Vol. 36, No. 6 June
Barbara Pierce, Editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille,
on cassette and
the World Wide Web and FTP on the Internet
The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, President
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
NFB Net BBS: (612) 696-1975
Web Page Address: http//www.nfb.org
Letters to the president,
subscription requests, orders for NFB literature,
articles for the Monitor, and letters to the editor
should be sent to the National Office
subscriptions cost the Federation about twenty-five dollars
Members are invited, and non-members are requested, to cover
the subscription cost. Donations should be made payable to
National Federation of the Blind and sent to:
National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
THE BLIND IS NOT
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 36, No. 6 June 1993
AT THE ALABAMA INSTITUTE FOR THE DEAF AND BLIND
by Barbara Pierce
WHY I AM NOT
A CHEMIST: THE BRAILLE CEILING
by Tim Cranmer
WHY BE INVOLVED
IN A CHAPTER
by Ronda Del Boccio
SHELTERED WORKSHOP CONTROVERSY CONTINUES: WORKSHOP
OFFICIAL SPEAKS OUT AGAINST MORE SHELTERED SHOPS
ON THE STIGMA
by Michael Freeman
by Jody W. Ianuzzi
WAY: THE EVOLUTION OF A FEDERATIONIST
by John W. Smith
by David Ticchi
AND THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE
by Kenneth Silberman
BRAILLER AND BRAILLE LITERACY
by Tim Connell
MOUNTBATTEN BRAILLER IN PERSPECTIVE
by David Andrews
TO ACHIEVE SELF-SUPPORT
by Sharon Gold
WHY ALL OF
US ARE FEDERATIONISTS
by Homer Page
FEDERATIONIST HIKES HIS WAY TO HEALTH
by David Hyde
NOW YOU TOO
CAN RENT A DOLLAR OR ALAMO CAR
by Toni and Ed Eames
Copyright National Federation of the Blind, Inc., 1993
[4 LEAD PHOTOS: 1) New signs at the entrance of the National Center for the Blind show direction to "National Federation of the Blind," "Oakloom Clothes," and "Conference Center"; 2) T-Room at the Conference Center; 3) Round Room at the Conference Center; and 4) the Kitchen at the Conference Center. CAPTION: In late 1992 the second floor Conference Center at the National Center for the Blind was completed. The NFB Board of Directors conducted part of its late November meeting in the facility, and the NFB Scholarship Committee recently held its sub-committee meetings there in order to take advantage of the many meeting areas. Everyone involved reported the rooms spacious and comfortable during hours of hard work. Other groups meeting at the National Center for the Blind in recent months have now used the Conference Center as well. The complex of offices and meeting rooms can be reached from the portico at street level (above left). Entrances from both the outdoors and the elevator lobby lead into the reception area. The T-Room (above right) and the Round Room (below left) are two of the three conference rooms. There are also four offices in the facility. In addition, a small but fully appointed kitchen (below right) serves the area so that conferees need not leave for coffee breaks or simple meals. All in all, the new Conference Center is a fine addition to the National Center for the Blind.]
HANKY-PANKY AT THE
ALABAMA INSTITUTE FOR THE DEAF AND BLIND
by Barbara Pierce
What would you do if your boss encouraged all employees to hand over their paychecks to be deposited in a single account from which their bills were to be paid and a weekly allowance issued? If monthly statements of individual account activity and receipts for bills paid were not provided and if there were frequent disagreements between employees and the staff member who maintained the account as to how much money different employees had coming, would you become more than mildly uneasy? If you then learned that well over $20,000 from the account had disappeared into the pockets of the secretary who had managed the program and who had now moved on to another job, would your uneasiness explode into acute anxiety? Surely everyone would answer yes to all of these questions. This is exactly what seems to have happened at the sheltered workshop located at the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind in Talladega, Alabama.
Not surprisingly, the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind is accredited by NAC (the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped)--and also not surprisingly, the members of the National Federation of the Blind of Alabama are the ones who have ferreted out the facts and been concerned enough to do something about this new scandal at the Institute. Of course, scandals at the Institute are not new (see "Of Chandeliers and Shoddy Practice in Alabama" in the February, 1990, issue of the Braille Monitor). And, of course, even though we cannot tell whether NAC is directly concerned with the particular component of the Institute now being spotlighted since NAC merely says in its latest report that it accredits "Services for Blind and Visually Handicapped Children and Adults of the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind," we know from long experience that NAC's failure to do anything substantive to see that proper standards are set or meaningful steps taken to improve the quality of life for blind people is disgustingly routine. Monitor readers will remember that such services as there are for the blind in Alabama are provided by the Institute, which consists of the industries program (a large sheltered shop, producing a wide array of products and providing jobs for more than 300 blind and physically handicapped people); the E.H. Gentry Technical School (offering limited rehabilitation and post-secondary training in some fifteen trades); the Helen Keller School (serving deaf-blind and other severely handicapped children from a number of states); the School for the Deaf; and the School for the Blind. The Governor of Alabama appoints a Board of Trustees to oversee this conglomerate.
The current scandal is not (as it was three years ago) the carting off of Institute property by a resigning president. Instead it is almost $24,000 of missing money belonging to blind and deaf workers at the Industries Program. As often happens in cases of institutional hanky-panky, the first impulse of those in charge seems to have been to minimize the problem and try to cover it up if they could. As far as can be gathered, in October of 1991 these officials first discovered that funds were missing and began an in-house investigation, which lasted eleven months and produced no publicly available answers. Not until September of 1992 was a state audit begun. The results of this probe were supposed to be made public in April, 1993, but at this writing (early May) nothing has yet been announced--and now June is being put forward as the time to expect the report. It goes without saying that nothing has been done to correct the problem, to punish those responsible for the laxness that allowed the situation to occur, or to recover the funds from the clerical employee who has been indicted for taking them.
As we have been able to gather the facts, this is the sequence of events. Reports began to circulate in the blind community in Alabama several months ago that yet another problem was about to come to light at the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind. This time the problem involved a so-called consumer management account at the Talladega regional center of AIDB, which includes a workshop facility. Word had it that the blind workers were encouraged to turn their paychecks over to a secretary in the business office at the regional center. She would then put the money into a bank, pay personal bills for each participating worker, and hand out a weekly allowance. The fly in the ointment seems to have been that the secretary was keeping a goodly share of the money for herself.
Then, on March 4, 1993, both the Anniston Star and the Birmingham News published articles about the consumer management account. The local Talladega paper published articles on March 3, 4, and 5, containing some additional information. What follows are the Anniston and Birmingham articles and some information from the Talladega Daily Home. Here is the March 4 article from the Anniston Star:
Businessman Gives Details of Missing AIDB Money
Talladega - An investigation of money missing from an Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind account is centering on a program that manages the money of some blind residents in a nine-county area.
AIDB officials discovered the loss in October, 1991, and investigated it for eleven months before requesting a state audit. The state Department of Examiners of Public Accounts and the Talladega District Attorney's Office are now investigating.
Details of the loss were made public Tuesday when a blind businessman released a copy of a complaint he sent to the Alabama Ethics Commission on behalf of four blind workers at Industries for the Blind. "The Institute seems to be operating outside the banking law and has no right whatsoever to allow state employees to manage the money of competent blind workers," wrote Tom Mills, a former student of E. H. Gentry Technical Facility and a blind vendor. He asked the Ethics Commission to investigate whether a secretary at the program "used her position at the Institute for personal gain."
The voluntary program, called a consumer management account, collects paychecks from blind people, pays their bills, and each week returns a predetermined amount of spending money to them.
Blind people familiar with the program criticized it for not issuing balance statements or receipts of the paid bills. They said that, even when the money is being handled properly, disputes have arisen because people were confused about how much money they had. None, however, have been unable to withdraw money because of the loss.
Mark Skelton, director of the regional center, confirmed that the program does not issue individual statements because all the money is kept in one account. He said, however, that participants only had to call the office to find out their balance, which is kept on computer.
Members of the local chapter of the National Federation of the Blind have also criticized the program because they say it fosters dependence. "The Institute's role ought to be training people to manage their money," said Mike Jones, state vice president for the Federation. "The Federation has complained about this program from the beginning and would like to see it phased out."
That is what the Anniston Star had to say on March 4. Here is what the Birmingham News reported on the same day:
Money Missing from Blind Workers' Fund
Talladega - Advocates for the blind--outraged over money missing from a program to manage financial accounts for workers at the Alabama Industries for the Blind--are calling for an ethics investigation and the ouster of the chairman of the board.
Talladega County District Attorney Robert Rumsey confirmed his office is investigating the matter.
Alabama Industries for the Blind is part of the Institute for the Deaf and Blind, providing jobs for blind people.
Lynne Hanner, public relations director for the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind, said an audit is being conducted but would not say what department is involved. She said the amount of money missing has not been determined.
But Mike Jones, vice president of the National Federation of the Blind, said it involves $20,000 embezzled a year ago from a consumer management account where workers' paychecks are deposited. From the central account the workers' personal bills are paid, and allowances are given to the workers.
"It's just a sham," Jones said. "We are appalled at a board of directors that would allow such a program to continue and would allow this type of embezzlement to occur. It ought to be stopped. We're calling for the resignation of (Board Chairman) Calvin Wooten. As a blind person, it has really hurt me deeply to know they are doing that to my people. It's just a travesty." Activist Tom Mills of Baileyton, a blind vendor and AIDB graduate, this week filed a request for an investigation by the Alabama Ethics Commission.
"The Institute seems to be operating outside the banking law and has no right whatsoever to allow state employees to manage the money of competent blind workers," the request letter said. "There are many private banks in our state that provide bill-paying services which can accommodate this need."
Wooten agreed the system has problems and said it probably would be discontinued. "It was meant to be a service for some of the blind people, but with this sort of problem it seems we need to make some more arrangements, possibly letting these people work directly with the banks," he said.
Wooten said the situation is being handled by acting President Pat Greene, and he has no intention of resigning.
"I'm the only alumnus of the school who ever served as chairman," he said. "I've been elected four times by my peers, so I think that within itself says what the people that work with me on the board think about me. I would not consider under any circumstances ever resigning."
Miss Hanner said employees discovered a discrepancy in the accounts and requested an audit by the Department of Public Examiners, which has been conducting an investigation for a couple of months. She said audit results are expected in about two weeks. [We interrupt to reiterate that this newspaper article was written March 4 and that the report which was said to be coming out in about two weeks has not yet been received in early May. But back to the news article.]
Jones criticized the board of trustees for providing such a service instead of working to help blind people learn to manage their own money.
"It has always been our contention that the program is fostering dependence, and we've always believed that the Institute has no business being in the banking business," Jones said. "This is a heinous thing that has happened, and it's something that the Federation can't allow to be buried."
That is what the Birmingham paper said, and more details were added in the three Talladega Daily Home articles. On March 3 the Daily Home reported that Tom Mills's request for an ethics investigation included an inquiry as to whether "Regina Hann used her position at the Institute for personal gain." Ms. Hann is the daughter of former Talladega County Probate Judge Derrell Hann. Attempts to reach Ms. Hann were unsuccessful." The Daily Home also reported that Mills stated, "'the blind workers were never told that their money was missing.' However, the blind clients will not lose any money because a bonding company insures the Institute against such losses, Ms. Hanner said."
The paper also reports that "a discrepancy" was discovered in October of 1991 and immediately reported to the office of AIDB Business Affairs, according to the public relations spokesperson.
On March 4 the Daily Home reported that Regina Hann was formerly a secretary at the regional center. The public relations spokesperson (Ms. Hanner, not to be confused with Regina Hann) is quoted as saying: "The Institute has taken steps to keep anything of this nature from happening again."
The paper also reports that the audit of the consumer management account began in September of 1992 and will not be completed until April of 1993. The paper also reports that the regular audit of AIDB has been temporarily discontinued while this special audit is conducted.
On March 5, 1993, the Daily Home reported: "The audit probed account records for a three-year period beginning in 1989, according to Lynne Hanner of the Office of Institutional Advancement. A detailed month-by-month review revealed that $23,817.77 had disappeared from the account from January, 1989, to September, 1991, Ms. Hanner said."
Also, on March 5 the Daily Home quotes Ms. Hanner as saying that the Institute's insurance company will cover the loss. It goes on to say: "But Tom Mills, a blind vendor and a former student at E. H. Gentry, says he understands that the insurance has lapsed.... `I plan,' Mills said, `to inquire of state government officials concerning the status of the insurance. It is my understanding that it has lapsed and that AIDB has made arrangements to use the money they've paid into it to cover the loss.'" ... Ms. Hanner maintains that the bonding company will cover the loss. "It is my understanding that the bonding company will honor the loss. I've checked, and they are in the process of doing the paperwork on it now, but it can't be completed until the audit report is released," she said.
One can only shake one's head in disbelief at such goings-on: worker paychecks all deposited into a single account and no regular statements given, just allowances every week. Money missing from the account over a three-year period, amounting to more than $23,000. Insurance that may or may not have lapsed. And a blind chairman of the board saying he will let blind people have and manage the money they themselves have earned. Mike Jones is right on target when he calls this a sham and a travesty.
At the NFB of Alabama convention in April, members who work in the Industries Program described what it is like even now to accompany colleagues to the so-called bank to check on their financial situation. One man says he questioned the staffer now managing the program about whether or not his utilities bill was being paid. He was assured that it was. He then commented that he had always understood that utility companies only turned off a person's heat when the bills weren't paid, and he was now without heat. Moreover, the utility company had told him that the bills were not being paid. It would be convenient for the Alabama Institute if Regina Hann were the only member of the staff to have created problems, but clearly she is not.
In the meantime, though the dubious service to workers (what a service!) has not yet been closed, the grand jury has at least handed down an indictment against Ms. Hann. Here is the report that appeared in the April 24 edition of the Daily Home:
Ms. Hann Accused of Taking Money From 4 AIDB Clients
by Sheryl Marsh, staff writer
Regina Hann, daughter of former Talladega County Probate Judge Derrell Hann, has been indicted on four counts of theft in connection with money taken from four blind and deaf clients of Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind's Talladega Regional Center.
Ms. Hann was arrested after turning herself in at the Talladega County Jail Thursday evening. She was immediately released on a $2,000 bond signed by her parents.
Ms. Hann is accused of unlawfully taking a total of $16,785 from Kevin Doucet, Horace Smelley, Hwa Cha Pyon, and Candice Williams between April, 1990, and September, 1991, according to the indictment returned Wednesday by a Talladega County grand jury.
Ms. Pyon, who is deaf, and Ms. Williams, who is blind, both work in the sewing department at Alabama Industries for the Blind.
Ms. Hann worked for about two years as a secretary for AIDB's Talladega Regional Center, according to Lynne Hanner of the Office of Institutional Advancement.
The Center operates a consumer management account into which deaf and blind clients can voluntarily deposit their money and receive assistance with paying their bills.
In the four counts of the indictment, Ms. Hann is charged with unlawfully taking $3,816 from Ms. Pyon; $3,677 from Doucet; $1,450 from Smelley; and $7,842 from Ms. Williams.
Ms. Williams said Friday that she knew something was wrong when she didn't have any money in her account during Christmas.
"I knew something was wrong," she said. "I just didn't know what and I didn't question it. I give my money to AIDB every payday, and the social worker at the bank would give the receipts and money to Regina for deposit. Evidently, she was taking some of the money rather than depositing all of it.
"The Institute has put the money back now, and I'm glad to see that Regina has been arrested," she said.
Ms. Williams is the only one of the four who still has an account at the Center, Ms. Hanner said.
A discrepancy was found in the management account a month after Ms. Hann resigned to accept another job, Ms. Hanner said.
An internal audit of the account conducted by AIDB officials in October, 1991, revealed that $23,817.77 was missing. Ms. Hann is charged with taking all but $7,032 of that amount.
Ms. Hanner said the auditors turned over their findings to the Talladega County District Attorney's office; therefore, "we really don't know anything other than what was discovered during the internal audit," she said.
District Attorney Robert Rumsey could not be reached for comment Friday.
The institute called on the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts to conduct a special audit of the account in July, 1992. A report from the audit is expected to be released soon.
When contacted Friday, Ms. Hann said she had no comment.
That is what the Talladega Daily Home said, and so we have the latest events in this appalling farce. Who can predict what will happen next? In Alabama you can never tell. We look forward with concern to the audit report, to the action of the District Attorney, and to the results of the ethics probe. But, most of all, we look forward to a day when Alabama will no longer provide us with the spectacle of regular, fresh scandals involving misallocation of resources intended to help the blind, a day when Alabama will welcome and respect its blind citizens instead of oppressing them, a day when all citizens of Alabama (blind and sighted) can work harmoniously together to make a better future for all Alabamans. That day has not yet come--but with work and commitment like that of Mike Jones, Tom Mills, and the other members of the National Federation of the Blind of Alabama, it comes closer year by year.
[PHOTO: Tim Cranmer standing at podium microphone. CAPTION: Tim Cranmer.]
WHY I AM NOT A CHEMIST: THE BRAILLE CEILING
by Tim Cranmer
From the Editor: Those of us who received our education without being fully literate in Braille are in a poor position to appreciate completely either the tremendous value or the sophisticated frustration inherent in the Braille code. I remember a discussion I had as a senior English major with another blind college student who casually mentioned that she could not imagine how any blind person could analyze a passage of William Faulkner's prose or a dense passage of poetry without using Braille. The statement gave me pause since I had never used Braille texts in any of my literature study.
When I reflected on her comment, however, I realized how much easier and richer my work would have been if I had had a way of poring over phrases and lines, checking rhyme schemes, or analyzing clause constructions. Magnetic tape and even live readers are inferior tools for accomplishing all these things. For the first time I realized that I was like a child brought up in a densely populated city, trying to imagine the peace, beauty, and openness of the countryside. As with that child, nothing in my experience had prepared me for the concepts my acquaintance took for granted. Although I had managed well enough, even effectively in my work, I recognized that there was a dimension to learning and thought that I had missed completely.
Reading the following article, written by long-time Federationist Tim Cranmer, reminds me that, just as I have been deprived of many of the pleasures and benefits of what could have been a powerful tool of learning, I have also been spared some of the most painful frustrations. I took two semesters of college biology and chemistry and did well enough in both to consider seriously a major in the sciences, but I worked exclusively with recorded texts and live readers. I invented my own haphazard system of Braille notation for note-taking and rushed back to my room to record and expand my notes on tape before I forgot what my improvised system meant. My jury-rigged methods worked well enough for my immediate needs, but I would never have attempted to manipulate equations or fiddle with scientific ideas using Braille. Restricted to my cramped conceptions of what was possible, I never missed the wide open spaces of scientific exploration that are denied to all blind people because of the Braille code's limitations in expressing scientific notation.
Dr. Cranmer chairs the National Federation of the Blind's Research and Development Committee. His interests and enthusiasms include not only science, but also Braille. This article reflects and partially explains both passions. It is not surprising that Dr. Cranmer is an enthusiastic proponent of combining the various Braille codes in order to increase flexibility. Here is what he has to say:
The year was 1939; Europe was in turmoil; the United States was selling scrap iron to Japan; I was fourteen; and more than anything else, I wanted to be a scientist. It was at this time that my brother-in-law, twice my age, told me that he had found a rusty pocket knife in the back yard. He then uttered the fateful lament: "If I knew more about chemistry, I could probably remove the rust and make this old knife as good as new."
"How could you get rid of rust and change the knife back into metal, even if you did know more about chemistry?" I asked.
"Well," he said, "rust is just oxygen from the air that has combined with the iron in the knife. Take the oxygen out of the rust, and you get the iron back."
This was too much for me to accept on faith, so I pressed on. "How do you know that?" I asked.
"That's just simple chemistry," he said. "Everything is made out of combinations of the chemical elements. Water is a combination of hydrogen and oxygen, and salt is a combination of chlorine and sodium."
This brief exchange excited my scientific inclination, and I tried to go on. "Tell me more about...."
"I've told you all I know," he interrupted. "If you want to know more about chemistry, you need to read a book or take a course in it."
That's exactly what I did. I had recently learned of the Hadley School for the Blind. I wrote to sign up for their correspondence course in chemistry.
When the textbook, The First Principles of Chemistry, arrived, it was in five volumes. The postman delivered it at about 4:00 p.m. on Friday. I opened the book, began to read, and did not stop till all five volumes had been read and many passages reread several times. I did not sleep till sometime on Monday.
It was downhill from then on. I scoured the country looking for more chemistry books. I wrote overseas in hope of finding information that would satisfy my desire to learn more than the "first principles" about this fascinating subject. There was nothing more to be had in Braille--absolutely nothing beyond the introduction to the subject. "Why?" I asked. "Why not more books?" I pleaded.
I was given two answers. First, blind people can't do chemistry; blind people don't need to know any more than the basics in chemistry. Moreover, there isn't any way to write a chemistry book in Braille. It's impossible. Braille is for recreational reading and education up to the high school level.
Kids inspired by science don't give up easily. If no books can be had on chemistry, I would just have to shift my enthusiasm to a different branch of science. Physics beckoned. I decided to take a course from Hadley in physics, just to see if I liked it. I took the course, First Principles of Physics, and I liked it just fine. You can guess the rest--no Braille books beyond the basics and the same reasons given to explain their absence.
So that's why I became a piano technician. I hasten to add that this is an honorable, technical, and lucrative profession. I have never regretted that decision, nor have I lost my intense interest in science. My fellow Federationists know that I went on to other work and eventually achieved a life-long ambition to pursue scientific projects by becoming the chairman of the NFB Research and Development Committee.
One thing that continues to plague me is the fact that you still can't write an advanced chemistry book in Braille. By resorting to the use of three codes (Standard English Braille Grade II, the Nemeth Code of Mathematics, and the Computer Braille Code), you can get pretty close to satisfactory books in math and computer science. If I live long enough, I intend to learn all three codes. When I do (if I do), there is still a lot I want to read that cannot be put into Braille. There are still subjects I can't explore; there are still intellectual pursuits that will be off limits to me.
I wonder how many blind people there are who have had to compromise their educational goals for the lack of an adequate system of Braille notation. I want to know how many would-be blind physicists and blind chemists are tuning pianos, working in vending stands, or pursuing other occupations.
Handwriting is the process for transforming thought to a visual form. We don't know precisely when it began, but surely it was thousands of years ago. I like to think that long, long ago, an inarticulate human ancestor tried to explain an idea to a companion by making lines in the dirt with a stick. These stick figures (no pun intended but enjoyed all the same,) may have been simple strokes to suggest trees, caves, or other things known to both parties. A lot later, perhaps about five thousand years ago, the first alphabet was used to write words and express the simple arithmetic needed by traders and merchants. If there had been a Louis Braille around at the time, he would have devised a way to emulate tactilely this early writing system. From these simple facts and assumptions I arrive at a point of view about Braille today.
Writing Braille is the process of transforming thought into tactile form. Now there's a thought to palpate! Explore with me for a moment this notion that Braille is a tactile means for transferring thought from one individual to another. As your hands follow the lines of Braille text on this page (assuming that you are reading the Braille edition of this magazine), the words that I am now thinking come to your mind and are recognized. My thoughts become your thoughts--though not necessarily your views.
For the last ten minutes I have been sitting here trying to decide how I can pass along to you my thought about what kind of molecule chain could be formed to make a material for designing a big Braille display. If I could use the print medium, I could use symbols to show the atoms of the molecule as well as the way they are all connected to one another. But of course I can't use print, and if I could, there isn't any way to convert the print symbols representing my ideas into Braille. What am I to do? Maybe I should just go tune the piano!
All of this is to make a point: limitations of our Braille code place limitations on our education and on our careers. It is ten times harder for blind people than it is for the sighted to become physicists, chemists, engineers, or many other technically advanced professions because they can't read the literature in those fields. Furthermore, if we learn additional codes in order to study hand-transcribed books in technical subjects, we will still be restricted to reading only those materials available in the sphere of influence of the Braille Authority of North America--we still can't read anything written about computers, math, and other technical subjects produced in the British Isles and other English-speaking countries.
Let me affirm my belief that the Braille in use today is entirely adequate for recreational reading and many professions in the area of the humanities and arts and much of the social sciences. We should, however, add new symbols to Braille so that it can be used to express the thoughts of scientists and technicians in the most efficient cognitive medium for the blind- -Braille. Let us make the fewest possible changes to Standard English Braille in order to make additional symbols possible. And, if you never read a book on chemistry, physics, or the other hard sciences, you will never encounter or need to learn the new symbols. The only price the average reader will pay is to accept the changes to Braille necessary to open up the system to bring new educational and career opportunities within the grasp of all blind people.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Ronda Del Boccio.]
WHY BE INVOLVED IN A CHAPTER
by Ronda Del Boccio
We in the National Federation of the Blind have always understood how important it is to build and strengthen our local chapters across the country. State and national activities are exciting and stimulating, but the local chapters, meeting month in and month out, are the part of the organization that welcomes and assists blind people and their families, educates the community about the abilities of blind people, and raises the funds that keep the organization going. This is the very backbone of the Federation. Not much glamour attaches to these activities, but they are the very essence of Federation life. They are also the building blocks creating the love and dedication that in turn have built our movement.
Ronda Del Boccio is one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado. She believes deeply in the importance of strong local chapters. Here is what she had to say about the subject in the Winter, 1993, edition of the Voice of the Rocky Mountain Blind, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado:
Why does the National Federation of the Blind need local chapters? Some apparently believe that the organization does so much nationally that local chapters are not necessary. These folks argue that, when a local issue arises, people can band together to deal with the emergency, then part ways again. They also seem to think that people can often act individually and accomplish as much as a group could. Others say that their chapter meetings are little more than coffee klatches or social gatherings, and therefore they need only read the Monitor to know what is happening. It saddens me to say that in some cases this is true; some chapters come together only to socialize and not to improve opportunities for blind people. Socializing is good and important, but it is not our primary reason for being as an organization.
We in the National Federation of the Blind very much need local chapters if our movement is to gather strength and sustain our momentum toward first-class status for blind people. We very much need chapters to work with the city councils, politicians, county organizations, and communities at large.
If we feel humiliated when someone hauls us across a street but do not take combined action, the general public's beliefs about blindness will never change. If we feel angry because we are denied access to a carnival ride but do not work together to educate carnival officials, their policies may never change. If we feel enraged by the negative portrayal of a blind character on television but do not work together, public attitudes will never improve.
Together we are strong. Together we have power. Together we can help each other grow. Together we develop skills and stretch ourselves beyond our self-imposed limits.
Local chapters exist so that we can work collectively on local issues. If you think that no important blindness-connected issues are simmering in your town, ask any blind person what has happened that day, and you will find an issue to work on. If there is no chapter in your area, ask the State Board of Directors to help you start one. You will be amazed how much work there is to do right in your own town. Joining or starting a chapter will enable the voice of the nation's blind to be heard more clearly in the town where you live.
The National Federation of the Blind is only as strong as its local chapters. Do what you can today to increase our strength and effectiveness.
[PHOTO: Don Morris seated at table. CAPTION: Don Morris is the treasurer of Blind Industries and Services of Maryland. He is knowledgeable about sheltered shop programs in this country.]
SEGREGATED SHELTERED WORKSHOP CONTROVERSY CONTINUES: WORKSHOP OFFICIAL SPEAKS OUT AGAINST MORE SHELTERED SHOPS
Throughout the country there are small private agencies providing programs intended to serve the blind. All too frequently they are staffed and controlled by sighted people dedicated to their personal notions of what blind people need and want, rather than what is actually helpful. A classic example of this kind of facility is the Association for the Blind located in Charleston, South Carolina. According to NFB of South Carolina President Don Capps, its programs include a few recreational activities for blind people in a three-county area and a small shop in which eight or nine blind people cane chairs at an average wage of $1 an hour.
In September of 1991, during the convention of the American Council of the Blind of South Carolina, Association officials announced their plans to establish a sheltered workshop for the blind. In the following months the South Carolina Commission for the Blind Board voted to oppose establishment of such a facility, and the Board of Directors of the NFB of South Carolina passed a detailed resolution urging the Association to abandon this project. In addition Commission officials proposed that it establish a rehabilitation and job-placement facility in conjunction with the Association on the understanding that the workshop idea would be shelved.
In January, 1993, at a statewide affiliate seminar, over three hundred members of the NFB of South Carolina discussed the workshop idea at length. The overwhelming response was support for the Board of Directors resolution of October 10, 1992, and opposition to the Association's plan. But despite all this negative response, Association officials continue to find the sheltered workshop idea attractive. They have not yet responded to the Commission offer, but they have made it clear to everyone that they prefer to keep to themselves, doing what they think best for blind people.
That was the situation in February, when The Palmetto Blind, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina, went to press. The following article is reprinted from the February, 1993, issue. It reminds us why it is so important for blind people to remain vigilant. Only when agency officials work closely with blind consumers can they be sure of doing what is genuinely constructive for blind people. Here is what Don Capps, President of the NFB of South Carolina, had to say:
The NFB of South Carolina regrets that there has been no final disposition of the Association for the Blind's announced intention to establish a National Industries for the Blind segregated sheltered workshop in the Charleston area. NFB of South Carolina officials had hoped that their adoption of the October 10, 1992, resolution, printed in the November, 1992, Palmetto Blind, which laid out the reasons why a segregated sheltered workshop should not be established, would have resolved this distressing situation. It didn't happen. On the contrary, Ms. Isabel Ewing, Executive Director of the Association for the Blind, has gone national with the controversy. The following is a letter written by Ms. Ewing to Mr. David Reed, Director of Sales and Marketing at Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM). In addition, we are printing Mr. Reed's subsequent memo to Mr. Donald J. Morris, a longtime member of the BISM Board of Trustees and current BISM Treasurer, and Mr. Morris's explanatory letter to Mr. Reed:
Charleston, South Carolina
November 5, 1992
It was such a pleasure meeting you in Salt Lake. I heard so many good things about your facility; I hope we have the opportunity to visit you in the coming year.
I have enclosed a copy of the resolution we at the Association received recently from South Carolina's NFB. Please let me know if you have any further insights or concerns after you have time to read them.
Thank you for all your information and support at the convention. It is reassuring to know that I can call on you in the difficult months ahead as we work toward establishing the first National Industries for the Blind facility in South Carolina.
Isabel M. Ewing
After receiving this letter, Mr. Reed wrote the following note to Don Morris, whom he knew to be both a dedicated member of the BISM Board of Trustees and an active member of the National Federation of the Blind:
November 23, 1992
Dear Don: I met Isabel Ewing at the NIB Conference in Utah. She explained that her attempts to start a new workshop in Charleston were meeting with a great deal of resistance from the NFB of South Carolina.
I asked her for the attached info. I was wondering if you would give me some background on the attached--if you know about it.
Upon receipt of this note, Don Morris sent the following thoughtful letter to Mr. Reed:
December 7, 1992
Thanks for your note and the enclosures you sent on November 23, 1992. You asked if I had background information that might be relevant to the dispute in South Carolina. I do.
As a member of the National Federation of the Blind and a member of the Board of Trustees of Blind Industries and Services of Maryland and as a blind person for nearly thirty years, I assure you I have a keen interest in matters affecting the well- being of blind people throughout the country.
The issue of sheltered workshops for the blind has been controversial for more than a hundred years. The first workshops for the blind were established in the 1800's, and unfortunately the mentality that operates most of them today is in keeping with the original nineteenth century outlook.
BISM is very likely the best facility in existence today as regards the rights, benefits, and opportunities of blind workers. Despite the truth of that statement, I can also assure you that, from the perspective of the blind employee, BISM still leaves a lot to be desired. No blind person employed at BISM is paid less than the federally mandated minimum wage for all workers. Many other sheltered workshops for the blind make similar statements, with the exception that they talk about the federally guaranteed minimum wage for the blind. It is unconscionable but true that federal law permits blind sheltered shop employees to be paid as little as one fourth of the federally mandated minimum wage for all workers. There is a scant handful of sheltered workshops for the blind that do not exploit blind people through this nefarious law. It is my understanding that the workshop proposed by Miss Ewing intends to pay sub-minimum wages to blind workers.
Blind people at BISM are not precluded from management positions, but even at BISM only a minimum number have made it to the management side of the ledger, and those few are not at the highest level. As disappointing as BISM is in this regard, it is superior to other NIB facilities.
In the 1800's there was a need for sheltered employment for the blind since no other employment was available for blind people at all. In its day the idea of blind people working in any capacity was novel and forward-thinking. During the century which has passed since then, training and opportunity for the blind have improved. The most dramatic advances have occurred in the past fifty years. The National Federation of the Blind was established in 1940. I believe the improvements in training and opportunity for the blind are directly related to the establishment of the NFB and its dedication to improving opportunity and quality of life for the blind. At a bare minimum one must concede that the dramatic improvements have occurred since the establishment of the NFB, and they are consistent with the philosophy and commitments of the Federation.
In South Carolina more than one thousand blind people are affiliated with thirty-eight chapters of the NFB of South Carolina. They are on record by resolution and by action that they oppose the establishment of a sheltered workshop for the blind. These are the very blind people that Miss Ewing and her Association are proposing to help. The help is unwanted and unnecessary. It is unfortunately consistent with the nineteenth- century conception of blindness that sighted do-gooders know more about our needs and wants than we do. It is clear that the Association for the Blind is operating in a fashion that is a hundred years out of date. It is clear that their refusal to recognize the expressed opinion of the blind of South Carolina is not only outdated but insensitive.
As I told you earlier, I think BISM stands head and shoulders above any other workshop in the NIB system. Even so, if BISM did not exist today, there is no way that blind Marylanders would accept its being established. It simply isn't in keeping with modern philosophy or with the facts as we now know them, nor would it be in the best interest of blind people.
State agencies, the Department of Rehabilitation in Maryland, and the Commission for the Blind in South Carolina spend millions of dollars providing for the rehabilitation of and employment assistance for blind persons. Unfortunately, each of these rehabilitation agencies is staffed by human beings. It is unfortunate but true that it is easier to find employment for blind people in sheltered workshops than in regular work places. Since rehabilitation people are human, it is not uncommon or surprising that some of them prefer to take the easy path.
Blind people are placed in workshops even though the opportunity exists for their employment in the regular work place. If no workshops existed, the full potential of blind workers would more easily be achieved in the regular work place. Without doubt it is harder for a blind person to achieve employment in regular industry or business than it is to find employment in a sheltered workshop. Nonetheless, where no sheltered workshop exists, none should be established. Consistent with modern thinking (not to mention the Americans with Disabilities Act), blind people are entitled to receive training and achieve qualification for employment alongside our sighted peers. To spend the hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars required to establish a workshop for the blind would be a blatant misuse of funds which could be far better spent in training and educating blind people and employers.
Some of the most determined adversaries of the blind are those well intentioned but uninformed sighted people who are determined to help us whether or not we want or need the help. There is no doubt in my mind that the Association for the Blind is determined to put itself in that category. They are engaging in a no-win proposition. One hundred years ago sighted people could dictate the direction of our lives. That is no longer true. I am personally acquainted with many members of the NFB of South Carolina, and I can assure you that they will offer insurmountable resistance to going backwards in anything that affects the well being of the blind of South Carolina. The Association for the Blind would do far better to devote its time, money, and energies toward training and employing blind people in the real world, working hand in hand with the NFB of South Carolina and the South Carolina Commission for the Blind. If they are determined to refuse this advice, they should know that in spite of their good intentions they will be doing harm to blind people. They will waste their money as well as that of blind people who resist them, and ultimately they will lose--not only individual battles like this one, but also the war.
This may be more background than you desired, but believe it or not, this is the short version. Please feel free to share this letter with Miss Ewing. It may not be what she wants to hear, but I think it is important that she understand her efforts, though well meant, are neither desired nor acceptable.
While I am critical of workshops generally and totally opposed to the establishment of new ones, please recognize that I think BISM is a rare exception. BISM is currently operating in accordance with principles of well-run manufacturing businesses. Although it is a not-for-profit corporation, BISM management recognizes that not-for-profit is a tax status, not an operating philosophy. BISM is better today than ever before. It is not as good as it someday will be, given a continuing commitment to progressive thinking and partnership with the blind. Thanks for your interest, and keep up the good work at BISM.
P.S. I am enclosing two copies of a reference book titled What You Should Know about Blindness, Services for the Blind, and the Organized Blind Movement. One copy is for your use. Please forward the other copy to Miss Ewing.
Enclosure: Copy of Gashel panel presentation from December, 1990, Braille Monitor. "Fair Labor Standards: What Blind Workers Need to Know About Their Rights."
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Michael Freeman.]
ON THE STIGMA OF BLINDNESS
by Michael Freeman
Michael Freeman and his wife Barbara live in the state of Washington, where Michael is a computer programmer for a large utility company. Here he writes thoughtfully of a small incident, which deepened his and his wife's understanding of the ingrained public attitudes about blindness.
Throughout history blindness has been misunderstood by almost everyone. The word blind has had connotations of helplessness, witlessness, and lack of discernment. Blindness has been (and still is, to some extent) considered a stigma and a badge of shame; for this reason many blind persons are hesitant to admit that they are blind and try to avoid any action such as reading Braille or carrying a cane which would categorize them as blind.
Every thoughtful blind person is aware of this stigma. Indeed, although I acknowledged its existence, I rejected it from an early age. Joining the National Federation of the Blind only increased my awareness of this stigma and strengthened my resolve to overcome it. However, its impact was brought home to my wife and me when we were on a trip a number of years ago. We had gone to the National Center for the Blind, headquarters of the National Federation of the Blind, in Baltimore, Maryland, to participate in a leadership seminar. We flew on United Airlines, making a change of planes in Chicago. I had traveled to the seminar using an aluminum cane; while in Baltimore, I bought an NFB fiberglass cane. On the return trip, therefore, I carried two canes.
We again had to change planes in Chicago. My wife, who is sighted, offered to carry one of my canes since I had my hands full with a briefcase and the other cane. Neither of us was prepared for her reaction. As we walked together between concourses, she felt strange and extremely conspicuous. It was late at night and we were the only people walking the corridors. It made no difference. She felt self-conscious and uncomfortable.
My wife considered herself a staunch Federationist and, intellectually, at least, had embraced the concept that it is respectable to be blind. Nevertheless, when put to the test, the indoctrination of a lifetime came to the fore and she felt, if not shame, at least discomfort that she might be viewed as blind.
The story does not end here, however. As the years have passed, my wife has carried canes for me on several occasions with little thought or notice. Since she has now met hundreds of competent blind people, the experience of carrying a cane no longer produces a painful negative reaction; my wife has come to view blindness as a characteristic--one of many exhibited by humankind and of which a person need not be ashamed. Indeed, we have experienced in our own lives the truth of the Federation statement that it is respectable to be blind and that we in the National Federation of the Blind are changing what it means to be blind.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Jody Ianuzzi.]
CUSTOMIZE YOUR CANE
by Jody W. Ianuzzi
From the Editor: When I was in college, I used a folding cane. To be more accurate, I carried a folding cane and used it as little as I could contrive. My mobility method of preference was to find a person (preferably male) who was going my way and hitch-hike. I was both amused and flattered the day that a friend burst into my room to say that one of her freshman residence hall students had stormed into her room to report that there was a woman student on campus pretending to be blind in order to take the arm of male students! It was years before I came to recognize that this misconstruction of my behavior was no particular compliment to me, despite the reactions of my friends. Only if one believed that sight was an indication of virtue, intelligence, beauty, or strength, could my hypocritical masquerade be interpreted as an admirable performance. I now understand that blindness is neither good nor bad, and blind people, measured by that characteristic only, are neither virtuous nor depraved, worthy of neither pity nor praise.
It takes most of us a long time to arrive emotionally at this rather obvious assessment. And in the meantime the white cane, because it powerfully symbolizes blindness, frequently takes on all the negative connotations of blindness itself. That is why we often invite new members of the Federation to examine their attitudes toward their canes. One can discover a good bit about one's adjustment to blindness by considering how one feels about the cane and the kind of independence its appropriate use provides.
Jody Ianuzzi is the President of the Monadnock Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of New Hampshire. Like me she has been thinking about her long white cane. Here is what she has to say:
Not so long ago I was one of those low vision people who are convinced that they don't really need to use a white cane. If I bent over and stared at the ground three feet in front of me, I would only occasionally trip over a miscalculated step. I would bump into people, but I told myself that happened only because I wasn't paying attention. To quote my teenage son--"Not."
Now I would feel naked if I left the house without my cane. I will admit that this change in my attitude was not an easy process for me. It took several years and a lot of soul-searching to reach this point. I can thank the writers of the many wonderful articles on cane travel that have appeared in the Braille Monitor over the years for their perspective and encouragement.
The simple fact of the matter is that the only person I was fooling by not using a cane was me. It was the same old story that is always true of blind people with a little residual vision: everyone recognizes that you are blind but you. The breakthrough for me was the realization that I would rather walk tall as a competent blind person than work my way down the street bent over, trying to see where I was going, and not giving a very good impression. How much easier travel is now! My problem wasn't my vision; it was my attitude.
This poor attitude was even conveyed to my son. When I first started using my cane, I was self-conscious, and my son said, "Mom, put that thing away; everyone is looking at you." As my attitude changed, so did his. He later said to me, "Hey Mom, everyone is looking at you because you are doing such a good job." Out of the mouths of babes!
When I talk to blind kids about using a cane, they always object that people will notice them. My answer is, "Sure, people will notice; people notice everything: whether you are thin or fat, short or tall, red-haired or blond. Some people are even dying their hair green to become more noticeable. So what if they notice you use a cane. You don't have to hide your cane; it is a symbol of your independence."
A proud car owner washes and waxes his car because it is his symbol of freedom and independence. He can't travel efficiently without it, and he wants it always to look as good as possible. For the same reasons I take care of my canes. I have never been known to leave well enough alone, so I have customized my canes.
I use an NFB telescoping cane. But let's face it, it is plain white, so why not spruce it up with a fancy handle? I have found a variety of grips that I add to my canes. My favorite one is a steering wheel cover. These are available in a variety of styles and colors and can be found in most discount stores. Other covers you might like to use are golf and tennis racket grips. (These are as close to a steering wheel or tennis racket as I'm going to get.) They look great, and they are practical as a non- slip grip when you are wearing gloves. So you can have a sporty cane or a fancy cane or an elegant cane. You can pick the style you want to match the occasion.
You can now buy reflective tape in most discount or hardware stores (similar to ScotchLite, but easier to apply). You can't tape the telescoping canes without sacrificing the capacity to collapse the cane when convenient, but I put some reflective tape on my rigid cane for night use. I feel more comfortable knowing it is a little more visible at night.
When it snows, I use a rigid cane. I added a red reflective tip to my snow cane because I have heard that a white cane is very hard for people to see in the snow. If it is snowing hard, I increase my visibility by wearing an orange hunter's hat.
When I first started using my cane, I carried it in an umbrella case so no one would see it. Now I have a cane for all occasions and a few spares. It's all in your attitude, so have fun!
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: John W. Smith.]
THE EVOLUTION OF A FEDERATIONIST
by John W. Smith
Dr. John W. Smith teaches speech communication at the Indiana University at South Bend. He has not been a Federationist for long, but he clearly grasps what commitment to this movement means and what it gives to those who allow themselves to stretch and grow into its philosophy and activity. Here is what he has to say:
I joined the National Federation of the Blind about two years ago when I began attending meetings of the Michiana Chapter of the NFB of Indiana in South Bend. I was privileged to attend the National Convention in Charlotte last year. As a new member of the organized blind movement, I was overwhelmed by both the positive attitudes and the excitement I observed and experienced at that time.
My original hesitation in joining the movement had been based on many half-truths and assumptions. I had assumed that statements I had heard such as "Those guys are too militant" and "All they do is moan and groan about every little thing" were the gospel. I subconsciously absorbed these assertions and images without bothering to do my usual objective investigation to find the facts. I am not too big to own up to my failure to gather accurate information and my absolute ignorance.
But as a new member of the movement, I began reading the Monitor and attending local chapter meetings. Airline issues kept surfacing in the NFB literature I read and in many comments at local chapter meetings. Some of my original ambivalence returned because I had never experienced discrimination as a blind person, or so I thought. In fact, I always prided myself on being as normal as possible, which meant to me behaving as though I were not blind at all. This state of denial was often reinforced when people would say to me, "You don't even act as if you can't see. You don't carry a cane, you don't have a dog, and we even feel comfortable telling you our jokes about blindness." I am both ashamed and appalled that I accepted such comments as compliments as long as I did. I have since come to recognize that my behavior and actions were based solely on ignorance, arrogance, and foolishness.
The airlines problems were very real, and the Federation's response to those issues was appropriate. As a babe in the movement, I often read the accounts of Federationists dealing with prejudice and discrimination from the airline industry. However, after reading those accounts, I sometimes concluded that these people were making a mountain out of a mole hill. Then it happened to me.
I had to take a trip from South Bend to Nashville, Tennessee, and after doing some investigation, I discovered that American Airlines, through its subsidiary American Eagle, had the only direct flight. I arrived at the airport at least thirty minutes in advance of my scheduled departure time, and I was told that I would receive assistance in boarding the aircraft, which was a Saab 340, a small, thirty-four-seat capacity plane. The assistance consisted of an employee's walking out of the terminal and boarding the aircraft with me. I had no problems with the offered assistance. I informed the airline attendant that I would take an elbow and proceed to the aircraft. All went smoothly until I boarded the plane.
First I was informed that, when I got to Nashville, I would have to be put in a wheelchair to be transported through the airport. This was the only way that I could receive assistance. This policy caught me off guard, but I didn't think much about it. In fact, the flight attendant told me she thought the policy was flexible enough to give me the choice to use the wheelchair or not.
The second disturbing thing occurred when I was given a copy of the safety regulations for the American Eagle Saab 340. One area of the manual caught my attention, the section that dealt with evacuation procedures. The gist of the statement was the warning not to take the white cane along in case of an emergency disembarkation because it might cause problems for other passengers. I thought to myself that, if a blind person had to jump from the plane and move quickly away from the crash site, a cane would be a vital asset. Two years ago I would have been glad for any opportunity to abandon my cane, but I concluded, as the attendant took my copy of the regulations, that, if something happened, my cane would go with me.
The plane landed in Nashville without incident, but my saga was just beginning. The flexible policy the flight attendant had mentioned was a figment of her imagination. I was told that I could not even come down the plane's stairs until the wheelchair was secured at the bottom step. I was also told that no one else would be allowed to exit the plane until I was safely seated in the wheelchair. Every fiber of my being protested at this policy, but I did so out loud only mildly because I did not want to hold up the rest of the passengers, and I needed to get to my hotel as quickly as possible. I plopped myself down in that chair and let the southern female airline employee roll me to an elevator and then up to the terminal. It was very windy and cold as well as icy, and my chauffeur almost fell several times as she continued to apologize to me for this ridiculous policy. While I did not want to take out my frustration on her, I decided that American Eagle needed some investigating and educating.
One of the lessons I had learned as a new Federationist was the importance of networking and cultivating contacts with those in high places. I have a friend who has worked for American Airlines for about twenty-five years. I later discussed this policy with her, and she assured me that she would get some answers for me, as well as passing on the addresses of appropriate individuals for me to contact. Believe me--she will, and I will!
On my return trip I was again presented with the wheelchair, and again I wanted to refuse it, but there were extenuating circumstances. It was the morning after the great late winter blizzard that hit the eastern part of the country. The Nashville airport was a zoo. I stood in line for over an hour just to get my seat assignment. In order not to miss my flight, I grudgingly allowed an elderly gentleman with a severe case of asthma to chauffeur me through the airport. His asthma was so bad that every two or three minutes he stopped to rest and catch his breath. I thought to myself, "This policy is going to kill this gentleman, and I'm still going to miss my flight." I felt so sorry for him that I offered to change positions.
This absurd policy implies that American Airlines knows what is best for its blind passengers, regardless of their individual circumstances. The policy must be abolished or changed to allow for the option of choice. As my experience demonstrates, the policy places an undue burden on American Airlines personnel and on the people the policy is intended to help. This policy is representative of what has occurred and is continuing to occur in our society as a whole. Members of a small body make laws and decide policies for a group, whether or not members of that group want or need them. This is not the American way. The American way encourages choice, self-sufficiency, and individuality. As a blind African American, I have often been told how I should feel and what I should think and do; and I often respond quite differently, as is my right. That's the American way.
As an evolving Federationist I must continue to grow and apply the knowledge I have learned and will continue to glean from experienced veterans of the movement. In this case, I tried to apply the lesson I gleaned from the March, 1993, issue of the Braille Monitor. Here the associate editor states:
Every Federationist has a responsibility to educate the public about the abilities of blind people whenever and wherever the opportunity occurs. Sometimes this consists of imparting information. Sometimes it means objecting strenuously to injustice or discrimination. Sometimes it requires tactful criticism of inadvertent or unconscious discrimination. (p. 133)
The first part of this lesson I attempted to apply when I contacted my influential friend at American Airlines. The second part of the lesson I will apply when writing strong letters to the appropriate parties. Finally, the third part of this lesson I applied when my southern belle and asthmatic chauffeurs were wheeling me through the Nashville Airport and I was busy telling them what I thought of American Airline's ridiculous policy.
Fellow Federationist, take heart from a recent convert. Our task is great, and the mills of education grind exceeding slow. Yet every victory, no matter how great or small, brings us closer to the day when all of God's children, the blind and sighted alike, will be truly free. That is the American way.
[PHOTO: David Ticchi in a classroom having a discussion with a student. CAPTION: David Ticchi loves teaching, and the thing he enjoys most is exchanging ideas with students.]
SUBSTITUTING FOR SUCCESS
by David Ticchi
Dr. David Ticchi delivered the following address in Charlotte, North Carolina, at the 1992 meeting of the National Association of Blind Educators, the teachers division of the National Federation of the Blind. It was first printed in the Spring/Summer, 1993, issue of the Blind Educator, the publication of the National Association of Blind Educators. Here it is:
During this past year I accepted a position as an executive producer for a Public Broadcasting System (PBS) documentary. As the production filming was concluding, most of my research at the Harvard Graduate School of Education was simultaneously finishing, and I was beginning to think about the next step in my career. In the past I had taught seventh-grade English and had worked for major corporations.
One day my phone rang. A good friend, who is now a high school principal and with whom I had worked in the Newton Public Schools, was calling to ask if I would consider working in a new program called the Instructional Support Services (ISS). I would be a substitute teacher. Laughingly I reminded him that he was supposed to be a friend. Substituting is hard work! He assured me that the assignment would be a permanent faculty position, stationed at one high school for the entire school year and creating continuity in classroom instruction in the event of another faculty member's absence. It was not to be a babysitting chore.
After much hemming and hawing I decided this might be a good way to return to teaching at the high school level, and I accepted the offer. It turned out to be a wonderful experience for me.
Once I signed the contract, I visited the school to acquaint myself with the surroundings. The school of about 2,000 students includes four levels and a technical vocational institute. This is one of the newly designed schools with no straight hallways. This prohibits teachers from observing student activity for much distance. However, it is a very impressive physical plant.
Let me tell you what a usual day was like. Since public transportation was not an option, for the twenty-five minute ride to school I car-pooled with three other teachers from the area where I live.
I reported to the office at 8:00 A.M. and was given a daily assignment at that time. This past year I taught everything from Ancient Greek History to Zoology. Classes began at 8:15 A.M., and I went to the first period class, where attendance was taken and where I could find the lesson plans, if the regular teacher had written them. In this school teachers are not stationed in one classroom permanently but might go to several different rooms during the day. Therefore, as a substitute I might well teach a different subject each period in a different place, with or without a lesson plan available. Getting the attendance list two minutes before class did not allow for Brailling time and really required me to relate to the students in a way which portrayed me as the teacher and manager--the person in control. At the same time it was necessary to have the students' full cooperation.
I can tell you from experience that students do not treat a blind teacher any differently than they do a sighted instructor. Their antics have not changed much over the years. Misbehaving, cheating, and tardiness are all still alive and well in America. The interaction between the teacher and students is the function of the rapport we establish. Being sighted does not guarantee rapport; it is a function of our individual personalities. No matter what, any teacher must be prepared for the unexpected. That became abundantly clear to me my very first day.
I walked into the classroom that first day, introduced myself, explained how blind teachers achieve the same results as sighted teachers, and announced that I was an ISS substitute teacher. When asked what ISS meant, I told them it means, "I SAID SO!" From then on the students and I got along just fine. Together we made it through the class with each student making a contribution to its smooth operation, accomplishing tasks and assignments, and gaining a feeling of responsibility. The students felt a very important part of that class.
This entire teaching experience was wonderful because, as the year went on, I had the opportunity to meet and interact with most of the students in the school. At first I was a stranger, but that feeling was soon gone. The more classes I taught (including auto mechanics; biology; sewing; and all kinds of history, mathematics, and technical/vocational courses), the more students I became acquainted with. But more important, the more I taught, the more the students got to know me.
One sewing class was particularly memorable. Not knowing much about sewing or sewing machines, I reversed the roles of student and teacher. As it happened, I had two loose buttons on my shirt, and I asked a couple of the students if they would use me as an example and teach me how to sew these buttons back on securely. I stripped off my coat, tie, and shirt, and we fixed those buttons together. We all learned from this experience, and they had the opportunity to see me as just a regular person.
In this one school year of substitute teaching I discovered that I really do want to go back into the education profession. I have applied for a permanent teaching assignment for the next school year, but if none is available, I will substitute again in the same program. I remember one of my math teacher friends saying, "We teach if the students let us teach." I was treated as a peer by the faculty and staff, and I was treated with respect by the students. But to me the more important thing was gaining recognition from the students.
This past year I was treated as an equal. Our school has an outstanding, nationally recognized newspaper. Many times we as blind persons are excluded when printed information is distributed because people think that we cannot get it read or that we are not interested. They assume that, since we cannot see, we don't want the information, and they simply choose not to deal with us.
Every two weeks the school paper is handed out at each building entrance by students standing by the door. I cannot tell you the wonderful feeling I had the day I walked into the school, and a student asked if I would like a copy of the paper. The student knew me and had no concerns about how I would read the paper. I was just another faculty member to that student. That particular experience meant a lot to me.
One thing I have learned during my career is that it is very important for blind teachers to be visible. That visibility, the reputation you build, the rapport and relationships you develop-- these are the things that create career opportunities. For those who want to get into the profession, my advice is to volunteer, find a teacher you can assist, be a substitute teacher, anything. Just find your way into a school. You will learn, you will gain experience, and people will see that you are a capable individual. More important, they will be comfortable with you. Your performance can and will facilitate your employment.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Ken Silberman.]
BLINDNESS AND THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE
by Kenneth Silberman
What does blindness have to do with the Brooklyn Bridge? Let Kenneth Silberman tell you:
I grew up in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. At the age of five, I entered kindergarten just like all the other kids, but something was different. I couldn't see as much detail or see as far as the others. No matter, I was still participating in all the activities of the class without serious difficulty.
Grades one through six were a different ball game altogether. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are subjects that require the use of written symbols. For the sighted, this means print, written on sheets of paper, in books, or on the blackboard. In order to read print at all, I needed large print, magnification, or a place to sit up close to the board. No matter which technique I employed, I couldn't read very fast or for very long. As the years rolled by, the workload increased, and I had more and more trouble keeping up. It was true that I couldn't see very well, but I was sighted (at least that was what I thought) and should have been able to keep up. But I couldn't and felt stupid because of that fact. I developed an increasing sense of inferiority with each passing year.
In September of my ninth-grade year, I lost my remaining sight. At the time, I thought a catastrophe had befallen me. (I did not yet know about the National Federation of the Blind.) I was blind, but I wasn't going to admit it. I used a cane as little as I could and never indoors.
After all, the last thing I wanted to do was to walk around with a badge of blindness in my hand. Braille was a badge too, and I wasn't going to have anything to do with it either. Besides, it was slow. And after all, there were tape recorders for reading and taking notes. Never mind that I could not keep up and that I could not follow the math, spell, or punctuate. I was blind, and I was doing the best that I could. These were my thoughts at the time. With a few delays, I continued puttering along in this way through my undergraduate years and most of my graduate years as well.
I was really depressed by this time because I couldn't perform assignments in a timely manner, travel by myself, or do much of anything independently. Blindness was a pretty raw deal, or so I thought.
As I now know but didn't then, the characteristic of blindness wasn't the real problem. Rather, my attitudes about blindness were the real raw deal. I remember walking down the hall one day in high school, and a passing teacher remarked, "I can't tell you're blind." I thought this was a real compliment at the time. As I look back on those early years, I realize that I did not think of myself as blind, nor did I understand what it means to be blind.
As a result of this mistaken notion, I denied myself the tools that would have helped me to succeed. If I had accepted and understood my blindness, I would have decided to use Braille as my primary reading and writing medium, since a good Braille reader can read three hundred to four hundred words per minute, and would have appreciated print as a helpful aid. I also would have used a white cane since it would have kept me from tripping over and walking into things.
I discovered after a number of painful lessons that it's better to find things with a cane than with your face. By using these techniques, I would have been able to keep right in step with the crowd. Later, when I lost the remainder of my sight, I would have been able to keep right on going without missing a beat. But of course, I knew none of this, and I could not have been expected to.
I was at my lowest emotional point in 1985 when I applied for and won a scholarship from the National Federation of the Blind. I needed money, so I applied. When I arrived at the National Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, I found, much to my astonishment, blind people who were happy and successful.
They were traveling about with facility and were reading and writing Braille as deftly as sighted people use print, and they were using these skills to hold down responsible jobs, run households, etc. It was at this time that I started to understand that blindness was not my problem; my attitudes about blindness were the problem.
I had thought the skills of blindness were inferior because they didn't appear on the surface to be like those of the sighted. Hence, I had thought the blind were inferior; I had thought I was inferior. And so, I had denied my blindness. (You must understand. I had only known sighted people up to this point.) But the evidence was clear. The alternative techniques of blindness enable us to live full and rich lives just as the sighted do. I now realize that while the money was very helpful, I received a much more valuable gift, The National Federation of the Blind.
I had a choice. I could either deal with the situation or continue as before. I decided to get to work. I picked up some books on Braille and set about learning it. It was hard to go to school and learn Braille at the same time, but I knew that I had to either learn it or drop out. The latter was not acceptable, and I couldn't deal with things as they were any longer.
By the time I graduated, I was doing much of my school work in Braille. I continued to use taped books and readers in conjunction with Braille. All these techniques have their place. In January, 1987, I received my master's degree in aerospace engineering from Cornell University.
After graduation, I enrolled in a rehabilitation program in order to develop my Braille and cane skills. I continued to work on my outlook toward blindness by drawing strength from my newfound Federation friends.
Finally, it was time to look for a job. After a little more than a year, I secured employment with the U.S. Navy in Philadelphia. I really got the opportunity to test my newly-developed skills and my mettle in that job. I had had only one computer course in college and was now expected to learn how to write databases on the job. I did it. This is quite an accomplishment for anyone, blind or sighted.
Today, I work as an administrator/engineer for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. I manage the Publications group for the National Space Science Data Center. This means that I am responsible for making sure that the group's work gets done and that the work comes in under budget. I also serve on various committees and am currently trying to expand my computer skills.
How do my alternative techniques compare with those of my sighted colleagues? Let's compare a few of them. I use a reader to help me with paperwork; my boss uses a secretary. My co-workers take notes with pens and pencils; I use a slate and stylus to write Braille. My colleagues use a computer with the help of a monitor and a printer; I use a computer with the help of a speech synthesizer and a Braille embosser. My fellow employees travel about safely with the help of sight; I travel about safely with the help of my white cane. The sighted have techniques that work for them, and the blind have techniques that work equally well.
My professional objective is to become a senior administrator in America's space program. In reaching that goal, I will be helping to build upon the foundation, the record of achievement and success, built by past generations of Federationists. Those who came before us worked to give us the opportunities that we have today. It is up to us to make life better for future generations of blind people.
I still don't have all of the skills and self-confidence that I need, but I am working on it. I am able to improve myself because I now see blindness for what it is, a characteristic, a mere physical nuisance. By utilizing the alternative techniques of blindness, I can and do compete on equal terms with my sighted colleagues.
When the Brooklyn Bridge was built [1869-1883], engineers of the day said that it couldn't be done. John Augustus Roebling and his son, Colonel Washington Roebling, believed that it could, and they had the know-how to build it. The real obstacle to the project was not the techniques needed to build the bridge. Rather, it was the entrenched, traditional ideas of the engineering community. But the Roeblings knew the truth. They had the knowledge and the leadership to go beyond the conventional wisdom of their day. Were they right? The answer spans the East River today, more than a century after its construction.
We, the blind of the nation, have the know-how to lead full and rich lives. Like the Roeblings, we have to believe in ourselves and need to have the leadership to make our dreams of equality come true. Since 1940, we have encouraged and supported each other. Since 1940, we have shared our collective know-how. And since 1940, we have had the leadership to climb within reach of equality and first-class citizenship. In other words, since 1940, we have had the National Federation of the Blind.
THE MOUNTBATTEN BRAILLER AND BRAILLE LITERACY
by Tim Connell
Tim Connell is a Director of Quantum Technologies in Sydney, Australia, producer of the Mountbatten Brailler. This year he is working with Human Ware, Inc., the Brailler's American distributor.
Almost anyone who reads and writes Braille is familiar with the Perkins Brailler. Not many of us, however, have tried or even observed the Mountbatten Brailler. It seemed to us to be in the best interest of the Braille-writing public to publish information about this interesting new piece of equipment. Here is what Mr. Connell has to say about it:
This article is about the Mountbatten Brailler: what it is, what it does, and why it is important to the literacy of blind children in America. It is essential that we organize our efforts behind a plan to promote Braille literacy in schools and advocate the Mountbatten Brailler as one of the most diverse and effective means available to teachers for the successful accomplishment of this vital goal.
At present we are witnessing a resurgence of interest in teaching Braille; however, the fact remains that only twelve percent of visually impaired people in America are Braille- literate. In 1965 fifty percent of visually impaired people were Braille literate (ref: National Literacy Hotline).
One of the reasons for this decline has been the belief that computers with speech synthesizers would remove or minimize the need to learn Braille. This view is still held by some, though they are now in an ever decreasing minority. The following poem is dedicated to them. When this poem is spoken by a voice synthesizer, it sounds correct. When it is run through a spelling checker, no errors are detected. Read on!
The Hearing Herd
Now I no computers are
not always write,
But they are pretty good for people with no site.
Just like this poem, I can be shore,
My writing has improved so much moor.
In just a while I'm applying four a job,
I know my resume will leave them all agog.
Get with it kid's; don't
Be dependant on electronic mail.
If your blind they'll understand,
Its just two hard to reed with your hand.
You'll find those dots are for the birds,
Come join us hear in the hearing heard.
Literacy is the fundamental building block upon which an individual's educational potential is established. Braille literacy is every bit as important for a person who cannot read print as print is for the sighted, and the work of the National Federation of the Blind in focusing attention on Braille literacy is to be widely applauded.
Literacy includes both reading and writing. To teach children to become literate in Braille, they must read, not listen. To do this, they need a Braille keyboard to write on and immediate Braille output to read, i.e., a Braille writer. The only Braille writer that is being used widely in American schools is the Perkins.
The Mountbatten Brailler was developed primarily as an electronic alternative to the Perkins Braille writer. Why should we use the Mountbatten Brailler instead of the Perkins? Many people would say that the Perkins was fine for their education. As a matter of fact, they still use it, so why should schools do things any differently? That is a plausible argument, but not one applied to the education of sighted children, and the lack of fifty-year-old mechanical typewriters in schools today will reaffirm my point.
It is not my intention to denigrate the Perkins; it has served hundreds of thousands of people around the world very satisfactorily and reliably for nearly fifty years. However, in today's electronic environment it is both limited and limiting.
One of the most significant advantages of the Mountbatten Brailler is the keyboard. It has the same feel as a computer keyboard (light touch and positive click). But most important, it has been designed ergonomically. This means that each key is under a finger when the hand is at rest. Both sides of the keyboard are offset a little, forming a wide print V, so that there is no need to bend the wrists. These factors add up to a stress-free keyboard that greatly reduces the risk of repetitive strain injuries (such as carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, etc.). It is also much easier to use than the Perkins, especially for young children just starting out with Braille or for anyone with special keyboard needs.
The Mountbatten Brailler keyboard also teaches the skills needed to progress to a computer keyboard. The Perkins keyboard teaches all the wrong keyboard skills, such as using a lot of force and incorrect positioning of the hands and wrists. This was unimportant when the likelihood of a student's using a computer during the rest of his or her education was remote, but today it is highly probable that all students will be using computers at some stage.
The Mountbatten Brailler also has all the basic features one would expect to find in an electronic typewriter. These include auto correction (yes, it actually flattens dots), selectable tabs and margins, and the ability to use paper of any size or thickness. The Mountbatten Brailler also has a memory so that documents can be stored and reprinted at a later stage. In the standard unit the memory is 32K, or about forty pages of Braille, and can be expanded to 160K or two hundred twenty pages of Braille. The memory can also be used to store a letterhead, for example, or a Braille form, and multiple copies can be printed as needed. For silent note-taking, information can be typed directly into memory without the Brailler printing, or it can be done, of course, with the Brailler printing.
In the classroom the Mountbatten Brailler provides a gentle introduction to basic computer concepts, like naming and saving a file and retrieving a file from memory. With this training, moving on to a computer is a natural progression.
While these features are exciting to most Perkins users, we should not forget that typewriters with these features were available twenty years ago. Why has it taken so long for Braille- writing technology to catch up?
One of the main reasons is the size of the financial investment required to develop a Braille writing device from scratch. More than three million dollars was spent over a period of eight years to bring the Mountbatten Brailler to market. Much of this money came from public sources, primarily the Mountbatten Trust in the United Kingdom and the Australian Government. With such a large amount of money invested, considerable time was spent making sure that the Mountbatten Brailler would meet the needs of the people who would be using it.
Over a hundred organizations from around the world (including the National Federation of the Blind) had input and made recommendations about what the Mountbatten Brailler should be. The resulting specifications, therefore, reflect the views of a wide cross section of the world's blind community. The two highest priorities were that it should be electronic and portable (battery operated). The third was that it should be designed to avoid obsolescence. To achieve this, all the electronics are on a card that can be changed by the user. All upgrades will be done via this card, thereby protecting the original investment.
So, on the basis of its functions and features, few would disagree that the Mountbatten Brailler can make a valid claim to be the successor to the Perkins. The big question that follows is "What does it cost"?
The Mountbatten Brailler is sold as either of two packages: the Mountbatten Brailler Standard and the Mountbatten Brailler Educational Package. To compare the cost of the Mountbatten Brailler directly with the Perkins is unfair without first mentioning that the Mountbatten Brailler Standard, in addition to being a Braille writer, can also be used as a Braille embosser when connected to a computer.
This means that the Mountbatten Brailler will emboss Braille files sent from any type of computer (including Apple, IBM, and Braille note-takers like the Braille 'n Speak and the Eureka) in the same way other Braille embossers will. It is not as fast as dedicated Braille embossers, but for personal use it is very suitable and easy to use. Its ability to use paper of different widths and thicknesses is a distinct advantage. The Mountbatten Brailler also has a graphics mode and can be used for printing Braille graphics.
So the Mountbatten Brailler Standard at $2,495 means you are buying not only a Braille writer with numerous advantages over the Perkins, but also a Braille embosser.
Even if a child is not going to use the Mountbatten Brailler as a Braille embosser straight away, the fact that it is available in the classroom or home means that there is a greater likelihood that Braille will be produced. And, when the child progresses to a computer, it will not be necessary to raise the money for a separate Braille embosser. The Mountbatten Brailler may be more money, but clearly it is a better value.
Another significant factor in the decline of Braille literacy has been mainstreaming, where adequate resources are often not available to the student or the teachers. The problems that regular classroom teachers face are very real. There is a constant need to translate from print to Braille and Braille to print. The Mountbatten Brailler Educational Package has features that truly facilitate mainstreaming by overcoming these problems. It puts a whole range of capabilities into the hands of students and teachers that now exist only in resource centers or regional offices.
The Mountbatten Brailler Educational Package is the Mountbatten Standard with the addition of back and forward Braille translation software, additional memory, a connector box for connecting the Mountbatten Brailler to a range of other devices at the same time, serial and parallel cables, and a computer keyboard.
Undoubtedly one of the most important capabilities of the Mountbatten Brailler Educational Package is its capacity to allow a person to type on a standard computer keyboard and produce Braille on the Mountbatten Brailler. The keyboard is connected to the Mountbatten Brailler, so there are no software or special commands to be learned. Now anybody at all can produce Braille.
Before people purchase the Mountbatten Brailler, this feature is not always assessed as the most important, because it has never been available before. However, once it is in use, most people find it to be one of the most important features. The regular classroom teacher can now write up notes or any information in Braille. The school administration can write Braille letters to parents who are blind. In offices a sighted co-worker can leave messages in Braille for blind colleagues. A whole range of information that was never Brailled before is now available. This is not a threat to the role of the transcribers. Rather, it takes the pressure off them while producing a greater volume of Braille.
Apart from the importance of making Braille more accessible is the issue of privacy. No blind person needs to be told about the lack of privacy in reading personal communications.
When a Mountbatten Brailler is in a school, we find invitations to parties, birthday cards, Christmas cards, and the whole range of notes that kids write to each other put into Braille. Parents who don't know Braille can type up messages, letters, cards, and even lists of chores in Braille. The more Braille is written to communicate with blind students, the more these youngsters will use it, and the better the chances are that they will become proficient in its use. No other device exists that so encourages the production and use of Braille on a personal level. We expect sighted children to become literate, and in order to assist them in achieving this goal we give them textbooks, comics, magazines, environmental information (signs, advertising, etc.) as well as personal communications. Blind children get Braille textbooks and sometimes a small amount of recreational reading in Braille. This is not equal access to information, nor is it equal education. The Mountbatten Brailler helps bridge this gap.
The Mountbatten Brailler Educational Package costs $3,295, including all the options listed above. The translation software is contained in the Mountbatten Brailler. The forward translation software converts text into Grade II Braille. The text can be in a file on your computer or can be typed in directly from the additional computer keyboard.
The back translation software converts Grade II Braille into text. When Braille is typed onto the Mountbatten Brailler keyboard, a perfectly translated copy can be printed simultaneously on a printer. Any type of printer can be used. By use of the Connector Box, the Mountbatten Brailler can be connected to many devices at once, avoiding the time-consuming process of changing cables. By simply entering commands, the user can turn the Mountbatten Brailler into a Braille embosser, a forward translator, a memory note taker, and a back translation system. And don't forget it is still just a Braille writer. Just turn it on and write on it like a Perkins.
The Mountbatten Brailler brings Braille writing into the twentieth century, but as many have already noted, the twentieth century is nearly over. This is not a flippant remark. All the effort, time, and money that are being spent on promoting Braille literacy standards and legislation are being done without due consideration of the tools needed in schools for Braille literacy. The organized blind in this country must become the advocates to ensure that blind children are receiving the appropriate tools to enable them to live up to their potential.
The Mountbatten Brailler is a tool that will facilitate Braille literacy and mainstreaming. It is not the total solution, but it is an important part of the solution.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: David Andrews is pictured here describing some of the equipment on display in the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind.]
PUTTING THE MOUNTBATTEN BRAILLER IN PERSPECTIVE
by David Andrews
David Andrews is the Director of the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind, located at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore. Part of his job is to assess the Braille-production and screen-review technology that comes on the market. When we received the preceding article from Tim Connell, we asked Mr. Andrews to take a good look at the Mountbatten Brailler and tell our readers what he thinks about it. Here is what he said:
During the past couple of years Braille literacy has received a lot of attention from professionals in the blindness field. This hasn't always been the case. We in the National Federation of the Blind have been beating the drum for Braille literacy for many years. Now suddenly it is in vogue to jump onto the Braille literacy bandwagon. A number of organizations have adopted the issue as their own, forgetting, if it suited their purposes, that this issue has come to the forefront of people's attention thanks to the long, hard, dedicated work of the organized blind movement. Ultimately, however, we are not looking for credit; we are dedicated to insuring that blind people (both kids and adults) become literate using Braille.
In addition to agencies for the blind, a number of vendors of technology products have also jumped onto the Braille literacy bandwagon. Some of them would have us believe that their products play a vital and unequaled role in our Braille literacy campaign. One example of this phenomenon, but not the only one, is the producer of the Mountbatten Brailler. This machine is manufactured by Quantum Technologies of Sydney, Australia, and imported and marketed by Human Ware, Inc., of Loomis, California. Let us first deal with the Mountbatten Brailler as a device, then consider its place in achieving Braille literacy.
We have all heard the definition of a camel as a horse designed by a committee. Though it may be stretching a point, in some ways the Mountbatten Brailler strikes me as a Braille writer designed by a technology committee, every member of which had individual notions of what was essential. It is fundamentally an electronic Braille writer which can also work as an electronic note taker similar to a Braille 'n Speak or a BrailleMate. The unit also has the capacity to back- and forward-translate Braille and transfer files to and from a PC. Finally, it can also be used with a regular computer keyboard to produce Grade 2 Braille.
The Mountbatten Brailler is approximately seventeen and one- half inches wide by nine inches deep by three and one-half inches high. It weighs ten and three quarters pounds and can run on its built-in batteries. According to its manufacturer, it can print approximately thirty pages of Braille while battery-operated. When used as an electronic note taker, without printing, it will operate for approximately sixteen hours. It has a carrying handle that slides out of the front of the machine and a plastic snap-on cover which protects the embossing area. However, it does not have a full carrying case.
The feel of the keyboard is more similar to a computer's than to a Perkins Braille Writer's. The keys are quiet and don't require much pressure. This would offer advantages to a young child or a person with physical weakness in the hands or arms. The keys differ from those of a Perkins Braille Writer in their placement and layout. The regular Brailling keys (Dots one, two, three, four, five, and six) are not lined up straight across the machine but are arranged in a shallow V shape. It does take some getting used to. The producer maintains that this layout keeps the user from twisting and therefore possibly injuring the hands and wrists. I don't know whether this is true, but the position did not strike me as being inherently more comfortable. This may, however, be because I am very familiar with the keyboard of the Perkins, so this one would take a good deal of getting used to.
There is a small round key located between the two sets of three Brailling keys, but this is not the space bar. It is the Command Key, used in conjunction with other keys to issue commands. The space bar and the line space keys are located in the middle, below the Brailling keys. For those used to the Perkins keyboard, this also takes a good deal of adjustment. I personally would prefer the space bar in the more traditional, higher location. However, I suspect the rationale is that with the lower placement the user can hit the space bar or line space keys easily with the thumbs while Brailling. The machine can produce either six- or eight-dot Braille. There are two extra keys with which to produce dots seven and eight. The machine also has the capacity to switch to a wide variety of foreign language Braille codes and keyboard layouts.
The Mountbatten Brailler can be set so that it automatically goes to the beginning of a new line when the user Brailles to the end of the current line. The embossing mechanism prints at about eight characters per second. A good Braillist can write faster than that, but the machine is able to buffer the characters and doesn't seem to drop any. When Brailling, the Mountbatten is a little on the noisy side; it makes a sharp clacking sound. This could be a disadvantage in a classroom. The machine is grey, black, yellow, and blue in color. The body is grey, and the keys are black or blue. The area under the keys and some other parts are yellow. When asked how the machine looked, one of my sighted colleagues responded, "It looks funny, like something Fisher Price would produce for children." This high-contrast color scheme is intended to aid the visually impaired. This feature holds no great appeal for me, but I suppose it may be of assistance to some, though I fail to understand what advantage is gained by watching the Brailling keys. My real objection is that such a color design is not typical of machines used in business and would draw more attention to my equipment than I would wish to receive.
The Mountbatten Brailler uses single sheets of Braille paper. It can handle a variety of thicknesses and sizes, and it adjusts to new paper automatically. Loading paper is a little tricky. The sheet must be all the way to the left, or the machine will not operate at all. It does not automatically position the paper for Brailling on the first line. The user must position the paper by hand so that the first line appears where he or she wishes. This is a little awkward because, if you are not careful, the paper will go crooked. I am afraid that the paper insertion is tricky enough to constitute a problem for small children, one of the target audiences for this device.
Most people will use the Mountbatten Brailler as an electronic Braille Writer. It does aid in correcting mistakes. The user can rub out an incorrect character and replace it with the right letter. There are actually two ways to correct a mistake. You can have the machine rub out the bad cell by pressing the space and backspace keys simultaneously. You can also replace the wrong letter with the proper one by pressing the new letter while pressing the backspace key. Though convenient, this method does not erase the dots as completely as the first.
Commands for the Mountbatten Brailler are issued from the keyboard. In general you first press the Command Key, then type in the command, and terminate input by pressing the Margin Release key, located on the right side of the machine. While there are a large number of commands, most of them are logical words or mnemonic abbreviations for words or phrases. As an electronic Braille Writer, note taker, printer, and translator the Mountbatten has a full complement of easy-to-use features. It is also possible to move text to and from a computer and do basic page formatting.
A good manual in Braille is provided with the machine. Interestingly enough, we have received a number of very expensive Braille devices in the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind without Braille manuals or with totally inadequate manuals. The Mountbatten manual is divided into several volumes. Each is self-contained, and you can tackle a new one as you need the features it offers. There are, for example, a basic manual, an advanced manual, and manuals for forward- and back-translation. The manuals are well written and easy to understand. There are also instructions for using the Mountbatten with other devices such as the Braille 'n Speak and the Eureka A4.
The Mountbatten Brailler comes in two models. The Mountbatten Brailler Standard has 32K of memory, which will hold approximately thirty-five to forty pages of text. It costs $2,595. The Mountbatten Brailler Educational Package, which costs $3,295, has additional memory (160K) and comes with forward and reverse Braille translation software and an interface box. This has serial and parallel ports and a connector for a standard computer keyboard. The interface faculties greatly amplify the power of the Mountbatten, facilitating its connection to other computers, Braille or ink-print printers, or regular keyboards. With a keyboard and the Braille translation software, a sighted person who knows little or nothing about Braille can enter text into the machine and produce relatively well formatted Grade 2 Braille. This would be particularly useful in public schools. The Basic model does come with one serial port and an external keyboard connector. However, the educational model is needed to get a second serial port and a parallel port. In fact, it has two parallel ports.
All in all, the Mountbatten Brailler does accomplish what it sets out to do. It can perform a variety of functions and is a compact and portable unit. However, if you are just looking for a Braille printer, the Braille Blazer is faster and cheaper. If you are just looking for an electronic note taker, both the Braille 'n Speak and the BrailleMate are more powerful, smaller, and cheaper. If you want an electronic Braille Writer, then the Mountbatten is worth considering, although it is on the expensive side. It seems to me that this device is best suited for an individual or school that could use a number of its functions. It would then be much easier to justify the steep cost. Nevertheless, for what it costs to purchase the Mountbatten Educational Package, you could purchase a Braille Blazer, a Blazie disk drive, and a standard Braille 'n Speak. While not a compact, one-piece unit, each of the Blazie components is better or more powerful than the comparable features in the Mountbatten, and the disk drive gives you the ability to store unlimited numbers of files.
Finally, what is the role of the Mountbatten Brailler in Braille literacy? The Mountbatten, like all technology, is a tool. It does have potential uses in teaching Braille to children or adults. It can, for example, make the production of short Braille documents relatively easy using a standard keyboard and its built-in translator. However, no technology is a substitute for good basic skills, competent teachers, and a belief in Braille. We need these more than a reliance on technology. After all, inappropriate dependence on technology is in part what got us into the Braille literacy mess in the first place.
I for one was not given a Braille writer until I was in the third grade. I used a slate and stylus exclusively until then. My initial Brailler was not even a Perkins. I first used a Hall Braille Writer, then a Lavender machine, before I got a Perkins. Because I learned to use a slate early and well, I was able to go all the way through graduate school using a slate for all note- taking. If you give calculators to youngsters too early, they may never learn their math facts or how to do simple calculations. If you give blind children a Perkins or an electronic Braille writer too soon, they will almost certainly not learn to use a slate and stylus adequately. Technology does have its place. I own three computers and wouldn't give up more than one of them. However, technology is no substitute for good basic skills. We must learn to use technology to teach and augment basic literacy skills, not to replace them.
[PHOTO: Sharon Gold standing at microphone. CAPTION: Sharon Gold.]
THE PLAN TO ACHIEVE SELF-SUPPORT
by Sharon Gold
Sharon Gold is the President of the National Federation of the Blind of California. She is also extremely knowledgeable about both Social Security and Supplemental Security Income Programs. In 1991 she was appointed to the twenty-member team of experts charged with conducting the Supplemental Security Income Modernization Project. As the name implies, the team made recommendations in a public report to the Social Security Administration about how to update and improve the SSI Program. The Plan to Achieve Self-support (PASS) is a benefit associated with SSI. It is one of those procedures which seem so complicated when they are described that many people who could benefit from using them are afraid to try. However, studying the following article should enable those who qualify to develop their own Plans to Achieve Self-Support; here is what Sharon Gold has to say about PASS:
One of the purposes of the National Federation of the Blind is and always has been to reduce the unemployment among working- age blind people. The NFB has always taken an active part in shaping the Social Security laws to assure maximum opportunity for blind recipients of all programs that fall within the control of the Social Security Administration. This emphasis has included appropriate increases in Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits for the blind and an assurance that blind people who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits have the best chance to work their way off SSI and become self-supporting. This includes the exclusion of appropriate work expenses for the blind and the establishment of the Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS), a flexible approach to personal control and maintenance and eventual freedom from dependence on public benefits.
All Social Security benefits are governed by Title II of the Social Security Act and the corresponding regulations found in Part 404 of Title 20 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Although Supplemental Security Income is administered by the Social Security Administration, it should not be confused with Social Security Benefits. SSI is governed by Title XVI of the Social Security Act, and the regulations promulgated from this statute are found in Part 416 of Title 20 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
There are differences in the eligibility criteria and continuing benefits following gainful employment for the various Social Security and Supplemental Security Income Programs. For a complete approach to Social Security and Supplemental Security Income eligibility and post-employment benefits, including a discussion of Substantial Gainful Activity under each program, see the May, 1992, Braille Monitor article, "Benefit Rights for Blind Individuals: A Description of Social Security's Work Incentive Provisions in the Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income Programs," by James Gashel.
Sometimes SSDI and SSI are confusing to people because both programs are administered by the local Social Security Office but are handled by claims representatives working for different departments of the Social Security Administration. When applying for Supplemental Security Income, people usually find that the claims representative will make inquiries about their work history. If the Claims Representative believes that the applicant may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, he or she will be referred to a different desk where another claims representative will assist in the completion of an application for Social Security benefits. This happens because Social Security eligibility must be given priority over SSI eligibility.
Once the Social Security Administration has determined the applicant's eligibility under Social Security and has set a payment schedule, the applicant may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income payments as well, if the monthly Social Security payments do not equal SSI benefit payments in the state in which the applicant lives. Please note that in the case of a first-time applicant there is a five-month delay from the date of application to the date of eligibility to receive Social Security Disability Insurance payments; and, if qualified, the applicant may receive SSI benefits while waiting to receive his or her Social Security benefits.
It is to the PASS applicant's benefit to have qualified for and be receiving Social Security payments under Title II. The PASS is one advantage that may be available to people who receive Social Security benefits. A Plan to Achieve Self-Support can make the applicant eligible for Supplemental Security Income or may increase the applicant's eligibility for SSI by allowing the exclusion of excess resources and/or income in furtherance of a pre-approved goal for self-support. An individual receiving SSI benefits is not permitted to have more than $2,000 in cash resources without a Plan to Achieve Self-Support. When the otherwise countable income is excluded through the PASS, the SSI benefit payments will be increased to the maximum payment level. All excluded funds must be placed in a separate bank account, and expenditure of these funds is limited to those itemized expenditures set forth in the PASS. At no time should personal money and PASS money be commingled in a single bank account, and PASS money may never be borrowed or otherwise used to pay personal expenses.
To apply for a PASS, a person must first identify a goal for employment and the necessary education, training, and/or specialized equipment to reach that goal. He or she must then determine the income and/or resources to be excluded and later expended under the PASS in order to reach the goal. The income may be either earned or unearned and may be from part-time employment; internships and fellowships; interest and dividends; and/or loans used to purchase the equipment, payments for which are made monthly, using money which has been excluded into the PASS.
The next step in the PASS development process is to contact educational institutions, training facilities, and equipment vendors to determine the cost of the education and equipment needed to complete the goal. A budget should be prepared itemizing all of the income and resources to be excluded under the PASS and all of the expenses to be paid under it. The PASS can be written for eighteen months; renewed for eighteen months; and, in the case of a student or individual in a training program, extended for another twelve months.
In some instances, at the conclusion of the PASS it is possible to establish a second PASS, if the individual's goal is significantly different. For example, a student's first goal may be to become employed in the field of political science, for which a bachelor's degree in political science is a requirement. At the attainment of the bachelor's degree and the conclusion of the PASS, the student may decide to become employed as a lawyer, for which graduation from law school is required. Thus a new PASS may be written to include the expenses for law school.
When preparing the PASS budget, the applicant should multiply the monthly income by the number of months to be included in the PASS (e.g., Social Security--eighteen months at $300 equals $5,400; internship--twelve months at $200 equals $2,400; total income equals $7,800). When completed, the budget income must equal the budget expenses, which may include tuition, books, supplies, computer equipment with special modifications for the blind, printer and Braille embosser, child care, travel expenses and living expenses away from home, acquisition of an inventory if starting a business, bank charges for the PASS account, and all other costs relevant to completing the goal. The final item should be "Miscellaneous Expenses to Complete the PASS" and should be an amount (usually less than $100.00) which makes the income and expenses balance.
The final steps in the PASS preparation process are to open a bank account specifically for the PASS and to write a letter to the local Social Security Office which clearly states the goal, outlines the steps to be taken to achieve the goal, and defines the beginning date of the PASS and the amount of time necessary to complete it. The letter, together with the PASS budget, should be submitted to the local Social Security Office for approval, which should take about thirty days. If more than thirty days pass without hearing from the Social Security Office, an inquiry should be made as to the status of the PASS.
An individual may prepare his or her own PASS or ask the Social Security Administration for help in writing it. Advocacy organizations such as the National Federation of the Blind may be of assistance. Some rehabilitation counselors can help, although many have little or no experience with the PASS. It is not necessary to be a rehabilitation client in order to qualify for a PASS, and it is not necessary for a rehabilitation counselor to approve the goal of the PASS. A PASS can be approved and accepted only by the Social Security Administration, and an applicant may expect that any reasonable goal will be approved.
In order to maintain a PASS, accurate accounting is neces- sary. All canceled checks and receipts must be saved to submit to the Social Security Office, if requested during the PASS period or at the conclusion or renewal of the PASS. Maintaining a PASS is not difficult; however, failure to keep accurate records and receipts may result in termination of the PASS and an inevitable SSI overpayment.
The Plan to Achieve Self-Support is perhaps the least used of the work incentives under the Supplemental Security Income Program. The PASS offers people a flexible self-help approach to becoming self-supporting. Therefore, it is to a person's benefit to learn as much as possible about the PASS and to put it to best use. The Social Security Administration has prepared a booklet that may be of help in developing a PASS. The booklet is entitled "Working While Disabled--A Guide to Plans for Achieving Self- Support While Receiving Supplemental Security Income." This booklet includes some simple examples of PASS plans and an application form for completing a PASS. It should be noted that the application form is not necessary because the letter and budget described in this article are sufficient. Here are samples of both:
Charley Repson, Claims
Social Security Administration
1993 Security Way
Anytown, USA 00000
RE: SSN 000-00-0000
Dear Mr. Repson:
By this letter and enclosed documents, I am applying for a Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) effective June, 1993.
I am a senior at Undergraduate University, where I am en- rolled in the Liberal Studies Program and expect to receive a Bachelor of Arts Degree in June, 1994. Thereafter, I plan to enter the School of Education and obtain the teaching credentials necessary to fulfill my goal of employment as a special education teacher.
To complete my goal of becoming a teacher in the public schools, I will need a computer and printer and specialized screen reading equipment and software for the blind as well as a Braille note-taking device. I will also need a Braille embosser and related software and an optical character reader to download teacher's manuals into my computer to transcribe them into Braille for use in my classroom. I will need to buy books and supplies for my classes and to have a special tape recorder for recording and reading cassette books. I will need to pay for university tuition, readers and drivers, and professional seminars and conferences.
I understand that the income and/or resources excluded under this PASS are to be used only for the purposes specified, and I agree to report any changes in this plan and/or my performance thereunder promptly to the Social Security Administration. I agree to keep records of all expenditures made under the PASS and to keep excluded income and resources separate from my other assets. I have opened a checking account #123456789 at State Bank, 1234 5th Street, Banktown, USA.
Thank you for your attention to this Plan to Achieve Self- Support. If you need additional information or have further questions, please contact me or my representative, Annie Advocate of the National Federation of the Blind, who assisted in the preparation of this PASS.
PLAN FOR ACHIEVING SELF-SUPPORT
Income and Disbursements
Income to be Excluded Under
Social Security (36 months at $491) $17,676.00
Financial Aid, Grants, and Scholarships $7,000.00
Expenses Under the PASS
Computer and Related Equipment
PC Computer with hard drive $2,500.00
Modem and Software $200.00
Symphonics Speech Synthesizer $500.00
Portable Computer w/Speech $2,595.00
Artic ENCORE $150.00
Upgrade Business Vision $75.00
Braille Translation Software $300.00
Laserjet Printer $2,000.00
Braille Blazer (Braille Embosser) $1,700.00
Braille 'n Speak $1,095.00
Braille 'n Speak Disk Drive $500.00
Service Contracts (Braille 'n Speak, Disk Drive, Braille
Arkenstone Open Book/Unbound w/sheet feeder $3,995.00
Handi-Cassette Recorder (for blind) $130.00
Student Fees, Professional Dues, and Publications $500.00
Books, manuals, and supplies $1,200.00
Conferences and Professional Seminars $2,500.00
Miscellaneous Expenses to Complete the PASS $86.00
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Homer Page.]
WHY ALL OF US ARE FEDERATIONISTS
by Homer Page
Homer Page is the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado and Chairman of the Boulder County Board of commissioners. He is also a thoughtful and deeply committed Federationist. The following article is reprinted from the Winter, 1993,edition of The Voice of the Rocky Mountain Blind, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado. Here it is:
Recently I attended a conference held by the Maryland Association of Counties. I had been asked to speak about the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. After the day's activities, a group was sitting around discussing disability issues. I was asked about the National Federation of the Blind. The question that was posed to me was, "What does it mean to belong to the Federation?"
My interrogator really wanted to know what difference it makes in one's life to belong to the NFB. I have thought more about these questions, and here are some of my responses.
Federationists have a wide variety of characteristics. Some of us are totally blind, and some of us have normal vision. Most of us are somewhere in between. We have widely differing political views, educational experiences, and abilities. Some of us are athletic, others have musical ability, and still others have neither. Some of us have very good travel skills, and others don't. Some of us are old, and some of us are young, and most of us are in between. Yet, in spite of all these differences, there is something that binds us together.
I believe that this is the belief that blind persons are capable of living normal, fulfilling lives. In many ways society, through its ignorance and occasionally through its hostility, tries to prevent us from living the lives that we know are possible for us. We know that, if we work together to create opportunities and to support one another, our chances to fulfill our lives will be greatly increased.
We are proud of our organization, and we are proud of being members of the Federation. This pride comes from the continuing experience we have of our success in improving the lives of blind persons. Whether we are fighting discrimination, working with legislators, or taking on the media, we know that our work is of high quality. We also know that, if we need help or if we just need someone to talk with, the members of the Federation are there for us. This knowledge sustains us even if we never actually feel the need to consult with our friends.
You don't have to be a star to be loved and appreciated in the Federation. You don't have to be a great Braille reader or a super traveler to gain the respect of other members. The Federation works to improve training opportunities for its members, but we are not an elite organization. The Federation is for every blind and sighted person who believes that blind people can really play in the mainstream of life if they have the opportunity. We do not blame blind persons for failures that are not of their making. We do not believe that, if something goes wrong in a blind person's life, it is without a doubt the result of some fault in the blind person's character or ability. We believe that, when a blind person gets an equal chance, he or she will make the most of it.
Sometimes you just have to decide whose side you're on. The Federation is on the side of blind guys. We all know that. That's why we give all that we can to make the Federation a successful organization. Think of what we get in return.
[PHOTO: Norm Peters doing push-ups on his living room floor. CAPTION: Norm Peters practices a fitness regime, including push-ups, in his El Cajon home. Photo courtesy of The Daily Californian.]
[PHOTO: Norm Peters holds up a very, very large pair of pants. CAPTION: Norm Peters wore a size 56 pants before he lost 130 pounds. Photo courtesy of The Daily Californian.]
FEDERATIONIST HIKES HIS WAY TO HEALTH
Norm Peters is the President of the San Diego County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of California. Those who call his home looking for him are likely to be told that he is out for a walk. Norm has hiked thousands of miles in the past several years. Not only has he become a reminder to his community that blind people can accomplish what they set out to, but he has lost over a hundred pounds in the process. The following story, written by Dave Schwab, appeared in the March 2, 1993, edition of The Daily Californian, a newspaper serving the San Diego metropolitan area. Here is the story:
Blindness No Obstacle to Weight Loss
Norm Peters has walked the distance to Vancouver, British Columbia, and Salt Lake City, Utah, and is now on his way to Baltimore, Maryland.
And he's never left his El Cajon neighborhood.
Peters, forty-one, blind since birth and a father of three, didn't actually trek to those destinations. But he has walked that many miles--six miles every day, twelve if he misses a day-- as part of a regimen which has helped him lose one hundred thirty of his more than three hundred pounds.
To make the going easier, he imagines he's bound for destinations he'd like to visit.
"I've done probably 4,700 miles in five or six years," said Peters. "Right now, I've decided to go to Baltimore, where the National Federation of the Blind has its headquarters.
"That's my imaginary goal."
Peters walks a circuitous route in his neighborhood--three laps daily. In addition to weight loss, his walking has led to benefits Peters didn't imagine before.
"You get compliments from people," he said. "I do a lot of walking, and I hardly knew anybody. But now, I wouldn't say everybody knows me, but I know a lot more people now.
"They stop me and talk to me and ask me how I did it."
Losing so much weight was important to Peters for another reason. As the current president of the San Diego County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, he said he feels it's important to lead by example in dispelling myths and misconceptions about blindness.
"The real fallacy is to believe that to be blind means you can't do anything," he said. "Actually, you just have to find alternative techniques so that you can do things.
"Blind people are in all kinds of occupations that you might not even imagine. One of the missions of the National Federation of the Blind is to educate the public that blindness is just a characteristic like other things."
Peters's wife is sighted, and his three children are partially sighted. He said he's learned through them about another important misconception about blindness--that only totally blind people need special help.
"They (the partially sighted) still need Braille," Peters said, "and they still need cane travel.
"If you have a partially sighted child who's learning to read, they need to have Braille right now. They need to have those services so that they're not always behind."
A liquid diet, Cambridge, also helped Peters take off weight, he said, and now he's a sales representative for the company.
Peters said that at first he was skeptical about a liquid diet.
"I didn't really want to try it," he said.
But after mushrooming to three hundred pounds, Peters changed his mind. He knew he had to do something. And he was impressed by the results.
"I just got tired of tight pants," he said. "I used to wear a size fifty-six pants. Now I wear a size thirty-six pretty comfortably."
Peters said the most important thing he's learned from losing so much weight is the importance of a sound diet.
"The most important thing is to be able to eat properly," he said. "I know it's hard for people to take the time to read the contents of food packages but it's important, especially for the grams of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
"For every gram of carbohydrates and proteins there are four calories. But for every fat gram it's nine calories. The main thing is to know what you're taking into your body."
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: David Hyde.]
by David Hyde
David Hyde is one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind. He currently serves as the first vice president of the NFB of Oregon. He is also a thoughtful and conscientious man with a deep commitment to improving life for all blind people, including blind children. The following article first appeared in the Summer, 1992, edition of the Oregon Outlook, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon. The reminder is one we should all take to heart. Here is what he has to say:
"You aren't blind, you're a grown-up man." That's what an eight-year-old said to me at the last NFB of Oregon convention. It wasn't the first time that I'd heard such things from blind children, but it still surprised me.
"I am blind," I assured her. "See, I carry a long cane."
The cane was taller than she was, and she stretched on tip toe to try to reach the top. "How can you be blind?" she continued. "I'm blind, but I'm just a little girl."
We talked about blind girls growing up to be blind women and blind boys growing up to be blind men. We talked about playing and working, about going to school, and about expectations--all this in a few minutes after a convention session.
This passing contact illustrates in microcosm one of the biggest problems blind children have today, isolation. When many of us who are now blind adults were blind children, we attended residential schools. Most of the students were blind, and we formed our expectations (right or wrong) from those we saw around us. Some of us were outgoing, assertive, smart, or well-adjusted; some of us were shy, passive, bad-tempered, or moody. All of us knew that these characteristics had nothing to do with our blindness but were common characteristics of all children, blind or sighted. We knew, since we saw blind teenagers, that blind children grew up to be blind teenagers and that they in turn grew up to be blind adults. With mainstreaming now commonplace, most blind children rarely meet blind adults, or at least they meet very few of us. Because of their isolation in public schools, they may never learn that they are just like all other children and that blindness need not make them exceptional.
Although the National Federation of the Blind Parents Division can help, most of the responsibility for finding these children and their parents falls on us blind adults. As we set priorities for legislation, civil rights, and fund-raising, let's remember to take the time to do the little things that make a big difference. Blind children need our help; they need to learn about the National Federation of the Blind. You may become the most important person in a blind child's life.
NOW YOU TOO CAN RENT A DOLLAR OR ALAMO CAR
by Toni and Ed Eames
Toni and Ed Eames are leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of California. They are conscientious and thorough when it comes to protecting their rights and carrying out their responsibilities as citizens. Recently they have been busy clarifying the rights of all blind people to rent cars. A number of us have had difficulty with car rental agencies in recent years. Thanks to the Eameses the problem may be settled once and for all. Here is the story as the Eameses tell it:
In the April, 1992, issue of the Braille Monitor, we described a problem we had had with Dollar Rent A Car. The company's policy was to rent only to people with both a credit card and a valid driver's license.
The problem confronted us first in early 1992, when we arrived at the Phoenix Airport and went to pick up our previously reserved Dollar Rent A Car. We had planned to put the rental on our credit card and have a friend drive. Even after consulting a supervisor, the clerk at the counter refused to rent to us. When we pointed out that this was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), they still refused to reconsider their position. Fortunately, we were able to rent a car from Budget, which had no such discriminatory policy.
In May we filed a formal complaint with the Department of Justice (DOJ) under Title 3 of the ADA, and in June we received acknowledgement of our complaint and a case number. In August the investigator working on the case called us and gave us her name and phone number. In October we were told that the Department of Justice had contacted Dollar and Dollar was working on the problem. We were disgusted by the lack of action.
Also in October Sharon Gold, president of the NFB of California, suggested a new tack. California has its own civil rights code, the Unruh Law, which antedates the ADA. It says that no organization doing business in the state can deny access to its products and services to blind and physically disabled people. Unlike the ADA, the California law mandates a minimum fine of $250 against any business violating the law. Knowing we were protected by the Unruh Law, we called Dollar's Fresno office on October 28, identified ourselves as blind people, and asked to rent a car using our credit card. When we were refused, we obtained the name of the person who turned us down and proceeded with a small claims action against Dollar. We also called most of the other car rental services and discovered that Alamo had the same sort of discriminatory policy. All the others (including Avis, Hertz, National, and Budget) were willing to rent to us. Therefore, we filed a small claims complaint against Alamo as well.
In California in cases in which an individual sues another individual or a corporation for damages up to $7,000, he or she can choose to go before a municipal judge, who hears the case before the day's usual court proceedings. No lawyers are permitted to participate in such proceedings. We filled out the necessary forms and paid a $10 filing fee. We invested an additional $14 to obtain the official name of the corporate representative to be served and for the actual serving of the papers. A clearly written booklet described the entire process, and following it step-by-step made things easy.
One requirement was writing a demand letter to the official representative of the company stating what we wanted the corporation to do. That was easy. We stated our case and asked Dollar and Alamo to change their policies, send a copy of the change to us, and pay the minimum fine of $250 plus court costs. Here is the text of the letter we wrote to Alamo; it is virtually identical to the one we sent to Dollar:
December 14, 1992
C.T. Corporation System
Los Angeles, California
Dear C.T. Corporate System:
According to the Secretary of State of California, you are listed as the agent for Alamo Rent A Car. Therefore, I am directing this letter to you.
On October 28, 1992, at approximately 4:00 p.m., I spoke with Adrian Guerra at the Fresno office about renting a car from Alamo. I indicated that I am blind and do not have a driver's license but do have a valid credit card. I wanted to rent a car on my credit card to be driven by a friend with a driver's license. Adrian informed me that this was against company policy. I asked Adrian to check with a supervisor, since this was a violation of my rights. According to her, the supervisor (Eileen Kennedy) was contacted and affirmed the position that Alamo would not rent to me unless I had a valid driver's license.
This policy is a denial of my rights under the California Unruh Law. I will be filing a small claims court case in Fresno against Alamo based on this violation of my civil rights. I will be asking for punitive damages of $1,000, the minimum fine of $250 mandated by the Unruh Law, and court costs of $24. I would be willing to forego the small claims action if Alamo pays the minimum fine of $250 to me and provides evidence that a policy change has been made giving me, as a disabled person unable to drive, the same right to rent a car as anyone else.
If I do not receive a satisfactory response to this letter by January 2, 1993, I will proceed with the small claims action.
After waiting two weeks and receiving no response to our demand letters, we filed our claims and selected dates for the two hearings. Since the Dollar representative was in Fresno, that case could be heard within thirty days, while Alamo, represented by an organization located in Los Angeles, had to be heard later.
Two days before the Dollar hearing we received a certified letter from Dollar's attorney. She offered us up to $600 in damages with a minimum of $250 if we withdrew the case and agreed not to file any other actions against Dollar. No mention was made of changing corporate policy. At no point in the proceedings did we mention our DOJ complaint, but we saw this latest offer as an additional attempt by Dollar to continue its discriminatory policy and rejected the offer. The attorney for Dollar also mentioned a section of the California Motor Vehicle Code mandating that car rental organizations rent only to individuals possessing both a license and a credit card. Here is the attorney's letter:
January 28, 1993
Dear Mr. Eames:
I am in receipt of your letter dated December 24, 1993, to Mike Burrell, Manager of Dollar Rent A Car, Fresno, California, regarding your experience in attempting to use your credit card for the rental of a car driven by your friend on October 25, 1992. I am also in possession of a copy of the Summons issued by the Fresno Municipal Court, Case Number S163967-3, wherein you have alleged that Dollar has violated your rights under California Civil Code, Sections 51 and 52, Unruh Civil Rights Act. I am sorry that your letter did not invoke a response from Dollar earlier than this, but in the interim Dollar's Legal Department has been transferred to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and your letter was inadvertently left without a response.
Our company policy is that the renter of vehicle must have both a valid driver's license and a valid credit card. We require that the renter of the vehicle, as opposed to any additional driver or "guarantor," have the credit card in order to insure that the holder of the credit card has authorized the renting of the vehicle for the entire period that the vehicle is kept by the renter. Our requirement that the renter have a valid driver's license is required of us by California Vehicle Code Section 14608. We apply these policies to all prospective renters. Prior to the date of your attempted rental, we had been reviewing these policies to reach an acceptable solution for rentals to persons disabled by blindness. We are nearing a resolution of that problem by requiring the credit card holder to sign a form of guaranty for payments under the rental and the return of the vehicle.
In settlement of any claims you may have against Dollar Rent A Car, and without the admission of any liability of the parties released, for violation under the Unruh Act or any other Civil Rights Acts, State and Federal, Dollar offers to provide you, in addition to any court costs you may have incurred, a minimum of two hundred fifty and no/100 dollars ($250), and a maximum of six hundred and no/100 dollars ($600) for actual damages you may have incurred.
Upon receipt of your executed copy of the attached Release and Settlement Agreement of all claims against Dollar, a copy of your Dismissal With Prejudice in the referenced lawsuit, the submission of expenses of court costs, and proof of the actual damages suffered over two hundred fifty and no/100 dollars ($250), the total amount of your damages, up to six hundred and no/100 dollars ($600) will be remitted to you.
Our business is renting vehicles. We do not want to have to decline any of our customers, and our employees make every effort to successfully complete a rental. We regret your inconvenience in this matter and hope to restore your confidence in Dollar once our procedures are fully in place. Prior to any future contemplated rentals from Dollar Rent A Car, please contact me to insure that our anticipated policies and procedures have been implemented to secure the rental.
If the terms of this settlement are acceptable, please execute the attached Release and Settlement Agreement, and a check will be issued to you immediately. Additionally, if you have any questions regarding the terms of this offer of settlement, please contact me at (918) 669-2474.
Very truly yours,
Corporate Attorney - Regulatory Issues
cc: Mr. Mike Burrell
At the hearing two days later Ed was sworn in, told his story, and presented the Unruh Law. Dollar's Fresno supervisor appeared and presented the relevant portion of the motor vehicle code. The procedure was informal, and we both had ample opportunity to present our cases and challenge the other side. After about fifteen minutes the hearing ended, and the judge said it would take him some time to make a decision since there was a conflict between the two laws.
Two weeks after the Dollar case we appeared for the Alamo hearing. We had received no response to our demand letter, but Alamo's local supervisor appeared on the company's behalf. Before the case was heard, the Alamo representative showed us a copy of the corporate policy and explained that she had been the one to refuse our rental request because she was unaware of the policy adopted in April, 1992, which gave blind people the right to rent cars using a credit card and having a driver with a valid license. She offered to pay the court costs, circulate a memo on the policy to all agents, and provide a free car rental to us. We accepted these terms and dropped the case.
Two weeks later we received a judgment against Dollar for $250 plus court costs. We then wrote to Dollar demanding they change their policy since the judgment, according to Sharon Gold, was a clear indication that they were violating the law.
This is the letter Ed wrote to Dollar:
March 5, 1993
Mr. Gary Paxton, CEO
Dollar Rent A Car
Los Angeles, California
Dear Mr. Paxton:
On February 10 I appeared in small claims court in Fresno in a case against Dollar Rent A Car. As a blind person I wanted to rent a car using my credit card and have a friend with a driver's license do the actual driving. Mike Burrell of your Fresno office said this was against company policy. This policy is a direct violation of my rights under the Unruh Act of California. The court agreed with me, and a judgment has been lodged against Dollar.
Since this judgment is a clear indication that Dollar is violating the law, I want this policy changed. In addition, I want to obtain evidence that this has been done and that your agents in the state have been notified of the revised policy.
In the response to my demand letter of December 14, 1992, your attorney stated that Dollar is in the business of renting cars. I agree. As one who wanted to rent a car from Dollar, I believe your discriminatory policy works against your stated goal of renting cars to the public. Be that as it may, your current policy certainly violates my civil rights as a blind Californian.
I would like to hear from you or your representative about this matter by March 19.
cc: Sharon Gold, President
National Federation of the Blind of California
About a week later we received two certified letters from Dollar. One stated that they needed time to respond to our request, and the other contained the check paying the fine.
On March 26 we decided to test the impact of our efforts. Ed, accompanied by a friend, went to the Dollar and Alamo offices located at the Fresno Airport. Ed made his request to rent using his credit card with his companion as driver. Both clerks checked with supervisors and then said there was no problem with this arrangement. Not fully satisfied, we called Alamo and Dollar's 800 numbers and made the same request. Lo and behold, we were quite welcome to rent cars from them anywhere in the country.
In early April we received a letter from Alamo confirming the company's completion of our agreement. Here is the letter we received together with the relevant portion of the Alamo procedure:
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
March 29, 1993
Dear Mr. Eames:
In regards to our prior telephone conversation, this letter will confirm the following:
1. You will receive a check from Alamo in the amount of $24 to cover your costs from small claims court. I will be contacting Andrea Cohan, customer relations, to find out when your check will be issued.
2. A memo from Alamo that all locations comply with the policy of renting to visually impaired renters.
3. A rental car will be available to you for one day at no cost to you. Please let me know at least one week prior so I can make the arrangements.
If there is anything else that I can do for you, please don't hesitate to contact me.
Eileen M. Kennedy, Station Manager
Alamo Rent A Car
That was Ms. Kennedy's letter; here is a portion of the company's new procedures:
Alamo Rent A Car, Inc. Online Procedures
April 1, 1992
Topic: Blind Renters
Visually Impaired Renters (Blind Renters)
Effective Date: Immediately
Purpose: To accommodate those visually impaired renters who wish to rent an Alamo car, using a designated driver, and are willing to assume full responsibility for the rental.
Alamo Policy: A visually impaired person is someone who is blind or whose sight is so impaired that he/she cannot qualify for and does not hold a driver's license.
From time to time a visually impaired person will seek to rent an Alamo car, using a designated driver, and bear the primary responsibility for all charges, as well as for the car. It is Alamo's policy to rent to the visually impaired. The following requirements will apply:
1. The visually impaired renter must personally appear at the rental counter to sign the rental agreement (including, if applicable, the credit card charge authorization). The rental may be undertaken for cash, if the renter meets all conditions of Alamo's cash rental qualification policy, or on a valid, Alamo- accepted credit card.
2. The renter's designated driver must also personally appear at the rental counter with the renter. He/she must hold a valid driver's license and must meet our minimum age requirements. If the designated driver does not permanently reside with the renter, a telephone listing in the designated driver's name is required and must be verified by calling the information operator in that person's city of residence.
3. The designated driver shall be listed on the rental agreement as an additional driver. However, our additional driver charge shall be waived. Likewise, if the designated driver is under twenty-five years of age, our under age twenty-five driver charge shall be waived. Should the renter desire a second additional driver, our additional driver charge and, if applicable, our under age twenty-five driver charge shall apply to such second driver.
There you have the Alamo policy, and, though we do not yet have a copy of the Dollar procedure, it seems to be working appropriately. The one remaining problem facing us is to change the California Motor Vehicle Code to conform with the Unruh Law and the ADA. We are working with Sharon Gold and our local state legislators to make the necessary change, which should be ready to introduce in the California Legislature very soon. Where the ADA and the DOJ failed to have an impact on changing car rental policies, the California Unruh Law, through the small claims process, managed to get results. The lesson we have learned is an important one: State civil rights laws may well be stronger and faster than federal ones. We should never overlook them when seeking justice.
If you or a friend would like to remember the National Federation of the Blind in your will, you can do so by employing the following language:
"I give, devise, and bequeath unto National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, a District of Columbia nonprofit corporation, the sum of $_____ (or "_____ percent of my net estate" or "The following stocks and bonds: _____") to be used for its worthy purposes on behalf of blind persons."
[PHOTO: Chief Black Hawk dressed in full war regalia. CAPTION: Black Hawk, war chief of the Mesquakie Tribe, and his followers were the last Iowan native Americans to offer armed resistance to white settlement, and their defeat (in a running battle in which Abraham Lincoln served) opened Iowa up for white settlement.]
[PHOTO: Ted Hart seated in a chair. CAPTION: Ted Hart is president of the Black Hawk County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa. Chapter members are proud of the similarities between him and the great Chief Black Hawk. READERS NOTE: THERE IS NO RESEMBLANCE BETWEEN TED HART AND CHIEF BLACK HAWK.]
This month's recipes are contributed by Iowans, more particularly by the Black Hawk Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa. The chapter, which takes its name from Chief Black Hawk of the Mesquakie Tribe, serves the greater Waterloo area. It has compiled a cookbook, which is available now and will also be for sale at the convention this summer. It is filled with recipes contributed by members of the National Federation of the Blind and their friends as well as by public figures in the state of Iowa. Peggy Pinder, President of the NFB of Iowa, says that the Black Hawk Chapter cookbook is now available in print or on cassette for $6.50 with an additional charge of $2 for shipping and handling. The cassette edition can be mailed Free Matter for the Blind without the $2 charge if you wish. Place orders by writing to Loren Wakefield, 722 Denver Street, Waterloo, Iowa 50702. Make checks payable to Black Hawk County Chapter, NFBI. A Braille edition is also planned, if the details can be worked out. An expression of interest in the Braille version would be helpful in planning the number to be ordered, so please let Mr. Wakefield know if you are interested in Braille.
In addition to sixty-seven print pages of recipes, the cookbook contains information about the National Federation of the Blind and 416 household hints, such as how to remove those irritating depressions left by furniture in the carpet when you rearrange. We in Iowa hope that you enjoy the following recipes as much as we do. We have chosen to include here several hearty and easy-to-prepare main dishes and also some fun desserts and snacks to tickle your sweet tooth. The rest of the cookbook is just as enticing as this sample.
LAYERED BEAN DIP
by Ferne Abben
2 16-ounce cans refried beans
1 2.2-ounce can sliced black olives, drained
1-1/2 cup mild salsa
2 cups each, shredded Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese, sliced
Method: Spread 1/2 of the refried beans in the bottom of a 9 by 9-inch baking dish. Make layers with half the olives, salsa, and cheese. Repeat layers with remaining ingredients. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until heated through. Garnish with sliced green onions and sour cream. Serve hot with tortilla chips.
POOR BOY FILLETS
by Chris Bean
1- to 1-1/2 pounds ground beef
1 to 2 tablespoons green peppers, chopped
1 to 2 tablespoons onion, chopped
1 can mushroom pieces, chopped
2 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
5 to 6 strips of bacon
Method: Press ground beef onto wax paper forming a 1/4 inch thick rectangle. Spread the peppers, onions, and mushrooms evenly over the beef. Next sprinkle Parmesan cheese, lemon pepper, and salt over the vegetables. Then roll the beef with all the toppings, starting at the shorter end, into a firm roll. Press ends and side seam into roll to seal. Next carefully slice the roll into 5 to 6 slices, 1- to 1-1/2 inch thick. Then wrap each slice in bacon and secure with a toothpick; broil for 5 to 10 minutes on each side.
by Debra Smith
15 ounces uncooked spaghetti noodles
1/2 cup skim milk
10 1/2 ounces mozzarella cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
4 ounces ground beef
2 15-ounce containers Weight Watchers spaghetti sauce
Method: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cook spaghetti according to label directions and drain. Beat eggs. Add milk and 4 ounces of cheese. Add spaghetti. Spread on jelly roll or pizza pan covered with cooking spray. Form an edge. Bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce heat to 350 degrees. Spread sauce on crust. Sprinkle surface with garlic powder. Top with ground meat and remaining cheese. Bake 30 minutes. Serves 10.
SCRAMBLED EGG CASSEROLE
by Barbara Grassley
Barbara Grassley is the wife of the senior U.S. Senator from Iowa.
2 dozen eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 pound bacon, cooked crisp, drained, and crumbled
1 cup sour cream
1 16-ounce block of Cheddar cheese, grated
Method: Scramble eggs with milk, season to taste. Put in greased 9 by 13-inch pan. Layer crumbled bacon on top. Spread with sour cream and top with the cheese. Garnish with paprika. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour. Serves 12 to 15.
by Becky West
3 cups cottage cheese
1-1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup shredded onion
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
5 to 6 potatoes, peeled, cooked, and diced as for potato salad
Method: Mix well all ingredients except potatoes and cheese. Add mixture to potatoes and place in 8 by 12-inch pan or casserole. Sprinkle shredded Velveeta cheese on top. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.
IOWA APPLESAUCE CAKE
by Terry E. Branstad
The Honorable Terry Branstad is the Governor of Iowa.
1/2 cup butter, margarine, or shortening
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1-1/2 cups applesauce
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
Method: In a large mixing bowl beat the butter for 30 seconds. Add the sugars and egg, and beat until combined. Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and spices. Add flour mixture alternately with applesauce to butter mixture. Stir in raisins and nuts. Pour batter into a greased 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking pan, spread evenly. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack. Serves 12.
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
2 3-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
Method: Beat together cream cheese and butter. Then beat in 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 cups sifted powdered sugar to make a spreadable frosting. A butter frosting could be substituted for the cream cheese one.
For a decorative finish, set a doily lightly on the frosted cake and sprinkle lightly with a mixture of cinnamon and nutmeg. Carefully remove the doily.
by Verla Kirsch
1 cup margarine
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup cold coffee
1 cup raisins
1 cup nuts, chopped
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
5 cups flour
Method: Mix all ingredients in order given and drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Cookies will feel firm to the touch.
IMITATION COCONUT COOKIES
by Verla Kirsch
1-1/3 cup Bisquick
1-1/4 cup instant potatoes
1 stick margarine, melted
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon coconut flavoring
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Method: Mix all ingredients in a bowl and beat well. Chill dough at least 1 hour or overnight. Bake cookies on ungreased sheets at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until cookies are flattened.
by Julie Marsch
1 cup peanut butter
1 stick butter
1 package chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 box Rice Chex
2 cups powdered sugar
Method: Melt first 4 ingredients together and pour over 1 box of Rice Chex. Stir gently until Chex are coated with chocolate-peanut butter mixture. Then put Chex into a brown paper bag with 2 cups powdered sugar and shake.
by Susan Buss
2 3-ounce packages or 1 6-ounce package instant chocolate pudding
8 ounces cream cheese
1 stick margarine or butter
3-1/2 cups milk
1 12-ounce container Cool Whip
20-ounce package Oreos
1 cup powdered sugar
gummy worms, optional
clean garden spade, to serve
Method: Mix instant pudding and milk. When mixture has thickened, fold in Cool Whip. Cream together butter or margarine, cream cheese, and powdered sugar. Blend into pudding mixture. Crush Oreos. In large pot place one third of the cookie crumbs in bottom. Layer with half the pudding mixture, another third of the cookie crumbs, then rest of pudding. Top with rest of Oreos. Decorate with gummy worms. This can also be made in a 9 by 13- inch pan. Store in refrigerator.
by Joyce Reynolds
1 12-ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 pound white almond bark
2 cups miniature marshmallows
1 cup crisp rice cereal
1 cup peanuts, pecans, or walnuts
1 cup miniature fun chips
1/3 cup flake coconut
1 teaspoon oil
Method: In large saucepan melt chocolate chips and 14 ounces of the almond bark over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat. Stir in marshmallows, cereal, and nuts. Pour onto greased 12-inch pizza pan. Top with fun chips and coconut. Melt remaining almond bark and oil over low heat, stirring until smooth. Drizzle over coconut. Chill until firm. Store at room temperature.
EDIBLE PLAY DOUGH
1 cup powdered milk
1 cup honey
1 cup peanut butter
Method: Mix all ingredients.
Let kids play and eat.
[PHOTO: Kathy Kannenberg seated in audience during an NFB convention. CAPTION: Kathy Kannenberg.]
The Superintendent of the Wake County, North Carolina, Public School System recently announced in a press release that the Wake County Board of Education presented twenty-one outstanding Wake County first-year elementary and secondary teachers with certificates of merit at a special recognition ceremony held Tuesday, March 30, 1993.
Selected for exemplary performance during the first year of teaching, the twenty-one teachers were nominated by their principals for the 1992-93 Sallie Mae First-Year Teaching Award. The American Association of School Administrators promotes the program on behalf of Sallie Mae, a financial services company specializing in education funding.
From the group of twenty-one teachers, Wake County selected two candidates for national award consideration. A district-wide selection committee reviewed nomination data and interviewed the twenty-one nominees. This final step resulted in the selection of Kathy Kannenberg, a math and science teacher from Ligon Middle School; and Jason Franklin, a math teacher at Martin Middle School.
Ligon Principal Crystal Helm says Kannenberg is a committed teacher who is "highly respected by her colleagues and literally loved by her students."
"What is best for students and for Ligon seems to continually be her overriding concern," Helm says.
Winners of national Sallie Mae awards will be announced next September. Now in its ninth year, the program recognizes one hundred outstanding new teachers from around the country who have demonstrated excellence in the classroom. National winners receive $1,000 in cash and an award certificate.
As Federationists know, along with being an outstanding math teacher, Kathy Kannenberg serves as President of the National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina. Without doubt this recognition of her teaching skill and her dedication to her students is truly deserved. However, one of the most interesting aspects of the press release we received is the fact that it made no mention of Kathy Kannenberg's blindness. This fact is surely a measure of the progress we are making toward achieving first- class status. Congratulations to Miss Kannenberg, and good luck to her in the next round of competition.
The Capital District Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of New York reports that it held its biennial election with the following results: Gisela Distel, president; Bryan Sattler, vice president; Ellen Cash, secretary; William Schultz, treasurer; and Sally Freidman, board member.
**Braille Transcription Services Still Offered:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Is there something you need to have Brailled? If so, don't forget Kentucky NAPUB (National Association to Promote the Use of Braille). We have relocated but are still offering the same prompt service and quality work you have come to know. Our new facility is located in downtown Louisville, which has greatly enhanced our visibility. You may contact us at Kentucky NAPUB, 455 South 4th Avenue, Suite 995, Louisville, Kentucky 40202; (502) 568-3687.
**Federationist Nominated as Professional Woman of the Year:
Billie Weaver, one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri, sends the following article, which appeared in the Beacon, the publication of the Southwest Center for Independent Living:
Disabled Professional Woman of the Year Award
Geraldine Thaemlitz, Office Manager/Secretary to the principal of Springfield Catholic High School, has been selected as the Springfield candidate for Disabled Professional Woman of the Year, sponsored by Pilot Club International; the President's Committee on Employment of People With Disabilities; and Sears, Roebuck, Inc. Geri began losing her sight ten years ago and is now legally blind, yet with the new technical equipment available for persons with visual impairments, she functions as a sighted person.
Geri is also a musician, playing the hammered dulcimer, and is active in a number of community activities as board member, religion teacher, and musician. Geri was nominated by the Southwest Center for Independent Living (where she serves on our board of directors), and we want to extend our congratulations on her well-deserved recognition.
Ms. Thaemlitz is an active member of the Springfield Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have for sale a Toshiba T1200 laptop computer equipped with Artic speech output and accessories. Asking $800. The speech package alone would cost $995. If interested, call Doug Rose at (805) 499-8377.
Tom Johnson, secretary of the National Federation of the Blind of Phoenix, Arizona, reports the following election results: Captain Lewis, president; Carrie Taylor, first vice president; Shirley Sloop, second vice president; Tom Johnson, secretary; and Josephine Shaw, treasurer. Cheryl Lewis and Hazel Plummer were elected to serve on the board of directors.
John DeHaas, President of our Montana affiliate, writes with sadness to report the death of Lelia Proctor, who died on April 9 at the age of sixty-eight. Lelia was a founding member of the Montana Association of the Blind in 1945 and served as secretary/treasurer of the NFB affiliate for more than forty years. She took particular pleasure and pride in her work with the affiliate's summer orientation program conducted each year on the campus of the Montana State University in Bozeman. Mrs. Proctor will be missed by all those who knew and loved her.
**Wishing To Buy:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I am interested in purchasing a used Braille printer in good working condition or one that has been recently reconditioned, with a speed of not less than 33 to 40 characters per second and using continuous-feed paper up to twelve and a half inches wide. I am willing to pay a reasonable price and will make shipping arrangements with seller for delivery of item should offer be accepted. Contact in Braille or print Francis E. Khan, 11-17 Park Street, Port of Spain, Trinidad, West Indies. You may telephone (work) 809-623-1056 or (home) 809-665-5566 after 5:00 p.m. My fax number is 809-625-3619, extension 3423.
**New Division in the NFB of Georgia:
The National Federation of the Blind of Georgia proudly announces the formation of its Diabetics Division. The following people were recently elected as officers and board members: Sandra Ausburn, president; Wayne High, vice president; Kaye Zimpher, secretary; and Max Parker, treasurer. Blanche Griffin and Vivian Parker were elected board members.
[PHOTO: Curtis Chong stands with two Minnesota officials, holding an award. CAPTION: Curtis Chong is pictured here with Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson and State Commissioner of Jobs and Training Jane Brown.]
Commissioner R. Jane Brown of the Minnesota Department of Jobs and Training announced that Curtis Chong, first vice president of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota and President of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science, has been selected as a 1993 Jobs and Training Volunteer of the Year for all of his work on behalf of blind persons. In honor of Minnesota Volunteer Week, April 18 to 24, Brown's department is recognizing volunteers who contribute to its many programs.
Chong, currently serving as chairperson of the Minnesota Council for the Blind, an advisory council to the Minnesota vocational rehabilitation agency, has been offering assistance in the areas of technology and administration for almost a decade. Professionally, Chong is a systems analyst for IDS in Minneapolis.
"Curtis has been a valued player in the development of our resource center at State Services for the Blind and has served on a number of task forces and committees that have enabled us to more effectively serve the needs of blind Minnesotans, particularly as technology has increased opportunities," Brown said.
"Volunteers like Curtis make our programs the effective, successful tools available today for Minnesotans who are disabled or disadvantaged. This recognition is a small way to show our appreciation to hard-working, selfless Minnesotans for all that they have done for thousands," Brown continued.
In a letter of notification to Chong, Brown cited his volunteerism as "exemplary" and invited him to attend a proclamation ceremony held in Governor Carlson's office at the Capitol.
On April 13, 1993, Sharon Gold, President of the National Federation of the Blind of California, was honored as a finalist during the 1993 JCPenney Golden Rule Award Winner and Finalists' Luncheon. "The JCPenney Golden Rule Award recognizes and celebrates the local volunteers and organizations who work selflessly and effectively to help others in the community." The luncheon was hosted by the Volunteer Center of Sacramento/Yolo Counties and the JCPenney Company and was attended by approximately three hundred eighty people representing over fifty-five nonprofit organizations in the Sacramento and Yolo County Area. Seventy volunteers were nominated by the fifty-five organizations. Ten finalists were chosen from the nominees, and three winners were chosen from the finalists.
When introducing Sharon to the audience, the Master of Ceremonies said in part: "Ms. Gold serves as an advocate for blind persons who are not receiving the benefits to which they are entitled, for blind children who are not receiving proper educational opportunities, and for blind job-seekers and employees facing discrimination. Most recently Ms. Gold was responsible for leading the organization in the establishment of NEWSLINE FOR THE BLIND, a newspaper-reading service which provides blind persons independent access to three metropolitan daily newspapers. The major problem or challenge that Sharon Gold faces in the volunteer service she provides is to find enough hours in the day to administer and direct the program services of the National Federation of the Blind of California and to locate resources to fund the many projects of the organization. Sharon Gold is a dynamic, humble person, who gives all of herself to help bring about fuller lives for blind persons and to promote the goals of the National Federation of the Blind." Sharon was presented with a plaque, and the National Federation of the Blind was given a $250 prize. Congratulations to Sharon Gold and the National Federation of the Blind of California, and commendations to the JCPenney organization for its effort to recognize outstanding local volunteers.
The Kankakee Heartland Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois recently elected the following officers: Bill Isaacs, president; Nora Bell, vice president; Eileen Boudreau, secretary; and Ruth Isaacs, treasurer. Robert Sowell was re-elected to the board along with two new members, Dan Boudreau and Gerald Cook.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have for sale a four-volume set of the Service Book and Hymnal (red book) for use in Lutheran churches still using this book. I also have the American Bible Society recording of the New Testament and Psalms, King James version, on eighteen cassettes.
If interested, contact Debra Downs, 4834 Charles Road, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania 17055; or call (717) 737-2380, after 6:00 p.m.
**Race-Based Scholarships Now "Proper":
Note: The following article appeared in the March 18, 1993, USAToday:
Education Secretary Richard Riley, ending a two-year debate over targeting of financial aid, Wednesday said college scholarships aimed at minority students are legal.
Race-specific scholarships that help correct the "improper actions of the past are proper and desirable, helpful and encouraged," Riley says.
"That's my policy."
Riley has sent letters to all college presidents explaining his policy.
But formal department guidelines will wait until the General Accounting Office completes a yearlong study of the issue in June.
"There is no need to make any changes to your student financial aid programs in anticipation of the department's final policy," Riley wrote in the March 4 letter.
**U.S. Senator Honored:
Ramona Walhof, Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB of Idaho, reports that United States Senator Larry Craig received the affiliate's Thelander Award on Saturday, April 17, 1993. The award was presented at the organization's annual convention banquet. The Senator received a plaque which reads in part, "You listen, you care, you get results. You have worked with us and for us for more than a decade. Thank you. National Federation of the Blind of Idaho."
In presenting the award, Mrs. Walhof pointed out that Senator Craig has worked for fair wages for blind persons in sheltered workshops, fair treatment of blind persons by the airlines, and proper accreditation of agencies serving the blind. Congratulations to Senator Craig.
**Reflected Glory for Illinois Music Teacher:
Allen Schaefer is the Treasurer of the National Association of Blind Educators and President of the Prairie State Chapter of the NFB of Illinois. He is also an impressive public school instrumental music teacher. His students consistently do well in statewide music competitions. This year has been no exception. In the 1993 Illinois Elementary School Association's State Area 6A Solo and Ensemble Contest, the Mazon-Verona-Kinsman Middle School students established a school record of forty contest entrants. Nine of the thirty-six Division I ratings were perfect scores. Congratulations to Allen Schaefer and his students for their hard work and their musicianship.
Buck Saunders, Board member of the Huntington Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of West Virginia, has been given a place in an on-site course. He now finds that he must also serve as the facilitator for the course if it is to take place. He hopes that someone else has experience in such a situation; he has none and would very much like to talk with any blind person who could give him good advice about how to carry out his responsibilities. If you can help, contact Willis Gene (Buck) Saunders in Braille or on tape at 1509 Kanawha Street, Point Pleasant, West Virginia 25550; (304) 675-3809.
Kate Mayer, president of the Greater Ouachita Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana, reports the following election results: Kate Mayer, president; Roy Ray, first vice president; Tracy Jackson, second vice president; Phil Hawkshead, secretary; Donnie Russ, treasurer; and John Doublin, chaplain. Eddie Caldwell and Charles Jackson were elected to serve as board members.
**Diabetic Food Now Available Through Mail Order:
The Diabetic Food Emporium, Ltd., of Hackensack, New Jersey, makes available a catalog and order form for more than 400 sugar- free snacks, cakes, preserves, and other food which diabetics may find difficult to locate in local grocery stores. Orders of over $30 are sent without handling charges. The company says that it fills orders within twenty-four hours of receipt. This service is not inexpensive, but the variety available is impressive. For more information, call 1-800-285-3210.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have for sale a Franklin Portable Language Master, Special Edition, LM-6000SE. This portable device makes language reference accessible to the disabled since it is voice-synthesized. It checks and corrects spelling, provides definitions for words in the dictionary, and contains a thesaurus and grammar guide with 300,000 detailed definitions. It also includes ten games. It is too technically advanced for me. I purchased the program for $500 but am prepared to sell it for $400. If interested, contact Joseph Campe, 5 Cornell Street, Concord, New Hampshire 03301.
**Wish to Buy:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I am in the market to buy a used Talking Wallet in good condition. Contact Dan Dillon at (615) 754-2789 after 7:00 p.m.
The Colorado Springs Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado announces the following election results: Mark Meusborn, president; Jim Allison, vice president; Lois Allison, treasurer; Susan Trainer, secretary; and Leslie Weirauch, Maryanne Wyley, and Randy Huffman, board members.