37, No. 10 November
Barbara Pierce, Editor
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NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
THE BLIND IS NOT
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 37, No. 10 November 1994
OF ARKANSAS SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND FORCED OUT:
NAC TAKES ANOTHER HIT
by Kenneth Jernigan and Barbara Pierce
PERTINENT RESOLUTIONS FROM ARKANSAS
by Steve Benson
THE 1995 NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM
AND MOBILITY: The Need for Reason
by George M. Binder and Douglas C. Boone
BLIND CHEMIST SUES NEW YORK CORPORATION
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND BRAILLE READERS ARE LEADERS 1994-95 CONTEST
BY THE BLIND FOR THE BLINDPROVIDING ORIENTATION TRAINING: A PANEL DISCUSSION
by Marc Maurer
by Lauren L. Eckery
SHOULD HAVE A BLIND PARENT
by Carla McQuillan
by John A. Wall, CBE
EDUCATORS CONTINUE TO RESIST TEACHING BRAILLE
Copyright 1994 National
Federation of the Blind
by Kenneth Jernigan and Barbara Pierce
At a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Arkansas Schools for the Deaf and the Blind on September 23, 1994, Leonard Ogburn, Superintendent of the School for the Blind, was forced to resign amid charges and counter-charges of sexual misconduct, nepotism, favoritism, and misuse of school resources. Many of those familiar with the situation at the Arkansas School for the Blind (ASB) say that Ogburn, school alumnus (although he now sees well enough to drive a car) and Superintendent since 1985, ran the place as though it were his personal kingdom. But when, on June 23, 1994, an ASB teacher requested the Pulaski County Prosecutor to issue a warrant for Ogburn's arrest, alleging that he had spanked her several times and threatened to do so again in connection with her annual performance review, the Superintendent's castle began to crumble. In the weeks following the first allegation, at least eight other women came forward with claims of Ogburn's inappropriate comments, pinching, biting, fondling, and spanking. Moreover, accusations of nepotism, widespread favoritism, and misuse of staff time and ASB equipment also began to attract serious media and governmental attention. The five-member Board of Trustees, which governs both the School for the Blind and the School for the Deaf, suspended Ogburn with pay on June 24, 1994, pending an investigation; but following their receipt of the police investigator's 328-page report, they voted four to one in September to allow the Superintendent to submit his resignation to be effective October 19.
At the same meeting at which Ogburn was allowed to resign instead of being fired in return for his promise not to sue the School, the Board voted to include a $6,000 line item in the School's budget request to the legislature to renew the institution's accreditation with NAC (the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped). In the circumstances the decision was not surprising since the NAC seal appears to be the shield for corrupt practice and poor performance more often than the assurance of quality service.
The Arkansas story is convoluted and ambiguousa tapestry of many threads, knotted and tangled. Human motives and actions are rarely black and white. They are usually gray in all of its shadesand the Arkansas story is a prime example. Perhaps the place to begin is with the dedication of a playground at the School's multiply-handicapped unit in May of 1993. Most of the money for the playground was raised by Wanda Nixon, the grandmother of one of the students and a woman, according to Ogburn and others, with an extended history of psychiatric problems. The playground was named for Nell O'Neil, the longtime principal of the multiply-handicapped unit. According to Ogburn, Mrs. Nixon was furious that the playground had not been dedicated to her, and he says that she warned him that she intended to see that he lost his job.
In June of 1993 Ogburn says that he was invited to a meeting in the office of Mark Riable, a lawyer and member of the Arkansas Legislature. Also in attendance, Ogburn says, were another state representative, a state senator, a representative from the Attorney General's office, and a number of citizens who were apparently friends of Wanda Nixon. Ogburn was asked whether there was nepotism at the School for the Blind. Although his own daughter was a teacher at the institution at the time, he replied that there was not. The legislators asked for an opinion from the State Attorney General as to whether ASB was violating the Arkansas nepotism law. The answer was yes, and three employees whose jobs were at risk brought suit. The judge ruled that there was a conflict between the state's nepotism law and a 1927 statute that specifically permits the Superintendent of the School for the Blind to hire his spouse. The three employees were allowed to continue working under the terms of a court injunction during the 1993-94 school year. All three have now either found other jobs or have retired from employment with the school.
As the nepotism furor was beginning to subside last spring, Helena Ward, Vocational Principal at ASB, came to Ogburn to ask a favor. A friend, Tina Gill, who was a graduate student at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, had obtained a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to conduct a survey aimed at improving communications at a state institution in Arkansas. Ward suggested to Ogburn that ASB volunteer to have Ms. Gill survey its employees, and Ogburn agreed. A forty-two-page report, described by Ogburn as preliminary and by Gill as virtually complete, was given to Ward in June, 1994. It stated that Ogburn had demonstrated favoritism to some employees and that there was a lack of communication between teachers and administrators at the School. On July 7, 1994, the police investigator, as part of the Ogburn probe, told Ward to produce a copy of the report for his examination. She said that it was at home but that she would bring it to school the following morning. But, according to the police report, she consulted Ogburn and his attorney overnight, and they advised her not to deliver the report on the ground that the project was not yet complete.
The investigator asked Ward if she understood what she was doing. She said that she did but continued to refuse to hand over the document. The police investigator then prepared an affidavit to obtain a warrant for Ward's arrest for "obstruction of government operations." Ward was taken into custody, handcuffed, and hauled off to the police station on July 8 even though James Hill, Acting Superintendent of the School, gave the investigator the report as he was leaving the office with Ward in tow. The investigator made it clear that he wanted to make an example of Ward in order to persuade other staff members to cooperate with him.
At almost the same time still another allegation against Ogburn and the school's Maintenance Supervisor, Ray Stewart, was made public. Ronnie Kimsey, a custodial employee at the School, who according to Ogburn had wanted for some time to supervise the maintenance department, stated in a legislative hearing and then in an affidavit that he had been required to do personal work for both Ogburn and Stewart, using state-purchased material and equipment. He also said that he had been instructed to charge material on School accounts in order to avoid paying sales tax. Kimsey's charges were emphatically denied by Ogburn in a telephone interview with the Braille Monitor, in which he explained that he had gone to extraordinary lengths to pay sales tax, even when Kimsey had avoided doing so. Here is the text of Kimsey's affidavit:
I, Ronnie Kimsey, state on oath and affirm:
1. I was born June 19, 1951, and I am forty-three years old. I live at the Arkansas School for the Blind in Little Rock, Arkansas. I am visually impaired and have been since I was seven years old. My wife Cathy lives with me at the Blind School. She is totally blind and has been since birth.
2. I attended the Arkansas School for the Blind from 1960 to 1969 and graduated from the Arkansas School for the Blind with a high school degree.
3. I returned to the Arkansas School for the Blind as an employee in December of 1985. I was hired as a general maintenance repairman and am still employed in that position.
4. I have always tried to be a good employee and do what I was told to do by my bosses.
5. I have been told to do some things that I don't think are right.
Mr. Leonard Ogburn, who is the Superintendent, has told me to work on his personal boat, wave runners, and cars during working hours at the school. I have always done what he has said, since he is the boss.
Some of the work I have done includes installing a trailer wiring harness on his car, wiring his boat trailer, working on his wave runners, wiring his wave runner trailer, fixing the windshield wiper motor on his car, swapping out batteries on his wave runners, replacing batteries, and other general maintenance on all those items.
I have also been told by Mr. Ogburn and Mr. Ray Stewart (Campus Life Coordinator/Maintenance Director) to buy personal items for them on the school account and then they would pay for them. This avoids the sales tax that they would otherwise have to pay.
6. Mr. Ogburn's right hand man is Ray Stewart. They are almost always together. They both have condominiums in Hot Springs and spend a lot of time together there as well.
Mr. Ogburn used to have me drive his boat to Hot Springs when he kept it at the Blind School. After the publicity about nepotism last year, he had me pull the boat to Hot Springs to get it off campus.
I have worked on Mr. Stewart's condo in Hot Springs on school time. Among other things I have replaced the water heater element there. I have also worked on Mr. Stewart's house in Little Rock on Quachita Street. This was on school time. Some of the work I have done there is install a new kitchen sink, put a new light in the attic, put in a new gas line to the water heater, put in a new electric stove top, range, vent hood, and ceiling fan. I am sure Mr. Ogburn knew about this.
7. I am not the only school employee that has done work on personal items for Ogburn and Stewart during school time.
8. I am worried that, if I tell what has happened, I will be fired or something else will happen in retaliation.
Signed and notarized, June 27, 1994
As a result of the Kimsey affidavit, a copyrighted story by Elizabeth Caldwell (reprinted with permission) appeared in the July 1, 1994, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Here it is:
Blind School Chief Tapped Labor Time, Handyman Says
Leonard Ogburn, suspended last week as superintendent of the Arkansas School for the Blind after allegations he physically abused a teacher, was accused Thursday of financial wrongdoing. Ronnie Kimsey, a maintenance employee at the school, told legislators that Ogburn used school employees to perform work on his car, boat trailer, and other personal items, all on school time. Kimsey also said Ogburn and maintenance supervisor Ray Stewart had him buy them personal items through the school's account to avoid the sales tax. Kimsey also said he worked on Stewart's homes in Little Rock and Hot Springs, also on school time.
"It's a lie," said Ogburn, contacted later by telephone.
Stewart, who is out of state on vacation, could not be reached for comment.
The allegations came as legislators met to discuss consolidating the state schools for the blind and deaf to save money and improve efficiency.
The consolidation ideabefore a subcommittee of the joint interim committee on state agencies and governmental affairs eventually died after Rep. Mark Pryor made a motion to keep the two schools separate.
In a telephone interview Ogburn said he has cautioned the staff against doing personal work on school time and that, if Kimsey performed such work, he was insubordinate.
Ogburn does not deny that Kimsey hauled his boat to Hot Springs for him a couple of years ago, as Kimsey alleges. But Ogburn said he saw to it that Kimsey used vacation time to perform the chore.
In another instance Kimsey said he bought a dryer part for Ogburn through the school's purchasing account so Ogburn would not have to pay sales taxes.
Ogburn said he didn't know Kimsey was going to order the part through the school and, when he saw Kimsey didn't pay sales tax on it, Ogburn returned to the store and paid the tax.
Rep. Joe Molinaro of Sherwood, subcommittee chairman, said Kimsey's allegations were properly before the subcommittee for discussion since they dealt with finances, but the committee does not have the authority to investigate.
He said Kimsey's statement was sent to legislators through a lawyer. Molinaro said Kimsey decided to come forward now because, "He's had it on his chest for a while and he wanted to get it off," and wanted to do it in a public forum to safeguard his job.
Jim Hill, interim superintendent of the school, said afterward that he was surprised by the allegations.
"I have absolutely no knowledge of it," Hill said.
He said the report would be investigated and that Kimsey would not be retaliated against.
This is what the article said, and it underscores the disorganization and chaos that were engulfing the School. The charges of nepotism, favoritism, and misuse of staff time and institutional resources seem to have been leveled at Ogburn with sincerity and genuine passion, but there are many who dispute those charges with what appears to be equal sincerity and genuineness of passion. Moreover, we may never know the real truth since the charges, though they were made public in June, were not included in the warrant for Ogburn's arrest, which was issued on August 22, 1994, and dealt entirely with harassment. At the time of this writing (mid-October, 1994) Ogburn's trial is scheduled to begin on December 1.
With respect to that trial, the judge and jury will be faced with difficult questions and unusual (one might almost say bizarre) testimony. The complainant is one of the teachers at the school, a woman who, according to both parties, has been close friends with Ogburn for many years. They have exchanged birthday and Christmas gifts, and did so during the 1993-94 academic year even though trouble was apparently brewing. Ogburn hired this woman at a time when she had only a two-year vocational degree, which was adequate for the course that she was expected to teach. Subsequently she was shifted to teach in an area that required a four-year degree, which meant that her credentials were now insufficient. Nevertheless, she was given the job and permitted to do the work. With Ogburn's encouragement, and (according to him) a remarkable amount of assistance from both him and his wife, she obtained a four-year degree and now has the credentials she needs to do the academic teaching she has been doing without proper credentials for years.
Arkansas has a strong rape shield law, which requires that anything that could reveal the identity of a woman making charges of sexual misconduct must be expunged from material being published. Therefore, the information that follows has been carefully edited to eliminate any allusion that might indicate the identity of any of the women who have made charges. Although the context and wording may appear to make it seem that some of the affidavits we are printing in the rest of this article are from men, they are all from women. For convenience we will refer to the teacher who brought the charges as Miss A. We will refer to the others as Miss B, Miss C, etc.
As we try to separate reality from fiction, certain facts should be kept in mind. In recent months Miss A has passed two separate polygraph tests, in which she was asked whether she was telling the truth about her allegations of physical harassment at Ogburn's hands. She also has a tape recording of a telephone conversation which she says occurred on June 26, 1994, in which Ogburn admits to the spankings and asks what she wants from him. Ogburn, on the other hand, failed a polygraph test about the spankings. Yet, listening to Ogburn's recorded telephone interview with the Monitor reporter, one can easily be convinced that he is genuinely perplexed and hurt by Miss A's accusations against him. Miss A is equally convincing in her display of distress and anger at what she maintains has happened to her. Yet, both parties cannot be telling the truth.
From the hundreds of pages of affidavits and reports and from extensive personal interviews, the following picture emerges. Some years ago Ogburn's first wife died of cancer. Miss A was already a staff member at the school, and in the months following Mrs. Ogburn's death Ogburn and Miss A were very close. In fact, they seem to have spent time alone at Ogburn's condominium, where Miss A says she received one very hard spanking, and Ogburn says they played games in which they spanked each other's hands. According to Ogburn, he has never kissed Miss A on the mouth, though he admits that he may have kissed her on the cheek. They have hugged and held hands often, however, according to Ogburn.
In the year following his first wife's death, Ogburn remarried, and the spankings apparently stopped until 1993. Some say that the second Ogburn marriage has been showing strain in recent years and that this may provide sufficient explanation for the renewed spankings and talk of spanking.
Miss A is not the only one to make charges. Other women have come forward to file affidavits indicating that they, too, have experienced inappropriate physical and verbal contact initiated by Ogburn. These women fall into two groups: Arkansas School for the Blind students from Miss A's general student era and recent and current female School employees.
Reading these affidavits and listening to Ogburn's talk about his relationships with students and staff, one is struck by his inability to make distinctions in his treatment of students, professional colleagues, and personal friends. He is clearly a man who enjoys what might be called "horsing around" with the people with whom he associates. He seems not to have much grasp of the dignity required of his position, the respect he should show to his colleagues, or the distance he should maintain with students. His behavior is obviously unprofessional, inappropriate, and boorishbut how far beyond that does it go? To attempt to find answers, let us turn to the affidavits:
Affidavit of Miss A
I, name withheld, state on oath and affirm:
1. I was born in 19xx and I am . . . years old. . . .
2. I attended the Arkansas School for the Blind from 19xx to 19xx and graduated from the Arkansas School for the Blind with a high school degree.
While I attended the School for the Blind, I first met Mr. Leonard Ogburn, who is presently the superintendent of the school and was then employed as a vocational teacher.
3. . . . and in 19xx was employed there as a teacher. I have been employed at the Arkansas School for the Blind as a teacher since. . . .
4. While employed at the Arkansas School for the Blind I have attempted to give to the school and the students there my best efforts.
5. On or about August 4, 1993, Mr. Leonard Ogburn, then the superintendent, called me shortly after 9:00 in the morning at my home. He said that he wanted to come over and talk to me about my evaluation as a teacher at the school and then have lunch. He said something like "We're going to talk about it, and then I'm going to give you your spanking." He had done this before, so I knew what he meant by it. In 19xx, he spanked me very hard. A little after 11:00 a.m. on August 4, 1993, I met him outside the front door of my house hoping to avoid any physical contact. I said that we could talk over lunch and did not need to go in my house. He said no, that we should go inside. He said he also wanted to give me a spanking. I was scared and intimidated, and I went inside with him. He talked about my employee evaluation and then said, "Now you know what you have to doyou have to get your spanking." I said, "Leonard, I don't like this; I don't want to do this." He said, "No, come on." He grabbed me and pulled me over his knee and spanked me. This was extremely humiliating to me. I went ahead and went to lunch because I was afraid of what he might do if I didn't. A friend of mine who is also an employee at the blind school called me after I got back from lunch. When I talked to her I was crying. I told her, I was crying because I was upset about my evaluation. I was afraid to tell her what had really happened. I wish I had told her. I decided that I would not let this happen again.
6. Since the spanking and over the 1993-94 school year Mr. Ogburn has expressed displeasure that I have not attended all of the extra-curricular meetings involving the blind school. These meetings are not during regular working hours, and I am not required to attend these meetings. Some of the meetings he was referring to include a literacy conference, a Bingo party, and an AER conference. Mr. Ogburn, when asking me whether I was going to attend the AER conference in May of 1994, asked if I was going to get a spanking this year.
Based on some of Mr. Ogburn's comments about my failure to attend these extra-curricular meetings and the fact that I had an additional performance review coming up this summer, I became concerned that Mr. Ogburn might attempt to repeat the spanking. I decided that I cannot and will not subject myself to that again.
7. I wish to formally complain about these activities of Mr. Ogburn. I am afraid and intimidated by him and fear that he will try to take some sort of action against me either personally or that will jeopardize my job. Despite my fear and concern over this, I feel that it is important for the blind school and for myself personally to stand up to Mr. Ogburn and stand against this sort of activity.
Dated this 22nd day of June, 1994
Signed and notarized
Affidavit of Miss B
I, name withheld, state on oath and affirm:
1. I am . . . years old and was born in 19xx. I was employed at the Arkansas School for the Blind between . . . and . . . .
While I worked there, my position of employment was janitor. In my capacity as an employee of the blind school, I came into contact with Mr. Leonard Ogburn, the Superintendent.
On many occasions I would be working in the administration building on the blind school campus, where Mr. Ogburn's office is located, after all the employees had gone home.
I was cleaning the building as part of my job. On one specific occasion in early 19xx at approximately 5:30 in the afternoon I was running a vacuum cleaner in the administration building and was bent over to work on the vacuum cleaner. Leonard Ogburn came up from behind me and hit me very hard in the buttocks and genital area. He just hit me one time, but it was a very hard striking of that area of my body.
The vacuum cleaner was going, and he said something, but I could not understand what it was that he said. It was all I could do to contain myself, but I was scared and shocked and did not know exactly what to do.
After thinking about it overnight, I confronted him the next day in his office. I told him to never do that again. At first he denied doing it but later admitted it.
The job that I had at the Blind School was the worst job I have ever had in my life.
The atmosphere at the Blind School was one of favoritism, office politics, and intimidation. People would lie and cover up for each other in ways that I have never seen before. If you played the favorite game, you were well treated; but, if you attempted to stand up for anything that was wrong, you were chastised.
Dated this 29th day of June, 1994
Signed and notarized
Affidavit of Miss C
I, name withheld, state on oath and affirm:
1. I was born in 19xx and I am . . . years old. I live in Arkansas.
I am an employee at the Arkansas School for the Blind. My position there is . . . teacher, and I have worked there since. . . .
While working at the School for the Blind, I have had occasion to deal with Mr. Leonard Ogburn.
On one occasion Mr. Ogburn called me out of class to tell me that I was his pet and that I was very important. I can't understand why he would call me out of class and away from the students to tell me this, and I thought that this was unusual.
At times when I have been in his office at his request, he has put his finger in the pocket of my pants and said that he liked the way my britches looked on me.
On one occasion he called me away from my class on the intercom and told me he was looking at my picture in the school annual. He told me that he loved the way my picture looked in the school annual. I expressed to him my surprise that he would call me away from class and away from the students for a reason like this.[Ogburn made a demeaning comment.]
At a recent . . . meeting, where some of the tough issues involving the school were being debated,. . . . This was in front of a number of people, and I felt that he did this to put me down and as an expression of support for the other view being expressed.
After the meeting I went to his office and told him in no uncertain terms how inappropriate I felt his actions were. After we discussed the matter for a while, he said come here, you can't leave yet; we have to make up, and to make up you have to give me a kiss. I told him then we would never make up because I was not going to kiss him. He forcefully replied, you just remember you owe me something, and we don't make up until you give me a kiss. I immediately told another teacher of this occurrence.
On another occasion he pinched me very hard on the cheek after a COE meeting. I told him not to ever do this to me again, and it did hurt. He has also patted me on the cheek and then acted surprised when I expressed displeasure at that. He would say, "Oh you don't like that?"
In bringing this information forward, I am concerned that Mr. Ogburn may take some sort of retaliatory action against me. . . . I request that the Governor's Office and the Board act to protect . . . me . . . in conjunction with my sharing this information for the benefit of the School and the students there.
Dated this 29th day of June, 1994
Signed and notarized
Affidavit of Miss D
My name is (name withheld). I was born in 19xx, in Arkansas. I currently live in Arkansas. I am employed as. . . . [not at ASB] I have worked there for the past fifteen years. Before that I received a bachelor of science degree in elementary/special education from the University of. . . in. . . . My fields of study were. . . .
Earlier this year I was contacted by . . . , a teacher at the Arkansas School for the Blind. . . . [Miss A] and I had been in school there together in the 'x0's. She had gotten my name from a woman, . . . who had been a library aide my senior year at the school. I had not heard from . . . [the aide] for about . . . years, but we had had a close relationship at that time because I spent a lot of time in the library on my own in addition to the two-hour study period each night. . . . remembered what I had told her and contacted an employee she knew who still worked there. This employee put her in touch with . . . [Miss A], and . . . called me to ask about Mr. Ogburn's behavior with me. I was stunned to hear about all of this after . . . years and was reluctant to get involved at first. I am telling these details now to support . . . [Miss A] and to improve the situation at the school.
I was a student at ASB from kindergarten through graduation in June, 19xx. When I was seventeen and a senior, I began cleaning house for Mr. Ogburn, the school vocational director, and his wife, an elementary teacher there. The year before another student had done this job and had quit abruptly, causing me to wonder why, as it seemed like a good way to earn extra spending money. Later on I wondered if she had had a similar experience to mine. Mr. Ogburn would take me to his house after school on Thursday afternoons where I would vacuum and dust, etc. I remember it was Thursday because that was the night "The Waltons" was on TV, and he wanted me to be through in the den by 7:00 so he could watch and hear the show. Mrs. Ogburn and LeAnn, their daughter, were not home during these times. I do not remember if she had a class, hair appointment, or what; but it was regularly on Thursday as she and LeAnn were not there when I cleaned.
It was not unusual for students to work for staff members outside school hours. Some would babysit and others would do yard work or car washes for extra pay. I had worked at the vending stand at school for Mr. Ogburn. He was well liked and respected by the students. He was always visiting with them and often made bets with them over trivial things, usually with the loser buying the winner a Coke. I would bet with him too. He used any excuse to make a bet. At first, if I lost the bet, I had to buy him a Coke; and, if he lost, he bought me a Coke. Eventually he wanted his winning of the bet to be that he'd get to give me a spanking. Thursdays after school, when we got to his house, he'd insist that he would have to give me a spanking for some bet that I had lost during the week. He sat on the couch and insisted I lie across his lap so he could spank me. I had to comply no matter how much I tried to talk him out of it; for he wouldn't drop the issue until he was able to give me a spanking.
At his house he also insisted that he wanted to show me some wrestling holds the boys in school were learning. I would tell him that I wasn't interested in wrestling and I didn't want to do that, but he would insist. He then made me get on the floor with him while he would grab me in different holds, keeping after me when I tried to get away from him. I was forced to try to get away or else he wouldn't let me up.
One evening he told me it was time for my spanking, but he wanted to spank me on my bare bottom. I tried to get out of it, but he insisted I had to pull my pants down in the back, lie across his lap, where he then spanked me on my bare bottom. This happened two times. One time he even asked me to spank him. I was very ignorant of sexual matters back then, but I had very bad feelings about all of this, especially as it continued, and I didn't know how to get out of it.
Sometimes on Thursday, if he hadn't spanked me before Mrs. Ogburn and LeAnn got home, he would tell me about it on the way back to school. He then said we needed to go by the waterworks so I could get my spanking. I did not know exactly where or what the waterworks was, but it was always dark there, and we never got out of the car. It seemed fairly close to school. He would then drive me back to school, and I remember he recorded his mileage in a notebook he kept.
After the second time he spanked me on my bare bottom, I finally mentioned all this to . . . , the library aide, because I trusted her judgment and didn't know what else to do about the situation. . . . then met with the superintendent, Mr. Max Woolly. She has since told me that the home life director Mr. Bob Brasher, met with them and that they said they would look into it. As far as she knows, nothing was ever done about it. When she didn't return to school the next year, I was afraid she might have lost her job because of me, but she said she wasn't coming back anyway. I also seem to remember that I was asked to take a test from the psychologist about that time, and I often wondered if the two were connected. The test was about personality, and I remember consciously answering all the questions with similar answers. For example, one question was about a hat and whether or not I would mend it, sell it, or give it away. I remember answering "sell it," which was not like me as I hated to even sell candy for class fund-raisers. At the end of the test the psychologist commented that my personality profile fell into the "persuasive" category. I wondered why I was being given this kind of test this close to graduation and if it had anything to do with my telling . . . and her telling Mr. Brasher and Mr. Woolly about what I had reported about Mr. Ogburn. I never checked to see if the results of the test were placed in my student file.
I am reporting this information after . . . years because other people have reported their experiences with Mr. Ogburn, experiences I thought had only happened to me. I want to support them in their statements, and I want the improprieties to stop.
Signed and notarized, July 25, 1994
Affidavit of Miss E
My name is (name withheld). I was born in 19xx, in Arkansas. I now reside in . . . [another state].I attended the Arkansas School for the Blind in Little Rock, Arkansas, from the fourth through the twelfth grades, 19xx-xx. At that time, I probably had 20/200 vision (I now have only light perception).
From the spring of 19xx through the spring of 19xx [one year], I sometimes babysat for LeAnn Ogburn, the daughter of Leonard and Joyce Ogburn, and was paid. Mr. Ogburn was an administrator at the school, and Mrs. Ogburn was a teacher. LeAnn must have been approximately seven years old.
At times the Ogburns attended functions together, and at other times they went to separate places. On some of those occasions, when Mr. Ogburn got home first and LeAnn was asleep, the following events took place.
Mr. Ogburn said, "Let me show you a new wrestling hold I showed Robert today." Robert was the boy I was dating. Because of my limited vision and also because I was a cheerleader for the team, I wanted to know what the wrestling procedures were. At first he only demonstrated the wrestling moves, but later he progressed to rubbing against me with his lower body. I would try to jump up and pull away. He would grab me; I would fall to my knees; he would get on my back and rock back and forth. I would try to get up from my knees as I was very fearful of him.
One time Mr. Ogburn said he just wanted to show me some wrestling holds. He held me in the pin position and rubbed his abdominal areas against me. I told him I did not ever want to see any more wrestling holds. I did not babysit for them for a long period of time.
Mr. Ogburn constantly joked with students about birthday spankings, which in public only amounted to pops with a paper or something as he passed through the snack bar. I just passed these off. During this time we began betting Cokes on ball games. If Texas won, he bought me a Coke; if the Razorbacks won, I bought him a Coke. At first it was Coke for Coke, but once, when I lost a bet, he said he wanted to collect a spanking instead of a Coke and made me pay up by laying me across his lap and spanking me. Several more spanking episodes occurred.
The next time I babysat, he said, "I'm going to give you a birthday spanking." He turned me across his lap, held and spanked me, and pushed his male organ up against me with his lap. Then he said, "I'll bet you can't hurt me," and told me to spank him. I did because I wanted to hurt him. I refused to babysit anymore.
I graduated and left the school. I thought this behavior had stopped, but now I have become apprised of similar instances and realize that it never stopped at all and Mr. Ogburn has done this to some others. My reason for coming forward is because of a history of this activity. I knew at the time of one, possibly two, other females who were at the school in the mid-x0's who had been similarly abused.
Signed and notarized, June 1, 1994
There we have the affidavit of Miss A, as well as those of several others. Miss A says that there are still more women who have had similar experiences but who cannot bring themselves to tell what they know. Whether Miss A's testimony will stand up when she reaches court and has to be identified remains to be seen. And what a jury will make of the whole messy business is anybody's guess. When asked why she is pressing charges against Ogburn despite their long friendship, Miss A says that she simply came to the point where she could never again allow herself to be intimidated and frightened by Ogburn. She says that she is determined that today's and tomorrow's students at the Arkansas School for the Blind will not suffer the abuse to which their predecessors have been exposed.
The scene that took place on September 23, 1994, when the School's Board of Trustees forced Ogburn to resign in response to the police report and the pressure from the Governor's office and the State Department of Education rapidly reached a pitch of hysteria. During the public portion of the meeting Ogburn's supporters (and there were a lot of them) said that the School would be destroyed if Ogburn was forced to resign. When the Board's decision to put Ogburn out was announced, the sobbing and shouting crowd of well over a hundred surged outdoors, where reporters and television cameras were waiting. While one employee was weeping and making a statement to a reporter with a video camera, her husband struck the tape recorder from the hands of the Braille Monitor reporter. He then repeatedly ground it under his foot, completely destroying the equipment. The action was indicative of both the mood and the rationality of the crowd. It should be said here that, though the tape recorder was destroyed, the tape was not. The record remains, giving irrefutable evidence of the lawless and frenzied behavior of the crowdor perhaps one should say mob.
But, of course, the real issue is not the excited behavior of Ogburn's supporters, or even the specific charges and countercharges. The prime concern must be the well-being of the children at the School, those who are there now and those who are yet to come. Almost as important are the atmosphere and working conditions for both teachers and administrative staff. A battleground characterized by warring groups and kinky behavior is no suitable environment for education. If worse comes to worst, the adults can bail out. The children cannot.
So what does all of this scandalous business mean, and what of the future? To begin with, the very existence of the Arkansas School for the Blind is now in jeopardy. There are about 130 staff members at ASB and about 108 students. Everybody accepts the notion that a school for the blind requires intensive instruction and specialized professional activity, but it is hard to justify more than one staff member for each student. Despite the fact that the School for the Deaf and the School for the Blind are administered by the same board on adjoining campuses, that we have heard of no proposed cuts to the budget of the School for the Deaf, and that the School for the Deaf is a more modern and attractive facility than the School for the Blind, the Arkansas legislature is considering cuts to the ASB budget. There is talk of merging at least some of the administrative components of the two schools, possibly a total merger. Regardless of the monetary case which can be made for such action, the quality of instruction for blind students would be threatened by it.
In the circumstances it would seem to be nothing short of madness for the School to continue its accreditation with NAC, not only because of the expense but also (and even more important) because of NAC's shady reputation and false promise of assurance of quality services. When the seal of approval from an accrediting agency is displayed by a school, the members of the legislature and the general public have the right to expect that reasonable standards are being met. With NAC it often seems that the exact opposite is the case. When the abuse and misconduct at the NAC-accredited Florida and Alabama Schools for the Deaf and the Blind were exposed (see the March, 1989, and the February, 1990, issues of the Braille Monitor), NAC's supporters made an outcry. They said that each of these two instances was simply an individual horror story, not representative. Now we have Arkansas, and soon we will be covering the emerging scandal surrounding the firing last summer of Richard Umsted, superintendent of the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired. Umsted was dismissed for, among other things, insisting that dangerous and even criminal actions be covered up in order to protect what he perceived to be the School's good reputation. These are, indeed, horror stories, but they are not isolated cases. They are a pattern. The true horror is that NAC continues to accredit institutions in which such actions take place and that there is no evidence that the situation is being investigated. There has been no withdrawal of the accreditation of any of the four schools, nor is there any indication that such withdrawal is being consideredor, for that matter, that any sanction or disciplinary matter is being contemplated. Under these conditions why would any reputable school permit its name to be associated with NAC, let alone seek accreditation from it? It is no wonder that only twenty-eight percent of the seventy-one schools for the blind in this country still allow themselves to be identified with NAC or to maintain accreditation from it.
As to Arkansas, Ogburn is gone, but his legacy remains. The Board of Trustees will be well advised to conduct an open and thorough nationwide search to find a successor competent to meet the challenges that lie ahead. The new administrator's job will not be easy. The ASB staff is divided, distrustful, and demoralized. The legislature is determined to clean up the situation and make the School accountable to the legislature, the Governor, the parents, and the public. In the rethinking of priorities, hopefully the legislature will refuse to allocate funds to renew NAC accreditation, which can assure nobody of anything except that the School has an additional six thousand dollars to throw away. Ultimately the School must stand or fall on its own merit. The blind of the nation and the professionals in the field will be watching in the weeks ahead, for all of us have a stake in the outcome.
In view of the preceding article the following resolutions passed at the 1994 National Federation of the Blind of Arkansas Convention would seem to be noteworthy:
WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind of Arkansas has repeatedly expressed, through letters and resolutions, its opposition to the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC) and has encouraged agencies in Arkansas to affiliate no longer with this organization; and
WHEREAS, the Federation has charged that NAC serves no beneficial role in insuring that our agencies maintain high standards of conduct and performance; and
WHEREAS, a scandal involving the Superintendent of the Arkansas School for the Blind has come to the attention of every literate citizen in the state of Arkansas, and yet NAC has done nothing to reprimand the School or to review its accreditation: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Arkansas, in Convention assembled this twenty-third day of October, 1994, in the City of Fort Smith, that we call on officials charged with the operation and conduct of the Arkansas School for the Blind to sever their affiliation with this counterfeit accrediting body and to rely instead, for direction in the delivery of quality services, on the sound judgment of the citizens of Arkansas.
WHEREAS, the Board of Trustees of the Arkansas Schools for the Blind and Deaf demanded and accepted Leonard Ogburn's resignation as Superintendent of the Arkansas School for the Blind, September 23, 1994, because of his alleged sexual harassment of an employee; and
WHEREAS, such alleged conduct on the part of any service provider toward the blind is a violation of the respectability and equality of the blind, a core belief of the National Federation of the Blind of Arkansas; and
WHEREAS, a separate school for the blind provides an effective and appropriate individualized education in academics and the skills of blindness: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Arkansas in Convention assembled this twenty-third day of October, 1994, in the City of Fort Smith, that we commend the Board of Trustees for acting in the best interests of the blind of Arkansas by forcing and accepting the Superintendent's resignation; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the NFB of Arkansas call upon the public to differentiate between the conduct of an individual and that of an institution, recognizing that the School for the Blind can and should play a vital role in meeting the educational needs of an important segment of Arkansas's blind students and resisting the move, already contemplated, to consolidate the School for the Blind with others serving the handicapped; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge the Board of Trustees to continue to act in the best interests of the blind by conducting an unbiased national search to fill the Superintendent's position.
by Steve Benson
From the Editor: Steve Benson is the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois and a member of the NFB Board of Directors. Since his affiliate will host the 1995 convention of the National Federation of the Blind, you will be hearing a good bit from him in the months ahead. The following article, however, is in a different vein. Here it is:
Confronting challenge is a way of life for Chicago Chapter member Tony Burda, who lost his sight while a student at the Illinois College of Pharmacy. Rather than retreat and wither away in a shell, Burda continued to pursue a career in pharmacology. Graduation came and went without a hitch. Then he began to grapple with the challenge of obtaining a pharmacist's license. The State of Illinois refused to allow Burda to take the licensing examination, let alone award him a certificate. "The state was concerned about the possibility that a blind person would try to fill prescriptions, thereby endangering the safety of the public. But I never had any desire to be a pill pusher," commented Burda.
With Federation support and encouragement, Burda waged a three-year battle for his right to take the licensing exam. When he was finally permitted to do so, he passed with a score in the top ten percent of his class. Securing competitive employment was not nearly as difficult. Since 1982 Burda has been a poison information specialist at Rush-Presbyterian Medical Center in Chicago. His excellent performance on the job has garnered several awards for him. "It is a demanding, interesting, and satisfying job that requires not only knowledge of the effects of a great variety of substances upon the human body, but also constant study of new drugs and their effects and side effects. At times I am also challenged to calm down hysterical parents whose child has ingested who knows what substance," Burda muses.
Eight or nine years ago Burda became chairman of our Chicago Chapter's fund-raising committee. His ongoing search for ideas that would capture the imaginations of members and non-members and generate dollars for the Federation led him to the conclusion that he could couple his dedication to physical fitness and his commitment to the Federation, raise funds and, at the same time, educate the public about blindness and the organization. He began to participate in bicycling events, riding a tandem with pharmacist colleagues, and asking friends, relatives, and Federationists to make contributions for the miles he rode. Dollars trickled in at first, but through the years Burda has achieved pretty respectable results.
In 1990 Burda was the first blind person to compete in the Chicago Sun-Times Triathlon. He and his partner, John Lager, completed the grueling swimming, running, and cycling event in less than three hours. Burda's effort generated more than $8,500 for the Federation.
In 1992 Burda and John Boland rode their tandem, along with several thousand other cyclists, in the 500-mile Des Moines Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI).
In 1993 Burda and John Lager rode their tandem in a twelve- hour challenge race. They completed 175 miles in ninety-five-degree heat and high humidity.
Then, in 1994, Burda and Boland once again straddled their tandem on behalf of the Federation. This time they peddled a grueling 422-mile course from Trinidad, Colorado, to Golden, Colorado, in the Denver Post's Ride the Rockies. They completed the rugged, beautiful course (ranging from 9,000 to 12,000 feet) in six days.
Many of us have already recruited contributions in tribute to Tony Burda's effort. Burda himself has raised over $3,000 in donations. If you wish to make a contribution in tribute to Burda's effort, send your check or money order, made payable to National Federation of the Blind, to our National Office, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230.
Our hats are off to Tony Burda and John Boland. Congratulations and thanks.
This year's scholarship program will be the twelfth since the organization determined to expand the number, variety, and value of the scholarships we would present each year at our annual convention in July. Assisting the nation's most talented post-secondary students to fulfill their academic and professional dreams is one of the most effective ways for us to demonstrate our conviction that blind people deserve the chance to enter whatever field they demonstrate themselves equipped to succeed in.
Scholarships will be presented this year to twenty-six college, vocational-school, and graduate students. The awards will range in value from $2,000 to $10,000, and we will bring the winners as our guests to the 1995 convention of the National Federation of the Blind to experience firsthand the excitement and stimulation of a gathering of the largest and most dynamic organization of blind people in the country today.
At the meeting of the NFB Board of Directors last summer in Detroit, the decision was made to award at least three of this year's scholarships to students who won an NFB scholarship in a previous year. The purpose of this effort is to nurture in today's students an ongoing commitment to the philosophy and objectives of the Federation. The students so designated will be recognized and honored as the 1995 tenBroek Fellows. All current students who were scholarship winners in previous years should take particular note of this new program and consider applying for the 1995 National Federation of the Blind scholarships.
Every state affiliate and local chapter can help in spreading the word of this extraordinary opportunity for America's blind students. Scholarship applications have been or soon will be mailed to financial aid offices in educational institutions around the country, but many of these will be filed for reference when students come to ask about financial assistance. It is very helpful to have local representatives deliver or mail forms to the actual college administrator who works with blind students. Being identified with such a valuable national scholarship program gives the local chapter and state affiliate prestige and respect, and the local touch insures that more blind students will actually have an opportunity to apply for these scholarships.
Anyone can order scholarship forms from the Materials Center, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. State Presidents and members of the 1995 Scholarship Committee will also be sent scholarship forms. These may be copied as long as both sides of the form are reproduced.
Here is the text of the 1995 National Federation of the Blind scholarship application form:
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND 1995 SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM
Each year at its National Convention in July, the National Federation of the Blind gives a broad array of scholarships to recognize achievement by blind scholars. All applicants for these scholarships must be (1) legally blind and (2) pursuing or planning to pursue a full-time post-secondary course of study. In addition to these restrictions, some scholarships have been further restricted by the donor. Scholarships to be given at the National Convention in 1995 are listed here with any special restrictions noted: 1 SCHOLARSHIP FOR $10,000
American Action Fund Scholarship n Given by the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, a nonprofit organization which works to assist blind persons. No additional restrictions.
3 SCHOLARSHIPS, EACH FOR $4,000
Anne Pekar Memorial Scholarship n Given in loving memory of Anne Pekar by her parents, who say: nThe purpose of the scholarship is to help others as Anne had tried to do in her various volunteer endeavors. ...It is our hope that this small gesture in her name will remind us of the wonderful things about Anne and, in particular, her concern about other people and her desire to help.n Winner must be a woman between the ages of 17 and 25. Two National Federation of the Blind Scholarships; no additional restrictions.
2 SCHOLARSHIPS, EACH FOR $3,000
Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship n Given in memory of Melva T. Owen, who was widely known and loved among the blind. She and her husband Charles Owen became acquainted with increasing numbers of blind people through their work in the nVoicepondencen Club. Charles Owen says: nThere shall be no limitation as to field of study, except that it shall be directed towards attaining financial independence and shall exclude religion and those seeking only to further general or cultural education.n Mozelle and Willard Gold Memorial Scholarship n Endowed by the energetic and effective president of the National Federation of the Blind of California, Sharon Gold, in loving memory of her mother and father, both of whom were dedicated to creating opportunity for their daughter and for all blind persons through Braille literacy and dedication to service. No additional restrictions.
8 SCHOLARSHIPS, EACH FOR $2,500
Howard Brown Rickard Scholarship n Winner must be studying or planning to study in the fields of law, medicine, engineering, architecture, or the natural sciences. Frank Walton Horn Memorial Scholarship n Given by Mr. and Mrs. Charles E. Barnum, the mother and stepfather of Catherine Horn Randall. No additional restrictions, but preference will be given to those studying architecture or engineering. National Federation of the Blind Humanities Scholarship n Winner must be studying in the traditional humanities such as art, English, foreign languages, history, philosophy, or religion. National Federation of the Blind Educator of Tomorrow Award n Winner must be planning a career in elementary, secondary, or post-secondary teaching. Four National Federation of the Blind Scholarships; no additional restrictions.
12 SCHOLARSHIPS, EACH FOR $2,000
Hermione Grant Calhoun Scholarship n Dr. Isabelle Grant endowed this scholarship in memory of her daughter. Winner must be a woman. Kuchler-Killian Memorial Scholarship n Given in loving memory of her parents, Charles Albert Kuchler and Alice Helen Kuchler, by Junerose Killian, dedicated member of the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut. No additional restrictions. Kurzweil Scholarship n Endowed by Xerox Imaging Systems, in honor of Ray Kurzweil, inventor of the Kurzweil Reading Machine. No additional restrictions. Ellen Setterfield Memorial Scholarship n Given in memory of Ellen Setterfield by Roy Landstrom, who says, nDuring the course of her life, she gave of herself to defend the dignity and self-respect of those around her.n Winner must be studying social sciences at the graduate level. Eight National Federation of the Blind Scholarships; no additional restrictions.
CRITERIA: All scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic excellence, service to the community, and financial need.
MEMBERSHIP: The National Federation of the Blind is an organization dedicated to creating opportunity for all blind persons. Recipients of Federation scholarships need not be members of the National Federation of the Blind.
MAKING APPLICATION: To apply for National Federation of the Blind scholarships, complete and return the application on the reverse side of this sheet, attaching to the application all the additional documents there requested. Multiple applications are unnecessary. Each applicant will be considered for all scholarships for which he or she qualifies. Send completed applications to: Mrs. Peggy Elliott, Chairman, National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Committee, 814 - 4th Avenue, Suite 200, Grinnell, Iowa 50112; (515) 236-3366. Form must be received by March 31, 1995.
REAPPLICATION: Those who have previously applied are encouraged to apply again. If previous winners present credible applications, it is our policy to award not fewer than three scholarships to those who have received them in the past.
WINNERS: The Scholarship Committee reviews all applications and selects the scholarship winners. These winners, the same number as there are scholarships to award, will be notified of their selection by June 1 and will be brought to the National Federation of the Blind convention in July at Federation expense. This is in addition to the scholarship grant. The National Federation of the Blind convention is the largest gathering of blind persons (more than 2,000) to occur anywhere in the nation each year. You will be able to meet other blind students and exchange information and ideas. You will also be able to meet and talk with blind people who are successfully functioning in your chosen profession or occupation. Federal officials, members of Congress, and the makers and distributors of new technology attend Federation conventions. Above all, a broad cross section of the most active segment of the blind population of the United States will be present to discuss common problems and plan for concerted action. It is an interesting and exciting week. AWARDS: The day before the convention banquet the Scholarship Committee will meet to determine which winners will receive which scholarships. The scholarship awards will be made during the banquet.
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND SCHOLARSHIP APPLICATION FORM
Read reverse side of form for instructions and explanation. Form may be photocopied but only if reverse side is also included. To apply for a scholarship, complete this application form and mail completed application and attachments to: Mrs. Peggy Elliott, Chairman, National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Committee, 814 - 4th Avenue, Suite 200, Grinnell, Iowa 50112; (515)236-3366. Form must be received by March 31, 1995.
Name (please include any maiden or other names by which you have been known): Date of birth: School address: School phone number: Home address: Home phone number: Institution being attended in spring semester, 1995, with class standing (freshman, senior, etc.): Cumulative grade point at this institution: Institution to be attended in fall of 1995, with class standing. Send by separate letter if admitted to school after submitting completed application: List all post-secondary institutions attended with highest class standing attained and cumulative grade point average: High school attended and cumulative grade point: Vocational goal: State your major: Awards and honors (attach list if necessary): Community service (attach list if necessary):
Attach the following documents to completed application:
1. Send us a letter: What schools have you attended? What school do you plan to attend during the coming year? What honors have you achieved? What have you done to deal with situations involving your blindness? What are you like as a person? What are your goals and aspirations? How will the scholarship help you?
2. Send two letters of recommendation.
3. Provide current transcript from institution now attending and transcripts from all other post-secondary institutions attended. If you have not yet attended such an institution or have not completed one year of study, send high school transcript.
4. Send a letter from a state officer of the National Federation of the Blind evidencing the fact that you have discussed your scholarship application with that officer. We prefer that you discuss your application with the Federation state president, but a letter from any Federation state officer will suffice. President's address provided upon request.
by George M. Binder and Douglas C. Boone
From the Editor: In the January, 1992, issue of the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness (JVIB), published by the American Foundation for the Blind, Dr. William Wiener and several other researchers presented a summary of the research they had done on the question of whether or not blind orientation and mobility instructors can safely do their jobs. Division IX of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) has steadily maintained that they cannot and that, therefore, AER certification for these instructors must be withheld. One of the first blind university-trained O&M instructors to feel the impact of this bar was Dr. Fred Schroeder, now Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration. In casual conversation at the time Dr. Schroeder characterized the Wiener findings as proving unequivocally that blind people cannot see as well as sighted peoplea result that none of us would be inclined to question. Whether, as a result of this new corroboration of an undisputed truth, blind O&M instructors who have been trained to use efficient alternative methods for teaching the skills of effective cane use and student safety should continue to be denied the opportunity to acquire AER certification is a far different issue.
Two experienced, sighted O&M instructors whose views and experience run counter to those of the Wiener group prepared a response to the JVIB article and submitted it to that journal in May of 1992. The editor requested that it be significantly shortened, a suggestion to which the authors were unwilling to agree. They believed it was high time the underlying distrust of blindness skills demonstrated by the AER position be openly discussed, and they recognized that their article could not do the job if it were substantially cut.
In recent months the AER has again opened the question of whether it should certify blind O&M instructors. (See Dr. Schroeder's article, "Preparing for Emerging Challenges and Partnerships," in the August/September, 1994, issue of the Braille Monitor.) AER's preliminary answer seems to be that, if the blind teacher is prepared to use a sighted assistant to provide the visual information that sighted instructors depend upon, something might be worked out. Clearly, the O&M gurus continue to miss the point. Therefore, we herewith print the article which Messrs. Binder and Boone prepared in 1992. Its argument is no less relevant today, and the many students who have been taught by blind travel teachers to use the long white cane confidently and safely during the intervening two and a half years serve to strengthen their case.
George Binder received his master's degree in orientation and mobility from Florida State University at Tallahassee in August of 1989. He is currently employed as a certified orientation and mobility instructor with the Albuquerque Public Schools and serves as a private contractor to schools in many surrounding districts. Prior to receiving his master's degree, Mr. Binder worked for eight years as a rehabilitation teacher in an agency serving the blind.
Doug Boone holds a B.A. in Education and is President of D. Boone Consultants, a private consulting firm, providing blindness- related rehabilitation consulting services. He has been employed by rehabilitation agencies for the blind since 1976 in a variety of roles, including cane travel instructor, wood shop instructor, rehabilitation teacher, vocational rehabilitation counselor, and director of human resource development for the New Mexico Commission for the Blind. This is what Messrs. Binder and Boone have to say:
The frequently debated issue regarding visual requirements for certified orientation and mobility teachers has prompted us to write in order to express our views on the matter. Additionally, we would like to take this opportunity to respond to the Wiener, Bliven, Bush, Ligammari, and Newton (1992) article entitled "The Need for Vision in Teaching Orientation and Mobility," which appeared in the January, 1992, issue of the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness. This is an issue about which we feel strongly, and our views are a reflection of the changes which are occurring within the field of O&M. Ours is not a static profession but one which is constantly evolving. Changes in attitudes and expectations, brought about by consumers and professionals alike, have made it possible for us to look at certification requirements in a whole new light.
We would like to begin by sharing with you our background in teaching orientation and mobility. Both of us have received intensive instruction at an orientation center for blind adults as part of our preparation for entry into the field of blindness. The opportunity for training at a rehabilitation/orientation center for the blind occurred when we were hired as rehabilitation teachers for the blind. As part of the training program for new staff at the Nebraska Services for the Visually Impaired, we were required to spend three months as students at the orientation center in Lincoln, Nebraska.
This was an intensive training program which necessitated our wearing sleepshades (blindfolds) for approximately seven hours a day, five days a week for three months. [When Doug became an O&M instructor for the Orientation Center, he spent an additional six weeks under sleepshades in preparation for this new responsibility]. Center instruction included classes in cane travel, cooking, shop/wood-working, Braille, abacus, and typing. In addition, seminars or discussion periods were held twice weekly.
While learning the various nonvisual, alternative techniques which a blind person must possess in order to be independent, we gradually began to understand what it meant to function without vision. As the students around us shared their feelings and views about blindness, the philosophical basis for our attitudes toward blindness began to develop. We were exposed to a great many independent, competent, blind individuals with a diverse range of abilities. Many of our old, stereotyped ideas started to break down. Even though we were sighted people simulating blindness, we began to realize that blindness had to be dealt with on an emotional level while at the same time addressing the immediate need to master skills. All the instruction, technology, and alternatives in the world cannot by themselves provide the answer. When blind people internalize the notion that blindness is a totally and tragically disabling condition, they start to lose the motivation and ability to become confident, competent people.
We also came to realize that nonvisual, alternative techniques work and, perhaps more important, that they are not inferior to those which require vision. For visual learners it is often difficult to realize that there is no way to determine accurately what a blind person can or cannot do without first understanding how effectively the nonvisual alternatives work. That is to say, given our sighted frame of reference, we can only understand intuitively how a thing can be accomplished through the use of vision. Without intensive training we cannot recognize how efficient and effective the alternate techniques of blindness can be.
In our view this lack of understanding makes itself felt whenever the question of certifying blind orientation and mobility instructors arises. Since the concern is basically one of safety, it is important to understand how a blind person can effectively employ nonvisual methods in teaching cane travel.
By listening to the cane arcing, it is possible to determine whether a student is maintaining a safe, even arc. If the width of an arc is too narrow, the auditory feedback will be muffled by the student's body. To determine if the arc is too wide, the instructor can use sound comparisons, judging the tap of the cane relative to the footsteps. Additionally, the height of an arc can be determined by sound. Both blind and sighted instructors teach students to cross intersections safely by using changes in the movement of automobiles to ascertain the various types of intersections and their layouts. By monitoring the street sounds carefully himself, the blind teacher can be sure that the student is lined up with traffic, judging appropriately when and where it is safe to cross, and reliably using traffic flow to maintain orientation and direction. When introducing street crossings at busy intersections, blind instructors usually remain close to the student (one or two steps behind) and position themselves between parallel traffic and the student. This arrangement allows rapid intervention if necessary. As sighted instructors we frequently employ this same approach with beginning students. Another fail-safe way to prevent a student from misjudging the traffic pattern and crossing before the light is green is to have the student verbally indicate when he or she is prepared to cross. The notion that it takes vision to cross an intersection safely is as false as it is to assume that it takes vision to cook!
For the blind cane travel instructor many unexpected situations such as construction and delivery trucks can be detected through auditory means. This too can be turned into a learning experience for students by brainstorming or by using guided problem-solving techniques. All teachers agree that safety is critically important. The question we must ask is how to ensure the student's safety. We believe that it will be most effectively guaranteed through proper training and monitoring and not by the instructor's visual acuity.
Another commonly expressed concern is that the blind instructor might lose track of a student. Once again, vision is not the only protection against this danger. Listening for the tap of the student's cane and using one's knowledge of the student's travel patterns or idiosyncratic behavior to trace his or her wayward path are simple methods of keeping tabs on the student. Even more important, let us remember that at a certain point in the instructional process the student is able to solve problems and can meet a teacher at a predetermined location. The teacher's approach to training can make it unnecessary to observe the student visually from a distance or to warn students of impending collisions.
Once the student has mastered the basic skills that ensure safety and the teacher is absolutely certain that he or she appreciates their importance and applies them consistently, the conscientious instructor can fade more and more into the background. The goal now is to instill self-confidence by initiating solo routes and encouraging self-exploration routes. It certainly does not require vision to accomplish this task either. Warning students of impending collisions with large or small objects is not always necessary. If the student has received proper instruction, the cane will detect obstacles and warn him or her of danger. Students who become careless quickly discover that life is full of consequences. Please understand, we are not saying that we would intentionally allow a student to get hurt, but we seldom warn students in advance of objects they should be locating with the cane. A student who encounters an object because of a poor arc has learned a painful but effective lessonone that is better learned when an instructor is available to help analyze the cause of the problem. To avoid such lessons is to deprive students of valuable opportunities which contribute to the growth of both skills and self-confidence.
Students who are taught using a creative, problem-solving approach to O&M will learn to ask relevant questions about the environment rather than depending on being told in detail what is going on around them. This is a model similar to the cognitive process described in E. Hill and P. Ponder's "Orientation and Mobility Techniques." This results in a structured discovery learning model, which allows blind travelers to interact with the environment and to interpret and process information effectively. Until a student gains a certain degree of confidence and feels somewhat at ease in traveling, it is difficult for him or her to perceive the vast number of environmental cues available. Too often feeling out of control or fearful blocks the development of practical, common-sense decision-making skills. The role of any cane travel instructor (blind or sighted) is to empower the student through a guided, problem-solving approach, thereby instilling a sense of confidence.
In his book Mobility Training for Visually Handicapped People, A Person-Centered Approach, Allan Dodds, describing different teaching styles, states:
The authoritarian rehabilitation worker . . . will feel superior to all clients and will find it rewarding to be in control of them. . . . He will leave the fully trained client with the nagging feeling that he will never really be independent once training is over and that he still needs further lessons. The egalitarian instructor . . .will have respect for the individual based upon a healthy respect for himself, will regard him as a fellow adult, and will get pleasure out of seeing him reacquire his independence and dignity. . . . At all times she [the egalitarian instructor] is guiding his problem-solving and helping him to interpret what he is doing and what the consequences are. . . . In this way she is getting him to solve his own orientation problems and increasing his confidence to keep track of where he is as he travels. . . . So the authoritarian instructor tries to fill the client with facts, rather than letting him discover through his own activities what the environment is like. The second style, practiced by the egalitarian instructor, assumes that learning consists in discovering things for oneself and that the role of the instructor is to guide this process of discovery.
It is possible to undermine a student's confidence unintentionally by offering too much information. For example, the sighted travel teacher who warns a student about the presence of stairs prior to the student's reaching them with the cane certainly does not instill self-reliance but instead reinforces the notion that vision and safety are somehow connected. It is critical that students learn to trust the cane and their own abilities and not to rely on visual information.
To use fear tactics such as saying "Differences of seconds may seem small, but the stakes are high," or "It only takes a second for an individual to overstep a stair or to move into a dangerous situation," is unfair. It conveys the conviction that a blind traveler is never completely safe. At some point every O&M teacher (sighted or blind) has to step back and allow the student to accomplish solo routes. Besides, why should we assume that a blind instructor would be unaware of a student's approaching a dangerous situation--As stated earlier, blind or visually impaired instructors usually position themselves close to the student while crossing a busy intersection during the beginning stages of training (as would a sighted teacher) in order to ensure quick intervention in an emergency.
Still another positive aspect of certifying blind O&M teachers is that of providing a positive role model. The value of this point can hardly be overstated. It is important for blind children and adults alike to be exposed to good blind role models. This exposure will assist them in making a positive adjustment to blindness and acceptance of the cane while providing proof that it is indeed possible for blind people to be independent.
To insist that blind cane travel instructors teach in the traditional style of some sighted instructors is to ignore the validity of comparable non-visual alternatives. We find ourselves agreeing with Allan Dodds (1985, p. 137) when he states: "The degree to which one accepts or rejects blind people working as mobility instructors . . . is conditioned only by one's own prejudices about blindness." The alternatives to vision which we have offered in this article are only a sample of possible solutions, and they vary from person to person. In any case, we are certainly not aware of all of the non-visual techniques in use. We are aware, however, of the success with which the techniques can be employed. It's time that those of us who say we expect independence and safety from our students realize that these things really are possible and begin trusting the message we say we teach.
We do not believe that every good blind traveler would make a good orientation and mobility instructor. Many of us have had math instructors who were brilliant mathematicians but who were unable to convey their knowledge in a way that could be easily understood by the majority of the class. We do propose, however, that the O&M field give blind people who possess the skills and the desire to teach the chance to prove themselves.
Simulations and experiments are not necessary. Blind cane travel instructors have been successfully teaching for years without the use of sighted assistants. These instructors have done more to instill confidence, foster positive attitudes, and effectively teach cane travel than many of us who are sighted cane travel teachers. To quote Allan Dodds again (1985, "New Beacon"):
As a psychologist I was interested from a number of points of view in being on the receiving end of blind instruction; and, having undergone mobility instruction with a sighted instructor, I was interested in making comparisons. For example, not knowing anything about how a blind instructor operated, I was concerned about how in touch she could be with her client in terms of monitoring his motor skills. . . . After only a few steps, she called out that my cane was not going far enough over to the left and asked me to correct it. Slightly surprised, I consciously swung it further over to the left, and she told me that was better. [And again later in the same article] So confident was he (a student of the blind instructor) that I stopped checking up on his decisions to cross at busy junctions, simply putting my trust in his decisions and maintaining a conversation with him. That was the moment when I realized that my residual prejudices about blind travel had finally been put to rest. In spite of myself, I would never really have trusted a blind person to make a safety decision on my behalf without checking it out visually. Now I realized that good blind travel had to be judged on blind criteria, not sighted ones, and the fact that blind travelers don't get run down by cars is not due to the consideration of the motorist but rather to the sound judgment of the traveler. And yet I had trained blind people to do this myself, without fully believing that it was safe. . . . For my own part, I was thoroughly convinced that blind instructors could do most of what sighted instructors could, and what they couldn't do was not vital to the teaching of safe and independent travel.
Below is a sample of only a few state and private agencies which reveals how widespread is the practice of employing blind persons whose sole job description is that of orientation and mobility instructor. We did not sample these same service providers with regard to the number of clients trained in O&M by blind rehabilitation teachers whose primary duties are not O&M but who teach it as the need arises.
ABLE (Alternatives for the Blind in Living and Employment), Source: Former employee. [approximate student count] . . . . . 60
BISM (Blind Industries and Services of Maryland), Source: Former employee [approximate student count, 1983-1987] . . . . 85
BLIND Inc., Source: Program Director [approximate student count, 1988 until April, 1992] . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .125
Colorado Center for the Blind, Source: Program Director [approximate student count, 1988 until April, 1992]. . . . . . 75
Louisiana Center for the Blind, Source: Program Director [exact count, 1986 until April, 1992]. . . . . . . . . . . . .180
Nebraska Rehabilitation Services f/t Visually Impaired, Source: Agency Director [approximate count, 1975 until April, 1992]. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .450
New Mexico Commission f/t Blind, Source: Program Director, [exact count, 1986 until April, 1992]. . . . . . . . . . . . . 87
The numbers presented here were compiled in April of 1992. Total number of blind persons trained in O & M by blind instructors in the above, limited sample . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,062
In the face of the significant number of safe, competent blind travelers trained to use the long white cane by blind orientation and mobility instructors, we ask one question of Mr. Wiener and other advocates of the present certification requirement: if the numbers provided here are not proof of the capacity of blind O&M instructors to train other blind people safely and effectively, at what point will studies and research give way to practice and fact?
Hill, E., and Ponder, P., Orientation and Mobility Techniques, New York, American Foundation for the Blind, Inc., 1976, p. 4.
Dodds, A.G. (1985) "Mobility: Blind Instructors" New Beacon, 69, 137-139.
Dodds, A.G., Mobility Training for Visually Handicapped People: A Person-Centered Approach, London, England, Croom Helm Ltd, 1988, pp. 73-77.
From the Editor: Until August of 1993 Rudolf Behrens was a senior chemist with the Ciba Corporation, the American subsidiary of a large Swiss pharmaceutical company. But, years before, he had begun to lose his sight, and by 1992 he was legally blind. Because of his decreasing visual acuity he was interested in negotiating a change in job responsibilities, but apparently his employer only wanted him gone. So his supervisors simply piled on the work until he could no longer get it done and they thought it was safe to fire him.
Behrens was furious. He had been a valuable employee close to retirement; he knew he should not have been fired, but what could he do about it- He decided to get a lawyer and see about a lawsuit. At about this time he received a call from the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut's Community Outreach Office telling him about the work of the Federation and inviting him to support the program with a contribution. He began telling the caller about his troubles, and very quickly he was put in touch with Rick Fox, President of the NFB of Connecticut. Mr. Behrens' attorney was soon in contact with the NFB's National Office, gathering information about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and how to use it most effectively.
Rudolf Behrens is now attending NFB meetings in his area and is making progress with his lawsuit against Ciba Corporation. The following article first appeared in the July 18, 1994, issue of the White Plains, New York, Reporter Dispatch. Here it is:
Ex-employee Suing Ciba for $1.8 Million
by Richard Liebson
Ciba Corporation in Ardsley has been hit with a $1.8 million federal lawsuit by a senior chemist who says he was dismissed because of an eye condition that left him legally blind.
The lawsuit, filed earlier this month in U.S. District Court in White Plains, charges Ciba with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The ten-page lawsuit, brought by Rudolf Behrens, sixty-five, of Fairfield, Connecticut, says that Ciba "engaged in numerous discriminatory practices in violation of the ADA, culminating in Mr. Behrens' unlawful termination," in August, 1993. An age-related degenerative eye condition left Behrens legally blind in 1992.
The company has not been served with the lawsuit, Ciba spokesman Eric Jackson said yesterday. "Nevertheless, we feel it is inappropriate to publicly discuss any human-resources matters concerning our employees," he said.
Behrens' lawyer, Irwin Dresdner of White Plains, said yesterday that instead of providing Behrens with "the equitable treatment and reasonable assistance to which he was entitled under the ADA, Ciba demoted him, placed him on probation, increased his workload to a level exceeding that of any fully sighted Ciba employee, and fired him."
"I couldn't believe what they were doing to me," Behrens said yesterday. "During my ten years at Ciba I've made important contributions in many areas of chemical research and development, but as soon as they found out about my blindness, all they cared about was getting rid of me."
Ciba, formerly called Ciba-Geigy Corporation, is the U.S. subsidiary of the Swiss-based health care, agricultural, and industrial manufacturing corporation.
Ciba is "committed to comply fully with the letter and spirit of all equal employment opportunity laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act," said Jackson.
"We take these responsibilities very seriously," he said.
Behrens has requested a jury trial and is seeking $1.8 million in lost pay, damages, and legal costs.
Sponsored by: National Organization of Parents of Blind Children National Association to Promote the Use of Braille
PURPOSE OF CONTEST
The purpose of the annual Braille Readers Are Leaders contest is to encourage blind school children to read more Braille. It is just as important for blind children to be literate as it is for other children. Good readers can have confidence in themselves and in their abilities to learn and to adapt to new situations throughout their lifetimes. Braille is a viable alternative to print, yet many blind children are graduating from our schools with poor Braille skills and low expectations for themselves as Braille readers. They do not know that Braille readers can be competitive with print readers. This contest helps blind children realize that reading Braille is fun and rewarding.
WHO CAN ENTER THE CONTEST
Blind school-age children from kindergarten through the twelfth grade are eligible to enter. The student competes in one of five categories. The first category is the print-to-Braille beginning reader. This category is for former or current print readers who began to learn and use Braille within the past two years. This includes:
(1) formerly sighted children who became blind after they mastered print and
(2) partially-sighted print readers who are learning Braille. Kindergartners and first-graders are not eligible for the print-to-Braille category.
The other categories are grades K-1; 2-4; 5-8; and 9-12. Students in ungraded programs should select the category which most closely matches the grade level of their peers.
PRIZES FOR THE CONTEST
First-, second-, and third-place winners are selected from each of the five categories. All winners receive a cash prize, a special certificate, and a distinctive NFB Braille Readers Are leaders T-shirt. In each category first-place winners receive $75.00, second-place winners $50.00, and third-place winners $25.00. All contestants receive a Braille certificate and a special token for participating in the contest. Special recognition will be given to the five contestants, regardless of category, who demonstrate the most improvement over their performance in the previous year's contest. To be considered for the Most Improved Braille Reader award the contestant must enter the contest for two consecutive years and cannot be a winner in the current, or any previous, Braille Readers Are Leaders contest. Winners of the Most Improved Braille Reader award receive fifteen dollars ($15.00) and a T-shirt. Schools are encouraged to schedule public presentations of the certificates. Alternatively, presentations may be made in the classroom, at the local National Federation of the Blind Chapter meeting, or in some other appropriate setting. Members of the National Federation of the Blind will award the certificates and other prizes whenever possible.
SCHOOLS FOR THE BLIND
In addition to the individual prizes a special $200.00 cash prize and a trophy will be awarded to the school for the blind with the largest number of enrolled students participating in the contest. All of the schools for the blind with students participating in the contest will receive recognition in Future Reflections, the National Federation of the Blind magazine for parents and educators of blind children.
RULES FOR THE CONTEST
Winners will be chosen based on the number of Braille pages read. The one who reads the largest number of Braille pages will be the first-place winner; the second largest the second-place winner; and the third largest the third-place winner. The completed contest entry form must be received by the judges no later than February 15, 1995. Contestants must submit with the entry forms a print list of the materials read (see the last page of the entry form). Entry forms without this list will be returned to the sender.
The certifying authority is responsible for (1) verifying that the student read the Braille material listed and that the material was read between November 1, 1994, and February 1, 1995; (2) filling out and sending in the contest entry form in an accurate, complete, and timely fashion; and (3) assisting the student in finding Braille materials to read for the contest. Teachers, librarians, and parents may serve as certifying authorities. The certifying authority must also be prepared to cooperate if the contest judges have any questions or need additional information about an entry. All decisions of the judges are final.
For more information contact Mrs. Sandy Halverson, 403 West 62nd Terrace, Kansas City, Missouri 64113; evenings (816) 361-7813; or Mrs. Barbara Cheadle, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230; (410) 659-9314 or (410) 747-3472.
1. What if I didn't know about the contest until after it began. Can I still enter? Yes.
2. If I enter late, can I still count the Braille pages I have read since November 1? Yes, if your certifying authority will verify that you read those pages.
3. Can I count my Braille textbooks? No.
4. Can I count textbooks if they are not the textbooks I am now using for my regular class work? Yes.
5. What if I don't finish reading a book? Can I count the pages that I did read? Yes.
6. Can supplemental reading books to beginning reading series be counted for the contest? Yes.
7. What constitutes a Braille page? Each side of an embossed piece of paper is considered one page. If you read both sides, then you have read two pages. This is true even if there are only two Braille lines on one side.
8. Can I count title pages, tables of contents, Brailled descriptions of illustrations, etc.? Yes.
9. I have to transcribe books for my beginning reader. Most of these books have only a few words on a page. If the print book has more pages than my Braille transcription, how do I count pages for the contest? For the purposes of this contest, the number of Braille pages counted per book should never be less than the number of print pages in that book. This is so even if the teacher has transcribed the entire book onto one Braille page. To avoid confusion we suggest that the books be transcribed page-for-page, one Braille page for each print page, whenever possible.
10. I have trouble finding enough Braille material for my 6th grade and up students. Do you have any suggestions? Yes. The National Federation of the Blind has free Braille materialsstories, articles, etc.suitable for blind youth. To request the NFB Selected Literature for Blind Youth order form, call or write National Federation of the Blind, Materials Center, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230; (410) 659-9314.
CONTEST ENTRY FORM NATIONAL
FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
BRAILLE READERS ARE LEADERS CONTEST
November 1, 1994 to February 1, 1995
Mail entry form to Mrs. Sandy Halverson, 403 West 62nd Terrace, Kansas City, Missouri 64113
Age ________ Grade________
City__________________ State________ Zip________
Parent's Name __________________
Phone (Home) __________________ (Work) __________________
Certifying Authority: ____________________________________
Name Position: Parent, Teacher, Librarian
City__________________ State________ Zip________
Phone (Home) __________________ (Work) __________________
School Name _____________________________________________
City__________________ State________ Zip________
YES NO Did you enter last year's contest (1993-94)?
YES NO Have you been a winner in a previous Braille Readers are Leaders Contest?
Entries must be received no later than February 15, 1995.
Category: (Check one) Beginning Print to Braille (This category is for former or current print readers, grades 2-12, who began to learn and use Braille within the past two years.) Kindergarten and First Grade Second through Fourth Grades Fifth through Eighth Grades Ninth through Twelfth Grades
One of the prizes for the contest is a special T-shirt. If you should be a winner, what size would you require? (Check one) Children's: S (6-8); M (10-12); L (14-16) Adult: S (34-36); M (38-40); L (42-44); XL
[Back page of form]
Name Total # of Braille Pages
Pages Book/Magazine (mag. pub. date) Author/Title of Article
To the best of my knowledge, this student did read these Braille pages between the dates of November 1, 1994, and February 1, 1995.
__________________________ Certifying Authority
From the Editor: At the Wednesday morning general session of the 1994 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind, the directors of the four NFB adult rehabilitation centers for the blind addressed the convention. To those who have been following the evolution and strengthening of these facilities, these reports were both interesting and gratifying. It is reassuring to receive confirmation that these programs continue to change lives and enable their graduates to become successful. But for those who are new to the organized blind movement and who knew only about traditional rehabilitation programs, listening to these presentations and talking with the students currently attending these centers provided revolutionary insights about what blind people can achieve. Those taking part in this panel discussion were Diane McGeorge, Executive Director of the Colorado Center for the Blind; Joanne Wilson, Executive Director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind; Joyce Scanlan, Executive Director of Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions, Inc., in Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Sharon Gold, Executive Director of the Lawrence Marcelino Center for the Blind in Sacramento, California. Here is what they had to say:
I want to begin today by reading you a letter which I received from the parents of one of our graduates:
Dear Mrs. McGeorge,
We recently visited our son, who graduated from the full-time program at the Colorado Center for the Blind. We had a chance to spend three days with him in Denver. During that time we had the opportunity to meet some of your staff, and I cannot tell you how impressed we were with their understanding and the real caring they showed for him. When he came to your program, he was depressed and saw nothing for himself in his future. What a joy it was for us to see him working at his job. He is sharing an apartment with another one of the graduates of your program, and we got to meet his girlfriend. She is a lovely girl, and they both are so happy. The Colorado Center has truly been an answer to our prayers. We thank you very much and wish you great success for years to come.
And it was signed.
This letter is a clear demonstration of the accomplishments of our NFB Centers. These achievements are not accidents; they occur because of our philosophy and the dedication of our staff. Traditional rehabilitation centers try to teach skills, but they do not talk to students about their blindness. And if you do not talk about blindness, you will not help your students to develop fully or, for that matter, even become competent in the use of their skills. We have all heard about the importance of proper cane technique, the value of teaching the use of the most advanced technology on the market, and (that awful term) activities of daily livingalso known as ADL. It is useful to compare the traditional- rehabilitation-center approach with our non-traditional approach.
First of all, what is meant by non-traditional? Dr. Jernigan pioneered the use of challenge recreation activities at the Iowa Commission for the Blind. We all recall the famous water-skiing scene from our video, "We Know Who We Are." The Colorado Center has adapted this concept to our unique Colorado setting. We live less than thirty miles from an internationally known rock-climbing area, Eldorado Canyon. Each of the NFB Centers has found activities that challenge its students. Sometimes it is said that our challenge activities are what make our programs different. However, the challenge activities are but one way in which we engage our students in thinking about their blindness.
Recently, an incident occurred at the Colorado Center which illustrates very clearly the difference between a traditional program and our NFB approach. High school students from another program came to visit. Our high school students had prepared a day of activities for our visitors. One of the things that our students wanted to do was to prepare lunch for their guests. The visiting staff had, however, planned to take their students to McDonald's. Our students saw lunch as an opportunity to demonstrate their independence; the visiting staff saw lunch as an opportunity to treat their students.
Every activity that we do is used for teaching. We are concerned that our students learn to function independently. The students from the visiting program travelled by holding onto each other, thus forming a chain. They were not expected to travel independently. Our students are encouraged to become free, self-managing individuals.[Applause] Other programs are more concerned with taking care of their students. We are concerned with our students' learning to take care of themselves.
The visit demonstrated many attitudes toward blindness. We believe that our students can become independent, productive people only when they really understand the attitudes toward blindness which are held by society in general and by themselves. We ask them to examine those attitudes and discuss why staff persons would want to have students travel together in a chain. Clearly they were afraid that, if the students travelled independently, it would be difficult. Students might get lost or get hurt. The staff simply did not believe that blind people could function independently and competently. Over and over again our students encounter these attitudes. They must learn to acknowledge the existence of these negative attitudes. They must develop the personal strength necessary to reject them and to replace them with their belief in their own competence and the competence of other blind persons.
Jason was a student in our summer youth program. He came into our program fearful about participating in many of our activities. Our staff challenged Jason to develop competence and confidence. I received this evaluation of his experience in the program. He writes:
I enjoyed my summer at the Colorado Center. I liked living in the apartments and doing my own laundry. The two things I liked best were the camping trip and the rock climbing. I liked the story about the bear that Dan told. I really liked chopping the wood for the fire. I chopped wood until Laurie told me I had to quit and go to bed. That was about midnight. She said I was going to keep everybody awake. Rock climbing was really hard. I was scared and I didn't want to go clear to the top. I cried, and I told Allison to let me come down. She said she knew I could get to the top, and she wasn't going to let me come down. I had a really good feeling when I did get to the top of the rock. I was really proud of myself. Everybody cheered!
Jason is a multiply-handicapped young man. No one thought he could make progress. I remember that day very well. The day he was climbing, passers-by stopped to watch. They must have thought we were abusing him; yet this was a turning point for him. After this experience he was anxious to try more things. He learned to travel from his apartment to the Center by himself. His crowning achievement was preparing lunch for all the staff and then telling us it would cost us $1.50 apiece to enjoy his spaghetti.
Traditional programs sell short the abilities of blind persons. The expectations for someone like Jason are so low that, if he had been in a traditional program, he would not have achieved anything. Jason cannot be with us today because his brain tumor has re-occurred, but he is proof that independence can be achieved by those who in the past have simply been written off.
This year we have begun a summer program for college students. They are learning to enhance their academic performance through the use of Braille, technology, study skills, and good cane travel. They are learning to manage their own academic program and deal more effectively with disabled student services. But these are really not the most important things that they will learn. They are learning to take responsibility for their own lives and to develop the confidence that they need to make their way in the world as competent blind adults. They are learning that they are more effective when they work collectively and that to be fully an adult means to care for others.
Blind persons have had things done for them. They have received benefits. They have not been asked to give. However, all of our students are asked to investigate thoroughly what it means to act collectively and to care inclusively.
Traditional rehabilitation centers encourage blind people to be passive. They are encouraged to accept help whether they need it or not. After all, we don't want the public to think that blind people have a chip on their shoulder. NFB Centers stress the importance of assuming the role of the active participant in life, not the passive recipient of good works. Our students know how to be assertive when dealing with offered help that is not needed.
Many of our students come to NFB Centers from protected environments. Their families, their teachers, and their friends have often, with the best of intentions, prevented them from becoming assertive adults. Recently one of our students was enrolled in college. As her vision declined, she found that she was more and more dependent on her friends. She expressed it to me very clearly. "I am tired of pretending I am somebody I am not. None of my friends really knows how little I can see. I have played all the games." She was unable to function independently, so she accepted a passive role to get others to do for her. But she is an intelligent woman and made the decision to change her life. She knew that she had to acquire new skills, but she also knew that she had to rethink her blindness and gain confidence through genuine accomplishments.
Just recently she told me that she had gone shopping by herself and that she had brought her groceries home in a grocery cart. She feels that this was a major accomplishment. She is learning to live independently. Her confidence is growing. Her skills are improving; she is learning to accept her blindness. She has ceased to depend on others and is changing from a passive to an active person. She plans to be a teacher of blind children. Her future is bright. She wants to dedicate her life to caring for others. Mary is a great example of what we mean when we say, "We Are Changing What it Means to be Blind." Once she was passive and dependent on others, and now she is learning to direct her own life.
Students come to our NFB Centers from all types of backgrounds. You have heard about only a few. Their stories tell very clearly the differences between traditional rehabilitation centers and our NFB Centers. They come with little hope for a future; they come knowing that they must stop playing games about being blind; they come believing they cannot overcome the limitations placed upon them by their peers. But they leave with jobs and with confidence, having climbed to the top of the rock. The men and women who are our students are showing the world what we mean when we say, "Together we are changing what it means to be blind." [Applause]
Until I was nineteen years old, I had never met another blind person. I did not believe in myself, and I did not have the skills of blindness. I couldn't even light a simple match. That all changed when I became a student at the Iowa Commission for the Blind, run by Dr. Jernigan. I did meet other blind people. I did begin to believe in myself. I did get new skills, and I did learn to light a match.
Nine months ago Vanessa came into our program. Vanessa did not believe in herself. She did not have skills; and, believe it or not, Vanessa did not know how to light a match either. Vanessa has now graduated from our program. She now believes in herself. She has skills; and, after being pushed and shoved, Vanessa has lit a match. She is now employed in our teenage program, working with young blind teenagers. Two weeks ago I was at a birthday party for one of these young students. It was time to light the candles. Someone said, "Let's get a sighted person to light the candles."
Then Vanessa said, "Come here Jennie. Let me show you how to light a match." [Applause]
People ask me, "What do you do at the Louisiana Center for the Blind?" What we do is pass the torch. We pass the torch that was kindled in 1940 when Dr. tenBroek first organized the National Federation of the Blind. He took that torch and made it burn brighter and passed it on to Dr. Jernigan, who took it and passed it on to the third generation of blind people, President Maurer and people like me. Now it is our turn to take it and to pass it on to the fourth generation. We take that torch and we pass it on to all of our students.
We passed it on to Donald Ray when we gave him his first cane lesson. He came back from that cane lesson and said, "Miss Joanne, this cane is saving me from a life o'licks!" We pass it on when our students walk five miles to a neighboring town and come back elated that they have done it. We passed it on when Kyle took an hour and a half to walk to the Center with our new student Jim the first day, and by the end of the week they were doing it in fifteen minutes. We passed the torch to Jerry, who had never cooked in his life. We gave him a glop of hamburger and said, "Jerry, make your own hamburger patty." He squished it around, and it took forever, but he got that patty made, and he put it on the grill, and he grilled his burger. He sat down to eat it and said, "This is the best burger I've ever eaten." [Applause]
We passed the torch when Chris got his GED. We passed the torch when Patrick came in with the first agenda he had produced in Braille. We passed the torch when Joe came in and got his first job working at Wendy's. I said, "Joe, I'm really proud of you." He puffed out his chest, and he smiled and said, "I have a family I have to support." We passed the torch when Quintina sat in her first Braille class and cried for two days. She said, "I quit. I'm never going to learn Braille." Quintina now has her own business. You know what it is? She's a Braille transcriptionist. [Applause]
We passed the torch when David came in and said, "I know Braille. I read Braille at 169 words a minute. I said, "David, that's not good enough. Start using two hands to read Braille." He fought us, but he did it. When he left, he was reading at 302 words a minute. We pass the torch to the students who come in excited saying, "Oh my gosh, I've never seen this word before, but now that I'm reading Braille, I see what it looks like."
We pass the torch in some of our group discussions. The other day we were having a discussion with our children's program, our teenage program, and our adult program. The adults were hotly debating the issue of rights and responsibilities: Should we take free show passes? Should we be pushed up to the front of the line? Eleven-year-old Ryan said, "Wait a minute; wait a minute. If we take free show passes and go to the front of the line ahead of everybody else and then we go and ask for a job, that simply doesn't make any sense." We can't have it both ways.
We pass the torch when Kim bought her first pair of tennis shoes. She had never shopped by herself before. We passed the torch the other night when we had our Louisiana Center for the Blind play. We educated the public about what blind people do: that they can act. We educated the public with the play's message about blindness. But, most important, we taught our students that they can be a part of changing what it means to be blind.
We pass the torch when we go rock climbing. I remember when Vanessa, crying and screaming, was going up that rock. She came back down and said, "My God, you guys believe in me more than I believe in myself." We passed the torch just weeks ago when we took a whole group (sixty of usour children, teenage, and adult programs) down to the Louisiana Legislature. A bill had been introduced that would have seriously hurt the Randolph-Sheppard Program in the State. When we were leaving that lobbying effort, little twelve-year-old Paul, who is developmentally delayed, said, "You know, I don't know if I ever want to be a vendor, but someday one of my friends might want to be a vendor, so we need to kill this bill."
We passed the torch when one of our students got hurt, and our students took turns sitting up all night with that student and caring for him like you would in a family. When I see the work at the Louisiana Center for the Blind, it's like a giant jigsaw puzzle. The work we do at our center is just a small piece of that puzzle. The rest is the work that all of you are doing out there in the Federation and that we've done for the last fifty-four years. We're there doing our part. If our Center is going to survive and our students are going to get something, we need the whole big picture, the whole puzzle put together.
Before we came to this convention, I wanted to pull together some statistics for you. Even I was surprised at the numbers. We have twenty-three students now enrolled in our adult program. We've had sixty-seven children and teenagers. Individual children and teenagers go through our summer programs. I am not going to count these people in our statistics. I'm looking only at the students who have actually graduated from the program or come very close. There have been 179 of those, 121 of whom, approximately two thirds, are still involved with the Federation.
Let's look a little more closely at these statistics. Out of those 121 still involved in the Federation, sixty-nine of these people are elected leaders in the Federation: state presidents, state officers, national division presidents, national division officers, local chapter presidents, or local officerssixty-nine of these people.
When I got these statistics together, I started looking at the names, and something else became apparent to me. I started counting those who are successful, people who are living on their own, going to school successfully, or working at a job successfully. All of our students have moved along this spectrum by having benefitted from our training. But my definition of success is even tougher: I would consider sixty-seven percent of our students to be in the success category.
I then looked a little further at these statistics. Of those who are no longer involved in the Federation, 16.6 percent are in the success category. Of those who are involved in the Federation, 90.9 percent are in the success category.
What message do these numbers give us? They tell us that the reason our Federation centers work is that we don't just bring students in and give them a few skills. We don't just give them some attitudes and then leave them to make it on their own. The Louisiana Center program is successful because we had you out there. The Federation is there to give students the shot in the arm for the rest of their lives that they need to continue to be successful. More important, it gives our students an opportunity to give back, which truly makes students successful.
We're selling bricks at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. We're getting ready to have an expansion. Part of our fund raiser was selling bricks for a hundred dollars apiece on which people can have anything they want inscribed. I recently got a call from two of my former students, Maria Morais and Michael Baillif. They said, "We thought long and hard about what we'd like to have inscribed on our brick to be put in the new building." Michael said, "This is what we came up with, for this is what we feel we've gotten from the Federation and from our centers. It's a quote from Sir Isaac Newton, which says, `If I have seen further, it is because I've stood on the shoulders of giants.'" That's why we have the success rate. That's how we're doing it. They're standing on your shoulders and the shoulders of Federationists for the past fifty-four years.
Mr. Maurer asked me to talk about some of the changes that have occurred since we started the Center nine years ago and what I see as some of the progress that will be made. When we started our Center in 1985, almost nine years ago, the agency hated us. Enemies were just waiting for us to make a mistake. The professional organizations thought we were crazy. I'm pleased to announce these things that have happened just in the last month. Suzanne Mitchell, one of our Federationists, just started work this week as the head of blind services in the State of Louisiana.[Applause] When we come back from this convention, the University of Mississippi is going to start sending us interns to work in our programs. Remember agencies and organizations were skeptical about us just nine years ago.
At the end of July the VA hospitals are going to be sending some of their top administrators to learn how to teach blind people mobility. They want to see how blind people teach blind people mobility. [Applause] Just recently Jerry Whittle, one of our staff members at the Louisiana Center for the Blind, was elected AER President in our state.[Applause] Things are changing. Professionals are seeing that we're doing something.
Five states now send us students: Texas, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York, Arkansas, and now Oklahomasix states. Before they thought we were crazy. We couldn't even get anybody from Louisiana. Agencies are recognizing what we are doing. We've gotten a grant to start a vocational program. Zena Pearcy is working on a vocational Braille transcription and technology development program to train people in adaptive technology. We recently got a grant from the Louisiana Department of Education. We Federationists are teaching teachers and paraprofessionals in the school systems Braille so our blind kids will have an education.
When we get back from convention, our first classes will be taught at Louisiana Tech University by our own Federationist, Ruby Ryles, who will be teaching college classes to people who want to become VI specialists, and we know what kind of philosophy they're going to come out with. [Applause] We recently got another grant in which we are going to be working with an infant and toddler program. And one of our Federationists, Jeff Pearcy, will be the first person on the scene working with blind babies in our state.
We now have funding from the Department of Education to fund our children's program and from Louisiana Rehabilitation Services to fund our teenage program. So our word will be going down, not just working with adults, but we can reach out and get to other people.
We're getting ready to start a new program, one where we'll be doing some outreach programs, teaching mobility to blind people. When we get back, we're also getting ready to break ground for a new building. When it is finished, we will have three and a half times our current space. This new construction is demonstrating what people are beginning to recognize about usthat what we're doing really is working.
I want to conclude with what I call my IWRP for the Louisiana Center for the Blind. We got started in 1985, and some months after that Dr. Jernigan gave a banquet speechhis last as President of the National Federation of the Blind. That banquet speech gave me a message, a message that I often think about when I need direction and need to be reminded of our goals, in short, when I need to be re-inspired about the work of our centers. He's talking about the third generation, but I believe it's equally true of the Federation today and the work of our adult training centers with the fourth generation. The message reads: "We have also kept faith with our children in the third generation. We have transmitted to them a powerful movement. We have trained them in the ways of freedom. We have shared with them a belief and an understanding. We have wanted for them better than we have had ourselves, and above all we have loved them. We do not need to make them like us, for even in our strongest imagining, we cannot go to the house of their ultimate future. We seek only to go with them as far as we can along the way." Thank you. [Applause]
Many Federationists in the room will remember 1979 as a watershed year because it was then, fifteen years ago, that the Minnesota Supreme Court gave a hard rap to the knuckles of a NAC- accredited agency with the decision that the Minneapolis Society for the Blind had violated the law and discriminated against the blind by rejecting their applications for membership in the organization. The court ordered the Society to hold a nationwide proxy election. Then for the first time blind people elected eight blind representatives to speak for them on the MSB Board. The whole effort proved to us that we could in fact challenge an entrenched agency for the blind and win. That event marked the beginning of the end for MSB. Today it hides behind its new name, Vision Loss Resources. It's recognized widely in the community as a backward, repressive, ineffective agency struggling for identity and indeed its very survival.
On the other hand, the National Federation of the Blind has risen to a position of prominence in the state. Our orientation center, BLIND, Inc., is regarded as progressive, having a positive philosophy of blindness and yielding the kind of results that really change people's lives for the better. [Applause] We are also recognized as being a part of the National Federation of the Blind. Let me say directly that I believe firmly that the reason BLIND, Inc., is what it is is the National Federation of the Blind. BLIND, Inc., exists and thrives because of the National Federation of the Blind. It was inspired by the Federation. It was created by the Federation. It is monitored and evaluated by the National Federation of the Blind. It is responsive to the needs and wishes of the NFB. It will survive because of the NFB.
The blind of the nation constantly measure the success of BLIND, Inc., and the quality of its training by the outcomes reflected in the lives of its graduates. Thus, BLIND, Inc., and the NFB are partners, sharing a common philosophy, goals, expertise, and resources. As one of four Federation centers in the country, BLIND, Inc., belongs to a network of centers that live out a belief in blind people and work toward the common goal of improving our lives so we can all reap first-class status in society.
We share many traditions such as ringing the freedom bell. Ringing the bell is taken very seriously by everyone. It is a high honor and a great privilege. Worthy accomplishments for ringing the bell might be completing Grade II Braille, blowing your first cane tip, successfully serving the small and buffet meals in home management, returning exhausted from the mid-term and final drop- offs and the five-mile graduation walk, covering enough mileage in travel class to be admitted to the one-hundred-mile club or the two-hundred-mile club, or finishing the reading of the first Braille novel. Then there are the more personal accomplishments which merit the ringing of the bell: when Maureen's checking account balanced for the first time because she used Braille, when John turned down an offer of help for the very first time, or when Nicky lit her first match.
When BLIND, Inc. students graduate, they receive a bell with an eagle on top, symbolizing freedom and independence. They frequently call back to the Center to tell us of their successes and how they've achieved personal goals so we can again ring the bell, as we did when Larry passed his GED; when Louis and Holly became engaged; when Doug won his fight to stay on the fifth floor of his college dorm instead of moving to the first floor, where students with disabilities had to stay; or when Julie got the job she wanted.
The Federation gives BLIND, Inc., students much-needed opportunity to be involved in activities beyond those of their own self-interest. For example, we rang the bell when the state legislature passed the Braille Literacy Bill. We also rang the bell when we learned that Fred Schroeder had been appointed Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration.
BLIND, Inc., is a regional center offering orientation training to blind people in seventeen states in the Midwest and New England. Yes, we teach the alternative techniques of blindness: Braille, the long cane taught by blind instructors, computers with speech, and other non-visual techniques; but thanks to the Federation we do much more than that. We tear down those negative blindness-related attitudes which face blind people and cause them to settle for less than they are capable of. We challenge them to dream of the full life that will become their reality when blindness is removed as a barrier. We show them success after success in areas they never thought possiblerock climbing, sailing, water-skiing, lighting a charcoal grill, water or snow tubing, or canoeing.
Success breeds more success, which breeds confidence. And confidence brings about the change in attitude. "I never thought I could do these things," is a statement frequently heard. And suddenly students are taking charge of their lives, making their own decisions, saying a definite "yes" or "no." They've become empowered by their beliefs and their experiences to deal with their blindness and their lives in a completely different way. They become downright feisty, as some people would say. But when I go home and complain to Tom about how sassy or pushy or demanding the students are, he straightens me out fast. He says, "Well you can't teach them to be assertive and then expect them to be assertive with everyone except you."[Applause]
Actually we have terrific students. I urge you to find an opportunity to meet some of them. Talk with Kate, Bryan, Bob, Mike, Brent, or Stacy in the Minnesota delegation, or talk with our graduates, many of whom are here. Doug, Tom, Jenny, Carl, Jonathan, Mike, Larry, Jim, Beth, Richard: they can best tell you their feelings about the training they either are receiving or have received. Their experience at this convention is more valuable because of the contacts they make with Federationists. They are here to learn from your experiences, your careers, or your interests.
Some of you may be wondering about a guy who has been at Federation conventions for many years but is absent this year. Where is Johnny Ott? This is his hometown. Why isn't he here? Well the answer is very simple. Johnny Ott isn't here because he has a new job. [Applause] He is working as a ham radio instructor in Minneapolis, a perfect job for Johnny. He came to BLIND, Inc., from Michigan in November of 1992, where he had already been through several rehab programs, a common story for blind people; and nothing ever seemed to work out. Along with the rehab counselors, Johnny himself became convinced that he wasn't capable of working. He came to BLIND, Inc., as what he regarded as a last chance.
At BLIND, Inc., Johnny was treated as a normal person. Soon after he came to the Center, I heard him telling someone, "You know, this place is really different. Yesterday we went out and cut down a Christmas tree for the Center. Then the students had to decorate it. That's the first time I've gotten near a Christmas tree." It was a long and difficult struggle for Johnny to begin to see himself as a normal person, capable of holding down a real job, but within a month of finishing his training Johnny, at the age of forty-six, began his very first job. We're very proud of him.
He loves his work. He was quite upset about not being able to come to the Detroit convention, however. To give him some consolation and some hope for next year, I told him about Jim. I said, "You know John, in 1993, Jim couldn't go to the NFB convention because he had also just started his first job. He didn't have vacation time or money to go. He had to stay home and work. This year Jim is going to the convention in Detroit. He can take vacation time, and he has earned the money to go. Next year you can do that." Johnny has vowed to do just that. So we can all expect to see him again next year in Chicago. [Applause]
To show you some of the results students experience after their training, I could give you numerous profiles, success stories of battles won and goals met. Graduates of BLIND, Inc., are doing exactly what other people of their age, interests, education, skills, and personal ambition are doing. Many are in vocational school or college. Many are working as ham radio instructors, production engineers, computer programmers, clerks, vending stand managers, investment executives, summer youth counselors, customer service representatives for international sales catalog companies, tele-marketers, and communication assistants in the telephone relay service for the deaf, to mention only a fewa general range of employment in today's job market, just what each one wanted to do. Blindness is not a barrier.
Just a few more points before I finish. I hope that blind people are benefitting from the orientation training at BLIND, Inc., but I know that our state agency is also benefitting. As you may know, in 1992, Minnesota Services for the Blind hired Mr. Davis as director of our agency for the blind. He is a sighted guy who received his education in blindness and rehabilitation from Dr. Jernigan at the Iowa Commission for the Blind. He also worked with Fred Schroeder at the New Mexico Commission for five years. He is an active member of the National Federation of the Blind. For the fiscal year 1993 Minnesota Services for the Blind was able to report that vocational rehab case closures for blind clients had increased thirty-one percent over the preceding year. This made everyone happy.
I want to invite all of you to come to our center on October 14 when we will celebrate the grand opening of our new building. The NFB of Minnesota and BLIND, Inc., own and operate the building jointly. We can both function efficiently, and we can have adequate space for additional components to our orientation training: physical fitness equipment and a woodworking shop. We already have a new home management instructional area. The bell played a role in our struggle over the new building too. We felt compelled to ring the bell when the City Council and the neighborhood board approved our zoning and conditional use permits for the building. If you can believe it, the crux of the controversy was parking. The Federation taught us not to settle for less than full equality, so we fought hard and won.
We moved into the building on March 28 and wanted to ring the bell to celebrate the occasion. However, we had to wait a few days because we couldn't find the bell. We're proud of the building, but only for what it allows us to do. It is the Federation which allows BLIND, Inc., to empower students to live full and meaningful lives. It's the Federation that gives our graduates their lifelong support network. It is the Federation which gives our students the focus for their lives, a way to measure their success and give back to their brothers and sisters in the movement some of what they have been able to take.
Here is a little limerick written by an eleven-year-old child in our Buddy Program this summer. It sums up very well what BLIND, Inc., is:
There once was a place
called BLIND, Inc.,
Where alternative techniques are the link
To a good education,
A bit of frustration,
And plenty of time to think.
In 1975 I attended my first convention of the National Federation of the Blind. The fall of the gavel and the resounding outcry of the convention delegates was something that I shall never forget. Over the years I have come to understand that for each of us the first time that we hear the fall of the gavel is the most impressive. That opening session of our first convention is important because it represents what the Federation is all aboutthe caring for one another, the sharing of our thoughts, our dreams, our troubles, and our successes.
The other impression that my first NFB Convention left with me was the way that some blind people exhibited self-confidence and could skillfully, gracefully, and independently travel about the convention hall, the hotel, and the City of Chicago. I learned that most of these people were graduates of the Orientation and Adjustment Center at the Iowa Commission for the Blind. They had been students of Dr. Jernigan, the Director of the Commission, or had been students of graduates of that rehabilitation program. I learned that during the 1950's Dr. Jernigan taught at the California Orientation Center for the Blind (OCB), the agency that Dr. tenBroek influenced when he was President of the National Federation of the Blind. I also learned that while Dr. Jernigan was a member of the staff at OCB, he was instrumental in spreading NFB philosophy at the Center and that OCB began to deteriorate and regress in its philosophy and training after Dr. Jernigan left the staff to go to the Iowa Commission for the Blind and Dr. tenBroek died. At the Iowa Commission, Dr. Jernigan expanded on the training offered at OCB. He believed in the ability of blind people to succeed and instilled in his students the belief that they could achieve whatever they set out to do. Dr. Jernigan also developed the travel techniques that we know today, and he brought into being the long white cane, which at that time was known as the "Iowa Cane." This white cane was the forerunner of the cane we know today as the "NFB Cane."
In 1976 I had an opportunity to spend a few days at the Iowa Commission. While at the Commission, I visited in the Orientation and Adjustment Center and met the students and the staff. Again I was surprised at the agility with which the students and staff used their long white travel canes. In the warm environment of the Iowa Commission for the Blind I was really able to observe the self-respect that these people exhibited and the cane techniques that they used. These techniques brought respect to being blind and to the use of the long white travel cane. I had never observed such use of a cane by blind Californians, and I knew it was a technique that I wanted to acquire.
As I grew in the Federation, I began serving as an advocate for other blind people. I found people who desperately wanted to get and keep a job, but they did not have the skills of blindness, nor had they had the opportunity to learn them. The California Department of Rehabilitation was not meeting the needs of blind persons. Despite the advocacy provided by the National Federation of the Blind, the Department continued to contribute to, rather than reduce, the more than seventy percent unemployment rate among the blind.
In 1985 the National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana established the Louisiana Center for the Blind. Two years later the NFB of Colorado established the Colorado Center for the Blind, and the NFB of Minnesota opened BLIND, Inc. Individual blind persons in California tried to gain funding from the Department of Rehabilitation to go out of state for training at an NFB Center. But the Department of Rehabilitation balked at sending blind Californians out of state for services. Several Californians who seriously wanted training at an NFB Center sought alternative funding and went to the Louisiana Center for the Blind.
In the Spring of 1990 I had the opportunity to visit the Louisiana Center, where I spent three days living amongst the students and learning from Center Director Joanne Wilson, a graduate of the Orientation Center at the Iowa Commission for the Blind during the tenure of Dr. Jernigan. Again I saw an attitude amongst the students and staff that I knew had to be spread further in the country. I knew that, once blind people learned of the opportunities arising for graduates of NFB training centers, the floodgates would open and blind persons across the country would seek entrance for training.
By last year's National Convention the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind of California had taken affirmative steps toward the establishment of the Marcelino Center for the Blind. The Center is named after Lawrence Marcelino, who was a long-time leader in the National Federation of the Blind. Known as "Muzzy," he referred to himself as a soldier in the movement. Muzzy sought out people of all ages and brought them to chapter meetings, where they could learn about the National Federation of the Blind and learn that it is respectable to be blind.
On the first Monday of January, 1994, the NFB of California Marcelino Center started classes with its first residential student. Today the Center has eight full-time students, and several more are scheduled to enter later this summer. It takes time to process applications and get students into a residential program. While we were waiting for the residential class to grow, we provided four special two-week travel training classes for senior citizens who had never before had any travel training.
The curriculum of the travel class included an introduction to the use of a white cane and training with sleepshades in a shopping center, in a residential area, in a light industrial area, along a country road, and on public transportation. We ate lunch in different kinds of restaurants and learned to carry a tray and dispose of the trash after eating. We also toured NEWSLINE for the Blind, the NFB of California dial-up newspaper service, and held discussions about blindness. Of course the instruction time was very limited, so none of the skills were taught in depth as they are when students are enrolled in our full-time, residential program. Nevertheless, the twenty folks participating in these two-week programs are now able to do things independently they were not previously able to do, and they are looking at blindness in a different way and with newfound respect.
The training program at the Marcelino Center for the Blind is patterned after the NFB Centers in Louisiana, Colorado, and Minnesota and the training center at the New Mexico Commission for the Blind. I would like to take this opportunity to thank publicly Joanne Wilson, Diane McGeorge, Joyce Scanlan and Fred Schroeder, Executive Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind, for their generous help and the sharing of their knowledge and expertise over this last year, when our program was in its formative stages.
Fundamental to the training programs in all of the NFB Centers is the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind, which was introduced by Dr. tenBroek and developed and refined by Dr. Jernigan. At the Iowa Commission for the Blind Dr. Jernigan put into practice a rehabilitation program that became a model for the country and demonstrated that blind people could compete in the workplace and become equal partners in society. The Iowa program forever changed the meaning of rehabilitation for the blind in this country and set the tone for the NFB Centers of today. Dr. Jernigan, we salute you and we thank you for your courage and leadership.
Finally, I would like to comment about the National Federation of the Blind Kernel Books, which include first-person experiences about many Federationists. A special commendation goes to those of you who have written the articles which Dr. Jernigan has pulled together in these books. In the Marcelino Center the Kernel Books are an important part in the teaching of Braille and the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind. Our first residential student knew no Braille when she entered the Marcelino Center last January. Now, at the end of six months' training, Diane has read two of the Kernel Books. Upon the completion of the second book on the Wednesday just before we came, she took her slate and stylus and wrote the following:
I find that the stories (in the Kernel Books) really reflect my own experiences in life. They are very helpful to read. It is good to see that even the leaders have had to start at the very basics. It is easy to think that great people were always that way. I need to see that they, too, started at the beginning. It takes time to develop into a good leader. I found that these stories are a great encouragement for me. I am very grateful to have read them, and I have received a lot of support from the many different authors. Reading is a good way to learn about yourself and a way to see yourself in others. It is a way to talk and experience many people around the country.
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."
by Marc Maurer
From the Editor: The following story by President Maurer first appeared in Standing on One Foot, one of this year's new books in our Kernel series of paperbacks. It begins with Dr. Jernigan's introduction.
As readers of the Kernel Books know, Marc Maurer is President of the National Federation of the Blind. He is also the father of two active, lovable children. His recollections of the birth of his son emphasize again the innate normality of the blindnthe concern with the everyday activities of employment, marriage, home life, and childrennthe lack of the feeling that blindness is the center of every activity and the cause of doom.
Since I am a lawyer, I do a lot of traveling. I was away in Idaho working on a case when our first child, David, was born. My wife Patricia and I live in Maryland, more than 2,000 miles from Idaho. I had a hearing on Monday morning, and I needed to interview witnesses and prepare argument for the case. My wife had been pregnant for several months, but the baby wasn't supposed to arrive for quite a while. When I left on Friday morning, everything was fine. When I spoke with Patricia on Friday night, she was feeling better than she had for weeks. I went to bed more than 2,000 miles from home ready to buckle down to do the work for the court appearance scheduled for Monday.
Early Saturday morning I commenced interviews with witnesses. The trial would focus on the constitutional rights of private citizens to free speech and freedom of assembly. I was preparing testimony for the court and marshalling arguments for the summation. The court appearance would be briefnnot more than half a day. A number of the facts to be presented were quite unusual, and the time before the judge would be severely limited. Preparation and planning were absolutely vital.
A number of the witnesses and I were in the living room of the home of one of the parties when I was summoned to the phone. The voice of one of my best friends (Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, who was then serving as President of the National Federation of the Blind) came on the line. He said, "Don't worry. You are a papa. Everybody's fine!"
Immediately, the focus of my attention shifted. The court hearing had to be completed, and the planning and preparation were no less important, but I felt a tremendous urge to head back to Baltimore. All through Saturday and Sunday as I worked on the case, I thought about my new baby boy and his mom. The hearing occurred on schedule Monday morning, and as soon as it was over, I boarded a plane headed east.
It is a long way from Boise to Baltimore. The plane touched down about 11:30 that night, and a friend picked me up and drove me to the hospital. My wife was tired but glad to see me. She told me that there were those at the hospital who had been wondering whether I really existed. Baby Maurer had not yet been named. We decided to call him David Patrick.
Because our new boy was premature (he weighed less than four pounds), he had been assigned to live in a little plastic box called an isolette, which had wires and dials. The isolette had its own heating and air conditioning system, which was set to keep the boy warmer than ordinary room temperature. Some time around 12:30 a.m. I went in to visit him. I was instructed by the hospital staff to wear a gown and to make sure my hands were clean. David Patrick was little and scrawny. He wore a teeny little cap to keep him warm, along with his blankets and diaper. I sat there with him in a rocking chair for some time, but he didn't have very much to say. I asked him where he wanted to go to college, but I guess he hadn't made up his mind. Because he was so small (his leg bones from his knees to his ankles felt sort of like match sticks to me), the hospital had tiny little preemie diapers for him. They looked like toys you might get for the baby doll that you give as a Christmas present.
David Patrick got himself all wet, and the nurse asked me if I wanted to change him. The door to the isolette opened out to make a little shelf. The idea was that David Patrick's blankets should be spread on the shelf and he should be placed upon them to be changed. I put him on the shelf and took off his diaper. Then I crouched down to get at the cabinet underneath to get him a new one. The nurse said to me, nWatch it! He might roll off!n The nurse's voice was not loud, but it carried considerable force. Accidents can happen, and a fall of three feet for a baby of that size could cause severe damage. Those few words from the nurse were stern and to the point. My job was to keep track of that boy. So I reached up over the shelf and took hold of the little guy.
With the diaper changed, the blankets back in place, and the hat back on (it had fallen off during the changing process), we sat peacefully a while longer. I told David Patrick about the cases I was involved in. We discussed politics, crops, the economic situation in the country, and the weather. At about 2 o'clock I told him I'd have to go because there was another busy day ahead. But I told him I'd be back, and he seemed to know that I would.
At the time David Patrick was born, I was building a law practice. Each day I would go to the office, deal with clients, draft motions and petitions, make court appearances, accomplish necessary travel either within the state of Maryland or throughout the country, deal with other lawyers, and conduct my everyday business. Each night (when I wasn't on the road) I would visit the hospital to see how David Patrick was doingnhe stayed for a month after he was born. Patricia and I were working full-time each daynshe as an administrator of programs for the blind and I as a lawyer. David Patrick stayed with the baby sitter during the day. When we brought him home in the evening, he was often hungry and sometimes sleepy.
During the night he slept just like a babynthat is, he woke up and cried every two hours. Sometimes he wanted to eat; sometimes he needed clean clothes; often he needed both food and clothes. Many nights he just wanted company. Occasionally, he would let me rock him in the rocking chairnwhere I could doze. However, there were times that he wanted to be walked. I never could find a way to sleep while walking the babynup and down, up and down. I did learn to sleep almost everywhere else. My colleagues came to know that, if we were riding in an elevator in a 20-story building, I would sometimes take a brief nap on the way up.
The doctors were afraid that David might be subject to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. This is a condition which causes the heart and lungs to stop functioning long enough that the baby dies. Consequently, David Patrick was required to wear a heart and respiratory monitor. The heart monitor had two major parts. There was a belt that wrapped around the baby's chest. On the belt were three small electrodes. Wires attached to these electrodes plugged into a box that had switches and displays on it. If David's pulse stopped or his breathing was interrupted, the monitor would beep. Patricia and I took a course to tell us what to do in case of an emergency. The first step was to take David Patrick and give him a good shake. The heart monitor would also sound if one of the electric leads to the monitoring belt came loose.
During the first month that our son was home, the device sounded several times, but these were all false alarms. It wasn't always a false alarm, however. One night the monitor woke us from a deep sleep. I jumped up and found that David Patrick was not breathing. I wondered if I could remember all the steps we had learned in the course to revive an infant. The first step was to shake the baby. I was ever so grateful that step number one worked. David Patrick received a thorough shaking. He complained about it, but he had to breathe to do it.
David Patrick was the first child, and Dianna Marie came three years later. Today they are both in school and doing fine. You would never know that both of them were premature. The children and I still talk about crops and politics and the weather, but there are other topics of conversationnhomework, Boy and Girl Scout activities, trumpet lessons, making fudge, and visits to Grandma. Even though both Patricia and I are blind, our children are not. Sometimes the subject of blindness is part of the conversation.
When I was six, I was enrolled at a boarding school for the blind which was many miles from our home. My parents took me there and left me to stay in the dormitory. I was homesick, but my father had told me that he would be back to bring me home the next weekend. When Friday came, he was there. During the next four years my father came every other Friday to pick me up and take me home. I knew I could count on him. I looked forward to his coming, and I planned for the long trip home. He might not be able to be with me as much as he would have liked, but he'd be there on Fridays.
Both of my parents were like that. Once my mother told me that no doctor could work on me unless we had talked about it and she had given her permission. At the school for the blind I got tonsillitis and was sent to the hospital. Officials at the school told me that an operation would be necessary. I knew that my mother had promised me that no one could work on me unless we'd talked about it and she had given her consent. I was told by the hospital officials on a Tuesday night that the operation would occur the next morning. Early on Wednesday my mother came to my bedside. She and my father had driven much of the night in order to come to the hospital. They told me that the operation was really necessary and that I would be all right. I felt much relievednespecially because my mother had done what she had told me she would.
The quality of being reliable is fundamental. I have tried to emulate my father and mother in this respect. When I have promised my children that a thing will happen, I have tried to make it come true. And when they have needed my support, I have tried to give it.
There is an oft-repeated saying, which is that nothing comes free. The folksy expression is, nThere ain't no such thing as a free lunch.n Each individual must pay for what he or she gets.
However, children demand much from their parents and others. They need to be nurtured, fed, clothed, walked through the wee hours of the night, bathed, entertained, directed, and taught. They take inordinate amounts of time, energy, concentration, and money. And they have nothing tangible with which to pay. However, there is one commodity which they possess in abundancenlove. Despite all the troubles and trials, children give at least as good as they get. They provide something which can be had in no other way. They add an irreplaceable element to the warmth and the caring of the home.
I take family life for granted today, but it wasn't always that way. Before I came to be a part of the National Federation of the Blind, I wondered very often whether there would be a future for me. Today I know that there is, and I work within the organization to help other blind people come to the same realization. We in the National Federation of the Blind are in many ways a family of our own. We have warmth and caring for each other, and we work to bring opportunities to blind people who have been afraid they might not have a future. One of the characteristics which is most notable about our organization is that, if a blind person is willing to work and needs our help, we do what we can to give it. The National Federation of the Blind is always willing to be supportive to blind people who are working hard to gain independence and a positive future.
by Lauren L. Eckery
From the Editor: Lauren Eckery is a frequent contributor to these pages. With her daughter Lynden she lives in Omaha, Nebraska. She is learning, as we all must, to reach beyond the irritation and embarrassment of others' tactless comments about us in order to learn to savor the richness of human experience. This is what she writes:
I was the only blind person attending a birthday party at a friend's house. Though I had been in the company of this friend, along with others, countless times in the past two years, I had not been to her house before, and I appreciated being given a tour. My favorite placethe area which attracted all of uswas the deck. This friend has a wonderful, spacious deck upon which we found beautiful, comfortable outdoor furniture. At one end I observed a wooden stairway going down into the yard. As I approached the stairs, this friend panicked, admonishing me to "Watch out!" Before I could utter a word, Barbara, another friend, spoke. She had also seen me approach the stairs, but she has spent much time with me and is very aware of the fearful behavior of those who do not or will not understand that it is all right for me to move around on my own.
Accurately observing the situation from her more enlightened perspective, she said, "Don't worry about it, that's what her cane is for." I assumed that was the end of the incident.
During the course of the meal and the frivolity, Barbara and several others remarked on how beautiful the bleeding heart flowers were. She said, "You and I can go down and look at them before we leave." I agreed that this would be a pleasant experience, and I looked forward to it.
I have often been the only blind person in a group of sighted people and have desired to marvel as much as they do at our natural surroundings. I have always known I could do so, albeit at times in a different way. However, quite often, due to fear and apparent lack of information, many of those attending such gatherings seem reluctant to allow me the opportunity to "see for myself." Through the years I have come to realize that, if I want to look at something in my own way, I would do well simply to do it, regardless of the possible consternation around me. I am not usually one to upset the apple cart, but when the apples would benefit from a good stirring up, I'm likely to do it. I do this because of my belief that the world is as much mine as anyone else's, and the beauty and grandeur of nature beckon me no less. I am a part of nature, and nature is a part of me. I also believe that, though we learn from other humans, our learning is not limited to this source. Nature teaches us as well. In fact, this broader teaching and bonding of hearts is exactly what occurred during this birthday party in May.
After the party had ended and most of the guests had departed, I remembered the bleeding hearts. Since Barbara was busy inside the house and since she and I both knew I was perfectly capable of looking at the flowers without waiting for her, I approached the stairs and began to descend. The owner of the house and another woman Ruth were observing me. The owner scolded Ruth: "Watch her; Don't let her go down there; it's weird out in the yard." Ruth ignored the admonition, commenting that she'd like to see the flowers too. She quietly followed me down the stairs. I attempted to reassure anyone listening that I was okay. As I finished my descent, what I found at the bottom of the stairs was some uneven terrain, certainly nothing particularly dangerous or weird. Ruth walked over to the flowers, and I met her there. We knelt down to examine themtheir dainty little hearts with strands of bloom dangling from them. How delicate and vulnerable they seemed. Yet they showed no sign of worry or fear as I touched their beauty, and their beauty touched me.
At that moment I felt such an awareness of the bleeding heartsthe human one above me on the deck, bleeding worry and fear, and the blossoms bleeding only beauty. I am deeply grateful for the power in me to take steps beyond such worry and fear and to perceive nature's beauty. I am also grateful for the two women, Barbara and Ruth, whose loving and respectful responses to the situation enhanced that beauty for us all. I am also grateful for the woman who invited me to the party at which this event occurredand just think of the opportunity she had to learn something new about blind people and to participate also in nature's beauty.
Could it be, after all, that these were not bleeding hearts, but bonding hearts?
by Carla McQuillan
From the Editor: Carla McQuillan is the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon. The following article first appeared in the Winter, 1994, edition of The Oregon Outlook. Here it is:
When our family moved from Illinois to Oregon, our daughter was seven years old and prepared to enter the second grade. Alison had attended a Montessori preschool and a very progressive self-paced kindergarten program that permitted her to advance rapidly through the curriculum. Her first-grade teacher recognized her learning potential and provided opportunities for Alison to assist other children in their work, as well as to pursue projects on her own. Alison flourished in this educational environment, and learning seemed easy and delightful.
When Alison entered the second grade here in Oregon, it was apparent that the other children were three or even four semesters behind her skill level. She was sent to a third-grade class for reading, where she was in the top reading group. She was given math assignments from a third grade mathematics text and worked on them as independent study within her classroom. At that time I was running a day care program out of my home and incorporated some challenging science and cultural activities for our after-school children to provide some extra stimuli for Alison.
When I met with Alison's second-grade teacher for our first conference, she reviewed all of Alison's academic and social skills, and then she approached her real concerns about Alison. "Don't you think it's difficult for Alison to have a mother who is blind?" No one had ever asked me a question like that, and I had to reflect for a moment before responding.
"Well," I began, "Alison learned to identify the route and direction of the buses in Illinois when she was three years old so that she could tell me the correct bus to wave down when we were traveling together. We practiced her reading or sang and talked on the bus when she was four so as not to waste valuable time together. At the time I was a full-time student and working thirty hours per week; bus rides were some of our best times together. At five she was reading directions on boxes of cake mixes and other food items, and we taught her how to compare prices at the grocery store about that time, too, I'd guess. Alison is well adjusted, both socially and academically, and she has a positive attitude about blindness. The possibility exists that my children have inherited my blindness, slim though the chance may be. But I believe that I have served as a good role model for her if she does lose her vision. Do I think that it has been difficult for her? Now that you mention it, I think that perhaps, if all children had blind parents, we'd be raising a more independent and self-sufficient generation of children." Alison's teacher didn't respond in any intelligible manner that I can recall, and we never discussed the issue again. Alison skipped the third grade and was soon one of the top students in her fourth-grade class. She is now in the sixth grade, taking eighth-grade level math and English classes. This fall she requested to take the Braille transcribers course through the National Library Service, figuring that it might present a bit of a challenge, not to mention providing the potential for income in her high school and college years. After some discussion with the good people at NLS, it was agreed that they would make an exception in her case and allow a ten-year-old to begin the course.
Every day for six weeks Alison checked the mailbox for her materials. Finally she received them. Our Brailler was acting up, so she had to write the first series of exercises with a slate and stylus. I told her it was good experience: "It'll build character," I told her. In three days she had completed her first set of exercises and mailed in her first assignment. She wants to be the youngest person ever to pass the transcriber's exam, and I know that she will do it. It's too bad that Alison has had to overcome the agony of being raised by a blind parent. Maybe someday she'll be able to make something of herself.
by John A. Wall, CBE
John Wall has been Chairman of RNIB since 1990 and Secretary General of the European Blind Union since 1992.
What is now the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) was founded in 1868. From small beginnings it has grown to be the largest provider of services for visually impaired people in the United Kingdom, with over 2,000 paid staff, forty establishments, and sixty separate services.
At its headquarters in Central London, RNIB is governed by an Executive Council and managed by a Director-General and five divisional directors. The past twenty years have seen major changes in both the governance and management of the agency. These have been achieved without any disruption to the standard of the services provided.
RNIB is incorporated by Royal Charter. This means that its Constitution is laid down by the Privy Council, a body of "the great and good" presided over by the Queen. In practice the Privy Council has laid down the objectives of the RNIB and how its Executive Council is constituted.
The Executive Council
Under the terms of the Royal Charter the Executive Council has supreme control of RNIB. Its membership is divided into groups. At present the groups are as follows:
(A) Regional and national bodies (ten people);
(B) Local government bodies (eight people);
(C) Agencies for the blind and bodies working closely with the blind (twenty-eight people);
(D) Organizations of blind people (forty-four people);
(E) National members (twenty-one people);
(F) Honorary officers and standing committee chairmen (six people).
The above constitute a total of 117 members. There are eight unallocated places, making a total of 125. It will be seen that organizations of blind people appoint forty-four members. Furthermore, the twenty-one national members in Group E are elected by the whole Executive Council. Accordingly, organizations of blind people have a substantial say in who shall be a national member.
Twenty years ago things were entirely different. Then Group D had only twelve members, Group E twenty-five, and the Group E members were appointed by the members of Group Ea self- perpetuating oligarchy.
Each service provided by RNIB is supervised by a subcommittee. Subcommittees consist of both Executive Council and co-opted members. Each sub-committee is responsible and reports to a standing committee. The three standing committees are:
(a) Technical Consumer Services, covering Braille production, Talking Books, equipment and games, research and development, and similar services;
(b) Education, Training, and Employment, whose responsibility is apparent from its name;
(c) Community Services, which covers residential accommodation, hotels, prevention of blindness, health services, and similar activities.
Committees meet in three cycles each year. Sub-committees meet in January and February, standing committees in March, and the Executive Council in April. The next cycle begins with subcommittees in May, and so on.
In addition to the standing committees, which supervise the various services provided by RNIB, there is a Policy and Resources Committee, in effect the inner cabinet of RNIB. This committee meets after the three standing committees, but before the Executive Council. International affairs are handled by an international committee.
"Of" or "for"
There is, of course, a well-known distinction between organizations for the blind which provide services, and organizations of the blind which are advocacy groups. There is a view that an advocacy group cannot, at the same time, be a service provider. This is not a view which we at RNIB accept. We believe that we can both provide services and campaign on behalf of blind people. Indeed, we have a Public Policy Office, the purpose of which is to further political campaigns on behalf of blind people. It works closely with organizations of the blind.
Our Royal Charter was recently amended so as to achieve the membership distribution between groups set out above. Until the recent amendment the details of the groups were set out in the By- laws appended to the Charter and could only be changed with the consent of the Privy Council. When the amendments went through, we were able to persuade the Privy Council to allow us to change the membership without reference to them. We have to obtain a three- quarters majority of members present at the Executive Council meeting carrying through the change, but we do not now have to go to the Privy Council before the change can be implemented.
Although Group D does not have a majority of members on the Executive Council, there are many blind members in other groups. Indeed, of the 117 people who are at present members of the Executive Council, seventy-three are blind. Moreover, two out of three Standing Committees have blind chairmen. The Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Executive Council are blind. We are taking steps to ensure that elderly, newly-blind people are properly represented on the Executive Council. We shall not be happy until we have true democracy, but we have made very substantial progress in the past twenty years.
Successful provision of services depends on effective management. In 1985 we drew up a corporate strategy which has been implemented. In 1988 we commissioned a survey of the needs of our service users. This was the first survey of its kind undertaken in the United Kingdom. The results were published in 1991. They form the basis on which we have constructed our new corporate strategy.
We have identified a number of priorities from now until the end of the century:
I. Challenging blindness, raising awareness, and tackling discrimination.
We intend to ensure that policy makers and the wider public have a better understanding of the disabling effects of sight loss and of the numbers (almost a million people) who are blind or partially sighted; encourage positive action to combat discrimination (Many problems, for example access to buildings or to written information, are so far-reaching that we must view them as long-term targets. But our current work has shown that change is possible); carry out further research into the needs of specific groups of people with seriously impaired sight, both to inform our own planning and to provide information for others; define visually impaired people's rights, as well as their needs, and attempt to safeguard themblind and partially sighted people want justice; raise awareness of our own crucial role in meeting the needs of blind and partially sighted people.
II. Extending our services to more blind and partially sighted people.
We intend to reach out to people who are not aware of RNIB services which might help them; develop new services to meet newly-defined needs. Our emphasis will be on setting up services which can help large numbers of people though we will continue to serve minority groups who need a great deal of support; expand and improve our information services. Information is the key to empowering people with disabilities; investigate the scope for a membership scheme of visually impaired people and others who support them, such as their families and professional service providers; measure and increase the impact of RNIB's indirect services such as training. We need to ensure this important work is effective in raising standards.
III. Increasing the priority we give to older blind and partially sighted people. We intend to extend our work on the prevention of blindnesssteady progress is being made on the early detection and treatment of eye conditions affecting older people. We have a role to play in supporting research and running campaigns; increase the use of RNIB services by older people by promoting our services more effectively; introduce new services for older people, especially those services able to reach a large number of people; campaign for improvements to public services for older people, such as community services, housing, and benefits; reduce some of the barriers they face. Many of these, such as small-print bills or poorly-labelled buildings, shops and services, affect everyone with poor sight. But older people are less likely to have sighted helpers at home than people in younger age groups.
IV. Improving the quality of services to users and supporters. We intend to make our services even more customer-friendly; introduce customer charters stating what standards of service people can expect; introduce easier ways for customers to make suggestions and complaints if necessary.
Increasingly, directives and other legislation from the European Union headquarters in Brussels are impinging on the daily life of the British people. RNIB is taking a lead in ensuring that blind people get their fair share of the action. Each of the three service divisions takes into account the European dimension of the work it is undertaking. We have appointed a European Campaigns Officer and a European Development Officer. We are heavily involved in a number of programs.
A personal view
I joined the RNIB Executive Council as a young man in 1962. I have seen great changes during the period of my membership. When I first became a member, the Executive Council was dominated by sighted people. Their intentions were no doubt admirable, but they did not know blindness from the inside. Today the situation is very different. Blind people dominate the decision-making. Executive Council and management work together to implement decisions taken by blind people, to campaign, and to act as an advocacy group. We can fairly say that RNIB is dynamic, forward-looking, democratically run, and efficiently managed.
From the Editor: For a number of years now members of the National Federation of the Blind have waged battles in state legislatures across the country to have strong Braille legislation voted into law. We have been successful in twenty-five states so far, and several others are close to enacting similar laws. Fundamentally these laws protect the right of blind youngsters to be taught Braille by teachers who have demonstrated their competence to read and write it accurately. It doesn't seem like much to ask in a country that aims at universal literacy for its citizenry. In fact, the sheer common sense of these laws undoubtedly explains why we have already achieved success in half the states, despite fierce opposition from many (but by no means all) special educators charged with carrying out this increased and improved Braille instruction.
We are discovering, however, that getting a Braille bill passed is only the first round in our battle to make Braille available to children who need it. Sometimes the educators band together in an attempt to water down the regulations that implement the new law. (See "The Struggle to Evade Duty: Wisconsin Teachers of the Blind Fight Against Braille" in the March, 1994, issue of the Braille Monitor.) Sometimes the strategy adopted is to pretend that the law will make no difference, that every child who could benefit from being taught Braille is already receiving instruction. In short, passage of a state's Braille bill is no signal for relaxation.
The following article, written by Donald Adderton, first appeared in the May 11, 1994, edition of the Savannah Evening Press. It includes a statement by a school system official suggesting that the new Georgia Braille law will make no difference to the county's blind students. Here is the story:
Blind Kids Are Focus of New Law
A new state law is aimed at ensuring that blind and visually impaired students attending Georgia's public and private schools will have an equal opportunity to learn.
When the Blind Persons' Literacy and Education Act becomes law July 1, the statute will mandate blind and visually impaired students be tested for Braille competence.
"A blind child was not being taught what a blind child needs to learn," said state Representative Anne Mueller, R-Savannah, who co-sponsored the measure with state Senator Roy L. Allen, R-Savannah.
Mueller appeared at a news conference earlier today at the Savannah Association for the Blind to highlight key aspects of the new state law.
"It is just as important for a blind child to learn Braille as for the sighted child to learn to read and write," Mueller said.
With the bill's passage Georgia became one of twenty-two states with a comprehensive law calling for safeguards for blind and visually impaired students.
"This bill will allow the visually impaired to reach their full potential," she said.
Over the past three years Mueller, Allen, and officials of the Chatham County chapter of the National Federation of the Blind worked vigorously for the bill's passage in the face of strong opposition from the state Education Department.
State education officials have said they opposed the bill because programs were already being used in classrooms to address the problems of the blind and visually impaired, Mueller said.
"When you have a bureaucracy, they want to run everything," Mueller said. "But the blind are very bright and intelligent people."
Meanwhile, locally, Savannah-Chatham County Schools officials said the act will have little impact on how the district instructs blind and visually impaired students.
"The law would not change anything for us," said Betty Ellington, administrative coordinator for special education. "We make arrangements for the visually impaired and provide them with whatever services they need."
Around the state more than 700 students are classified as being visually impaired. About thirty-four students in the Savannah-Chatham County Schools are classified as being visually impaired.
The Savannah-Chatham County Schools district currently has four teachers who are certified to instruct the visually impaired, Ellington said.
Nevertheless, advocates for the handicapped have maintained that public and private schools do not provide the same educational tools for the blind and visually impaired as for the sighted.
The blind persons act was needed to level the learning field, said McArthur Jarrett, legislative advocate for the Chatham County Federation.
"What the new law means is that the blind student in Georgia has the option of being taught Braille," Jarrett said. "You would be surprised how many visually impaired children in Georgia cannot read and write."
The Chatham County Federation represents about 120 blind and visually impaired people in the Savannah area.
"We felt it was very necessary to have this law on the books," Jarrett said. "It has been a struggle, but change is going to come."
That was the newspaper story, and members of the Chatham County Chapter of the NFB of Georgia were understandably pleased at the positive coverage. They were not pleased at all, however, with the tenor of Ms. Ellington's remarks about the Act's having no impact on the education of blind children in Chatham County. Implicit in her statement was the message that educators had determined what was best for the blind children, and increased Braille instruction wasn't part of the plan. Here is the letter to the editor that McArthur Jarrett, one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Georgia, wrote following publication of Donald Adderton's story:
June 2, 1994
First of all, we the officers and members of the National Federation of the Blind of Georgia, would like to take this opportunity to express our sincerest thanks and appreciation to staff reporter Mr. Donald D. Adderton for his excellent article which appeared in the May 11, 1994, edition of the Savannah Evening Press, regarding House Bill 492 (Blind Persons' Literacy Rights and Education Act). However, we are shocked and dismayed at the derisive statement made by Ms. Betty Ellington, administrative coordinator for special education for the Chatham County Public School system, when she said that the Act will have little impact on how the district instructs blind and visually impaired students. The law, Ms. Ellington says, "will not change anything for us."
The primary purpose of getting House Bill 492 enacted into state law is to enable all blind and visually impaired students enrolled in the Chatham County Public School system to get the opportunity to learn to read and write Braille with slate and stylus as well as with the Braille writer so that they are able to compete on equal terms with their sighted peers. If the Chatham County School system fails to comply with the new law, which will go into effect on Friday, July 1, 1994, we the officers and members of the National Federation of the Blind of Georgia will vigorously and immediately see to it that a monitoring mechanism is set in place to implement House Bill 492 fully by the next school term.
NFB of Georgia
"Vigilance is the price of freedom," and we must all be prepared to follow the example of McArthur Jarrett and the Chatham County Chapter of the NFB of Georgia in stepping forward whenever our hard-won victories are threatened.
The recipes this month come from members of the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska.
by Nancy Coffman
Nancy Coffman is the Vice President of the Lincoln Chapter.
1/4 cup sifted cake flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 egg white
1 tablespoon water
Method: Sift together flour, sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add oil and egg white. Stir until smooth. Add water and mix well. Make one cookie at a time by pouring one tablespoon of batter on a lightly greased skillet or griddle. Spread in a 3-1/2 circle. Cook over low heat about 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Turn with a wide spatula. Cook about 1 minute more. Working quickly, place cookie on a pot holder. Put paper strip printed with a fortune into the center and fold the cookie in half. Fold the cookie in half again over the edge of a bowl. Place the cookie in a muffin tin to cool. This recipe makes 8 cookies. Preparation tip: write fortunes predicting good health, prosperity, or happiness on small strips of paper to fold into middle of cookies as instructed above.
SWEDISH GINGER COOKIES
by Nancy Coffman
These are sturdy cookies for picnics, bake sales, and other times that you don't want to worry about breakage. They also taste wonderful. If you make them, plan on an empty cookie jar.
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup shortening or high calorie margarine
1/4 cup molasses
1 unbeaten egg
2 teaspoons soda
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional, I never add it)
Method: Cream sugar and shortening. Add molasses and egg. Mix well again. Add soda, spices, flour, and salt. Mix well. Form the dough into small balls and roll them in sugar (colored looks nice at Christmas time). Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. The cookies will flatten out as they bake.
by Nancy Coffman
Your family will think you spent all day making these when the recipe actually takes just a few minutes.
1/2 cup butter or margarine
6 tablespoons cocoa 1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts
Method: Place butter and cocoa in an 8-inch square microwave- safe dish. Microwave on high 1 to 1½ minutes until butter is melted. Stir in sugar thoroughly. (Adding the sugar first keeps the cocoa mixture smooth and workable.) Add remaining ingredients in the order given and mix well. Shield the top corners of the dish with foil triangles to keep corners from overcooking. During microwaving, brownies puff up and puddles appear on top. Microwave on high 5½ to 6 minutes. Turn brownies after 2, 4, and 5 minutes. Cook until top is no longer wet.
by Denise Roesler
Denise Roesler is a member of the Lincoln Chapter.
2 sticks butter
1/2 cup shortening
3 cups sugar
5 eggs, very well beaten
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon coconut flavoring
1 teaspoon rum flavoring
1 teaspoon butter flavoring
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Method: Cream butter, shortening, and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs which have been beaten until they are lemon- colored. Then combine flour and baking powder and add to creamed mixture, alternating with milk. Stir in flavorings. Spoon mixture into greased and floured bundt pan and bake at 325 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. Add glaze and cool in pan for 10 minutes. Then remove from pan.
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon each coconut, butter, lemon, rum, almond, and vanilla flavorings
Method: Combine in heavy sauce pan and bring to a boil. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Pour on half of the glaze while the cake is in the pan and the other half after it is removed.
by Della Johnston
Della Johnston is the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska.
3/4 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup margarine
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup water or milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 cups oatmeal
12 ounces chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanuts
Method: Blend together peanut butter, margarine, eggs, sugars, vanilla, and water or milk. Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder. Add oatmeal, chips, and peanuts. Mix together. Drop onto greased cookie sheet using a tablespoon. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.
** Introducing Audio-Forum:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Audio-Forum, a division of Jeffrey Norton Publishers, is a twenty-two-year-old publisher of audio-cassette-based self- instructional language courses in ninety-one languages. In addition to French, Spanish, German, and Italian, there are hard-to-find programs, like Ukrainian, Navajo, and Amharic.
The language courses, all voiced by native speakers, emphasize learning by listening and repeating material presented on the cassettes. In the language courses there are frequent references to an accompanying printed text for which you will need a reader. There are many other Audio-Forum educational programs, however, that do not have printed texts, and some make wonderful listening, such as:
From Audio-Forum's About Music Catalog:
"A History of Music of the Western World" is a twelve-cassette, easy-to-listen to, diverse program with commentaries by respected musical ,authorities, followed immediately by performances of the actual pieces. From Gregorian chant and medieval love songs to symphonies and rock. The price is $89.50 for twelve hours of listening and enjoyment.
From Audio-Forum's Literature Catalog:
Hear Robert Frost's captivating and humorous talk interspersed with readings from his poetry, given at Berkeley, California in 1956. Listen to hours of good literature with BBC programs recorded by famous performers and authors: E.M. Forster's A Passage to India; Herman Melville's Moby Dick; Henry James's Daisy Miller; and Jane Austen's Emma.
From Audio-Forum's Personal Development Catalog:
"Say It Right!" is a practical course which gets you started right away on making corrections to everyday grammar and usage mistakes you might not even be aware of, though others are. It's designed to give you the confidence you need for effective speaking. Other catalog subject areas include American history, science and technology, and special programs for children.
To obtain copies of Audio-Forum catalogs, please call toll-free (800) 243-1234; or send your request to Audio-Forum, 96 Broad Street, Guilford, Connecticut 06437. When placing your order, please state that you are a Braille Monitor subscriber, that you are blind or visually handicapped, and that you qualify for Audio-Forum's special twenty-five percent discount.
Editor's addendum: Audio-Forum provided us with several samples of the courses and instructional tapes available, and I am pleased to report that the quality of those I reviewed was excellentclear, concise, and lively.
** Braille Music Piano Course Available:
Sunny Shain Emerson, one of the leaders of the Parents Division of the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan, called the following announcement to our attention. It first appeared in the Summer, 1994, edition of the Michigan Transcribers' Trails, a publication of the Michigan Association of Transcribers for the Visually Impaired, Inc. Here it is:
It has been found that print music, composed for the sighted and transcribed into Braille, is impractical for beginning blind students because the learning approach is quite different. The two-volume Braille Music Piano Course Book I was designed to teach Braille music symbols (which are a different code from literary Braille) in a progressive pattern with direct application to piano performancethat is, in the same manner that sighted students learn to read print music as they learn to play. The print music, which appears opposite each Braille page, makes the material easier for the sighted teacher or parent to use with the blind student. It is hoped that this book will provide a useful and helpful start in the enjoyment of music for the Braille-reading younger child or adult who has had no musical background. For more information about the Braille Music Piano Course book and how to order it, write to CaraLynn Pender, HCR 4 Box 2746, Lewiston, Michigan 49756.
** In Memoriam:
Barbara Baak, President of the Southern Alameda County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of California, has written to announce the death of member Jeannine Rouiller, who was struck by a pickup truck in a crosswalk and dragged twenty-two feet, on Friday, September 23, her daughter's birthday. The truck's driver told authorities that he did not see Jeannine as he turned left out of a parking lot. Jeannine was crossing a busy street with the green light shortly before noon when she was killed.
A former computer operator for Hayward Cable Television, Jeannine was an active member of the NFB and a well-trained and experienced traveler. Even without the provisions of the California White Cane Law, she would have had the right-of-way. Tragic as her death was, it was, of course, no more heart-breaking than that of a sighted person would have been, but neither was it less. Increasingly in California and other states there seems to be a growing feeling that blind people don't belong on the streets. In this instance the policeman on the scene made a statement to the press that he felt extremely sorry for the driver, who had not meant to hit the woman.
Jeannine Rouiller's death is a tragic loss for all those who knew and loved her. The chapter has established the Jeannine Rouiller Memorial Fund with proceeds going to train future generations of blind Californians at the Lawrence Marcelino Center for the Blind, the NFB of California's new adult rehabilitation center. Proceeds from the memorial fund will be contributed toward the purchase of the training center's new building. Donations should be sent to the Jeannine Rouiller Memorial Fund, 15934 Hesperian Blvd., Box 101, San Lorenzo, California 94580. Donations in any amount will be gratefully received.
As we mourn Jeannine, we realize that there is nothing we can do to bring her back. Our chapter is working to increase public awareness about white cane laws and to try to save the lives of other pedestrians. The bottom line is that the driver will eat Christmas dinner with his family, and Jeannine Rouiller will not.
** Utah's Students on the Move:
The National Federation of the Blind of Utah is delighted to announce the reorganization of its students division, the Utah Association of Blind Students (UABS). A large group of people attended a back-to-school party sponsored by UABS on September 24, 1994. Members met Ollie Cantos, President of the National Association of Blind Students, and enjoyed goal ball, swimming, food, and dancing. The students also elected new officers and established goals for the upcoming year. Congratulations to the new officers of UABS: Nick Schmitroth, President; Anitra Webber, Vice President; Marne West, Secretary; Anna Wilkinson, Treasurer; and Dan Cameron and Sylvia Schultz, Board Members.
** For Sale:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
For sale, an Arkenstone Open Book special edition with 200 MG hard drive and Open Book Version 2.0 for $3,595. If interested respond by print, telephone, cassette, Braille, or 3.5" computer disk to Joe Renzi, Reading Technology, 9269 Mission Gorge Road, Suite 108, Santee, California 92071; or call (619) 685-7323, or (800) 320-7323.
** Braille Trading Cards:
The following brief article appeared in the Christian Science Monitor on September 6, 1994.
Braille Trading Cards Score With School Children
Sports trading cards are a very visual medium. So why are sight-impaired children so crazy about cards manufactured by Action Packed, a small company in Itasca, Illinois?
It's because Action Packed's specialty is embossing, which means that even their regular sports cards offer a tactile experience to collectors. Special Braille cards go further by allowing blind people to read the backs of the cards as well.
"You can feel the player on the front," says Laurie Goldberg, Action Packed's director of public relations. "There's the football. The quarterback's throwing it. Kids think it's cool."
Braille cards are mixed in among the regular football and auto-racing sets Action Packed sells, but 40,000 to 50,000 Braille cards are also set aside each year for free distribution to 400 schools teaching the blind in the United States and Canada. "This is our way to give a little back," Goldberg says. "We send automatically to anyone who has blind family members or friends, no questions asked."
The Braille cards are not sold as a distinct product in their own packs, she adds, "because collectors might just snap them up."
Since the cards were introduced four years ago, Action Packed has learned that blind children want more information on the backs. The company is providing it this year by using Grade II, instead of Grade I, Braille. The embossing is done right over the regular card backs.
Some people have expressed disappointment that the company offers no Braille baseball cards, but licensing agreements prevent their manufacture. Goldberg says there is some possibility that Major League Baseball will give Action Packed a license just for Braille cards, but she says that the company couldn't afford to print just these specialty giveaway cards.
Action Packed began with a very limited number of Braille football cards. Demand has led to offering many more players and adding race car drivers.
Some sports figures have made appearances at schools for the blind. None was a bigger hit, Goldberg says, than stock car driver Richard Petty, who showed up last year at the Governor Morehead School in Raleigh, North Carolina, with his race car. "Every inch of that car had fingerprints on it by the time he left," she recalls.
** For Sale:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
For sale, a black and white 19-inch magnifying TV with both negative and positive images and camera separate from monitor. A typewriter can be added. The system is in excellent working condition, and the price is only $650. If interested, contact Amir Rahimi 425 South Oak Street, #208, Arlington, Texas 76010; or call (817) 460-5005.
** Braille Math, Engineering, and Science Texts Needed:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
John J. Boyer would like to receive donations of college-level Braille books which are no longer needed on mathematics, engineering, and science. Please send only Braille or computer disks. Mr. Boyer may read some of these books, and he will eventually distribute them overseas. He is attempting to start a technical Braille service. Send Braille book donations to 825 East Johnson Street, Madison, Wisconsin 53703; or call (608) 257-5917.
** For Sale:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
For sale, Braille 'n Speak 640, including manual in Braille and tape, adaptor and cable. Asking $1,200. Also for sale is a Perkins Brailler which needs cleaning, asking $275. If interested call Kyle E. McHugh at (617) 437-9238.
** New Statistics Support Separate Agencies for the Blind:
The following report is reprinted from the Summer, 1994, issue of the White Cane Update, the publication of the Iowa Department for the Blind.
Recently issued rehabilitation statistics tend to give some ammunition to those who favor separate agencies [for the blind]. The statistics for federal fiscal year 1993 came from Mark Shoob, Associate Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), when he spoke to the May meeting of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind. In two of the six areas covered by Shoob the combined agencies would appear to have the edge. The combined agencies rehabilitated 76.4 percent of the clients they served, compared with 72 percent by the separate agencies; also the rehabilitation costs per case averaged $3,157 among combined agencies, about $900 less than in the separate agencies.
But there is a mitigating factor which applies to both sets of statistics. That factor is the tendency of most combined agencies to have a higher proportion of visually impaired persons among their clientele, i.e., persons whose visual acuity is greater than legal blindness. (In its rehabilitation statistics the RSA places blind and visually impaired persons in the same category.)
The presence of more visually impaired persons on the agency caseloads would raise the overall rehabilitation rates among combined agencies sinceeverything else being equaljob placement rates are higher among visually impaired persons than among blind persons. (And, unfortunately, that will continue until the general public stops equating capabilities with visual acuity.) As far as rehabilitation costs per case are concerned, the averages would tend to be lower when there is a larger proportion of visually impaired persons among the agency's clientele. There is usually a lesser need for rehabilitation technology and other adaptive equipment, adjustment training, reader services, etc., in this segment of the client population. But statistical comparisons in the remaining four areas tend to favor the separate agencies. They show that the proportion of blind persons rehabilitated into competitive employment is higher among clients of separate agencies than among those served by combined agencies. This is also true of the proportions that go into full-time employment, as opposed to part-time work. In addition, the statistics indicate that clients served by separate agencies are more apt to go into paid employment and less likely to become homemakers when compared with clients of combined agencies. Finally, the average increase in earnings resulting from rehabilitation services is greater among clients of separate agencies than the average increases among clients of combined agencies.
** New Book Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Eyes Front is a dramatic novel about a blind youth, which contains an inspirational theme of courage, loyalty, and love of fellow man. The major character is a talented pianist, proficient student, and able debater. However, his long-time goal is to be a self-sufficient competitor on the high school track team.
Eyes Front is a gripping novel which the entire family can enjoy. The author is Jack Wilkinson, who has come to know members of the National Federation of the Blind of Maine. The book normally retails for $9.95, but for all NFB members the price is $7.95, including postage and handling. Make checks or money orders payable to Maine Heritage Books, and send to Maine Heritage Books, P.O. Box 1462, Scarborough, Maine 04074. For every book order received from NFB members as a result of this notice, $1 and the name of the person ordering will be sent to the National Federation of the Blind.
The following brief memo was sent on August 11, 1994.
TO: All Michigan Commission for the Blind Staff
FROM: Philip E. Peterson, Executive Director, Michigan Commission for the Blind
RE: New Business Enterprise Program (BEP) Manager:
I am pleased to announce the selection and promotion of Mr. Fred Wurtzel to the position of BEP program manager. Mr. Wurtzel formerly served as assistant program manager under Mr. James Obranovic. Please join me in welcoming Mr. Wurtzel to his new position. Thank you.
Members of the National Federation of the Blind join in congratulating long-time NFB of Michigan leader Fred Wurtzel on this appointment.
** Specialized Tape-Lending Service Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The Wilson Tape Lending Library Service has music and monthly ministry tapes on thirty-day free loan. Please contact Bishop G.L. Wilson, Jr., 4928 White Boulevard, Mableton, Georgia 30059. Please request this service by audio tape or large print; no Braille please.
** An Open Book, Premium Edition, Available at Special Price:
We recently received the following press release:
Arkenstone, Inc., the nonprofit provider of reading systems to people with disabilities, today announced the availability of An Open Book, Premium Edition, a complete reading machine based on Intel's Pentium microprocessor. This state-of-the-art reading machine is available due to Intel's donation of Pentium chips valued at more than $1 million.
The Pentium chips are being incorporated into two new systems: An Open Book, Premium Edition, a complete reading machine; and the ArkenClone, Pentium Model, a personal computer that, when combined with Arkenstone's Open Book Unbound software, a scanner, speech synthesizer, and screen access program, becomes a fully-functioning talking PC.
An Open Book, Premium Edition, the complete reading machine, will be priced at $5,495. The ArkenClone, Pentium Model, is priced at $1,695. These prices represent a twenty percent savings to customers. The products began being shipped at the end of September. Due to the nature of the donation and Arkenstone's non- profit charter, these systems are available only to individuals with disabilities or institutions directly serving them.
Arkenstone, Inc., is located at 1390 Borregas Ave., Sunnyvale, California 94089; Phone: (800) 444-4443, (408) 752-2200; Fax: (408) 745-6739; TDD (800) 833-2753.
** 1994 World Series Baseball Update is here:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The 1994 Update (Version 9) of the award-winning World Series Baseball Game and Information System will be mailed starting in November. Our beta testers tell us that the game again has been significantly improved and all the other programs have been updated. To get the update, send $5 to Harry Hollingsworth. If you have an IBM-compatible computer and do not have the game, join blind baseball fans in forty-seven states and four foreign countries by sending $15 to Harry Hollingsworth, 692 S. Sheraton Drive, Akron, Ohio 44319; or call (216) 644-2421.
** Family Finds Way to Support Federation:
At the time of Paul Fite's death in March of 1994, his family requested that memorial gifts be made to the National Federation of the Blind. By September 1, Mary Ellen Halverson (Mr. Fite's daughter) reported that more than $1,100 had been contributed to the Federation in her father's memory. The Fites have been loyal supporters of the NFB since the 1960's when Mary Ellen was in college and her always poor vision worsened. Mr. Fite was especially grateful to Dr. Jernigan for the training Mary Ellen received at the Orientation and Adjustment Center in Iowa. Monitor readers will recall that for twenty years Dr. Jernigan directed the best training center in the nation for blind adults. It became the prototype for our Federation centers today. While in college, Mary Ellen joined the Student Division of the NFB, and her parents have been longtime members-at-large in our Associates program.
** Touching Words, a Design Concept:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Rhonda Kraft is a designer who has created cards and notes incorporating both print and Braille in the designs of her products. DesignKraft offers all types of announcements, invitations, and meaningful greeting cards to sighted and blind readers. We also accept custom orders including holiday cards and corporate thank-you notes. We have begun filling orders for holiday and Christmas cards, adding two new verses for 1994. Stocked inventory includes our First Edition, eight all-occasion verses which focus on thought-provoking messages. Our Second Edition is a series of note cards which offers a printed and Brailled message on the outside. The blank interior allows you to add your own thoughts either handwritten or Brailled. Ten cards sell in a set for $15.00. Custom orders are quoted on an individual basis.
DesignKraft uses only recycled papers for our cards and envelopes. We are happy to donate a portion of the proceeds from the sale of these cards to Visual Aid Volunteers in Garland, Texas, a non-profit organization specializing in the transcription of textbooks for visually impaired school children.
DesignKraft is located at 4822 Chilton Drive, Dallas, Texas 75227-2918; phone (214) 2494201.
** Something to Think About:
We recently received the following letter from a Monitor reader. She is an ordinary person with what some may say is an extraordinary point of view. Be that as it may, those who would downplay the usefulness of Braille and the ability of blind adults to learn it might benefit from reflecting on the words of this Monitor reader.
August 26, 1994
Dear Monitor Editor:
I have been following the nationwide discussion on Braille, and the more I read about it, the more puzzling it becomes. Is it possible that American blind people do not want to read and write?
I was not born in the United States and did not even speak English when I came here. Shortly after entering the country, I became blind. In order to learn the language, it was necessary to learn English Braille, and so I did and did not think much about it. Should I consider myself something extraordinary because of this achievement? Hardly. Later I wanted to speak German, so I learned German Braille; I wanted to refresh my knowledge of Russian, so I learned Russian Braille; I wanted to communicate with friends in my native country, so I learned Czech Braille and thought nothing of that either. Should I be admired for my efforts? Not likely. My knowledge of German and Russian is still meager, but I do know the Braille.
I am an ordinary person who will never accomplish anything great, who is not very ambitious, who knows a thing or two about word processing and computer operations, and not much more. But ordinary does not mean ignorant or illiterate. Not being able to read and write is simply unthinkable. I admire people who can handle Braille easily and quickly because my own Braille is fluent, but rather slow. Nevertheless, I cannot imagine living without this skill. At the same time I do look down on people who think literacy is not worth bothering with, who believe that the art of letters is no longer needed in this wonderful age of electronics, who think that what does not come from television is not worth knowing, and who believe that the only acceptable means of communication is the telephone. Why any already handicapped person would want to limit himself further is beyond me. Throughout history people have fought, suffered, and died for the right to read and write. Now many of the highly civilized, sophisticated, and superior American blind throw it away. What a shame!
Thank you for reading my outburst. It will not make anybody grab a book and learn Braille, but it makes me feel a little better, which is always welcomed. I also apologize for my quite inadequate English.