Vol. 36, No. 1 January
Barbara Pierce, Editor
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NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
THE BLIND IS NOT
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Vol. 36, No. 1 January 1993
OF THE WORLD BLIND UNION AND RELATED MATTERS
by Kenneth Jernigan
by Kenneth Jernigan
by Robin Zook
GORE: "THE BLIND ORATOR"
by Sharon Gold
by William D. Meeker
WHO WAS TAKEN
FOR A RIDE?
by Elizabeth J. Browne
WHERE NO MAN HAS GONE BEFORE
by Susan Povinelli
STUDENTS' SERVICES ARE AND WHAT THEY SHOULD BE
by Marci Page
MEETING FOR BLIND ARTISTS AND CRAFTSPEOPLE
by Lorraine Rovig
and EQUESTRIAN GROUP MEETS
by Lorraine Rovig
ACKNOWLEDGES COMPETENCE OF BLIND TUNERS
by Stanley Oliver
ROME, JEWELRY, AND JANET CARON
CHARGED WITH CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATION
by Peggy Pinder
THE MAJOR INGREDIENT
OF SOLUTIONS: ACCESS TECHNOLOGIES FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE
Reviewed by David Andrews
SOCIAL SECURITY, SSI, AND MEDICARE FACTS FOR 1993
Copyright National Federation of the Blind, Inc., 1993
[2 LEAD PHOTOS: 1) Dr. Jernigan and others sit at the front table on the stage in the assembly hall at the Third General Assembly of the World Blind Union with the World Blind Union banner in the background. CAPTION: The Third General Assembly of the World Blind Union convened in Cairo, Egypt, during the first week in November of 1992. 2) The NFB delegation to the World Blind Union, seated on camels in front of a pyramid. CAPTION: The National Federation of the Blind delegation to the Third General Assembly of the World Blind Union in Cairo not only attended meetings but also took an afternoon to visit the pyramids and ride on camels. From left to right: Kenneth Jernigan; Mary Ellen Jernigan; Patricia Miller; Don Capps; Betty Capps; and Marc and Pat Maurer, who shared a camel.]
[PHOTOS: 1) Dr. Jernigan shakes hands with Turgut Ozal. CAPTION: Turgut Ozal, the President of Turkey, talks with Kenneth Jernigan. 2) Dr. and Mrs. Jernigan stand with two Turkish boys, one of whom is holding a bag of tops and the other a fold-out postcard. CAPTION: The spirit of business enterprise is alive and flourishing in Turkey. Two small boys talk to Kenneth and Mary Ellen Jernigan about buying postcards and a top as the Jernigans get ready to enter a mosque in Istanbul. 3) Dr. and Mrs. Jernigan, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Ghanim, and Saleh Al-Majid stand in front of the Sheikh's home. CAPTION: Standing in front of the home of Sheikh Abdullah Al-Ghanim in Amman, Jordan, are (from left to right) Sheikh Abdullah Al-Ghanim, Kenneth Jernigan, Mary Ellen Jernigan, and Saleh (Sammy) Al-Majid. 4) Dr. Jernigan riding a camel. CAPTION: Kenneth Jernigan rides a camel near the ruins of Petra in Jordan. 5) Mr. and Mrs. Maurer mounting a camel. CAPTION: Marc and Patricia Maurer prepare to ride a camel near the pyramids in the outskirts of Cairo. 6) A pyramid. CAPTION: Some of Egypt's most impressive pyramids are near Cairo. 7) Mr. Maurer is seated at a table with Mrs. Maurer standing beside him. CAPTION: Marc and Patricia Maurer at the United States table at the World Blind Union meeting in Cairo. 8) David Blyth seated at a table. CAPTION: David Blyth of Australia will serve as President of the World Blind Union from the fall of 1992 to the fall of 1996. 9) Dr. Jernigan and Mrs. Mubarak. CAPTION: Kenneth Jernigan has just spoken with Mrs. Mubarak, the First Lady of Egypt, as she goes through the receiving line to meet the officers of the World Blind Union on November 2, 1992, the opening day of the Third General Assembly of the WBU in Cairo.]
THE MEETING OF THE WORLD BLIND UNION AND RELATED MATTERS
by Kenneth Jernigan
As Monitor readers know, the International Federation of the Blind and the World Council for the Welfare of the Blind came together in 1984 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to form the World Blind Union. Although the National Federation of the Blind was a member of both founding organizations, we did not for a number of reasons attend the Riyadh convention. At a meeting in Washington late in 1984 the North America Region (consisting of the United States and Canada) met for the first time, elected officers, and began to function. Bill Gallagher, the head of the American Foundation for the Blind at the time, was elected Regional President, and I was elected to the Executive Committee.
The World Blind Union is structured to emphasize the importance of its regions. There are seven of these regions: Europe, Africa, the Middle East, East Asia/Pacific, Asia, Latin America, and North America (which in 1986 became North America/Caribbean). The WBU officers consist of those elected at the General Assembly every four years (President, Vice President, Secretary General, and Treasurer) plus the immediate past President and the seven Regional Presidents. The Executive Committee consists of the officers plus three additional members from each region and one representative from the international members. Thus, there are thirty-four members of the Executive Committee, including the twelve officers.
From its beginning in 1984 our regional organization has functioned constructively and well. As to the World Blind Union at the international level, my first real contact with it came during the meeting of the WBU Executive Committee in New York in 1986. At that time Sheikh Abdullah Al-Ghanim of Saudi Arabia was President. It was at that meeting that Pedro Zurita of Spain was elected Secretary General. The New York meeting was more than a little chaotic, and a number of us wondered where the organization was attempting to go and whether it would get there.
In 1987 Bill Gallagher resigned as Regional President, and I was elected to fill his unexpired term. Elections occur every four years, and I was returned to office as Regional President in the fall of 1988, and again this year. Therefore, my term is scheduled to continue until the time of the General Assembly in 1996.
The second General Assembly of the World Blind Union was held in Madrid in the fall of 1988, and we sent a sizable delegation. Duncan Watson, the Chairman of the Royal National Institute for the Blind of the United Kingdom, was elected President, and Dr. Euclid Herie of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind was elected Treasurer. Enrique Elissalde of Uruguay was elected Vice President, and Pedro Zurita was returned to office as Secretary General.
The third General Assembly was held in Cairo during the first week of November of 1992, and seven of us attended from the NFB: Mrs. Miller, who is a member of the staff at the National Center for the Blind; Don and Betty Capps; President and Mrs. Maurer; and Mrs. Jernigan and I. I am writing this article to give you my overall impressions of the Cairo meeting and to tell you something about the places I visited en route.
It is no secret that airplanes and I don't get along, but on a trip like the one to Cairo there isn't any reasonable alternative. Also, if you select your itinerary carefully, it is just about as cheap to make several stops along the way to study programs for the blind and meet new people as it is to go straight from Baltimore to Cairo--so that is what Mrs. Jernigan and I did.
We left Dulles airport on Lufthansa Airlines on Monday evening, October 19, for an overnight flight to Frankfurt, where we transferred to another Lufthansa plane for Athens. Larry Campbell, who heads up Perkins's overseas program and seems to know everybody in the world connected with blindness, had made arrangements for us to have a guide and interpreter in Greece. She was Christiana Zotou, and a very conscientious and capable guide she proved to be. We stayed in Athens from Tuesday afternoon, October 20, (Mrs. Jernigan's birthday) until Friday morning, October 23--and our visit was not only enjoyable but extremely productive.
Let me give you a few impressions and then tell you something about the people we met and the programs we saw. Remember that what I am going to say reflects only my own personal opinions and observations. Athens is one of the most crowded cities I have ever seen--so much so, in fact, that cars with even-numbered license plates are permitted in the downtown area one day and those with odd-numbered plates the next. There is such a continuing influx of people from the rural areas that the government tries to provide financial incentives to get them to move back to the villages--with, I might add, limited success, judging from the crowds I saw. When I use the word incentives, I do so advisedly; for if you are drawing any kind of government subsidy (assistance to the blind, for instance), you get maybe twice as much if you live in a rural area as if you live in Athens.
Since Greek food has always been a favorite of mine, I had looked forward to eating at an authentic Greek restaurant. We have a fine one here in Baltimore, and before going on the trip, I asked the proprietor (a Greek native) to make suggestions. He gave me the name of what he said was the best restaurant in Athens, and I went there--but his restaurant in Baltimore is better, much better. When I told my daughter this, she expressed surprise. I asked her whether she thought if she went to Greece and opened a restaurant featuring Southern cooking, the food would be less authentic or tasty than it would if she cooked it in Maryland--or, for that matter, Louisiana or South Carolina.
Mrs. Jernigan and I spent the better part of a day with the leaders of the Panhellenic Association of the Blind, the counterpart of the National Federation of the Blind here in the United States. The President, Elias Margiolas, is a very knowledgeable, tough-minded individual, who knows what he wants and is determined to get it. Some of the specifics of what the organized blind of Greece are trying to achieve may differ from those we are seeking, but the basic objectives are the same-- self-determination and control by the blind of their own destiny. Moreover, it must be kept in mind that the economic conditions and political climate make a difference. Here, in no particular order, are some of the things Mr. Margiolas and his colleagues told me:
The law requires public and private employers to hire blind telephone operators instead of sighted ones. Beginning this year legislation has been passed exempting blind people from paying income tax. The blind do not pay import taxes on cars. As with the blind of our country, the blind of Greece are required to work fewer years than others in order to earn enough coverage for full retirement. The blind pay half-fares on public transportation.
Mr. Margiolas and his colleagues told me that the Panhellenic Association was established in 1932 and that it started local chapters about seven years ago. They said that there are approximately 21,000 blind people in Greece and that about 4,000 of them belong to the Association. The voting members are blind, but there are sighted honorary members. Officers are not paid, and I think I was told that there are ten local chapters. As is often the case with organizations of the blind, lack of money is one of the principal problems. However, the Association does own a certain amount of real estate, from which it gets rent to help with its expenses, and it is actively trying to initiate new fundraising programs. I shared with them some of the methods and techniques we are using. I felt real kinship with these independent-minded blind people, who have organized for self expression and are determined to control their own lives. They are our kind of people.
Mr. Margiolas made it clear that the Panhellenic Association disagrees on many issues with the local Lighthouse for the Blind. Apparently, however, there has been a recent move to engage in dialogue and to try to resolve differences.
The longtime head of the Lighthouse, Emmanuel Kefakis, retired recently, and there is now an acting director. I met with her for several hours and had a thorough tour of the Lighthouse. In addition to the rather traditional sheltered workshop, there are some interesting projects in electronics, as well as a variety of other activities. Here is part of what the Lighthouse brochure says. Keep in mind that this is the agency's evaluation of itself, not necessarily what I can verify:
The Lighthouse was founded in 1947. It provides, according to the brochure, a variety of services, including:
1. Sheltered workshops that employ about 35 persons on a permanent basis, guaranteed legal wages, full social security, and other benefits as provided by a labor law. Useful items such as brushes and brooms manufactured at these workshops are purchased through the provisions of a special law, by the armed forces and other state agencies.
2. A training program of switchboard operators, through which 700 blind men and women have been trained, so far, as telephone operators, of which 650 are already successfully employed in public agencies, banks, hospitals, hotels, and various private enterprises.
3. A printing shop produces books in Braille. We are trying to include in our publications representative books of educational, scientific, technical, cultural, and recreational value as well as music Braille books for piano, violin, guitar, and accordion.
4. A complete recording studio for the production of talking books on tapes and cassettes. These comprise text books and other reference books for blind students attending the university, as well as literature and fiction.
5. A lending library through which books in Braille and talking books are loaned to interested blind readers.
6. A Braille monthly magazine, edited and printed at the center, is distributed free to blind persons all over Greece.
7. An adjustment program for newly blinded persons ....
8. A Department of Social Services, which deals with problems of blind persons and their families (social case work).
9. Since 1983 the Lighthouse for the Blind has become a training center for social workers ....
13. A training program for blind church cantors. Byzantine music has traditionally been a vocational outlet for a small number of blind persons. Some years ago a rehabilitation law for the handicapped was passed which, among other things, provides that all churches should hire preferably a blind cantor if such qualified and trained persons are available ....
15. Music is also taught.
16. A folkloric song group, accompanied by an orchestra, has been formed by blind singers and musicians whose objective is to spread the knowledge of the genuine Greek music.
17. A new training program of mechanical, electrical, and electronic work has been started. The trainer is himself blind.
This, in part, is what the Lighthouse says about its programs. As I have already indicated, I spent only part of one day at the Lighthouse and, therefore, cannot express an informed opinion about the substance (or lack thereof) of some of the items listed. Again I say that the leaders of the Panhellenic Association of the Blind are critical of the Lighthouse programs although, I gather, less so now than formerly. I have not given the entire list of the Lighthouse catalogue of program activities, but item 18 might be interpreted quite differently by many of our members from the meaning which the Lighthouse undoubtedly intends to convey. Here it is:
18. Modern social philosophy and socio-economic changes require a broader and more active participation of blind persons in programs for their own welfare (self-help activities). Along these lines we have organized a new Department for Public Relations, Legislative and Social activities. Four blind persons are in charge of this office, helped by a committee of blind people with special skills. This Department is responsible for cultural and social activities by and for the blind, pursues legislation and regulations concerning the blind, and helps in the solution of legal, social, or family problems for blind individuals.
This is a direct quote from the Lighthouse brochure. Whether an agency doing work for the blind can meaningfully set up a program to advocate for the blind and give the blind an increasing say in their own affairs, or whether this is a job that, by definition, the blind must do for themselves is not only an open question in Greece but also here in the United States as well. Certainly it is being debated and attempted in all of its permutations, with little evidence that the final answer will soon be given.
The Lighthouse lists some of its other programs as follows:
19. Establishment of a permanent exhibit and sales room for the provision of modern technical and technological aids and devices for the blind.
20. A program for guide dogs, which has been established for the first time in Greece.
21. The Lighthouse for the Blind, bearing in mind the technical difficulties which prevent blind persons from coming into direct contact with the national treasures exhibited in our museums, decided to open a tactual museum in which exact copies of the most important statues, bas-reliefs, and vases are reproduced and put on display in such a manner as to make it possible for blind people from all parts of the world to enjoy the aesthetic beauty of ancient Greek sculpture through the ages.
This is an abbreviated list of what the Lighthouse says that it does, and Mrs. Jernigan and I thoroughly enjoyed our tour and found the staff friendly and hospitable. I should add one personal footnote about the statues. There were quite a number of them, and I have no doubt that they were visually appealing; nor do I question that some blind people would find them aesthetically pleasing. However, my peasant nature asserted itself. I dutifully felt most of the statues--noses, ears, foreheads, chins, arms, legs, and torsos--but I must confess that I remained unmoved. The visual beauty eluded my tactual grasp, which prefers the feel of glossy plastic or highly polished stone or wood. I came away with nothing for my effort except dirty fingers and an unenlightened mind. I also came away wondering what blind people see in such things but with a sense of satisfaction that I had at least shown good manners and given polite attention. Ah, well! A peasant, when all is said and done, is still a peasant--and there is no help for it.
As I understand it, there are two residential schools for the education of blind children in Greece, one in Athens and the other in Thessaloniki. Each has something like a hundred children. In addition, students are now being mainstreamed in the upper grades. We visited the school in Athens and were favorably impressed. When I go to such schools, I always like to visit the bedrooms. You can tell a great deal about an institution by the way the place smells, what kind of furniture there is and how it is arranged, and whether the beds feel clean and well kept. From my superficial examination, the school in Athens passed with high marks. Of course, I was not there long enough to make definitive judgments about the quality of the programs or the academic excellence, but the children seem happy and loved. Regardless of the efforts of staff, such things cannot be faked. By their actions children tell you how they are treated and whether they are respected. The climate was right for academic accomplishment, and I suspect it is occurring.
There is a good deal more that I could say about my impressions of Greece, but space must be left for other portions of the trip. On Friday morning, October 23, Mrs. Jernigan and I left Athens for Istanbul on Olympic Airlines. We had not originally intended to go to Turkey, but circumstances dictated otherwise.
In mid-September, two blind Turkish university students came to the National Center for the Blind for a three-week training period. There had been a Kurzweil reading machine in Turkey for almost a year, but they did not know how to use it. Also they had recently acquired an Arkenstone reader and needed to learn about it as well. In addition, they wanted to work with the Braille 'n Speak, and they also wanted help in mobility and to learn about the programs of the Federation. During part of the time they were with us, Fatos Floyd, who is a native of Turkey and grew up there, came to the National Center to help with interpreting and to give general assistance. It was a very successful experience.
Kurzweil sent a representative to work with the students for a day, and Blazie Engineering provided personnel to give instruction on the Braille 'n Speak. In fact, Fatos and the students, working in concert with Blazie personnel, modified the Braille 'n Speak so that it can now function in Turkish. This was accomplished in a single week of intensive effort.
Shortly after the students returned home, I received an invitation to give a lecture at Bosphorus University in Istanbul and to hold meetings with officials of the Turkish government to discuss programs for the blind. It seemed a good opportunity, and since I was already going to that part of the world, I changed my itinerary and agreed to go.
One of those principally responsible for making the arrangements was Arlene Brill, an American woman who teaches at the Uskudar School in Istanbul. She and Emin Demirci, the President of the Turkish Federation of the Blind, visited the National Center for the Blind somewhat more than a year ago, and she was the one who made the initial contacts for the Turkish students to come last fall.
Arlene and Emin met us at the airport in Istanbul, made most of the arrangements for our itinerary while we were there, and gave us hospitality of the type that engenders lasting friendship. The Uskudar School is a truly unusual institution. Until a few months ago, it was a girls' school, but it is now becoming co-educational. All of the teachers are native American speakers, and English is the only language used. Uskudar is said to be the best school in the country, and I believe it. I was told that competition for entrance is keen, that national tests are given, and that only the top one percent of the applicants are accepted. Students enter at about age eleven, and by the time they finish high school, they speak flawless English, with scarcely a trace of accent. In passing, it seems worth noting that Fatos Floyd is an Uskudar graduate.
I lectured at Uskudar and distributed NFB literature. Many of these students will be the future leaders of Turkey, and it seemed important to inform them about blindness and our philosophy. Later, when I held a press conference (which received a considerable amount of national coverage) Uskudar students did the interpreting--and it was obvious that the job was done well.
There were many high points of the Turkish visit, among which were the following. We spent an evening with Fatos Floyd's mother. She speaks no English, but there were a number of competent blind university students to interpret. It was a memorable occasion.
The leaders of the Turkish Federation of the Blind and I spent almost an hour with Turgut Ozal, the President of Turkey. I told him about the organized blind movement in the United States and talked to him about blindness in general. He was keenly interested--in our philosophy, in technology that might be of help to the blind, and in my ideas about programs which might be put to use in Turkey. He was warm and friendly and did not rush the conversation or show any hurry to break off the discussion. It was a productive meeting, which I hope and believe will bring beneficial results to the Turkish blind.
On my last morning in Turkey I gave a lecture at Bosphorus University. Arrangements had been made by the blind students who attend the institution. There are between twenty and thirty of them, and they demonstrate a high degree of initiative and intelligence. They had made thorough and extensive plans, and there were close to a hundred people in attendance. Although many of those present spoke English, a number did not, and my remarks were interpreted by one of the blind graduate students. Again I distributed literature and established relationships which should be ongoing and productive.
Besides these group sessions I had a number of one-on-one meetings with government officials, university personnel, and civic leaders. Mrs. Jernigan and I also found time for a little sightseeing and cultural enhancement. We visited mosques, early Christian churches, and the bazaar. Yes! The bazaar! There were crowds of people, narrow streets, small shops, and a freewheeling atmosphere of bargaining and haggling for merchandise. It was a delight and a joy.
We never know when and where we will learn a new truth, or have one that we already know confirmed and reinforced. This was brought home to me quite forcefully as I was leaving the bazaar. I was reminded, as I have often been before, that negative attitudes about blindness are not innate. They are acquired-- learned from the culture and passed on from generation to generation. Children, before they are corrupted, have no such misconceptions.
As we moved through the crowd on our way out of the bazaar, we encountered a small boy (probably seven or eight) who was selling tops. With no embarrassment and without a moment's hesitation he took my hand and showed me how to hold the string to make the top spin. He spoke only enough English to tell me how much money he wanted, and I have no knowledge of Turkish--but we communicated. He had absolutely no self-consciousness about my blindness at all. He was simply a young entrepreneur trying to make a sale--and although I had bargained vigorously in the bazaar, I was so struck by his manner and initiative that I paid him exactly what he asked without a word of protest. No, more than that! I paid him with joy in my heart. Enterprise and proper attitudes about blindness should be encouraged. If he keeps to his present path, he may well be a future prime minister--or maybe I am just a soft touch. On the other hand, he didn't want very much--and later, when two boys (slightly older) tried to fleece me as I was about to enter a mosque, they got different treatment.
I should discuss one more item concerning the Turkish Federation of the Blind. Its leaders told me that a federal law was passed ten or twelve years ago requiring that every nonprofit, nongovernmental organization dealing with the same issue or disability group must combine into one federation. Thus, the Turkish Federation of the Blind has about eighteen affiliates. Moreover, all disability groups must join into an overall coalition of the disabled. Therefore, the Turkish Federation is one of four components of the larger disability group.
Let me be clearly understood. The law of Turkey makes it mandatory that the nonprofit, nongovernmental organizations combine. There are civil and, for all I know, criminal penalties for violation. I asked the Federation leaders what would happen if ten or fifteen blind people decided to get together every Monday for breakfast. They said this would be all right. Then how, I asked, does the law work? They said that if a group simply held an informal meeting there would be no problem but that if that group wanted to raise any money or attempt in any way to influence public policy or opinion, it must submit its constitution to the government for approval and must combine with all other groups purporting to work in the same area. Although this system seemed strange to me, I did not hear a lot of discussion about it, so I couldn't be sure of all of its ramifications or how burdensome it was in actual practice.
As was the case with Greece, there is much more I could say about Turkey, but space has to be left for the rest of the trip. On Monday, October 26, Mrs. Jernigan and I boarded a Turkish Airlines plane for Amman, Jordan, where we were met by employees of Sheikh Abdullah Al-Ghanim and taken to his home. Although I first met the Sheikh sometime during the 'sixties, I have only truly come to know him since 1986. Since that time I have worked with him on a continuing basis, and year by year my respect for him has steadily increased. He has been the driving force in making life better for the blind of the Middle East (and, for that matter, in a number of other parts of the world), and he has done so from motives of true generosity and concern for his fellow blind. I have now visited Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan--and in each of these countries there is clear evidence of his energetic and imaginative work.
The Regional Centre for Rehabilitation and Training of Blind Girls in Amman is a perfect example. Mrs. Jernigan and I visited the Centre and saw it in operation. It is impressive and is obviously doing good work. Young blind women are brought in from villages throughout the country and are given instruction in a variety of skills and activities.
Some of the training and routine is traditional in nature-- weaving, music, and the like--while other parts of the program are innovative. Telephone switchboard training is emphasized, as is the use of the knitting machine. I had never seen a knitting machine. Through a series of levers and other controls it permits the rapid mechanical knitting of sweaters and other items. The instructor is blind and is obviously an effective teacher. I was told that the machines are produced in Switzerland and cost about $1,000 apiece.
Each graduate of the course is given a knitting machine of her own and start-up material for making sweaters and other items. She works in her home and can sell the finished products, going at her own pace. Alternatively the Centre will undertake to sell the products for her. This is not merely a make-work project. The sweaters are quality merchandise. Mrs. Jernigan brought one home, and anybody would be proud to have it.
As I have already said, we stayed with the Sheikh while we were in Jordan, and he has a beautiful home. We talked extensively about the upcoming meeting of the World Blind Union, the future of the organization, and the situation of the blind throughout the world. We also found time for a few normal tourist activities.
We went, for instance, to Petra, the historic site of a pre- Christian civilization called the Naboteans. We saw an entire city, much of it underground and accessible only through a steeply descending narrow gorge. The guide told us that all of the private rooms and public facilities were hollowed out of solid rock by use of flint implements. The work obviously involved decades (perhaps centuries) of patient labor. I examined the rooms and carvings, and the experience was both unusual and fascinating.
There was something else on the Petra trip that I will always remember. For the first time in my life I rode a camel-- as, incidentally, did Mrs. Jernigan. As far as I am concerned, the camel is a much maligned and misunderstood (possibly even a noble) creature. This camel did not (as the conventional wisdom would have it) spit at me or try to bite. He did not smell bad, show ill temper, or try to kick. In fact, he knelt down for me to mount and laid his head peacefully on the sand. When I was on the saddle (this, incidentally, was a one-hump camel, and the saddle was on top of the hump), the camel sedately rose to his full height, and we started the ride. For anybody who cares to know, the camel gets up on his hind feet first, and then he gets up on his front feet. It was a kind of rocking motion, and I was fairly high in the air; but it was a thoroughly satisfying experience.
While we were in Jordan, we also went to the bazaar, with the usual fun of bargaining and haggling about prices--but all good things must come to an end. So on Thursday evening, October 29, Mrs. Jernigan and I, Sheikh Al-Ghanim, and Saleh Al-Majid (or, as most of us fondly call him, Sammy) boarded an Egypt Airlines plane and headed for Cairo. The preliminaries were over, and we were ready for the third General Assembly of the World Blind Union.
Certain things strike you immediately about Cairo. It has between thirteen and fourteen million inhabitants, and every time you get on the streets, you think at least half of those millions are there with you--and I mean close at hand. Somebody said that the only reason Cairo has red lights is so that you can fix blame when an accident occurs--and I believe it. The traffic jams are worse than New York; every motorist seems obsessed with the notion of blowing his or her horn on a constant basis; and you spend more time in gridlock than moving. This is not to criticize Cairo or to say that it is unpleasant, for it isn't.
Before I deal with the WBU business, let me get a few other things out of the way. The NFB delegation went to a lovely private home for an evening of dinner and conversation, and while we were there, we not only had the unforgettable experience of a charming hostess, tasty exotic food, and a palatial residence, but also the excitement of a mild earthquake. The house shook, and some of the lights went out; but as far as I was concerned, it was better than riding in an airplane. At least, it didn't last as long.
We spent part of an afternoon going to the pyramids and riding again on camels. In fact, the print edition of this month's Monitor has a picture of all of us on our camels facing the camera. With respect to the pyramids my peasant nature came to the front again. I enjoyed climbing about a hundred feet up the side of one, and I ventured a few steps into the entrance-- but I let Mrs. Jernigan, Mrs. Miller, and Mr. Maurer go the rest of the way into the depths. As you entered the pyramid, you had to stoop quite low and walk down a slanting board under a grubby- feeling rock, which somehow jarred with my notion of the majesty of it all. The Cappses, Mrs. Maurer, and I waited outside, and I contemplated the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome--not to mention the splendor that was ancient Egypt, and probably also Babylon and Nineveh into the bargain. Well, as I have already said, a peasant is a peasant--and there is an end of it.
This is not to belittle the pyramids, even though I am not moved to climb down inside of one. They are properly called one of the Wonders of the World. We were told (and I believe it) that the big one we visited right outside of Cairo required unbelievable effort and ingenuity to construct--probably 100,000 men working for twenty years to put into place some 2,300,000 stones, each weighing 2-1/2 tons. The base of the structure covers the area of several football fields, and it is as high as a forty-story sky scraper. Time, sand, marauders, and tourists have not been kind to the pyramids--but they still stand, a monument to human labor and a symbol of spirit and imagination. Let me revere them; let me admire them; let me marvel at them-- but let me not crawl around inside them. Solipsism would have been understood by the pharaohs. Let it remain between them and me.
Finally, as in the other Middle East countries I visited, there was the bazaar--filled with teaming humanity, crowded with fascinating shops, and characterized by wonderful encounters in the give and take of matching wits and bargaining for prices. Give me the bazaar with its human drama, and I will forego the rest. I remember the time at the end of the WBU meeting when Don and Betty Capps and I went down a narrow crowded street into the upstairs back room of a small shop and engaged in a thirty-minute verbal combat with the shop's proprietor over the price of two music boxes. We got the merchandise, and very nearly at the price we offered--but I would have traded it all for the joy of the doing.
But enough! Let us turn to the WBU. The organization is now on a firmer footing than it has ever been, but even yet I sometimes have qualms. Over a hundred countries were represented, and the participation was reasonably good--but the meetings tend to be cumbersome. Undoubtedly this is partly due to the need to speak slowly for the benefit of interpreters and to the problem of differing languages, but that is only part of it. It seems to me that the method of handling things and the style of chairing are also contributing factors.
As an example, consider the method of voting. We used a secret ballot in electing the Vice President, the one office which was contested--and I think it would require a good deal of charity to say that the method was efficient. All delegates were required to stay in their seats (yes, required), and the doors were literally locked for several hours while we balloted. We began with a roll call of more than 100 countries. As each country's name was called, the election committee went to that country's location and gave ballots to authorized delegates. Then the roll was called again, and the same committee went back to the same locations to collect the ballots. If paper ballots were to be used, it would have been simple for the committee to have stationed itself at a table outside the meeting room and let delegates come there to vote. There was an approved list of delegates and proxies, and it would have been no trouble to cross off names as delegates put their marked ballots through a slot into a sealed box. This would have allowed the business of the organization to go forward without needless interruption, avoiding the problem of having hundreds of delegates come from all over the world at great expense to sit twiddling their thumbs while the committee moved among the tables. What purpose was served by locking the delegates in while the votes were cast is a mystery to which I have no clue, but that is the way it was done.
With respect to the rest of the voting, most of it was done by voice, which seemed reasonable and efficient. However, the style was one that we are not accustomed to. When the President presided, he did not call for those in favor of a motion to vote for it and those opposed to vote against it. Rather, he would ordinarily say something to the effect, "Are you happy with this?" or, "Do you agree?" He did not ask for a vote from those who were not happy or who disagreed, and although there was very often a clear majority of yeses, there were many times when the yes votes seemed scattered and by no means conclusive. We were told with some annoyance by somebody sitting near our delegation that "This is the way we do it in our country," but it seemed to many of us that it might have been fairer and more effective simply to take yeses and nos.
There was also the question of general leadership, and I say this with full knowledge that I am one of the officers and, therefore, supposedly one of the leaders. The handling of the attempted amendment of the constitution is a case in point. At the conclusion of the Madrid meeting in 1988 a committee was appointed to review and revise the constitution. Eight people were on that committee, of whom I was one. We met in Denmark in the spring of 1990 and again in Baltimore in 1991. We worked for several days at a cost to the organization (whether from the individual countries or the WBU treasury) of probably at least thirty thousand dollars. The committee's final draft (unanimously agreed to) contained substantive amendments. The preliminary document was presented to the WBU Executive Committee in 1990 in Poland, and the final draft was discussed in detail at the officers' meeting in Hong Kong in the fall of 1991. The finished product was then signed by approximately a dozen of the organization's leaders and circulated with an explanatory letter to all of the delegates throughout the world.
Yet, when we met in Cairo, almost nothing that had been proposed was accepted. It is, of course, the right of a democratic assembly to accept or reject the work of its leaders or committees, but the method of handling and presentation predisposed the outcome. The President decided that two or three issues were the significant ones, took those out of context, and presented them. Although there was relatively little public objection, a number of the delegates later said that they felt the procedure was unfortunate and unfair. Certain other amendments (amendments, incidentally, which were favored by the President) were offered as noncontroversial (even though some of them were not) and summarily passed without discussion. The greater part of the body of the proposed revisions was simply not considered at all even though some of it certainly seemed to many of us to be substantive and needed.
As an example, the constitution now provides that countries with fewer than two million people may combine to form a grouped member if they wish. There is at present only one grouped member, the Caribbean Council for the Blind. Both Jamaica and Haiti have more than two million people, and the constitutional committee thought (and there seemed no opposition to the idea) that the population limit should be raised to solve the problem. Yet, this amendment (which had been properly presented) was never even allowed by the President to come to the floor for consideration.
Let me be clear about the problem I am discussing. I am not saying that any of the committee's proposals should have been accepted or rejected. I am saying that the process was ineffective and wasteful of money, money which is badly needed for programs in developing countries. If a committee was to have been appointed at all, if it was to meet in various parts of the world and spend days and months of labor, and if it was to use twenty or thirty thousand dollars of resources, the organization's leaders should have supported its work and tried to pass the amendments. If the argument is that the committee did not produce the kind of revision that was wanted, the officers should have seen that a different committee was appointed and that it had different instructions, or they should have served as the committee themselves. If it is argued that the amendments were not needed in the first place, then the committee should never have been appointed at all, and the time and money should have been saved.
I hope and believe that most of the World Blind Union delegates agree with this position and that a valuable lesson has been learned. If so, the money may have been well spent after all, and the work of the committee may not have been in vain.
Much that was constructive occurred during the meeting. For one thing, I believe that there is now a better spirit of harmony than we have ever had. I also believe that the new officers will work well together. As expected, David Blyth of Australia was elected President without opposition, as were Pedro Zurita of Spain as Secretary General and Dr. Euclid Herie of Canada as Treasurer. Rodolfo Cattani of Italy (in a contested election) was chosen as Vice President. His opponents were Rajendra Vyas of India and William Rowland of South Africa, but Dr. Cattani had an absolute and sizable majority on the first ballot. Duncan Watson will, of course, serve as an officer in his capacity as immediate past President, and there will be a number of changes in the Regional Presidencies. Geoffrey Gibbs of New Zealand is the new President of the East Asia/Pacific Region; Sheikh Al-Ghanim has again become President of the Mideast Region; Shahid Memon of Pakistan was elected President in Asia; Enrique Elissalde is President in Latin America; Samuel K. Tororei from Kenya is President of the African Region; Arne Husveg remains President of the European Region; and I continue as President of the North America/Caribbean Region.
As I have said, I think this group of officers will work well together. We begin the quadrennium in better financial condition than we have ever been. This is due to the work of many people, including Arne Husveg and Sheikh Al-Ghanim, but much of the credit must go to Dr. Herie. He has kept the books well and has worked to achieve prudent fiscal management.
One of the major factors contributing to the success of the meeting was the work of Sheikh Al-Ghanim. His contacts are widespread and influential, and his generosity is so consistent that there is sometimes danger that it will be taken for granted. He was in charge of convention arrangements, and they were well- handled. There was a farewell dinner on a boat on the Nile, and I heard nothing but praise for it. We were also honored by having Mrs. Mubarak, the First Lady of Egypt, officially open the meeting. She went through a receiving line of the officers, made a speech to the delegates, and examined technology. During one of the evenings the delegates were taken to the opera house to hear a performance by the Nour Wal Amal all-blind-girls orchestra. As with the dinner on the Nile, the comments were uniformly positive. In fact, all of the details of the convention were skillfully handled, and a considerable amount of the credit must go to Dr. Mohammed Abdel Salam El-Banna, Consultant on Rehabilitation to the Minister of Insurance and Social Affairs for Egypt. Dr. El-Banna was in charge of the day-to-day operation, and he was always present and consistently courteous and helpful.
We headquartered at the Semiramis Inter-Continental Hotel, and there was plenty of space for the general sessions as well as for committee meetings and exhibits. With respect to exhibits, they were varied and interesting. There was a considerable amount of new technology.
I think most people left Cairo feeling that the third General Assembly of the World Blind Union was a success. There is already talk about the location for the fourth General Assembly in 1996, and a number of cities and countries have submitted invitations. Hong Kong has made a formal proposal, and Canada, Columbia, and Singapore have indicated possible interest. The officers hope to settle the matter within a few months so that we will not face the kind of crisis which prevailed as we kept trying to find a location for the third General Assembly.
Mrs. Jernigan and I left Cairo on Sunday morning, November 8, on Lufthansa. We transferred in Frankfurt and arrived at Dulles in mid-afternoon. It was a longer trip than I like to take, but it was certainly interesting and worthwhile.
As I conclude this report, I want to add a few comments dealing with a variety of unconnected subjects. Here they are in no particular order of importance:
1. At future WBU conventions I think we should set aside all (or, at least, the major part) of a day to visit local programs for the blind. This will require extra arrangements for transportation and will take time away from other program items, but I think it will be a valuable addition and will meet with the approval of the delegates.
2. I have now flown with more airlines than I care to remember, and I have some definite impressions. I have always heard that Lufthansa and KLM were absolutely tops, but I have not found it so. My Lufthansa flights on the Cairo trip were (to make a bad joke) almost pedestrian. They were certainly not outstanding, nor were the flights I have had on KLM or, for that matter, SAS. Strange as some of those who are fond of looking down their noses at anything American may find it, my best and most courteous service on overseas flights has been on TWA and Northwest. I hasten to add that Varig, the Brazilian airline, and Cathay Pacific have been equally good.
3. When I was in Denmark in 1990, I made a decision that I have faithfully kept ever since. It happened like this. Almost everyone who met us said something to this effect: "Welcome to our wonderful and beautiful country." A few days later, when I went to Sweden, I was told what a wonderful country Sweden was and how much better than Denmark.
That made me do some thinking. We Americans have fallen into the habit of disparaging our country. Maybe we do it because after the Second World War we had so much compared to the rest of the world that we wanted to bend over backward to try not to act superior. Perhaps we just got into the habit and never broke it. Whatever the reason, it isn't helpful, and it doesn't reflect reality. In many ways, and with all of its faults (and I have some basis for judgment since I have been to almost thirty countries) the United States is still the best place in the world to live. We should not be cocky, but neither should we apologize for being alive. We should be as proud of our country as others are of theirs. I respected the Danish attitude, and I made up my mind then and there that I would never say another disparaging word about the United States when I was in a foreign country.
4. While we're on the subject of things American and what is and is not reality, let me deal with something else that, in my opinion, is a myth. I refer to Swiss chocolate. I can hear the howls of protest already, but I went to Zurich with an open mind- -no, a prejudiced mind since I fully expected something approaching perfection. I tasted--and it wasn't so. I believe that many American chocolates are just as good as (and in some cases better than) any Swiss chocolate that is made. If you doubt it, make a test using unmarked samples and see for yourself--or maybe this is simply my peasant nature again.
5. On the other hand, I have always heard that British food is unimaginative and dull. Not so. I have found some of the best food I have ever tasted in both England and Scotland.
6. Wherever I go in the world, I find blind people who read the Braille Monitor on a regular basis. Almost without exception they tell me that they find it helpful in dealing with their local problems and in giving them encouragement. Therefore, although I think we should do what we can to give financial assistance, I believe the most important thing we can do to help blind people in other countries is to see that the Braille Monitor is made available to them, freely and in quantity. This will be costly, but it will pay dividends, for us and for the blind of the rest of the world.
As I sat through the Cairo meetings, I reflected on the changes which have come to the blind during the past fifty years. In 1940 the National Federation of the Blind was just getting started and was mostly a dream. Today it is a far-flung organization with power and prestige. Now, it is the turn of the World Blind Union. What will it be when it is fifty years old? No one can be certain, but I suspect that we of the National Federation of the Blind will have a say in the matter. Cairo was interesting, but I am glad to be home.
[PHOTO: Dr. Jernigan seated at a table, behind a placard which reads "Chairperson, Dr. K. Jernigan." CAPTION: Kenneth Jernigan chairs a plenary session at the meeting of the World Blind Union in Cairo during the first week in November of 1992.]
NORTH AMERICA/CARIBBEAN REGIONAL REPORT
by Kenneth Jernigan, President
North America/Caribbean Region
World Blind Union
Presented at the
Third General Assembly
Of the World Blind Union
In Cairo, Egypt, November, 1992
When the International Federation of the Blind and the World Council for the Welfare of the Blind met in Saudi Arabia in 1984 to merge and become the World Blind Union, there were more questions than answers, but that was eight years ago. Today the situation is entirely different. Although there are still problems, the direction of the organization and its pattern of operation are now well-established. As we meet here today in Cairo in the fall of 1992, our task is to assess our performance since 1984 and chart the course for the future.
From the beginning the Regional Unions have been a key factor in the total process. In this context and from this perspective I bring you the report of the activities of the North America/ Caribbean region for the past four years. We have a total of twelve delegates--six from the United States, four from Canada, and two from the Caribbean. Three of the delegates from the United States (the one from the American Council of the Blind, the one from the Blinded Veterans Association, and the one from the National Federation of the Blind) represent organizations of the blind. The other three (the delegate from the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, the delegate from the American Foundation for the Blind, and the delegate from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped) represent organizations for the blind. Of the four delegates from Canada, two represent the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and two represent the Canadian Council of the Blind. The remaining two delegates from our region represent the Caribbean Council for the Blind.
When we look back over the past four years, the accomplishments of the North America/Caribbean region have been, by any standard, impressive. Under the leadership of Dr. Euclid Herie, treasurer of the World Blind Union, and chief executive of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, our region has raised a considerable amount of money to endow the Louis Braille Memorial at Coupvray, France. Today I am authorized to tell you that our region is prepared to give during the present General Assembly an additional $20,000 U.S. to the Louis Braille Memorial. We invite other regions to join us in matching or exceeding this commitment. In cooperation with our colleagues in France, we intend to raise enough money throughout the world to ensure the permanent financial security of the Louis Braille Memorial and to make certain that this monument to one of the principal benefactors of the blind continues in perpetuity. Braille is a significant part of our heritage, and one of the principal yardsticks for measuring the vitality and validity of a civilization or culture is the degree to which it shows respect and reverence for the ancestors who brought it into being. With this in mind, and working with our colleagues in France, we in the North America/Caribbean region intend to place the Louis Braille Memorial on a firm and enduring foundation. We urge the other regions to join us in this effort, and we feel confident that they will.
The principal accomplishment of our Regional Union during the time since its establishment in 1984 has been the framework that it has provided for cooperative effort and new initiatives. A prime example is the work of the Committee on Joint Organizational Effort, which grew out of a meeting in Montreal in the summer of 1988 and has brought together most of the major organizations of and for the blind in the United States and Canada. This committee (the J.O.E. Committee) has led the effort to improve Braille literacy in our two countries. As a result of its work, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress has developed a Braille competency test, the successful completion of which we are seeking to include as a part of the certification of all teachers of blind children in the United States. We have not yet fully achieved this objective, but we are well on the way to its realization.
A growing number of the states in the U.S. have adopted legislation requiring that instruction in Braille be made available to all blind and severely visually impaired children. One would think that such laws would not be necessary, but apparently they are--and our Regional Union has provided the impetus to set things right.
As part of our regional effort, the Committee on Joint Organizational Effort was the springboard for the establishment in May of this year of an organization called Friends of Libraries for the Blind. Spearheaded by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, the National Federation of the Blind, and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, this organization intends to promote and support library service for the blind throughout the United States and Canada.
The Committee on Joint Organizational Effort has also taken the lead in promoting technology in our region and in making specialized tools and appliances available to the blind. In the fall of 1991, the U.S./Canada Conference on Technology was held at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore. This meeting was truly historic. It was the first time that the decision- makers of the organizations of and for the blind and the vendors of technology had ever come together to consider common problems. More than fifty participants were present, representing most of the major organizations, producers, and suppliers in the United States and Canada. The real significance of the meeting was the fact that all those who were there had the power to decide and commit. It was not merely a meeting concerning technology but the coming together of an entire field to discuss problems and take action. Another such conference will be held next year.
Meanwhile, the results of the first meeting are being felt. Under the leadership of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, a consortium is being established to produce and distribute products for the blind. By pooling ideas and resources we hope to lower prices through volume purchases and also to cause new products to be manufactured.
On November 16, 1990, the National Braille and Technology Center for the Blind was established at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore. The goal is to acquire at least one of each computer-driven Braille-producing device now being made anywhere in the world and to do the same for computer-driven speech technology. This is a massive undertaking, which has already required the investment of almost a million dollars, but the results are eminently worth the effort. Nowhere else in the world can one examine side by side all of the speech- and Braille-producing devices now being produced anywhere on earth.
At the U.S./Canada Conference on Technology last fall the name and the mission of the National Braille and Technology Center for the Blind were expanded. It became the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind to indicate the partnership with Canada and to emphasize the Center's availability to the blind and those working with the blind throughout the world. A constantly growing number of people from every part of the globe are coming to the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind to work with the equipment and to form a basis for comparison, planning, and decision making. In September of this year, for instance, two university students from Turkey spent almost three weeks with us. They have had Kurzweil machines in Turkey for more than a year, but they had not known how to use them. They had recently acquired an Arkenstone reader, and they wanted to learn to use the Braille 'n Speak. We were able to help.
The International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind is not limited to Braille and speech devices. It also has optical scanners, reading machines, money identifiers, and other technology. Whether we will expand into other areas, I am not certain--but we have a firm commitment to keep abreast of Braille and speech technology--assuming, of course, that we can continue to find the resources.
Our increasing participation in regional and international affairs has been a stimulus to all of us. We have had nine regional meetings since the General Assembly in Madrid four years ago, plus a continuing flow of phone calls, correspondence, and personal meetings. Though not a delegate, Dr. Herie (the WBU Treasurer) attends all of our regional meetings and fully participates in them.
Canada has been increasingly active on the international front during the past four years. Through its federal government's Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), two major projects have been conducted with the Caribbean Council for the Blind. In 1989 a rehabilitation field officers' training program was co-sponsored by CNIB/CIDA and the Caribbean Council. In 1992 CNIB sent a national staff vision rehabilitation specialist to conduct a week-long training program on behalf of the Caribbean Council for the Blind.
Mrs. Geraldine Braak, President of the Canadian Council of the Blind, has had an active four years with WBU both at the regional and the international levels. As our regional Vice President, as a member of the regional Committee on the Status of Blind Women, and as a member of the WBU Executive Committee, she has made important contributions. In her capacity as a member of the coordinating committee for "Independence 92," the international visibility exposition which took place in Vancouver, British Columbia, this spring, Mrs. Braak succeeded in getting many of the WBU officers and members included on the program as keynote speakers and session leaders. In addition, she was able, through the government of Canada, to finance attendance at the exposition by seven blind persons from developing countries.
During the past four years our region (through the generous hospitality of CNIB) has hosted two full meetings of the WBU officers. Also, CNIB recently arranged for students at the schools for the blind in Santiago and Rio de Janeiro to be supplied with Braille slates, styluses, and white canes. CNIB attended (and helped delegates from developing countries attend) the International Council on Education for the Visually Handicapped (ICEVH) meeting in Thailand last summer, and a CNIB rehabilitation specialist was invited to the World Health Organization meeting on low vision which preceded the ICEVH conference.
With the help of CIDA, a major CNIB project on behalf of the World Blind Union took place from September 20th to October 24th this year. Eight senior administrators of organizations of and for the blind from Africa, Asia, and the South Pacific were involved in an intensive five-week training program in Toronto. This WBU initiative was part of the Institutional Development Project co-sponsored by Sight Savers, Hilton-Perkins International, and CNIB. The eight individuals have now returned to their respective countries to begin building a network of services and consumer organizations.
The North America/Caribbean region is doing what it can to assist the emerging democracies in Eastern Europe. An ambitious program is planned, involving CNIB, Hilton-Perkins, the National Federation of the Blind, and other organizations. Last spring I represented our region at an Eastern European Conference on Disability held in Prague, and my organization (the National Federation of the Blind of the United States) has given financial assistance to a number of the East European countries.
Dr. Susan Spungin, who is the associate executive director for program services of the American Foundation for the Blind and a newly-elected member from our region to the World Blind Union Executive Committee, has served for the past five years as Vice President of ICEVH (the International Council on Education for the Visually Handicapped). She was the chairman of the committee to plan the program for the ICEVH convention last summer in Thailand and has represented the organization actively and well during the past quinquennium on many occasions.
In the four years since the last General Assembly, the North America/Caribbean Region's Committee on the Status of Blind Women has met three times and worked steadily on two projects. A questionnaire for distribution among blind women in the countries served by the organizations comprising the Caribbean Council for the Blind has been constructed and is now ready for circulation. The Committee hopes that the results of the survey will assist its members to determine in what ways it can be of most help to blind women in the developing countries of the region. The Committee is also at work on a booklet of profiles of blind women who have overcome the personal and social difficulties they face, thereby creating satisfying and productive lives for themselves. Several more sketches of women from the Caribbean are needed, but these should be in hand in a few weeks. The Committee hopes initially to produce both Braille and large-print editions of the publication in French and English and possibly in Spanish and other languages. It may be that the WBU Committee on the Status of Blind Women will want to expand this effort to a worldwide project.
In 1990, as part of our regional effort, the National Federation of the Blind gave $10,000 to the WBU Committee on the Deaf-Blind to finance the publication of their magazine. We have also given ongoing financial assistance to the blind of the Caribbean, and we plan to continue this effort.
Last month in New York at the special session of the United Nations to consider disability, our region (at the request of President Watson) staffed a display to raise the profile of the World Blind Union. We demonstrated specialized tools, technology, and devices and distributed literature.
The last four years have brought tremendous (I might almost say unimaginable) changes throughout the world, and also in our region. The balances have shifted, and the focus has changed--and at the center of it all has been the World Blind Union. During the coming four years Gary Magarrell of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind will serve as our Regional Vice President; Tony Avril of the Caribbean Council for the Blind and Dr. Susan Spungin of the American Foundation for the Blind will serve on the Executive Committee; and I will continue as Regional President.
In concluding this report I can do no better than reiterate what I said four years ago in Madrid. In a very real sense every day of our lives is a new crossroad, requiring decisions that inevitably lead to advancement or failure--but not all days are equally important. Some stand out above others, representing times of crucial significance in the history of a person or a social movement. Cairo in 1992 constitutes one of these landmark times. What we do here during this brief period may well have a crucial effect on the affairs of the blind of the world for generations to come.
There are certain issues with which we must continue to deal, both wisely and decisively. We must decide how we will allocate the resources we have, and what we will do to increase those resources. We must deal with the problems of the blind of the developing countries, and we must do it in such a way that we do not give the impression (either to ourselves or others) that there are two classes of blind people in the world, the inferior and the superior. We must recognize that we are brothers and sisters, and our actions must suit our words.
Above all, we must understand and support the concept that we who are blind intend to have the major voice in determining our own destiny. Through the centuries others have made our decisions for us, and have settled our fate--but that time is at an end. We are determined to have no more of it.
The World Blind Union can and should be the vehicle for the emancipation of the blind. Otherwise, we default on our responsibility. If this organization simply becomes another forum for meaningless talk and learned papers, it will be one of the tragic lost opportunities of history. The World Blind Union (approached in good faith and properly utilized) can be the key to open the door of first-class status for the blind of the world. My brothers and my sisters, let us work together to make it come true.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Robin Zook.]
READING THE LITERATURE
by Robin Zook
From the Associate Editor: Robin Zook was a National Federation of the Blind scholarship winner in 1990. She is completing her Ph.D. in genetics and molecular biology at Brigham Young University. She has become an active, thoughtful Federationist, and her leadership skill and enthusiasm are already making a difference. Last spring she spoke at the state convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Utah. Her comments are a reminder of just how important it is to get our literature into libraries and other public places where the people who need to read our material can find it. Here is what she has to say:
I can hardly believe that it was only two years ago at this Utah State Convention that I was first introduced to Federationists. My life has surely changed from what it was in my pre-Federation days. It all began a couple of years ago, when I finally came to the conclusion that I could no longer continue to pretend to myself and the world that I was sighted. That way of life was just not satisfactory anymore (not to suggest that it had ever been). I was looking for a solution to this problem so that I could start living life as a true participant and not the passive spectator that I had become. I say "spectator" because I was unable or unwilling to interact with people comfortably in many situations. I generally made myself invisible in order to avoid embarrassing situations. I was humiliated and ashamed because I could not see well.
After reaching the conclusion that I needed a change in my lifestyle, I started to look for some answers. I began my search in the library with the blindness literature, for here surely, I thought, I would find some direction. But the more books I read on blindness, the more discouraged I became. Blind people, so these books informed me, were inferior and dependent and had many psychological problems. At this point I resolved that I was definitely not blind. I much preferred my old invisibility and nobody status to this depiction of blindness.
However, I still continued to search the literature on blindness, until one day I came across the Braille Monitor. I remember reading an article about some airline issue and another about a mother fighting for the right for her young daughter to use a cane in school. These stories were interesting but not really pertinent to me, or so I thought at the time. However, now I know different.
The next time I found myself in the library I picked up the Braille Monitor and found the article, "Who Is Blind, and Is It Respectable" (see the June, 1989, Braille Monitor). Here are some lines from that article:
"From the beginning of history blindness has been equated with inferiority and lack of ability, so people have done everything they could to avoid being thought of as blind.... Underlying much of the work we of the National Federation of the Blind have done over the years is the concept that it is respectable to be blind. Here we have taken a lesson from the blacks. As long as black people tried to hide their blackness or point to the fact that this or that black really had lighter skin than most, second-class status was inevitable; for even the lightest-skinned black was still black.... Only when blacks began to be what they were (and openly to say that they were proud to be what they were) did the world change. Within reason, others tend to treat us as we expect to be treated, so when blacks began to feel and act and believe that it was respectable to be black, it was respectable.... Likewise with the blind. A person who sees so little that he or she cannot drive a car, read ordinary print, recognize faces at a distance, or do visually most of the rest of the things that others normally do with sight is (by any reasonable definition) blind."
That is what the Monitor said, and it hit me hard. I had fallen into this very trap. I thought that, if I only tried hard enough, people wouldn't know that I couldn't see. I had been searching for a way out of this snare, and these words began showing me the way. I was tired of confinement and ready for freedom.
What a contrast this literature was! These were the first positive statements I had seen on blindness, and they were the first that I could agree with. Needless to say, I began to read the Monitor regularly. It took me a little while to realize that it was the blind themselves who were responsible for this encouraging and optimistic tone.
Soon after I began reading the Monitor I became acquainted with some of the members of the Utah affiliate over the phone and had an opportunity to attend the state convention in 1990. I was still a little unsure and hesitant about attending this convention. I feared that the people would somehow be different from the way they were portrayed in the pages of the Monitor. As it turned out, I was far from disappointed; I had found a group of people who lived the philosophy they professed. They ran the whole show from setting up the electronic equipment to presiding in the meetings. I am sorry to admit that at the time this surprised me a little. These were fully competent and confident people, and they made me feel welcome. I really had a great time getting to know them, attending the meetings, and partaking of their generosity.
I now know the importance and the power of our literature. It has given me direction; it has answered many of my questions and concerns; it has stimulated me to consider new ideas; and often it has given me comfort by teaching me that I do not stand alone. I have noticed that my involvement in the Federation has had two basic consequences. First, it has provided me with a great deal of personal growth and understanding. And second, it has helped me to educate others, both blind and sighted. Our NFB literature has been extremely instrumental in both of these areas. By reading and rereading the literature, we can and will develop a strong positive attitude about blindness. We also need to develop these attitudes so that we can recognize and counteract discrimination. Unfortunately, society's attitudes about blindness are still overwhelmingly negative, and many blind people continue to feel shame and resentment about their blindness. These are other reasons why we need to encourage others strongly to read our literature.
We have a wide variety of literature available, including a new information book, What You Should Know About Blindness, Services for the Blind, and the Organized Blind Movement. It combines all of the material contained in the old general information packet. We also have the books What Color is the Sun and The Freedom Bell. And of course we have all the banquet speeches and many other articles, as well as our regular publications the Braille Monitor (the monthly magazine of the National Federation of the Blind), Future Reflections (for parents of blind children), Voice of the Diabetic (from the Diabetics Division), and The Student Slate (from the National Association of Blind Students). I would encourage everyone to read and reread our NFB literature.
Through it and my other involvement I found in the Federation an organization with purpose and intent, an organization that is mobilized, and an organization that is making a difference. As I discovered this, I realized that I had found something great, and I wanted to become a part of it. I also discovered that underlying the mechanics and structure of this organization there was an intangible bonding of the people, a common caring and sharing reminiscent of a family.
I attended my first National Convention in 1990. That week was truly busy and wonderful--new ideas, new people, and always, always enthusiasm; it was contagious. I don't think that the atmosphere of a National Convention can be captured in words; it is one of those things that must be experienced firsthand. I highly recommend it to everyone.
I am very grateful that there is a National Federation of the Blind. I thank the leaders of this organization for their leadership, and I have a deep sense of gratitude for the unknown person who placed the Braille Monitor in the Brigham Young University Library, where I was able to find it. I also thank you as individuals for your belief and involvement in this great movement. It has been your example, and not the words which I have read, that has taught me the most and continually reinforces one of my most valuable beliefs: it is respectable to be blind.
To summarize what I have been saying in a few words: I want to absorb what the Federation gives--confidence and freedom. And I want to give what the Federation offers--optimism and truth.
THOMAS PRYOR GORE: "THE BLIND ORATOR"
by Sharon Gold
From the Associate Editor: In 1976 the Braille Monitor published a series of profiles of distinguished blind Americans in celebration of the nation's bicentennial. The sketch which appeared in the May issue was of Thomas Pryor Gore, the first blind United States Senator. Sharon Gold, President of the National Federation of the Blind of California, did the research and wrote the profile. Since Senator Gore was the great- grandfather of our newly-elected Vice President, it seemed fitting to reprint the article. Here it is:
Thomas Pryor Gore, the first totally blind man to sit in the United States Senate, was born on December 10, 1870, in Old Choctaw (later known as Webster) County, Mississippi. His father, Thomas Madison Gore, who served as a soldier in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, was a farmer and a lawyer.
An accident at the age of eight resulted in the total loss of sight in one of Gore's eyes and severe injury to the other eye, causing him to be totally blind at the age of eleven. Gore continued his studies in the public schools of Walthall, Mississippi, his classmates and members of his family reading his lessons aloud to him. After graduating from high school in 1888, he studied two additional years, taking a scientific course. In 1890 Gore graduated from a normal school [a two-year teacher- training institution], obtained a teaching license, and taught in a public school during the year 1890-1891. He then entered the Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee, as a student in the School of Law. Shortly after Gore's graduation with an LL.B. degree in 1892, he was admitted to the bar and began practicing law in Walthall. As a boy Gore had spent a year serving as a page in the Mississippi Legislature, and throughout his school years he had read and studied political economy, the writings of Thomas Jefferson, and any works he could procure on the art and science of government. In 1891 he was nominated for the State Legislature but was forced to withdraw his nomination because he was under age.
Gore, like his father and other relatives, became an active member of the Populist Party and was soon considered the best- known and most able stump speaker for that party. When the Mississippi Populists were defeated in 1895, the "Blind Orator," as he had come to be known, moved to Corsicana, Texas, where he continued to be an active member of the Populist Party and practiced law. In 1896 he served as a delegate to the Populist National Convention in Saint Louis, Missouri, and two years later was defeated as a candidate for the U.S. Congress on the People's Party Ticket. After this Gore devoted much of his time to national politics and became affiliated with the Democratic Party in 1899. In 1901, following his new allegiance to the Democratic Party, Gore and his wife, Nina Kay, the daughter of a Texas cotton planter, whom he married on December 27, 1900, joined those pioneers who were moving northward to the new Territory of Oklahoma. They settled in Lawton, where Gore opened a law practice and made his permanent home.
Gore's driving ambition, his superb oratorical ability, and the support of the powerful Daily Oklahoman in Oklahoma City, soon made the "Blind Orator" a leading politician in the Oklahoma Territory. In 1902, just one year after settling in the Territory, Gore was elected to the Territory Council and served as a member from 1903 to 1905. In 1907, when the Oklahoma and Indian Territories joined to form the new State of Oklahoma, Gore assisted with the writing of the State Constitution and was elected one of its first Senators. He was reelected for two more terms, serving until 1921. During these terms of service in the United States Senate, Gore was especially interested in legislation affecting the farmer and the Indian and was credited with having saved $30 million in royalties for the Indians by filibustering against a resolution giving private individuals oil lease rights.
During the pre-World War I period Gore was one of the progressive members of the Senate, opposing the trusts, high United States tariff rates, and monopolies, especially the railroads. An important and longtime supporter of Woodrow Wilson as a Presidential candidate, Gore helped get Wilson elected in 1912 and endorsed his domestic legislative program. However, with the coming of World War I, Gore decided to oppose Wilson's foreign policy and America's eventual entry into the war in 1917. During the war Gore argued against military conscription and pensions, the food administration, emergency governmental control of transportation and communication facilities, and deficit financing. His opposition to Wilson's wartime policies and this country's entry into the League of Nations brought about Gore's defeat by a Wilson supporter in the Democratic primary of 1920.
Gore knew that many of his convictions were unpopular with a large number of his constituents, but being a statesman in preference to a politician, he refused to alter his positions. Thus he returned to private law practice in 1921. In 1930 Gore was again nominated for Senator from Oklahoma and returned to the Senate for a final term from 1931 to 1937. During this period Gore rose in opposition to policies of both a Republican and a Democratic President. He was a strong opponent of Franklin D. Roosevelt's social measures, which Gore considered would lead to an over-centralization of government, thus interfering with individual initiative and enterprise. He was opposed to deficit spending.
For a second time in his career as a Senator, his opposition to the policies of a popular President was responsible for his defeat during his 1936 bid for re-election. He spent the final thirteen years of his life practicing law in Washington, D.C., where he specialized in taxes and Indian affairs.
Throughout his political and professional life, Thomas P. Gore was a noted debater and public speaker. His Senate speeches were well-prepared and carefully documented. In preparation for a speech his wife or friends would read to him from books and articles pertaining to the subject on which he was to speak, from his own library of fifty thousand books or at the Library of Congress. He would then prepare his speech in private. In addition to his other credits, Gore attended the Democratic National Conventions of 1908, 1912, 1928, and 1936 as a delegate- at-large. He traveled widely throughout the United States, sometimes alone, and always carried one or two books with him which he would ask to have read to him after he became acquainted with people. He died on March 16, 1949, in his Washington apartment, three weeks after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage. He is buried in Oklahoma City's Rose Hill Cemetery.
Thomas Pryor Gore had two children: a daughter, Nina, the mother of the prominent American author, Gore Vidal; and a son, Thomas Notley Gore, father of Albert Gore, U.S. Senator from Tennessee, 1952-1970 [and grandfather of Vice President-elect Gore].
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: William Meeker.]
THE VERDICT IS IN
by William D. Meeker
From the Associate Editor: Bill Meeker is the President of the Milwaukee chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin. He is also a conscientious citizen with a wry sense of humor and a conviction that, if he is to insist on receiving the rights of first-class citizenship, it is also his duty to carry out its responsibilities. The following article appeared in the Fall, 1992, issue of the Wisconsin Chronicle, the publication of the NFB of Wisconsin. Here it is:
Who, me--the one who never wins anything except an occasional $1 scratch-off lottery prize or an opportunity to buy some choice property accessible only to helicopters and mosquitoes--summoned to jury duty? Impossible! Someone must be suing me instead, or else this is a newer and more cleverly packaged real estate scam. I'd better read that summons again more closely. But no, I am to be a reserve juror. I am instructed to call the Milwaukee County Courthouse Jury Management Office Monday morning, August 3, 1992, to see if I am needed. What if I'm actually picked to serve? I feel excitement and fear simultaneously.
Co-workers and friends rallied to support me. "Don't worry, you don't stand a chance. You're a federal employee. They don't pick federal employees." "They won't pick you. They rejected me twice after I told them I was a musician. The whole experience was pretty boring, but the hot chocolate was great."
But I am not a musician. Interestingly, none of my friends mentioned my blindness as a possible reason for rejection. None of us had considered two pivotal factors: First, potential jurors will go to almost any extremes of whining, crying, preposterous excuses, and grovelings to avoid jury service. Second, at the time of my adventure jury selection was underway in the trial of a Cedarburg man for the brutal and highly publicized murder of his wife.
So I was needed, and I did report to the auditorium-like jury assembly room just in time, as it turned out, to catch the last half of the exciting western movie, Hangman's Knot, on the wide screen TV. From time to time the overhead loudspeaker blared my name along with a number (usually above twenty-five) which corresponded to a number painted on the floor on which I was to stand--so far, nothing exceeding my intellectual capabilities.
Having found my numbered spot by using my eight-plus years of parochial school training in "forming an orderly line," I visited a number of courtrooms, listened to a variety of questions from lawyers and judges, and heard an amazing array of preposterous, whining, groveling excuses for why these potential jurors were unable to serve. It was a humbling experience to see otherwise ordinary people displaying a level of creativity normally reserved for writers of fantasy.
In a civil courtroom on my second day of call and wait and march in line, a sufficient number of people ahead of me had presented creative enough excuses to be released from jury service that it became my turn to sit in the jury box and be questioned by the attorneys. When I rose from the general seating to approach the jury box, opposing counsels rocketed from their seats to intercept and escort me around the videotape player (present to play a recorded deposition) into the jury box. To my surprise, not a single question about my blindness was asked, and when the final jury selection was made, I was among those selected.
The trial, a trumped-up defamation of character suit, lasted two days. Seeing me using my Braille 'n Speak, the judge asked if I was taking notes and answered "good" in a tone which made me think that he wished more of my fellow jurors would do likewise when I said that I was.
My fellow jurors exhibited one piece of noteworthy behavior: When the time came to be marched from the jury room into the courtroom each day and after breaks and lunch, they all hung back deferentially to allow me to lead the procession into the jury box. But when court recessed for breaks, lunch, and the evening, they stampeded off, not caring if I was first or last. Well, "When the going gets tough,...."
After rendering our verdict on the third day, we were thanked for our service and assured that we would not be called again for at least two years. Too bad, I enjoyed serving. Also I enjoyed the attention that was not paid to my blindness. Ladies and gentlemen: the jury has reached a verdict: there is justice for blind people in the Milwaukee County court system.
WHO WAS TAKEN FOR A RIDE?
by Elizabeth J. Browne
From the Associate Editor: Elizabeth Browne is a frequent contributor to these pages. She is a leader in the Chicago Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois and is involved with numerous other civic and cultural activities in her community. Recently she had a run-in with an unscrupulous taxi driver, which can happen to any resident of a metropolitan area who uses cabs. Here is what happened when an unethical taxi driver tried to take a competent, confident Federationist for a ride:
Frequently, when problems with unsatisfactory public services occur, we resort to useless grumblings and endless accusations about the sloth and carelessness of workers and public officials. But when unpleasant situations are rectified, too often we neglect to make our satisfaction known. I want to share what took place when I decided to pursue proper channels to resolve an unacceptable situation that I faced one night in July.
I have been using the Special C1 Services of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) voucher system, which allows individuals with difficulty in using public transportation to dial a regular city taxi for short trips at a fraction of the cost. The vouchers are worth ten dollars each, but anyone who is eligible for this program can purchase them at the cost of a CTA token. If the taxi ride exceeds ten dollars, the passenger must pay the remainder of the fare in cash. What a wonderful idea! It is an invaluable service which ought to be acknowledged for its great usefulness to the community.
On July 15, 1992, a serious and somewhat frightening experience nearly ended my trust in what had become a very satisfactory service. At 5:30 p.m. I phoned for a taxi to take me downtown to a leadership program in which I had been involved for several weeks at 22 West Monroe Street--normally a $12 or $13 fare. When the driver was a little late, I phoned again and was assured that #1931 was on its way. And so it was, soon honking in front of my home.
I enjoyed my usual quiet, comfortable ride and used the time to prepare for my role of leader that night, planning the strategy I would use. I soon found myself down in the busy loop. The driver of #1931 was very quiet and spoke softly. I noted a foreign flavor to his speech as I reached into my purse to take out one of the vouchers. I was surprised at what I thought I heard him say.
"What did you say?" I asked, incredulously. "You're kidding." The following happened quickly:
"Are you refusing to pay your fare?" he asked, in a sharper voice.
"I always pay my fare, but it isn't twenty dollars. There is something wrong with the meter."
"Read the meter," he said, and I replied:
"You know I can't read the meter. Get the doorman inside this building to read it. There must be something wrong with the meter."
Of course, I didn't know at the time that there was no doorman inside the building because we were at the wrong address.
"There's nothing wrong with the meter. You got to pay your fare," the driver insisted. He then called his office, shouting into his communication system to tell them that I was refusing to pay my bill.
Cutting in from the back seat, I said, "I certainly refuse to pay twenty dollars, since that could not be the real fare. I've come here frequently by taxi, and I know how much it costs."
The driver told me that I would never get any other C1 driver to answer my call if I didn't pay the twenty dollars.
"Are you threatening me?" I asked as I quietly unlocked my door, took out three single dollars, put them inside the voucher, and dropped it onto the front seat, telling him that I would report him for overcharging me. As I started to open wide my door, I heard the click of the button which controls all doors from the driver's seat, but my door was already unlocked and open.
I stepped out into an unfamiliar alley, at the wrong location, and began walking down what seemed to be a narrow passage toward the sound of traffic. Inwardly I wondered if he might start up and back the taxi over me as I walked along. Emerging from the alley, I found myself on a busy street, which turned out to be Monroe, though I wasn't sure at first. I paused and waited for someone to draw near so I could ask which way to 22 West Monroe. It was not far, and soon I was making my way up in the elevator to the meeting which was my destination.
The next day I reported the incident to the Mayor's Office, to the CTA Special Services, and to the taxi company; and the wheels began turning rapidly. I filed an official complaint and was notified that James McShan would be the investigator. If I had any questions about procedures, I was instructed to contact him. Rather quickly I was informed that I was scheduled to testify by speaker phone on August 26, 1992, before a hearing officer, Terry Coughlan of the Vehicle Complaint Bureau.
The driver, Muhammad Samnani, began his testimony with a series of conflicting statements such as: 1. She tried to give me an extra voucher to make up the fare (which is illegal). 2. I only asked for fourteen dollars. (He had actually asked for twenty dollars.) 3. It was rush hour and took a longer time. (It was about the time I always made the trip.) 4. Wasn't I kind and polite to her? (Except for the intimidation.) 5. Why block the doors? She not so old, but why block the doors? (I'm not sure what this comment was supposed to mean.) 6. Will she swear to God and take an oath? She would, so we both did.
I interrupted only once to protest some of his more outrageous fabrications, though he kept up a rapid and continuous flow of words while I testified and had to be silenced several times by the hearing officer.
"Evidence," Mr. Coughlan demanded, and added, "You haven't given me any, Mr. Samnani. You keep contradicting yourself."
The hearing officer took out paper and pencil and began figuring out just how far it is from my home to the office. He came up with little more than nine miles. Figuring at $1.20 per mile, and $1.20 for original entry into the cab, it would come to approximately eleven dollars, perhaps a little more because of delays en route.
Then the decision was passed: a $100 fine for attempted overcharge and an additional $75 for rudeness during the hearing. "Do you wish to appeal the decision?" Coughlan asked.
"No," the driver said, and it was over.
But not entirely. I began to think that someone like Mr. Samnani should not be allowed to continue in this type of specialized program, though I knew that as a working man he needs his job as we all do. I inquired how to ask for his removal from participation in the C1 Service and was at once directed to speak with Ms. Daryl deFrancesco, CTA Special Analyst. I have been assured that he is no longer participating in this program, but that he still possesses the license for driving the regular taxi service.
It isn't a question of beating the system; it's a matter of making the system work for you.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Susan and Larry Povinelli with their daughters Michelle and Stephenie.]
BOLDLY GOING WHERE NO MAN HAS GONE BEFORE
by Susan Povinelli
From the Associate Editor: Susan Povinelli is one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia. She is also an aerospace materials engineer working for the U.S. Navy. Last year a group of Federationists, many of them engineers and all fans of the television program "Star Trek," organized themselves into a fan club with particular interest in the portrayal of blind people in science fiction and, more broadly, in the mass media generally. The group chose as its name Geordi's Engineers, in admiration of the blind engineer in "Star Trek: the Next Generation." Susan Povinelli serves as chief engineer of the club and works, among other things, to encourage blind people interested in careers in science and engineering to pursue their ambitions. The following article appeared in the Fall, 1992, edition of "Geordi's Engineering Log," the publication of Geordi's Engineers. Those interested in joining the group or in receiving its newsletter should send checks in the amount of $6 made payable to Lorraine Rovig, Treasurer, Geordi's Engineers, 5503 Ashbourne Rd., Apt. 2, Baltimore, Maryland 21227. Here is Mrs. Povinelli's account of one engineer's experience:
I imagine the reason most people enjoy "Star Trek" and "Star Trek: the Next Generation" is the series' theme of exploring strange new frontiers. Since I am a blind aerospace materials engineer, you might say that I am a pioneer in my own right.
Twenty years ago no blind person, and very few women, ventured into the field of materials engineering. This is the field which studies the physical properties of various materials- -such as metals, adhesives (glue), and plastics--and uses them in engineering applications. Like the first pioneers who migrated to the New World, I also do not consider myself to be achieving anything amazing or out of the ordinary. It was just a dream that I wanted to fulfill for my own satisfaction. Like the first pioneers I did not travel the road to the frontier alone; I traveled with other blind people who believed that we could live successful, productive lives.
Again like the first pioneers who traveled to the New World, my voyage has not been filled with exciting adventures, but I can give you a glimpse of some of the obstacles I have encountered throughout my career. The first one appeared when I was a teenager.
At the age of seventeen I learned that I had retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a degenerative hereditary condition that affects the retinas. The doctors told my parents, but not me, that in ten years I would become blind. In their wisdom or their inability to accept my fate, my parents allowed me to continue to dream of a career in engineering. I enrolled in college and did all the usual things engineering students do, but my tunnel vision and night blindness continued to worsen.
It wasn't until I was about to graduate from college that I realized how difficult it was going to be to obtain a job in materials engineering as a blind person. Private industry did not want to take the risk of hiring a blind engineer. I weathered a period of self-doubt and gloom. I wish I had known then about the National Federation of the Blind. In my moments of optimism, however, I kept dreaming of a career in engineering. Finally I was offered a position as a materials engineer with the Department of the Navy.
I do my job by using ideas I've come up with and by borrowing ideas from other blind engineers I've met through the NFB. Four years ago the Navy purchased a speech program to enable me to continue using my computer. Instead of reading the screen with my eyes, I can read it by listening to a synthetic voice. Such technology was unavailable when I entered college in 1978-- except on "Star Trek" or in science fiction movies. In my job I spend many hours preparing written correspondence, and this technology has improved the quality and quantity of my productive work. But with all its advantages it has not taken the place of my many years of learning how to read and write.
This leads me to another obstacle that I had to circumvent. As the years went by, my eyesight continued to deteriorate. I was afraid of losing the ability to read and write. Without a method to make notes to myself, read recipes, write to friends, and read stories to my children, I knew I would have a very meager existence.
Engineers are practical people. There is an obvious alternative to being illiterate when you cannot see print. I began to learn Braille when I was in college. I had several classes from a social worker, and the rest was just practice. Today I find Braille very useful for taking notes during meetings, giving a technical brief, and living a very full life. Somehow I find time for my professional career, my family of an attorney-husband and two children, my responsibility as the secretary of the Potomac Chapter of the NFB, and my work as chief of Geordi's Engineers.
My job has provided me with many wonderful opportunities to be resourceful and to reach for new horizons. Recently we were reviewing engineering drawings. These are a series of large drawings which give the breakdown of assemblies into their individual components and the manufacturing procedures to process these parts. Most people would assume that a blind person could not understand such drawings. As a colleague and I reviewed them, he described each level of the drawings and the way in which each component was configured to the others in the assembly. This exercise is no more difficult than explaining a drawing over the telephone to another engineer.
I have also had the opportunity to visit the flight line and get my hands on real hardware. I have traveled through many manufacturing and repair facilities. I imagine I received strange looks from workers on the floor while the engineer showing me through the plant explained the operations.
Like the U.S.S. Enterprise, which boldly explored strange new galaxies to discover new worlds, blind persons of this and the next generation can explore job opportunities in the physical sciences and discover careers in engineering and mechanics. Great as Geordi's adaptive aids are, we don't need to wait for his Next Generation to arrive. Contact me or any of Geordi's Engineers if you are blind and want some help in knowing where to get started. We are the ones who will make the Next Generation happen.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Homer and Marci Page.]
WHAT DISABLED STUDENTS' SERVICES ARE AND WHAT THEY SHOULD BE
by Marci Page
From the Associate Editor: The following article is reprinted from the December, 1992, issue of the Buckeye Bulletin, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio. The material was originally presented as a speech delivered to the delegates attending the NFB of Ohio's state convention last October. It was part of a panel discussion about disabled students' services. Marci Page is president of the Boulder County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado, and she serves as the coordinator of services for blind and other disabled students at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her commonsense practicality and genuine commitment to help her students become fully independent are refreshing in contrast to the bureaucratic nonsense and rigidity that burden many DSS programs and smother the students who are forced to depend on them. Here is what Mrs. Page had to say:
The mission of every university is to educate its students and also to teach them to function as citizens of the world. I think about this a lot in my work with blind and other disabled students at the University of Colorado. Let me take a minute to explain my title. In our office in addition to me there are an overall director, a person who coordinates services to deaf and hard of hearing students, and a coordinator and a number of other people who work with learning-disabled students. I work with everybody else. There were too many populations in this group to fit on a business card or door plaque. We struggled for a while with terms like "miscellaneous," but that didn't seem quite right, so we settled for "blind and other disabled students."
The University of Colorado at Boulder established its program for disabled students in 1974. It was not the first one, but it was one of the earliest. My husband, Homer Page, began the program before moving on to other things. [In November he was returned in an uncontested election to his second term as a Boulder County Commissioner.] I have worked in the program now for ten and a half years. I learned a lot from Homer about running this program and a lot from my own experience as a student in Washington state.
A moment ago I greeted Linda Wetters, who is on the platform and will be speaking in a few minutes. We first met about ten years ago at a meeting of AHSPPE (the Association for Handicapped Student Programs in Post-Secondary Education). That organization has, thank goodness, just changed its name to AHEAD (the Association for Higher Education and Disability). Partly this was done to shorten the name, but it also reflects the movement toward consumerism, which is beginning to take place in this field.
I will say that when I attended my first conference of AHSPPE, I felt very much an outsider. I went as a representative of the National Federation of the Blind's student division, and even though I had worked in the field for over a year, as soon as they saw my cane with the NFB logo, I felt like an outcast. People didn't agree with the philosophy that we were promoting and that I was practicing in Colorado. There was a lot of negative feeling about the Federation. Most participants believed we were a radical organization that really didn't represent the needs of blind students.
This year I attended another AHSPPE conference in California; and while I think there are still problems on some campuses and a long way to go, I encountered much less resistance. Many people were saying, "Yes, I know we have to teach students to do these things. It's easier to provide the service, but I know we have to begin teaching them to be independent." I think it is important for members of the Federation to become involved with offices like the one I work in. They should offer to help. NFB members who are professionals can become mentors for disabled students on campus. We really can have a positive effect if we will roll up our sleeves and help.
Let me tell you a little about the program I run, about how it works and why. I believe that I have a great responsibility to our blind students to help them become functioning blind citizens in the twenty-first century. Lots of students come through my office. Some have been blind all their lives and have come through the public school system or a school for the blind. Some have transferred from other institutions. Some are just losing their sight now. Unfortunately, particularly those who have received services in high school or from other institutions come in and say, "Here's my schedule." And they don't say anything else. Their expectation clearly is that I am going to (A) get their books, (B) arrange for all their test-taking, (C) find all the readers they will need, and (D) escort them around campus.
It's not always that extreme, but I get lots and lots of students who have some of those expectations. I was talking with a parent this morning, and she reminded me that parents are always struggling with this same temptation to take the easy way out by doing rather than teaching. It would be easier for me to call the book store and find out the bibliographic information for the books the blind students need and then order them from Recording for the Blind. I could arrange readers and call professors. I don't do any of those things.
What happens if a student comes in who doesn't know how to do any of this? Do I just say, "This is what you have to do.... Good-bye; see you later?" Well no, of course not. That would be as irresponsible as doing everything for the student. First I sit down with students and figure out how much they do know. Have they ever ordered books on tape? I get a lot of students right out of high school who say, "You know, I don't know how the books get here; they just appear." So I sit down and tell them: This is where books come from. These are the sources. The National Library Service is likely to have the books you will need if you are in a literature class. These are the things RFB is likely to have. Are you an NLS patron? I keep NLS and RFB application forms in my desk, and most of the time I will sign students up who are not patrons because, if they are going to use RFB books, they will need a cassette playback machine. And after this first time they are going to need to order their own books. If a person comes in after the semester has already started or there is some other emergency, I will order books for him or her once, using my own account. But I do it with the student in the office, taking notes about how books are ordered. I insist that these students call the book store to get the bibliographic information that RFB requires. I actually sign them up myself, but by the next semester they are ready to order their own books independently.
Readers are a big topic. I heard a lot about readers at the student division meeting at lunch. One of the important things I do is to serve as an advocate for my students. I go with them to meet with their counselors to insure that they are getting reader money. Students often come to me saying, "My counselor says that their budget is being cut, and there isn't enough money for me to have readers." My response is that they are entitled to readers, so we better go together to tell the counselor what's what. If we need to appeal, I show the student how it is done, and I stay with him or her through the whole process.
The rehabilitation agency in Colorado often does not provide enough money for all the reader service that college students need. So I do something that is a little controversial among some of my friends. I run an ad in the newspaper in the city of Boulder and recruit a pool of volunteer readers. Here's what I do with people who answer this ad. First of all, the ad states clearly that volunteers will be reading to college students. I make sure they understand that. If they call with the idea that they are going to be reading novels, I say, "How do you feel about quantum physics and industrial psychology?" I do an initial screening. It is pretty easy after one conversation to tell whether or not a person is literate enough to read college-level material. I then explain that, while they are volunteering, they should think of this as a job. The service they are providing will only be useful to the students if it is delivered when and as it is needed. Deadlines are very important, as is communicating with the student. That's where I stop. If they are interested and if I think they can do the job, their names and phone numbers go into my card file.
Then, when students come in needing readers, I give them a list from my card file. If need be, I will role-play with them: how to call, what to say, what you need, and by when you need it. What will you do if the reader misses a deadline? Sometimes you have to go to the reader's house to retrieve your equipment; how are you going to do that? If they are really nervous about making the contact, I'll let them make the first call with me listening. My goal is to have students leave my office with a list of readers, a grasp of what they have to do to get started, and the knowledge that if they get bogged down, they can call me for more ideas.
I don't conduct an extensive training program for readers. Students have a lot of different reading needs. The basic requirements are that readers be able to read, that they recognize that they are working for the student, that they be able to follow directions, and that they meet deadlines. I leave it to the individual students to say, "This is the way I want you to describe graphs...; I want page numbers read; I don't want page numbers read." I leave the instruction to the students for one very important reason: When they get out of college and find a job, there will not be an office for disabled employees to find and train readers.
It sometimes takes a while before students put it all together. I had one student who would come semester after semester to get reader names, and then she would come back complaining of headaches and of how hard it all was. When I asked if she had called the readers, she hadn't. I finally pointed out to her that, if she really wanted to be a secondary music teacher and if she was going to get a job and persuade the administration that she could direct a choir or marching band, she would have to be more aggressive in solving her reading needs.
I also advocate for students with Social Security. I have written letters and gone to hearings. I help my students look for sources of money. Lots of them have applied for NFB scholarships, and some of them have been recipients. I do a couple of things that people in other offices don't do. Many students come to college without having learned to read Braille or to travel confidently with the long cane. So I teach Braille at the University of Colorado, and I insist on working with these students three or four times a week because any less than that and they will not get the proficiency or speed they need. All I can say is that it works, and for me that is the test of something. I have taught several students who had been told that they couldn't learn Braille. And they have learned it well enough to use it to take their class notes with the slate and stylus.
I also teach cane travel. The wait in our state just to get a cane from the state agency is often several months. I'm on the board of directors of the Colorado Center for the Blind, and sometimes I persuade students to take a semester or two off in order to learn what they need to at the Center. But sometimes they can't afford the time, so I get them a cane and start working. We meet as many times a week as necessary.
I have a lot of students from other universities who have never sat down and talked with their professors about their courses. The disabled students' office always did that for them. I don't do this job either. My students do it for themselves, but I help them prepare if it's necessary. Some of them are frightened of talking with professors. So I get them to tell me what they think might happen. We role-play what they would do in various situations. I say all the awful things they are afraid of hearing: "You don't belong in my class. I don't want a blind student in this class. You can't do the work I require. I do a lot of board work in this class; you can't do that...." Then we talk about what you say to such a professor.
Once they have a good grasp of what to say, I send them off to deal with the problem, and I ask them to call me when they've finished just to tell me how it went. If they don't call me, I call them. If it didn't go well and the professor is still being stubborn, then we go together to talk with him or her.
I get some calls from professors--more than I used to. Usually they have come from other schools where they dealt with the DSS office rather than the student. I ask if they have spoken to the student, and if they haven't, I suggest they do so. I assure them that the student is a reasonable person and that they can probably work things out together. If they have talked with the student and there is still trouble, I will talk with the professor, but unless it is a very sensitive situation, I always inform the student that questions have been raised about his or her ability to take a course.
I do the same thing about test-taking. The student is responsible for talking with the professor. Together they discuss ways in which the student takes tests well, the kind of tests the professor gives, whether a teaching assistant is available, and so on. They decide whether the student will take tests in another room, orally, on computer, with a reader, using a typewriter, or in some other way. My office does offer test-proctoring, but the student must make the arrangements.
We don't have escort services either, and blind students are not eligible to use our lift-equipped vans. Well, if they fall and break a leg or have their appendix removed, they can use the vans temporarily. I should say that our campus is complex. Of the several hundred intersections, only three or four are neat, ninety-degree crossings. The rest have four or five or six walks coming together at angles. So I teach students to build maps in their heads. Some are better at it than others. Some use compass points; others use left and right. In Boulder, where the sun shines over three hundred days a year, sun cues are more useful than in Seattle, where I grew up. But I also teach them to use wind direction and in general how to travel.
All this takes more time initially than it would if I did everything myself, but in the long run it takes less time, staff, and money because I don't employ readers and guides and other assistants. It's more risky because there is always the chance that students won't use the techniques they have learned, that they won't work, or that they will fail. But blind students have a right to fail and a right to learn and a right to become fully functioning blind citizens of the twenty-first century.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Lorraine Rovig.]
JOB HOLDS MEETING FOR BLIND ARTISTS AND CRAFTSPEOPLE
by Lorraine Rovig
As Monitor readers know, Miss Rovig is the Director of JOB (Job Opportunities for the Blind).
Chaired by Tina Blatter (Colorado) and by me, as the Director of J.O.B., all blind artists and craftspeople were invited to join an informal networking breakfast on July 1, 1992, in the Charlotte, North Carolina, Holiday Inn. The meeting was open to any blind persons interested in selling their creations. We planned to share ideas for building a customer base, finding or creating good publicity, locating artistic peers with whom to network, and generally, turning a hobby into a business.
The breakfast suffered from success. So many people came that a second meeting was scheduled to facilitate conversation.
Again, artists and craftspeople gathered. We met at noon at the flag of the Colorado delegation, drawing our wagons into a circle in the midst of a sea of rapidly emptying chairs. This time we could hear each other talk.
Some months ago, Tina Blatter first came up with the idea of facilitating networking among blind artists who might be attending the big annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. She began the networking by telling us of her background and her current work to become self-supporting as a full-time artist. Let me supplement her remarks from my own knowledge.
Miss Blatter had always been a part-time artist, specializing in watercolors of flowers and natural subjects. She had some success selling her work. More often, she would just give canvases to friends who expressed admiration for particular pieces. Meanwhile, in her "real job," she worked full-time as a rehabilitation therapist and counselor.
Over the years, her style for her natural subjects developed to a synthesis of realism and impressionism on canvas. In contrast, she produced some works of intense color and sharp lines in a severe, geometric approach that might have no relation to actual objects.
But then, in her prime working years her poor vision began to get worse. Her low vision techniques in the office did not always work. And in her home studio, she could no longer do the small details in the soft colors that once identified her favorite pieces. Quite unwilling to settle for art she would consider second-rate, Miss Blatter thought she would have to give up that part of herself.
Fortunately, said Miss Blatter, while researching better machines and new techniques to help her in the office, she came in contact with the National Federation of the Blind. Several members encouraged her to continue her art but to develop new techniques that would get around her eyesight problems. Miss Blatter began to study the methods of several Impressionists such as Manet and van Gogh. They and other famous Impressionists are known to have had serious eye problems.
After researching the training available to her as an adult who needed to increase her skills in blind techniques, Miss Blatter decided to go to the Colorado Center for the Blind in Denver. (To contact the CCB office in Denver, call: 303-778-1522 during business hours.)
CCB training helped her develop not only the skills of a competent blind person but real belief in her ability to deal with problems as they come up. Miss Blatter decided to try what she'd only dreamed of doing before her eyesight changed. She decided to work at becoming a full-time artist, basing herself in the Boulder area. Wise enough to reject the idea of being a romantic, starving artist; she looked for and found part-time work as a counselor. Besides, this part-time work helps her stay involved in her former full-time profession, so that it will be easier to return to it if she decides to change priorities later.
At present, she calls her art, as it says on her business card, "TEXTURED ART, two-dimensional paintings in mixed media." Miss Blatter may use string to outline a mountain, a road, or other straight line. Beginning with a canvas background, her basic materials may be foam, thin cork board, cardboard, and ribbon. Flattened flower petals, leaves, polished stones, paper, and foil are also used.
Some of the paints for cloth can be used for height as well as for their colors. She uses silver or black so that it resembles the lead in a stained glass window, and she developed a "stained glass" look through the use of layered paint or paper.
At our meeting, Miss Blatter passed some of her smaller pieces around the circle with instructions to "Please touch the paintings." The group universally admired the shimmery light reflected off the silver trunks and the cool feel of her painting "Moonlight on Aspens." The painted multicolored green leaves in raised relief gave us the impression of a cathedral of trees in the moonlight, high up in a mountain meadow.
One of the other artists traded a sample of her craft for that painting, and another in the group commissioned a fifty- dollar painting in that series. Of course, each grove of aspens created will be a unique painting in the two-dimensional style.
Miss Blatter has been successful in making contacts with gallery owners. She told us what she has learned about persuading them to carry some of one's work. She described her experience in selling at well-advertised art fairs, and she shared ideas which have helped her to network in the Colorado art community. She said that some of her paid work came about through contacts made at art shows for handicapped artists.
Steve Handschu of Detroit, Michigan, is a long-time sculptor whose work has been shown at the Detroit Museum of Art. He shared tips on making a professional showing at juried art shows; on avoiding poorly-run shows; on locating and talking with museum curators; and on getting college art departments to accept you for training. He told us something of his past work for a school visiting artist program.
Having been appointed the NFB's Director of Fine Arts by President Maurer, Mr. Handschu has spoken to many museums and committees about accessibility to community art collections for blind members of a community.
Mr. Handschu has been best known for his three- to five-foot tall wooden sculptures. In the last year, he has been developing techniques to enable him to do small-scale jewelry work. The silver ring he passed around had incised (or indented) strong black shapes reminiscent of Indian animal designs. His knowledge of welding techniques and other approaches to work with metal will make him a valuable person to contact for any blind artist researching techniques for this material.
Lena Castillo, a certified image consultant, lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. On her business card it says: "Image consulting. Color analysis for men and women; personal and corporate seminars; computer-assisted; error-free dressing. 'BeautiControl,' America's premier image company." As a sideline, Ms. Castillo has produced and sold bracelets and other jewelry made of imitation gemstones. She was interested in new ideas for marketing her lovely delicate pieces.
Janet Caron, of Florida, as her business card states, creates "one-of-a-kind hand-crafted jewelry." She explained how she crafts large, hand-made clay beads, then color-glazes and fires them until they have the desired qualities. She'll add a mixture of semi-precious stones such as rose quartz, ivorystone, and so on to create her necklaces. When she passed some samples around, the rough or smooth textures of fired clay contrasted well with the polished gems and mineral stones. Most necklaces were a single strand, and, as is so popular now, "chunky."
It was especially interesting to hear how she sold a local wholesale supplier of semi-precious, expensive stones on the idea of supplying her needs for a handful each of many different kinds. This summer, Miss Caron visited Italy. After seeing her work, the American embassy in Rome placed "Necklaces by Caron" in their gift shop of quality American goods.
Later in convention week, I learned that Ms. Caron brought twenty-two necklaces to convention. She went home with none and with paid commissions for several more orders. Her pieces normally sell for thirty to sixty-five dollars and up, depending on the materials used.
Fred and Janet Bixby, of Virginia, attended the Artist's meeting. Fred creates huge mixed media paintings that he describes as "three-dimensional." He spoke of his work being part sculpture, part wall-hanging, and part painting. He and Tina began to share ideas immediately. Janet said she is the business manager. Both Bixbys are legally blind and have extensive backgrounds in rehabilitation counseling and teaching of blind adults.
Later that week, the Bixbys offered to be contact points for any blind artists or craftspeople who would like to make contact with other blind artists. They will accept mail in Braille or in print and ask that individuals include information on what kind of art interests them most: Mr. and Mrs. Fred Bixby, 208 West Boscawen, Number 11, Winchester, VA 22601; home phone: 703-722- 4712.
Mr. Arthur Segal, who is totally blind, works for the mayor of one of the 20 largest cities in the U.S.--Baltimore, Maryland. Mr. Segal is the mayor's troubleshooter for the annual event called "ARTSCAPE." And, as the city's Handicapped Services Coordinator, his reports on accessibility to the city museums for persons with handicaps are read and heeded.
On another project coming up soon, Mr. Segal spoke of his need to locate blind artists who can share their techniques with teachers of blind children. Baltimore has a public school/tech school which is especially dedicated to teaching the arts. It is soon going to be accepting blind students. If you would like to offer your knowledge to young blind artists through his office, contact Job Opportunities for the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230; phone: 800-638-7518. There is no money in it; but there may be some prestige. This is very much still in the planning stage.
One woman in the group said she'd been steadily losing sight and believed she'd have to give up painting. But after hearing the ideas thrown out by Tina and the others, she said she thought she'd reconsider.
Another woman, a 1992 NFB scholarship winner from Virginia, is presently a student in art history. She is planning to make her living in art museum or history museum work. Ms. Katherine Bond shared her low-vision and blind techniques for the study of art. And, she shared ideas from her experiences in advising museums on ways to increase accessibility for handicapped visitors.
One artist from California calls on his American Indian heritage to create personal, hand-crafted objects with religious significance. He uses natural materials in all his work.
Some other persons were in the group but chose to be listeners more than talkers.
As the two-hour meeting wound down, the participants agreed on the following points:
* After this meeting, the artists and craftspeople feel more sure that they have a chance to succeed as artists who will be treated seriously by galleries and buyers.
* that another meeting of Blind Artists and Craftspeople will take place at the 1993 NFB Convention; and
* that to make networking easier, each person who attended the meeting this year will receive a list of addresses and phone numbers for each of the other persons.
All agreed it is helpful to know that other blind Americans are working as creative artists and craftspeople and making money at it.
AGRICULTURAL and EQUESTRIAN GROUP MEETS
by Lorraine Rovig
On June 30, 1992, during the NFB Annual Convention, a newly formed Agricultural and Equestrian Concerns Group met to share ideas from their past experiences and to plan for future networking.
The Chairman, Diane Starin, who owns and runs a horse ranch in California, spoke of breaking horses, boarding horses, and buying and selling them. In the last few seasons, she has been successful in supplementing ranch income by sharpening sheep sheers for local sheep ranchers. The sheepherders used to mail the dull sheers to San Francisco.
John Fritz, part-owner and chief operator of a family dairy farm in Southwestern Wisconsin, spoke of the business concerns involved when your product is Grade A milk from a herd of 47 Brown Swiss. He described his techniques for hands-on management of every aspect of dairy farming--from milking each cow twice a day, to managing some 200 acres and growing their fodder, to often being his own vet, to being alert to daily fluctuations in market prices as he makes decisions on sales of milk, calves, culled herd animals, and other farm products. (Earlier in the week, during the 1992 JOB Seminar, folks in that audience had a chance to see some of the vet tools he uses.) In addition to his work on the farm, Mr. Fritz supplements his income by working as a computer technician for a nearby computer store.
Shelly Berger, of Colorado (formerly of Maryland), spoke of her experiences in obtaining her certification as a trained veterinary technician. As is required for all students, she worked in the operating room as an assistant to the veterinarian. Her story about the first time she closed a stomach incision was unforgettable. But ask her to tell you; I shouldn't steal such a great story.
After completing all her course load with good grades, including the hands-on vet work in the animal hospital and after getting a passing score on the state test, she and the NFB of Colorado had to work on the attitude of the state certifying agency. Miss Berger believes she is the first totally blind person to have received certification as a veterinary technician. Miss Berger plans to continue toward her goal of becoming a fully-certified veterinarian.
The following jobs and plans were mentioned by members of the audience:
* A 1992 NFB college scholarship winner from Montana plans to make a career in equine studies. [Tonya McClusky]
* A farm wife and mother from Northern California, who attended with her baby in a backpack, spoke of her family farm and garden. [Corinne Vieaville]
* One man from San Antonio, Texas, spoke of his success last summer using his apartment patio for growing vegetables with intensive gardening techniques. He was interested in selling his produce at a farmer's market. [Pete Donahue]
* One man spoke of his wish to make a business growing herbs. He is presently looking into getting horticultural training at a community college. [Bob Ranaldo]
* One young man from Ohio wants to get back into farming. He had been a dairyman working with Holsteins. [Chris Johnson]
* A former NFB national scholarship winner from Utah is now a grad student in biology. She was interested in the discussion of blind techniques used in lab courses for animal husbandry. [Robin Zook]
The Agricultural and Equestrian Concerns Group meeting concluded with an election of officers. Diane Starin was elected chairman and Jim Powers (California), a blind stockbroker, was elected treasurer.
The group agreed to hold a meeting during the 1993 convention week.
Tentative plans include:
Accepting the offer of Mary Jo Millner of California to give a jumping demo. She is a national level competitor who is blind. The group would get together with Mary Jo and a trainer to look at the businesses built around horses that are competitive jumpers.
Just for fun, the group may arrange a rough Texas trail trip open only to experienced equestrians.
The group plans to produce a newsletter, perhaps twice a year, which will specialize in the needs and ideas of blind farmers, ranchers, and growers. Contact the chairman to submit an article or to be added to the list of persons interested in getting a subscription: Diane Starin; Route 4, Box 4038; Road 12; Orland, CA 95963; phone: 916-865-7790
[PHOTO: Franz Mohr, Donald Wigent, and Stanley Oliver. CAPTION: Left to Right: Franz Mohr, Donald Wigent, and Stanley Oliver.]
STEINWAY ACKNOWLEDGES COMPETENCE OF BLIND TUNERS
by Stanley Oliver
Stanley Oliver, Federationist from Michigan, is the president of Visually Impaired Tuners International.
At the 1992 national convention of the Piano Technicians Guild (PTG), the Steinway Company sent their leading concert tuner, Franz Mohr, to conduct special classes for the blind tuners attending the Sacramento national PTG convention. The enclosed photo shows Franz Mohr of New York; Don Wigent, Greenville, North Carolina; and Stanley Oliver, Detroit, chairman of the Visually Impaired Concerns Committee of the PTG. Franz had just received his copy of What You Should Know About Blindness by Dr. Jernigan. In exchange he presented his personal copy of the just-issued book authored by him, My Life with the Great Pianists.
During his remarks Franz noted that his world travels had made him familiar with the competent, well trained blind tuner technicians. "I feel truly humble seeing the excellent work performed routinely by blind tuner technicians," was his warm comment. Many colleges in the U.S. have turned over full maintenance of their valuable instruments to competent blind technicians such as Don Wigent. Don had for many years handled all piano services at Southern Music College in North Carolina.
An increasing number are now utilizing computers to log customers and do the many other services that using computers makes practical. Out of the nearly 4,000 PTC members, there are close to one hundred blind craftsmen. In the past history of the PTG, virtually every national elected office from president on down has been filled by some blind tuner. The same testing standards for repairs, tuning, and general know-how are equally applied to sighted and blind applicants.
In the past four years liaisons have been established with blind tuners around the world through the Visually Impaired Tuners International, within the ambit of the World Blind Union. The accounts from many sources indicate that the challenges met and goals achieved by blind tuners in the U.S. lead the way.
If you are in your younger, formative years and seeking a field with excellent earning opportunities for the competent, well-trained blind person, look into full-range piano service. For an update, write: Stanley Oliver, 1965 E. Outer Drive, Detroit, Michigan 48234; phone, (313) 891-9226.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Janet Caron.]
ROME, JEWELRY, AND JANET CARON
As an increasing number of Federationists are coming to know, Janet Caron is a dedicated member of the movement and one of the coming leaders of the Florida affiliate. She also makes beautiful jewelry. Here is an article about her by staff writer Tamara Kerrill which appeared in the Miami Herald of July 26, 1992.
Woman refuses to let loss of sight hinder her
In 1985, Janet Caron walked cautiously toward the Trevi Fountain through the streets of Rome. Her failing sight made the trip difficult, but she was determined to toss three coins into the cascading water.
According to Roman tradition, if a visitor tosses coins into the famed fountain, she is assured of returning.
"I stumbled to get there. I was heartbroken," she said. "I was in tears as I threw those coins over my shoulder and people were looking at me. I was losing my sight and I truly thought that I would never get back to my beloved Rome."
She also never thought she would lead a productive life again. She was wrong.
Today, Caron, who lives in Pompano Beach, makes exquisite jewelry from scratch and works for the rights of disabled people in Broward county.
"When I first lost my sight, I couldn't believe it was happening to me," Caron said.
She said doctors are at a loss to determine the cause of her blindness. "But once something like this happens, you really realize how capable blind people are," Caron said. "I have had many doors opened to me that never would have been had I not lost my sight."
Caron recently helped found the Broward County chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, and she has served as secretary of the county Commission's Advisory Board for Persons with Disabilities for two years. She also sits on the state board of the National Federation of the Blind.
Her achievements don't surprise those who know her.
"She's come a long way," said Joe Nalty, president and co- founder of the Federation's Broward chapter. "She's a charming person, but she's tough. She's got a firm conviction of her views."
Caron has helped advance the causes of disabled people in the county.
In the past year, she and her fellow advisory board members were instrumental in creating a new county Non-Sponsored Transportation Disadvantaged Program. Under this new program, disabled people can make reservations to be picked up from their homes by vans and be taken anywhere in the county for a dollar each way.
The board has also helped make Tri-Rail stations in Broward safer for blind people by eliminating corners that jut out and dangerous obstacles.
Caron's lesser-known passion is her jewelry, which she began creating two years ago to satisfy an artistic craving.
Her tiny apartment is filled with colorful bags of beads from Italy, Africa, China, and other distant places. Caron also makes her own beads from raw clay, which she glazes and fires in a kiln at a Pompano Beach ceramics shop.
The colorful chokers and matinee lengths are combinations of ivory, hand-blown glass, painted porcelain, jade, and other special materials. She finds the beads at various thrift shops. Caron tests the authenticity of the beads' material by rubbing them together and running her fingers over them.
She takes her cache of colorful creations to some local art fairs, like the annual Christmas show at Coral Ridge Mall.
Caron's biggest triumph as a blind woman, however, took place two years ago when she hesitantly boarded a plane bound for Rome--the city she had visited regularly before she became blind.
"I fell in love with Rome," she said. "I love the European way of life. I thought I would never get back there again. In 1990, I went back, and I did very well. I got off the plane, and I just broke into Italian. I stayed for a month."
Caron has been back to Rome three times and plans to keep on going every spring. Her necklaces have even gone on sale at the American embassy.
"My life is very full now," she said. "I do very well at being legally blind. Blind people may have lost their sight, but they haven't lost their intellect."
ALABAMA AGENCY CHARGED WITH CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATION
by Peggy Pinder
From the Associate Editor: Peggy Pinder, Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind and the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa, is often asked by President Maurer to assist state affiliates that are dealing with complicated and difficult situations affecting blind people. Recently he sent her to Alabama, where once again innocent people were having problems with the blindness system. This time it was Alabama's black vendors. As a group they have been largely denied equal access to the Business Enterprise Program and, when they have gained entrance, have been restricted to poor locations. These are not just the charges of dissatisfied vendors but the findings of the Office for Civil Rights of the United States Department of Education.
The discrimination uncovered was found to be both entrenched and systemic, but perhaps the most appalling part of the story is that the Office for Civil Rights has not demanded immediate redress for the injured vendors. Here is the story as Peggy Pinder tells it:
The familiar song "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" is irresistibly brought to mind whenever our attention is focused on Alabama's programs for the blind. The refrain begins, as everybody knows, "When will they ever learn." In recent years we have witnessed an Alabama rehabilitation official jailed for double dipping into rehabilitation funds--that is, receiving reimbursement for things already paid for--followed a few years later by the president of the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind's walking off with thousands of dollars worth of luxurious state property when he changed jobs. (See "Alabama Shenanigans: Investigations and Indictments" in the March, 1980, issue of the Braille Monitor and "Of Chandeliers and Shoddy Practice in Alabama: Another NAC Agency Rocked by Scandal" in the February, 1990, issue.) Inappropriate as these actions were, we now discover that there were others taking place, at least as unpleasant, long-lasting, and permanently damaging.
In 1985 the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the United States Department of Education reviewed a number of complaints concerning the Alabama vocational rehabilitation agency's treatment of black citizens as compared to white citizens, finding numerous differences in the Business Enterprise Program (BEP). OCR found a clear pattern of advantage given to white applicants and vendors over black applicants and vendors. As the report in 1985 said: "We acquired the average income of vendors, by race, as reported by the Agency's BEP representatives. We found that, in some instances, the income of black vendors is close to or (in one instance) above that of white vendors. However, overall, the average income of white vendors is significantly higher than that of black vendors.
"Although we did not determine whether the discrepancy in income results from past discriminatory practices, we discussed it with state and local agency officials, who are aware of the discrepancy and who are in the process of establishing vending locations at interstate welcome centers and other state sites in hopes of placing black vendors and increasing their income." In other words, in 1985 Alabama rehabilitation officials explained that they had plans to improve opportunities for black vendors, and OCR concluded that the plans would solve the problem of differential treatment. So, on the strength of the representation by rehab officials that they would solve the problem themselves, OCR gave no orders to the Alabama rehabilitation agency in 1985.
Time passed--1986, 1987, and 1988 went by. More time passed, and the calendar came around to 1992. Seven years after the first OCR report was made, the Office of Civil Rights was asked by Alabama citizens to return and make another review of the differences in treatment between black and white vendors. This time things were different, but not in the way one would have hoped. OCR found the very same inequalities. Seven years later nothing had changed in the treatment of black vendors in Alabama as compared to that of white vendors. The difference now is that OCR has placed on the public record official findings that the Alabama vocational rehabilitation agency has violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in its treatment of black vendors. This finding concerns violation of the same law for passage of which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., marched in the early sixties--the same law that Congress used to desegregate lunch counters, places of public accommodation, and school districts. This same law has now been applied to the Alabama vocational rehabilitation agency, and the agency has been found in violation.
One of the violations found in the 1992 report is differential treatment in getting into the program in the first place. OCR says: "Since file reviews showed no objective or quantifiable differences between those entering the BEP program compared to those not referred to the BEP program, one would expect to see a comparable number [of blacks] enrolling as are accepted for service [as clients] by the Agency [as a whole]. Instead, there is a disparity of 34 percent black representation accepted for service by the Agency compared to 18 percent entering the BEP program. The only factor to which this can be attributed is the lack of objective standards and criteria for enrollment in the program and the lack of any guidance of the counselors in the selection process. This, coupled with the admission of at least one counselor that there is racially based steering to and from the BEP program, leads OCR to conclude that the Agency's practices have a discriminatory impact on the enrollment of blacks in the [Business Enterprise] program. Based on the evidence, OCR therefore concludes that the agency is in violation of the regulation implementing Title VI [of the Civil Rights Act] at 34 CFR Section 100.3(a), (b)(1)(i), (ii), (iv), (v), and (vi) with respect to this issue."
On the subject of opportunities within the program itself, OCR found that the lack of referral and admission to the program over a number of years had proven a stark disadvantage to the few blacks now in the program. This is due to their lack of seniority. In Alabama 25.6 percent of the population as a whole is comprised of black citizens. However, OCR found that "During 1989-91, blacks comprised only 12 percent (eighteen) of the total number of vendors (one hundred forty-seven)." And, as OCR also found, most of the blacks have arrived in the last few years and have no seniority when it comes to bidding for new locations. In Alabama a licensee is a person who has finished training and is awaiting assignment. The OCR report found that "The lack of black licensees on the lists shows that blacks have not been referred, trained, and awarded licenses in years prior to 1989-91.... Agency officials could not explain the noticeable absence of black licensees prior to 1989."
After describing in detail the number of blacks who were awarded facilities (one in 1990 and none in 1991), OCR summarized by saying: "In the past five years black licensees were awarded two out of forty first-time vending facilities. Black licensees received 5 percent of the vending opportunities compared to white licensees, who received 95 percent of the vending opportunities.... Based on the evidence, OCR concluded that black licensees received fewer vending opportunities because of past patterns of exclusion and under-representation in referral, training, and licensing for the [Business Enterprise] Program. This has resulted in the inability of the few black licensees on the licensee waiting list to obtain vending facilities in recent years because of their recent placement and low seniority on the list."
OCR also compared the earnings of white and black vendors to determine opportunity over time. The report says: "The investigation revealed significant differences in the number of black and white vendors and their net profits. During a three-year period, 1989-91, the number of black vendors decreased from nineteen to eighteen while the number of white vendors increased from ninety-seven to one hundred twenty-nine.... The three-year average net profit for white vendors was $21,459 compared to $15,330 for black vendors. The average difference in net profits between white and black vendors was $6,195. The gap widened in each successive year from $4,302 in 1989 to $7,488 in 1991.... The number of white vendors in the $20,000 and over net profit category increased from forty-seven in 1989 to fifty-five in 1991. In contrast, the number of black vendors in the $20,000 net profit category decreased from five in 1989 to three in 1991."
In explaining this income disparity, OCR says: "The evidence reveals that a significant number of the black vendors are located in low-volume or marginal vending facilities. For example, a disproportionate number of these vendors are located in public housing projects. Twenty-eight percent of the black vendors were located in the projects. None of the white vendors was located in housing projects. The average net profit for these vendors [in the projects] was $9,241. The sites were not only less profitable, but Agency officials and vendors stated that these sites are crime-ridden and dangerous." In fact, though the OCR report discusses neither the nature of the crimes nor the degree of danger, vendors and BEP personnel all know that, in housing project vending locations in the city of Birmingham, two black vendors have been shot and killed and a third wounded during robbery attempts during recent years.
In addition to the 28 percent of black vendors in project locations, OCR found that "Another 22 percent (four) of the black vendors operated other low-volume vending facilities that also generated marginal profits. The average net profit for these vendors was $7,074. Fifty percent of the black vendors (nine of the eighteen) were located in vending facilities that generated only one third of the average income earned by white vendors."
After studying these startling statistics, OCR asked questions. Here is the OCR version of one answer to the question why things are as they are: "Agency officials expressed concern about the financial plight of black vendors, especially those located in public housing; however, they stated that most of these vendors did not possess the upgraded skills to successfully compete for more lucrative sites."
On the same topic the report goes on: "OCR sought to ascertain whether the agency initiated any measures to reduce the income disparity between black and white vendors as recommended by OCR in 1985. There was no evidence that agency officials made any efforts to eliminate the income disparity between black and white vendors."
To summarize its findings in this area, OCR stated: "Based on the evidence, OCR found that blacks disproportionately received fewer vending opportunities and benefits because of pervasive patterns of under-representation resulting from the referral process, non-selection of first-time vending facilities, and marginal vending assignments. OCR determined that the Agency has oversight and management responsibilities for the [Business Enterprise] Program and is responsible for monitoring its operation to ensure comparable vending opportunities and benefits for both black and white clients. Furthermore, the Agency took no action to resolve the income inequities between white and black vendors after the problem was identified by OCR in 1985. OCR therefore concludes that the Agency is in violation of the regulation implementing Title VI at 34 CFR Section 100.3(a), (b)(1)(i), (ii), (iv), (v), and (vi)."
The actual finding of a violation is a big step forward toward fairness in Alabama. What Alabama citizens have known for years has now been formally identified and reported by federal officials. Astonishingly, that is where the officials stopped. After describing and naming this long and unfair pattern of mistreatment of Alabama's black blind citizens, OCR only ordered Alabama rehab to keep figures on a number of different statistical measures. That is all! After waiting seven years and after finally receiving confirmation of what they had always known, Alabama's black blind vendors received only a promise of statistics as their assurance of change. The National Federation of the Blind of Alabama provided a strong analysis of the current situation to the agency's governing board. After gathering statistics for three years, OCR will undoubtedly drop back in someday to see what's happening.
In fact, one can be sure that Alabama's black blind vendors will make sure to invite OCR back for another look. If the state agency does only what OCR required and takes no additional steps to remedy the violations found in 1992, the federal rehabilitation money now flowing to Alabama could well be jeopardized. This would affect blacks and whites alike. But the current climate of discrimination does that already. Opportunities for all vendors are lessened when a whole group of them are accorded only the bare minimum. If opportunities are improved for black vendors, opportunities can also be improved for all vendors at the same time. That is what the NFB of Alabama proposed to the governing board of the agency in a one-page plan which would have improved and strengthened the whole program and, at the same time, improved opportunities for black vendors. The state agency rejected the NFB of Alabama proposals without even bothering to explain why.
So let us continue to watch Alabama. If nothing else happens before 1995, that year will bring the next reckoning in improving the treatment of black blind vendors. Statistics are all well and good, but they don't change lives or put bread on the table. Only genuine and fundamental reform can do that. And, with the finding of violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Alabama is now one step closer to fundamental reform.
One is moved to ask with Dr. King, "How long, O Lord, how long?" And the answer to the question is "Sooner than you think." Moreover, the people who are shaping the answer and bringing it into being are the members of the National Federation of the Blind.
THE MAJOR INGREDIENT
From the Associate Editor: Like Don Capps, President of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina, Sharon Gold, who is the long-time President of the NFB of California, writes a weekly communication to the leaders of the affiliate. Through it she keeps the chapters in this sprawling organization informed about what is going on in the entire movement. She also uses it as a means of reminding members about the importance of our work.
The publication is called "The Clipboard," and the issue of November 12, 1992, summarized important growth in our movement and placed it in perspective--a particularly appropriate exercise given that later in the week we in the Federation celebrated our fifty-second anniversary. Both the information and the reminder are relevant to us all. Here is what Sharon Gold had to say:
November is a significant month for the National Federation of the Blind. It was November 16, 1940, that a handful of people met in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, to adopt a Constitution for the National Federation of the Blind and plant the seed for the great and valuable movement we have today. In 1990 President George Bush proclaimed November 16 National Federation of the Blind Day, thus recognizing the significance of the Federation to blind Americans and drawing the attention of the American public to our fifty years of accomplishment on behalf of the blind. During our 1992 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind of California, we celebrated the growth of our affiliate and the increasing membership of the National Federation of the Blind by chartering seven newly organized chapters.
There is little that is more exciting to Federationists than identifying a new NFB member or organizing a new chapter. It is the monthly chapter meetings that build the National Federation of the Blind and bring to the local community the benefits and strengths of a national movement, both broad in scope and representative of the interests and needs of blind people. The National Federation of the Blind has the largest and fastest- growing membership of any blind organization in the world, and California is proud to be a contributor to that growth.
In mid-August we organized the Central Valley Chapter with Federationist Mike Corn as its president. In late August we organized the Greater Pasadena Chapter, and Tom Winholtz, who recently moved to California from Minnesota, was elected president. In September the Tri-County Chapter was organized to serve the blind of Placer, Amador, and Nevada Counties. Richard Gross, who recently learned of the NFB when he needed representation in a Social Security hearing, spearheaded the organization of this chapter and is serving as its president.
Three more chapters were organized in October. Edith Watts, a retired government employee who recently lost her sight, is president of a new chapter in the Los Angeles basin, serving the southwest area of Los Angeles. With the help of Ventura County resident Russell Murawski, Nancy Marcello organized a seminar on Saturday, October 10. Following the seminar, those in attendance expressed a desire to organize a chapter, so we adopted a Constitution and established the National Federation of the Blind of Ventura County. Nancy Smith, a vivacious lady who is an ordained minister and the mother of a teenaged daughter, was elected president. Finally, Butte County was organized on October 24, and David Kling, a musician and the owner of a recording studio in Paradise, was elected president.
The seventh group to be chartered is a statewide chapter, which was organized during the convention. The new chapter is the California Association of the Senior Blind, and Sandy Ritter is its president. The members plan to compile and distribute information of particular interest to blind senior citizens and to develop a network through which blind seniors can become acquainted and provide support to one another.
Meetings of the Federation are important. On the surface we deal with obvious business. We distribute NFB literature and make our views known to lawmakers. The members seek out the newly blind of our communities and bring them to the NFB. An organization must have funds to survive, so we create ways of educating the public while raising the chapter treasury balance available to advance the blind within society. We invite speakers to address topics of importance, and we take every opportunity to raise issues, resolution of which bring about a greater understanding of blindness.
The National Federation of the Blind espouses a philosophy of blindness that brings dignity to blind people and calls forth individual accomplishment regardless of perceived limitation. Fundamental to this philosophy is love for one another, pride in the achievements of blind people, and respect for ourselves. Through concern for others we build this movement of ours one member at a time by bringing a friend or acquaintance to an NFB meeting. New local chapters are needed and wanted by people who may never even have heard of the NFB. Your help is needed to establish and build them.
Whether the next meeting of the National Federation of the Blind is that of a local chapter, a state convention, or the National Convention, the importance of our individual attendance is the same. It is our coming together and our collective voice at every level of the Federation that are paving the way to freedom for the blind.
[PHOTO: David Andrews seated at a computer. CAPTION: David Andrews.]
BOOK REVIEW OF SOLUTIONS: ACCESS TECHNOLOGIES FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE BLIND
by Olga Espinola and Diane
Published by National Braille Press, Inc., 1992
Reviewed by David Andrews
From the Associate Editor: David Andrews is the Director of the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind, which is located at the National Center for the Blind. Probably no one in the country knows more about the whole range of access technology for blind people than Mr. Andrews, so it seemed appropriate to ask him to review Solutions, the new book written by Olga Espinola and Diane Croft and published by the National Braille Press. Here is what he has to say:
Every day in the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind I receive telephone calls, many of which ask the same group of questions: "Which screen review program is the perfect one for me?" "What speech synthesizer sounds the best?" "Tell me everything you know about scanners in one minute or less." "Which is better, the Kurzweil or the Arkenstone?" "What Braille printer should I buy?" I don't try to avoid answering these questions, but there isn't a simple answer to most of them. I usually say, "It depends...." What does it depend on? Well, on the person's budget, work situation, prior knowledge and experience, current personal computer or computer being accessed, and much more. When a person has some previous experience with computers, it may be possible to ask a few questions in order to arrive at the right answer. However, with beginners this can be difficult. They may not know what they want or need. They don't have enough knowledge to answer the questions, and they may not know what is available or possible. These people need a starting place. With its recently-published book Solutions: Access Technologies for People Who Are Blind, National Braille Press of Boston, Massachusetts, has provided us with such a place. The book was written by Olga Espinola and Diane Croft and is available in Braille, print, cassette tape, and computer disk.
It seemed appropriate to evaluate the book in the light of the goals and target audience set by the authors. Consequently I talked to Diane Croft, who is director of marketing at National Braille Press and who has four other technology books to her credit. Croft said, "The target audience is the beginner, the person who doesn't think that he or she needs a computer." She says that the goal of the book is to "get people started, to increase their familiarity with the technology and the language, and to get them to take the next step towards buying a system." The authors also hope to help people make an informed choice between speech and Braille access.
I read my first NBP computer book back in 1984. It was A Beginner's Guide to Personal Computers for the Blind and Visually Impaired, published in November of 1983. I can still remember devouring it in a single sitting. Recognizing the power of the computer and what it could do for me really turned me on; and, because I now make my living working with the beasts, I realize in retrospect that the book probably changed my life. I also devoured NBP's subsequent computer books: both editions of A Second Beginner's Guide and Ad-ons. However, because I now eat, sleep, and breathe computers and access technology, no introductory book of this kind can ever again turn the world upside-down for me in quite the same way.
So, to aid me in my evaluation of Solutions, I enlisted an old friend, Ed McDonald, President of the NFB of West Virginia and a beginning computer user. Ed has owned and used a VersaBraille II Plus and VersaPoint Braille printer from Telesensory for some time but has resisted stepping up to a personal computer, even though he knows he would benefit. Ed said of the book, "I thought it was factual and informative. It brought together and systematized a lot of information I had heard here and there. It whetted my appetite to get into the computer business, and I think I will now take the next step sooner than I would otherwise have done."
I agree with Ed McDonald. While I have specific quibbles with the book, I think that it does meet its general goals. It is a starting place for beginners. It will give them some basic knowledge about computers and access technology, introduce the major products, and provide a set of questions to use in further investigations. It also has a good vendor list at the back.
When I met with Croft, she emphasized that she knew there were inaccuracies in the book, like addresses or phone numbers that have changed, and that portions of the book--particularly the section on scanners and optical character recognition systems--were outdated. Though the book is not perfect, both Ed McDonald and I found it to be informative and useful. It made a good start but left both of us wanting more.
The book begins with an introduction that provides an overview. It uses the metaphor of a ride along Boston's Freedom Trail, which will appeal to some and seem silly to others.
Chapter 1 begins with a discussion of the basics, including operating systems and their functions, utility programs, and more. There is a good discussion of how computers display information for sighted users and what this means to blind users. It includes a description of the Graphical User Interface (GUI) pronounced "gooey." This Chapter, while it has much good information, does not provide all the basic computer knowledge the beginner needs. The novice should do other reading in addition or take a course in computer literacy from a community college or other provider.
Chapter 2 discusses basic information on word processing and related utilities for writing and reading. Chapter 3 provides information about records management, including databases, spreadsheets, and time-management and project-management software. If you don't know what all that means, you will just have to buy and read the book. Chapter 4 concerns telecommunications, including modems, networks, terminal emulators, fax, file transfer, and more.
"Electronic Reading Services" is the title of Chapter 5, and it includes discussions of CD-ROM's and electronic reading services for the blind, including RFB's E-Text program, the Reader Project, SoftServ, and what Espinola and Croft call "Computerized Voice-Reading Systems." Under this last category they place dial-up services such as NEWSLINE for the Blind in New Mexico and California as well as a computer-delivered newspaper system operating in Sweden. While dial-up services are useful and important, they seem a little out of place amid the purely computer-access material. They operate using a computer, but the end user doesn't need to know why or how that is so.
Part II of the book addresses the specifics of access technology and will probably be of prime interest to most readers. Chapter 6 discusses choosing an appropriate access method: synthesized speech, Braille, or a combination of the two. It provides a list of questions designed to guide the user. Beginners will find this section useful and informative. For the most part the book fully and honestly discusses the advantages and disadvantages of both speech output and Braille, but it hardly mentions large print at all. Croft said that the topic was too big and difficult to deal with, given the scope of the present project. I agree with her, although a paragraph about why it wasn't included might have been desirable.
For most people the heart of the book will be the information on screen review programs, speech synthesizers, and other access products. With a few exceptions this book, unlike previous publications from NBP, does not provide comparative product reviews. According to the authors, they asked vendors to describe the unique features of their products in two hundred words or less. They then verified the claims and tossed out all mention of those features included in two or more programs. The authors then provided basic information about the products and included a section discussing special features.
I think there are two disadvantages to this method. Ed McDonald pointed out the first. He said that the language used to describe features and the amount of information needed by the reader to evaluate each claim are not consistent from one product discussion to the next. Second, this method does not give the reader a feel for any of the products discussed. The book could have benefitted immeasurably from the addition of a thumbnail sketch of each product reviewed.
Further, not all the features listed as unique to a given product actually are, so in these cases, only one producer has been given credit for features shared with others. I do not mean to suggest that such product features should have been ignored; often they are important, and the authors were correct in describing them. For example, three programs (ASAP, JAWS, and MasterTouch) offer the ability to identify important information on the screen automatically without the need to employ special program configurations. Thus, by the authors' guidelines, the feature (which is shared by three systems) shouldn't have been mentioned at all. However, it is an important function and warrants inclusion, but credit should have been given to all three. Another example of inconsistency occurs in the mention of automatic reading features. Two programs are listed as incorporating it (ASAP and Artic), but I know that others have it as well. Further, the book provides no information on how well a given feature works, just that it is part of the program.
The book says that programming is necessary to set up IBM's Screen Reader. This is not true, although programming is necessary to modify its profiles. The book also states that one must take apart the computer to install an internal speech synthesizer. Strictly speaking, this may be true, since one must remove the cover and a small plate (slot cover) from the back of the machine; but this is quite simple to do and does not constitute an invasion of the inner workings of the actual computer. The phrase "taking apart your computer" implies a more substantial foray into electronics than is actually involved.
Finally, the book does review most, but not all, of the available screen review programs. The authors say that they reviewed major products only, but they were so close to reviewing everything that they should have gone all the way. The only things left out were the CompuSite Reader (HAL in England), PROVOX, SlimWare, the NFB Speaqualizer, and the Verbal Operating System (VOS). The exclusion of VOS is interesting because the book does mention the Verbette, a synthesizer sold by Computer Conversations, which wrote VOS, the only program that supports the Verbette. Further, the NFB Speaqualizer and CompuSite Reader do receive mention elsewhere in the book. On the other hand, ISOS and Tinytalk (neither of which is a major product) were reviewed. This decision was sensible since both have important features: ISOS allows one to access Prodigy, a graphics-based online service; and Tinytalk is the only screen review program distributed by the shareware method--try it before you buy it.
Chapter 8 is devoted to Braille devices. I am pleased to report that this book continues the National Braille Press's commitment to making a strong case for Braille. However, the chapter leaves out mention of devices from one company, Papenmeier of Germany. They make two Braille displays and a note taker/Braille display, the two Braillexes and the Notex respectively.
Chapter 9 discusses Braille embossers and translators. This chapter provides good information although a number of printers, including the Index Basic, Ohtsuki and Braillo 90, were omitted; and there is little mention of the quality of Braille produced by the different machines. The Braille 'n Speak and the BrailleMate, the hybrids in the Braille-production family of equipment, are the concern of Chapter 10.
Chapter 11 deals with reading and scanning systems. This may simultaneously be the most useful and least satisfactory chapter of the book. Its strength is that the information here is more comparative than that in other chapters. However, there have been a number of developments in the optical character recognition market since the book was published, so some of the information is necessarily outdated. Actually this is not a strong criticism because the problem is unavoidable. Diane Croft says that a product update section will be added in six months or so. Chapter 12 covers foreign language products. This will be useful for anyone needing such information, which is not readily available to most people.
Finally, to close Section II, there is a discussion of new products, that is, things that had been on the market for less then six months at the time of publication. These include the Nomad and MasterTouch from HumanWare, Franklin Language Master 6000 talking dictionary, the DragonDictate voice input system, and the Alva Braille Carrier. If you need additional information about these devices, the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind has all of them on display.
Section III of the book focuses on people. It opens with interviews of six blind access-technology users. The interviews are powerful testimonies for the use of technology by blind persons. They also drive home the need for good Braille skills and the advantages of using Braille in our work and daily lives. Anyone who is considering access technology (buying a first computer, looking for a job, or trying to use new technology on the job) should find Chapter 14 interesting reading.
Chapter 15 is a verbatim tele-conference held between the authors of the book and ten access-technology trainers. Topics include on-site versus classroom training, individual versus group instruction, teaching methods, choosing technology, etc. Ed McDonald felt that the Trainers' Forum didn't read well. He thought it would have been more effective on tape than it was in Braille. I agree. I found this the least useful portion of the book. Some discussion of training is needed; however, much of the information is of interest only to trainers and experienced users. A focused discussion of training would have been better and would have saved space, which could then have been used to expand other parts of the book.
Finally, Chapter 16 is a very brief discussion of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This seemed somewhat out of place. The information is both general and abbreviated and is tied into the book only with the comment that the ADA calls for "reasonable accommodations," and access technology can be such an accommodation.
The remainder of the book is devoted to a set of appendices, which are quite useful. Appendix A is a series of questions to ask when buying access technology. The questions are complete and useful. Croft told me that they are primarily intended for use by management information systems professionals within companies considering acquiring access technology for blind employees, but the book does not make this clear. The questions are written from the perspective of the end-user. Most beginners would be unable to answer the questions for themselves, but they are nonetheless very good.
Appendix B is a brief list of training centers, while Appendix C contains information on funding sources. Appendix D is a list of computer bulletin boards and on-line services. NFB NET is listed, although with the wrong area code (301 instead of the correct 410). This is interesting because the proper 410 area code is given for the Blazie Engineering BBS. Appendix E is a list of blindness-related computer publications. Appendix F contains product listings. Finally, Appendix G is a list of addresses and phone numbers for vendors of access technology.
Despite what some may believe to be nitpicking on my part, I consider Solutions a good and worthwhile book. I do think it will help the beginner. Its wording could, however, have been a little more precise in some areas and the text a little more complete. Its major failing is that it tries to cover too many subjects. The danger of trying to be all things to all people is that you risk becoming nothing to anyone. This is not the case with Solutions, but the book would have benefited from a tighter focus. Both Ed McDonald and I came away feeling that something was missing, that we wanted more. It is like what some people say about Chinese food: it tastes great and seems filling at the time, but you are hungry again in an hour. If you expect to use this book to make a decision on the perfect screen review program or synthesizer or Braille printer, then you will be disappointed. It will get you started and give you lots of questions to ask and a framework for understanding the answers, but it won't make your decision for you.
The book Solutions: Access Technologies for People Who Are Blind is available from National Braille Press, Inc., 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, phone (617) 266- 6160. The book is available in Braille, audio cassette, regular print, and IBM-compatible computer disk for a cost of $21.95. Add $3.50 for all print orders and for any other order that you do not want shipped Free Matter for the Blind. NBP accepts Visa and MasterCard.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Max Parker.]
From the Associate Editor: This month the recipes come from Georgia, supplied by Vivian Parker, wife of NFB of Georgia President Max Parker and Dorothy Goodley of the Moultrie Chapter. Mr. Parker suggested that we begin with a brief report of the 1992 convention of the Georgia affiliate. Here it is:
The National Federation of the Blind of Georgia held its eighteenth annual convention May 15 to 17 in Savannah, Georgia, at the Holiday Inn. The theme of the convention was Literacy and Learning. We began our convention Friday at noon with various meetings and held a candidates' forum on Friday evening for those who wished to participate in the 1992 elections. Saturday afternoon we elected the following officers and board members: Max Parker, President; Tyrone Palmer, First Vice President; Wayne High, Second Vice President; McArthur Jarrett, Secretary; Al Falligan, Treasurer; and Board Members Lucy Palmer, Joann King, Leotha Womble, Isaac Hayward, and Gladys Taylor.
Our NFB national representative was Marc Maurer, who spoke about various activities and plans of the National Federation of the Blind.
by Vivian Parker
1 box 4-X powdered sugar
3 sticks oleo, softened
3 cups flour
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon butter flavoring
1 teaspoon almond flavoring
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
Method: Cream oleo and sugar together. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add flour alternately with milk and flavorings. Pour into greased and floured tube pan. Bake at 275 degrees for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Do not open the oven before 1 1/2 hours. Cool.
by Vivian Parker
1 large angel food cake, broken into small pieces
2 large packages of sugar-free Jello
1-1/2 cups boiling water
2-1/2 cups cold water
20-ounce package frozen strawberries, thawed
8 ounces Coolwhip, thawed
Method: Dissolve Jello in boiling water. Add cold water and chill until mixture mounds when dropped from a spoon. Stir in strawberries, Coolwhip, and cake pieces. Pour into a large tube pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Refrigerate overnight. Serves 25--100 calories per serving.
DIABETIC FRUIT PIE
by Vivian Parker
1 small package sugar-free Jello
2/3 cup boiling water
1 cup iced water
8 ounces Coolwhip, thawed
1 cup any type of fruit
1 graham-cracker pie shell, baked
Method: Dissolve Jello in boiling water. Add iced water and cool. Stir in fruit and Coolwhip. Pour into pie shell. Refrigerate overnight.
by Vivian Parker
6 large or 12 small Milky-Way candy bars
2 sticks oleo
2 cups sugar
2-1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon soda
1-1/4 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans
Method: Melt candy bars and one stick of oleo until smooth. Set aside. Cream other stick of oleo, sugar, and eggs together. Add buttermilk alternately with sifted flour, salt, and soda. Beat well. Stir in melted candy, vanilla, and nuts. Pour into three greased and floured cake pans. Bake at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes. Cool slightly and remove from pans to cool completely on wire racks. Frost with the following icing:
2-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup milk
1 stick oleo
1 cup marshmallows
1 6-ounce package of chocolate chips
Method: In saucepan melt oleo, sugar, and milk until mixture reaches the soft ball stage. Stir in marshmallows and chocolate until smooth. Spread on tops and sides of cake layers and stack.
by Dorothy Goodley
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup boiling water
4 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup cheese, shredded
2 cups chicken, chopped
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Method: Melt butter in boiling water. Stir in flour and cook until mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat and beat in egg. Stir in cheese. Drop by spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees for twenty minutes. Remove and cool. Split and spread each puff with 2 tablespoons of mixture made by combining chicken, onion, and mayonnaise.
Alternative ham and cheese spread: for the chicken mixture substitute 8 ounces of cream cheese and 8 slices of ham, diced, which have been beaten using an electric mixer.
by Dorothy Goodley
2 large cans crushed pineapple
2 16-ounce cans frozen lemonade, thawed
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar
1 quart ginger ale
Method: Combine all ingredients
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
For sale, Small Talk computer with compatible Apple Image Writer printer. Brand new, only $1,000. Also, Dictaphone transcriber, $100, new condition. If interested in these items, call Micki Fishel at (410) 358-4606.
**Expanding the Federation Family:
Federation babies have been arriving at a great rate in recent weeks. On Friday, October 9, Matthew Wade Swiger, son of Patricia and Len Swiger, entered the world weighing six pounds five ounces. Mrs. Swiger works in the accounting department at the National Center for the Blind and is a member of the Baltimore Chapter. Matthew has had some difficulties, but we believe he is now fine. On Tuesday, October 20, Mrs. Boeshore, Dr. Jernigan's longtime secretary (whom many of us still think of as Miss Myrick), gave birth to Robert Joseph, Jr., who weighed ten pounds five ounces. Then, on November 16, Donna and Larry Posont of Michigan became the parents of Ruthann Marie, who weighed in at eight pounds two ounces and joins a sister and two brothers in the Posont family. Larry is president of the NFB Merchants Division. On Tuesday, November 17, Susie and Bennett Prows became the parents of a baby daughter, Rebecca Jean, weighing seven pounds fourteen ounces at birth. Bennett is the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington State. The following day, November 18, Suzanne and Jim Mitchell of Kansas became the parents of a second son, Alexander Neal, who weighed seven pounds five ounces. Congratulations to the proud parents; we welcome all these babies into the Federation family and look forward to greeting them in the coming months.
**New Amateur Net:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Blind and Handicap Service Net
Robert Ramsey from Waterloo, Iowa, has called to say that he is setting up an amateur radio service net for the blind and handicapped. Interested persons should tune to 39.20 on the 75 meter band on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Friday, at 7 Central Standard Time. Interested persons may also call Mr. Ramsey at (319) 266-1154.
**Holocaust Tracing Service Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Did you lose a relative during the Holocaust? Do you want to verify a family member's death? Do you need certification for reparation or pensions for survivors? Are you looking for missing relatives? Now that the Soviets have opened their war archives containing valuable records, a new Holocaust and war victims tracing service has been established by the American Red Cross to assist the blind and all other handicapped people. To help in completing the Red Cross inquiry form, the Jewish Heritage for the Blind provides instructions in Braille and large print and provides information on scheduling appointments with a Red Cross volunteer. There is no charge for this service. For free information send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to the Jewish Heritage for the Blind, Tracing Service, 1655 East 24th Street, Brooklyn, New York 11229.
**Braille Children's Books Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
We are pleased to inform you that we have received a shipment of seven Braille story books, originally produced by Artscroll, one of the leading publishing houses. We would be glad to make these fine publications available to blind individuals, libraries, or rehabilitation centers at no cost. Please contact the Jewish Heritage for the Blind, 1655 East 24th Street, Brooklyn, New York 11229; (718) 338-4999.
John Parker, first vice president of the Lakes Region Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of New Hampshire, reports the following chapter election results: Mildred (Mickey) Dickey, president; John Parker, first vice president; Lewis Clark, second vice president; David Mohr, Secretary; and Claire Parker, treasurer.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Out-of-date high-tech equipment in good working condition for sale. A VersaBraille II system with two 3.5-inch disk drives and print and Braille manuals. Asking $2,000 or best offer.
A Cranmer Modified Perkins Brailler, asking $900 or best offer. For more information about either of these items, write or call Barbara Schaefer or Beth Hunter at Blind Focus, 2801 Wyandotte, 3rd Floor, Kansas City, Missouri 64108; (816) 753- 6533.
[Photo: Portrait. CAPTION: Russ Sanford.]
Betty Niceley, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky, has written to report with sadness the death of Russ Sanford on September 29, 1992. For many years Russ was a dependable source of understanding and support for Federationists. His loyalty and dedication were demonstrated by his regular attendance at Washington Seminars, as well as at national and state conventions. He was a well-known champion of blind merchants and served in various capacities on state and national boards dealing with vendor-related matters.
Our Kentucky affiliate will miss Russ in a special way. He was always there to assist and encourage our new members attending their first national conventions. It was his feeling that the true spirit of Federationism could be captured there. His willingness to contribute whatever time and money might be needed to reach a Federation goal will long be remembered. May he rest in peace with the knowledge that we shall continue in our efforts to follow his example.
**New Braille AT&T Calling Card:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
AT&T recently introduced a newly redesigned, easy to read Braille calling card that can be used to place local, long distance, and international calls from any phone without the need to use change. The card has a permanent number, so users can keep the same card, even if they move. The card protects customers from higher costs charged by other operator services companies and gives users access to a variety of AT&T services, including:
AT&T USADirect Service and AT&T World Connect Service, which connect overseas travelers to an English-speaking AT&T operator when calling back to the U.S. and around the world.
Discounts on AT&T Calling Card calls, through the Reach Out America Plan with the Card Discount Option;
24-hour operator service; Access to AT&T Message Service, which enables callers to record messages in their own voice and send them to another phone at any time the caller chooses;
AT&T Language Line Service, which provides 24-hour, telephone-based access to interpreters who assist customers in more than 140 languages; and
The Braille AT&T Calling Card is printed in Grade 2 Braille. Instructions, card information and selected promotional materials, provided in Braille, are included with each new Braille card. For further information, or to order the Braille card, customers may call 1-800-942-6021.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have for sale a V-Tek Index Braille printer system with keyboard (used less then ten hours), twelve-foot cable, Braille and print manuals, and ten cases of continuous-feed paper. The Index printer is also a stand-alone word processor capable of a dumb mode and communicating with your printer. Asking $1500 or best offer. Contact Mark Alexander at 3612 Bailey Rd., Bloomfield, New York 14469; (716) 657-6278.
Warren Figueiredo, an active Federationist from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, writes to announce that on October 23, 1992, Joanne Wilson, Director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind, president of the NFB of Louisiana, and member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind, was named Disabled Citizen of the Year at the Governor of Louisiana's Conference for Persons with Disabilities. The award reads as follows:
Twelfth Annual Award of Achievement
1992 Governor's Award
Disabled Citizen of the Year
Louisiana Rehabilitation Services
Department of Social Services
From the Editor: Word has just reached me of the death on November 27, 1992, of Virginia Gonzalez of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Virginia is survived by her husband Albert, who was president of the New Mexico affiliate during the turbulent days of the National Federation of the Blind's civil war in the late 1950's. Albert and Virginia were among those who staunchly worked to resist the efforts of those who were trying to destroy the organized blind movement. They were principally responsible for the arrangements and planning of the NFB convention in Santa Fe in 1959, and those who were present during that tumultuous meeting will never forget their hard work and steadfast devotion- -nor should they be forgotten by later generations of our movement.
I have stayed in the Gonzalez home on more than one occasion and feel a keen personal loss in the death of Virginia. Albert continues his practice of law but is now semi-retired. Virginia will be greatly missed throughout New Mexico and in other parts of the country as well.
**Pharmacy By Mail:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
We are pleased to announce a new service available to all members of the National Federation of the Blind called the Athena Rx Home Pharmacy. This service offers competitive pricing for all prescription medications with the convenience of express delivery to your home (or office) at no extra charge. Members can access Athena Rx Home Pharmacy via the 1-800 number listed below to place prescription orders, check pricing, or consult a pharmacist with questions regarding your medication. These and other free services will be especially attractive to those members who are taking chronic or maintenance medications.
Additional Advantages of the Athena Rx Program:
Refill reminder notices are sent to you so you don't run out of your medication.
There are no membership fees, delivery fees, or other hidden charges.
Your medical information remains confidential because Athena pharmacists provide private consultations over the phone--not in a busy drug store.
Customer Service can be reached from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday, with 24-hour access to the pharmacist in case of an emergency. Please feel free to call Athena with any questions at 1-800-528-4362.
We recently received the following notice from the National Federation of the Blind of California. The seminar should be timely and interesting. Here is the information:
Transition in Education: Career Development and Job Opportunities for the Blind
Tuck Tinsley, executive director of the American Printing House for the Blind, will be the luncheon speaker at a seminar to be held on Saturday, February 27, 1993, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the San Jose, California, Hilton and Towers. The seminar is being hosted by the National Federation of the Blind of California and the Northern California Chapter of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired. Among the other speakers on the agenda are Fred Schroeder, formerly the director of Programs for Children with Low-Incidence Disabilities, Albuquerque Public Schools, currently executive director, New Mexico Commission for the Blind; Sally Mangold, Chairperson, Programs in the Education of the Visually Impaired, San Francisco State University; and Jack Hazekamp, Special Education Consultant, California Department of Education.
The agenda will include topics of interest to special education teachers, rehabilitation counselors, and classroom teachers--all of whom are preparing the blind or visually impaired student for adulthood and security through successful employment. A comprehensive agenda is being planned which will encourage discussion and audience participation. The seminar registration fee is $30.00 and includes the luncheon. Pre- registration by February 15 is $25.00. Registration begins at 9:00 a.m., and packets for pre-registrants will be available for pickup at that time.
The San Jose Hilton and Towers is located at 300 Almaden Boulevard, San Jose, California. Hotel rates for persons attending the seminar are $60.00 for single and double occupancy, which includes a continental breakfast in the hotel restaurant. Reservations should made directly with the hotel by calling (408) 287-2100.
Those interested may pre-register for this seminar by sending the following information to Seminar Registration, NFB of California, 5982 South Land Park Drive, Sacramento, California 95822: name, address, city, ZIP, and telephone (home and work). Each registration should be accompanied by a check in the amount of $25.00 made payable to the NFB of California and should be in the hands of seminar planners no later than February 15.
SOCIAL SECURITY, SSI, AND MEDICARE FACTS FOR 1993
The beginning of each year brings with it annual adjustments in Social Security programs. The changes include new tax rates, higher exempt earnings amounts, Social Security and SSI cost-of-living increases, and changes in deductible and co-insurance requirements under Medicare. Here are the new facts for 1993:
FICA and Self-Employment Tax Rates: The FICA tax rate for employees and their employers remains at 7.65%. This rate includes payments to the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Fund of 6.2% and an additional 1.45% payment to the Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund. The maximum FICA amount to be paid by an employee during 1993 is $5,528.70, up from $5,328.90 during 1992. Self-employed persons will pay a Social Security tax of 15.3% during 1993, and their maximum Social Security contribution will be $11,057.40. The self- employment tax rate of 15.3% includes 12.4% which is paid to the OASDI trust fund and 2.9% which is paid to the HI trust fund.
Ceiling on Earnings Subject to Tax: During 1992 the ceiling on taxable earnings for contributions to the OASDI trust fund was $55,500, and the ceiling on taxable earnings for contribution to the HI trust fund was $130,200. These ceilings have been increased for 1993 to $57,600 for the OASDI trust fund and $135,000 for the HI trust fund.
Quarters of Coverage: Eligibility for retirement, survivors', and disability insurance benefits is based in large part on the number of quarters of coverage earned by any individual during periods of work. Anyone may earn up to four quarters of coverage during a single year. During 1992 a Social Security quarter of coverage was credited for earnings of $570 in any calendar quarter. Anyone who earned $2,280 for the year (regardless of when the earnings occurred during the year) was given four quarters of coverage. In 1993 a Social Security quarter of coverage will be credited for earnings of $590 during a calendar quarter. Four quarters can be earned with annual earnings of $2,360.
Exempt Earnings: The earnings exemption for blind people receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits is the same as the exempt amount for individuals age 65 through 69 who receive Social Security retirement benefits. The monthly exempt amount in 1992 was $850 of gross earned income. During 1993 the exempt amount will be $880. Technically, this exemption is referred to as an amount of monthly gross earnings which does not show "substantial gainful activity." Earnings of $880 or more per month before taxes for a blind SSDI beneficiary in 1993 will show substantial gainful activity after subtracting any unearned (or subsidy) income and applying any deductions for impairment-related work expenses.
Social Security Benefit Amounts for 1993: All Social Security benefits, including retirement, survivors', disability, and dependents' benefits are increased by 3.0% beginning January, 1993. The exact dollar increase for any individual will depend upon the amount being paid.
Standard SSI Benefit Increase: Beginning January, 1993, the federal payment amounts for SSI individuals and couples are as follows: individuals, $434 per month; couples, $652 per month. These amounts are increased from: individuals, $422 per month; couples, $633 per month.
Medicare Deductibles and Co-insurance: Medicare Part A coverage provides hospital insurance to most Social Security beneficiaries. The co-insurance payment is the charge that the hospital makes to a Medicare beneficiary for any hospital stay. Medicare then pays the hospital charges above the beneficiary's co-insurance amount. The Part A co-insurance amount charged for a hospital stay of not longer than 60 days was $652 during 1992 and is increased to $676 during 1993. Beginning with the 61st day through the 90th day there is a daily co-insurance amount of $169 per day, up from $163 in 1992. Each Medicare beneficiary has sixty "reserve days" for hospital stays longer than ninety days. The co-insurance amount to be paid during each reserve day is $338, up from $326 in 1992.
For most beneficiaries there is no monthly premium charge for Medicare Part A coverage. Persons who become ineligible for Social Security Disability Insurance cash benefits can continue to receive Medicare Part A coverage premium-free for 36 months following the end of a trial work period. After that time the individual may purchase Part A coverage. The premium rate for this coverage during 1993 is $221 per month.
The Medicare Part B (medical insurance) deductible remains at $100 in 1993. This is an annual deductible amount. The Medicare Part B basic monthly premium rate will increase from $31.80 charged to each beneficiary and withheld from Social Security checks during 1992 to $36.60 per month during 1993. Medicare Part B coverage may be continued for persons who complete a trial work period and become ineligible to receive Social Security Disability Insurance cash benefits. This monthly premium rate is $36.60, the same amount paid by Social Security beneficiaries through withholding from their monthly Social Security checks.
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."