38, No. 1
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
38, No. 1
REFLECTIONS AND COMMENTS ON THE WORLD BLIND UNION by Kenneth Jernigan
WORLD BLIND UNION OFFICERS MEET IN JORDAN by Kenneth Jernigan
FROM THE TRICYCLE TO THE COOKIE JAR by Barbara Pierce
MAKING SENSE OF A SIMULATION EXERCISE by Anna Cheadle
A WIFE SPEAKS OUT ABOUT BLINDNESS by David and Theresa House
ANOTHER WIFE SAYS WHAT'S ON HER MIND by Carol Lemieux
THE OTHER HALF OF THE EQUATION: PC-BASED READING SYSTEMS A COMPARATIVE REVIEW by David Andrews
BLINDNESS: A PERSPECTIVE FROM CHINA by C. Edwin Vaughan, Ph.D.
EXPLORE YOUR LOCAL PUBLIC LIBRARY by Priscilla Hudson
A DIFFERENT VIEW OF THE GRAND CANYON by Deborah Hartz
NO CANE, NO DOG! by Bill J. Isaacs
MY NFB CONVENTION EXPERIENCE by Jaclyn L. Kusters
CHICAGO NOTEBOOK by Stephen O. Benson
SOCIAL SECURITY, SSI, AND MEDICARE FACTS FOR 1995 by James Gashel
Copyright 1995 National Federation of
[LEAD PHOTOS/CAPTION: The National Federation of the Blind has its headquarters in Baltimore at the National Center for the Blind. The building not only serves as a focus of organizational activity but also as a symbol of the long struggle of the blind to achieve full citizenship and first-class status in society. What once was a factory building is now a thoroughly beautiful and modern facility. Here is the front entrance of the National Center for the Blind.]
[Photo: Dr. Jernigan stands at a podium. Caption: Kenneth Jernigan]
AND COMMENTS ON THE WORLD BLIND UNION
by Kenneth Jernigan
At the end of the second World War America,
England, and the countries comprising the British commonwealth were riding high.
There seemed to be a feeling that a new day of progress and prosperity was dawning
and that the English-speaking countries of the world were destined to lead the
way in achieving it (and also, by and large, in paying for it). In this universal
spirit of hope and brotherhood (no, not sisterhood--we hadn't got to that point
yet) all were to receive assistance. There were Marshall Plans, foreign aid,
and the United Nations.
Nobody was to be forgotten--and, of course, that included the blind. So in 1949 the World Council on the Welfare of the Blind was established. It met in Rome; elected Colonel Baker (the head of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind) as its president; and planned to meet again in five years, leaving interim matters to its officers and executive committee. The organization (generally called the WCWB) claimed to represent not only the governmental and private agencies but also the blind. And, indeed, there were organizations of the blind in its membership, including the National Federation of the Blind.
The problem was that many of the European organizations were hybrids. They called themselves organizations of the blind, and their claim had legitimacy. They had blind members; they had elections; and mostly they had blind officers. But they were also agencies, in that they provided rehabilitation and other services to the blind--very often the only such services in their countries. Moreover, their principal financing usually came from government, and their leaders were paid as service providers. This is not the place to discuss whether that was a better or worse model than we were using but simply to note that it was different. There were obvious advantages to the hybrid model--a steady source of income, paid leadership with time to develop programs, and a rather persuasive method of recruitment. In fact, when I was in Denmark four or five years ago, I asked how many members that country's organization of the blind had. I was given an answer. I then asked what the total blind population of the country was, and again I was given an answer. The two numbers were virtually the same.
On the other hand, there were disadvantages. If a blind person is dissatisfied with the behavior or services he or she receives, how can an effective appeal be made? The entire atmosphere of the operation will discourage appeals, as well as the very notion of adverse interests or freedom of choice.
Whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantages is a question that can be argued, but one thing is indisputable. When a group of representatives from different countries gather to talk about methods and procedures, communication is made difficult by the different kinds of organizations that call themselves organizations of the blind. Sometimes the subject can be touchy. I remember, for instance, a meeting in London a few years ago at which I said that in the United States an organization of the blind would not be defined in the same way as it would in some European countries, and I received an angry response from one of my esteemed European colleagues--which, of course, changed nothing since the facts are still the facts.
But back to the World Council on the Welfare of the Blind (the WCWB). In its early years it was largely run by the American Foundation for the Blind, the CNIB, and the British. It was characterized by quinquennial conventions, agency control, and professional articles and papers. It wielded relatively little influence in the blindness field in the United States--taking a backseat, for instance, to the American Foundation for Overseas Blind, which later split away to become Helen Keller International.
During the 1950's and 60's the participation of the National Federation of the Blind in WCWB activities was constant but mostly perfunctory. By the mid-1960's we felt that a worldwide organization of the blind should be established--not just an organization composed of and led by the blind but also an organization undiluted in its purpose of representing the blind. We were not seeking to build a force that would be hostile to the agencies but the establishment of a world organization that would avoid combining the functions of both service provider and service receiver--an organization that would serve as a balance to the agency-controlled WCWB. As I have often said, the organized blind of the United States do not wish actually to administer the agencies. If we did, another organization would have to be formed to serve as a watchdog on us and to represent the interest of consumers in dealing with us.
Much of the spadework in creating the
new international organization was done by Dr. Isabel Grant, who traveled throughout
the world to promote the establishment of independent organizations of the blind.
At the 1964 convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Phoenix, Arizona,
the preliminaries were commenced, and later that summer in New York the International
Federation of the Blind (the IFB) was brought into being. Dr. tenBroek became
its first president, and I drafted its constitution.
From the beginning it was touch and go with the IFB, for many of its members were also members of the WCWB. More important, their primary identification was with the agencies and service providers. Of course, the NFB was also a member of the WCWB, but its distinction from the agencies was more pronounced than that of organizations of the blind in many other countries-- particularly some of those in Europe.
Let me not be misunderstood. A number of the organizations of the blind in Europe (particularly, those in England) did not perform agency functions. They were, by the most rigorous definition, organizations of the blind, representing the blind. But the English organizations were weakened by being specialized--one serving as a labor union and another as the rallying point for blind people in the professions.
Despite its problems, the International Federation of the Blind (IFB) had a promising beginning. New organizations of the blind began to emerge throughout the world, and a convention was planned for 1969 in Sri Lanka (at that time Ceylon). But in 1968 Dr. tenBroek, who had been not only the president of the IFB but its driving force, died. Almost immediately the IFB went into a sharp decline.
With Dr. tenBroek's death I became president of the National Federation of the Blind, and my time for the next few years was spent in building and expanding the NFB. Technically I served as the NFB's delegate to both the WCWB and the IFB, but any real participation on my part was virtually nonexistent. So was any meaningful influence by either the IFB or WCWB on matters dealing with the blind in this country. There were no regular meetings of U.S. delegates, no exciting proposals or initiatives, and no tangible programs or results.
Meanwhile, the IFB increasingly moved into the WCWB's orbit. First there were suggestions and then a growing pressure to merge the two organizations. What was contemplated was not a true combining of equals but a takeover of the weakened IFB by the WCWB. This move was resisted by some of the independent organizations of the blind, especially some in Asia and Africa. It was also resisted by us, but our resistance was at the token level, lacking priority or a sense of urgency. Through the decade of the 1970's we were chided by a number of blind leaders throughout the world for not taking leadership and rallying the forces of the International Federation of the Blind to bring to fruition the work we had started a decade earlier. Whether we should have adjusted our priorities and given emphasis to international affairs is probably not worth debating in the present circumstances. The fact is that we didn't.
By the early 1980's it was clear that the IFB would be absorbed by the WCWB and that our choices were to accept the situation or form a new international organization of the blind with safeguards to prevent subversion. In 1984 a joint meeting of IFB and WCWB was held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for the purpose of merging the two organizations. As a symbolic statement for the record, the National Federation of the Blind withdrew from the International Federation of the Blind prior to the Riyadh
meeting, but we retained our participation in the merged organization by continuing to be members of the WCWB. It seemed to be an honest recognition of the actuality of the situation.
We did something else, which in retrospect was probably a mistake. We declined to go to the Riyadh meeting, which combined the IFB and the WCWB to create the World Blind Union (the WBU). The American Foundation for the Blind also boycotted the meeting. In the vacuum, the representative of the American Council of the Blind, Grant Mack, was elected president of the newly established North American region (later the North America/Caribbean Region) of the World Blind Union. The Mack presidency was an interim matter that lasted for a few weeks until permanent elections could be held.
That was the situation in the fall of 1984 when the six delegates from the United States and the four from Canada met in a hotel in Washington to conduct the first regional meeting of the WBU on this continent. The newly written WBU constitution emphasized geographic regions, and North America was one of seven--the other six being Africa, Asia, East Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East.
At the Washington meeting Bill Gallagher, who at that time was head of the American Foundation for the Blind, was elected regional president. Incidently and for the record, I nominated him. I did it despite the fact that the American Foundation for the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind had traditionally disagreed, sometimes rather stridently. Relations between the two organizations had begun to thaw in the early '80's, a process which was in its early stages in 1984 but which would continue through the rest of the decade and beyond. Bill Gallagher played a major part in the improving cooperation, and it seemed fair to me to recognize the fact. That was one, but only one, of my reasons for nominating him.
It was at that Washington meeting in 1984 that I first met Dr. Euclid Herie and that our cooperative relations with the Canadians began. It was also at that meeting that the basic outlines of our regional WBU structure and procedures were established.
In 1986 the World Blind Union executive committee met in New York, and a number of Federationists (including Marc Maurer, who had just been elected president of the NFB) attended. It was the first time that I really got to know Sheikh Abdullah Al-Ghanim of Saudi Arabia, who served as WBU president from 1984 to 1988. The Sheikh wears well, and my respect for his competence and integrity has steadily increased as the years have passed.
In 1987 Bill Gallagher resigned as regional president, and I was elected to finish his term. I was reelected in 1988 and again in 1992. Sometime during the '80's the English-speaking countries of the Caribbean joined our region. Thus, we had (and still have) twelve WBU delegates--six from the United States, four from Canada, and two from the Caribbean.
The regional structure of the World Blind Union has served as a principal vehicle for the growing harmony in the blindness field in our country--a process which began in the '80's and is today a dominant theme. As to the situation with respect to the World Blind Union at large, the circumstances are totally different. The allocation of WBU delegates and the overall functioning of the organization are not in accord with reality. Therefore, it is not surprising that some of the results have been what they have been and that strains exist. Europe, for instance, has more than ten times as many delegates as our entire region. Yet, it would be hard to make a rational argument that Europe (with all due respect to its admitted greatness and traditions of excellence) is ten times stronger, wiser, or more virtuous than we are. Certainly it does not have ten times our population, and while we are on the subject of population, Europe has more delegates than Asia.
The allocation of delegates is not the only problem. The functioning of the organization is such that it is virtually impossible to bring about change by amending the constitution. Officers' meetings often seem hampered by personalities, procedures, and questionable issues (see the following article in this issue of the Braille Monitor).
Even more serious, perhaps, is the seeming tendency of some of the leaders to flirt with what has been called the cross-disability or pan-disability movement--the notion that all disability groups should come together in a common effort to approach problems. Through a resolution initiated by our region,
the 1988 World Blind Union assembly in Madrid voted unanimously that we should not merge with other disability groups but should clearly keep our separate identity and concentrate on problems faced by the blind. Despite this fact and the fact that all of the WBU leaders insist that they support this policy, the trend of the organization seems otherwise.
A good example is the WBU's dealings with the United Nations. The WBU does not insist on separate negotiations with the UN but combines with other disability groups. It does this on the grounds that the UN won't have it any other way. Yet, this pressure to merge (this insistence that we pretend that all disability groups have common interests and common problems) is no different from the pressure the NFB constantly faces from Congress, state legislatures, and the general public. But we don't surrender to it, and our resistance is successful. It is more than that. It is one of the principal sources of our strength. I think the WBU could do likewise if it were determined and if it were convinced of the justice of its cause.
Another prime example is the case of the International Disability Foundation (IDF), which I discussed at length in the April, 1994, Braille Monitor. Through the leadership of Arne Husveg, President of the European Blind Union, the WBU officers and executive committee have decided to take office space in the proposed International Disability Center that the International Disability Foundation intends to establish in the Netherlands at The Hague. If the WBU takes office space with other disability groups in the so-called International Disability Center and shares staff with them, I don't see how the organization can be perceived as maintaining a meaningful separate identity. Moreover, I don't see how the WBU can reasonably object to fund raising in the name of the blind by the IDF. Explanations or
anger won't change the reality of what is occurring. In fact, I question the legality of the decision to participate in the IDF in view of the Madrid resolution on maintaining separate identity.
With regard to IDF fund raising in Canada and the United States, the organizations of and for the blind in our region are solidly united. In that connection, the following letter to David Blyth, president of the World Blind Union, is self-explanatory:
November 22, 1994
As you will see from the enclosed minutes, the North America/Caribbean region met on November 4, 1994. Among other things, we discussed the International Disability Foundation and its fund-raising activities. As regional president, I was instructed to write this letter to you and to state in the strongest possible terms our determination not to have the IDF or any other group raise funds either directly or indirectly in the name of the blind in the United States and/or Canada without our prior consent. We feel that the IDF's own literature makes it clear that IDF is raising funds in this region on a continuing basis and that action must be taken to put a stop to it.
Perhaps the determination and concern of the region can best be shown by calling your attention to the following portion of the minutes of our recent regional meeting. Item IV says in part:
A discussion was held concerning the International Disability Foundation (IDF) and the fund raising it is doing. Mr. Sanders said that perhaps we should write a letter to the World Blind Union president, reviewing the Melbourne discussion concerning IDF and the fact that it is WBU policy that funds may not be raised in a country without the consent of that country's delegation. Dr. Jernigan asked whether the delegates wanted him to send a letter to President Blyth concerning the matter. It was moved by Mr. Sanders and seconded by Mr. Cylke that such a letter be sent. The motion carried.
Dr. Herie said that the WBU president, like all of the rest of us, is bound by the policy adopted in Madrid in 1988 and that if IDF should come to Canada with cross-disability fund raising, CNIB would publicly and vigorously oppose it. Dr. Herie said that mega fund-raising campaigns serve no useful purpose. The United States delegates strongly agreed and were unanimous in feeling that if IDF is raising funds in the United States, there must be determined and concerted public opposition. Dr. Spungin said that she did not want our letter to be too weak. Mr. Sanders said that we should remind the WBU president of the policy concerning fund raising and request that an official letter be sent to the International Disability Foundation saying that the North America/Caribbean region has not approved IDF fund raising in our countries and that such fund raising must cease immediately if it is now in progress and must not be undertaken without our written consent. There was unanimous approval of this course of action, and Dr. Jernigan said that he would write such a letter, first reviewing its exact wording with other regional delegates so that there could be no mistake that it represented the determined and concerted opinion of all of us.
Dr. Jernigan outlined the letter as
he proposed to write it: We feel that fund raising is occurring, and we ask
the WBU president to write a clarifying letter that it should not go forward.
Dr. Herie: Add that if it goes forward,
our region will take steps to let the public and government know that we do
not sanction it.
Mr. Sanders: And we will circulate our
Mr. Magarrell: Make it clear that it
is a total regional position.
Mrs. Braak: Also reiterate this issue
involves the cross disability policy adopted by the 1988 General Assembly.
Mrs. McCarthy moved and Dr. Spungin seconded that our letter be to this effect. The motion carried unanimously. Dr. Jernigan appointed Mrs. McCarthy, Dr. Spungin, and Dr. Herie to work with him on the wording of the letter to the World Blind Union president.
This is what our minutes say, and I think the unanimity and intent are clear. As to our evidence of IDF's fund-raising activity, I was surprised at the recent Amman meeting that there was even any question about it. The IDF's own summer, 1994, publication lays it out in plain language. Here is what it says:
SHARING KING OLAV'S CAR
[Photo: The restored Cadillac limousine of King Olav V will be on permanent display in the Norwegian-American museum at Vesterheim in Iowa.]
Companies on both sides of the Atlantic are contributing to the joint IDF project to place King Olav's 1951 state car in the Norwegian-American museum in the USA. The car was donated by King Harald, and all proceeds will go to the Foundation's work. "It will be a permanent tribute to a great monarch and humanitarian," said Hans Hoegh. Norwegian companies have already made contributions, ... plus a number of donations from private individuals. Interest now moves to the USA where full page adverts have been gifted by The Norway Times and The Western Viking.
This is what the IDF's publication says, and if "interest now moves to the U.S.A.," if there have been a "number of donations from private individuals," and if "all proceeds will go to the Foundation's work," it is hard to see how this can be called anything else except fund raising. Of course, there is all manner of other evidence: talk of art sales, individual contacts, and much more. Yet, when I raised the question in Amman, it was simply brushed aside as if the person responding didn't know what I was talking about.
David, we want to work cooperatively with you and do what we can to help promote the objectives of the World Blind Union. We are not seeking confrontation. We want to do our part in helping fund the activities of the organization. At the same time, we think it is reasonable to insist that the policies adopted by the WBU General Assembly be strictly and scrupulously followed. We are asking you to send to the IDF and anybody else who is concerned a straightforward, unequivocal letter setting forth the policy about fund raising and saying that the policy will be enforced. We would like a copy of that letter so that the organizations in our region may be reassured.
If this can not be done, quickly and clearly, then the organizations in our region will feel that they have no choice except to take immediate, widespread, and determined public action.
Kenneth Jernigan, President
North America/Caribbean Region
World Blind Union
Under date of December 1, 1994, I received
a letter from Pedro Zurita, Secretary General of the World Blind Union, enclosing
information calculated to show that the IDF is not raising funds in the United
States. Canada was not mentioned. The letters were from Mr. Hans Hoegh, Secretary
General of the
International Disability Foundation, and from someone named Rio D. Praaning, whose title is not given but who is described as speaking for the Building Foundation for the International Disability Centre in The Hague. It will be seen from the dates that the letters sent me by Mr. Zurita could not be in response to my November 22 letter to David Blyth. Rather, they are attempts to answer questions I raised about the IDF at the WBU officers meeting in Amman, Jordan, September 26-28, 1994. According to my reading, the letters do not satisfy the concern but confirm it. Here they are to speak for themselves:
24 November 1994
To: Mr. Pedro Zurita
Secretary General World Blind Union
Re: Your Letter dated 14 November 1994
Subject: IDF Fund-raising in the USA
His Majesty, King Harald donated his father's Cadillac from 1951 to the IDF. We sold shares in this car to Norwegian Americans.
American Friends of IDF: no fund-raising
Building Foundation of The Hague: On our request Rio Praaning has sent you a report on the fund-raising activities of the Building Foundation in the United States.
The International Disability Foundation
22 November, 1994
Dear Mr. Zurita,
Through Mr. Hans Hoegh I received your request for information concerning the fundraising for the construction of the International Disability Centre through the Building Foundation.
Please be informed that we have focused our activities on the Middle East and Asia. However, some interested multinational companies in the U.S. may provide a variety of forms of assistance to the centre, particularly due to their interest in Europe.
After the first donation of His Majesty the Sultan of the Sultanate of Oman - the sum of USD 300,000, will be transferred to our account this week - we have been informed that the Gulf Cooperation Council is considering a major donation to the Centre. Contacts in Hong Kong and Japan have indicated similar positive positions. We expect final and formal decisions in December 1994/January 1995.
I trust this will satisfy your request, but I should be happy to provide you with further information at your request.
Rio D. Praaning
These are the letters, and I don't see
how they can be interpreted to mean anything else but fund raising. If Norwegian
Americans are, as it is put, sold shares in a car for charitable purposes, does
their descent from Norwegian stock make them less American, or the solicitation
less a solicitation? Does the fact that, as it is said, certain "interested
multinational companies in the United States may provide a variety of forms
of assistance to the Centre, particularly due to their interest in Europe,"
make that assistance not be a fund raising activity? I wonder whether the Norwegian
Americans will claim their purchases of shares in the car as deductions on their
federal income tax. I wonder whether the multinational companies will do the
same with respect to their "assistance" to the IDF. And I also wonder
whether the authorities that regulate charitable activities in the various states
will want registration of these transactions as charitable solicitations.
With all of these problems, the WBU
is still the only organization today which has worldwide membership and claims
to speak for the blindness field. Our choices are simple. We can form a new
international organization of the blind with appropriate safeguards to prevent
subversion, and either stay in the WBU or get out of it; we can withdraw from
the WBU and concentrate on regional affairs; we can maintain nominal membership
in the WBU but limit our participation and largely write it off; or we can continue
to participate and try to reform and improve the organization. Whatever we do,
our actions should be upbeat and positive, but this does not mean that we should
allow ourselves to be intimidated or dissuaded from expressing our opinions
or seeking change because somebody may accuse us of being negative or disruptive.
Our conduct should be orderly and courteous--but it should also be honest, vigorous,
and purposeful. We should remember that by not following one course
of action we necessarily follow another. Above all, we should not just drift into whatever we do. We should do it deliberately and with planned precision.
[Photo: David Blyth and Euclid Herie sit at a table looking at the camera. Caption: World Blind Union David Blyth (right), President; and Euclid Herie, Treasurer]
BLIND UNION OFFICERS MEET IN JORDAN
by Kenneth Jernigan
The officers of the World Blind Union
usually meet twice each year, once in the spring and once in the fall. The most
recent meeting was held September 26-28 in Amman, Jordan, and Mrs. Jernigan
and I went. Flying is always difficult for me, and this was no exception. It
took about eight hours from Dulles Airport to Paris and another six or seven
to get to Amman. The return trip was about the same except that I stopped off
in Miami to make a speech to a district meeting of Rotary.
As to our stay in Amman, Sheikh Al-Ghanim was his usual courteous and considerate self. Mrs. Jernigan and I visited in his home. We also spent an evening at the Saudi embassy, where a reception was being held to commemorate the founding of the Saudi kingdom. On another evening all of us went to the home of the brother of the king of Jordan for conversation and an outdoor dinner.
As to the meetings, I can do no better than give you excerpts from the report I gave at the North America/Caribbean regional meeting held in Washington on November 4, 1994. What I am about to say is neither chronological nor definitive. I am simply bringing you certain observations and conclusions. Here, therefore, is the major part of what I said at the regional meeting.
Perhaps the place to begin (for purposes of indicating the tone of the Amman meeting, if nothing else) is with a comparatively unimportant event involving Sir Duncan Watson. At the WBU Officers and Executive Committee meeting in Melbourne last January, Mr. Watson was discussing what he called "The Standard Rules." I asked him (and I did it with courtesy) what the Standard Rules were. He seemed to take offense at the question and said that I had been at enough meetings to know what the Standard Rules were and that he wouldn't tell me. Being accustomed to Mr. Watson's personality and proclivities, I wrote the matter off to ill temper, poor digestion, or some other untoward event and forgot about it. During one of the breaks at the Amman meeting I tried to rally Mr. Watson about the matter, but it was immediately clear that he was not prepared to treat the subject lightly. He went into a rage and was quite abusive. As one might say, he told me off properly.
It caused me to reflect on the outr quality of certain aspects of human nature. If we put a good deal of time and effort into a thing, we are likely to think it is very important, not only to us but to everybody else. I gather that Mr. Watson has done a lot of work on these "Standard Rules," and I suppose he thought I was making light of him and really knew what they were. The truth is that I wasn't and didn't.
Because of the context of Mr. Watson's comments in Melbourne, I assumed that the Standard Rules dealt with the United Nations and pertained to one of the following:
1. UN rules involving the relationship between the World Blind Union and other disability groups;
2. UN rules involving the relationship between disability groups and the UN; or
3. UN rules involving the relationship between the UN and one or another (or, perhaps all) of its various agencies.
The laugh was on me, for I later learned that I had been mistaken on all counts. Pedro Zurita, Secretary General of the World Blind Union, told me that these mysterious Standard Rules were recommended rules, and I quote, on the "Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities and Other Resolutions Concerning Disability and Social Development." He said they were meant as UN guidelines for governments throughout the world. He even went so far as to send me a copy in Braille, which I glanced at but confess that I did not read. I observed in the table of contents under Roman numeral III the item "Recommendations of the Third Committee." I tremble to think what would happen if I were to ask some of my more touchy WBU colleagues what the Third Committee is or was--or, for that matter, the Second or the First Committee. And then, there is the General Committee, which is mentioned in the introduction to this 126-page Braille document. There may also be other committees, but I quietly closed the volume and wrote the whole business off to experience.
Amusing as the controversy concerning the Standard Rules may be, it has its serious side, one that points up the difficulties that some of us sometimes have with our colleagues in the World Blind Union. I know that the United Nations, with all of its various ramifications and edicts, is perceived as extremely important by a number of individuals and countries throughout the world, just as other things are regarded as important by some of the rest of us. The truth is that the United Nations rarely makes headlines in the United States, and even when it does, the coverage is usually generalized and brief. The UN is simply not very high on the list of priorities. If this is not the way it is in other parts of the world, or if this is not the way it should be in the United States, anger and abuse will not change the situation. Goodwill and an effort at understanding would be more productive. Likewise, we should take a lesson from our own book and try to be considerate of opposing views and emphases. For my part I have resolved to treat Mr. Watson with more care and gentleness in the future and to say no more about the Standard Rules.
Let me turn now to the question of the International Disability Foundation (the IDF). Since I wrote extensively on the subject in the April, 1994, Braille Monitor, I will not go into the background of the situation. At the Melbourne meeting of the WBU Executive Committee last January, the North America/Caribbean delegates unanimously voted that the WBU should not associate itself with the IDF or take space in its proposed Center at the Hague. However, we were in the minority. To be more precise, we stood alone with the exception of a few abstentions by individuals in other delegations. At the Amman meeting President David Blyth said that he had met with Hans Hoegh and others and that he thought we should proceed with the plan to participate in the activities of the IDF, including accepting space in its Center. He said that the IDF would go forward with or without us and that we should, therefore, be associated with it. I asked if I could know whether the IDF is now raising funds in the United States and, if so, how and to what extent. Mr. Arne Husveg, President of the European Blind Union, said that if I would provide him with details, he would ask the question and get answers.
I said that I was not making any charges, that I just wanted to know whether funds were being raised. Mr. Husveg said that he would get the question answered as asked. Mr. Husveg also said that he believed all of our concerns raised in Melbourne had been satisfactorily met. I said that I had the same concerns that I had raised earlier but that I could count votes and, therefore, would not take the time of the officers to discuss the matter further. Without objection the officers voted that the WBU should go forward in its plan to associate with the IDF.
I believe this is a serious mistake. The major questions are still unanswered. It is WBU policy that funds may not be raised in a country without the consent of that country's delegation. I believe that the IDF (according to its own literature) has been raising money in the United States, has been raising it in the name of the blind, and is still doing so. I believe that part of the fund raising involves an automobile formerly owned by the King of Norway and that there are other activities as well. I seriously doubt that we will get a responsive answer to the question concerning the matter formally and officially raised by me as President of this Region. Time will tell, and we either will or we won't. Meanwhile, if fund raising continues in our country in the name of the blind in connection with WBU activities without our consent, we will probably need to take whatever steps are necessary to put a stop to it or discredit it. We cannot allow the WBU policy to be evaded by the device of using the IDF or any other entity as a vehicle.
On another topic, I read with interest portions of a document we were given in connection with the Amman meeting which was entitled "President's Committee; Rome, Italy, 19-20 June; Action Sheet." Section 20 of the document deals with the "Commission on Blindness and Aging" that has been established by the World Blind Union. Section 20.2 talks about the composition of the Commission and states that one of the members will be "Ruth Machobane (black lady from South Africa)." I told the Secretary General, who had prepared the document, that I thought the wording was unfortunate. I asked him what he thought the reaction would be if he were to specify that one of the members would be a white male. He said that there had been white rule in South Africa for so long that this was simply an attempt to show that blacks were to be represented. I said I thought we should avoid racism in all of its forms, but I did not make an issue of the matter during the meeting. However, this is something I think we should watch in future WBU activities. As far as I am concerned, racism is not acceptable whether it be black, white, or some other color.
Also in connection with the Amman meeting the officers were given a document entitled "WBU/ICEVI Joint Educational Policy Statement." The document says in part:
The World Blind Union and the International
Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment join together in this
A. Urge governments to: ...
2. place the educational services for blind and visually impaired children under the same general governance as that of children without visual impairment.
This language could be read to mean that a residential school for the blind is not an appropriate setting for the education of blind children. I am sure this was not the intent, but I think consideration should be given to different wording.
Concerning another matter, the officers discussed the relationship between the World Blind Union and DPI (Disabled Persons International). Mr. Husveg said that the WBU has really made no progress at all in its efforts to get DPI to stop saying that it represents the blind of the world. He said that DPI will only say that WBU has the right to speak for its members and that DPI has the right to speak for its members, including its blind members. The officers discussed whether some sort of UN statement could be had to the effect that the UN recognizes DPI to represent other groups but not the blind, and the WBU to represent the blind. Mr. Husveg said that DPI and the UN often take the position at the local level that DPI represents the blind and all others. It was felt that a statement of support from the UN would be of real benefit. Mr. Blyth said he did not know whether we could get such a statement but that he would try. He said that WBU has the same status with the UN as DPI and that this was not the case until two years ago.
A discussion was held concerning Puerto Rico. Under date of August 24, 1994, the following letter from Enrique Ellisalde, President of the Latin American Union of the Blind, was sent to me as President of the North America/Caribbean.
Dear Dr. Jernigan,
One of the members of your region, Puerto
Rico, has approached the Latin American Union of the Blind some time ago stating
that they would like to belong to it, due to historic and cultural links--language
is by no means to be forgotten. They even said and wrote that they are ready
to lose their present relationship to North America.
We have accepted their membership just as observers for the time being and would very much
appreciate your comments on this matter to see whether we can reach some acceptable solution for all the parties involved.
Looking forward to hearing from you,
With warm regards,
Latin American Union of the Blind
Under date of September 9, 1994, I responded as follows:
This will reply to and thank you for
your fax of August 24, 1994, concerning the status of Puerto Rico
and whether it should be part of the Latin American Union of the Blind or the North America/Caribbean Region. As you know, Puerto Rico is part of the United States. In fact, the National Federation of the Blind has a Puerto Rican affiliate. It is true that many of the people in Puerto Rico speak Spanish, but it is also true that many of them speak English. Likewise, many of the people of Florida, New Mexico, and California speak Spanish. Many of them also speak English.
Puerto Rico is not an independent country. My reading of the constitution of the World Blind Union
does not indicate that a state, a province, a territory, or any other part of a country in one region can be accepted as a member country of another region. If that were true, the North America/Caribbean Region might enter into negotiations with a province of Argentina or Uruguay or Brazil. Ultimately, of course, anything is legal (whether right or wrong, sensible or otherwise) if a sufficient majority of the electorate votes it that way. I think the legalities under the present constitution and rules are clear, but I have no idea how my fellow officers or the members of the Executive Committee might view the matter. It seems to me that the dismemberment of countries because of preference or political consideration would be a dangerous precedent. I would contend that Puerto Rico by virtue of its affiliation with the National Federation of the Blind is now as much an integral part of the World Blind Union as any other part of the United States and that membership is through the North America/Caribbean Region.
I am, of course, aware of the fact that some in Puerto Rico talk of seceding from the United States, but such has not yet been the case. Other Puerto Ricans just as vehemently want to become one of the states. If secession should succeed, then I think we would have a legitimate question as to what region Puerto Rico should belong, but until or unless the separatist movement is successful by force of politics or arms, I see no legal way to permit Puerto Rico to have more representation in the World Blind Union than it now has.
As you can imagine, I would be glad for the World Blind Union to treat each state and territory of the
United States as a separate country. It would tend to redress some of the imbalance in the voting procedures. But again, unless such a situation occurs either by force of politics or arms, I think we are stuck where we are.
These are my thoughts on the question you have raised, and I shall share them with President Blyth and others.
Kenneth Jernigan, President
North America/Caribbean Region
WORLD BLIND UNION
The Constitution of the World Blind Union provides in Item "h" of Section 1 of Article III on Membership that "Where an application for membership is received from a dependent territory which apart from its dependent status is otherwise qualified for membership, the assembly in consultation with the national member concerned may admit that territory to whichever category of membership it considers appropriate upon payment of the appropriate membership fee." Some discussion was held concerning the Puerto Rico matter. Mr. Blyth said that it was strictly a question of the Constitution; that no application had been received; and that, therefore, the officers could not properly deal with the matter. In any case Puerto Rico is in the North America/Caribbean Region since regions are defined by the WBU Constitution as specific geographic areas of the globe. Mr. Zurita tried to discuss the matter further, pointing out that Puerto Rico is similar in language to much of Latin America--but Mr. Blyth ruled him out of order, saying that language was not an issue with respect to the WBU Constitution. There was some additional spirited exchange between Messrs. Blyth and Zurita, and then the meeting proceeded.
There was a considerable amount of discussion about the Louis Braille birthplace. Dr. Herie said that we should deal directly with the Commune of Coupvray instead of the French National Committee and various other French groups. He said that we should also change the designation from the Louis Braille Museum to the Louis Braille Birthplace and Memorial. Mr. Zurita thought we should research further the effect of such a change with French interests to see if there would be funding implications. It was noted that the question is probably academic since the World Blind Union does not own the Louis Braille property. It is owned by the Commune of Coupvray. If the Commune does not agree with the changed designation, it probably can't be done. The word "museum" carries with it certain implications concerning a curator and other matters. With the comment that the French already mostly refer to the building as "The Birthplace," Dr. Herie moved that we try to achieve the changed designation, and the motion carried unanimously. Mr. Blyth asked me to contact the mayor of Coupvray directly to try to get things moving.
On another subject, I asked whether a person could continue to serve on a committee or in any other position in the World Blind Union if that person had lost the confidence of the national delegation. Mr. Blyth said that there was no formal rule to that effect but that the practice was that such a person could not continue to serve. I said that I thought a formal policy to that effect should be adopted, and Mr. Husveg agreed. Mr. Blyth said that a proposal should be brought to the next General Assembly.
The WBU will now present a research award. A discussion was held as to whether the award should be given for accomplishment or to encourage future breakthroughs. It was decided that the award should be to encourage and stimulate research rather than to reward the past. The motion was unanimously adopted.
A discussion was held concerning the establishment of a World Blind Union Foundation. This would be a non-profit organization. Its purpose would be to provide long-term, stable funding for the World Blind Union. Dr. Herie moved that authorization be given to set up in Canada a WBU Foundation to establish a capital fund to earn revenue to be spent on programs authorized by WBU. Mr. Husveg seconded the motion, and it was unanimously adopted. As with the International Disability Foundation, the WBU Foundation would not be able to raise funds in a country without the consent of that country's national delegation. This is a policy adopted by the General Assembly. Therefore, it cannot be altered by the officers or Executive Committee.
In view of the fact that the officers voted to rescind the decision to hold the 1996 General Assembly in Hong Kong, we should consider whether North America would like to submit an invitation. I have told Dr. Herie that I hope Canada will make a bid. If Canada is willing to do so, I feel that all of us will do everything we can to assist. This is a topic which we must discuss at this meeting.
The next meeting of the WBU officers will take place on April 7-8, 1995, in Caracas, Venezuela.
As will be seen from this report, I came away from the Amman meeting with a number of unresolved questions. Because of improved technology and transportation, the world is, in effect, growing smaller. Obviously we neither can nor want to live in isolation, but this does not mean that we should allow others to pressure us into adopting their agenda. We do not want to establish priorities and policies for other regions, and we will not permit others to do so for us. Our region now has more unity and strength than it has ever had, and it must evaluate on an ongoing basis its relationship with the World Blind Union. The inequity in the number of votes allotted to the different regions is not simply a formality or happenstance. It was done deliberately, and it translates into policies that may not be in the best interest of the blind of our region or, for that matter, the world. The imbalance is, of course, of relatively little consequence as long as the World Blind Union remains comparatively weak; but if the WBU becomes truly strong and viable, we cannot permit the imbalance to continue unless we are prepared to allow others to determine our destiny, and unless we are willing to accept second-class status in world affairs. More to the point, we have the means to remedy the situation, whether through the World Blind Union or otherwise.
These are my observations concerning
the Amman meeting, and I give them to you for whatever they may be worth.
[Photo: The Pierce family is pictured in their yard when the children were in high school. Caption: The Pierce family is shown here in the side yard of their home. They are: Bob (back left), Margy (center), Anne (back right), and Barbara and Steven (front)]
FROM THE TRICYCLE TO THE COOKIE JAR
by Barbara Pierce
From the Editor: The following article is taken from When the Blizzard Blows, the latest in our Kernel book series of paperbacks. Though it addresses one of the most vexing problems facing blind parents, it also demonstrates the important role family members can play in educating the public about the abilities of blind people. The article begins with Dr. Jernigan's introduction. Here it is:
What special problem does a blind parent face? You might guess a thousand times without coming up with the problem many blind parents consider toughest. Barbara Pierce has been blind from childhood and is the mother of three children, who are now adults. Here she writes about her efforts to overcome a particularly worrisome problem--the one you probably didn't guess.
All parents who take their responsibilities
seriously are concerned about how to help their children grow up to be disciplined,
honest, compassionate, and organized and to develop all the other virtues. But
blind parents have one more responsibility: to keep their youngsters from absorbing
the general public's poor attitudes about blindness and blind people.
My husband and I have raised three children, and in their formative years we tried hard to teach them that as their mother I was like other moms--helping with homework, fixing their favorite meals as birthday treats, and making them pick up their coats and books from the living room sofa. In our family there was always a division of labor: Dad drove and played catch; Mom baked cookies, bread, and apple pies. Dad trimmed hair and decided when fingers were infected; and Mom ironed clothes, sang songs, and sewed on buttons. Both of us listened to problems and helped to work out solutions.
Yet from the time the children were small, I knew that the world outside our happy home was lying in wait to complicate our lives. Evidence of this fact began piling up early and usually when I least expected it. I remember a day when Steven, our five-year-old, was at kindergarten. The baby had an appointment with the pediatrician, and I told Anne, then three, that she could ride her tricycle, which she had recently learned to pedal, to visit the doctor. I put baby Margaret into her backpack, grabbed my long white cane, locked the front door, and prevented Anne from riding her tricycle down the seven steps of the front porch. Once we were safely on the sidewalk, we started the three-and-a- half block expedition with Anne in front and me right behind, reminding her about stopping at the corner.
The first two streets we had to cross were very quiet, with cars seldom driving through the intersection, particularly in the early afternoon. Anne did well at the first crossing, stopping at the curb and waiting for my go-ahead before pedaling straight across to the other side. As we neared the second street, I dropped back a little to let her feel that she was making the decision of where to stop on her own. No cars were coming, so she was safe, and I was close enough to stop her if she decided to bolt for freedom.
She halted at the corner, and I was opening my mouth to praise her when I realized that an older man had materialized beside her and was bending down to talk earnestly to her. To my horror I heard him saying, "You must take very good care of your mommy because she needs your help."
I was humiliated to realize that he believed I was incapable of keeping my daughter safe and furious that he presumed a sighted toddler was more competent than I to walk the streets of our small town. I made a brief comment to the effect that in our family the parents cared for the children and whisked Anne across the street. I have always been grateful that I did not recognize that neighbor, for it would have been hard in later years to be civil to him.
When we reached the other side, I asked Anne if she knew what the man had said to her. She shook her head vigorously and hopped off her bike to pick up a feather dropped by a passing bird. It was clearly more interesting to her than the conversation of an old man, and I was profoundly grateful.
The situation was a good deal different a few years later when our family visited a nearby amusement park. I rather like rides that swoop and twirl, and my husband absolutely does not. So I was the one designated to take the girls on the swings, a ride in which each person sits in a separate swing, is firmly
strapped in, and then is whirled high into the sky for several minutes. We found three swings close together, and I made sure that each of the girls was strapped down before climbing into my own seat.
When we landed again, the attendant handed me back my cane, and I gathered up the girls and herded them down the exit ramp. When we reached the bottom, a woman hurried up to them and knelt down, fumbling with her purse. I asked her if there were some problem. And she explained rather hastily that she just wanted to give "these dear children some money," because she had been watching us, and she was so touched by the loving way they took care of me. She probably noticed my expression, for she quickly explained that they were so attractive and well behaved that she thought they deserved some reward for taking me on the rides. I said that I did not permit my children to accept anything from
strangers and that, if she wanted to do something constructive to help the families of blind people, she could make a contribution to the National Federation of the Blind. I hurried the girls away, but they were unhappy. After all, that woman had been going to give them money, which was more than they could usually persuade me to do. I hardly knew what to say to them. Finally I explained that she had wanted to pay them for taking care of me; but that, since they didn't take care of me, it wasn't fair to take her money. They thought about that for a moment; then Anne summed the matter up with, "That's weird. Everybody knows that Moms take care of kids." I told her she was exactly right, and the lure of the roller coaster ended the conversation.
I was beginning to learn that, when I was around at the moment people did odd things because of my blindness or suggested to my children that I was not a proper mother, I could combat the problem. But I worried about what was happening to them when I was not present. One day, when Steven was in fifth grade, he came home to say that he had had a fight on the playground because a kid had called him a liar when he described his mom's homemade pizza. (It's a recipe from northern Italy, given to me by a friend, and my family has always loved it.) But this boy said that a blind mom couldn't cook. Another time Anne's teacher suggested that perhaps the room mother could supply cupcakes for Anne's birthday treat so that she wouldn't feel left out. Meanwhile Margy began sitting close to me when we watched television together in order to "explain what's happening." When I questioned her about why she had started doing this, she admitted that her friend's mother had told her that Margy's mommy couldn't understand "Sesame Street" unless Margy told her what was happening. I realized that something had to be done.
I went to the children's teachers and asked for a chance to talk to each of their classes about blindness. In Margy's class we played games that taught the children just how much they could tell about the world by listening and sniffing and feeling with their hands and feet.
They discovered that there are lots of ways to tell what's going on. I showed the older children how to read and write Braille and taught them how to offer assistance to a blind person who needs help crossing the street, and I explained how I crossed streets without any help. I brought home-made treats to all three classes and talked about how blind people cook and take care of their families.
That seemed to dispose of the negative comments from friends and teachers; but, as the children grew older, I became aware that they were increasingly disturbed by the way strangers stared at me when we were out in public. I should explain that, like many other competent blind people, I use my cane even when I am walking with a sighted person, so there are lots of opportunities for people to see me using my cane.
The youngsters began to resent the stares that I received, and they decided to take matters into their own hands. They thought the staring was rude, and they appointed themselves the official phalanx of stare-backers. They were prepared to stare down anyone who began staring at me as we passed. I tried explaining that these people had probably never seen a blind person using a white cane correctly and they did not know what to make of the situation. But the kids agreed with each other: it was rude to stare at anyone; it was even more rude to stare at a person who did not know what you were doing. They believed they had a perfect right to call such rudeness to the attention of the person practicing it. Perhaps I should have protested and forbidden them to continue their campaign, but I decided that they needed to feel that they were doing something to counteract an activity they felt was inappropriate, unfair, and rude to me.
As the years passed, I continued to wonder from time to time whether the children's attitudes about blindness and me as a blind person had been negatively affected by the peculiar notions of other people. Then, when Anne was a junior in college, I received my answer. A friend who teaches in elementary school had asked me to come speak about blindness to all the sixth grade classes in her school. I was happy to do so, and, because Anne happened to be at home at the time, I asked her to drive me to the nearby town where the school was located. At the close of my talk I asked if anyone had questions about what I had said. My daughter had been introduced, and one child asked her what it was like to have a blind mother.
Anne, who ran the citywide summer swimming program during college and had a way of making friends with youngsters, strolled to the front of the room and sat down on the edge of the teacher's desk beside me. She draped her arm across my shoulder and said quite seriously:
"It is really terrible having a blind mother! Do any of you have to do the dinner dishes sometimes?" A number of students groaned enthusiastically. "And does your mother expect you to clean up the kitchen too--I mean wiping off the counters, washing out the sink, and cleaning around the burners of the stove?" Again a chorus of agreement answered her. "Well, I discovered a long time ago that my friends only had to clean up enough to have things look okay. But, when you have a blind mother, you have to get things really clean because she doesn't inspect your work from the doorway; she comes in and touches everything. It has to be clean!
"And that's not all. Do any of you have cookie jars in your house?" A number said that they did. "We had one, too, and it was always full of cookies, which was nice for us when we could get at them. But we three kids learned when we were very little that, as long as Dad was the one watching us, we had a chance of sneaking cookies, if he wasn't looking. But when you have a blind mom, she hears the cookie jar lid no matter where she is in the house! It's terrible having a blind mother."
By this time they were all laughing with her and me. They had gotten Anne's message, that really life was no better and no worse with a blind parent, just a little different. And they were right.
I left the school smiling that day. My lovely, compassionate, talented daughter had demonstrated without even thinking much about it that she does know that blindness doesn't have to be a big deal. Together we had come a long way: from the tricycle to the cookie jar.
[Photo: Portrait. Caption: Anna Cheadle]
SENSE OF A SIMULATION EXERCISE
by Anna Cheadle
From the Editor: Members of the National
Federation of the Blind get used to finding opportunities to educate the public
about blindness and the abilities of blind people. We sometimes forget, however,
that our friends and families can also play an important part in this vital
work. I have often found that my children can have a powerful impact on the
attitudes of others when they set out to educate their friends and co-workers,
and I know that our family is not alone.
Anna Cheadle is now twelve. Her older brother Charles is blind, and both her parents work at the National Center for the Blind. In addition, her mother serves as President of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, a division of the National Federation of the Blind. Last summer Anna had two
experiences that demonstrate what an important role knowledgeable sighted family members can have in educating the public about blindness. Anna loves horses and has taken riding lessons at a nearby stable which also does work with disabled people, including students from the Maryland School for the Blind. She was interested in working with the blind riders, so she signed up for special training as a volunteer.
Not too surprisingly, one of the components of this training turned out to be blindness simulation. All the trainees were blindfolded in turn and instructed to get on the horse and see what it was like to ride when you couldn't see where you were going. It goes without saying that no one bothered to talk to the volunteers about blindness and the alternative techniques available, and no one reminded them that successful riders depend largely on feeling what the horse is doing. This horse was by nature calm and easy-going, but after enduring a number of frightened riders, he began to get nervous. By the time it was
Anna's turn, he was clearly skittish, but she swung into the saddle and started off. Because she knows about blindness and therefore was not frightened, she was able to quiet the animal and complete the course without incident or panic.
Then she told the organizers what she thought of the exercise. She pointed out that the other trainees knew nothing about blindness, so they had caused their own problems--problems that the blind youngsters were unlikely to share unless the volunteers communicated their own fear and pity to them. She reported that, once she had brought the horse under control, the exercise had provided her with no insight because riding blindfolded was pretty much like riding using sight, particularly when someone else was leading the horse around the track.
At almost the same time Anna had the experience she recounts in the following article. She was attending the church camp she goes to every summer, and the staff there too decided to educate (or mis-educate) the campers about disabilities by conducting an exercise in disability simulation. By this time Anna was an old hand at taking charge of the situation. This is the way she tells it:
"Anna? Anna, are you there?"
"Yeah, just a sec; my thumbs are being taped."
This is how my camp friend Beth and I conversed at around 10:30 last Saturday morning. We were both at a weekend retreat at Camp Mary-Mac, where I attended Chi Rho Church camp this summer. We had been separated into groups of five or six, and each person in a group was assigned a handicap. Two people in my group had no arms. One had legs tied together; a boy named Ryan was mute; I had no thumbs; and Beth had been blindfolded. Have you seen the flaw in this? Blindfolds teach people fear, not the competence that many blind persons have. There were three or four other blind people in the large group, and, of course, none of us was given any information about our handicaps and how to make them work for us, instead of inconvenience us.
So, considering my background with the National Federation of the Blind and my parents' jobs for as long as I can recall, I obviously wanted to do something to help the people who were suddenly blind.
First, I searched around and found a long, wooden pole for Beth to use as a cane. After this I taught her how to swing it back and forth in front of her properly and avoid obstacles. After a while the other blind people caught on, and they were all using their own canes. Second, I had her take my elbow--the way that any blind person would do. But I didn't let her depend totally on me. As we walked and talked, I provided her with information about blindness and blind people--how they read, how they get around, and other things that promoted a good attitude and some understanding about the competence of blind people.
"Ugh!" A heavy pile of rocks had been dropped into my arms by the mute boy, Ryan. Beth was standing next to me, and all of the groups were having a race to see who could collect the largest number of dinner-plate-sized rocks in a certain amount of time. Ryan began urgently pointing down the hill towards the fire circle, where all of our pile was being watched by a person with no arms. "Can I help?" asked Beth. She wanted to contribute to our group. In the beginning she wasn't sure, but after a while she realized that, if she didn't say something, no one would listen. In other words, people immediately assumed she was helpless. With the extra confidence of knowing what my brother had done and what my parents' boss had done, she was able to stick up for what was right: a group where everyone contributed.
Of course, compared to a person who'd been blind their whole life, this wasn't a very long time, but for the kids at camp, having these handicaps for four hours was quite enough. In the middle of those four hours, we were having lunch. You can imagine how well some of the no-arm people were getting along, as well as us non-thumb people, who were slightly annoyed at the menu choice for the day--sandwiches. (Ever try to hold a sandwich with no thumbs?). But after lunch was over, some people went outside to play football.
"I think I'll take a walk outside," said Beth.
"I'll go with you," immediately replied another girl, who had automatically assumed that Beth would need someone to help her every inch of the way. "No thank you," said Beth, with her new-found independence; "I can do it by myself." So she left the dining hall, going around the tables and finding the door with her cane and feeling the wall.
"So, ah, how do you think people interacted with all these handicaps?" This was the head counselor, Jason. We were having a reflection time, without handicaps, before dinner. Among other responses, I felt particularly good when I heard Beth's.
"Anna was really helpful. At first I was scared, but she helped me around and gave me a cane; then she told me things about blindness and other blind people that I didn't know before."
Needless to say, Beth was still glad when the blindfold was taken off. But she had also learned from the experience, as had we all, and I am glad of that.
[Photo: Portrait of the House family. Caption: Theresa and David House are pictured here with their children, David, Jr.; Chris; Patrick; and Veronica]
A WIFE SPEAKS OUT ABOUT BLINDNESS
by David and Theresa House
From the Editor: There is a strong
temptation, particularly for those who are losing vision as a result of one
of the degenerative eye disorders, to focus their energies on keeping the enemy
at bay, battling every complication, and denying the inevitable outcome. Of
course scientific research into the causes and prevention of such disorders
is important, especially for patients in the next generation; but most of us
have found that we can successfully get on with the interesting business of
living a full life only after we have put aside the emotional warfare against
blindness, come to terms with the realities of vision loss, and set about to
master the skills of blindness. Then we discover that, having abandoned the
struggle to use the tools of vision with very little of that commodity available,
we are suddenly free to learn to be efficient again through using the alternative
techniques of blindness.
It sounds sensible and simple, but for most people it is not. Such a decision requires large measures of honesty and courage. We must stop pretending that we can see what is only a blur; admit the fact that we sometimes need help; begin using a white cane; and even, perhaps, learn to use Braille. We must also start carrying our share of the load in our homes and families and on the job. It takes determination and energy to stop loved ones and colleagues from doing your share of cooking, cleaning, laundry, yard work, and job-related tasks because they believe it's easier for them. Anger and depression focused on one's blindness make it easier to sit back and let others, rather than learn to master the skills of daily life again.
What happens when a group of competent, confident, active Federationists decide to carry the NFB message of optimism and hope into a gathering of several hundred people dedicated to and completely focused on fighting degenerative eye disease? Naturally they discover many distressingly negative attitudes about blindness, but they also find a rich harvest of people eager for good news and hope. They also discover opportunities to educate blind people and their families. That is what seven determined members of the National Federation of the Blind of California found in mid-November. David and Theresa House are active members of the San Diego Chapter of the NFB of California. Here is their adventure as David reported it in a letter to President Maurer and Theresa shared it that day in her remarks as part of a panel of significant others:
San Diego, California
November 22, 1994
Dear President Maurer:
Every two years, the RP Fighting Blindness Foundation has a national conference which has an attendance of nearly a thousand people. The intent of the conference is to bring everyone up to date on the latest research in finding a cure for retinitis pigmentosa, macular degeneration, and Usher's syndrome. This year the conference took place in San Francisco, California, November 18 through 20.
I am pleased to report to you that board members from four different chapters of the NFB of California participated in this conference in a big way. Our strategy was to show attendees that accepting blindness rather than fighting it is the appropriate choice on an emotional and personal level. We tried to convey that the fighting should be done on the scientific level. We were very successful in getting this message across.
Two of the Bay Area chapters shared equally in the cost of $100 to have a booth in the exhibit hall, which was open the first two days of the conference. Over a thousand pieces of literature promoting NFB philosophy were given out at this booth. This included hundreds of our standard brochures, 300 copies of the book, If Blindness Comes, 200 cassettes of Dr. Jernigan's speeches, fifty Future Reflections magazines, and dozens of brochures on our NFB training centers around the country. We were overwhelmed with the number of requests to receive the Braille Monitor on cassette. I have enclosed a comprehensive list of more than 450 names and addresses which are alphabetized according to the state in which the individual resides.
Two of the southern California chapters had members actually participate in the conference by attending the numerous seminars. Our job was to promote NFB philosophy by speaking up during the discussion period of these workshops. We also distributed many copies of the book, If Blindness Comes, along with dozens of the NFB Braille alphabet cards. This task was definitely not easy. At times it was very discouraging, encountering so many people that equated blindness with hopelessness. We heard one story after another about how people were going to give up their careers because they were going blind. Resistance to learning Braille was prevalent, and others claimed using a cane was socially unacceptable. There we were, seven Federationists among eight or nine hundred people. I kept telling myself the harvest is great, but the laborers are few. We valiantly hung in there all weekend, whether we were walking alone or marching together.
My wife Theresa and I were asked to speak
at separate workshops which ran simultaneously on Saturday afternoon, November
19. They extended this invitation to us, not realizing we were members of the
Federation. We decided to make the most of this opportunity and tried to give
our listeners some hope. I have enclosed cassette copies of these two panel
sessions for your review. You will note that we covered much of the same material
in our presentations. I am extremely proud of my fully sighted wife, who put
her whole heart and soul into this presentation. Her delivery was so powerful
that there was not a dry eye in the room by the time it was over. I lost count
of the number of people who came up to her throughout the rest of the weekend,
thanking her for such an inspirational speech. Without a doubt she is a true
friend and staunch supporter of the NFB.
In conclusion, I want to say that I am very grateful for the existence of the Materials Center at the National Center for the Blind. It has been an invaluable resource for every project our chapter has undertaken. With our literature this past weekend hundreds of people losing their eyesight found out for the first time that it is respectable to be blind. There is no doubt in my mind that the RP Fighting Blindness Foundation knows loud and clear that we, the Federation family, are changing what it means
to be blind.
That was David House's letter; here is the transcription of Theresa's presentation to the RP Fighting Blindness Foundation. She was part of a panel of two wives, one husband, and a sister-- all of whom had loved ones with degenerative eye disorders. This is what Theresa said:
My name is Theresa House; I am thirty-years-old;
and I have been happily married for ten and a half years. I have four wonderful
children--three, five, seven, and nine. My husband David was diagnosed with
juvenile macular degeneration at the age of five. He is now thirty-seven and
has some remaining peripheral vision in each eye.
I knew my husband for several years before we actually began dating. His sister was my best friend in grade school, and as a teenager I was a member of the church youth group that Dave was in charge of. During the course of our friendship I was always impressed to see that Dave would never let his blindness stop him from anything he undertook. A good example of this determination was the high school youth group of over a hundred teenagers that he managed for nearly four years. Those years are very dear to me. That group had the reputation of being one of the biggest and the best among the Catholic churches throughout San Diego. At the same time that Dave was our church's youth director he was attending San Diego State University.
After graduating from college, Dave made the decision to attend a residential training facility for blind adults in northern California. This was to learn Braille, cane travel, cooking, and independent-living skills. He believed that it was very important to learn the alternative techniques used by blind people before he lost his vision completely. Dave said that he was tired of faking and bluffing his way through awkward situations using his partial vision. He wanted to stop pretending that he could function normally in the sighted world by denying his blindness.
A year later Dave returned home to San Diego, well-equipped with the skills of blindness, full of confidence, and ready to hit the job market. By coincidence we began dating the same month he was hired by Catholic Community Services. This was February, 1982. One of the fondest memories I have of the early days of our courtship was going out on dates riding double on my moped scooter. Dave did not drive, and I didn't own a car at the time. I was eighteen, and he was twenty-four. We still laugh today when we look back at that crazy and romantic time.
One of the more challenging aspects of our relationship was my family's prejudice about blindness. My parents did not approve of our courtship. They felt--and they still do, even though he has proved them wrong--that a man who is going blind does not have a bright future ahead of him. All this only convinced me that people's attitudes about blindness can be more of a problem than the actual loss of eyesight.
In 1983 we became engaged with plans for a June wedding in the following year. My family continued their resistance to my fiance. They constantly reminded me that any of our possible offspring could be blind as well. I told them that I was well aware of this possibility. I said that, if Dave could function successfully with his blindness, my children would have the perfect role model to emulate in their father. Even after we were married, I remember visiting my grandparents one day. They were holding our first-born, who was still an infant. I saw my grandfather wiggling his fingers in front of my two-month-old- son's face, trying to decide whether he could see. It was one more reminder to me that blindness was very much feared and misunderstood by my side of the family.
When we got married in 1984, we were both working forty hours a week. I had a great-paying job as a medical unit clerk in our local hospital. Dave had obtained his broker's license and was in the process of making a career change from social work to real estate. A year later David, Jr., was born, and I cut my work schedule in half, to twenty hours a week. In 1987 our second son Christopher was born, and I reduced my work schedule to sixteen hours a week. Then in 1989 our third son Patrick was born. I decided to stop working completely to be a full-time mother and homemaker. I made this decision in the confidence that my blind husband was quite capable of being the sole bread-winner in our family. My confidence was further reinforced in 1991, when we decided to have a fourth child. I was determined to fulfill my lifetime dream of having a daughter. My wish came true that year, and we named our beautiful little girl Veronica. For the past five-and-a-half years I have not worked outside the home because my husband has done such a great job of supporting us financially.
In our home, raising the children is truly a fifty-fifty partnership. After our youngest was born, Dave urged me to find a hobby so that I could take a well-deserved break from the kids in the evenings. For three years I took martial arts, earning a second-degree green belt in Tong So Do Karate. I am at the halfway mark of becoming a black-belt, which I intend to accomplish. Also I am going to college at night, working to become certified as a floral designer. I plan to operate my own business out of my home doing floral arrangements for weddings.
None of this would be possible without the full support of my husband. Dave serves as an evening and weekend babysitter whenever I have outside activities. My husband is no slouch when it comes to taking on his share of the chores and responsibilities at home. Each day he helps me get the children ready for school by waking them up, feeding them breakfast, and preparing their baths. This allows me enough time for exercise each morning. I enjoy jogging. While Dave is getting ready for work, I make the lunches, help the children dress, and take them to school.
In the evenings after work, Dave assists me in getting the kids through their homework. While I am preparing dinner, he unloads the dishwasher and sets the table. After supper he clears the table, takes out the trash, and feeds the dog. In the meantime I am doing the dishes. Together we tuck the children into bed and then do paperwork, like paying bills and going through the mail.
My husband has found that keeping household items organized and orderly cuts down drastically on the frustration that can accompany vision loss. He has certainly proven this true by taking charge of the laundry for our family of six. Dave has used his Braille label-maker on the washing machine and does a great job of keeping the clothes clean and neatly sorted. My job is to fold and put them away.
David makes blindness his responsibility and not an undue hardship on the family. For example, at home he has the choice of using his cane or possibly tripping over toys, shoes, or anything else inadvertently left on the floor. (We encourage our children to pick up after themselves, but in reality this does not always happen.)
Since I am the only driver in our family, I have been unanimously elected the family chauffeur. Dave himself makes it a point not to rely on me as his only mode of transportation. He makes his own arrangements to get to and from work, and he uses public transportation whenever necessary. He also enjoys walking places to stay in shape.
Dave no longer uses large print for reading because it is too much of a strain and too time-consuming. He says that, by learning Braille, he has kept himself from becoming illiterate. There are countless examples of how Dave uses Braille in his daily life. I have already mentioned the Braille label-maker, which he uses both at home and at work. My husband orders stories, called Twin Vision Books, which have both Braille and print as well as the illustrations. He really appreciates having the ability to read these books to our younger children. To help our older son, Dave orders a book in Braille that we can also find in the public library in print. This allows my son to practice reading aloud while my husband follows along in Braille, correcting him whenever necessary.
One favorite family outing is trips to
the Price Club. My husband always brings an itemized grocery list in Braille
to prevent us from spending too much money. Dave also receives the Sunday mass
readings in Braille, which he takes to church each week. He is a voracious reader,
and between Braille and cassette
recordings he manages to read a weekly newspaper, three monthly magazines, and a couple of books a month. I firmly believe that my husband is a living example of how blindness can be reduced to the level of a physical nuisance. In the event that total blindness comes, I know that he will be well prepared.
Dave is competent in the skills of blindness, and he certainly has the right attitude. I have a gift for each of you here today. It is a large-print book entitled If Blindness Comes. It is published by the National Federation of the Blind. My husband is quite active in the Federation, which has over fifty thousand members across the United States. I can honestly say that the NFB has been instrumental in making my husband the self-confident, independent, capable individual he is today. The benefits and support Dave has derived from this organization have done wonders for his self-image and self-esteem. I would highly recommend the National Federation of the Blind to anyone who is struggling with losing eyesight. There is a table in the exhibit hall with all kinds of free literature about blindness. The representatives there would be more than happy to listen to your personal story and experiences and answer any questions about the NFB. Be sure to check the table out.
I have really appreciated the opportunity to speak with you
this afternoon. If I could pick only one thing for you to
remember from my talk, please don't ever forget that it is
respectable to be blind.
[Photo: Portrait. Caption: Tom and Carol
WIFE SAYS WHAT'S ON HER MIND
by Carol Lemieux
From the Editor: At the 1994 convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut last fall, one of the agenda items was a panel presentation by sighted partners of blind Federationists. All of the presenters were themselves active Federationists, a fact which undoubtedly accounts in significant part for the excellence and good sense of their remarks. Carol Lemieux was the panel moderator and one of the presenters. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Hartford Chapter of the NFB of Connecticut. Her husband Tom is chapter Treasurer. Both are longtime, knowledgeable Federationists. Here is what she said:
On November 17, 1994, Tom Lemieux and
I will celebrate our fifteenth wedding anniversary. Either to our faces or behind
our backs, everyone said it wouldn't last. Well, our marriage has lasted, and
we are very happy.
When I married Tom, I didn't give much thought to what people would think of us. I guess I was young and idealistic. Though I'm no longer young, I think I am still idealistic. But back then we spent more time worrying about and figuring out how to pay the rent and the bills than worrying about what people thought of us.
But, as time passed, I started to realize that people were looking at us and saying things that sounded kind of crazy. We didn't hear of the Federation until the early eighties, and I guess we both just tried to grin and bear the remarks.
Looking back and even today, I can divide the public into two groups. The first think I am a saint. They are usually older people or, more precisely, people from the old school of thought, who think blind people are the most helpless group of people to roam the earth. I have heard more "God bless you's" than I can count and have been told how great and what a saint I am so many times that I'm tempted to believe it! But those who know me know I'm no saint.
The second group of people we encounter on a regular basis I find much harder to accept because most of them should have better sense. Here are a few examples of the type I mean: This past spring Tom and I were at a dinner where we met a psychiatric nurse from the Institute of Living. After chatting for a few minutes, she asked Tom which group home he lived in. She thought I was a group home worker who had brought Tom out for the dinner.
A few years ago Tom got a new counselor from the state vocational rehabilitation agency. Without knowing either of us, the counselor, who was blind, walked into the room and said to us (but I think really for my benefit), "If you want a sighted counselor, say so right now."
Or there was the woman, who herself used a wheelchair, who asked me if I got up every morning to dress my husband for work. And my former boss, who wanted to know what I'd do with my husband if I were to travel on business, which probably explains why I never went out to a field office.
Numerous times people ask if I'm Tom's sister or, even worse, his mother. I am three-and-a-half years older than Tom, but I don't think I look old enough to be his mother!
Generally speaking, people believe that blind people never get married or only marry another blind person. All of us in the Federation know better. And as Federationists we have taken on the responsibility of educating the public so blind people can exercise their rights to opportunity, security, and equality.
Now let me tell you the truth about being married to a blind person. My husband is multi-handicapped. In addition to being blind, he has traumatic brain injury. While his intellect is not impaired, his short-term memory and cognitive skills are affected to some extent, and he is not a fast person because of the TBI. His blindness is a result of the TBI as well. He has between one and three degrees of tunnel vision. The blind skills Tom has are good. Since he hasn't worked in several years, Tom has taken on most of the housework. He makes his own meals during the day, travels around the Hartford area on public transportation, and goes alone to his own doctor appointments whenever possible. He also goes grocery shopping with me and on all the errands we need to do.
Tom didn't marry me to be his caretaker or his chauffeur. He does need a little extra help sometimes because of his memory loss, especially when learning a new route he has to travel or in strange places, such as this hotel. Believe me, there are many times I wish Tom could jump in the car and run an errand or pick me up at work when I don't feel like waiting for the bus. But he can't, and that's okay.
I often feel hurt when people think I married Tom to attain sainthood or because I have some deep psychological need to take care of people. I feel pain when someone makes a ridiculous remark, even though it's well intentioned, because it makes me look like a shallow person.
The National Federation of the Blind has taught me to stand up for what is right. I try not to be rude to or embarrass people when they treat Tom and me as if we were something different. But neither can I stand in silence and let people think that the blind need caretakers and will marry a sighted person to ensure a life of pampering and supervision.
The NFB has taught us not to grin and bear the ridiculous remarks made by the public. Rather we both try to educate people about blindness. We had to tell the deacon at our former church that blindness is not an infirmity, as he told the whole congregation in church one weekend; we have made it clear at the restaurants we frequent that I don't order for Tom and that he can read the menu. We've also had to make it clear that, when Tom pays for something in a store, he gets the change, not me. When Tom was working, I could have driven him to work and back each day, but I didn't. And, in fairness, I take the bus whenever possible.
I suppose that being married to a blind person is no different from being married to a sighted person. Yes, I do wish Tom could find a job and make a good salary or could relieve me of some of the driving responsibilities. But generally we have a balanced marriage--each of us sharing in the responsibilities and
chores that go along with every marriage. And each of us shares in the companionship and joy that should also be a part of every marriage.
So, while I am certainly no saint for marrying a multi-handicapped, blind person, I am blessed.
[Photo: The main hall of the International Braille and Technology Center displaying many of the Center's equipment workstations. Caption: The International Braille and Technology Center]
OTHER HALF OF THE EQUATION PC-BASED READING SYSTEMS: A COMPARATIVE REVIEW
by David Andrews
From the Editor: David Andrews is the Director of the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind at the National Center for the Blind. In the August, 1993, issue of the Braille Monitor he offered his evaluation of stand-alone reading machines. This is what Mr. Andrews now has to say about PC-based reading systems:
In mid-1993 the International Braille
and Technology Center for the Blind conducted comparative reviews of stand-alone
reading machines--that is, computer-like devices that scan printed pages and
turn their contents into synthesized speech. At that time we found that for
simplicity of operation and ease of comprehension of the spoken word, the Reading
Edge was probably the best buy. If, on the other hand, the user needed to read
more complex documents with difficult layouts and a range of font sizes and
print clarity, An Open Book was probably the best choice. This summary of our
evaluation results is oversimplified and does not take into account the fact
that updated software for a third machine, the Readman, is now available, which
might change our conclusions if the assessment were repeated today.
Now we have completed reviews of the three major PC-based (as opposed to stand-alone) reading systems sold today for use by blind people. We will review all three in this article: An Open Book Unbound from Arkenstone, Inc.; OsCaR from TeleSensory, Inc.; and the Reading AdvantEdge from Xerox Imaging Systems, Inc. One additional system has been shown at the past two NFB conventions, the Rapid Reader from Blindness and Visual Systems of Baltimore, Maryland. We ordered this system over a year and a half ago and still have not received delivery. It is impossible to review a system which you don't have and unwise to recommend a company with such unreliable business practices.
What is a PC-Based Reading System?
A PC-based reading system is similar to a stand-alone reading machine in that it scans the page (takes an electronic picture of it), analyzes that picture, and converts the text on the page into synthesized speech. Unlike a reading machine, a PC-based reading system, however, can do other things because it is based on an existing computer. All of the systems reviewed here require at a minimum a 386 computer with at least 8 megabytes of memory and adequate hard disk storage space to store the program and scanned documents. We recommend a minimum of twenty-five megabytes of free hard disk storage as a starting point. More free space is desirable since documents, image files, and swap files can get quite large.
While a 386-based computer will do the job, a 486 will be better, and a Pentium-based system will be better yet because the reading process consists of three main steps. First, an electronic picture of a printed page is taken by the flatbed scanner. Second, this electronic image is transferred to the PC and analyzed, and any text is extracted. Finally, this text is converted into synthesized speech, refreshable Braille output, or large print output by the user's access device. The second step, the analysis of the image, is the difficult one--the one that relies on the power of the PC. So the faster the processor, the more quickly the analysis will take place.
Using a Hewlett Packard Scanjet IIp
flatbed scanner (the most common scanner around today), the scanning phase takes
approximately fifteen seconds. A faster computer will not speed up this step.
On the other hand, the page analysis can take anywhere from a second or two
to several minutes. Factors
affecting the length of time include the speed of the computer, the quality of the printed page, the amount of text on the page, the number of fonts employed, the size of the print, the presence or absence of graphics, the complexity of the layout, and more. Processing times on a 386 computer will seem painfully slow when compared to a fast 486 or a Pentium. We found that, when we used a ALR Pentium 90 with thirty-two megabytes of RAM, most pages had been processed and were being read before the HP scanner had returned the scanner head to the home position, and no page analysis took longer than about ten or fifteen seconds. If you are going to do a lot of reading, get the fastest computer you can afford. You will spend much less time waiting for the computer to process pages. With the use of the new Pentium computers, the scanning stage, not the analysis, becomes the time-consuming step. It used to be the other way around.
For most people there are a number of advantages to using PC-based reading systems. If you already have an adequate computer and an adaptive access system, it saves money. If you wish to scan documents and save them as files for archival or editing purposes, then PC-based systems have an advantage over dedicated reading machines. PC-based systems allow you to use whatever access device or devices you already have--speech synthesizers, refreshable Braille displays, or large print display software and hardware. With most systems it is even possible to use multiple display methods simultaneously such as speech and refreshable Braille, or speech and large print. If you already have an adequate computer and an access device, it is clearly cheaper to purchase a PC-based system. Even if you don't, but you are prepared to shop wisely and take advantage of falling computer prices, you can still save money starting from scratch with a PC-based system rather than investing in most stand-alone reading machines. Moreover, you will have a fully functional computer that can be used for other purposes such as writing, doing your finances, or accessing the information superhighway. Finally, when manufacturers update their systems, PC-based reading systems are easier to upgrade than most stand-alone reading machines.
Why A Special System?
In the International Braille and Technology
Center for the Blind, we are often asked, why do blind people need special reading
systems like An Open Book Unbound or Reading AdvantEdge? Are they as good as
the commercially available scanning products used in most offices? The answers
to these two questions are related.
Virtually all of the commercially available optical character recognition (OCR) software--the part of the package that extracts text from the page image--runs under Microsoft Windows. Until recently blind people have not been able to run Microsoft Windows. While there are now six Windows access programs on the market (with others due out in the near future, possibly even by the time you read this article), the programs have some rough edges and are still experiencing growing pains. Running an OCR system under one of them, while possible, would be difficult or impossible for the average user. The access companies (including Arkenstone, Xerox, and TeleSensory) have taken commercially available OCR systems and written their own control software that is speech-friendly. This is the software
through which you initiate scanning, set and change options, read documents, etc. All of the companies use commercially available OCR engines. Arkenstone uses software from Calera Recognition Systems, which is also used in Calera's Wordscan Plus. The Reading AdvantEdge uses the same engine found in Xerox Imaging System's Text Bridge, and TeleSensory uses Omnipage Professional Version 5 from Caere Corporation in its OsCaR product. So systems for blind users offer the same OCR capabilities as their commercially available counterparts used by the sighted but are easier for us to use.
What Do You Get?
Arkenstone, Xerox, and TeleSensory wish
to sell you an entire reading system, which includes a flatbed scanner, an interface
card that goes inside your PC, and a cable to attach the two together, as well
as all the software needed to control the scanner, perform OCR tasks, read documents,
and set options. Each of the companies will sell you its software alone, which
may save you a few dollars. If this is the route you decide to go, you must
provide your own scanner, interface card, and cable; but these are all readily
available in the commercial marketplace.
Below we will describe each system, its layout, and operation. While not every feature will be mentioned or described, we will try to provide you with descriptions of the significant features and operations and to give you an overall feel for the operation of the software. Many of the features are similar, and all the systems scan fairly well, so some of the differences are subtle.
An Open Book Unbound
Arkenstone calls its PC-based system
"An Open Book Unbound" to differentiate it from their stand-alone
product, which is called "An Open Book." The two products are virtually
identical. An Open Book Unbound software-only package costs $995, while the
software with a Hewlett Packard Scanjet IIIp scanner costs $1590.
The Open Book Unbound system differs in one major way from its competitors. It takes direct control of your speech synthesizer or Braille Display and does not use your existing screen-review program or Braille-display control software. An Open Book Unbound actually runs under Microsoft Windows Version 3.1, although the user is never aware of this fact. The system provides him or her with speech-friendly or Braille-friendly prompts and output and takes care of all matters dealing with Windows itself. This is the reason, though, that conventional DOS-based access products are bypassed. Consequently, you must use a speech synthesizer or refreshable Braille display supported by Arkenstone. These include synthesizers in the Accent, Apollo, Double Talk, and Keynote Gold lines, as well as all of the Blazie products and the Audapter, DEC-Talk PC, Echo, Infovox, Sounding Board, and transport.
The Artic SynPhonix line is not supported, although drivers have been promised since the beginning. Jim Fruchterman, President of Arkenstone, has assured us that Artic drivers are near completion. He says that they are waiting for software from Artic Technologies that supports indexing--a way for a synthesizer and its control software to communicate with each other about what each is doing. He further says that Arkenstone has hired a consultant to create its own software in the absence of software from Artic Technologies. Supported Braille displays include models from Alva, Baum, E.H.G., Frank Audiodata, Pappenmeier, TeleSensory, and Teiman. Fruchterman says that any Braille display that doesn't shut down when Windows is invoked should work. Further, any large-print display system that works with Windows should also work. Fruchterman says that they have made changes to support the Zoom Text product from AI Squared.
An Open Book Unbound is controlled by using a series of menus. The functions of the system are normally controlled by using keys on the seventeen-key numeric keypad found on the right side of standard 101-key keyboards. Choices on Open Book menus are accessed by using four keys on the keypad, which represent arrow keys. The user moves up and down between items much as with many PC applications. Once an item is selected, its individual choices are accessed by using the right and left arrow keys. Choices are made by hitting what is called the Select Key, which is the five key--the one with the raised dot in the middle of the numeric keypad. The system has Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced menus. The Beginner and Intermediate menus do not make all options available to the user and may be useful to the new user since there are fewer choices to confuse him or her. The sub-menus of the main menu include Read a Document; Library Options (where documents are stored, converted, and exported to floppy disk); Scanning Options (where contrast, page size, and the like are controlled); and Open Book Options (where you choose the menu level, set voice characteristics, exit the system,
One drawback to this system, as it is currently designed, is that it takes a number of keystrokes to change some items. One must select an item, move to an individual choice, select that choice, and then press the Escape Key the proper number of times to back out of the menu system. Unlike An Open Book, An Open Book Unbound can also use regular keys on the alphanumeric keyboard. You can, for example, hit "O" for Open Book Options, "s" for Scanning Options, etc. You can also use the regular Escape Key for the Escape function and the regular Enter Key as the Select Key. The use of the regular keyboard is especially appreciated for typing document names, which is a tedious process at best on An Open Book Unbound. Once you know the system, these shortcut keys do help immensely.
An Open Book Unbound has three basic modes: the Reading Mode, the Scanning Mode, and the Control Menus. When reading a document, one has to hit the Escape Key to leave the Document Reader prior to hitting the Scan Key to scan another page. Since the Scan Key is a dedicated key, it should be possible to go directly from Reading Mode to Scanning Mode at any time, but it is not. In fact, it should be possible to Scan at any time you are in the system. Jim Fruchterman, President of Arkenstone, assures us that this and other problems will be addressed in an upcoming Version 3. We were also assured by Arkenstone that some of the command awkwardness and oddities would be addressed in Version 2.0, which did not happen. In fact, changes have been promised since version 1.1. It is beginning to look as though changes will never be made and as though the longer the time and the more systems sold, the less likely are interface changes.
An Open Book Unbound does have the ability to control contrast automatically. A Hewlett Packard Scanjet II or III series scanner is necessary to use this feature. Arkenstone was the first to offer this feature, and it generally works well and is very useful. You can also control the contrast manually for problem pages. There are a hundred levels of adjustment available when you choose a custom setting. There are also settings for Normal Contrast, Darken Page, and Lighten Page. The unit can also determine the direction in which the print goes on the page and read it, no matter what its orientation. This is a great time-saver for a blind person working alone. While it adds a few seconds to the recognition process, it is well worth the time to most of us, and the feature can be turned off. Different voices can be assigned to indicate normal, underlined, bold, and italic print. A different voice can also be assigned to the Menus.
The Arkenstone software also has provisions
for batch scanning--that is, one can scan (take pictures of) a number of pages
all at once, then have An Open Book Unbound do the character recognition at
a later time--like when you are at lunch. This feature can be valuable for big
jobs, on slower computers, or to people with automatic sheet feeders.
Once any text is scanned and recognized, it is automatically saved on the computer's hard disk. It is then possible to name a document and save it in a category. The software comes with a number of categories already set up, such as bills, books, brochures, general, letters, manuals, and recipes. It is possible to establish your own categories as well. The software should, however, be able to save or export files to a floppy disk. A number of steps are now required.
In addition to batch scanning, An Open Book Unbound can scan and recognize a page, then read it or use the Quick-Speech Mode, in which speech is supposedly generated faster. However, it does not work very well. It is choppy and doesn't save much time. While the initial speech starts more quickly, the pauses and general choppiness use up any time savings.
The software can save files in a variety of word-processor and other application formats--over fifty-five of them. One useful and unique feature of An Open Book Unbound is the ability to adjust the speed of reading on the fly, while it is reading a document, without losing your place.
On the whole, installation is not a problem with this software, with two possible exceptions. The drivers for a number of speech synthesizers are on a supplemental disk, which you mus put into the disk drive when prompted. You must then type in the name of the proper driver, including any serial port needed. If you do not know this information exactly, you can't proceed. Second, the installation of a flatbed scanner will be a problem to some. For more information see the "Strengths and Weaknesses" section at the end of this review.
The software comes with an adequate manual in print, on tape, on disk, and in Braille upon request. The system also has a key-describer mode, which will be useful to new users, and the help system is good.
TeleSensory, Inc., has just released
Version 4.0A of its PC- based reading system, OsCaR. This version offers a number
of improvements over version 3.0, including an improved menu structure, better
optical character recognition, and some interesting new features, most notably
the ability to correct individual words while reading a document.
The OsCaR software costs $995, and the system costs $1,595 with a Hewlett Packard IIIp scanner. Supported scanners include the HP line; the GS Plus scanner from Datacopy, which is sold by Xerox Imaging Systems; and two Panasonic models. OsCaR, which is DOS-based, uses the facilities of your regular access system, regardless of whether it is a speech synthesizer and screen review program, a refreshable Braille display, or large-print software. However, the system does work best with one or more of TeleSensory's own products--Vert Plus, Vert Pro, Soft Vert, Screen Power, Power Braille, or the Navigator. We tested the system using Vert Plus and an eighty-cell Navigator refreshable Braille display, and the system tracked the menus flawlessly. In addition, the Braille display worked well and was always synchronized with the speech. We found it enjoyable to use the speech together with the Braille. The speech was good for long listening, and the Braille provided accuracy and precision in editing.
The menu structure and operation of the OsCaR are more straightforward and easier to use than that of An Open Book Unbound. The up and down arrow keys move between main groups or among sub-menus and from item to item, while the right and left arrows show the options within each item. Once you move the right or left arrow to your choice, you don't have to hit Enter to select it or Escape to leave it. You can hit the down-arrow key to go to the next item. The previous choice remains in effect as
it was left. When you get to the bottom of a sub-menu, the software beeps and wraps back to the top of that sub-menu. Further, when you first enter a sub-menu from the main menu, only the command letters are shown--that is, the first letter from each choice on that menu. If you know your choice, you can type that letter. However, if you are not sure, just hit the down arrow, and the letters will be expanded into words as you move past them. There are also function key choices to invoke some common operations from most points of the program, such as F4 to scan and F10 to quit.
The first sub-menu on the main OsCaR menu allows the user to modify settings that affect accuracy. These include single or multiple columns; type of text (regular print, dot-matrix print, or faxes); page orientation; contrast; etc. Having all of these settings in one place is a good idea and a great improvement over Version 3.0. The next sub-menu is Advanced Scanner Settings. These include scanning mode, primary and secondary language choice, scanning from or to images on disk, page borders, etc. The secondary language option is an interesting innovation. It allows you to install a dictionary for a second language, like French or Spanish. If words in that language appear on a page with English words, the accuracy of their recognition should be improved by the presence of the dictionary. This feature should be a boon to those who handle bilingual materials.
There are also primary dictionaries for U.S. and U.K. legal and medical terms, which should help people working in those fields. The Advanced Settings Menu is the place you can invoke batch scanning, in which you can scan images of a document or series of documents and do the recognition at a later time. OsCaR has an interesting feature for this process. If you scan with Batch Separators and put a blank sheet between the documents in a large batch, OsCaR will break the individual documents down into separate files. This feature would be useful to anyone reading a number of small documents--a student with a series of handouts, for example.
Scan and Recognize is the next choice on the main menu. When OsCar is set up to scan and read a page, it does one thing differently from the other reviewed systems. It scans and recognizes the top of the first page, showing you the first few lines, and presents you with a sub-menu of choices which include reading the entire page, continuing to scan additional pages, and saving the current page. In some instances this is a useful feature because it allows you to see quickly whether you are getting useable text or garbage. However, there seems to be no way to defeat this feature, and with those documents in which you have no doubt about the useability of the scan, it can be annoying.
Next on the Main Menu is Convert. This choice allows you to convert a scanned document to a specified file format. A full complement of programs and versions of programs are supported with over eighty-five choices. There is support for all versions of WordPerfect, including those for the Mac and Microsoft Windows; Microsoft Word (all versions); Lotus 1-2-3; Dbase; ASCII; and much more. Output can even be sent directly to a Braille translation program. Duxbury, Hot Dots, and Mega Dots are supported.
The Files Menu is next. OsCaR allows you to do file management from within the program--that is, to change directories, copy and delete files, view ASCII files, save or print files, and more. You can also run an external program from this sub-menu, such as a word processor. Of course, you can also specify what file will be loaded into the program as it runs. These features work well and will be useful to some people.
The next sub-menu retrieves and saves settings. The settings file maintains the choices made in all the menu options we have been discussing. It is possible to have separate settings files for different kinds of work.
The next choice on the OsCaR Main Menu displays OsCaR settings. This gives you information about what the system is currently doing and about the page being scanned.
The next-to-last sub-menu is Other. Here you can halt scanning, erase the current page, or manage your custom dictionary. If you encounter a word or phrase regularly that the system has trouble dealing with, you can enter it in the Custom Dictionary to improve the speed and accuracy of recognition. The final choice on the Main Menu is Quit OsCar.
OsCaR comes with a good manual (available in print or Braille or on disk or tape). The help system is context-sensitive and quite good. The installation process was also easy to understand and went without problems. The software is copy-protected. It allows two installations. There is also an uninstall process so you can move the software from one computer to another, perhaps new, computer.
Xerox Imaging Systems
The Reading AdvantEdge (pronounced advantage)
is the PC- based version of the Reading Edge, the company's successful stand-alone
reading machine. It uses the same OCR core technology. However, unlike the Reading
Edge, which strives to be simple, the Reading AdvantEdge packs a lot of power
and many options into a conventional menu system.
The manual for the Reading AdvantEdge is detailed and straightforward. It will provide too much detail for an experienced user but will be helpful to a new user. It comes in print and Braille and on cassette and disk. The installation process for the Reading AdvantEdge was easy to follow and went well. We initially had some difficulty installing a GS Plus scanner, which ultimately proved to be defective. The company replaced it quickly and without questions.
The Reading AdvantEdge will work with any access system, since it is a DOS-based program. It supports two scanners that Xerox Imaging Systems sells, the GS Plus and the SA4-3. The GS Plus was originally manufactured by Datacopy, a company Xerox acquired several years ago. Though the scanner has now been discontinued, Xerox still has a number on hand and sells them at a relatively good price. The other scanner Xerox sells is the SA4-3. This is the large bookedge scanner that was used with the old Kurzweil Personal Reader. The Reading AdvantEdge also supports the Scanjet line of scanners from Hewlett Packard.
The software-only version of the Reading AdvantEdge is priced at $795; the price with a GS Plus scanner is $1,295; and with a SA4-3 scanner the system will set you back a whopping $2,995. Unless you need a bookedge scanner, get an HP scanner on your own. The GS Plus scanner is slow, and with the drop in price of the HP IIIp scanners, it is no longer such a good deal. The list price for the HP scanner is $595, and a good shopper could find it for $500 or less.
The Reading AdvantEdge uses a conventional menuing system with a Main Menu and sub-menus subordinate to it. In some instances sub-menus go three or four layers deep. Menus are navigated using up and down arrow keys or Tab and Shift-Tab keys. With some screen review programs you get double speech--that is, lines repeating themselves when the arrows are used. The use of the Tab and Shift-Tab keys as an alternative prevents this and is a convenience. There are also alternative keystrokes in other places to avoid speech problems. Once you reach an item you wish to change, the Enter key displays possible choices.
Because of the number of sub-menus and, in some instances, sub-sub-menus, it would take several pages to describe the Reading AdvantEdge and all of its choices completely. Suffice it to say, it is a powerful and complete text and imaging scanning system with a full set of features and options. The software offers the user many more options if needed or desired. However, you do not have to delve into this complexity unless you wish.
The Main Menu has seven choices: Scan, Batch Facilities, Utilities, Applications, Options, Help, and Quit. The first choice is Scan. When you press "S" or hit "Enter" to choose it, the system says "scanning Idle Menu" and starts scanning. We find this a little misleading. Reading AdvantEdge says "Scanning Idle Menu" because you can do a few things while there--abort the scan and enable or disable the Speak-Immediately utility. However, the primary purpose is to scan, and we were initially confused by the message, particularly in light of the fact that there is a long pause before the GS Plus scanner begins. We would prefer a "Scanning, Please Wait . . . " or similar message.
As mentioned above, you can have the system speak immediately or go back later and read the scanned document. The manual says that the reading may not be quite as accurate with the Speak-Immediately utility because the decolumnization and other page formatting steps may not be as accurate. We believe
that this is also the case with the other reviewed systems. Once in the utility, you can move around using the arrow keys or Alt-Key combinations. The utility also has the ability to search in either direction for text strings.
Next on the Main Menu is Batch Facilities. Like the other reviewed systems, Reading AdvantEdge has the ability to scan (record images of) the pages and process them separately. These procedures are set up and initiated from this Main Menu choice.
The next choice is Utilities. This is where you save and retrieve settings, read ASCII files, and do file management tasks such as copying and deleting files. Applications is the next choice on the Main Menu. the first application is the Text Browser, a program which reads ASCII files. There are also four blanks for plugging in the names of applications you wish to run from within the Reading AdvantEdge. These could be a word processor, Braille translation program, etc. You can also automatically or manually specify a filename at the time the program is loaded. You can invoke any of the applications using Function Keys from anywhere within AdvantEdge.
Options is next on the main menu. This area is probably the most complex area of the system since some of the choices go down several layers. There are sub-menus for Text Scanning Options, Formatting Options, and Image Scanning Options. Under Text Scanning Options, for example, there are sub-menus for Recognition Options and Formatting Options. Under Recognition Options you can set document type, brightness, text type, user lexicon, language, questionable character threshold, eliminate halftones, and maximum point size. This list of choices illustrates the power of the system. The User Lexicon is a user-defined dictionary for acronyms or other words that the system might have problems with. The text type can be set to Alpha-numeric, that is letters and numbers; Numbers Only; User Lexicon Only; or User Lexicon with Numbers. For example, let us say that you work in a warehouse and have to scan inventory sheets. You could define the items you stock in a User Lexicon and set the Text Type and Filter options so that only numbers and your parts showed up in the scan. As you can see, there is lots of power and sophistication in the software.
Under the Page-Control Options, which is under Text-Scanning Options, you can set Page Orientation, Document Feeder Presence, Columns, Cropping Window, Units of Measure, and Width and Height of the page. Some of these choices can also be set in other parts of the software, such as in Batch Facilities, adding further to the number of possible choices.
Under Formatting Options, which you recall is one of the three main choices on the Options Menu, you can pick one of forty-six possible file conversions. There is a good selection of applications and file formats available. You can also control how formatting information in the source document is handled in the output. There are choices for centering, spaces and tabs, end of line and end of page markup and many other things. The creative hacker could tinker and perform some pretty specialized formatting with these options. It would, for example, probably be possible automatically to substitute the codes used by a Braille translation software program for formatting information found in a document.
The final choice on the Options Menu is Image Scanning. The software handles TIFF and PCX files, and a full set of options is available. The last two choices on the Main Menu are Help and Quit. The help system is context-sensitive and complete.
Now let's get to what most people consider the important part of our testing: how accurately these software packages scan and read documents. We have developed a set of standard documents that we use to test optical character recognition products. Those used here are the same as the ones we used in our previous tests of stand-alone reading machines. These include a poor-quality, dot-matrix printout--one produced with a 9-pin printer and bad ribbon; a letter-quality printout; a laser-printed sheet with different sized serif and sans serif fonts, ranging from six to fourteen-points in size; a fax; a flyer from Egghead Software; and a page from a bank statement. The flyer has three columns, graphics, multiple fonts, and different colors and represents a fairly complex page layout. We have added some additional pages, which include letter-quality text skewed at an angle of five, ten, fifteen, and twenty degrees to test how well the systems read crooked documents. While these tests are not exhaustive (they do not test how well the systems preserve formatting information, for example,) they are practical. The test pages
represent a cross section of the kinds of documents each of us wants to read.
For these tests we have also instituted a scoring system. Scanning most printed pages produces text that falls into one of five possible categories:
1. Garbage: random characters and indecipherable
2. Poor text: mostly garbage with a few understandable words sprinkled randomly throughout.
3. Fair text: mostly understandable text, but still a relatively high number of mistakes. Familiar or simple text can be followed,but unfamiliar or difficult material or material with numbers or computer commands may not be useable.
4. Good text: very understandable results with only a few mistakes; problems may occur only with numbers or computer commands and the like.
5. Excellent text: few if any mistakes, no more than one or two per page.
We scanned each page and assigned the appropriate number to the results. For the typefaces page, which has ten print style-size combinations, and the skewed pages, which have four results, a result number was assigned to each combination or page; and the resulting scores were added together and divided by the number of items in the group (ten and four respectively) to determine the composite score. We scanned each of these pages with each machine. We started with the default settings and changed them only if the results were bad or if there was a specific setting for the type of page being scanned (fax or dot-matrix, for example). So, unless otherwise indicated, brightness, contrast, and print style settings are at their default or automatic values for all tests.
Finally, we scanned all pages with the Reading AdvantEdge three times. Like previous systems from the company, the software does better once it has trained itself on a page. Multiple scans seemed to have no effect with An Open Book Unbound and OsCaR.
To end the suspense, here are the scores. Then we will try to explain the results. The winner, with 30.8 points, is Arkenstone's Open Book Unbound. The second place system, with 26.8 points, is OsCaR from TeleSensory; and Reading AdvantEdge, with a score of 22.8, came in third. While these differences may seem significant--and there certainly were some notable differences--we stress that our results should not be regarded as the last word. Depending on the kinds of documents you regularly
read, these results may be meaningless to you. To be certain, you should conduct your own test on all three machines, using a set of documents you normally read.
Below is a table listing the results for each machine and test:
SCANNING TEST RESULTS
Open Book OsCar Reading
AdvantageLetter-quality 5 5 5
Dot-matrix 5 5 4
Fax 4 4 4
Flyer 4 4 3
Typefaces 4.8 4.2 3.8
Skewed pages 4 2 1
Bank statement 4 2 2
Totals 30.8 26.2 22.8
As you can see, all of the systems read
the letter-quality page perfectly. They also read the dot-matrix quite well,
although the Reading AdvantEdge stumbled a little, even though we changed it
to its dot-matrix setting and ran the page through three times. All of the packages
did pretty well with the fax, stumbling a little on the letterhead and at the
bottom. Each received a score of 4. The Open Book Unbound and OsCaR received
a score of 4 on the Egghead Software flyer, and the Reading AdvantEdge got a
3. They all had trouble at the top, but in general it was possible to follow
the sense. Overall, the Reading AdvantEdge missed more words, which resulted
in its lower score. The type faces page had two columns, one of Roman type,
one of San serif type, ranging in size from six to fourteen points. In general
Open Book Unbound, which received a 4.8, read the smaller sizes better and had
no problems with decolumnization. The OsCaR system got a 4.2 and had a little
decolumnization trouble. It didn't do as well with the smaller sizes. Reading
AdvantEdge, which received a 3.8, had some decolumnization problems along with
problems in the smaller print sizes, and it also stumbled some right up through
the Roman ten-point size, which the other systems were able to handle.
With its Version 2.1, Arkenstone says that it can handle skewed pages up to fifteen degrees. We could only get it to handle a ten-degree skew, which resulted in a score of 4. OsCar was able to handle a five-degree skew, netting it a score of 2, while Reading AdvantEdge couldn't read any of the skewed pages, resulting in a score of one.
Finally, there was the infamous bank statement. As you may recall from the stand-alone tests, the results were disappointing. This time An Open Book Unbound scored a 4. While we would still not recommend using the results to reconcile your bank account, it did read the majority of the information accurately and did a considerably better job than the other two systems, which each received a score of 2.
Strengths and Weaknesses
As we pointed out earlier, our scanning
tests should not be regarded as conclusive; you should certainly conduct your
own if possible. Each of the systems has its own strengths and weaknesses. Further,
there are other considerations, such as price, special discounts, the reliability
of your local dealer, the equipment your friends are using, the access equipment
you have, your experience with systems at work, and more.
An Open Book Unbound from Arkenstone is relatively easy to use. It is easy to set up and get into service quickly. This reflects the stand-alone-reading-machine origins of the product. The system did win our scanning tests, and in day-to-day use and demonstrations with a variety of materials brought in by people on tour, we have found the system to be slightly more accurate overall. On the negative side, the menu system seems somewhat cumbersome to use when making changes to the system, and your speech synthesizer may not be supported, although most are. Also it is not very easy to save and export files, and some may find the Library system of pre-defined categories awkward or restrictive.
The OsCaR system from TeleSensory is particularly strong when it is used with the company's own access systems. Everything speaks well and is exactly synchronized. Overall, the system has good accuracy, and the revised menu structure is an improvement over version 3.0. The word correction feature can be quite useful, as can the user dictionary and second language. On the negative side, TeleSensory is a company in flux. The company has changed management twice in less than two years, and rumors persist that the blindness-products division will be spun off or sold. Some people have reported support and service problems with TeleSensory, though we have not had any such problems. If you ask around enough, you will hear good and bad stories about any company, particularly the larger ones. The representative in the Baltimore area has been willing and helpful, although this varies from place to place. Finally, it may take a little work to get OsCaR or Reading AdvantEdge to behave with your speech system, although on the whole they do well.
Reading AdvantEdge is a sophisticated and powerful system. There are dozens of settings that can be user-adjusted if you wish, but they don't have to be. If you wish to tinker, this is the system for you. While Reading AdvantEdge didn't do as well in our scanning tests, it read basic materials well and would probably do a good job for most users. Greg Guidice, marketing manager for the product, reports that Xerox is continuously working on optical character recognition improvements, which will be offered as upgrades as they become available. On the down side, the number of menus and choices may not appeal to everyone. We found it easy to get lost at times. It can be difficult to find one obscure setting if you are not sure where you are.
Stephen Baum, the author of the software, has made a real effort to ascertain what blind people want. He is, or at least was, active on NFB NET, CompuServe, and other BBS's and tries torespond to questions and input. He has also written some useful utilities which have been released to the public domain, including a program to identify money and a utility to strip headers and footers from text files. Baum has left the company, although he says that he still might be working with Xerox on a consulting basis.
One possible drawback with all the systems is the need to install a scanner and its interface card. This can be tricky because the interface is achieved by what is called a SCSI card, (pronounced scuzzy) which stands for Small Computer Systems Interface. SCSI adapters require their own memory addresses, interrupts, and the like. Further, the memory space they use may have to be excluded from the addresses controlled by a memory manager such as EMM386 or QEMM. If this all sounds like Greek, you will probably need some help installing your scanner. The Open Book Unbound manual provides little assistance in this area although there are some examples, and many dealers will do installation for you. The OsCaR and Reading AdvantEdge manuals do provide some assistance, particularly the Reading AdvantEdge manual for the scanners the company sells. In fact, there is a separate installation manual, which is available in Braille.
As mentioned above, some dealers will help you with scanner installation. If you don't know something about installing expansion boards in your computer and about memory management, you really should plan to seek assistance from a friend, co-worker, or dealer.
We are asked almost every day, "What
should I buy?" Well, it depends. As you can see from the above reviews,
there are many factors to be considered. There is no one system right for everyone.
That in fact is part of the reason that the National Federation of the Blind
created the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind. We have
and use all of the systems under one roof so that we can work with them and
get an idea of their individual strengths and weaknesses. We can then write
reviews like this one and help you decide what is the best system for you.
There has been more change in the scanning and OCR area than in any other arena in the access technology field. Prices have steadily dropped, both for stand-alone machines and for PC-based systems, and the technology has improved dramatically. Overall, all of the scanning results were somewhat better than those we obtained a year and a half ago when testing stand-alone reading machines with the same documents.
The OCR field is in flux at present. In late November an announcement was made that Caere Corp., the company that provides TeleSensory's OCR engine, had bought Calera Recognition Systems, the company that provides Arkenstone's OCR engine. Jim Fruchterman, President of Arkenstone, admitted that they are certain that they will get Calera's next upgrade, which will be used in Arkenstone's Version 3.0, but after that they just don't know. No announcement has been made about the future of Calera's
products and whether or not they will be maintained as separate lines. What this merger means to us as blind consumers is impossible to determine at this point.
For Further Information
For further information or to find out who your local dealer is, you can contact one of the following:
Arkenstone, Inc., 1390 Borregas Ave.,
Sunnyvale, California 94089; (800) 444-4443 or (408) 752-2200.
TeleSensory, Inc., 455 North Bernardo Ave., P.O. Box 7455, Mountain View, California 94039-7455; (800) 227-8418 or (415) 960-0920.
Xerox Imaging Systems, Inc., 9 Centennial Park Drive, Peabody, Massachusetts 01960; (800) 343-0311 or (508) 977-2000.
For further information or data on updates
and recent developments, you can also contact the International Braille and
Technology Center for the Blind. You can reach us at the International Braille
and Technology Center for the Blind, National Federation of the Blind, 1800
Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230; (410) 659-9314. You can also reach
us through NFB NET, our computer bulletin board system, by calling (410) 752-5011.
You can also reach David Andrews via Internet at email@example.com.
Reprints of the stand-alone reading machine reviews can still be ordered in Braille or print from the NFB's Materials Center or the entire Braille Monitor for August, 1993, can also be ordered for $2, in print or Braille or on cassette or talking-book disk. The Braille Monitor and the reprint can also be downloaded from NFB NET.
[Photo: Ed Vaughan speaks at microphone.
Caption: Ed Vaughan]
A PERSPECTIVE FROM CHINA
by C. Edwin Vaughan, Ph.D.
From the Editor: Dr. Edwin Vaughan is Professor of Sociology at the University of Missouri at Columbia. He delivered the following remarks near the close of the Wednesday afternoon, July 6, general session of the 1994 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. This is what he said:
It is an honor for me to speak to an
organization which I dearly love and am proud to be a member of. The topic,
China, might seem far removed from the previous discussion [on Braille], but
in one sense it isn't. I think all of us who have thought much about blindness,
at least in our organization, have come to the conclusion that, whatever else
it is, blindness is largely a social phenomenon, not an intrinsic personal tragedy.
Our success depends on what we make of the situation, and that's why we say,
"We're changing what it means to be blind."
Political, economic, cultural, social, medical--all kinds of social perspectives go into the kind of presentations we have heard this afternoon as competing interest groups propound their definitions of and solutions for the problems facing the blind. Sometimes it's refreshing to look at a totally different culture and civilization to see how blindness has developed there, perhaps to give us a broader vantage from which to look at our own situation.
In the past four years I have had the pleasure and privilege of making three extensive visits to China, once for a year and then for seven weeks during each of the last two summers. The first time, as far as I know, I was the first blind teacher at the university level in China, but I'm not sure about that. The
last two summers I took a group of college students on study tours in China. My research interest has been on higher education in China and particularly how higher education is responding to the current economic reforms. My real interest was to learn about blind people in China. To that end I visited every blind school I could, and I interviewed fifty or so individual blind people, all of whom I think you would be proud to have as members of this Federation.
It's awfully hard to talk about another culture in ten minutes and not give the wrong impression. I'm a great admirer of China--of its antiquity, of its civilization. I'm also an admirer of its revolution. I think no other developing country in the world has done more for its poor people than did Chairman Mao and the revolution in China. I'm not defending his mistakes after he became the emperor in effect, but the period of struggle to make China a new nation, free from colonial domination, and to make the people proud of their heritage and give them a new start has made China now one of the most powerful nations on the earth, the third most productive in gross national product and one of the world's most rapidly growing economies. It also has one fifth of the world's population, and I am certain it has more blind people than any other country on earth.
In China blindness has a traceable history of more than twenty-five hundred years. There were advisors to Confucius who were blind, and there were famous poets, almost certainly from the wealthy, landed gentry of feudal China. And through all the intervening years since, there have been hundreds of millions of very ordinary blind people living quiet lives. But in that culture blind people developed four distinct kinds of employment: fortune-telling, blind massage, singing, and begging--not an unusual occupation in many Asian cultures. Blind people in China organized themselves, as did all other people, into guilds, that is, self-governing organizations. Even a thousand years ago there were organizations of the blind in China in which people regulated their own behavior and resolved their own problems of conduct. For example, organizations of blind massage would settle whose territory was whose, how much should be charged, and so on. These guilds were not created by professionals or the government. The members looked after their own interests to promote their own economic and social well-being. This was true of all other craftsmen and workers in societies around the world where governments were not strong and people organized to protect their own interests. I would guess that blind people in China lived a
quiet life. But they lived a life that was recognized within China, at least, as an area in which they had a domain they controlled themselves.
There was no tradition of schools for the blind. There was no humanitarian, civil-rights, human-rights philosophy in China. These things are alien to that culture. Western missionaries, who were part of the baggage of feudalism and colonialism, brought the first schools for the blind to China beginning around 1880. Those schools persisted even through the Revolution and the Japanese War until 1949. But with the establishment of the People's Republic of China, an effort at social control was brought to bear as Chairman Mao tried to solidify and stabilize a new and enormous country with more than half a billion people at that time. Because of all the external pressure, including that of the United States, the government became totalitarian and oppressive, and every single independent organization was abolished. That is, the state had a party member in every kind of organization that it permitted. The former autonomous organizations of blind people were gone. Now any organizations or schools that existed were headed by political cadres, appointees of the government, usually because of their personal connections rather than their qualifications.
Things went even worse for blind people during the period of the Cultural Revolution. In 1966 Chairman Mao introduced a program called the anti-four-olds program. He thought China could only modernize and secularize if it could get rid of its feudal past, which included getting rid of Confucianism, loyalty to the family (rather than the state), superstitious things like fortune-telling, and non-productive things like blind massage and singing. When you think about it, the things he banned weren't so different from many things in our country. We have television, chiropractors, and new-age religion--things that roughly correspond to what those blind people were doing in China at the time of the Cultural Revolution. But they were persecuted, and many were forced to cease their activities altogether and becomewards of the new socialist, humanist state.
Chairman Mao died in 1976, and in 1978 Deng Xiaoping initiated a new kind of open-door policy to the West, inviting capital, modern technology, and new ideas to help improve China's standard of living and to modernize China's society. That included openness to people from this country and around the world to bring technology and ideas about the education of blind people. In the intervening years the number of schools for the blind and deaf has mushroomed.
There has also been an unusual development, perhaps peculiar to China. Deng Xiaoping's son, Deng PuFang, was injured during the Cultural Revolution. He fell from the third story of a building as part of a political struggle session and had to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life. While reflecting upon his personal condition, he began to think of the absence of a set of values in China in which a person with a disability has the same right as anybody else to participate in society. So Deng PuFang began to raise money because his father wouldn't give the money from the state. He began to raise money to promote the cause of handicapped people, and he also organized the China Disabled People's Association, which has gotten a lot of publicity within China about why people with disabilities ought to participate and be included in society. Factories were started to employ handicapped people. Much has been done. In fact, I think China has done more than any other developing nation in the world to promote the cause of handicapped people.
Having said all these good things, I must also mention some negative features. First of all, blindness is incorporated in this larger umbrella organization and in my judgment is faring quite poorly. In the traditional culture of China very little was expected of blind people. Everyone I interviewed said that
employers would rather hire a deaf person or a mobility-handicapped person, because they think that blind people can do nothing. On my last trip, which ended two days ago, I interviewed quite a few blind people in different parts of China that I had not been in before. I interviewed two blind massage doctors as they call themselves, who were doing blind massage outside the hotel in Chengdu, where I was staying. I asked them why they were doing this at ten or eleven o'clock at night. The answer was that
the public officials would not permit them to work during daylight. They didn't want tourists to see blind people sitting out there doing massages. They also said that, when government programs were going on, big doings with high cadres in the city, all blind musicians and other blind people were forced off the streets because they are an embarrassment.
My hope for China is that we can find ways to share at culturally appropriate levels what we have learned. There is an openness in China for this to happen. Many professional organizations go there and have high level meetings. As a sociologist I'm convinced that the best way to share knowledge is by demonstration. Perhaps people like Fred Schroeder, Rami Rabby, and James Gashel could find a way to convince our government or foundations to establish a kind of Peace Corps of blind people. The Peace Corps is now in China for the first time, and I'm certain we could find ways to place blind Americans to teach people in China independent living skills, mobility, and English language skills. For example, Eileen Rivera's translation of our Spanish colleague's presentation this morning is a perfect example of what blind people in China could do if they had an education comparable to that of other people.
I look forward to the day when China will have its own National Federation of the Blind and its Jacobus tenBroek. That might happen because some of us, some of you, go to China or South Africa or Guatemala or other countries and share, not in an imperialistic way, but in a doing, teaching way, some of our values about independent living, self-determination, and the full realization of our abilities to participate in society. Thank you very much.
YOUR LOCAL PUBLIC LIBRARY
by Priscilla Hudson
From the Editor: Priscilla Hudson is a long-time Federationist and an active member of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado. She works as a librarian in Boulder. Federationists probably know her best as one of the people who work with Diane McGeorge on door prizes at National Conventions. Last year she married Don Hudson, a member of the Board of Directors of the Merchants Division. She addressed the Division at its meeting last summer during the Detroit convention, and her remarks were printed in the Fall, 1994, issue of the Merchants Messenger, a publication of the Merchants Division of the National Federation of the Blind. We would all do well to keep abreast of changing library services in our local communities. Here is Priscilla Hudson's report on what's new:
Public libraries are everywhere. Small
towns, neighborhoods, big cities--all have public libraries, and there should
be one near you. To find out, check your local telephone directory. Libraries
are listed in most yellow pages with addresses and telephone numbers.
Today's public library is a magic place. No longer filled with the somber, quiet atmosphere of studious research, libraries have evolved into centers of activity and information-delivery of all kinds. To acquaint you with some of the more interesting services available at your public library, I have put together an armchair-traveler's journey.
How Do I Get There?
You can visit your public library three
ways. You can go there in person. Libraries are usually centrally located and
therefore close to public transportation services. You can call your library
on the telephone. Telephone services are available during the hours the library
is open for what is called telephone-reference questions. Many libraries will
fax information to you.
You can dial your library on your home computer. Many libraries have their catalogue and often the catalogues of adjoining library systems available through dial-up access. This service works like any other computer dial-up service. You need a personal computer, modem, and communications software.
What to See There
In addition to books, libraries have
all kinds of materials these days. If you are visiting your library, ask about
these other collections. Most libraries have recorded materials, including music
and books on tape. Most have large video collections. Most libraries are switching
from music recordings on long-playing records to compact discs. Opera, new age,
rock, jazz, classical, country are all to be found in the music section of your
library. Books on tape are a recent addition to the media section of libraries.
These audio cassettes are conventional tapes that play on a standard cassette
player. They are extremely popular and often checked out.
Audio cassettes providing foreign-language instruction are also to be found in the library. My library, for example, has instructional tapes for Spanish, French, German, Italian, Arabic, Vietnamese, Chinese, Russian, and some others, too.
Public libraries subscribe to many magazines to provide a wide variety of information to their patrons. Some libraries allow magazines to be checked out, and some only allow them to be used in the library. Ask your librarian about the magazine section and the services offered there. My library in Boulder, Colorado, subscribes to more than 1200 magazines, from Newsweek to Ski Magazine.
What to Do There
Programs open and free to the public are scheduled weekly at public libraries. Story hours for children are probably the most well known type of program, but most libraries today offer art exhibits, film programs, concerts, lectures, discussion groups, and community-participation workshops. Be sure to ask for the library's activities and program calendar when you call or visit.
Inter-library loan is a service that
has been around for a long time. If you are in need of some book or other material
that is not available at your library, you may request that it be located at
another library and sent to you. There is no charge for this service at most
If the material you need is checked out to someone else, a library will allow you to request that the item be saved for you when it is returned. This is usually called a "reserve" or a "hold." There is no charge for this service at most libraries.
Libraries offer special services to meet the needs of their particular communities. My library has a Braille-output Center, where information is put into a computer, translated into Grade II Braille, and embossed using a Braille printer. This service is done on a request-only basis for the public at a cost of ten cents per page to pay for the paper. My library also has an adult literacy program, which offers one-on-one tutoring to adults needing reading assistance or instruction. My library also delivers books and other library materials to people who are unable to come to us. This is called our Homebound program. Ask your library about their special programs.
Reference services are heavily used by all ages and professions of patrons. The most widely asked-for information is about education and business. Vendors in the Business Enterprise Program for the Blind are independent business persons no different from any other small business operator in the United
States. Successful and creative business people are always searching for new markets, new products, new enticements for their customers. Where does one find this information? Talking to other vendors or using the wealth of information found at every local public library around the United States.
Do you know who your customers are? Men, women, professionals, civil servants? Do you know what they buy? Of course you do. But do you know what they buy when they aren't in your establishment? You can find out at the public library.
When you hear about a new product, do you wonder if it will be popular with your customer base? When you hear about a new product but your distributors don't carry it, you can find out who does at your local public library. It doesn't take a genius to know that, if you sell soft drinks, you must sell Coke and/or Pepsi. But, if you want to offer a variety soft drink such as grape or orange or root beer, do you know the brand that holds the greatest market share in your geographical part of the country, among the demographics of your customer base? You can find out at your local public library.
"Okay," you say, "I'll bite. What do I say when I call the library or go there? Who do I ask? What do I ask for? I don't want to look stupid." Every central library, but not all branches of public libraries around the country, have what are called reference librarians and reference materials. Some libraries have more information than others, but all libraries can get the information. If you call on the telephone, ask to speak to a reference librarian in the business area. Telephone numbers for libraries are listed in local telephone directories and are also available from information assistance.
Once you have the librarian on the line or, if you walk in, once you are in the right department, ask the exact question you want to know first. Reference librarians are trained to do what they call a "reference interview." This means that librarians will ask you questions about what you are looking for and
continue to ask you until you are satisfied that you have received the information you were seeking. If you receive information that is not quite what you need, say so. The librarians will not mind because the mission of libraries is to provide information. Sometimes the librarian will not be able to find the information with the materials on hand and will need to do further exploration for you. You need to leave your name and telephone number so that the librarian can contact you when the information is found.
How is the library able to get all of this information? What other kinds of information are in the library that people use every day? These questions have never-ending answers, but to explain it simply, today's libraries have connections, electronic and others, with a great majority of the libraries around the
world. Libraries are committed to sharing their resources with other libraries so that the public can receive information from almost anywhere in a short period of time. Computer networks and fax facilities allow for information to be delivered within minutes. Reference libraries usually have a number of basic resources in house for patron use. These resources include things like Thomas Register, which lists products and their manufacturers.
How Much Does It Cost?
There is no charge for information. However, if you are photocopying something or getting a fax or a printout from a computer screen, there will be a minimum charge. The public library is the best bargain around. So the next time you have a question about something, try your library. You may end up making
it a habit.
DIFFERENT VIEW OF THE GRAND CANYON
by Deborah Hartz
From the Editor: When I was a Girl
Scout, my troop occasionally went camping at the local scout camp grounds. Cooking
was done over an open fire, but at night we unrolled our sleeping bags on bunk
beds and settled in for as much whispering and as little sleep as the adults
would let us get away with. Each time my ambition was to sleep on one of the
top bunks. But every time we went through the same scenario: I made a bee line
for the bunk room and staked out my claim on a top bunk in the middle of the
room, where I wouldn't miss anything. But when we went in to get ready for bed,
I would find my bed roll on a bottom bunk at one end or the other. The scout
leader had come in and seen the bunk I had chosen and had moved my gear to a
safe location. Not only did her action keep me close to the floor, but by the
time she had perpetrated the atrocity, all the centrally located lower bunks
had been taken, and some late-comer had already snatched my central bunk.
I was never able to convince any of
the long line of scout leaders to let me remain in the top bunk I had grabbed.
In vain I pointed out that I had never fallen out of bed. It didn't matter;
there was a first time for everything. I argued that all people slept with their
eyes closed, so I was no more likely than anyone else to get hurt. I might as
well save my breath to cool my porridge--or more accurately, my slightly cooked
pancake batter with too much syrup. They had promised my mother they would keep
me safe, and they were going to take no chances.
Today I laugh at those misguided efforts to modify camping routine to make it safe and accessible to a blind child. And, when I hear stories of the guide ropes and hand rails installed in various facilities to assist blind campers, I often wonder if we have made much progress during the years since my childhood. Then I stumble on something like the following--a family engaged in outdoor activity and naturally and sensibly finding ways to include the blind child in all the fun, and I conclude that there actually is hope. The article is reprinted from When the Blizzard Blows, the most recent book in our Kernel series of paperbacks. It begins with Dr. Jernigan's introductory note. Here it is:
Deborah Hartz and her husband of Tucson, Arizona, decided that their daughter's blindness was not going to be a barrier to them or her in the enjoyment of a special vacation. They explained to skeptical friends that there were more ways than one to experience the Grand Canyon and that they intended to make the most of the opportunity to see it in a different way. Here is their story:
We stop to rest at the edge of the Tonto
Plateau. Andrea tips back her canteen and drinks deeply. The water's hot from
hours in the sun. Before her spreads the wide canyon.
Andrea listens. "I hear it. I hear the river."
Her baby sister, Laura, bounces in my backpack.
"Are you hot, Lolo? Here. I'll give you some water." Andrea finds the baby's mouth under the wide brim of the sun bonnet and tilts the canteen carefully.
"OK, Mom, I'm ready." Andrea reaches for my wrist, and we continue down the trail singing "Kookaburra." Soft dust puffs up around our feet with each step. Below us a sheer cliff drops away. Andrea is not bothered by the drop-off; she doesn't see it.
Andrea Barker, an experienced hiker, is blind. At the time of our Grand Canyon hike, Andrea was seven.
"That hike was neat because Grandpa and Uncle Myron hiked with us. My sister, Laura, was eight months old. She got to ride in Mom's backpack," Andrea recalls. "Pack it in, pack it out," says the trail sign. On that hike we had four days of dirty diapers to pack out.
Our hike began on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Because the South Kaibab trail is steep and deeply rutted, we often modified our guide technique. Andrea walked directly behind me and held onto the sleeping bag which was tied to the baby's pack. Movement of my pack gave Andrea a good idea of the trail ahead. A safety line connected the two of us.
The night before our hike the temperature on the rim had been close to freezing. It grew steadily hotter as we descended into the canyon.
"I was glad when we got to the tunnel," continued Andrea. "It was cool, and I've always loved echoes. The suspension bridge was fun, too. It swayed some, and our feet made neat noises as we crossed--like the Three Billy Goats Gruff. The breeze from the river felt good."
The Bright Angel Campground at the bottom
of the canyon was a welcome oasis. Water, large trees, flush toilets, picnic
tables! A turkey wandered through the campsites ignoring the campers. Andrea
was asleep before the tents were up.
In the morning we walked to Phantom Ranch, where Andrea mailed a postcard to her teacher, written in Braille using a slate and stylus. Mail from Phantom Ranch is packed out of the canyon on mules. The lodge and restaurant at Phantom Ranch are supplied by pack mules. We waded in the Colorado River and built sand castles before beginning the long hike out of the inner canyon.
On the trail we made up stories and songs
to keep us going on the steep, uphill climb. One round was sung to the tune
of "Three Blind Mice." "Ringtailed cats, ringtailed cats. See
how they run. See how they run. They run up the packbars to get in our packs.
They eat all the fig bars that Grandpa has. Have you ever seen such a sight
in your life as ringtailed cats, ringtailed cats."
Would she want to hike the Grand Canyon again? "Yes, definitely!" responds Andrea. "I'm in better shape now. It would be easier. When someone tells you how big the Grand Canyon is, you just can't understand it. You have to walk it yourself to really understand the size."
[Photo: Portrait. Caption: Bill Isaacs]
NO CANE, NO DOG!
by Bill J. Isaacs
From the Editor: The following article first appeared in When the Blizzard Blows, the most recent in our Kernel series of paperback books. It begins with Dr. Jernigan's introductory note. Here it is:
Today Bill Isaacs is a retired college professor and one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois. Now he helps others understand that it is respectable to be blind. But it wasn't always like that. Here he tells of experiences he had before he began carrying a white cane to let others know that he had very limited sight. Bill now uses a guide dog.
I grew up with tunnel vision due to
a congenital disease known as choroidoremia. The females are the carriers, while
their male offspring are apt to become blind. I had a visual field of about
three to five degrees (twenty degrees or less is classified as legally blind).
I could see color; I could read a little, although I could see perhaps only
four or five letters at a time.
On the farm I milked the cows; I worked in the garden; I hoed in the fields; I set tomatoes behind a planter; I even drove a Ford tractor with the wide front wheels, with which I plowed and cultivated.
Then, after graduating from high school, I went off to the big city, where I attended a business college for twelve months. Following the completion of my work at this college, I worked in a private warehouse office for a couple of years, before taking a Civil Service exam, which led to a job in the U.S. Treasury Department, where I served as a claims examiner for corrections on income tax returns.
I was in my early twenties before I was even aware that I was legally blind. It's one thing to know that you are legally blind, but it's quite another thing to come to terms with it. I knew I had poor vision and saw virtually nothing after dark. I grew up in a small, quiet, rural community amidst a family of sixteen children, where nearly everybody in the county knew some member of the family. I never felt blind. I was usually with some member of the family, for everybody else around understood my situation better than I did myself.
Later, however, things were different. I faced new situations in the big city, where people didn't know me and I did not understand my own limitations. Later still, seven years after having graduated from high school, I enrolled in an out-of-state college to prepare to become a history teacher. That is when the bombshell really hit me.
I found myself surrounded by numerous strangers and a new environment which I did not know. It was not too difficult at first since my younger brother came to college and shared my dorm room, but after about six weeks, because of both homesickness and lovesickness, he returned home and got a job and was soon married. Mind you, I never used a cane, wore dark glasses, or even dreamed of using a guide dog. I told no one that I was blind.
I got myself into awkward positions in crowded stairways and hallways. My limited vision did not adjust well from a bright, sunny day to the darkness of a building interior. I could not read room numbers identifying classrooms. I found it embarrassing and difficult to participate in activities after dusk. Games involving motion (such as football or playing tag) were out for me.
The real shocker came one day, when a veteran student, who had suffered torture in a Chinese prison camp during the Korean War, rather bluntly made the following remarks to me: "Bill, why do you come walking into the classroom each day as if you were the king of the walk? You never greet anyone. You march to the front of the room and across the front to the window side without acknowledging anyone."
I had to stop and analyze that comment a bit. I had to admit that what he said was true. I nearly always sat in the front row on the window side to get the maximum amount of light so I could see to take notes. When my body is in motion, such as walking, I have to concentrate all my powers on the tiny patch that I see for mobility purposes.
Consequently, I did not see anyone--or if I did, it was only a small portion of their body, which was an obstacle to be bypassed. I think you can begin to see the picture here. The white cane would have been a silent answer to many questions. Out of my frustration I went to my English professor, with whom I had developed friendly relations.
She encouraged me to talk about my problem as part of my speech requirement in that class. I did that toward the end of my first semester. Immediately thereafter, as news spread by word of mouth to other students and faculty members, my isolation and feeling of blindness evaporated.
Whether I was at the college, on a bus, or at a terminal, students and faculty alike understood my situation and often offered their services to help when they thought I needed them. Of course, that sort of thing can be overdone at times, but it can also be rather comforting to know that they know you are blind.
As I look back, I realize how much easier it would have been if I had carried a white cane to let people know I was blind. I think particularly of an incident when I was working at the U.S. Treasury Department. In this job I rode in a car pool, where I was picked up at a busy downtown intersection. One Friday night, when I thought everybody else was staying in town, a car pulled up and parked, and I opened the door to enter. Just before getting into the car, I heard a lady running up behind me towards the car, so I let her get in first. Then I got in.
After driving two or three blocks, the driver said, "Are you going to go to the bank with us?" As soon as he spoke, I knew he was not my driver. The lady thought I was with the driver, the driver thought I was with his wife, and I had embarrassingly to get out of the car at another busy intersection and get back to my place in a hurry--and with considerable difficulty. The white cane would have been the answer.
I finally started using the white cane about twenty years after I should have started with it, and now I wonder why I was so foolish or so ill-informed about it. If you have restricted vision, the general sighted public considers you blind, whether you are or not. The white cane is not only a silent, explanatory symbol that goes straight to the point, but it is a very useful piece of equipment. It does, as it were, extend your fingers all the way to the ground. It picks up many messages and relays them to you better than the shuffling of your feet or the trailing of your fingers.
Of course you will have some embarrassment
when you first attempt to use a cane, but after two or three weeks of continual
use, picking up the cane becomes as routine as brushing your teeth or putting
on your glasses.
NFB CONVENTION EXPERIENCE
by Jaclyn L. Kusters
From the Editor: The following article
was first printed in the Fall, 1994, edition of The Wisconsin Chronicle,
the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin. Jackie
Kusters is a junior at the University of Wisconsin, Parkside, working toward
a bachelor of arts degree in elementary education. She is a wife and mother
of five children. She was the 1994 winner of the NFB of Wisconsin scholarship.
As part of her award she also received a scholarship to attend the 1994 convention
of the National Federation of the Blind in Detroit. She found the experience
life-changing. I first met her early in
the convention after she had heard me talking with a group about our effort to identify people interested in recording their experiences learning (or being denied) Braille as children. We were planning to make a videotape during the convention. Jackie came to me and told me I must have been talking about her experience when I was outlining the old familiar story of instruction denied.
Jackie turned up at the taping site at the right time and talked about her education and how much difference learning Braille would have made in her life. If you have watched our video, That the Blind May Read, she is the young woman who identifies herself as twenty-eight years old. As you will see, the NFB and the convention have had a profound impact on her and her future. This is what she says:
On June 30 I boarded a plane, destination
Detroit, Michigan, and the 1994 National Federation of the Blind convention.
I had been fortunate enough to be awarded a $1,000 state scholarship from the
National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin. Attendance at the National Convention
was part of the scholarship award. At the very least I thought I'd have a great
vacation; and, with all expenses paid by the NFB-W, how could I possibly lose?
Well let me tell you--the Detroit convention was no vacation. Instead it was a Mecca of sorts. For me it was truly a spiritual endeavor. At first it was a chance to stand back and observe. Then, as I became more enlightened, it became a chance to inch forward slowly, embrace the Federation, and finally be set free and allowed the privilege of carrying the Federation's message to others.
Throughout my stay at the convention I rode an emotional roller coaster. For the first time I was able to immerse myself in a setting as natural and comfortable to me as breathing. I quickly found that my customary pretenses were not necessary among my true peers. They saw me for who and what I really am, not what I had always thought I was expected to be. Though I had never met any Federationists before, they embraced me as brothers and sisters. We were truly kindred spirits.
Sometimes I also felt frustration and a hint of anger. Why had I suffered alone for so long? Why hadn't anyone ever told me that there was such a thing as the National Federation of the Blind? Why had it come into my life now? I pushed these questions from my mind until later when I would have a chance to give them serious thought.
After my return home I gave my feelings and questions deep consideration. I accepted the fact that no child, even one with a visual impairment, comes with a how-to or where-to guide. It was unfortunate that I hadn't known the NFB existed until now, but anger wouldn't change the fact. I had allowed society and myself to turn me into a victim. I guess we are all victims of ignorance in one way or another.
I realized it was time to quit being angry, stop feeling sorry for myself, and address my final question--why the NFB now? I believe there is a time to every purpose. The NFB has come to me at a time when I can be an asset to it as it will always be to me. I have adopted a new attitude: you are only handicapped if you allow society or yourself to think that you are! One of the most important messages I gleaned from the convention came during President Maurer's banquet speech. He talked about the flutter of
a butterfly's wing being powerful enough to cause a storm on the other side of the world. I realized that he was talking about me! It was a beautiful analogy of my convention experience. I had been a caterpillar inching my way through life. I came to the convention in my cocoon so nothing could harm me. Slowly I
emerged and, as I did so, a miraculous thing occurred; I became a beautiful butterfly. I spread my wings and made ready to fly forth with the message of the NFB. "We are the National Federation of the Blind. We are not a group speaking for blind people; we are the voice of the blind. We are the blind speaking for ourselves!" Though my journey to spread the message may not always be an easy one, I will prevail because I am strong and I am not alone!
I send a very special heartfelt thank-you to the Wisconsin scholarship committee for allowing me the honor of being NFB-W's 1994 scholarship recipient. I also thank the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin President, Bonnie Peterson. It is a true gift to know her. I am honored beyond words to have her as my mentor and, most especially, my friend.
by Stephen O. Benson
From the Editor: Steve Benson is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the Illinois affiliate, which will host our 1995 convention this coming July. This is what he has to say about the state we will be visiting:
Whenever I travel to another city, I
try to learn something of its history and its current climate. This helps to
make the place more real, tangible, a part of me; and it makes me feel a part
of it. I hope that this very brief description of Illinois and Chicago will
make your stay in the Windy City more memorable.
Illinois was admitted to the Union on December 3, 1880. Its name is the French form of the word "Illiniwek," the name of the group of Indians who lived here before the arrival of the white man. The name means "the men" or "the superior men." Illinois makes its unique place among our fifty states because of its location, natural resources, climate, and unusual people. Among Illinoisans who have helped to shape our nation and bring us to where we are are Jane Addams, social reformer; Nelson Algren, writer; John Peter Altgeld, political leader; Sherwood Anderson, writer; Philip Armour, head of one of the world's largest meat-packing firms; Saul Bellow, winner of the Nobel Prize in literature; Jack Benny, entertainer; Gwendolyn Brooks, Illinois Poet Laureate; William Jennings Bryan, lawyer and politician; Clarence Darrow, lawyer; Charles G. Dawes, financier, diplomat, U.S. Vice President, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize; John Deere, inventor and manufacturer; Walt Disney, motion picture animator and producer; Jean Baptiste Point DuSable, pioneer and trader, first person to build a permanent house in what is now Chicago; Enrico Fermi, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics and an architect of the nuclear age; Marshall Field, merchant; U. S. Grant, Civil War general and President of the United States; Ernest Hemingway, writer, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature; John Harold Johnson, founder and President of Johnson Publishing Company, the leading black-owned business in the United States, and publisher of Ebony Magazine; Abraham Lincoln; Vachel Lindsay, poet; Cyrus McCormick, inventor and industrialist; Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, architect; Dwight Moody, evangelist and founder of the Moody Church and Moody Bible Institute; George M. Pullman, railroad inventor and railroad industrialist; Ronald Reagan, actor and President of the United States; Carl Sandburg, poet, biographer; Joseph Smith, founder and first president of the Mormon Church; Gustavus Swift, founder of Swift & Company; A. Montgomery Ward, founder of the world's first mail order business; Daniel Hale Williams, surgeon; Frank Lloyd Wright, architect; and William Wrigley, industrialist. This list represents only a handful of people who shape this state, its economy, politics, literature, art, and culture.
Let's look at some other interesting facts:
* The Chicago Tribune was founded
* The Chicago Board of Trade, the world's largest trader of commodities was founded April 3, 1848.
* Northwestern University, one of the nation's top ten universities, was founded in 1881.
* David Kennison, who participated in the Boston Tea Party and was one of the survivors of the Fort Dearborn Massacre, died at the age of 115 and is buried in Chicago's Lincoln Park.
* Marshall Field opened his famous store at the intersection of Washington and State on October 12,
1868. The growth of his business and his personal wealth made him at one time the largest single tax payer in America. He refused to be assessed by the city on more than 2.5 million dollars.
* Illinois Bell Telephone began service to Chicago in 1878.
* Grant Park and the area on which the Chicago Hilton and Towers stands was lake bottom until the 1870's. These sites now occupy land created by rubble from the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
* Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, published in 1905, exposed deplorable conditions in the meat-packing industry. Establishment of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration and federal inspection of all meat products were direct results of this expose. This book has been published in twenty-seven languages and more than 1,000 editions.
* The first Chicago radio station began broadcasting in 1921 with the call letters KWY. In 1937 it relocated to Philadelphia. In 1922 radio stations WMAQ and WGN began broadcasting. One of WGN's first broadcasts was of the Scopes Trial in Tennessee. Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan were opposing attorneys.
* In 1942 scientists led by Enrico Fermi achieved the world's first self-sustaining nuclear reaction under
the grandstands of the University of Chicago's Stagg Field.
* By the way, the University of Chicago was founded by William Rainey Harper in 1891. Harper graduated from high school at the age of nine and from college at the age of thirteen. He earned a Ph.D. by the age of nineteen.
* In 1954 Ray Kroc opened the first McDonald's hamburger stand in Des Plaines, Illinois, a suburb northwest of Chicago.
There are some who believe still that Chicago's only claims to fame are its politics and its legendary criminals, but there is ample evidence that Chicago's people have made significant contributions in the arts, sciences, business and industry, agriculture, entertainment, and indeed all facets of human experience. Keep all of this information in mind as a foundation for what you will read in future issues of the Monitor and for what you will experience in July of 1995.
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."
SECURITY, SSI, AND MEDICARE FACTS FOR 1995
by James Gashel
From the Editor: James Gashel is the National Federation of the Blind's Director of Governmental Affairs.
The beginning of each year brings
with it annual adjustments in Social Security programs. The changes include
new tax rates, higher exempt earnings amounts, Social Security and SSI cost-of-living
increases, and changes in deductible and co-insurance requirements under Medicare.
Here are the new facts for 1995:
FICA and Self-Employment Tax Rates: The FICA tax rate for employees and their employers remains at 7.65%. This rate includes payments to the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Fund of 6.2% and an additional 1.45% payment to the Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund, from which payments under Medicare are made. Self-employed persons continue to pay a Social Security tax of 15.3%. This includes 12.4% which is paid to the OASDI trust fund and 2.9% which is paid to the HI trust fund.
Ceiling on Earnings Subject to Tax: During 1994 the ceiling on taxable earnings for contributions to the OASDI trust fund was $60,600. The taxable income ceiling for contributions to the OASDI trust fund during 1995 is $61,200. As was true in 1994, there is no ceiling on earnings that are subject to the HI trust fund tax contribution of 1.45% for employees or 2.9% for self- employed persons.
Quarters of Coverage: Eligibility for
retirement, survivors, and disability insurance benefits is based in large part
on the number of quarters of coverage earned by any individual during periods
of work. Anyone may earn up to four quarters of coverage during a single year.
During 1994 a Social Security quarter of coverage was credited for earnings
of $620 in any calendar quarter. Anyone who earned $2,480 for the year (regardless
of when the earnings occurred during the year) was given four quarters of coverage.
In 1995 a Social Security quarter of coverage will be credited for earnings
of $630 during a calendar quarter. Four quarters can be earned with annual earnings
Exempt Earnings: The earnings exemption
for blind people receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits
is the same as the exempt amount for individuals age sixty-five through sixty-nine
who receive Social Security retirement benefits. The monthly exempt amount in
1994 was $930 of gross earned income. During 1995 the exempt amount will be
$940. Technically, this exemption is referred to as an amount of monthly gross
earnings which does not show "substantial gainful activity." Earnings
of $940 or more per month before taxes for a blind SSDI beneficiary in 1995
will show substantial gainful
activity after subtracting any unearned (or subsidy) income and applying any deductions for impairment-related work expenses.
Social Security Benefit Amounts for 1995: All Social Security benefits (including retirement, survivors', disability, and dependents' benefits) are increased by 2.8% beginning with the checks received in January, 1995. The exact dollar increase for any individual will depend upon the amount being paid.
Standard SSI Benefit Increase: Beginning January, 1995, the federal payment amounts for SSI individuals and couples are as follows: individuals, $458 per month; couples, $687 per month. These amounts are increased from individuals, $446 per month; couples, $669 per month.
Medicare Deductibles and Co-insurance: Medicare Part A coverage provides hospital insurance to most Social Security beneficiaries. The co-insurance payment is the charge that the hospital makes to a Medicare beneficiary for any hospital stay. Medicare then pays the hospital charges above the beneficiary's co-insurance amount.
The Part A co-insurance amount charged for hospital services within a benefit period of not longer than sixty days was $696 during 1994 and is increased to $716 during 1995. Beginning with the sixty-first day through the ninetieth day, there is a daily co-insurance amount of $179 per day, up from $174 in 1994. Each Medicare beneficiary has sixty "reserve days" for hospital services provided within a benefit period longer than ninety days. The co-insurance amount to be paid during each reserve day is $358, up from $348 in 1994.
Part A of Medicare pays all covered charges
for services in a skilled nursing facility for the first twenty days within
a benefit period. Beginning with the twenty-first day through the one hundredth
day within a benefit period, the Part A co-insurance amount for services received
in a skilled nursing facility is $89.50 per day.
For most beneficiaries there is no monthly premium charge for Medicare Part A coverage. Persons who become ineligible for Social Security Disability Insurance cash benefits can continue to receive Medicare Part A coverage premium-free for thirty-nine months following the end of a trial work period. After that time the individual may purchase Part A coverage. The premium rate for this coverage during 1995 is $261 per month. During 1995 this premium rate is reduced by 30% for individuals who have earned at least thirty quarters of coverage under Social Security covered employment. For such individuals the monthly premium rate for purchasing Medicare Part A coverage during 1995 will be $183.
The Medicare Part B (medical insurance) deductible remains at $100 in 1995. This is an annual deductible amount. The Medicare Part B basic monthly premium rate will increase from $41.10 charged to each beneficiary and withheld from Social Security checks during 1994 to $46.10 per month during 1995. Medicare Part B coverage may be continued for persons who complete a trial work period and become ineligible to receive Social Security Disability Insurance cash benefits. This monthly premium rate is $46.10, the same amount paid by Social Security beneficiaries through withholding from their monthly Social Security checks.
Programs Which Help with Medicare Deductibles and Premiums: Low-income Medicare beneficiaries may qualify for help with payments. Assistance is available through two programs - QMB (Qualified Medicare Beneficiary program) and SLMB (Specified Low-income Medicare Beneficiary program).
Under the QMB program states are required to pay the Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance) premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance expenses for Medicare beneficiaries who meet the program's income and resource requirements. Under the SLMB program states pay only the full Medicare Part B monthly premium ($46.10 in 1995). Eligibility for the SLMB program may be retroactive for up to three calendar months.
Both programs are administered by the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) in conjunction with the states. The rules vary from state to state; but, in general:
An individual may qualify for the QMB
program if his or her income is near the national poverty level, approximately
$7,596 annually for an individual (about $633 per month) and $10,080 annually
for a family of two (or $840 per month). These amounts apply for residents of
forty-eight of the fifty states and the District of Columbia. In Alaska the
income threshold used to define poverty is approximately $9,444 annually for
an individual ($787 per month) and $12,540 annually for a family of two ($1,045
per month). In Hawaii the income threshold used to define poverty is approximately
$8,712 annually ($726 per month) for an individual and $11,556 annually ($963
per month) for a family of two.
For the SLMB program annual income must be 110 percent or less of the national poverty levels. Under both programs $20 in monthly income is not counted toward the limit.
Resources--such as bank accounts or stocks--may not exceed $4,000 for one person or $6,000 for a family of two. (Resources generally are things you own. However, not everything is counted: the house you live in, for example, doesn't count, and, in some circumstances, your car may not count either.)
Here's an idea of what the QMB program
provides in 1995. Under Part A the hospital insurance deductibles are $716 for
the first sixty days of a hospital stay and $179 per day for days sixty-one
through ninety in the hospital. However, to qualify for help under the QMB program,
you must file an application. If you think you qualify but you have not filed
for Medicare Part A, contact Social Security to find out if you need to file
an application. Further information about filing for Medicare is available from
your local Social Security office or Social Security's toll-free number, (800)
Remember, only your state can decide if you're eligible for help from the QMB or SLMB program. So, if you're elderly or disabled, have low income and very limited assets, and are a Medicare beneficiary, contact your state or local welfare or social service agency to apply. For more information about either program, call HCFA's toll-free telephone number, (800) 638-6833.
This month's recipes come from the National Federation of the Blind of New Hampshire.
[Photo: Portrait. Caption: Jody Ianuzzi]
REAL YANKEE BAKED BEANS
by Jody W. Ianuzzi
Jody Ianuzzi is an active member of the NFB of New Hampshire.
2 pounds yellow eye beans (or soldier beans)
dash baking soda
1 large onion, diced
a piece of salt pork, cut in half
1 teaspoon dry mustard
þ cup molasses
þ cup maple syrup
« cup each brown and white sugar
salt to taste
Method: Put beans in pot, cover with water, and soak overnight. Then drain water. Replace beans in pot, cover with fresh water, and add a dash of baking soda. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Drain the water. Add half of onion and pork to beans in pot. Cover with water. In a separate bowl combine mustard, molasses, maple syrup, sugars, and salt. Add mixture to beans. Place other half of onion and salt pork on top. Cover and bake in oven at 250 to 350 degrees all day. Add water if needed.
[Photo: Portrait. Caption: Ed Meskys]
SCALLIONS WITH BACON
by Ed Meskys
Ed Meskys is the immediate Past President of the NFB of New Hampshire. He was given this recipe by his mother. He often prepares this dish for lunch in the spring.
6 bunches fresh scallions
6 slices bacon
Method: Trim wilted ends from scallions
and remove roots. Cut into half-inch lengths. Cut bacon into quarter-inch squares.
In large frying pan rapidly saute bacon bits until some grease is rendered and
bacon begins to crisp. Add scallions and continue to saute until it wilts down
to a small fraction of its original volume. Serve over real rye bread. Serves
Note on the rye bread--if you are fortunate enough to live in an area like New York City or Chicago, where you can buy Lithuanian bread, get that. It can be found in Lithuanian, Polish, and German meat markets and specialty stores. Otherwise make do with as firm a Jewish light rye as you can find.
MACARONI AND COTTAGE CHEESE CASSEROLE
by Ed Meskys
1 24-ounce container cottage cheese
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, slightly beaten
« pound macaroni (elbows or springs)
Method: Boil macaroni according to package instructions in salted water and drain well. In large basin spread cottage cheese and rub against bottom with soup spoon to break up curds. Add salt, eggs, and mix well. Add macaroni, mixing well. Pour into 2-quart casserole dish. Bake 1 hour at 375 degrees. Serve with lightly salted sour cream. Serves four.
CHICKEN AND SHERRY
by Ed Meskys
1 pound boneless chicken thighs, diced
1 large onion, cut into 8 pieces
1 cup (2 small cans) sliced mushrooms, drained
1 cup sherry
1 teaspoon powdered chicken bouillon
« teaspoon paprika
¬ teaspoon pepper
« teaspoon thyme
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
Method: Stir all ingredients together in covered casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Serve over rice.
by Ed Meskys
10 ounces ground turkey
« cup chopped onion
« cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
1 cup tomato sauce
¬ cup chopped green pepper
¬ cup fresh basil and fennel
þ teaspoon oregano
3 ounces shredded mozzarella
1« teaspoon oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
« cup milk
« teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground parmesan
Method: In frying pan sprayed with cooking spray saute meat with onion. Add tomato sauce and 1 tablespoon flour. Bring to boil, add green pepper and all spices. Pour into greased loaf pan. Sprinkle mozzarella over mixture. In bowl mix egg, milk, oil, and salt. Add remaining flour, stir, and pour over contents of loaf pan. Sprinkle with parmesan. Bake in 425-degree preheated oven for 25-30 minutes.
ORANGE FANTASY COOKIES
by Ed Meskys
« cup real butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2« cups flour
1 ounce orange extract (yes, a full ounce)
1 teaspoon baking soda
« teaspoon salt
« cup shredded coconut
« cup semi-sweet chocolate bits
« cup chopped walnuts
Method: Cream butter with sugar. Then add eggs and orange extract. Mix in flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix in nuts, coconut, and chocolate. Drop by tablespoonfuls on cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Makes about 24 cookies.
(Lithuanian Christmas Liquor)
by Ed Meskys
« gallon 100-proof vodka, or 190-proof Ever-clear drinking alcohol
1 ginger root, sliced thin
8 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon ground orange peel
1 tablespoon ground lemon peel
1 tablespoon mace
2 teaspoons whole cloves
5 pounds honey
Method: Soak spices in vodka for at least one month, then strain. Boil honey in one quart of water to dissolve. Mix with flavored vodka. Let stand at least one week and siphon off clear liquor. The remaining sludge does not look pretty, but is excellent in coffee.
[Photo: Portrait. Caption: John Parker]
by John E. Parker
John Parker is President of the NFB of New Hampshire and First Vice President of the Lakes Region Chapter.
Pizza, spaghetti, or barbecue sauce
Cheese (your choice) shredded or diced into small pieces
Your favorite meats, shopped into small pieces
fresh vegetables, chopped
Method: Slice or fork split the English muffins, then toast them. Ladle the sauce onto the muffins and spread. Sprinkle with cheese and add any combination of toppings. Cook in microwave on high for 30 seconds, rotate a quarter turn, and cook for 30 seconds longer. Your microwave may be different, so test one before doing more. Toaster oven and broiler users, keep checking until cheese is melted. These little pizzas make great appetizers, midnight snacks, and quick meals.
An Interesting Letter:
Miami, Florida, December, 1994
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Jernigan,
I don't know if you remember me. I was a scholarship winner in 1988. I was very active until 1992, when I went to Russia for a year. I am now in graduate school at the University of Miami, specializing in Viking-Age Russian history. I have gone back to Russia the last two summers to work at an archaeological excavation called Old Ladoga. It has been difficult convincing people that a blind person can be an archaeologist and read ancient Russian texts, but I have drawn strength from the lessons I learned from you and the Federation. A seminar has prohibited my attending local chapter meetings in Miami this fall, but I plan on becoming active in January. I miss the NFB a great deal.
Hoping to Buy:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Wanted: Talking Ultra Measurer in good working order. It is used to measure room size and denote room temperature and is no longer available through the American Foundation for the Blind. I will pay original purchase price, plus a small finder's fee. Please contact John Tait (collect) by calling (702) 642-6000, Monday through Thursday, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Pacific Standard Time.
Seville Allen, one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia, recently wrote to report the following sad news:
The first First Lady of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia, Marion McDonald, died of cancer on October 14, 1994. Marion was one of the founders of the Virginia affiliate in 1957. She was Virginia's first secretary and served as affiliate Treasurer for twenty-five years. She was Robert (Mac) McDonald's right hand and support as he served as our first president for many years. The Mac and Marion team provided the principal leadership of the Virginia affiliate for the first twenty-five years of its existence.
Marion was a true friend and teacher to all of us. She lived her Federationism. We affectionately called her Mama because she deeply touched our lives and had such a profound influence on the lives of the blind of the state. Marion saw to it that we kept our movement financed by establishing an endowment fund. As a tribute to her dedication, we named this fund the Marion McDonald Endowment Fund at a recent NFB-V convention.
Marion was denied opportunities herself, but instead of becoming bitter and giving up, she worked hard and saw to it that the blind who came after her would not have to face the pain of discrimination that she had faced. She was successful in this work, and as a result many of those opportunities denied her we now take for granted.
We gathered to celebrate her life and say goodbye at services held on October 18. The chapel was packed with her family and friends, including Federation leaders from around the state and President Maurer from Baltimore.
Marion McDonald left us a true legacy of love and positive attitudes. We will miss Marion, but we have fond memories of her laughter and wisdom, and her warm spirit will sustain us as we continue the work that she began in 1957 in Virginia--that march to first-class status.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Optacon R1D, excellent condition. Asking $800. Includes Braille manual, charger, and padded carrying case. Also for sale is TotalTalk talking terminal; make an offer. Contact Robbie McIninch at 16 Harrison Street, Calais, Maine 04619; or call (207) 454-2399.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have for sale a Kurzweil Personal Reader, model 7315; software 2.1; hand scanner; and table scanner with case (reconditioned). Asking $1,500, If interested, call (602) 577-6334.
Braille Transcription Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I am certified with the Library of Congress as a literary and math Braille transcriber and a math proofreader. I have been involved with producing Braille books for seven years, and I truly enjoy it. I am presently incarcerated, but I have the use of computers, several Braille programs, and a Braille printer. I have recently started a Braille class. If you are interested in having books transcribed (especially math), you can contact me by writing Tyrone Howard, State Police Barracks, P.O. Box 6614, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70896.
The Business Division of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland elected officers for 1995 at the group's annual luncheon on November 5, 1994. Re-elected to serve a second year as President of the Business Division was Barry Hond. Other officers include Fred Flowers, Vice President; Raymond Sewell, Treasurer; Leon Rose, Secretary; and Holly Mooney and Raymond Lowder, Board members. The Business Division is composed of NFB of Maryland members concerned with the development of career and entrepreneurial opportunities for the visually impaired.
Personal Alarms Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Crime prevention and personal security are growing concerns for everyone. Lisa Ostrow is an independent distributor of affordable, lightweight personal and home security products, including the PAAL, a personal attack alarm that emits an ear-piercing signal to deter crime. Priced from $30 to $40. Please send $2.00 for a print catalogue or $3.50 for cassette (including postage and handling) to Lisa Ostrow, 55 Countryside, Norwood, Massachusetts 02062; or call (617) 769-4843 for more information or to place an order.
[Photo: Margaret Warren is seated on a patio chair with one hand ready to read her tellatouch machine. Caption: Margaret Warren is pictured here on her apartment balcony using her tellatouch machine]
Assistance for Deaf-Blind People Needed:
Margaret Warren, one of the leaders of the NFB's Committee on the Deaf-Blind, has asked us to carry the following announcement:
For three years the Deaf-Blind Committee has been working on a project concerning the treatment of deaf-blind people in nursing homes and care facilities. We have had difficulty gathering useful information. I am now asking any Federationist who hears of a deaf-blind person who is not happy or being properly treated in such facilities to notify the local chapter or leaders of the state affiliate so the situation can be investigated and remedied if possible. After the NFB chapter or affiliate has done whatever is possible to correct the problems, please send a report in Braille to Miss Margaret Warren, 3520 Grand Avenue, Box 125, Des Moines, Iowa 50312.
Pen Pals Wanted:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I wish to correspond with people from America in Braille. I am forty-three years old; am five foot two; and have brown hair. I have five children--one stepson and four daughters. My hobbies are knitting, cooking, and listening to talking books. You can write to Catherine McManus, 17 Laura Street, Newtown NSW1042, Sidney, Australia.
Editor's note: Ms. McManus's announcement was written in Grade I Braille.
1995 Product Guide Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The Mariano Pacini 1995 Product Information Guide is now available in print and Braille. I deal exclusively in high-quality, lower-cost mobility items. Products include ball bearing, cylinder, marshmallow, metal glide-adaptor, and mushroom cane tips; folding canes; and rigid canes. I even carry replacement cap tips for those do-it-yourselfers who wish to repair their own bearing tips. For more information or to request a print or Braille 1995 Product Information Guide, contact Mariano Pacini at Ren. Cen. Station, P.O. Box 43052, Detroit, Michigan 48243-0052; or call (313) 224-2059, weekdays; or (313) 885-7330, evenings and weekends. I have much information and many problem-solving techniques that I'd like to share, so feel free to call.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have a Perkins Brailler that is looking for a new home. It is in excellent condition, having spent most of its life resting. It was just cleaned and oiled. It comes with Braille instructions and a carrying case. I am asking $250 for everything delivered. Payment plan negotiable. Call Nino Pacini at (313) 885-7330, evenings and weekends.
[Photo: Rick Fox sits at a table. Caption: Rick Fox]
We are delighted to report that Rick Fox, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut, was recently appointed by Connecticut Governor Lowell Weicker to serve as a member of the State Rehabilitation Advisory Council for Individuals who are Blind as a representative of the National Federation of the Blind for the term ending September 15, 1996.
AFB Discontinues ID Card:
We recently received a press release from the American Foundation for the Blind which reads in part:
"The American Foundation for the
Blind (AFB) will no longer issue its identification card, effective January
1, 1995. AFB's ID card service was initiated over twenty-five years ago, in
order to provide people who are blind or visually impaired with a primary form
of identification comparable to a driver's license. In recent years, however,
the need for the AFB ID card as a primary identification source has been reduced
by the development of non- driver ID cards issued by the Department of Motor
Vehicles of individual states, as well as by other sources of identification
that are more readily available now than when AFB's ID card service was established.
With the realization that the AFB card was used most frequently as a secondary
source of identification, the decision was made to eliminate the service."
As Sharon Gold, President of the National Federation of the Blind of California, wrote in her December 1, 1994, communication to state leaders ("The Clipboard"):
We of the National Federation of the Blind have always taken the position that blind persons do not need and should not have identification cards especially issued for the blind, since the information from the cards could be used to compile a national, statewide, or local registry of the blind that could govern the
activities of blind people. Now that AFB has eliminated its special identification card for the blind, perhaps agencies for the blind across the country will realize that they, too, are providing redundant services by issuing unnecessary identification cards that do not and cannot meet the modern standards of identification available to all citizens through the driver's licenses and identification cards issued by state departments of motor vehicles and through credit cards, especially the new ones bearing a picture of the cardholder. The discontinuation of the special identification card for the blind also eliminates an attempt to isolate the blind from the general public and takes us one step closer to first-class citizenship.
[Photo: Portrait. Caption: Bob Burke]
Album By Federationist Available:
Bob Burke, who was one of the winners at the showcase of talent sponsored by the Music Division at the 1994 convention of the National Federation of the Blind, has released a new album. The name of the album is "Piano Moments With Bob Burke." The cassette is ninety minutes long. Describing the recording, Bob says, "At the beginning and end of the album I provide some commentary with the piano in the background." The recording contains twenty tunes, including "All the Things You Are"; "Memories of You"; "Misty"; "Memories," From the Show Cats; "Wave"; "Lover Come Back to Me"; and many more. Bob Burke has copies of the album for sale. The initial cost for each copy is ten dollars plus a dollar for postage. Any members or affiliates who wish to buy it may call (203) 649-1908; or write to Bob Burke, 33 Teresa Road, Manchester, Connecticut 06040.
International Low-Fat Cookbook Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Gourmet cooks, health-wise homemakers, people who love good food: now there's an international collection of low-fat recipes in large print and Braille. The International Low-Fat Cookbook uses twenty-two pastas, fruits, vegetables, beans, and dairy products and fifty-three herbs and spices to deliver thirty-two tasty, easily prepared, and inexpensive dishes to your home. Send a check or money order for $4.95 to No Limits, Inc., 600 Cleveland Street, Suite 750, Clearwater, Florida 34615.
Computer Hardware and Software Available:
Patricia Ferguson, a member of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota, has asked us to carry the following announcement:
Are you looking for a low-cost computer from a reliable source? Is it hard to decide which Screen Reader you need? Do you need a reliable Speech Synthesizer that fits your budget and is easy to understand? Are you in need of good off-the-shelf software, but not sure whether it will adapt to speech? Perhaps you are wondering what screen-magnification software is best for you. Do you need material scanned onto computer disk? Are you looking for a low-cost Modem or Printer? Do you want to access
CD-ROM's, but you're not sure they will work with speech? For all your Computer hardware or software needs, call Ferguson Enterprises--in business since 1978.
Purchase your computer from us; we provide the best service possible and twenty-four-hour turn-around time on all computer repairs. We also have excellent monthly specials.
For more information or for a free catalog on disk, in large print, or on cassette, please call or write Ferguson Enterprises, RR1 Box 238, Manchester, South Dakota 57353; Phone: (605) 546-2366, Fax: (605) 546-2212 between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Central Standard Time, Monday through Thursday; Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; and Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Correspondent wanted for a French blind person, thirty-years-old, learning English, and wanting to exchange ideas with Americans of the same age and situation. You may write to Jacques Dumont at 39 bis, Rue Du General Leclerc, 92270 Bois-Colombes, France.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Executive Director of non-profit agency serving those who are blind and visually impaired in the State of Maine. Programs include rehabilitation center, residence, industries program, computer access and technology, and a statewide community service/rehabilitation teaching program. Education required in social services, rehabilitation, or related human service field with prior administrative experience. Knowledge of personnel administration, budgeting, fund raising, and grantsmanship essential. Submit resume and salary requirements to Search Committee, Maine Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, 189 Park Avenue, Portland, Maine 04102. Equal Opportunity Employer/Affirmative Action.