Vol. 35, No. 4 April
Barbara Pierce, Editor
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NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
THE BLIND IS NOT
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 35, No. 4 April 1992
VICTORY FOR NAC
by Barbara Pierce
NAC DOWN FOR
THE COUNT IN OHIO
by Barbara Pierce
A POWERFUL TESTIMONY FOR BRAILLE
SEMINAR: HARD WORK, EXCITEMENT, AND FUN IN
by Jon Deden
TRANSPORTATION, THE ADA, AND THE NFB
by Ed Eames
INDEPENDENCE, AND THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
by Barbara Pierce
ALLURE IN CHARLOTTE
by Wayne E. Shevlin
Copyright National Federation
of the Blind, Inc., 1992
[2 PHOTOS/CAPTION: If you haven't yet made your room reservation for the 1992 convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Charlotte, North Carolina, June 28 through July 4, you don't have much time left. Queen Charlotte (above), consort of King George III of Great Britain, stands ready to greet you at the Charlotte airport. The Carolina Mall (below) provides only one of many tempting ways available to spend free hours during the convention; and, of course, the convention activities, the vast array of exhibits, the friendships to be made or re-established, and most of all the exciting and important convention agenda items will make the 1992 NFB convention unforgettable.
But reservations must be made soon! We have four convention hotels, but space is at a premium. Contact the National Center for the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, MD 21230; (410) 659-9314. A deposit of $40 is necessary to hold each room being reserved. Send checks (made payable to the National Federation of the Blind); money orders; or Visa, Discover, or MasterCard credit card numbers to the National Center for the Blind to hold your room. Remember to indicate the dates of your arrival and departure, the type of room you want, and the names of the people who will share it. Do it today!]
A PYRRHIC VICTORY FOR NAC
by Barbara Pierce
Some victories, like that of King Pyrrhus over Rome in the third century B.C., are so costly that ultimate defeat is as certain an outcome as an outright loss would have been. On February 4, 1992, the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC) may well have sustained such a victory. On that date the National Advisory Committee on Accreditation and Institutional Eligibility heard public testimony concerning whether to keep NAC on the U.S. Department of Education's list of approved accrediting agencies. NAC had appeared on that list since 1971 and was due to undergo its regular five-year review last May--a month during which NAC was grappling with the question of whether or not to declare bankruptcy. In the circumstances the Advisory Committee voted to postpone its consideration until the fall when the issue of NAC's continued existence would be a little clearer. By November the agency was still staggering from month to month, but by then the Committee's schedule had become complicated, so the hearing, which should have taken place at that time, was rescheduled for early February of this year.
The hearing took place late on the afternoon of Tuesday, February 4, and when the dust settled at about 6:30 p.m., the Committee had voted (eight to two) to approve its staff's recommendation to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander, who will make the actual decision. As the Braille Monitor goes to press in late March, the outcome of the Secretary's decision is still anybody's guess. But the Advisory Committee has recommended that NAC be given, not the standard five-year extension that it had hoped for, but two more years with rigorous auditing reports required periodically in the interim. Not a single member of the Committee spoke in support of NAC's record or program, only (as the seconder of the final motion put it) of giving NAC one more chance to fail in the hope that it just might succeed. The hundreds of blind people who filled the hearing room at the DuPont Plaza Hotel that afternoon had hoped to be present when the Advisory Committee took a bold step in favor of common sense and fiscal responsibility by removing NAC from the list--a hope in which they were disappointed. What they did see was NAC stripped bare--its financial and programmatic shortcomings open to the light of day and its supporters clutching frantically at the fig leaves of professionalism and promises of future fiscal reform. This is the way it happened.
The Code of Federal Regulations (34 CFR part 602) establishes a set of criteria which every agency seeking inclusion on the U.S. Department of Education's list of approved accrediting bodies must meet. The primary aim of these criteria is to establish that accrediting agencies on the Secretary's list be reliable authorities on the quality of education or training offered by post-secondary educational institutions or programs within the agencies' scope of activity. As the regulations are written, failure to meet even one criterion provides due cause for removing an accrediting body from the list. In the view of those who opposed NAC's continued inclusion, there was ample evidence that NAC fails to meet at least four of the criteria and, therefore, should be removed. James Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs for the National Federation of the Blind, stated the objections in his written testimony as follows:
The criteria include nine
major points. NAC fails to meet the standards for recognition in at least four
* 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;
* NAC does not have the resources to carry out its activities; and
* NAC's evaluation and reaccreditation practices do not follow its own stated policies for evaluations to be made at reasonable intervals.
This is what Mr. Gashel said, and all of the third-party testimony focused on presenting evidence from various distinguished and knowledgeable individuals to support his statements.
All day February 4 and into the morning of February 5, the National Advisory Committee on Accreditation and Institutional Eligibility met in a large room at the DuPont Plaza Hotel in Washington, D.C., to hear testimony about various accrediting bodies that were up for review. Interested blind people began quietly filtering into the hearing room at about 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 4, and by the time the Committee was ready to turn its attention to the National Accreditation Council at a little after 3:30, the room was filled.
NAC was given an opportunity to present whatever information it wished in support of its contention that it is a viable accrediting body in the field of work with the blind with the resources to do its work and the capacity to accredit member agencies at the appropriate times. Since one of the Department's criteria specifies that the agencies on its list must provide accreditation for institutions which would not (or whose students would not) be eligible for federal funds without such accreditation, NAC was also compelled to demonstrate that some of its members or their students would be deprived of federal funds without NAC's services.
Three representatives spoke in support of NAC. The first was Dr. Richard Welsh, Vice President of the NAC Board and Executive Director of the Greater Pittsburgh Guild for the Blind. He was followed by Kathleen Megivern, the Executive Director of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, and Oral Miller, the National Representative of the American Council of the Blind. Ruth Westman, NAC's Program Administrator, was also present to answer questions as needed.
Their task was not an enviable one. To those who know something about the field of work with the blind, their explanations and excuses appeared thin, to say the least. First the Affiliated Leadership League of and for the Blind (ALL) was trotted out from its obscure and lethargic corner in an attempt to provide, yet once again, some substance to the fiction that NAC is generally respected in the field. ALL was created in the first place because NAC needed an official-sounding body to wave the flag of respectability over NAC's head--ALL has never done anything else of note--but Dr. Welsh and company spent several minutes assuring the Committee that ALL continues to applaud NAC.
The financial straits in which NAC increasingly finds itself and about which the Advisory Committee's own staff expressed grave concern in its report were dismissed as temporary and due completely to the disappearance of the American Foundation for the Blind and National Industries for the Blind grants last year. According to Dr. Welsh, NAC is seeking new grants and contributions from its own circle of individual supporters; and, considering the alleged excellence of NAC accreditation (in his own words, "the quality of the product, which is our most important asset"), other benefactors will very soon be jumping on the bandwagon.
Dr. Welsh assured the Committee that the shrinkage in NAC's staff and board will make no difference in the quality of the agency's program. Before the financial crisis last year, the executive director never played any part in the accreditation process, so his absence will apparently hardly be noticed. Besides, NAC's roster of professionals (who now volunteer their time to do the accreditations) are now getting used to doing on- site visits and evaluations without any NAC staff present. Moreover, members of the reduced Board of Directors are busy doing fundraising, developing alternative dues structures, negotiating with the landlord, and developing grant proposals and a membership campaign--all duties which at one time belonged to the executive director.
In short, with a total disregard for the fact that volunteers must have staff supervision and support, Dr. Welsh argued that the staff reductions necessitated by near bankruptcy have left NAC as well positioned as other accrediting bodies. Citing no figures to bolster the contention, he said that NAC's staff-to-member ratio is as good as, or better than, those of many other accrediting bodies. The hard truth that an accrediting body must maintain a certain number of staff members to establish and maintain adequate supervision of its accrediting program seems to have been conveniently ignored. Because of economy of scale, expanding an existing accreditation program does not require that the staff grow at the same rate as does the number of organizations seeking evaluation. But the real significance of NAC's staff reductions and its shift to volunteers is that it was carried out as a result of the threat of bankruptcy. Unless NAC was being more than commonly inefficient in the good old days, one presumes that the members of the larger staff all found useful things to do. Eliminating their jobs means that difficult changes have been forced upon NAC, and the most likely victim of the alterations is the accreditation program.
At one point in his testimony Dr. Welsh addressed himself to the concern raised by many people that NAC allows agencies reaching the date of their reaccreditation to postpone the process for considerable lengths of time. With no explanation that in 1991 NAC reassigned later review dates to twenty agencies, Dr. Welsh offered explanations for three postponements, leaving those listeners who did not know better to assume that the three he mentioned constituted the only instances of delayed evaluation.
Dr. Welsh's most remarkable effort at creative misdirection occurred when he admitted that none of the agencies currently accredited by NAC and none of their students were in danger of losing federal funds if NAC were to be removed from the Department of Education list. Lest anyone conclude correctly from this admission that NAC, therefore, does not meet one of the Department of Education criteria, he went on to suggest that the time might come when member agencies had students applying for Pell grants or GSL loans. If that were to happen, NAC's inclusion on the Department's list would enable such federal funds to be used for grants at member agencies. The only trouble with that argument is that the Department of Education is supposed to concern itself with things as they are and not as they may be at some future time.
Dr. Welsh was the primary spokesperson for the NAC position, and Ms. Megivern and Mr. Miller were appointed to direct their comments respectively to the issues of professional and consumer recognition of NAC. Here is the official text of Dr. Welsh's testimony as transcribed for the Department of Education. Dashes appear to be inserted at points where the transcriptionist was uncertain of the text:
DR. WELSH: I am Dr. Richard Welsh, and I appear before you today as the Vice President of the National Accreditation Council. I have served as the Vice President since last May and have served on the board of directors four years. I recently completed a term of six years on the Commission on Accreditation.
For twelve years I was the superintendent of the Maryland School for the Blind in Baltimore, which was the first residential school for blind children to be accredited by NAC, and recently I am serving as the President of the Greater Pittsburgh Guild for the Blind, which has recently made its first application for accreditation.
I'm joined by Mrs. Ruth Westman, who is the Executive Director of the Council. She's been a member of the staff since 1983 and is very well respected as an accreditation professional by the folks who have dealt with her in her role at NAC.
We're also joined by Kathleen Megivern, the Executive Director of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation for Blind and Visually Impaired, which is the major professional association in our field, and by Oral Miller, the National Representative of the American Council of the Blind, which is the consumer organization.
We regret that our president, Dr. N. Ed Miller of Reno, Nevada, retired as the president of the University of Nevada at Reno, was not able to be here with us today. Some of you may know Dr. Miller from his many years of involvement with accreditation as a college university president, as chair of the Commission of the Northwest Association of Colleges and Schools, and during the 1970s as a member and chairman of this Advisory Commission on Accreditation. We are very pleased to have him as the president of NAC and a strong supporter of our effort.
I also want to acknowledge that with us today but not here at the table is Mr. John Profitt, who has been a member of the board of NAC and recent past chair of our Commission on Accreditation, also well known to many of you for his involvement in the accreditation field, having served as the director of the staff for this committee previously.
You've reviewed the basic information about the Council. We have heard the analysis and the recommendation provided by the staff. We believe that the analysis is thorough and the recommendation is fair.
I would like to comment on the problem area identified by the staff and three areas in need of strengthening, and then two other areas in the detailed analysis the staff suggested we be prepared to address at this meeting. Then I will ask Ms. Megivern and Mr. Miller to make their remarks. Following that, then Ms. Westman and I will be available to answer any questions you may have.
Our relation to the problem area related to criterion 602.14A: that the agency demonstrates that its policies, evaluation methods, and decisions are accepted throughout the United States by educators and educational institutions. We are pleased that the only national coalition of organizations of blind people and organizations which provide services to blind people, the Affiliated Leadership League of and for the Blind of America, has strongly endorsed the Council and urge you to continue our recognition as an accrediting agency.
As members of that coalition and individually, the American Foundation for the Blind, the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, the American Council of the Blind, the Council of Schools for the Blind, and the National Industries for the Blind--five major organizations, all national in scope and each with a different constituency, a different primary focus, and independent leadership--all have independently endorsed and support NAC.
We have still other sponsoring members and a large number of organizations as supporting members, which are available in the materials that you had to review.
We have accredited agencies in thirty-five states, Puerto Rico, and Canada. We are the only recognized accreditation body which specializes in programs, schools, and agencies for people who are blind or visually impaired.
We have had broad and active participation in the development and the updating of our standards from people from all over the country. No other organization has developed and carried out such a broad-based process of establishing a test and quality standards in this field.
There is no question that we are accepted and endorsed throughout the United States, and while there is strong opposition noted by the staff from one national organization, we think we clearly meet this standard as we have met it in past reviews, even though the same opposition has been stated at previous reviews.
We recognize the staff's concern with the volume of correspondence that you've received in opposition to NAC. However, we have focused our response on providing the factual answers to the staff's concerns, and we have not really focused on orchestrating a strong letter response or a long list of witnesses today.
In relation to the areas listed in need of strengthening, in reference to criterion 602.15A, the staff have properly indicated that the concern exists currently in the area of the Council's financial resources. This has resulted primarily from our loss of major operating grants from our two largest contributing organizations.
From its very beginning, the Council has enjoyed outstanding support from the American Foundation for the Blind and, to an increasing degree in more recent years, from the National Industries for the Blind. The availability of this support permitted NAC to develop a high-quality accreditation process, which very early in its history met the rigorous standards for recognition which your Committee and the Department administers.
Adjusting to the loss of this type of support after such a long time is indeed a really significant challenge for us. Our plan for doing so has several components. First, we have reduced our expenses through a reduction in our occupancy costs with more improvements to come once our current lease expires in January.
Second, we have reduced the size of our professional staff to the minimum that's required to continue to administer the size of the accreditation program which we currently manage. The ratio of staff size to the number of accredited members is similar to that of many other specialized accrediting agencies and still better than some others. We have reduced the size of the Board of Directors and the Commission on Accreditation while still retaining the balance between number of consumers, number of professionals, and the number of members from the general community on each body.
Before considering a dues increase, we are reviewing the accreditation process to determine if, without losing the quality of the product, which is our most important asset, it can be streamlined further to reduce the cost of self-study and on-site review to the agency, thus making a possible dues increase more acceptable.
We have developed and implemented a fund-raising campaign, which Mr. Rogers mentioned, beginning with the staff and the Board and the Commission members and extending out from there to past Board members, past Commission members, and previous donors.
We want to establish an ongoing base of support among those who know best the quality of the contribution which NAC makes to our field. From there we will extend our campaign to other foundations and corporations and organizations, which we hope will be motivated by an indication of support we receive from those closest to the organization and closest to the need.
We've made an excellent beginning by developing a balanced budget for this year, which is realistic and currently on target. We have made recent changes in our support staff which represent the more efficient use of our resources and which will provide more support to the professional staff.
Over the past few years the accreditation process itself has been managed by one full-time professional, Mrs. Westman. The previous executive director was not involved in the on-site reviews or in the processing of progress reports or in scheduling of the site visits.
The volunteer Board has picked up on some of the duties previously handled by the executive director, including the management of the fund-raising campaigns, the developing of proposals to the board regarding alternative dues structures, negotiating with the landlord, and developing grant proposals-- also in developing a campaign for seeking additional members.
We don't expect that this new staffing pattern will prevent us from administering a strong accreditation program. We will require more use of staffless on-site reviews, which is something that we have been doing on a partial basis over the past few years, and we feel we have a cadre of experienced reviewers available to serve as the chairpersons for on-site review teams when staff are not present.
As our membership increases, income from dues will increase, and the staff size can be adjusted as necessary. The important point is the financial solvency of NAC will, for the first time, be directly related to NAC's ability to deliver a quality product that agencies will select and pay for. Since this is NAC's strength, we fully expect that it will succeed.
In relation to criterion 602.16C, the staff has recommended that NAC include a policy in its published policies and procedures regarding a time frame for the opportunity for comment by interested parties on proposed changes to our criteria for accreditation. Our practice has always been to allow three to six months for comment. We have been commended for this practice in the past.
We understand that it would strengthen our position to have this practice expressed in a formal written policy, which we will do for consideration by our Board at its next meeting this summer.
In relation to criterion 602.16G, the staff has recommended that NAC publish a more explicit policy related to conflict of interest. Such a policy has been developed and approved by the Board of Directors as an amendment to our bylaws and will be published in the revised bylaws in the very near future.
Turning now from the recommendations page of the staff's report to the staff's more detailed analysis, I would like to comment briefly on two other areas. First, on page eight, in reference to criterion 602.12B, regarding the scope of activity, the staff, while concluding that NAC meets the requirements of this section, alludes to an area of confusion in our petition which has been a point of concern in many of the letters that you have received from opponents to the National Accreditation Council.
Staff felt that in responding in a general way to this criterion and in discussing the various types of Federal funding that are used by schools and agencies that NAC accredits that our petition appears to imply that accreditation of institutions or programs is required by an agency approved by the Secretary in order for students to participate in programs of financial assistance provided through the Rehabilitation Act.
We apologize for the confusion which that response has created. NAC clearly understands, and we know that the Committee does too, that even though a number of State rehabilitation agencies require, recommend, or encourage accreditation by NAC for agencies delivering Federally-funded rehabilitation services, that that is not a Federal requirement.
We did mention these State requirements in response to criterion 602.14B, which refers to national recognition, but not in reference to criterion 602.12B, the scope of activity.
However, in relation to scope of activity, the staff pointed out in the background review that NAC was originally included on the Secretary's list because of our accreditation of residential schools for the blind.
However, in 1984 we requested and received an expansion of our scope of recognition at the request of one of our agencies, which was seeking to use funding under Title IV of the Higher Education Act, which provides for Pell Grants and GSL loans and other sources of Federal support directly for students. This agency was looking to fund one of their--a secretarial training course for blind students from those sources. So we applied for extension of our scope to include that.
As far as we know, we are the only accrediting agency that is in a position to provide accreditation to agencies for the blind which wish to pursue that funding option. While none of the accredited agencies we currently serve are taking advantage of that funding stream, as Federal grant funding becomes less available and loan funding more prevalent in post-secondary education, we expect to see other agencies consider this option. If NAC is not able to provide the approved accreditation, that option will be closed to our agencies.
Finally, on page 17 of the staff's analysis in relation to the criterion 602.16B, which requires that the agency reevaluate institutions and programs at reasonable intervals, the staff has asked that we address the concerns expressed by third-party testimony that three specific agencies had their accreditation extended without being evaluated.
The staff's understanding of this issue is generally correct. One of the three agencies received a postponement of this evaluation from 1991 to 1992 due to major construction and renovation going on in its facility at that time, an extension which is consistent with our published guidelines for extension.
The other two agencies mentioned were scheduled for on-site reviews last spring at the time when the Board had proposed that the council be dissolved. Out of fairness to the agencies and in view of the expense of hosting the on-site review, the chairman of the Council's Commission on Accreditation granted an extension of accreditation to the two agencies in question until such time as the status of the Council was determined. One of the two agencies is currently scheduled for accreditation review this spring, and discussions are underway with the other one about a suitable review date.
There you have Dr. Welsh's statement. Those by the representatives from the Association for Education and Rehabilitation (AER) and the ACB were about what could have been expected. Then came the comments of various third-party witnesses who, from their different perspectives, had reservations about NAC's continued inclusion on the Secretary's list. The first of these was Richard Edlund, who had to leave almost immediately to catch a plane. What follows is the text of the written statement he gave to the Committee:
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Richard Edlund, Representative, 33rd District, Wyandotte County, Kansas.]
Dear Committee Members:
My name is Richard J. (Dick) Edlund, and I am appearing in opposition to the petition of renewal which has been submitted by the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC).
Currently I represent the Thirty-third District, Kansas City, Kansas, in the Kansas House of Representatives; and I am a retired small businessman, who owned and operated a hardware store for over forty years. Accidentally blinded about fifty years ago, I have had the opportunity to serve and to be served by a variety of blind organizations at the local, state, and national levels. My involvement with the organized blind movement has allowed me to visit and advocate for the blind all across the United States.
I have been especially appalled at NAC's involvement in litigation activities against blind people who have sought to form labor unions in sheltered workshops. NAC has assisted the workshops in resisting orders of the National Labor Relations Board, which may be in direct violation of the law. In addition, NAC has refused to take action against NAC-accredited workshops which have been found to be in violation of regulations pertaining to sub-minimum wages. Therefore, NAC is viewed by many blind workshop employees, and by some law-abiding workshops, as an advocate of oppressive wages and is certainly not recognized as a reputable accreditation agency.
Nationally NAC accreditation is accepted by a small percentage of agencies serving the blind; and several of these agencies, such as the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, have experienced serious scandals while enjoying NAC accreditation. In my own State of Kansas there are approximately twenty-four blind services listed in the twenty-third edition of the Directory of Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped, which is published by the American Foundation for the Blind. Only one of these service providers (a sheltered workshop) is currently accredited by NAC. The major service providers in my state, including the state school for the visually handicapped and the publicly funded state vocational rehabilitation agency, are not NAC-accredited.
It also appears that NAC's accreditation of residential schools for the blind providing elementary and secondary educational services no longer falls within the scope of part 602, since the Secretary of Education no longer recognizes accrediting agencies outside the field of post-secondary education. However, I would like to point out that the Kansas School for the Visually Handicapped has not chosen to pursue NAC accreditation.
In an April 5, 1991, letter to Charles L. Griffith, the school's position was summarized as follows:
NAC is not considered a reliable accrediting authority, who constantly fails to reach consensus in the field of blindness, and experiences a lack of financial support from accredited agencies. Also, NAC accreditation is not sought since there are other, better recognized accrediting procedures. And finally, NAC's accrediting methods have failed to keep up with recognized advances in accreditation through the "outcomes" models that are currently used in Kansas and surrounding states.
In conclusion I can assure you, from personal experience, that NAC has failed to measure up to the criteria established by the Secretary of Education and, in my opinion, has actually held back the progress of blind men and women in our country. NAC has not earned the right to continue as a recipient of your recognition. Please do not continue this travesty.
Your concern is appreciated, and I thank you for taking the time to review my comments.
Richard J. Edlund
Thirty-third District Representative
Kansas City, Kansas
Kansas House of Representatives
When Mr. Edlund had departed, Joyce Scanlan, the director of a private adult rehabilitation facility, came to the microphone. Here is her statement:
[PHOTO: Joyce Scanlan seated at table. CAPTION: Joyce Scanlan, Executive Director, BLIND, Inc., Minneapolis, Minnesota.]
My name is Joyce Scanlan. As the executive director of Blindness, Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND, Inc.) I wish to present testimony in opposition to the recognition of the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC) as an accrediting body for educational programs for the blind. I wish to thank the advisory committee for the opportunity to provide the following information.
Although I have been blind all of my life and have been both a student in a residential school for the blind and a rehabilitation client of public and private agencies for the blind, it has only been during the past twenty years that I have come to recognize that not all entities dealing with blindness promote the same positive philosophy and administer the same quality program for the blind as we would like to think. Yet it is the philosophy of blindness underlying the entire operation of an organization serving the blind which makes the difference between run-of-the-mill and quality services. For more than twenty years I have followed the activities of NAC, and because of my familiarity with the work of several agencies accredited by NAC, I am convinced that this advisory committee must reject NAC'S application to be placed on the list of recognized accrediting bodies for educational programs for the blind.
Prior to becoming the executive director of BLIND, Inc., I held several positions. I taught English, foreign languages, and social studies at the secondary school level in a residential school for the blind and in three different public high schools. I worked for many years as an advocate, assisting blind people in their efforts to reach productive and meaningful lives through use of rehabilitation and educational services provided by various agencies in our state. I have a master's degree in English and have completed post-graduate work toward a doctorate in the area of social welfare.
Blind people in Minnesota struggled to find better services to help them gain skills in the use of alternative techniques and more positive attitudes concerning blindness. Their efforts met with rebuff at every turn, since the only program in the state at the time providing such services was one accredited by NAC. That agency was totally unresponsive and turned a deaf ear to their pleas for a program which promoted a positive image of blindness. After several years of trying in vain to reform an existing agency, the blind of the state decided to establish a new program. That is how BLIND, Inc. came into being.
BLIND, Inc. has operated now for four years and serves a national audience. Besides Minnesota, we have served blind people from six other states. Blind people from many other states have also found it necessary to move to Minnesota to take advantage of training in our program. We have attracted international recognition as well, having hosted delegations from seven foreign countries.
The funding of BLIND, Inc. is not contingent upon accreditation from NAC. We are, however, required to meet certain state standards. We have an operating agreement with the state rehabilitation agency for the blind and are subject to ongoing monitoring and regular program and financial audits. We must have consumer involvement and be evaluated for outcomes of services by the state agency. All of this is done without any call for NAC. BLIND, Inc., is accredited by the National Center for the Blind and has met all requirements for program standards and staff qualifications established by the state.
Because there is no requirement of accreditation for agencies to receive funding, NAC does not affect the distribution of federal funds. Furthermore, it has long been apparent that very few programs have seen fit to seek NAC accreditation. And many of those who have received NAC accreditation have decided subsequently to drop that accreditation. NAC has never been widely accepted in the field of blindness, and the low-level acceptance it has had has steadily decreased over recent years.
To evaluate the results and effectiveness of training by agencies from which the state rehab agency for the blind purchases services, Minnesota State Services for the Blind conducted a facilities effectiveness survey in 1990. Clients of the three programs used by the state agency were surveyed to determine what skills learned in the training program they were using, how they felt about themselves and their ability to participate in society, and what they were doing with their lives subsequent to the training. The three agencies surveyed were BLIND, Inc.; the Minneapolis Society for the Blind (MSB); and the Duluth Lighthouse for the Blind (DLB). Both MSB and DLB were, at the time, accredited by NAC. MSB has since withdrawn from NAC. The results of the training provided by the three programs are strikingly different. While rehab counselors and some other professionals claimed that the three programs were primarily the same, all providing a type of comprehensive instruction with some varying levels of component services, the three programs yielded very different outcomes.
The attached survey summary report shows graphically how different the three programs really are. For example, the skills used chart on Page 5 shows that 65% of the students who finished BLIND, Inc., read Braille every week, while only 11% of those who finished training at DLB and 38% of those who finished training at MSB, the two NAC-accredited agencies, used Braille every week. Also, of those who finished training at BLIND, Inc., 57% traveled independently with a white cane every day, while only 23% from MSB and 7% from DLB traveled independently with a white cane every day. On Page 6 the chart on activity after training shows that the most common activity for people who had completed training at BLIND, Inc. was continuing to prepare for employment, while the most common activity for those who completed training from the NAC-accredited agencies was doing nothing. On Page 10 the attitudes and confidence after training chart reveals that 87% of the students from BLIND, Inc. believed they could do as well in life as sighted people; of the graduates of the NAC-accredited programs, on the other hand, only 22% believed they could compete with sighted people.
Another glaring difference demonstrated by the results of the effectiveness survey done by the state rehabilitation agency for the blind was how much the people who completed the training were likely to use the skills learned in the program. The students from the NAC-accredited agencies were less than half as likely to use skills learned after leaving the program as those who graduated from the BLIND, Inc., program.
This survey report gives definite comparisons between agencies accredited by NAC and another not accredited by NAC. The outcomes clearly demonstrate that NAC accreditation provides no guarantee as to desired outcomes. Evidence points to the fact that NAC accreditation is no guarantee of quality services.
I urge the advisory committee to deny the application of NAC for recognition by the Department of Education as an accrediting body. The field of blindness has already strenuously rejected NAC. Blind Americans have never supported NAC as a viable accrediting body. And during the past few years even previous financial and professional supporters of NAC have withdrawn their support. NAC's accreditation is meaningless. The field of blindness does need standards and ongoing evaluation, but NAC has shown no capacity to provide meaningful standards and assure quality services.
After Mrs. Scanlan completed her testimony, Dr. Homer Page, President of the Colorado Center for the Blind and a Boulder County Commissioner, delivered a statement. Here it is:
[PHOTO: Homer Page seated at table microphone. CAPTION: Homer Page, Chairman, Board of Directors, Colorado Center for the Blind; Chairman, Advisory Board, Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind; and Member, Board of Commissioners, Boulder County, Colorado.]
My name is Homer Page. I live in Boulder, Colorado. I am a member of the Boulder County Board of Commissioners. For fourteen years prior to my election, I directed the Office of Services to Disabled students at the University of Colorado at Boulder. I teach in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Colorado. I also chair the Advisory Board of the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind, and I am the Chair of the Board for the Colorado Center for the Blind. I am the founder of the Boulder County Center for People with Disabilities, and for eight years I chaired the Board. During May, 1991, I lectured and gave workshops on the topic of blindness and providing rehabilitation services to blind persons in Sweden. These lectures and workshops were conducted with Swedish educators and rehabilitation counselors, the Swedish Institute for Research in Special Education, and the Swedish National Program for the Employment of Blind Persons.
I come before you today to ask that you not recommend renewal of the Department of Education's recognition of the National Accreditation Council as an accrediting agency in the field of work with the blind. There are three reasons for making this request. They are as follows:
1. NAC is very controversial in the field of work with the blind. In 1988 the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind was a troubled institution, having come under serious attack by the state legislature, and was in danger of being closed down. The superintendent and the principal of the school supported the idea of CSDB's pursuing NAC accreditation. They sought an ally in their struggle for survival. Fortunately, the Commissioner of Education, to whom the Superintendent reports, terminated this pursuit when he learned what difficulties NAC-accredited schools for the blind have experienced.
Since 1988 CSDB has undergone a state legislative audit review, has made many personnel changes, has significantly redefined its mission, and is now on the way to becoming a healthy institution. This transformation took place without NAC accreditation. I think most persons associated with the school recognize that NAC accreditation would have impeded genuine reform.
Why is this true? The answer is clear. NAC would have been brought into this situation to do battle on behalf of entrenched and unproductive policies and personnel. NAC accreditation has nothing to do with standards or with the improvement of services; it is political through and through. For most of the life of NAC, its member agencies were banded together to fend off demands for quality services made by those who would consume those services. NAC accreditation at CSDB would have meant the creation of a fortress mentality, and most likely it would have led to the demise of the institution.
2. Those who support NAC often say its critics are simply opposed to accreditation. Nothing could be further from the truth. In my own case, I have supported accreditation and certification for both the Center for People with Disabilities and the Colorado Center for the Blind. I led the CPWD agency through the CARF accrediting process, which was successful. While CPWD was in compliance with most of the CARF standards, we were able to improve our personnel and fiscal management, and we especially gained from the process in the area of program evaluation. The Colorado Center for the Blind participates in an annual certification process conducted by the Colorado State Department of Social Services. CCB participates in this process voluntarily, and there is no requirement that the agency be certified, but we have found the process to be helpful.
The issue is not "Do we oppose accreditation?" It is rather, "Is there an objective external agency in the field of work with the blind that can conduct a genuine accreditation program?" We do not believe that such an agency exists at this time. Certainly NAC does not qualify.
3. Even if NAC were dedicated to an objective accreditation process, it could not conduct a viable program. It simply lacks the resources to be credible. During this fiscal year NAC will most likely have to operate with a budget under $200,000. Its resources are shrinking. Whatever purpose it may have once had for existing has long since passed. It is time for the field of work with the blind to be freed from the political intrigues, climate of intimidation, and bitter confrontations that have marked it for the past two decades. You can help us to move forward with the creation of a genuine accreditation process by ending DOE's recognition of NAC.
In conclusion I wish to state once again that I come before you to request that you recommend against the renewal of recognition of NAC. The issue before you is not, "Can NAC survive for another two years?" It is, "Can you make a positive contribution to promoting the development of a credible accreditation process for agencies serving the blind?" The situation in which we find ourselves now is much like a Monopoly game which has progressed far beyond the point when the outcome is in doubt. Yet the game drags on, it is boring and tedious to its players, and it is wasteful because it prevents them from engaging in other meaningful activity.
You can help the blind of this nation by contributing to the closing of the NAC operation. This would not signal an end to the accreditation effort in the field of work with the blind. It would rather set us free to try again. Uniform standards, accountability, and a consistent voice for quality services are much-needed aspects of a widely supported accreditation program. Won't you help us bring such a process into being?
Dr. Page's testimony was followed by that of Joanne Wilson, Executive Director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind, an adult rehabilitation center. This is what she had to say:
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Joanne Wilson, Director, Louisiana Center for the Blind, Ruston, Louisiana.]
My name is Joanne Wilson. I am the director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind, located in Ruston, Louisiana. The Louisiana Center for the Blind is a private rehabilitation agency which trains blind persons from throughout Louisiana and the country in the skills of blindness and instills positive attitudes and self- confidence through its innovative and unique programs. It has become a model for other training centers as well as a respected site for professional training. Never in its history has it been accredited by the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped. Furthermore, it will never seek accreditation from NAC. Other programs in the state which are not NAC-accredited nor seeking accreditation include the Training and Resource Center for the Blind at the University of New Orleans, which is also recognized as a model program, and the Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired. Both the Louisiana Center for the Blind and the Training and Resource Center for the Blind have been recognized by the Governor and the state of Louisiana as the finest programs for rehabilitation in the state.
Although not opposed to the concept of accreditation and the accountability which should accompany such a process, the Louisiana Center for the Blind believes strongly that such accreditation should be meaningful. In the Center's experience NAC accreditation essentially carries no meaning. Although two agencies in Louisiana--workshop facilities--are accredited by NAC, no significance is attributed to this accreditation in the selection of these providers for client services by Louisiana Rehabilitation Services. In fact, it is widely recognized throughout the state and publicly admitted by these agencies that they are on shaky ground both financially and programmatically. There has never been any requirement or policy adopted by the state of Louisiana to have providers of services for the blind seek NAC accreditation, although other accrediting bodies have been recognized over the years.
Specifically, in the state of Louisiana professionals have agreed (even those in NAC-accredited workshops) that NAC accreditation is a stamp of approval at a lofty cost, given without regard for the quality of services or NAC's own standards. At a statewide meeting of blind persons and professionals in April of 1991, a member of the NAC accrediting team, who was also the director of a NAC agency in Louisiana, publicly stated that he voted to dissolve NAC when balloting was undertaken to resolve the shaky future of NAC.
As I see it, NAC is simply fighting a losing battle in its attempt to restore its livelihood and credibility among professionals and agencies serving the blind. Because of its history of accrediting many agencies which are viewed as substandard and the indiscriminate way in which agencies are granted accreditation, blind persons and professionals have written it off as a vehicle for insuring quality standards and services. In summary, it is apparent to me and to my colleagues in the field of rehabilitation of the blind in Louisiana that NAC does not meet the criteria to be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Thank you for this opportunity to present my comments on this matter.
Dr. Abraham Nemeth, creator of the Nemeth mathematics Braille Code and Chairman of the Michigan Commission for the Blind, was the next individual to offer comments to the Committee. This is what he said:
[PHOTO: Abraham Nemeth standing at podium microphone. CAPTION: Abraham Nemeth, Chairman, Michigan Commission for the Blind, and Professor Emeritus of Mathematics and Computer Science, Southfield, Michigan.]
My name is Dr. Abraham Nemeth. I am congenitally blind and was educated using the techniques and skills of blindness. For thirty years before my retirement in 1985 I taught mathematics and computer science at the University of Detroit. I am the author of the "Nemeth Braille Code for Mathematics and Science," a system now standard in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and other English-speaking countries throughout the world. In July of 1991 Governor Engler of Michigan appointed me to be the Chairman of the Michigan Commission for the Blind. I am here to speak in opposition to the inclusion of NAC on the Department of Education's list of recognized accrediting agencies.
The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) has as one of its criteria that an accrediting agency should enjoy wide recognition in the field in which it operates. Out of a total of 500 agencies serving the blind which NAC itself has identified as eligible for accreditation, barely 100 are now accredited by NAC after twenty- five years since its inception. This certainly does not indicate wide acceptance of NAC in its field. Many agencies have declined NAC accreditation, and many others, having once been accredited, have decided to terminate their NAC affiliation. In Michigan, from which I come, two of the best known agencies have declined NAC accreditation. One is Leader Dogs for the Blind of Rochester, Michigan. This organization enjoys a national as well as a local reputation for excellence. The other is the Michigan School for the Blind in Lansing, our capital. Important agencies in other states have chosen not to be NAC-accredited. Some of these are Kansas State Services for the Blind, Governor Morehead School for the Blind in North Carolina, and Rhode Island State Services for the Blind. The National Braille Association, one of the largest groups of volunteers in the nation, who produce Braille, large print, and recorded materials for the blind, and of which I am a charter member, has also terminated its NAC affiliation, having been accredited for many years. Directors of agencies for the blind are hard put to name any tangible benefits resulting from NAC accreditation. Mr. Griffith's staff has on file many letters which indicate that NAC accreditation is neither required nor suggested as a condition for federal funding.
Several years before my tenure on the Michigan Commission for the Blind, that Commission voted not to purchase goods or services from NAC-accredited agencies if comparable quality goods and services were available elsewhere. Subsequently the Attorney General ruled this Commission action to be illegal. As a result the Commission's actions were changed, but not its opinion.
Another criterion cited in the CFR is that an accrediting agency must have sufficient resources to carry out its mission. So bankrupt is NAC that its Board of Directors in April, 1991, voted to recommend dissolving NAC. This decision was rejected by a subsequent vote of the NAC membership, but only by a narrow margin. NAC currently operates with a skeleton staff. It has no current executive director. In past years more than half of its funding came from the American Foundation for the Blind and National Industries for the Blind. Both of these agencies have now withdrawn their funding because they perceive no likelihood that NAC can generate income from other sources. A large number of agencies due for reaccreditation in 1991 and earlier have had their accreditation renewed by NAC without reevaluation for lack of resources. NAC accreditation is unrelated to quality of service. Some of the most regressive agencies, as perceived in the blindness community, are NAC-accredited, while many of the best agencies are not.
For these and other reasons for which time does not permit elaboration, I strongly urge that NAC not be included on the Department of Education's list of accrediting agencies. By such an action the Department would help to minimize the controversy in the blindness community over NAC. The strong showing at this hearing against NAC is evidence in itself that NAC does not enjoy wide recognition in its field. Thank you for the opportunity you have accorded me to be heard today.
Dr. Nemeth was followed by James Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs of the National Federation of the Blind. Here is the testimony he provided to the Advisory Committee:
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: James Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs, National Federation of the Blind, Baltimore, Maryland.]
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My name is James Gashel, and I am appearing on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind. My address is 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230; telephone (410) 659-9314. We strongly oppose continued recognition of the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC) by the Secretary of Education. In this statement I will present evidence to show that NAC does not meet the Secretary's criteria for recognized accrediting agencies.
The National Federation of the Blind is the principal membership organization of blind persons in the United States. We have over fifty thousand members, and the vast majority of them are blind. We have a state affiliate in each of the fifty states and the District of Columbia, and local Federation chapters exist in most sizable population areas. In general the Federation is a self-help organization of blind people with a substantial, direct interest in the quality of education, rehabilitation, employment, and training services available to the blind everywhere in this country. The Federation is the blind speaking for themselves. Since its founding twenty-five years ago, NAC has been a harmful force in the lives of blind people. The primary purpose for placing an accrediting agency on the Secretary's list is that the group has been found to be a reliable authority on the quality of education or training offered by post-secondary educational institutions or programs within the agency's scope of activity. We submit that NAC fails to meet this test. The number of agencies affiliated with NAC is shrinking year by year, and the number of agencies that have dropped their NAC accreditation is growing. During 1991 alone seven agencies terminated their involvement in NAC.
One-fourth of the agencies that once affiliated with NAC have now withdrawn. They include the Virginia School for the Blind and the Virginia Department for the Blind, serving blind adults; Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind, Washington, D.C.; Recording for the Blind, the nation's largest book transcribing organization for post-secondary students; the Division of Services to the Visually Impaired, State of South Dakota; Hadley School for the Blind, an internationally recognized correspondence school for the blind, providing services at the post-secondary level; Blind Work Association, New York; Governor Morehead School for the Blind, North Carolina; Rhode Island State Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired; Michigan School for the Blind; Kansas Division of Services for the Blind; Cleveland Society for the Blind; Oregon School for the Blind; Massachusetts Association for the Blind; and Blind Industries and Services of Maryland. These are only some of the agencies that have decided not to continue their affiliation with NAC.
The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) spearheaded the creation of NAC in the 1960s and has provided most of NAC's financial support ever since. But the Foundation withdrew its funding of NAC last year because of NAC's inability to obtain more accredited member agencies and to secure other sources of substantial funding. Financial support provided by National Industries for the Blind (NIB) was also withdrawn last year. The letter from NIB's president, explaining the withdrawal of funds, gave NAC's failures in membership development and acquisition of stable financing as reasons for terminating support one year earlier than promised.
It is clear that NAC cannot continue to function as anything more than the shell of an organization. There is no longer an executive director and now only one program person on NAC's staff. The organization is dependent upon volunteers for almost everything it does except the day-to-day operation of the office. As a result, although the accreditation of thirty-four agencies expires this year, only two actual site visits are scheduled so far.
An agency in this situation certainly does not meet the specific criteria described in 34 CFR part 602. The criteria include nine major points. NAC fails to meet the standards for recognition in at least four 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;
* NAC does not have the resources to carry out its activities; and
* NAC's evaluation and reaccreditation practices do not follow its own stated policies for evaluations to be made at reasonable intervals.
These points will be discussed in the order in which they are listed.
1. NAC Does Not Accredit in a Field Where Accreditation Is Required for Federal Assistance. Section 602.12 (b) of the Secretary's regulations specifies that the recognized accrediting organization must operate in a field where accreditation is necessary for institutions or students to be eligible to participate in one or more federal programs. Post-secondary programs serving the blind that could apply for membership in NAC are subject to direct monitoring and audits performed by the Department of Education and other federal and state agencies. As a consequence there are no federal programs in the blindness field that have accreditation as a condition for participation by agencies or students.
In Exhibit B (2) to its petition, NAC has listed thirteen agencies in nine states which it has accredited and which NAC says fall within the scope of its Department of Education recognition. The implication is that these agencies would lose federal assistance if they were not accredited. The fact is that the list provided by NAC as Exhibit B (2) is both misleading and false. During the comment period many commenters submitted evidence showing that accreditation is not required for these or other agencies to receive federal financial assistance.
NAC vaguely asserts that funding from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Rehabilitation Services Administration is somehow related to accreditation. With respect to the Department of Veterans Affairs, I have submitted evidence that VA funding of individuals or programs has no relationship to the accredited status of agencies in the blindness field. The VA itself has rejected NAC accreditation for the blind rehabilitation centers which it operates.
NAC accreditation is also not required for agencies to receive funding under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended. In a memorandum submitted during the comment period, the deputy commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration informed the advisory committee that "there are no federal requirements for accreditation of rehabilitation facilities serving clients sponsored by State rehabilitation programs."
NAC has been concerned about the lack of an accreditation requirement for programs that receive federal funds. At a meeting of its Board of Directors held in November, 1990, NAC disclosed plans to lobby for federal legislation which would create an accreditation requirement for programs receiving funds under the Rehabilitation Act and other federal laws. Mr. Robert Humphreys (a Washington, D.C., attorney specializing in the disabilities field) was retained by NAC to spearhead a lobbying effort in the Congress leading to the passage of this legislation. The Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, which is part of the Department of Education, has said that NAC's proposed accreditation requirement is not consistent with the policies of the Bush administration.
Attachment A is a list of agencies which, according to NAC, are the only post-secondary programs that fall within its scope of recognition. NAC has alleged that twelve states require accreditation as a condition for distributing federal funds to private non-profit agencies serving the blind. However, Attachment A shows that only two states, Illinois and Ohio, actually have such a requirement. That information was confirmed by way of a memorandum submitted to the Advisory Committee's staff from the Deputy Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration in the Department of Education. So the information shows that, rather than having thirteen agencies in nine states that fall within its scope of recognition, NAC has at best two agencies in two states that fall within its scope of recognition. Staff of the Rehabilitation Services Commission in Ohio will shortly recommend that NAC not be recognized as an accrediting agency in that state. [The Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission voted unanimously on February 18 to remove NAC from its list of approved accrediting bodies. See the March, 1992, issue of the Braille Monitor and the article elsewhere in this issue.] If NAC is removed from the Secretary's list of accrediting agencies, no agency within its scope of recognition will lose federal funds, because accreditation is also available from at least one other source, namely the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF).
In saying that accreditation has no relationship to federal funding of post-secondary programs for the blind, I am not arguing the merits of whether or not this should be the case. That would be for Congress and the Administration to decide. The point is that the Secretary of Education recognizes only accrediting agencies that perform accreditation for post- secondary programs in order for those programs to receive federal funds. That is not the case with respect to NAC, so NAC fails to meet criterion 602.12 (b).
2. NAC Is Not Generally Accepted in the Field in Which It Offers Accreditation. Section 602.14 of the Secretary's regulations specifies that the accreditation agency's policies, evaluation methods, and decisions must be accepted throughout the United States. Again the evidence shows that NAC fails to meet this criterion.
It is beyond dispute that, after twenty-five years, NAC has accumulated only ninety-six member agencies. The reason is lack of acceptance, not that the standards are difficult to meet. One-fourth of the agencies that have been accredited members of NAC have now withdrawn. Attachment B shows these agencies. The seven shaded agencies terminated their membership in 1991, all of them by their own volition. In fact, NAC's membership is shrinking year by year. It should also be noted that by NAC's own admission, forty-eight of its members voted to dissolve the corporation.
On pages 19 and 20 of its petition for renewal, NAC provides a list of state vocational rehabilitation agencies (both general and blind) that, according to NAC, require, strongly encourage, or recommend accreditation by NAC. This list is apparently offered to convey the impression of broad acceptance in the field. But the list is overblown in its attribution of alleged support. Information provided to the advisory committee by over eighty commenters shows that NAC's claimed support does not exist. In fact, only eight rehabilitation agencies have agreed to accept NAC accreditation.
NAC is actually not recognized or accepted by the vast majority of public agencies providing post-secondary services to blind people. Attachment C shows the state vocational rehabilitation agencies that do not recognize NAC. These are only the public agencies. They are joined by hundreds of private agencies that also do not recognize NAC. Only eight of the public vocational rehabilitation agencies do recognize NAC.
3. NAC Does Not Have the Resources Necessary to Carry Out Its Accreditation Activities. Section 602.15 specifies that the accrediting agency must have or be likely to have sufficient resources to carry out its accreditation function. Financially, NAC is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. From 1967 until 1989 the American Foundation for the Blind provided NAC's principal financial support. During most years the Foundation's grants met nearly 60% of NAC's operating expenses. This arrangement changed in 1989 when the Foundation wanted to cut its level of commitment.
A new financing plan then evolved in which National Industries for the Blind agreed to make up the difference resulting from AFB's diminished support. It was thought that NIB and AFB would help to keep NAC afloat for a three-year period while NAC itself would make an effort to obtain long-range support from other sources. Building membership was one of the key features of the three-year plan. In fact, the funding agreed to by AFB and NIB was contingent on NAC's success in expanding its accredited membership support base.
As of July 1, 1991, both AFB and NIB ceased providing grants to NAC one year earlier than originally planned. A letter from Mr. George Mertz, NIB's president, explained his agency's decision as follows: "This decision to discontinue funding for the third year of NAC's plan to achieve financial independence was based on the fact that there was minimal progress reported by NAC in their goal of achieving this objective. It was also felt that this goal could not be accomplished during the third year of their plan." In a later comment in his letter, Mr. Mertz stated forthrightly that "the NIB Board has not and never will advocate mandatory accreditation as a means for acquiring federal funds under the Rehabilitation Act. Also the Board was very emphatic that NIB has not and will not be involved in any lobbying effort to promote this concept."
NAC's 1991 fiscal year closed on June 30, 1991. For the year which ended at that time, NAC spent in excess of $460,000. The same is true of the year before. Income for this two-year period trailed spending by $60,000. I have rounded these numbers for simplicity. Here are some more exact figures. As of June 30, 1990, NAC reported a fund balance of $118,307. However, a financial report made by the NAC treasurer to the NAC board in April, 1991, reported a fund balance of $82,145 at the end of March, 1991. By the end of the fiscal year, June 30, 1991, NAC's reserves were down to $64,179. These figures show that NAC's spending was out of balance with income even before the AFB and NIB grants were withdrawn.
For fiscal year 1992 NAC is anticipating that its income will be down by 47% from the amount actually received in 1991. NAC's currently adopted budget, which was submitted to the accreditation and institutional eligibility staff in September, 1991, projects income of $216,065 for fiscal 1992 and spending of precisely the same amount. Roughly 37 percent of this budget (almost $80,000 of the projected income) is soft money. For example, in excess of $35,000 is shown as grants from foundations, and $27,000 from "other." The DOE criteria suggest that letters of commitment should be furnished to support the budget, but there are no such letters accompanying NAC's petition.
NAC's actual performance last year and so far this year suggests that its current income estimates are overblown. For instance, one NAC report, sent to its members in April, 1991, candidly acknowledged that income for the first 6 months of 1991 had been under budget by $65,716 and that grants which had been anticipated from two foundations and one corporation would not be received. NAC will also be losing the dues of seven agencies whose membership ended in 1991. NAC's newly accredited agencies are extremely small, so their dues will not make up for the amount being lost from the withdrawal of substantially larger dues-paying members.
As of December 31, 1991, NAC's fund balance had diminished from $64,179 to $63,895. With respect to income, NAC was on or over its revenue estimates in two categories and below budget in seven. Referring to the figures which I have described as soft money, NAC has received only 12% of the amount budgeted from foundations and corporations, and one-third of the amount anticipated from other sources. Only 26% of the donations hoped for from individuals was actually received with 50% of the year now gone.
Sales of NAC's standards have been only 27% of the amount expected. This means that fewer agencies are indicating an interest in joining NAC at some point in the future. It is true that NAC has received 49.8% of expected income half-way through the year, but there are serious problems as shown by these figures. The remaining time left in this year will tell the story. Unless there is a dramatic turnaround, NAC's fund balance will show a further decline at the end of the year.
NAC has already spent 53% of the amount budgeted. In travel alone, the amount spent so far has been almost 71% of the amount budgeted. Spending has also exceeded the budget in contract services, for dues and subscriptions, and for occupancy.
From the figures available the absence of program activity is also evident. In the six months of operation since July, 1991, NAC spent only $543 of a budgeted $4,000 on postage; for supplies, only $550 of the budgeted $4,000. Only $129 has been spent on printing. Cost of publications sold was only $281, and the total income from publications sold during this six-month period has been a princely $682. These figures demonstrate the virtually complete absence of a viable program.
The lack of financial resources is having a devastating impact on NAC's performance of programmatic commitments. As a consequence the meaning of accreditation is being diluted. In point of fact, accreditation by NAC has never been a mark of quality; now it is even less so. This is because the accredited status of many of NAC's members is actually being extended from year to year without evaluation of the members' programs. In some instances agencies that are not current in the payment of their dues to NAC are simply carried along as fully-accredited members. In the light of the agency's desperate need for income from any source, the only credible explanation is that NAC is afraid to lose more members.
NAC started fiscal year 1991 with forty-one member agencies coming due for evaluation. Many of these agencies had been extended without evaluation from prior years. The accreditation of others was expiring in the normal cycle. Attachment D is a list of these forty-one agencies. Roughly half of them were extended without evaluation--sixteen carried over to 1992 and four to 1993. Of the remaining twenty-one agency members, seven withdrew from membership in NAC by their own volition, and fourteen were reaccredited during the year.
NAC started fiscal year 1992 with thirty-six agencies coming due for evaluation, five fewer than were due for evaluation in 1991. The agencies currently due for evaluation are shown in Attachment E. Note that sixteen of these agencies were also shown on Attachment D because they were simply extended from one year to the next. Following NAC's usual pattern, only a fraction of them will actually be reviewed this year, and the rest will be moved forward to next year or the year after. As for the backlog, the raw figures are a little deceptive. Since seven agencies withdrew in 1991, the backlog dropped from forty-one to thirty- four. Though it may appear that NAC is decreasing its backlog, this erosion is achieved by losing members. At some point NAC may not show a backlog at all, but there will also be no members left to worry about.
The conclusion is that NAC's resources are not sufficient even to keep up with the periodic expiration of the accredited status of its existing members--never mind accrediting new members and keeping its standards current as well. In 1991 NAC could reaccredit only fourteen of its forty-one member agencies then due for review, and twenty were carried over to the future. As already shown, a group of thirty-six agencies have their accreditation status expiring this year. In 1990, before the loss of its major grants, NAC reviewed eight agencies and extended eighteen. The point is that NAC did not have in 1990 and does not now have the resources to evaluate even its member agencies at their regularly scheduled times, and as a result the backlog of agencies carried over is out of hand.
NAC's staff resources are also insufficient to support meaningful accreditation activities. The position of executive director was eliminated as of June 1, 1991. The associate executive director is serving as a "program administrator." This is the only professional staff position left under NAC's reduced budget. The amount budgeted for compensation of staff is $86,054, apparently including fringe benefits. Based on the June 30, 1990, audited financial statement, NAC provides fringe benefits at the rate of twenty-four percent of total personnel costs. Assuming that the fringe benefit rate has not changed in proportion to total compensation, the amount now being paid in actual salaries is $65,401. This is hardly enough to maintain anything other than a caretaker staff commitment at the rates of compensation expected and paid in New York City.
4. NAC's Evaluation and Reaccreditation Practices Do Not Follow Its Own Stated Policies for Evaluations to Be Made at Reasonable Intervals. Section 602.16 (b) specifies that the agency must revaluate its accredited members at reasonable intervals. No one disputes that NAC has a written policy for reevaluation of its member agencies. However, we have just shown that the policy is often not strictly observed. According to the policy, when an agency first affiliates with NAC, it enters a five-year cycle of review, but accredited status is sometimes granted for less than five years. There are many instances in which agencies are extended into a new accreditation cycle without receiving any apparent evaluation.
Attachment F is a list of agencies for which the accredited status expired in 1991 or before. Each of the agencies on this list still appears on NAC's membership list even though there is no record of the specific reaccreditation action that is supposed to be necessary to continue the membership. A careful consideration of NAC's frequent practice of postponing reviews of member agencies leads necessarily to the conclusion that many of the agencies shown on Attachment F will not be reviewed even at the new date specified. Under these circumstances it cannot be said that NAC has a policy of reviewing its members at reasonable intervals when it often does not follow its own policy. During 1991 NAC followed its policy with respect to fourteen programs and failed to do so with respect to many others. It is therefore clear that this performance does not comport with criterion 602.16 (b).
Conclusion. The ultimate basis for retaining any accrediting organization on the Secretary of Education's list of recognized agencies is that the organization serves as a reliable authority on the quality of post-secondary programs receiving federal assistance. Judged by this standard, NAC does not measure up. If it did, agencies for the blind would be anxious to sign up for accreditation by NAC. But exactly the opposite is the case.
NAC has stated that there are five hundred or more agencies serving the blind that would be potential candidates for its accreditation. However, in twenty-five years of trying, NAC has managed to convince only ninety-six of these agencies to enlist and remain as its accredited members. The number of NAC's member agencies is actually shrinking year by year. Membership is extended without timely evaluation. Resources are dwindling, and even the principal professional position in the organization-- the executive director--has been eliminated. This embarrassing record hardly demonstrates national acceptance.
More to the point, virtually half of NAC's members voted to dissolve the corporation. During the months since that vote NAC has barely managed to stay afloat. In the acknowledged view of some of its board members, they did not want to give up "without a fight." Regardless of their efforts to keep NAC alive as a corporation, there is no question that the organization has ceased to conduct a viable accreditation program. Some would say that it never had one. While NAC is still technically alive as a legal entity, it is not truly in business as an accrediting agency. Its failure to be accepted by agencies in the blindness field is persuasive evidence that NAC is not regarded as a reliable authority on the quality of programs within its sphere of operation. This is the ultimate test for the Secretary of Education's recognition, and NAC has failed to measure up.
The final speaker opposing the inclusion of NAC on the Department of Education's list was R. Creig Slayton, Director of the Iowa Department for the Blind. Here are his remarks:
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: R. Creig Slayton, Director, Iowa Department for the Blind, and Immediate Past President, National Council of State Agencies for the Blind, Des Moines, Iowa.]
I have been employed in the federal-state vocational rehabilitation program for over twenty-six years. For the past five years I have been Director of the Iowa Department for the Blind and active in national organizations which represent the state vocational rehabilitation agencies. I serve on the Executive Committee of the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation, and I am immediate past president of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind. I come to you today as a concerned director of a state vocational rehabilitation agency serving blind persons to request that this advisory Committee oppose the U.S. Department of Education's recognition of the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC) as a suitable accrediting organization.
I am not certain that post-secondary training services for blind persons need special accreditation. The Rehabilitation Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Education does not require such accreditation because they, themselves, are heavily into monitoring activities. However, I do know that NAC is not the organization to fill this role of primary accrediting body for the field.
NAC was conceived and born in controversy, has failed to meet expectations, and continues to exist in a semicomatose state. Many of its standards are seen as irrelevant, not uniformly applied, and scoffed at by blind consumers. Most state agencies for the blind choose not to recognize NAC as a suitable accrediting organization. Private agencies for the blind have likewise failed to answer the call to be accredited by NAC. As a result NAC has begun to offer its questionable accreditation to diverse groups of service providers. For example, in the State of Iowa, NAC recently accredited a hospital-based low vision center which provides medical eye examinations and prescriptive lenses.
Perhaps NAC's greatest disservice to rehabilitation is its failure to recognize that the time has come for it to step aside and clear the way for a new accrediting body.
In conclusion, the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped has failed to develop relevant standards, to apply standards in a uniform manner, and most important, it has failed to achieve the respect which is absolutely essential to a standard-setting organization.
That was what the immediate past president of the NCSAB had to say about NAC, and when the testimony was complete, the Committee began asking questions of the NAC representatives. It was clear that, having no grasp of the NFB's efforts through the years to participate meaningfully in the creation and deliberations of NAC, Committee members were distressed to see the steadiness of the NFB's determination to see that NAC ceases once and for all to be a divisive force in the field of work with the blind. They kept returning to the notion that the NFB could participate "adversarially" in NAC--whatever that may mean. But even with these misgivings, they were clearly dissatisfied with NAC's explanations and promises of reform.
John Hirschfeld, the member charged with carefully reading all the documents in this case, complained about NAC's budget, which he clearly thought to be simplistic with its category of "other" that conveniently provides the $27,700 needed to balance the NAC budget this year.
He then asked whether AER and the ACB were prepared to underline their strong endorsement of NAC with contributions. Ms. Westman explained that both organizations are sponsoring members of NAC and therefore make an annual contribution based on their size. Mr. Hirschfeld then said, "So the answer would be that they do not?" [meaning that neither organization is likely to make large grants to NAC]. Ms. Westman replied, "Yes they do" [an answer which reflected a narrow interpretation of Mr. Hirschfeld's question]. At that point the subject was dropped, but it was clear that the Committee understood that no matter how noisy AER and ACB support of NAC may be, it will never translate into substantial financial assistance.
Several Committee members raised questions to which NAC representatives gave misleading answers. When asked if it were true that NAC standards prevent member agencies from employing blind orientation and mobility instructors, Ms. Westman answered that they do not. Mr. Gashel was left to point out that, since the standards require that such teachers be certified by AER, which does not allow blind professionals to be certified, the effect of the standard is to prevent blind people from teaching cane travel. Dr. Welsh said directly that there was nothing to prevent NFB members from becoming members of the NAC Board, a statement which is technically correct. Mr. Gashel, however, explained that, since the NFB is not an agency seeking accreditation or a sponsoring member of NAC, there is no mechanism by which NFB representatives could be elected to the Board--a concept rendered ludicrous by the long and painful history of Board harassment of NFB representatives in the early days of the accrediting body.
The Committee then spent some little time fretting over the problems that would be faced by the thirteen NAC-accredited agencies on NAC's list of post-secondary institutions, if NAC were to be removed from the Secretary's list. Dr. Welsh admitted again that none of the thirteen received federal money now that they would not be entitled to, even if NAC were off the list, and Mr. Gashel pointed out that many other NAC-accredited agencies do post-secondary instruction of various kinds despite their not having been included on NAC's list of thirteen.
At this point one member of the Committee showed a shrewd grasp of the central question facing the Committee. The text is lifted from the official transcript prepared by the Department of Education. Here is what she said:
SISTER MARY ANDREW: I was a reader in May, '91, and had worked my way through a considerable stack of material before the agency withdrew its petition at that time--while the issue of whether it would dissolve was being dealt with.
I am now more up to date on that issue, and I think it's important to think about the link between the agency's function as an accrediting agency and being on the Secretary's list. If the agency were not on the Secretary's list, it could continue as an accrediting agency. It could continue to accredit the thirteen post-secondary programs and the other eighty-three programs that it now has and any additional programs that would apply for that accreditation. States could continue to recognize NAC for purposes of dispersing their vocational rehabilitation funds if they so choose.
My concern, and I think I have it clear now, is whether we would be hurting students if this agency were not on the Secretary's list, and I think the answer to that question is that as of now we would not be hurting any students if this agency were not on the Secretary's list because no students in post- secondary programs accredited by this agency are now applying for or receiving Title IV funding. And even in the States that require accreditation by NAC for vocational rehab funding, they don't require that NAC have recognition by the Secretary.
So I want to suggest that we look at the issue in a narrower framework than the future of NAC, because NAC can work out its future apart from action that would be taken by this group regarding recognition by the Secretary.
I'm suggesting this because I think this is very complex. There's a lot of strongly-held belief on both sides of the issue, but I think that's almost irrelevant to the work of this Committee because there isn't any current link to any Federal mandate in terms of eligibility for programs.
The Committee continued to wrangle and agonize among themselves over the complex matter before them. An excerpt from their discussion will demonstrate their perplexity:
MR. KUNKEL: I want to present a case that says that here's an organization [NAC] that was not a full enough organization the last time we met even to present the status of its business. Here's an organization in which our own staff found two criteria very, very weak, one of which is the whole health of the organization.
So I'm sitting here wondering at what point do we really say an agency is so weak in any of the Secretary's criteria that we would say to the Secretary, "This body is not a reliable body to do business in the name of the Secretary" I am very close to saying that about what I've heard here today--what I saw six months ago when hardly a person could come into this room and tell us about a board meeting that was going to go on, at which it sounded to me today like the board meeting even voted to dissolve at that meeting.
So I think there's total, strong evidence to say that the weaknesses that the staff found are not corrected. In my judgment, they are even more profound than the way they were written up. At what time do we finally sit back and say, "The word is no. We recommend to the Secretary that you do not continue this body on your list"? They know precisely what they ought to do. They ought to get their shop in order, and they ought to demonstrate in performance the kinds of things we've heard said hopefully today.
The history of this presentation, the hopeful message, was a really short history. In fact, I'm not sure it was even history yet. I heard hope in the future. I heard no accomplished record. I hear everything is going downhill instead of uphill.
So why should we tell the Secretary to continue recognition, even for a year? Let's tell the Secretary, we recommend no--if the Secretary in a more caring way wants to give them another six months or a year, it's totally in his prerogative. But we looked at the data on a bankrupt program and a bankrupt dollar, and there is no reason to keep saying yes.
CHAIRMAN TROW: Thank you Richard. Bernard?
DR. FRYSHMAN: Yes. Richard, you said two things. You talked about the bankrupt program and bankrupt dollar.
MR. KUNKEL: Yes.
DR. FRYSHMAN: Could you expand on where you see the bankrupt program?
MR. KUNKEL: I'm not at all satisfied with the evidence about why groups were moved on. Apparently there was no body to carry on the business. That's a bankrupt program of an accrediting agency, as far as I'm concerned. And I don't care whether the number's one or four. They have not been carrying on the business of an accrediting body as far as I'm concerned.
DR. FRYSHMAN: I just want to continue with you, because you were also the head of an accrediting body. I'm looking for clarification in my own mind, and I'll use you as a sounding board, if I may. Are their standards satisfactory to you?
MR. KUNKEL: I'm not making judgment on their standards. I'm making a judgment on two of the Secretary's criteria for compliance. I'm very concerned about the overall carrying out of their business and their financial stability and a workforce to carry off their task. I'm paraphrasing the language, but it's in the compliance criteria, and you know it is.
DR. FRYSHMAN: But in terms of the standards per se, that's--
MR. KUNKEL: That's not the grounds I'm finding, so I don't want to debate their standards.
DR. FRYSHMAN: Okay, all right. That's--
MR. KUNKEL: My argument is based on two strong criteria that I think they ought to behave positively and the evidence is weak.
DR. FRYSHMAN: The reason I'm pushing in this direction is twofold. Number one, I do respect the judgment of staff. I think that they had an opportunity to review this agency in a way that I didn't, and I suspect they were aware of all the difficulties and all the problems and so forth. Based on the report they gave, my judgment is that NAC does meet the standards in large measure.
The other thing that concerns me, and I have other concerns too, but the main, the big concern that's troubling everybody, is the--well, the virtual bankruptcy, the money problem. But I would venture to say that they're not the first accrediting agency to suddenly come up against the terrible drop in assets.
We had one this morning...I was part of the group about five years ago that voted to ignore the fact that that agency lost as much money as they did and gave them another chance to continue. Richard, were you there too? I think so.
MR. KUNKEL: Yes. I'm not going to let that be a norm.
DR. FRYSHMAN: No, no, no. [Laughter.]
DR. FRYSHMAN: I hope that we won't ever find that, but it seems to me that what this agency is facing is not the sort of thing that happens all the time. I'm influenced by the fact that this agency has been in existence since 1975 as a recognized body. This isn't a Johnny-come-lately group. This isn't a fly-by- night organization. They're a body which has merited the confidence of the Secretary for many, many years, longer than most other agencies on the list, I would venture to say.
So dropping them is, I think, a precipitous--well, I wouldn't say it's a precipitous action, but it's a serious action. It's something that I would not do easily, and I'm groping and grasping for a reason to convince everybody else, in particular myself, why we should not do this sort of thing. I--
MR. KUNKEL: You won't get any help from me. [Laughter.]
DR. FRYSHMAN: Just on the face of it, I would be inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to the staff report as it now stands. I'm troubled by the lack of funds, but I haven't seen anything of a fatal nature. I do recognize the emotion in the letters, in the presentations, the fact that so many people came at such terrible inconvenience--I appreciate it and I understand that there's a real serious factor taking place here, but as was pointed out earlier, this kind of energy put into creating another agency would have had some very positive outcomes, and I suspect that this body would have been prepared to recognize an additional agency if there were no possibility of coming together.
I do sense also that there is a willingness or at least a readiness on the part of this body to open its procedures. I think we've all seen situations where there were groups of individuals at loggerheads, and they have come close. We have an almost merger, and I suspect that that's also something that could continue.
What interests me, and this was mentioned by people whose accomplishments are unquestioned, there are still ninety-six bodies which seek accreditation. That means there is something valuable. It's true, it's ninety-six out of five hundred--that's not a very impressive number.
Nonetheless, for many of these organizations, money is not a consideration. They're not there because they want access to the Federal dollar. They're there for a different reason. I don't really understand that reason, and I wish some of these schools were here to discuss that with us, but I see these all as favorable indicators, and if I had to vote right now, I probably would vote to support the staff recommendation.
CHAIRMAN TROW: You may have to pretty soon. George?
DR. PRUITT: Yes, I have a question, again for the staff. The customary action of the Committee is five years, and staff is recommending two, and I think I read in that that you're trying to give them a shortened time period because the jury's out. There's a built-in skepticism from the staff view about whether this [agency] is going to make it or not.
MR. ROGERS [member of the Committee's staff]: That's correct, Dr. Pruitt. We also thought that a lesser amount of time would not be sufficient for them to carry through the fund- raising effort which they are now making and the reorganization of their program.
DR. PRUITT: The number--I am confused about the numbers here. I thought the number we were dealing with was thirteen institutions.
MR. ROGERS: That is correct.
DR. PRUITT: So it's not--
CHAIRMAN TROW: Post-secondary. The rest are--
DR. PRUITT: The scope of this group is concerned about thirteen?
MR. ROGERS: Yes.
DR. PRUITT: They have ninety-six that they can look to for support? Usually accrediting [agencies]depend on the people they accredit to provide the resources, but if their universe of resources is limited to thirteen institutions, it's unlikely that that's going to be sufficient.
MR. SAUNDERS [Director, Higher Education Program Management Service]: Let me clarify that for just a second. It's only the thirteen post-secondary institutions that you and we are concerned about. The staff report for two years is yes, a very minimal period, and we have indicated in there that if you go along with that, we intend to monitor this very closely over the two years.
It's going to be very difficult to monitor it in a very short period of time because there'll be very few institutions coming up. But we will go on those site visits. We will be sure what standards are, that the standards are met. We've been on one site visit in the last year. That's all we had an opportunity to go on. That one appeared to be satisfactory, but that's only a sample of one.
CHAIRMAN TROW: Sister Mary, and then Richard.
MR. ROGERS: I did attend both a board meeting and a committee meeting also.
CHAIRMAN TROW: I'm sorry.
SISTER MARY ANDREW: Again, I want to emphasize that, as I see it, an action on our part to recommend to the Secretary not to continue to recognize this agency doesn't have anything to do in any direct way with its future as an accrediting agency because it is already recognized by the ninety-six or the thirteen or the however many you want to count for reasons that have nothing to do with Federal Title IV programs, and it would be entirely possible for them to continue to function; to build their financial base; to grow; and, if at some point it becomes important for some of their members to qualify for Title IV funding, to come back in here again and ask to be recognized.
So there are other agencies that function very well without ever being on the Secretary's list because there isn't a need for them to be there for purposes of Title IV funding and because they don't choose to be there for purposes of recognition of their procedures.
So these are two separate issues in my mind.
MR. PAPPAS [Executive Director of the Committee Staff]: Maybe I can just clarify one thing--the point about Title IV. Accreditation and recognition by the Secretary are used in a number of ways: by States, local governments, and other kinds of agencies, besides Title IV; just so you all know that Title IV is not just the only thing that recognition does.
SISTER MARY ANDREW: But we have clarified that vocational rehabilitation funding does not depend on the Secretary's recommendation.
And so the discussion ranged over the issues in question. Gradually it became evident that a majority of the Committee neither grasped fully the actual situation which NAC has created for itself nor had the courage to take a stand other than that recommended by its staff. Not a single member of the Committee was prepared to speak in support of NAC, but most of them were unwilling to take a part, however peripheral, in ending the group's agony. John Hirschfeld, the man designated as the reader in this case, eventually moved that the committee accept the staff recommendation to continue NAC on the Secretary's list for two more years with close supervision and audit reports required. The general attitude of the Committee was captured accurately by the member who seconded this motion. This is the comment he made in explanation of his second:
MR. GUESS: I appreciate people who wage a struggle for survival, and my reading of the material presented here today, listening to the testimony that I heard, indicated to me that we have an organization who has been in business for a number of years who hit upon difficult times. I guess during the course of my life, have also hit upon difficult times and appreciated those who gave me an opportunity to fail again.
And it would appear to me that the only thing they've asked for is the opportunity to fail. That also gives them the opportunity to succeed, and I think that's important based on my own personal travails in life that people be given.
There you have it, and with that statement the Committee voted eight to two to recommend to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander that NAC be given a chance to fail yet again. No one on the Committee could find a good word to say for NAC or even muster much hope for its future. Steve Pappas, Executive Director of the Committee's staff, characterized the recommendation to the Secretary as constituting a message of grave warning to NAC, not a mandate.
NAC had hoped for five more years of recognition by the Department of Education. It was looking for vindication and renewed respectability. Instead the best it can expect is close supervision and the ignominy of frequent audit reports. That is the most that can come out of this debacle, for by mid-March Secretary Alexander had still not made a final decision. NAC may boast of this experience as a victory, but another such and NAC, like King Pyrrhus before it, will be undone.
[PHOTO: Barbara Pierce standing at podium microphone. CAPTION: Barbara Pierce, Presdent of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio.]
NAC DOWN FOR THE COUNT IN OHIO
by Barbara Pierce
In the March, 1992, issue of the Braille Monitor we reported the unanimous February 18 decision of the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission (ORSC) to remove NAC (the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped) from the Commission's list of approved accrediting bodies. It was a tremendous step forward for the blind citizens of Ohio, so no one was surprised when NAC reacted with howls of outrage and vehement accusations of unfair practice.
The next step in the implementation of the new policy was to have it reviewed by the Joint Committee for Agency Rule Review, a body composed of equal numbers of State Senators and Representatives. The Committee's job is to see that state agencies establish or revise policies only within their statutory authority, and the Committee tries to make certain that no new policy is in conflict with established state regulations. The Committee's authority is restricted to these narrow statutory questions.
This fact, however, did not stop the NAC defenders. They asked to testify before the Committee, and they generated a few letters to members of the Committee, urging that the proposed rule change be sent back to the Commission for further consideration.
In the meantime, knowing that Ohio's inclusion of NAC on its list of approved accrediting bodies had been used by NAC representatives in the U.S. Department of Education hearing on February 4 (see the article elsewhere in this issue) to argue that Ohio required NAC accreditation for agencies doing state contract work, Robert Rabe, Administrator of the ORSC, wrote to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander, notifying him of the RSC's decision. Here is Mr. Rabe's letter:
March 2, 1992
Mr. Lamar Alexander, Secretary
U.S. Department of Education
Dear Secretary Alexander:
It is my understanding that you are considering whether to retain certification (by the Department of Education) of the National Accreditation Council (NAC). During this process, I understand that you were informed by NAC that the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission (ORSC) required NAC accreditation for the purchases of rehabilitation services. This letter is meant to inform you that the Commissioners of ORSC unanimously voted, on February 18, 1992, no longer to require NAC accreditation.
We have been provided information that indicates to us that NAC can no longer provide accreditation services on a national basis. The deletion of NAC is projected to be effective after final administration review by the State of Ohio and a vote by the Commissioners on March 21, 1992.
If you have any questions regarding this action, please contact me.
Robert L. Rabe, Administrator
State of Ohio
Rehabilitation Services Commission
That was the text of Administrator Rabe's letter, and one can only hope that the information it communicated was useful to the Secretary in his deliberations.
March 10 was set as the date for the meeting of the Joint Committee for Agency Rule Review at which the RSC policy was to be considered. As president of the Ohio affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind, I decided that I had better be present at the hearing, and I was glad I was there.
The general counsel for the Rehabilitation Services Commission presented a succinct summary of the involved process by which the Commission went about notifying interested parties and the general public of its intention to consider revising the administrative rule which includes the list of approved accrediting bodies. Interested agencies and members of the RSC's Consumer Advisory Council received clearly written notices of the public hearing and invitations to submit comments prior to that meeting.
Given the virtual programmatic and financial bankruptcy of NAC, the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio would have been remiss if it had done anything other than submit information to the Commission arguing that the time was ripe for removing NAC from its list because NAC could obviously not provide the RSC with assurance that its member agencies had met standards of good practice.
The general counsel then recounted the conclusions which the Commission had reached in the process of making its decision. He described NAC's inability to reaccredit its member agencies in a timely fashion and the financial crisis that has exacerbated this grave problem. He then pointed out that the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind, the professional organization of public agencies serving blind consumers, had refused steadfastly in recent years to endorse NAC despite repeated attempts by NAC supporters to have it do so.
This conscious refusal to take positive action on the part of the NCSAB was interpreted by the Commission as a clear statement of the professional organization's reservations about NAC. The general counsel said that the Commission was uneasy about NAC's method of recruiting the teams of professionals who make on-site visits. He explained that CARF (the accrediting body which evaluates general rehabilitation facilities, including an increasing number of agencies serving the blind) temporarily hires the professionals that do its reviews. This establishes a professional and official relationship between CARF and the team and helps to insure that reports will be completed quickly and objectively.
The long-standing NAC system of having the agency being studied pay the team has always had the appearance of compromising the impartiality of NAC's studies. Now that unpaid volunteers are being recruited, there is even more reason to fear that the system will break down. The tendency will be to find volunteers close to home among the very group of professional colleagues with which the agency staff work in regional and statewide organizations. Moreover, the people most likely to rise to the call are those who, or whose employers, are most sympathetic to NAC and are therefore likely to underwrite the cost of staff time away for the on-site visit. In addition, if NAC cannot find a professional who is expert in a particular aspect of the agency's program, the temptation will be to ignore the gap and fill in with whoever is willing to come. The RSC does not believe that this group of problems and policies can be combined in a nationwide accrediting body capable of providing trustworthy evaluations.
The NAC supporters were led by Dr. Richard Welsh from Pittsburgh, who had carried out the same assignment a month earlier before the U.S. Department of Education's Advisory Committee. With him were two agency directors whose Ohio facilities are currently accredited by NAC and two members of the American Council of the Blind, including the volunteer Executive Director of the ACB state office. Dr. Welsh covered many of the same points he had made in the earlier hearing. The only notable departure from his defense before the Department of Education was his assertion that in this country there is no indicator of excellence for accrediting bodies in this field, other than the Secretary of Education's list of approved agencies. He then explained that the Department had conducted an exhaustive hearing in February examining NAC and, as a result, decided to retain NAC on its list. The conclusion which he drew from this inaccurate summary of the action of the Advisory Committee was that the Ohio RSC had removed an accrediting body in good standing from its list of approved organizations. The National Federation of the Blind's testimony eventually corrected the misinformation provided by Dr. Welsh, but it is interesting to note just how much weight NAC places on the DOE list even though none of NAC's member agencies would lose federal funds if it were to be removed from that list.
Although the committee patiently sifted through the tangle of defensive explanations and self-serving justifications, the only point in which the members seemed interested was the question of whether the RSC had given due notice of the public hearing and of the matter to be considered in the administrative rule under consideration. One of the two agency directors admitted that Ohio agencies had received the notice, and the copy of the notice that the Committee had in its possession indicated that the entire text of the rule had been reproduced.
Much of the Federation's testimony was devoted to clearing up the points of confusion created by the NAC supporters. Richard Oestreich, Executive Director of the Vision Center of Central Ohio, had confused and concerned the Committee by strongly implying that if NAC accreditation were not acceptable to the state agency, his agency, which does a great deal of business with the RSC, would be powerless to train blind people for the state. That would mean, he suggested with a straight face, that blind people would not get the rehabilitation they need. It was left for me to point out that the Cleveland Society for the Blind, which does even more business with the state in most years, disaffiliated from NAC almost a decade ago and continues to contract with the state because of its CARF accreditation. The primary ACB spokesman opined that he knew everyone at RSC headquarters and that it was inconceivable that a public hearing could have been planned and executed in which NAC was discussed without his being informed. As a member of the public who was at that crowded hearing, I could assure the Committee that plenty of Ohioans had heard of the meeting and were present to comment.
As so often happens in such official gatherings, the end of the committee meeting was anticlimactic. When all was said and done, the Committee recognized that it had wandered into the cross-fire between two warring parties. The members took refuge in the narrow definition of their responsibility. There was never any question about whether the Rehabilitation Services Commission had the authority to remove the name of one accrediting body from a list that it had constructed in the first place, and it was obvious that no other statutes or regulations could conflict with the revised RSC policy. So the Joint Committee refused to intervene, and the administrative rule was returned to the Rehabilitation Services Commission for final approval at its April meeting.
Of course, NAC representatives asked to attend the April RSC meeting--which, at the time of this writing, has not yet occurred. When the April meeting is held, the NAC supporters will be addressing the body which reviewed the evidence in the first place and voted unanimously to remove NAC from the list of acceptable accrediting organizations.
Even so, Yogi Berra was, of course, right: "It ain't over 'til it's over," but in Ohio it's getting close.
POWERFUL TESTIMONY FOR BRAILLE
From the Editor: This article appeared in the February, 1992, Observer, the newsletter of our Montana affiliate. It is one more evidence of the need for the emphasis we continue to place on Braille:
Carolyn Brock is a relatively new member of the Montana affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind, having joined just about a year ago. She is a French teacher at Big Sky High School in Missoula. She also has very limited eyesight.
Last year Mrs. Brock applied for but did not receive one of the NFB scholarships. At that time she was not familiar with Braille. However, the literature that came with the application, "started me thinking about learning Braille, doing more mobility training, and adopting various alternative techniques that have vastly improved my life this past year," she says. She now writes excellent grade two Braille.
The following is excerpted from a letter of January 27, written in Braille by Mrs. Brock, and is a powerful testimony in support of Braille literacy:
"You may remember that I spent four months in France this fall. The trip was wonderful, and I learned a great deal. As I was just starting to read Braille in English, I was very enthusiastic about adding the French system to my repertoire. There was no organization for the blind in the little town where I was living, so I contacted the group in Dijon, the regional capital. The people there were so helpful and hospitable; Charles and Diana would not have gotten a warmer welcome. They ordered the necessary material from Paris for me, and gave me all the help I needed to start reading and writing French.
"On their recommendation, I visited two organizations in Paris during the two weeks we spent there in November. I was always given the same enthusiastic welcome. I saw the computer adaptations they are using: the visual enhancement and voice synthesis systems I worked with at the University of Montana last summer, and also the Braille display the Europeans are now using. I was also able to order a year's subscription to a magazine in French grade two Braille, a wonderfully sophisticated system which reduces a text to about one-third its grade one length. I have not been able to read in French for years, and I am thrilled!
"I could not have accomplished all this without the encouragement and expertise of David Bell of the Missoula Visual Services who not only encouraged me in learning Braille, but is also extremely up to date about technological developments abroad, as well as in the United States.
"Please continue your efforts to encourage blind and visually impaired people, adults as well as children, to learn Braille. It has given me back my sense of literacy and put me back in touch with the world of learning."
[PHOTO: Columbia Room, filled with seated attendees. CAPTION: As usual, it was standing room only at the Sunday night briefing of the 1992 Washington Seminar.]
[PHOTO: Judy Sanders hands materials to visitors to the Mercury Room. CAPTION: Judy Sanders (right) hands out materials in the Mercury Room as eager Federationists prepare for visits to Capitol Hill.]
[PHOTO: Four blind students seated, preparing for dialogue of skit. CAPTION: Left to right Heather Kirkwood (Kansas), David Cohen (Ohio), Pam Dubel (Ohio), and Holly Pilcher (Massachusetts) take part in "The Young and the Skillless," a skit written especially for the Mid-Winter Conference of the National Association of Blind Students by Jerry Whittle of Louisiana.]
THE WASHINGTON SEMINAR: HARD WORK, EXCITEMENT, AND FUN IN FEBRUARY
In most parts of the country February is a month that needs help. It's cold, dreary, and gray; and stimulating activity is welcome to everyone. Federationists enthusiastically refer to the Washington Seminar as the most important event of the winter social season because it bursts onto the calendar at a time when everyone is eager for some excitement.
This year the dates of the actual seminar were February 2 to 5, and as usual the first people on the scene were the college and graduate students as well as other Federationists particularly interested in the work of the National Association of Blind Students (NABS). The Students Division's Mid-Winter Conference was scheduled for Saturday, February 1, 1992, and by Friday evening scores of students had checked in at the Holiday Inn Capitol and were ready for the pre-conference party.
There were rumors that some people never made it to bed that night, but everyone was on hand early Saturday morning for the conference opening. There were a number of thought-provoking agenda items, but far and away the funniest was a play, written by Jerry Whittle of Louisiana and performed by a number of members of the student division. It was titled "The Young and the Skill-less," and it was a soap-operatic rendering of the adventures of a lovely but skill-less young college student who finds life-long competence and immediate personal satisfaction by taking the advice of friends who urge her to leave school and get the training she needs from a good adult rehabilitation center. Much of the play's humor derived from the audience's knowing the actors and its recognition of the character-types being portrayed.
From small group discussions on the nature of equality to presentations about two cases of injustice on university campuses experienced by NABS members, the day was filled with stimulating ideas and talk, and everyone learned much from the discussion. Scott LaBarre and the other members of the NABS Board of Directors can take well-deserved pride in the event.
As usual the high point of the day was the evening banquet emceed by Ollie Cantos, President of the California Association of Blind Students and Member of the NABS Board of Directors. Diane McGeorge was the featured speaker for the evening, and she gathered the themes of the day into a moving and inspirational challenge to her audience to live up to the Federation's ideals and to rededicate themselves to helping all blind people to succeed.
Sunday, February 2, nearly a hundred people piled into the NFB bus and several vans for the trip to Baltimore and a tour of the National Center for the Blind and the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind at our national headquarters. The group was back in time for the Associates workshop in the afternoon and some visiting with friends before the actual seminar began.
All day hundreds of eager Federationists had been pouring into the hotel in preparation for the 5:00 p.m. briefing. Cassette recordings of the legislative memorandum and the three fact sheets we were to discuss with members of Congress were circulating, and by mid-afternoon the Mercury Room, the headquarters for data collection and material distribution, was open for business on the second floor. As always, Sandy Halverson and her dedicated and efficient staff ran this aspect of the seminar with speed and accuracy, taking reports, keeping track of appointments, and producing summary counts when Mr. Gashel needed them.
By five o'clock a standing-room-only crowd of more than 400 filled the Columbia Room for the briefing. Dr. Jernigan and President Maurer brought the group up to date on nationwide NFB activities of national importance. Then James Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs, discussed the issues we were taking to Capitol Hill and answered questions. He also announced that those who wished to do so were encouraged to join a group attending the Tuesday afternoon meeting of the Department of Education Advisory Committee on Accreditation and Institutional Eligibility that would be considering the request of the National Accreditation Council (NAC) for five more years on the Department's list of approved accrediting bodies. (See the article elsewhere in this issue.)
As it turned out, many appointments with Members of Congress were scheduled for Tuesday and could not be moved, so a large percentage of Federationists in Washington were compelled to miss the hearing. But the crowd that did attend filled the large meeting room at the DuPont Plaza Hotel. The group was large but silent, as Mr. Gashel had asked people to be. One small but impressive mark of the crowd's dignity and discipline occurred when, early in the proceedings, the chairman of the committee indicated that the observers could now be excused so that the committee could carry on its own discussion. His intention was to have the NAC and third-party witnesses leave the table and return to their seats, but virtually everyone in the audience assumed that he wanted the room cleared. The order came as a shock and a keen disappointment since we were there to observe the committee's deliberations, but without a murmur or protest, or even a word of whispered comment, the group of hundreds rose and prepared to file out of the room. Seeing what was happening and recognizing the misunderstanding, the chairman quickly clarified his request, and the audience subsided again with gratitude.
By Wednesday afternoon every appointment had been kept and every report filed with the Mercury crew. Federationists packed bags, checked out, and headed for vans, trains, and airplanes. The 1992 Washington Seminar was history, but the National Federation of the Blind will be back next year. Our work is never finished. The task of educating the public about blindness is unending. There are always new people to deal with and old acquaintances who have more to learn.
An excellent illustration of this exhausting truth occurred on the Friday when people were first arriving. We have used the Holiday Inn Capitol as our headquarters for almost ten years, and one would hope that the staff had learned something about treating blind hotel guests like others. But that morning hotel maids began collecting the free-standing lamps from the rooms of NFB guests. When Sharon Gold, President of the National Federation of the Blind of California, asked why they were doing so, one of the staff explained that the blind people wouldn't need the light and they might knock over the lamps and break valuable property. Sheryl Pickering, Sharon's roommate for the seminar and manager of the NFB of California office, protested that she would need the lamp to work at her computer, so the maids retreated empty-handed. But Sharon explained the hotel's reasoning to another Californian, Paul McIntire, who immediately went to the front desk and demanded a ten-percent discount on his room on the grounds that he didn't have as much light as other hotel guests. There was a quick conference of hotel personnel, and the missing lamps were returned.
No, our work has not ended, not with the 102nd Congress and not with the Holiday Inn Capitol staff. We will return next year, and in the meantime we will remain in contact with our Senators and Members of Congress to insure that they remember the National Federation of the Blind and the issues we tell them are important to the nation's blind citizens.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Jon Deden.]
TRIBUTE TO A FEDERATIONIST
by Jon Deden
From the Associate Editor: Every day Federationists go out of their way to help other blind people who need their support or expertise. They do it because they are dedicated to making life better for all blind people and because the National Federation of the Blind has supported and assisted them. For the most part we don't think twice about this loving service. It isn't that we take it for granted, but it is like the air we breathe--always there when we need it.
Recently Dr. Jernigan received a letter from Jon Deden, an active member of the National Federation of the Blind of Denver. In a few lines Mr. Deden captures the spirit of Federationism as he experienced it when he was in need. As you will see, Curtis Chong was able and happy to help Jon Deden, but what makes this anecdote truly worth noting is the fact that, though Curtis Chong is as good a Federationist as we have, he is not extraordinary. That is the true strength of the National Federation of the Blind. Here is Jon Deden's letter:
November 22, 1991
Dear Mr. Jernigan:
I am proud to be a member of the National Federation of the Blind and to be affiliated with all of the wonderful people in the organization. I can think of no one finer in the NFB than Curtis Chong, President of the NFB in Computer Science.
Curtis has been of more help to me in the computer field than anyone could ever imagine. When I first started working at the Colorado Student Loan Program, I had no idea what type of computer equipment to get or how to install it. I called Diane McGeorge and asked if she could recommend anyone to help me. Immediately she said, "I know of a great person--Curtis Chong." Diane gave me Curtis's work number, but I was a little hesitant to call him there for help because he didn't know me, and I hate to bother people at work anyway.
When I called Curtis, what I encountered was one of the nicest people I had ever talked to--more than willing at any time to go out of his way to help me. To say I was impressed with Curtis would be an understatement. He was instrumental in helping me choose the correct equipment for my job, and without his assistance I don't think the equipment would ever have been properly installed.
The computer people at the Colorado Student Loan Program worked for two days trying to get the equipment installed--to no avail. When I finally did what I should have done in the first place, called Curtis, within five minutes my system was up and running!
I recently started a new job as a Securities Examiner. Once again Curtis was invaluable--helping me not only to get my system to work but also assisting me to obtain the position. When I first interviewed at the Colorado Division of Securities, they said they would like to offer me a position if my equipment would be compatible with their computer system, which was fairly complicated because they use a local area network. I was unable to convince them with the limited amount of computer knowledge I have that my system would work, so I referred them to Curtis. He told them that he was 99% sure that it would, but they were still very hesitant. On at least ten separate occasions Curtis took time out of his busy schedule to discuss the software that we would need and to convince my superiors that my system would work. Even after all of that, they were still skeptical and wanted me to bring my equipment over to test on their system before I was offered a position. Once again Curtis was there to help get my system to work.
Two so-called computer wizards worked for three hours but were unable to get my system up and running. By that time it was about 7:00 p.m. Minnesota time, and in a last ditch effort, I called Curtis. Of course, once again, within five minutes my system was up and running.
Curtis Chong exemplifies what the National Federation of the Blind is all about: the blind working together to obtain a common goal--whether it be with employment or any facet of life.
Board Member, NFB of Denver
ON PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION, THE ADA, AND THE NFB
by Ed Eames
From the Editors: Ed Eames is one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of California. His article about the Americans with Disabilities Act is worth contemplating. It reminds us of the necessity of winning our freedom anew every day. Here it is:
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will have a profound effect on many aspects of our lives. The National Federation of the Blind insisted on an amendment to protect us from some of the most invidious side effects of this mammoth piece of legislation. This amendment guarantees our right to refuse any accommodation we do not want, including the right to reject front seats on buses, bulkhead seating on airplanes, accommodation in accessible hotel rooms, etc.
One major area of ADA regulation is public transportation. On September 6, 1991, the Federal Register contained the new rules regarding fixed route and paratransit service. All transit authorities had to develop a five-year plan to show how they will conform to these new regulations. Most of these rules are related to making public transportation accessible for mobility impaired people, but several of the proposed changes have a direct effect on those of us who are blind.
Sharon Gold, President of the National Federation of the Blind of California, asked me to act as coordinator of issues and activities related to public transportation and the ADA in our state. Shortly thereafter, I received a call from Eric Foss, President of the Kern County Chapter of the NFB of California. The director of operations of the Bakersfield transit system had announced that, in accordance with the ADA regulations, a blind passenger boarding a bus at a stop where two or more routes intersected would be required to hold up a placard with the number of the desired bus route on it. The argument used for this procedure was that it was part of the ADA and would speed up bus service.
This demand shocked me. My wife Toni and I began listing the practical as well as the ideological reasons for our opposition to this system. Here are some of the questions and scenarios we conjured as we pondered its implications:
(1) If you had a long white cane or the leash and harness handle of a guide dog in one hand and a package, brief case, or infant in the other, how would you display this numbered route placard?
(2) If you were traveling several routes in the same day, where would you store the placards? Most women carry purses, but most men do not. Where would men keep these items, and would women want to add this additional bulk to their purses?
(3) Many bus stops have shelters to protect people from rain, cold, and heat. Why should blind people be forced to abandon these shelters and stand at the curb, waving numbered signs?
(4) Who would determine the proper height at which these signs should be displayed in order to communicate with bus drivers?
(5) What would happen if a blind person forgot the mandated cards?
(6) How is a blind visitor to Bakersfield supposed to use the bus system without a card or cards?
(7) If the desired bus is late, how long are we supposed to stand at the curb waving the card?
What made no sense was the inclusion of such a system in the ADA transportation regulations. I couldn't believe it existed. After consulting the voluminous September 6 Federal Register, I found on page 45,755, Appendix D, the following:
"Some transit properties have used colored mitts or numbered cards to allow passengers to inform drivers of what route they wanted to use. The idea is to prevent at a stop where vehicles from a number of routes arrive a person with a visual impairment from having to ask every driver whether the bus is the right one."
Feeling somewhat panicky, I called the National Center for the Blind concerning this problem. President Maurer's response was simple: "What's wrong with the old system, where a bus pulled up, the driver opened the door, and I asked what bus is this?" Jim Gashel had an equally acrid response: "The first bus that passes me by because I don't have a numbered card will lead to the fastest protest they've ever seen."
After these comments, and with Sharon Gold's backing, Eric approached the Bakersfield transit director once again. Our message was simple: The public transportation regulations were established to have the system accommodate us, not have us accommodate the system. The Bakersfield public transportation manager remained adamant in his commitment to numbered cards. At this point Sharon did some persuasive telephoning, and the idea was officially abandoned.
In the ADA transportation regulations, the suggested use of numbered mitts or cards is made as a suggestion of one strategy to help accommodate blind people. However, the Bakersfield administrator, looking for a solution to what is really a nonexistent problem, accepted this suggestion without seeing its implications. We persuaded him to abandon this effort before he put the scheme into operation. Had he persisted, we would have invoked that section of the ADA insisted on by this organization, which permits us to refuse this or any other invidious form of accommodation. Section D, 501, of the Americans with Disabilities Act states:
"Accommodations and Services. Nothing in this act shall be construed to require an individual with a disability to accept an accommodation, aid, opportunity, service, or benefit which such individual chooses not to accept."
[PHOTO/CAPTION: At 8:30 Saturday morning, February 1, students were beginning to gather for registration at the 1992 Mid-Winter Conference of the National Association of Blind Students.]
[PHOTO: Room full of students seated while Barbara Pierce speaks from podium microphone. CAPTION: The Conference opened at 9:00 a.m. with a keynote address delivered by Barbara Pierce, Associate Editor of the BRAILLE MONITOR.]
[PHOTO: Seven students seated together for small group discussion. CAPTION: During the afternoon session conferees divided into small groups for discussion of the issues raised during the day.]
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
by Barbara Pierce
From the Associate Editor: This speech was the keynote address at the mid-winter conference of the National Association of Blind Students, conducted February 1, 1992, immediately preceding the National Federation of the Blind's Washington Seminar:
When I was first invited to deliver this keynote address, I began thinking about the most valuable gifts I have received from the Federation; or, to put it another way, if I had the capacity to wave a magic wand over you this morning, what are the Federation gifts I would bestow upon you right now? After reading over what I prepared to say, I now realize that perhaps I have left out two of the most important ones. Therefore, I would like to take a moment at the beginning to say that fun of the kind that you had last evening getting to know all these wonderful, witty people here is certainly a valuable gift. You have discovered that already. The other gift is love--the kind of love that springs up among us here is something that is almost unique in organizations like this one. Just because I'm not talking about either of these two gifts, I don't intend to discount their importance.
I found the Federation long after my student days, but I have been aware, since the first days of my exposure to Federation ideas and thinking, how valuable it would have been for me and, yes, how much different my life would have been, had I been exposed to the Federation when I was in college. That is true even though I went to school long before the siren song of the disabled students' office and the all-pervasive temptation to let the experts do it.
Open-minded consideration and adoption of Federation principles develop one's intellectual integrity and moral toughness, for it is a fact that every world view, every decision that we make have both advantages and disadvantages--that is, they do if they have any significance at all. It behooves us all to get used to analyzing those advantages and disadvantages in order to understand the consequences of our decisions and actions.
For example, escort services: these have sprung up in recent years for all students who happen to be traveling alone late at night and who feel uncomfortable and would like company. That's a fine thing. As the mother of two female college students, I'm very happy that there are escort services. I know of some disabled students' offices, however, that have begun piggy- backing an especially insidious disabled-student service (particularly for blind students) onto the general escort service program. The idea is that escorts will be available to accompany a blind student wherever and whenever he or she wishes to go. Now this is a vastly convenient thing. It means that you don't have to learn the campus; you can crook your little finger--if you're lucky enough to find someone on duty--and an escort will take you where you want to go. All you lose is your independence, your autonomy, and, most destructive of all, the chance to have other people think of you and treat you as an adult.
Or how about note-takers? Note-takers have become more and more fashionable, it seems to me, in disabled students' offices. There are appropriate times and situations for them. I remember a deaf student who was in one of my husband's classes at Oberlin. She was a pretty good lip-reader, but sometimes the other students forgot to face her when they spoke. It made sense for her to glance over at what her note-taker was writing in order to keep up with the discussion. The alternative would have been an interpreter, which would have been more expensive and more intrusive.
It is understandable why more and more blind students are being encouraged to use note-takers as the solution to the problem of getting class notes. If you do not have handwriting that is legible and if you do not wish to invest twice or three times the amount of time the lecture took to listen repeatedly to a recording, you have a problem. Even though I am married to a professor, I assure you that they are like the rest of us--most of what they say is a waste of time. There are pearls to be found--ideas and arguments that are important; but it is better if you can write down the pearls for yourself. The problem with note-takers is, of course, that they write down what they think are pearls, which may not be at all what you need to remember. You end up with notes that don't provide the information you need for the exam. But if you are one of the increasing number of students who are being denied Braille instruction and are not taught to use Braille note-writing equipment like the slate and stylus or the Braille 'n Speak, you have a real problem. What are you going to do? The obvious answer, learn Braille, seems hard and too time-consuming.
I don't know how to break this news to you gently, but the ultimate disadvantage of using human note-takers is that out in the real world, where employers are hiring and paying people to do jobs, they don't supply note-takers. If you have a family business and can enter as a senior executive, you might begin with a secretary, who will follow you around, writing things down for you, but most of us begin at the bottom of the employment ladder, and we are expected to write down what we need to know and read it for ourselves. This is not a skill that is cultivated by the use of student note-takers.
How about managing readers? There are many disabled students' offices that insist upon hiring, supervising, paying, and passing out the assignments to all readers for blind students. Again, this way of handling readers is convenient for the blind student. You don't have to cope with all the paper work; you don't have to organize people; you don't have to worry about recruiting readers or arrange to be in designated places at certain times to hand out or collect cassettes--all very convenient. The only problem is that you are assigned Russian readers who can't read Russian, economics readers who can't describe graphs, math readers who don't know a parenthesis from a bracket. The disabled students' office is closed when you need to pick up the tapes. Practically illiterate people with work study grants record your poetry assignments. And the worst of it is that you don't acquire the managerial and supervisory experience that would enhance your employability, and without assuming the responsibility of paying and supervising your readers directly, you have no control over them and have difficulty exerting the authority to have them follow your directions.
In short, applying the experience and the wisdom of the National Federation of the Blind in the cases I have just been talking about (learning to travel, to use Braille, and to take control of one's academic and personal life) cultivates self-confidence and tough-mindedness. The Federation's philosophy breeds courage and builds the strength of purpose to become anything you have the capacity to and also the honesty to face hard truths about yourself.
When I was in college, there was philosophy. I simply had to learn that I do not have a philosophical turn of mind. It is all silliness and mud to me, and my poor performance in the course had nothing to do with the large reading list. I found those books and articles crashingly dull. It was very easy at the time to tell myself that I was not doing well in philosophy because I was blind, but the truth was that I was not a philosopher. Actually, that was a distressing but necessary thing for me to learn.
Acquiring and cultivating all of these fine characteristics is not like taking a pill every morning; you can't just swallow it and be done for the day. In meetings such as this one and, if I'm doing my job correctly, in the pages of the Braille Monitor, Federationists grapple with the hard issues and the temptations that face us all as blind people. It is this struggle that forges character. Observing and assisting those whom one respects as they work their way toward healthy solutions to their problems makes it easier to choose and achieve one's personal goals. The capacity to weigh options and consciously to reach for the more valuable is one important measure of maturity.
The danger for each one of us is that, when we go back home, when we are alone, we will let the low expectations of other people compromise our own integrity, independence, and growing self-respect. Despite what people say about how much they respect blind people and admire what we do, it is true that most of them do not believe we have very much capacity. That is why it is vitally important for each of us to come to meetings such as this one, to attend chapter meetings, to attend state and national conventions, and to read the Braille Monitor faithfully, because being in contact with other Federationists who are struggling with the same issues and coming to healthy conclusions will inspire and encourage each one of us as we walk through the individual complications of our own days. We do serve as role models for one another, and it is not that those of us who are senior to you college students parade around ready to inspire and to guide you along the way.
When I first came into the Federation, I remember being staggered to realize that there were people throughout this movement (a lot of them younger than I was) who thought nothing of being dropped off at an airport, checking luggage, finding out what gate they needed and then going to it, and beating off the wheelchair jockeys. At the other end they reversed the process, finding the right luggage carousel and, most amazing of all, identifying their own suitcases. Just thinking about going to the airport, even with my husband, made me feel weak. But I looked around and thought: if they can do it, there is no reason why I can't. If anybody had told me then that I would spend my life on airplanes, I probably would have fainted dead away. But luckily we don't know what the future holds, and therefore we take one step at a time.
I think of Michael Baillif. Who would have thought that a blind student could apply for and get a Watson Fellowship, which is strictly for travel and research in Europe, and then could hie himself off to England and Scandinavia, to look at services for blind people and analyze them independently? What a wonderful example for all of us Michael is.
It's important for us to know about those students who are out there, not only surviving Chem Lab 101, but majoring in chemistry, linguistics, economics--all the disciplines that people believe we can't master. It's important for us to know that others have blazed the trail and to draw from them the inspiration that knowledge gives to us.
Contrary to what a lot of people would have you believe, the National Federation of the Blind does not impose off-the-rack solutions to problems and situations. Rather it teaches a way of looking at blindness and the world that strips away preconceptions and enables us to look in a clear-eyed way at our actual choices. The Federation does not so much provide answers as equip us with the tools to reach the answers that we need.
Should blind students use the services of disabled students' offices? It depends. It depends on how paternalistic or open-minded the office staff are. It depends on how bureaucratic the institution is--can you get things done without using the office, or do faculty members listen only to the experts? If that is the case, you will probably have to convert the staff into seeing the world from your point of view. Do they intend from first to last to spoon-feed disabled students, or is the driving force in the office the conviction that disabled students should be encouraged to do as much as possible for themselves? All of these considerations will determine how much you work with the disabled students' office or how insistent you have to be that you will do things independently.
Should blind students do all the work assigned in a particular course? The simple, and I hope obvious, answer is of course they should. But I remember an East Asian history course I took when I was in college in which the professor was perturbed because people did not have a clear grasp of the geography of Southeast Asia. One day he handed out blank outline maps of the region and said, "Your assignment is to draw the national boundaries, color and label the countries, and indicate and label the major rivers and cities that appear on this map. You will learn the geography of Southeast Asia, and you will be responsible for this information on the next exam."
I went to him after class and said, "I can hire a reader to color the map, but I wonder if that is the most constructive use of my reader funds. Perhaps we can work out some other way for me to master the information."
He said, "I certainly didn't intend for this assignment to apply to you. There is no reason why you should learn the geography of Southeast Asia."
I said, "If that's the way you feel about it, I will turn in the map because I insist on being held responsible for the information. If you have geographic material on the examination, I assume we'll figure out some way for me to communicate to you that I know the locations of the cities, rivers, and national boundaries of Southeast Asia. But the question is, should I physically turn in the colored map if there is no way for me personally to create the thing?" We agreed that there wasn't any reason for me to turn in the map but that I would answer the question on the exam, which is in fact what happened.
I cannot say that I exhibited the same Federation attitudes in that philosophy course I mentioned to you earlier. First of all, it was my sophomore year, and I still didn't know which end was up. I really thought that my inability to get through the reading was that there was so much of it. It was really that I just didn't understand philosophy, and I didn't care whether a tree falling in an empty forest made a noise. But I allowed the professor to let me off the hook on some of the reading. It didn't help me, it eroded his respect for me and all blind students, and I certainly didn't do any better in the course; I still got a C-plus. But we all make some mistakes.
What can you do when you find yourself in a situation in which you physically cannot do some of the work? I think about biology laboratories. My lab partner and I worked out an arrangement whereby she looked through the microscope, and my job was to know what she was supposed to see. Then we kept working at the lab until she actually saw and understood what she was looking at and could describe it to me and draw it. It seemed to be a fine system. She ultimately saw what she was supposed to, which gave her an advantage over a number of the other students in the class. It was a system that worked fine for me while helping my partner, and I was able to do well on the biology lab exams. There was no way that I physically could see the things I was supposed to through the microscope; I had to devise a fair and workable alternative.
Here is another example, and a tough one--should those with residual sight use it or the alternative techniques of blindness? Again, it depends. Is the eye condition stable? Are you likely to lose vision from other causes later on? Can you read for hours together at several hundred words per minute without fatigue, and in varying amounts of light? Can you honestly say to yourself that you can travel anywhere day or night in safety, or do you have to say, as long as there aren't steps, or as long as I've been there before? The decision depends on what your skills really are. It behooves us all to have as broad a set of tools to work with as we can, and the problem with the alternative techniques of blindness is that you cannot learn them and then tidily put them away in the toolbox until you need them. You have to keep using them from time to time and sometimes fairly steadily if you're going to be confident enough to depend on them. Finally, you have to know when to use each of your tools.
I have one last example for your consideration. When should we as blind people fight for equal treatment, and when should we fight for equality? Equal treatment occurs, for example, when all students are assigned right-handed desks for taking exams. Left-handed students would be expected to use those right-handed desks. Everybody has received exactly the same treatment. Equality, on the other hand, demands that you provide some left- handed desks for those members of the class who are left-handed.
In the Federation's ongoing debates with bus companies about front-row seating for blind passengers, what we want (because it is appropriate) is equal treatment. There is nothing about blindness that prevents one from standing in a crowded bus or walking back to an empty seat in the rear. If one has no complicating condition such as old age or arthritis, which may make movement difficult, it is appropriate to insist on equal treatment from the bus company. But there are other times when equal treatment, such as handing a Braille reader a print examination, would not be appropriate or fair. In this case equality demands that there be reasonable accommodation. All of these are situations in which there is no clear, crisp answer that can be applied like a band-aid. You must analyze the problem accurately and open-mindedly.
Integrity, independence, self-respect, discipline, and toughness: these are all among the most valuable gifts of the Federation. If you dare, they are yours for the cultivating. Welcome to the 1992 mid-winter conference of the National Association of Blind Students.
If you or a friend would like to remember the National Federation of the Blind in your will, you can do so by employing the following language:
"I give, devise, and bequeath unto National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, a District of Columbia nonprofit corporation, the sum of $_____ (or "_____ percent of my net estate" or "The following stocks and bonds: _____") to be used for its worthy purposes on behalf of blind persons."
[PHOTO/CAPTION: One of the most spectacular landmarks in Charlotte is the beautiful Calvary Church, the largest house of worship in the Carolinas.]
TOURS WITH ALLURE IN CHARLOTTE
by Wayne E. Shevlin
From the Associate Editor: Wayne Shevlin is the first vice president of the National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina and the man in charge of organizing the special tours during the 1992 convention that will help to make this year's visit to the Tar Heel State our most memorable. Here is what he has to say:
It won't be long now until it will be time for our National Convention in Charlotte, and that means tours. We think we have several things lined up this year that you will really enjoy.
SATURDAY, JUNE 27
The Railroad Museum
We have a tour of the Railroad Museum in Spencer, about an hour and a half from Charlotte. Spencer, halfway between Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, was at one time the main repair facility for Southern Railways and is listed as a National Historic site. This tour consists of such things as the roundhouse; several restored posh antique railroad cars; other transportation from a dugout canoe to a single-seater airplane; and the highlight of the tour, a ride on a train. On Saturday, the train will be pulled by a diesel engine, but if your plans allow you to take this tour on Thursday, July 2, the train will be pulled by a restored steam locomotive. As mentioned, this tour will be offered again on Thursday, and the cost is $15 and includes transportation and the price of admission.
We will offer a tour of Old Salem, which is an eighteenth- century town founded by devout Moravians and is recognized as one of the most authentic restorations in the country. You can smell the bread baking as you visit the Winkler Bakery, hear the gentle taps of the tinsmith's hammer, visit the Old Salem Tavern, and smell the smoke of the wood fires from the Market Fire House. Knowledgeable hosts and hostesses, some in dress of the period, are stationed in each building to welcome you, demonstrate crafts, answer questions, and provide information. You will have plenty of time to shop for arts and crafts. There will be about a two-hour ride each way to Old Salem, and the cost will be $25, which includes transportation and the tour.
The Charlotte Tour
We have one more item of interest planned for Saturday. This is a tour of the City of Charlotte, which is known as the Queen City. This is a bus tour and includes a visit to the Mint Museum, the first Mint in the United States; a ride through Myers Park, which is listed in the National Register of historic neighborhoods; a view of the rapidly-changing skyline of the city; and many other points of interest. You can get to know Charlotte, the host city of the 1992 convention. This tour will be offered again on Sunday, June 28, and will cost $15.
SUNDAY, JUNE 28
The North Carolina Zoo
The first tour on Sunday is a visit to the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, about a two-hour ride from Charlotte. This will be an all-day trip. The North Carolina Zoo has been called one of the best habitat zoos in the world. Visitors are not separated from the animals by fences but by moats and other natural barriers. Besides the aviary, where you spend time among the birds and small animals who live there, the Zoo includes gorillas, elephants, zebras, giraffes, rhinoceros, many types of deer, and many other species of animals. You may take a tram from place to place in the zoo. Wheelchairs and scooters are available for those who need them. The cost of this tour is $18, which includes transportation and admission.
The other activity we have planned for Sunday is a visit to Carowinds. This is an eighty-three-acre theme park outside of Charlotte. The park includes water rides; a monorail; a sky ride; and the Vortex, a five-and-a-half million dollar roller coaster on which passengers stand to travel along two thousand feet of track. In addition to the rides, there are also several shows offered depending on the day. These include Country and Western, Broadway, and Tribute to Rock and Roll Shows. The price of admission is $28, which includes transportation, all the rides, and whichever shows are playing on that day. This tour will also be offered on Thursday afternoon, July 2.
THURSDAY, JULY 2
The Pig Pickin'
We have an activity planned called a Pig Pickin'. You might well ask what's a "Pig Pickin'"? It's what we in these here parts call a Bar-B-Q. North Carolina Bar-B-Q pork is unlike any Bar-B-Q you have ever tasted. Along with the food there will be beer and music provided for your Thursday evening entertainment. Y'all come. We will also be offering the Carowinds and Railroad Museum tours again.
Please fill out the Tour Registration Form, which follows. For those of you who receive the Braille Monitor in a medium other than print, please provide the following information along with your payment: tour, date desired (if offered more than once), number of tickets for each tour, and total payment due. We also need your name, address, and telephone number. Please make your check or money order payable to National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina (NFB of N.C.), and mail to NFB of N.C. Tours, P. O. Box 18087, Raleigh, North Carolina 27619.
Tour registration forms and payment must be received on or before May 15 so that we can make the final preparations. Check with the North Carolina suite for updated information about tours and about where to pick up your tickets.
TOUR REGISTRATION FORM
DepartureTime Price #of
SATURDAY, JUNE 27
Railroad 1:00 PM $15
Old Salem 10:00 AM $25 _____ $_____
Charlotte Tour 1:30 PM $15 _____ $_____
SUNDAY, JUNE 28
Zoo 10:00 AM $18
Carowinds 1:00 PM $28 _____ $_____
Charlotte Tour 2:00 PM $15 _____ $_____
THURSDAY, JULY 2
Carowinds 1:00 PM
$28 _____ $_____
Railroad 1:00 PM $15 _____ $_____
Pig Pickin' 5:00 PM $20 _____ $_____
Total Amount of Payment
City _______________________ State ________ Zip ___________
Phone Number ____________________________________________________
From the Associate Editor: Every year's National Convention is an absolutely unique event. The agenda items, the exhibits, the new friends and business acquaintances: all these give each convention its own character and significance. Some activities lend a luster to the convention in part because they do take place every year and provide helpful fixed points in the whirl of events. In this category are the meetings of the Resolutions Committee and the Board of Directors, the annual banquet, and many seminars and workshops of the various divisions and committees. Here is a partial list of activities during the convention that are being planned by a number of Federation groups. Presidents of divisions and committee chairs have provided the information. The pre-convention agenda will list the locations of all events taking place before convention registration on Monday, June 29. The convention agenda will contain listings of all events taking place after that time.
The Committee on Associates will present a workshop on successfully selling associates for individuals interested in surmounting great obstacles--themselves--and furthering the aim of the greatest organization of blind persons in the world. It is planned for Wednesday noon, July 1, and will last not more than one hour. The location will be announced, and the workshop will actually begin twenty minutes after the morning session ends.
The NFB Parents of Blind Children Division is pleased to accept the offer of Claudell Stocker, Head of the Braille Development Section of the National Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, to conduct a three-hour Braille workshop for parents who attend our 1992 NFB National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. She is the author of four textbooks: Modern Methods of Training Braille (American Printing House for the Blind); Listening for the Visually Impaired (Charles Thomas Publishing Company, Springfield, Illinois); A Remedial Primer for Teaching Braille Reading (State of Kansas, Rehabilitation Center for the Blind, Topeka, Kansas); and Braille Writing Simplified (unpublished). In her current position as head of the Braille Development Section at the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, she deals with issues of certification and training of Braille teachers and is responsible for planning the direction of Braille research and development.
The workshop will be conducted the evening of Wednesday, July 1, from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. The exact location of the workshop will be in the NFB Convention Agenda, which you will receive when you register for the convention in Charlotte. A small fee of $5 will help cover the cost of a slate and stylus and other materials. The workshop is limited to twenty-five persons on a first-come, first-served basis. You may reserve a spot for yourself in the workshop by sending a check in the amount of $5, made payable to the NFB Parents of Blind Children Division, together with the following information: name, address, phone, reason for interest in this workshop (parent, other relative, blind adult, professional, or other) and level of Braille competence already achieved. Send registration to Barbara Cheadle, President, NFB Parents Division, 1800 Johnson St., Baltimore, Maryland 21230.
[PHOTO: Four children in child care room at 1991 NFB convention play with building blocks. CAPTION: Child care is a place to have fun and make new friends under the supervision of caring adults.]
Child Care Arrangements
Child care will be provided at this year's convention during the all-day parent seminar on Sunday, June 28, as well as for convention sessions and the Friday night banquet. Parents are asked to make these donations for child care: $50 for the week (including the banquet) for the first child and $25 for each additional child; or $10 per child per day, and $10 per child for the banquet night if you do not need the full week of day-care. Parents who cannot contribute the suggested donation should contact Carol Coulter to discuss what donation they wish to make. In fact Carol has asked that all parents who plan to use child care contact her so that she will know the numbers and ages of the youngsters taking part in this program. You may contact her at 2504 Glenn Drive, Columbia, Missouri 65202; (314) 474-3226. Since the suggested donation does not cover all expenses, other donations from individuals and groups are much appreciated.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Each year the Music Division's Showcase of Talent attracts gifted Federationists to its competition. Pictured here are Corene Lane of Arizona playing the violin and Roland Wieczorek of South Dakota singing at the 1991 Showcase.]
The Composition and Musical Showcase of Talent
This year the Music Division is trying something different. At the showcase of Talent, Wednesday, July 1, we would like to focus on musical composition. We must have at least three to five entrants to make it competitive. Compositions will be first on the program. There will be a $100 and a $75 prize for the two best submissions.
Following the compositions we will conduct the popular musical showcase of talent. Because of the fact that our NFB family has a big event on the night of our showcase and because of the number of contestants, we must have a tight game plan. Talent offerings must be kept to five minutes, so we will ask that introductions be sufficient without long conversations or emotional pleas. Just talent, please! Also electronic music may be used in the background, but singing in unison with a recorded singer does not show the talent of the member and must be ruled out.
There are getting to be so many performers that we would like to screen our talent. Please send cassettes of your planned performance and a self-addressed stamped envelope before June 1 to Mary Brunoli, 31 Sherbrooke Avenue, Hartford, CT 06106; (203) 522-0206. If selected, you will be first on the showcase part of the program. There will be a $100 and a $75 prize for the talent showcase part of the program.
Monday, June 29, will be the date of the music division meeting, including, we hope, a music therapy demonstration and a representative from the music library of the National Library Service.
Computer Science Division
Annual meetings of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science serve a variety of functions. Among other things, they represent an excellent opportunity for people with a technical bent to get together and talk shop. But these meetings are of interest not only to techies. Computer users and other people interested in computers also benefit from some of the give and take that typically occurs.
At this writing we are just beginning to put together this year's agenda. If things go according to plan, we will have a program item dealing with the use of the computer as a device to emulate a variety of terminals. We will almost certainly be discussing the latest developments in IBM's Screen Reader for OS/2 and its ability to give blind computer users access to the graphical user interface (or at least that part of it that runs under IBM's OS/2 Presentation Manager).
A popular program item in years past will definitely be repeated this year--namely, the Technical Interchange. This is a time when people can have a free-form, open discussion about technical problems that have been plaguing them with a very real possibility that one or more individuals attending the meeting will be able to contribute solutions.
Other topics of discussion may include the necessity for the development of expert screen-reading systems, electronic bulletin boards, integrating Braille translation software with popular word processors, and speech synthesizers--have they become too expensive?
If you have any ideas for topics that might be of interest to people attending this year's meeting of the NFB in Computer Science, contact Curtis Chong at 3530 Dupont Avenue North, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55412. His phone number during evening hours is (612) 521-3202.
The annual meeting of the Diabetics Division of the National Federation of the Blind will take place on Tuesday evening, June 30, at 7:00 p.m. In addition to the general business, Dr. Jeff Forman, Johns Hopkins Medical Center, will address the group on the topic "Foot Care for the Diabetic." As many of you know, Dr. Forman is the husband of Eileen Rivera, President of the Baltimore Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. Check your agenda for the location of the meeting, and plan to join us at the 1992 meeting of the Diabetics Division.
Human Services Division
The '92 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will once again include the annual meeting of the NFB Human Services Division. This division has been established to serve as a forum for Federationists working or studying in professions dedicated to human service. This includes counselors, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, advocacy and medical professions, as well as human resources professionals and administrators of service-related occupations. We encourage students pursuing careers in these areas to attend, and we provide a lower dues structure for students and unemployed professionals.
This year's program will once again explore many issues relevant to human services workers. The following are a few topics the program will focus on: accommodation procedures for taking licensing and certification exams; the Americans with Disabilities Act; making sure blind people are fairly represented in seminars, task forces, and consulting efforts; a job panel of successful blind human services workers; effective counseling for blind individuals considering human services occupations; private practice, pro and con.
As you can see, we will have a full and varied agenda. Along with the annual meeting this year, the division will be selling a stress management tape especially prepared by the division to assist all of us to manage the stress that demanding lives produce. Look for this low calorie way you can contribute to the activities of the division. See you at convention.
Job Opportunities for the Blind (JOB) Convention Activities
The free 1992 JOB National seminar will be held June 28, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in a hotel to be announced later. Check the pre-convention agenda when you arrive. Come by at 12:30 if you would like to register as a JOB applicant before the seminar. The seminar is three hours of tips and ideas from blind persons who have been successful in breaking through the barriers of prejudice. Learn from the best. Excellent! (Call JOB at 800-638- 7518 for a JOB sample package and application.)
The three requirements to qualify as a JOB Applicant are to be legally blind, a resident of the U.S., and looking for a job in the U.S.
We offer three giant services, all free: a national job hunter's magazine on cassette 8 times per year, JOB literature on job hunting, and reference and referral service and networking nationwide. Additional Services: a national job seminar held yearly; state- and locally-organized JOB seminars; JOB Field Service Network Volunteers nationwide; resume proofreading; brain-storming; assistance to counselors, teachers, parents, and employers.
Miss Rovig, JOB Director, invites JOB applicants and JOB Field Service Network Volunteers to join her for a brainstorming "JOB Breakfast" any morning of the convention. No more than 8 people will share a table, so call her to make a reservation.
JOB hopes to sponsor the second annual "Lawyer's Breakfast"- -Meet and eat with the feds who want to interview "qualified individuals with a disability." The Department of Justice/Civil Rights is making noises about coming again. Keep tuned, budding lawyers.
Miss Rovig invites JOB applicants to request private meetings or introductions to blind NFB conventioneers already at work in the fields they wish to enter. She reminds all job hunters to bring (1) copies of resumes; (2) a fat notebook (or cassette tape) in order to keep track of the many contacts made at convention; (3) comfortable shoes to travel around the giant exhibit hall of adaptive aids and appliances, and to attend all the special interest group meetings--blind lawyers, blind teachers, etc.; and (4) a sweater so you can sit comfortably for hours in the air conditioned meeting halls where the most useful information for blind Americans and their families will be available this year.
The Merchants Division Seminar
The Merchants Division will conduct a day-long seminar on Sunday, June 28, beginning at 9:00 a.m. During the morning those business people working in vending operations can learn about their eligibility for Social Security. The afternoon will be devoted to a program of interest to all business people, for which there will be a modest charge. Consult the pre-convention agenda for information about the location and for more details about the seminar.
National Association of Blind Educators
At the time of the fifty-second annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind, the National Association of Blind Educators (NABE) will meet on Tuesday, June 30. This year we will focus on interviewing and discussing blindness. Peggy Pinder, Second Vice President of the NFB and an outstanding attorney, will take part in interviewing discussions and will enlighten us about our rights as educators. Kathy Kannenberg, who has just finished student teaching high school math, will show us how the blind teach a subject like math. We will again have small group discussions. Bring topics and questions.
[PHOTO: Blind people seated during meeting, while guide dogs lie at their feet on the floor. CAPTION: Federationists take part in the 1991 meeting of the National Association of Guide Dog Users.]
National Association of Guide Dog Users
The National Association of Guide Dog Users will conduct its annual meeting this summer at the convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Charlotte. There will be a number of interesting items on the agenda for members and friends: opportunity to talk with personnel from some of the training schools, discussion regarding specific concerns of guide dog owners, and updates on recent legislation. This will also be an election year for officers of the organization.
Full details about the convention and its activities will be featured in the spring edition of Harness Up, edited by Bill Isaacs. Plans are being made for emergency veterinary care during the convention, and instructions on the best places to take the dogs will be available at the hotels.
For those who need them, baggies will be available so that the areas used by the dogs will be maintained as cleanly as possible. So come and bring your guide dog. Plan to have a good time at the convention. Remember that it is important for each of us to maintain personal responsibility for our dog's behavior and care. See you in Charlotte.
A subscription to Harness Up, the division's newsletter, is included in the membership dues of $5. To insure receiving Harness Up, send your name and address to Priscilla Ferris, 55 Delaware Avenue, Sommerset, Massachusetts 02726.
National Association of Blind Lawyers
On Tuesday, June 30, the National Association of Blind Lawyers (NABL) will hold its annual meeting and conference as a part of the 1992 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind. The agenda for this conference will include informative presentations and discussions of interest to the growing practitioner. For the past two years the NABL conference has been approved by state bar associations for credit toward continuing education at bar. With the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act the question of the extent of legal protection afforded to persons who are blind or otherwise disabled continues to be of critical importance. If you are currently a member of NABL, you will want to attend our 1992 conference. If you are not currently a member of NABL, you are invited to attend the conference and to join the Association. Through the support of the National Federation of the Blind, NABL distributes the American Bar Association Journal on cassette. NABL membership is open to all those interested in the legal profession, including blind lawyers, judges, law students, paralegals, legal assistants, and legal secretaries. NABL dues are $10 per year for practitioners and $5 per year for students. Dues for 1992 may be sent to Sharon Gold, President, National Association of Blind Lawyers, 5982 South Land Park Drive, Sacramento, California 95822.
Secretaries and Transcribers
The National Association of Blind Secretaries and Transcribers (NABST) will hold its annual meeting at the 1992 convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Susan M. Turley, C.M.T., R.N., of Health Professions Institute will be a guest speaker during our division meeting. She will discuss information from Health Professions Institute regarding their correspondence program for Medical Transcriptionists. Other topics discussed will include Career Planning, applying for and getting assistance from agencies and service providers, and upgrading skills for today's business market.
As a division we will finalize the questionnaire to be sent to all schools for the blind regarding Business and Computer Education. Your input is important, so please attend and help us develop a questionnaire that will cover all issues in Business Education. Consult your convention agenda for the room and hotel where our meeting will be held.
[PHOTO: Card dealer and players shown at table during 1991 Monte Carlo Night. CAPTION: Each year Monte Carlo Night provides fun and laughter for hundreds of Federationists.]
National Association of Blind Students
The National Association of blind Students (NABS) will conduct its annual convention seminar at 7:00 p.m. Monday, June 29. This event is always memorable, and for the past several years we have had standing room only, so come early and register so that you will be sure of receiving your own copy of The Student Slate, the publication of the division.
Thursday evening, July 2, from 8:00 p.m. to midnight the division will again sponsor our Monte Carlo Night. If you have attended this wonderful evening before, you know what fun it is. If you haven't, be sure that you don't make the same mistake this year. Consult your convention agenda for the locations of both these memorable events.
NFB NET Training Seminar
If you lie awake at night wondering what ZMODEM is, if you don't know what a QWK packet is, or if you just want to learn how to use your Modem or to upload or download files, then come to the NFB NET training seminar, which will be held as part of the 1992 NFB National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Sunday, June 28. The seminar will be from 9:00 a.m. until noon. The exact location will be announced in the Pre-Convention Agenda, available in Charlotte.
Topics to be covered will include the basics of telecommunications, how to call NFB NET, how to register, navigating around the system, leaving and receiving messages, using off-line readers, and more. Learn how to be among the first to get the Braille Monitor each month, and find out about all the late-breaking news that is regularly available to NFB NET callers. The seminar will feature explanations and real live examples by NFB NET's Systems Operator, David Andrews. All you need to bring is something to take notes with and your questions.
See you on the 28th of June in Charlotte for the first ever NFB NET Training Seminar.
[PHOTO: Barbara Cheadle speaks to a meeting of the Parents of Blind Children Division. CAPTION: Parents of Blind Children Division activities take place all week long during NFB conventions. Pictured here is a group attending the 1991 IEP Workshop.]
Parents of Blind Children Seminar
The theme for this year's seminar is "Integrating Blind Children and Youth into School and into the Community." The keynote address will be delivered by Fred Schroeder, Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind and an acknowledged national expert on the integrated education of blind children. Also on the agenda will be a panel of blind children and youth, talking about their experiences with making friends, having fun, and learning to fit in; a panel of parents; a panel of blind adults; and numerous other speakers on topics such as independent travel, computer technology, the deaf-blind child, and residential schools. We encourage older youth to attend the seminar with their parents or to visit other NFB workshops on that day--such as the half-day Job Opportunities for the Blind (JOB) Seminar.
Special arrangements have also been made by the Parents of Blind Children Division for a Children's Fun Day field trip and other activities on Sunday, June 28. (This is the date of the big, day-long seminar for parents of blind children.) While parents are attending the parents seminar, children ages five to twelve can be learning and having fun, too. Under the capable leadership of Lori Anderson, a former kindergarten teacher, and with the help of dedicated Federation volunteers, the children will begin the day with get-acquainted activities, games, and discussions and demonstrations of blindness-related skills and techniques. The children will then go to a nearby restaurant for lunch. (To promote independence, each child will be given money and assisted as needed in ordering his or her own lunch.) After lunch the group will walk to the nearby Discovery Place museum for an afternoon of exciting hands-on experience at one of the foremost science museums in the country. The highly popular Discovery Place features a Science Circus, where children learn about light, power, motion, and sound; a domed six-track sound system Omnimax Theater; the Space Voyager Planetarium; an Aquarium; a Collection Gallery; and a 3-story replica of a tropical jungle--the Knight Rain Forest. The group will return in time for children to reunite with parents following adjournment of the parents seminar at 5:00 p.m. The cost of the Children's Fun Day is $10.00 per child. This includes lunch and admission to Discovery Place. In order to get group rates we must make reservations in advance, so we ask parents to pre-register their children by June 1. Send the following information, along with a $10.00 fee per child to: Children's Fun Day, c/o Lori Anderson, 111 Marquette, South; Apt. 302; Minneapolis, Minnesota 55401; (612) 371-0543. Please make checks payable to NFB Parents Division. Pre-registration information: name, address, and phone number of parents or responsible adult; name, age, and description of disability (if any) of each child; and any other pertinent information.
Public Employees Division
The Annual meeting of the National Federation of the Blind Public Employees Division will be held at 1:00 p.m. Tuesday, June 30. The meeting will occur in Charlotte in conjunction with the National Federation of the Blind annual convention.
An exciting, informative program is planned. A representative from the U.S. Department of Justice will discuss implications of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act for employees of state and local governments. The rights extended to these blind workers through the ADA will be discussed. The enforcement procedures in the ADA will also be explained.
For years many blind federal employees have reported discriminatory treatment with regard to requirements during emergencies in the work place. Often the blind employee is required to have an individual assigned to assist him or her from the work site during fire drills. In other cases blind persons are told they may not take the stairs but must wait at a central point near an elevator with employees having other handicaps. Of course most of us decline the offered assistance and safely leave the work site in the same manner as sighted employees. However, in some instances blind employees have been threatened with disciplinary action for not obeying orders.
Just as in the case of blind persons and the airlines, the Federal government cannot demonstrate that blind employees are a threat to other workers, the public, or ourselves in an emergency. The Public Employees Division has invited a representative from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to discuss this issue with us.
This will be an exciting meeting. See you in Charlotte.
Public Relations Workshop
The Public Relations Committee will conduct a workshop again this year for anyone interested in learning more about competently publicizing the National Federation of the Blind or representing the organization more effectively in the media and as a public speaker. The title of this year's workshop is "The Cod Fish, the Little Red Hen, and the National Federation of the Blind." It will take place from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. Sunday, June 28, and everyone is welcome. If you have assigned responsibility in this important area of the Federation's work, you should try hard to take part in this event.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Greg Hanson of Iowa, a martial arts black belt, demonstrates self-defense to Dale Cochran, Iowa State Secretary of Agricultue.]
Do you know what to do if someone attacks you--that is, besides scream? Do you know what kinds of exercises to do for specific problem areas--besides lying down quietly until the urge passes? Do you know how many calories you should eat per day to lose, maintain, or gain weight--when the convention is over, that is?
Well, now you can come learn all about taking charge of your physical body: things like basic self-defense, body shaping, and weight management. You may attend session 1 on Sunday, June 28, or session 2 on Thursday, July 2. Both sessions will run from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. We are doing it twice to keep the groups small, so everyone can have individual attention.
Here's what you need to do:
1. Pre-register by sending your name, preferred session, and a check for $15 payable to Marie Cobb, 202 South Augusta Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland 21229.
2. Wear workout clothes to the seminar.
3. Bring note-taking materials.
We are using all blind instructors. If you have had experience with martial arts and would be interested in helping with self-defense, please call Julaine Arient-Rollman at (904) 331-0350.
All age groups are welcome--both guys and gals. This promises to be both fun and informative! We think it's exciting! For further information contact Marie Cobb at (410) 644-6352.
Social Security Seminar
On Thursday afternoon, July 2, there will be a seminar entitled "Social Security, Supplemental Security Income: Maximum Benefits, Alternative Strategies, and the Appeals Process." The purpose of this seminar is to provide information on all Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits for the blind. Sharon Gold, President of the National Federation of the Blind of California and member of the Supplemental Security Income Modernization Project Panel of Experts, will present the seminar.
Writers Division Workshop
The Writers Division will conduct a workshop from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 28. We expect to feature editors of periodicals, newspapers, and newsletters, especially focussing in the latter instance on those of our state affiliates and local chapters.
This month's recipes are contributed by members of the National Federation of the Blind of Arkansas. Theodora Turner is a member of the Little Rock Chapter, and her husband is the President of the group. Wilma Satterfield is one of the leaders of the Little Rock Chapter and serves as Treasurer of the NFB of Arkansas.
SOUR CREAM POUND CAKE
by Theodora Turner
1 pound butter
3 cups sugar
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon flavoring (vanilla, lemon, etc.)
1/4 cup milk
8 ounces sour cream
1/2 of a 1-pound box of powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
Method: Cream butter, sugar, and eggs until light and fluffy. Beat in sour cream, then flour and milk alternately. Bake 1-1/2 hour at 350 degrees in a greased and floured tube cake pan. Allow to cool slightly before removing from pan. Combine glaze ingredients, and dribble over cake while it is still warm.
OLD-FASHIONED ICE BOX
by Theodora Turner
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
juice of 2 lemons
graham cracker crust
Method: Prepare a graham cracker crumb crust by combining and pressing against the bottom and sides of a pie plate one packet of graham crackers, crushed, and 3 tablespoons of melted butter or margarine. Bake this until golden brown (10 minutes or so at 375 degrees), or chill crust thoroughly. Combine lemon juice with beaten egg yolks, add condensed milk, and beat mixture until it thickens. Pour into prepared graham cracker crust and top with meringue, made by beating 2 egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gradually beat in 3 tablespoons of sugar until it is dissolved. Cover pie with plastic wrap and freeze until set.
Associate Editor's note: I make this pie with a slight variation. Instead of preparing a sweetened meringue for the top, I fold the unsweetened stiffly beaten egg whites into the lemon mixture before spreading it into the pie crust for freezing. It is delicious.
SEVEN LAYER SALAD
by Wilma Satterfield
1 head lettuce, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup bell pepper, chopped
1 cup Miracle Whip salad dressing or 1/2 cup each sour cream and
salad dressing mixed together)
1 can LeSeur green peas, drained and rinsed (10-ounce package of
frozen peas, thawed, will also do)
6 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1 pound bacon, fried crisp, drained, and crumbled
grated cheese (enough to cover top of salad)
Method: Combine celery, onions, and peppers. In a large bowl layer the ingredients in the order listed, beginning with the lettuce and ending with the cheese. Cover and allow to chill at least 12 hours before serving. Other ingredients may be added or substituted in making this versatile salad.
by Wilma Satterfield
2 cups self-rising flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup Wesson oil
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 jar (junior size) apricot baby food
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
Method: Mix dry ingredients, add eggs, oil, and baby food. Stir in pecans and cook in greased and floured bundt pan at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes. Cool slightly before removing from pan.
OATMEAL COCONUT COOKIES
by Wilma Satterfield
3/4 cup shortening
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons water
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup coconut
2 cups quick-cooking oats
Method: Cream shortening and sugar. Add eggs and mix well. Add vanilla and water and stir. Combine dry ingredients and add to shortening mixture. Stir in oats and coconut, and mix well. Drop by spoonfuls on ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes until brown.
GRAHAM CRACKER COOKIES
by Wilma Satterfield
1 package graham crackers
2 sticks butter or margarine
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla
Method: Line pan with aluminum foil and crackers. Melt butter and add brown sugar. Simmer gently for two minutes. Remove from heat, add nuts and vanilla, stirring mixture. Pour over crackers, and bake in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. Cut while hot.
Louise Green, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Alabama, writes as follows: On February 8, 1992, the NFB of Alabama established the Dothan Chapter. The following officers were elected: President, Willie Copeland; Secretary, Rosa Hurt; and Treasurer, Frank Sullivan. There were twelve members in attendance, along with four state officers and one national representative.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
"I am a blind employed professional and am seeking to purchase disability insurance. One company offered a standard policy and would rider out the blindness as a covered disability. Another company would severely limit its coverage because of blindness.
"I would like to hear from anybody who has bought a standard disability insurance policy with which they are satisfied. Contact me in Braille or by cassette: Annette Nowakowski, 575 West Madison, #511, Chicago, Illinois 60661; phone: (312) 902-3529 after 6:00 p.m."
**Autographed Book Auction:
The Writers Division has asked us to carry the following announcement:
Autographed books and tapes are being collected from famous and would-be famous writers and poets. These books and tapes will be auctioned off at this year's National Convention in Charlotte. Volunteers in the Writers Division are asking authors to autograph books and tapes of their published materials for the auction, and all proceeds from the sale of these books will go to the Writers Division of the National Federation of the Blind. The auction will probably be held immediately after the meeting of the Writers Division. Interested persons should be present at the auction in order to purchase these autographed treasures.
The following autographed books and tapes have been received by Tom Stevens, President of the Writers Division: Peace with God by Billy Graham; Wildlife in America by Peter Mathiessen; Nineteen Days in June, 1944 by Henry G. Spencer; Have a Great-- Every Day! by Norman Vincent Peale; Home-Baked Beans: Blind Men and Women in Business by Janiece Betker; Lifeskills: A Can-Do Program for Living with Blindness by Janiece Betker (cassette); Never Sniff a Gift Fish by Patrick F. McManus (cassette); The Night the Bear Ate Goombaw by Patrick F. McManus; The Missouri Confederate Brigade by Phil Gottchalk; More than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell.
If you would like to donate an autographed book or tape or if you would like to send a letter requesting a certain author to donate a book, please contact Jerry Whittle, 22 University Boulevard, Ruston, Louisiana 71270, phone (318) 251-2891; or Tom Stevens, 11203 Fairview Road, Columbia, Missouri 65203.
**Blind Tuners Gather in Sacramento:
Stanley Oliver, chairman of the Committee on Visually Impaired Concerns of the Piano Technicians Guild, asks that we carry the following: The national convention of the Piano Technicians Guild takes place July 22-26, 1992, at the Hyatt Regency in Sacramento, California. Of special interest to all blind tuners is the assignment of Franz Mohr, Steinway's world famous artist tuner to give two classes at the blind tuners drop-in center. The high points of absolute accuracy and solidity called for will be demonstrated by this superlative craftsman. A broad-ranging question-and-answer session is likewise on the agenda, as well as some mini-tech classes by blind tuners on computers, cellular phone use, college-level employment, etc. For more facts contact the PTG Home Office: 4510 Bellview Avenue, Suite 100, Kansas City, Missouri 64111; phone (816) 753-7777.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Al Sanchez.]
Albert Sanchez, one of the leaders of the NFB of Washington, was elected on January 25 as Chairman of the Advisory Council for the Washington Department of Services for the Blind. The letter of congratulations he received from Shirley A. Smith, Director of the Department of Services for the Blind, reads as follows:
January 27, 1992
Congratulations on your election as Chair of the Advisory Council. I'm really pleased you were recognized by the group as a leader and also as a person who takes that appointment on the Council seriously. You're always there and always prepared. Thank you.
I look forward to working with you over the coming year.
Shirley A. Smith, Director
We add our congratulations to those of Shirley Smith and the Council.
**Golf for the Blind:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: "The United States Blind Golf Association is looking for new members or helping anyone interested in learning how to play blind golf. We have a newsletter, The Midnight Golfer, and a soon to be released instructional video for coaches and golfers. Write or call Bob Andrews at The Midnight Golfer, 3094 Shamrock Street, North, Tallahassee, Florida 32308; (904) 893-4511 for further information."
The National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska is selling NFB decal stickers. They are round, three inches in diameter, and display the NFB logo in blue on a shiny silver background. They are great for sticking on backpacks, duffle bags, posters, or anything else your imagination can dream up. Now you can proudly display our logo. The decals are $1 each plus shipping cost if you order a larger quantity. For more information contact: Evelyn Haines, 1940 South Cotner Street, Lincoln, Nebraska 68506, phone (402) 483-4942.
**Sell or Exchange:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: "I have a Braille five-volume Torah that I will either sell for $10 or exchange for a Braille New Testament--not the complete 18- volume Bible, just the New Testament. Write me in Braille only: Mrs. Gayle Sabonaitis, 11 Maxwell Street, Worcester, Massachusetts 01607."
We recently received the following letter:
To Whom It May Concern:
The George Washington University is pleased to invite applicants for the Barbara Jackman Zuckert Scholarship for Blind Part-time Students.
The scholarship fund was established by Barbara Jackman Zuckert in 1985 to assist visually impaired or blind students seeking higher education at the George Washington University. It is the goal of this scholarship to encourage enrollment of visually impaired or blind students by extending financial assistance when other sources of support are not available.
Applicants for the Barbara Jackman Zuckert Scholarship must submit a complete application (including a financial aid statement), a letter of application, certification of disability, and a high school or college transcript to the selection committee. Applications must be postmarked no later than May 30.
Applications can be obtained from the George Washington University Office of Disabled Student Services; Rice Hall, Suite 401; 2121 Eye Street, N.W.; Washington, D.C. 20052. Please feel free to contact me at (202) 994-8250 if you have any further questions.
Christy Willis, Director
Disabled Student Services
George Washington University
Diane Hemphill, one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Kansas, writes to report the death of the Rev. John Van Watson. She says:
It saddens me to report that the Reverend John (J.V.) Van Watson passed away January 10, 1992. J.V., blind for only five years, became a staunch and trusted Federationist. J.V. was a big man--6'-5"--but his heart and concern for others were bigger. We of the NFB of Kansas will miss him dearly. J.V. was a member of the South Central Chapter, as well as a board member of the NFB of Kansas. May he rest in peace.
We have been asked to print the following:
VTEK Voyager, 10" screen, only two years old, used for six months by one person, excellent condition. Cost $2,400 new, would like to sell for $1,200. If interested, call Myrna Harris at (815) 932-4742. No reasonable offer refused.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: John Halverson.]
Dr. John Halverson, President of the Public Employees Division of the National Federation of the Blind, has been promoted to Regional Manager of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights, Region VII. Effective March 22, 1992, Dr. Halverson assumed his duties. The region includes the states of Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, and Nebraska.
The Office for Civil Rights insures that HHS funds are not spent in a discriminatory manner. It enforces laws against discrimination on the bases of race, color, national origin, disability, and age.
Dr. Halverson joined the regional office staff as the second in command in 1986. In his current position he has significant influence over civil rights policy and practices nationwide. In his official announcement of the promotion, Edward Mercado, Director of the Office for Civil Rights, said the following:
I am delighted to announce the appointment of John Halverson as OCR Regional Manager for Region VII, Kansas City.
John has been with the Office for Civil Rights since 1979, serving first in Headquarters and, since 1986, as Program Division Director in the Kansas City Regional Office.
John's outstanding civil rights work experience and his expertise and activism on behalf of disabled employees provide a superb background and unique combination for this critical position.
I know you will all welcome John Halverson to his new position and offer him your cooperation and support.
We join with Mr. Mercado and Dr. Halverson's colleagues in giving him our sincere congratulations.
Holly Laird, Treasurer of the Rose City Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon, reports the following:
Officers for the Rose City (Portland) Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon were elected in November, 1991. They are Joyce Green, President; Jeff Brown, Vice President; Holly Laird, Treasurer; and Dan Walters, Secretary.
We have been asked to print the following:
The Massachusetts Association for the Blind now has a large selection of Braille cookbooks available. Hot off the griddle: The Best of Pancake and Waffle Recipes. Anything you ever dreamed of in a pancake and more. In one Braille volume, $10. Send for a complete cookbook list, MAB Braille Department, 200 Ivy Street, Brookline, Massachusetts 02146.
Judy Blanchard has asked us to print the following:
The Alumni Association of the New York State School for the Blind will hold its annual reunion during the weekend of June 19 to 21, 1992, at the Treadway Inn in Batavia, New York. To register or for further information, please contact Pat Rescori, 268 Meigs Street, Rochester, New York 14607, (716) 244-9433, no later than May 25.
Sandy Halverson, one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri and a close personal friend of Harvey and Sheila Fisher, writes with sadness the following:
Those of us who have been a part of the National Federation of the Blind have come to know a wide range of people. There are those whose names are associated with national leadership positions; there are others known primarily at the local or state levels of affiliate activity.
And there are those like Harvey Fisher who touched the lives of everyone they met. Harvey was a graduate of the Colorado School for the Blind, earned his sociology degree at Fort Hayes State College in Kansas, and went to work as a rehabilitation teacher for the Missouri Bureau for the Blind following his graduation.
Although he attended his first national convention in 1986, when we met in Kansas City, our philosophy was evident in his personal and professional life. Several of his clients have told me how his gentle but firm persistence and high expectations for them raised them from the depths of despair, motivating them to acquire the skills necessary to become independent and competent blind persons.
And yes, Harvey Fisher knew about despair. Retinoblastoma was the cause of his blindness, and for several years he prevailed in his war against cancer as he faced the diagnosis of each recurrence with the same quiet determination, aggressively pursuing all available treatment options. He was objective and realistic about his disease and, rather than dwelling on it, preferred discussing sports, books, and the day-to-day goings-on of his friends and colleagues.
Harvey died on November 23, 1991, and all of us who knew and loved him miss daily his kindness, love of life, and commitment to improving circumstances for his blind brothers and sisters. It is these characteristics which strengthen and bring unity to our movement, and we are all stronger and nearer to our ultimate freedom for Harvey's work among us. Our sympathy is with Sheila and Harvey's parents.
We have been asked to print the following:
Kurzweil Personal Reader (practically new) model 7315, complete with book edge scanner and hand-held scanner, Braille manuals, and the latest 2.1 upgrade. Reader was used about six months. Still under service contract and basically brand new. Original cost $12,000. Asking $8,000. For information contact James Kracht at (305) 375-3720 (work), or (305) 251-6983 (home).