prison on a mail fraud conviction in 1973, Toye heard through the prison grapevine that federally insured banks instruct tellers to turn over cash to robbers without making a fuss. Armed with this tip and a note that said he had a gun (he didn't), Toye made his first heist in March 1974, moments after being released from prison. "I told the cab driver I had to go by the bank to pick up some money," recounts Toye. And he did--$8,000 that the teller put in a brown paper bag as the cab waited.
His next job was in 1977. "No one knew what was happening," Toye recalls fondly. "The bank guard opened the door for me and thanked me as I left." It took Blind Bob "seven or eight" more jobs to refine his technique: He would focus his badly deteriorating right eye on the back of someone's shoe, then trail that person to the teller's window. "Banks are dark, and I can't see," Toye explains, "Young people walk too fast, so I'd wait for older people." When he got to the window, he'd present his calling card--a one-eyed jack on which was written: "Be quick, be quiet, or you're dead. Put all the cash in the bag. I have a gun." The note was mostly bluster. If Toye carried a gun at all, it was an unloaded pellet gun.
Then Toye would unfold his white cane and beat a careful retreat to the door. But in September 1977, as he was feeling his way out of a Citibank branch in New York City, he stumbled into armed guards delivering money and was arrested. Toye eventually wound up in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York. In February, 1983, a bureaucratic snafu--the halfway house to which he had been assigned refused to accept him because he was blind-- put Toye back on the street. Shortly after, Toye walked into the nearest Citibank, which he says was renowned in the criminal world for its shortage of guards. (Citibank counters that its security system is "better than adequate.") Using a Coke bottle under his heavy prison-issued coat to simulate a gun, Toye ordered the teller to put the cash in a Saks Fifth Avenue bag and walked off with his biggest take yet--$18,000.
Toye flew to Las Vegas and began to lavish his money on show girls. When not enjoying the nightlife, he would taxi to the telephone company, where he laboriously made a list of all the Citibank branches in New York by using a small telescope to read the Manhattan phone book. For three months Toye commuted between his home in Las Vegas and his bank jobs in New York. He'd fly into New York, take a cab to the bank, cab it back to the airport, and return to Vegas. In the midst of one job, a woman tried to wedge her way between Toye and the teller's window, causing the frustrated Toye to yell, "Dammit, lady, I'm robbing this bank!"
During this spree, Toye estimates he was able to sock away $71,000 in loot in a Las Vegas bank under an assumed name. Then on May 24, 1983, he varied his routine, taking a cab to a discount store to replace a damaged valise. This delay gave the task force that had been on the lookout for Toye enough time to spot him as he walked along the street. He was arrested and charged with nine counts of armed bank robbery. Sentenced to seventeen years, he planned an escape--his eleventh attempt. He made it over two hurricane fences, using his cane to flatten the razor wire, but was captured after running into a pine tree.
Toye always did have a blind spot for trouble. At age eight, while growing up in San Pedro, he was a gang mascot. By eighteen he had begun the first of his on-again, off-again prison terms. His parents, Roy Toye, a factory worker who died last June, and Laura, fifty-eight, a dishwasher, took solace in the fact that their other three children stuck to the straight and narrow.
Bob does have a good side. He claims he has given (under aliases) a good chunk of what he has stolen to charity, including $35,000 to retinitis pigmentosa research. The rest of the cash he hopes to save for himself.
And if he can't? Toye is not exactly a poster boy for prison rehabilitation. "I'll always have a few frauds running," says Toye, who expects to be a free man by 1993. "If I get in a money bind and need a few thousand fast, I know where to find it."
From the Associate Editor: This space is usually reserved for the culinary masterpieces, mealtime mainstays, and family specialties of members and friends of the Federation. Reading the recipes has come to be a vicarious way for all of us to break bread together even when miles and months separate us. In the interest of continuing the high quality of our gastronomic life together, I remind all readers of this feature that recipes are always welcome. I particularly appreciate receiving family favorites for holidays or particular seasons of the year, but any well-loved and well-tested recipe will be joyfully received and carefully filed for later consideration. Recipes--we always need ones that diabetics can enjoy--can be sent to the National Office or to me at 237 Oak Street, Oberlin, Ohio 44074.
As I say, most of the time this section is reserved for recipe-swapping within the clan. But since we all know that "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," we are departing from custom this month in honor of our upcoming convention, which will take place in one of the culinary capitals of the world, New Orleans. Superb restaurants dot the city, and every one of them has a specialty that brings satisfied patrons back time after time. Here are a few of the treats that await you where the Mississippi flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Bon appetit:
BRENNAN'S SHRIMP CREOLE
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup green pepper, coarsely chopped
2 cups onion, coarsely chopped
1 cup celery, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
2 cups whole tomatoes
1 tablespoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons corn starch
3 pounds raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 cups water
Method: Heat vegetable oil and saute next four ingredients until tender. Add tomatoes and cook three to four more minutes. Stir in paprika, cayenne, salt, pepper, water, and bay leaf. Simmer 15 minutes. Add shrimp and continue to cook an additional 15 minutes. Thicken with corn starch mixed with cold water. Serve with hot fluffy rice.
COMMANDER'S PALACE CRAB MEAT IMPERIAL
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup onions, minced
2 tablespoons celery, minced
2 tablespoons green pepper, minced
1/4 cup green onions, tops only, minced
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon powdered garlic
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup pimiento, minced, and well-drained
1/4 cup Creole mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
2 pounds cooked fresh lump crab meat (pick out any shells)
Topping: mayonnaise, paprika
Method: In a large skillet melt butter; add onions, green peppers, celery, green onions, and seasonings and saute for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add mayonnaise, pimiento, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, and parsley. Mix well and let cool for about 20 minutes. Place crab meat in large mixing bowl and pick out any shells, being careful not to break up lumps. Ladle the sauce over the crab meat and mix gently to coat the crab meat without breaking up lumps. Using your hands, fill individual casserole dishes or ramekins or large flat sea shells, with 3/4 cup crab meat mixture. Coat each casserole with one tablespoon mayonnaise, sprinkle paprika over top. Heat in 350 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until it bubbles. Yields eight servings.
CHRISTIAN'S RESTAURANT WHITE CHOCOLATE MOUSSE
2 egg whites
125 grams sugar (4.46 ounces, 4 ounces equals 1/2 cup)
1/2 quart whipping cream
170 grams (6 ounces) vanilla sweet chocolate combined with 3
Method: Combine the egg whites and sugar and make a genoise meringue by beating them with an electric mixer over hot water on the stove until mixture is warm and thick. Remove from stove and continue beating until mixture is room temperature and even thicker. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler until just melted, then stir until smooth. Fold the chocolate into the meringue, then chill. Meanwhile chill the whipping cream and beat until stiff. Fold the whipped cream into the previously prepared mixture and chill.
CORRINE DUNBAR'S RED BEAN SOUP
1/2 pound red kidney beans
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme
1/4 stick butter
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 pound ham, ground fine
salt and pepper to taste
Claret wine, sieved hard boiled egg, 8 lemon slices (garnish)
Method: Saute onion in butter. Simmer beans for about three hours in enough water to cover, with onion, garlic, celery, thyme, and bay leaves. Keep an eye on the beans as they cook; it's important that they not go dry, but equally important that there not be too much water. Press mixture through coarse strainer, using large spoon to force mixture through. Add ham, and correct seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Place one tablespoon claret wine in bottom of each bouillon cup. Pour soup. Garnish with sieved egg and lemon slice. Serves eight.
LA PROVENCE POULET FROMAGE
1 chicken, cut into serving pieces
2 teaspoons chopped shallots
1/2 cup dry vermouth
3/4 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons grated Swiss cheese
1 tablespoon bleu cheese
1 tablespoon softened butter
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Method: Saute chicken in butter, but do not brown. Add chopped shallots and dry vermouth. Reduce liquid slightly. Add heavy cream, salt and pepper. Sauce should almost cover chicken; add more cream if necessary. Bring to a boil. Place in a 375 degree oven, covered with oiled waxed paper. Cook approximately 15 minutes, until chicken is tender when pierced. Remove chicken to platter and keep warm. Strain sauce and reduce it a little on low to medium-low heat. Whisk together grated cheeses, mustard, and softened butter. Add this mixture to reduced sauce over low heat, stirring constantly until smooth. Correct seasonings, and pour sauce over chicken.
Janet Schwartz, Federationist from Arizona, writes as follows: At the November 17, 1990, meeting the Tempe-Mesa, Arizona, Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind elected the following officers and board members: President, Debra Newman; Vice President, Susan Schaffer; Secretary, Janet Schwartz; and Treasurer, Norman Gardner. Mark Feliz and Ruth Swenson were the two board members elected.
**Comment from the Deaf-Blind:
Kathleen Spear, who is coordinator of deaf-blind services at the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is a woman of initiative. She is also an active Federationist, which means that she tries to do something about situations that she believes require remedying. The following letter is a good example. It should give all of us something to think about. Here it is:
February 5, 1991
TLR Sales and Marketing
Dear Sales Manager:
In the January, 1991, issue of the Braille Monitor, a publication of the National Federation of the Blind, there is an announcement about a new game which your employer has for sale. The game is called "Hi-Lo." It is with regard to this product that I am writing.
As described, Hi-Lo sounds like a game that many will enjoy. My interest in it relates to an annual camping event which I coordinate here in Central Pennsylvania. Games such as backgammon, checkers, othelo, and scrabble are favorites with the adult campers. It seemed to me that they would enjoy Hi-Lo, too. However, although you offer instructions on cassette for persons who are blind and large print for those who are partially sighted, there is no mention of Braille instructions. This is unfortunate, because our campers, like myself, are both deaf and blind.
It should be noted that many manufacturers fail to realize that persons who are deaf-blind are consumers with purchasing power. Since this is likely to be the cause underlying the absence of Braille instructions, I thought it appropriate to bring this matter to your attention.
Personally, I would be very interested in purchasing Hi-Lo if it came with Braille instructions. Furthermore, I believe that there are more than a few blind persons who would prefer Braille to taped instructions. In the belief that a company that produces items for leisure enjoyment intends to make their product as accessible to as many as possible, I'm hoping you will be receptive to the request that Hi-Lo instructions be made available in Braille.
Your consideration of this matter will be very much appreciated.
K. C. Spear
Sharon Maneki, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland, writes as follows: The Baltimore County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland was organized at a dinner meeting on Thursday, November 29, 1990, at the Quality Inn, Towson, Maryland. The following officers were elected: President, Donald Combs; Vice President, Bryan Bayliss; Secretary, Louise Meyer; Treasurer, Ken Canterbury; and Board Members, Mickey Bedford and Gene Washington. We look forward to much good work from this new chapter of thirty-seven enthusiastic members.
**Special Free Offer:
The Voice of the Diabetic is a quarterly magazine published by the Diabetics Division of the National Federation of the Blind. It is extremely popular and continues to grow rapidly in circulation. It provides information in a usable and understandable form and allows blind diabetics the opportunity to network with other blind diabetics who cope successfully with blindness and diabetes.
The magazine is upbeat and covers all aspects of diabetes. In each issue methods are presented that inform readers who are blind or losing their vision to diabetes how independently to draw insulin and test blood glucose levels. Additionally, it presents other resources available to the blind. Once the newly blinded diabetic develops a good attitude, blindness is not so overwhelming.
In a recent issue of The New England Journal of Medicine a letter from the Centers for Disease Control stated that there are from 12,000 to 24,000 new cases of blindness per year caused by diabetes. Also, the U.S. Department of Health reports that there are an estimated 12,000,000 cases of diabetes in America. There are thousands of blind diabetics that can be served if we know who they are.
This is why our Diabetics Division board has decided to offer the Voice of the Diabetic absolutely free for one year to anyone interested. Applications for this special will be accepted until July 15, 1991. Anyone may receive the Voice free as a member of the NFB Diabetics division, and after the expiration date the yearly cost will be $5. Also, anyone may receive the Voice free for one year as a non-member (institutional rate) of the NFB Diabetics Division, and after the expiration date the yearly cost will be $15. Subscribers may receive the magazine in print and/or on cassette (recorded at 15/16 ips).
Contact: Ed Bryant, Editor, 811 Cherry Street, Suite 306, Columbia, Missouri 65201; telephone (314) 875-8911. This offer is good via print, Braille, or telephone. Please provide name, address, and phone number; indicate if Voice is wanted in print, on cassette, or in both formats; and indicate whether membership or non-membership is desired. Our Diabetics Division has established committees with information on all aspects of diabetes. Members can communicate with others who have experienced the same diabetic side effects.
**Good Things Ahead:
Lynn Coats of Northridge, California, writes as follows:
This letter will inform you of the elections in the San Fernando Valley Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of California. We are excited about the upcoming year. Everyone in the chapter is hard at work to insure security and equality for blind persons living in the San Fernando Valley, as well as throughout the nation. On Saturday, January 12, 1991, the annual meeting of the San Fernando Valley Chapter was held. Here are the results of the elections: Donovan Cooper, President; Nancy Marcello, Vice President; and Albert Hughes, Member at Large. Other officers elected as of October of 1990 to fill vacancies to the position of Secretary and Treasurer are as follows: Lynn Coats, Secretary; and Stephanie Rood, Treasurer.
**Books for Sale:
Janell Peterson, a member of the NFB of Washington, has asked us to print the following: Work Addiction, Legacies of Adult Children by Robinson, 3 Braille volumes, $40; Fifty Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth, by the Earth Works Group, 3 Braille volumes, $40. Contact: Janell Peterson, 303 Harvard Avenue East, #302, Seattle, Washington 98102-5487 in Braille or on cassette only, phone: (206) 328-4778. If no response, books are sold.
Tracy Carcione, a Federationist from New York City, writes as follows: On January 20, 1991, the New York City Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind elected the following officers to two-year terms: President, Carl Jacobson; First Vice President, Ray Wayne; Second Vice President, Vivian Yacu; Secretary, Tracy Carcione; Treasurer, Gerald Carcione; State Delegate, Tracy Carcione; Alternate Delegate, Bob Kraft; and four board members: Bob Kraft, Harold Wenning, Linda Johnsen, and Bert Berg.
**Jewish Heritage for the Blind:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: "Item #1--Purim publications available on loan in Braille. Purim: a) As practiced by Syrian Jews, b) As practiced by Moroccan Jews, c) As practiced by Judeo-Spanish Jews, d) As practiced by Spanish and Portuguese Jews from "A Treasury of Sephardic Laws and Customs," e) The laws of the "Reading of the Megillah" from Kitzur Schulchan Aruch, and f) "Blessings recited before the Reading of the Megillah." Item #2--The directory of Kosher eating establishments in large print or Braille (available at no cost). Item #3--The Directory of Agencies providing Torah/Jewish Cultural tape cassettes in large print or Braille (available at no cost). Item #4--In Braille/large print (available at no cost): a) Rav Aaron Kotler, Zt'l, b) The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Shlita, and c) Rav Fivel Mendlowitz, Zt'l."
[PHOTO: Portrait of Bonnie Peterson. CAPTION: Bonnie Peterson, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin.]
**Running for Offices:
Whether or not the NFB's annual Washington Seminar includes activities worthy of national media attention, local and state broadcast and print journalists can usually be persuaded to cover the story of blind people traveling to the nation's capital to discuss issues of importance to them with their elected representatives. A good example of what can be made of such opportunities is what happened at the 1991 Washington Seminar after the Wisconsin delegation did what every state is urged to do in preparation for the trip to Washington. Here is what happened:
Before leaving for Washington, Bob Raisbeck alerted area media to the group's goals and schedule of appointments. On Monday, February 4, a news crew working for a Madison television station attempted to cover the meeting between Wisconsin Federationists and Senator Robert Kasten, who has never been particularly interested in the problems of the blind or helpful in solving them. Annoyed by the Senator's behavior and intrigued by what they learned from the NFB members, the crew decided to return on Tuesday to videotape the delegation's visit to the office of Madison's newly-elected Congressmen, Scott Klug. Since Mr. Klug's background is in the media, he and his staff were particularly impressed to find that the NFB brought home-town media attention to their first meeting. At its conclusion the NFB of Wisconsin delegates shot out of the Congressional office, explaining over their shoulders to the TV crew that their next appointment was two buildings away and that they had twelve minutes in which to traverse the distance. The crew decided to tag along in order to film additional footage.
The Wisconsin delegates (Bonnie Peterson, Bob Raisbeck, and Dave Schuh) took off with the TV crew following. As is customary, the cameraman got in front of the three, running backwards, to shoot film as they walked, or rather ran, toward him. The NFB members and the TV crew pelted through hallways, apparently chasing one another, all the way to the next Congressional office, where the whole cavalcade shot through the door at a dead run, the cameraman panting from the exertion. The Congressman, Gerald Kleczka, has been a long-time friend of the National Federation of the Blind, and he was in his office with the door open, signing a few papers, as the NFB members and TV crew drew up just outside his personal office, exactly on time for their appointment. Congressman Kleczka's introduction to the Federationists was then videotaped, providing the Congressman with an opportunity to appear on TV at home, meeting with constituents. After the cameraman recovered from his dash through the Congressional hallways and while he was packing up his gear, he told Bonnie Peterson that he had gotten "some camera angles that nobody's ever seen before."
When the three Wisconsin Federationists arrived (at a more dignified pace) at their second Senator's office, they discovered that Wisconsin Cable Network had chosen that time to film a day in the life of Senator Herbert Kohl, so that interview was taped in its entirety as well. When President Bonnie Peterson finished outlining the final issue, Senator Kohl's aide commented even before the Senator had a chance to speak that the idea was "brilliant, absolutely brilliant." That's the kind of media coverage that would benefit every state affiliate and make a valuable and lasting impression in every Congressional office.
**Congressional Internships Available:
Congressman Gerry Sikorski has asked us to print the following:
Applications are now being accepted for full-time internships in the Washington, D.C. office of Congressman Gerry Sikorski. Credit and non-credit internships are being offered now for Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer Sessions. Areas of responsibility include social services, clerical, legislative research, writing, grants and local-federal government interaction, general research and issues, media and current events, and constituent relations.
These internships provide valuable hands-on experience, broaden your knowledge and awareness of government processes, and help you make more knowledgeable career choices. All interested persons may apply. Internship appointments will be made without regard to age, sex, race, religion, or disability.
For applications and more information, please contact: Intern Coordinator, Congressman Gerry Sikorski, 403 Cannon H.O.B., Washington, D.C. 20515; (202) 225-2271 or Intern Coordinator, Congressman Gerry Sikorski, 277 Coon Rapids Blvd., N.W., Coon Rapids, Minnesota 55422; (612) 780-5801.
**Making Use of the Literacy Bandwagon:
Karen Mayry, the energetic president of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota, sent us the following notice. It is a very good idea. Here's what she says:
Does your state have a Literacy Council? In South Dakota we have enlisted its assistance and are submitting articles to the newsletter. Through this means we are educating more people about the importance of Braille. The entire publication, "Braille, What is It? What Does It Mean to the Blind?" was printed in July, 1990. The January, 1991, newsletter was distributed as the South Dakota Legislature opened. It contains an article written by me regarding Braille Literacy. The National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota will be introducing a Braille Bill during the 1991 session. Considering its growing understanding of the advantages of Braille as an efficient method of reading, the Literacy Council should be providing us with increased support.
Keith Bucher, a member of the National Federation of the Blind of West Virginia, has asked that we carry the following announcement:
For Sale--Toshiba T1200F with internal Accent 1200 synthesizer and external 5.25 360K disk drive. All items are in very good condition and were purchased in September, 1989. Price: $1,695, which includes UPS shipping to anywhere in the U.S. and Canada. Contact: Keith Bucher, Post Office Box 130, Reader, West Virginia 26167; phone: (304) 386-4332.
Sharon Luka, one of the long-time leaders of the NFB of Kansas, writes as follows: On Saturday, November 17, 1990, the Douglas County Chapter held its annual election of officers. The new slate of officers is as follows: President, Cindy Lou Hallenbeck; Vice President, Jim Mitchell; Secretary-Treasurer, Sharon Luka; Board Position 1, James Canaday; and Board Position 2, Edra Diaz.
Pat Barrett, one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho, has asked us to print the following:
Bowling rail needed! I am looking for a bowling rail, costing less then $100. The Magic Valley Chapter of the NFB of Idaho would like to adopt one. Please contact Mr. Pat Barrett, LINC, Shoshone Street, E., Twin Falls, Idaho 83301, work phone (208) 733-1712.
[PHOTO: Children playing with building block toys. CAPTION: The child care room at the convention of the NFB is a busy and happy place.]
Carol Coulter, an active member of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri and a licensed day-care provider, is organizing child-care at this year's national convention. She has asked us to print the following announcement:
Once again the Parental Concerns Committee is coordinating day-care for parents at the national convention. This service began some years ago; and, as the parent of two children I know how helpful it is to parents and everyone else at convention. To keep the service operating effectively, we need your help. First, we need volunteers (particularly parents and mature, responsible youth) to help in the day-care room from time to time. Please get in touch with me as soon as possible if you can volunteer. Second, we need donations to cover our expenses. This year we are asking parents to make these donations: $50 for the week (including the banquet) for the first child and $25 for each additional child; or, $10 per child per day, and $10 per child for the banquet night if you do not need the full week of day- care. This new approach will help both the Parental Concerns Committee and individual parents plan better for convention day- care expenses. (Donations from other sources will still be needed to help defray the costs for parents who cannot afford convention day-care. If you are such a parent, please contact me before convention if at all possible.) The third way you can help make convention day-care a success is to tell me in advance how many children you will be bringing to New Orleans. It is impossible to have the right number of adults in child-care if we don't know how many children to expect. We hope to have day-care available during the following times: the Parents of Blind Children Seminar (Sunday, June 30), all general sessions, the annual banquet, and the Parental Concerns Committee meeting. If you have any questions or need more information, please write or call Carol Coulter, Chair, Parental Concerns Committee, at 2504 Glenn Drive, Columbia, Missouri 65202; (314) 474-3226. I hope to see all of you and your children in New Orleans!
From the Editor: As Monitor readers are aware, I have known Edgar Sammons for a long time. He and his wife Mattie Ruth live in East Tennessee and are as genuine as the mountain air they breath. Edgar recently wrote to me, saying that he would like to exchange Braille letters with anybody who wanted to correspond. His address is: Route 2, Box 1840, Mountain City, Tennessee 37683.
Denise and Dennis Franklin, Federationists from Kentucky, have asked that we carry the following announcement:
Have you ever wished that you could order your favorite kind of music with one simple telephone call? Have you ever wished that you could participate in a music service without having to return unwanted "automatic selections" each month? Has there been a time when you wanted to know which cassette tape or compact disc included your favorite single? If your answer to any of these questions is yes, do we ever have a deal for you!! By sending a one-time membership fee of just $10, you can receive all of these services. But there's more! You will also receive a quarterly newsletter (specify print or Braille), containing a list of new releases. Don't be left out. Send check or money order, along with your complete address, to: Franklin Music Service, 3145 Talisman Road, Louisville, Kentucky 40220; telephone: (502) 459-8630.
Ed Bryant, Editor of the Voice of the Diabetic, has asked that we carry the following announcement:
During this year's National Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, dialysis will be available. Individuals requiring dialysis must have a transient-patient packet and a physician's statement filled out prior to treatment. Patients should have their dialysis units contact the desired location in New Orleans for instruction on what must be done. There is a mandatory prepayment of twenty percent (approximately $30) which must be paid before each dialysis treatment. This is the amount not covered by Medicare.
Following are three dialysis locations which are close to the Hyatt Regency: 1.) Greater New Orleans Artificial Kidney Center, 2000 Tulane Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana 70112; phone: (504) 581-6227. This location is open six days a week (Monday- Saturday) and is about seven minutes from the Hyatt. 2.) Tulane University Hospital, 1415 Tulane Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana 70112; phone: (504) 588-5263. This location is open three days a week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) and is about eight blocks from the Hyatt. 3.) Touro Infirmary, 1401 Foucher Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70115; phone: (504) 897-8530. This location is open six days a week (Monday-Saturday) and is about one mile from the Hyatt.
Please schedule your dialysis treatments early, since space may be limited. If your dialysis unit cannot confirm a space for you, contact Ed Bryant for assistance at: 811 Cherry Street, Suite 306, Columbia, Missouri 65201; phone: (314) 875-8911.
Mrs. Linda Taylor, a member of the NFB of South Carolina, writes as follows: I am thirty-eight years, married, and the mother of two children aged twenty-one and eleven. I'd love to hear from you; it's one way to make new friends. You may contact me on cassette tape or in large print. My address is: 7 Gerald Street, Sumter, South Carolina 29150.
**Pen Friends Wanted:
We received the following letter from Helene Ryles in Staffordshire, England:
I am a young deaf-blind person. I would like a pen friend from the National Federation of the Blind of the United States. I can write in grade 1 or 2 Braille or Moon. I like reading (horror and fantasy); music (heavy metal and folk); sports (walking, swimming, trampolining, tandem bike-riding; horse-back riding; skiing, skating, rock climbing, caving, sailing, and assault courses); knitting chunky jumpers [sweaters] for men; cats; fair rides; discos; the sea; and finding out about countries from foreign pen friends. Write to Helene Ryles, 39 Newcastle Street, Silverdale, Newcastle-Under-Lyme, Staffs ST5 6PQ, England.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
To the members of the National Federation of the Blind: The costs of your health and life-preserving maintenance medicines are escalating at the rate of 22% per year. Your heart, ulcer, high blood pressure, allergy medicines and other maintenance drugs are putting severe pressure on your pocketbook every month.
The Federation has entered into an agreement with Mail Rx, Timonium, Maryland, to make these long-term medicines available to you at average wholesale prices instead of retail prices. Your prescriptions, in 90 day quantities instead of one-month quantities are delivered to your home via UPS within several days after the prescription is received. For those members who have no insurance coverage for maintenance drugs...you can buy your medication at Average Wholesale Prices versus retail prices--a savings of approximately 30%. For those members who have 80/20 insurance coverage, you lay out no money...simply send us the signed claim form and the prescription and that's it. For every prescription Mail Rx fills for Federation members...the Federation receives a donation of one dollar from Mail Rx.
Please telephone Mail Rx on their (toll-free) number... 1 (800) 262-4579 to get started now.
Joe Phillips, founder and first president of the Erie County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania, reports with sadness that on February 11, 1991, Jeanne Schick died. Jeanne, whose daughter Mary is multiply handicapped, had been a loyal member of the chapter since its beginning in 1977. She attended state and national conventions and understood clearly and supported enthusiastically all that the Federation stands for. Repeatedly the professionals told Jeanne what Mary could not do and why they would not help her, and repeatedly Mary, Jeanne, and the Federation proved them wrong. Jeanne Schick will be deeply missed by her family, her friends, and her colleagues in the organized blind movement.
We have been asked to announce the following: I have a Beta Scan blood glucose analyzer for sale, batteries and recharger included. I am asking $350 or best offer. Contact me in any format, except collect phone calls. Rita A. Iesue, 4341 Morse St., Erie, Pennsylvania 16511; phone (814) 899-5241.
Sharon Gold, President of the National Federation of the Blind of California, reports that on Monday, January 28, two days before he was scheduled to leave for the Washington Seminar, Dennis Russak fell and broke his leg. He underwent extensive surgery and will be using a wheelchair for a number of weeks. Members of the California affiliate found Dennis an accessible apartment and helped him move when he was released from the hospital. He is now recovering from his injuries and doing some volunteer work in the NFB of California office.
Joanne Fernandes, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana and member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind, was married on Thursday, March 28, 1991, at the Presbyterian Church in Ruston, Louisiana, to Harold Wilson of Shreveport, Louisiana. The couple will make their home in Ruston, and Joanne will continue to direct the Louisiana Center for the Blind. The Monitor offers congratulations and best wishes to the newlyweds.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: One-Hand Keyboard Option for Braille 'n Speak--Blazie Engineering announces the immediate availability of a one-handed keyboard option for the Braille 'n Speak. This option allows the Braille 'n Speak pocket computer to be operated by persons who lack the full use of all fingers or hands. By pressing as few as one key at a time, the Braille 'n Speak can be used to its full extent. Users interested in this option should contact Blazie Engineering for prices and availability. For more information please contact: Blazie Engineering, 3660 Mill Green Road, Street, Maryland 21154; phone: (301) 879-4944; FAX: (301) 452-5752.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: An open invitation to all Federationists who are piano tuners or interested in entering this lucrative field. A special interest meeting will be held at the NFB convention in New Orleans at the Hyatt Regency hotel in the Maui Room on Tuesday evening, July 2, 1991.