Vol. 35, No.
Barbara Pierce, Editor
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
THE BLIND IS NOT
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 35, No. 6 June 1992
THE EASTERN EUROPEAN CONFERENCE ON DISABILITIES
by Kenneth Jernigan
EQUALITY, DISABILITY, AND EMPOWERMENT
by Kenneth Jernigan
BLINDNESS: IS HISTORY AGAINST US?
by Kenneth Jernigan
BRAILLE BILLS: WHAT ARE THEY AND WHAT DO THEY MEAN?
by Fred Schroeder
BRAILLE BILL UPDATE
REACTION TO AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR THE BLIND ARTICLE ON TEXAS
VARIATIONS ON A THEME: ILLINOIS FEDERATIONISTS FIGHT FOR THE
RIGHT TO BRAILLE LITERACY
REFLECTIONS FROM IDAHO: THE ROLE OF BRAILLE LITERACY
DIRTY TRICKS AND PRESSURE TACTICS IN OHIO
by Barbara Pierce
MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR REDEFINES BLINDNESS
by Kenneth Jernigan
THE FEDERATION ON PARADE
by Kimberly McCutcheon
FEDERATIONIST HONORED BY LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
Copyright National Federation of the Blind, Inc., 1992
[3 LEAD PHOTOS/CAPTION: On May 6, 1992, nearly 200 librarians attending the Biennial Conference of Librarians Serving Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals visited the National Center for the Blind for a tour and luncheon. They arrived in five buses (above) and poured through the Johnson Street building to gather in the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind for a brief welcome from President Maurer and Dr. Jernigan. Then they were divided into six groups for tours of the National Center. With only a little over an hour to devote to these tours, they were forced almost to trot, but many took the time to pick up order forms and literature. One of the most popular stops was the Technology Center (lower left). Everyone was in the dining room by 12:30 (lower right), ready for a delicious lunch prepared by Marie Cobb with help from several members of the Center staff. We were delighted to welcome the librarians. The entire staff worked hard to get ready for the visit and to display our wonderful facility. Many librarians took an opportunity to tell members of the staff how impressed they were and how surprising it was that so few people could entertain them with such efficiency and graciousness.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. and Mrs. Jernigan found a little time for sightseeing while they were in Czechoslovakia. They are pictured here in Prague's famous Wenceslaus Square.]
THE EASTERN EUROPEAN CONFERENCE ON DISABILITIES
by Kenneth Jernigan
Sometime toward the middle of March this year, Sandra Parrino (who is the chairman of the National Council on Disability and who spoke at our 1990 convention in Dallas) called to ask me to participate in a conference on disability which was to be held in Prague, Czechoslovakia, April 13-15. She said that the conference would be called the Eastern European Conference on Disabilities and that it would include Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland. She wanted me to represent the blind and, particularly, to speak about empowerment and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
I told her I would, so on April 10 Mrs. Jernigan and I headed for Prague. We arrived on the afternoon of the 11th, and I had some preliminary conversations with blind persons. The next day (Sunday, April 12) we met with leaders of the Federation of the Blind and Partially Sighted of Czechoslovakia. These were truly the leaders of the blind of the country. Present were the only blind member of the Czech Parliament; a college professor, who teaches interpreting and whose English was at least as good as mine; and seven or eight other people who were equally impressive.
They told me that during the 1930s and '40s the blind of Czechoslovakia had made great progress in establishing independent organizations of the blind. They said that when the Communists took control in 1949, the organizations of the blind were required to dissolve and merge with all other disability groups into what was called "The Union of Invalids," or (to put it more politely) "The Association of the Handicapped." The organizations of the blind apparently had a good bit of property (including the building where Parliament now meets), and this property was largely confiscated. It was clear that the people with whom I was meeting were tough, knowledgeable, and self- reliant. They said that when the Communists were overthrown in 1989 (in what they called the "velvet revolution"), they immediately re-established their independent organizations-- probably before it was legal to do so. They gave me a Braille summary of facts about the Federation, which said in part:
The Federation of the Blind and Partially Sighted of Czechoslovakia is a collegiate, incorporating three nation-based member organizations: Society of the Blind and Partially Sighted in Czechoslovakia (claiming 12,000 members), Czech Blind and Partially Sighted Union (with approximately 3,000 members), and Union of the Blind and Partially Sighted in Slovakia (having approximately 4,500 members). These organizations cultivate everyday contacts with their membership and provide various special services.
The fundamental mission of the Federation lies in the following: (1) To represent the blind and partially sighted community in dealings with both the federal administration and the federal parliament; (2) To coordinate international relations; (3) To gather, process, and disseminate relevant information on blindness and visual impairment from home and abroad; (4) Effectively to influence the newly created legislation related to the handicapped in general and the blind in particular.
The Federation is governed by the Executive Council, consisting of an equal number of representatives from each member organization. The Council is headed by the president. The Executive Council appoints the Federation's executive secretary-- who, together with his secretariat, runs the day-to-day business of the organization. The head office of the Federation is located in Prague. The Federation represents organizations of the Czechoslovak blind in matters outside of Czechoslovakia, which is a member country of both the European Blind Union and the World Blind Union.
The Federation leaders with whom I talked elaborated on this outline. They said that although they had formed independent organizations in 1989, they had not come together as a Federation until July 1, 1991. It is clear that they are proud of what they have accomplished, and they have reason to be. They told me that the old Union of Invalids (or Association of the Handicapped) still exists and that the same bunch that has always run it still pretty much does. It still includes blind people, but they and their interests seem to be submerged in the larger entity. The leaders of the Federation said they were getting back some of their property, but they doubted that they would get it all, especially the building where Parliament meets.
As to the Eastern European Conference on Disabilities, the leaders of the Federation had some interesting things to say. They said that many months ago the Czech government had told the various disability groups that a private American organization would be making funds available for certain projects in Czechoslovakia and that the various groups should submit proposals. They said that sometime later the organizations were unofficially and individually told that instead of funding projects, the Americans would be funding the Eastern European Conference on Disabilities. One of them remarked that this was a disappointment to them, more what they would have expected from the former regime. I explained to them that although the conference was being held under the auspices of the National Council on Disability (a government agency), it was being privately funded. They indicated that they would send representatives to monitor the conference.
Subsequently at the conference I met a representative of the Association for the Handicapped and was asked by him for an interview for the magazine of that organization. The Federation leaders advised me to give the interview, and I did.
As to the conference itself, Sandra Parrino organized and chaired it with real efficiency. Most of those who made presentations were either government officials or representatives of the disabled. There was simultaneous translation into English, Czech, Hungarian, and Polish; and there was also interpretation for the deaf. There was not, however, any Braille, a fact which caused some remark. Besides appearing on a panel, I gave a brief address entitled "Equality, Disability, and Empowerment."
We are printing my address immediately after this article, and Federationists will recognize portions of it from other speeches I have made. However, much of the material is new, and in any case I thought Monitor readers might like to know what I said and how I said it.
There are other things about the visit to Prague that I think Federationists will find of interest. One of the people who took part throughout the entire meeting and made at least one formal presentation was the wife of Lech Walesa, the Polish leader. Also the conference participants were invited to the Palace for dinner on Tuesday evening, April 14, at which time we were addressed by Vaclav Havel, the President of Czechoslovakia. Mrs. Jernigan and I found this to be an extremely interesting experience. The Palace (which is not always so in such cases) is exactly what the name implies--a magnificent building beautifully and ornately furnished.
In view of the 1973 NFB banquet speech, "Blindness: Is History Against Us," there is at least one other experience that we had in Prague that cannot go unmentioned. Zisca is the national hero of Czechoslovakia--and placed in a prominent position on a hill atop an impressive stone column, under which is the grave of Czechoslovakia's unknown soldier, there is a huge bronze statue of Zisca riding a horse. As you would expect, I went to visit the statue and tried my best to get at it for a touch. Alas! The stone column was surrounded by a high metal fence, and even though I tried, there was simply no way to get over or through it. If I could have got past the fence, it was my intention to try to find a way to get up the column to the statue; but since I didn't get past the first hurdle, there was no point in worrying about the second.
I know that many Federationists have read or heard "Blindness: Is History Against Us," but in the context of the Prague visit I think it is worth reprinting in this issue of the Monitor. It follows immediately after the speech on "Equality, Disability, and Empowerment."
Incidentally, I shared the history speech with the Czech leaders of the blind, and they said that even though they all knew Zisca as a national hero and a blind person, they had never thought of using him to promote their own organization or self- image. I think that will change. They said they would send me additional material on Zisca, and I certainly hope they will.
Because of the timing of the conference program and the airline schedules, I was unable to come straight from Prague to Baltimore, so Mrs. Jernigan and I spent one night in Amsterdam. That, too, was a worthwhile experience. In fact, except for the problems I have with flying (which are not inconsiderable) the entire trip was both enjoyable and productive. As to flying, I have found myself compelled to do much more of it of late than I care to think about. However, I can only repeat that the Prague experience was productive and helpful in forwarding our goals.
[PHOTO: Inside of Prague palace dining room--some conference attendees are taking photos. CAPTION: The Eastern European Conference on Disabilities was held in the medieval palace which serves today as the home of the President of Czechoslovakia and the seat of government. Pictured here is the state dining room, known as the Spanish Gallery, where conference participants were entertained to dinner by President Vaclav Havel (far left).]
[PHOTO: Kenneth Jernigan stands in the reception area of the Prague palace with eight other gentlemen. CAPTION: Dr. Jernigan (center) is pictured here with the Polish delegation to the Eastern European Conference on Disabilities. Standing immediately to Dr. Jernigan's right (third from left), is Zygmunt Lenyk, who is a member of the Polish Parliament and who is blind.]
EQUALITY, DISABILITY, AND EMPOWERMENT
An Address Delivered By
Kenneth Jernigan, Executive Director
National Federation of the Blind
at the Eastern European Conference on Disabilities
April 14, 1992
The man was old and senile, and he ate without manners or grace. His daughter was ashamed and ordered him to eat in a corner apart from the others. There came a day when he broke his plate, and the daughter was angry. "My son shall not see such disgusting behavior," she said. "Since you eat like a pig, you shall be treated like a pig. In the future you shall eat in the yard from a trough." Her son was five, the thing in life she loved most. He asked for a hammer and boards.
"For what purpose?" she asked.
"To build you a trough," he said, "so that I may feed you when you are old."
So it has been through the generations, each teaching the next and then doubling back on itself for reinforcement--change coming slow and learning difficult. Yet, there come bends in the road, shifts in direction. It is not inevitable that each generation take hammer and boards to build troughs for the next. Among times there is a time that turns a corner, and everything this side of it is new. Times do not go backward.1 For people with disabilities the corner has been turned, and the time is now.
Today I want to talk with you about the Americans with Disabilities Act, the first truly comprehensive piece of legislation enacted in the current climate of social upheaval by any country to help those with disabilities achieve full membership in society. But I want to talk with you about more than that. I want to talk about the true meaning of empowerment-- the method by which a group or segment of the population moves from second-class citizenship to first-class status in society.
No issue is of greater urgency to persons with disabilities anywhere in the world than erasing the stigma of inequality--the devastating imagery of what a sociologist once called "spoiled identity"--which in varying degree descends upon all of us who present a different appearance to the world, a visage or behavior that departs in some observable way from what is regarded as "normal." When that difference corresponds to a stereotype already in place--such as the "helpless blind," the "deaf and dumb," the "senile oldster," or the "pathetic cripple"--the result traditionally has been abrupt dismissal from the ranks of the so-called "normal" and forced exile (psychologically if not physically) to the outer margins of the social order--the dumping ground of public consciousness, wherein are confined the unacceptable, the unfortunate, the unlike, and the unequal.
Inequality, now as in the past, is an ascribed attribute--a stigmatic condition attached to the disabled by virtue of their perceived difference. This inequality is not a product of the disability itself but of the labeling, as one theory has it. Or, to put it another way, the condition of inequality is not a feature of the disability but of the handicap. That verbal distinction is a crucial one. For while the disability is physical in origin, lodged in the body of the person, the handicap is social, lodged in the body of society.
If we are to deal realistically with our problems, we must go to basics. So let us consider the nature of disability--or, in my case, let me talk with you about the nature of blindness; for that is the disability I know most about. Keep in mind, however, that what I say about blindness could be said about many (if not most) other disabilities--for very often the problems are the same.
The first thing I would say is that with all of our efforts to educate the public, we still have a long way to go. The average citizen's notions about blindness (whether in the United States or elsewhere) are still predominantly negative. In 1976 a Gallup poll showed that in my country blindness was the second most feared condition which might occur to an individual. Only cancer came ahead of it. Blindness was more feared than deafness, more feared than mental illness, more feared than heart attack, or anything else. But that was sixteen years ago. What about today? Well, there has been a change--and one which at first glance might seem to be positive. Blindness has now dropped to the third most feared condition. But before we begin to cheer, perhaps we had better consider what outranks it--AIDS and cancer. And this general verdict is confirmed in specifics. A few years ago a teacher wrote to me: "Dear Sir," he said, "I can find no criminal statistics in the Annual Uniform Crime Report in which blind people are a part. I have assumed for twenty-five years that blind people cannot become criminals due to this sight limitation.
"I teach a course in the correction and prevention of delinquency and crime. A twenty-six-year investigation of criminal phenomena has confirmed the Bible's statement that, 'If ye were blind ye should have no sin (crime): John 9:41'...
"If you have any statistics relative to either delinquent or criminal behavior among the blind, I shall greatly appreciate a review of them."
By way of answer I sent this teacher a newspaper headlined, "Blind Man Kills Landlady." I don't know what his reaction was.
Not long ago the project coordinator for the National Council of Teachers of English in the United States wrote to me asking that I send material about blindness so that English teachers throughout the country could help their students learn proper attitudes. Naturally I was pleased. However, my enthusiasm cooled when she went on to say that she felt it was important for children to learn compassion while they were young.
A few weeks ago I received from a blind man a letter, which said in part:
My niece's teacher (my niece is thirteen and sighted) gave the class a homework assignment of blindfolding themselves for half an hour that evening. The stated purpose of the assignment was to provide the children with some idea of what it would be like to be blind. As background information the teacher explained that some of the things blind people are unable to do include the following:
1. Blind people are unable to have children because they are unable to cope with bringing them up.
2. Blind people are unable to travel alone or live alone.
3. They cannot watch or enjoy television.
4. They cannot tell the time.
Furthermore, the teacher said, blind people would experience difficulty achieving academic success. Therefore, good jobs are largely out of their reach. The teacher also mentioned (and here quite correctly, but not for the reasons she gave) that the blind experience high levels of unemployment.
This is the letter, but I don't have to depend on letters to confirm the truth of what I have been telling you. It happens every day in my own experience. At the annual conventions of the National Federation of the Blind when we go to the newspapers to talk about blindness as a problem of civil rights and try to get coverage, we are more often than not referred to the medical reporter; and when I go to the washroom in a restaurant, someone usually tries to show me to the toilet stall for the handicapped. Likewise, when I register at a hotel, the person at the desk tries with increasing frequency to give me the room especially designed for the handicapped.
This points up a problem which we must recognize and try to solve as we deal with the Americans with Disabilities Act and with other attempts around the world to help people with disabilities gain empowerment. There is, of course, nothing wrong with having toilet stalls specially designed for the handicapped or rooms for the handicapped in hotels. Quite the contrary. But there is a great deal wrong with assuming that every person with a so-called handicap needs exactly what every other person with a handicap needs. When the Americans with Disabilities Act was being considered by Congress, we of the National Federation of the Blind insisted that it be amended to provide that no person could be required to use the specially designed facilities, devices, or alternatives required by the Act. Thus, certain seats on buses or trains may be reserved for people with disabilities, but persons with disabilities may not be forced to use those seats. Rooms in hotels may be altered to meet the needs of certain portions of the population with disabilities, but no person with a disability may be denied the right to use other rooms in the hotel.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (though it is the most far-reaching) is not the first attempt by the government of the United States or by the private sector to deal with the problems of the disabled. The experience we have had with the airlines is a case in point, and it is instructive as to what we should try to avoid as we implement the Americans with Disabilities Act and similar legislation in other countries.
Before the early 1970s people with disabilities in the United States (when they wanted to travel by air) had comparatively few problems with airline personnel. Some segments of the population with disabilities had problems with the physical configuration of airplanes and airports, but in general not with airline personnel. Then came the stirrings of federal legislation to give empowerment to the disabled, and there was a great deal of talk about affirmative action.
One would have thought that affirmative action would have been a positive step, but it wasn't--at least, not for the blind in dealing with the airlines. Airline personnel did not become knowledgeable overnight or lose their prejudices just because somebody told them to engage in affirmative action. Mostly (with respect to air travel) the blind didn't need any affirmative action. We were doing fine just as it was. But the airlines were into affirmative action, so they had to think up something to do to help us--whether we needed it or not and, for that matter, whether we wanted it or not.
They began by lumping all of what they perceived to be the handicapped together--wheelchair users, the blind, the deaf, the quadriplegic, the cerebral palsied, and everybody else they could think of--including, very often, small children. Next they cataloged what they believed to be the problems, needs, and characteristics of each of these groups, and then assumed that each item on the list applied to every member of every group they had included in the category of the handicapped. The resulting mythical composite was a monstrosity--totally helpless, totally in need of custody, and totally nonexistent except in the minds of the airline officials. There is not now (nor was there ever) any such person as the "airlines' standardized handicapped air traveler," and the problem comes from the fact that the airlines (and, to some extent, the federal regulators) persist in acting as if there is.
So even though we have had in the United States almost two decades of accelerated attempts to help people with disabilities gain empowerment, culminating in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, problems with the airlines have not stopped. In fact, it can be convincingly argued that they have increased. The shameful treatment (as recently reported in the New York Times) of Justin Dart, Chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, is a striking case in point. Mr. Dart, who uses a wheelchair, was (in violation of public policy and federal law) denied the right to board an airplane despite the fact that he protested vehemently and was thoroughly articulate and knowledgeable about his rights under the law. The Dart case underscores the fact that the passage of a law is not enough. Even the determined implementation of that law is not enough. There must be vigorous public education, leading to a change in the attitudes of society as a whole. And, above all, we must reject the sophistry which would lump all segments of the disabled population together, the sophistry which assumes that the problems of each are the problems of all, the sophistry which then uses this fallacy as an excuse to keep old attitudes intact by arguing that people with disabilities are not capable of competing.
Let me not be misunderstood. The Americans with Disabilities Act can be a positive step forward--but it is not the total solution to our problems. It (and similar legislation in other countries) is only the foundation upon which we can and must build. The real solution to our problems cannot be achieved until there is a widespread change in public attitudes.
Let me give you an illustration. The legal doctrine of Contributory Negligence, as applied to the blind in the United States, holds that if a blind person travels outside his or her home and becomes involved in an accident, the blind person (simply by being present) is automatically considered to be negligent regardless of the circumstances of the accident. For example, if a blind person were to cross a street in a pedestrian crosswalk in accord with the traffic signal and were to be hit by a car, the driver of that car might not be held responsible even though the driver had disobeyed the traffic signal.
That was the law in most parts of the country until the blind (acting through the National Federation of the Blind) secured passage by state legislatures of what is called the White Cane Law, which specifically strikes down the doctrine of Contributory Negligence. Every state in the nation now has such a white cane law. Yet, hear the testimony of Barbara Pierce, the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio.
"Having the White Cane Law on the books," she says, "is not enough. I am reminded of this truth every time a motorist leans out of a passing car to inquire of me when I am walking along a street in my small town, 'Where are you trying to go?' First of all, it is none of his or her business. Second, I am not trying to go; I am going. When I am lost (if that should occur), I take responsibility for asking directions.
"There is," she goes on, "still a malignant manifestation of the contributory negligence doctrine floating around in the public mind. It may have vanished from the law books with the passage of the White Cane statutes, but there are plenty of people who have not yet got the word.
"Early in March of this year," Barbara Pierce continues, "an Ohio Federationist who uses a guide dog was crossing a busy street in her small town. She had the green light, so she and her dog stepped out boldly to cross the intersection. A young man, who was not watching carefully, turned right on the red light and struck both the woman and the dog. Neither was hurt badly, but the woman was taken to the emergency room, where her husband (a physician) eventually found her.
"The attitude of the officials who dealt with the case is demonstrated by one question the police officer who wrote up the accident report asked the victim's husband: 'Can the dog read traffic signs?' No one from the district attorney's office ever contacted the woman to determine how serious her injuries were. All of this should have prepared her for what happened in Mayor's Court a few weeks later.
"Pronouncing it as his opinion that no blind person could independently cross streets safely, the mayor fined the driver a nominal $10 and warned the blind woman not to travel alone in the future. No one knew or cared about white cane laws or their protection. It was obvious to the mayor, the district attorney, and the defendant that somehow the blind woman had caused the accident just by being on the street even though she had the right of way and the legal right to be there. She is herself an attorney by training, and you can be sure that she did not remain silent.
"She attempted to interest area newspapers in her story. They were not interested. She and the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio wrote letters to the mayor, the district attorney, and the police urging in-service education programs for public officials. They could not be bothered."
So says Barbara Pierce, president of the Ohio affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind, and her testimony is an unpleasant reminder to all of us that it is not enough to be in the right. Sometimes it is not even enough to have the law on your side. It is important to keep in mind that we are farther along the road to freedom than we have ever been--but it is equally important to remember that we are not yet there.
As with many so-called disabilities, the real problem of blindness is not the physical loss of sight but the misunderstanding and misconceptions which exist in the public mind. It is not conjecture but fact that the blind (given equal training and opportunity) can compete on terms of equality with others. In short, the average blind child can hold his or her own with the average sighted child; the average blind adult can do the average job in the average place of business and do it as well as a sighted person similarly situated; the average blind grandmother of eighty-four can do what the average sighted grandmother of that age can do. Of course, the above average can compete with the above average, and the below average will compete at that level. The techniques may be different, but the overall performance and the ability to live a full life are comparable. There are blind mathematicians, blind factory workers, blind dishwashers, and tens of thousands of just ordinary blind citizens to prove it. If the blind have reasonable training and opportunity, blindness can be reduced to the level of a mere nuisance.
This is what I as a blind person representing the largest organization of blind persons in the United States know, and I repeat that much of what I have said about blindness also applies to broad segments of the population of people with disabilities. Yet, people with disabilities have traditionally and consistently been excluded from the main channels of economic and social participation in our society. With monotonous sameness we have been put down and kept out. This is why we have found it necessary to organize for collective action. This is why it was important that the Americans with Disabilities Act (as amended) be passed; why similar legislation in other countries should be passed; and why these laws must be implemented, discussed, and brought home to the conscience of the decision-makers and the public at large. But this type of legislation is not a cure-all. At best it is a catalyst and a foundation on which we can build.
We have turned a corner of time, and there is a newness, a window of opportunity for action. We must use the current period of social change and re-examination of values as a means of focusing public education and changing public attitudes--but unless we act decisively and imaginatively, the window will close. What good will the elimination of architectural barriers do if we cannot eliminate the barriers in the minds and hearts of our fellow citizens? It is a natural tendency for human beings to resist change by rationalizing and building troughs, but it must be our task to overcome that tendency. With the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act and similar legislation in other countries and with the accompanying climate of inquiry and new beginnings, I believe we will succeed. Surely the hope which has been kindled in millions of hearts will not permit it to be otherwise.
As we approach the beginning of the twenty-first century, we throughout the world who have disabilities confidently look forward to a day at hand when we can truly have first-class citizenship and real equality in society, just like the rest-- when we can have a good-paying job and the joys of a home and a family of our own, just like the rest--when we can hold our heads high in self-respect and the respect of others, just like the rest--when we can earn our way and pay our dues and live our freedom, just like the rest--when we can wake in the morning without fear or poverty, just like the rest--when we can hope and believe and dream, just like the rest--and especially when whatever we have is ours as a matter of right, whether it be great or small, not a dole portioned out to us by agencies of government or private charities. We look forward to that day, and we intend to have it because we have found the power of collective action. And one thing more: We are absolutely determined to put behind us forever any notions of second-class status and custodial care. We are no longer prepared to eat from troughs.
But this is not a dream which we have for ourselves alone. It can only come true if it is shared by those who are not classified as disabled--by you in this room who do not have disabilities and by others like you throughout the world. It is a dream of a better, more caring, more just society than we have ever known--and it is a dream that can come true. Let us look to the future in partnership; let us live in mutual respect; let us work together to make real the promise of equal opportunity for all. This is the true meaning of empowerment. This is also the true meaning of humanity.
1. C. S. Lewis, Perelandra (Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1944), page 62.
[PHOTO: Statue of Zisca, seated on horse. CAPTION: This equestrian statue of Zisca, Czechoslovakia's national hero, is a famous landmark in Prague. Mrs. Jernigan took this picture when the Jernigans visited the popular tourist attraction.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Jernigan made an effort to reach the statue of Zisca. He got to the top of the wall, but the metal fence proved to be unscalable. He is pictured here on the wall with the statue of Zisca visible over his left shoulder.]
BLINDNESS: IS HISTORY AGAINST US?
An Address Delivered by
President, National Federation of the Blind
At the Banquet of the Annual Convention
New York City, July 5, 1973
Experts in the field, as well as members of the general public, have differed greatly as to what the future may hold for the blind. Some, seeking to tell it like it is, see us blundering on forever in roles of economic dependency and second-class citizenship. Others, more hopefully, predict a slow but steady progress toward independence, equality, and full membership in society. My own view is that this is not a matter for prediction at all, but for decision. I believe that neither of these possible outcomes is certain or foreseeable, for the simple reason that the choices we make and the actions we take are themselves factors in the determination of the future. In short, we the blind (like all people) confront alternative futures: one future in which we will live our own lives, or another future in which our lives will be lived for us.
But if the future is open and contingent, surely the past is closed and final. Whatever disputes men and women may have about the shape of things to come, there can be no doubt about the shape of things gone by--the permanent record of history. Or can there? Is there such a thing as an alternative past?
We all know what the historical record tells us. It tells us that, until only yesterday, blind people were completely excluded from the ranks of the normal community. In early societies they were reputedly abandoned, exterminated, or left to fend for themselves as beggars on the lunatic fringe of the community. In the late Middle Ages, so we are told, provision began to be made for their care and protection in almshouses and other sheltered institutions. Only lately, it would seem, have blind people begun stealthily to emerge from the shadows, and to move in the direction of independence and self-sufficiency.
This is what history tells us--or, rather, that is what histories and the historians have told us. And the lesson commonly derived from these histories is that the blind have always been dependent upon the wills and the mercies of others.
We have been the people things were done to--and, occasionally, the people things were done for--but never the people who did for themselves. In effect, according to this account, we have no history of our own--no record of active participation or adventure or accomplishment, but only (until almost our own day) an empty and unbroken continuum of desolation and dependency. It would seem that the blind have moved through time and the world not only sightless but faceless--a people without distinguishing features, anonymous and insignificant--not so much as rippling the stream of history.
Nonsense! That is not fact but fable. That is not truth but a lie. In reality the accomplishments of blind people through the centuries have been out of all proportion to their numbers. There are genius, and fame, and adventure, and enormous versatility of achievement--not just once in a great while but again and again, over and over. To be sure, there is misery also--poverty and suffering and misfortune aplenty--just as there is in the general history of mankind. But this truth is only a half-truth--and, therefore, not really a truth at all. The real truth, the whole truth, reveals a chronicle of courage and conquest, of greatness, and even glory on the part of blind people, which has been suppressed and misrepresented by sighted historians--not because these historians have been people of bad faith or malicious intent but because they have been people, with run-of-the-mill prejudice and ordinary misunderstandings. Historians, too, are human; and when facts violate their preconceptions, they tend to ignore those facts.
Now, we are at a point in time when the story of the blind (the true and real story) must be told. For too long the blind have been (not unwept, for there has been much too much of that) but unhonored and unsung. Let us, at long last, redress the balance and right the wrong. Let us now praise our famous men and celebrate the exploits of blind heroes. Rediscovering our true history, we shall, in our turn, be better able to make history; for when people (seeing or blind) come to know the truth, the truth will set them free.
Let us begin with Zisca: patriotic leader of Bohemia in the early fifteenth century, one of history's military geniuses, who defended his homeland in a brilliant campaign against invading armies of overwhelming numerical superiority. Zisca was, in the hour of his triumph, totally blind. The chronicle of his magnificent military effort--which preserved the political independence and religious freedom of his country, and which led to his being offered the crown of Bohemia--is worth relating in some detail. Need I add that this episode is not to be found, except in barest outline, in the standard histories? Fortunately it has been recorded by two historians of the last century--James Wilson, an Englishman writing in 1820, and William Artman, an American writing seventy years later. What do you suppose these two historians have in common, apart from their occupation? You are right: Both were blind. The account of the career of Zisca which follows has been drawn substantially from their eloquent and forceful narratives.
The Council of Constance, which was convened by the Pope in the year 1414 for the purpose of rooting out heresy in the Church--and which commanded that John Huss and Jerome of Prague be burned at the stake--"sent terror and consternation throughout Bohemia...."1 In self-defense the Bohemian people took up arms against the Pope and the emperor. They chose as their commanding general the professional soldier John de Turcznow-better known as Zisca, meaning "one-eyed," for he had lost the sight of an eye in the course of earlier battles. At the head of a force of 40,000 citizen-soldiers--a force not unlike the ragged army that would follow General Washington in another patriotic struggle three centuries later--Zisca marched into combat, only to be suddenly blinded in his remaining eye by an arrow from the enemy.
Here is where our story properly begins. For Zisca, upon his recovery from the injury, flatly refused to play the role of the helpless blind man. "...His friends were surprised to hear him talk of setting out for the army, and did what was in their power to dissuade him from it, but he continued resolute. `I have yet,' said he, `to shed my blood for the liberties of Bohemia. She is enslaved; her sons are deprived of their natural rights, and are the victims of a system of spiritual tyranny as degrading to the character of man as it is destructive of every moral principle; therefore, Bohemia must and shall be free.'"2
And so the blind general resumed his command, to the great joy of his troops. When the news came to the Emperor Sigismund "he called a convention of all the states in his empire ...and entreated them, for the sake of their sovereign, for the honor of their empire, and for the cause of their religion, to put themselves in arms.... The news came to Zisca that two large armies were in readiness to march against him.... The former was to invade Bohemia on the west, the latter on the east; they were to meet in the center, and as they expressed it, crush this [rebel] between them."3
By all the rules of warfare, by all conventional standards of armament and power, that should have been the end of Zisca and his rabble army. "After some delay the emperor entered Bohemia at the head of his army, the flower of which was fifteen thousand Hungarians, deemed at that time the best cavalry in Europe. ...The infantry, which consisted of 25,000 men, were equally fine, and well commanded. This force spread terror throughout all the east of Bohemia."4 The stage was set for the fateful climax--the final confrontation and certain obliteration of the upstart rebel forces. "On the 11th of January, 1422, the two armies met on a large plain. ... Zisca appeared in the center of his front line [accompanied] by a horseman on each side, armed with a poleax. His troops, having sung a hymn,... drew their swords and waited for the signal. Zisca stood not long in view of the enemy, and when his officers had informed him that the ranks were well closed, waved his saber over his head, which was the signal of battle, and never was there an onset more mighty and irresistible. As dash a thousand waves against the rock-bound shore, so Zisca rolled his steel-fronted legions upon the foe. The imperial infantry hardly made a stand, and in the space of a few minutes they were disordered beyond the possibility of being rallied. The cavalry made a desperate effort to maintain the field, but finding themselves unsupported, wheeled round and fled ... toward ... Moravia."5
It was a total rout and an unconditional victory, but, "...Zisca's labors were not yet ended. The emperor, exasperated by his defeat, raised new armies, which he sent against Zisca the following spring.... But the blind general, determined that his country should not be enslaved while he had strength to wield a sword, gathered his brave army "and met the enemy yet again, despite fearsome disadvantages in numbers and equipment. "An engagement ensued, in which the [enemy] were utterly routed, leaving no less than nine thousand of their number dead on the field."6
The remaining branch of the grand imperial army, under the command of Sigismund himself, next met a similar fate, and the mighty emperor was compelled to sue for peace at the hands of the blind general. Then there occurred the final magnificent gesture of this extraordinary human being. As the historian Wilson recounts the episode: "Our blind hero, having taken up arms only to secure peace, was glad for an opportunity to lay them down. When his grateful countrymen requested him to accept the crown of Bohemia, as a reward for his eminent services, he respectfully declined."7 And this is what Zisca said: "While you find me of service to your designs, you may freely command both my counsels and my sword, but I will never accept any established authority; on the contrary, my most earnest advice to you is, when the perverseness of your enemies allows you peace, to trust yourselves no longer in the hands of kings, but to form yourselves into a republic, which species of government only can secure your liberties."8
That is the true story of Zisca--military genius, patriot, freedom fighter, statesman, and blind man. Extraordinary as his heroism was, it exceeds only in degree the story of yet another blind Bohemian--King John, the blind monarch who fell in the historic Battle of Crecy, which engaged the energies and cost the lives of many of Europe's nobility. This king had been blind for many years. When he heard the clang of arms, he turned to his lords and said: "I only now desire this last piece of service from you, that you would bring me forward so near to these Englishmen that I may deal among them one good stroke with my sword." In order not to be separated, the king and his attendants tied the reins of their horses one to another, and went into battle. There this valiant old hero had his desire, and came boldly up to the Prince of Wales, and gave more than "one good stroke" with his sword. He fought courageously, as did all his lords, and others about him; but they engaged themselves so far that all were slain, and next day found dead, their horses' bridles still tied together.
In the country of the blind, it has foolishly been said, the one-eyed man will inevitably be king. This, of course, is nonsense. In fact, the very opposite has often been true. History reveals that in the realm of the sighted it is not at all remarkable for a blind man to be king. Thus, in 1851, George Frederick, Duke of Cumberland, first cousin to Queen Victoria, ascended the throne of Hanover under the royal title of George the Fifth. That this blind king of Hanover was no imcompetent, but distinctly superior to the ordinary run of monarchs, is shown by the words of a contemporary historian, who said: "Though laboring under the deprivation of sight, this Prince is as efficient in his public, as he is beloved in his private, character; a patron of the arts and sciences, and a promoter of agricultural interests...he has acquired a perfect knowledge of six different languages."9
A strikingly similar account has been handed down to us of the blind Prince Kitoyasu, who reigned as a provincial governor in Japan over a thousand years ago and "whose influence set a pattern for the sightless which differed from that in any other country and saved his land from the scourge of beggary."10 Thoroughly trained in both Japanese and Chinese literature, Prince Hitoyasu introduced blind people into society and the life of the court. In ninth-century Japan, when the blind led the blind, they did not fall into a ditch, but rose out of it together.
Let us turn now from the records of royalty to the annals of adventure. Perhaps the most persistent and destructive myth concerning the blind is the assumption of our relative inactivity and immobility--the image of the blind person glued to his or her rocking chair and, at best, sadly dependent on others for guide or transport on routine daily rounds. "Mobility," we are led to believe, is a modern term, which has just begun to have meaning for the blind. To be sure, many blind persons have been cowed by the myth of helplessness into remaining in their sheltered corners. But there have always been others--like James Holman, Esquire, a solitary traveler of a century and a half ago, who gained the great distinction of being labeled by the Russians as "the blind spy. "Yes, it really happened! This intrepid Englishman, traveling alone across the steppes of Greater Russia all the way to Siberia, was so close an observer of all about him that he was arrested as a spy by the Czar's police and conducted to the borders of Austria, where he was ceremoniously expelled.
Here is how it happened. Holman lost his sight at the age of twenty-five, after a brief career as a lieutenant in the Royal Navy; but his urge to travel, instead of declining, grew stronger. He soon embarked upon a series of voyages--first through France and Italy, then (at one fell swoop) through Poland, Austria, Saxony, Prussia, Hanover, Russia, and Siberia. His real intention, as he later wrote, was to "make a circuit of the whole world," entirely on his own and unaccompanied--an ambition he might well have fulfilled had it not been for the Czar's police and the Russian spy charges. He later published a two-volume account of his travels and observations, and his own reflections upon his Russian adventure are worth repeating: "My situation," he wrote, "was now one of extreme novelty and my feelings corresponded with its peculiarity. I was engaged ... in a solitary journey of a thousand miles, through a country, perhaps the wildest on the face of the earth, whose inhabitants were scarcely yet accounted within the pale of civilization, with no other attendant than a rude Tartar postillion, to whose language my ear was wholly unaccustomed; and yet, I was supported by a feeling of happy confidence...."11
As Federationists know, there have been other blind travelers in our own time quite as intrepid as James Holman. Yet, Holman's story--the case of the "blind spy"--is important for its demonstration that blind people could wear such seven-league boots almost two centuries ago--before Braille or the long cane, before residential schools or vocational rehabilitation, before even the American Foundation for the Blind and its 239-page book on personal management for the blind.
But there is a more basic side to mobility, of course, than the opportunity and capacity for long-distance traveling. There is the simple ability to get about, to walk and run, to mount a horse or ride a bicycle--in short, to be physically independent. The number of blind persons who have mastered these skills of travel is countless, but no one has ever proved the point or shown the way with more flair than a stalwart Englishman of the eighteenth century named John Metcalf. Indeed, this brash fellow not only defied convention, but the world. Totally blind from childhood, he was (among other things) a successful builder of roads and bridges; racehorse rider; bare-knuckle fighter; card shark; stagecoach driver; and, on occasion, guide to sighted tourists through the local countryside. Here is an account of some of his many enterprises:
"In 1751 he commenced a new employment; he set up a stage wagon betwixt York and Knaresborough, being the first on the road, and drove it himself, twice a week in summer, and once in winter. This business, with the occasional conveyence of army baggage, employed his attention till the period of his first contracting for the making of roads, which engagement suiting him better, he relinquished every other pursuit.... The first piece of road he made was about three miles ... , and the materials for the whole were to be produced from one gravel pit; he therefore provided deal boards, and erected a temporary house at the pit; took a dozen horses to the place; fixed racks and mangers, and hired a house for his men, at Minskip. He often walked to Knaresborough in the morning, with four or five stone of meal on his shoulders, and joined his men by six o'clock. He completed the road much sooner than was expected, to the entire satisfaction of the surveyor and trustees."12
The story of "Blind Jack" Metcalf, for all its individuality, is far from unique. Rather, it underscores what even we as Federationists sometimes forget, and what most of the sighted have never learned at all--namely, that the blind can compete on terms of absolute equality with others--that we are really, literally, the equals of the sighted. We have been kept down by the myths and false beliefs about our inferiority, by the self-fulfilling prophecies of the custodial system which has conditioned the sighted and the blind alike to believe we are helpless, but not by any innate lacks or losses inherent in our blindness.
Metcalf's accomplishments in applied science were probably matched by those of a French army officer more than a century before. Blaise Francoise, Comte de Pagan, was blinded in the course of military service, shortly before he was to be promoted to the rank of field marshal. He then turned his attention to the science of fortifications, wrote the definitive work on the subject, and subsequently published a variety of scientific works, among which was one entitled "An Historical and Geographical Account of the River of the Amazons" (which included a chart drawn up by this military genius after he became blind)! Like the sighted, the blind have had their share of solid citizens, namby-pambies, strong-minded individualists, squares, oddballs, eggheads, and eccentrics. The sixteenth-century German scholar James Shegkins, for instance, refused to undergo an operation which was virtually guaranteed to restore his sight: "In order," as he said, "not to be obliged to see many things that might appear odious and ridiculous."13 Shegkins, a truly absent-minded professor, taught philosophy and medicine over many years with great success, and left behind him influential monographs on a dozen scientific subjects.
The success story of Dr. Nicholas Bacon, a blind lawyer of eighteenth-century France, somewhat resembles that of our own beloved founder, Dr.Jacobus tenBroek. Both were blinded in childhood by bow-and-arrow accidents, and both went on to high academic achievement in law and related studies. The strenuous exertions which Bacon was forced to go through at each stage of his climb are indicated by the following account:
"When he recovered his health, which had suffered from the accident, he continued the same plan of education which he had before commenced.... But his friends treated his intention with ridicule, and even the professors themselves were not far from the same sentiment; for they admitted him into their schools, rather under an impression that he might amuse them, than that they should be able to communicate much information to him." However, he obtained "the first place among his fellow students. They then said that such rapid advances might be made in the preliminary branches of education, but not ... in studies of a more profound nature; and when ... it became necessary to study the art of poetry, it was declared by the general voice that all was over.... But here he likewise disproved their prejudices.... He applied himself to law, and took his degree in that science at Brussels."14
Years earlier--in the fourth century after Christ--another blind man made an even steeper ascent to learning. He was Didymus of Alexandria, who became one of the celebrated scholars of the early church. He carved out of wood an alphabet of letters and laboriously taught himself to form them into words, and shape the words into sentences. Later, when he could afford to hire readers, he is said to have worn them out one after another in his insatiable quest for knowledge. He became the greatest teacher of his age. He mastered philosophy and theology, and then went on to geometry and astrology. He was regarded by his students, some of whom like St. Jerome became church fathers, with "a touch of awe" because of his vast learning and intellect. Didymus was not the only blind theologian to gain eminence within the church. In the middle of the seventeenth century, at almost the same moment Milton was composing Paradise Lost, a blind priest named Prospero Fagnani was writing a commentary on church law, which was to bring him fame as one of the outstanding theorists of the Roman faith. At the precocious age of 21, Fagnani had already earned the degree of doctor of civil and canon law, and in the very next year, he was appointed Secretary of the Congregation of the Council. His celebrated Commentary, published in six quarto volumes, won high praise from Pope Benedict XIV and caused its author to become identified throughout Europe by a Latin title which in translation signifies "the blind yet farseeing doctor."
These few biographical sketches plucked from the annals of the blind are no more than samples. They are not even the most illustrious instances I could have given. I have said nothing at all about the best known of history's blind celebrities--Homer, Milton, and Helen Keller. There is good reason for that omission. Not only are those resounding names well enough known already, but they have come to represent--each in its own sentimentalized, storybook form--not the abilities and possibilities of people who are blind but the exact opposite. Supposedly these giants are the exceptions that prove the rule--the rule, that is, that the blind are incompetent. Each celebrated case is explained away to keep the stereotype intact: Thus, Homer (we are repeatedly told) probably never existed at all--being not a man but a committee! As for Milton, he is dismissed as a sighted poet, who happened to become blind in later life. And Helen Keller, they say, was the peculiarly gifted and just plain lucky beneficiary of a lot of money and a "miracle worker" (her tutor and companion, Anne Sullivan).
Don't you believe it! These justly famous cases of accomplishment are not mysterious, unexplainable exceptions--they are only remarkable. Homer, who almost certainly did exist and who was clearly blind, accomplished just a little better what other blind persons after him have accomplished by the thousands: that is, he was a good writer. Milton composed great works while he was sighted, and greater ones (including Paradise Lost) after he became blind. His example, if it proves anything, proves only that blindness makes no difference in ability. As for Helen Keller, her life demonstrates dramatically what great resources of character and will and intellect may live in a human being beyond the faculties of sight and sound--which is not to take anything at all away from Anne Sullivan.
In the modern world it is not the poets or the humanists, but the scientists, who have held the center of the stage. As would be expected, the stereotyped view has consistently been that the blind cannot compete in these areas. How does this square with the truth?
Consider the case of Nicholas Saunderson--totally blind from infancy--who succeeded Sir Isaac Newton in the chair of mathematics at Cambridge University, despite the fact that he had earlier been refused admission to the same university and was never permitted to earn a degree! It was the great Newton himself who pressed Saunderson's appointment upon the reluctant Cambridge dons; and it was no less a personage than Queen Anne of England who made it possible by conferring the necessary degree upon Saunderson. Later he received a Doctor of Laws degree from King George II, a symbol of the renown he had gained as a mathematician. Among Saunderson's best subjects, by the way, was the science of optics--at which he was so successful that the eminent Lord Chesterfield was led to remark on "the miracle of a man who had not the use of his own sight teaching others how to use theirs."15
For another example, consider John Cough, a blind English biologist of the eighteenth century, who became a master at classification of plants and animals by substituting the sense of touch for that of sight. Or consider Leonard Euler, a great mathematician of the same century, who (after becoming blind) won two research prizes from the Parisian Academy of Sciences, wrote a major work translated into every European language, and devised an astronomical theory which "has been deemed by astronomers, in exactness of computation, one of the most remarkable achievements of the human intellect."16 Or, for a final illustration, consider Francois Huber, blind Swiss zoologist, who gained recognition as the pre-eminent authority of the eighteenth century on the behavior of bees. The famous writer Maurice Maeterlinck said of Huber that he was "the master and classic of contemporary apiarian science."17
Even after all of this evidence, there will be many (some of them, regrettably, our own blind Uncle Toms) who will try to deny and explain it all away--who will attempt to keep intact their outworn notions about the helplessness of the blind as a class. So let me nail down a couple of points: In the first place, is all of this talk about history and the success of blind individuals really valid? Isn't it true that most blind people throughout the ages have lived humdrum lives, achieving neither fame nor glory, and soon forgotten? Yes, it is true--but for the sighted as well as for the blind. For the overwhelming majority of mankind (the blind and the sighted alike) life has been squalor and hard knocks and anonymity from as far back as anybody knows. There were doubtless blind peasants, blind housewives, blind shoemakers, blind businessmen, blind thieves, blind prostitutes, and blind holy men who performed as competently or as incompetently (and are now as forgotten) as their sighted contemporaries.
"Even so," the doubter may say, "I'm still not convinced. Don't you think the track record for the blind is worse than the track record for the sighted? Don't you think a larger percentage of the blind have failed?"
Again, the answer is yes--just as with other minorities. That's what it's all about. Year after year, decade after decade, century after century, age after age, we the blind were told that we were helpless--that we were inferior--and we believed it and acted accordingly. But no more! As with other minorities, we have tended to see ourselves as others have seen us. We have accepted the public view of our limitations, and thus have done much to make those limitations a reality. When our true history conflicted with popular prejudice, the truth was altered or conveniently forgotten. We have been ashamed of our blindness and ignorant of our heritage, but never again! We will never go back to the ward status of second-class citizens. There is simply no way. There are blind people aplenty--and sighted allies, too-- (many of them in this room tonight) who will take to the streets and fight with their bare hands if they must before they will let it happen.
And this, too, is history--our meeting, our movement, our new spirit of self-awareness and self-realization. In our own time and in our own day we have found leaders as courageous as Zisca, and as willing to go into battle to resist tyranny. But we are no longer to be counted by ones and twos, or by handfuls or hundreds. We are now a movement, with tens of thousands in the ranks. Napoleon is supposed to have said that history is a legend agreed upon. If this is true, then we the blind are in the process of negotiating a new agreement, with a legend conforming more nearly to the truth and the spirit of the dignity of man. And what do you think future historians will say of us--of you and me? What legends will they agree upon concerning the blind of the mid-twentieth century? How will they deal with our movement-- with the National Federation of the Blind? Will they record that we fell back into the faceless anonymity of the ages, or that we met the challenges and survived as a free people? It all depends on what we do and how we act; for future historians will write the record, but we will make it. Our lives will provide the raw materials from which their legends will emerge to be agreed upon.
And, while no man can predict the future, I feel absolute confidence as to what the historians will say. They will tell of a system of governmental and private agencies established to serve the blind, which became so custodial and so repressive that reaction was inevitable. They will tell that the blind ("their time come 'round at last") began to acquire a new self-image, along with rising expectations, and that they determined to organize and speak for themselves. And they will tell of Jacobus tenBroek, how he, as a young college professor, (blind and brilliant) stood forth to lead the movement like Zisca of old. They will tell how the agencies first tried to ignore us, then resented us, then feared us, and finally came to hate us--with the emotion and false logic and cruel desperation which dying systems always feel toward the new about to replace them. They will tell of the growth of our movement through the forties and fifties, and of our civil war--which resulted in the small group that splintered away to become the American Council of the Blind. They will tell how we emerged from our civil war into the sixties, stronger and more vital than we had ever been; and how more and more of the agencies began to make common cause with us for the betterment of the blind. They will tell of our court cases, our legislative efforts, and our organizational struggles- -and they will record the sorrow and mourning of the blind at the death of their great leader, Jacobus tenBroek.
They will also record the events of today--of the 1970s-- when the reactionaries among the agencies became even more so, and the blind of the second generation of the NFB stood forth to meet them. They will talk of the American Foundation for the Blind and its attempt (through its tool, NAC) to control all work with the blind, and our lives. They will tell how NAC and the American Foundation and the other reactionary agencies gradually lost ground and gave way before us. They will tell of new and better agencies rising to work in partnership with the blind, and of harmony and progress as the century draws to an end. They will relate how the blind passed from second-class citizenship through a period of hostility to equality and first-class status in society.
But future historians will only record these events if we make them come true. They can help us be remembered, but they cannot help us dream. That we must do for ourselves. They can give us acclaim, but not guts and courage. They can give us recognition and appreciation, but not determination or compassion or good judgment. We must either find those things for ourselves, or not have them at all.
We have come a long way together in this movement. Some of us are veterans, going back to the forties; others are new recruits, fresh to the ranks. Some are young; some are old. Some are educated, others not. It makes no difference. In everything that matters we are one; we are the movement; we are the blind. Just as in 1940, when the National Federation of the Blind was formed, the fog rolls in through the Golden Gate. The eucalyptus trees give forth their pungent smell, and the Berkeley hills look down at the bay. The house still stands in those hills, and the planes still rise from San Francisco to span the world. But Jacobus tenBroek comes from the house no more, nor rides the planes to carry the word.
But the word is carried, and his spirit goes with it. He it was who founded this movement, and he it is whose dreams are still entwined in the depths of its being. Likewise, our dreams (our hopes and our visions) are part of the fabric, going forward to the next generation as a heritage and a challenge. History is not against us: the past proclaims it; the present confirms it; and the future demands it. If we falter or dishonor our heritage, we will betray not only ourselves but those who went before us and those who come after. But, of course, we will not fail. Whatever the cost, we shall pay it. Whatever the sacrifice, we shall make it. We cannot turn back, or stand still. Instead, we must go forward. We shall prevail--and history will record it. The future is ours. Come! Join me on the barricades, and we will make it come true.
1. Wilham Artman, Beauties and Achievements of the Blind (Auburn: Published for the Author, 1890), p.265.
2. James Wilson, Biography of the Blind (Birmingham, England: Printed by J.W. Showell, Fourth Edition, 1838), p.110. 3. Artman,
3. op. cit., p. 265.
4. Ibid., p.266.
5. Ibid., p.267.
6. Ibid., p.268.
7. Ibid., pp.268-269.
8. Wilon, op.cit., p.115
9. Mrs. Hippolyte Van Landeghem, Exile and Home: Advantages of Social Education of the Blind (London: Printed by W. Clowes & Sons, 1865), p.95.
10. Gabriel Farrell, The Story of Blindness (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1956), p.7.
11. Wilson, op.cit., p.262.
12. Ibid., pp.100-101
13. Artman, op.cit., p.220.
14. Wilson, op.cit., p.243.
15. Farrell, op.cit., p.11.
16. Artman, op.cit., p.226.
17. Farrell, op.cit., pp.12-13.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Fred Schroeder.]
BRAILLE BILLS: WHAT ARE THEY AND WHAT DO THEY MEAN?
by Fredric K. Schroeder
From the Associate Editor: Fred Schroeder has been a leader in the organized blind movement for a number of years. He currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind. He is also an experienced professional in the field of work with the blind. Trained as a teacher of blind children and an orientation and mobility specialist, he directed the low incidence programs in the Albuquerque, New Mexico, public school system before becoming the Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind. He is a professional in the blindness field with excellent credentials, down-to-earth common sense, and a sense of humor that gives him perspective. But first and foremost, he is a blind consumer, and his ability to remember that truth keeps his feet planted firmly in reality. In the following article he describes what Braille bills are and places them in the context of the struggle of blind people for equal opportunity. Here is what he has to say:
In 1940, when the blind organized to promote their social and economic integration, there was a dramatic albeit predictable response from the field of work with the blind. Professionals harbored real resentment against clients who presumed to speak out on their own behalf. The conflict centered on the simple question of who would speak for the blind. Would it be the blind themselves, or would it be those in the blindness profession, who through training and practice had come to regard themselves as the true experts on the needs of blind people?
For more than fifty years this conflict has continued focusing on a series of issues which in turn have represented the latest battleground in the ongoing conflict. We have struggled over freedom of association; the institutionalization of oppressive practices through the creation of the National Accreditation Council; minimum wages for blind workers; and, most recently, freedom of choice in the provision of rehabilitation services. In each case and at each step, the right of self- determination has been at the center of the fray; yet as blind people we have never faltered in our conviction that we alone are best able to appraise our own needs and determine our own futures.
In the late 1970s the National Federation of the Blind began to call for the teaching of cane travel to young blind children. What appeared to skilled cane travelers to be the self-evident advantage of teaching young children to travel independently escaped most blindness professionals, who met our demands with open hostility. The orientation and mobility professionals believed that cane travel should be restricted to high-school-aged students and perhaps the occasional middle school student. The concept of training young children to use the white cane was viewed as irresponsible and denounced as the political agitation of a radical group of malcontents.
Yet the blind, recognizing the importance of self-confidence and the skills to put that confidence into practice, began working with parents and young children to show them the advantages of independent travel. Finally the self-evident benefits of early cane training began to penetrate the orientation and mobility profession. Eventually, the idea of early cane training ceased to be radical as mobility professionals began tentatively experimenting with the idea. At the end of a decade of blind people's pressing for early cane training, the orientation and mobility profession announced a startling revelation: the profession--all by itself, without any help from anyone--had miraculously discovered that young children could in fact master independent cane travel. Late in 1988 the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, a publication of the American Foundation for the Blind, carried an article discussing cane training for young blind children. Incredibly it was purported that this article was the first time anyone had discussed the possibility of cane training for preschoolers.
It is disappointing that progress in the field of work with the blind seems always to follow the pattern of blind people's pressing for change and the professionals' stubbornly resisting progress. The most recent example of this pattern can be seen in the Braille literacy controversy. In the early 1980s the National Federation of the Blind began drawing attention to the increasing level of illiteracy among blind students graduating from our nation's schools. Much of the decrease in literacy can be traced to the low vision movement of the 1970s, which inculcated in modern pedagogy the age-old myth that to see a little was somehow better (almost more virtuous) than to see not at all. For twenty years young blind children were dissuaded from learning and reading Braille in favor of relying ineffectively on limited vision to read print. While it is not necessary to catalogue this tragedy in detail, it is fair to say that a whole generation of blind people have suffered diminished opportunity as a result of inadequate Braille training.
Needing a mechanism for focussing public attention on the Braille crisis, the National Federation of the Blind created the concept of Braille legislation, which would establish public policy on the right of blind persons to become literate and productive. The first Braille bill was passed in Minnesota just five years ago in 1987. As with other controversies throughout the years, the blind have led the fight while professionals denied that a problem existed.
In the five years since the first Braille bill was passed, eleven states have followed suit: Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia have joined the ranks of states committed to greater opportunities for blind children.
Not surprisingly, a number of myths have developed concerning Braille bills and their effects. The most common of these is the charge that Braille bills mandate Braille instruction for all legally blind children. While this charge is intended to demonstrate the irrationality of the Federation's viewpoint, one is tempted to ask what is wrong with wanting legally blind children to learn Braille. Neither parents nor teachers cringe when they realize that sighted children are expected to learn print, nor is there a passionate demand to consider the sighted child's individuality. Yet the concept of teaching legally blind children to read Braille is offered as another example of the radical and irrational nature of the organized blind.
Regardless of whether all blind children should or should not be taught Braille, none of the nation's twelve Braille statutes contains such a requirement. No Braille bill in any state requires the teaching of Braille to all legally blind children. The strongest legislation sets forth a presumption that legally blind children will read Braille unless the Individual Education Plan (IEP) team determines otherwise, while other legislation mandates only that Braille be considered in the educational planning for blind children. The real purpose of Braille bills is to serve as a statement of public policy, recognizing the need for literacy among the blind, paralleling the need for literacy among the sighted.
As Braille bills have developed, a number of logical extensions have become incorporated into more recent pieces of legislation. One of the most controversial is the requirement for competency testing for teachers of blind children. With the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) on the verge of releasing a Braille competency test, such a requirement has become practical and easy to administer. While it is intuitively reasonable that teachers of blind children should be able to read and write Braille, it must be remembered that the educational establishment has de-emphasized the code for more than twenty years. As a result many teachers of blind children are no longer able to read and write Braille efficiently and have been trained to believe that Braille is the least desirable choice. Teachers trained during this period probably received poor training in Braille reading and writing initially and subsequently found little if any use for it in their teaching. Braille legislation requiring competency testing strikes a responsive chord among many of today's blind children and their parents. Predictably, significant numbers of teachers of blind children oppose Braille bills, asserting that their competence to read and write Braille is unrelated to their ability to teach blind children. As a result these teachers have testified in opposition to competency testing as an unimportant and counterproductive element in Braille legislation.
A relatively new element appearing in Braille legislation concerns a requirement for textbook manufacturers to produce material in electronic media in a form readily translatable into Braille. This provision first surfaced in the Texas Braille bill in May of 1991. While it was anticipated that this provision would spark serious opposition from textbook publishers, in fact the opposite has proven to be the case. Although a number of technical problems still exist, the concept of computer- translatable texts promises to make Braille more readily available than ever before.
As with other controversies throughout the past half- century, the pattern remains consistent. First the blind promote an idea which sparks professional opposition. Through perseverance the idea achieves some implementation and success. After a while, the validity of the idea is recognized, and finally members of the profession jump on the bandwagon, eager to take credit for having thought it up themselves. In 1987 the idea of Braille bills was strongly opposed by many in the blindness profession, yet the National Federation of the Blind persisted in carrying the first one through the Minnesota legislature. Gradually Braille bills became less controversial, and today large segments of the blindness field have ceased opposing Braille bills and, in fact, have formed coalitions to work cooperatively toward promoting them. Progress does occur, albeit slowly and painfully.
The pattern of the blind's pressing for change and the profession's resisting that change continues. As blind people we refuse to suffer another lost generation. Literacy is a fundamental right, and we will not have our potential and that of today's blind children artificially depressed through inadequate training. Blind children can compete and assume a productive role in society. Generations of blind people have proven the truth of this statement, and the next generation must be given the tools to continue the struggle for true equality. Braille bills are an expression of public policy and a manifestation of blind people's determination to live normal lives as fully participating members of society. Momentum is gathering as more and more states enact Braille legislation, thereby joining the growing Braille literacy movement. In many ways this movement has become an expression of our confidence in the true ability of blind children and our willingness to ensure them equality of opportunity. We must translate this commitment into expressions of public policy and, perhaps more to the point, into the day-to-day training that blind children receive.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: On April 14, 1992, Kentucky's Governor signed the state's Braille literacy legislation into law. At the ceremony which marked this momentous occasion for Kentucky's blind children, those who were chiefly responsible for accomplishing this milestone gathered to celebrate the event. Pictured here from left to right are Will Evans, Superintendent of the Kentucky School for the Blind; Hilda Caton, Coordinator of Programs for the Visually Impaired, University of Louisville; Betty Niceley, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky; Brereton Jones, Governor of Kentucky; Robbie Castleman, the State Representative who introduced House Bill 370; and Charles Allen, Legislative Chairman of the NFB of Kentucky.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: NFB of S.C. Braille bill signing.]
BRAILLE BILL UPDATE
In November of 1990 the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind decided that the organization should develop language for a model Braille bill that could be used by state affiliates around the country in working with their legislatures to create laws that would protect the right of blind children to full literacy. Since then several state affiliates have succeeded in achieving passage of the model Braille bill, and a number of others are working on the project. Of course, several states had passed Braille Bills prior to the development of the model bill language, and some of these are now working to strengthen their laws. Here is a list of the states with Braille literacy legislation on the books: Arizona, July 1, 1991; Kansas, 1991; Kentucky, signed into law April 14, 1992; Louisiana, 1988; Maryland, passed April 2, 1992; Minnesota, 1987; Missouri,1990; South Carolina, signed into law May 20, 1992; South Dakota, 1991; Texas, September 1, 1991; Virginia, 1990.
Here is the list of states with Braille bills currently under consideration: California; Colorado; Connecticut; Illinois; Iowa; Louisiana, considering amendments to the current act; Massachusetts; Michigan; Minnesota, amendments to make current law conform to the model Braille bill have passed the Senate; Nebraska; Ohio; Washington State; and Wisconsin. Here are reports on the most recent successes:
by Glenn Crosby
July 31, 1991, was proclaimed Braille Literacy Day in the State of Texas by Governor Ann Richards. The official proclamation, written in both print and Braille, was presented to members of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas during a celebration in the Lieutenant Governor's Reception Room in the state capitol.
The news media were there in force to see President Glenn Crosby thank Senator Mike Moncrief, Representative Elliott Naishtat, and the scores of Federationists who had worked hard to see that the Braille Literacy Act was passed during the regular session of the Texas Legislature, which ended in May of 1991. More than fifty representatives and senators were present to celebrate the fact that the Texas Braille literacy legislation has become the model for the rest of the country.
Many professionals have attempted to take credit for the hard work done by the blind in Texas, but everyone who worked on passage of this piece of legislation recognizes that the Federation was the moving force behind it. If members of the NFB hadn't written a model law and if many other state affiliates had not worked so hard to pass Braille laws before we did, the Texas law would probably not have been adopted.
Dr. Phil Hatlen, superintendent of the Texas School for the Blind, presented testimony in favor of the legislation, and the National Federation of the Blind of Texas appreciates his support on this issue. But the testimony of blind people who had been denied Braille training because they had some residual vision and that of the totally blind people who demonstrated that proficiency in the use of Braille allowed them to be credible witnesses because they were able to read from notes as efficiently as other witnesses are what made the real difference. The legislature knows that the blind of Texas are the reason that this law was enacted, and so does the governor. They all thanked the blind for bringing the problem to their attention, and the proclamation was presented to the National Federation of the Blind of Texas. It will grace the Federation's office wall rather than that of any professional in the state.
Since the law was adopted last May, the NFB of Texas has been working with the Texas Education Agency to implement the law's provisions dealing with the definition of functional blindness, certification of Braille proficiency for teachers of the blind in Texas, and availability of textbooks in electronic media so that they can be translated into Braille. Jeff Pearcy and Tommy Craig of Austin have served on committees which dealt with the first two items, and Eura Mae Harmon of Amarillo serves on the Texas Commission on Braille Textbook Production, which will work on making Braille textbooks more available.
Aside from the work with the Texas Education Agency, the affiliate is also working with the sponsors of the Braille literacy law, Senator Mike Moncrief and Representative Elliott Naishtat, to make several public service announcements to be used on television stations throughout the state. These will inform the public that this law has been passed and will provide the toll-free number of the NFB of Texas so that parents and teachers who have questions about the legislation can contact us. We also hope to promote the use of Braille with these messages by showing blind people using Braille in various circumstances while the announcement is being made.
by Donald C. Capps
The NFB's model Braille bill passed the South Carolina General Assembly on February 27, 1992, and was signed into law in a public ceremony by the Governor on May 20. The South Carolina affiliate arranged to have the model Braille bill introduced into the joint House Senate Committee on People with Disabilities in January of 1991, but complications developed during the year when the parent of a blind child decided that the law would mean that her child would be compelled to learn Braille against her wishes. She then disseminated a good bit of misleading information throughout the legislature and stirred up what opposition she could in an effort to derail the bill. In early January of this year the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina shifted into high gear to insure that the bill would be passed. Each of the thirty-four Federation chapters spoke with local legislators, and the affiliate developed a Braille literacy brochure, which was given to each lawmaker who attended the organization's annual legislative dinner on January 15. The brochure was also sent to every representative and senator who had not attended. Ample use was also made of Braille Monitor articles about the importance of Braille literacy, and letters and other contacts by Federation experts on Braille literacy from across the country poured into legislators' offices. The result of all this effort was that in less than six weeks from the date of the legislative dinner the bill had passed both the House and the Senate and was on its way to the Governor for signing. The South Carolina affiliate worked hard to pass this law, but we could not have done it without the expertise and support of the entire membership of the National Federation of the Blind.
by Betty Niceley
On March 30, 1992, the Kentucky Senate passed the state's version of the Federation's model Braille bill. By that date every committee and both houses of the legislature had passed the bill unanimously. Governor Brereton Jones signed it into law in a public ceremony on April 14. The explanation for all this unanimity was simple: the National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky had been working for many months behind the scenes to bring all the parties into agreement.
As frequently happens, the special education teachers who work with blind and visually impaired youngsters had been extremely nervous about the legislation. Recognizing that their own Braille skills were weak or, in some cases, non-existent, they began by opposing the bill. But Dr. Hilda Caton, Coordinator of Programs for the Visually Impaired at the University of Louisville and a Braille researcher at the American Printing House for the Blind, was enthusiastic about the proposed legislation from the beginning. She said repeatedly and publicly that "the Federation has been right about Braille literacy all along." Her vocal support was extremely helpful, for she has trained most of the teachers of blind students working in the state today and is therefore highly respected by them.
Will Evans, Superintendent of the Kentucky School for the Blind, invited representatives from the Federation to a meeting to discuss with teachers the provisions of the bill. David Murrell, one of the authors of the bill's language; Dr. Caton; and I, as President of the NFB of Kentucky, attended the meeting to address teacher concerns. We had expected to face the teachers from the School for the Blind only, but the twenty-one vision teachers from Jefferson County were there as well. The entire meeting lasted about four hours. One young teacher complained that she would have to return to school to master Braille sufficiently to become certified. Who was going to pay for that? The Superintendent suggested that she could surely study on her own to get the necessary practice. At that she began a long recital of her duties and said that she did not have the time to do work independently, to which Dr. Caton replied in her gentle drawl, "Honey, if you don't have time to learn Braille, you're in the wrong job."
Another teacher stood up at one point and said that he was legally blind, but he would have to be dragged kicking and screaming into learning Braille. My response was a statement to the entire group that this teacher's negative attitude was the best reason I could think of for beginning early Braille instruction with legally blind children.
Eventually a small group retired to work on compromise language that would reassure the teachers without diluting the bill. Several times Dr. Caton was appealed to by the teachers to suggest new language. She kept repeating, "I thought the original language was fine." At last, however, everyone agreed on a text, and letters of endorsement were submitted by the School for the Blind and by the Jefferson County teachers. The model bill sailed through the legislative process under the skillful and watchful supervision of the NFB of Kentucky's invaluable Legislative Chairman, Charles Allen and his equally dedicated wife Betty.
by Sharon Maneki
The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland first introduced a state Braille bill in 1986. The concept was violently opposed by the staff of the Maryland School for the Blind and by the state's Department of Education, and because of the opposition the bill was defeated. During the intervening years a great deal of patient effort has gone into educating Department of Education personnel about the issue of literacy for blind children and about the National Federation of the Blind. Recently the Department established an advisory committee to develop guidelines for determining which students should be taught Braille and which should be taught print. The NFB agreed to work with this committee, and at the same time the Department agreed to send a representative to be a part of a task force formed by the Federation to write a literacy bill for blind students. Representatives from the School for the Blind, from the special education programs of the three largest school systems in the state, and from the American Council of the Blind, as well as from the Department of Education, joined with the NFB in writing the bill, completed late last fall.
In January the Federation devoted its annual legislative day in the state capital to talking about Braille literacy with Representatives and Senators. Two members of the ACB spent a couple of hours working on the bill that day alongside the forty Federationists, and the School for the Blind representative to the task force visited a Senator or two, but most of the work was done by the Federation. The Department of Education had helped to write the bill, and though no one stepped forward from the Department to discuss the issue with legislators, it was commonly understood that the bill would not be opposed by Department officials.
Then, two days before Senate committee hearings were to begin in mid-February, the Department introduced several amendments, the most important of which would have altered the bill's presumption that Braille would be taught unless print was clearly indicated; the Department version provided merely that Braille would be considered. The amendment struck at the heart of the Federation's legislation, and the amended version was the one that the Senate passed.
In the meantime a House committee was preparing to hear the original version, which had been introduced simultaneously in that chamber. The Department of Education indicated to House committee members that it would like its amendments to be added to the House version, but this time the legislators asked for an opinion from the Attorney General about whether the presumption- of-Braille provision of the NFB bill conflicted with the federally guaranteed right to an Individual Education Plan. The Attorney General ruled that it did not, and as a result the House passed the bill without the weakening amendments that the Senate had attached. Next each chamber considered the other's version of the bill. The House of Representatives passed the Senate bill after it removed the amendments, but the Senate passed the House bill without insisting upon adding them. The blind had won! The legislative roller coaster ended on April 2, and the Governor is scheduled to sign the bill into law in early May. It will take effect on October 1, 1992.
The law is not everything that the organized blind wanted. National Library Service competency certification has not been mandated in the legislation, but Federationists are prepared to go back to strengthen the certification standards if necessary. In addition, the law does not address the question of requiring publishers to provide text materials in electronic media for rapid Braille production. But the heart of the model Braille bill is intact: legally blind and functionally blind students now must be offered Braille in Maryland.
There you have the report on the most recent victories in the NFB's battle for Braille literacy. Twenty states have Braille legislation on the books or are considering it, and several other NFB affiliates are getting ready to have literacy bills introduced. Increasingly these bills are versions of the model Braille bill first written by the Federation. State by state blind people are taking responsibility for seeing that the next generation of blind students will not face the functional illiteracy that has plagued so many blind adults and children today. More and more, and with increasing authority, we are changing what it means to be blind.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Norma Crosby.]
REACTION TO AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR THE BLIND ARTICLE ON TEXAS BRAILLE BILL
From the Editor: As the new balances of influence and action take shape in the blindness field, it would be surprising indeed if some turbulence did not occur. A case in point involves the Texas Braille Bill. Norma Crosby (who, as Monitor readers know, is one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas) expresses in the following letter to President Maurer her annoyance with what she perceives to be inaccurate claims and inappropriate reaching for credit by the American Foundation for the Blind. Here without editorial comment is what she has to say:
March 18, 1992
Dear President Maurer:
Enclosed you will find a copy of the Fall, 1991, AFB News (a publication of the American Foundation for the Blind). It is a dreadful piece of journalism which is filled with inaccuracies. It implies that the Texas Braille Bill Literacy Act was more or less the idea of the American Foundation for the Blind, and if you didn't know better, you might think that the whole concept of Braille literacy in Texas was theirs.
Needless to say, we of the NFB of Texas are not amused by this slanted journalism. In discussing Braille bills the Foundation says, "In another literacy initiative, AFB played a major role in advocating for a Braille bill which was signed into law in the state of Texas in June."
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, when AFB discovered that this piece of legislation had been introduced, Mary Ann Siller, Southwest Regional Educational Consultant for AFB, made contact with the sponsor of the bill and indicated that they had some major problems with it, and she indicated that they were opposed to the proposed law because it "didn't take into account the rights of teachers."
AFB only became involved with the law when we, in an effort to assure passage, agreed to meet with all parties who had concerns about the bill. They never played a major role in advocating for this legislation. In fact, when it was time for testimony on the issue, they were not present. However, they did show signs of claiming credit early on by calling the proposal "our bill." But Jeff Pearcy set them straight by pointing out that the NFB of Texas had brought the bill to the legislature, and he and Tommy Craig let them know that we would make the final decision about which proposed changes were acceptable.
The article also indicates that AFB did the organizing of meetings relative to this bill. In fact, it says:
"In another distinction from other Braille bills, Siller notes that the final law brought a diverse constituency together around a complex issue. AFB organized meetings and teleconferences among representatives from AFB, the National Federation of the Blind, the American Association of Publishers, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Texas Education Agency, University of Texas at Austin Special Education Department, the American Printing House for the Blind, and other producers of materials in Braille and alternative formats." They did no such thing. They did attend some of those meetings, and to that extent they were involved in the process. But, once again, I point out that they only became involved in the process as participant with negative feelings about the proposed legislation.
The only "professional" who was willing to stand up and be counted on this issue was Dr. Phil Hatlen of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. He supported the legislation from the beginning, and he worked in good faith to insure that it would become law. He testified on behalf of the bill, and at every opportunity, he gives (and has consistently given) the NFB credit for having brought the bill to the legislature. There may be times in the future when we will have disagreements with Dr. Hatlen. However, in this instance he worked well with the members of our organization to pass a good piece of legislation.
The AFB should be ashamed for taking such liberties with the truth. This is a major piece of legislation, and the blind of this state and this country are the ones who caused it to be law. The tide is turning, and we are winning the law for literacy. I am very proud to have been a part of the battle. But I am equally concerned by the fact that we still have a long way to go in being able to work constructively with some of the professionals in the field.
There was a time (and not very many years ago at that) when the blind of this country were in what can only be called a state of war with the American Foundation for the Blind and a number of other agencies. Happily (with notable exceptions) that time no longer exists. Increasingly cooperative relations are being established between the organized blind and a growing number of the public and private agencies, but there are still bumps in the road and problems to be solved. Hopefully we can go the rest of the way to substantial unity in the blindness field. Otherwise, the prospects for the blind, and especially for the agencies, look less than promising.
We have printed Norma Crosby's letter, pointing up a troublesome situation. To achieve balance and in order that Monitor readers may judge for themselves, we also print the material from the Fall, 1991, AFB News to which she refers. Here it is:
AFB Develops Long Range Literacy Plan
by Fay Jarosh Ellis
NEW YORK--When AFB first announced the launch of a public education campaign to create awareness about literacy for persons who are blind or visually impaired, individuals--from U.S. Senators to teachers and literacy volunteers--called and wrote to pledge their support. In view of that support, and what it reflects about the needs for such a focus, AFB has established a task force to develop a long-range literacy plan. Chaired by Mary Ellen Mulholland, director of publications and information services, and Kathleen M. Huebner, Ph.D., director of national consultants, task force members include Susan J. Spungin, Ed.D., associate executive director for program services; Scott Marshall, governmental relations director; Diane Wormsley, Ph.D., Western Regional Center director; Mary Ann Siller, Southwest regional education consultant; Dawn Turco, Midwest regional education consultant; Leslye Piqueras, national low vision consultant; Doris Dieter, director of planned giving; Alberta Orr, national consultant on aging; and Glenn M. Plunkett, governmental relations specialist.
The National Braille Literacy Mentor Project, spearheaded by AFB's Western Regional Center, is one of several agencywide initiatives included in the literacy plan. Conceived as a vehicle for developing and disseminating materials to support instruction in Braille, the project aims to establish a national database of expert Braille users and Braille teachers, publish a book which includes successful Braille teaching and learning strategies, and create a model for Braille instruction that will be used in summer training programs at residential schools for the blind. In addition, project staff hope to establish a mentor program by matching expert Braille users and teachers with others in their area who need to learn or refine their Braille skills. Dr. Diane Wormsley, who is administering the project, reports that the initial call for expert Braille users and teachers has met with enthusiastic response from professionals all over the country. And queries about the project steadily increase.
In the next stage of the project, each database participant will be surveyed and interviewed to solicit their successful instructional methods. Says Dr. Wormsley: "There is a vast oral tradition among our teachers, some of whom have since retired, about how to teach Braille. We hope to glean these tips from our surveys, techniques which may have once been passed along from one teacher to the next in an informal way without ever being recorded in written form. Through the database, our publication, and summer training programs, we hope to make it easier for teachers, parents, and blind and visually impaired persons to learn and teach Braille to others."
In another literacy initiative, AFB played a major role in advocating for a Braille bill which was signed into law in the state of Texas in June. "The Texas law is decidedly different from other Braille bills now pending in other state legislatures," said Mary Ann Siller, "because it does not categorically mandate Braille instruction for all legally blind students, and it addresses the problem that many blind students face in getting Braille textbooks in a timely manner." (See "Excerpted Provisions from the Texas Braille Bill.")
Specifically, the law requires that teachers of blind children be assessed and evaluated on their Braille skills, and that a special committee be established to study and design software to facilitate the production of print materials in the literary Braille code.
In another distinction from other Braille bills, Siller notes that the final law brought a diverse constituency together around a complex issue. AFB organized meetings and teleconferences among representatives from AFB, the National Federation of the Blind, the American Association of Publishers, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Texas Education Agency, University of Texas at Austin Special Education Department, the American Printing House for the Blind, and other producers of materials in Braille and alternative formats.
"For professionals, the new law provides standards for assessing the appropriate learning media for students; and for students, the law will make it easier to get Braille textbooks on a timely basis," said Siller. "More importantly, this law puts the literacy needs of our blind and visually impaired kids on the front burner of domestic issues and policy. That has not happened in Texas since the 1970s."
Indeed, making literacy a national priority is the goal of the AFB literacy plan which will include future projects in the area of information exchange, research, program models, publications, videos, technological access, public education, public relations, and government relations.
Excerpted Provisions from the Texas Braille Bill
* Each functionally blind student's individualized education program shall specify the appropriate learning medium based on an assessment report, and ensure that instruction in Braille will be provided by a teacher certified to teach students with visual handicaps.
* The Texas Education Agency shall determine the criteria for a student to be classified as functionally blind.
* As a condition of certification to teach students with visual handicaps, the State Board of Education by rule shall require satisfactory performance on an examination prescribed by the board that is designed to assess competency in Braille reading and writing skills according to standards adopted by the board.
* The Texas Education Agency shall require a publisher of a textbook adopted by the State Board of Education to furnish the agency with computer diskettes for literary subjects in the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) from which Braille versions of the textbook can be produced. The publisher will furnish the agency with computer diskettes in ASCII for nonliterary subjects, e.g., natural sciences, computer science, mathematics, and music, when Braille specialty code translation software is available.
* The State Board of Education shall appoint a 12-person commission consisting of computer software developers, producers of Braille textbooks, specialists in Braille education, publishers of elementary and high school textbooks, representatives of the Texas Education Agency, and at least one consumer or an advocate for consumers of Braille materials to expedite the implementation of Braille translation software for nonliterary subjects. The commission will be established for a two-year period and abolished as of September 1, 1993.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Peter Grunwald.]
VARIATIONS ON A THEME: ILLINOIS FEDERATIONISTS FIGHT FOR THE RIGHT TO BRAILLE LITERACY
From the Associate Editor: The effort to pass a Braille literacy bill takes a different form in each state. Sometimes, as happened in Kansas, all the knowledgeable parties agree on what should be done, and the bill sails through the legislative process guided by an informed and constructive hand. Sometimes competing bills must be merged and compromises made before any helpful legislation can be enacted. And very often the Federation finds itself alone, fighting entrenched self-interest and inertia as well as ignorance and myth in an effort to protect the right of blind children to an appropriate education.
Every battle is unique, and most have barely begun. It is instructive for us all to know what is happening in other states so that we can benefit from past experience. What follows is an interim report from Illinois. Peter Grunwald, one of the leaders of the NFB of Illinois, has been leading the charge there. Here is the letter he wrote explaining the situation to Dr. Jernigan:
February 27, 1992
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
Last November we received news that appeared to mean that our efforts to pass a Braille bill would gain unexpected support. I was asked by a group of teachers of the blind and other professionals to meet with them regarding proposed Braille legislation based on the Texas Braille bill. They indicated that they support such legislation and asked to meet to discuss plans and to address some specific issues. We were, of course, pleased with this development; it certainly would be nice not to have to pass a bill over the objection of those whose job it would be to implement it.
The first two meetings seemed positive enough; the discussion was sometimes uninformed and trivial but, for the most part, kept on track and moved forward with apparent agreement. By the third meeting, however, it was clear that there were problems. Dick Umsted, Superintendent of the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired (ISVI) in Jacksonville, was absolutely determined that all the language regarding publishers' supplying computer diskette versions of textbooks to be used for production of Braille copies should be removed and replaced with a simple statement that the State of Illinois would participate in a program operated by the American Printing House for the Blind. I told the group that nothing in the language of our proposed bill would prevent the State Board of Education from participating in the APH program when it is developed, should that seem advantageous. On the other hand, I said that mandating participation in a program which did not yet exist and of which we knew virtually nothing seemed at least to be putting the cart before the horse and certainly irresponsible. Mr. Umsted was adamant, however, and he swayed the other professionals.
Mr. Umsted's single-minded determination on this issue frankly gave me the impression that there is more involved than honest conviction. While there is certainly a potential role for a national clearinghouse, whoever might fill such a role would obviously stand to gain much in influence, and a mandate under law that the clearinghouse's services be used is uncomfortably close to a monopoly. Obviously APH has much to gain in this endeavor, and I believe Mr. Umsted may be carrying water for them. I would not be surprised to learn that others are doing the same.
I am enclosing two pieces of correspondence for your information. The first (to Jean Osterby) gives a sense of the meetings which have taken place; the second (to Dr. Tinsley), is an attempt to acquire a more detailed account of the current status of the APH plan.
That was Mr. Grunwald's letter to Dr. Jernigan, and his enclosures laid out the NFB of Illinois's position clearly. The first was written to Jean Osterby, Chair of the Illinois Vision Leadership Council, the organization with which Mr. Grunwald had been meeting and to which members refer as the Braille Bill Committee. Here is the letter:
February 24, 1992
Northwest Illinois Association
I am writing you at this time to share with you my current perceptions of the functioning of the Braille Bill Committee (as it has been called). I have been troubled for some time, but upon hearing a tape of the discussion of Braille bill issues at the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired Advisory Committee meeting of February 21, my impressions have been crystallized, and I believe the time is right to bring them to your attention. Last November I was most pleased to learn from Cathy Randall that you and other teachers and professionals were interested in and supportive of the Texas Braille bill and wanted to work toward adoption of similar legislation in Illinois. I enthusiastically agreed to meet with you and the others, and a meeting date of December 2 was chosen.
At the opening of the December 2 meeting I went to some length to outline the leadership role of the National Federation of the Blind in the adoption of Braille bills in various states during the past several years, including the Texas Braille bill. I indicated that we in the NFB were excited to learn that Illinois's professionals were actively interested in such legislation, since the pattern in other states had more often been the adoption of legislation over the strong opposition of the education community.
I indicated that we were glad to welcome all of you aboard our train, since more passengers might speed the desired arrival, and more ideas might design a better train. However, since this had been our issue and since we had been until recently virtually the bill's only champion, we were not about to relinquish the controls of the train. I told the group of our resolution adopted at our September, 1991, NFB of Illinois convention and said that I was bound to operate within the policies contained in that Resolution.
I indicated that we were actively discussing introduction of a bill with an interested member of the State Senate and intended to have a bill introduced at the earliest opportunity. (Dick Umsted asked if I would identify the possible sponsor, and I said at that time that I could not.) I told the group that we were glad to discuss any questions and concerns anyone might have about the Texas Braille bill and indicated that we would certainly discuss changes to address agreed concerns. I emphasized, however, that we were not interested in straying very far from the Texas model and were completely unwilling to stray from its intent.
My recollection of the balance of that meeting is that we all discussed a general direction for further discussion. We agreed to have a follow-up meeting January 3, at which we would go through the Texas bill section by section, discuss questions and concerns, and presumably arrive at mutual understandings.
At the January 3 meeting we actually began to go through the bill. We got through Sections 1 and 2. Much of the time was spent changing every occurrence of "blind students" to "students who are blind." (I indicated that I did not understand the significance or relevance of this change, but I made no objection.) One occurrence of "medium" was changed to "medium/media," an alteration with which I concurred. We also discussed a number of other concerns, particularly those regarding multiply handicapped blind students. I explained why I thought those concerns were already addressed in the Texas model, and it was my impression that there was consensus that this was so. At any rate, no changes were proposed regarding these concerns, and at the end of the meeting we agreed that Sections 1 and 2 had been thoroughly addressed. Another meeting was scheduled for January 23 to discuss remaining sections and any other concerns.
At the January 23 meeting I indicated that arrangements had been finalized with a sponsor. At another point, there was discussion of having the Illinois State Board of Education introduce the Braille bill, to which I responded that this had not been and would not be our intent. Considerable time was spent discussing the sections regarding computerized production of Braille textbooks. Dick Umsted led in pushing for specific endorsement of the American Printing House for the Blind's proposed program. I expressed concern that, while there was certainly something to be said for the notion of a national clearinghouse approach, the APH plan was by no means finalized, and there is much we do not yet know. I said that there is no reason why (assuming the adoption of the Texas model) the State Board of Education could not participate in the APH program. On the other hand, I said that it seemed to me that to endorse by legislation a program which did not yet exist and whose benefits were not yet measurable seemed to be at least putting the cart before the horse. I believe I made it clear at the time that I did not support this approach. In case I did not make it clear, let me do so now: the NFB of Illinois does not support endorsement of the American Printing House's proposed program by writing participation in it into the law.
I indicated at the beginning of the January 23 meeting that I had to leave in order to catch the 6:05 p.m. train. Apparently, after I left, another meeting was set for the following week in conjunction with the Association for Rehabilitation and Education of Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) meeting in Bloomington. According to the summary material which you sent, at that meeting some of the issues discussed regarding Sections 1 and 2 at the January 3 meeting were revisited and changes adopted. I have concerns regarding these changes. But leaving aside the merits, it cannot be said that I agreed to them, because I was unaware of them and indeed was not present.
To return (at last) to the meeting of the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired Advisory Committee, I heard considerable discussion of a mystery bill, which had been introduced without anyone's knowledge. This is, of course, our bill. We indicated in December that we intended to introduce a bill, and we discussed progress in January. I always indicated that we would support amendments which might address agreed concerns, and this of course remains true. I also heard you, Tony Heinz, and Dick Umsted refer to the role of the Braille Bill Committee as being to prepare a draft for introduction by the State Board of Education. Let me reiterate that, as I indicated at each of our meetings, that was not and is not the NFB of Illinois's intention. Finally, I heard discussion implying that there had been total consensus regarding the output of the Braille Bill Committee thus far. The previous paragraphs would certainly imply that I do not concur with such a characterization.
All this having been said, I remain confident that people of good will can arrive at an understanding and that it is by no means too late for this to occur. I think that if we are indeed to move in this direction, there must be real understanding of each participant's views and some restraint in characterizing the positions of others. Perhaps in the interest of harmony at our meetings, I have not been sufficiently forceful in stating the NFB's positions (although a lack of forcefulness is not something of which I have often been accused) and thus have contributed to a misunderstanding. Be this as it may, misunderstandings certainly do exist and must be resolved.
I have discussed these matters with Steve Benson, President of the NFB of Illinois, during the past several days; and we have agreed that another forum may be the best approach for resolving such differences. He has agreed to contact you with a proposal for such a forum for discussion. I am sure that such discussions can put things back on track and that we can once again move toward finding areas of concurrence leading to an agreed Braille bill.
cc: Steve Benson
There you have the letter to Jean Osterby, and on the same day Mr. Grunwald wrote to Dr. Tuck Tinsley, President of the American Printing House for the Blind. Here is that letter:
February 24, 1992
Dr. Tuck Tinsley
American Printing House for the Blind
Dear Dr. Tinsley:
The National Federation of the Blind of Illinois (NFBI) has been actively pursuing the enactment of legislation in Illinois which would improve the quality and availability of Braille instruction to blind students throughout the state. We have used the Texas Braille bill (with which you are doubtless familiar) as a model, secured a sponsor, and arranged its introduction into the State Senate.
During the course of discussion regarding the bill, some representatives of the education community raised the subject of the American Printing House's proposed role as a clearinghouse for computerized data from which Braille copies of textbooks may be produced. There is certainly merit in the notion of a central clearinghouse. Potentially a great deal of duplication of effort might be avoided. Yet there is much that remains unknown regarding the ultimate potential and the current status of your efforts in this regard. Therefore, it would be most helpful if you would review for us your goals and objectives for this proposal in general and its current status. Additionally, would you please respond to these specific concerns:
1. With which publishers have you currently reached agreements regarding your clearinghouse proposal? What steps are you taking to increase the number of publishers who will participate?
2. What is the nature of your agreements with publishers? What carrots and sticks are there to encourage their participation and their compliance with the agreements?
3. Illinois does not have state-adopted textbooks. In fact, each school district is free to choose the most obscure titles for reasons of true merit, politics, whim, etc. How can Illinoisans be assured that all of the textbooks in use will be available through your proposed clearinghouse?
4. What technical standards will be in use for your proposal? What mechanism exists to develop these standards?
5. What charges or fees do you anticipate for the services of your proposed clearinghouse? What statements, agreements, or contracts will exist between APH and the recipients of its clearinghouse services?
We are confident that legislation such as we have introduced would have an important and beneficial effect on blind students in Illinois. Your information may well help avoid some unnecessary controversy and thus assist the process in moving forward. Therefore, I thank you in advance for whatever assistance you may be able to provide, and I look forward to your response.
cc: Steve Benson, Marc Maurer, Kenneth Jernigan
That was Pete Grunwald's letter to the head of the American Printing House for the Blind, and on March 23, he received a response from David Bice, APH's Publisher Liaison. Here it is:
Dear Mr. Grunwald:
Dr. Tuck Tinsley, President of the American Printing House for the Blind, has given your letter of February 24, 1992, to me for responses to your questions concerning the American Printing House for the Blind's role as a clearinghouse for permissions and electronic data from publishers. I have enclosed a copy of the proposed agreement between the American Printing House for the Blind, Recording for the Blind, and publishers. This, in addition to answers to your specific questions, should help clarify what is occurring with this issue.
I believe you need a brief history of our efforts in providing a national depository for permissions and electronic data. This past July the National Association of State Textbook Administrators, to which Illinois sends a representative, endorsed our proposal for a central depository. This endorsement included a recommendation to the major textbook companies to help implement such an agreement.
In August two presidents of major textbook companies and two state textbook administrators came to Louisville to serve as an advisory board for implementing the recommendation from the July meeting. The following October Dr. Tinsley and I appeared before the Board of Directors of the School Division of the Association of American Publishers in New York to explain our proposal, the enclosed document, to these eight presidents of textbook companies. Recording for the Blind officials then appeared before the group in November to confirm our cooperative approach.
The AAP Board in December, 1991, voted to endorse the proposal. Don Eklund, Executive Vice-President of the School Division of AAP, and Buzz Ellis, Chairman of the Board, then announced the endorsement to the over 300 textbook publishers present at the School Division of AAP Annual Meeting in Boston in January, 1992.
Dr. Tinsley and Ritchie Geisel, President of Recording for the Blind, then sent a joint letter to the presidents of every major textbook producer in the United States. This letter was mailed the second week of February. This leads to the point of answering your questions.
1. One major company signed the agreement on March 7, 1992. We know of four others that are close to signing the agreement. We are in contact with publishers on a continual basis by telephone, mail, and in person. On Monday, March 16, I met with three presidents and Don Eklund in Chicago to continue our discussions.
2. The nature of the agreement is in the enclosure. I have found that the majority of publishers, especially the presidents, are eager to see this type of agreement work. The stick I have used is the right of visually impaired students to be treated equally with sighted students. The carrots are giving the publishers the right to list in other catalogs the availability of Braille textbooks and relieving them of the vast amount of paperwork in releasing permissions.
3. We are well aware that twenty-seven states do not have state adoptions and have particular problems in supplying textbooks. Despite the right to choose the most obscure textbooks, most school districts use books produced by major publishers. These publishers supply more than 90 percent of the textbooks nationwide. Smaller publishers will remain a problem for at least two more years. We cannot guarantee every textbook, but by establishing a national clearinghouse, we can help you come closer to reaching that goal.
4. The simple acquisition of ASCII computer files is not the total answer to placing Braille textbooks in the classrooms. It is one step. The files are not necessarily complete, nor are they in order. We are presently working with publishers, the Texas Braille Commission, and computer groups to organize standards for receiving ASCII files. We have sent two representatives to the C- Sun Conferences on Computer Standards to discuss your very concerns.
5. At this time we envision two levels of dispensing ASCII files to states. First will be the files as we obtain them. These files will be transmitted to state agencies without cost. We will be the depository for publishers to relieve them and you of requests from across the country for the materials. Permissions will be done electronically and be instantaneous. Second, will be edited ASCII. If we edit and organize the files, we will pass those actual costs to the states and agencies. We have not yet addressed the issue of a contract or agreement with states though I can assure you any statement will be made in the interest of the students.
I hope the above is helpful to you in serving the needs of visually impaired students in Illinois. Please telephone or write me if you need further clarification or answers to other questions.
David A. Bice
cc: Dr. Tuck Tinsley
There is much to be said for having one or two organizations take initiative for creating and administering the kind of clearinghouse for text material ready for conversion to Braille, large-print, or computer disc texts for blind students. It is a mammoth task, fraught with many complex technical and legal difficulties. If the American Printing House and Recording for the Blind are prepared to work collegially to create the clearing house and supervise its activities in a way that will make materials quickly and relatively inexpensively available to blind students and their teachers, more power to them.
However, such a program should not be written into state law, particularly before the clearinghouse is in a position to provide accessible text materials to those who need them. Moreover, the time might come when the APH clearinghouse was closed or became unduly expensive or cumbersome to use. It would be far better for state education personnel to be left free to negotiate the best means by which to procure text books in alternative media.
The American Printing House for the Blind and Recording for the Blind are to be commended for their energetic efforts to work with publishers to solve the technical problems associated with providing accessible disc copies of text books for use by blind students. This said, however, it continues to be important for the organized blind movement to remain vigilant in order to insure that everyone continues to act in the best interest of blind students. That is what the members of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois are doing.
[PHOTO: Mary Ellen Halverson seated at table. CAPTION: Mary Ellen Halverson.]
[PHOTO: Betty Sabin standing at podium. CAPTION: Betty Sabin.]
REFLECTIONS FROM IDAHO: THE ROLE OF BRAILLE LITERACY
From the Associate Editor: Members of the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho are preparing to have a Braille bill introduced in the state's legislature. As part of that preparation, the affiliate devoted the Fall, 1991, edition of its publication, Gem State Milestones to the subject of Braille literacy. The following comments have been excerpted from several articles appearing in that issue of the newsletter. They demonstrate how important Braille literacy has always been, continues to be, and will be in the years ahead, despite the technological innovations that some maintain have made Braille obsolete. Mary Ellen Halverson is the Editor of the Gem State Milestones. Betty Sabin is the second vice-president of the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho, and Suzie Hanks is the well-informed mother of a blind child. Here is what they have to say:
Braille--A Well Kept Secret
by Mary Ellen Halverson
By the time I was in junior high, I was legally blind, and my parents were reading most of my assignments to me. I took notes in my classes during junior and senior high and then struggled to read them in the evenings. I dreaded quizzes and tests for two reasons: first, I might not be able to read the sometimes light print, and second, I was very embarrassed because I had to read and write with the material two or three inches from my face. During those years not one school official, not one teacher, not even a sight saving teacher ever suggested that I learn Braille. In fact, the resource teacher told me that I was fortunate that I could still read large print and did not have to learn Braille like a totally blind boy she knew. I am sure that, by the time we were in high school, that young man was reading far more efficiently and confidently than I was. I'm so glad that today schools are awakening to the needs of blind children.
Should My Children Learn Braille?
by Betty Sabin
The school says that my children can read print and should do so as long as possible. The teacher says about the same thing. She adds that they can always use cassettes when reading becomes too difficult. They both say that it would be too hard for my girls to learn Braille and print at the same time. Some say that every child has the right to be introduced to Braille. Some say that using talking devices is helpful but does not contribute to functional literacy. I'm confused!
Here are my thoughts as a blind parent of two daughters, who are blind. A student who is just learning the skills of spelling and grammar is at a disadvantage when using spoken formats. Therefore, writing well becomes difficult at best. A student who reads print slowly and with a lot of strain is not able to comprehend as much as one who reads Braille comfortably at a normal speed. As children reach the higher grades and their increased reading requirements, assignments become more difficult for visually impaired print readers even when they have reading aids available. My daughters, who did not learn Braille, have found this to be true. They were able to keep up with their classmates in the early grades, but in high school it was taking all day to complete reading assignments. They could read for short periods only without getting headaches. If they had known Braille, they would have been able to read assignments in about the same amount of time as their classmates. If Braille is presented with a positive attitude, it is not any more difficult to master than other skills children learn. I believe that children with useable residual sight should be taught to read both print and Braille. They can then choose which skill is most efficient for the task at hand.
Deciding whether to write print or Braille presents a similar problem. A legally blind person who writes print only may not be able to write fast enough to take notes in class or may not be able to read them back later. Adequate Braille skills eliminate this problem.
Katie Goes to First Grade
by Suzie Hanks
We moved to Idaho three years ago when Katie was three. We were concerned about her receiving an adequate program.
In Minnesota Katie had a twice-weekly visit from her teacher for the visually impaired, a twice-weekly visit from her mobility and orientation instructor, and once-a-week visits from an occupational therapist and an infant stimulation specialist. These services were provided through our local school district.
In Idaho we quickly realized that the three- to five-year- old program in the public schools was just starting and we had to be innovative and creative. We enrolled Katie in the Child Development Center and asked the School for the Deaf and Blind to provide consultation services. The Boise school district agreed to provide orientation and mobility instruction as well as consultation with the staff.
Creativity and flexibility have been the key to Katie's program ever since. She is now in first grade at Liberty Elementary School, and we have been pleased with her program.
Katie attends regular classes except for her Braille lessons, which are held in a resource room. The school district provides the services of an instructor for the visually impaired for an average of ninety minutes a day, who also gives weekly mobility lessons. Three teacher's aides are starting Braille lessons so they can help adapt material and teach Katie.
Though Katie does not read Braille at this time, her school books are Brailled, and the classroom aide adapts and Brailles handouts and art projects. Katie's classmates have an opportunity to be introduced to Braille.
We think of Katie's teachers, the administration, and ourselves as a team. We work fairly well together because we share a vision of Katie's future--one of independence. We may disagree on how much emphasis one part of her school program should receive or when certain skills should be introduced, but the team shares the common goal of helping Katie become an independent, happy adult. This allows us to treat each other's ideas and feelings with respect and allows for compromise. We believe that Katie's blindness should not limit her future. Her school program, like those of all other students, should help her reach her full potential.
I believe the following ideas help when dealing with school districts:
1) Be sure you and the school personnel see the same future for your child.
2) Prioritize those skills you want your child to achieve.
3) Prioritize services you wish the school to provide.
4) Focus on those at the top of the list; this is a long- term relationship. Don't battle over the trivial.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Barbara Pierce.]
DIRTY TRICKS AND PRESSURE TACTICS IN OHIO
by Barbara Pierce
It was Dr. Samuel Johnson who remarked, "Depend upon it, Sir. When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully." Institutionally speaking, NAC (the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped) has, during the year that has elapsed since nearly half its members voted to dissolve it in order to avoid bankruptcy, been enjoying all the advantages of that concentrated mind, to which Dr. Johnson referred. First, drastic budget cutbacks that alone could stop the organization's financial hemorrhage had to be devised and immediately implemented. The moment that task seemed to be in hand, it was time to prepare for NAC's petition to the U.S. Department of Education for evaluation by the National Advisory Committee on Accreditation and Institutional Eligibility. (See the April, 1992, issue of the Braille Monitor.) At this writing, in early May, the Secretary of Education has not yet ruled on that petition--but at best NAC has won itself only two years of continued Department of Education recognition under extremely close fiscal and programmatic supervision.
No sooner had NAC officials survived that close call--if, indeed, it has been survived--when they learned that the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission (RSC) had voted unanimously to remove NAC's name from its list of approved accrediting bodies. (See the March, 1992, issue of the Braille Monitor.) This was a danger with implications even more immediately disastrous than the threat that the Department of Education would drop NAC since no agencies maintain their NAC accreditation solely because of the Department of Education list; whereas, with NAC off the Ohio list several agencies would have had to seek other accreditation if they wished to continue doing business with the state rehabilitation agency. The Ohio threat was very real. If NAC could do anything to save the situation, it must be tried. NAC's first effort failed miserably. (See the April, 1992, issue of the Braille Monitor.) The joint legislative committee with jurisdiction over administrative rule-making in Ohio state government refused to instruct the Rehabilitation Services Commission that it could not remove NAC from the agency's list of accrediting bodies.
With that avenue closed, NAC's only chance for reversal of the RSC decision was appealing to the Commission itself at its April meeting, during which the seven-member body was scheduled to rubber-stamp its February decision. NAC and its cadre of well- wishers set to work. Chief among these was the Director of the Vision Center of Central Ohio, Richard Oestreich, who lobbied hard within the ranks of the Ohio Association of Rehabilitation Facilities (OARF) and the board members of the Ohio chapter of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation for the Blind and Visually Impaired (OAER). It should be noted, incidentally, that the board of the Ohio AER chapter is largely composed of staff members and associates of the few NAC-accredited agencies in the state. Oestreich urged the people he lobbied to write letters to the Commissioners asking them to reverse their February 18 action and restore NAC to the Ohio list of approved accrediting bodies.
Sources close to the situation report that Mr. Oestreich's request that the rehabilitation facilities group pass a resolution instructing its president to write a letter to the Commissioners, communicating its opposition to the Commission's removal of NAC from the list, took place at OARF's March meeting with no opportunity for RSC staff members to state their case for having recommended the removal of NAC. I later talked with an OARF member who had voted for the Oestreich resolution. By the time of his conversation with me, he had had a chance to listen to the case made by RSC staff members, and his comment was to the effect that the Association had clearly acted without hearing all the facts. When he heard from staff the depth and extent of their research into and concern about NAC's questionable ability to provide objective accreditations, along with its shaky financial viability, he was dismayed and shocked. He inquired with what struck me as somewhat naive incredulity, "Why didn't we hear any of this information from the staff?" The staff wasn't invited to present its side of the question because that would not have suited Mr. Oestreich's purpose, and under the influence of his collegial arm-twisting and political pressure, the pro-NAC vote passed overwhelmingly--and the letters to the Commissioners materialized.
Phone calls also came in. The National Federation of the Blind of Ohio had decided not to discuss the issue with the seven Commissioners until the day of the Commission meeting. We did provide our written testimony, including a copy in Braille for the one member of the Commission who is blind, but beyond that we chose to refrain from lobbying the Commissioners. We knew that the RSC staff understood the problems with NAC about as well as blind consumers did, and besides, the Commission had already unanimously made the decision to remove NAC from its list. The April 21 vote was supposed to be a formality only. But Dr. William Weiner (Chairman of the Department of Blind Rehabilitation, Western Michigan University, and President of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, one of NAC's Sponsoring Members) contacted the only academic on the Commission and, as she later explained to her Commission colleagues, assured her that NAC's financial problems were behind it and that it was going to be able to do good work in the future. That was all she needed. Never mind that Dr. Weiner's objectivity was compromised by his organization's long-standing endorsement of NAC and that her own agency staff had independently come to the opposite conclusion; she was ready- -even eager--to hop onto the NAC bandwagon.
The most interesting and distressing phone calls of all, however, were made to the blind member of the Commission. He served at one point on the Board of Trustees of Richard Oestreich's agency and, though professing to be open-minded on the NAC issue, had obviously been the only Commissioner with reservations about the panel's February 18 decision. During the commission meeting on April 21 he told his colleagues the following unsubstantiated story. He said that about ten days earlier he had received a phone call from a man who would identify himself only as "Tom from the NFB." There are three members of the Ohio affiliate whose first names are Tom. Two are hard-working members of their local chapters with very little knowledge of or interest in matters beyond the local scene. The third is Tom Anderson, Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio and an outspoken advocate for a number of causes, one of which is the NFB. Tom is well known in legislative circles, and everyone who knows him recognizes that he would not hesitate to pick up the phone and contact agovernmental official if he thought a conversation would benefit those whom he was trying to assist. According to the Commissioner, Tom from the NFB told him that he had better vote to keep NAC off the Ohio list of accrediting bodies or he would be sorry. He said that his caller assured him that the NFB was very powerful, and Mr. Jernigan could have him removed from the Commission when the time came for reappointment. The conversation lasted for about ten minutes, he said, and was filled withvariations on this theme.
The entire conversation so incensed the commissioner, he said, that he wanted his colleagues to know that in the future he would never vote in favor of any issue if the NFB supported it. In this instance, however, Tom (Tom Anderson, that is--and there could be no other) declared earnestly that he had not made any such call. He prepared an affidavit following the Commission meeting in order to go on record as denying that he had engaged in such an unscrupulous and heavy-handed action. Here it is:
Affidavit of Thomas Anderson
I, Thomas Anderson, being first duly sworn, depose and state as follows:
(1) My name is Thomas Anderson. My address is 64 E. Judson Ave., Youngstown, Ohio 44507. I am the Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio.
(2) On April 21, 1992, I was present at the monthly meeting of the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission, held at Crosswood Center. I heard Commissioner Eric Parks describe a telephone call which he had received ten days before. The caller, who identified himself only as "Tom from the NFB," threatened Mr. Parks with reprisals unless he voted to give final approval to the administrative rule which, among other things, would have removed the National Accreditation Council from the list of approved accrediting bodies for agencies contracting with the RSC.
(3) I have known since late February of the unanimous February 18 vote of the Commission to remove NAC from its list, and until April 21 I had no reason to doubt that a majority of the members of the Commission would vote to affirm its action of two months before.
(4) I learned with interest, but no surprise, of the decision of the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review on March 10. Despite the testimony of the NAC supporters, I considered that the Commission's original decision would stand.
(5) At the April 4 meeting of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio, Barbara Pierce, President of the organization, briefly reported that some efforts were being made to muster support for reversing the Commission's action of February 18. She urged interested members to attend the April 21 RSC meeting to demonstrate consumer support for the revised administrative rule. I did not know of Richard Oestreich's solicitation of OARF and OAER letters of support for NAC until I was told about them on April 21.
(6) I have not at any time discussed the administrative rule on agency accreditation with any of the Commissioners in person or on the telephone. I have never spoken with Mr. Parks on the telephone.
(7) Attached to this affidavit is a copy of my personal telephone bill covering the period during which Mr. Parks reports that someone identified as Tom called him. It clearly shows that no call was made to (614) 268-4003, which is the number Mr. Parks gave as his listing to members of the Consumer Advisory Council at its March meeting. Barbara Pierce, a member of that council, has supplied me with this number for purposes of this statement.
I, Mary Catherine Sanders, a Notary Public in and for the State of Ohio, certify that Thomas Anderson, personally known or satisfactorily proved to me to be the same, personally appeared before me and took oath in due form of law that the statements made in the foregoing affidavit are true and correct this 30th, day of April, 1992.
There you have the text of Tom Anderson's affidavit, and the telephone bill attached indicated that he had made no long distance calls at all during the billing period. During the days following this alleged call by "Tom from the NFB," the Commissioner reported that he received four or five more calls from men and women refusing to identify themselves except to say that they were members of the Federation. He said that they, too, threatened him with loss of his Commission seat if he did not vote to oppose NAC.
Members of the National Federation of the Blind knew nothing of all this telephone activity prior to hearing it described at the April 21 Commission meeting. The Commissioner certainly made no effort to contact anyone in the Federation in order to ascertain whether Federationists were responsible for the calls. But knowing that NAC would undoubtedly send a spokesperson from out-of-state, we asked James Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs for the National Federation of the Blind, to join us at the April 21 meeting to present testimony. We also encouraged blind consumers from across the state to attend the open Commission meeting to make certain that the Commissioners understood how important this issue was to blind Ohioans.
From the beginning of the meeting it was clear that the Commissioners were nervous, though we could not understand why they should be upset. There were somewhat more than thirty Federationists in the meeting room, but we had filed in quietly and were conducting ourselves with decorum.
The Commission chairwoman began by lecturing the audience about proper behavior and warning us that anyone who misbehaved would be escorted from the room immediately. If I had not known where I was, I would have concluded that I was in a junior high school assembly or at a NAC annual meeting as one of a room full of NFB observers listening to jittery NAC officials.
When the chairwoman asked who wished to speak during the Commission's consideration of the NAC agenda item, seven people raised their hands: Ruth Westman, now Executive Director of the National Accreditation Council; Paul Schroeder, Director of Governmental Affairs for the American Council of the Blind; Ken Morelock, Executive Director of the ACB of Ohio; Hank Baud, Executive Director of the Cincinnati Association for the Blind (CAB); James Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs for the National Federation of the Blind; Phillip Copeland, Member of the Board of Trustees of the Center for the Visually Impaired, Elyria, Ohio; and Barbara Pierce, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio. The chairwoman proposed to call the speakers in the order listed and give each no more than five minutes. Ms. Westman asked if she could divide her time in half so that at the close she could refute any arguments made by the Federation. This modification was agreed to by the Commission, and the comments began.
Ms. Westman did not choose to make any statement but instead asked if there were questions from the Commission. It was obvious that there were not, but with a little help from the Commission, Ms. Westman managed to occupy the two and a half minutes. After working into his introduction the claim that the ACB was the largest consumer organization of blind people, Paul Schroeder next read a statement in praise of the general concept of accreditation for agencies in the blindness field. Ken Morelock, Volunteer Executive Director of the ACB of Ohio, was then led to the table, where he apologized for his Braille skills. He had clearly been assigned the job of bashing the NFB. He began by saying that he understood that the April issue of the Braille Monitor had described him as the "Pining Executive Director of the ACB of Ohio." Since the word used to describe him had been "volunteer," his comment made very little sense, and that characterization could appropriately be made of his entire statement.
Hank Baud, the new Executive Director of the Cincinnati Association for the Blind, told the Commission that he had brought along his agency's most recent NAC self-study, which he described as being three inches thick. The burden of his comment was that an agency that takes the NAC self-study process seriously can get a valuable result by working hard. Since the most recent CAB reaccreditation was done before Mr. Baud's predecessor left the agency, he himself had by coincidence headed the on-site review team that assessed the Cincinnati Association. He assured the Commissioners that the entire process had been undertaken with great seriousness and dedication to improving service delivery. Baud said nothing at all about the value of NAC accreditation. In fact, he was at some pains to stress that he was speaking of the self-study process only.
Through all of this testimony the Commissioners sat listening attentively and respectfully. As the presentation shifted into Federation hands, however, several of the panel began indulging in behavior that discomfited a number of people in the room who could see them, including several seated at the head table. As James Gashel reviewed some of the more troubling aspects of NAC's fiscal and programmatic plight and Phil Copeland reported on the increase in his agency's business with the state agency in the years since it disassociated itself from NAC, the Commissioners remained relatively polite, indulging in only a little whispering.
When I rose to speak, however, the atmosphere altered. I wanted Commission members to understand that blind consumers felt deeply about this issue. They had no way of knowing how many of the people in the room were there because of their concern about NAC and the damage it is doing to blind people. I therefore asked those who were present in support of the Commission's February 18 decision to stand for a moment. As I began to make this request, the Commissioner who was about to report his fury at receiving phone calls supposedly from members of the Federation began violently shaking his head and making hand gestures to the chairwoman indicating that she should stop this demonstration of support. In response to his plea, she told me that our action was not necessary. I insisted gently that people had come from across the state and that the Commission should know who they were and how they felt. As soon as the group was standing, she immediately told them to be seated again. Her tone was filled with anxiety and annoyance. At one point during my remarks she indulged herself in a spate of eye-rolling until she noticed that several members of our group were watching her performance with attention and surprise. After that she contented herself with trying to catch the eye of the Administrator of the Rehabilitation Services Commission in order to exchange comradely grimaces, but he refused to participate in the game.
When the Commission members began discussing the issue among themselves and listening to their own staff members, several continued to display what can only be called rudeness. Whispered conversations were conducted with such obviousness that the one member of the Commission who continued to have misgivings about NAC's fiscal viability actually paused in making his statement of concern in what seemed to be momentary astonishment at his colleagues' lack of attention. Throughout all this restiveness and inattention to discussion of the issue under consideration, the chairwoman made no effort to curb her colleagues or even to refrain from muttered conversations herself. The audience--the same group whom she had lectured about proper behavior and threatened with removal from the room--comported themselves with courtesy and listened in silence, despite the growing impression that they were, as Linus used to say in the "Peanuts" comic strip, "living in a stacked deck."
The dissenting Commissioner continued to insist that there was no indication that NAC can survive financially and that, if it is not viable, it can't possibly provide meaningful accreditation. No one contradicted his arguments, but it was clear that a majority of the Commissioners had no interest in looking objectively at the evidence or listening to RSC staff members, who continued to recommend that NAC be removed from the list.
But what was the turning point and what is the justification for the charge of dirty tricks? I do not doubt that the blind commissioner received the phone calls he said he received--but I am certain that they did not come from anybody connected with the Federation. Why? In the first place Federationists have enough sense to know that such tactics would backfire. As the commissioners reflect on the matter, they will realize this too. The will know that, as the saying goes, they have been had, and they will doubtless not appreciate it.
In the second place the telephone call hoax is exactly the kind of shabby conduct one would expect from NAC supporters. Some may call it political savvy, but the more astute will call it dirty tricks and lack of integrity. Some may call it "professionalism" (witness the behavior of Mr. Oestreich and Dr. Wiener, national president of AER), but there are more suitable names for such pressure tactics. Despite NAC's apparent last- minute escape in Ohio, it did not really escape at all. The noose grows tighter every day. The telephone call charade is simply another nail in the NAC coffin, another reason why more of NAC's few remaining agencies will continue to depart from it in increasing numbers. Everyone (including NAC itself) knows that NAC is dying. The only question is how long it will take and how much damage will be done to the blind and the blindness system before the obscenity comes to an end.
But back to the April 21 meeting: The NAC victory in Ohio was provisional at best. It only brought the organization back in a weakened condition to where it was before February. Furthermore, NAC had to spend a considerable amount of its dwindling treasury of human and monetary resources to arrive at that point. The war of attrition (a war that NAC knows it cannot win) will continue. As proof of this thesis, the Ohio commissioners agreed that they would look at the situation again in no more than two years and sooner if new financial information comes to light. The meeting recessed for lunch, and Federationists filed out to regroup for the next confrontation with NAC.
No one had offered evidence that NAC accreditation has any intrinsic value. No one provided proof that NAC's financial position is strong. We heard lots of rhetoric about the noble concept of accreditation and passionate assurance that NAC has turned the financial corner. But blind Ohioans are not convinced. We understand the ways in which NAC has compounded the damage done to blind people by bad agencies, and we are tired of shabby treatment and dirty tricks passed off as professionalism and integrity. We will continue to point out the absurdities of NAC's claims to stability and programmatic excellence, and we will do what we can to discourage Ohio agencies from throwing away their funds on NAC accreditation. Those who are about to die are not the only ones to master the discipline of a concentrated mind; those who are fighting for the right to live free and equal know how to focus their wits as well.
MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR REDEFINES BLINDNESS
by Kenneth Jernigan
During the last weekend in March of this year I attended the convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Mississippi, and it was a good one. The day before the convention started Sam Gleese, president of the NFB of Mississippi; E. U. Parker, first vice president of the affiliate; and I paid a visit to Royal Maid, a large sheltered workshop in Hazlehurst, Mississippi. We were courteously treated and impressed by the scope of the operation, but when we asked for financial data about the workshop (data which by federal law should have been available to us), we were politely refused. I don't know (and I am not suggesting) that Royal Maid has anything to hide, but I am saying that they should not be above the law. If, as is the case, the law requires that they make financial disclosures upon request, then they should do it--and the members of the NFB of Mississippi intend to see that they come up to the line. In the meantime they are subject to federal monetary penalties for their refusal to obey the law.
Speaking of the law, something else worthy of comment occurred while I was in Mississippi. State services for the blind is part of a larger department of rehabilitation, which has a nine-member policy board. Certain members of the board are named by statute, but the law provides that one of the nine must be visually impaired to represent the interests of the blind and visually impaired. It had been widely anticipated that the governor would appoint Carter Gable, a blind man from Jackson, but during the weekend of our convention the office of the governor announced that a sighted woman (a former long-time employee of the state department of rehabilitation) was being given the position.
To say the least, the blind of the state felt betrayed. In fact, they were outraged. Regardless of the virtues, sterling character, or pleasant personality which this woman (one Mildred Farmer, somebody that very few people had ever heard of) might or might not possess, she cannot represent the interests of the blind. Of course, one could argue that since she wears glasses, she is visually impaired--but unless one is fond of bizarre jokes or short on mental capacity, such an argument is not likely to be taken seriously. Certainly the blind didn't take it seriously, and it is doubtful that the members of the legislature or the general public will either.
Nor did the press take it seriously. In a column in the April 9, 1992, Clarion Ledger, Deborah Mathis took the governor to task. Here is what she had to say:
Does Glasses Wearer Constitute "Visually Impaired" Board Nominee?
Since there is an expense of political currency attached to every gubernatorial appointment, there is usually some degree of competition and suspense among those who hope to win the chief executive's nod. It can get vicious sometimes, but that level of contentiousness is usually reserved for the plum positions--the most powerful, high-profile policy-making posts.
However, occasionally controversy seeps onto blander turf, as in the case of Governor Kirk Fordice's nomination to the state Board of Rehabilitation Services.
The governor has nominated Mildred Farmer, a Jackson businesswoman whose personal and professional histories are steeped in social and civic services: 25 years with what was then the Vocational Rehabilitation Division of the state Education Department; 10 years with the Veteran's Administration; involvement in programs for the disabled and in a project to help former mental patients make the transition into mainstream living.
But it's not Farmer's reputation that's led some people to question the appropriateness of her appointment. Rather, it's that, as a member of the board, Farmer would be expected to represent blind Mississippians, and she, herself, is not one of them.
It may sound nitpicky and hypersensitive, but know this: However trivial the point may seem, it's the law.
The 1991 state statute establishing the board says one seat is reserved for a person who is visually impaired or the parent of such a person. Farmer has been nominated to replace a woman who fit that description.
So, this is where it gets sloppy.
To both the Mississippi chapter of the National Federation of the Blind and the Mississippi Council of the Blind, "visually impaired" is taken to mean "blind." Surely, says Council President Bonnie Thompson, that was the legislative intent, the spirit of the law.
But the governor's office has leaped on a technicality to defend the appointment: Farmer is visually impaired; she's nearsighted and wears glasses.
Sam Gleese, the NFB president in Jackson, laughs at that. Not because he finds it funny, but because he finds it absurd. "Mrs. Farmer is not a representative spokesperson for the blind constituency," said Gleese. "She has not had the experiences that the blind community has had. And although she has worked for rehabilitation (services) in the past, we worry that she would look at it from a bureaucratic standpoint rather than from a consumer's point of view."
Although likewise concerned, Thompson is willing to give the nomination a chance.
"From all we can gather, (Farmer) is certainly a fine person," Thompson said. "She does seem to be very community- minded."
Indeed she does. Besides, it's not as though she has no familiarity with blindness. According to Farmer, her late husband had serious visual problems and her aged mother does now. She has, as she says, "been closely associated with the severely visually impaired."
But, again, that's not the basis of the dispute. What's left unresolved--what, perhaps will remain that way--is whether the lawmakers really meant "visually impaired" (which Farmer technically is) or whether they meant "blind" and were just trying to be politically correct.
I'd put my money on the latter scenario.
Surely the drafters meant for the position to go to a blind person--an unsighted person. Surely the governor's office knows that. Surely most people can understand why the two organizations that represent the blind are offended that, once again, it appears they're being "looked after" by someone.
And surely Mrs. Farmer, for all her good heart, knows wearing glasses is as poor a passport to qualifying as would be a Coppertone tan if the job called for a "person of color."
But in all probability Mildred Farmer will be seated on the Vocational Rehabilitation Board and, given her reputation, I would expect she would serve well.
Yet, potent doubts remain: Can she really know what a blind person experiences? Isn't the best advocate for any group a person who can not only sympathize but empathize?
And, is the case made when the governor and the nominee can't understand why the blind community is so upset about this?
This is what the column in the Clarion Ledger says, and it doesn't take a lot of smarts to see that we are dealing with a flim-flam, the same kind which the blind have often faced in the past. However, there is a new element in the equation in Mississippi. We have a dynamic, savvy group of leaders in the NFB and a growing affiliate. Blacks and whites are working together as colleagues and brothers and sisters, so nobody can divide us by introducing the race question. E. U. Parker, state first vice president, knows his way around state political circles and has connections second to none. Sam Gleese, the state president, is energetic, willing to work, and determined. Add to this the street smarts possessed by the leadership, and this latest shenanigan by the governor is likely to strengthen the blind instead of doing major harm.
At the Saturday session of the state convention the head of the rehabilitation department (John Cook) made a presentation. When he was asked whether the fact that Mildred Farmer had been appointed had anything to do with her former employment at the rehabilitation department and whether he had used influence to get the job done, he blew his cool. He made a few snippy remarks and left the room before anybody could respond. When someone went out into the hall and asked him to come back, he said he didn't have time because he had to go make another speech. It didn't help his image, and it didn't add to his credibility even if every word he said was true. The coincidence was too fortuitous-- besides which surely two or three more minutes wouldn't have mattered. Moreover, the recordings of the convention will show that the comments made to Mr. Cook were courteous and that he was treated with respect.
The NFB of Mississippi is, indeed, on the move. Sam Gleese was re-elected president, and the future looks bright for the blind of the state.
[PHOTO: Pickup truck decorated as a leprechaun for the St. Patrick's Day parade in Denver. CAPTION: The completed leprechaun float created by members of the National Federation of the Blind of Denver and the students at the Colorado Center for the Blind is pictured here immediately before the 1992 St. Patrick's Day Parade in Denver, Colorado.]
THE FEDERATION ON PARADE
by Kimberley McCutcheon
From the Associate Editor: Kimberley McCutcheon is a member of the staff at the Colorado Center for the Blind and an enthusiastic Federationist. Here is her description of the CCB adult rehabilitation program's preparation for and participation in the 1992 St. Patrick's Day parade in Denver:
It started as a tiny germ of an idea in the depths of a Colorado winter. Of course the CCB had taken part in last year's St. Patrick's Day parade, amidst drizzling rain and unflagging enthusiasm. Could we make a float this year? Last year we marched proudly, canes and dog harnesses gaily decorated with the green and white of St. Pat's; but what about making a float this year? Last year we all felt a thrill of pride as we marched past the crowds of delighted parade observers who clapped and cheered for our spirit and determination; but what about making a float this year?
As the snow piled higher on the sidewalks and streets, the idea blossomed and came closer to fruition. Trina Boyd, the Colorado Center for the Blind's travel teacher, began marshalling her troops by contacting the NFB's Denver chapter president Julie Deeden, who issued the first challenge at January's Denver chapter meeting. From that point on, there was no doubt that the National Federation of the Blind would be in the parade, and we would build a float!
The design for the float was a leprechaun lying on his stomach. His body was a pickup truck, and his arms were wrapped around the truck's hood. His hat was perched atop the cab, which had a face drawn on the windshield. Over the next four weeks we purchased fifty-eight feet of chicken wire and fashioned it into leprechaun arms, legs, and hat. Denver chapter members and Colorado Center staff and students stuffed over 15,000 paper napkins into the holes in the chicken wire legs, arms, and hat of our leprechaun friend.
To me, the most meaningful part of the parade, the float, and the entire adventure was the many, many hours spent laboring together in camaraderie and lively exchange of ideas during the time-consuming task of stuffing our leprechaun, made pleasant by familiarity and renewed friendships with fellow Federationists.
The day of the parade dawned bright and clear, a perfect spring day--truly a day in which a pickup truck could be transformed into a leprechaun of unique character. At 7:30 a.m. the transformation began as a hardy crew of volunteers, flourishing cans of spray paint and flexing strong muscles, hoisted our green friend, frame and all, onto the truck. After driving slowly to downtown Denver, the team reassembled to put the final flourishes on our float. As the time reached 10:00 a.m., the rest of our company began to gather. We waited our turn to enter the parade and laughed amiably as the children passing our float asked their parents what our exhibit was.
At noon, as our green-clad assembly got underway and as cheers and applause rose spontaneously from the people-lined streets, it seemed to me that all our labors had birthed this marvelous day, on which we of the NFB could march proudly, side by side, united in purpose. We tipped and waved our green derbies in appreciation for the shouted messages of encouragement: "Glad you're here!" and "Way to go!" Yet my thoughts kept returning to those evenings and weekends when, blind and sighted alike, we Federationists gathered together to work with steady purpose and sure goal, inch by inch fashioning more than a float, creating a symbol to remind us that anything we put our minds to can be accomplished if we work together!
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: Donald Curran, Associate Librarian for Constituent Services at the Library of Congress, presents a twenty-five-year pin to Thomas Bickford.]
FEDERATIONIST HONORED BY LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
From the Associate Editor: In the early seventies, when I joined the National Federation of the Blind, the banquet recordings to which I listened with rapt attention all featured Federation songs sung with much enthusiasm by the throngs of conventioneers. The singing was always led by Tom Bickford, who had a wonderful voice and an encyclopedic knowledge of the words. I later learned that Tom, who was a semi-professional musician, was very active in the late sixties in conducting the contest to choose a Federation song. In fact, President Maurer recalls that at the 1969 convention in Columbia, South Carolina, Tom Bickford and his tape recorder were to be found everywhere, Tom inviting people to listen to the contest entrants in preparation for voting.
In those years Tom Bickford had been an employee of the Library of Congress for only a few years. Now he has completed twenty-five years of service. His actual title is Quality Assurance Specialist, Recorded Products. The following article appeared this spring in the L.C. Journal, the publication of the Library of Congress. It was written by one of the staff writers of the National Library Service. Here is the article as it appeared:
Tom Bickford Marks Twenty-Fifth Anniversary
Tom Bickford commemorates twenty-five years of federal service in February, all but a few months of it spent with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Working in the Quality Assurance Section of NLS, Bickford's major responsibility is the final review of talking- book master tapes just before circulation copies are produced.
At the time of this interview, Bickford had tapes of two books cued up on the open-reel machines he uses simultaneously, tacking from one to the other, listening sometimes at high speeds--the equivalent of 350 words per minute in print. One of the books was Mark Helprin's novel, A Soldier of the Great War, read by Ed Blake, a narrator Bickford knows and admires. "He lived in ten different countries," Bickford comments, "and he knows his Romance languages well. Plus, he has a gift: he can fake languages."
Accuracy in the pronunciation of words and phrases in foreign languages and obsolete, exotic, technical, obscure, or regional English is essential, and Bickford will send books back for correction if necessary. He does abundant research in the course of his reading--checking, verifying, solving puzzles in what he calls "paleolinguistics" through the textual evidence of rhymes, errors, and etymologies. He is not averse to drawing upon the expertise of scholars at local universities.
Bickford respects the artistic integrity of individual narrators and appreciates stylistic individuality. Nevertheless, the performance of the narrator of the second book Bickford is reviewing is felt to be slightly substandard: she speaks erratically, clustering words in a manner disruptive to the flow of thought. Although he will not reject the completed book, Bickford will provide written criticism in the hope of improving future performance by this narrator.
Bickford's background in languages has been of inestimable value to him in this work. His main second language is Russian, which he has studied at the graduate level; he has also formally studied German, French, and Serbian. From the study of music he has gained a phonetic sense of Italian and Church Latin; from living on the West Coast he has developed a passable ear for Spanish; from having been born in China and spending the first seven years of his life there, he has a critical appreciation of the Chinese language--although his skills, he admits, are a bit rusty.
Bickford's parents were Presbyterian missionaries to China during the extraordinary time between the World Wars. His childhood was spent in and around Beijing, and he recalls Chinese as spoken by his Chinese amah--or nanny. Bickford's father spent part of the Second World War interned as a civilian prisoner.
Bickford received a B.A. from Occidental College in Los Angeles in 1956 and a master's (1961) from the University of Iowa, followed by an interlude of Russian studies at Georgetown. He enjoyed folk music during these days and performed semi- professionally, playing occasionally in the District's celebrated folk club, the Cellar Door. At the beginning of his federal employment, in February, 1967, Bickford worked for a short time with the Internal Revenue Service, then joined NLS.
Along with his family and his church, Bickford names the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) as an important influence in his life. He has been a member of the Federation for thirty- six years and has held a variety of offices in different parts of the country. He is currently treasurer of the Sligo Creek chapter in Maryland. Bickford takes pride in his role in effecting the passage in the early 1970s of Public Law 92-515, the so-called white cane law, of the District of Columbia. This important legislation provides for equal access by blind and physically disabled persons to public places, buildings, and conveyances and prohibits discrimination against blind and physically disabled persons in housing and employment.
Bickford relishes travel and has made trips to Mexico and Guatemala, Europe, and the quondam Soviet Union, in addition to having crossed the United States three times. Considerable travel is entailed in his attendance at state and national NFB meetings.
Bickford has written articles for the NFB publication the Braille Monitor--including a piece in which he shares a set of recipes for a German coffee cake--Kichen--"the second nicest thing my mother-in-law gave me." Until a shade tree lately overshadowed his garden, Bickford raised vegetables. He is currently pondering alternative horticultural strategies.
All of his formal studies and self-directed education have been useful to him in his work. "You are always learning in this job," Bickford says. "You have to be open to learning every day." Bickford, as the saying has it, wears his erudition lightly; but his erudition is real, and his love of knowledge is infectious.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Sondra Williams.]
[PHOTO: Jennifer Feingold (wearing sleep shades and using cane) prepares shishkebabs on a charcoal grill. CAPTION: Students at the Colorado Center for the Blind learn many cooking skills. Pictured here Jennifer Feingold, a Center student, tends shishkebabs on a charcoal grill.]
This month's recipes come from Colorado. The first four were submitted by Sondra Williams, President of the Royal Gorge chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado. The last three come from the Colorado Center for the Blind, where students learn, among other things, to become skilled and confident cooks. The several student favorites reprinted here and contributed by Kimberley McCutcheon, the CCB cooking teacher, demonstrate why cooking class at the Colorado Center is so popular.
by Sondra Williams
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups zucchini, peeled, seeded, and grated
1 cup (6 ounces) chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts, optional
Method: Combine sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla; beat until creamy. Stir in flour, salt, soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Add the zucchini and mix well. Pour into 9 x 13-inch well-greased and floured pan. Sprinkle top with 1 cup chocolate chips. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes.
by Sondra Williams
1 pound can salmon, drained, reserve liquid
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup soft bread crumbs
1/2 cup catsup
2 eggs, slightly beaten
Method: Drain salmon, adding enough water to liquid to equal 1/2 cup. Mix salmon, its liquid, and 3/4 cup of the undiluted soup with the remaining ingredients and spoon into greased custard cups or casserole dish. Bake approximately 35 minutes in 350 degree oven. Unmold onto platter (or leave in dish). Cover with a sauce made from the remaining soup diluted with milk and heated.
by Sondra Williams
2 cups brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 sticks margarine (1/2 pound)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
7 quarts popcorn, popped and unsalted
Method: In a sauce pan, mix all ingredients, except baking soda and popcorn, and bring to boil, stirring constantly until syrup reaches the hard-ball stage (about 5 minutes). This occurs when a small amount of the hot syrup dropped from a spoon into a cup of cold, clear water forms a hard ball. Remove pan from heat and stir in the soda. Immediately pour over popcorn in shallow pans. Bake in 200 degree oven for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Pour out onto table or counter, and separate when cool.
BAKED CHICKEN IN WINE SAUCE
by Sondra Williams
1 chicken, cut into pieces
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
salt, pepper, and paprika to taste
1/2 cup white wine
1 can cream of mushroom soup
Method: Place chicken in greased baking dish. Add the celery and onion. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and paprika. Mix wine with mushroom soup, and pour over chicken. Bake uncovered for approximately 1 hour at 350 degrees.
For variety, place 1 cup uncooked rice in bottom of pan. Add 2-1/4 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt. Carefully place chicken pieces on top. Add celery, onion, seasoning, and soup mixture. Cover with foil for about 45 minutes, then uncover for several minutes more in order to brown.
by Kimberly McCutcheon
Whenever students at the Colorado Center want to do something more challenging in the kitchen, this is one recipe I suggest. Besides, it is fabulous!
1 pound skinned, boned breast of chicken
1 egg white
1-1/2 tablespoons corn starch
1/8 cup hot green peppers, shredded
1/4 cup green onion, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 cups peanut oil
sprigs of fresh cilantro
Method: Partially freeze the chicken to facilitate slicing. Cut the chicken into lengthwise strips, as thin as possible. Beat the egg white lightly, then beat in the corn starch. Add the shredded chicken and stir to coat well. Let the coated chicken stand in the refrigerator five hours. In a bowl combine the hot green pepper, green onions, garlic, and chopped ginger. In another bowl combine the sherry, vinegar, sugar, and soy sauce. Stir to blend thoroughly. Have a wok filled with the oil and heat to medium. Just before serving, fluff up the chicken shreds with fingers, then add to a sieve or small wire basket. Lower into the oil and cook only until the chicken shreds turn white (they also become firm when touched lightly and quickly), about one minute or less. Do not brown. Lift the basket from the oil. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of oil from the wok and heat to high. Add the chicken and green onion mixture. Stir to blend, then add the sherry and vinegar mixture. Cook briefly, stirring rapidly and constantly, until the mixture is bubbling and thoroughly hot. Garnish with cilantro. Serves 2 to 6.
CHICKEN AND PASTA SALAD
by Regine Sediva
Regine is a student at the Colorado Center for the Blind and is graduating in May. This summer recipe is one of her family's favorites and now one of the Center's favorite main-dish salad recipes.
4 cups Rotelle pasta, uncooked
1 tablespoon oil
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves, crushed
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
6 cups chicken, cooked and cubed
1 1/2 cups cooked broccoli
3/4 cup chopped sweet red pepper (or substitute green pepper for half the red)
Method: Cook and drain pasta according to the package directions. Place in large bowl. Heat oil in small skillet. (I use olive oil.) Add curry powder. Cook, stirring until spice is fragrant, about 20 seconds. Transfer to small bowl. Add mayonnaise, salt, tarragon, and black pepper. Mix well. Add chicken, broccoli, and sweet red pepper to pasta. Stir in seasoned mayonnaise. Chill. Serves 4 to 6.
COPPER DOLLAR SALAD
by Wayne Miller
Wayne Miller is a long-time leader in the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado and was a student at the Colorado Center last year.
2 pounds carrots
1 bell pepper
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup vinegar
1 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup oil
1 can condensed cream of tomato soup
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
Method: Scrape and slice carrots thinly. Add to boiling water and cook 15 minutes. Drain water. Finely chop onion and pepper and add to carrots. Combine next 8 ingredients and bring to a boil. Pour over carrots, pepper, and onion. Mix well and refrigerate at least 12 hours. Makes about 12 servings.CCB BOOT CAMP BEEF STEW
When the students at the Colorado Center for the Blind cook a hearty meal for visitors to the Center, we need a large quantity by the time you count staff, students, and visitors. The following is a Center favorite.
6 tablespoons shortening
5 pounds sirloin steak, cubed
1/3 cup flour for dredging meat
3 medium onions, sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 quart hot water
a #10 can tomatoes (weighs about 6 1/2 pounds)
3 each chicken and beef bouillon cubes
1/2 cup flour
10 carrots, scraped and sliced
full bunch celery, diced
5 pounds potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced or whole
2 green peppers, sliced
1 1/2 cups red wine
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
Method: Melt shortening in large pot on medium high heat. Add meat coated with 3 tablespoons flour, a little at a time in order to brown evenly. Do not allow the pieces of meat to touch while browning. Push browned pieces to the side or remove from pan while turning and browning new pieces. Add onions, garlic, seasonings, hot water, chicken and beef bouillon cubes, and tomatoes. Cover tightly and cook over low heat for two hours, or until meat is tender. Mix the 1/2 cup of flour with a cup of water until smooth and add slowly to meat mixture, stirring constantly until liquid thickens. Add vegetables, salt, and the optional ingredients you have chosen. Cook for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Serves 25.
In the April, 1992, issue of the Braille Monitor we published a picture of four students who took part in a skit titled "The Young and the Skill-less" during this year's Washington Seminar. Only three names were listed. Pam Dubel, a 1991 scholarship winner and one of the leaders of the National Association of Blind Students, was accidentally omitted. Those in the photograph should have been identified (left to right) as Heather Kirkwood (Kansas), David Cohen (Ohio), Pam Dubel (New York), and Holly Pilcher (Massachussetts).
**Convention Door Prize Reminder:
Door prizes provide fun and liveliness to convention proceedings each year. Individuals, local chapters, and state affiliates who are planning to contribute prizes to the 1992 convention are reminded to label them in print and Braille and bring them to Diane McGeorge, door prize chairman, at the convention in Charlotte or send them to Hazel Staley, President of the NFB of North Carolina. Her address is: 5310 Farm Pond Lane, Charlotte, North Carolina 28212.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: "One used stereotype machine for embossing zinc plates or metal signs is available from Lutheran Braille Workers, Inc. Nonprofit organizations preferred. Available FREE except for shipping charges and transportation arrangements. For more information please contact: LeRoy Delafosse, Lutheran Braille Workers, Inc., Post Office Box 5000, Yucaipa, California 92399, or phone: (714) 795-8977."
**Participation in Test:
From the Editor: We have been asked to carry the following announcement from Mark Kilwein of Indianapolis, who says in his accompanying letter:
"I am trying to recruit subjects for a research project which will serve as my doctoral dissertation in clinical psychology at Ohio State University. I've been having a very hard time finding volunteers, mostly because legally blind college students are not concentrated in any one place. I'm hoping to take advantage of the convention to get a number of volunteers."
Here is the announcement that Mr. Kilwein asks that we run:
Individuals who are legally blind and who are currently attending a college or university are requested to volunteer for a scientific study concerned with better understanding the ways in which visually impaired people categorize basic objects. I will be administering the questionnaire at the NFB convention in Charlotte and would like to set up an appointment to meet with those who are interested. It's easy, takes less than forty minutes, and pays $5.00. Please write: Mark L. Kilwein, M.A., 9341 San Jacinto Drive, Indianapolis, Indiana 46250; or call collect (317) 595-9224.
**Braille 'n' Speak at Charlotte Convention:
Deane Blazie, President of Blazie Engineering, has asked us to carry the following announcement concerning the NFB convention in Charlotte this summer. Here it is:
Blazie Engineering will be at the convention in force. We will be updating Braille 'n' Speaks with new features, so bring your machines. We will offer many of our products for sale at the convention, including the Braille 'n' Speak, the Braille 'n' Speak 640, and the upgrade from the Braille 'n' Speak to the Braille 'n' Speak 640. We will have a good supply of accessories.
Take a Braille 'n' Speak for a test drive in Charlotte-- Blazie Engineering will be bringing fifty Braille 'n' Speaks to the convention in Charlotte to loan anyone who would like to try one out. You must be registered at the convention and provide some identification. The loan will be on a first-come-first-serve basis, so look for us in the exhibit hall and give Braille 'n' Speak a try.
From the Editor: Over the years many Federationists have known my secretary, Miss Myrick. My secretary is no longer Miss Myrick, for on April 11, 1992, she was married to Robert Boeshore. The Boeshores were married at St. Luke's Lutheran Church, and Mrs. Boeshore is now busily back at work as usual.
We also had another wedding at the National Center for the Blind. Some of you know Miss Finneyfrock, who works in the accounting department, and a number of you have yet to meet her. In any case she was married at the Democratic Club in Baltimore on April 4, 1992, to Leonard Paul Swiger, Jr., to whom she had been engaged for the past four years.
So romance is blooming at the National Center for the Blind. Congratulations to the newlyweds.
**Norton Utilities 6 Quick Reference Now Available in Braille:
We have been asked to print the following:
Utilities are enhancement tools. They make it easier for computer users to perform certain clerical tasks, such as manipulating files, rearranging things in memory, or reorganizing disks. One of the most popular enhancement tools on the market today is Norton Utilities.
National Braille Press has just completed--simultaneously with the release of the print version--the Norton Utilities 6 Quick Reference by Que Corporation. This compact guide is an instant reference for the most often used commands, options, and latest enhancements of this best-selling utilities program. Make computer and file management fast and easy with Que's Norton Utilities 6 Quick Reference!
Norton Utilities 6 Quick Reference is divided into two parts. The first covers the Norton Utilities, and the second covers NDOS. Each part provides an alphabetical listing of commands. Because it is a quick reference, this book is not intended to take the place of the extensive documentation included with the Norton Utilities. Instead, it provides specific information likely to be needed instantly like the syntax to execute commands and the switches available for them.
This versatile reference guide helps you become familiar with the features and shortcuts that can make PC maintenance more efficient and effective. This resource covers such features as NDOS, file management, and data-recovery commands. Now you can put essential information at your fingertips with Norton Utilities 6 Quick Reference for just $9.95--the same price as the print edition!
Prepaid orders can be placed with National Braille Press, 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02115; or call (617) 266-6160.
We have been asked to print the following reminder and list of newly available titles:
You probably have fond memories of school days that may have included books on tape from Recording for the Blind. RFB does produce taped books from grade four level up, but you should know that its 79,000 audio books and more than 300 on computer disk aren't just for students--they're for anyone who is blind or visually impaired and who likes to read.
RFB joined forces last July with Computerized Books for the Blind of Missoula, Montana, and now offers more than 300 books on low-density disk for use with a personal computer and adaptive software (synthetic speech, Braille, or enlarged print). Books are available on 3.5-inch diskettes for IBM and compatible computers and Macintosh and Apple formats as well as on 5.25-inch floppy disks for IBM and compatibles. You can order a free electronic information kit by contacting RFB and specifying the type of disk you'd like. Electronic text titles (E-text, for short) are for sale and become yours to keep. Included are a variety of computer manuals as well as dictionaries, a thesaurus, several law books, and even two versions of the Bible.
If you used RFB in the past but it's been a few years since you borrowed a book from us, it's quick and easy--and free--to reactivate your membership. Simply call the toll-free Customer Service number, (800)221-4792, or write to RFB's registrar, at 20 Roszel Road, Princeton, NJ 08540. Give us your name, address, your original RFB I.D. number (if you have it), your birth date, and the years you used RFB. In most cases your account will be reactivated and ready for your next book order in twenty-four hours.
A few years ago RFB instituted a one-time $25 registration fee entitling members to lifetime use of the organization's library and other services. Registering for the first time is simple. Fill out an application (available by calling or writing RFB) and return it with the $25 registration fee. The application form documents your disability and provides us with your address, phone number, and other important information.
By the way, the toll-free number has new, expanded hours for book orders or other customer service inquiries. You can call between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Eastern Time Monday through Friday. Books can also be ordered by fax, at (609)987-8116, or by mail, to 20 Roszel Road, Princeton, NJ 08540.
Here's a glimpse of what's new on the RFB shelves. E-text books are designated by EA or EP shelf numbers.
EA295, The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, Charles Scribner's Son Publisher, 1988, 1 disk, $10.
EA354, Stedman's Pocket Medical Dictionary, by William Hensyl, Williams & Wilking Publisher, 1987, 19 disks, $50
EP017 Microsoft MS-DOS: Operating System, Version 5.0, Microsoft Corporation Publisher, 1991, 5 disks, $27
EA010, Mastering Wordperfect 5.1, Alan Simpson, Sybex Inc. Publisher, 1990, 5 disks, $27.
EP032, The Norton Utilities, Version 6, Symantec Corporation Publisher, 1991, 6 disks, $29.
CD711, Beethoven On Beethoven: Playing His Piano Music His Way, William S. Newman, W. W. Norton Publisher, 1991.
CE204, Mark Twain's Own Autobiography, Mark Twain, University of Wisconsin Press, 1991.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Frances Radcliff rocks two infants in the nursery of the Calvary Church, where she volunteers every Sunday morning.]
Sharon Gold, President of the National Federation of the Blind of California, came across the following article about Frances Radcliff, who is a faithful and dedicated Federationist. She worked for many years as a rehabilitation teacher in California. Her students report that she was an excellent teacher, always believing in them and expecting more of them than they dared to expect of themselves. She is not as active as she once was, but she still contributes wherever she finds a need she can fill. Here is the story that appeared in the May, 1991, issue of the church newsletter "At Calvary":
This month's Golden Apple Award goes to Frances Radcliff, one of the nursery's faithful workers. Every Sunday morning at 8:00 a.m. you will find Frances in a rocking chair, keeping one of the babies happy.
Frances has been serving in the nursery for about three years. She wanted to do something for the Lord. When she tried working in the nursery, she says that she knew right away "it was the place for me."
Frances likes working in the nursery because it enables the young mothers to go to the worship service and to teach in other classes. She also says, "I would be happy to leave my child there. I can go home and feel happy knowing that each baby got good care."
Frances was born in Oklahoma and grew up in Arkansas. At the age of nine years, she went to a boarding school for the blind. She received the Lord when she was thirteen. Frances went on to Fresno State College and did her graduate work at the University of California at Berkeley.
When she finished her training, she worked as a vocational guidance counselor for the blind with the State Department of Rehabilitation in Long Beach. She also worked in prevention of blindness.
Long Beach was where she met and married her husband. When her husband died in 1966, Frances came to Santa Ana. Frances has no children of her own, but she says, "I have lots of kids who need lots of care."
Frances began attending Calvary Church in 1976 at the invitation of her next-door neighbors. She immediately felt at home in our non-denominational, missionary-minded church.
Although Frances is now retired, she remains very active. She still manages a scholarship fund for blind college students. She goes to Bible studies. She is part of the Daytime Missionary Fellowship with many senior adults.
As Frances puts it, "I work with the babies, and I work with the seniors. Those in the middle will just have to make it on their own."
We have been asked to print the following:
Larry Evans has for sale an Optacon Model R-1D in good condition. Must sell. You can contact him at the phone number listed at the end of this miniature. Fred Jones would like to buy an RC Smith Braille Writer. If you have one of these Braille writers, please contact him at (314) 449-9999.
**Braille Menus Available:
Victor Hemphill, an active member of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois and founder of Volunteer Braille Services of Merisa, Illinois, has asked us to print the following:
The Cracker Barrel restaurant chain has completed distribution of Braille and large-type editions of both their breakfast and dinner menus to all franchise restaurants. Each location has been supplied with several copies of each menu in both formats.
The Braille menus are embossed on 11 1/2 by 11-inch paper and are spiral bound. A table of contents immediately behind the title page makes it possible to locate quickly any item in any category.
The large-type menus are printed in 24-point Helvetica type on white 8 1/2 by 11-inch bond paper. They are also spiral bound with index covers and contain a table of contents.
I hope that, as Federationists travel on business or pleasure or just decide to eat out now and then, they will make it a point to visit the nearest Cracker Barrel Restaurant and let the manager know they appreciate having their menus in a format they can use easily. The Cracker Barrel restaurant chain has locations in the following states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
**National Church Conference of the Blind:
We have been asked to print the following:
The 1992 meeting of the National Church Conference of the Blind will take place Sunday, July 26, to Thursday, July 30, at the City Center Holiday Inn in Little Rock, Arkansas. The conference theme is "God's Word for the '90s."
In addition to the daily Bible studies and the Thursday evening banquet with special guest Lucy Ching, this year's conference will include seminars on "Methods of Studying the Bible" and "Dangers of the New Age Movement."
For registration information and more details, please contact The Reverend Frank Finkenbinder, Membership Secretary, National Church Conference of the Blind, P.O. Box 163, Denver, Colorado 80201; or call (303) 455-3430.
**Braille Transcription Service Available:
We have been asked to print the following:
"I will Braille scannable print material or files provided on 3-1/2-inch disks for use with an IBM compatible computer. I can produce material in either Grade I or Grade II Braille at .20 per page. When ordering, please include payment. Send all correspondence to Pat Wise, 424 South Main Street, Fostoria, Ohio 44830. Please include your phone number with orders. Brailled material will be shipped free matter for the blind unless other arrangements are made with me. You will be notified of the shipping cost if the free matter privilege is not used."
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Eileen Tscharner.]
Eileen Tscharner, First Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota, was recognized by the Rapid City Chamber of Commerce for her volunteerism. She and four others were given the "Wind Beneath Our Wings" award during a banquet hosted by the Health and Human Services Committee of the Chamber on March 27, 1992. Her picture and biographical sketch was published in the "Outstanding Performance Awards" booklet. The inscription on her plaque reads as follows:
The Wind Beneath Our Wings
National Federation of the Blind
For outstanding efforts
You have accepted the challenge to soar above the world and to overcome barriers to success that would have caused others to falter and fail. You have been decisive where others have hesitated. You are recognized as a leader for your efforts. You have inspired us all like the majestic eagle. For all you have done to make this a better place, thank you.
Rapid City Chamber of Commerce
Health and Human Services Committee
Outstanding Performance Award 1992
The biographical entry in the booklet reads:
Eileen Tscharner, National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota. Since her vision loss in 1987, Eileen has undergone intensive training in the alternative skills of blindness, held a job in the furniture business, and become a full-time volunteer with the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota. She participates in her local church activities and community organizations and travels throughout the state as the Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota. Her blindness has certainly not restricted her.
Eileen was raised with her two brothers on a farm near Hemmingford, Nebraska. She married her husband Jack in 1947 and moved to Rapid City following the close of the semester at Chadron State College, where they were students. They held various jobs until 1960 when they purchased Jack's Camera Shop--a business they operated until Jack's death in 1978. Eileen is the mother of two sons, Chris and Dan.
Eileen has volunteered 1,161 hours on behalf of blind persons in South Dakota during 1991. She assists with white cane travel lessons, gives encouragement to those who are losing vision, and provides the role model of a truly independent person who has become blind in later life.
We in the Federation add our congratulations to those of the Chamber of Commerce. We are proud to have Eileen Tscharner as our sister and colleague in the organized blind movement.
**Food for Thought:
From the Associate Editor: The following poem appeared recently in a recent issue of Insight, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota. Think about it.
Winners and Losers
A winner says, "Let's find out!"
A loser says, "Nobody knows."
When a winner makes a mistake, he says, "I was wrong."
When a loser makes a mistake, he says, "It wasn't my fault."
A winner goes through a problem.
A loser goes around it but never gets past it.
A winner makes commitments.
A loser makes promises.
A winner says, "I'm good, but not as good as I ought to be."
A loser says, "I'm no worse than a lot of other people."
A winner tries to learn from those who are superior to him.
A loser tries to tear down those who are superior to him.
A winner says, "There must be a better way to do it!"
A loser says, "That's the way its always been done around here."
Which are you?