No. 6 June
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. 6 June 1991
NATION'S BLIND SPEAK OUT ON ACCESSIBILITY GUIDELINES
by Barbara Pierce
CIVIC ACTIVIST: BOULDER COUNTY COMMISSIONER HOMER PAGE
by Nell Carney
DIVIDE AND CONQUER
by Melissa Lagroue
AMERICAN PRINTING HOUSE FOR THE BLIND REVERSES DECISION TO
DISCONTINUE PUBLISHING MY WEEKLY READER
THE COMBINATION MACHINE: A HISTORY OF DEVELOPMENT
by The Technical Staff, National Library Service
FURTHER THOUGHTS ON REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION
by Michael Freeman
GENETIC CLUE FOUND TO DIABETES
by Rebecca Kolberg
THE FOURTH GENERATION ON THE MOVE
A LETTER FROM CANADA
PUBLIC RELATIONS: A TOOL FOR CHAPTER-BUILDING
by David Milner
MEET A FELLOW FEDERATIONIST--BILL REIF
by Deborah Kent Stein
BLIND FROM BIRTH, REPORTER IS UNDAUNTED
TEACHING GOOD SPORTSMANSHIP
by David Ticchi
COMMENTS ON HOT DOTS AND THE ARKENSTONE READER
by David Andrews
PURPOSE, OR HAPPENSTANCE?
Copyright National Federation of the Blind, Inc., 1991
NATION'S BLIND SPEAK OUT ON ACCESSIBILITY GUIDELINES
by Barbara Pierce
During late February and early March of this year the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (ATBCB) conducted hearings around the country to give interested parties an opportunity to respond to its proposed accessibility guidelines for the Americans with Disabilities Act, which were published in the Federal Register of January 22, 1991. Fourteen of these meetings took place, and people representing all sorts of interests came forward to testify. Theater owners who felt that proposed requirements to accommodate hearing-impaired patrons and those using wheelchairs imposed an unfair financial burden on them, builders with a wide range of concerns about the impact of access standards on their costs, and deaf and orthopedically impaired consumers worried that economic considerations might erode strong guidelines and concerned about the inadequacy of some provisions: all these and more were present and eager to be heard.
The blind of the nation were also represented. At virtually every hearing members of the National Federation of the Blind stood up to present testimony with a difference. We were not asking that proposed guidelines be strengthened. We did not even plead that the line be held on requirements which business interests might wish to see eroded. Instead, we were arguing that several portions of the Accessibility Guidelines, chiefly the detectible warnings section, be removed.
The ATBCB had proposed that textured strips be installed at intersections and that similar surfaces announce the tops of staircases and the edges of reflecting pools. Knurled knobs, they said, should be installed on doors leading to furnace rooms, loading docks, and other dangerous areas, where the blind had no business to venture.
Though appreciative of the concern that prompted such proposed guidelines, we pointed out that the purpose of the Americans with Disabilities Act was to provide civil rights protection for a group of people--the disabled community. If physical barriers to providing those rights exist, it is appropriate to establish guidelines for removing them. But in the case of the blind, intersections, staircases, loading docks, and reflecting pools do not constitute barriers to our civil rights. The white cane and the dog guide provide excellent methods of negotiating all of these architectural and traffic phenomena. Moreover, society should be about the business of encouraging blind people to use these excellent aids to independent travel rather than tempting them to manage without a safe method of mobility. We pointed out the problems associated with suggesting to the public that blind people cannot travel safely unless these textured surfaces are present to warn us of danger. Blind people without much travel experience will begin to believe that they are not safe without the warnings, and sighted people will draw the same conclusion. This can only limit further our opportunities to compete for jobs and live normal lives as contributing members of our communities.
Over and over in cities across the nation we made these arguments, and when the hearings ended, hundreds more of us sent our written comments to the ATBCB before the March 25 deadline.
As this article is being written in early April, the Board is studying all the comments received and the testimony taken at the hearings. The final guidelines are supposed to be published on April 26, though rumor has it that they will be late. It is not clear what impact our efforts will have on the revisions being made in the proposed guidelines, but at the very least, we can be proud of having been heard. We can also take pride that we went on record as advocating fiscal restraint and urging that the public be asked to make only those modifications that really will remove barriers to full participation in society for blind people. Here is a sample of the testimony presented by Federationists across the country:
Before the Architectural and Transportation
Barriers Compliance Board
Remarks of Barbara Pierce
President, National Federation of the Blind of Ohio
February 28, 1991
My name is Barbara Pierce, and my address is 237 Oak Street, Oberlin, Ohio 44074. I am the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio, and I come today to comment on Detectible Warnings, Section 4.29 of the proposed accessibility guidelines for the Americans with Disabilities Act.
We in the blind community applaud the nation's effort to make our society more accessible to all those who face physical barriers to their full participation. We are sympathetic to their problems because, although physical barricades do not impede our movement through the world, we do constantly encounter attitudinal barriers to our full participation, which we, too, are working to overcome.
The Americans with Disabilities Act is an important piece of civil rights legislation, which is intended to prohibit discrimination against those who are disabled. When physical barriers stand between people with disabilities and the activities they wish to engage in or the places they need to go, justice requires that the barriers be removed. But in the case of the blind, there are no physical barriers standing between us and the places we wish to go, so detectible warnings cannot remove barriers. Very effective methods have been developed for identifying stairs, intersections, machinery, drop-offs, and pools of water. So even if detectible warnings were an efficient, foolproof means of identifying hazards in travel for the blind-- which they are not--they would still have no place in the ADA guidelines since they do not serve to remove barriers to our participation in society.
But the situation that faces the blind is worse than this. It is not enough that detectible warnings are beyond the scope of the Americans with Disabilities Act; their inclusion in the guidelines is positively harmful to the blind because they are actually counterproductive in a number of ways.
One of the problems that plague the blind is that, in an effort to assist us, those who are familiar with physical barriers try to solve our problems by modifying physical objects rather than by attacking the true problems. This results in finding the wrong solutions or even solving nonexistent problems.
Detectible Warnings are a case in point. Perhaps an illustration will make my meaning clear. If federal law were to mandate that access to all public buildings for people who use wheelchairs must be provided by having two burly men available to carry the person and the chair up the stairs and open all doors whenever access is required, the solution would certainly achieve the goal of making public buildings accessible to people using wheelchairs. But most Americans would howl in protest. The proposed solution would be undignified, expensive, melodramatic, and silly.
We in the National Federation of the Blind believe that this is precisely the problem with Section 4.29. The only effective way of providing access to the world for blind people is teaching the proper use of the white cane or the dog guide, not encouraging us to scuff our feet along the pavement or floor in search of danger-indicators. Both money and energy are needed to increase our access to the world, but they should be spent on improving the quality, amount, and availability of travel training provided to blind people and to breaking down the attitudinal barriers that too many of us with some residual sight have to using a mobility aid.
To the argument that, if there are some visually impaired people who would find textured tiles at intersections, stair warnings, and knurled door knobs convenient, we should provide them whether or not active blind citizens object, I answer that at some point the social and economic cost of the proposed solution (Detectible Warnings) must enter the equation. Some people using wheelchairs undoubtedly prefer or even require personal physical assistance regardless of ramps and wide entrances, but as a society we have decided that there is a point beyond which the individual must take personal responsibility for providing his or her own assistance or for recruiting it along the way.
We in the Federation believe that, in the case of people with visual impairment, this line must be drawn before installing special surfaces as warnings. The social and economic cost of these modifications will be tremendous. Owners and managers of buildings and city planners will resent the cost, as they should, since the modifications are not necessary. We must insist that the general public make architectural modifications only when there are physical barriers that prohibit people with disabilities from full access to our communities.
The social cost to the blind of installing detectible warnings will be extremely high. The public will come to assume that the blind need these special surfaces in order to travel safely, and they will quite naturally go on to draw the conclusion that we cannot function safely in any area where such surfaces do not exist. What do you suppose the chances are for a blind maintenance work applicant who seeks a job in a building which has been equipped with all the latest knurled door knobs on furnace rooms and doors to loading docks? The building manager knows only that the special knobs warn blind people that they have no business behind those doors, so the maintenance worker will never even get the chance to educate the manager about the competence of blind people or the silliness of knurled door knobs. After all, the manager has made an investment in the modifications because they are required by law and because he has been led to believe that they are necessary. His financial investment will quite naturally reinforce his adherence to all his pre-existing prejudices.
Employers who walk across textured tiles may be pardoned for concluding that blind people are helpless outside their homes unless they have such aids to warn them of hazards. Even without the installation of these warnings we are turned down for jobs with the misguided excuse that the building layout is too complex and there isn't enough staff to provide a blind employee with a guide for every trip to the bathroom or water cooler. Our employment problems will only be compounded if stairs and intersections are commonly introduced by textured materials.
One must also consider what impact such textured surfaces will have on newly blinded travelers. If they learn to depend on such indicators of steps or traffic, their confidence in the cane and on their own capacity to assess the information they receive through it will be diminished. Guidelines that work against the independence of the group allegedly being assisted are no help at all, and those that encourage poor technique or abandonment of the cane are positively detrimental.
I will make one comment about curb cuts. I am completely sympathetic to the use of these cuts, but it is true that the old-fashioned curb was immensely helpful to blind travelers in stopping at the correct point and lining up accurately for the street-crossing. Those communities that have eliminated all curbs have certainly required blind travelers to walk more carefully near intersections, though textured paving is not a constructive solution. My community constructed curb cuts at the point of each corner so that one cut could easily be used by people crossing either street at the intersection. The curb has been left on the two perpendicular sides. This has proven to be a good solution to conflicting needs. The one caution I would give is that the painted cross walks should be wide enough to protect both pedestrians using the curb cut and those stepping off the curb. As it stands now in Oberlin, blind pedestrians must either venture very close to parallel traffic or forfeit the nominal protection of the crosswalk. In the future, however, this kind of curb cut construction would be a relatively inexpensive and safe way of accommodating two antithetical sets of needs without resorting to solutions (textured surfaces) that proclaim incorrectly and misleadingly to the world that without such assistance the blind necessarily wander into traffic.
Finally I turn to the question of reflecting pools. Architects have told me that they have learned to their cost that all unexpected steps, unprotected drop-offs, and hard-to-see glass doors are hazardous to everyone. That is, absent-minded or inattentive pedestrians are likely to be hurt and make insurance claims. This being the case, there is good reason to surround reflecting pools with low parapets, railings, or even textured surfaces around the edge, not because the blind are more likely to fall in, but because everyone will be safer and happier, including the insurance companies. Blind people might get a cane wet walking around an unprotected pool, but nothing worse. That is what the cane is for--to come in contact with things that the user would prefer to avoid.
In July of 1988 the National Federation of the Blind held its annual convention at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Chicago, a facility with a pool, called the lagoon, in the middle of the lobby. Nearly 3,000 blind people attended that event. They included people with every level of independent travel skill. I confess with shame that the thought passed through my mind that we would have a few unplanned dips in the lagoon that week, particularly since the pool was very close to the bar, but, as far as I know, not a single person, blind or sighted, stepped in.
In summary I repeat that by and large the barriers keeping the blind from full access to society are attitudinal rather than physical. Our travel problems can and should be solved by training in the proper use of the white cane or dog guide rather than in efforts to remake the world. At best this latter approach is expensive and doomed to only partial success. It should be reserved for those instances in which it is the sole possible approach, e.g., to assist those who must use ramps, curb cuts, and wide doorways in order to move about freely. No physical barriers confront the blind in travel. For this reason it is inappropriate for the ADA guidelines to address the question of Detectible Warnings at all.
The blind will pay a terrible price if the Detectible Warning guidelines are enacted. Many of us with a little sight will refuse to demand and get the travel training that will always be absolutely necessary for safety and independence in travel. (A person who depends on textured surfaces to warn of stairs and oncoming traffic will fall over single steps and walk into the path of cars in alleys and filling station ramps.) The world will never be completely safe for any of us. The best we can do is to equip ourselves with the capacity to deal with the unexpected.
The social cost for detectible warnings will be, if anything, even higher than the personal and individual price I have outlined because it will be paid by every blind person in the country. The general public will come to assume that the blind cannot move about safely unless the unusual is heralded by textured surfaces. In their minds the differences and limitations that constrict the lives of the blind will increase in size and appalling restrictiveness. The gulf we have to cross to find employment or persuade the newly blinded that independence and competence have not vanished with their vision will have widened even further.
With some difficulty the National Federation of the Blind succeeded in having the Americans with Disabilities Act amended to protect an individual from being forced to use a given accommodation just because it was available. This is an important protection for us and will certainly help us when we are instructed to take handicapped seating on buses or modified hotel rooms. But in the case of detectible warnings, we will have no choice but to put up with them and be damaged by their psychological and economic impact on the general public. I urge you not to increase the attitudinal barriers we already face in the name of assisting us.
There you have a sample of the testimony presented at hearings around the country. Many more Federationists submitted written comments directly to the Board before the March 25 deadline. Of course James Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs for the National Federation of the Blind, prepared and submitted the NFB's official comment. Mr. Gashel addressed all of the proposed guideline sections that had any bearing on blind people rather than limiting himself to the Detectible Warnings section, on which most other people concentrated. Here are Mr. Gashel's comments on behalf of all of us:
March 25, 1991
Mr. James Raggio
Office of the General Counsel
Dear Mr. Raggio:
This letter responds to the Board's notice published at 56 FR 2296, Tuesday, January 22, 1991. The notice sets forth the proposed guidelines for accessible facilities, called for by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
This comment is the official position of the National Federation of the Blind. The Federation has a national membership of over 50,000 individuals, most of whom are blind. There are statewide affiliates of the Federation in all states and the District of Columbia, and local chapters can be found in most sizable population areas. All of our elected leaders are blind. The positions taken in comments such as this are based on policies adopted by the Federation through official resolutions and otherwise.
Focus and General Premises of this Comment
The Federation has reviewed the proposed accessibility guidelines with respect to their impact on blind people. This consideration will also determine the scope of our comment. It should be understood that we apply the term "blind" or "blindness" to any degree of vision loss which remains after correction, even though the individual may not be totally blind. This is done in part for simplicity. However, it is also done because the problems associated with various degrees of vision loss are more social than physical. In this respect someone with a mild to moderate vision loss faces essentially the same discriminatory barriers as someone who is totally blind.
As with many other forms of disability, blindness is often more of a social handicap than a physical disability. In fact, with proper training and opportunity, we have found that blindness can be reduced to the level of a mere nuisance. Physical barriers which may affect some blind persons in some circumstances are far less severe a problem than the social barriers which do exist in most forms of interaction between blind and sighted people.
Modifications made to the physical environment have an inevitable effect upon social attitudes and public understanding about disabilities. The Board's responsibility includes addressing attitudinal as well as physical barriers. Certainly the Americans with Disabilities Act (the "Act") anticipates that social as well as physical barriers must be removed. Also care must be taken to insure that guidelines for the removal of physical barriers are not premised on incorrect information about disabilities. If they are, the guidelines themselves could lead to unintended forms of discrimination and thereby defeat the purposes of the Act. Therefore, the Board must assess the social as well as the physical impact of its guidelines. With respect to disabilities such as blindness, this type of assessment is a particularly critical undertaking.
As a threshold matter, we propose that the Board apply "discriminatory impact" standards in deciding whether to include or exclude particular guidelines. The Act requires that discriminatory barriers be removed. It does not require that actions be taken which are unrelated to the removal of discriminatory barriers. Also actions taken in the name of removing barriers would be prohibited by the Act if those actions perpetuate discrimination on grounds of disability.
Some of the proposed guidelines appear to be driven by safety or convenience considerations rather than by any analysis of discriminatory impact. In fact, the Board does not offer a justification for any of the guidelines in the form of a relationship between the guideline and the presumed discriminatory barrier being addressed. The Board also does not appear to be sensitive to the possibility that some actions which would be required by its guidelines could lead to practices that perpetuate discrimination on grounds of disability. Failure to provide the kind of analysis suggested here has led to the inappropriate inclusion of several provisions.
A discriminatory impact analysis should be made with respect to each of the proposed guidelines. This analysis should include at least two essential tests. First, guidelines which are essentially unrelated to discrimination should be excluded. This includes provisions aimed primarily at improving safety or convenience. The test should be: "Has a form of discrimination been identified for which the guideline is a necessary remedy?"
Also the discriminatory impact analysis should determine whether the guideline may lead to unintended discriminatory effects. For example, a guideline which calls for protective safety measures would have a discriminatory impact on persons with disabilities if there were no factual basis for a safety concern. The guideline itself would be overprotective and would almost certainly lead to a more general climate of overprotection. So the second essential test should be: "Does the guideline promote an accurate understanding of the abilities and limitations of those for whose benefit it is intended?"
Comments on Specific Guidelines
Most of the guidelines appear to have very little (if any) relationship to blind people. The topics which do have an impact are: Protruding Objects, Section 4.4; Elevators, Section 4.10; Detectible Warnings, Section 4.29; Signage, Section 4.30; and Automated Teller Machines, Section 4.39. Specific comments will be made with respect to each of these guidelines in the order indicated.
Section 4.4, Protruding Objects
This section proposes to restrict both the height and extent of protruding objects. Our comments focus on the propriety of such requirements, rather than on the technical aspects. The Board should review this section under the discriminatory impact standards just presented.
First Test: Has a form of discrimination been identified for which the guideline is a necessary remedy? This test, applied to this guideline, raises the safety versus discrimination issue. It is clear that some objects are so constructed and mounted as to protrude into areas where people may sometimes travel. It is also true that some of the people who travel in these areas may not see very well, but people with completely normal vision may not see protruding objects either. Blind people do not have exclusive title to colliding with things. It is conceivable that a study could be done to assess whether blind or sighted people have more accidents with protruding objects. However, such a study would be ill-advised under the circumstances. The point is that the guideline does not address a discrimination concern.
The presence of blind people and protruding objects in the same space does not result in the existence of a discriminatory barrier. Neither does the presence of sighted people and protruding objects in the same space,even though sighted people sometimes hit them. Protruding objects do not prevent or impede blind persons from using such spaces, although they will take extra care. So it is with sighted people. It might be safer for both if protruding objects were restricted as proposed, but safety is not really the question.
The guideline must be justified on grounds that it calls for removing a discriminatory barrier. This guideline appears to call for removing a discriminatory barrier and for improving safety, using blind people as a convenient reason. Inclusion of the guideline expresses the unsupported assumption that the blind suffer discrimination because they collide with protruding objects. This is categorically untrue. Blind people suffer discrimination because of attitudes such as those expressed by this guideline. People assume that blind persons will run into protruding objects and therefore seek to restrict either the objects or the blind. There is no discrimination toward blind people in the fact that some objects protrude into spaces where they may be struck.
Second Test: Does the guideline promote an accurate understanding of the abilities and limitations of those for whose benefit it is intended? This test calls for an analysis of how the guideline will contribute to an accurate public understanding of our abilities and limitations. It has already been suggested that the guideline is based on a false premise--that blind people are discriminated against by the presence of protruding objects. In this sense the guideline will inevitably be a detriment to accurate public understanding of blindness. However, it is difficult to argue that the observance of the guideline itself will communicate any information (accurate or otherwise) about blindness. The overall effect of the guideline would probably be inconsequential. Most people are unlikely to conclude that protruding objects are restricted because of blind people. The action does not carry any symbolic attachment to the blind.
We recommend that Section 4.4 be removed on the basis that it does not deal primarily with the question of discrimination, but with safety.
Section 4.10, Elevators
This section contains a variety of requirements for elevators to make them accessible. Guidelines concerning raised characters, audible signals, and verbal enunciators relate directly to use of elevators by blind persons. These provisions will be assessed with respect to the discriminatory impact standards.
First Test: Has a form of discrimination been identified for which the guideline is a necessary remedy? The guideline presumes that elevators are less usable by blind persons if they do not have raised characters on control panels and hoistway entrances and audible signals to indicate car arrival and floor locations. It may be argued that problems encountered in using elevators without such indicators do not rise to the level of discrimination. An elevator without such indicators is more of an inconvenience than a barrier. However, there are perhaps some discriminatory aspects in that sighted people are at a distinct advantage over the blind in using an elevator equipped only with visible print characters and no audible signals.
Second Test: Does the guideline promote an accurate understanding of the abilities and limitations of those for whose benefit it is intended? Public understanding of blindness is probably advanced by having Braille and/or raised print characters which are usable by some blind people and visible to sighted people. It is certainly not harmful to blind people to have a guideline which promotes the understanding that blind people may be present, that they may be using elevators, and that they are capable of doing so with the same degree of facility and ease as sighted people.
The guidelines concerning raised characters and audible elevator signals should be retained as proposed. Elevators without the indicators specified pose a discriminatory barrier for the blind to some degree. The guideline would not lead to a detrimental public understanding of the abilities and limitations of blindness.
Section 4.29, Detectible Warnings
This section proposes that floor surfaces along a circulation path should contain warning strips which could be felt by the feet, detected by the touch of a cane, or seen by persons with low vision. Warnings would be required at locations such as the tops of ramps and stairs, along street edges level with sidewalks, on platform edges where vehicles are loaded, and around reflecting pools. There is also a requirement that certain door knobs be knurled to indicate hazards behind those doors. Among the hazards identified are loading areas, boiler rooms, and stages. The general idea is to place a detectable warning strip on the walking path to any area that is presumed to be hazardous to blind persons. We apply the discriminatory impact standards as indicated earlier.
First Test: Has a form of discrimination been identified for which the guideline is a necessary remedy? Again, this test raises the discrimination versus safety issue. With respect to stairs, is the presence of a stairway without detectable warning strips a discriminatory barrier for blind persons? Does the absence of a detectable warning cause discrimination on grounds of blindness under any circumstance? The answers to these questions can best be found in the daily experience of blind people. Do they fail to use stairs because they are not equipped with detectable warnings? The answer is that they do not. Are blind people unsafe in using stairs that are not equipped with detectable warnings? The answer is that they are not. Are blind people unsafe near reflecting pools or on streets that are not marked with detectable warnings? The answer is that they are not.
There is absolutely no discriminatory barrier that would be addressed by detectable warnings. Blind people do cross streets and use stairs safely. They use subways in safety, and they avoid falling into reflecting pools. The fact is that blind people can go virtually anywhere unaided by others. The limitations for those who cannot travel by themselves are best resolved by effective training. These techniques and opportunities exist. It is a proven and undisputed fact that blind people can be trained to move safely throughout the constructed environment without special modifications. There is no barrier whatsoever because of the absence of detectable warnings. This guideline has been proposed without a factual basis.
Second Test: Does the guideline promote an accurate understanding of the abilities and limitations of those for whose benefit it is intended? In the case of detectable warnings, we find a clear and obvious linkage between the placement of the warning and the expected presence of blind people. Among other things, the warning says that blind people are likely to fall down the stairs if protective measures are not taken. This is a wholly inaccurate statement about blindness and blind people. If an official guideline of the government promotes such thinking, it will undo all of the public education efforts underway to change the generally accepted image of the helpless blind.
Detectible warnings convey exactly the wrong image of blind people and for no good reason. The warnings announce that blind people need special measures to preserve their safety. Without these measures the blind cannot move with confidence and safety. Even worse, the impact of the warnings will not be limited to the strips required by the guidelines. Employers will conclude, for example, that machines with sharp blades are not safe for blind people to operate. This outcome is exactly opposite to the intent and mandate of the Act.
Remove Section 4.29 and all other references to detectable warnings. Provisions for detectable warnings do not call for removing a discriminatory barrier. They primarily address safety concerns unrelated to the Act. Detectible warnings would foster an inaccurate public image of blindness and would lead to unlawful forms of social discrimination against the blind.
Section 4.30, Signage
This section proposes various guidelines to make signage more readable by blind people. Applying the discriminatory impact analysis, we conclude that the guideline should be retained as proposed.
Doors without signs of the type described in the guidelines can pose barriers to efficient use by blind persons. Essentially we would apply the same analysis to the signage questions as to the elevator indicators. Audible signs should not be required for reasons of expense and technology. Information on such signs can normally be obtained from others.
Section 4.34, Automated Teller Machines
This section proposes that automated teller machines (ATMs) be made accessible to persons with disabilities. Again we would apply essentially the same discriminatory impact analysis as in the case of elevators and signage. It is not appropriate at this point to specify the means of accessibility for blind persons. Technology must develop further in this area. The guideline appropriately sets the standard.
Director of Governmental Affairs
National Federation of the Blind
[PHOTO: Dr. Homer Page converses with a member of the Boulder County Board of Commissioners. CAPTION: Dr. Homer Page.]
CIVIC ACTIVIST: BOULDER COUNTY COMMISSIONER HOMER PAGE
From the Associate Editor: Homer Page is First Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado. He also coordinates the work of those who make things run so smoothly at national conventions. He is everywhere, spotting traffic jams, sending the nurse to those who need her consultation, calming restless teenagers, and dispersing youngsters who are playing on the escalators. He is unflappable, amusing, gentle, patient, and kind. On February 3, 1991, the Rocky Mountain News published a story about Homer Page written by reporter Kevin McCullin. It captures the essence of the man in his public life, and it tallies with what we know of him in his private life. Here is the story as it appeared:
Homer Page's heart ached when war erupted in the Persian Gulf, and he made a vow to himself.
Boulder County, he said, would not become a battleground of bitterness about the war.
So Page, chairman of the Boulder County Board of Commissioners, assumed his familiar role of peacemaker. The night war broke out, Page hurried over to the Boulder courthouse, bullhorn in hand, to try to keep peace between anti- and pro-war factions.
He then summoned civic, community, business, law enforcement, and religious leaders together. Collectively, they formed a community support network that aims to comfort anyone-- regardless of political perspective--affected by the war.
"I don't want anger and hatred to dominate my community, to take over the hearts of my people. I don't want to see people choosing up sides like a high school football game, my side against yours," Page says. "It's why I'm willing, and why I have to do this."
In nearly a decade of holding political office--and in earlier years as an educator, theologian, and civil rights activist--Page often has succeeded in resolving disputes. A deep- rooted sense of social justice, instilled while growing up in a farming family that insisted he become self-sufficient, prompts Page to strive for a consensus.
Yet Page, a lifelong advocate for the disabled, realizes he cannot solve all conflicts.
Blind since his birth forty-nine years ago, Page has felt from others the ignorance of emotional and intellectual blindness.
But the drive that helped him earn three varsity letters as a wrestler at the University of Missouri and unwavering faith in the American political process push Page to find a common will-- even in a war.
"Good people with good faith can have different interests and opinions," Page says. "It's my job to be fair, treat each with dignity and try to generate some respect for people on each side."
Page was elected to the Boulder County Commission in 1988 after serving six years on the Boulder City Council, where he became deputy mayor. His election to the Commission also forced Page to resign his job of fourteen years as director of the University of Colorado's Office of Services to Disabled Students, which he helped establish.
He remains active in community service. Page serves as chair of the Colorado Center for the Blind, which he formed three years ago to serve as a "boot camp for the blind" by teaching survival skills and promoting self-confidence.
Page and his wife Marci also publish a newsletter for the blind. They are active in a Boulder Baptist church. And, when each has the time, they indulge themselves in cross-country skiing, hikes, rock climbing, or Denver Broncos games.
Seldom is Page bored. "Homer does not spend time sitting around," says Marci, who married him three and a half years ago.
Nor, say those who know him, is Page ever boring.
"Homer is a true philosopher," says Linda Jourgensen, who served with Page on the City Council and County Commission. "He's a great thinker, and he always thinks issues through."
Page's thoughtfulness stems in part from a rich educational background. He received an undergraduate degree in sociology from Missouri, graduated from divinity school, and later received his masters and doctoral degrees from the University of Chicago in social ethics.
In the early 1960's, Page joined civil rights activists in working to repeal Missouri's segregation laws. He worked another summer in a public housing project in St. Louis.
His intellectual experience, he says, has been in "dialogue with the world. Knowledge and thought are interactive."
Were it not for his parents, however, Page never might have developed an intellect or self-confidence.
Page grew up with a brother and a sister on a 184-acre farm outside Troy, Missouri. His father, Homer Sr., served as town marshal and expected his blind son to milk cows or water and feed the cattle.
The elder Page completed the eighth grade, and Page's mother, D'Arline, finished the 10th grade. But they insisted that their blind son study and be treated like sighted classmates.
In first grade Page's teacher tried to place him in a slow- reading group. His father would not hear of it.
"I hesitate to think of what my life would have been like if the expectations of me had been low, that I needed attention," Page recalls. "Instead, their expectation was that I was to produce, to perform, and to do quality work--no excuses."
His father defended his son again. In the summer between third and fourth grade Page and his father were putting a roof over a chicken house when representatives of the Missouri School for the Blind drove to the farm.
Homer, they said, should come with us to St. Louis for schooling with other children like him. His father thought for a moment and said no.
"He said, `A boy's place is in the home, with his family. Besides, if he left, who would help me with all this work?' They left," Page says. "That told me my family cared for me, that I was an economically viable part of that family, and what more could you tell a nine-year-old kid? It allowed me to develop a strong sense of myself."
Because Page's rural school lacked special instructional materials, Page was forced to learn mathematics without benefit of Braille. He learned to perform equations in his head, a skill he uses daily as a county commissioner.
During budget hearings last fall, commissioners were doling a block of money to non-profit agencies. Jourgensen said to no one in particular, "Well, how much money do we have left?" Page instantly blurted the five-figure amount, to the penny. A county staff member, using a calculator, confirmed the figure moments later.
"Homer does all of our finances," Marci laughs. As a teenager, Page also refined a skill that enables him today to resolve disputes or comprehend issues. He learned to listen, to hear voice inflections and tones, to interpret the speaker's thinking.
"My listening, I think, is more of a philosophy. It's my way of being able to understand," he says. "Some people listen with their eyes. Most of us act in our unique way, with a structure of meaning. You listen not so much to the words, but to the structure of what is being said."
To Marci, Page's special trait "is a way of living. It's part of what I love about him."
Colorado University hired Page in 1974 to develop and oversee its programs for the disabled. Few disabled students were on campus at the time, and even fewer services. Over the years, Page added programs and services.
He aimed to help disabled students have control and management of their lives and succeeded with many. By 1988, 325 students were in the program.
One of Page's students became a Fulbright Scholar. Another earned a fellowship in Washington. Another now teaches law. Marci now serves as assistant director of the program, but Homer was forced to resign after becoming a commissioner. He still teaches a graduate education class.
Page's devotion to education continues today. He and Marci helped form the Colorado Center for the Blind in 1988, a school where rock climbing is part of a curriculum designed to help the blind student become independent.
"I want to create high expectations. I want them to become self-sufficient," Page says. "We talk about the Colorado Center as boot camp for the blind. People need to understand there is an expectation of them, that they do not have to be dependent on society.
"There is a presumption that blind people should not be expected to clean their rooms, to mop the kitchen, to take care of themselves. So they get into a life where they are told being mediocre is wonderful. To me, that is not acceptable."
The Center has produced success stories. Page speaks of a man who "sat on a couch for three years" after losing his sight but now works again as a mechanic. Another student, who lost his vision after an accident, was not allowed to walk alone across a room. Now he works for a restaurant and is raising a child.
Page performs his job without much assistance. Instead of reading background memorandums, Page listens to the memos on tapes. When required to travel, he catches a bus, hitches a ride, takes a taxi, or walks the two miles from his home to the courthouse.
Page expects no special favors. Yet, to his disgust, he occasionally finds unintentional or deliberate slights in a sighted world.
"I was walking to work one morning and a woman said, `God bless you. It's wonderful what you're doing.' It was amazing because I could walk down the street?" Page says, and shakes his head. "We have to break through that phony expectation so that blind people realize they can compete with sighted people in the job market, the marriage market, all these places where our lives are carried out."
Airlines, Marci says, particularly are annoying to her husband. So was a letter to the editor that appeared shortly after Page's election as County Commissioner. The writer castigated voters for electing a blind man "who couldn't do the reading," Page recalls.
"It was so ignorant and so unfair. It's one thing to say you don't agree with me in a political sense because I'm a Democrat," he says. "But to have them think the most damning thing they could say about me is that I'm blind and can't read was so unfair."
Public service beckoned to Page early in life. To a boy who grew up in the Midwest of the 1940s and 1950s, citizenship and democracy became "one of the most important things we have, and I still believe it is. I've found the political process to be challenging and a place where my skills can be used well."
Page ran for the Boulder City Council in 1982 and won. He sought along with other council members to balance human service needs with the city's pro-environmental stance.
His capacity to listen to all sides of an issue and to find a compromise acceptable to the conflicting parties was appreciated by then-Mayor Ruth Correll and Jourgensen.
"Homer has this ability to find the middle ground and tie together opposing forces to solve a problem and bring opposite ends to a consensus," Correll says. "On Council he was able to pour oil on troubled waters and bring a reasonable approach to a problem."
Page sees politics as "listening to the public and leading and expressing in policy the common will of the community. You try to take a situation and find a way to harmonize it, to take the risk and make a decision."
Anxious for new challenges, Page ran for County Commissioner in 1988 against incumbent Republican Buz Smith and won. His mediation soon helped resolve a smoldering dispute between the Commissioners and former sheriff Brad Leach over his budget.
Former Commissioner Josie Heath and Leach sparred at a budget hearing just before Page's election. The exchange culminated in Leach's telling Heath, "I won't take a public whipping over this, Josie."
Page soothed the hard feelings soon after his election. "I thought it was a conflict situation where no one was going to win," Page says. "I tried to help facilitate a discussion about what was real. It allowed both sides to come together and go forward."
Leach, who served as sheriff for twenty years, left impressed with Page.
"I think Homer's one of the most knowledgeable Commissioners on any issue because he researches it and he listens," Leach says. "He's an excellent Commissioner."
Indeed Page relishes his work. On an average day he may leave his north Boulder home at 8:30 a.m. and not return for twelve hours. On weekends he often brings home tapes of background material for the upcoming week.
He knows not everyone agrees with his decisions, and some Boulder County residents may not like him. Page accepts the criticism but rejects cynicism and hopes the electorate recognizes that he truly cares.
"People have tried to put me in a lot of pigeonholes over the years and pin me down," he says. "But those pigeonholes can be expanded, and I'll keep expanding them."
[PHOTO: Commissioner Carney sitting in her office at her desk. CAPTION: Nell Carney.]
by Nell C. Carney, Commissioner
Rehabilitation Services Administration
From the Editor: This article appeared in the March, 1991, Newsletter of the National Rehabilitation Association. Nell Carney, to the best of our belief and knowledge, has the highest appointive office in the federal government which has ever been held by a blind person and also the highest appointive office in the federal government which has ever been held by a woman with a disability.
With reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act on the horizon, a few individuals and groups representative of single- focused interests have suggested rehabilitation needs to be reorganized, revamped, restructured, or redefined to provide lifelong services and care for individuals with disabilities. This is so, they say, because present rehabilitation programs are not meeting the total needs of disabled people, most of whom need lifelong care.
Of the approximately 43 million Americans with physical and mental disabilities, the majority do not need lifelong care. Indeed, those of us who have received appropriate rehabilitation services participate fully in society and need only the opportunities and conveniences afforded to all citizens.
People with disabilities now participate in every vocation known to our civilization. We run for public office, hold public office, participate in political activities, and influence election outcomes. Vocational Rehabilitation, Independent Living, and Supported Employment have all played a major role in gains made in independence and integration into the work place and community by disabled people. By no means, however, are these the only services that may be needed by people with disabilities in order to live full, productive, meaningful lives.
The word rehabilitation suggests a process that is finite. Rehabilitation services authorized in the Rehabilitation Act are designed to be of relatively short duration because rehabilitation service is an intervention process that moves in, provides the necessary service, and moves out of the way to allow the disabled person to integrate physically, socially, psychologically, and economically into the environment. There are provisions for extended services in cases where needed, but no service is infinite nor should it be. The basic underlying philosophy of rehabilitation is to increase independence, not create dependence.
Traditionally, rehabilitation has been defined as individualized, structured, and a short-term human service process that utilizes the case management method to provide diagnostic, training, and referral and placement services to people with disabilities.
Rehabilitation services is a process that allows a human interaction to take place between a person with a physical or mental disability and a service provider. In the process, need for adjustment to the disability, training needs, and other needs including technological, social, and economic are identified. The person with the disability and the service provider then jointly agree on a plan to meet the identified needs, and the plan is implemented, leading to competitive employment and/or independence and increased quality of life for the person with the disability. Throughout the process, the person with a disability has input and choices and the service provider provides guidance, resources, advocacy, and coordination of services with other service providers. All rehabilitation services are goal-oriented and are designed to create independence.
Irrespective of definitions, the programs authorized in the Rehabilitation Act and administered by RSA have proven to be of value to disabled people. The largest of these, the state/federal Vocational Rehabilitation Program, has placed 15 million disabled people in employment since it began as a small program 70 years ago. Last year alone (1989), just under 1 million disabled people were placed in employment. Two hundred twenty-six thousand of these were placed in competitive employment. The program has always had the support of the Congress and the various administrations and has repeatedly proven to be cost-effective.
Similarly, the Supported Employment program and the Independent Living programs, although much newer authorities, have established value to disabled people and to the community. In 1989 the Supported Employment Program placed 51,000 severely disabled individuals in employment. Many of these will go on to natural support systems and to integration into the community.
The preparation for and attainment of independence and integration by disabled people is dependent on more than one service delivery system. While rehabilitation is a key service system because it offers the potential for economic and social independence, other services, including health care, insurance, affordable housing, recreation, accessible transportation, civil rights, and advocacy are crucial to the goals of independence and integration and ultimately choices and empowerment. To suggest replacing rehabilitation services with other crucial programs does not seem like a reasonable solution to the dilemma created by services deficits. Rehabilitation services are critical to the empowerment of disabled individuals, and to suggest that all of the needs of the disabled population can be met by continuing to expand the Rehabilitation Act is to suggest legislation so diverse that major focus could not be directed to any single program and effective and efficient administration would be difficult if not impossible.
Coordination among the various agencies providing services for people with disabilities has become a routine function of federal government for the current administration. We are already seeing the positive effects. Rehabilitation and the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities are working together to create additional opportunities for competitive placement. RSA and EEOC are working together to provide technical assistance to employers for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Rehabilitation and Special Education are joining efforts to create transition programs from school to work for disabled people, and RSA and the Social Security Administration are sitting down together to plan for future endeavors that will bring the two agencies together to increase opportunities for disabled people.
The services provided through the present authorities in the Rehabilitation Act are essential to the empowerment of people with disabilities. Vocational Rehabilitation, Independent Living, and Supported Employment create opportunities for economic and social independence for millions of people with disabilities each year. Maintaining and promoting these programs are responsibilities in which we all share if we are sincere in our commitment to choices and empowerment for people with disabilities.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Portrait of Melissa Lagroue.]
DIVIDE AND CONQUER
by Melissa Lagroue
From the Associate Editor: One of the program items during the morning session of the student seminar that took place February 2, 1991, immediately preceding this year's Washington Seminar, was a panel discussion comprised of three students who have experienced discrimination of various kinds. Each spoke eloquently of the experience and the emotional strain associated with the event. Melissa Lagroue, one of the leaders of the National Association of Blind Students and a 1988 National Federation of the Blind scholarship winner, was the concluding panelist. Here is her story as she told it to the audience that morning:
As a lot of you know, I am an elementary education major. I don't think until this past September and October I really experienced any sort of powerful emotion, exclusive of sympathy, in regard to discrimination. This past summer I was accepted into the Teacher Education Program at Birmingham Southern College, where I attended. I didn't realize that there would be any problems associated with the little piece of trivia I am about to give you.
One of the professors was on sabbatical leave when the decision to admit me was made. She returned a couple of days before classes started this past September, and I was to take the course Teaching Math to Children from her. After the first meeting in each of my classes, I go to the professor to discuss test-taking with him or her. So I did that on the first night of class. I said, "Dr. Moore, how would you like me to take tests in your class? Here are the options I have used before." And I gave them to her.
She said, "I don't know how you are going to handle testing; I don't know how you are going to handle doing papers; I don't know how you are going to watch children; I don't know how you are going to be able to make the games for this class; and I don't understand why you are in teacher education at all."
I said, "Well apparently we are having some problems here, and you clearly have some questions concerning my blindness. I'll make an appointment with you. When would be the best time?" I made the appointment with her for the following day. I walked out, turned the corner, and burst into tears. I really felt that she had undermined my confidence, and that wasn't the end of it. I went to see her the next day and sat down. She asked me a few questions about how I would grade papers and how I would write on the chalkboard and that sort of thing. Then she said, "You know, Melissa, the real problem I have is this: having a blind person teach sighted children is quite like having a person who doesn't know math trying to teach it."
I thought for a second, and it occurred to me that this analogy breaks down. I said (trying not to be obnoxious, but the temptation was really strong), "I'm not trying to teach them how to see; I am trying to teach them how to read and write and do math."
She sat there for a few minutes. Then she said, "Well, Melissa, apparently we're just not going to agree on this, so I am going to bring your Teacher Education Program application up for review and see if we can get you out of the program."
I said, "Well, clearly I am not satisfied with that, and I am going to do everything I can to make sure that it doesn't happen. I am going to give the head of the department some names and telephone numbers of blind teachers in the National Federation of the Blind." And that's what I did. I went home, called another professor in the department, and said, "Look, I have to be kept up to date about what is going on in the department and what everyone is saying." I really needed to know that since I wouldn't be allowed to attend the meeting in which my application would be reviewed. I wanted to make sure that, whatever happened and whatever was said, I would have somebody who would tell me about it. She said that she would. Then I called Pat Munson [President of the National Association of Blind Educators] and left a message on her answering machine requesting some phone numbers. She called back, leaving a message on my machine, and gave me several.
The following day I went to the head of the department (this was a Wednesday, I guess) and said, "Here are these names and numbers. I understand that we have a little problem with Dr. Moore, and I think we ought to talk about it."
He said, "Yes, we have a large problem with Dr. Moore, and I'm not very thrilled, as you might imagine, so I am going to call some of these people before this meeting takes place and see what I can learn."
I thought, "Hallelujah! somebody with some sense." I said, "Look, in any case, I am going to write a letter to the dean because if this reconsideration doesn't work out in my favor, I want to have this event reported. I want to make sure that people in the right places know what has happened." He said that was fine. I told him that I would be glad to send him and Dr. Moore copies. I was nice in my letter; I was very nice. I just recounted what had happened, including the lovely math teacher comment that Dr. Moore made. I also told the dean that I didn't want any action immediately. I wanted the situation to be handled calmly and tactfully. After all, she was still going to grade my performance in the course. I sent the letter, and a couple of days later I was walking across campus when the Dean yelled to me. I stopped, then went over. He said, "Well, I had a discussion with Dr. Moore."
I said, "Oh, that's nice. How did it go?"
He said, "I don't think you'll be having any more problems. Has she apologized yet?"
The Department had a meeting in which my Teacher Education Program application was reviewed, and apparently there was a large shouting match among some of the professors. I'm still in the Teacher Education Program, and I got an A-minus. I learned a lot about discrimination firsthand. Before this experience, I really hadn't felt strong emotion about it. But I took advantage of a lot of Federation shoulders over the telephone. I cried a lot because I had never had an experience in which not only my confidence, but my future was threatened. I thought, if I can't teach, what am I going to do? Teaching was all I ever wanted to do. Then I decided, I will teach; there is no way I won't teach. There are 50,000 people standing behind me saying you will teach, and there is no way that this one professor is going to stop that from happening. I realized that it was true.
Something else that has occurred to me is that discrimination is not just an event. It's not just something that happens to you. People who discriminate see the world--my place in it and yours--in a completely warped fashion. I remember once a science teacher brought in prism glasses that had been used in a psychology experiment, and when we looked through them everything appeared reversed. It was very strange. That is what this experience reminded me of.
We are not just fighting a bunch of ideas; we are fighting a total world view. It is hard, and we have a long, long, long way to go. But we have no choice. We cannot sit back and let people go on seeing things this way. We cannot for our own sakes; we cannot for our parents'; and we cannot for our kids'. There is too much left to do, and it's going to be hard, but in all honesty, what choice do we have? I hope that this weekend and the week to come will be productive. I'm sure that they will.
We can't just stop at the conclusion of this seminar. We have to go home and walk down the street and deal with the people who grab us by the arm as if we were small children running out in front of cars. We have to cope with the people that question our judgment when we go to amusement parks and those who try to keep us out of exit rows and put us into those obnoxious beeping carts at airports. Then there are the special discounts on all sorts of things that give the impression that blind people are appropriate objects of pity.
We have all this to deal with every day when we go home. We can't just say, as I have said, "I'm sick of educating the public." Have you ever said that? "I'm tired of dealing with these ignorant people. I'm sick of it." But we can't do that. We have to educate; that's our job as members of the Federation, every single one of us. When I think about the pain that discrimination caused me on a very personal level, it only brings home more forcefully the pain that it causes every single one of us. That's the pain we have to get rid of. Thank you.
[PHOTO: Front view of American Printing House for the Blind building. CAPTION: The American Printing House for the Blind is located in Louisville, Kentucky.]
AMERICAN PRINTING HOUSE FOR THE BLIND REVERSES DECISION
TO DISCONTINUE PUBLISHING MY WEEKLY READER
Children who cannot read normal print easily and comfortably must use text materials that are available in Braille or large print even though they are not the ones being used by the rest of the class. For a number of years the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) has produced several scholastic publications in Braille and large print so that blind children can have access to some of the same interesting stories and articles as their sighted peers. Teachers and parents have come to count on these materials because they provide a link between the blind child and sighted classmates.
All this changed on February 1, 1991, when APH discontinued production of the Braille and large print editions of several publications, the most widely known of which was My Weekly Reader. The Printing House said that they would continue to provide audio tape recordings of the periodicals, but these did not play the same valuable educational role for blind children as the Braille had done. One parent reported that her daughter was now being removed to a separate room to read her taped version of My Weekly Reader even though she was using earphones. Further segregation, not the desired integration, was the obvious result of the APH decision.
Parents, teachers, and concerned blind adults began calling and writing Federation leaders to see if there was anything the Federation could do to persuade APH to reverse its decision.
On March 7, 1991, Betty Niceley, President of the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB), called Dr. Tuck Tinsley, President of the American Printing House for the Blind, to discuss the issue. Mrs. Niceley reports that their discussion was both friendly and direct. She pointed out that many organizations can provide recorded versions of scholastic materials, but only the Printing House can provide Braille and large print. At one point she actually asked Dr. Tinsley what justification there could be for the five-million-dollar federal grant to APH if it couldn't even provide Braille and large print materials that were of such fundamental importance to young readers who are only beginning to master the Braille code.
To Dr. Tinsley's credit, he told Mrs. Niceley that he saw real merit in her arguments and wished to take her comments back to the committee that had made the decision to discontinue. On March 14, he called her to say that the decision had been reversed. Here are several representative pieces of the correspondence that has been exchanged this spring. Once again they tell the tale. People turn to the National Federation of the Blind when there are problems in this field, and we do our best to solve them. Our job is made considerably easier when we find reason and good will in the minds and hearts of those with whom we have to deal. Here are four letters that tell the story:
March 6, 1991
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
Starting on February 1, 1991, the American Printing House for the Blind has decided to stop publication of My Weekly Reader, Senior Weekly Reader, Current Events, Know Your World, and other magazines and periodicals in Braille and large print. These publications are used by many schools throughout the United States with students in grades two through eight. The Braille and large print editions of these publications enabled blind and visually impaired children and youth to participate on equal terms with their seeing peers in mainstream settings. They also provided leisure time reading materials in Braille.
With the elimination of Braille and large print editions of these magazines, blind and visually impaired school age children will not have access to many magazines available to their sighted classmates.
Since learning Braille at this age is very important for a blind child, many educators use these magazines as supplementary materials to encourage reading. Audio cassette format does not adapt itself to all the purposes for which the Braille format was used. May I request you please to use your resources and good offices with the Printing House and the U.S. Congress to restore publication of these and other magazines and periodicals in Braille.
Thank you for your consideration.
Bashir A. Masoodi
Coordinator for Visually Impaired Program
Gary, Indiana Public Schools
There you have Mr. Masoodi's letter of concern, only one of many received at the national office. Here is Dr. Jernigan's response:
March 28, 1991
Dear Mr. Masoodi:
Thank you for your letter of March 6, 1991, concerning My Weekly Reader and other publications which the American Printing House for the Blind contemplated cutting. We have taken strong action on this matter, and I believe most of the decisions (particularly, the cutting of My Weekly Reader) have been reversed. We will continue to exert the strongest possible persuasion to set this matter right. I hope you will also write letters to the Printing House and do what you can.
National Federation of the Blind
Under date of April 19 Betty Niceley, President of both the National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille, wrote to Dr. Tinsley to thank him for APH's reversal of its earlier decision to cease Braille and large print production of its scholastic periodicals.
Here is her letter:
April 19, 1991
Dear Dr. Tinsley:
Recently I called you to express concern about the APH decision to discontinue the Braille edition of Weekly Readermagazines in favor of a taped edition. As I explained to you at that time, Braille literacy is one of the major initiatives of the National Federation of the Blind. Such a decision on the part of APH was, therefore, sufficient cause for action from our Parents of Blind Children Division and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille. Also, we recognize that the American Printing House for the Blind is in a position to have far-reaching effects on the future of Braille literacy as it relates to the education of blind children.
I must say that you listened to me with patience and understanding while I described to you the various NFB strategies designed to insure a working knowledge of Braille for blind people of all ages. Then, you contacted me the next week to report that the decision to discontinue Braille Weekly Readershad been reversed. Your understanding of the negative consequences which this decision would have generated and your prompt attention to the matter deserve commendation. Please know that Federation members everywhere appreciate your quick and positive response to this important matter.
Betty Niceley, President
National Association to Promote the Use of Braille
Dr. Tinsley responded to Mrs. Niceley's letter on April 25 with a diplomatically general reprise of the events of the spring. But we know who protested the APH decision, and we are pleased to receive Dr. Tinsley's assurance of the American Printing House's reaffirmation of its commitment to Braille and large print production of useful school materials. Here is Dr. Tinsley's letter:
April 25, 1991
Dear Mrs. Niceley:
Thank you for your letter of April 19 regarding APH's production of Weekly Reader. I appreciate your kind comments.
As you know, we have been concerned for some time about the cost and timeliness of delivery of the Braille and large type editions of the Weekly Reader. In an effort to address both of these concerns, we reviewed the situation with our Publications Committee last fall and decided, on an experimental basis, to provide only a recorded edition during the spring, 1991, semester.
In response to concerns raised by visually impaired students, their parents, teachers, and others it became clear that the written editions are preferred to the recorded edition. Therefore, our Publications Committee authorized us to discontinue the recorded edition and return to Braille and large type formats at the beginning of the 1991-92 school year.
Your concern and comments regarding this issue are certainly appreciated and, as always, we continue to respond to consumer needs.
Tuck Tinsley, III
American Printing House for the Blind
[PHOTO/CAPTION: The Combination Machine.]
THE COMBINATION MACHINE:
A HISTORY OF DEVELOPMENT
by The Technical Staff, National Library Service
From the Associate Editor: Those who are lucky enough to have used the new combination cassette and record player now beginning to be available from the National Library Service (NLS) report that it is a wonderful innovation--one that may well change the reading habits of NLS patrons. President Maurer, who has been using one for several weeks, says that the quality of the tape deck is much better than that of the current playback machines. He also points out that the needle-protection feature in the record player portion is ideal for families with young children. When the machine lid closes, the needle automatically retracts into the tonearm. When it is opened again, the needle returns to the place where it was when the reader turned off the machine. To my mind, this feature verges on witchcraft, but there is apparently more. Records as well as tapes can be rewound, and cassettes can be directed to play the other side or second track with the flip of a switch. All this will soon be available to borrowers across the country. Here is the story of how this amazing machine came into being as recounted by the technical staff of the National Library Service:
Since the inception of the Project, Books for the Blind, in 1931 and indeed since the establishment of a special reading room for blind people in 1897, the Library of Congress has been committed to providing the highest quality service for blind, and later physically handicapped persons. Over the years specialized playback machines and accessories have been developed to give patrons access to the program. In the development of these products consumers have always been intimately involved, since all the machines and accessories are developed and produced exclusively for their use.
It was with this high level of consumer involvement in mind that NLS identified the need for a combination record and cassette machine in the early 1970s. As early as 1973 NLS began studying the feasibility of producing a machine in which a single set of controls would operate both a record player and a tape deck. It was hoped that such a combination machine would offer the advantages of smaller size, less weight, greater ease of operation, and lower unit cost. In 1975 NLS conducted a broad- based user study that concluded that it should pursue developing such a machine.
In fiscal year 1977 the research and development for producing a combination machine began with the issuance of a Request for Proposals "for design, fabrication, and delivery of combination talking book machines." Because no such machine had ever been designed for mass production, the contract included specifications that listed only the minimum functional requirements of the finished product. Requirements for existing record and cassette machines were combined to produce the specification. The features that would be unique to a combination machine were listed as ten "optional innovative features," including single motor drive, overall size reduction, and automatic reverse and track switching. No drawings or schematic designs were included. It was the contractor's job to develop a specific design for the machine. Because this was a developmental project, the functional specifications served as a starting point from which a combination of research, consumer evaluation, and field testing would yield a final design.
As with all NLS machines, consumer input through field testing was anticipated and provided for at the outset of the contract. Two engineering design models (EDMs) were to be provided. The contract stated that "the performance and appearance of the EDM will be evaluated." The next requirement was fifty-five reproduction units for user evaluation with a production run to follow.
The Request for Proposal was issued by the Library's Procurement and Supply Division, and two companies, Telex Communications and Video Research Corporation, submitted competitive bids. After a technical evaluation by NLS, the contracting officer awarded the contract to Video Research Corporation (VRC) of Riviera Beach, Florida. (The company later became Deltronics, Inc.) The contract was awarded September 13, 1977.
During the course of the contract, there were reviews of the design and technical issues in the engineering phase. These were conducted by NLS engineers and quality assurance specialists meeting with the contractor's representatives. Ironing out design difficulties was expected to be a part of the natural course of a design and development contract.
The changes in the performance schedule during the life of the contract reflected the results of the design development. New enhancements to the design naturally necessitated additional time in the contract schedule. The first of these readjustments came in January, 1978, after a meeting between NLS engineers and VRC representatives. Specific machine elements such as case design, switch design, batteries, and other technical matters were discussed. These were all specific engineering problems and concerns that arose as a part of the development of the specifications and technical designs by the contractor. A revised schedule showed production, delivery, and consumer evaluation would take place during late 1979 and 1980.
On September 11, 1978, a change order was issued to allow for development of a cassette deck that could be used for both the combination machine project and future cassette machine contracts. The E-1 (easy machine) was later produced using the same cassette deck and many of the same advanced features as the combination machine. Further, the arrangement made would give control of tooling and design to the Library, provide technically superior performance, and reduce dependence on foreign suppliers. The deck would have a three-motor design and an anti-jam feature.
Tests of prototype designs took place in October and November, 1979. The two demonstration units underwent thorough testing, not only by NLS staff, but also by a consumer evaluation panel. Provided for in the contract, the evaluation by consumers was vital to the development of the machine. Consumers who took part in the evaluation were encouraged to test the units vigorously. Their task was not only to give input on the ease of use and the efficiency of the machine's operation, but also to subject the units to normal treatment for a machine. Their suggestions were to be incorporated into final design plans. These were not changes to any existing specifications; rather they were to become part of the specifications that were still evolving. This prototype testing was considered a success because it pointed out specific areas for further development. The second change order spelled out the changes in engineering (reproduction) tooling and unit (production) costs needed to achieve these specification refinements. At the same time VRC was awarded a contract under competitive bidding procedures for production of the E-1 (easy cassette machine). This was a spinoff of the combination machine since it used the same cassette deck.
As work continued there was constant refinement of the performance specifications by the contractor in conjunction with NLS engineers. In March, 1981, VRC produced forty-five reproduction units. NLS technicians tested them and identified several design problems. The defects included free-wheeling supply hubs, oscillations, and speed maladjustments. These problems were corrected by the contractor, and the forty-five units were produced for user field evaluation in April, 1981.
This rigorous testing by NLS and refinements to the specifications further modified the design of the machine as new features, such as direction sensing, side selection control, voice-over indexing, and seven other features were incorporated. To accommodate these enhancements, the production phase was rescheduled to 1982, and the contract amount increased.
The consumer field test was completed in the summer of 1981, and as expected many improvements were suggested. Thirty-three specific changes were recommended by consumers. By December, ten of the changes were in the process of being incorporated in the prototype design.
On July 6, 1981, the Procurement and Supply Division issued a Request for Proposal to solicit bids on production of combination machines. The RFP was issued using the revised specifications as developed by VRC (Deltronics) in conjunction with the changes proposed by the consumer evaluation test. Three companies (Telex Communications, Deltronics, and Interstate Industries) submitted responsive and responsible bids. Bidders were rated by NLS staff on their production capability responses to the statement of work and proposed innovative features to be added to the machine specifications. As with the previous contract, this RFP had built-in prototype testing by consumers and encouraged the contractor to develop new features for the machine. Emphasis was on designing a mass-producible machine that would incorporate emerging technology such as the microprocessor.
The contracting officer awarded the combination machine development and production contract to Telex Communications, Inc., on September 21, 1981. They promised a design more realistically meeting production capability. Telex would use the functional design developed by VRC but incorporate microprocessor technology into some elements of the machine's functions. This would result in both a superior product and a machine that could be more easily mass produced. Telex was also awarded a contract for production of the E-1 (easy machine) under competitive bidding. It was to use the same cassette deck and microprocessor technology as that developed for the combination machine.
The contract called for prototype machines to be delivered by March, 1982; a reproduction machine to be delivered six months after prototype approval; and complete delivery six months later. In February and March, 1982, NLS engineers and Telex representatives held discussions on the design of the turntable and tonearm. Telex provided a prototype that was tested and accepted by NLS in April, 1982.
Design modifications continued through 1982, and in October a prototype machine was reviewed by NLS. The evaluation report suggested further changes in the design. These included rectifying problems with tape spillage, battery location, fast forward and rewind functions, and automatic/manual switch labeling. The process of refining the specifications continued to accommodate changing technology and the needs of the consumers. The first change order increased the unit cost and quantity, based on the design changes.
During 1983 and 1984 urgent consumer need gave high priority to development of the spinoff easy machine which was a direct response to a user study that showed that patrons needed a machine easier to operate than the standard cassette machine. The development of the easy machine went hand-in-hand with that of the combination machine. The cassette deck and automatic side- changing feature were a direct result of combination machine development. Prototype testing of the E-1 machine provided another opportunity for testing features which would also be an integral part of the combination machine.
By January, 1984, Telex provided machine prototypes that were tested by NLS and found to be very close to the requirements. Two advanced prototypes for consumer evaluation were delivered in April of 1986. At the same time field testing of the easy machine continued, giving further feedback on features common to both machines. By November of 1988 the last of the production run of E-1's was delivered. The cassette deck proved itself reliable and efficient. NLS now could give the go- ahead for use of the same deck, as well as the other advanced features, in the combination machine.
Developing technology and further input through consumer testing resulted in additional changes to the machine's specifications, particularly to the microprocessor program. Two hundred production control samples were tested by NLS, and modifications were made to the design during 1988 and 1989. In September of 1989, 200 units were sent to regional libraries for testing by consumers working in the libraries. In December of 1990 Telex produced for final testing by consumers 1,000 combination machines incorporating microprocessors with changeable programs. Currently the microprocessor is being reworked for a problem with a diode. It is expected that the 1,000 units will be ready for field evaluation shortly.
[PHOTO: Portrait of Michael Freeman. CAPTION: Michael Freeman is the First Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington.]
FURTHER THOUGHTS ON REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION
by Michael Freeman
From the Editor: I recently received the following letter:
March 19, 1991
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
I recently received the March, 1991, issue of the Braille Monitor, and it is first rate. Every issue of the Monitor is informative, but this one in particular seems to be packed with articles giving food for thought. In this connection, I am enclosing an article written in response to Ted Young's article on reasonable accommodation. I'm sure it will be controversial, should you decide to publish it. (My wife, Barbara, doesn't agree with all of it--a fact which has led to some interesting fireside discussions.) Anyone who thinks that there is no give and take and free exchange of ideas in the Federation doesn't know us very well! In any case, I herewith submit the article and, now that I've gotten it off my chest, my household will return to such domestic tranquility as a growing, rambunctious, sixteen-month- old girl will permit.
First Vice President
National Federation of the Blind of Washington
Accompanying this letter was the following article:
The March, 1991 issue of the Braille Monitor contains a thought-provoking article by Ted Young, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania, on the subject of "reasonable accommodations" for the blind. This is a subject of prime importance for Federationists for, as the article states, a discussion of the meaning and implications of "reasonable accommodations" is fundamentally a discussion of the meaning of equality. At first glance, Mr. Young's analysis seems plausible. Upon closer examination, however, I believe it to have implications for Federation philosophy and action which could jeopardize some of the rights which the blind have gained over the past half-century.
The discussion begins with an admirable summary of the standards blind people use to judge whether or not they have been equally treated. Two of these standards are pertinent to the following analysis. Some blind people hold that in demanding equal treatment, they have the right to participate in activities on the same basis and under the same conditions as do the sighted. This may be called the "equal participation" standard. Other blind people maintain that asking for equal treatment means that they have the right to receive equivalent or similar benefits from activities as do the sighted. This may be called the "similar benefits" standard. These two standards of equality have had a venerable history of advocacy in the Federation. Dr. Jacobus tenBroek's 1944, 1948 and 1952 banquet speeches, for example, state that one of the major goals of the NFB is Equality, which I take to mean equality of opportunity to participate in the activities of society. This notion of equality is also evident in the oft-repeated Federation tenet that with training and opportunity, the average blind person can do the average job in the average place of business on an equal basis with the sighted. Dr. Jernigan's 1990 banquet speech states this most succinctly. Legislatively, the "equal participation" standard is exemplified by the white cane laws in the fifty states and by the NFB-sponsored amendment (which did not pass Congress) to include the handicapped under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It also is evident in the NFB-sponsored amendment to the Americans with Disabilities Act which provides that a handicapped person does not have to accept special accommodations. Yet the notion of equality as meaning equivalence of benefit also is prominent in Federation thinking. Dr. tenBroek's "The Pros and Cons of Preferential Treatment" is illustrative. I contend that it is far easier to apply the "equal participation" standard than it is to apply the "similar benefits" standard when trying to ascertain what (if any) reasonable accommodations are needed for a blind person to participate on a basis of equality with the sighted in a given event. Mr. Young's first example illustrates the problem.
In 1972 or 1973, Mr. Young states, a blind woman visited her husband in prison. The visit consisted of talking to her husband over the telephone while being separated from him by a glass partition. The visit took place under the same conditions as did visits by others to incarcerated individuals at that institution. Thus, under the "equal participation" standard, the blind woman received equal treatment and no accommodation was due her. Mr. Young argues, however, that the "similar benefits" standard should apply. He maintains that thousands of nonverbal messages were exchanged between sighted visitors and the prisoners they visited; that because the blind woman was deprived of these exchanges, she did not receive equal treatment and that she was therefore due some accommodation such as being allowed to sit across a table from her husband (with appropriate security arrangements). Mr. Young says that the blind woman could just as well have stayed home and have spoken with her incarcerated husband over the telephone. This ignores the benefit she gained from the fact that her husband could see her (unless he, too, was blind). This view will seem reasonable to many. Yet consider what is being implied. If the woman was not being equally treated because she could not see her husband, those "thousands of nonverbal messages' must have been an essential part of the communication. If visual messages are an essential part of communication, how can we maintain, as we rightly do, that blind judges and jurors can competently participate in trials involving physical evidence? How can we maintain that the blind are competent (as they certainly are) to handle most situations in which visual communication is considered essential? What becomes of our stand on the ADA in favor of the equal participation standard rather than the accommodation standard in determining whether or not discrimination has taken place? In a lighter vein, what becomes of the point of view espoused by many Federationists that they would like to pay for earphones to listen to in-flight movies just like everybody else and that no compensation (as, for example, getting the use of these earphones for free) is due them because they cannot see the movies? What becomes of our stand that the blind neither need nor want special treatment in amusement parks because they cannot visually anticipate the chills and thrills of the rides? (See "ValleyFair: An Amusement Park Not So Amusing for the Blind" by Curtis Chong, the Braille Monitor, March, 1991.) In other words, trying to evaluate equality in terms of similar or equivalent benefits is a tricky business and we should think long and hard before we adopt this standard as a matter of routine in judging when special accommodations are appropriate. Some people may reasonably ask if my stand on this matter does not imply that, for example, the blind should not advocate making historical sites, museums, etc. accessible by touch whenever possible. It does not, since it applies only to those situations in which vision is not essential to the communication in question. In the case of museums, historical sites, etc., the prime purpose of their existence is to display things of interest to the public. Since these displays are predominantly visual in nature, application of the "equal participation" standard does not provide the blind person with equal access to such facilities. It is therefore reasonable to apply the "similar benefit" standard and to advocate making these facilities accessible by touch.
Next, Mr. Young discusses situations in which accommodations are not reasonable. His analysis here is right on-target. He concludes that accommodations by an employer to allow a blind person to perform a given job are not reasonable unless the employer thereby gains significant benefits from the blind worker's labor or unless the blind worker, by virtue of the accommodation, can perform the job to the same standards as would be expected of a sighted person.
Finally, Mr. Young discusses what he calls "equivalent accommodations"--accommodations that don't cost the employer a significant amount of money but which make life for the blind employee a bit easier. For example, few would quarrel with the proposition that if a sighted secretary is offered a computer to make her word-processing easier, it is reasonable for the employer to provide a blind secretary with a computer adapted for access by the blind. Yet the first example cited by Mr. Young in order to illustrate this concept is based upon a false analogy and therefore leads to a false and, I believe harmful, conclusion as to what constitutes equivalent accommodation. In the example, Mr. Young assumes that a blind employee uses a dog guide as his sole travel aid and that the dog becomes incapacitated. Mr. Young asks if it might not be reasonable to let the blind employee take sick leave instead of vacation time while the dog recovers. Mr. Young, in propounding this notion, notes that many employers allow their employees to take sick leave when family members are ill. I most emphatically disagree with this analysis. It seems to be based upon the false premise that the dog guide is primarily a family member and not a mobility tool. I use a white cane. If my cane breaks and I have not had the foresight to purchase extra canes, my employer does not (and should not) make allowances for my lack of sense. I am still expected to report to work, and it is my job to find a way to get there--obtain a temporary ride, take a cab, travel without a cane, etc. If I can't wangle any of these alternatives, then I have to take annual leave just like everybody else whose transportation breaks down. If I am to expect equal treatment with my sighted colleagues, I should not expect special treatment or allowances because of my blindness. To say otherwise would be to say that I couldn't cut it on terms of equality with my fellow employees. This logic holds true for all blind individuals, including those who use dog guides. If their dogs become ill (that is, their mobility tool becomes unusable), it is up to them to find an alternate means of travel if they are to remain competitive. We, the blind, whether we use a cane or dog, can compete on terms of equality with the sighted--but only if we are prepared to do so.
Mr. Young's final example of "equivalent accommodation" is a good one. He posits a situation in which an entry-level job can be done by a blind person while the next level in the promotion ladder is a job that cannot be done by a blind person (e.g., operating a fork-lift). The third-level job can be performed by a blind person. How can the blind person obtain a promotion to the third-level job in a way that is both fair to the blind employee and to his/her fellow workers? Mr. Young suggests a scheme whereby the blind entry-level person be kept in that level a somewhat longer time than is customary to compensate for the inability of the blind employee to perform the second-level job. I would prefer some sort of job-restructuring of the second-level job to keeping the blind person in the entry-level position longer than normal. Nevertheless, the situation Mr. Young describes often occurs, and his solution is a plausible one. Those who encounter such situations would do well to keep it in mind.
The concept of "reasonable accommodation" is controversial. I suspect that neither Mr. Young nor I will have the last word on the subject. It merits careful consideration by all of us for, as was previously noted, it is fundamentally a question of equality. We cannot ask for integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality until we decide for ourselves what equality means.
GENETIC CLUE FOUND TO DIABETES
by Rebecca Kolberg
From the Associate Editor: On February 15, 1991, newspapers across the country carried a story written by UPI Science Writer, Rebecca Kolberg. It reported on a breakthrough in the ongoing struggle to conquer diabetes. Researchers have now identified the gene that seems to cause one form of adult-onset diabetes. This is only the beginning of a long battle to correct the gene in question, but it is a beginning. Here is the story as it appeared on February 15:
After more than three years of searching, scientists reported that for the first time they have closed in on a genetic defect that appears to cause a common form of diabetes.
Researchers said Thursday that they have traced a gene responsible for non-insulin-dependent diabetes to chromosome twenty, although they have not yet pinpointed the genetic culprit's precise location. Every human has twenty-three pairs of chromosomes, which carry the genetic blueprints for traits ranging from hair color to risk of cancer.
About thirteen million Americans suffer from non-insulin- dependent diabetes and another one million have insulin-dependent diabetes, the American Diabetes Association said. It has long been known that inheritance plays a major role in diabetes, but until the latest work scientists have not been able to find a specific genetic clue to the most common type of diabetes.
"This finding confirms, first of all, that genetics play a role in the development of diabetes," said Graeme Bell of the University of Chicago, who led the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Diabetes refers to disorders related to abnormal levels of sugar in the blood. In healthy individuals chemical messengers such as insulin help control blood sugar levels to prevent damage to organs and other tissues.
The two major forms are called Type 1, or insulin-dependent, and Type 2, adult-onset or non-insulin-dependent diabetes. Type 1 diabetics do not have enough insulin; Type 2 diabetics often have insulin, but their bodies do not respond properly to this messenger.
Diabetics are two to six times as likely to have strokes. One in five develops cataracts or glaucoma. About five percent go blind.
In the study University of Chicago, University of Michigan, and University of Pennsylvania researchers examined the genetic makeup of members of a large white family from Michigan with a high rate of non-insulin-dependent diabetes. About forty of the two-hundred-seventy-five family members, who spanned five generations, had a subtype of diabetes usually detectable before the patient reaches the age of twenty-five.
Family members with diabetes shared a pattern in the genetic material on the long arm of chromosome 20 that was different from the pattern seen in their healthy relatives, the researchers said.
Bell's team now is trying to find the exact site of the gene and determine its function in the hope of gaining insights into the underlying cause of the disease and perhaps better ways to treat the illness.
"A lot depends on how lucky we get. A couple years (until the gene is found) would not be unreasonable," said Bell, who is a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology.
Richard Kahn, chief scientific officer for the American Diabetes Association, called the latest finding "a major advance." "For the first time, this begins to address the issue of what gene or genes are responsible for Type 2 diabetes," Kahn said. "This opens the way towards better understanding of the disease and how to prevent or cure it."
However, Kahn cautioned that it is uncertain what proportion of people with non-insulin-dependent diabetes would be affected by the new discovery. It is not known exactly how many of the people with non-insulin-dependent diabetes suffer from the subtype of the disease that troubled the Michigan family. Estimates of the frequency of the subtype, which is called mature-onset diabetes of the young, range from one percent to eighteen percent in various ethnic groups.
Researchers are now testing other families with a high rate of non-insulin-dependent diabetes to see if they have a genetic pattern similar to that found in the Michigan family.
Bell said it is unlikely the gene will be the only one responsible for insulin-dependent diabetes, and other genes also probably will be found to play a role in the disease.
"If we can identify these genes, it might be possible for doctors to develop more specific therapies to treat the disorder," Bell said.
In the meantime Bell said the new genetic patterns can be used in the Michigan family to tell which individuals are likely to develop diabetes and which do not have to worry about getting the disease.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Merri-beth Sabin (left) and her sister Christie (right) are pictured here with Bob Bennett, one of their high school teachers.]
THE FOURTH GENERATION ON THE MOVE
From the Editor: Today's young Federationists (those in their teens and even younger) know where they want to go and how they intend to get there. They have read Federation literature, attended Federation meetings, and thought about their future. A good example comes from Pocatello, Idaho, where four young blind women are enrolled in the local high school.
Betty Sabin, who is President of the Gate City Chapter of the Federation in Pocatello, sends the following newspaper article. If one reads between the lines, not only Federation philosophy but also the study and thought which undergird it are apparent. Here is the article as it appeared in the March 12, 1991, Chieftain, the newspaper of the Pocatello High School:
Blind Students Looking for Acceptance at Poky
by Christie Dille
What would you do if your P.E. teacher did not allow you to participate in class activities? I think that I, and most everybody, would rejoice at not having to exercise.
But what if you weren't allowed because of who you were, or the instructor thought you weren't athletic or smart enough, or because they believed you just could not do it?
What if you weren't allowed because you were blind?
Believe it or not, this type of discrimination occurred at Pocatello High School (PHS). Three or four blind students here could verify the story.
The teacher, however, wasn't being mean or spiteful to the students; most people that discriminate have good intentions. But it was believed that the girls could not handle the activity.
This is an example of the type of thinking these four wish to dispel.
Merri-beth Sabin, senior; Roxanne Homestead, junior; Jennie Honeycutt, sophomore; and Christie Sabin, sophomore; are four blind students here at PHS. They are all involved in school activities.
Roxanne is a member of the Soundsations and Sergeant at Arms of Junior Civitan, Merri-beth is Junior Civitan treasurer, Jennie is a member of the band (flute and choir) and Junior Civitan, and Chris would like to be involved in Junior Civitan and drama.
These students feel they are just like everyone else, and they don't like being treated as if their blindness is a disease.
"Blindness is not a handicap. It's a nuisance," says Roxanne, who is very friendly and outspoken.
However, they believe that most kids don't understand that.
"Some people are afraid of your blindness, like they could catch it," says Merri-beth, who was the first blind student at PHS.
"People don't know how to accept a cane," says Jennie, "or they think you bump into them on purpose."
From the students' point of view most people are scared of or just don't understand blindness.
Jennie and Chris agree that some people are amazed at everything they do; things that sighted people do everyday. These are misconceptions made by people who think they may understand the handicap.
Roxanne and Merri-beth agree that students get more open minded as they become older. However, they state that people still react negatively to their blindness. When asked if negative reactions made them angry, the two replied that it makes them angry because people should know better. On the other hand, it makes them sad when they realize the person has probably been raised in an environment that fosters misconceptions and negative thinking and because of that they don't know better.
Despite this, Chris believes that the majority of the time reactions and responses are, and have been, positive. Merri-beth says that it's "the best feeling in the world" to change someone's thoughts and stop prejudices from beginning.
As for the future, each of the girls has a career she would like to pursue. Merri-beth plans on going to ISU Vocational Technical school to study office occupations and become a secretary or medical transcriptionist. Roxanne wants to become a special education teacher and would also like to have a choir composed of children with handicaps. Chris would like to pursue the performing arts, and Jennie would like to continue working with the flute, i.e., teaching, performing, and composing.
As you can see, they have ambitions just like any sighted person.
"Don't try to ignore us. We want to be normal and not taken out and put aside," says Merri-beth.
"Don't be afraid to walk up to us and say `Hi,'" is how Chris sums up the general feeling toward being a blind person, if there can be a general feeling about having any type of handicap.
Most of us are quick to make prejudgments; just remember that people with handicaps are really no different than anyone else.
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/CAPTION: Portrait of James Sanders.]
A LETTER FROM CANADA
From the Editor: James W. Sanders is National Director of Government Relations and International Services for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. He is also an interesting and witty dinner companion and a competent participant in regional meetings of the World Blind Union. As will be obvious from the following letter, he is blind. Here is his reaction to the article on "Laughter About Blindness" by Jim Burns, which we carried last fall.
December 6, 1990
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
As a regular reader of the Braille Monitor, I have followed with interest the commentaries on humor and laughter as they relate to blindness. The October-November issue's article "Laughter About Blindness" by Jim Burns prompts me to take the discussion one step further. The medicinal qualities of humor and laughter are well known. Both can be used to solve practical problems and preserve one's dignity in the process.
What do you do when you have just filled up your wife's brand new extra large purse with your dinner guests' leftover lasagna, salad, and garlic bread with those same dinner guests all crowded in the kitchen looking down at the mess in amazement? What do you do when you realize that you have probably checked into the wrong hotel but are not quite sure what hotel you are actually in?
It is human nature to look for someone or something to blame. You could get mad at yourself, the purse for being in the wrong spot, the taxi driver for letting you off at the wrong hotel... or you could solve the problem and get on with it. Blind people face an additional potential pitfall. It is easy to blame blindness when, in fact, blindness has nothing to do with it.
I was the ringleader of these incidents. A friend of mine, who happens to be sighted, also checked into the wrong hotel not so long ago. I was flying from the west coast to Ontario last year when a somewhat rowdy and disruptive threesome two rows in front discovered half way through the flight that they were on the wrong airplane. It did not occur to them to blame their "sightedness."
We all face uncomfortable situations, usually due to our own miscalculations. Once the problem has been solved, you end up with another great story with which to regale your friends.
James W. Sanders
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Portrait of David Milner.]
PUBLIC RELATIONS: A TOOL FOR CHAPTER-BUILDING
by David Milner
From the Associate Editor: David Milner is an energetic member of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas. He recently had occasion to talk with several Federationists about the importance of public relations. They asked him to put his ideas on paper so that they could refer to them again. Here is the letter he wrote; its advice is useful for us all:
January 12, 1991
You have told me that you want to increase your chapter membership and that you could use some ideas on public relations.
Three things are necessary for the successful waging of a public relations campaign. They are dedicated people, time, and money. You should begin by finding people to work with you who are dedicated to the principles of our movement. Time is sometimes even more precious than money. And like money, the more time you are willing to put into your PR project, the more benefit your chapter will receive from it. Now all you need is funding. It does not require a huge investment of money to run a successful public relations campaign. However, if you limit your PR budget, you will limit the number of techniques that will be at your disposal. Public relations, as a means of attracting new members, raising funds, or simply informing the public about the organized blind movement, is well worth any reasonable expenditure, and you should have little difficulty justifying chapter support.
Once you have your funding, you will have all of your basics. Begin by assembling press kits. These can be given to radio and television station news directors, station managers, newspapers, etc. In fact, they should be given to all contact persons with whom you plan to deal on a regular basis. A reasonably good one can be made by including the following material in a plain file folder or an NFB document folder, available from the national office for one dollar: (a) a chapter business card, if you have one (the NFB folder has slits on one pocket designed to hold a card); (b) our pamphlet, "What is the National Federation of the Blind"; (c) "Do You Know a Blind Person"; (d) your chapter or state affiliate's public outreach pamphlet, if there is one or you can prepare one; (e) copies of the latest state and national legislative agendas; (f) copies of the most recent state and national convention presidential reports; (g) copies of the latest state and national NFB resolutions and (h) the most recent copy of The Braille Monitor. This is a lot of material to read, but it will answer almost any question that a contact person may have about the Federation. A well-compiled press kit will provide a thought-provoking overview of the movement, available more or less at a glance. The material in these kits should be updated at least once a year. They can be quite helpful in establishing and maintaining contact between the public relations person and the media representative.
Other material will be needed from time to time. Get a literature order form and place an order to the Materials Center. Order and read our public relations handbook, The Media and the Message. This public relations primer will advise you in general terms and in specific situations better than I can in one letter. Also get a good supply of materials for handouts. Besides the items mentioned for use in the kit, you can also distribute such literature as "Why I am a Federationist" by Dr. Jernigan, "Why the National Federation of the Blind," Future Reflections, Voice of the Diabetic, and "The Student Slate." These are only a few of our publications suitable for distribution. Your most difficult task could be deciding what to order because there is so much to choose from. You should not order more material than you believe will be used, but certainly order a reasonable amount. In my opinion NFB chapters and members should always have materials on hand to distribute when the occasion demands. Bear in mind that there may not always be time to order PR materials before an event. (It takes at least two weeks to get material you have ordered unless you want to pay the cost of overnight shipping.) Be prepared for the unexpected.
You will need a current press list. In Austin we have an organization called American Women in Radio and Television. They have put together a package called "Public Service: An Inside View." This is a complete listing of all radio and television stations, newspapers, and periodicals in the Austin area. This list also details community affairs programs through which a given organization can inform the general public about itself. It might be productive to inquire about a branch of that organization in your area. Other sources for prepared press lists are the convention bureau, the Chamber of Commerce, the local Republican or Democratic party offices, or the League of Women Voters. I draw your attention to these possible sources of prepared press lists, because compiling one yourself can involve much time and drudgery. But if you must do it yourself, I would suggest starting with your local Yellow Pages directory. If you are going to wage a successful campaign, you must know the territory you wish to conquer.
You now have everything you need to begin. A good start would be to find out what public service announcement formats are used by your local radio and television stations and order the right ones from the Materials Center. When they arrive, distribute them in person to your local stations. This is a good opportunity to get to know your contact people. Depending on the size and management style of the station, the person you will deal with may be called the program director, the news director, the manager, or the public affairs or public services director. Whatever the title, almost every station has a person whose job includes dealing with community groups, and an acquaintance with these folks is invaluable. See that they are informed about the National Federation of the Blind. They have the power to keep our PSAs on the air, which is important. If they come to know us and believe in what we stand for, they can do other helpful things as well. Contact people are good friends to have.
Do not forget that your local radio and television stations will run short announcements as a public service. These are useful for advertising chapter meetings, membership drive get- togethers, fund-raisers, etc.
Your local cable television operator may offer public access television service. If this is available, it may be possible for you to produce or appear on local-access television programs.
Once you begin making contacts, you will find that more opportunities reveal themselves. In large measure this is due to the organization's increased visibility. If people have heard of us, they will think to contact us when matters concerning blindness come up. But it is also true that the more you think in terms of public relations, the more opportunities you will spot for yourself. Like so much else in life, successful public relations is a matter of forming good habits.
Be willing and ready to give interviews at any time and appear on all types of community affairs programs whenever possible. Remember that a good media representative for the NFB should be one who is knowledgeable about the movement, its goals, its programs, and its philosophy. He or she should also be reasonably attractive, intelligent, and articulate. In a perfect world the message would have more appeal than the messenger, but the mass media audience has been conditioned to the point where it places more importance on the package than the contents. As a result, the person who appears for the Federation on radio or television must have enough personal appeal to make an audience stay tuned and the ability to deliver our message at the same time. Actually, I make this individual's job sound more difficult than it really is. It is important, but far from unmanageable.
If you are short of time, personnel, or money (and who isn't?), you might want to narrow your field somewhat and concentrate on a few specific markets. This frugal technique is used by advertising agencies to sell everything from insurance to the latest miracle wrinkle treatment. Let us say, for example, that you wish to attract new members between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five. You would concentrate your efforts on the radio and television stations and print media that appeal to that age group, such as your local FM top forty station. Believe me, this technique works well.
Local newspapers and magazines might be persuaded to donate space for local chapter promotion. Also you might consider purchasing advertising in these for the promotion of chapter activities such as fundraisers. One should hesitate before taking this step because it is very difficult to persuade the media to donate time or space once they have been paid for it. But there are times when immediate need overrides the luxury of waiting until donated space is available.
A very effective means of informing the public about the Federation is the handout method. Get whatever permits are needed, and pass out NFB information along with our Braille alphabet cards, or tuck pamphlets in with things that your chapter may be selling to raise funds. Doris Henderson, the President of our Dallas Chapter, once told a group of us that Dallas chapter members pass out our pamphlets when they sell candy. In her words, "We wrap each bar up in a `What is the National Federation of the Blind' pamphlet to keep the candy nice and warm." Discount stores and malls are usually good places for this technique.
Speaking of malls, check with your local ones. Many of them host public events that are sponsored by their stores. When they do, it might be a good idea to staff a booth at these activities. This is a good way to interact personally with large numbers of the general public. I have participated in these efforts, and they can be a great opportunity and lots of fun besides.
Consider posting NFB information on bulletin boards, such as those found in grocery stores, churches, shopping centers, laundromats, and public buildings. These bulletin boards are usually free for the use of the community, and you might as well take advantage of them. Doing this takes a certain amount of time and footwork, but it is well worth it. You never know how far our information will travel before it reaches a blind person. On the way it will educate people about blindness and the National Federation of the Blind.
Finally, be ready to capitalize on any and every chance to promote the Movement. Opportunities may present themselves at any time, and visibility is one of the keys to public relations.
Above all, have fun. Yes, ours is serious business, and we have much important work to do on our path to first-class citizenship. But remember to have fun. Public relations can be dull, boring, and tedious if you approach your PR activities with the attitude that they will be dull, boring, and tedious. But if you think about the good that you are about to do, if you think about the people whose lives you are about to enrich through the Federation, you will view all your public relations activities as the fulfilling events that they are. Whether you are promoting your chapter, recruiting new members, or raising funds to finance the organization, you can turn these activities into times of joy. Make a day of it, if you can. Recruit as many of your chapter members, family, and friends as possible. You have the ability to transform a mundane task into a productive team effort which will not only get the current job done, but will also create a sense of unity, pride, and purpose in chapter members. Doing PR for the National Federation of the Blind should not be considered a chore, but a chance to help change the meaning of blindness. I find this exciting, and I am sure you do too.
MEET A FELLOW FEDERATIONIST--BILL REIF
by Deborah Kent Stein
From the Associate Editor: "The Braille Examiner," the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, carries a periodic feature called "Meet a Fellow Federationist," which is a series of sketches of affiliate members written by the distinguished author and active Federationist, Deborah Kent Stein. This is not the first time we have reprinted one of these profiles. They are lively without being melodramatic and sensitive without being sentimental. This time the subject is Bill Reif, President of the Sangamon Valley Chapter. It first appeared in the December, 1990, edition of "The Braille Examiner." Here it is:
To this day, Bill Reif has vivid memories of the National Federation of the Blind student seminar he attended during his senior year in high school. "What they kept saying was that we had to take responsibility for ourselves," he explains. "People there were telling me I shouldn't just accept what the so-called experts said I should be doing--I should push to learn whatever skills I needed and figure out the techniques that would work best for me."
Bill's parents would not hear of sending him to the Illinois State School for the Blind in Jacksonville. In retrospect, he feels that their decision to have him attend public school in his hometown, Glen Ellyn, both helped and hindered his education. He was able to take most of his classes with his sighted peers while spending part of each day in a resource room for blind students. He became a proficient Braille reader and usually had a resource teacher available to translate his test answers into print for the regular teachers to grade. Unfortunately, however, the resource teachers never felt that he needed to learn to write with a slate and stylus, or even to touch-type.
During the summer after he graduated from high school, Bill put the advice he heard at the NFB seminar into action. He knew he would have to hand in assignments in print when he started college in the fall. So he taught himself typing, a skill which the experts had somehow considered unnecessary for a blind student.
Even in high school, Bill knew that he wanted to become a lawyer. He attended the College of Du Page for two years and then transferred to Illinois Benedictine College in Lisle, where he had the chance to live away from home for the first time. After receiving his B.A., he entered law school at the University of Illinois in Champaign.
Law school was more challenging than anything he had tackled before. In college lectures he had relied heavily on his memory, but now he realized that he needed an effective way of taking notes in class. So he taught himself to use the slate and stylus. Since he didn't have anyone to show him the standard method, he invented his own. "I start at the bottom of the page and go from left to right," he confesses. "Instead of reversing the letters right to left, I reverse them top to bottom. My dot 1 is most people's Dot 3, my Dot 3 is the usual Dot 1. To read it, I flip the page over, bottom to top." It's a little different, but it works.
After graduation from law school, Bill decided to look for a job in Champaign, where he had made many friends. For a while he did legal research, but he found full-time jobs were hard to come by. After two years he moved to Springfield, taking a job with the Illinois Department of Insurance, a state agency which regulates the insurance industry. The position lasted only ten months; then he was sending out resumes again.
Over the next two years Bill flooded the job market with applications and went on dozens of interviews. But employers were highly skeptical of hiring a blind lawyer. "Who brought you here?" they would ask him during interviews. "Is your mother waiting for you out there?" They questioned how he could handle travel on the job and what he would do about the heavy reading load. While Bill tried to focus attention on his professional skills and interests, the employers all too often couldn't find their way past blindness-related concerns. "You know, this building is awfully big and complicated, and the washrooms are up on the second floor...."
When a job finally came his way, it was through a fluke he could never have foreseen. A friend was taking a journalism class and wrote an article about Bill, which was published in the Springfield paper. The article was straightforward and unsentimental. It described how Bill had taught himself to cook, how he enjoyed roller skating, and how he was searching diligently for a job. A few days after the article appeared, the telephone rang. The caller was Illinois Attorney General Neil Hartigan.
"I was utterly amazed," Bill recalls. "He not only invited me to come in for an interview, he offered me a choice of working in practically any division I wanted within his office. I couldn't believe it was really happening!"
In April, 1983, Bill went to work in the Department of Consumer Protection within the Attorney General's office. "I selected that particular area because it's very deeply concerned with justice," he explains. "It's really a matter of seeing that people get their rights."
Bill had been reading the Braille Monitor and other Federation literature for a long time. When a new chapter was founded in Springfield, he quickly became involved. Today he is President of the Sangamon Valley Chapter and also serves on the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois and the State Scholarship Committee.
Federation philosophy has proved an asset as Bill resolves blindness-related problems on the job. Each time he has had a change of supervisor, he has had to prove his abilities over again. Some, for example, have reassigned cases which they feared would require more research than they thought he could handle. Others have been reluctant to give him direct courtroom experience. He has learned to be assertive, to explain his techniques for getting the job done, and to insist on gaining experience which will enhance his professional development. "If you're not careful," he warns, "the job will get structured according to what others think you can do."
Bill got married in 1985. He met his wife, Roberta, through the Lutheran church, where he is an active member. Their son Bruce is two years old.
During law school Bill taught himself to play the guitar. He has perfect pitch and finds music a wonderful source of relaxation. He also enjoys swimming but doesn't have much time these days to get to a pool. "At this point in my life, my main hobby is Bruce," he says. "I love playing with him and watching him discover the world."
Even when he planned to marry and raise a family, Bill encountered some people who told him he would never be able to manage such responsibilities. Again his personal philosophy, supported by his involvement in the Federation, strengthened his belief in himself. "You can't let anybody else tell you what you can do and can't do," he advises. "Be honest with yourself about your abilities and limitations but never be afraid to take chances."
[PHOTO: Liz Campbell walks across Fort Worth, Texas, intersection. CAPTION: Like any reporter, Liz Campbell is comfortable walking the streets of the city she writes about.]
BLIND FROM BIRTH, REPORTER IS UNDAUNTED
From the Associate Editor: Liz Campbell is the president of the Fort Worth Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas and a general assignment reporter for the Fort Worth Star- Telegram. She had had some contact with the Federation before our 1990 annual convention, held in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. She wangled an assignment to cover the convention and wrote several good stories before and during the convention about the organization and its work. When the members of the Texas affiliate recovered from the excitement of hosting the fiftieth anniversary celebration, they decided that the time had come to organize a chapter in Fort Worth, and Liz Campbell pitched in to help and was elected president.
On December 24, 1990, the Publishers' Auxiliary printed a story about Liz Campbell and her work at the Star-Telegram. It is clear that Campbell's colleagues respect and admire her as an equal and that without fanfare she carries her share of the load. Here is the story as Jennifer Wright wrote it:
Like any other good journalist, Elizabeth Campbell of the Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram approaches her stories as an observer of events.
"Good journalists have to listen carefully to people," says the general assignment reporter, blind since birth. "And most important, whether they have sight or not, [journalists] must have curiosity."
Campbell, twenty-eight, has been on staff at the Star- Telegram since her graduation from Baylor University's school of journalism in Waco, Texas. She covered religion for four years, then moved to the features department, where she enjoys the diversity of assignments and writing styles involved. Campbell said she feels the wide variety of stories she covers in features will help prepare her for situations she may face later in her career as a journalist.
She does interviews for stories over the telephone about 75- 80 percent of the time, which she said is typical of her co- workers as well, considering the time-saving aspect of the telephone. When she does go out into the field, she is aided solely by a white cane.
"If you think hard enough about ways to do something, you can always overcome obstacles," said Campbell, who takes taxis or buses or gets rides from photographers to her stories.
Campbell was born in Fort Belvore, Virginia, three months premature. Weighing just 1 1/2 pounds, she was administered so much oxygen by doctors that although it helped her to survive, it left thick scar tissue over the lenses of her eyes. Only a small amount of light can get through. She can tell the difference between light and dark, but she cannot distinguish separate images.
"Some journalists may rely too much upon vision or other individual senses when covering stories," she said. Campbell emphasized the need for journalists to use all of their senses as best they can when covering stories. She said that in her articles, she would probably be more apt to describe sound and the tone of people's voices, giving her stories a different feel than the other writers.
Features Editor Michelle Hancock said she was pleased with Campbell's work.
"Liz has done a very good job for us," she said. "She's fearless."
Hancock said Campbell's performance had been "wonderful." She works independently, needing little assistance. She referred to Campbell as an asset, even volunteering to work while on vacation. During a ski trip, Campbell did a story on blind skiers for the paper.
Hancock said, "Liz is not only a fine and courageous person, but a fine journalist as well."
Chris Evans, a staff reporter for the Star-Telegram, described Campbell in a positive light. "Liz is part of the fabric here," he said. "She is a good and trusted friend and an incredible person who would be an asset to any business."
Evans said Campbell is involved in the community through the Junior League of Fort Worth and has started a chapter of the National Federation of the Blind.
"She is very impatient with disabled people who don't use their knowledge and qualifications," he said.
Campbell said she appreciates the chances her colleagues and editors have taken with her, and she would like all employers to have the same attitude she's encountered at the Star-Telegram.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Portrait of Dr. David Ticchi.]
TEACHING GOOD SPORTSMANSHIP
by David Ticchi
From the Associate Editor: David Ticchi is the president of the Cambridge Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Massachusetts. He sets the record straight about blindness whenever and wherever it becomes necessary. He does not merely hope that someone else in the Federation will deal with the problem or even notify his state president so that she can write a letter or register a protest. Last November he heard a sports commentator casually insult the capacities of blind people. Here is the letter Dr. Ticchi wrote in an effort courteously to provide the information that was obviously lacking:
December 14, 1990
Mr. Ron Barr
" Sports Byline"
San Francisco, California
Dear Mr. Barr:
I'm a regular listener to "Sports Byline," and I'm writing you regarding a recent program segment. The show I refer to originally aired on WEEI in Boston on November 21, 1990, and was re-broadcast on November 25. Your guest was Fred Hickman of the Cable News Network.
I found your interview and conversation enjoyable and informative. It was obvious the two of you enjoyed it as well. You were both jocular, and it was clear that there was mutual admiration. The conversation moved to the sometimes unusual lifestyles and habits of sportscasters. You commented in passing that some looked like they were dressed by a blind man. The conversation continued, and subsequently Mr. Hickman made reference to Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles trying to find their way down a highway. These two remarks were inappropriate, damaging, and devoid of humor. I don't mean to imply that they were intended to be so or that blind people are humorless.
Still, these two statements imply that blind people are unable to dress appropriately and attractively or to travel alone. These statements reinforce the common but mistaken notion that blind people cannot and do not live full, productive, and independent lives. Statements and implications like these help to deny blind people opportunities for education, social integration, and employment. In fact, seventy percent of the blind are unemployed, and half of the thirty percent who are gainfully employed make less than the minimum wage.
Mr. Barr, the blind as a group are truly a cross-section of the population with all that that implies. There are blind people in the professions, in business, and in public service. Many others are self-employed. Some blind people are quite talented, highly motivated, and intelligent; others less so. The National Federation of the Blind, the nation's largest advocacy group of blind people, believes that with proper training and opportunity blind people can compete on terms of equality in our society. Assuming that an individual has mastered the necessary skills of blindness--Braille, mobility, and orientation--blindness becomes no more than a physical characteristic. For your information I have enclosed some literature about the National Federation of the Blind and a public service announcement. I hope you will read this material and that station KSFO will play the spot.
My purpose in writing this letter is to be of assistance to you and to make you aware of some issues. If you would like more information about the National Federation of the Blind, please contact President Marc Maurer, NFB, 1800 Johnson St., Baltimore, MD 21230.
Thank you for your attention.
Dr. David A. Ticchi
President, Cambridge Chapter
National Federation of the Blind of Massachusetts
COMMENTS ON HOT DOTS AND THE ARKENSTONE READER
by David Andrews
David Andrews is the Director of the National Braille and Technology Center for the Blind. As a regular part of his daily activities, he will be making analyses of technology for the production of Braille, voice output, and related matters. The aim is to help consumers decide whether the product would be of value to them.
Arkenstone Reader II
The reading machine market was created by Kurzweil Computer Products in the late 1970s and early-to-mid 1980s, but it has been made competitive by the arrival of Arkenstone, Inc. in the late 1980s. Arkenstone markets a line of PC-based reading systems to blind people.
In January of 1991 it introduced new software for its Arkenstone Reader line. Primarily the software upgrade offers new and improved interfaces, but it has at least one superb feature-- the ability to determine if a page is on the scanner sideways or upside down. Further, even if the page is improperly oriented, the system will still read it.
The Arkenstone Reader II features three user interfaces: EasyScan, ArkScan, and Scanall. EasyScan, originally written by Noel Runyan of Personal Data Systems, has been bundled with all Arkenstone Readers for about a year. The latest version has a number of new commands, including ones to control the orientation identification process and the new Quick Speech feature. This generates speech while the machine is still scanning. Though it means that you start reading sooner (as little as fifteen seconds after scanning commences), the speech is a little choppy. Some users report liking the new feature; others do not. Finally, the Quick Speech may not read all columns in a multi-column document although the data are present and can be read with EasyScan's normal browser program.
The EasyScan software is an interactive command-driven program. You generally type in one-, two-, or three-letter mnemonic commands, such as "CN" for "Contrast Normal." Once you learn them, they are fast; but with the new software, there are a lot to master. The list of commands in the help facility is four screens long. Other new features include improved document structure analysis, expanded prompting and messages, the ability to save to devices such as VersaBraille as well as to files, support for additional word processor formats, user-definable dictionaries to improve scanning accuracy, and more.
The second interface is Arkscan, a modified version of the standard Calera TrueScan software. Calera makes the optical- character-recognition software/hardware that Arkenstone uses. The Arkscan software works well with screen review programs and is easy to use. The menu-driven program allows you to control all features of the system and to set up configuration files that all three interface programs use. If you like to experiment, this is the software for you.
There is also a command line program Scanall, which can be used by itself or in conjunction with batch files. This program allows you to perform routine scanning chores easily and quickly from the DOS command line.
I am asked, almost daily, which is better, the Arkenstone or the PCKPR from Kurzweil (now Xerox Imaging Systems). The quick answer is that they are pretty close. The PCKPR, will run on an XT-class computer, has a very easy and straightforward user interface, and starts reading quickly. The Arkenstone is slightly less expensive, offers a choice of interfaces, gives the fiddler more to fiddle with, and offers the automatic orientation identification option, which alone may be enough reason for some people to choose the Arkenstone. Its value to a blind person can't be overestimated. Further, although we have not conducted exhaustive, scientific comparisons yet, the Arkenstone Reader seems to be slightly more accurate in day-to-day use, although the differences are minimal. The PCKPR does have a Learn feature, which probably improves its accuracy as it scans a multi-page document. We plan on doing more thorough tests of all scanning systems later this year. Finally, the Calera/Arkenstone system offers an applications program interface that others are starting to exploit. In a future issue we will review Personal Data Systems' money identifier and Braille graphics programs for the Arkenstone called BUCKSCAN and PICTAC, respectively.
For further information or an opportunity to see different reading systems, contact the National Braille and Technology Center for the Blind at (301) 659-9314. For information from the two companies, call (800) 444-4443 for Arkenstone, Inc., at 1185- D Bordeaux Drive, Sunnyvale, California 94089; or call (800) 343- 0311 for Xerox Imaging Systems, Kurzweil Reading Machine Division, 185 Albany Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139.
Hot Dots Version 3.0
Hot Dots Version 3.0 is a Braille translation/formatting program for IBM and compatible computers. Though the program has been around for a number of years, it has not been a major force in the translation field, which is ironic because its maker, Raised Dot Computing, has the lion's share of the market in the Apple II world with its BEX and TRANSCRIBEX products.
Most of the components in Hot Dots have been rewritten with version 3.0, and the program works much more smoothly and accurately than previous versions. Rewritten components include both the back and forward translators and the manual.
One of the program's most notable new features is its ability to import files DIRECTLY from some thirty word processors. It accomplishes this feat by incorporating a commercially available conversion utility into its innards. I was only able to test WordPerfect, WordStar, and ASCII files. The program worked well with all except WordStar files. I had a WordStar Version 5.0 file, but Hot Dots only handles files through Version 4.0. It also did not seem to handle WordStar 4 files quite as well as the other tested types, but most well- known word processing programs are supported.
Hot Dots can be run from a menu, directly from the DOS command line, or by using batch files. Translation and formatting a file is a multi-step process, so some assistance, a menu or batch file for example, is helpful. The program first imports a file and inserts its formatting commands. These are the dollar sign commands which will be familiar to all old BEX users. This file is then converted into an unformatted Braille file and finally into a formatted Braille one. If you need precise control of translation or formatting, the first file (called the HD$ file) can be edited.
Most of today's Braille translators provide some level of automatic formatting assistance. Hot Dots Version 3.0 does this by producing its HD$ files. In general translators tend either to underformat by throwing out too much of the information from the original file or overformat the Braille output. Hot Dots leans towards overformatting, but not badly so, and you can always edit the HD$ file. It also handles hanging indentations well, something that several other programs have problems with. Further, there is a pre-processing batch file to handle files with tables of contents, sometimes a problem.
The program can also back-translate Braille files into print files, and the dollar sign commands are designed to facilitate the production of print and Braille files from the same master file. Hot Dots also supports Dipner Dots, a method pioneered by Raised Dot Computing, of producing draft quality Braille on a daisywheel printer. Dipner Dots can also be printed on regular paper by an ink-print printer to facilitate viewing by a sighted person. Hot Dots Version 3.0 also features a new view function which allows anyone, sighted or blind, to direct the ASCII Braille output of a translation to the computer's screen. With a little practice a person could learn to read this output to check formatting without wasting paper.
The manual for the program is clear and well written and features a tutorial to take you through all basic procedures and interface instructions for all commonly used printers.
Raised Dot Computing is a major player in the Apple world, and Hot Dots Version 3.0 is definitely a competitive product. The company offers some of the best customer support in the business and has an ongoing commitment to Braille. Anyone interested in Braille translation should seriously consider Hot Dots.
For further information contact the National Braille and Technology Center for the Blind at (301) 659-9314 or Raised Dot Computing at (608) 257-9595 or write the company at 408 South Baldwin Street, Madison, Wisconsin 53703.
[PHOTO: Portrait of Cindy Handel. CAPTION: Cindy Handel is the Treasurer of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania.]
PURPOSE, OR HAPPENSTANCE?
Recently President Maurer received the following letter from Cindy Handel:
Willow Street, Pennsylvania
March 8, 1991
Dear Mr. Maurer:
I recently bought a copy of Walking Alone and Marching Together on cassette. I'm about a third of the way through the book and enjoying it very much. But I have a question: I noticed that the book contains 1,116 pages. NFB was founded on November 16, 1940--11/16. Is this coincidence or done intentionally? I mentioned it to Ted Young, and he thought it would make a good trivia question: What do Walking Alone and Marching Together and the founding of NFB have in common?
By the way, I purchased a print copy of the book in November. Then, I took it to the Lancaster County Association for the Blind to ask if Steven Patterson, Executive Director, would consider buying it. I left my book with him to look at, and he bought that one. I believe he was going to order a cassette copy also for the library there and for some staff members who wanted to read it.
Cynthia E. Handel
In response to the letter, President Maurer said:
March 14, 1991
Frank Richard Stockton wrote a famous story. He told of a man who was being sent into the Roman amphitheater. There were two doors in the arena. Behind one of the doors was a ferocious tiger which would kill him instantly. Behind the other was a most beautiful lady.
If the man opened the door with the tiger, he would die. If he opened the one with the lady, he would be married to her immediately with all ceremony.
The man being sent into the arena had become deeply in love with the emperor's daughter, who had learned which door led to the tiger and which to the lady. In Stockton's story the man enters the arena and searches the stands for a sight of the emperor's daughter. She makes an almost imperceptible movement indicating a door. If the lady emerges, the marriage will end forever the possibility of an alliance between the emperor's daughter and the man in the arena. The tiger, of course, will end any possibility just as surely. The last scene in the story shows the man walking firmly to one of the doors and opening it.
Marc Maurer, President
National Federation of the Blind
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Zach Shore (left), Chris Kuczynski, and Michael Gosse (right) stand hopefully around the microwave oven at the National Center for the Blind.]
From the Associate Editor: When I first met my husband, he was one of the few eligible bachelors on the faculty at Oberlin College, and I was an undergraduate. He had already survived graduate school and several years of teaching on his own and considered himself a competent, but not ambitious, cook. I was somewhat less impressed with his prowess: drained tuna from a can crumbled on lettuce was tuna salad, a fried ground beef patty (no spices, salt, or pepper added) was a hamburger; and Stouffers, Inc. provided the entree whenever he was intent on impressing anyone at dinner. But he could and did wash dishes. He could peel potatoes, and he appreciated good food prepared especially for him. Since I enjoy cooking and he is happy to help clean up, it has been easy for us to work out mealtime duties through the years.
I was reminded of those early days in my acquaintance with my favorite member of the genus Bachelor Cook, when I read several recipes sent to me by some of the Federation's most delightful bachelors. They pointed out that there are rules determining whether or not a given offering qualifies as a bachelor recipe. They should employ a heating element, preferably a toaster oven or microwave, but not necessarily. The entire preparation and cooking time should not exceed ten minutes (the shorter the better). The number of ingredients should not exceed five or six, the fewer the better. The true bachelor recipe will involve some originality. Consequently, warming a frozen dinner and adding salt would not satisfy this requirement. The recipe should include words such as "sizzling" or "oozing" or those with similar descriptive power. Follow these simple rules and you, too, can create bachelor recipes of your own. I may petition for inclusion of my husband's old tuna salad recipe on the grounds that no cooking at all is surely a procedure that falls within the spirit of the bachelors' requirements, but perhaps it lacks someting in the creativity line. Here are the recipes contributed by three Federation bachelors:
UNCLE ZACH'S CHEDDAR TRISCUIT SQUARES
by Zach Shore
For several years Zach Shore has been one of the leaders of the National Association of Blind Students, the student division of the National Federation of the Blind. Since moving to Seattle last fall, he has become the editor of The Blind Washingtonian, the newsletter of the NFB of Washington.
1 box low salt Triscuits
1 block sharp cheddar
Method: Arrange nine Triscuits on a plate in three rows of three. Cut cheddar into nine Triscuit-sized squares and place on top of crackers. Insert squares in microwave for fifteen to twenty seconds, or until cheese is sizzling. For an added touch garnish with sour cream. Serves one.
Note: If bachelor does not own a microwave, use toaster oven at 400 degrees for 3 to 4 minutes. Every bachelor must have a toaster oven.
KUCZYNSKI'S GARLIC ROLLS
by Christopher Kuczynski
Chris Kuczynski is First Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania and an attorney with a prestigious Philadelphia law firm.
1 loaf French bread
1 stick butter or margarine
1 jar garlic powder
Method: Remove French bread from freezer. Defrost and spread liberally with butter. Shake on garlic powder. Place in toaster oven for 3 to 5 minutes, or until you can't stand it any longer. Note: For a crispier crust, place bread directly on the rack of the obligatory toaster oven.
DR. GOSSE'S EGG-CHEESE ASSEMBLY
by Michael Gosse
Michael Gosse is the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut. He is completing his doctoral dissertation and is teaching courses in electrical engineering at Lehigh University.
Note: This is an advanced bachelor recipe and should not be attempted by the amateur bachelor.
2 slices of oat bread
1 slice individually wrapped processed American cheese
Method: Melt butter in Teflon-coated frying pan. Crack egg into pan when butter is sizzling. Isolate egg in a bread-sized area of pan and break yoke with spatula. After roughly two minutes flip egg and begin toasting bread in toaster oven. Next, unwrap cheese and place on egg still in pan. Cover pan for 30 seconds, or until cheese is oozing over egg. Carefully lift egg- cheese assembly from pan and delicately place between slices of toast. Serves one. Repeat if still hungry. Optimum serving time between midnight and two a.m., or after rising at 1:30 p.m.
**Braille FONCARD Available:
We have been asked to print the following:
US Sprint has a Braille FONCARD available for making long distance calls when you are away from home. The Braille FONCARD can be used to make both domestic and international calls and can also be used to call back to the United States from seventeen countries. US Sprint is the only long distance company to offer a Braille travel card. If you are interested in obtaining a Braille FONCARD, please call US Sprint's toll free number at 1-800-473- 0899. Remember that you can use telephone credit cards from any carrier regardless of which one provides your personal long distance phone service.
At the 1991 convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma, March 8 to 10, the following officers were elected: Eva Chaney, President; Donna Jackson, First Vice President; Joe Triplett, Second Vice President; Sue Lee, Secretary; and Steve Shelton, Treasurer. Billy Mills and Lisa Bozworth were elected to serve on the Board of Directors.
Pam Jordan, camp director of Oral Hull Park, has asked us to print the following:
Visually impaired adults, eighteen years and older, may enjoy a week-long camp in the lovely country-woodland setting of Oral Hull Park near Sandy, Oregon. Activities abound from fishing, hiking, and swimming to handcrafts and woodworking. Three delicious, well-balanced meals are served daily. Comfortable accommodations, transportation, and live entertainment are all available for $150 per week. Camp dates are July 21-27, and August 17-24, 1991. Space is limited, so please make your reservation soon by calling (503) 668-6195, or writing Summer Camp Committee, Oral Hull Foundation for the Blind, Inc., P.O. Box 157, Sandy, Oregon 97055.
**Blindness Studies 101:
Jonathan Ice, Treasurer of the Metro Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, has asked us to print the following:
You are invited to explore the shaping of blind culture from Wednesday, August 21 through Sunday, August 25, 1991. Dig for our past, share our present, and shape our future. Come join us at Wilder Forest, a rustic but classy conference center of over one thousand acres near the Twin Cities. Enjoy the lush hiking trails, the sparkling lakes, and our famous Minnesota blue skies. For more information call Lolly Lijewski at (612) 561-9243.
**Braille and Large Print Material Available:
John Dragona, one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey, has asked us to print the following:
TFB Publications still sells Brailled desk calendars, $1; pocket calendars, $.50; and appointment calendars, $4 (two bound together, $7). We also have a catalog of crocheting and knitting patterns ($1) and a catalog of Brailled young people's stories and books, from pre-school to high school levels (free). Our free General Publications catalog contains appliance manuals, cookbooks, safety information, pamphlets for blind homemakers, women, parents, and more.
For more information on our low-cost Brailling or large- print reproduction services, or about any of the catalogs mentioned here, which are available in Braille or large print, call us at (201) 662-0956 or write TFB Publications, 238 75th Street, North Bergen, New Jersey 07047.
Nancy Martin, Secretary of the Clark County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington, reports the following election results:
In December of 1990 the chapter elected Doug Trimble, President; Michael Freeman, First Vice President; Kaye Kipp, Second Vice President; Nancy Martin, Secretary; and Charles Rogge, Treasurer. Among the three new members welcomed into the chapter was Shanthi, Michael and Barbara Freeman's new little daughter.
We have been asked to print the following: I have for sale a Telesensory VersaBraille model P2C, which includes charger/power supply, overlay tapes, and Braille contract. It has had moderate use and is in good working order. I am asking $2,000 or best offer. Contact Kevin Utter at 2034 W. Plum, Apt. A3, Fort Collins, Colorado 80521; telephone (303) 221-4809.
Lori Duffy is president of the Parents Division of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio. She and her husband Eric are both leaders of the Ohio affiliate. As an elementary education major, she was required last quarter to participate in a field experience in the local school system. Right to Read Week occurred during the time of her classroom work, and as any Federationist would, she took advantage of the opportunity. Her cooperating teacher had put together a display including a poster of a famous basketball player sitting on a stack of books. The poster's slogan read, "Reading takes one to great heights." Each student wrote a special message on a cut-out basketball, which was then placed on the display. Lori took a cut-out too and had her husband Eric write "Braille Readers Are Leaders" in Braille on it. Then she placed it on the display along with a Braille alphabet card. The cooperating teacher posted a message asking, "What does Mr. Duffy's basketball message say?" The students had a wonderful time figuring out the message. They also learned that Braille wasn't such a mystery.
Fred Schroeder reports that Karen Arellano Edwards and her husband Randy are the proud parents of Savanna Lee Edwards, born January 20, 1991. She weighed four pounds, two ounces and was 17 inches in length on arrival. She attended her first state NFB convention the weekend of April 5-7, 1991, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Despite arriving eight weeks early, Savanna Lee, big sister Krista, and their parents Karen and Randy are all doing well.
We recently received the following announcement in the National Office: "Mr. and Mrs. David T. Bills announce the marriage of their daughter Laura Silas to Christopher Mark Hathaway, son of Mrs. Marilyn Day, Saturday, the thirtieth day of March, Nineteen hundred and ninety-one, and cordially invite you to attend a wedding reception in their honor from four until five thirty that afternoon. The Seville Reception Center, 4897 South Redwood Road, Salt Lake City, Utah."
**Show Unto Us a Sign:
Paul Van Dyck, who is a medical transcriptionist and who is also a member of the Clark County Chapter of the NFB of Washington State, writes as follows:
The Clark County, Washington, Chapter of the NFB has had pretty good success with selling candy for fund raising. Several of the grocery store managers in Vancouver have permitted us to sell on store property, just the same as other nonprofit groups.
One weekend, however, due to poor scheduling or lack of communication, we were treated to some stiff competition from the Lions Club, also seeking donations for the blind, at the same time, same store, within just a few feet of us. How ironic!
The Lions Club, with their brightly colored Lion logo plastered everywhere and their high visibility, overshadowed the two "plain clothes" NFB members standing there, outnumbered, with only a white cane and box of chocolate bars. A few people bought from us because they felt sorry. This, I thought, is nowhere!
The scheduling difficulty was later dealt with and resolved. I have a friend in the sign-making business whom I also contacted about our visibility problem. I sent him our pamphlet, "What is the National Federation of the Blind," which he read, and from which he imaged the NFB logo on his computer. A few days later we had the donation of a beautiful laminated plastic free-standing sign with the NFB logo in blue on white, and the words, "Clark County Chapter, National Federation of the Blind." People now really see us and look, read the sign, and stop long enough for us to give our pitch, hand them literature, and sell our candy. By making this reasonable accommodation to the sighted public, we increased our sales significantly, and I'm not Lion!
[PHOTO: Cheryl McCaslin dances with Arthur Murray instructor. CAPTION: Cheryl McCaslin and her instructor Michael Hamilton trip the light fantastic.]
**Doing the Fox Trot:
February 24, 1991, at 12:20 p.m. was an exciting time for Cheryl McCaslin in Dallas, Texas, at the DFW Sheraton hotel. Why was this an exciting day for Cheryl McCaslin? She is the only blind person in Dallas, Texas, enrolled in Arthur Murray ballroom dance lessons. February 24 marked the showcase day for Cheryl. She and her instructor, Michael Hamilton, had worked up a Fox Trot routine. Cheryl won a trophy, and on February 26 Sam, the judge, gave her an evaluation, and she earned a score of 91. Cheryl enjoyed herself tremendously and plans on continuing the fun and excitement of the dance lessons and meeting new people. Two things have made this venture successful. It has provided a good chance for exercise and, second, it has shown once again that the blind can compete on equal terms with the sighted.
RFB will begin making its own publications available on computer disk, beginning with the Winter, 1991, issue of its newsletter, RFB News. Anyone who would like to receive this or future issues of RFB News on either 3.5" or 5.25" IBM compatible floppy disks may call or write Lorraine Gresty, Department of Public Affairs, RFB, 20 Roszel Road, Princeton, New Jersey 08540, (609) 452-0606.
A revised Guide to Using Recording for the Blind's Services is now available in both print and recorded formats. The guide, an RFB consumer handbook, begins with general information and continues with sections on RFB's lending library, recording service, recording procedures, and award programs. A list of all thirty-two recording studios is provided, along with a sample form for book orders. For single or multiple copies of the guide, call RFB's Borrower Services Department toll free at (800) 221-4792.
R. B. Gomez has asked us to print the following: I have for sale a Braille 'n Speak recently updated by Blazie Engineering. It contains a separate module for cassette storage, patch cords, printer cable, AC adapter and battery charger, and carrying case. It stores up to 200 pages of Braille and is six months old. I am asking $550 or best offer. Contact Ms. R.B. Gomez, 2017 55th Street, Sacramento, California 95817 or phone (916) 456-2735.