THE BRAILLE MONITOR

Vol. 34, No. 8                                                                       September 1991

 

Kenneth Jernigan, Editor

Published in inkprint, Braille, on talking-book disc,
and cassette by

THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND

MARC MAURER, PRESIDENT

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Baltimore, Maryland 21230
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National Federation of the Blind
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND—IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES

ISSN 0006-8829

THE BRAILLE MONITOR
PUBLICATION OF THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND


CONTENTS


Vol. 34, No. 8                                                                          September 1991

 

 

CONVENTION ROUNDUP
by Barbara Pierce

PRESIDENTIAL REPORT
by Marc Maurer

NAC IN THE DEATH THROES: THE PASSING OF AN ERA
by Kenneth Jernigan

REFLECTING THE FLAME
by Marc Maurer

NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND AWARDS FOR 1991

THE CLASS OF 1991: NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND SCHOLARSHIP WINNERS

LAYING THE FOUNDATION FOR INDEPENDENCE AND SUCCESS
by Louis Sullivan, M.D.

ERASING OLD IMAGES WITH NEW RIGHTS: HOW PUBLIC PROGRAMS CAN HELP
by William Jefferson, Member of Congress

EMPOWERMENT OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
by Justin Dart

NFB NET
by David Andrews

A NEW WAY OUT: IOWA SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND DE-NACS

RESOLUTIONS, DEMOCRACY, AND THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
by Barbara Pierce

MONITOR MINIATURES

RESOLUTIONS ADOPTED BY THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
JULY, 1991

by Ramona Walhof

Copyright, National Federation of the Blind, Inc., 1991

 

CONVENTION ROUNDUP

by Barbara Pierce

Laissez les bons temps rouler! Let the good times roll--that was the siren song of the Louisianans throughout the spring as they called us to the fifty-first annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind, and it was the spirit we found the moment we set foot in New Orleans. In a city that had had six feet of rain since the first of the year, it was too much to expect that the skies would be blue all week long, but the Crescent City got much less rain during our stay than the natives warned we would see.

The crowd that converged on the Hyatt Regency and Fairmont Hotels for a week of hard work and memorable fun broke all records for size and bonhomie. During free times the Hyatt shuttle to the French Quarter did a rushing business, and white canes were a commonplace sight throughout the Quarter, around the Superdome, and all over the Central Business District.

On Monday, July 1, Kansans Lynn Webb and Stephen Bary even seized the opportunity provided by the gathering of the Federation clan to exchange their wedding vows on board the river boat The Creole Queen. Long-time NFB leader Dick Edlund gave the bride away; and family and Federation friends, including President and Mrs. Maurer, then enjoyed a delightful reception on board ship.

By Saturday, June 29, Federationists were already jamming hotel facilities, and by Sunday front desk personnel were busy with long lines. The reason for the early crowds became obvious as soon as one glanced at the pre-convention agenda. A day-long workshop for Braille 'n Speak Users (conducted by the NFB in Computer Science), a seminar for would-be grant writers (conducted by the Writers Division) and a seminar for business people (conducted by the Merchants Division) began early Sunday morning. The annual Job Opportunities for the Blind (JOB) seminar was moved forward from the day following the convention to Sunday afternoon, June 30, and the Public Relations Committee held an afternoon workshop for those interested in improving their skills in speaking and writing for the movement. That evening hundreds of enthusiastic Federationists gathered to enjoy a true Cajun dance, complete with band and professional Cajun dancers to demonstrate how the thing is done.

Registration was scheduled to begin at 10:00 Monday morning; but as usual, the team was ready ahead of time. So people in the lines of eager conventioneers that had begun forming early got a jump on the day. Our streamlined registration system is so speedy that no one stayed in one place for long, and people were soon free to visit the huge exhibit area, which was conveniently located nearby. In addition to the NFB store, the tenBroek Fund's Elegant Elephant table, and displays by Federation chapters and affiliates, there were forty-four vendors and other organizations staffing exhibits all week long.

On both Monday and Tuesday the afternoon and evening were filled with committee and division meetings (twelve on Monday and nineteen on Tuesday). In addition to everything else that was crammed into Monday and Tuesday, Macy's Department Store and Mary Kay Cosmetics joined together to present a fashion show between 5:00 and 7:00 p.m. on Monday. A number of Federationists, including two who have done professional modeling, agreed to serve as models. A Macy's executive provided excellent commentary on the clothing, and Federationists found the information and views extremely helpful. Macy's also benefited from this experiment. A management representative from Atlanta flew to New Orleans to observe the event in the hope of reproducing it in other stores later. In addition, the Mary Kay representatives, organized and led by Marie Cobb of Maryland, provided Federationists with valuable, ongoing grooming advice and products.

Tuesday morning, July 2, opened with the annual public meeting of the National Federation of the Blind Board of Directors in the Regency Ballroom. Early in the proceedings President Maurer asked Dr. Jernigan to describe the newest educational publication to be produced by the Federation. It is a standard-size paperback book of 128 pages, called What Color is the Sun, and it is an easy-to-read compilation of true-life stories of blind persons with a preface by Dr. Jernigan. It is the first in a projected series to be called Kernel books, which are intended to interest the general public and are designed to show what it is really like to be blind. These little books are ideal small gifts or effective promotional material for use in intensive public education campaigns (with state legislatures, for example). Well over 10,000 were purchased or ordered during the convention at $1 a book. Now that the convention is over, the cost for small orders is $4 each, but in multiples of fifty, the cost is still $1 a book and $5 for handling: $55 for fifty, $110 for a hundred, etc. The book includes ten photographs, and the text is lively and is printed in clear easy-to-read type. What Color is the Sun may be ordered from the Materials Center of the National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson St., Baltimore, Maryland 21230.

President Maurer next called Sharon Gold, President of the National Federation of the Blind of California, to the platform for a special presentation. Miss Gold explained that California Federationists are deeply grateful for the support and assistance they receive constantly from the rest of the organization. They recognize that we must all do what we can to help one another, and for this reason the National Federation of the Blind of California, which recently received a sizable bequest, took pleasure in presenting to the National Office of the Federation a check in the amount of $25,000. President Maurer accepted this gift from California with appropriate thanks.

President Maurer called Dr. Norman Gardner to the platform to describe a new fund-raising project for the organization. Richard Stark, President of Premier Technologies of Minneapolis, Minnesota, has invented the Digital Floor Announcer. Using the human voice recorded on electronic chips, this device announces both the floor which an elevator has reached and the direction in which the elevator is traveling. Installing this product in building elevators will bring any structure into compliance with federal codes for elevator accessibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act. When Federationists persuade building managers or owners to equip their elevators with this device, they will receive a commission for each announcer sold, and the NFB will receive a sizable donation. Those interested in working with this program should check with their state presidents, each of whom has named a state coordinator for the program, or with Dr. Norman Gardner, 1743 East Evergreen, Mesa, Arizona 85203; phone (602) 962-5520.

NFB Second Vice President Peggy Pinder announced that Insurance Associates of Des Moines, Iowa, is now prepared to sell vendors liability and other business insurance at rates as good as, or better than, those of any other insurance agent in the country. As part of our agreement with this company, the National Federation of the Blind will receive $10 a year for every vending policy in effect. Interested vendors should contact Peggy Pinder, (515) 236-3366.

President Maurer then described the Lifeline Routing System, which allows interested people to sign up for a ninety-day trial period of high-quality fiber optic long distance telephone service at very competitive rates--the company says that these are frequently lower than users' current rates. In addition to this individual advantage, ten percent of a person's domestic net paid long distance billing will be contributed monthly by the company to the National Federation of the Blind. If people are not satisfied with this program at the end of the trial period, Lifeline Routing Systems will switch them back to their original long distance carriers. Applications for this program were circulated widely during the convention and are available from the National Office and from state presidents. President Maurer encouraged everyone to consider this painless way of assisting in financing our organization.

The final business of the annual meeting of the Board of Directors was to deal with the Associates Program. This is our ongoing effort to recruit members-at-large who will become Associates of the National Federation of the Blind. This year we announced both the top ten member-recruiters and the top ten money-raisers. President Maurer listed them as follows:

Top 10 in Number of Associates Recruited

10. Verla Kirsch (Iowa): 64
9. Vanessa Gleese (Mississippi): 70
8. Norman Gardner (Arizona): 71
7. Ollie Cantos (California): 82
6. Karen Mayry (South Dakota): 100
5. Fred Schroeder (New Mexico): 125
4. Kenneth Jernigan (Maryland): 153
3. Bill Isaacs (Illinois): 159
2. Tom Stevens (Missouri): 200
1. Arthur Schreiber (New Mexico): 324

Top 10 in Dollar Amount Raised

10. Duane Gerstenberger (Maryland): $1,560
9. James Omvig (Arizona): $1,594
8. Fred Schroeder (New Mexico): $2,127
7. Karen Mayry (South Dakota): $2,368
6. Tom Stevens (Missouri): $2,534
5. Bill Isaacs (Illinois): $2,596
4. Arthur Schreiber (New Mexico): $4,799
3. Marc Maurer (Maryland): $5,066
2. Mary Ellen Jernigan (Maryland): $5,067
1. Kenneth Jernigan (Maryland): $12,261

This year we broke all records for number of recruiters, 408; number of Associates, 3,764; and amount raised, $88,773. The Associates Program continues to be an excellent way to raise funds to assist our movement and simultaneously to educate family, friends, and acquaintances about the NFB.

Tuesday evening, July 2, the students and staff of the Louisiana Center for the Blind performed an original play, written by Jerry Whittle, called Passing the Torch. It dealt with the challenges faced by a new student working in a good rehabilitation center. The demand for tickets was so great that the cast performed the play twice that evening.

Promptly at 10:00 Wednesday morning, July 3, the gavel came down, calling the 1991 convention to order. After a $100 door prize, the first general session began with a welcome by Joanne Wilson, President of the Louisiana affiliate. Next came greetings from Sidney Barthelemy, Mayor of the city of New Orleans. The mayor brought a proclamation passed by the City Council, which read:

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind is the world's largest organization for the blind; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind is now in its fifty-first year of the blind proudly leading the blind and vigorously speaking for themselves; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind's firm commitment to civil rights for all, including persons who are blind, is shared by the people of the City of New Orleans; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind's motto of Security, Equality, and Opportunity encapsulates the ideas and highest aspirations of the people of New Orleans; and

WHEREAS, the members of the National Federation of the Blind walking alone and marching together are transforming the way blind people think of themselves and the way sighted people think of blind people by insisting that blind people behave and be treated by others as ordinary fellow citizens with the characteristics of blindness; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind meeting in New Orleans from June 30 through July 6, 1991, is advancing the work of the organized blind movement by changing what it means to be blind in New Orleans and throughout the world. Therefore

BE IT PROCLAIMED by the Council of the City of New Orleans that a warm welcome is extended to the fifty-first national convention of the National Federation of the Blind, to President Marc Maurer, to Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, and to all the Federationists, together with the sincerest wishes of the Council and the people of New Orleans that the convention will be successful, that you will enjoy your stay, and that you will return to visit our city again, both walking alone as tourists and marching together in your convention.

The mayor's welcome was enthusiastically received, as was the letter which President Maurer then read to the delegates.

Dear Friends,

It is a special pleasure to send greetings to all attending the 1991 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. I so regret I cannot be there in person to tell you of my great admiration for your fine work on behalf of Americans who are blind. I salute the NFB for striving to integrate blind people into the larger society on a truly equal basis and for pursuing this goal through over fifty years of supportive programs and active advocacy. Through excellent efforts like your scholarship program, your collaboration with the Department of Labor and Job Opportunities for the Blind and the Braille Monitor you are encouraging and enabling blind people to participate fully in all aspects of our national life. Thank you for carrying on such a proud tradition of independence and equality. With all best wishes for a successful and enriching series of meetings.

Warmly,
Barbara Bush
Have a wonderful convention.

The roll call of states occupied the remainder of the morning, and the afternoon session began with President Maurer's report of the past year's activities. It is clear that the organizational progress chronicled at our fiftieth convention has continued at an accelerating rate. Our determination to achieve justice for blind people, to educate the public about our real abilities, and to resolve the serious problems that still plague all of us has continued to gain momentum and power in the intervening year. The entire exciting report appears elsewhere in this issue, but President Maurer summed up our present and our future, our work today and our dreams for tomorrow, in the concluding words of his report:

Within the past year I have traveled throughout the Federation and worked and dreamed with thousands of you the members. I have represented the blind of America in the White House, and I have shared a victory celebration supper of fried chicken and beans with you, my fellow Federationists in the workshop in Buffalo, New York. As I have gone throughout the movement, I have felt a sense of authentic inner security and peace of mind. Of course there are troubles aplenty, but we can solve them. There is a tacit understanding in the Federation. We accept individual responsibility for our own freedom, and we believe in our capacity to achieve it. The deep and abiding faith that we have in the future stems from our willingness to assist one another when the need is great and to join in the triumph of success. Those who have not been a part of this movement, who have not shared the commitment and the passion for bringing genuine togetherness to the blind, cannot believe that the spirit of our movement is real, but it is, and it makes us what we are. With such belief, such dedication, such mutual love and trust, and such determination we will make our future what we want it to be. We are moving at an accelerating pace; the realization of our dream for freedom and independence is within our reach. We the blind, organized in our tens of thousands, will gain our objectives through our own organization, the National Federation of the Blind. Our past declares it; our present proclaims it; and our future demands it. This is our pledge to each other, and this is my report to you for 1991.

When the tumultuous applause had quieted, Dr. Jernigan took the chair to introduce the next speaker, Dr. Clayton Yeutter, Chairman of the Republican National Committee. Dr. Yeutter, who replaced the late Lee Atwater as chairman on January 25 of this year, has impressive credentials. He completed both a law degree and a Ph.D. in agricultural economics, has operated and still owns a twenty-five-hundred-acre farm; has served as President of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the world's second-largest futures market; was appointed as the U.S. Trade Representative during the second term of the Reagan presidency; and served as Secretary of Agriculture for two years in the Bush administration. In concluding his introduction of Dr. Yeutter, Dr. Jernigan said that the significance of the chairman's convention appearance to the government of the United States, the Republican Party, and the National Federation of the Blind is this:

As you know, our organization is nonpartisan. As you also know, at our Washington Seminar last winter the Vice Chairman of the Democratic National Party came and spoke at our meeting. It is altogether fitting that the Chairman of one of the major parties come to this gathering, and it is fitting that we should welcome him and want him to come. After all, the administration that is now in power is the one that was in power when substantial legislation affecting the disabled in this country, the Americans with Disabilities Act, was adopted; and this administration supported that legislation strongly. Beyond that, both President and Mrs. Bush have indicated very direct and personal interest in our work as blind people, and specifically in the functioning of this organization.

We are [Dr. Jernigan continued] the largest gathering of the disabled to be held anywhere in the world this year. And with the emphasis that is now being given to people with disabilities in this country, it is symbolic that the Chairman of the party that now holds the White House should come and speak to our convention. It is appropriate that he should want to do so. It is, however, also significant that he did want to do so, that he did come, and that he sat and listened. He did not simply come to tell us what he wanted to tell us, but he listened during the presidential report and heard what we have to say about what we want.

As we have grown in stature and political power and recognition in this country, and as the government has come more and more to recognize the disabled as a force, it is well that we consider partnership with government and with the political parties in forging a new and a better life for blind people in this nation. That is the significance of the presence on our platform today of Chairman Clayton Yeutter of the Republican Party.

So said Dr. Jernigan in introducing the Chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Dr. Yeutter's speech was a warm and personal tribute to the principles that undergird the National Federation of the Blind and that have sustained this country. Toward the close of his remarks he said:

The Declaration of Independence--and this is appropriate with July 4th coming tomorrow--states that all men are created equal. The signers, some of whom were disabled by disease or war, saw no irony in that statement because each individual-- regardless of disability, race, creed, or gender--deserves an equal chance to succeed in this country, to enjoy life and liberty and to pursue happiness. But happiness is inherently linked to pursuit, both in the Declaration and in our lives today. Blind persons want to pursue their goals, not have them handed over by government. They want the obstacles removed, the structures and social stigmas set aside. That's what the ADA bill will help to do. That's what America will have to do if it's to reach its full potential.

The real problem of blindness is not blindness itself; it is the mistaken attitudes of others. The ADA guarantees access to public accommodations so you can shop in your favorite store, eat in your favorite restaurant, go to a doctor's office without hindrance or discrimination.

On this eve of Independence Day we have much to celebrate and much yet to accomplish. But we can gain courage from the words of one of the disabled Americans who more than two hundred years ago made the rough journey to Philadelphia to take part in the affirmation of our independence. It is said that Rhode Island delegate Steven Hopkins, who had cerebral palsy, set his pen to the parchment and stated, "My hand trembles, but my heart does not." I say that with strong hearts the National Federation and the Republican Party and, I hope, the Democratic Party, will create a new alliance based upon common principles and mutual respect.

Following Chairman Yeutter's presentation, Congressman William Jefferson, representative from New Orleans, delivered a rousing speech entitled, "Erasing Old Images with New Rights: How Public Programs Can Help." Congressman Jefferson is a member of the Subcommittee on Select Education, United States House of Representatives; so his committee responsibilities place him in a powerful position to assist blind people as we fight to win our rights in education and rehabilitation. His enthusiastic understanding of our point of view and his energetic support for our legislative agenda earned him and his remarks a warm reception.

Dr. Jernigan and Joseph Shapiro, Associate Editor for social policy issues for the news magazine U.S. News and World Report, then discussed the subject, "Creating a Mindset or Reflecting Mythology: Journalists Talk About Blindness in the News." Mr. Shapiro recognized that, as part of the larger society, journalists have been slow to recognize both the real problems and the capacities of disabled Americans. But pointing to the front page article in the New York Times about Braille literacy, he told his audience that things are now changing and that there is hope for the future.

The afternoon session closed with an address by Dr. William Wiener, President of the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired and Professor and Chair of the Department of Blind Rehabilitation, Western Michigan University. The title of his address was, "The Interface Between AER and Consumer Organizations," and he urged that organizations in the field of work with the blind cooperate whenever possible to improve the lives of blind people.

Wednesday evening was a busy one with several committee meetings and a reception and dance. Pete Fountain, the renowned jazz saxophonist, provided the high point of the festivities with a memorable concert of jazz. He was not, however, the only one to make music. July 3 is his birthday, so Federationists sang "Happy Birthday" to him.

The Music Division's annual Showcase of Talent also took place that evening. This year there were prizes and winners in three categories: First place winner in the children's division was Silvia Rivera, Illinois, flute; first place winner in the professional division was Frank Senior, New York, voice; and first place winners in the amateur division were Steve Hastalis, Illinois, flute and piccolo, and Rick Fox, Connecticut, piano. Mr. Senior sang along with his own demo tape, which is currently being considered by Warner Brothers. Steve Hastalis was assisting in the recording of the Showcase when he decided to enter the competition himself and asked Rick Fox to join him in a duet. The resulting renditions of "Fly Me to the Moon" and "When the Saints Go Marching In" provided toe-tapping magic for the audience.

The first item on the Thursday morning, July 4, agenda was the annual election of the members to the Board of Directors. The positions coming open this year, each for a two-year term, were filled as follows: Don Capps, South Carolina; Priscilla Ferris, Massachusetts; Betty Niceley, Kentucky; Fred Schroeder, New Mexico; Joanne Wilson, Louisiana; and Gary Wunder, Missouri.

Dick Edlund, who served for many years as the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Kansas and as Treasurer of the national organization, came to the podium to tell the convention about his election to the Kansas Legislature last November and his experience now as a legislator. His title was, "Democracy in Action--A Blind Legislator Speaks."

In an address titled "Changing Patterns of Service," Frank Kurt Cylke, Director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, gave the delegates a report on what is happening at NLS and what we can expect. Mr. Cylke began his remarks by mentioning that he has been attending our conventions for eighteen years. In the beginning he came alone; this year he brought seven staff members with him.

Justin Dart, Chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, then addressed the convention on the subject, "Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities." Mr. Dart, who has become a true friend to the organized blind, warned the group that passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act is only the beginning. There is much hard work ahead if we are to win the right of choice and equal opportunity. But we must not become discouraged, he said, for in the end we will prevail.

The morning closed with an event that Federationists have waited years to hear. Printed elsewhere in this issue, it was an address by Dr. Jernigan entitled, "NAC in the Death Throes: The Passing of an Era." Its concluding portion encompassed far more than the story of the demise of NAC. It summarized not only the hopes and aspirations but also the determination of the blind to achieve full lives and first-class status in society:

In considering NAC's nonperformance and the controversy surrounding it during the past year, you have to wonder why any self-respecting agency doing work with the blind would be willing to continue to have its name associated with NAC, and I doubt that many of them will--at least, not for much longer. For a quarter of a century NAC and its supporters have bullied and threatened, tried to force agencies to join them by implying that those who would not would be branded as substandard, used accreditation as a shield to protect the poorest agencies in the field, and sought to build an empire of custody and control--but they have failed, utterly failed. They are bankrupt, not only financially but also morally and spiritually. They are a blight upon the field of work with the blind, the largest remaining controversial issue to cause strife and dissension.

As we approach the beginning of the twenty-first century, the blind of this country confidently look forward to a day at hand when we can truly have first-class citizenship and real equality in society, just like the rest--when we can have a good- paying job and the joys of a home and a family of our own, just like the rest--when we can hold our heads high in self-respect and the respect of others, just like the rest--when we can earn our way and pay our dues and live our freedom, just like the rest--when we can wake in the morning without fear or poverty, just like the rest--when we can hope and believe and dream, just like the rest--and especially when whatever we have is ours as a matter of right, whether it be great or small, not a dole portioned out to us by agencies like NAC, who mislead the public, live at our expense, and act as if they are our superiors, which they are certainly not. We look forward to that day, and we intend to have it because we have found the power of collective action. We have found, we have created, we have lived the National Federation of the Blind. And one of the things we absolutely will put behind us forever is the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped. No more NAC. My brothers and my sisters, our future is bright with promise. Let us go with joy to meet it.

With the close of the Thursday morning session, Federationists scattered for an afternoon of tours; shopping; and, in many cases, more committee meetings and seminars. The Student Division's annual Monte Carlo Night brought many back to the hotel in the early evening to indulge in UNO, poker, and laughter.

The Friday, July 5, agenda was so full, several items from the Thursday morning session having been rescheduled because of the press of business, that the call to order was moved forward by half an hour. The first item of business was a talk entitled "Honey in the Horn," by Ehab Yamini, former president of the Georgia affiliate. Mr. Yamini has opened a business raising bees and selling their products. He is enthusiastic and eager to provide information or advice to anyone else interested in the same field.

Judy Jobes (President of the Erie County chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania and a long- distance operator for GTE, Inc.) and Georgia Scaife (Director of Equal Employment Opportunity for GTE) described the breakthroughs now being made by their company and IBM in providing accessible computer equipment so that blind employees can competitively do an increasing number of jobs in telephone companies.

The next agenda item was one of the most enjoyable of the entire convention. It was titled, "Blind and in Show Business? The Actor Says Yes." Dana Elcar, costar of the MacGyver television show, told the delegates about his struggle with increasing blindness and about the ways in which the Federation has helped him to carry on with his work. He also paid tribute to his coworkers on the program and their unwillingness to let him settle for anything less than his professional best.

Congressman Clyde Holloway, recently declared candidate for governor of Louisiana, then spoke to the convention on the subject, "The Lawmaker and his Blind Constituents: Partners for Progress." Congressman Holloway was followed by Ritchie Geisel, President of Recording for the Blind, who reported a number of exciting new developments and changes in organizational attitude within RFB. Louis Enoff, Deputy Commissioner for Programs of the Social Security Administration, addressed the convention on "A Broader Look at Social Security: New Initiatives, New Programs." We need to hear each year from this very important agency, and it was gratifying to hear Mr. Enoff underline the appropriateness of our battle for freedom of choice for those seeking rehabilitation.

The afternoon session began with a panel entitled, "The Blind Achieving Success in the Work Place." Four Federationists (Rich Crawford of Iowa; Rami Rabby, now of London, England; Dorothy Cofone of New Jersey; and Chris Kuczynski of Pennsylvania) discussed their jobs and the role the Federation has played in shaping their success. Next Nell Carney, Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, addressed the convention on the subject, "Current Trends in Rehabilitation." Dr. Jernigan introduced Mrs. Carney to the convention with great warmth and personal affection and pointed out that unlike many who conveniently forget their roots when they have achieved success, Mrs. Carney has continued to acknowledge her ties with and debt to the National Federation of the Blind. She responded by beginning her remarks with these words:

President Maurer, Ladies and Gentlemen, and Dr. Jernigan, I'd like to say to you, Sir, it would be difficult, indeed, to forget where I came from because one of the highlights of my life, and the activity in my life that has served as the guidepost along the way as I have developed a career, was that period when I had the good fortune to have you as a high school teacher. Those of us who have been privileged to be taught by you--and we probably number now in the tens of thousands, recognizing all of those in the Federation who have benefited from your teaching--are fortunate indeed. I think that Peggy Pinder in 1976, when she was receiving the then one and only scholarship that the National Federation of the Blind awarded, gave you credit, Sir, for much of her accomplishment and ended her comment by saying, "You taught me how to be." I would not dilute what Peggy said by attempting to expand on that. You also, Sir, taught me how to be, and I am very proud of that.

It is, indeed, an honor [Commissioner Carney continued] to make a presentation to the largest gathering of disabled individuals anywhere in the world. You aren't a gathering of people who serve people with disabilities, and you aren't necessarily a gathering of parents of people with disabilities. You are the real thing--we are the real thing. It's a privilege also to be here because, as Dr. Jernigan has indicated, I have had a long association with this organization. I know of the dedication that we have to the achievement of equality for all people who are blind, and for those of us who are in the field of rehabilitation that translates very well into the achievement of equality for all people who are disabled. I'm also honored, as the President's chosen administrator of the federal rehabilitation programs and his pointperson on rehabilitation policy, to bring you greetings this afternoon from President George Bush, from Vice President Dan Quayle, and from the Secretary of Education, Lamar Alexander.

Mrs. Carney was followed by United States Senator John Breaux of Louisiana, who asked to address the convention and assured delegates of his support for our programs and his pride in the Louisiana Center for the Blind. Then Cari Dominguez (Director, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, Employment Standards Administration, U. S. Department of Labor, and newly appointed Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment Standards) addressed the convention on the topic, "Affirmative Action Beyond the ADA: Where is it Going, What Can the Blind Expect?" She urged blind Americans to break stereotypes, assume responsibilities, and demand the right to demonstrate our abilities; and she assured her audience that the Department of Labor will be working to assist our efforts.

Dr. Louis Sullivan, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, was the next person to speak to the convention. His title was "Addressing the Needs of the Blind: Laying a Foundation for Independence and Success." Dr. Sullivan spoke insightfully of the impact of the programs he administers on the lives of blind people, and he recognized the importance of enabling blind people to take responsibility and live with dignity. This was the first time that a Cabinet Secretary has appeared at our convention, and it was a memorable experience.

Dr. Jernigan then presented the National Federation of the Blind's Distinguished Service Award to Justin Dart, Chairman of the President's Committee on People with Disabilities, who responded with great warmth. "Working Together for Full Participation" was the title of an address delivered at the close of the afternoon session by Dr. Geraldine Scholl, who is Vice Chair of the American Foundation for the Blind's Board of Trustees. She shared her hope that in years to come the goals of the NFB can be so fully accomplished that there will no longer be a need for advocacy organizations of disabled people.

The Friday evening banquet was what our annual banquets always are: exciting, enthusiastic, and filled with laughter and song. Dr. Jernigan served as the master of ceremonies and clearly enjoyed orchestrating the lively and lengthy event. President Maurer's address, "Reflecting the Flame," was both moving and thought-provoking. It is printed in full elsewhere in this issue. Once more President Maurer stirred his thousands of listeners and called us to redoubled effort to seize this moment and become the masters of our own destinies. Near the conclusion he said:

A powerful new spirit now moves in the blind of the nation and also in growing numbers of the public. The vital elements for an alteration in the pattern of our experience have come together in an energetic and forceful mixture. We in this room tonight are the force which will propel our movement through the last decade of the twentieth century and into the one beyond. We are the components, the leaders from throughout the country, the rank and file members, the new inspiration. We will make the difference, for we must. Our record of achievement during more than half a century will be remembered with pride, but it is only the prelude. Each generation must do for itself and build on the past. We have learned that lesson well. We have learned it from each other and from our own experiences. In our yearning for freedom others can go with us, but we must lead the way. We have not only reached but gone beyond the kindling point. We are the blind who reflect the flame. No organization on Earth that deals with blindness has the strength, the determination, or the spirit of the National Federation of the Blind.

Several awards were presented during the banquet. Patricia Harmon was named Blind Educator of the Year, Dr. Ralph Bartley was named the 1991 Distinguished Educator of Blind Children, and Commissioner Nell Carney received the Newel Perry Award. A full description of these presentations appears elsewhere in this issue. The scholarship class of 1991 was also honored during the ban

quet, and each member was presented with a certificate commemorating the award he or she had received. Pam Dubel of Buffalo, New York, was named Distinguished Scholar of 1991 and was given a grant of $20,000.

Saturday morning the convention turned its attention again to the serious business still needing to be transacted. In addition to the annual financial report and the report from Jim Gashel, our Director of Governmental Affairs, we still had two program items which had been postponed from crowded convention sessions earlier in the week. The first of these panels was "Technology and the Twenty-first Century" presented by David Andrews, Director of the National Braille and Technology Center for the Blind, and Deane Blazie, President of Blazie Engineering. They described new breakthroughs in technology of importance to blind people and urged the increasing number of Federationists using computers to become knowledgeable about it. The other panel was titled "Reporting and Editing: Blind People Working in the News" and was composed of Liz Campbell, feature writer and reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Linda Goodspeed, Assistant Editor, MGH News. They both described their careers as working journalists and assured the audience that there is no reason for blind people to be discouraged from journalism if they have the skills and commitment for the job.

Twenty-one resolutions came before the convention for consideration and debate Saturday afternoon. The texts of those that were passed appear elsewhere in this issue. Jim Omvig, Chairman of the Pre-Authorized Check Plan Committee, reported that 104 new people signed up on PAC during the convention, bringing the annualized PAC contribution to the organization to $311,211. Chris Kuczynski, Chairman of the Deferred Insurance Giving Committee, reported that fifty-four Federationists had bought DIG policies during the convention. This brings total gifts to the Federation attributable to the DIG Program to almost $12,000,000.

The final convention registration figures indicated, to no one's surprise, that this truly had been the biggest convention ever: 2,760 registered conventioneers and many more who never bothered to get themselves into the count. Twenty-seven foreign visitors, as far as we could tell, took part in our convention. They were from Canada, Mexico, England, Germany, Nigeria, and the Philippines.

We can truly say that there has never been a convention like this one. The power and influence wielded by the NFB are now generally acknowledged. Among those attending our meetings were Carl Augusto, newly named president of the American Foundation for the Blind; Creig Slayton, President of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind; William Wiener, President of the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired; Frank Kurt Cylke, Director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped; and Euclid Herie, President and Managing Director of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.

It is becoming clear to everyone in the field of work with the blind that our opinions carry weight and our views are worth listening to. In her acceptance remarks during the banquet, RSA Commissioner Nell Carney commented that "After two years in Washington it is my observation that no legislation that this movement of the blind and for the blind opposes will ever pass." And in the Washington Report on Saturday, James Gashel pointed out the following:

"During our Washington Seminar we made the proposal that Section 102 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 be amended to the effect that in the selection of service-providing agencies under an individualized rehabilitation program, the agency's role is to provide options, to suggest possibilities; but the client's role should be to make the final choice--that would be the client's right. Since that time we have received a request from the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Select Education in the House of Representatives that we draft that provision and propose specific legislative language. That provision has been drafted, and it has been submitted to the subcommittee; and when the subcommittee considers its amendments of the Rehabilitation Act later this year and early next year, the client's right of choice provision will be part of that legislation.

"Now think about what you have heard this week," Mr. Gashel continued. "The Chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, the Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, the Deputy Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, a United States Senator, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and a member of the responsible Subcommittee in the House of Representatives (the Subcommittee on Select Education): every single one of them spoke to the issue of the client's right of choice; and every single one of them indicated that this is the coming direction in rehabilitation."

This statement by James Gashel, our Director of Governmental Affairs, is a fitting summary and commentary. Never in our history have we held in our own hands the possibility of doing so much to improve the lives of blind people. The responsibility is great, but it is clear that our capacity and energy are growing as well. Mrs. tenBroek reminded us of the principle that must continue to inform all of our actions and our decisions if we are to fulfill our heritage and keep faith with those who come after us. Dr. Jernigan asked her to say a few words to the banquet audience at the close of the evening, and she gathered Mary Ellen Jernigan and Pat Maurer to stand with her as she said:

"I have beside me the other first ladies of this organization, without whose help none of us would ever make it. What a wonderful family you have been throughout the years. The love that you give, like the love that you've received, is what makes us strong. May we go on and light that flame that Marc has been talking about."

Next year our convention will be in Charlotte, North Carolina. At this moment it seems inconceivable that it can be as moving or as thrilling as this one has been. But our Federation family has nothing if not a capacity to surprise people and prove the doubters wrong. Make plans now to be part of the most important and exciting gathering of the blind to be held anywhere in 1992.

 

PRESIDENTIAL REPORT
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
JULY 3, 1991

The past year has been a time of unprecedented activity for the National Federation of the Blind--the largest, most dynamic organization of blind people in the nation. Our aspirations have always been high, and our single-minded dedication to the achievement of full equality for the blind has always remained a constant driving force of our movement--which accounts for much of the progress we have made. The unity and harmony of the Federation are as strong as they have ever been, but there is also something else--we have expanded our horizons, diversified our endeavors, and accelerated our pace.

One of the key components in creating a climate of independence for the blind is education of the public to the abilities of blind people. A necessary part of the proper perception of blindness is the recognition that only those who have been democratically elected by the blind can rightfully speak for the blind. Because blind individuals have often been regarded as incompetent, recognition that we can (and indeed must) represent our own interests in the halls of Congress, in the offices of the executive branch, and in the private sector has been coming slowly; but in ever broadening arenas, it is coming.

On January 9, 1991, Federation members traveled to the White House at the invitation of America's First Lady, Barbara Bush. We spoke of the needs, hopes, and dreams of the nation's blind. We described our efforts in the Federation to achieve independence and self-sufficiency. During the course of our interchange, we presented to Mrs. Bush an autographed copy of the definitive history of the blind of the United States, Walking Alone and Marching Together. The White House is, of course, a symbol of freedom and the nucleus of our democratic process. It is the place where the chief executive of our nation lives and works--the place where the wishes of Americans are given focus and direction--the place where the actions are taken to generate a better society. We the blind, organized in our Federation, the largest and most vital movement of blind people in the nation, are a part of this focal point--we in this room are a part of our society and the America of the future--we of the National Federation of the Blind.

November 16, 1990, was the fiftieth birthday of the National Federation of the Blind. Shortly before this date Federation members asked Congressman Paul E. Kanjorski to sponsor a resolution recognizing the fifty years of progress we in the National Federation of the Blind have made. Congressman Kanjorski represents Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the Federation. He is proud of what we have done, and he was not only willing but pleased to sponsor such a resolution. However, he pointed out that at least a majority of the members of the House of Representatives and Senate must be listed as co-sponsors if the resolution was to be adopted. The congressional session had almost come to an end. There were those who felt that there was not sufficient time to enlist the support of an adequate number of senators and representatives. Within less than two weeks, a majority of the members of the House and Senate had joined as co- sponsors of Joint Resolution 667, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the National Federation of the Blind and to designate November 16, 1990, as "National Federation of the Blind Day." On November 15, 1990, the day before our birthday, President Bush signed the proclamation commemorating the vital work of the Federation and our fifty years of progress toward independence for the blind. On the following day, Congressman Kanjorski traveled to the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore to present the Presidential Proclamation in a public ceremony honoring the Federation (along with a United States flag which had been flown over the Capitol that morning).

Our organization is a people's movement. While the ceremonies were occurring at the National Center for the Blind, similar celebrations of our fifty years of progress were being conducted with appropriate public recognition by chapters and affiliates of the Federation in every part of the nation. The message of the proclamation of the President of the United States is clear--the National Federation of the Blind deserves credit not only for our fifty years of achievement but also for the savvy we possess today--the ability to enlist support from the public, the press, and the members of Congress. Federation members know how to get things done. Our congressional resolution was introduced, passed, and signed by the President in less than six weeks.

One of the events occurring on November 16, 1990, was the grand opening of the National Braille and Technology Center for the Blind. In addition to the federal and state officials who participated in the celebration of our fiftieth anniversary, one Federationist who was present at our founding, and who has served the Federation for over five decades, assisted in the ribbon cutting. Hazel tenBroek, the first of our First Ladies, a Federationist with the faith to believe that the blind can create the destiny we want to achieve, remembered the days of our beginnings. Dr. tenBroek, she told us, could not have imagined that the Federation would have built so powerfully and well. But, she added, we have remained true to the hopes and beliefs of the founders of our movement, and although Dr. tenBroek might be astonished by the extent of the progress we have made and by the distance we have traveled toward our goal of first-class citizenship for the blind, he would also be immeasurably pleased.

At the ceremonies inaugurating the National Braille and Technology Center for the Blind, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan--who has been the leader of our Federation for a quarter of a century, the man with the imagination to create the National Center for the Blind and the skill to build it, the innovator who established the National Braille and Technology Center for the Blind-- introduced the Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, Nell Carney; the Director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Frank Kurt Cylke; the Attorney General of Maryland, Joseph Curran; and other state and federal officials.

The National Braille and Technology Center for the Blind is collecting in one place each commercially available computerized Braille embossing device and each piece of equipment or computer program to retrieve computerized information in speech which can be had anywhere in the world. Nowhere else is it possible to study all of these products at the same time and to compare their characteristics. Already dozens of employers and hundreds of other persons have visited the Center. We have answered volumes of mail and hundreds of phone requests for information. The vast majority of what we have done in the National Braille and Technology Center for the Blind has been directed toward helping blind people to know what equipment or piece of software can be used most effectively so that the blind individual can perform at a certain job, can study a given discipline, or can acquire the skills necessary to advance in employment or enter a new career.

As Federationists know, we have been operating a low-interest loan program for the last seven years. This program provides resources to blind individuals who need them in order to enter a job or enhance their present employment. This year we have launched, in conjunction of the opening of the National Braille and Technology Center for the Blind, an additional effort--the Technology Assistance Loan Program. With the same low interest rate--3%--we are providing the means for blind people to obtain technology for work, for study, or for any other useful purpose. Those who wish to examine technology and consider its purchase can do so at the National Braille and Technology Center for the Blind. It belongs to us--the National Federation of the Blind.

At our fiftieth anniversary convention, held last year, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan announced that we would be creating a time capsule to be opened on the hundredth anniversary of the Federation in the year 2040. One of the significant features of our movement is the leadership seminars. We have been conducting them for almost twenty years. Our movement has evolved and developed through the seminars. Consequently, it is fitting that the New Year's seminar for the end of 1990 (known as the "Now and Then Seminar") packed and sealed the time capsule. Chapters and affiliates from throughout the Federation sent material to be placed in the capsule. Each member of the "Now and Then Seminar" put several items inside, and all participated in bolting the cover to the case.

As Federation members know, we have long been a strong proponent of Braille literacy. We have distributed our magazine, the Braille Monitor, in Braille from its beginning. We provide slates and styluses at a lower cost than anybody else in the country, and we are the largest publisher of Braille material (other than the Library of Congress) in the nation. We have established the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille; we have supported research and development efforts to encourage Braille teaching and reading. We sponsor the "Braille Readers Are Leaders" contest each year. We encouraged the appointment (and we participated in the work) of a committee to study the establishment of a national certification for teachers of the blind in the use of Braille, and we have recommended a set of standards to be used in measuring the ability of such educators to perform the functions of reading and writing Braille.

A few months ago we initiated significant additional action further to support and encourage literacy for the blind. In response to widespread demand, we designed and distributed a model bill entitled the "Blind Persons' Literacy Rights and Education Act," to be recommended for adoption by state legislatures. This proposal would amend the laws in each of the states so that students who want to learn Braille or whose parents want them to learn Braille will get the chance to do it. Even though this new measure was circulated less than six months ago, it has been adopted in a number of states, including South Carolina and Kansas.

Perhaps our most innovative formulation of this legislation is the act which was recently passed by the Texas legislature. This measure not only directs that school districts make Braille teaching available to blind students, but it goes further. Textbook publishers who wish to sell material in Texas must also publish it in Braille or provide information on computer disk so that anybody with the proper computer and Braille printer can produce a Braille copy. There are those who have said that this landmark legislation was originated, developed, introduced, and promoted by the agencies for the blind. It is ever thus. After years of battling for the right to read (often against heavy opposition from some of the professionals in the field), the organized blind movement decided that something had to be done. We formulated a plan and devised a strategy to solve an urgent problem. Shortly after the conclusion of this convention, the governor of Texas will sign our Braille literacy bill in a public ceremony. Now that the work has been completed and the legislation adopted, the agencies are trying to get the credit. But it won't work. Let those who believe that Braille is outmoded or anachronistic hear our voice. We shall not be denied Braille. For the blind there shall be literacy. And we are not prepared to wait interminably to get it. And when I say we, I mean the National Federation of the Blind!

Our efforts regarding Braille literacy have attracted national attention. This spring National Public Radio interviewed me regarding the importance of Braille. The news item appeared on the nationally broadcast program "Morning Edition." The position of the National Federation of the Blind that Braille should be available to all blind people who wish to learn it was opposed by a representative of an agency for the blind. Braille, he asserted, was not for everybody. It is (he said) a specialized skill suitable only for a limited number of tasks to be performed by a restricted group of individuals. Besides, he implied, it doesn't contribute very much to an individual's ability to perform, and modern technology has made it largely obsolete. To which we answer, nonsense!

On Sunday, May 12, 1991, the New York Times carried a front-page story entitled "How Best to Teach the Blind: A Growing Battle Over Braille," which described the struggle of the blind to achieve literacy. Sighted agency administrators, it said, are not always highly supportive of Braille. The blind, it continued, feel differently. And who do you suppose was featured prominently as the most outspoken proponent of Braille? You know the answer as well as I do. It is the National Federation of the Blind.

Immediately following the publication of the New York Times article, the Scripps Howard News Service invited the Federation to write one of the arguments for its weekly syndicated point-counterpoint column, distributed to over 350 newspapers throughout the United States. We said just what you would expect: that Braille is valuable, that new technology is helpful but that it is no replacement for Braille, that those who are partially blind should use remaining vision but should also have Braille as an option, that sighted children have eyes and ears to get information and blind children should have ears and fingers to do the same, that resistance to Braille is often the result of prejudice against blindness and the techniques used by the blind, and that Braille can be competently read at several hundred words a minute. The other half of the argument, drafted by a representative from an agency for the blind, was predictable.

Last April the National Federation of the Blind served as a consultant to the "Sally Jessy Rapha‰l Show," a nationally televised interview broadcast. The producer called to get background information and material about blindness. An actor, Dana Elcar, who is one of the star performers on the "MacGyver" television show, is becoming blind. (He is, incidentally, participating in this convention.) The "Sally Jessy Rapha‰l" program was planning to feature his life along with other examples of successful blind individuals, and we were asked to supply information. What can a blind person expect to do? Especially, what can a blind actor hope to accomplish? We provided to the producer of the "Sally Jessy Rapha‰l" program quantities of information about successful blind people performing in a wide range of roles. As a result, a large segment of the feature on blindness portrayed one of our Federation leaders, Barbara Cheadle, president of the Parents of Blind Children Division of the National Federation of the Blind, along with her blind son Charles. When our telephone number was displayed on the television screen and repeated on the air, the switchboard at the National Center for the Blind was almost immediately jammed with calls. We sent hundreds of packets of information to interested viewers, and we responded to literally thousands of questions.

One of the people who learned about the National Federation of the Blind from this interview program was Dana Elcar. Within a few days he visited the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore, and we have worked closely together since that time. You will be hearing from him later in the week. Whether it is the teaching profession, the sales and marketing business, the manufacturing occupation, the lawyering trade, or an acting career, the blind can compete and do so successfully. We will find a way: that is the promise and the reality of the National Federation of the Blind.

For a quarter of a century blind people have sought employment in the Foreign Service of the United States. The State Department has steadfastly refused. At our convention in 1989 Congressman Gerry Sikorski of Minnesota came and shared the enthusiasm of the Federation for fairness and equality for all segments of society. He promised that he would lend his support to assist Federation members to gain the opportunity to enter the Foreign Service.

Last year I reported to you that the State Department had made its commitment to consider the blind for employment in Foreign Service jobs on equal terms with the sighted. No job had been offered, but the commitment had been made. Today, the circumstances are different. Rami Rabby, who is a long-time Federation leader and who is familiar with five different languages, is now a State Department Foreign Service employee. His assignment is in London. As Federationists know, we sometimes lose skirmishes; occasionally we lose battles. But we never lose wars--for the war is never over until we win it.

The National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC) came into being just about twenty-five years ago. From its very beginning NAC was the center of turmoil, political maneuvering, and discord. NAC's avowed purpose was to set high standards for work with the blind, but its real effort was directed at gaining control over blindness- related programs and services. There will be a full report on the status of NAC later during this convention. However, I am pleased to be able to tell you that events this year have evolved in such a way that the end of the NAC era appears to be close at hand.

We have continued to work toward solutions of the problems faced by blind employees in sheltered workshops. Workers at the Association for the Blind of Western New York, a sheltered shop in Buffalo, were receiving $2.51 an hour--substantially less than the minimum wage. We assisted with the formation of a labor union. The union, Local 200-C of the Service Employees International, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, and its local president have become staunch allies in the struggle to obtain adequate pay and decent working conditions for blind workers.

The workshop has continued to pay as little as $2.51 an hour to the blind. In contract negotiations with the union, shop management has refused to alter this policy. Because of the refusal by management to bargain, a federal mediator has been appointed. This is the first time that the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service has ever been used in a sheltered workshop pay dispute. Two dollars fifty-one cents an hour is not a fair wage. It isn't legal for the sighted, and we intend to see that it is no longer acceptable for the blind. The prevailing wage in the area is higher than the federal minimum established by law, and we intend to see that blind workers get their fair share. We who are blind know that we must produce the goods, but when we do, we must also be paid. And, incidentally, the Buffalo workshop is one of those NAC-accredited agencies. NAC can no longer be used as a shield for mismanagement or exploitation of the blind. We don't need NAC. Especially when it supports the payment of wages at the level of $2.51 an hour!

In August of last year I addressed the entire delegate assembly of the New York State AFL-CIO. The invitation came at the request of the Service Employees International Union--the representative of the blind workers at the Buffalo workshop. From the results of that meeting I can assure you that the commitment of the New York State labor movement to join with us in supporting blind workers is strong. The union officials are not willing to accept management's claim that the blind are worth less than the minimum wage. They have pledged to negotiate for a favorable contract through the federal mediation process, and they intend to work with us in the Congress to change the law so that subminimum wages are completely eliminated.

James Grasso is employed by the Rehabilitation Institute in Mineola, New York. He, a blind worker, is paid far below the federal minimum wage. Most of the time he receives a little over $1 an hour. Often, although he is required to be present at the shop for a full forty-hour week, he is given a job to do only part of the time, and he is paid only for the time that he works. As a result, his paycheck for a full forty-hour week is sometimes as little as $20.

Mr. Grasso does various hand-packing jobs, such as putting plastic utensils into bags. Sighted workers in competitive industry in the area are paid wages between $5.00 and $7.00 an hour for comparable performance. We are helping Mr. Grasso challenge the workshop's decision to pay him as little as $20 for a forty-hour week.

On June 20, 1991, just a few days ago, a hearing was held before an administrative law judge of the United States Department of Labor. Mr. Grasso's representative is James Gashel, our Director of Governmental Affairs and one of the most knowledgeable individuals in the nation regarding labor statutes applicable to the blind. We will know the results shortly. One thing we know for certain. With only $20 a week Mr. Grasso is in no position to contest the determination to pay such miserable wages. An argument with management requires skill, guts, and money. There must also be the backing of the law. Until only a few years ago there was no right for a blind worker receiving subminimum wages to petition the Labor Department for a wage hearing. In 1986, at the request of the National Federation of the Blind, the law was changed. In 1991 Jim Grasso is using this law and being represented by the blind of the nation. We have already changed the law. Now we must change the practice. This, too, is why we have formed the National Federation of the Blind.

Last year I reported to you about the case involving the unlawful payment of subminimum wages to workers at the Southwest Lighthouse for the Blind in Lubbock, Texas. When the workers filed a fair wage petition with the Department of Labor, management declared bankruptcy. But the workshop was not really broke. In a settlement involving the reorganization of the Lighthouse, all of the workers who had received less than the minimum wage were to be paid back wages totaling approximately $30,000. This $30,000 settlement was intended to repay the blind employees for management's violations of fair wage requirements prior to October 15, 1989. Beginning on that date the Lighthouse was required to pay every worker the proper wage as determined in accordance with standards of the Department of Labor. Unless the Lighthouse could show that a subminimum wage payment was warranted, all workers would receive at least the federal minimum wage. However, despite its agreement to do so, despite the order of the bankruptcy court, despite the determination of the Department of Labor, the Lighthouse is not paying. We are pursuing the Southwest Lighthouse for the Blind once again under the Fair Labor Standards Act. We are determined that management shall pay fair wages, and we are prepared to settle for nothing less. We are the National Federation of the Blind.

Programs of the Social Security Administration directly affect a large number of blind persons in this country. Consequently, we have sought improvements in Social Security such as the opportunity to select the rehabilitation agency that will provide the services purchased with Social Security dollars or better work incentive provisions for those receiving benefits. Not all of the suggestions we have made have been implemented, but a number of them have.

Susan Parker, the Associate Commissioner for Disability at the Social Security Administration, attended our 1990 convention. At our urging she made a strong commitment to reform the rehabilitation segment of Social Security. The first steps in that effort are now being taken. The new program, called Project Network, will be operated directly by the Social Security Administration.

The opportunity for Social Security recipients to choose the agencies, the programs, and the services which they receive will be a significant part of Project Network. Not all of the elements of this experimental program have been worked out. Even so, it is clear that the goal we have set (to provide blind persons with greater opportunities in the choice of rehabilitation and employment assistance) is being achieved.

We are also involved in a substantial number of Social Security appeals. Brian Conneely is a blind person living in Connecticut. He runs a small vending facility that provides him with an income of less than $10,000 annually. Three years ago the Social Security Administration sent Brian a letter saying that he had received disability insurance benefits for several years during which he was not entitled to them. The overpayment, they said, was more than $26,000. He made the proper appeal, but nothing happened. Then he came to the National Federation of the Blind.

Through our Connecticut affiliate, with backup assistance from the National Office, we are helping. A hearing was held on June 10, 1991. The conclusions we have reached are that Brian has not been overpaid, that he does not owe the money, and that he will not have to pay it back. We feel confident that the decision of the Social Security Administration will affirm our understanding. What would have happened to Brian Conneely, and others like him, if there were no National Federation of the Blind? The question is more than rhetorical. You know the answer, and so do I. Those who are blind cannot afford to be without the National Federation of the Blind.

When Russell Jeffreys, from Cincinnati, Ohio, received a notice from the Social Security Administration telling him that he owed the government almost $94,000, he hired a lawyer. But the lawyer lost the case. Although it was late in the appeal process, Russell Jeffreys called upon the Federation. Earlier this year a hearing was held. The case has not been concluded, but the initial results are recorded: The amount of the overpayment has been reduced by over $90,000, and we hope to have the Social Security benefits reinstated as well.

In another case involving an incorrectly calculated Social Security payment, the Federation made the difference. Because of the amount of the claim in this case, I will not indicate the name. For several years the individual had not been receiving all of the Social Security benefits to which she was entitled. Because of our intervention on her behalf, this staunch Federationist is now being paid the correct amount each month. She has also received a check for the money that should have been paid. The amount is over $91,000.

In a vending case dealing with Dennis Franklin of Kentucky, we have been able to reinforce a vital principle for blind vendors. In 1987, the day he was leaving to attend the convention of the National Federation of the Blind, Dennis had been summarily dismissed as the manager of a Postal Service cafeteria which he had successfully operated for many years. He came to the convention anyway. We encouraged him to appeal. It is not legal for a state agency to remove a blind vendor without notice and the opportunity for a hearing. As a result of our efforts, the state agency has been ordered to pay Dennis Franklin $16,000, and I am pleased to tell you that he has received the money.

Tom Linker and Frank Rompal have filed an arbitration against the California Department of Rehabilitation. Both of them were refused the opportunity for promotion within the vending program. If the rules for advancement had been observed, at least one of them would probably have been selected for a better location. The arbitration is now over, and a settlement has been reached. Both Linker and Rompal have obtained promotions, and the California Department of Rehabilitation has learned of the determination of the Federation to challenge arbitrary and capricious decisions. It would not have happened without the National Federation of the Blind.

Helen Eckman operates a vending facility in Alaska. She has been a leader of the Federation for a number of years. Consequently, she is knowledgeable about matters dealing with blindness, and she is familiar with the methods to secure her rights. When the rehabilitation agency circulated a contract with a notice to all vendors that they must sign it or be expelled from the vending program, Helen was suspicious. When she read the document, her suspicion was confirmed. The state agency had decided without consulting the vendors that it would charge a set-aside fee of five percent of the proceeds from each vending location. The decision had been made without following the requirements of Alaska law or of federal rules. Any vendor who did not sign immediately, agency officials said, would be expelled from the program.

Helen Eckman called our National Office. Working with vendors in Alaska, we prepared for legal action. But the rehabilitation agency backed down. Vendors were not required to sign the contract, and Helen Eckman did not lose her vending location. We in the National Federation of the Blind can protect ourselves, and when we must, we will.

In Tennessee we are helping Larry Reynolds to commence litigation to alter court-imposed limitations placed upon him in visiting his six-year-old daughter. He is presently required to visit his daughter in the presence of her mother, who is sighted, or in the presence of another sighted person acceptable to the mother. Larry Reynolds is a responsible and caring father. If he were sighted, the visitation rights would have been handled differently. On the grounds of his blindness he is being denied the right to visit his six-year-old daughter alone. This court- adopted policy is demeaning to the blind--to all of us. It says that the sighted are competent but that the blind are not. We must (it says) be supervised when visiting our own children. Such a pernicious belief about the blind cannot be left unchallenged. We have as much right to be with our children as anybody else, and we insist that we be accorded the same rights as others. Family relationships are among the most fundamental in our society. The blind will not be without them. This is another reason for the National Federation of the Blind.

Last year I reported that we were assisting Dave Schuh with an appeal of his dismissal as a supervisory accountant at a Pillsbury plant in Denison, Texas. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) in the United States Department of Labor, has conducted an investigation of the matter. The OFCCP findings support our conclusion that Dave Schuh was fired because he is blind.

Pillsbury officials were asked to try to reach a reconciliation. They offered Dave Schuh a job as a receptionist in the accounting office. He refused. They offered to pay him $11,000 if he would agree never again to seek employment with the Pillsbury company. He refused once more. During all of his time with Pillsbury Dave Schuh's work performance was among the best. The case is now in the hands of the Department of Labor's attorneys for enforcement. This means that, unless Pillsbury reverses the position it has taken, the company could be prohibited from receiving federal contracts for at least three years. The formal action being taken against Pillsbury (known as debarment proceedings) should begin within a few months. Dave Schuh is at this convention. He has moved to Wausau, Wisconsin, where he is president of our Central Wisconsin Chapter. His experience with Pillsbury has taught him a valuable lesson. It is necessary to have friends, and some of the toughest allies are the members of the National Federation of the Blind.

Mary Jo Edwards is a blind nurse living in Illinois. She studied hard to learn the skills of nursing, and she has demonstrated competence to perform the tasks required. Nevertheless, when she attempted to get her nursing license, she was told that she could not have it because she is blind. Mary Jo Edwards came to the National Federation of the Blind, and we helped her find a lawyer, and we supplied background information and materials. The case has now been settled, and Mary Jo Edwards has entered the nursing profession. Blind people shall not be prevented from working in the medical profession. This is true because of the work of the National Federation of the Blind.

One of our most important objectives is to educate the public about the abilities and capacities of the blind. In the past year we have been at least as effective in disseminating a positive image of blindness as we have ever been. We have shipped from the National Center for the Blind almost one and three-quarter million items. Our initiatives have attracted visitors from locations all over the globe: Canada, Germany, England, Pakistan, Denmark, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and the Caribbean. We have distributed our materials to countries all over the world: Bermuda, the Philippines, Spain, Japan, Australia, Czechoslovakia, Poland, countries in Africa, countries in Asia, and elsewhere. Dr. Jernigan has continued to serve as the president of the North America/Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union. During the past year he has traveled to Jamaica, Uruguay, Argentina, and Canada to represent our interests and exchange information. Although it is vital for us to address the problems of the blind in our own country, we must also work in partnership with the blind of other lands. If we do not, we will face mistaken attitudes about the blind as they are imported from abroad. But our increasing influence in affairs of the blind throughout the world has begun the process of initiating change.

Reaching more than 30,000 blind individuals in the United States and forty-three foreign countries, our magazine, the Braille Monitor, remains the most influential and widely circulated publication in the field of work with the blind. We have also continued the distribution of our other publications: Future Reflections, our magazine for parents and educators of blind children, now being circulated to more than 10,000 people; the Voice of the Diabetic, our journal for blind diabetics, being sent to more than 35,000 individuals and institutions; our Job Opportunities for the Blind Bulletins and related materials, of which we have distributed over 30,000; and the newsletters of our chapters, affiliates, and divisions. With the cassettes that we produce, the American Bar Association Journal, Presidential Releases, and other specialized items--we have become a major producer of recorded material. We have duplicated approximately 50,000 tape recordings since our last convention.

Our national headquarters, the National Center for the Blind, continues to be one of the most functional and impressive facilities of its kind in the world. We have placed approximately three miles of additional shelving on the second floor, and we are constructing additional office space and installing new equipment. The front entrance of our building is being redesigned to make it accessible for wheelchair users and to bring it in line with the standards of the National Center for the Blind.

The majority of our work has always been accomplished by volunteers. This is one of the elements that has made us the unstoppable movement we are. Whenever we need additional hands, we can call upon ourselves, the members. My wife Patricia is an example of what I mean. She spends almost full time volunteering her services at the National Center for the Blind. But of course, there are tens of thousands of others: the newsletter editors, the candy sellers, the JOB recruiters, the public relations coordinators, the writers, the drivers, the telephone callers--the people of the movement. We work together because we care for one another and for the goal we are striving to achieve.

There are some in the blindness field--fortunately a diminishing number--who still fail to comprehend what we are as a movement. Our critics at one end of the spectrum say that we are unthinking automatons and that we are radical and militant. Those at the other end of the spectrum say that we are overly conservative and reactionary--even, if you please, Neanderthal. Superficially this hostility seems out of proportion to reality. But of course, the reason is easy to understand. We in the Federation have something they don't--something they can't believe exists. We believe with all of our being that the blind are capable of equality, and we are willing to give of ourselves and our resources to make it come true. We are not only willing but glad to accept self-discipline and sacrifice to achieve the objective. Our cause is as noble as the will to be free. It is as just as the demand for first-class citizenship--and nothing on Earth can keep us from it. Let those who would stop us say what they will and call us what they please. We will not falter or turn back.

Within the past year I have traveled throughout the Federation and worked and dreamed with thousands of you the members. I have represented the blind of America in the White House, and I have shared a victory celebration supper of fried chicken and beans with you, my fellow Federationists, in the workshop in Buffalo, New York. As I have gone throughout the movement, I have felt a sense of authentic inner security and peace of mind. Of course, there are troubles aplenty, but we can solve them. There is a tacit understanding in the Federation. We accept individual responsibility for our own freedom, and we believe in our capacity to achieve it. The deep and abiding faith that we have in the future stems from our willingness to assist one another when the need is great and to join in the triumph of success. Those who have not been a part of this movement, who have not shared the commitment and the passion of bringing genuine togetherness to the blind, cannot believe that the spirit of our movement is real. But it is, and it makes us what we are. With such belief, such dedication, such mutual love and trust, and such determination, we will make our future what we want it to be. We are moving at an accelerating pace, and the realization of our dream for freedom and independence is within our reach. We the blind, organized in our tens of thousands, will gain our objectives through our own organization, the National Federation of the Blind. Our past declares it; our present proclaims it; and our future demands it! This is our pledge to each other--and this is my report to you for 1991.

 

NAC IN THE DEATH THROES: THE PASSING OF AN ERA

An Address Delivered by Kenneth Jernigan
Executive Director, National Federation of the Blind
At the Annual Convention
New Orleans, Louisiana, July 4, 1991

When the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC) came into being over a quarter of a century ago, it was clear from the circumstances of its creation, the nature of its operation, and the behavior of the people who were running it, that we were either going to have to reform it or kill it. It was also equally clear that reform was extremely unlikely. I remember those days very vividly.

In 1965 Dr. tenBroek and I attended a national meeting of home teachers in Denver, and a representative of the committee which was forming NAC was chairing the session. The teachers wanted to vote on an issue affecting them and were bluntly told no. The NAC representative said that he would be glad to report their views but that voting was not part of the process. Later in 1965 Dr. tenBroek and I attended a so-called consensus meeting in New York and saw closed meetings, heads of agencies for the blind turned away at the door, and such other arbitrary behavior that the word "consensus" was a bad joke. Nevertheless, in 1966 when I was asked to serve on the newly established NAC board, Dr. tenBroek and I decided that I should do it, if for nothing else to show that we were willing to go beyond the requirements of reason to try to find harmony and understanding.

The period from then to now is well-known history. From the very beginning NAC excluded the representatives of the blind from its meetings even though our programs and our lives were being discussed. We invited NAC's president to our 1971 convention at Houston--and he came, the very personification of arrogance and insensitivity. Nevertheless, we treated him with courtesy and listened respectfully to what he had to say. When, later that year, we asked that only two representatives of the blind be permitted to attend a NAC board meeting as silent observers with a pledge to say not a single word but just to listen, our request was rejected with ridicule and scorn. Beyond that, when I tried (in what had been an agreement of reciprocity for the presentation made by NAC's president at Houston) to make a statement to the NAC board, I was publicly attacked and abused, as was the Federation as an organization. At this stage I withdrew from the NAC board, and a new phase of our contact with the organization began.

NAC's highpoint probably occurred in the early 1970s. It was not only receiving money from the American Foundation for the Blind but also from the federal Rehabilitation Services Administration--but by mid-decade its federal funding had been withdrawn. In the early seventies it claimed that it would soon have most of the more than five hundred eligible agencies for the blind in the country as accredited members, but ten years later the momentum was gone. In the 1980s NAC was fighting a defensive action, and by 1990 it was losing agencies.

Meanwhile throughout the seventies and eighties the blind of the nation settled down for the long war. Wherever NAC went, we went. We picketed, presented ourselves at NAC board meetings to demand admittance, and relentlessly exposed the sham and shoddiness of NAC's accreditation procedures and standards. From the picket lines and demonstrations came spontaneous songs about NAC. There was a confrontation at NAC headquarters in New York in 1973 with a coffin, the hanging of NAC in effigy, a symbolic burial, and appropriate news coverage. Many of us in this audience were there. We not only carried the message to NAC but also to the public. With notable exceptions the NAC-accredited agencies (far from being models of excellence) had the reputation, as they still do, of being the worst in the nation. There were the scandals at the Minneapolis Society for the Blind, the Cleveland Society for the Blind, the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, the Alabama School for the Deaf and the Blind, and others. In the late 1980s the American Foundation for the Blind, which had always provided around fifty percent of NAC's budget, told NAC that it must either reform or be cut off at the pockets. In a scramble for survival NAC (one of whose long-time supporters, Grant Mack, was a member of the board of National Industries for the Blind) got that organization to pledge funds, but the show was coming to an end. Late last year, in an act of desperation, NAC apparently decided that if it couldn't get agencies for the blind to accredit voluntarily, it would force them to do it. It hired a lobbyist and tried to get Congress, when reauthorizing the federal Rehabilitation Act, to require that an agency must be NAC-accredited in order to receive federal funding.

This was finally too much. The sheltered shops rebelled; the federal/state rehabilitation programs rebelled; and the blind had already been rebelling. The end was clearly in sight. In desperation Grant Mack (the chairman of NAC's Committee on the Advancement of Accreditation) started to go state by state (in what one official of the American Foundation for the Blind wryly called "the Grant Mack road show") to drum up support. But it was too late. NAC backed away from its attempt to tie the receipt of federal funds to accreditation. It didn't matter.

What had been only a sham and a charade now became a trashy melodrama. In December of last year at a Grant Mack road show in Chicago, Mack tore a microphone from the hands of Steve Hastalis, a reporter for the Braille Monitor, and threw it to the floor, breaking it to pieces. When Mack was taken by the police in a paddy wagon for questioning, he tried to bluff it out. Then came the most bizarre behavior of all.

As reported in the May, 1991, Braille Monitor, Mack was summoned to appear in the Chicago courts on the criminal charge of battery. Mack didn't show but was represented by a lawyer, George Weaver. Ever since, the story has circulated that Mack says that the charges were dropped. This flies in the face of the warrant which was issued by the judge on February 11, 1991, for Grant Mack's arrest and which is still outstanding.

When contradictory claims are made, it is not always possible to be sure who is telling the truth; but when the truth can be determined beyond doubt, it is helpful in judging past and future assertions. Here is a letter from Grant Mack's lawyer printed in the May-June, 1991, Braille Forum as fact. It appears in an article entitled "Chicago Charges Against Grant Mack Gone With the Wind." This is a word-for-word quote of the lawyer's letter:

Re: Proceedings in the Circuit Court of Cook County

Dear Grant:

As I have previously advised you I appeared in court on your behalf on January 3 and filed our motion to quash the summons that had not been personally served upon you. The court granted my motion to quash the summons and further gave the state until February 11, 1991 to personally serve you with the summons. The Court further ordered that if personal service was not so obtained, that the action would be dismissed without the necessity of our appearing in Court.

Since we understand that you have not been personally served, there should be no further proceedings relative to this matter. I might further add that it is my opinion that not only are the allegations of the complainant ludicrous from a factual standpoint, even if accepted as being true, that does not set forth legal grounds for charging you with any criminal offense.

It has been my pleasure assisting you in this matter.

Very Truly Yours,
George Weaver, Esq.

Peggy Pinder, who is an attorney and also Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind, was present in the court on both January 3, 1991, and February 11, 1991. She tells me that the court did not grant Mr. Weaver's motion to quash the summons; that the judge did not say he would dismiss the action if Mr. Mack or his lawyer did not appear on February 11; that Mr. Weaver, who had tried to "smart off" to the judge, said he would not come back on February 11 and indeed did not do so; and that the judge, who seemed less than pleased, issued a warrant for Mack's arrest, which warrant is still outstanding.

What is the truth? Are we to believe a letter from an unknown lawyer in Chicago, or are we to believe Peggy Pinder and an official document of the court? Here is the exact language of the arrest warrant, a warrant which is still in effect:

In The Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois

People of the State of Illinois
vs.
Mack

Case No. 90-122467

Arrest Warrant

People of the State of Illinois to all peace officers in the state--Greetings:

We command you to arrest Grant Mack (Defendant) for the offense of Chapter 38, Section 123 (Battery). Stated in a charge now pending before this court and that you bring him before the Circuit Court of Cook County at Branch 134, 155 West 51st Street, or, if I am absent or unable to act, the nearest or most accessible court in Cook County or, if this warrant is executed in a county other than Cook, before the nearest or most accessible judge in the county where the arrest is made.

Issued in Cook County
February 11, 1991
Bail Fixed at $3,000

Information and Description of Defendant

Name: Grant Mack; Alias: ---; Residence: 2224 Panorama Way, Salt Lake City, Utah 84124; Sex: Male; Race: White; Weight: 170; Height: 5 feet, 7 inches; Age: 58.

So reads the arrest warrant--and without belaboring the matter further, let me just say that if Mr. Mack will let us know when he plans next to be in Illinois, we will be glad to inform the judge, who will probably be happy to give him a little time-- unless, of course, Mack wishes to spring for the $3,000 bail which has been set.

NAC's luck seems to have run out in 1991. On February 21 National Industries for the Blind officially declared that it would stop further funding of NAC after June of this year. Shortly thereafter it was learned that the American Foundation for the Blind had made the same decision. On April 7 NAC's board met in what must have been the most distasteful gathering it had ever held. First an attempt was made to reduce costs and streamline NAC's operation. The motion lost by a vote of ten to four. Then a motion was made "that the board of directors recommend to the membership... that NAC dissolve no later than May 31, 1991...." This motion carried by a vote of twelve to two.

A memorandum to NAC-accredited agencies and members from Joseph E. Champagne dated April 12, 1991, said in part: "On April 7, 1991 the board of directors of the National Accreditation Council met to discuss the future of NAC given the financial exigencies that have developed as a result of the decision of the National Industries for the Blind to discontinue financial support beyond June 30, 1991. Similar action is expected from the American Foundation for the Blind since the two support programs were linked. Therefore NAC does not have the financial resources to conduct business as usual beyond June 30, 1991. As a result, and after many hours of deliberation, the NAC board adopted a resolution to recommend to the membership that NAC be dissolved as of May 31, 1991, its financial obligations met to the extent feasible, and that every attempt be made to transfer its assets and mission to another entity or coalition of entities so that the valued and essential process of accreditation can be resumed but under new and more financially stable auspices."

After explaining that the board did not have the legal power to dissolve NAC, a decision which could only be made by the membership, Champagne went on to say: "I am calling a special meeting of the membership for Sunday, May 5, 1991 at 9:00 a.m. to be held at the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza Hotel at the La Guardia Airport in New York. I anticipate the meeting to be over by 1:00 p.m.... I urge each of you to attend or vote by proxy."

A proxy was included with the Champagne memo, but in usual NAC fashion it had been incorrectly drawn. So a new proxy had to be sent. Also in traditional NAC style the May 5 meeting was held in NAC's business-as-usual, high-handed manner. Melody Lindsey is a member of the board of directors of the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, a NAC-accredited agency, and Seville Allen is the chairperson of the board of the Virginia Department for the Visually Handicapped, also a NAC-accredited agency.

Both Ms. Allen and Ms. Lindsey went to New York on May 5 to attend the NAC board meeting. They were told that they would not be permitted to come into the meeting unless they signed a statement that they were visitors. When they objected on the grounds that they were board members of NAC-accredited agencies, they were treated with rudeness and ordered to sit in the back of the room. As best they could determine, only ten people were present who voted. Voting was done by show of hands, and Seville Allen and Melody Lindsey, being blind, could not tell who voted for or against dissolving NAC. Joseph Champagne, who chaired the meeting, said that (including the proxies) fifty-three votes were cast in favor of continuing NAC and forty-eight votes were cast in favor of dissolving NAC. The proxies were not publicly counted, nor were Seville Allen or Melody Lindsey permitted to examine them even though they asked to do so. There were four so- called "visitors" in the back of the room, including the two already mentioned. In view of NAC's often repeated claims of professionalism and its constant self-praise about the quality of its services to the blind and its ethics, it is instructive to examine Seville Allen's sworn statement concerning the tone and conduct of the May 5 meeting. Her affidavit says in part:

The meeting began at approximately 9:00 a.m., and the spokesperson identified himself as Joe Champagne, the NAC board chairman. He stated that the meeting was for one purpose and one purpose only and that was to vote whether or not to dissolve the NAC corporation.... He then called for the vote of the people in the room by a showing of hands and counted those for and against dissolving NAC. There was mumbling going on in the front of the room, and I could not hear what they said. Then the vote was announced, and Joe Champagne said there were fifty-three agencies against dissolving NAC and forty-eight for. I did not see any proxies, and I did not see them counted. I observed that ten people voted in the room. He announced that the agency was not dissolved, and the meeting was immediately adjourned. Then he announced the executive committee would meet later in the morning. Everyone left the room with the exception of the four of us sitting in the designated visitor's space. Briefcases were left in the front of the room, giving the impression that the executive committee meeting would be held in that room.

Dennis Hartenstine walked over to where the four of us were sitting and stated that the executive committee meeting would start in approximately five minutes and that the four of us were to leave the room. Two people left, and Melody Lindsey and I remained in our seats. Dennis walked toward us and asked me if I was leaving.

I said that I was not, that I was going to stay and observe the meeting since I was the chairman of the board of an accredited agency. He insisted that we had to leave. I remained in my chair. He said that they had opened the membership meeting, which they had not planned to do, but the executive committee was closed to all but the executive committee. I stated that we were interested persons from boards of accredited agencies and that we planned to stay and observe the proceedings of the executive committee meeting. Melody Lindsey said that she was from the board of an accredited agency and that she was therefore interested in seeing what NAC planned to do.

Dennis asked me if I intended to make an issue of attending. I said that I did not plan to make an issue; I planned to sit quietly in my chair and observe. He said that corporate members are not invited to the executive committee meeting, and I said that they could be.... He stated that he would not carry on a conversation with me. I did not respond to that. He angrily stated that since I would not listen to him, he would have the hotel security come in and have a conversation with me and perhaps I would listen to the hotel security. I did not respond. I remained in my seat, and he left the room, yelling and closing the door.

Melody Lindsey and I remained in the room an additional forty minutes. No one from hotel security appeared. However, during the forty minutes a woman entered, came to the back of the room next to where I was sitting, told me that my cane was lying on the floor, picked it up, and handed it to me.

I said, "thank you." The woman left. After she left, someone else came in, walked around the front of the room, then left. I walked around and checked, and the briefcases were gone. Several times someone opened the doors and closed them again.

After the forty-minute wait we left the meeting room, and as we walked toward the elevator, we observed that the NAC meeting was being held in another meeting room. Apparently NAC officials had slipped into the meeting room, quietly retrieved briefcases and other belongings, and adjourned to other quarters--all without saying a word to us. This deliberate deception practiced against blind individuals who were not in a position to observe the clandestine behavior is noteworthy from an agency which purports to set standards to govern agencies for the blind. This behavior is an example of the reason that Melody Lindsey and I were concerned over the planned future actions of NAC.

That is the sworn statement of Seville Allen, and that is also the shabby behavior of the organization which claims to set standards and act as a role model for ethical behavior in the blindness field.

It is clear that there were deep divisions in the NAC board- -for the president, Joseph Champagne, and the vice president, Evelyn Ullman, resigned at the closed executive committee meeting from which Seville Allen and Melody Lindsey were excluded. It is also obvious who the two people were who voted at the April 7, 1991, NAC board meeting to continue to fight on instead of dissolving NAC, and who now control what is left of NAC. They can be none other than Dr. N. Edd Miller (a total outsider, who is probably well-intentioned but knows nothing whatever about blindness and the problems in the blindness field) and Dr. Richard Welch (a staunch advocate of custodialism, who has repeatedly demonstrated that he is no friend of independent blind persons, especially those who have the impertinence to organize and speak for themselves).

All of this is shown in a memorandum sent on April 16, 1991, from Dr. Welch to the NAC agencies and members. In that document he said in part: "As a member of the board, I voted against this resolution [the April 7 resolution to dissolve NAC] because I think there is a way to keep accreditation by NAC available and because I think we absolutely need to maintain a specialized accreditation process in our field. I am sharing my thinking with you in the hope that you might be persuaded to not dissolve the National Accreditation Council and the important and effective service it provides. I am joined in this appeal by Dr. N. Edd Miller, an experienced accreditation professional from outside our field who has served in recent years as the chairman of NAC's Commission on Accreditation."

In his April 16 memo Dr. Welch went on to explain what he thought could be done to keep NAC alive--and beyond that, make it more to his liking. It could, in effect, flee from the city, where it had lost the battle, and retreat into the hills to carry on long-term guerilla warfare and continue to cause divisiveness in the blindness field. The staff could be reduced to a skeletal remainder, and a small group of "old boy," hand-picked volunteers could carry on the bitterness, remember nonexistent pretended glory, and hope for a miracle that would bring better days--in short, live in a world of lost dreams and might-have-beens. It is not difficult to read through the niceties of phraseology in the Welch memo. Here is what he says:

In my view, the way for NAC to survive is for it to streamline its accreditation process and its organizational structure to the point where it can operate within the level of revenues that can be generated by dues alone. If this can be done, NAC would be removed from the situation in which it is dependent on other organizations and other factors for its funding, factors which have no direct relevance to accreditation.

For this to work, a dues increase of ten to twenty percent, depending on the size of the agency's budget, would be necessary. As the process is streamlined, the cost to the accredited agencies of the self-study and the on-site review visit would be reduced, softening the impact of increased dues. Similarly, the review and decision-making process by the Commission on Accreditation could also be reduced and made more affordable. The Commission on Accreditation might also take on the policy-making function for the organization, making a large board unnecessary.

Such a streamlined process [Dr. Welch continued] would require less staff to manage it. One accreditation professional, one secretary, and a part-time bookkeeper would be all that would be necessary.... The growing cadre of experienced and enthusiastic volunteers who have been doing on-site reviews for NAC for many years could manage staffless on-site review teams under most circumstances, could work with new agencies applying for accreditation, and could participate in other special projects such as promoting programmatic accreditation.

If its current lease could be re-negotiated, NAC's office could move out of New York.... With a reduced staff, less expensive space could be rented elsewhere, perhaps in-kind services could be provided in the form of donated space in another organization.

This is the Welch memo, and it is not hard to read between the lines. NAC has always operated with as much secrecy as possible. Its real landlord is not the owner of the New York building in which it occupies space but another tenant. It subleases from the New York New Jersey Trail Conference, and that organization has expressed considerable concern that NAC might simply pack up and skip town regardless of the thousands of dollars remaining on its lease. Officials of the Trail Conference indicated no knowledge of some of NAC's perturbations and showed a good deal of unease at what might await them.

Officials of the Trail Conference said that Dennis Hartenstine, who left NAC employment at the end of May, indicated that he thought the rest of the NAC board (besides Miller and Welch, of course) would probably resign during the summer and that, as he put it, an "associated committee of supporters" would be stepping in as the new board at a meeting in late July or early August. A Trail Conference official also said that Hartenstine indicated that NAC had been offered a small amount of space at no cost in Washington, D.C., increasing the jumpiness of the Trail Conference official.

Be this as it may, Dr. Miller (or, more probably, the real boss, Dr. Welch, speaking in the name of Dr. Miller) lost no time in contacting NAC's members, a number of whom are said to be requesting a return of all or part of the money they have paid to NAC for current dues. Under date of May 6, 1991, Miller (or Welch speaking in the name of Miller) sent a memo to the shrinking NAC flock to give courage and boost morale. Miller outlined his version (or, perhaps more realistically, Dr. Welch's version) of what had occurred at the meeting the day before. He then concluded by saying:

"I am pleased to be able to communicate this information to you. The threatened loss of NAC's specialized accreditation process has created the opportunity for the development of an accreditation program that will efficiently and effectively meet the needs and requests of the accredited members, sponsors, volunteers, and consumers of services for persons who are blind and visually impaired. I look forward to being a part of this worthwhile effort, and working with all of you as we achieve our goals."

Meanwhile (just a day later) on May 7, 1991, the Advisory Committee on Accreditation and Institutional Eligibility of the federal Department of Education was scheduled to consider NAC's petition to continue to be recognized by the Secretary of Education as an accrediting agency, but in view of its chaotic state and desperate situation NAC had petitioned the Committee to postpone consideration of its status until a later time. I appeared before the Committee on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind to urge that NAC not be allowed to avoid the inevitable by hiding behind delay--but NAC used the dodge of not showing up at all, so consideration of its status was put over until the fall meeting. However, I was permitted to talk briefly with the Committee and to distribute literature to them, which in the circumstances I believe they will read. I was also assured that, regardless of the excuse, NAC would not be able to get a delay beyond the fall meeting of the Committee. At that time NAC must either stand and deliver or face the consequences--and you may rest assured that we will be present to press our case.

In the time I was allowed to speak I pointed out to the Committee that NAC does not now meet, and probably never has met, the requirements of the Department of Education to be recognized as an accrediting agency. The criteria for recognition include nine major points, and NAC fails to meet the standards in at least three respects: Accreditation is not required for programs or students to receive federal assistance in the blindness field; NAC is not generally accepted in the blindness field; and NAC does not have the resources to carry out its activities. Assuming NAC's ghost is still alive in the fall, we will see how it defends itself before the Committee.

In considering NAC's nonperformance and the controversy surrounding it during the past year, you have to wonder why any self-respecting agency doing work with the blind would be willing to continue to have its name associated with NAC, and I doubt that many of them will--at least, not for much longer. For a quarter of a century NAC and its supporters have bullied and threatened, tried to force agencies to join them by implying that those who would not would be branded as substandard, used accreditation as a shield to protect the poorest agencies in the field, and sought to build an empire of custody and control--but they have failed, utterly failed. They are bankrupt, not only financially but also morally and spiritually. They are a blight upon the field of work with the blind, the largest remaining controversial issue to cause strife and dissension.

As we approach the beginning of the twenty-first century, the blind of this country confidently look forward to a day at hand when we can truly have first-class citizenship and real equality in society, just like the rest--when we can have a good- paying job and the joys of a home and a family of our own, just like the rest--when we can hold our heads high in self-respect and the respect of others, just like the rest--when we can earn our way and pay our dues and live our freedom, just like the rest--when we can wake in the morning without fear or poverty, just like the rest--when we can hope and believe and dream, just like the rest--and especially when whatever we have is ours as a matter of right, whether it be great or small, not a dole portioned out to us by agencies like NAC, who mislead the public, live at our expense, and act as if they are our superiors, which they are certainly not. We look forward to that day, and we intend to have it because we have found the power of collective action. We have found, we have created, we have lived the National Federation of the Blind. And one of the things we absolutely will put behind us forever is the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped. No more NAC. My brothers and my sisters, our future is bright with promise. Let us go with joy to meet it.

 

REFLECTING THE FLAME

An Address Delivered by MARC MAURER
President, National Federation of the Blind
At the Banquet of the Annual Convention
New Orleans, Louisiana, July 5, 1991

"Human history," said H. G. Wells, "is in essence a history of ideas."

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., declared that "men may come to believe that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market."

In 1644 John Milton wrote, "Let Truth and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?"

At the beginning of the sixteenth century Erasmus stated, "Time reveals all things."

Such eminent scholars have believed that a new idea--one which expresses perceived reality more exactly than its predecessor--is, in and of itself, imbued with sufficient power to banish error. According to these philosophers, the innovative thought (once formulated) will inevitably, in the course of time, replace the old. However, the record of events in our own century fails to substantiate this hypothesis. We have seen the most generous and benevolent of creeds and the most despicable and tyrannical of practices exist in the same country at the same time without any indication that either was unalterably fated to triumph. The assertion of individual freedom and the toleration of slavery have occurred side by side in modern civilization--and racism (of both kinds, incidentally) is still with us.

If the objective in seeking the truth is to achieve fairness and decency--and I believe it is--time and a new idea are not enough. Within the framework of time there must be at least three components that come together. First, an idea must be conceived which contains an element of understanding that has not previously been reached. Second, a proponent of that idea must arise--a leader with the capacity to articulate the nuances in a way that will compel recognition. And finally, there must be a group of individuals prepared to defend what has been propounded. Such concert of effort is essential not only to protect the new thought but to give it body and substance, to explore its full meaning and implications.

In a fireplace one log by itself, regardless of how big, will almost certainly fail to burn. There must be at least two. The flame from one is reflected by the other. The brightness and heat come from the space between the logs, the reflection of the flame.

As it is with flame, so it is with ideas. A new idea has only a limited time to take fire, to catch the imagination of the public and burn. And if the flame is to be reflected--the kindling point sustained--more than a single person is required. There must be two, five, ten--at least a handful--to build the heat and speed the process. Regardless of its merit, if an idea (once ignited) fails to reflect the flame of group interaction, its time will soon pass, and it will disappear into insignificance and be forgotten. Of course, an idea can be revived (many times, in fact, if the need is sufficiently urgent), but the process must always begin anew. And if the idea is to live and prosper--if it is to make a meaningful difference in the lives of people--all of the elements must be present: the idea, a leader, and at least a handful to reflect the flame.

And what of the blind--what of us? Time and time again throughout our history one or another of the elements has been present: the idea of a better life for the blind; a leader, like Zisca, the blind fifteenth-century general and statesman from Bohemia; or a group of blind people, like the medieval guilds, prepared to take collective action. But in each instance, there was something lacking. However, in 1940, all of the elements came together--a new idea; a vibrant, inspiring leader; and a dedicated group of blind persons prepared to help each other in shaping the future. In that year Dr. Jacobus tenBroek and a handful of others from seven states gathered in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, to inaugurate our movement, which has changed forever the expectations and aspirations of the blind.

When the National Federation of the Blind was founded, the prospects for the blind of this country were utterly desolate. There was little education, almost no hope of a job, and virtually no chance for meaningful participation in other activities of life. Books for the blind were few and very difficult to get. Communication among blind people (at least on a nationwide basis) was almost nonexistent. The guarantee (or, for that matter, the recognition) of meaningful civil rights for the blind was a matter for the distant future--if anybody thought about it at all. Sometimes there were dreams of a home, a family, and the duties and privileges of citizenship; but these dreams rarely came to fruition. From such unpromising beginnings almost no one (no one, that is, except the founders of the Federation) believed that a dynamic national movement could arise. But look about you! We are here in our thousands--we who embraced the new idea, hoped and fought for a brighter tomorrow, and stayed to become the most powerful force in the affairs of the blind in the nation--the National Federation of the Blind.

Tonight (over fifty years after our founding) as we gather from every corner of the country, our record of accomplishment spans the years for all to read. Indeed, not all of our problems have been solved--but many have. And those that remain appear more glaring and unrelieved because of the distance we have come from the beliefs and general climate of the 1940s. To confirm this fact, compare the conditions of our first decade with our situation today. How do the general public, the agencies for the blind, and the media view us--and, for that matter, how do we view ourselves? How have we fared in half a century?

Attitudes today are so much better and more realistic than they were during the first years of the Federation that we tend to react with outrage and resentment when we find instances of what would have been commonplace in our first decade--especially when the outmoded ideas come from supposedly enlightened quarters.

Consider, for instance, one treatment of the blind by the medical profession--generally regarded as among the most scientific of the disciplines. Although these statements were made only four years ago, they are reminiscent of the attitudes which predominated when the Federation came into being. In an article entitled "Identifying and Treating the Client with Sensory Loss" (which appeared in the Summer, 1987, issue of Physical & Occupational Therapy in Geriatrics) the argument is made that decreased visual function causes decreased cognitive function. In other words, if you can't get information from your eyes, your capacity to think diminishes. Perhaps it is obvious that if there is no stimulation whatever from any sensory organ, there will be no raw material to use in the thinking process. If this were all that was meant, no one could quarrel with it. However, the article demonstrates unmistakably that the claim being made is much broader. As you ponder this so-called scientific treatise, keep in mind that the grammatical construction and usage are those of the author--not mine. And also keep in mind that the author is talking about you and me. Here are quotations from the article:

Impaired vision can result in a person behaving as though they were demented. Low vision decreases an individual's social interaction due to the inability to perceive non-verbal cues such as smiles, frowns, gestures, and even recognition of faces. Snyder, Pyrek, and Smith found a direct inverse relationship between vision impairment and mental acuity.

I remind you that this is not a passage from an ancient, hoary work of mysticism. It is less than five years old. And I must say that this supposedly objective author packs a lot of prejudice (and a good deal of ignorance) into a very few words. In this one brief excerpt, she says that the blind may exhibit the behavior of the demented, that we are unable to interact socially, and that the less we can see the more we can't think. And in case there is any doubt about the attitude of the writer toward the blind, consider this recommendation from that portion of the text containing so-called "strategies to help." Remember that the person about whom this advice is being given is blind--not emotionally traumatized, not mentally unhinged, not psychologically deranged--just blind.

It is important [the author says] to avoid moving personal belongings and furniture without the consent of the visually impaired client, especially in the client's home.

A brief quotation, not dramatic--but examine the nuances. Do the medical professionals you know come to your residence to rearrange the furniture? Is it assumed that one of their responsibilities is to decide what pattern should be established in your home--presumably, of course, just for your own good? Or is this simply another variation of the ancient myth not only that we who are blind memorize the location and arrangement of all items in our homes but also that movement of anything will visit disorientation and danger upon the unfortunate automatons who live there?

Such fables and stereotypes (even when surrounded with the trappings of science) are still only fables and stereotypes. Their placement in the literature of the medical profession does not change their pseudoscientific nature. They are as ridiculous and as devastating to the future of the blind as any of the misbegotten, benighted theories of the Middle Ages--or the 1940s--or, for that matter, last week or yesterday. They are not a description of reality but a reiteration of ignorance. Blindness does not mean that we have lost our sanity, our ability to think, or our interpersonal skills. Let those who doubt our capacity come to this convention. We will interact socially with the best of them; we will continue to think for ourselves; and we will make the plans and take the actions to determine the shape of our own tomorrow. We have the ideas; we have the leadership; and we have the people. Nothing can prevent us from going the rest of the way to freedom, for we will not let it happen. We have reached the kindling point, and we absolutely intend to reflect the flame.

As members of the National Federation of the Blind know, an increasing number of our experiences with the scientific community are not negative but positive. In fact, many of us work as members of the scientific establishment. There are blind physicists, blind chemists, blind electrical engineers, and blind computer scientists. Then, too, there are the mathematicians.

The cover story of the May 13, 1989, edition of Science News describes the work of Bernard Morin at Louis Pasteur University in Strasbourg, France. One specialty of mathematics is topology, the study of the relationship of shapes. A classic problem in topology is how to reverse the surface of a sphere (turn it inside out) without permitting it to crease. The solution to this (and other abstruse conundrums) has helped resolve problems in disciplines outside mathematics--such as molecular biology, particle physics, and cosmology. Although it has been theoretically possible to perform this sphere reversal (known as an eversion), nobody has been able, until recently, to describe the concept in three-dimensional terms. However, the problem has now been solved. And how do you suppose the solution was reached? Here are excerpts from the Science News article:

Morin [the article tells us] starts with a cuboctahedron, which looks like a cube with its corners lopped off, [and] transforms the cuboctahedron into a curiously shaped figure, which he calls the "central model," with only twelve faces. A sequence of six elementary moves carries the central model through the tricky stages of the eversion. A final flurry of moves produces an octahedron again, now turned inside out.

Quoting the scientist George K. Francis the article continues:

Bernard Morin is not distracted, like the rest of us, by pencil and paper and the business of drawing and looking at pictures. He is blind. With superb spatial imagination, he assembles complicated homotopies [transformations] of surfaces directly in space. He keeps track of temporal changes in the double curves and the surface patches spanning them. His instructions to the artist consist of a vivid description of the model in his mind.

This report in Science News illustrates the fundamental proposition that understanding is not a matter of visual acuity--but even in doing this, it shows the power of the outmoded stereotype. Morin, we are told, is not distracted like the rest of us by pencil and paper and the business of drawing and looking at pictures. He is blind--and so, presumably, in a rarefied inner world of his own, not troubled by the humdrum images of everyday life. Nonsense! If he is intelligent, he is intelligent. Blindness has nothing to do with it.

Most of us do not know and could not imagine why the topological problem of the French mathematician is important. But we can readily understand that the blind are as capable as others of addressing and solving complex questions. The factor limiting our progress is, as it has always been, the failure of society to believe in our ability. It is not the absence of the visual image that stifles growth, but the failure of imagination. Not all of us are scientists, but some of us are. Not all of us aspire to study mathematical relationships, but all of us insist that those with the talent and desire to participate in this exacting discipline should be able to do it. With such commitment we will expand our horizons and create greater opportunity. With such dedication we have built the National Federation of the Blind. With such determination we reflect the flame.

A recently published collection of character sketches by Amy Hempel entitled At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom contains a one-sentence description of an encounter with a blind man. Apparently without giving it a thought, the author reinforces the belief that the blind are incompetent, that we are very often lost, that we do not have the ability to perceive our surroundings, that it is customary and decent to give preference to the blind, that very often the primary interest of our lives is food, and that we are pathetic. It is all accomplished in a single sentence, done with fewer than twenty-five words. Here they are: "Today, when a blind man walked into the bank, we handed him along to the front of the line, where he ordered a B.L.T."

Dramatic? No, of course not. In the story the incident is unemphasized, routine, taken for granted. A blind man walks into a bank, is automatically moved to the head of the line, and then is so disoriented that he orders a sandwich instead of money. If we aren't careful, the significance is so astonishing as to be lost in the shuffle of the everyday. The author finds this occurrence so commonplace that it is unemphasized, routine, taken for granted. That is precisely the point. More often than not our road to hell has been paved with things which have been unemphasized, routine, and taken for granted. But no more! We have the idea; we have the leaders; and we have the drive to work together, to support each other, and to advance our movement. We have reached the kindling point, and we intend to reflect the flame.

In the spring of 1990 Newsweek magazine reported in an article entitled "Making the Most of Sight" that, "After AIDS and cancer, the medical crisis Americans fear most is blindness. Not being able to see the stark outline of a winter tree," the article tells us, "or the final scene of 'Casablanca'--the loss is almost unimaginable." When I read this item from Newsweek, I was struck by the contrast contained in those first few lines. AIDS and cancer kill. Blindness does not. So what is the almost unimaginable loss? Is it really so bad to be without the visual impression of a tree in winter? Is it truly of vital importance to observe visually the final scene in a movie? Does blindness mean that we cannot enjoy art or appreciate the experience of nature? Many (far too many) of the sighted would say yes, but we who live with blindness every day emphatically say, no! After all, we are the ones with the data to know. Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that there is (at least for this blind person) much joy to be gained from a brisk walk in a winter wood. Is the joy as much for me as for my sighted neighbors? One is tempted to ask, "Who cares?" The experience is exhilarating, fulfilling. That is sufficient. When our lives are diminished, it is not our blindness that does it but the misconceptions and oddball notions we face. It is not the failure to see the stark outline of a winter tree that gives us trouble but some of the stark attitudes we have to deal with.

Let me be clearly understood. I am not saying that sight is not useful. Nor am I arguing that it is wrong to try to improve one's ability to see--quite the contrary. However, I am saying that sight is not a requirement for a good life--not the beginning and the end of existence. We who are blind are not automatically prevented from having joy, satisfaction, and fulfillment; and those who believe otherwise are simply misinformed.

An advertisement published in the Guy-Gannett newspapers in Maine about a year ago says: "Illiteracy is a little bit like blindness. Both are handicaps. And both mean you can't see everything. A person who can't read can't really see the morning paper or a child's report card, a street sign or a prescription. Fortunately, illiteracy is a handicap one can overcome." Implied in this advertisement is the notion that both blindness and illiteracy make a person unable to function but that although both of them are bad, at least illiteracy can be changed. For the blind, apparently, there is not much hope.

What a distortion! To be blind is not to be ignorant, and we are not prepared to permit such a portrayal of ourselves. Federationists in Maine took the newspaper to task. Rank-and-file members communicated their indignation to the newspaper's management--and the combination worked. Within a few days a retraction appeared. The blind are capable, and we intend that the public shall recognize this fact. Newspapers, some of the most powerful shapers of public opinion, often reflect the misconceptions that are a part of the public image of blindness. But when it comes to blindness, they are not the authorities. They must learn from us. In half a century we have gained more knowledge and experience about blindness than anybody else, and we know how to apply the lessons we have learned. Regardless of the source, we simply will not accept ignorance about blindness without protest. We have a right to expect a public image that will not stifle our hopes or limit our opportunities, and we have formed the most powerful organization that the blind have ever known to get the job done. You know the name of that organization as well as I do--the National Federation of the Blind.

There are a number of university programs which attempt to instruct teachers of the blind. Some of the most obnoxious presentations about blindness may be gathered from the literature being disseminated in these academic settings. Consider a description of the blind contained in course materials currently being distributed at San Francisco State University. An article by Mary Morrison entitled "The Other 128 Hours a Week: Teaching Personal Management to Blind Young Adults"1 asserts that many blind adults do not know how to make a peanut butter sandwich, have not learned to pour cereal into a bowl, have not been taught to purchase items from the grocery store, are unable to handle money, cannot boil water on the stove, are unfamiliar with the location of the refrigerators in their own homes, and are so weak that they cannot lift a pitcher to pour water. Unless you study some of this material for yourself, you will have difficulty believing that the prejudice can be as pervasive and deep-seated as it really is. Perhaps the segment of this article which begins with the caption "can openers" will illustrate the point. Notice the folksy manner of speech used to help persuade the student that the statements being made are accurate. Here is what the author says:

Now, I believe, we are up to the can openers. Each can opener seems to have a special trick to operating it. And, nearly without exception, the blind young person is not even allowed to try to use it. In any event we turn to the manual can opener that mother finds in the back of some drawer, and then we run into the "strength" problem. Opening a can requires strength.

I can immediately think [the author continues] of five young people on our caseload who are not considered to be handicapped other than by their blindness, who cannot lift a full two-quart pitcher to pour from it. I first learned this when I naively asked a 21-year-old college student to pour a cup of coffee from a fresh pot on his stove. Not only did the heat terrify him, he actually could not lift the coffee pot off the stove! Why? He and the others never lift anything! They do not exercise. They do nothing but go to school (which exempts them from physical education), go to church, and watch television. Their arms are limp. So we have to go back to the beginning with pitcher, partly full, with cool water, and learn how to pour.

That is what the author says, and one is tempted to pass off such drivel with the remark that no serious-minded human being could be taken in by the idiocy. Of course, there are occasional blind people who cannot find the stove or tie their shoes. However, to generalize from these isolated cases that the blind are incapable of a wide array of the simplest daily chores is, to put it mildly, utter nonsense. But those who would dismiss these course materials have not reckoned with the pedestrian nature of certain professional educators who teach the teachers of the blind. Along with the article I have quoted are included separate evaluation sheets constructed so that the person teaching the blind client can record the progress of the student. One of the categories to be registered in these evaluations is--if you can believe it--pouring. The evaluation sheet for Level I contains the category "Pouring--Cold liquids." In Level III the student has progressed to "Pours hot liquids." In Level IV the entry is "Pours (advanced)." What, one wonders, is included in the arcane science of "advanced pouring"?

The insufferable arrogance inherent in these writings is epitomized in the explanation of the title, "The Other 128 Hours a Week: Teaching Personal Management to Blind Young Adults." The underlying premise of this outline of teaching techniques for instructors of the blind is that almost all of the schooling for blind recipients of rehabilitation has been directed toward the skills needed for sedentary employment and that it is the job of the rehabilitation counselors to teach them how to manage their leisure and personal activities. In each week there are seven 24- hour days. Forty hours are used for work. So what do the blind do with the other 128 hours a week? The bombastic conclusion is that without the ministrations of the so-called "professionals" of rehabilitation, we might be faced with the prospect of sitting around doing nothing. As the author says, we just mostly go to school, go to church, and watch television. Don't you believe it! Those who have been to this convention could tell her otherwise.

I have been reading documents from the "professional literature" about blindness for more than twenty years, and I cannot remember ever running across one which contained so little discernment. Where do such people get these ideas? Think about it. Do you have the strength to operate a can opener? Can you make a sandwich or pour a cup of coffee? They are writing about you and me. They tell us--and anybody else who will listen--that they have come to help. But we don't want such assistance--and we don't need it. Of course, like anybody else, we need education; and we also need training in the skills of blindness--but in matters such as those described, we can and we will do for ourselves. The description of the blind by this author as little more than basket cases is among the principal obstacles preventing us from becoming successful, competent people. But we are changing the image. We have reached the kindling point, and we intend to reflect the flame.

One Friday evening a few months ago, I reached into my mail basket and found a letter from a man from New Jersey. If his story were unique, it would be poignant enough--but it is not unique. It is an everyday occurrence in the lives of tens of thousands of the blind of this country, underlining with grim insistence the need (yes, the necessity) for the National Federation of the Blind. The details, reported in an article published in an Atlantic City newspaper, show once more why we have organized and what we must do. Here, as told by the reporter, is the saga of Bill, whose real name, for obvious reasons, I have not used:

What happens to a man who suddenly loses the tools he used to measure his worth in the world?

What happens to a man when he turns to those whose very job it is to help him, and he is ignored?

This is what happened to one man.

On a Saturday morning in the summer of 1988, he woke up blind.

At once, he denied what was obvious.

He washed and dressed and picked up the morning paper--a habit as fixed as pulling on his pants. He couldn't read it. He put it down, said nothing, and left the house.

He drove to the office, slowly, deliberately, guessing at the traffic lights he could not see.

When he arrived at the office, he was alone. He sat down at his computer terminal, and there confronted the cold fact that he could not see the copy he was supposed to type.

Bill started to come undone.

He had no idea what would happen next. He had worked as a typesetter and computer operator all of his adult life. What could he do now?

Bill saw the publisher of the paper. When he explained to her what had happened, she offered him a handshake and two words: "Good luck."

The next day, Bill registered for state disability payments. He would receive less than half of his old salary.

He doesn't sit still well. Retirement was never part of his life's plan. Work was all. He needed to regain his workday world. He needed a start.

It was October when he called and spoke with a receptionist [at the New Jersey Commission for the Blind]. She said a representative of the commission would get in touch. Soon afterward a caseworker called to make an appointment.

He arrived full of assurances.

Bill told him what had happened. He spoke of his work as a computer operator and supplied the caseworker with his medical history. He also spoke of the long and lonely days he had been living through.

"I told him I was going nuts. He asked me what I liked to do, and I said, 'read--but I can't even do that.' I told him, 'I need to find a job.'

"He said, 'You have been paying into the system all of your life, now it is time to reap the benefits.'"

The caseworker was sympathetic. He said he would provide a cassette player for Bill and arrange for him to receive books on tape from the library.

Bill was led to believe that the commission would help him return to work. He was told he would need a medical examination. He was told the commission would pay the doctor's bill and instructed to wait until the appropriate forms were assembled. The caseworker said he would call when everything was in place to make the appointment.

The commission appeared to be a godsend. Here, Bill thought, was more than a promise to help; here was the way back into the world.

During the weeks that followed that first meeting with the caseworker, Bill grew anxious. He made several calls to the commission's offices. None was returned.

November turned into December. Bill had been out of work for more than three months, a fact made all the more harsh when he realized that his [medical insurance] coverage had been cut off on September 1.

It was early in December when the caseworker called again with the go-ahead to schedule a medical exam. Bill was told to call back with the date arranged so the forms for payment could be forwarded to the doctor. He did, and on December 7, Bill saw his doctor.

Bill left the doctor and stepped up to the receptionist's desk. He asked her about the forms. She said they had received no forms. He paid for his visit. A few days later, the caseworker called to arrange another meeting.

"He was here for maybe ten minutes. I told him I went to the doctor, but they didn't have any forms from the commission so I had to pay for the visit. I showed him the receipt and he said okay. I expected him to say that I would be reimbursed, but he didn't. He said the commission's doctor would review the results of my exam. I told him I never received the cassette player. He said he would check on that when he got back to the office and call me."

A few weeks later, Christmas arrived looking like just another day. No word from the caseworker.

In January, 1989, the state disability payments stopped and Bill became eligible for Social Security. His income dropped again.

He made more phone calls to his caseworker. None was returned.

The cold bound him to the house, and it was easy to ride out the day on the endless stream of daytime TV. One day turned into the next, each the same, as empty as the slate-gray winter sky. January eventually became February.

By March, 1989, Bill had been unemployed for more than six months. More than three months had passed since he had heard from his caseworker.

Phone calls to his caseworker at the commission's office in April were never returned.

This is a tiny part of what the extensive newspaper article tells us about Bill's story. It goes on to say that a friendly newspaper reporter called the Department of Human Services on Bill's behalf to complain.

The next day [the paper continues] Bill got a call from his caseworker.

When [the commission staff member] arrived at the house, there was no mention of his nearly five-month absence, not a word about all of the phone calls that were never returned. Instead, he announced that the commission had reviewed the medical exam performed in December, [remember that we are now in April] and was now prepared to address the problem.

In August, Bill was given a series of oral and written examinations by a psychologist at the commission's office. He was told the tests were part of the process that would return him to the workplace.

In September, he received the results of the exams. He was weak in mechanical skills, but sharp in computer-oriented skills. The psychologist noted that he was suffering a lack of self-worth. He was depressed.

In October, his caseworker brought him a typewriter. He should refresh his typing skills, he was told. The caseworker said he had also arranged for an instructor to come out to the house to help.

Bill thought it was an odd gesture. Had he been waiting a year for a typewriter?

"I was desperate. I'm sure I sounded like I was begging. I said to him, 'Listen, in the beginning I told you I wanted to work to get out of the house, to have something to do. But now,' I said, 'there isn't any money left. It's a necessity. I need work. Any kind of work.'"

Before the month was out, Bill met the typing instructor, a young woman, who is blind, who showed him how a blind person becomes acclimated to a keyboard. But Bill knows the keyboard. Bill thought the session pointless.

In November, his caseworker called him to the commission's office. [By this time Bill had been blind and out of work for well over a year.]

And that day, for the first time, there was talk of a job.

"The caseworker said, 'I'm going to Atlantic City tomorrow to see about getting you an appointment at Bally's Grand.' I said, 'great.' I was ecstatic. This was just before Thanksgiving. After the holiday, he called to say we had a tentative meeting on Friday. He would call back with a definite time."

The week faded into the next. The caseworker never called. Bill felt conned.

[This is the story of Bill as reported in the press. Do you know Bill? Do you recognize him? How many of us here in this room find ourselves painfully reflected in the details?

The article goes on to describe a series of telephone calls made by the reporter to state officials. Then it continues.]

It was now December, 1989. The client service representative, who is blind, and his driver arrived at midday. He sat down with his laptop computer in a chair near the Christmas tree in the living room. His driver sat in the kitchen. Bill spoke.

Why were his phone calls never returned? Why didn't his caseworker ever call to say what happened to the interview? Why didn't he get the cassette player? Why were his hospital bills still not paid? What was he supposed to say to the collection agencies that were now hounding him? Why, after a fifteen-month relationship with the commission, was he no better off than the first day he found himself out of work?

"I never asked you people for a handout," Bill said. "I asked for help. I need help. I'm fifty-eight years old and I'm not going to just sit around this house waiting to die."

The client service representative called Bill on December 20. It was a short one-sided conversation. "The deal with Bally's fell through," he said. "Your caseworker will be in touch with you soon."

Three weeks later, Bill received a letter from his caseworker dated January 16, 1990. It read in part: "This is to inform you that the paperwork is now being generated so the [medical] bills you incurred can be paid. I will be contacting you shortly to discuss your status with the commission and other related items."

In February, Bill received notice that a registered letter had arrived for him at the post office. It was from his caseworker. The first sentence of the letter, dated February 6, read: "On Wednesday, February 14, 1990, I will contact you via telephone between 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon."

Bill was dumbfounded.

"Who sends a registered letter to a blind man. I had to get a neighbor to drive me down to the post office to get it. It cost two dollars to send it. For what? To tell me he would call me?"

On February 14, the caseworker called at 1:45 p.m. to say he would come out to see Bill on Wednesday the 21st. He would have forms to fill out.

On February 21, the caseworker called to say his secretary had not finished typing the forms. He said he would be out to see Bill the first thing the next day.

On February 22, the caseworker did not show. He did not call. Dumbfounded was no longer an adequate word to describe Bill's state of mind.

On February 27, when the caseworker did call, a new date was set for the appointment.

"In all of this time, they couldn't get me even an interview?" [Bill questioned,] "Not one interview? Is there nothing? Is this it? Look at me. I clean the house. I make lunch at noon. I start dinner at five. This can't be it.

"And yet, here I sit. I'm no better off today than I was the day I first called the commission."

That was eighteen months ago.

I got Bill's letter last year just after the occurrence of the events I've been relating to you. I tried to call him, but I couldn't find a number listed in his name. I telephoned the reporter and eventually tracked down the information. I spoke with Bill and invited him to join the Federation. We talked about the work that blind people are doing all over America. I asked Bill to believe that there is more for those who are blind than the papershuffling and dreariness of some of the agencies for the blind. There is the spirit of the National Federation of the Blind--a spirit that springs from a joint effort to achieve fully productive lives, the commitment of mutual support, and the enthusiasm of the discovery that blindness need not mean helplessness or hopelessness. All of this is a part of the organized blind movement, our movement, the National Federation of the Blind.

How long does it take to extinguish the spark of initiative--to kill the spirit and crush the dream? For Bill it takes more than eighteen months. He has joined our movement, and he is once again employed as a computer operator. I suppose I need not tell you that he found the job without the help of the New Jersey Commission for the Blind.

Yet, there are those who tell us that we are harsh and unreasonable in criticizing some of the governmental and private agencies established to help the blind. Let them call us what they will and say what they please. We have the idea of freedom; we have the leaders; and we know how to work together and support each other. We have reached the kindling point--and we intend to reflect the flame.

There was a time when it was accepted that the blind would be on the fringe of society--a burden to be carried-- unproductive, unwanted, shunned. There were occasional individuals who fought this common perception, but they were generally defeated by the force of so-called "common sense." But then there came together the essential elements for change. It cannot happen in a moment, but the process is thoroughly under way. Much that is written and thought about blindness is as fraught with misunderstanding as one could possibly imagine. The experts in gerontology tell us that visual acuity and intellectual capacity are linked. Newspaper editors declare that blindness, like illiteracy, indicates ignorance and incapacity. The weekly news magazines suggest that being blind is almost as bad as suffering from AIDS or cancer. The educators in the universities who are supposed to bring enlightenment to instructors of the blind disseminate the view that we have difficulty opening a can or pouring water. The agencies established to provide service to the blind direct us to wait patiently and reap the benefits of a welfare check.

Nevertheless, conditions for the blind in the 1990s are dramatically and enormously different from those that prevailed fifty years ago. Despite the litany of problems I have recited, our prospects are better than they have ever been. Our present is more fulfilling. Our future is more promising. Blind mathematicians astonish their colleagues with their innovative solutions to the most difficult problems. Despite the laziness and befuddlement of certain segments of the agency establishment, the tide is turning the other way. Increasingly the agencies are working with us, and the momentum is building. New fields are being entered, new employment and independence achieved. And of course, a growing number of agencies are managed by Federationists and operated with Federation philosophy--with dramatic results. Although the literature often contains references which belittle the capacity of the blind, there are also (and ever more frequently) the positive images--and we are not without our own capacity to write.

A powerful new spirit now moves in the blind of the nation--and also in growing numbers of the public. The vital elements for an alteration in the pattern of our experience have come together in an energetic and forceful mixture. We in this room tonight are the force which will propel our movement through the last decade of the twentieth century and into the one beyond. We are the components--the leaders from throughout the country, the rank-and-file members, the new inspiration. We will make the difference, for we must. Our record of achievement during more than half a century will be remembered with pride, but it is only the prelude. Each generation must do for itself and build on the past. We have learned that lesson well. We have learned it from each other and from our own experiences. In our yearning for freedom, others can go with us, but we must lead the way. We have not only reached but gone beyond the kindling point. We are the blind who reflect the flame. No organization on earth that deals with blindness has the strength, the determination, or the spirit of the National Federation of the Blind. My brothers and my sisters, come! Remember those who have shown the way, and those who will come after. We will believe in each other--and with joy in our hearts, we will go to meet the future!

FOOTNOTES

1 Although this article originally appeared in the December 1974 issue of The New Outlook for the Blind (a publication of the American Foundation for the Blind), it is, at the time of this writing, being distributed to students as part of the course materials in the San Francisco State University program for instructors of the blind and visually impaired.

 

NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND AWARDS FOR 1991

National Federation of the Blind awards are not bestowed lightly. If an appropriate recipient does not emerge from the pool of candidates for a particular award, it is simply not presented. At this year's convention four presentations were made. At the close of the Friday afternoon session the Distinguished Service Award was presented as were three other awards that evening at the annual banquet. Here's how it happened July 5, 1991:

Distinguished Service Award

Dr. Jernigan made the presentation of this award at the close of the Friday afternoon general session. He said:

The next item on our program is one that I take a good deal of pleasure in. We have a Distinguished Service Award to present. We present awards rather sparingly as you know. If you had asked me the first time the man who is going to receive this award came to our convention if we would ever be presenting him an award, I would have told you, "Under no circumstances." You will remember, we were rather hard on him the first time. Who am I talking about? I'm talking about Justin Dart. We were hard on him. We asked him hard questions and sorta laid the lash to him. But he didn't get mad about that. As a matter of fact, very shortly after that, he was over at the National Center, talking with us. He joined up as an associate, a member-at-large, and he worked with us. We got to know him, and he got to know us. Then we got to respect him, and he respects us. Justin Dart has worked with us very closely in the last couple of years. He, of course, chairs the President's Committee on People with Disabilities and was instrumental in passing the Americans With Disabilities Act. A lot of people worked on it, but you have to say that Justin Dart was instrumental in providing the push for that. But he's done a lot more things. He's shown courage. He's shown real leadership in dealing with disability. Mr. Dart, we want to give you our Distinguished Service Award. I want to read first what it says:

Dintinguished Service Award

National Federation of the Blind

Presented to
Honorable Justin Dart

For exceptional service to the blind of the nation

The banner you carry is courage
The venture you pursue is justice
The power you wield is friendship

July 5, 1991

Dr. Jernigan then walked to where Justin Dart was seated to present the award. Mr. Dart said:

I am deeply honored to receive this award from one of my heroes, a great American, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, and from each one of you. I accept this award, not because I have any illusion of superior virtue, but as a symbolic representative of each of you and of all of us who have struggled together for the principles of equality, independence, and productivity. I'm going to do my very best to live up to your standards, and those are high standards, and I love you.

Blind Educator of the Year Award

At the Friday evening banquet, Steve Benson, member of the National Federation of the Blind Board of Directors and Chair of the Selection Committee, made the Blind Educator of the Year presentation. Here is what he said:

Henry Adams, the nineteenth-century scholar and writer, said, "A teacher affects eternity. He can never tell where his influence stops."

Throughout history teachers have shaped society, built its great religions and philosophies, and given impetus to new ways of life. The National Federation of the Blind has been fortunate to have had outstanding teachers shape its course. No organization could have asked for better teachers than Jacobus tenBroek and Kenneth Jernigan. These two men and other teachers in this room tonight will influence the lives of blind people for generations to come.

Last year we presented the Blind Educator of the Year Award to Dr. Abraham Nemeth. In prior years Pauline Gomez and Patricia Munson were recognized for their outstanding efforts. This year the Blind Educator of the Year Award Committee (Patricia Munson, Homer Page, Judy Sanders, and Lev Williams) has selected a candidate whose credentials are impeccable. This year's recipient lives and teaches east of the Continental Divide. Tonight's honoree has had tremendous impact upon her students, their parents, and the community. She has taught at every level from elementary school to two universities. She is highly regarded by her peers and has earned our respect. The 1991 Blind Educator of the Year Award recipient will receive an appropriately inscribed plaque and a check in the amount of $500 from the National Federation of the Blind. If she will come forward, I will present this check and this plaque to Patricia Harmon of New Mexico. Mrs. Harmon has a bachelor of arts degree in English from the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore and a master's degree in special education from Northern Colorado University. She teaches at the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped. She has taught at the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University. She is a strong advocate for Braille. Mrs. Harmon has taught Braille to numerous transcribers, and ten of her students have been certified by the Library of Congress. She is a person indeed deserving of this award, and this is the plaque, which reads:

Blind Educator of the Year Award

National Federation of the Blind

Presented to
Patricia Harmon

In recognition of outstanding accomplishments
in the teaching profession
You enhance the present
You build the future

July 5, 1991

Mrs. Harmon then responded by saying:

Those who know me know that I am very rarely at a loss for words. Fred Schroeder entered my name a couple of months ago, and I am so pleased. Thank you very, very much. I'm attending my first National Federation of the Blind convention, and I am so pleased I chose this year to come. My husband was a teacher of Peggy Pinder's many years ago. When we saw her name on the convention agenda for the NFB of New Mexico in Albuquerque two years ago, we said, "This is the year to go." So we went to Albuquerque and met Peggy, who said, "You have to come to a national convention." So we chose New Orleans, and I'm so excited. Thank you very much.

Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award

Sharon Maneki, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland and Chair of the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Selection Committee, presented that award. She said:

Fellow Federationists, this evening it is my privilege to introduce someone who needs no introduction--that is, the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children. We in the National Federation of the Blind started this award because we expect excellence and we demand excellence. And when we find excellence, we recognize it. It is always a difficult task for this committee to find the right person. We on the committee try to adopt Robert Frost's position on education. He said that there are two kinds of teachers. There are the quail hunters, the ones that fill the students up with so many facts and figures that they don't really remember anything. Then there are the other kind who are more like the pilot instructors who inspire and lead their students so that they can soar to their own heights. The committee, consisting of Allen Harris, Joyce Scanlan, Fred Schroeder, Jackie Billey, and me, found a distinguished educator who has worked at every level of various schools for the blind. He started in college as a supervisor of the dormitory, was a classroom teacher, was a principal, and now is superintendent of the Kansas State School for the Visually Handicapped. Dr. Ralph Bartley is a man who believes in education. His school promotes competitions and events like Braille Student of the Year, Braille Math Student, and White Cane and Braille Appreciation Days. When the organized blind of Kansas said we need a Braille bill, he was right there in the forefront, right with the blind. Dr. Bartley receives a plaque and a $500 check, and I'm going to present the plaque to him and read it to you now.

Distinguished Educator of Blind Children

The National Federation of the Blind

honors

Dr. Ralph E. Bartley

Superintendent
Kansas State School for the Visually Handicapped
Distinguished Educator of Blind Children
For your outstanding efforts
to ensure that all blind children
in Kansas and throughout the nation
will continue to have the opportunity
to learn to read and write Braille.
For your leadership
in promoting greater educational opportunities
for blind children.
For working in partnership with the organized blind.
You are our colleague, our friend, our ally.
You champion our movement, you strengthen our hopes,
You share our dreams.
July 5, 1991

Dr. Bartley accepted the plaque and said:

Dr. Jernigan, President Maurer, Chairman Maneki, and members of the Award Committee, with great feelings of honor and humility I accept the National Federation of the Blind's Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award. You've not only recognized me, but also many others who have made major contributions. In Kansas we are fortunate to have many persons who have dedicated themselves to the education of blind children. Some of these are here with us today. Among them: President Susie Stanzel of the NFB of Kansas, and many others, the Baleks, Steve and Lynn Barry, Carol Clark, the Griggses, the Hallenbecks, Peg Halverson, the Hemphills, the Kellys, Raymond Peed, Remlingers, the Thompsons, and many others. I would also be remiss tonight if I did not mention with a word of thanks my parents, Tommy and Barbara, of Henderson, Kentucky, who are with our four children (Jennifer, Ben, Jody, and Jessica). I would like to thank them for their sacrifices so that I might be here tonight. I would also like to recognize our Kansas Braille Readers are Leaders, Angela and Jennifer, and their teachers, Virgine, Madeline, Jackie, and Darlene. Finally, I want to tell you that in 1953 I started school, and two very significant people in a particular reading series got me started on the right road to my own education and my own ability to read. Those two people were Dick and Jane, along with Sally and Spot. Those people help me learn today. Well today, I do not have a Spot and Sally in my life, but I still have a Dick and Jane. To Jane, my wife, thank you. And to Kansas State Representative Richard J. (Dick) Edlund, thank you for all that you have done and especially thank you for the great legacy you are building in Kansas. The cornerstone of that legacy is our new Kansas Braille Bill. Without you the Kansas Braille Bill would not be a reality, and Ralph Bartley would not be here tonight. Thank you.

Newel Perry Award

John Halverson came to the podium following President Maurer's banquet address to make the presentation of the 1991 Newel Perry Award. This is what he said:

The Newel Perry Award is the principal honor that the National Federation of the Blind bestows upon those who (from positions outside the structure of the Federation) do most to advance the cause of the blind. Presented only as often as an individual is identified as deserving special recognition, the Newel Perry Award is conferred upon those rare individuals who exhibit singular perception and exceptional stewardship.

In 1991 the National Federation of the Blind recognizes one whose talents, energy, and acumen have been devoted to the furtherance of independence for the disabled. Although her work has technically been outside our organization, it is completely understandable that her efforts should harmonize thoroughly with those of the organized blind. She has been a part of the Federation, and she received her early orientation to many of the problems involving blindness from the thousands of Federation members throughout the nation. As many in this audience know, she was for several years a high school student of Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. Later she was a state president and then a national board member of this organization. Not only has she been willing to address problems brought to her attention, but she has anticipated potential difficulties before they have arisen and she has given an emphasis to Federal policy which has inevitably entailed greater opportunity for the blind as well as for all other people with disabilities. Her work has not always been in the Federation, but it has truly been in the spirit of the Federation. She deserves the highest tribute and greatest respect we can give.

This year's recipient of the Newel Perry Award, a blind person (who, incidentally, is an administrator in the Federal rehabilitation program) has been a client of a rehabilitation agency. She knows from firsthand experience the frustrations that sometimes are such an integral part of services for the blind. Her experience in gaining an opportunity to employ her ability provides a comprehension which would not be readily available in any other way.

Her participation with her blind brothers and sisters throughout the nation has given emphasis to the determination that the blind shall be encouraged to achieve the highest ambitions obtainable.

The lady we honor tonight is one who possesses boldness, ingenuity, resolution, and courage. With us at this banquet is a great American--but she is more: an ally, a colleague, a friend. The person we honor tonight is the Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, Nell Carney. Commissioner Carney, the award that we present reads:

Newel Perry Award
National Federation of the Blind

In recognition of courageous leadership
and outstanding service,
the National Federation of the Blind
bestows its highest honor,
the Newel Perry Award
upon
Honorable Nell C. Carney
our colleague;
our friend;
our sister on the barricades.
she champions our progress;
she strengthens our hopes;
she shares our dreams.

July 5, 1991

Nell Carney accepted her award and then addressed the audience:

If that noble gentleman Newel Perry, who fought for such a long time to have a place in this universe and who at the California School for the Blind led many to leadership positions among the blind, were here at this convention this week, he would be truly awed to see that the dream that he and Dr. tenBroek shared has grown to such an extent and that the National Federation of the Blind has grown to have the power and influence that it has. Likewise, if Dr. tenBroek, who was, as I've already said, Dr. Perry's student and the designated visionary leader who was to establish the movement called the National Federation of the Blind, were here, he too would stand in awe. He would also along with Dr. Perry be very, very proud that you, Dr. Jernigan, the young and energetic leader to whom he passed the torch of leadership many years ago, have built the movement further and have selected Marc Maurer as the next recipient of the torch of leadership for this great movement. A few nights ago, in debating a resolution and talking about a specific piece of legislation, you, Dr. Jernigan, said that the legislation would not pass in its present form because the National Federation of the Blind would oppose it. After two years in Washington, it is my observation that no legislation that this movement of the blind and for the blind opposes will ever pass.

I am deeply honored and truly touched at being the recipient of the Newel Perry Award. Today, Dr. Jernigan, you mentioned a couple of items, and you said that if someone had told you they would happen, you would never have believed it. When I was a young woman struggling and growing up in Tennessee as a blind person and admiring Dr. Jernigan and his leadership in the Federation, I would never have believed that I would ever stand at this podium and be the recipient of the Newel Perry Award. The Federation is little Emily, the blind child that I spoke of today, and it is Hazel tenBroek, who has devoted her life to this movement. It is the widow who saves her SSI check all year long so that she can come to this conference, and it is people like Donald Capps who devote their full time and attention to the movement, and it's all of you in between who spend your lives, your time, and your energy working together. The movement for many decades has been held together by love, faith, and hope. In the last few years I have watched as you have turned that hope to choice and empowerment. Again, I am deeply honored. I thank you, and I thank God for you.

 

THE CLASS OF 1991:
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND SCHOLARSHIP WINNERS

From the Associate Editor: This year the National Federation of the Blind chose twenty-seven of the nation's most promising blind post-secondary students to be the 1991 class of scholarship winners. On Tuesday morning at the annual meeting of the National Federation of the Blind Board of Directors, President Maurer invited Peggy Pinder, Second Vice President of the Federation and Chairman of the Scholarship Committee, to introduce each winner to the audience. Miss Pinder began by saying:

Last year the National Federation of the Blind celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. At this year's convention we're beginning our second half-century of service to blind people and our march towards equality. Part of that march has been the scholarship program of the National Federation of the Blind. In our organization we have a major commitment to achievement, to success, and to equality for blind people. One of the ways that we symbolize that, one of the ways we recognize it, and one of the ways we honor our own is our scholarship program. This year the Federation will be giving twenty-seven scholarships, and each winner also receives a convention scholarship--an expense-paid trip to our national convention. The two scholarships earned by each of these twenty-seven people added together means a commitment of over one hundred thousand dollars by our organization.

In a minute I will introduce to you the men and women who have been chosen as the 1991 winners. But I want to let you know that twelve of these people will receive scholarships in the amount of $2,000. Nine will win scholarships of $2,500. One person will receive $3,000. Three will receive $4,000. One person will receive $6,000; and one person will be chosen this year as the National Federation of the Blind Distinguished Scholar of 1991, will win the opportunity to speak briefly at our banquet, and will receive a scholarship in the amount of $20,000.

This year we received over five hundred applications for our scholarships, and there were lots and lots of wonderful applications. You'll see in a minute when I introduce these people that we have a very strong group this year. You can imagine the strength of the entire pool of applicants from the twenty-seven people that we chose.

I want to read to you the names of the people who serve on the scholarship committee, describe a couple of things that will occur later this week, and then introduce the members of the scholarship class of 1991. Serving on the Scholarship committee are Adrienne Asch, Steven Benson, Jacquilyn Billey, Charlie Brown, Sharon Buchan, Doug Elliott, Priscilla Ferris, Michael Gosse, John Halverson, Allen Harris, Dave Hyde, Tami Dodd Jones, Christopher Kucynski, Scott LaBarre, Melissa Lagroue, Melody Lindsey, Sharon Maneki, Homer Page, Barbara Pierce, Ben Prows, Eileen Rivera, Fred Schroeder, Heidi Sherman, Zack Shore, Ramona Walhof, Jim Willows, Joanne Wilson, Gary Wunder, and Robin Zook. That's a good group of people, and they will have the opportunity on Thursday to meet and decide which of these scholarship winners will receive which scholarships. We don't know yet. We won't know until Thursday, and nobody else will know until Friday night. At the banquet each one of these people I'm about to introduce will be invited to the podium of the convention to receive his or her scholarship and to be honored specially by the National Federation of the Blind.

I'm about to begin the introductions of the scholarship winners for 1991, and scholarship winners, please pay heed. I'm going to hand each of you the microphone for you to give a description of who you are to the assembled multitudes here. Over 2,000 people are interested in finding out who you are. Remember friends, members of the Federation, each of these scholarship winners wears a ribbon on his or her badge, identifying him or her as a scholarship winner. We're proud of these people. We want to tell them so. When you find somebody with one of these ribbons this week, offer them your congratulations and say, "We're glad to have you at the convention." Now I'm going to let each of them tell you who they are. Scholarship winners, I'm going to give you the microphone for 60 seconds or less. I want each of you to tell the people here who you are, what you want to do, what you want to be; and I will take the microphone back when I need to. I'll hand the microphone to each of you, and I will give your name and the state you live in now and the state you will be living in next fall. You can describe yourself to over 2,000 people. Here we go, ladies and gentlemen, with the 1991 scholarship class.

Aziza Baccouche, Virginia, Virginia: "Hello, it's good to be here. My name is Aziza Baccouche, and I am from Fairfax, Virginia. I am a recent graduate from J. W. Robinson secondary in Fairfax, Virginia. I will be attending the College of William and Mary in Virginia. I plan to study physics, and I wish to receive a Ph.D. in astrophysics or astronomy."

Alex Barrasso, New York, Pennsylvania: "Hi, my name is Alex Barrasso. I'll be attending the University of Pennsylvania as a freshman beginning in September. I plan to be a language major and would eventually like to go on either to the State Department in the Foreign Service or into international law. In high school I have been participating as an active member of the chess team and a trumpet player. I also do volunteer work for the American Red Cross. Thank you."

Rick Blakeney, Texas, Texas: "Hi ya'll. My name is Rick Blakeney. I am a math major at the Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. I'm going to graduate in about a year and plan to teach high school math. [scattered enthusiastic applause] Thank you, that's the way I feel too. We definitely need some good teachers out there, and I am going to do my best to do my part. I've been tutoring the last couple of years, so hopefully I will do a good job. Thank you very much."

Deborah Byrne, Oregon, Ohio: "Hello, my name is Deborah Byrne, and I have the incredible opportunity of being able to live my life's dream. I'm a senior at Oberlin College, and I am majoring in history because I want to bring historical perspective to the research that I'm planning on doing before and after I receive a Ph.D. in sociology. I plan to teach college, and in that line, I have recently been awarded an undergraduate research grant in the field of sociology of religion under the mentorship of Milton Yinger. I have also been accepted into the Ronald Nair program, which was initiated by an act of Congress in memory of Ronald Nair, the black astrophysicist who died in the space shuttle craft accident, and I am president of the National Association of Blind Students of Ohio and senior political officer of the disabled students group at Oberlin College. Thank you."

Ollie Cantos, California, California: "Good morning, fellow Federationists. This is my second convention, and I am very excited to be here. I am going to be entering my senior year at Loyola Marymount University next year, majoring in political science. I am executive vice president and chair of the student senate at Loyola Marymount University, and I am president of the California Association of Blind Students. Thank you."

Kirstyn Cassavechia, New Hampshire, New York: "Good morning, everyone. I am originally from Rochester, New Hampshire. I am currently a sophomore at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where I am pursuing a BA in English, eventually hoping to get a Ph.D. and teach at the college level. But my true dream is to be a writer. I write for the Cornell Daily Sun, our newspaper, as well as host incoming freshmen and prospective students. I'll be an orientation counselor this fall for the incoming freshmen. I am a peer counselor and a gymnast. I love children and animals, and I'm very happy to be here. Thank you very much."

Richard Clay, Michigan, Michigan: "Good morning, everyone. I'm Richard Clay, sophomore at the University of Michigan, majoring in business administration, aspiring to be a personnel manager of a large corporation. I'm proud to be here, and I recently joined the NFB, hoping and confident that I'll be able to enhance the lifestyles of blind people, including my own. Thank you."

Karen Collister, California, California: "Hi, I'm Karen Collister, and I just graduated from high school in San Diego and left my home, so now I am living in Santa Cruz, working at a camp as a waitress till I start my first year of college at UC Berkeley this fall. I'm going to be majoring in political science and hopefully going on to medical school and opening up a clinic for the blind on the border of Mexico. I would just like to thank you for all of your time and energy that went into making these scholarships available. I really feel honored and very thankful."

Chris Danielsen, South Carolina, South Carolina: "Hi, I'm Chris Danielson. I'm from Batesburg, South Carolina. I'm a junior at Furman University, majoring in political science, and I plan to become a lawyer. I'm involved in several extracurricular activities at Furman, including the Furman Singers, the Furman Chamber Singers, and Beta Epsilon, which is a service fraternity. Last summer I had the opportunity to go on a concert tour of the Soviet Union with the Furman Singers, and I am also the treasurer of the South Carolina Student Division of the National Federation of the Blind."

Kim Driver, California, California: "Good morning. I'm Kim Driver. I'm currently attending the University of California at Davis. I'm in my third year of my Ph.D. I'll be taking my qualifying exams in the fall or winter of next year. I am investigating a specialized field called bio-mechanics and marine biology. I study sharks, and I'm talking about the kind with fins, not the kind on two legs."

Pam Dubel, New York, Ohio: "Hi everyone. My name is Pam Dubel, and I'm a senior at Denison University, where I am majoring in psychology and minoring in women's studies. I am planning to pursue a career in law, psychology, or elementary education. This will be my second summer working for Joanne Wilson at the Louisiana Center for the Blind with the Children's Program. I am the vice president of the Ohio Association of Blind Students, and last night I was elected as a new board member for the National Association of Blind Students, so I am looking forward to a long and productive career with the Federation."

Amanda Durik, Kentucky, Kentucky: "Hi. I will enter Center College in Danville, Kentucky, this fall, and I plan to major in elementary education and later continue my education and get my master's degree in special education, perhaps specializing in low vision. Thank you."

Imke Durre, Colorado, Connecticut: "I'm going to attend Yale as a freshman this fall. I just graduated from Poudre High School as valedictorian. I enjoy playing the piano. I received an honorable mention from the USA All-American Academic team, and I'm planning to major in mathematics and go on to graduate studies in climatology and become a climatologist."

Elisha Gilliland, Alabama, Alabama: [applause for the state] "It's great to know there are a lot of Alabama fans out there. Hi, I'm Elisha Gilliland, and I am from Grove Oak, Alabama. I'm a sophomore at Jacksonville State University, where I am seeking a degree in elementary education, and I also plan to continue my education and get a master's in visual impairment."

Duane Hudspath, Iowa, Iowa: "Hello. I am currently attending Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa, where I am seeking a degree in doctor of chiropractic. We just started the Bix Beiderbecke chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. Before that, I was an investment planner for six years, and I originally earned my first business degree at California State College in Western Pennsylvania. Thanks."

Max Isaacson, California, Connecticut: "Hi, my name is Max Isaacson. I have just graduated from Alameda High, where I was captain of the men's varsity swimming team, as well as captain of the varsity debating team. I will be attending Yale University next year, where I will probably be studying some sort of major for law. I am looking to be a civil rights lawyer, and hopefully I will get into Yale Law School."

Cheryl Laninga, Illinois, Missouri: "Hi everyone. My name is Cheryl Laninga, and I am from Villa Park, Illinois. I am going to be a sophomore at Northeast Missouri State University. Right now I am majoring in sociology and eventually plan to teach in the university setting, which means I'll be getting a Ph.D. in either sociology or psychology. I love music. I play the violin and country fiddle. I love to sing and play the guitar, and I am also a member of Alpha Sigma Gamma, which is a service volunteer sorority on our campus."

Jamie LeJeune, Louisiana, Mississippi: "Hi. I'd like to welcome you all to Louisiana. I recently graduated from the University of Southwestern Louisiana with a major in psychology and a minor in biological sciences. In the fall I will be attending the University of Southern Mississippi graduate program, and I will be studying counseling psychology. My goal is to become a counseling psychologist. Thank you."

Christine McGroarty, Massachusetts, Massachusetts : "Hello. I am entering my sophomore year at Hampshire College, which is an alternative educational school in Amherst, Massachusetts. I plan to go on straight through to a Ph.D. program, where I hope to get my Ph.D. in counseling psychology. I am planning on concentrating in family counseling. Currently this summer, toward that, I am working at a suicide hotline; and I am also volunteering at Recording for the Blind."

Paige McLean, South Carolina, South Carolina: "Good morning. My name is Paige McLean. I'm from a small town in South Carolina known as Blythewood. I'm very excited to be here. I'm going to be attending Furman University in the fall, where I will be a freshman, pursuing a degree in pre-med and with definite plans to attend medical school afterward. I'm still not sure exactly what field I'd like to specialize in. I am very involved in athletics. I've attended several national meets (I'm a track athlete), and I've also attended some international meets and was fortunate enough to participate in the games in Seoul, South Korea in 1988 and look forward to hopefully making it to Barcelona in '92. I'm kind of new to the Federation, and I'm very excited about being here and look forward to getting involved in making a difference."

Jay Modi, Connecticut, Connecticut: "Hi. My name is Jay Modi, and I just graduated from Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, studying ocean physics and fluid mechanics. I'm in grad school in a joint program between the University of Connecticut and MIT, a Ph.D. program, and hopefully I will do some oceanography in fluid mechanics studies in the future."

Noel Nightengale, Washington, Washington: "Hi. I graduated from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, with a degree in political science in 1986. I now work as a worker's compensation claims manager for the state, and I will be entering the University of Washington School of Law in the fall. With my extra time, I'd like to hear if there is anybody from Washington State here." [cheers from the audience]

Jim Oliver, Georgia, Georgia: "Good morning. I am originally from Savannah, Georgia, and I am currently in Atlanta attending Georgia Tech. I have a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, and I am currently pursuing a master's in nuclear engineering. I am involved in a number of campus and community activities, the most significant of which would be the campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity, which I founded and which will build their first sponsored house this winter. Thank you all very much; and I am glad to be here and glad to learn."

Steve Priddle, Alaska, Alaska: "Good morning. I am honored to be here. I live and attend college in Sitka, Alaska. The college I attend is Sheldon Jackson College. I was the vice president of the associated student body last year. I am presently the president of the student body. I am also co-founder and president of the Learning Disabilities Support group at Sheldon Jackson College. I am working for my bachelor of arts in elementary education with emphasis on special education and handicapped, and eventually for my degree in law. Thank you."

Behnaz Soulati, Iowa, Iowa: "Hi. My name is Behnaz Soulati. I am originally from Iran, and my family moved to the United States almost four years ago for more opportunities. I currently live in Iowa City, and I'm a junior at the University of Iowa. I am double majoring in computer science and French. I am planning to get my Ph.D. in computer science and maybe French."

Valerie Stiteler, Massachusetts, Massachusetts: "Hello. I'm Valerie Stiteler. I live in Boston, Massachusetts, and I am founder and director of the chaplaincy programs for the Protestant Guild for the Blind and the Boston Home, both in Massachusetts. I'm currently attending the Boston University School of Theology, where I am a doctor of theology candidate, majoring in theology and worship. I hope to teach, to write, and to serve my parishioners in any way I can. I also recently had the great honor of representing the disabled religious community at the first national disability pride day march and rally. Thank you."

Mark Stracks, Connecticut, Connecticut: "Good morning. It's both an honor and a privilege for me to stand here before you this morning, one that I know I will never forget. I am currently starting my second year at the University of Connecticut Medical School, where I plan to pursue a degree in medicine and public health. Afterwards I hope to specialize in some branch of clinical medicine, augmented by either epidemiological research or health management. I attended the Bowdoin College, where I received a bachelor of arts in biochemistry with a minor in studio art. I enjoy dressage under saddle, combined driving, scuba diving, and amateur photography in my spare time. I hope to meet as many of you as I can before I leave."

Peggy Pinder: And there, ladies and gentlemen, is the 1991 class of scholarship winners.

On Friday evening at the annual banquet, the scholarships were presented as follows:

$2,000 NFB Merit Scholarships: Aziza Baccouche, Alex Barrasso, Rick Blakeney, Imke Durre, Duane Hudspath, Max Isaacson, Christine McGroarty, Jay Modi, Noel Nightengale, and Steve Priddle.

$2,000 Hermione Grant Calhoun Scholarship: Paige McLean.

$2,000 Ellen Setterfield Memorial Scholarship: Valerie Stiteler.

$2,500 NFB Scholarships: Karen Collister, Chris Danielsen, Amanda Durik, and Jamie LeJeune.

$2,500 Howard Brown Rickard Scholarship: Mark Stracks.

$2,500 Frank Walton Horn Memorial Scholarship: Cheryl Laninga.

$2,500 National Federation of the Blind Educator of Tomorrow Award: Elisha Gilliland.

$2,500 National Federation of the Blind Humanities Scholarship: Deborah Byrne.

$2,500 Oracle Corporation Scholarship: Kim Driver.

$3,000 Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship: Kirstyn Cassavechia.

$4,000 National Federation of the Blind Scholarship: Richard Clay, Jim Oliver, and Behnaz Soulati.

$6,000 Ezra Davis Memorial Scholarship: Ollie Cantos.

$20,000 National Federation of the Blind Distinguished Scholar of 1991: Pam Dubel.

******************************

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."

 

LAYING A FOUNDATION FOR INDEPENDENCE AND SUCCESS

by Louis Sullivan, M.D.

From the Associate Editor: On Friday afternoon, July 5, 1991, Dr. Louis Sullivan, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, addressed the 1991 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Never before has a United States Cabinet Secretary spoken to the organized blind movement. Here is the text of his remarks:

It is a pleasure to be in New Orleans for the NFB convention. I am especially pleased to be with Dr. Jernigan, whose forty years of leadership in the NFB have provided the steam to propel this organization to the forefront in America. Kenneth Jernigan, Marc Maurer, and Jim Gashel are three strong, effective voices for the blind. They, in combination with the 3,000 voices of active NFB representatives in this audience, have ably seen to it that your messages are heard, respected, and heeded all across the nation.

You are expanding choices, gaining equality, and assuring integration for blind Americans. A rehabilitation teacher and alcohol counselor who is blind said, "The NFB helps blind people believe in themselves; it motivates us to go out and help the other guy." Indeed, you are touching the lives of others. A student at the Institute for Educational Leadership who is blind said of the NFB, "Through their encouragement I returned to school and am working on my doctorate."

You have successfully advanced your agenda over both legislative and administrative hurdles. For instance, in regard to your efforts with the Social Security Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance Programs--you pointed out the inherent disincentives to work, and they are being reduced!

The approach used to provide rehabilitation services which are funded under the Social Security Act is changing because of your leadership. Your call for blind people to have a choice in selecting service providers in rehabilitation will not be lost as new directions are developed. By your leadership through the Federation, you have demonstrated that the blind do not need someone else to speak for them. Whether in rehabilitation or in life as a whole, we know that the blind can make decisions for themselves, and government must not prevent that from happening.

I congratulate you on the opening of the National Braille and Technology Center. And we all appreciate the impact of your loan fund, which enables the blind to purchase equipment that is cutting-edge in its technology. Your National Braille Literacy Campaign is helping to build a better America and a better future for the blind of today and tomorrow.

We have heard your message--every American, blind or sighted, has the right to basic literacy training, including the competent use of Braille for anyone who is blind.

Your spirit and your efforts are America at its very best! The progress chronicled in the history of the NFB, Walking Alone and Marching Together: A History of the Organized Blind Movement in the United States, is inspiring. You have built a reservoir of good will with the public, and you have my full support for your goal--"complete integration into society on a basis of equality."

In the past, the phrase "the blind leading the blind" has been used to indicate an impossibility. But today I want to look at the new content and the change of meaning that NFB members have brought to that phrase.

I commend your success at self-organization and your perseverance as you have overcome legal, social, and economic obstacles. You have heroically created a culture of self- sufficiency and independence. You are establishing for the nation the terms of interaction with the blind, and you are establishing protection for your rights.

America has much to learn from the experience of the organized blind--as a nation we are not seeing things very clearly these days. We have lost sight of the importance of values and the necessity to adhere to principles of behavior. We have lost sight of the power of human potential. We have lost sight of the necessity for helping each other and Marching Together.

As our nation tries to peer dimly through our culture of callousness, we need to follow your example and take responsibility for ourselves. We have wandered away from the path of principles and personal responsibility; our society needs to follow your example of self-reliance and re-learn what it means to challenge ourselves to excellence. All members of our society- -our leaders and the public at large--can benefit from the leadership and record of success achieved over the past fifty years by the National Federation of the Blind.

A white cane has become a symbol--in our workplaces and throughout society--of noble perseverance, determined independence, and the satisfaction of self-reliance. Today, I would like to challenge the members of the National Federation of the Blind never to relinquish your position in the vanguard of leadership. And I would like to challenge you to continue showing the way through this territory that is so familiar to you.

First, NFB members can help America see the importance of values and principled behavior. For the past two years, I have been utilizing my "bully pulpit" as much as possible to call for a transformation of our nation's social climate into a culture of character. By character, I mean personal values and qualities such as self-discipline, integrity, honor, taking responsibility for one's acts, respect for others, perseverance, moderation, and a commitment to serve others and the broader community.

By culture I mean the prevailing mores characteristic of our society. We must reinvigorate those institutions that teach and nurture values and principles of healthy behavior, especially the institutions of family, school, church, and community. Frederick Douglass put it clearly when he said, "With character we can be powerful. Nothing can harm us so long as we have character." Personal character, integrity, and a social climate which engenders those values are essential for better lives for all Americans and for empowerment of all Americans.

As an organization, the Federation has much to teach our nation about the wisdom of building on a foundation of strong values and unwavering principles. You have much to teach our nation about persevering in the face of adversity to make dreams become realities.

Second, NFB members can help America see the power of human potential. Back in 1940 when the NFB was founded, there was limited hope for the blind. Dr. Jernigan described the situation for the blind in these stark terms--"custody, control, condescension, inferiority, pity, and lack of opportunity."

Those conditions will not be permitted to exist ever again. As Dr. Jernigan says, the NFB is "moving with accelerating motion in a straight line toward the future." Those eloquent words express the power of human potential. And, as he puts it, "the average blind person (given reasonable opportunity and an even break) can make the dollars and take the knocks with everybody else."

The can-do spirit of the NFB is all the more remarkable when put up against the survey findings that, next to death itself, people's number one fear is going blind. You have faced that specter, and it cannot hold you back. You have experienced discrimination and lack of opportunity, yet you refer to your blindness as a mere "physical nuisance."

Clearly you have generated the power to see your potential fulfilled. Without strife or confrontation, you have exerted positive pressure and the unified force of 50,000 members to change perceptions and to make inroads on the pervasive stereotypes of helplessness that people all too often have about blindness. There is still a long way to go, but by taking individual responsibility for making a difference, members of NFB are role models for all Americans. Each of us can make a difference, and each of us must make a difference.

Third, NFB members can help America see the necessity for communities of friends and neighbors. Not only must our nation have a renewed sense of personal responsibility, but of equal importance is the necessity of our mutual support for one another.

Last Sunday's Washington Post had a feature about new neighborhood patrols guarding streets in the District of Columbia. The gist of the article was that the police have not succeeded in clearing out the drug dealers because look-outs warn dealers when police are coming, and police must have warrants to follow the dealers inside. With the assistance of neighborhood patrols, dealers simply cannot make contact with customers--there is nobody to sell to. This example of neighborhood cooperation and unity in solving a major problem shows the power of unified action.

The Post article went on to say that a surprising result of the neighborhood patrols is that they are functioning in much the same way as the old-fashioned front porch visits of yesteryear. As neighbors get out of their houses to work together to rid the streets of the drug dealers and protect their children, they learn about each other's lives and communicate with each other.

Your unified efforts in the NFB have made you a powerful force in changing attitudes toward blindness and in educating the public about blindness. Your unified efforts have also created a climate that is more receptive to individual blind persons' achieving their full potential--both personally and professionally.

In your efforts to empower the blind, you have worked on two fronts. You have worked to change the external circumstances that are unjust and hold back blind persons. But by fostering a sense of community, you have also strengthened the blind and reinforced the strength of character necessary to survive and prosper in spite of adverse circumstances. Together, these efforts are working to empower individuals and to motivate changes in societal attitudes.

What you are doing for the blind needs to be done in our broader society. The determination and hope for the future among NFB members is a palpable force for change. Your shining example can be a spark that can kindle a mighty fire of change--a fire whose intense heat will enable us to forge a shining new culture of character:

- That transformed culture can empower all our citizens so that human potential will be realized, not wasted.

- That transformed culture can empower all our communities in a unified effort to help each other be all we can be.

- That transformed culture can empower our nation to enlarge its doors of opportunity, to offer independence, equality, and fulfillment to all who are working to attain them.

Thank you for this opportunity to be with you. I look forward to hearing future reports of your progress. I commend you for your inspiring example, and I wish you Godspeed in all your endeavors.

ERASING OLD IMAGES WITH NEW RIGHTS:
HOW PUBLIC PROGRAMS CAN HELP

by William Jefferson, Member of Congress

From the Associate Editor: On Wednesday afternoon, July 3, 1991, Congressman William Jefferson, Member of the Subcommittee on Select Education, House of Representatives, came to New Orleans to address some three thousand delegates to the National Federation of the Blind convention. It would have been gratifying to find that any Member of Congress who was invited to our convention was impressed by what he found, but it was particularly significant that Congressman Jefferson was moved by what he heard and has been persuaded to work with us to achieve our goals. Here is what he had to say:

It is my pleasure to welcome you to New Orleans. This is my district in which you meet. I know our mayor earlier today had the opportunity to give you greetings on behalf of the people of our city, but I do not want to pass up the opportunity to do the same. So please feel very welcome in our city, and whatever we can do to be of support or help to bring about a successful convention, we want to have a hand in making it happen for you here in New Orleans. I will not speak very long, for which I am sure you would want to applaud. But I am pleased to have been invited by the National Federation of the Blind to make brief remarks to you all, to Mr. Marc Maurer, Mr. James Gashel, who works on your behalf and on our behalf in Washington and beyond.

I wish particularly to thank you for making me a part of this program. I bring you all greetings, of course, on behalf of our Education and Labor Committee and our Select Committee on Education and from the Congress as well. The work that you are doing here in this conference and the work that you do every day benefit all of us whether we happen to directly deal with a physical disability or not. Your association, the National Federation of the Blind, has been the force of the nation's blind for many years, and I am pleased to join you here today to add my voice to yours and to help strengthen our plea to our Congress and to our nation to help together to erase old images regarding the blind with new rights, to discuss how we might fashion public programs that can help the more than 500,000 people in our country who are blind, their families and friends, acquaintances and their co-workers to deal with the issues confronting blind people that truly address all of our needs.

In the ten years that I served in the Louisiana State Senate I authored and fought for legislation and funding to support services for blind people and others of our citizens enduring disabilities. Each year on the Senate Finance Committee I was proud to offer amendment after amendment to assist in these most important areas. Additionally, I authored as a state senator and the legislature enacted two bills that I shall forever be pleased and proud of to have been associated with. The first one was a bill forbidding discrimination against the handicapped in our state. The second expanded and strengthened the sheltered workshops and statutes of our state.

Presently, I happen to have the distinction of being the only Democrat in the U.S. Congress who serves on all three education committees, and I am most pleased to serve as a member of the Select Education Committee by choice. This committee will have the responsibility during this term of Congress to authorize, to re-authorize, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as it has been amended over the years. This Act has provided substantial financial assistance to states and, through the Social Security Act, pays for the cost of rehabilitation services for disabled and blind people. Without denying that this Act has been very beneficial, it is time that the Congress change an important part of the Act's crucial focus. No longer should the Congress assign blind people to receive state agency services only from programs specified by the agency. In the past, client preference has been of little or no consequence under the provisions of the Rehabilitation Act.

In the Congress we have recently enacted the Americans With Disabilities Act, which sets a major new impetus for growth and change in programs, including rehabilitation programs, to assist those under its coverage. We are embarking upon an era in which our hope is to remove old images, misinformation, and misconceptions about the capacities of persons with disabilities to contribute to themselves, to their families, to their communities, and to their nation. In this context it goes against the grain of this clear thinking to continue to spoon feed and mandate rehabilitation choices upon blind persons seeking rehab services. As a matter of law, then, it is time that we gave to the blind people of our country, in the provisions of the re- authorized Rehabilitation Act, the right of choice in selecting agencies to provide rehabilitation services. As we have authorized students to receive federal aid to attend post- secondary schools, to choose their own schools, and to select their own courses of study; and as we have permitted elderly and disabled recipients of health services paid for by Medicare to choose the doctors they see, so must we permit blind people of America to have client choices in their rehabilitation programs. We must not continue to subordinate their choices to those of counselor decisions and agency regulations. We cannot, on the one hand, empower our blind citizens through a broad and sweeping Americans with Disabilities Act and, on the other hand, deny them the right to plan and choose and have a say in their rehabilitation programs. In this context, empowerment necessarily implies choice. You can count on me, as a member of the Select Education Committee, to argue for this point and to do my best to sell it to our committee so that, when our new rehabilitation act is passed out of the committee in this session, it will include client right of choice provisions.

Although choice and planning rehabilitation services may be the premiere and cutting-edge issue facing the Congress in making an enlightened break from the past, old issues that appeared well-settled have been put on the front burner again. The legislation that was established by Congresswoman Barbara Kennelly, among others, upon the request and with the strong support of the National Federation of the Blind, to establish and promote a program of economic opportunities for blind persons is now being severely challenged. Under this and other provisions, agreements have been reached between state agencies and highway departments to give priority to the state programs for blind vendors in rest, recreation, and safety areas on the rights-of- way in the national highway system.

But now the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) wants to commercialize services at interstate rest stop and safety areas. AASHTO wants commercial developers to be allowed to enter into agreements with states to conduct travel service and rest area programs (including rest area services, food service, and other services) traditionally provided by blind vendors. Without the protection of Federal legislation in this area, opportunities for blind Americans sought by the Kennelly amendment would be overrun by commercial interest. We must not let this happen.

In this regard I believe Congress should enact the necessary legislation to ensure that the blind vendor priority granted by existing provisions of law are strengthened and insulated against attack by AASHTO. I will support legislation to permit the commercialization of travel service and rest areas on rights-of- way of interstate highway systems only if priority is given to blind persons in the management and conduct of all of the services provided there.

Furthermore, I agree with your position on the National Accreditation Council. And I will not support, and I do not believe our committee will support or our Congress will support, proposals to make accreditation by NAC a pre-condition for the receipt of Federal funds to agencies providing rehab, education, and employment assistance for the blind.

I came here today under the mistaken impression that I was to speak around 2:00 p.m., and I had to wait, of course, until almost 4:00 p.m. before it came my turn. But in the middle of that and because of that mistake, I was granted a great favor--I was able to hear your President speak passionately and quite vividly about the progress, fight, and struggle that has been going on in the Federation over the past years; and I too, like Chairman Yeutter, am impressed with what your report contains, with the work you are doing, and with your leadership, Mr. President. So I am happy to have been a part of it, and I look forward to working with you and with this great Federation for the years to come.

The issues I have discussed with you today are discrete and important issues and ones I feel deeply about. They, however, will come and go from year to year, and we may deal with them more or less successfully as they are presented. Our job, however, in the Congress (those of us who are concerned about the future, about the future independence and prosperity of the blind population of our country) is to keep moving the agenda in a direction away from misconceptions about the capabilities, desires, and aspirations of blind people. Public policies and laws that derive from misconceptions and from a lack of information will present more of a problem if left unchecked than even the disability itself. The public perceptions about physical disabilities in this country must be changed to the extent that all of our people--those with disabilities and those without--are seen as deserving of and desiring the same opportunity.

We must enlist, not only every member of Congress in this endeavor, but every American to the goal of independent living and dignified living of every person in our country, regardless of his or her physical loss or physical limitation. And after we have done this, we must then fashion programs and create new rights that match up with this new realistic thinking so that all of our people may be properly trained and properly educated to reach their fullest potential.

In this endeavor, I submit to each and every one of you, to your Federation, and to its leadership, my hand, my heart, and my humble service. Thank you very much.

 

EMPOWERMENT OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES

by Justin Dart

From the Associate Editor: Justin Dart is the Chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. He addressed the annual Convention of the National Federation of the Blind on Thursday morning, July 4, 1991. Friday afternoon, July 5, the organized blind presented Chairman Dart with the National Federation of the Blind's Distinguished Service Award. That presentation is described elsewhere in this issue. Here is the text of his Thursday morning remarks as he delivered them to the largest group of disabled people to gather in the world in 1991:

On behalf of President George Bush I wish each one of you a happy Independence Day, and I congratulate you on a record- breaking annual convention. I am proud to be here on Independence Day with the organization that stands for independence and the people who live independence: Mr. Independence, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, Marc Maurer, Jim Gashel, Peggy Pinder, Fred Schroeder, my beloved colleagues Harold Snider, John Lancaster, and many more.

And what a special Independence Day this is! The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is law--a landmark in the evolution of human beings, the world's first comprehensive civil rights law for people with disabilities by any nation. ADA holds the potential for the emancipation and productive independence of every person with a disability on earth.

I am proud of America. I am proud of President Bush. I am proud of our great Congress. Most of all I am proud of each one of you who laid the foundations of ADA in years past and who organized the meetings, wrote the letters, and made the calls and the visits to Congress that resulted in the passage of ADA as a real civil rights law. I am particularly proud of the NFB Amendment that prevented the paternalists from forcing us to use segregated facilities. You are the true patriots of the twentieth century.

ADA is an absolutely essential tool to achieve equality, but ADA is not equality. To the millions of Americans with disabilities who are still imprisoned by prejudice and paternalism, ADA is a promise to be kept. That promise is empowerment. For whatever the words of the law say, the clearly-implied promise of ADA is that all Americans with disabilities, including persons with blindness, will be empowered to fulfill their potential as equal, as prosperous, and as welcome members of the mainstream.

America is watching. The world is watching. Because we are America, our success or our failure to keep the promise of ADA will impact the quality of the lives of several generations in every nation. How can we move from ADA to empowerment in real life? I suggest four focuses for action.

First, last, and always, vigorous and united advocacy. The hard lesson of history is that government alone cannot enforce equality. The hard lesson of history is that equality is often promised and never voluntarily given. Real life equality is always a continuing conquest by those who seek it.

We will be equal only as we maintain and expand our active advocacy with the power to educate and to engage every community in the legal and citizen enforcement of our ADA rights--and with the power to shape attitudinal and physical environments in which we can contribute our productive abilities. We must reach out to the hundreds of thousands of people with blindness and their advocates who have not been active members of our movement. We must inform them of their ADA rights and their responsibilities, and we must unite them in action for empowerment. The Bush Administration will fulfill its absolute responsibility to provide leadership for empowerment, but the final responsibility for keeping the promise of ADA is ours as citizen advocates.

Second, we must celebrate and promote our ADA rights every day in every possible place--in our homes, schools, offices, churches, clubs, and through the public media.

Every celebration of ADA strengthens the unity of our movement, chips away at negative attitudes, and provides the strongest possible platform to explain and to promote our agenda for full empowerment.

More than two hundred million average Americans, including most leaders of government and business, will never know the legal requirements of ADA or any other law; but they can know, they must know and be proud that this nation has declared people with disabilities to be equal. Mainstream Americans can decide to welcome us into their offices, their public facilities, their churches, their living rooms, their minds, and their hearts; and until they do, we will not be truly free. We must educate and motivate America to empower people with blindness in the mainstream.

Third, we must reach out to employers, to operators of public facilities, and to government at all levels. We must inform them of their ADA responsibilities and especially their ADA opportunities--opportunities to have more productive employees, more customers, more profits, and less taxes. We must embrace them in positive partnership for full and harmonious compliance with ADA and other rights legislation, with minimal expense, with minimal litigation, and with maximal profit for business, for people with disabilities, and for all Americans.

You of the NFB have a special qualification to help us relate positively to business because so many of you are employed and leaders in competitive business. Of course there will be, there must be lawsuits when our rights are blatantly infringed. But equality has never been implemented by lawsuits alone. Strong enforcement of ADA is absolutely essential; however, the purpose of strong enforcement is not to produce lawsuits, but to encourage voluntary compliance.

Fourth, empowerment is the missing clause in the social contract. The reality of all nations--including the ghettos of America--makes it painfully clear that civil rights laws and aggressive job placement alone, however essential, do not automatically enable people to achieve lives of quality in an increasingly complex technological society. The substance of equality and of quality of life is empowerment in the economic and social mainstream.

The next task of Mr. Jefferson's great experiment in democracy is to convert an opportunity society into an empowerment society. For more than fifty years the NFB has been a pioneer voice in the wilderness for empowerment to be self- reliant and productive. We must build on the foundations which you and the other pioneers of empowerment have begun and the proven strengths of the free enterprise system.

We must use the bully pulpit of ADA to promote a revolutionary change of America's attitudes and a revolutionary reallocation of America's resources from dependence to empowerment. We must make creative public and private investments in dynamic new initiatives that will empower all twenty-first century Americans to achieve their potential for employment and quality of life in the mainstream.

Education for empowerment. Incentives for empowerment, rather than disincentives. Technology and total community environments that empower. Services and community supports for empowerment that offer real choices: choices because we are adult American citizens. We choose our own lawyers. We choose our own husbands and wives, and we have a right to choose our services.

I have presented an ambitious agenda. Some will suggest that it is politically impossible and unaffordably expensive, especially in a time of budget crisis. Bullfeathers. Impossible? Isn't that what they said about democracy in 1776, about bringing down the Berlin Wall, about ADA?

The budget crisis? President Bush has estimated the economic cost of excluding two thirds of Americans with disabilities from the mainstream to be about $200 billion annually. Our irresponsible status quo is the cause of the budget crisis. If we can afford to spend $200 billion to keep American citizens with blindness in rat-infested ghettos, don't tell me we can't afford to invest a fraction of that amount in the empowerment of those American citizens to be free and productive participants in mainstream America.

Money is not the basic problem. What is required is moral and political courage--courage to overcome politics, personality, and turf and to unite and to act for what we know is right; courage to change stereotyped attitudes and obsolete systems; courage to increase power by sharing it. What is required is courageous, unifying leadership for empowerment: leadership by you, leadership by us together.

The revolution of empowerment begins at home. As long as I am the chairman of your president's committee, I pledge you my very best to empower you and all citizens in the decisions of your government and in the implementation of those decisions. America needs you to keep the promise of ADA.

Colleagues, the revolution of empowerment will not be quick or easy. Many of us will not live to see the promised land. Many of us are tired after long years of struggle. It is tempting to become obsessed with the aura of political triumph--the positions, the recognition, the prestige. I am tired. And to tell you that I am never tempted to compromise principle for prestige or for comfort would be dishonest, and it would be arrogant.

But I think of the people with disabilities sleeping in the streets of Washington and Bombay. I think of the people with blindness imprisoned in the back rooms and the institutions of Houston and Beijing. I think of my daughter Betsy with MS. I think of my brother Peter, who said, "I would rather be dead than dependent." And he chose to be dead. I think of the children yet unborn in every nation, who deserve a life of quality. And I know that we have miles to go and promises to keep before we sleep. We must join together in action. We must join together in love, in mutual respect, and in that primal reverence for life which transcends the transient trivialities that divide us. We cannot afford to fail. If we are together, we will not fail. I believe that because I believe in you. Colleagues, my association with you in our struggle for rights and empowerment has been an experience powerful and beautiful beyond expression. I thank you. I love you. Together we have overcome; together we shall overcome.

 

NFB NET

by David Andrews

From the Editors: As Federationists know, David Andrews is the Director of the National Braille and Technology Center for the Blind. He has been responsible for developing NFB NET. Here is what he has to say about it:

With more and more Federationists using computers, speech synthesizers, refreshable Braille displays, Braille 'n Speaks, and modems, there has been increased interest in the National Federation of the Blind's offering a bulletin board service. We are now doing so with the opening of NFB NET.

At this point some of you are probably asking, "What is NFB NET?" Well, it isn't a way to capture new members. It is the official computerized bulletin board service of the National Federation of the Blind. A bulletin board system (BBS) is a computer system which contains files and messages on various subjects. A person using his or her computer and modem can access the bulletin board from home or work. (A modem is a device which enables two computers to communicate with each other over a standard telephone line.)

The bulletin board is another way in which our members and friends can keep in touch with the National Center for the Blind. Here is what the opening screen of NFB NET has to say:

Welcome to NFB NET. This bulletin board is a service of the National Federation of the Blind and is intended for use by Federationists and other interested persons.

NFB NET is the official BBS voice of the National Federation of the Blind and exists to disseminate news and information of interest to Federationists, other interested blind and sighted persons, and persons working in the field of blindness. It is also our goal to facilitate information and idea exchanges via computers and modems.

If you have questions about NFB NET or the National Federation of the Blind, please leave a message to the SysOp as you sign off or write to us at: NFB NET, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230.

That is what the opening screen says, and as mentioned earlier, NFB NET will mainly consist of files and messages. The files include past and current issues of the Braille Monitor, other NFB Literature, and state affiliate and local chapter newsletters. The system also has files of interest to blind computer users, such as demo copies of various speeches and Braille translation programs. Further, there is a selection of public domain and shareware software. Finally, there is a file area for NFBTRANS-related files. (NFBTRANS is the Braille translation program developed by the NFB.) Future plans call for the release of the source code for NFBTRANS, so this area can serve as a collection point for altered programs, etc.

Messages on NFB NET are categorized by topic. There is an area called Blind Talk for the discussion of issues, both computer-related and noncomputer-related, of interest to blind persons. Another area, NFB Talk, is for the announcement of timely information and discussion of matters concerning the NFB. These two discussion areas will also be carried on the BBS run by Federationist Tommy Craig in Austin, Texas, and we would be interested in having other boards pick them up. There is also a discussion area for NFBTRANS; and Charlie Cook, its author, has agreed to call in periodically to answer questions and offer advice.

NFB NET is a part of Fidonet, a worldwide network of bulletin board systems that exchange electronic mail and discussion areas or conferences called Echoes. NFB NET will carry a variety of Echo Conferences on job hunting, employment listings, home-based entrepreneurial opportunities, WordPerfect questions and solutions, and more.

For those members who use bulletin boards in their local areas and wish to send NFB NET electronic mail via Fidonet, our address is 1:261/1125.

The parameters for NFB NET are 8 data bits, no parity, and one stop bit. The system has a U.S. Robotics 9600 HST dual standard modem and can handle baud rates of 300, 1200, 2400, and 9600. The modem can also handle V.32 and V.42 and MNP level 1-5 protocols. What all this means is that NFB NET should be able to connect with almost anything around. The telephone number is (301) 752-5011.

The success of NFB NET will ultimately be determined by your participation. If you have a computer and modem, give us a call, leave messages in the different message areas, and please contribute files and upload your state or local newsletters, if they are available on disk. We look forward to seeing you on-line.

 

A NEW WAY OUT: IOWA SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND DE-NACS

From the Associate Editor: State governmental officials come to NFB affiliate conventions prepared to face informed, concerned consumers of services and expecting to answer tough questions. On May 25, 1991, Dennis Thurman, Superintendent of the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School, came to speak to the convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa to talk with the organized blind about the school. After he spoke, he answered a number of questions.

Near the end of the question period, one member asked Mr. Thurman if he was going to recommend that "a certain organization that we spoke of earlier today" no longer be the school's accreditor. He reminded Mr. Thurman that such a recommendation would necessarily be made in a public meeting of the Board of Regents, the powerful Governor-appointed body that administers the state's universities and the schools for the blind and the deaf. Thurman replied--and Monitor readers who receive the recorded editions of this magazine can hear his actual response--as follows:

Dennis Thurman: Are you talking about NAC? [asked with mild but amused incredulity. The audience responded with friendly laughter] The school's accreditation with NAC expires December 31, 1991. I have advised the Board of Regents, and they have given me permission to go ahead and pursue another form of accreditation. (prolonged applause and cheers)

Now, if I could explain just a little about that form of accreditation. It is something that is new in the North Central Association--and, please, understand that, when I say "NCA," I'm not mixing up NAC or putting it backwards.

The North Central Association of Schools and Colleges is an organization in about twenty-two states that accredits schools-- public schools and colleges--throughout its region. In Iowa they accredit all the Regents institutions. They accredit most of the public high schools and elementary schools, although there are probably some, because of their size, that can't meet North Central standards, but the rest of them do.

About three or four years ago or maybe even more, the North Central Association started an accreditation process called OA (Outcome Accreditation). Outcome accreditation is a new concept. It does not examine standards. It bases its accreditation on whether or not you make valid plans for students, analyze the students' success, and then use that information to change your instructional program. We're very interested in that concept of accreditation. We're very interested in getting away from "You need this, this, and this" to a system that says "Your students learned this, and you change to provide this." We think that is a better way to approach education.

Now please understand. This is a massive undertaking on our part. It is going to call for a lot of concerted, directed effort by everyone within the school, and we are going to be stumbling our way through this thing for the next two or three years.

You have to apply for candidacy with the North Central Association, and we are in the process of applying for that now. I would anticipate that we will not get our North Central OA up for at least three years. We are accredited by North Central now, and that accreditation doesn't expire until '93 or '94, so we're probably covered through to the expiration of our current accreditation. We're really looking forward to making this outcomes accreditation process work. I don't know any more about it to tell you than that. The concept is really radically different. It is not a book of standards like NAC has had and CARF has and so forth. The actual book describing it is very small, but the process it describes is complex within an organization. And that's what's going to take a long time to develop.

That is what Dennis Thurman had to say about Iowa plans, and it is a solution that may well serve some other schools for the blind in good stead. It is certainly appropriate for educational institutions to seek accreditation from a body that works with schools. Certainly many professionals have said that the only useful part of any accreditation process is the self-study, providing that it is undertaken with seriousness and a will to profit from the exercise. We can hope that other residential schools for the blind will look into the North Central Association's Outcome Accreditation.

 

RESOLUTIONS, DEMOCRACY, AND THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND

by Barbara Pierce

Anyone who has ever chaired a meeting (anyone, that is, who has tried to do it fairly) has struggled to achieve the balance between allowing everyone to have a say in the matter under discussion and actually getting something accomplished. The chair is responsible for seeing that decisions are made and necessary actions taken, but unless there is sufficient discussion and debate the members of the group will be dissatisfied even if the choices made prove to be correct. This balance can be difficult to maintain in a small committee; it becomes infinitely more complex in a convention of 3,000.

Mechanisms must be found for organizing and coordinating floor discussion and for encouraging as many people as possible to think about the issues and draw their own conclusions before any question is brought to the vote. In the National Federation of the Blind, as in many other large organizations, the method chosen has been to establish policies by adopting written resolutions which are examined by a carefully-chosen resolutions committee. In the Federation this committee meets on the afternoon of the day on which convention registration begins. The committee is large, about fifty people from all over the country, and its members take their job seriously. All convention delegates are encouraged to attend this meeting--this year no other convention activities were scheduled in conflict with the Resolutions Committee meeting. At this stage of the process the discussion is principally among the members of the Committee and the sponsors of the resolutions, with occasional comments and questions from the audience. Of course everyone is expected to spend time during the week discussing the issues with each other and committee members.

All resolutions must be brought to Ramona Walhof, Chair of the committee, no later than 2:00 on the afternoon of the meeting by a sponsor who is prepared to speak for them. The Resolutions Committee cannot bottle up a resolution that it has debated. It can only recommend pass or do not pass to the convention at the time of the actual discussion in a convention floor debate. Frequently the committee works with a sponsor to rewrite resolutions that have problems or to combine several resolutions on the same subject that have been brought by different people. The Resolutions Committee is large enough to make it possible for the chair to appoint rewrite subcommittees having expertise of use to the sponsor as efforts are made to construct a resolution that both the sponsor and the committee can recommend to the convention for passage. But the sponsor always has the option of bringing a resolution to the floor regardless of the opinions of the Resolutions Committee.

The ebb and flow of such discussion is fascinating, and one can learn much about the Federation, democracy at work, and effective political process by observing the give and take of debate in an NFB Resolutions Committee meeting. Following are several excerpts from the 1991 Monday afternoon meeting. You can see what I mean. Early in the meeting Andy Fountain of Florida brought a resolution, subsequently given the number 91-19, which was very similar to one brought last year and withdrawn by its sponsors after Resolutions Committee discussion. Here is the text of Resolution 91-19 as Committee Secretary Sheryl Pickering read it to the committee:

WHEREAS, seventy percent of working-age blind persons are unemployed or severely underemployed; and

WHEREAS, this fact is not a temporary, passing phenomenon but a steady, stubborn pattern that has existed for decades; and

WHEREAS, experience, research, and logic demonstrate that joblessness among the blind is due, not to limitations of blindness, but to mistaken attitudes and poor training; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind has worked hard to combat this problem in many ways, including the Job Opportunities for the Blind Information and Referral Program, legislative campaigns to achieve enactment of nondiscrimination laws in various occupations, court battles to enforce such laws, public education about the capacities of blind persons, and numerous other activities on local, state, and national levels; and

WHEREAS, we are justifiably proud of these efforts for the positive impact they have had on the welfare of the blind; and

WHEREAS, this fifty-first anniversary convention is a time both to celebrate our accomplishments and to plan strategically for even greater success in the years ahead; and

WHEREAS, the unemployment problem persists in ugly proportions, damaging the security and psyche often of thousands of our blind brothers and sisters; and

WHEREAS, our society as a whole thereby also suffers in its economic health and spiritual well-being: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind that this Federation hereby reaffirms its long-term commitment to combating unemployment of blind people and declares this matter to be its top priority in our struggle for first-class citizenship; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization orient and coordinate its programs and activities in light of this priority.

Mrs. Walhof: All right, you have heard the resolution. Committee members, we are ready for discussion. There was a resolution brought last year, which was withdrawn, that had some of the same things as this one. It was ultimately withdrawn. Does anyone want to discuss this resolution? Dr. Jernigan and Mr. Maurer are ex officio members of all committees, and Dr. Jernigan would like to discuss it.

Dr. Jernigan: I want to say to you, Madam Chairman, that I agree with every word in that resolution except one, and that is "the" as opposed to "a," for I do not believe that employment is the top priority in this movement, and I will tell you why I don't. I believe that unemployment is a symptom and that we have got to get at the cause. Let me tell you what I mean. Of course, we work on employment--the resolution is absolutely correct. Much of our effort has been toward that. Somebody raised the question with me, "Why on earth when you went to the White House did you ask the President, for goodness sake, about airline seating when many blind people don't have the price of an airfare, let alone worry about where they sit?" And furthermore, I was told: "Why didn't you ask about all the other things that might have been done? Were there no problems of Braille literacy? Were there no problems of the elderly?"

"Yes," I said, "But consider why I asked the question." It was not asked casually; it was not asked with the notion that the President was then and there going to do anything. (The person, by the way, said that the president has probably already forgotten the question.) Well he certainly would have forgotten the question if I had said, "Mr. President, there is a high unemployment rate among the blind; can you do anything to help us?"

"Absolutely," he would have said, "I will do whatever I can." He would have then forthwith forgotten it. "Braille literacy, why of course," he would have said, "of course, I think that's a shame." Obviously, the airline issue is not just the airline issue. It, too, is symptomatic. It is a rather dramatic way of focusing something, but it is symptomatic. It is not the cause. Most people don't care where they sit on an airplane. Certainly, I don't. It's true that if you are sitting in the exit row and there is a crash, you have a little better chance of living. But there is not likely to be a crash.

Our top priority, as I see it, is to achieve equal status and first-class membership in society. If we can do that, by public education, by working to see that in ourselves we believe we deserve to be first-class citizens, then, I think, lots of things will follow. When we're really accepted as first-class citizens, we won't have employment problems more than other people, and we won't have problems on the airlines, and we won't have some of the Braille literacy problems, and we won't have some of the problems that some of the elderly blind now face. Not every problem goes away with that generality. I understand that. But it's not really a generality to say that we're seeking and we have always sought as our real objective, to achieve first-class status and equal membership in society.

One may say, "Okay, but what's the problem in passing a resolution which says that the top priority is employment?" The problem is this: Later on arguments can be made that this means any effort we make that isn't directly related to employment in somebody's opinion is a violation of the resolution passed. Now, I'm not saying that is what is intended. I don't think it is, but we take seriously the resolutions passed, and we try, I think, to interpret them in the spirit in which they are sent.

I don't know how the maker of the resolution would feel, but I could support each and every word of that resolution and support it strongly if we said that the employment of the blind is "a" top priority of this movement. But I cannot support saying it is "the" top priority, because I don't think it comes ahead of trying to achieve equal status and first-class membership in society. At least that is what we have always said our top priority was--that we really had as our principal aim full integration into society on a basis of equality. For that reason, Madam Chairwoman, I want to ask the presenter of the resolution a question. Obviously, it is his resolution. He's got a right to have it presented exactly as he brought it. I wonder if he would be willing to change the "a" to a "the," or if he wants it left "the." If he is willing to make that change, I for one, could support it, and I would question whether anyone in this group would oppose it. If he can't do that, then reluctantly I couldn't support it.

Ramona Walhof: Andy Fountain is here and would like to speak. Mr. Maurer wants to speak. Andy, we're going to put you on, and then maybe Mr. Maurer wants to have a few words.

Andy Fountain: I would like to keep the wording the same: "the top priority," instead of "a top priority," but my interpretation is different from the way Dr. Jernigan interprets it. If it said the only priority, then I would agree with his interpretation. I don't think that because it says "the top priority," that means the Federation cannot focus on other goals and to achieve equal status and opportunity. That is a strategy, and that is the ultimate goal of the organization. The tactics for doing that, in my opinion, are what these resolutions are about, and making unemployment as an issue the top priority is one of those tactics that is used to achieve this strategy of stopping the blind from being second-class citizens. Therefore, I would like to leave it as is, but I appreciate the fact that he supports every word except "the." I think that is good.

Mrs. Walhof: [in response to several efforts to move the recommendation no pass] That motion is not in order. Mr. Maurer?

President Maurer: Thank you, Madam Chairman. Very often the resolutions that come from this committee are statements of direction for the organization to be used in dealing with entities outside the organization. And we may very well want to adopt for our purposes today one plan of attack. To get to the same objective we may decide at another time, after discussion of a great number of people, to adopt another plan of attack. It seems to me that this is a resolution that directs the techniques to be used, rather than establishing a policy to be followed, and I think it would inhibit the organization from achieving its goals by limiting its flexibility, and I think that's the problem with the wording saying that it is the priority rather than it is a priority, and I would agree that I must reluctantly oppose the resolution.

Mrs. Walhof: [in response to voices seeking the floor] I have heard Peggy Pinder and Rami Rabby.

Miss Pinder: Madam Chairman, I would like to make a brief statement and shen ask for a ruling from the chair. I listened carefully to what both Dr. Jernigan and President Maurer said and share their reluctance. I want to add a few things and then, as I said, ask for a ruling from the chair. As Dr. Jernigan said, the word "the" is the word in the way. A scholarship program doesn't lead to employment, Parents of Blind Children doesn't lead to employment, the cane travel seminars we had yesterday don't lead to employment, Braille doesn't lead to employment. How many of the things that we do ground us in equality? And the equality is part of what employment partakes of. But it is not a "the," it is an "a." Madam Chairman, it seems to me that the issue has been framed quite clearly by Dr. Jernigan and Mr. Maurer, and it seems to me that it would be appropriate to place before the convention the clear choice. Is it the resolution with "a top priority," or is it the resolution with "the top priority"?

I would like to suggest to you, Madam Chairman, that the Resolutions Committee accept an offer from me of a resolution, which is in the exact same words--every single word of the resolution that has been read--with one exception, which would be "a" instead of "the." The Resolutions Committee could then, Madam Chairman, if you rule according to what I am suggesting, consider both resolutions. We could call them the "the resolution" or the "a resolution," and we could consider each offer to the convention a recommendation on each. And if I have a chance, I will argue that the "a" should be adopted, the "the" should be do not pass. I think, Madam Chairman, and I am suggesting that you make the ruling that this second resolution--in every way identical except the one word--be permitted to be considered by the Resolutions Committee as the next resolution after the one that is currently on the table. Can I have a ruling on that please?

Mrs. Walhof: All right, it's time for numbers. Let's number the Andy Fountain resolution, 91-19, and the Pinder resolution, 91-20. So we have two resolutions. Rami, do you want to comment on either of them?

Mr. Rabby: Yes, Madam Chairperson, I would, on the first one. I agree one hundred percent with Dr. Jernigan's reasoning, and that is all the more why I think it would be a pity if, just because of one word, we had to oppose Andy Fountain's resolution. So I'd like just one more go at trying to persuade Andy Fountain to agree to change the "the" to an "a." Andy, I would say that you sound like a young person to me from your voice--I don't know how old you are. It is generally recognized that about two thirds of blind people in this country are over the age of sixty-five. And like sighted people over the age of sixty-five, blind people over that age probably are not that interested in employment. They have had their employment years. They've done what they can in their lives as far as employment is concerned, and they are concerned about other issues--whether it is Social Security, or Medicare, or leisure-time activities and how blind people are treated in leisure-time pursuits, transportation, housing, all kinds of other issues. That being the case, Andy, don't you think that it would be appropriate to change that word from "the" to an "a," taking into account the predominant interests of the majority of blind people in this country? That doesn't mean to say that employment isn't a top priority; it certainly is, as Dr. Jernigan has said. But saying that it is the top priority, it seems to me, would take away from all the interests of two-thirds of the blind population that happen to be over sixty-five and may, in fact, tend to turn them away from considering the National Federation of the Blind as the primary force fighting for their interests.

Mrs. Walhof: Thank you Rami. Andy, are you still at a mike? All right, do you want to respond to Rami?

Mr. Fountain: First of all, I regard with great respect and honor the fact that Rami Rabby spoke on the subject of my resolution, but I still disagree with him. I again do not believe that "the top priority" means "only."

Even though I support the Federation's efforts on the airlines issue, I think that there are many, many, many people who do not and who would disagree with this. Therefore, I don't know if percentages could be used as a basis for constructing priorities. I do believe that this is a policy issue, and I don't know that it is specifically internal. I recognize that the elderly probably do not have as great an interest in employment, but, on the other hand, younger people don't have as great an interest in Social Security. I believe that, if more blind people are employed, then the barriers will be broken down more quickly, and they will play a greater role in society because of their rising incomes. So that is some justification for making it the top priority, but not the only priority. I would certainly oppose that, if that were the only issue. [chorus of voices, seeking the floor]

Mrs. Walhof: All right now, I have heard Karl Smith, Jan Gawith, Jim Moynihan asking for the floor; I want to know whether you plan to speak in favor of the Pinder resolution, the Fountain resolution, or something else. Then we are going to decide how many people to recognize. Karl Smith?

Mr. Smith: Pinder/something else.

Mrs. Walhof: Jim Moynihan?

Mr. Moynihan: With all due respect to Peggy, the Andy Fountain resolution.

Mrs. Walhof: Jan Gawith?

Mrs. Gawith: Pinder.

Mrs. Walhof: All right, we'll take these three, and then we're going to start to limit discussion so we can vote. Karl?

Mr. Smith: I just wanted to say two quick things. First of all, the unemployment issue is very important and is a top priority, as the Pinder resolution states. However, as Dr. Jernigan states, this is definitely a symptom. We had a person in Utah who had a VISTA volunteer job at the state agency for the blind in the last year dealing with employment only. Her job was to help people find jobs--to go out and hunt up employment and get people employed. She did a survey, which we helped with by sending out mailings and questionnaires, of who was looking for work. And out of the thousand-odd that were sent out, three people wanted to work. That to me is a symptom of something else. I guess the question sometimes arises, why are seventy percent of us unemployed? Part of it is certainly because of discrimination, but how many of us really want to work sometimes? That is another issue that needs to be dealt with.

The second part of my comment is this: from the comments that Mr. Fountain has just made, I want to know, is this resolution a resolution about employment, or is this a sideways smack at the airlines issue? and if it is, then let's write a resolution saying, "Let's get rid of the airlines issue and deal with something else." Don't give us a resolution about employment, and then get up and talk about the airlines issue.

Mrs. Walhof: The resolution doesn't talk about airlines; that was the discussion.

Mr. Smith: That's right, but Mr. Fountain brought it up as an issue, and I said, if that is what he is trying to do, then let's talk airlines and not employment. Let's deal with it straight on.

Mrs. Walhof: All right, but let's deal with the resolution on what it says. Jim Moynihan?

Mr. Moynihan: I think that the other priorities are important: parents of blind children, cane travel, the airlines. None of these should be in any way shortchanged. But my feeling is that jobs are probably the key factor that limits us. I know that today, for example, I was able to purchase a Braille 'n Speak. There is no way that I could do that if my wife and I didn't work. My two children are in private schools. There is no way that I would be able to get that done if I didn't work. In other words, what I am saying is that from a job flow a lot of other things. From a job flows a lot of equality. When somebody sees you coming into a restaurant, and you have a credit card, somehow--unless you have a dog guide--you're pretty much treated like everybody else. And that goes if you want to purchase something from a store. So I think that the goal of equality is, of course, a primary goal, and that will happen, but that's an eventuality that we're working toward. If we can get our unemployment right down to twenty percent or ten percent, I think that there is no telling what kind of progress we'd be making. Thank you.

Mrs. Walhof: Jan Gawith?

Mrs. Gawith: Madam Chairman, I think, like everyone else, that employment is incredibly important; but I also believe that we cannot pass a resolution that would tie our president's hands so drastically that should something that we don't know of today come up and really be more of a priority--we don't know what it is--but we can't tie his hands so that he can't make a decision where he has to move first with the most. I think that with all of us here, employment is extremely important, but I would have to say that we have to go with the "a." It is a top priority, but it is not the only one.

Mrs. Walhof: All right, are there other committee members who want to speak or, if not... [chorus of voices, including Brown, Omvig, Page, and Ethel Parker saying "Point of order"] Ethel, you're after Jim Omvig. Page, and that's it. Charlie?

Mr. Brown: I think we need to talk about employment as a sub-set of productive activity. I'd like to see the Federation and society as a whole, for that matter, work a lot harder on (certainly within the Federation) recognizing that jobs are not the only way we make money in this world, and there are a lot of people out there who are entrepreneurial. In fact, one of our major legislative agendas this year has to do with that aspect. Just getting a job isn't the only way to make a buck in this world, and I would just like to respond to you on that one, Jim. [Moynihan]

Mr. Walhof: Jim Omvig?

Mr. Omvig: I was just wondering, Madam Chairman, the issue is really laid out before us now, and there'll be a lot of discussion on the "a" or the "the" between now and Saturday afternoon, so I would like--whenever we are ready for a motion--to get a vote on this so we go with it and people can discuss it until Saturday and go from there. So I'm ready to make a motion, Madam Chairman, if you're ready to take one.

Mrs. Walhof: Well, we're not yet. When we vote, I think we ought to vote on the two resolutions as two separate resolutions. We will take first one and then the other. Ethel Parker?... You need to get to a mike. Homer Page? Ethel, we'll come back to you.

Dr. Page: Well the significance of the resolution is the "the," and if the "the" is there, it really does significantly change policy and the understanding that this organization has had of itself. I don't support that. I think that we should vote not to recommend passage for this resolution. However, if we have an alternative that says "a," I think that we would all be willing to say that that resolution does not break new ground and is, in fact, unnecessary. I believe that what we need to do is vote not to recommend on "the," and simply leave "a" alone as an unnecessary attempt at a compromise.

President Maurer: Madam Chairman, I observe that the language of the resolution is that employment is to be "its" top priority. In case the question of language should arise, I don't think that there is a "the" in front of "top." [A rereading of the relevant resolve demonstrated that President Maurer was correct.]

Miss Pinder: So, Madam Chairman, my resolution would replace the word "its" with "a."

Mrs. Walhof: Committee, are you ready to vote?

Mr. Parker: I had a point of order!

Mrs. Walhof: All right Ethel, you're at a mike now; go ahead.

Mr. Parker: I don't think the chair ruled correctly when she let Peggy's motion in. It was past the time; by any subterfuge, you shouldn't change the rule of the committee, which you just did.

Mrs. Walhof: Okay, I appreciate that, Ethel; however, we have always rewritten resolutions, and this was proposed as a rewrite or a variant of the resolution presented. We always do that. We always have corrections and changes to make. Then we deal with whether the presenter accepts them or not. The presenter did not accept it. We don't want procedural problems to interfere with the will of the committee or the organization.

Mr. Parker: I entered a point of order. I may be the only one to vote the other way, and that's fine.

Mrs. Walhof: All right, we've heard it. But if there is an option to accept a member of the committee's resolution which is a variant or a rewrite of one that has been presented, then the committee can vote it down or up. Are you ready to vote, committee? All right. Mr. Omvig, you had a motion?

Mr. Omvig: On nineteen, I move do not pass. [chorus of seconds]

Mrs. Walhof: I have a motion and second that we recommend do not pass on resolution nineteen; that is the original resolution as presented by Andy Fountain and read by Sheryl. Is there any question? All in favor of the motion, please say "aye"; opposed? [audible votes on both sides, but many more in support of the motion] Okay, the recommendation on nineteen is do not pass. [unidentified voices moving and seconding a motion to recommend do pass on twenty] All right, we have a motion and a second that resolution 91-20 be passed. Karl Smith?

Mr. Smith: If we are in fact rewriting this resolution, is this not still nineteen?

Mrs. Walhof: Andy, let me ask you a question. If we number this twenty as a separate resolution, whatever the committee votes, are you going to want to bring the original resolution to the floor? We don't want to preclude your opportunity to do that. And Peggy, if we vote on your resolution, which we will do--whether it passes or doesn't pass, are you going to want to bring it to the floor? All right, if they both want to bring it to the floor, then we need separate numbers. All right, the motion has been made on twenty, which is "a top priority"; the motion is that we accept this as a resolution, that we pass it through the committee and take it to the convention as a do-pass recommendation. All in favor say "aye," opposed.... I can't tell if some of the "nos" were from the audience across the way. There are a significant number on the committee voting "no"s; is that correct? Okay, then we're going to have to take a roll-call vote. [After the vote was taken, Mrs. Walhof said]: I'm going to give the mike to Dr. Jernigan while we count.

Dr. Jernigan: I want to say something to the Resolutions Committee, which I hope will be thought about and considered. My notion is that it's always good policy to trust the convention. I understand that the convention will vote, and you have to abide by it, but trust the decision of the convention to make good sense.

From time-to-time, I hear people talk--and I'm not referring to this resolution--sometimes very loudly about the fact that the real majority of the Federation don't want the emphasis given to the airlines issue that we have given. I don't believe that, but there's a good way to settle it. I want to make an offer to those who do believe it. If there is any doubt about it, let's take it to the convention and settle the question once and for all. [loud applause and cheers]

Now, I want to tell you how I think we can do that. If anybody will write a resolution opposing the emphasis we've had on the airline issue and bring it to me, I will personally take it to the Board of Directors--that's one way a resolution can come to the floor--and ask the Board to bring it out to the convention through its channel. I'll tell you now I'm going to oppose it. I think we ought to give emphasis to the airline issue; [prolonged applause] and I haven't gone into all the whys, but I'll tell you what I believe, and then we can put it to the test.

I believe you can't get twenty-five people or fifty people in this whole convention to oppose the airline issue. I may be dead wrong; perhaps I have lessons to learn, and I'm willing to learn them. I don't believe you can get that kind of vote because I believe too many people have been humiliated and mistreated on airlines; I think we've had too many horror stories....[cheers and applause] I believe it's the same thing--some people have told me it's not the same, but I believe it's the same--as Rosa Parks and the back of the bus.

I believe that tied up in that one issue is a lot of symbolism--the right of blind people not to be bullied and mistreated by airline officials. And I think, if you take it to the convention, you won't get a handful of votes that will oppose it. As a matter of fact, a lot of people want to see us put more emphasis on it. I think we have put what we can, and I can tell you this: We haven't won the war yet, but so help me God, we will win the war. [The continuing applause drowned out his voice for a moment at this point.] It may take us a generation, just as it took us a generation to win the State Department war, and I may never live to see it, but we will win the airline issue. [tumultuous applause] And the Federation will be there in the front line, making it happen.

If you don't believe it, those of you who think we've put too much emphasis, if anybody does, on the airline issue, don't let's just grumble about it in the back halls. Bring it to the floor, and let's put it to the test by the thousands who are here, and I think you'll find how people feel about this issue. It runs deep; the symbolism is strong. We have been mistreated by the airlines enough, and sure, it's not the top priority of the movement any more than some other things are, but I can tell you this: It symbolizes what we're talking about, and you won't get the convention to pass anything to deemphasize it, I believe.

Mrs. Walhof: All right sir. Now, the resolution 91-20 dealt with a variant of the one on employment, that the Federation would make it a top priority. The vote on that was thirteen no, and twenty-nine yes, so it will go to the floor with a do-pass recommendation.

There you have the discussion on resolutions 91-19 and 91-20. No one bothered to submit a resolution arguing that the airline issue should be abandoned, but Peggy Pinder wrote one in support of our continued fight to win equal treatment at the hands of the airlines. It was considered by the Board of Directors and sent to the convention floor with a recommendation of do pass as Resolution 91-101.

Not all resolutions require as much debate as the foregoing, but each one is carefully considered and debated. A good example of the examination given to every issue is the discussion surrounding Resolution 91-11. It was submitted in Braille at the opening of the meeting, and Ramona Walhof asked Barbara Walker to read it to the committee:

WHEREAS the Hadley School for the Blind is the sole provider in the United States of correspondence courses in Braille in dozens of subjects; and

WHEREAS Hadley has expressed the same concerns for declining literacy among blind persons because they are not generally taught Braille as a viable reading technique; and

WHEREAS Hadley recently made the decision to stop offering courses in foreign languages and in English as a second language; and

WHEREAS it is very important that blind persons be able to read and spell as well as speak a foreign language; and

WHEREAS it does not appear that Hadley has considered the consequences to blind persons of eliminating this resource of providing literacy and the opportunity for literacy to blind persons; and

WHEREAS, there is concern that Hadley will in the future eliminate other courses which provide basic education to blind persons who have not, for whatever reason, had access to regular channels for obtaining such education: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED that the National Federation of the Blind strongly encourage Hadley to maintain and expand their basic education courses, including foreign languages and English as a second language.

 

Ramona Walhof: You've heard the resolution. Are there questions, comments? I've got a motion and a second to adopt. Are there questions or comments on the resolution? Kathy Hagin, are you here? Do you want to comment on this resolution. This is your resolution, isn't it, Kathy?

Ms. Hagin: Yes, basically I know that a lot of people use Hadley courses as a hobby, and that's mostly what they've been for me. But if you aren't in high school anymore or if you're not in a college course or a structured course where you get books Brailled (and it is my understanding that some people with regard to English as a second language actually are referred even by the rehab centers to Hadley for their Braille course in order to do that), the fact of the matter is it's one of the few places where we can easily get access to Braille literacy in foreign languages, and I hate to see one of our few resources taken away. We need to have resources added, rather than have them taken away. So that's basically my intent with regard to that resolution.

Mrs. Walhof: Are there other comments? Charlie Brown?

Mr. Brown: Yes, is it that they are dropping the courses, or are they dropping the courses in Braille?

Ms. Hagin: The only course I know of for sure is Braille.

Mr. Brown: I see, that is not really what the resolution says.

Mrs. Walhof: Hadley offers courses in recorded form and in Braille. You say they are dropping the Braille version of the courses.

Ms. Hagin: That's all I know for sure because that's what I asked for.

Mr. Brown: We ought to make that clear then.

Mrs. Walhof: We ought to find out, shouldn't we?

Mr. Rabby: Yes, I've heard about this. I heard directly from a person who should know inside Hadley School, and they are, in fact, dropping foreign languages, which is what this individual was concerned about mainly--the dropping of foreign languages as a subject to be taught by Hadley. Frankly, I would add to the resolve not just strongly to urge them to maintain, but to condemn their intention to drop the courses and to be much more forceful.

Mrs. Walhof: Rami, now this resolution talked about basic education courses. Do you know whether anything besides foreign languages....

Mr. Rabby: No, I really don't know anything other than the foreign languages, Madam Chairman.

Mrs. Walhof: Kathy, was it your intent to deal with anything other than the foreign languages?

Ms. Hagin: My only reason for adding that is (I don't know anything about basic education courses; I didn't ask for them); but my concern is, if they can unilaterally... I mean the only reason that anybody even knows they are doing that is I just happened to ask about a course. They are just taking away this whole resource, so my only concern is, if they can do that today, they can take away basic education courses tomorrow that other people need. And that was the only reason I added it.

Mrs. Walhof: Let me suggest, and see if you are agreeable and the committee is agreeable to this. Let me suggest that you and Rami and maybe one or two other people check out the real facts of what is happening at Hadley and bring this resolution back to the committee tomorrow night for final consideration. Are you agreeable to that?

Ms. Hagin: Sure.

Mrs. Walhof: Because we want to be sure that our resolutions are factually accurate. Are there other people on the committee who want to work on this resolution or who know some things about Hadley? Allen Harris, will you work with this committee?

Mr. Harris: Yes.

Mrs. Walhof: Okay, Allen, Rami, and Kathy, let's work on this resolution, and then we will look at it again tomorrow. Let's go ahead and give it a number. It's 91-11.

There you have democracy at work in the National Federation of the Blind: slow, careful, detailed. Passions can run high, and emotions are frequently stirred. There is great personal respect and from time to time much laughter. In short, it is the Federation at work. Everyone who attends Federation conventions should make a point of being a part of the Resolutions Committee meeting.

 

MONITOR MINIATURES

**60th Anniversary:

Marilyn Guenther, vice president of the Central Minnesota Chapter, writes to tell us of the sixtieth wedding anniversary of Alfred and Lidwina Spanier, who have been members of the chapter from its beginning. The Spaniers celebrated their anniversary at a mass at St. Margaret's Catholic Church in Lake Henry, Minnesota, June 23,1991.

**Far Horizons:

The Writers Division of the National Federation of the Blind announces the publication of its book, Far Horizons, a collection of short stories, articles, and poetry by its own members. If you are interested in adventure, humor, romance, or simply good writing, then Far Horizons is a must read! To order your copy(ies) of Far Horizons, send your order (along with check or money order) to: National Federation of the Blind Writers Division, 2704 Beach Drive, Merrick, New York 11566. Indicate whether you want Braille, $12.50; cassette, $12.50; or large print, $10.00. Allow four to six weeks for delivery.

**An Entrepreneurial Enterprise:

Many of us know Bee Hodgkiss, a member of our Minnesota affiliate, as one of the regular volunteers who helps unload and load the truck-full of materials which we take to our national conventions each year. Bee has a business which produces engraved tactile signs, awards, and maps on clear acrylic. With sophisticated computer and related equipment, Bee can provide made-to-order items, which can have Braille and/or print lettering. The system Bee uses digitizes photographs, logos, other graphics, and lettering and transfers the image onto either 1/8-inch thick or 1/4-inch thick acrylic. Items can be produced on a piece as small as 2 x 2 inches and on up to 6 x 6 inches for portraits and most graphics and 8-1/2 x 11 inches for some other applications. Wedding invitations, marriage licenses, birth certificates, graduation announcements, and certificates of appreciation can be photographed by the system, digitized, and reproduced in acrylic. Portrait style photographs can be reproduced with this process. For further information you may contact Bee at: Suite 2604, 1117 Marquette Avenue South, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55403; phone (612) 333-3100.

**Sell:

We have been asked to print the following by Ron Kolesar, who is a member of the Erie County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania:

I have for sale a manually wound man's Braille wrist watch with a Twista-flex band. It is in excellent condition and has a three-o'clock opening--if one pushes in on the stem of the watch, which is at three-o'clock, the crystal will open. It comes with Braille instructions. I am asking $125 or best offer, which includes shipping and handling. Contact me at (814) 774-5709 or at P.O. Box 102, Girard, Pennsylvania 16417-0102.

**Elected:

At its April 10, 1991, meeting the Potomac Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia elected the following: Seville Allen, President; Jerry Yeager, First Vice President; Billie Ruth Schlank, Second Vice President; Sue Povinelli, Secretary; Patty Droppers, Corresponding Secretary; Larry Povinelli, Treasurer; and Maria Avalos, Maxine Oats, and Jeannie Wood, Board Members.

**Of Alligators, White Canes, and T-Shirts:

From the Editor: Deborah Strother is a Federationist who is starting her own business. She is putting a great deal of effort into making it succeed, but as she recently said: "I believe strongly in the potential of my business to succeed, but I can't do it alone. I need the help and support of the NFB." Here is a miniature which she has asked us to carry:

"I have something for those of you who were unable to attend the 1991 NFB convention in New Orleans this year. I have designed a t-shirt just for you. The t-shirt has a picture of a blind guy sitting on a fishing pier. He has a big string of fish and is getting ready to leave. He reaches for his cane, but he finds that an alligator has grabbed it and is crawling away with it. The caption reads: `My travel instructor told me there would be days like this.' The shirts are white, and the picture is very colorful. They are 100 percent pre-shrunk cotton and come in sizes S, M, L, XL, and XXL. If you would like one, send a $14 check or money order payable to Lifelight, Post Office Box 1685, Ruston, Louisiana 71273. This price includes your shipping and handling charges. DO NOT send cash through the mail. Please allow three to four weeks for delivery."

**Support for Braille:

From the Editor: The article on Braille which appeared in the New York Times on May 12, 1991, created a ripple effect throughout the community. A letter from Ed Eames, one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of California, was published in the Fresno Bee May 22, 1991, as follows:

Braille Independence

On May 13, the Bee featured an article by Karen De Witt describing the current controversy about Braille education for legally blind children in the public schools. Kenneth Silberman, an engineer, was described as bitter about the fact that he, as a partially sighted student, did not receive Braille while attending college. Many partially sighted school children in California are in the same position today.

Denying instruction in Braille because alternative technology exists is to condemn many to a life of illiteracy. The slate and stylus, used to produce Braille, is the equivalent of a pen or pencil.

Teachers and parents would not suggest sighted children do not have to learn to write because typewriters and computers make writing by hand obsolete. Why deny visually impaired and blind students the equivalent opportunity? When high tech and low tech are combined in a working partnership, the result is greater independence. Let us take the stigma out of Braille and recognize it as the symbol of blind liberation.

Senate Bill 701 has been sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind of California to enable the parents of visually impaired students to advocate for instruction in Braille for their children. This bill, which is just beginning its journey through the legislative process, should be supported by the public and our state legislators. It establishes the basis for the future education of many legally blind students who could become productive citizens.

Ed Eames, Fresno

**Ten Years of Progress:

Frances Townsend, Secretary of the Grand Stand Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina, writes as follows:

Ten years of the Federation of the Blind in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, were celebrated by the Grand Stand Chapter on May 15, 1991, at a luncheon meeting. Donald Capps, President of the NFB of South Carolina, and his wife Betty were present and brought greetings and congratulations from the state headquarters. Highlights of these ten years were read, emphasizing the main project of this chapter--to assist the visually handicapped children of Horry County. The Grand Stand Chapter has provided a Christmas party each year and field trips for the students. A scholarship was awarded to Miss Shauna Cooper of Loris High School, who will enter college in the fall.

**Alaska Job Openings:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Program Coordinator of Vision Impaired Infant Program--Agency: Special Education Service Agency. Qualifications: Alaska Certifiable Master level specialist, minimum 2 years experience with infants and families, certified O&M training preferred. Duties: Provide assessment, direct instruction, consultation, and teacher training to diverse rural families of children (birth to three years) with blindness/visual impairment. Salary: Beginning salary range $35,000-$40,000 (DHSS). Contact: Tanni Anthony, Program Coordinator, Special Education Service Agency, 2217 East Tudor Road, Suite 1, Anchorage, Alaska 99507; (907) 562-7372.

Education Specialist for Vision Impaired/O&M Specialist -- Agency: Special Education Service Agency. Qualifications: Alaska certifiable master level itinerant specialist, minimum 2 years classroom experience, certified O&M training. Duties: Provide assessment, direct instruction, consultation, and teacher training to diverse rural school-aged population. Road/air travel required. Salary: Beginning salary range $35,000-$40,000 DOE). Contact: Betty Barats, Program Supervisor, Special Education Service Agency, 2217 East Tudor Road, Suite 1, Anchorage, Alaska 99507; phone (907) 562-7372.

**In Memoriam:

From the Editor: We recently received the following communication from Norma Crosby:

"I am sorry to have to report to you the death of Albert Wilson. Albert had been a part of the Federation since the early 1950s, and at the time of his death from cancer at approximately 4:30 this morning (June 25, 1991) he was serving as a member of the board of directors of the NFB of Texas and as our local chapter president in San Antonio. Albert did a lot to help build this organization, and he helped to provide guidance and support to many blind people in Texas. We will miss him."

This was what Norma Crosby said, and she was right. Many of us grieve at Albert's passing. I received a letter from Martha LaQue, which said in part:

"I miss him very deeply, and I am having some trouble accepting his death.... I promised him that he would never go unnoticed. We took care of all of the arrangements that he left us in charge of. I am his vice president and will do my best."

In my response to Martha I said:

"Albert was a good man. He loved the Federation, and it is clear from your letter that you were close to him. You are right. He will not be forgotten. He will live on in the work you and others do to strengthen the Federation and help other blind people.

"I know that you and the others in San Antonio will see that the chapter grows and becomes stronger. This should be done in memory of Albert. It is what he would want."

**First Tape: Under date of July 18, 1991, we received the following letter:

Dear Dr. Jernigan:

This is just a little note to thank you for allowing me to be on the convention agenda on the Fourth of July. I count it a real privilege to have been given the opportunity to lead the singing of the National Anthem and to sing the 27th Psalm.

I do not know whether this is worthy of being a Monitor Miniature, but I will be making my first recording July 30 of this year and will have the tapes sometime in October. I will send them to anyone who would like one and who sends me a check for $10. It will be a tape of sacred music.

Thanks again for letting me share. See you at next year's convention.

Linda Mentink 1737 Tamarack Lane Janesville, Wisconsin 53545

**D.C. Convention:

The annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind of the District of Columbia was held May 4, 1991, and the following people were elected to office: President, Holly Frisch; First Vice President; Joie Stuart, Second Vice President, Charles Fields; Secretary, Renee Donalvo; Treasurer, Shawn Jacobson; and Mary Brunson, Betty Fields, Thelma Godwin, and Bernetha McLamore, Board Members.

**Orthodox Christian Lectures on Tape:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Encouragement and instruction in the (Eastern) Orthodox Christian faith. Lectures and homilies by Father Thomas Hopko and others. Payment is on a donation basis. Address: Dana Walters, Orthodox Christian Study Tapes, Post Office Box 25112, Overland Park, Kansas 66225-0112.

**Sell:

We have been asked to print the following: VersaBraille Model P2C with manuals and input/output connector, asking $1,800 or best offer; Smith Corona TP1 printer, $350. Both are in good working order. Contact Carol Syslo, Route 1, Box 129, Fullerton, Nebraska 68638; (308) 536-3167.

**Good News From Oklahoma:

Eva Chaney, the hard-working president of the National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma, writes as follows:

Dear President Maurer:

Here is the latest good news happening in Oklahoma. Joe Triplet and I traveled to Oklahoma City on May 30, 1991, and successfully sold our book to the Metro Library, and as well they agreed to distribute our two brochures to all the branches in the Metro area. As soon as we return from New Orleans, we will have a stamping party to get 1,000 of each brochure ready for them.

During that trip Joe opened doors to our PSAs on both radio and television and I opened up the communication of events with the Daily Oklahoman. They will publish the OKC Metro Chapter meetings in the Calendar of Events column, send a reporter and photographer to our Parents of Blind Children Free Workshop on October 19, and even publish events that happen outside of the Oklahoma City area, such as the Tulsa Chapter's walk-a-thon on October 13. Good things are happening in Oklahoma, and it's only been three months since our state convention. We have lots of work to do, and we're working on it every day.

** Sworn In:

On Monday, May 6, 1991, City Clerk Pauline Newport administered the oath of office to sixth ward Alderman Cathy Randall for her second four-year term. Mrs. Randall serves as the chairman of the Engineering, Traffic, Planning, and Inspection Committee for the Jacksonville, Illinois, City Council. She is also the First Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois. Congratulations to Cathy Randall and to the voters of the Sixth Ward.

**Proclamation Made:

The Governor of Missouri declared July, 1991, to be National Federation of the Blind Month in the state. Here is the proclamation he signed:

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind is a vital advocacy group that represents the interests of thousands of blind persons throughout the state; and

WHEREAS, the blind from Missouri and throughout the nation are determined to improve conditions for the blind by changing public attitudes about blindness and by changing the outlook of persons who are blind regarding their own ability to make a contribution to society; and

WHEREAS, the NFB is totally self-sufficient, receiving no government funding, but relying instead on its blind and sighted members and the general public for support; and

WHEREAS, efforts of the NFB were crucial in the passage of the White Cane Law, providing basic civil rights for the blind, and the Braille provisions in the Children-At-Risk Act, insuring that blind children in Missouri be given the opportunity to learn Braille; and

WHEREAS, the NFB is the oldest and largest organization of blind persons in the country, with Missouri having been one of the seven states that formed this organization in 1940; and

WHEREAS, the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind is held each year in July:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOHN ASHCROFT, GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF MISSOURI, do hereby proclaim July 1991 as National Federation of the Blind Month in Missouri.

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused to be affixed the Great Seal of the State of Missouri, in the City of Jefferson, this 7th day of June, 1991.

**Fencing Anyone?: I am a vision-impaired person and am interested in learning the

sport of fencing. I would like to hear from any blind or vision-impaired fencers. In particular, I would like to know how they convinced their instructors to teach a blind person and what, if any, alternative techniques they have developed.

Correspondence can be sent in Braille, on cassette, in print, or by either size of IBM compatible diskette (preferably in WordPerfect 5.0 format).

Please write to Sean Madsen, Box #2236, Station "D", Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1P 5W4.

**In Memoriam:

From the Editor: Shortly after noon on Friday, July 19, I received a call telling me of the death of Steve Machalow. I knew that Steve had been having health problems, but I did not know that he was seriously ill or had been in the hospital. Therefore, the news of his death came as a shock.

I first met Steve in the 1970s when I was director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind and he was a student. As Federationists know, he was one of the three principal participants in the film We Know Who We Are. It took almost two months to make that film, and Steve's part in it was genuine and compelling. He was like that.

He was always prepared to give as well as take, and he put his ideas and opinions forward whether they were popular or not. Those who have attended the meetings of the Resolutions Committee at NFB conventions can give testimony to that. But he didn't sulk or quit when his ideas were on the losing end of the vote.

In 1978 and '79 when we were establishing the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore and putting the Job Opportunities for the Blind (JOB) program together, Steve gave many volunteer hours. He helped write grant applications and did anything else which was needed--and he often did it without recognition or fanfare. Again, he was like that.

He was one of the first to sign up for the Deferred Insurance Giving program, and he quietly paid premiums on his policy year after year. He gave what he could when and where he could, which is as much as any of us can do.

I had less contact with Steve during the last two or three years of his life than during the late seventies and early eighties, but our friendship and understanding remained undiminished. Now, Steve is gone--and one more member of the Federation family will be absent from future conventions. But the contributions he made will not fade from memory or be forgotten. In critical times and difficult circumstances he stood firm for the movement and did what he could to advance its cause. He cared. My life is richer for having known him, and the organized blind movement has been strengthened by the work he did.

**Sell

We have been asked to print the following: These items are for sale.

1. Complete 12-volume set in large print, Roget's Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, like new. Some volumes are still in their wrapping, asking $75.

2. Complete 7-volume Braille set of The American Vest Pocket Dictionary, Stein, editor, 1951. Excellent condition. Asking $30.

3. A complete 5-volume set in large print of the American Heritage Dictionary, paperback edition, published by Dell, 1973. Excellent condition. Asking $50.

4. The Holy Bible, Old Testament on long-playing 33 1/3 records. Brand new, still in their plastic wrapping. Asking $25.

5. A Type and Talk speech synthesizer with connecting cable. Excellent condition, like new. Manuals and installation instructions included. Asking $150.

6. Smith Corona large print manual typewriter with carrying case. Very good condition. Needs new ribbon. Asking $25.

For more information, contact Celeste Lopes, evenings at (516) 935-4670.

**Braille 'n Speak Information Available:

We have been asked to print the following:

New information for Braille 'n Speak users, Top Dot Enterprises offers two recorded publications for this ever- growing population. The first is a three-cassette tutorial, the Complete Audio Guide to Braille 'n Speak. This tutorial guides beginning and advanced users through the latest revision of BNS and contains tips not found in the official manual, though it is not a replacement for the manual. The basic text is on two tracks, but a four-track player is needed since there are eleven optional inserts interspersed throughout the course, on tracks three and four. The tutorial costs $16 to members of the Braille 'n Speak Users Group and $19 to non-members. When ordering, please specify your revision date, since there will be different versions of the tutorial for the most recent BNS upgrades. The other new recording is a full demonstration of the Braille 'n Speakout bulletin board system, teaching both how to use Braille 'n Speak with a modem and how to navigate the useful Blazie Engineering BBS. This tape is free to Users Group members, $5.00 to non-members. To order or for more information, contact Top Dot Enterprises, 318 S. Judson St., Tacoma, Washington 98444; (206) 685-1818.

**Organized:

Deb Smith of Iowa reports the following: We are proud to announce that we have organized a new chapter. It is located in the Quad Cities area. We have members from both Iowa and Illinois. We are known as the Bix Beiderbecke Chapter. The following members were elected to office: Deb Smith, President; Laurie Eaks, Vice President; Duane Hudspath, Secretary; Rocky Smith, Treasurer; and Tom Tebockhorst, board member.

**Taped Books for Purchase:

We have been asked to print the following:

Give yourself or a friend a gift--the latest books on tape. Catalog available with the following categories: Action/Adventure, Business/Finance, Horror/Science Fiction, Inspiration/Motivation, Literacy, Fiction/Non-fiction & Humor, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, and Self-Help. The catalog is $1.50, but the price will be deducted from your first purchase from Audio Message Corporation: P.O. Box 1058, Marshfield, Massachusetts 02050.

**New Baby:

Nancy and Jerry Yeager of Arlington, Virginia, announce the birth of their daughter Tracy Jane on July 8, 1991. She weighed five and a half pounds and was eighteen and a half inches long when she was born. Both Nancy and Jerry have been leaders in the NFB for a number of years, and Jerry is currently the first vice president of the Potomac Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia. Congratulations to the entire Yeager family.

**Federationist Honored:

Sharon Buchan, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Alaska, has notified us that Kay Porth, one of the leaders of the NFB of Alaska, has been named Handicapped Employee of the Year for all Army installations in Alaska. She is now competing with other handicapped employees for the same honor in all the northwestern states. Army officials at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., will announce their decision later this year. Congratulations to Kay Porth.

**Sell:

Connie David of Minneapolis, Minnesota, has asked that we print the following:

For sale: one thermoform machine, in barely used condition. Original price, $1800, sale price, $1200. Price includes two packages of thermoform paper.

Also for sale: a Cranmer Modified Perkins Braille Printer, barely used. Original cost, $2795, sale price, $2000. Includes manual. For further information, call Connie at (612) 871-3839.

 

RESOLUTIONS ADOPTED BY THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
JULY, 1991

by Ramona Walhof

Resolutions of the National Federation of the Blind constitute policy statements of the organization. Any member may bring a proposed resolution to the Resolutions Committee, which meets each year the day before the open board meeting at the beginning of the convention. This year the Resolutions Committee consisted of fifty members from all parts of the country. The Committee hears and discusses resolutions and recommends changes if it thinks appropriate. The bringer of the resolution may accept or reject these changes. The Resolutions Committee may not bottle up resolutions. It votes to recommend "do pass" or "do not pass" and sends each resolution to the floor of the convention, where it passes or fails. Only once in my memory of twenty-five years has the convention ever deferred action on a resolution until the following year. Part of the job of the NFB President is to find the time on the convention agenda to discuss and vote on resolutions.

At the 1991 convention in New Orleans delegates voted on twenty-one resolutions. One (91-101) was brought to the convention by the NFB Board of Directors. It reiterates NFB policy regarding airline treatment of the blind and is the first resolution we are printing. The other twenty resolutions were all brought to the Resolutions Committee. Nineteen were passed by the convention, and one was soundly defeated. The texts of those that passed are printed at the end of this article.

Here is a brief statement describing each resolution and (in some cases) giving some background information:

Resolution 91-101 reaffirms our long-standing commitment to achieving equal treatment for blind citizens at the hands of airline and FAA officials.

Resolution 91-01 urges Congress to continue to protect informational mailings about blindness and the blind by preserving adequate revenue forgone subsidy.

Resolution 91-02 seeks to establish a national policy on Braille literacy for the blind.

Resolution 91-03 requests that clients have the right of choice in rehabilitation.

Background: The Federation and the Social Security Administration have discussed for several years the approach of giving clients whose rehabilitation costs can be reimbursed by the Social Security Administration a choice of facilities from which the client wishes to receive training. This approach is currently being tested by Social Security. The concept has been discussed with members of Congress during our Washington Seminars for the last three years and has become increasingly popular. Other groups of the disabled have now espoused the concept of freedom of choice. As often happens, the Federation has plowed the ground and continues to lead the way.

Resolution 91-04 opposes continued recognition of NAC as an accrediting body by the Department of Education.

Resolution 91-05 calls upon the Federal Communications Commission to exclude blindness as a condition for waiver of the Morse Code Proficiency Test.

Resolution 91-06 advocates that affirmative action standards be applied to sheltered workshops for the blind.

Resolution 91-07 opposes the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) proposal for highway rest stops.

Background: AASHTO has introduced in Congress a bill to commercialize (open new businesses) at highway rest stops. Approximately 200 blind vendors are now earning a living by managing vending machine operations at highway rest stops, and a number of state licensing agencies are receiving substantial income as well. All of this would be jeopardized by the AASHTO proposal. The resolution does not oppose all expanded business activity at highway rest stops, only this AASHTO proposal. If commercialization is to take place, agencies for the blind should be permitted to maintain the priority established by the Kennelly Amendment to the Surface Transportation Act of 1982--an amendment which was introduced and passed at the request of the National Federation of the Blind.

Resolution 91-08 requests the support of the Social Security Administration and Congress in maintaining the relationship between the earnings exemption of seniors and substantial gainful activity for the blind.

Resolution 91-09 supports the Independent Older Blind Individuals Amendments of 1991, HR 2437.

Resolution 91-10 advocates that the week of January 4, Louis Braille's birthday, be proclaimed National Braille Literacy Week.

Resolution 91-11 calls upon the Hadley School for the Blind to continue offering foreign language courses.

Resolution 91-12 calls upon all agencies that are NAC accredited to withdraw from association with NAC.

Resolution 91-13 opposes the National Commission on Blindness as sponsored by the Affiliated Leadership League of and for the Blind of America and the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Background: A majority of the Committee on Joint Organizational Effort discussed and supported a different proposal for a National Commission on Blindness, offering appropriate representation to all groups concerned. ALL and AER are supporting this alternative, minority proposal for their own political purposes.

Resolution 91-14 reaffirms the NFB position that blind individuals should be permitted to serve in the armed forces in noncombat positions and further states that blind persons should be able to serve in combat positions when qualified.

Resolution 91-15 commends the Social Security Administration for recognizing the need to modernize the Supplemental Security Income Program and recommends a speedy response to good recommendations from the modernization team.

Resolution 91-16 supports ACCO7--Informational Barriers from the White House Conference on Library Services and urges a policy that library services in alternative media be on a par with library services to the sighted.

Resolution 91-17 urges state legislatures not to create boards to regulate dog guide schools.

Resolution 91-18 calls upon the U.S. Department of Justice to adopt regulations pursuant to the Americans With Disabilities Act requiring publishers to cooperate in making print materials accessible to the blind.

Resolution 91-19, which was overwhelmingly voted down, would have declared employment of the blind to be the Federation's top priority. The convention reaffirmed the Federation's commitment to employment as one of the top priorities of the Federation but felt that it would send the wrong message to place it in a category above all other issues--problems of the elderly, literacy, changing public attitudes, and all of the other items that constitute the agenda to move from second-class citizenship to first-class status in society.

Resolution 91-20 reaffirms the Federation's commitment to combat unemployment for the blind as a top priority.

Resolution 91-101

WHEREAS, the achievement of equality for blind persons is the foundation stone of the National Federation of the Blind; and

WHEREAS, equality in seating on public conveyances is deeply symbolic of equality in the broader society; and

WHEREAS, many blind people have suffered the humiliation of public harassment and arrest, and all blind people have suffered the indignity of being classified as incompetent and treated differently by airline officials and the Federal Aviation Administration; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind has made equal treatment of blind persons by the airlines a top priority because achievement of this goal will bring blind people a long step closer to the establishment of real and symbolic equality in our society; Now, Therefore:

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1991, in the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, that we, the members of the National Federation of the Blind, do hereby reaffirm our continuing commitment to winning the struggle for equality in the airline battle; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this commitment shall constitute an ongoing major priority of the organized blind movement.

Resolution 91-01

WHEREAS, public misunderstanding and lack of social acceptance remain the principal obstacles to productive independence and equality for the blind in the United States; and

WHEREAS, these conditions can best be addressed through education and outreach activities, including the mass- distribution of accurate information about blindness so that sighted members of the general public can better understand the needs of the blind and support efforts to meet those needs; and

WHEREAS, mass-communication by mail is an effective means of outreach to improve opportunities for the blind, and use of the mails for this purpose could not continue with further increases in postal rates at this time; and

WHEREAS, Congress is considering ways to continue and fund the preferred-rate mail service program (also known as the revenue forgone payment to the Postal Service), which makes mailings by and on behalf of the blind possible; and

WHEREAS, in the distribution of publications and information by and on behalf of blind persons, access to the mails is the only practical and cost-effective method available, and loss of this access would have catastrophic consequences for blind people throughout this country: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1991, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization support efforts underway in Congress to assure that all informational and educational materials sent by and on behalf of blind individuals will continue to be eligible for mailing with the full benefit of the revenue forgone postal subsidy and without further postal rate increases at this time.

Resolution 91-02

WHEREAS, efficient reading and writing skills are the essential tools of literacy, necessary for productive living--a fact which applies to all persons whether sighted or blind; and

WHEREAS, literacy skills are the core of the basic educational program provided to sighted students in elementary and secondary education, but for blind students communications skills become the subject of special education planning, where virtually all presumed needs of a student can be sacrificed in the name of individualized instruction; and

WHEREAS, literacy skills among the blind have fallen sharply and are continuing to decline as a direct result of biases among educators against the use of Braille by the blind and of the widespread but utterly false notion that Braille should only be taught as a last-resort measure; and

WHEREAS, receiving instruction in Braille and in other skills essential to literacy should be recognized as a matter of right for each blind student, and the denial of that right by means of any practice or policy should be attacked as a form of cruel discrimination against the blind; and

WHEREAS, the Bush Administration and the Congress are considering legislation entitled the "America 2,000, Excellence in Education Act," designed to help the nation achieve national education goals by improving the nation's schools, including improvements in literacy education for all students: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1991, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this Federation insist that literacy education for blind individuals be recognized as a national education goal to include Braille instruction for blind students as a matter of right; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization take all appropriate steps to secure both administrative and legislative support for a national Braille literacy campaign at the state and federal levels.

Resolution 91-03

WHEREAS, publicly funded rehabilitation programs are provided to blind individuals in a manner which limits the selection of service-providing agencies to those only specifically approved by the state agency in question; and

WHEREAS, the choice of a service-providing agency is a fundamental decision which will almost always be related to the outcome of the services purchased; and

WHEREAS, rehabilitation clients are now at the mercy of state agency policies and counselors when the critical decision is made as to the appropriate program to be used for personal adjustment and training services; and

WHEREAS, the selection of any service-providing agency should not be made as a matter of bureaucratic convenience or to fill some quota established by the state for sending individuals to certain preselected programs, regardless of their quality or relevance; and

WHEREAS, the selection of a service-providing agency is properly a matter of individual judgment, and the final choice to be made does not require any form of specialized expertise or training; therefore, the final choice should be made by the individual and not by the agency or its counselors: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1991, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization urge the Congress to adopt a "client's right of choice" provision to be observed by all states as a condition for receiving federal funding for vocational rehabilitation services; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we request that the Bush Administration make the "client's right of choice" provision a national policy goal in rehabilitation, just as parental choice in education has been made a national policy objective, bearing the personal support of the President.

Resolution 91-04

WHEREAS, the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC) has applied to renew its status as an accrediting agency recognized by the Secretary of Education; and

WHEREAS, the Secretary maintains a list of accrediting agencies that are recognized in particular fields only if they meet all of the criteria established for recognition; and

WHEREAS, NAC fails to meet several of the published criteria in that (1) accreditation is not required for agencies serving the blind to participate in any federal program; (2) NAC is not generally supported by agencies and professionals in the field of blindness, and NAC is certainly not supported by consumers; and (3) NAC lacks the resources (both financial and personnel) to carry out its mission; and

WHEREAS, in view of these failures the Secretary of Education should reject NAC'S application, just as virtually the entire blindness field (both agencies and consumers) has now rejected NAC: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1991, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that we strongly oppose the petition filed by NAC for continued recognition by the Secretary of Education; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge the Secretary to reject NAC'S petition on the basis of the evidence that NAC does not meet the established criteria for recognition.

Resolution 91-05

WHEREAS, the blind participate in all facets of the hobby of amateur radio on a basis of complete equality with their sighted peers; and

WHEREAS, most classes of amateur radio licenses require the demonstration of proficiency in receiving the International Morse Code; and

WHEREAS, the Morse Code is primarily an aural mode of communication, with no vision being required to utilize fully the code, and with no need of adaptive equipment or techniques; and

WHEREAS, blindness is not an obstacle to Morse Code proficiency; and

WHEREAS, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently amended the regulations governing the Amateur Radio Service to permit waiver of Morse Code proficiency tests for the physically handicapped, including the blind; and

WHEREAS, waiver of code tests for amateur radio license applicants who are blind perpetuates the notion that the blind are inferior and are incapable of competing on terms of equality with their sighted peers: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1991, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that the organization call upon the Federal Communications Commission to amend the rules governing the Amateur Radio Service (Part 97) specifically to exclude blindness as a condition for waiver of Morse Code proficiency tests for amateur radio license applicants.

Resolution 91-06

WHEREAS, most Federal contractors are required to take affirmative action to employ and promote qualified individuals with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, sheltered workshops which employ the blind receive substantial federal contracts under priority arrangements prescribed by the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act; and

WHEREAS, at least seventy-five percent of the direct labor hours of work under such contracts must be performed by blind or other severely handicapped individuals, but hours of work in management and supervision are not under a similar requirement; and

WHEREAS, affirmative action principles have not been applied to these workshops, resulting in a pattern of discrimination whereby blind people are represented only as tokens in management and supervision; and

WHEREAS, responsible officials of the United States Department of Labor have adopted a hands-off posture and failed to scrutinize employment practices affecting the blind in the Javits-Wagner-O'Day program, thereby allowing the workshops to evade their affirmative action obligation: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1991, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization request a comprehensive compliance review of employment practices affecting the blind by sheltered workshops in the Javits-Wagner-O'Day program, such review to be made by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs of the United States Department of Labor; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Department of Labor, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs is hereby urged to identify any and all remedies (including the possible need for legislative changes) which would improve affirmative action opportunities for blind persons in sheltered workshops that provide services or products to the government.

Resolution 91-07

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind was successful in securing federal legislation (known as the Kennelly amendment) allowing for the sale of products through vending machines to be operated by or on behalf of blind persons at interstate highway rest-stop areas; and

WHEREAS, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) has requested changes in the law to permit a wide variety of products and services to be sold by commercial firms at rest, recreation, and safety areas throughout the national interstate highway system; and

WHEREAS, AASHTO has identified as many as fourteen hundred sites which it says are appropriate for commercial development if federal legislation is approved; and

WHEREAS, AASHTO'S proposal for commercialized development of rest stop areas has been submitted to the Congress in the form of the Bush Administration's bill for continuing and expanding the nation's surface transportation and highway improvement programs; and

WHEREAS, the AASHTO proposal would provide a priority for blind persons only for the operation of vending machines and then destroy the value of this priority by allowing merchandise and services to be sold over the counter by commercial firms in direct competition with blind vendors; and

WHEREAS, The United States Senate has rejected AASHTO'S rest-stop commercialization proposal by failing to include it in surface transportation amendments passed in June and sent to the House: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1991, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that we call upon the House of Representatives to concur with the Senate in turning thumbs down on AASHTO'S commercialization proposal; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization support efforts to expand the sale of merchandise and services at interstate highway areas only if there is a clear mandate for blind persons to have a priority in conducting such sales, whether by way of vending machines or otherwise.

Resolution 91-08

WHEREAS, blind individuals eligible to receive disability insurance benefits under Social Security are subject to an earnings limitation, referred to as the "substantial gainful activity test"; and

WHEREAS, the provision in law which governs the amount of countable earnings allowed under the substantial gainful activity test for working blind persons is the exempt earnings provision applicable to retired persons, age 65 to 69; and

WHEREAS, several proposals are pending in the Congress to alter the exempt earnings provision for retirees by removing the earnings limitation altogether or by substantially raising the current exemption; and

WHEREAS, the Social Security earnings limitation both for senior citizens and for working-age blind persons is economically unsound and socially harmful in that severe income penalties are levied against persons who attempt to become or to remain productive; and

WHEREAS, most of the pending proposals to raise or eliminate the earnings limitation would repeal the statutory relationship between substantial gainful activity for the blind and the exempt earnings provision for senior citizens, providing a work incentive for seniors while continuing to penalize blind persons who work; and

WHEREAS, the Social Security Administration has voiced support for raising the earnings exemption for seniors but has taken no particular stand pertaining to what effect (if any) a change in the law should have on allowed earnings for the blind: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1991, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization request the support of the Social Security Administration for maintaining the present statutory relationship between the earnings exemption for seniors and substantial gainful activity for the blind, if the earnings limitation is raised or removed; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge all members and responsible leaders in the Congress to reject proposals to raise or remove the earnings limitation under Social Security unless provisions are included to exempt the earnings of blind persons to the same extent allowed for seniors.

Resolution 91-09

WHEREAS, Representative Edward Roybal has introduced H. R. 2437, a bill entitled the Independent Older Blind Individuals Amendments of 1991; and

WHEREAS, this legislation would establish a formula grant program and authorize an appropriation of $26 million in federal funds for distribution among all states so that needed adjustment and training services could be provided to older persons who become blind; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Roybal's bill proposes a much-needed expansion of the federal program of grants to independent living projects for the older blind, started under legislation originally developed by the National Federation of the Blind: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1991, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this Federation express strong support for the Independent Older Blind Individuals Amendments of 1991, in the form of H. R. 2437; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge the responsible members and committees of the Congress to recognize the need for expanding services to older blind Americans by enacting H. R. 2437 at the earliest opportunity during the 102nd Congress.

Resolution 91-10

WHEREAS, in recent years the instruction and use of Braille have fallen to an appallingly low level; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind is striving to reverse this trend; and

WHEREAS, it is essential that society recognize Braille as the key to literacy for blind people; and

WHEREAS, the inventor of the Braille Code, Louis Braille, was born on January 4, 1809: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1991, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization call upon the Congress of the United States to proclaim the week of January 4 National Braille Literacy Week.

Resolution 91-11

WHEREAS, the Hadley School for the Blind has for many decades offered foreign language correspondence courses in Braille to the blind of the United States and other countries; and

WHEREAS, the Hadley School for the Blind is the sole provider in the world of such courses for blind students; and

WHEREAS, having foreign language courses in Braille offers definite advantages to blind students who can thereby gain reading and spelling proficiency as well as speaking proficiency in the language; and

WHEREAS, proficiency in foreign languages is assuming ever increasing importance in the world of work; and

WHEREAS, Hadley recently has made a policy decision to discontinue all foreign language courses, claiming low enrollment figures and difficulties in the process of teaching foreign language by correspondence: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1991, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization condemn the Hadley School for the Blind for cutting off such an important channel for education and employment of blind persons and for doing so without prior consultation with the organized blind movement; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon the Hadley School for the Blind to rescind this policy decision and to continue its teaching of foreign languages while seeking ways to raise its enrollment levels and improve its teaching methodology.

Resolution 91-12

WHEREAS, the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC) is on the ropes financially and exists in name only and as a shell of an organization; and

WHEREAS, NAC is dying and cannot survive because it has existed primarily as a source of friction and divisiveness in the blindness field, pitting agency against agency and blind consumers against agencies; and

WHEREAS, NAC'S failure to attain financial stability in twenty-five years of trying amply demonstrates that NAC is merely a political tool and not a legitimately constituted accreditation agency; and

WHEREAS, even NAC'S staunchest supporters and its principal financier, the American Foundation for the Blind, have wisely recognized that continuing to keep NAC afloat financially is not a constructive policy either for blind people or for the field of blindness in general: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1991, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization applaud and support the withdrawal of any agency from NAC because use of agency resources for NAC'S face-saving survival campaign is a harmful disservice to the blind; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call upon all agencies in the blindness field (including NAC'S current and former members) to put NAC in the past and to move more constructively toward a new era of unity and common purpose on behalf of all blind people.

Resolution 91-13

WHEREAS, the Affiliated Leadership League of and for the Blind of America (ALL) and the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) are seeking the introduction of a bill in Congress to appoint a national commission for the stated purpose of studying the needs of the blind and to recommend legislative and policy changes to provide improvements in services to the blind; and

WHEREAS, the purposes and structure of such a commission must be discussed extensively and agreed upon in advance by all major interest groups affected and, in this case, the views of the blind, themselves, must clearly have weight if such a commission is to be developed at all; and

WHEREAS, the campaign by ALL and AER for a national commission on blindness is more a matter of self-serving organizational politics than it is the expression of a generally felt consensus that such a commission is needed at this time; and

WHEREAS, ALL and AER do not represent the movement of the organized blind and are not representative of the blind, a fact which suggests that this agenda is not in harmony with the needs of blind consumers: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1991, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization oppose the proposal for a national commission on blindness as it is presently constituted and sponsored by the Affiliated Leadership League of and for the Blind of America and the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization advise all members of Congress that the national commission on blindness proposal lacks the support of blind consumers and should not be adopted unless changes in the proposal are made and the support of the blind themselves obtained.

Resolution 91-14

WHEREAS, many blind persons wish to serve their country in the armed forces just as do their sighted peers; and

WHEREAS, it is the firmly-established policy of the National Federation of the Blind that the blind should be subject to the military draft if it is reinstituted (Resolution 80-01) and that the blind should be allowed to serve in the armed forces of the United States in noncombat assignments (Resolutions 82-16, 85-16, and 87-14); and

WHEREAS, there may be combat duty assignments or tasks within a theater of combat which qualified blind individuals could perform with skill, honor, and distinction; and

WHEREAS, failure to exploit fully the resource of qualified blind persons in such situations would be a waste of talent and would constitute discriminatory treatment and a denial of their opportunity fully to exercise their rights and responsibilities as first-class citizens: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1991, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that we reaffirm our demand that qualified blind persons be allowed to serve in the armed forces of the United States in noncombat assignments; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that such persons be allowed to perform duty assignments within theaters of combat commensurate with their skills, talents, and capacities.

Resolution 91-15

WHEREAS, in 1972, Title XVI was added to the Social Security Act to establish the Supplemental Security Income benefit payments program for needy aged, blind, and disabled persons; and

WHEREAS, Title XVI and the regulations promulgated therefrom became effective in 1974; and

WHEREAS, over the past seventeen years, the SSI Program has remained virtually unchanged and has failed to keep in step with and has fallen far short of the economic and demographic changes within our society; and

WHEREAS, Gwendolyn King, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, has appointed a Supplemental Security Income Modernization Team of experts for the express purpose of collecting and compiling data to formulate suggested changes to update the SSI Program; and

WHEREAS, the Social Security Administration is to be commended for its efforts to modernize the antiquated SSI program; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind presented testimony to the SSI Modernization Team suggesting that the income and resource disregards be increased to a level commensurate with current economic standards; and

WHEREAS, the SSI Modernization Team will soon issue its findings and recommendations for changes in legislation; and

WHEREAS, it is expected that these findings and recommendations will include the suggestions offered in testimony by the National Federation of the Blind; and

WHEREAS, it is essential for the Department of Health and Human Services and the United States Congress to recognize the urgency for modernizing the SSI law: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1991, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization commend the Social Security Administration for recognizing the serious and long overdue need to evaluate and modernize the Supplemental Security Income Program by the appointment of the SSI Modernization Team; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, to the extent that the soon-to- be-released findings and recommendations of the SSI Modernization Team support the suggestions of the National Federation of the Blind, we call upon the Department of Health and Human Services and the United States Congress to act expeditiously upon these recommendations to reform the Supplemental Security Income Program.

Resolution 91-16

WHEREAS, although sighted people may obtain written information from book stores, news stands, retail stores, schools, and countless other locations, including local public libraries, blind people are systematically and routinely denied ready access to the printed word; and

WHEREAS, the primary source of material in Braille, tape, and disc for blind people is the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress (NLS); and

WHEREAS, with its current funding NLS can produce far less than one percent of the material which is made available to the sighted each year; and

WHEREAS, the lack of available materials and proper instruction in Braille means that far too many blind people, including the majority of today's blind children and youth, are functionally illiterate; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the nation's largest organization of blind people, has over the years led the way and been committed to ensuring equitable print access and Braille literacy services to blind people through, among other things, its strong legislative advocacy in obtaining funding for NLS programs; and

WHEREAS, the 1991 White House Conference on Library and Information Services has as its themes Literacy, Democracy, and Productivity--themes which are in harmony with the goals of the NFB; and

WHEREAS, one set of recommendations to be considered by delegates at the White House Conference is entitled Recommendation ACCO7--Informational Barriers, which states:

"(1) The Federal Government should increase the 'fenced' funding for the Library of Congress Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in order to provide expanded production of Braille, cassette, and disc books and magazines as well as the necessary equipment for users; "(2) If required, Congressional legislated funding should be al

located to ensure the uninterrupted free postal transmission of these materials;

"(3) There should be a program of research and development enacted to examine new and promising technologies for achieving the same goal in a more cost-effective manner;

"(4) Literacy in alternative media such as Braille should be encouraged and affirmed": Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1991, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this Federation support ACCO7--Informational Barriers from the White House Conference on Library Services; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge the White House Conference to adopt a policy that the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped provide blind people with library and information technology services in an alternative medium which is on a par with the library services available to their sighted peers.

Resolution 91-17

WHEREAS, the beginning of a deleterious trend in guide dog training and provision is observable in the State of California; and

WHEREAS, this trend is based on detailed and erroneous state legislation and regulation regarding guide dogs; and

WHEREAS, examples of this inappropriate state interference include refusing to transfer ownership of the guide dog to the blind person, refusing to recognize experienced guide dog users if the experience was acquired out of state, refusing to permit training of guide dogs in a home setting, and refusing to support equal access for blind persons with guide dogs who were privately trained; and

WHEREAS, the inappropriate state legislation and regulations also stifle the creative and competitive forces that can yield new techniques and approaches by prohibiting private guide dog training and by constructing impossibly high barriers to the establishment of new training facilities; and

WHEREAS, while protecting the employees of training facilities from accountability to consumers and state investigators, the Board in California has provided no protection to blind consumers from poor training, custodialism, and misrepresentation to the public by these same employees; and

WHEREAS, the Board's monopolistic approach is inconsistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act and its state-centered approach is inconsistent with the long established right to travel freely throughout our nation; and

WHEREAS, several other states are considering adopting the same wasteful and harmful legislative and regulatory framework as the California State Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind of California is vigorously and courageously opposing these trespasses on dignity and common sense: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1991, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization urge state legislatures to abandon consideration of legislation to establish regulatory agencies similar to the California Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind and urge the California legislature to abandon this unfortunate and long-lasting experiment.

Resolution 91-18

WHEREAS, most published information is produced in a form that is not directly accessible to the blind because the publishers of such information have had no obligation to produce it in a medium that blind people can read by themselves; and

WHEREAS, publishers are public accommodations as that term is used in the Americans with Disabilities Act and are therefore now obliged to provide blind people with direct access to the words they disseminate; and

WHEREAS, access is readily achievable with existing technology and must be enforced through regulations to be promulgated by the Department of Justice: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1991, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization urge the Department of Justice to specify, in the regulations for the Americans with Disabilities Act, the duty of publishers to take positive steps to cooperate with all public and private entities in making published material accessible to the blind; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Federation of the Blind pledge to work with the Department of Justice to assure that the Americans with Disabilities Act is interpreted and implemented by the federal government and the publishing industry in a way that augments and does not conflict with the important work performed by the Library of Congress National Library Service, Recording for the Blind, and others who produce materials in media usable by the blind population.

Resolution 91-20

WHEREAS, seventy percent of working-age blind persons are unemployed or severely underemployed; and

WHEREAS, this fact is not a temporary, passing phenomenon but a steady, stubborn pattern that has existed for decades; and

WHEREAS, experience, research, and logic demonstrate that joblessness among the blind is due, not to limitations of blindness, but to mistaken attitudes and poor training; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind has worked hard to combat this problem in many ways, including the Job Opportunities for the Blind Information and Referral Program, legislative campaigns to achieve enactment of nondiscrimination laws in various occupations, court battles to enforce such laws, public education about the capacities of blind persons, and numerous other activities on local, state, and national levels; and

WHEREAS, we are justifiably proud of these efforts for the positive impact they have had on the welfare of the blind; and

WHEREAS, this 51st anniversary convention is a time both to celebrate our accomplishments and to plan strategically for even greater success in the years ahead; and

WHEREAS, the unemployment problem persists in ugly proportions, often damaging the security and psyches of thousands of our blind brothers and sisters; and

WHEREAS, our society as a whole thereby also suffers in its economic health and spiritual well-being: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1991, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this Federation hereby reaffirm its long-term commitment to combating unemployment of blind people and declare this matter to be a top priority in our struggle for first-class citizenship; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization orient and coordinate its programs and activities in light of this priority.