38, No. 4
Barbara Pierce, Editor
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NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
THE BLIND IS NOT
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 38, No. 4 April 1995
THE JIG IS UP: DETECTABLE
WARNINGS PROVEN SAFETY HOAX
by James Gashel
THINGS THAT GO BUMP UNDERGROUND
by Jonathan Yardley
ARKANSAS SCHOOL DEBACLE STILL FRONT-PAGE NEWS
A LETTER FROM TELESENSORY
REPORT OF THE 1995 WASHINGTON
by Barbara Pierce
RAISING THE EARNINGS LIMIT
AND PRESERVING LINKAGE: THE BLIND
FIGHT TO PROTECT THEIR RIGHTS
by James Gashel
CREATION OF A FEDERATIONIST
by Joyce Scanlan
BY EDUCATING OTHERS
by Christine Boone
I TEACH ENGLISH AS A SECOND
by Suzanne Whalen
THE NATIONAL LITERARY BRAILLE
WHAT'S IN IT, AND WHO SHOULD TAKE IT?
by Thomas Bickford
by Stephen O. Benson
1995 CONVENTION ATTRACTIONS
FINAL SETTLEMENT IN THE DOLLAR RENT A CAR CASE
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: RADIO
by Kenneth Jernigan
Copyright 1995 National Federation of
[LEAD PHOTO: Caption: From January 30 through February 1, 1995, more than 500 Federationists from forty-seven states gathered in Washington, D.C., to talk with their Senators and Members of Congress.]
[Lead #1 Caption: Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich talks with Blanche Griffin, President of the NFB of Georgia, (second from right) and other Federationists in the halls of Congress.]
[Lead #2 Caption: Senator William Cohen of Maine talks with Connie Leblond, President of the NFB of Maine, and her son Seth in his office.]
[Lead #3 Caption: Senator Wendell Ford leans against his office door while talking with Betty Niceley, President of the NFB of Kentucky, (center) and members of the Kentucky delegation.]
[Lead #4 Caption: Carla McQuillan, President of the NFB of Oregon, (second from left) and other members of the NFB of Oregon stand with Senator Mark Hatfield in his office.]
[Lead #5 Caption: Congressman Jim Leach (seated on sofa arm) talks with Peggy Elliott, President of the NFB of Iowa, and other Federationists.]
[Photo #6 Portrait Caption: James Gashel]
JIG IS UP: DETECTABLE WARNINGS
PROVEN SAFETY HOAX
by James Gashel
From the Editor: As long ago as the
mid eighties I seem to remember hearing Federationists complain occasionally
about the installation of strips of bumps at some street corners in communities
that considered themselves particularly sensitive to the needs of disabled people.
The presumption was that blind pedestrians needed these collections of raised
domes, which eventually became known as detectable warnings, in order to find
the streets and cross them safely. Never mind that we had been crossing intersections
for years and continued to do so at every crossing that had not been adorned
with the peel-up tiles. Through the years the fixative that holds the strips
in place has apparently been improved--at least I don't hear as much these days
about loose strips tripping people as I used to--but members of the National
Federation of the Blind have continued our opposition to the detectable warnings
in all their guises. In bad weather they collect ice, snow, and mud and are
hard to clean year round. They catch at cane and crutch tips, high heels, and
the small wheels on today's wheelchairs. Moreover, they are, to say the least,
disconcerting to anyone whose balance is at all uncertain or who steps on them
without having realized that they are there.
Distressingly, the wholesale requirement for dome installation was inserted into federal law, not only over the objections of many blind people and with no concern for cost, but also with no basis in evidence. Quite simply, there is no proof--and never has been any--that domes are needed. The subject was never even studied until 1994, though the costly and controversial requirement was put in place in 1990.
It is fundamental law in this country that the government may not act without a basis. If it does, it can be successfully sued for acting in an "arbitrary and capricious manner." The case of the domes is a sterling example of such an instance. But we in the Federation decided to oppose this arbitrary and capricious regulation by other means. We have periodically reported on the debate that has now raged for several years. (See the December, 1993, issue of the Braille Monitor for the most recent report.) Jim Gashel is the Director of Governmental Affairs for the National Federation of the Blind. Here is his summary of the issue and a report of what has happened recently.
Like most other laws the Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA) has some potential for doing good and at least as much
for doing harm in the name of doing good. As blind people our challenge is to
capture as much of the former as we can and prevent the latter from occurring
whenever possible. This observation may seem obvious, but it is a good way to
raise the subject of detectable warnings.
The American Council of the Blind (ACB) has sought to distinguish itself in recent years as an advocate for detectable warnings. Its allies in this effort are few in number, but they do exist. The ACB contends that there is a significant danger to blind people if transit platform edges, streets approached by curb ramps, and the like do not have a detectable warning just before you get to them. The warnings they want are a wide bumpy strip of raised domes which are "truncated," or flattened on top.
The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, also known as the Access Board, was given responsibility under the ADA for issuing accessibility guidelines. Enforcement of the Board's guidelines is the responsibility of other agencies. For example, the Department of Justice enforces the accessibility guidelines with respect to most buildings and facilities, including public accommodations, other than transit facilities. The guidelines for transit facilities, on the other hand, are enforced by the Department of Transportation.
Under the original guidelines adopted in 1990 for both transit and non-transit facilities, detectable warnings were required to be installed at many locations. To put it mildly, this was not a well-thought-out decision. A great many blind people objected to a rule requiring detectable warnings to be installed anywhere at all. This was certainly the view expressed by the National Federation of the Blind, but the Access Board wasn't listening. Their premise apparently was, if some blind people feel a need for detectable warnings, that's enough to justify putting them into the guidelines. The underlying theory seems to be this: it doesn't matter that a great many blind people don't want these domes (they are doing okay), but what about those who are not doing okay--those who are afraid to leave their houses, those who fear streets or platform edges? Federal power should be used to help these less fortunate people and regulate for the lowest common denominator, not for those exceptional blind people, all of whom seem to be members of the National Federation of the Blind.
The theory isn't accurate, and it isn't fair. But it arises from the confused, unarticulated conviction that, though it would be unkind to say so out loud, the blind (or a lot of them) are just plain helpless. Left out of this assumption are two simple truths: Blind people who don't know how to travel independently in safety can learn to do so without having the world rebuilt for them, and blind people who can't get around alone safely now won't get around any more safely with domes everywhere. Skill, good sense, and confidence make us safe, not domes.
With the rule for detectable warnings firmly in place, the federal government then took on the responsibility of trying to make it stick. For some rules, such as the requirement for people who use wheelchairs to have ramped entrances, there is a logical connection between the individual's need and the requirement for access. Without ramped entrances people who use wheelchairs are totally barred from access to those facilities. This is clearly discriminatory. Detectable warnings do not provide an analogous case. Even those who advocate for the installation of the domes could not argue with any semblance of rationality that their absence presents a physical barrier to access of the kind that a flight of stairs presents to a person using a wheelchair.
If an access rule is logically related to a demonstrable denial of access, those required to comply are virtually defenseless to resist it. The best they may hope to do is to delay. Rules for which the need is not provable or about which there is sharp controversy, however, are much more difficult to enforce. From the beginning detectable warnings have provided an instance of this latter situation.
Many of those who were required to comply with the regulation to install detectable warnings did not accept the notion that blind people would be deprived of equal access without them. Reflecting this lack of acceptance, a highly respected standard-setting group, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), withdrew detectable warnings from its guidelines in mid-1992. Since the ANSI standards have generally been followed by architects and building code officials, this decision had a powerful impact. By the fall of 1992 even the Access Board itself began to have second thoughts.
In 1993 the Access Board, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Transportation jointly decided to suspend their enforcement of the detectable warnings requirements while the Access Board commissioned a study. The principal question to be examined was whether detectable warnings are needed--a question which had surprisingly never been studied. For reasons that were never entirely clear, the Department of Transportation, while suspending its enforcement of the detectable warnings requirements, chose not to have its facilities included in the study. As a result the government's regulatory stance began to follow two steadily diverging tracks.
The Access Board's study, actually conducted by researchers at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, was completed in the fall of 1994. The results were presented to the Board in great detail at a meeting on September 13. Here in the language of the researchers are the findings of the study:
Blind travellers process a combination
of cues providing information about the built and social environment to detect
and cross intersections. Skillful travelers do not and will not rely on a single
The most important cues, because they are the most reliable, are detection of a curb edge, a slope which may be a curb ramp, traffic sounds, and the end of a building line or shoreline. Other cues which are often used are texture changes or counter slopes at the street, street poles, the sides of curb ramps, and seams between a curb ramp and the street.
Using these cues, experienced blind travelers can detect an intersection before entering it about 85 percent of the time.
As often as 15 percent of the time, blind travelers will step into the street before detecting an intersection. They are 50 percent more likely to enter the street from a curb ramp than from a curb, but when they step off a curb, they are provided with a strong cue as to the presence of a street.
About two-thirds of the time that blind travelers enter a street at a curb ramp, they will detect their situation within five feet of entering the street. About one-third of the time, or 5 percent of all crossings at curb ramps, they will not recognize that they have entered a street within five feet.
Blind travelers are most likely to enter the street in the absence of reinforcing cues. Among the important situations are:
- Absence of traffic and traffic sounds.
- Absence of a building or shoreline.
- Gradual slope on a curb ramp.
- Failure to detect a curb edge to the side of the curb ramp.
The principal need at intersections is for a reinforcing cue, recognizable in the context of an intersection, which can increase cue density, especially in a low-cue environment.
The larger problem with curb ramps is, not their detectability, but their potential to disorient a blind traveler in an unfamiliar area.
- Blind travelers use curb lines not
only to detect intersections, but also to orient to the direction of a
- Traffic sounds and building or shore lines provide more reliable orientation cues, but in their absence a curb line or curb ramp angle may be the best available cue.
- Curb ramps that cut a curb at any angle other than perpendicular and which point in any direction other than the target area on the other side of the street are potential hazards to blind travelers in the absence of other cues or in the absence of good travel skills.
Detectable warnings are mildly beneficial to blind travelers and well liked; but, as currently conceived, they may not be the best answer to safer intersections.
Detectable warning benefits include:
- They do provide a potential confirming
cue to the presence of an intersection.
- They also provide a confirming cue that an intersection has been completed.
- Even travelers who are inexperienced with detectable warnings are observed to benefit from them by some evaluators and overwhelmingly by self-report.
- Most particularly, detectable warnings make it easy to distinguish the boundaries of a curb ramp and thus to gain a more secure orientation to components of the intersection.
Problems with detectable warnings include:
- They do not address the problem of orientation of the other components of an intersection.
- In particular, diagonal curb ramps are misleading in the absence of other cues.
- So are curb ramps that point into a lane of traffic (typically a turn lane) on the other side of the street.
- Detectable warnings that orient travelers to these kinds of curb ramps do a disservice.
Because blind travelers continually adjust to their situation, perceiving new cues and processing new data, they will generally recover from any disorientation, error, or mistake and complete a successful crossing. For this reason the installation of detectable warnings will make it easier for blind travelers but may not have any statistically significant impact on observable outcomes of reasonable tests which do not allow endangerment of human lives.
There you have the findings, and they
confirmed the position that had long been taken by the Federation. Blind people
can cross streets safely without detectable warnings. They use a variety of
cues to do so. The presence or absence of a detectable warning does not add
significantly to the accuracy of street crossings by blind pedestrians. In fact,
as the research data suggest, the presence of detectable warnings can orient
travelers to angled curb ramps and thereby do a disservice. As the evidence
was presented to them, many members of the Access Board began to understand
these points. As they did so, not wanting to upset the dome advocates unduly,
they finally drew their conclusions in the following terms, as articulated by
an official of the U.S. Department of Justice: "Detectable warnings may
sometimes be nice, but they are clearly not necessary."
The nice-but-not-necessary conclusion seems to be the best description of the current understanding of detectable warnings by most Access Board members. Meanwhile, with respect to non-transportation facilities, the guidelines for detectable warnings remain suspended, while a final, formal decision--whether to remove detectable warnings from the guidelines or to re-instate the requirements for their installation--is under consideration.
Transit facilities are a different question. Although the requirement for detectable warnings was suspended for several months, the Department of Transportation chose to try enforcement rather than study. In order to be effective, however, this course of action depended upon the cooperation of the various public transit systems. If even one decided to jump the traces, the others might eventually follow. The revolt which could ensue might well threaten the whole enforcement scheme. The federal government's willingness to enforce the ADA amid the unfunded- mandates outcry in the country would be on the line.
Enter the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). As a potential adversary over detectable warnings, WMATA was undoubtedly not the Department of Transportation's first choice because the Metro rail system operated by WMATA throughout the greater Washington area is often viewed as a model by others in the industry, as well as by the millions of tourists who visit the nation's capital each year. Besides, if the Department of Transportation (headquartered in Washington, D. C.,) could not regulate WMATA, what system could it regulate? In any event, as described by Stephen C. Fehr in the Washington Post of June 9, 1994, the battle over detectable warnings on the raised platform edges of rail facilities was fully joined. Here is the story:
Metro Ordered to Install New Platform
Transit Agency Refuses to Comply, Calls Strip for the Blind a Hazard
The Clinton administration has ordered
Metro to stop fighting installation of subway platform edges intended to warn
blind riders, but transit officials refused yesterday, saying the new edges
would cause passengers to trip and fall onto the tracks.
U. S. Transportation Secretary Federico Pena told Metro to remove the white granite platform edges--a distinctive feature of Washington's subway for eighteen years--and replace them with a rubber strip of raised bumps.
Metro officials, who have battled federal officials for nearly three years to keep the eighteen miles of granite edges, said yesterday that they would not install the strips, setting up a possible court fight. Most other urban transit systems are complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act regulation requiring that the warning strips be installed by July 26, according to federal officials.
Under the regulation, Metro must widen its existing platform edge from eighteen inches to twenty-four inches and put in strips of brightly colored rubber tiles with bumps raised about two-tenths of an inch. Federal officials believe that visually impaired riders could feel the bumps with their feet or a cane and would know that they are close to the platform edge.
The lights in the granite that flash on and off before a train arrives would remain, officials said.
Pena, in a letter to Metro and in an interview, scolded local officials for trying to avoid the requirement. Since the regulation took effect in October, 1991, Metro has proposed four alternative solutions, saying that the bumpy material is a fire hazard and that the riders could trip on it.
"Metro's attention appears to have focused too little on implementation and too much on avoidance of this requirement," Pena said in the letter. In the interview he said the department had listened to all of Metro's proposals, " but at some point we have to move on to implementation" of the warning strips.
Since 1976, two visually impaired Metro riders have died in falls onto the tracks, and six others have been injured.
At a meeting yesterday with Federal Transit Administrator Gordon J. Linton, Metro General Manager Lawrence G. Reuter proposed that the agency keep the granite edge but texture it so it would be detected by a disabled person. Linton said he would consider the proposal, but he has said that the granite edge does not meet the federal requirement.
Metro officials said they are upset by suggestions they may be trying to skirt the requirement, which could cost more than $10 million.
"There's no attempt to avoid compliance," spokeswoman Patricia A. Lamb said. "The issue isn't compliance, it's safety. We will not be pushed by the bureaucracy to do something that isn't the right thing."
Before yesterday Metro had proposed widening the platform edge by eight inches with either the same smooth granite it currently has or a rougher, textured granite that would be detected by people with canes.
But federal officials said eight more inches of such a surface would not make it easier for visually impaired riders to find the platform edge. Metro wanted permission to study the wider granite edge to prove it would work, but Pena said in his letter that Metro has had nearly three years to study alternatives.
"Because of the immediate dangers posed to passengers with visual disabilities, the department cannot afford to delay compliance while Metro studies alternatives," Pena said.
Federal officials said that, although some of the materials used for the warning strip are flammable, nonflammable materials are available. They also rejected Metro's claim that the raised bumps are dangerous, citing the experience of the San Francisco and Miami subway systems, which have used them for several years with few rider complaints.
"Based on the available evidence, there does not appear to be any evidence to support your fear that the installation of detectable warnings will place users of your system at risk," Pena's letter said.
Metro officials said Washington's subway, which has more riders than San Francisco or Miami, has had fewer falls off platforms than those cities. About 71,000 Metro riders are disabled; of those, about 25,000 are visually impaired.
Organizations representing visually impaired riders are split on the use of the raised domes.
The American Council of the Blind, which has 42,000 members, and the American Foundation for the Blind, a research organization, said the domes are effective. Lobbyist Paul Schroeder said the regulation requires a uniform system of raised bumps in all subways so a visually impaired person can travel and find them anywhere.
"There's nothing left for Metro but to comply," Schroeder said.
The Baltimore-based National Federation of the Blind, which has 50,000 members, said the raised bumps are dangerous and give riders a false sense of security.
"People fall on them," said Marc Maurer, president of the group. "They're more dangerous. They give the impression something has been done to protect people, but it doesn't do what they want it to do."
Metro was the first subway system to be designed with a platform edge warning. New York and Philadelphia have received extensions from federal officials because of the high cost of modifying some of their oldest stations to comply with all of the regulations.
The situation as the Post described
it was clearly escalating toward a climax as June faded into July. Then, as
so often happens in matters of this kind, "someone blinked." The someone
in this case was the Department of Transportation. Rather than electing to go
to the mat with WMATA, the Department of Transportation decided to allow some
time to pass for cooling off and reflection. The decision was made to permit
WMATA to conduct a study of its own which would compare the existing granite
edge--a relatively flat surface as compared to the surrounding floor tiles--with
four other types of platform edging, including truncated domes.
The study commissioned by WMATA was conducted during the fall of 1994 by researchers at the Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio. A research facility installed at Battelle' headquarters was specially constructed for the purpose of testing platform edge detectability in a metro rail system. Blind and visually impaired people from the Columbus area were then recruited as test participants. The tests were designed to examine various platform edge surfaces and to determine if any of them would enable blind people to find the edge more readily than the present granite edge does.
The results of the Battelle study are summarized below, followed by an article from the Washington Post which appeared on February 9. With the data from its study now in hand, WMATA is returning to the Department of Transportation with an application for what is technically labeled legal recognition of its granite edging as "equivalent facilitation." In plain English this means that WMATA is asking the Department of Transportation to find that the present granite edge is as detectable as a detectable warning.
As this article is being written in mid-February, it remains to be seen how the Department of Transportation will respond. According to the ACB, approval of WMATA's request for equivalent facilitation will emasculate the detectable warnings regulation by inviting transit systems everywhere to attempt to find ways around it. But the facts are now clear. The basis for the detectable warnings regulation was not sound in the first place. This is what we in the National Federation of the Blind have said all along. Now, in case there was ever any doubt about it, our position has been confirmed by solid research data in two studies. Here are the Battelle findings:
With use of travel aids, persons with visual impairments should generally be able to detect the platform edge, regardless of the warning surface used, with a high degree of reliability.
In terms of stopping distances for blind participants, no statistically reliable differences between warning surfaces were noted. The average stopping distances were twenty-four inches or farther from the platform edge in the primary detection mode (i.e., with the use of travel aids). The average stopping distances in secondary detection mode (detection under foot [without travel aids]) were between 8 inches and 9.1 inches. Statistically significant differences among warning surfaces as a function of detection mode were small and of no practical significance.
Stopping distances for low vision participants in the primary detection mode averaged twenty-six inches or greater from the platform edge for all warning surfaces. The average stopping distances in the secondary detection mode were between 17.6 inches and 21.6 inches. The differences among warning surfaces as a function of detection mode were of no practical significance.
The percentage of successful detections in the secondary mode (detectability under foot [without travel aids]) was below ninety percent for all warning surfaces tested. Assuming a ninety-five percent detection rate for acceptability, none of the warning surfaces was adequate.
So much for the supposed superiority of truncated domes. Now here is the Washington Post story of February 9, 1995, written by Stephen Fehr:
Bumpy Metro Edge No Safer for Blind, Report Concludes
A bumpy subway platform edge that federal
officials have ordered Metro to install is no safer for blind riders than the
existing smooth granite edge, according to a study to be released today.
Based on the study, Metro officials said they would ask the Clinton administration to let them keep the eighteen miles of white granite platform edges in stations instead of replacing them with brightly colored rubber strips with raised domes as required by law.
Other transit systems across the country have been complying with what Metro officials call "regulation gone amok." Metro General Manager Lawrence G. Reuter cites as inexplicable the federal government's requiring the new edges in only forty-five of Metro's eighty-three stations.
"If this is really a safety issue, why is it only required at forty-five stations?" Reuter asked. "Why not all of them?"
Congress may weigh in; Representative Thomas E. Petri (R-Wisconsin), chairman of a key House transportation subcommittee, said yesterday that he planned to hold a hearing on the regulation. The existing platform edge, with its flashing lights that notify riders of approaching trains, "was built with handicap access in mind," noted Petri, a frequent Metro rider.
Such warning surfaces, which have a different texture from the rest of the platform, alert visually impaired riders that they are nearing the edge of the platform. Two blind Metro riders have been killed after falling from the platform, and six others have been injured in the transit system's eighteen-year history. One advocacy group for the blind says many more falls are not reported because no one is seriously hurt.
Transportation Secretary Federico Pena has rejected previous requests by Metro to retain the existing platform edges. Last year he ordered Metro to install the domed edges as required under the 1991 Americans with Disabilities Act.
Installing the new surfaces could cost $5 million to $30 million, a so-called unfunded mandate because Metro will have to fund the project with no help from the federal government.
Pena allowed Metro to conduct tests before making a final decision. Those tests were made last fall by the Battelle research firm of Columbus, Ohio, and involved five warning surfaces, including the rubber strips with domes and Metro's existing granite edges.
Noting that "the ability of warning surfaces to alert patrons depends at least in part on how detectable or noticeable the surfaces are," Battelle researchers concluded that none of the five surfaces was more detectable than any of the others.
"With the use of travel aids [such as canes or guide dogs], persons with visual impairments should generally be able to detect the platform edges, regardless of the warning surface used, with a high degree of reliability," said the study, which will be discussed at a Metro board meeting today.
Gordon J. Linton, head of the Federal Transit Administration, was traveling yesterday, but Berle M. Schiller, general counsel, said Metro's request to keep their existing edges would be reviewed. The agency already has concluded tests showing the domed edges are more effective in preventing falls because they provide more traction. A public hearing is set for March 3.
Julie Carroll, a lobbyist for the American Council of the Blind, said the tests indicated that with Metro's granite platform edge, a visually impaired rider using a travel aid such as a cane can detect the edge 95 percent of the time. But with the domed surfaces, she said, the percentage rises to 100 percent.
Moreover, she said, the study said a rider who does not use a cane or other device could detect Metro's platform edge only 37 percent of the time compared with 67 percent for the domed surface.
Although the researchers relied heavily on people who use canes to reach their conclusions, Carroll said most visually impaired riders use a combination of their feet and such travel aids. Thus, she said, the ability to detect the edge with one's feet is more important than being able to detect it with a cane.
But Reuter said that, when snow and ice are on the platform, a rider would be unable to detect the bumps of the proposed surface. Same with a person wearing boots, he said. Also, most visually impaired riders use a cane and would not continue
walking if they lost it, Reuter said.
Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, agreed. "Your feet aren't canes," he said. "You invite injury if you rely on your feet." The Federation supports Metro's position, largely because that group believes visually impaired people do not need special consideration on such issues and should walk on the same surface as everyone else.
"The edge is the edge," Maurer said, "and having these surfaces doesn't make that much difference."
Federationists have been working now for years to eliminate domes from our lives. We wish they hadn't shown up in the first place. But, since they did, we are the only ones who can tell the truth and make the change that will save the millions that would otherwise be spent. In cities and towns across the country we must remain alert and tell state and local governments and private owners that the domes are not required or soon won't be and that they shouldn't waste the money to install them. The Access Board seems to be moving toward this conclusion for non-transit facilities. And, in the case of transit facilities, we need to make the point everywhere we can that, as established by the Battelle study, there are lots of effective platform edges. Transit authorities shouldn't rush to put the domes in because a change in the regulations is clearly coming. And we all need to respond when the issue arrives on the national agenda as it almost certainly will when the spotlight of unfunded federal mandates hits the question of access.
One way or another, access must be paid
for. One way or another our country must live up to the ADA or decide to change
it. And, as this debate progresses, one way or another we in the Federation
must insist that the question of access as a whole be acknowledged as an important
issue and that truncated domes be recognized as a separate matter--unjustified,
lavishly expensive, unwanted--something which should be removed from the national
agenda because it is not a part of access at all.
THAT GO BUMP UNDERGROUND
by Jonathan Yardley
From the Editor: The regulations implementing
the Americans with Disabilities Act require that entities petitioning to provide
equivalent facilitation rather than that stipulated in the regulations must
conduct a public hearing during the process of seeking approval for the change.
Because the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA) decided to make
such a petition (see the previous story), WMATA officials scheduled a public
hearing on Friday, March 3, at 2:00 p.m. Approximately seventy witnesses came
forward to testify, so the hearing lasted until nearly midnight. The American
Council of the Blind had decided to hold a press conference at noon to decry
the cruelty of WMATA's desire to keep its rough granite platform edges with
their proven safety record. But at the hearing Federationists outnumbered WMATA
opponents two to one, and the press turned out in force to chronicle the event.
Not surprisingly, the media found the controversy disturbing, once they grasped the fact of the huge expenses involved in retrofitting the entire WMATA system with detectable warnings. The following article appeared in the Washington Post on Monday, March 6. It was written by Post columnist Jonathan Yardley. It was reprinted and echoed in other area publications in the days following. Here it is:
Speaking more than three decades ago
at a news conference, John F. Kennedy delivered, impromptu, one of the more
memorable utterances of his Presidency. "There is always inequity in life,"
he said. "Some men are killed in a war, and some men are wounded, and some
men never leave the country. . . Life is unfair."
Those words were widely praised at the time as evidence of the young President's maturity and common sense, but if ever there was a case of in one ear and out the other, that was it. A nation that barely a generation ago was able to accept with equanimity life's inherent unfairness and injustice now regards its duty as being to root out inequity even when the cost of doing so "defies reason," as was succinctly said last week.
The speaker was Lawrence G. Reuter, who thus won this corner's first nomination as Public Servant of the Year. Reuter is general manager of the Washington area's Metro system; he had been called before a House transportation subcommittee that is investigating federal mandates requiring localities to obey the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under that law federal bureaucrats are trying to force Metro to install platform edges with twenty-four-inch-wide rubbery surfaces having raised bumps, which they claim are warning signals for the blind; the bureaucrats at Metro, responding in singularly un-bureaucratic style, thus far have refused to comply, claiming that the effectiveness of the bumps is unproved and that the cost of compliance would be in the range of $30 million, which Reuter says riders would end up paying in higher fares.
The possibility that Reuter is grandstanding cannot be denied; the disabilities law has been getting deservedly bad press of late, and taking a stand against it is no longer quite so risky as when the law was passed five years ago. But the plain fact--certainly it should be plain to anyone who has encountered test strips of the bumpy surface at Metro platforms or fully installed ones at Union Station--is that we have in the case of the bumps a classic instance of the good intentions of the disability act leading to mandates that are wholly disproportionate to the problem under attack.
Presumably any American in possession of something resembling a heart and/or a conscience is sympathetic to the difficulties faced by the handicapped and would like to ease their passage through life. Sympathy for the handicapped is not at issue here, nor is a reasonable and energetic response to their needs. But what the bumpy-surface imbroglio illustrates is that over and over again this response is not merely unreasonable but downright irrational, pursued by the bureaucracy with a single-mindedness that permits no deviation or dissent.
It does not matter to this bureaucracy that the blind, for whom these bumpy surfaces allegedly were invented and then mandated, are themselves divided over their effectiveness; one lobbyist for the blind told the subcommittee last week that "many blind people don't use Metro" for safety reasons, while another objected that mandates such as this send a message that the blind "cannot look out for themselves." Nor does it matter to this bureaucracy that the rubbery surface designed to help the blind may pose a hazard to others. I can testify from personal experience that one can slip on this surface if it is wet or trip over the bumps if he isn't paying attention.
What a delicious if cruel irony it will be when the day arrives, as surely it will, that a person with full use of all the senses is killed after tripping over one of these bumps and falling in front of a Metro or Amtrak train. This is bound to happen because in attempting to eliminate all vestiges of unfairness from the lives of those handicapped or otherwise afflicted, new expenses and/or risks inevitably are created for the rest of society. Writing about this problem in his excellent new book, "The Death of Common Sense," Philip K. Howard tells how "the ethical issues of valuing one group's desires over everyone else's" were studied by some college professors:
"The problem they posed went like this: The extra cost of buses that have a lift for wheelchairs meant that 10 percent fewer buses were purchased; then service was cut back; then a grandmother in the Bronx had to wait an extra half hour in the cold of a dangerous neighborhood. Who, they wondered, was defending her rights?"
As Howard writes, "Situations like this are not hypothetical." Transit systems of cities and towns across the country are having to alter and cut back service because of arbitrary mandates from the faraway federal transit offices. Those same cities and towns have had to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars to tear up old sidewalks and build new ramps for wheelchairs that seldom if ever use them. Joggers on their daily rounds and mothers pushing perambulators are grateful for these unexpected conveniences, but for everyone else they are an expensive luxury. As Howard writes, "Rights are handed out once, and the legislature, basking in the praise of some group, has no clue about what the consequences will be."
Ah yes: consequences. In our rush to make the planet perfect for all those who inhabit it, we tend to pay scant attention to consequences, dismissing them as the unfortunate but inescapable price we pay for Doing Good. The trouble is that we often do more harm than good, which may help explain why the House last week approved "risk assessment legislation," which, if enacted into law, would have the central effect of requiring that proposed environmental standards be subjected to assessments of the risks, costs, and benefits they would entail before being put into effect.
No doubt it is true that this legislation, part of the new majority's tiresome "Contract With America," has a lot more to do with anti-environmental sentiment than with pure common sense. But the principle behind it is so sound, it's amazing no one around here thought of it before. As Mother used to say: Look before you leap. Don't impose a federal mandate before there is a good reason to believe that its benefits will at least equal and preferably exceed its costs.
Don't, to put it another way, follow in the footsteps of Federal Transit Administrator Gordon J. Linton, who says that if Metro doesn't cave in and install the bumpy surface, he will ask the Justice Department to sue it. Great. That's all we need: Your federal taxes at work, paying federal lawyers to sue the local lawyers in the employ of Metro. Onward and upward, into the ether of "fairness."
SCHOOL DEBACLE STILL FRONT-PAGE NEWS
In the March issue of the
Braille Monitor we reported that one of the four finalists in the search
to replace Leonard Ogburn as superintendent of the Arkansas School for the Blind
was Dr. Richard Umsted (who, like Ogburn, had been forced out of his superintendent
job last summer because of allegations of sexual misconduct at his school.)
In Umsted's case the institution was the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired
(ISVI), and the sexual misconduct was apparently not his own, but that of
students preying on other students. Umsted admitted to covering up the repeated incidents, according to sources close to the situation, in order, as he explained his motives, to protect the school's good name. The impropriety of contemplating the replacement of a man who had spanked female students and staff members by another fired for covering up multiple cases of sexual abuse apparently escaped the Arkansas School Search Committee. Luckily other people in the state were deeply concerned. By Friday, February 17, 1995, when the four serious candidates for the job were arriving for their interviews, word began to circulate that the governor was going to freeze the hiring process. On Saturday the story of the Umsted candidacy burst onto the front page of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Here is the story by Susan Roth that appeared on February 18, 1995:
Finalist Hid Sexual Abuse at Former Job To be Interviewed for Blind School Chief
A finalist for the superintendent's
job at the Arkansas School for the Blind was fired from a similar post in Illinois
for concealing incidents of sexual abuse at the school.
The chairman of the superintendent search committee said this week that reference checks on all four finalists had turned out satisfactorily. But the committee didn't contact any of Richard G. Umsted's former supervisors, Illinois officials said Friday.
An independent board runs the Arkansas deaf and blind schools, and it is to pick a new superintendent Sunday based on its search committee's recommendations. The state funds the schools, but doesn't oversee their operations, so problems with the choice would have no resolution beyond the board.
A bill stalled in a legislative committee would give the governor authority over the schools' superintendents.
Umsted failed to properly notify Illinois authorities and parents of at least six incidents where a sixteen-year-old student molested other students at the Jacksonville school, the Illinois Department of Rehabilitation Services reported.
Another Illinois source said a state police investigation found forty-five documented incidents of sexual abuse from 1991 to 1994 and even more cases of physical abuse that weren't properly reported to authorities.
Umsted, the Illinois superintendent for
eighteen years, couldn't be reached for comment Thursday or Friday. He has denied
the state's charges as "misleading and unfounded," but he didn't challenge
them. Sources said Umsted, who was well-respected and active on the school board
and chamber of commerce in the town of 20,000, told others the firing was politically
The Illinois Rehabilitation Services Department, which oversees that state's blind school, fired Umsted August 23, 1994--the same day Arkansas police charged Leonard Ogburn with harassment.
Ogburn, the former superintendent of the Arkansas blind school, resigned a month after four women associated with the school accused him of spanking and sexually harassing them. He pleaded no contest to the charges.
Bill Jacobson, the chairman of the blind school's superintendent search committee, declined to discuss Umsted's employment history this week. He said the committee checked Umsted's references, along with those of the other three finalists.
Whittled from a field of fifteen applicants, the other three candidates are:
Noel E. Stephens, supervisor of the Southeast Regional Cooperative of the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind in Tucson.
Ivan S. Terzieff, director of educational services at the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School in Vinton, who taught at the Arkansas blind school in 1972-73.
J. Kirk Walter, executive director of Hoover Rehabilitation Services for Low Vision and Blindness in
Their applications indicate they meet the basic requirements for the job, which include eligibility for Arkansas certification in administration. Umsted, who has reportedly worked odd jobs since August, listed on his application no reason for leaving his last job.
"We were very fortunate and happy to have such a qualified group of people," Jacobson said Thursday. "The committee would be happy if any of them took the position."
In fact, the committee didn't seek comment from any Illinois officials who supervised Umsted. Of the five references Umsted listed with his resume, only one was associated with the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired.
And that reference was Umsted's assistant superintendent, who was forced to take a leave or be fired last October after the state police implicated him in the cover-up, sources said. A state official said he took an extended medical leave through June, when he will retire.
Jacobson said he would address Umsted's past Sunday, when the search committee will present the four finalists to the blind school's board.
The finalists were to arrive in Little Rock on Friday evening for private interviews today with the search committee. The committee then will rank the candidates and present them to the school's board at 8:00 a.m. Sunday with the recommended ranking.
At 9:00 a.m., the board will begin private interviews with the candidates. A decision is expected by mid-afternoon, Jacobson said.
The nine-member superintendent search committee includes parents and teachers at the school and representatives of local organizations for the blind.
Illinois policy required Umsted to report any "unusual" incidents involving criminal activity, abuse, or neglect to his supervisor at the Rehabilitation Services Department, to the state's Children and Family Services Department, and to local law enforcement.
Melissa Skilbeck, a spokesman for the rehabilitation services agency, said an internal investigation revealed that Umsted had reported some incidents involving the sixteen-year-old but failed to consistently notify authorities and parents of other incidents.
Umsted reportedly termed the initial incident, when the sixteen-year-old attacked a nine-year-old boy last May, as "sexual exploration."
The state police investigation, which ended last fall, found "serious administrative issues" at the school but no criminal offenses, Skilbeck said.
Other administrators who worked with Umsted may yet be fired for their connection with his "serious management deficiencies"; Skilbeck said other "personnel actions are pending."
"I am stunned that he is a finalist," Skilbeck said.
David Postle, an alumnus of the school and a member of its advisory council and superintendent search committee, echoed her remarks.
"If I had gotten a job application like that, I wouldn't have even interviewed the man," Postle said. He said Umsted threatened to fire the employees who told authorities of the abuses. Umsted told Postle he had refused to report the incidents because he wanted to protect "the good name of the school."
"I would have really strong feelings about anyone being put in charge of the welfare of defenseless children where he had had that responsibility and failed to exercise it," Postle said.
There you have the article that appeared on the Saturday that the candidates were in town for their interviews. Not surprisingly, the front-page story had a noticeable impact on the proceedings. The Monday, February 20 story by Chris Reinolds in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette described what happened next. Here it is:
Selection of New Chief of Blind School on Hold State Hiring Freeze Blocks Board Decision
The Board of Trustees of the Arkansas
Schools for the Deaf and Blind postponed selecting a new blind school superintendent
Sunday until the state legislature lifts a hiring freeze at the schools.
Board chairman Aaron Hawkins said a representative from Governor Jim Guy Tucker's office told the board Friday that it should postpone its decision.
Board member Sharon Mazzanti said the hiring freeze was placed on both the blind and deaf schools to determine if there were any positions that could be cut.
Mazzanti said Sunday that three of the four final candidates were good choices. She declined to say which of the three she favored.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Saturday that one finalist, Richard G. Umsted, was fired from a similar post in Illinois for concealing incidents of sexual abuse at the school.
But the chairman of the search committee said last week that reference checks on all four finalists had turned out satisfactorily. The committee didn't contact any of Umsted's former supervisors, Illinois officials said.
"I think they (search committee) did talk to an awful lot of people," Mazzanti said.
An independent board runs the deaf and blind schools. The state funds the schools but doesn't oversee their operations. The board has the final say in administrative decisions.
A bill that stalled in a legislative committee would give the governor authority over the schools' superintendents.
The blind school has been without a permanent superintendent since August, 1994, when police charged Leonard Ogburn, the former superintendent, with harassment.
Ogburn resigned a month after four women associated with the school accused him of spanking and sexually harassing them. He has pleaded no contest to the charges.
Jim Hill, principal at the high school for the blind, was named interim superintendent in June, 1994, when Ogburn was placed on paid leave. Hill will continue to work as superintendent until the board chooses a permanent replacement.
Hill said the image of the superintendent search committee has been hurt since it was revealed that Umsted was fired from his last job.
"People are upset by it. We didn't need it (the negative publicity)," Hill said.
Umsted failed to properly notify Illinois authorities and parents of at least six incidents, where a sixteen-year-old student molested other students at the Jacksonville school, the Illinois Department of Rehabilitation Services reported.
Another Illinois source said a state police investigation found forty-five documented incidents of sexual abuse from 1991 to 1994, and even more cases of physical abuse that weren't properly reported to authorities.
Umsted said Sunday after the board's postponement that he's still a finalist for the position.
Umsted said the search committee knew his background and he spoke about the allegations and his subsequent firing during his interview with the board Sunday.
"I had eighteen years of good evaluations, and this whole thing was a shock," he said. "Nothing was hidden. It was just politically expedient for me to leave (Illinois)."
Umsted, who was Illinois superintendent for eighteen years, planned to return Sunday to Jacksonville, Illinois, where he works at a grocery store.
The nine-member superintendent search committee includes parents, teachers at the school, and representatives of local organizations for the blind. Max Woolly, a search committee member and retired superintendent of the blind school, said the committee chose four strong candidates.
Woolly said the candidates were told Friday about the school's hiring freeze.
When asked why the committee recommended Umsted for the position despite his job record, Woolly said, "Every qualification he had was among the best."
The finalists arrived Friday in Little
Rock for private interviews Saturday with the search committee. The board interviewed
the candidates Sunday before taking action.
The four candidates are still eligible for the position when the board fills it. . . .
That's what was being said by the media in Little Rock. Meanwhile word had gotten back to Illinois that Richard Umsted was actually being seriously considered for a job in education of the blind in Arkansas. The following article by Christiann Baxter appeared on Saturday, February 25 in the Jacksonville Journal Courier. Here it is:
Ex-blind School Chief Up for Job in Arkansas
The former superintendent of the Illinois
School for the Visually Impaired--who was fired from the position--is a finalist
for the superintendent's job at the Arkansas School for the Blind.
Richard Umsted was fired from ISVI in August, 1994, for failing to report cases of alleged sexual abuse at the school to his superiors.
Bill Jacobson, the chairman of the Arkansas School for the Blind's superintendent search committee, said Dr. Umsted is one of four finalists for the job.
Dr. Umsted told the committee why he was fired from ISVI, said Mr. Jacobson. He declined to say whether committee members had talked to anyone at ISVI.
Melissa Skilbeck, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Rehabilitation Services [DORS], said no one has contacted ISVI or DORS for a reference on Dr. Umsted.
Max Woolly, a search committee member and retired superintendent of the Arkansas school, said Dr. Umsted told the committee he was fired from his job for allegedly failing to report sexual abuse but said the firing was politically motivated.
"Teenagers are going to experiment in a residential environment," said Dr. Woolly, "You can't stop that."
Dr. Umsted said he told the committee that his firing was politically expedient for DORS. He refused to say why he believes it was politically motivated.
The committee found Dr. Umsted "eminently qualified," said Dr. Woolly. "He's a good man."
Dr. Umsted has been through interviews with the superintendent search committee and the board of trustees for Arkansas Schools for the Deaf and Blind, said Mr. Jacobson.
An internal investigation by the Illinois Department of Rehabilitation Services revealed several cases of student-to-student sexual abuse at ISVI had gone unreported to DORS, the Department of Children and Family Services, and the parents of affected students. Incidents not properly reported include the inappropriate and unwanted touching of two female students and the possible sexual abuse of four male students.
The Illinois State Police is conducting
a separate investigation to determine whether any laws were broken but has not
released any findings.
Dr. Umsted has denied the basis for his firing. He is still a member of the District 117 school board.
The Arkansas Board of Trustees for the Deaf and Blind Schools has postponed selecting a superintendent until a hiring freeze ordered by the governor is lifted on the position.
Dr. Woolly said in Arkansas a state position is frozen when it is vacated. The institution has to justify why the position is needed before it can be filled, he said. No one had turned in the proper paperwork to the state yet, he said. He has heard the hiring freeze will be lifted Tuesday or Wednesday.
The State of Arkansas operates the schools for deaf and blind students but doesn't directly oversee the operations. The board has final say about hiring decisions.
A bill that would give the Arkansas governor authority over the superintendents is stalled in a legislative committee.
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette in Little Rock reported, February 18, that Dr. Umsted had been fired from his position at ISVI.
A reporter from the Braille Monitor, a national publication of the National Federation of the Blind, has been in Jacksonville to investigate the circumstances around Dr. Umsted's dismissal.
That's how the story was reported in Jacksonville a week after it broke in Little Rock. It was clearly disturbing to those who had been following the chronicle of the Umsted firing. The Journal Courier printed an editorial on Sunday February 26 that left little room for doubt about the paper's view of the Umsted candidacy. Here it is:
Disgrace at Arkansas School for
A few months ago, readers might recall,
we urged the legislature to remove the Illinois School for the Deaf and the
Illinois School for the Visually Impaired from the control of the Department
of Rehabilitation Services.
We urged state Representative Tom Ryder to push through legislation that would put day-to-day governance of the state schools under boards of trustees appointed by the governor with guidance from members of the Jacksonville community, especially from the ranks of employees and students and alumni of the institutions.
That is what Arkansas does, and it sounds like a good idea, doesn't it? It would prevent some of the heavy-handedness DORS has displayed in its handling of the two local schools, and it would allow the local trustees to keep close tabs on goings-on on the campus.
However, in practice the Arkansas School for the Blind has been terribly managed and probably should serve as anything but a model for us in Illinois.
The school was trying to replace a superintendent who got canned and convicted in a sex scandal. Dr. Richard Umsted, himself fired after nearly two decades at ISVI for failing to report alleged sexual assaults by students, applied for the Arkansas job and is among the finalists.
What is astounding is that the knuckleheads who are heading up the search committee there never bothered to contact Dr. Umsted's employers at DORS to determine the circumstances under which he left his job at ISVI. Nor did they ask whether or not DORS or Dr. Umsted's associates at ISVI consider him fit for the Arkansas job.
Members of the Arkansas search committee essentially dismissed the allegations against Dr. Umsted--"Teenagers are going to experiment (sexually) in a residential environment. You can't stop that," said one--and called Dr. Umsted "eminently qualified" for the job.
They apparently believe Dr. Umsted's contention that the charges against him were trumped up and the result of politics.
We might not have any problem with that had they actually bothered to speak with DORS about the specific complaints that led to Dr. Umsted's firing or to the Illinois State Police, which also is investigating what happened at ISVI.
This is the grossest dereliction of duty on the part of the board that runs the Arkansas School for the Blind there. The system is probably not one Illinois should emulate in any way.
Subsequent events proved Max Woolly
correct. Midweek the legislature did indeed lift the hiring freeze, and Aaron
Hawkins, who chairs the Board of Trustees of the Schools for the Deaf and Blind
and who is also a member of the American Council of the Blind, called an emergency
meeting of the board with the apparent intention, according to sources close
to the situation, of ramming through the hiring decision. According to these
sources, two board members refused to attend the meeting, believing that it
was improper for the body to act in haste. When the three members who did show
up settled down to work, it became apparent that Hawkins was the only one who
wanted to resolve the question that evening. One of the members moved that the
meeting be adjourned and that the question of the appointment of a superintendent
be postponed until the meeting already scheduled for March 9. The other member
seconded the motion, the two voted in favor, and the meeting ended.
Meantime the Arkansas Legislature was busy developing a plan to improve the management of the Schools for the Blind and the Deaf and to consolidate the maintenance, transportation, and housekeeping departments under the management of the School for the Deaf. The plan will apparently not be put into effect until after the new superintendents of both institutions are named and have started work.
The March 9 meeting of the board of Trustees took place as scheduled, and the board voted unanimously to offer the job of superintendent of the Arkansas School for the Blind to Ivan Terzieff, the candidate who had most compellingly communicated his dedication to the education of students. The following article by Susan Roth appeared in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on March 10. Here it is:
Blind-School Educator in Iowa Chosen for Arkansas Spot
Ivan S. Terzieff will be the new superintendent
of the Arkansas School for the Blind, the school's board of trustees decided
Terzieff, director of educational services at the Iowa Braille and Sight-Saving School, beat out three other finalists, including one who was fired from his last job for concealing incidents of sexual abuse.
Some parents, teachers, legislators, and members of national blind organizations have expressed concerns about the search process because such a candidate was considered a finalist.
The school has been in a state of flux since Leonard Ogburn, the former superintendent, resigned under pressure in September after he was charged with sexually harassing a teacher. The scandal left the students and faculty at the school divided and brought more allegations of long-term mismanagement that are likely to result in close legislative oversight for the next two years.
Sherry Bartley, a trustee, said Terzieff was the board's unanimous choice because he stressed education of children as his primary concern.
"We felt he expressed that better than any of the other candidates." Bartley said. "He also said, in a very positive way, that he looked forward to working with the Legislature to make it the best school possible. And he will make sure the school is united. I think he won't allow that division to go on long."
Terzieff said he felt "euphoric" after learning he was chosen, and that he was not deterred by problems at the school.
"What happened in the past at the school may have created some problems internally, but they are not problems that cannot be resolved," he said. "The school itself has a very good reputation, and given that, the faculty is very good I would suspect."
Several teachers and members of the blind community were relieved to hear that Terzieff was the board's first choice.
Terzieff, who taught at the School for the Blind in 1972-73, has a good professional reputation as a teacher and administrator, and a record of good relations with consumer groups for people with vision problems.
There you have it. Is the long, sordid,
and tangled story of poor management and misbehavior at the Arkansas School
for the Blind close to its end? One can only hope so. Much will depend on the
skill, diplomacy, and integrity of Ivan Terzieff. The teacher whose charges
against Leonard Ogburn touched off the explosion in the first place must still
decide whether or not to sue the school. Her persecution at the hands of some
staff members and several school officials reportedly continues. At the February
19 meeting of the Board of Trustees, for example, the Chairman, Aaron Hawkins,
attacked her publicly, which does not say much for his intention to resolve
the problems that still exist. The legislature continues to indicate distrust
of the school administration's ability to manage the institution wisely. Members
of the staff, the student body, and the blind community are divided and skeptical
about the school's future. And of course, the school's accreditation with the
National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped
(NAC) is about to come up for renewal. There is certainly plenty for Ivan Terzieff
to do when he arrives. Once again the past months have illustrated just how
accurately NAC's good-practice seal reflects its boast of quality service at
member institutions. If Mr. Terzieff is serious about wanting to demonstrate that a new day has dawned at the Arkansas School for the Blind, he could do worse than to sever the institution's affiliation with NAC. Certainly he must find ways of reestablishing public confidence in the school. Let us hope he is up to the job.
[Photo #7 Portrait Caption: Larry Israel]
A LETTER FROM TELESENSORY
As Monitor readers know, in the January, 1995, issue of the Braille Monitor we printed an article entitled "The Other Half of the Equation: PC-Based Reading Systems, A Comparative Review." Subsequently we received the following letter from Larry Israel, President and Chief Executive Officer of TeleSensory Corporation:
Mountain View, California
February 27, 1995
Dear Ms. Pierce:
In the January issue of The Braille Monitor, David Andrews presented a comparative review of PC-based reading systems from Arkenstone, TeleSensory, and Xerox Imaging Systems. In his article the section on strengths and weaknesses had some comments about TeleSensory which could present a misleading impression.
David says: "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 best antidote to rumors is facts. As many of your readers already know, TeleSensory and VTEK (the company I founded in 1971) were merged in early 1989. TeleSensory was in fact the acquiring company, and my personal role did not include any operating responsibilities, although I did serve on the company's Board of Directors part of the time during the next four years and remain a major shareholder in the company.
What transpired after that may not be equally clear to your readers, and so I'd like to provide some factual information which may be of interest. In late 1992 the Board replaced Dr. James C. Bliss, the company's co-founder and its President since its inception, with James W. Morrell. Mr. Morrell had served on TSC's Board for about four years.
Six months later, on July 1, 1993, I rejoined the company as Vice President Sales. Later, in January, 1994, I assumed additional responsibilities as Vice President Sales and Marketing. My personal motivations were to help the company overcome various problems it was facing and to protect my
investment as a major shareholder of TeleSensory. Perhaps most importantly, I missed the industry and the environment which I had helped establish through VTEK in the early '70's, and wanted to return to heavy involvement with it.
In mid-July, 1994, Mr. Morrell resigned abruptly and unexpectedly. TeleSensory's Board of Directors unanimously elected me as President and Chief Executive Officer of the company on July 14, 1994, one day after Mr. Morrell's resignation.
There were some fairly prompt changes made. The company was reorganized into a Blindness Products Division (BPD) and a Low Vision Division (LVD). This was a reflection of our belief that
there were significant differences in the needs of people who were totally blind and those who were partially sighted and in how we as a company could best meet those needs.
We also believed that we could more effectively focus our resources on product development, technical support, demonstrations, marketing, installation, training, and other aspects of meeting client needs if our staff were organized in a way which would permit them to pay attention to those differences in a more effective manner than under our prior organization. One of the immediate benefits is that we learned some things we were doing right, but we also learned some things we were doing wrong, which needed to be changed.
Yakov Soloveychik was hired as Vice President and General Manager of the Blindness Products Division. Yakov was with VTEK for eleven years, then with TeleSensory for a year after the merger and later was President of Baum USA in the Los Angeles area. At the same time, TeleSensory also acquired rights to distribute Baum's Braille products in North America.
Our Low Vision Division, being somewhat larger, is managed by three senior officers for Sales and Marketing, Product Development, and Manufacturing Operations. Marc Stenzel, who is Vice President Sales and Marketing for this division, is well known throughout the industry. For the moment I am personally serving as Acting General Manager for this Division, in addition to my responsibilities as President and CEO of TeleSensory Corporation.
Thus far results have been very gratifying. The company's operations have been turned around, morale is generally quite good, and we are working very hard to rebuild our reputation and bring exciting new products to market. And we do need to rebuild it, at least in part. I am sorry to say that I think we here at TeleSensory have fallen down on the job over the past few years, despite many fine people who work for us. Our reputation for quality, reliability, and prompt and effective service to our customers has been compromised and diminished, not through the actions of any malevolent outside force, but because of our own shortcomings.
Among our problems was a failure to deal with a Braille-cell problem of a few years ago in a forthright and candid manner. Our technical support group, while staffed with some very conscientious and talented people, was not organized, led, or motivated in a way which allowed those people to provide support at the level we would have wished. We have taken major steps to correct those shortcomings, and we believe the results and improvement are already visible in the marketplace.
For our slippage in quality and support, I apologize to our customers. And I pledge that all of us here at TeleSensory will continue to expend major effort to ensure that we fulfill our commitments to both our customers and to ourselves. I'm sure we will continue to encounter some complaints, because perfection is not attainable. We will work hard to reduce the frequency of complaints and to continuously improve what we do, within the context of ensuring that TeleSensory remains a financially sound organization, so that it is here for years to come.
This brings me back to the reasons why I have written this letter and why the rumors may be misleading. TeleSensory is not a company in flux, although it might have been accurate to characterize it that way as recently as last summer. We are now solidly organized and well on our way to ensuring that we provide service and support to the users of our equipment, which is reliable, of high quality, timely, and cost-effective.
The Blindness Products Division is not for sale, and we have no plans to spin it off. It would be foolhardy for me to say "never," but I can assure you that is not being contemplated or discussed by TeleSensory senior management or by its Board of Directors.
Finally, one other point I would like
to make, which is more indicative of the "new TeleSensory," if I may
call it that. We are taking an active role to make our products, architecture,
and interfaces more open and available to others in the industry. We are already
one of the largest manufacturers in the world of Braille cells, which are used
by many of our competitors in their products. Another example: we have recently
begun discussions with other companies who may wish to sell our refreshable
Braille displays in conjunction with their own equipment (for instance,with
a PC-based reading system of their own design), and we will be encouraging and
facilitating that. We will provide interface specifications, technical support,
and a reasonable "resale discount" to permit other companies to resell
our products through their own distribution networks. In this way we believe
that we will facilitate the availability of assistive devices in a broader way
and will also help spur development of new technologies to benefit those who
are blind, even though the short-term effect might be to reduce our direct market
I realize this letter is quite lengthy, but I hope that it has been informative and helpful. If you would like to talk to me or interview me to clarify or expand upon any of my comments here, I would be delighted to meet or talk with you.
President and Chief Executive Officer
[Photo #8 The Holiday Inn Columbia Room is shown filled to capacity with people occupying all the chairs, sitting on the floor and leaning against the walls. Caption: More than 500 Federationists jammed themselves into the Columbia Room for the opening briefing of 1995 Washington Seminar.]
[Photo #9 A crowd of Federationists wait at a table to pick up information. Caption: Affiliate leaders pick up Congressional committee lists following the Sunday evening briefing at the Washington Seminar.]
[Photo #10 Judy Sanders retrieves cards
from a metal card file while Jan Bailey uses a Perkins Brailler to take a report.
Caption: Jan Bailey takes a Congressional visit report from a Federationist
Sanders files completed reports in the Mercury Room.]
OF THE 1995 WASHINGTON SEMINAR
by Barbara Pierce
With every passing year the Washington
Seminar takes on more and more the character of a midwinter convention of the
National Federation of the Blind. This year Federationists began gathering at
both the National Center for the Blind and the Capitol Holiday Inn on Friday,
January 27. Several meetings were held at the National Center immediately prior
to the seminar as a convenience to committee members who were already planning
to travel that weekend to the Baltimore/Washington area to talk with their Members
In addition, two day-long seminars took place at the hotel on Saturday: the annual Midwinter Conference of the National Association of Blind Students and, this year for the first time, a seminar for business people conducted by the Merchants Division. Both these exciting programs culminated in banquets. Dr. Jernigan addressed the Merchants Division, and Dr. Fred Schroeder, Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, addressed the students.
Early Sunday morning more than a hundred Federationists clambered aboard buses to drive to Baltimore for tours of the National Center. The buses were back in time for afternoon meetings--a legislative seminar for parents of blind children and one on selling Associates, sponsored by the Associates Committee.
By 5:00 p.m. there wasn't a seat to be had in the meeting room used for the briefing that officially kicked off the 1995 Washington Seminar and our visits to Capitol Hill. More than 500 Federationists from forty-seven states were ready for action and eager to begin. President Maurer and Dr. Jernigan brought the crowd up to date on a number of organizational activities, and Jim Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs, described the issue we would be discussing with our Senators and Representatives and answered questions. The focus of our concern this year was the Senior Citizens Equity Act (H.R. 8 in the House and S. 30 in the Senate). The packet of materials we distributed and discussed is reprinted elsewhere in this issue.
When the briefing adjourned promptly at 7:00, the crowd scattered to turn in their appointment schedules, gather materials, snatch a bite to eat, and coordinate plans for the following day. A few people even found time to watch part of the Super Bowl. For the next three days the halls of Congress echoed to the sounds of canes tapping and harnesses jingling as delegations of Federationists hurried to appointments. Many Members of the 104th Congress took time to meet personally with us and discuss our concerns. Speaker Gingrich told the Georgia delegation, for example, that he was in sympathy with our position and would work with us. And many, many others affirmed their support of our position. There is no doubt that we had an impact on these legislators. The task facing this Congress is staggering, but the Members seemed encouraged by our insistence that, above all, blind people want an opportunity to work and contribute to the solutions of this nation's problems.
No report on the Washington Seminar would be complete without a word of thanks to Sandy and John Halverson and the dedicated crew of people who staffed the Mercury Room, nerve center of the Washington Seminar. It was here that summaries of all meetings were taken down in Braille from both phone and face-to-face reports by team leaders. These were then entered into the computer, and filed in huge file drawers. It was a massive undertaking, conducted by a staff of volunteers who were always pleasant, businesslike, and efficient. At 5:00 p.m. Wednesday the phone lines were unplugged, the file drawers were closed, the computer was packed away, and another Washington Seminar became history.
But in many ways the work was just beginning. Federationists packed their bags and made their way for the last time through the construction in the hotel lobby to our waiting cars and cabs. The serious letter-writing and telephoning campaign was about to begin.
THE EARNINGS LIMIT AND PRESERVING LINKAGE:
THE BLIND FIGHT TO PROTECT THEIR RIGHTS
by James Gashel
From the Editor: At the 1995 Washington
Seminar, January 29 through February 1, members of the National Federation of
the Blind had only one thing on their minds: Social Security earnings limits.
Two newly introduced bills, S. 30 and H.R. 8, would raise the Social Security
earnings limit to $30,000 a year over a five-year period for retirees under
the age of seventy. The idea is to encourage seniors to continue to work and
enjoy increased incomes without jeopardizing their Social Security benefits.
The plan has much to recommend it. In fact, for years we have argued for just
such an approach to the earnings limit for Social Security Disability Insurance
(SSDI) beneficiaries who are blind, and for exactly the same reasons.
Since 1977 earnings limits for retirees and blind people receiving SSDI have been linked. But the current bills before the House and Senate propose to break that linkage and leave the blind exactly where they now are at the same time that retirees are experiencing a distinct and growing incentive to work while they continue to receive their Social Security benefits. What follows is the legislative memorandum explaining the problem and our solution to it. Along with it is the text of testimony presented by the National Federation of the Blind before the Subcommittee on Social Security on January 9. These are the documents we discussed with members of Congress during this year's Washington Seminar. Here they are:
Re: Increasing the Social Security earnings limit: a critical time of decision for blind people
If item seven in the Contract with America
is enacted as proposed, a provision in the Social Security Act for exempting
earnings of blind people and senior citizens to the same extent will be repealed.
The amount of earnings allowed without penalty for blind persons will remain
where it is now, with only marginal future annual adjustments being made. Meanwhile
the earnings exemption for seniors will be raised by five mandated annual increases
in order to reach $30,000 in the year 2000. The reason for doing this is to
diminish the disincentive of the earnings limit and to increase work and productivity.
By the same reasoning the higher earnings exemption should also apply to blind
people, who like the seniors are penalized for working.
In voting on the Contract with America, Congress must decide whether work incentives for blind people are less important than raising the earnings exemption standard for seniors to $30,000. Both goals have identical merit and should be given identical weight. Work, productivity, and the opportunity for more people to pay taxes would be the result. Accordingly, blind persons are asking that their need to achieve economic independence through work not be set aside.
DESCRIPTION OF EXISTING LAW
Under an amendment authored by Congressman Archer in 1977, blind people who have not attained age sixty-five are affected by the same earnings limit that the Social Security Act imposes on age sixty-five retirees. Mr. Archer's amendment, establishing an identical earnings exemption standard for blind people and retirees, has been law for almost twenty years. Blindness and retirement age are both defined eligibility conditions in section 216 of the Social Security Act. The disability test--the inability to engage in Substantial Gainful Activity--is not used to determine whether an individual meets the blindness criteria in the Social Security Act. Only medical evidence is used for this determination.
CONTRACT WITH AMERICA: PROPOSED CHANGES
Item seven in the Contract with America is a bill known as the Senior Citizens' Equity Act--H. R. 8, by Congressman Jim Bunning, and S. 30, by Senator John McCain. The modifications to the earnings limit being proposed include five mandated upward adjustments in the exempt amount to reach $30,000 of annual earnings beginning in the year 2000. Section 101(b) of the bill would specifically exclude blind people from the mandated adjustments.
The exclusion departs from existing law. The National Federation of the Blind (along with every other organization having interest in the blindness field) strongly opposes this change. The provision would create an earnings limit for blind people which is far more stringent than the earnings limit for age sixty-five retirees--a serious change in direction which will have far-reaching and harmful work disincentive effects upon the blind.
NEED TO REMOVE WORK DISINCENTIVES
Continuing the existing policy by mandating the adjustments in the earnings limit for blind people as well as for age sixty-five retirees will assure that an estimated 104,300 blind beneficiaries will receive a powerful work incentive. Most blind people could then not lose financially by working. The mandated earnings limit changes, if made applicable to blind people, would be cost-beneficial since, among those of working age, 70 percent are currently unemployed or underemployed. Most of them are already beneficiaries. At present their earnings must be strictly limited to $940.00 per month. When earnings do exceed this exempt amount, the entire sum paid to a primary beneficiary and dependents is abruptly withdrawn after a trial work period.
When a blind person finds work, there is absolutely no assurance that earnings will replace the amount of lost disability benefits after taxes and work expenses are paid. Usually they do not. Therefore, few of the 104,300 beneficiaries can actually afford to attempt substantial work. Those who do will often sacrifice income and will certainly sacrifice the security they have from the automatic receipt of a monthly check. This group of beneficiaries--people of working age who are blind--must not be forgotten as the debate proceeds toward modifying the Social Security retirement test. Just as with
hundreds of thousands of seniors, their positive response to the higher amounts of earnings allowed will bring additional revenues into the Social Security trust funds.
In taking a position on legislation to approve item seven in the Contract with America, each member of Congress should vote to ensure that equity in the work incentive policies of the bill applies, as under current law, to senior citizens and blind people alike. To achieve this, we ask you actively to promote striking the exclusionary provision--section 101(b)--of the Senior Citizens' Equity Act so that an identical earnings exemption standard for blind people and retirees alike--the policy of the present law--is maintained.
BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE
ON SOCIAL SECURITY
COMMITTEE ON WAYS AND MEANS
UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
STATEMENT OF THE
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
DIRECTOR OF GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS
JANUARY 9, 1995
Mr. Chairman, I am James Gashel. I am
Director of Governmental Affairs for the National Federation of the Blind (NFB).
My address is 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, telephone (410)
659-9314. I am appearing today along with Mrs. Betty Niceley, President of the
National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky. Mrs. Niceley will summarize this
written statement. Thank you for offering us this opportunity to present the
views of the NFB in response to Social Security earnings limit issues which
have been raised in legislation to fulfill the Contract with America.
At the outset, Mr. Chairman, I would
like to say that the position we are taking concerning modifications to the
earnings limit is shared by every national organization in the blindness field.
The groups in question have entered into a joint statement of our position,
and I am submitting a copy of this statement as an attachment. I believe that
each organization, represented by the individuals on this panel, is submitting
a separate written statement for this hearing. The organizations involved are
at the end of the joint statement. Collectively we represent people who are blind throughout the United States, professionals who provide services to the blind, agencies throughout the country which employ blind individuals in significant numbers, and agencies in every state which assist blind people in finding jobs in the competitive labor force. In other words, the joint statement which we are submitting represents the complete spectrum of interests from the blind themselves to those who serve them.
There are over fifty thousand blind people who are members of the National Federation of the Blind. We have a local chapter of the Federation in almost every sizable population area in this country and a state affiliate in all states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. In short, Mr. Chairman, NFB is organized and active in all parts of the United States.
By virtue of its size and scope NFB represents and speaks for the blind as a collective body. We speak for older blind persons and younger blind persons as well. The positions we express in hearings such as these are the result of the democratic process of debate and decision-making among people who are blind in the United States. The supreme authority of the Federation is its National Convention, which occurs annually. During the convention we openly debate (and approve or disapprove) a number of policy resolutions. In this manner the Federation is truly the blind speaking for themselves. It is not simply an organization speaking for the blind. All of our elected officers and the vast majority of our members are blind. For these reasons the NFB is widely known as the voice of the nation's blind.
This hearing concerns proposed modifications in the earnings exemption threshold provisions of the Social Security Act. The legislation which would accomplish the specific changes is known as the "Senior Citizens' Equity Act"--introduced in the 104th Congress as H. R. 8.
Blind people have a special concern in relationship to this subject. Most blind people are sixty-five or older. The retirement test affects blind retirees in precisely the same way that it affects all senior citizens age sixty-five to seventy. But the retirement test also affects blind people under age sixty-five who receive Social Security benefits.
According to information available from the Social Security Administration, this latter group is made up of about 104,300 blind beneficiaries. There are in addition approximately 57,000 blind individuals (most of whom are of working age) who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments but do not also receive disability insurance checks. This adds up to a combined total of 161,300 blind beneficiaries whose work patterns and earnings could be significantly improved by work incentives.
Under a provision in section 223(d)(4) of the Social Security Act, working-age blind individuals are subject to an earnings limitation which is precisely the same as the earnings limitation for age sixty-five retirees. This limitation is stated in section 203(f)(8)(D) of the Social Security Act. The present limit is $11,280 annually or $940 monthly, which by law is subject to upward annual adjustments.
The Senior Citizens' Equity Act would change existing law by creating an earnings limit for the blind which is different from the earnings limit for age sixty-five retirees. In fact, the earnings limit for the blind of working age would be far more severe than the earnings limit which would apply to retirees. For this reason, while we enthusiastically support the changes called for in the earnings exemption threshold, we are asking the Committee and the Congress to remove from the bill the provisions which would exclude blind people from the work incentives resulting from the new, higher threshold amounts.
In terms of establishing the point at which an individual becomes eligible, the Social Security Act treats blindness and retirement age (age sixty-five) in almost precisely the same manner. Section 216(l)(1) of the Act presently defines retirement age as age sixty-five. The definition of blindness is found in section 216(i)(1)(B). In looking at this definition it is critical to understand that blindness is not the same as disability. It may be more accurate to say that blindness under the Social Security Act is a distinct form of disability having a definition which is distinctly different from the definition of disability.
The definition of disability is an "(A) inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity . . . , or (B) blindness; . . . ." In the latter case (blindness) the inability to perform "any substantial gainful activity" is not a defining condition. Blindness is defined by means of specific visual acuity and field restrictions. Medical evidence is used to determine whether an individual has impaired eyesight to the extent of blindness. The determination is as clear as it is in the case of determining whether a given individual has reached retirement age.
Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) is the test for eligibility for persons who are disabled. In such cases, the SGA guidelines are applied to determine the extent of the disability and its relationship to an individual's ability to work. Earnings are considered, but the SGA guidelines go far beyond that. Factors such as "comparability and worth of work" tests are also applied. The purpose of an SGA evaluation is, therefore, to determine whether the individual is disabled. Disability is actually defined by an individual's "inability to perform SGA." The determination of blindness under the Social Security Act does not depend upon an SGA finding.
Although blindness is defined medically and not by SGA as just described, there is an SGA guideline for blind people. This is the earnings limit which is also established for age sixty- five retirees. Also in Title XVI (SSI) no SGA determination is made in the case of blind individuals. They are categorically eligible. This is exactly the same situation for persons who have reached age sixty-five. They, too, are categorically eligible for SSI. Of course income and resources may affect eligibility or payment amounts for any individual. SSI is a means-tested program, but the point is that there is no earnings limitation attached to the basic eligibility conditions of blindness or old age. This is as it should be.
Unlike SSI, eligibility under Title II is not means-tested. Social Security benefits are paid to wealthy people and to poor people alike. True to the principles of insurance, not welfare, income for Social Security beneficiaries can be unlimited. Work activity is limited. For blind people as well as for retirees this is a counterproductive policy, and it is so for precisely the same reasons.
Blindness as we still experience it today has profoundly adverse social and economic consequences. Therefore, Social Security benefits should offset these consequences insofar as possible. The social attitudes about blindness are full of myths and misconceptions. As a group the blind face an incredibly devastating set of artificial impediments when they seek to enter and compete in the labor force. The blind are not just viewed as unemployed. We are usually considered unemployable.
To be sure, the blind pay a heavy price for this erroneous labeling. For example, most people agree that over seventy percent of the employable blind population is either unemployed or underemployed. If before blindness an individual had an income of, say, $20,000 annually (not an uncommon income for sighted individuals), and if after blindness that same individual finds employment at $12,000.00 annually (not at all an uncommon experience for the blind), he or she will still not be eligible to continue receiving Social Security benefits despite the fact that a substantial loss of income has occurred.
Under prevailing social conditions, blind people are pushed aside in competition for jobs and social opportunities. This results in significant lost income which is not replaced by Social Security. Responsibility for the prevailing attitudes about blindness does not rest with the blind alone; it is a general social phenomenon. However, it is the blind members of our society who currently bear the cost in lost opportunities, lost jobs, and lost income.
The Social Security system itself presents additional economic barriers to the full integration of the blind. I am referring to the direct impact of the earnings limitation. These are the stark economic realities: under existing law, if an individual becomes blind and has average monthly earnings which do not exceed the "exempt amount," he or she will likely draw Social Security benefits. The individual has every incentive to remain unemployed and not return to work at all. Why? In the first place, the beneficiary is undoubtedly not an expert in the law. The law is complex, and the talk of allowed earnings, trial work periods, impairment-related work expense deductions, and extended eligibility is confusing and not generally conducive to an attempt to resume or continue working.
Ironically, the work incentives for blind
people under Social Security are inversely related to the likelihood that an
individual can engage in productive activity. For example, persons who are age
seventy and older have the maximum incentive to work--there is no limitation
on their earnings. Persons age sixty-five to seventy are faced with the disincentive
of the earnings limitation, but two-thirds of their earnings are still exempt.
Blind persons under age sixty-five are subject to the harshest penalty of all--there
is an absolute barrier to earnings over the exemption threshold. If the individual
goes to work and (after a specified trial work period) is earning somewhere
in the neighborhood of $940.00 per month, benefits will be terminated.
Place yourself in the position of a blind
person considering possible employment. Remember that, including dependents'
benefits, the family income from Social Security may exceed $1,500 per month
in many instances. I know a number of blind people who (believing in the work
ethic) would accept employment offering gross wages at somewhat less than their
possible Social Security income. However, many people are simply not in a financial
position which would allow them to do so. Of course there are also costs associated
with working that any blind person must consider. These costs may include employment
of readers or drivers or other assistants, which will further reduce take-home
pay. When all of these costs are taken into account, many individuals find that
they cannot sustain the economic losses which may result from working.
In the example under consideration the annual Social Security benefit available to the primary beneficiary and dependents would be approximately $18,000. The blind beneficiary who, under present law, earns $11,300 ($20 over the limit) would lose $18,000. Almost anyone that I know of would opt to earn $20 less in order to retain $18,000. This is precisely the kind of economic choice presented to blind beneficiaries under the present law.
Taking the example a step further, it is revealing to examine just how much the primary beneficiary would need to earn, if working, in order to replace the loss of $18,000 in Social Security benefits. Using conservative numbers, such as twenty-eight percent for all taxes (including FICA withholding) and taking into account the cost of working (transportation, meals away from home, blindness-related work expenses, union dues, etc.), I would estimate that the working blind individual would need to have an income of $27,917, not including child care expenses. Since the example includes two dependents, child care expenses can be anticipated. A conservative estimate for child care would be approximately $4,600. This amount added to $27,917 means that the working blind beneficiary with two dependents in child care would likely need to have gross income of $32,517 in order to replace the buying power of the Social Security income--$18,000--if lost due to working.
The proposal in the Senior Citizens' Equity Act is a phased-in lifting of the earnings exemption threshold over a five-year period in order to reach an annual ceiling of $30,000 in the year 2000. This policy should be adopted. If it is adopted, it should apply to blind people and to age sixty-five retirees alike. That
is the policy of existing law. As I have already said, the provision in the Senior Citizens' Equity Act which would withhold from blind people the mandated adjustments in the earnings limit threshold is a change from existing law and should not be included in the final bill.
The policy of linking the earnings limit for the blind and for seniors became law with the 1977 amendments to the Social Security Act. Mr. Archer, who was at that time the ranking minority member of this Subcommittee and is now the Chairman of the full Committee, is the architect of this policy. The amendment which he offered to create the present linkage was approved with unanimous Republican support when the conferees met to resolve differences between the Senate and House versions of the Social Security Financing Amendments of 1977.
The 1977 bill contained five mandated increases in the earnings exemption threshold, with automatic annual adjustments kicking in beginning in the sixth year. Under Mr. Archer's amendment both blind people and seniors were subject to the mandated increases as well as to the automatic adjustments. The
Senior Citizens' Equity Act, if adopted, would be the first time since 1977 that mandated increases in the earnings exemption threshold have been made. The precedent, as well as the existing law, clearly establishes that both the mandated increases and the annual adjustments should apply to blind people as well as to age sixty-five retirees.
If this is done, the blind person who earns less than $30,000 could not lose by working. This policy, while not removing the earnings limit altogether, would cover the vast majority of blind people. The harsh reality of the choice to receive benefits or to work would seriously be diminished, and it would be replaced by an extremely powerful work incentive. The beneficiaries who respond will become taxpayers, and they will join the productive ranks of our society. The blind person is better off being productive. Society in general is better off if the individual is productive instead of idle--working instead of sitting at home.
Proponents of the earnings limitation complain that individuals with high earnings will continue to receive Social Security benefits. The fact is that the number of blind people being paid $12,000 a year or more is surprisingly small. Most blind people do not even work. Approximately 161,300 blind persons under age sixty-five now receive Social Security or SSI benefits. They would not be paid more as a result of increasing the earnings exemption threshold. They would have the maximum incentive to work, and thousands would begin paying into Social Security.
By comparison, raising the earnings exemption threshold would add some blind persons as new beneficiaries, but this would only be a fraction of the more than 160,000 who are now beneficiaries. The new beneficiaries would be individuals who earn more than the present exempt amount but less than $30,000. Although they would begin to receive benefits, there would be an overall positive effect on the Social Security system. That would result from providing a powerful incentive to work to more than
160,000 beneficiaries who would not receive one dime more from Social Security. Besides, fewer blind individuals would receive SSI as a result of becoming Social Security beneficiaries.
Overall, there would actually be a positive cost impact on the Social Security system resulting from increased payments into the trust funds by working blind beneficiaries. The greater their earnings, the greater would be the amount that they pay into the trust funds. Considering the costs and benefits involved, the provision which would withhold the mandated earnings limit adjustments from blind people is truly punitive. Information reported by the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services indicates that in 1993 there were approximately 1,700 blind beneficiaries who had earnings above the exempt amount then in effect. It is fair to say that many (if not most) of these individuals would continue to receive benefits while working if the earnings limit threshold goes to $30,000. The punitive part is that all of these individuals would lose their beneficiary status if the policy of linking the earnings limits for the blind and for seniors is changed.
Mr. Chairman, in concluding this testimony I would like to restate our long-standing position about work incentives and the counterproductive impact of the Social Security earnings limitation. The blind as a group are prepared to work--and work hard. The disincentives created by Social Security force blind people into financial dependence. We seek to renounce this status. We are asking only for the opportunity to lead normal, self-supporting, independent lives. If there continues to be a limitation on earnings, those who are subject to it will be paid to remain outside of the work force. This policy reinforces the myth that the blind cannot be productive members of society. Until that myth is changed, we will be subject to the conditions of ignorance, prejudice, and discrimination which have long kept blind people out of the mainstream. Mr. Chairman, we are committed to use work incentives effectively as instruments of rehabilitation, self-help, and self-support for the blind. On behalf of the National Federation of the Blind, I thank you.
[Photo #11 Portrait Caption: Joyce Scanlan]
CREATION OF A FEDERATIONIST
by Joyce Scanlan
From the Editor: The keynote speaker at the 1995 Midwinter Conference of the National Association of Blind Students was Joyce Scanlan, First Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, and Executive Director of Blindness: Learning In New Dimensions (BLIND, Inc.). Here are her remarks:
How many of you are twenty-five years
old or older? [a number of voices respond.] How many are younger than twenty-five?
[many more voices in the shout] How many of you were members of the Federation
in 1970? [one voice] I see that, when I became a Federationist in 1970, some
of you weren't even born yet. I'm just trying to establish some rank for myself.
You're probably thinking, "She is just another old person who is going
to tell us about the good old days--how hard the old folks had it or how lucky
everyone is today because of everything that was done in the past." As
a history student and teacher I'm a firm believer in examining the past and
paying heed to the lessons it has to teach, but that is not what I am here to
It has been said that "Change starts when someone sees the next step." That's how 1970 was for me. At the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind that year I really saw the next step, and as a result all sorts of changes began in my life. Growing up in the State of North Dakota I had known what isolation and loneliness were. I knew what being on my own meant. I knew how to fight my battles (or I thought I did), for I was an independent thinker and considered myself highly informed on all matters. Did you know that 85 percent of the population believe that they are above average? Since that can't be so, some of us must have a greatly overblown notion of our capacities. I was one of those folks. I had received a college education past the master's degree level and had been successfully employed as a
teacher. I was not blind; I only had a visual problem. In my opinion no one knew I was anything but sighted, so what a rude awakening I had when I suddenly learned that I was destined to lose the sight I had and would probably become totally blind. Suddenly my bubble burst.
My goal had always been to become a college English professor, but when I faced blindness, that goal became something seemingly unachievable. My livelihood, career plans, and independence all appeared to vanish from the horizon. It was not a happy time. After several skirmishes with the rehabilitation agency for the blind, I concluded that there was no reason to expect assistance from that direction. In fact, I had been forced into the state's one and only training center and was so feisty and belligerent they had thrown me out after four short weeks. That's all the training I had. They had determined that I wasn't really blind. If I lost any more sight, I could come back for further training.
That was undoubtedly one of the most fortunate events of my life--being thrown out of that center. I was mean and uncooperative because they weren't meeting my expectations. All I wanted was to be persuaded that blindness wasn't a tragedy and that I could find a way to carry on with my life plans. All they proved to me was that blindness was the worst thing that could happen, that I should recognize my limitations, and that I should become a lifelong rehab client of that agency, which, as you probably know, was the Minneapolis Society for the Blind. It is now called Vision Loss Resources, which I think is a better name for them.
Although today I am grateful for not having been retained at that center any longer than I was, at the time it was a disappointment, a rejection. It confirmed all my fears and doubts about my capacity to have a productive life. In 1970 I had hit bottom. The National Federation of the Blind Convention came to my hometown, and I went. I had lots of time to check things out, but that wasn't why I went. I went because a friend practically dragged me there after I had run out of excuses.
The convention was indeed a life-changing experience. Spending four or five days at convention, attending the banquet, meeting teachers from all over the country, and discussing interesting topics about blindness with all kinds of well-informed blind people proved to me that I had been doing everything wrong and needed to make some drastic changes in my life. My style of going it alone had not worked and would never work. Here was an organization I could agree with. The rehab people really had been wrong about blindness and all its limitations!
The Federation had a lot to teach me, but at the same time I was also treated as though I had some value. People seemed interested in my experiences and even asked my opinion. I learned that I had rights in the world. It was absolutely reasonable for me to expect to resume my teaching career. Among others, I met Jim Gashel, who was a teacher at the time. I met Rami Rabby and Muzzy Marcellino and many other leaders in the organization. They actually spent time talking with me, asking about my goals, and showing genuine interest in what was happening in my life.
The President of the organization at the time was Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. Although I didn't meet him personally until a year later, I was tremendously impressed with his leadership, the manner in which he chaired convention sessions, and the excellent banquet address he delivered. No question about it, the National Federation of the Blind had outstanding leadership!
Before joining the National Federation of the Blind, which I did immediately after that 1970 convention, I hadn't thought much about leadership. As a child, when my friends and I had gotten into trouble, the house parents talked about the ringleaders. They didn't mean it as a compliment. And when you are the only one in your organization, there isn't much leadership--there isn't much of anything. But after 1970 I was no longer alone, and leadership became an issue. One of the first things I did after becoming a member of the Federation was to read The Man and the Movement, the biography of Dr. tenBroek, founder and first President of the organization. From that book I learned about the history of the organization and about the character of the organization's leadership.
At the time I joined the Federation the Minnesota affiliate was very different from what it is today. As a matter of fact, 1995 marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the founding of the NFB of Minnesota, so in honor of the occasion we in Minnesota are undertaking all sorts of special events and activities. We have been reviewing the old minutes dating back to 1920. The outfit kept very good records. By 1970 most of the members were well over fifty years old and had been members since the 1920's, 30's, and 40's--it sounds like forever, doesn't it. For a long time they had been concerned that they weren't attracting new members.
As some of you may know, at that time Minnesota had the dubious distinction of having two NFB affiliates--something that can't happen any longer. The other affiliate, which is no longer with us, was having the same problem with membership. When I joined the NFB, I could have become a member of either affiliate or perhaps both. I joined the one where something was going on. I learned about the other affiliate much later. That's another piece of luck in my life--joining the right affiliate. The President of the Minnesota affiliate and most of its members were delighted to have new members. We who joined at that time--and there were many of us because of the recent national convention in our state--were welcomed warmly and put to work immediately. Maybe the members were wearing out and were tired, but they were very open to our ideas and supported our radical suggestions.
Many of us, myself included, thought it was time to take on the task of reforming some of the local agencies for the blind. Our Minnesota affiliate had previously put all its efforts into operating a home for the blind. The new members weren't interested in that project, so it was left to the older members. They in turn supported those of us who were new in addressing broader issues which affected all blind people.
Together we accomplished quite a bit. By 1972, after I had been a member for less than two years, I was elected First Vice President of our affiliate. I won by just two votes. The same year we changed our name to the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota. In 1973, when the then president decided not to run, I was elected president in Minnesota. I was running against one of the older people in the organization, and this time I won by thirty-nine votes. And that's all I remember about elections.
There have been countless changes in Minnesota since those days. We no longer have the home for the blind. We have one National Federation of the Blind affiliate. The then younger people have become the older people, but most of all we are a very active part of a nationwide movement of blind people. I met
both Dr. Jernigan and our current President, Marc Maurer, in 1971. I would have to characterize most of my early Federation activities as bungling, trial-and-error efforts. However, after I met Dr. Jernigan and became a state president, more support and teaching were available. Someone was there to bail me out when I made mistakes or to help me not make mistakes in the first place. I truly came to appreciate the leadership of our national President.
He gave me my best rehab lesson. I was a member of the First Seminar, which was a leadership seminar that took place over Labor Day weekend in 1973, just three months after I had become a state president. The first evening, when we were all going out to dinner together, someone suggested we go to a place
Federationists called the Charcoal Pit. We were told that we would be able to select and grill our own steaks. I had the impression that in the Federation we should speak up about how we felt, so I did. I said I didn't like the idea because I had never before grilled a steak to my liking. Dr. Jernigan very calmly said, "Oh well, we'll help you." I was suddenly terrified. I prayed that, when we got to the Charcoal Pit, he would have forgotten what I had said. Of course, that didn't happen. He immediately escorted me to the refrigerators, where all the steaks were kept. We began examining all the shapes and sizes of steaks and ultimately made a selection of which one to grill. He was so enthusiastic and seemed to be having such fun that I began to enjoy the venture myself.
With the steak selected, a plate, and a long fork we approached the big pit. He said, "Now throw your steak out there; just toss it out there." I did, thinking all the time about losing the steak forever in the fire. After a short while, Dr. Jernigan said, "All right, reach out with your fork and find the steak and put it on the plate." I did. Then he showed me how to turn the steak over. I was so relieved he had done it so I
wouldn't have to touch that hot meat. However, he flipped the steak back and said to me, "Now you do it." I should have known he wouldn't let me off so easy. Then we grilled the steak on the other side, and I became more comfortable handling it.
I ate the steak and enjoyed it too. Everyone was having such a good time, and for the first time I actually enjoyed a steak that I had cooked. Then Dr. Jernigan asked me to grill a second steak for him. It must have been okay because he ate it and didn't complain. That was my first rehab lesson--the only one I ever had. Dr. Jernigan was a teacher to me; yet he treated me as an equal. I learned so much about myself, about leadership, and about dealing with blindness just from that one experience.
Now that I have been a state president for more than twenty-two years and have served as a national Board Member, Secretary, and now First Vice-President, I recognize and value the trust that has been placed in me by my colleagues in the National Federation of the Blind. I've had good guidance and direction from everyone around me. I have learned from President Maurer, from Dr. Jernigan, and from everyone in this room, even from all the people who formed the original statewide organization of blind people back in 1920. While most of us wouldn't agree with much of what they did in the early days, they created and built an organization which was there for all of us when we needed it. I know that, when I was a child, when I was in college, when I was teaching, and when I was struggling to deal with blindness, other blind people were busy founding a movement to help me and others like me. I'm grateful and pleased that they did that. But even more, I feel a strong sense of responsibility to do as they did to keep this movement strong and vibrant for the next generation of blind people, who will have much less struggle than I did because of the work that we have done.
I recently came upon a list of the qualifications of a good leader, and it goes something like this: 1) a leader must be able to dream; 2) a leader must communicate; 3) a leader must be honest; 4) a leader must remain enthusiastic (I remember how I was impressed with Dr. Jernigan's enthusiasm as he taught me to grill a steak); 5) a leader must remain focused (as we go along, think about how these characteristics apply to you and to the National Federation of the Blind); 6) a leader must foster unity; 7) a leader must be a good role model; 8) a leader is inspiring; and 9) a leader must have a sense of humor (I don't think that means just being able to tell jokes because I don't measure up in that respect. A sense of humor is something broader). How do you think you measure up as a leader? All of us are the beneficiaries of much that has gone on in the past. How each of us handles our role in the Federation in coming years will make a great difference in our lives and in the lives of blind people not yet born.
Dale Carnegie said, "Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain; and most do." Happiness is a conscious choice, not an automatic response. You can choose happiness and meet the responsibilities placed on you by that choice, or you can hide away and pretend that you're satisfied with others' doing the work, and you can remain on the sidelines complaining, condemning, and criticizing. Because you are here today, I know you have made the right choice. All of us here are involved in a great and powerful organization. Because of what has been done by our predecessors, we have many benefits. Services are available to blind people to overcome the problems of blindness. We have incentives to go to work rather than simply remaining on disability benefits. We have choice provisions in our rehab system to allow us to choose which programs we will use for training, but most of all we have the National Federation of the Blind--a vehicle through which we can speak out and be heard. We can share what we have with all blind people. And through our collective efforts we can truly change what it means to be blind.
[Photo #12 Portrait Caption: Chris Boone]
DEMONSTRATING LEADERSHIP BY EDUCATING OTHERS
by Christine Boone
From the Editor: The theme of the 1995 Midwinter Conference sponsored by the National Association of Blind Students was leadership. One of the speakers who addressed the conference was Chris Boone, a second-year law student at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. Despite her busy schedule as wife, mother, and law student, Chris was elected this year to serve as President of the International Moot Court Bar at her law school. Chris has found a number of ways in her daily life to provide leadership in her community and to demonstrate the capacity of blind people. This is what she had to say:
Last August my telephone rang. I wasn't
really ready to go back to school yet. But this cheerful voice on the other
end of the line said, "Chris, this is Tara. We're having a NOW rally (the
National Organization for Women) in Omaha on Saturday. I think you have a message.
I thought, "Okay--." I just showed up, and after I got there, I found Tara and said, "What do you want me to talk about?" I didn't have any idea what she wanted me to say.
"Well, we're celebrating the seventy-fifth anniversary of women's right to vote, and it occurs to me that perhaps blind women don't enjoy the same kinds of freedoms most other women do. I think that's a message these people need to hear." So I gave that message and then went home.
The next evening my telephone rang again. This time the caller was my classmate Tory. "Chris, the dean has been talking to me. We've got these first-year students coming, and we have to talk to them about what it's like to be a non-traditional student. I don't feel very non-traditional, but they think I am. I know you don't feel very non-traditional, but they think you are too, so would you come and talk about being a non-traditional student?"
So I went off and talked about the way it is when you study and you have little children at home who need a mom. When you walk in the door, they don't want to hear about torts or constitutional law. On the other hand, when you get into class the next morning, your professor doesn't want to hear about how you read The Little Engine That Could last night. What are you going to do? I told them that I didn't have all the answers, but here were some of the things I did know.
By this time it was the first week of school, and I was standing in line in the malt shop to get my cup of coffee, without which I cannot go on! Ann came up to me and said, "Come over here; I want to talk to you." We sat down, and she said, "I need your opinion. What do you think? Should I shave my head?"
I said, "Well, that depends on why you want to do it, Ann."
She said, "I know that you're a feminist, but you are also one of the more reasonable people around here, and my sister-in-law is shaving hers. She says that, if I'm going to be a woman who really stands for women's rights, I have to do it. I just don't know--what do you think?"
I said, "Well, if that's your reason, then think again, because that's the worst reason I've ever heard for doing anything!" It seems to me that, if you're a woman and you're proud of it, you should not feel that you have to go off and shave your head and wear a suit and tie and look like a guy to be equal. That's just my opinion."
Then along about September we were having negotiations tournament, and my partner and I were doing our negotiating. We thought we had gotten an awesome deal for our client. We came in to be judged. It was the final round, so of course there was an audience. There were five judges. One of them was about a hundred and eight. He said something like, "I graduated in 1940, and I've been practicing law ever since."
I thought, "Uh-huh, and how awake are you when you're listening to your clients?" He and all the other judges were giving commentaries on what they thought of us. They said things like: "Team 2, you were too conciliatory, too nice, too friendly. What do you think this is? You got to get a good deal for your client! And Chris, I saw you looking at your watch. Never let them see you sweat; and, if you're looking at your watch, they think you're nervous, so don't do that again!"
I had thought this was a negotiation. I thought we were supposed to be friendly to each other and talk about what it was our client wanted. I thought, "Maybe I don't have the right idea about this." As I reflected on that, I thought back to the year before when my partner and I had been in the Regional Client Counseling Competition in Kansas City. I remembered what that judge had said to us. She said, "I think your client was nervous because you are blind, and I really think you need to justify to your client why as a blind person you can be a lawyer. Why should clients come to you?" With all my training and all my involvement in the National Federation of the Blind, I was still unprepared for those comments. What I wanted to say was: "This is a competition about counseling clients and doing the best job you can for them. It's not about justifying myself to anyone. If we only have a half hour and I'm supposed to talk about why as a blind person, as a woman, as a student over thirty I can be a lawyer, my half an hour is gone." But I didn't say any of those things to her because they tell you not to talk back to the judges if you want to get anywhere!
When I left there, I felt rotten about what had happened. But in thinking about the judge who told me not to look at my watch and not to be so conciliatory, I decided maybe we had made some progress. After all, he didn't say anything about blindness. It didn't worry him that I was a blind person and that I was in there negotiating for my client. He said to me the same things that he would have said to any other person and did say to other people who were in my position.
I thought back to my first week or two or three of law school and the way I would sit in class and wonder how in the world I was ever going to do it, and the way I would sit alone in the lunch room. Nobody came and talked to me during the first couple of days. I sat there and worried about how I was ever going to get along. Then I would go off to the restroom and cry because I just didn't know what to do.
Then I began to think about all the other blind people who had done these things before me, and I thought to myself, "I know better than this. I've been in the Federation forever, and I should know how to handle these situations." I realized somewhere during this process that I needed to be myself. Being in the Federation was not necessarily going to give me all the answers, but it sure as heck was going to show me where to find the answers if I didn't have them myself.
I began talking to my friends in the Federation about some of the feelings of inadequacy I was having. Everyone was so encouraging and supportive that I finally started to chill out a little bit and realize that all my fellow first-year students were running into the restroom crying too, because they didn't know if they could do it either. And a lot of them were sitting in the malt shop at lunch time not talking to anybody because they didn't know what to say, and it was so stressful, and they were going to get called on in torts, and what were they going to say? So I began walking up to people and saying, "Hi. I'm Chris. Who are you?" Lo and behold, they answered me. When none of my professors called on me in class, I went to their offices and said, "You can call on me. I might not know the answer, but you can call on me." Then I left and thought "You've got to be a maniac!"
Then there was the day in civil procedure when I raised my hand and the professor called on me. I just knew I had the answer to this question. I gave my answer, and I justified it. And he said to the class, "Don't write that down!"
I thought, "Well I guess that's exactly what he would have said to anyone else." Sometimes being treated equally isn't what we think it's going to be: when I talked in contracts, and the professor said, "Is that what you think?"
I said, "Yes sir."
"I don't know why you would think that; I don't know why anyone would think that!"
I said to myself, "I guess you asked for this."
When we got back from that terrible counseling competition in Kansas City, the faculty helped me to write a letter to the Client Counseling Committee explaining that blind people and people using wheelchairs and people who are deaf are going to participate in these competitions. It is not necessary or acceptable to comment or judge them on their disabilities but on the way in which they compete.
We sent that letter to the Client Counseling and Negotiations Board, and in their new bylaws there is a section saying that you can't judge people on those personal characteristics with which you are not familiar. But remember, it isn't Chris Boone that has done these things; it is really the National Federation of the Blind, because when I was eighteen or nineteen and first joined this movement, I never had the nerve to talk to anyone. I spent my life walking around looking at the ground because I didn't use a cane, putting my nose against the page because I never used Braille, never saying boo to a fly for fear someone would contradict me or argue with me.
It's the Federation that has taught me
how to travel with the long white cane and how to read and write Braille and
how to have confidence in myself. It's the Federation which continues to support
me and all of us when we come to a mountain that we think is too steep to climb
or come up against a judge that we think is just too irrational even to be on
the planet. I would urge all of you to go away from this place with the Federation
spirit in your heart and know that there is another brother or sister at the
other end of the phone to call and support you, to share love and encouragement
whenever you need it.
I TEACH ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE
by Suzanne Whalen
From the Editor: Suzanne Whalen, who is a talented second grade teacher, was one of the speakers at the 1994 meeting of the National Association of Blind Educators in Detroit. This is what she had to say:
From my own personal experience I can
assure you that blind teachers must have confidence in themselves and be willing
to assist others. I student taught at both the elementary and secondary levels
so I would have two credentials. At the same time I was working on a master's
degree and maintaining a 3.8 grade point average. When I had completed those
requirements, the only course I had left to take was teaching reading methods.
I was told that I could not take that class. The professors in the department
of education were adamant that a blind person could not teach reading, and that
was that. Without this course, I could not get my elementary credential. I took
my problem to the college counselor, who referred me to the NFB of Texas. The
state president then referred me to one of the members of the National Association
of Blind Educators. By the time I finally talked to the blind educator, I was
sure that I was getting the run-around and was about to give up.
This educator told me about Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and assured me that I could and would teach reading. A letter explaining the law was sent to the dean of the university, who promptly called me in and said that there must have been some terrible mistake on the part of the department of education. As a result I took that reading class and got my credential along with all the other students.
Even since getting my job I have had to educate a number of people about what the blind can do. There are still many administrators who need to be educated about the civil rights provisions in disability law and the rights provided to blind educators. One of my principals actually went downtown to ascertain how I could be fired.
On her own she next decided that a blind educator required the services of a teacher's aide. I had never had one and had never requested one. As it turned out, the principal had a friend whose daughter needed a job. This girl was hired without my knowledge. The poor girl had not graduated from high school, but I was told that she would be working with me three hours each day.
I was advised that I should not refuse to work with her, so I found her a job doing busy work down in the library, far from my classroom. In the meantime at my request President Maurer wrote a letter explaining that I was not required to accept an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. When the superintendent received the letter, the aide vanished. We are certainly lucky that we have the NFB to set people straight.
Not long ago I attended a workshop on reading conducted by experts. The head expert said her method required sight. I ignored her and simply did what the other attendees did. She was livid. She informed me that she was the expert and that I should know my limitations. I said that she was definitely not an expert
on blindness and suggested that she might benefit from learning something about her own limitations. I told her that in this situation I was the expert on blindness and that we would all be better off if she stuck to the things she knew something about. Her attitude improved when she realized I was not going to be told what I could and could not do.
Teaching is deeply rewarding, and I love it. Each fall I am assigned a whole class of little children who speak only Spanish. By June they have mastered a great part of the English language. All blind educators must understand that they have a right to be in the classroom. As members of the National Association of Blind Educators we know our rights, and we know that the field of education is open to the blind of this great nation.
[Photo #13 Portrait Caption: Tom Bickford]
NATIONAL LITERARY BRAILLE COMPETENCY TEST:
WHAT'S IN IT, AND WHO SHOULD TAKE IT?
by Thomas Bickford
From the Editor: Tom Bickford is a long-time leader in the National Federation of the Blind. He is also an employee of the National Library Service and a frequent contributor to these pages. This time he tells us what it is like to take the Literary Braille Competency Test. His description is accurate and his advice sound. One of his points should perhaps be reinforced. When he warns test-takers to circle the Braille errors in the proofreading section, he is stating the exact truth. Circling the word in which the error occurs will be counted wrong, unless the entire word is the error. The suggestion has been made that some blind test-takers may be incapable of circling only the cells they intend. Mary Lou Stark, Acting Head of the Braille Development Section of NLS, says that allowances are made when incomplete circles are drawn by blind applicants, though she warns that, if additional cells are frequently included in incomplete circles, they will be counted as errors. Perhaps some sort of accommodation will have to be developed for marking errors in this section when the individual has difficulty with fine motor coordination. According to Ms. Stark, the problem and workable solutions are definitely under consideration. In any event, here is what Tom Bickford has to say:
Yes, this is the test devised by the
Library of Congress, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped,
at the request of the Committee on Joint Organizational Effort. It measures
the literary Braille competence of teachers of blind children and adults. But
enough for long names and general purpose.
I decided to take the test for two reasons. First, I wanted to speak from personal experience when talking with state and federal legislators about including successful completion of this test in the regulations affecting the certification of teachers of blind people. We still have work to do on that point in Maryland, and I know that's true of other states as well. Second, fewer than two hundred people have taken the test so far, which is a small number for validation studies. I was glad to be one more statistic. I hope that other Braille users will decide to take the test. Passing it would provide an impressive credential for blind people who act as advocates in IEP meetings.
In a Maryland legislative hearing in September, 1994, opponents of the test (teachers afraid of submitting themselves to testing and some of their blind friends) disparaged the test by calling it "invalid." Validation studies of the test will soon begin, and until that process is complete, it is accurate to say that the test is not yet validated, but that is a very different thing from claiming that it is "invalid." I would have hoped that college-educated teachers could understand the difference.
So let me tell you about the test and how to take it. It can be administered in either Braille or print. There are three general sections. Part one calls for transcribing print or uncontracted Braille into Grade II Braille using both a slate and stylus and a Braille writer. When doing this section, use all the Braille rules, and be sure to follow all test instructions exactly. For example, the directions say to use a twenty-seven- cell line for the slate transcription. If your slate has twenty-eight cells, you may wish to cover the last row with heavy masking tape. You are allowed to use a Braille eraser, but remember that any erasure felt by the person scoring the test will be counted as an error. You may use a print or audio dictionary to help in hyphenating words. A sighted monitor is allowed to assist a blind applicant with this task.
Part two calls on your proofreading ability. Simply read the passage and use a pen or pencil to circle the many Braille errors imbedded in the text. It is important to circle only the cells involved in the error, not the entire word.
Part three is multiple choice. You must identify certain contractions and rules of usage. A few of the questions are rather tricky, but others are dead giveaways.
In general I believe NLS has constructed a good, medium- level test. You need to know Braille pretty thoroughly to pass, but this test is nowhere nearly as detailed as the last lesson in the transcribers' or proofreaders' course.
This is a power test, not a speed test.
You are allowed as much as six hours plus breaks. There is enough time to make
and correct errors. When I turned in my transcribing section, I included three
false starts. On one of them I got most of the way down the page before making
an incorrectable mistake. "What a place to make an error!" I said
to myself as I reached for a fresh sheet of paper. Even at my rather slow pace
of reading Braille, I had time to proofread my own transcription and go through
the other parts twice.
If you plan to take the test, NLS wants to know that you have fulfilled one of the following: completed the NLS proofreading or transcribing course through lesson fourteen; successfully passed a college-level course in Braille; or have at least five years' experience using Braille.
The candidate is responsible for arranging an appropriate test location and monitor and for covering associated costs, if any. You provide your own Braille paper and writing equipment. You must also return the test materials to NLS by certified delivery. NLS will want to approve all arrangements before sending test materials, so allow at least six weeks for the process.
Upon request NLS can send you a detailed description of the test and all requirements for taking it. A sample test, which is similar but shorter, is now available. You can take and fail it without its counting against you. If you fail the full-length test, you must wait six months before a retest, six more months before the second retest, and another year before the third retest. Along with your third application you must also include evidence that you have taken more instruction in Braille.
Test scoring is rather strict. Your transcribing must be neat and accurate. You must be able to find and accurately identify the errors imbedded in the proofreading section. Your knowledge must include the contractions and rules of usage in the multiple choice section. If you fail one section, you have failed the entire test.
You and one designee will be informed of your test results. And, if your work was good enough, you will receive a certificate saying you have demonstrated competence in literary Braille. For further information contact the Braille Development Section, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, 1291 Taylor Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20542, (202) 707-9307 or (800) 424-8567.
by Stephen O. Benson
As you make preparations for the 1995 convention in Chicago, you will find certain information useful, perhaps critical. At any rate, the information in this month's Chicago notebook should make your stay in the city much more pleasant.
Chicago has two major airports, O'Hare
Field and Midway Airport. Virtually every major airline in the United States
serves Chicago. If you make your reservations sufficiently early, the air fares
you get should be attractive.
There are several forms of ground transportation from O'Hare field to the downtown area. Taxi service costs about $25 for one person. For each additional person there is a charge of fifty cents.
Shuttle service from O'Hare to the Hilton and Towers via Airport Express is $17.75 one way per person and $25.00 round trip per person. The cost for each child under twelve is $6.50. For those who travel light and have a nose for adventure, the subway from O'Hare field to the Jackson and Dearborn stop, where one must transfer to a Number One bus (eastbound on Jackson) the cost will be $1.75. Remember to ask for a transfer at the O'Hare train station.
For Federationists arriving at Midway Airport, one-way taxi service is approximately $20 for a single person and fifty cents for each additional person.
The Airport Express rate from Midway is $10.75 one way and $19 round trip. Each child under twelve will cost $6.50. Coupons will be available at the NFB of Illinois information desk giving you a dollar off on a one-way Airport Express run.
For those arriving by Amtrak, taxi service is about $6 for one person with an additional charge of fifty cents for each additional person. Federationists traveling to Chicago by Greyhound can expect to pay about $5 for cab service to the Chicago Hilton and Towers.
Wheel Chair Rental
Wheel chairs are available for $45 for the week from Keeler Pharmacy, 4201 W. Lawrence, Chicago, Illinois 60630, (312) 736-5483. Ask for Bud or Al. If you or someone in your party will need a wheelchair, you must make your own arrangements for this rental.
[Photo #14 A pagoda-style building looms in the background of a busy street scene in Chicago's Chinatown. Caption: The flavors and sounds of the Far East are only minutes away from the Hilton and Towers Hotel in Chinatown.]
In last month's Monitor this year's tour package was described in detail. We urge you to make tour reservations as soon as possible. We expect some tours will have higher demand than others. You should not assume that tickets will be available at a later date. In addition, the Illinois affiliate is preparing a brochure featuring points of interest that are accessible by one bus ride or one subway train ride. This brochure will be available at the NFB of Illinois information table.
Food for the Spirit
The Federation family has a variety of needs, not the least of which is spiritual. Please check the NFB of Illinois information desk for the names and addresses of houses of worship for all faiths within a reasonable distance from the hotel.
To Satisfy Your Palate
Now that we have assured you of food for the soul, we must also put you on notice that the Illinois affiliate is preparing an extensive restaurant guide, highlighting restaurants whose cuisine and prices run the gamut from economical and casual to putting on the dog.
Guide dog users should check with the NFBI information desk for details of dog food, exercise areas, and veterinary care. We will also provide plastic bags for clean-up.
In an effort to make you feel as welcome
as you feel in your own home, the Illinois affiliate will greet you as you check
into the hotel and provide all reasonable assistance. If you have special needs,
we will try our best to assist you to find appropriate resources. We cordially
invite you to come to the Illinois suite so that we can introduce ourselves
and our city to you Chicago-style. This will undoubtedly be our largest convention
ever, and we want to make sure that everyone has a good time.
Don't forget to make your hotel reservation as soon as possible. Write to Hilton and Towers Hotel, 720 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60605, Attention: Reservations; or call (312) 922-4400. While you are about it, make your tour reservation as well.
Watch these pages next month for more information about Chicago.
1995 CONVENTION ATTRACTIONS
From the Editor: Every year's National Convention is an absolutely unique event. The agenda items, the exhibits, the new friends and business acquaintances: all these give each convention its own character and significance. Some activities lend a luster to the convention in part because they do take place every year and provide helpful fixed points in the whirl of events. In this category are the meetings of the Resolutions Committee and the Board of Directors, the annual banquet, and the many seminars and workshops of the various divisions and committees. Here is a partial list of activities being planned by a number of Federation groups during the 1995 Convention, July 1 through 7. Presidents of divisions and committee chairpeople have provided the information. The pre-convention agenda will list the locations of all events taking place before convention registration on Sunday, July 2. The convention agenda will contain listings of all events taking place after that time.
[Photo #15 Della Johnson talks with Janet Bixby about her art, while Fred Bixby and Tina Blatter confer at another table. Caption: At the 1994 Blind Artists' Exhibit there was plenty of time for visitors to examine artworks and talk with artists. Here Della Johnson discusses art with Janet Bixby while Fred Bixby and Tina Blatter converse nearby.]
This year's convention will take place
in a hotel which is within easy walking distance of most of the city's downtown
area. With this in mind the artists' group is planning an exhibit for the community
as well as the convention. Instead of a half-day exhibit in the hotel, we will
have a two-week exhibit in Daley Plaza beginning July 1.
In the heart of the downtown area, Daley Plaza is known as a site of quality art exhibits and cultural events. The exhibit will be visible from the street, and thousands of people every day will be reminded that the NFB is in town and that its blind artists can do strikingly good work. And of course there will be much more time for conventioneers to see the exhibit.
NFB artists have also been invited to present a panel discussion at the Museum of Contemporary Art on what blind consumers want from museums. Staff members from all area museums and galleries will be invited.
Janet Bixby is once more coordinating the exhibit and is eager to hear from all artists who wish to show their work. We will be better able to display pictures and large sculptures than we have been in previous years, but the planning will have to be much more carefully done. Therefore, if you want to show your
work, please call Janet at (703) 722-4712 or write her at 523 N. Braddock Street, Winchester, Virginia 22601 as soon as possible and not later than June 1. Indicate your medium, the number of pieces you hope to bring, and their size. We expect that this will be our best exhibit ever and that, in addition to providing pleasure for conventioneers, it will have a positive impact on the public's image of blindness.
Finally, there will be an artists' lunch and meeting at noon on Tuesday. We hope this year to have some serious conversation about the future direction of the group.
Blind Industrial Workers of America
The Blind Industrial Workers of America (BIWA) plans to sell split-cash drawing tickets at the convention for $1 apiece. The drawing will be held banquet night.
Second Annual Braille Read-A-Thon Scheduled for Chicago
On Saturday, July 1, 1995, the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB) will sponsor the second annual Braille Read-A-Thon at the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Last year in Detroit more than forty Braille readers from all over the nation gathered to read pledged pages or contribute pledged Braille reading time, and together they raised over $3600. One half of this money went to the NFB, and one half went to NAPUB. If you are a Braille reader and would like to help raise funds for the NFB and for NAPUB, please write to Betty Niceley, President, National Association to Promote the Use of Braille, 3618 Dayton Avenue, Louisville, Kentucky 40207 to receive an information packet and sponsor sheets, or you may call Ms. Niceley at (502) 897-2632. All current members of NAPUB will automatically receive an information packet and sponsor sheet. This year the Braille Read-A-Thon will take place from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. to allow participants the opportunity to attend other pre-convention events on Saturday, July 1. Our goal this year is $10,000, and we need all Braille readers to participate to promote Braille in the Greater Chicago area. Additionally, door prizes will be available for participants, and the names of lucky winners will be drawn at the NAPUB meeting.
[Photo #16 Two little girls play in the child care room. Caption: Laura Wolk of Pennsylvania and a friend investigate the toys available at NFB Camp.]
General Child Care Information
The following schedule for NFB Camp,
the very special convention activity for children, is always subject to change
depending on the convention schedule, availability of workers, funds, etc. A
schedule will be available at convention when you register your children for
NFB Camp. Remember also to check daily for any changes to the schedule.
As far as we now know, child care will be available from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, July 1, including lunch. On Sunday it will be available only during the evening meeting of the Parental Concerns Committee. It will also be available Monday through Friday during daytime convention activities and Thursday evening during the annual banquet. NFB Camp will be closed Monday through Friday during the lunch hour, and children must be picked up immediately following the morning session.
NFB Camp is not an ordinary child care service. It is a special opportunity for children who are blind or who have a blind family member to interact with each other and with blind adults. Mary Willows, the volunteer director of NFB Camp, organizes activities to maximize this interaction. At the 1994 NFB Camp, for example, she arranged for blind artists to come in and conduct craft and art activities with the children. Other blind adults, such as a blind horticulturist, also came and did special projects with the children.
Mrs. Willows (who is an experienced educator and the blind mother of two children) and many other members of the Federation put in many volunteer hours each year at NFB Camp so that the convention can be an enjoyable and enriching experience for every member of the family.
Parents are asked to make the following donations for NFB Camp activities: $50 for the week (including the banquet) for the first child and $25 for each additional child; or $10 per child per day and $10 per child for the banquet night if you do not want to register for the full week. Parents will also be charged a fine for late pick-ups at the noon recess and late-day closings. There may also be additional fees for optional day-trips. Trips and fees will be announced when you register or check in your children at the NFB Camp room at the convention.
Parents who cannot contribute the entire suggested donation should contact Mary Willows to discuss the contribution they can make. Mrs. Willows will also accept pre-registrations for NFB Camp. Contact Mrs. Willows at 3934 Kern Court, Pleasanton, California 94566, (510) 462-8575. She will need your name, address, and phone number; the names and ages of your child(ren); and a brief description of any special characteristics or needs of your child(ren).
Mrs. Willows will not locate or solicit babysitting jobs for interested teens, but she will pass prepared information on to parents who use NFB Camp. Contact Mrs. Willows for more information.
[Photo #17 Gary Posch speaks to Kathleen Spear with the help of an interpreter who signs into Kathleen's hands. Caption: Gary Posch and Kathleen Spear converse at the 1994 convention with the help of Kathleen's interpreter.]
Committee on Concerns of the Deaf-Blind
The National Federation of the Blind
Committee on Concerns of the Deaf-Blind is planning three meetings during Convention
week in Chicago this year. All meetings will take place at the Chicago Hilton
and Towers and will begin at 7:00 p.m.
On Saturday, July 1, we will hold a seminar on assistive listening devices. On Monday, July 3, our meeting will focus on communication techniques for volunteers and members. The general business meeting will be Wednesday, July 5. We may decide to have a deaf-blind breakfast one morning during convention. We will determine this in the near future. There will be a deaf-blind table in the Convention Hall.
For further information contact Joseph B. Naulty, chairperson, 1800 N.E. 43rd Court, Oakland Park, Florida 33308, or call (305) 772-1825.
The NFB Diabetics Division will hold our yearly conference/business meeting on Monday evening, July 3, beginning at 6:30. This year's keynote speaker will be a registered dietician with expertise in diabetes food management. Pertinent dietary information relevant to diabetics will be discussed. Plan, prepare, and be rewarded. This year's convention will be great!
Hear Ye, Hear Ye, A Raffle
The Diabetics Division of the National Federation of the Blind reaches out, providing support and information to thousands of people. Because operating this valuable network costs money and because producing the Voice of the Diabetic requires that we generate funds, the Diabetics Division has elected to hold a raffle, which will be coordinated by our treasurer, John Yark.
The grand prize will be $500, and the
name of the winner will be drawn on July 6, 1995, at the annual convention banquet
of the National Federation of the Blind. Raffle tickets cost one dollar each,
but a book of six may be purchased for five dollars. Tickets may be purchased
from state representatives of our Diabetics Division or by contacting the Voice
Editorial Office, 811 Cherry Street, Suite 309, Columbia, Missouri 65201,
telephone (314) 875-8911. Anyone interested in selling tickets should also contact
the Editorial Office of the Voice of the Diabetic. Tickets are available
now. Names of those who sell fifty tickets or more will be announced in the
Please make checks payable to the National Federation of the Blind. Money and sold raffle ticket stubs must be mailed to the Voice office no later than June 16, 1995, or they can be personally delivered to Raffle Chairman John Yark at this year's NFB convention in Chicago. This raffle is open to everyone. The holder of the lucky raffle ticket need not be present to win. Each ticket sold is a donation, which helps keep our Diabetics Division moving forward.
During this year's National Convention
in Chicago, dialysis will be available. Individuals requiring dialysis must
have a transient patient packet and physician's statement filled out prior to
treatment. Conventioneers should have their unit contact the desired location
in the Chicago area for instruction on what must be done.
Unit social workers should also contact the Shearer Program, American Kidney Fund, 6110 Executive Boulevard., Suite 1010, Rockville, Maryland 20852, telephone (800) 638-8299. Shearer will pay the Medicare 20 percent co-payment (approximately $30) of transient dialysis, as well as any physician's fees for treatment. The program, however, does not cover the drug Erythropoietin, chart readings, or lab work.
If Shearer is not used, individuals must personally pay the approximately $30 not covered by Medicare. If patients wish reimbursement, receipts must be sent to the American Kidney Fund Shearer Program no later than two weeks after the last day dialyzed.
Dialysis centers should set up transient dialysis locations using the Shearer Program far in advance. This helps assure a location's being reserved for anyone wanting dialysis.
If conventioneers do not have Medicare but do have Medicaid, Shearer will pay $200 towards the cost of dialysis each year. Here are some dialysis locations:
1. NEO Medica Dialysis Center, Inc., One East Delaware, Chicago, Illinois 60611, (312) 266-9000. Location is fairly close to the convention hotel. To schedule, call patient representative Marie Mason, (312) 654-2785.
2. NEO Medica Dialysis Center, 640 W. Washington, (312) 386-9050.
3. NEO Medica Dialysis Center, 51 E. Superior, (312) 266-9000.
4. Lincoln Park Dialysis Center, 2051 N. Sedgewick, (312) 348-0101.
5. Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Northwestern Dialysis Unit, 250 East Superior, (312) 908-3327. The location is fairly close to the convention center.
6. Hyde Park Kidney Center, 1439 East 53rd Street, (312) 947-0770. The location is approximately fifty blocks from the convention center. Taxi fare is about $20, so pooling will minimize cost. This unit claims to be able to accommodate ten to fifteen patients with adequate notice. Contact Ruth Ann Riley.
Please remember to schedule dialysis treatments immediately to insure space. If assistance is needed, contact Diabetics Division President Ed Bryant at (314) 875-8911. See you in Chicago.
Human Services Division
The Human Services Division will meet from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Monday, July 3, 1995. Currently at least two panels are scheduled. One discussion will be on the topic of using your choice of reader when taking licensing or educational tests. Included in the discussion will be the legal implications of using the reader of your choice. The second panel will discuss persons who have worked in the human services field in unusual jobs and how they dealt with attitudes toward their blindness while serving their clients. Another discussion will be on producing a video tape of blind persons working in the human services field for presentation to professional boards and potential employers of blind people. If you have questions or need further information, contact Doug Elliott at (515) 236-3369 or (515) 236-3366.
[Photo #18 A large audience sits listening attentively. Caption: There was hardly an empty seat to be found at the 1994 JOB seminar.]
Job Opportunities for the Blind National Seminar
Do you need more information on how
to succeed in your job search? When you think about your job prospects, do you
crave some recharging of your emotional battery? Do you wish that someone who
knows that blind people do regular jobs would put on a job seminar and do it
for free? Okay, we will.
The 1995 National JOB Seminar will take place in the Chicago Hilton and Towers on Saturday, July 1, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind and the U.S. Department of Labor.
This year JOB is paying special attention to the growing profession of customer service representative. Some such jobs pay $5 per hour, and some start at $11 per hour plus benefits. Top blind-adult-training center instructors and blind employees will share their tips for success in this growth industry of the '90's.
That's not all. In its fast-moving three-hour program, JOB will pack in blind speakers from many different lines of work. Check out their tips for success. One agenda item features members from a single NFB chapter who, in just two months, have helped six fellow members to find decent work!
Come meet your kind of people--folks who know how to get things done. Ask questions of those who have been where you are and succeeded. Network! Build up your personal think tank Rolodex. You'll meet good people to call on for help when you are back home and get stuck. Bring copies of your resume. Keep your notebook handy. Pick up valuable JOB publications at the seminar and on the JOB Table in the Exhibit Hall. Job seeker, professional job developer, or employer--this seminar will help you.
Who's eligible? Are you a legally blind resident of the United States and looking for work? Then you are eligible for a free subscription to the only taped job magazine in the country, the JOB Recorded Bulletin. To get started, (call JOB at  638-7518 (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST) and ask for a JOB Sample Pack. This package includes a copy of last year's national job seminar, a copy of the latest bulletin (both on 2-track cassette), a JOB Application Form, a JOB Publication Order Form, and a one-page explanation of the program. Borrow any ideas you hear from other blind Americans that will fit your job search. We share what works. (Counselors--you are eligible for a sample package, too. Please call, or write on your agency's letterhead.)
JOB Networking Breakfasts: In addition to its annual free seminar, JOB offers exciting networking breakfasts during NFB Convention Week (July 1 to 7). Each breakfast is BYOB (Buy Your Own Breakfast), begins in the hotel coffee shop at 7:00 a.m., and offers a friendly gathering of like-minded people. Job seekers, job developers, employers, parents, and others who want to talk jobs are welcome, too. JOB Breakfast Coordinators take reservations, keep the conversation on topic, and help everyone get a chance to speak. You may reserve a seat at any Networking Breakfast by calling JOB ( 638-7518) or by calling the specific breakfast coordinator. You may go to as many of these as interest you. Here is what's lined up so far:
The Second Annual JOB Breakfast for First-Timers. Attending your first convention? As a job seeker with no time or money to waste, do you have questions about how to get the most out of the multitudes of events at this large convention? You can start your networking fast at this easy-going breakfast amidst friendly people. Coordinator, Lorraine Rovig. Call JOB at (800) 638-7518, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., EST, to register.
JOB's Sunday Breakfast for Job Seekers. Each morning of convention except the last, JOB holds a general talk-fest breakfast. All blind job hunters who want to brainstorm their searches over breakfast are invited. Coordinators: Lorraine Rovig (call JOB) and various JOB State Coordinators (to be announced).
JOB's Other Breakfast for First-Timers. Just got in yesterday for your first NFB convention? Join us, ask questions, meet good people. We'll help you plan ways to access the most education (and fun) you can have in a week. Coordinator Loraine Stayer (a JOB Field Service Network Volunteer for New York), (516) 868-8718.
JOB's Breakfast for Blind Travel Instructors. Are you teaching blind people to travel with the long NFB cane? Would you like to? Come share your tips with us. Coordinator Russell Anderson, travel teacher at BLIND, Inc., Minnesota, (612) 872-0100.
The Third Annual Science & Engineering (S&E) Breakfast. You say you're a life scientist or a technophile and nobody understands you when you get on your favorite topic? At this breakfast everybody will speak your language. Coordinator John Miller, California, President, S&E Division of the NFB, (619) 587-3975. Preconvention reservations are especially important for this breakfast in order to make sure that there is enough space.
JOB's Monday Breakfast for Job Seekers (same as Sunday's).
JOB's Third Annual Breakfast for Braille proofreaders and transcribers. Coordinator, Mary Donahue, Texas, (210) 826-9579.
JOB's PASS Breakfast, Let's talk about funding your dreams. This expert runs her own business as a PASS (Plan for Achieving Self-Support) writer and consultant. Coordinator: Nancy Ford Winters, Indiana, (317) 547-7286.
JOB's Sixth Annual Blind Lawyers Breakfast. Whether you are an "esquire," a paralegal, a legal secretary, an employee in some other legal field, or a wanna-be, you're welcome to join in.
Coordinator Bennett Prows, Washington, President, National Association of Blind Lawyers (NABL), (206) 821-7619.
JOB's First Breakfast for Medical Transcribers and Typing Cousins. Where do you work? Whether home, clinic, hospital, social work office, or police department, let's talk. Coordinator Janet Triplett (MT from Oklahoma), (918) 438-3231.
JOB's Tuesday Breakfast for Job Seekers (same as Sunday and Monday).
JOB's First Annual Entrepreneurs' Breakfast. Have you started a home business? Want to? Let's talk about it. Coordinators and entrepreneurs Connie Leblond, Maine, (207) 772-7305, and Maureen Pranghoffer, Minnesota, (612) 522-2501.
The Fourth Annual Blind Artists Luncheon and Meeting, (noon to two). Does this one draw you? Coordinator Janet Bixby, Virginia, (703) 722-4712.
JOB's Wednesday Breakfast for Job Seekers (same as Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday).
JOB's Third Annual Breakfast for Blind People in Medical Fields. OT, MD, RN, MT, RT, PT, LPN--whatever your initials, you're welcome to talk shop. Coordinator Janet Lee, Diabetic educator at BLIND, Inc., Minnesota, (612) 872-0100.
JOB's Second Annual Green Thumb Career Breakfast. Horticulturalists and others interested in selling what they grow are invited to network at this one. Coordinator Pete Donahue, Texas, (210) 826-9579.
JOB's Last-Chance Breakfast for Job Seekers (same as Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday)
JOB's Invitational Networking Breakfast for Service Providers. Coordinator, Lorraine Rovig, JOB, (800) 638-7518 (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST).
A special note for counselors and job developers: This makes sixteen formal networking breakfasts, plus one luncheon, organized for the purpose of helping blind job seekers help themselves. JOB assists with formal and informal networking all week long at this largest convention of blind Americans. Counselors and job developers are invited to come, observe, ask questions, develop contacts, and increase their fund of practical knowledge that will greatly assist their clients back home.
[Photo #19 Marion Gwizdala stands at the microphone playing his guitar and singing. Caption: Marion Gwizdala takes part in the 1994 Showcase of Talent sponsored by NFB Music Division.]
The Music Division will conduct its
annual meeting on Sunday evening, July 2. We plan to cover the following agenda
items: Sandy Hargrove of Texas will tell us about some of her musical experiences
in prison ministries. Greg Trapp of New Mexico will discuss important points
of copyright law. A representative from the National Library Service Braille
Music Section will give us an update on what's happening in the Braille music
scores and circulars world. We also hope to conduct a workshop on stage presence
for interested musicians. This will probably be the final part of the division
meeting on Sunday.
The Division will again sponsor its popular Showcase of Talent this year. It will take place on Tuesday, July 4. The deadline for registration for performing is the noon recess on Tuesday. The registration fee for members of the Music Division is $2, and that for nonmembers is $3. Those who do not register during the division meeting Sunday evening can do so by speaking to Linda Mentink in the Wisconsin delegation on the convention floor Tuesday morning. Again this year the Showcase of Talent will be divided into three categories: composition, amateur performance, and professional performance. First prize will be $100 in each category, and second prize will be $50.
National Association of Blind Educators
The National Association of Blind Educators
(NABE) will hold its annual meeting on Monday, July 3, at 3:00 p.m. This year
we will focus on the blind educator in the variety of teaching settings of the
1990's. What are our expectations for our careers, and what should we expect
from administrators, parents, and students?
The choices of jobs from preschool to the university are much different from what they were some years ago. In the past everyone respected educators, and administrators did what they were paid to do. Now, in too many settings the educator is responsible for everything which occurs there. The educator has been expected to cure the ills of society.
If the educator is paid to educate, then it is up to us in NABE to find our rightful place in this new profession. Blind educators with much experience at all levels of education from preschool to the university level will share experiences and techniques. Small group leaders will give each meeting attendee a chance to express ideas and opinions. We will also discuss how to deal with many negative factors in the educational work place. Good self-esteem is essential for long-term psychological well-being. As blind educators we must learn our rights as well as our responsibilities. The ADA may assist us, but the skills and techniques needed by the blind educator are defined and explained at our meeting.
Even if you are not presently working in the field of education, come and join in our discussions, and perhaps you will become a part of the educational profession.
National Association of Blind Lawyers
The National Association of Blind Lawyers
will hold its annual meeting and seminar on Monday, July 3, 1995. Blind attorneys,
law students, and other interested persons will come together to discuss the
hot issues of the day regarding blindness and the law. While the agenda is not
yet final, we plan to schedule speakers on a wide range of topics, which may
include the treatment of persons with disabilities by bar associations, provision
of accommodations during bar examinations, and techniques of an efficient practice.
We are working to provide material in such a way that continuing legal education
requirements are met for virtually every state.
The seminar and meeting will be held beginning at 1:00 p.m. We will conduct a short business session to discuss the progress and goals for the NABL during the coming years. If you have an interest in the law or are a blind lawyer, join us at this year's annual meeting. If you want further information or have ideas for the Association, contact Bennett Prows in Kirkland, Washington, (206) 821-7619.
The National Association of Blind Students
This July the National Association of
Blind Students will be more active than ever. For starters our annual meeting
will be held on Sunday evening, July 2. The seminar will be a time for us to
come together once again to learn from one another as well as to meet new friends
and greet the old. This year the meeting may very well take on a different character.
If you think you've seen it all, just wait and see.
Being students, we can hardly stay in one place for long. We love having fun, and we love being creative. That's why a lot is in store for the upcoming convention. The annual meeting will be just the beginning.
How would you--yes, you--like to become more physically fit, raise money for the National Student Division and our Federation's National Treasury, and win prizes all at the same time? Well, you can do just that. Last year we tried a new idea. It was called the "Steps to Freedom." Quite literally, we raised
funds by climbing flights of steps, and the resulting resources have enabled us to advance our cause even further and thereby come that much closer to freedom and full equality for the blind of this country. In twenty-four hours we raised almost $1,000. How much more can we raise if we start this far in advance?
We will be climbing stairs throughout the National Convention, and in the meantime we will be collecting sponsors. During Convention, as individuals reach certain goals, they will receive certain prizes. This will be a fund-raiser in more ways than one, and we're really looking forward to hearing from eager and enthusiastic Federationists who would love to join us. If you wish to participate, please send your name, address, and phone number to Ollie Cantos, President, National Association of Blind Students, 1420 Queen Summit Drive, West Covina, California 91791-3949, or call (916) 424-2226, extension 3019.
Is there more? You bet there is. How does several hundred dollars in cash sound? How would you like to have some of that long green in your pocket? Well, it could happen. For details write or call Ollie.
But wait. Is there yet more? The answer
is a definite yes. But the secret cannot be given away just yet; you'll have
to come to Convention to find out. If the suspense is really getting to you,
here's a hint: the thing itself will put you in suspense.
We all have much to do before National Convention as well as during the great annual event. Since we are all students of life, in one sense all Federationists are part of the Student Division. So in that spirit, fellow students from near and far, see you in Chicago!
National Association of Guide Dog Users
The annual meeting of the National Association
of Guide Dog Users will be held on Saturday, July 1, from 1:15 to 5:00 p.m.
Registration will begin at 12:30 p.m., and the meeting will begin promptly at
1:15. The seminar, "A Guide Dog in Your Life," will be held Sunday,
July 2, from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m.
The following topics will be addressed during this seminar: attractions of smaller training schools, school policy and practice with respect to safe street-crossing, school public relations materials and videos and their impact on public attitudes about blindness, the Hawaii quarantine, zoo policies about visitors' use of guide dogs, and state division activities.
Grant Park is across the street from our hotel. Arrangements are being made to use part of this grassy area for dog relief. Of course it will have to be kept clean. Instead of relying on hotel or park personnel to maintain it, we hope to hire outside workers to do the job. This should result in a more pleasant facility for owners and dogs alike. In 1993 we voted to have each dog owner pay $25 for use of the relief area throughout the week. We encourage all guide dog owners to cover this cost if at all possible. The fee is payable at division activities early in the week. Owners who miss these opportunities for any reason can pay Priscilla Ferris, Division Treasurer and President of the National Federation of the Blind of Massachusetts, later in the week. She can be found at convention sessions in the Massachusetts delegation.
Questions about the relief arrangements or other guide dog matters can be directed to Paul Gabias at 475 Fleming Road, Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, V1X 3Z4, (604) 862-2352.
National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science
The 1995 meeting of the National Federation
of the Blind in Computer Science will be held on Monday, July 3. Registration
for the meeting will begin at 12:30 p.m. Although plans are not yet final, a
few things can be said about the meeting. For one thing, certainly more than
one program item will be devoted to a discussion of the graphical user interface
(GUI), which has of late caused some concern among blind computer users who
feel their jobs are threatened by it.
We will also have a program item dealing with public access terminals equipped with touch screens. These devices are beginning to be used by various governmental agencies as a means to provide so-called greater public access to their services. When you consider that these terminals are equipped with touch screens and voice output that has very little to do with telling the user how to locate a particular control, the term "access" in this context is particularly ironic. We will be hearing from the Trace R&D Center, which has developed an interesting prototype talking touch screen. Trace is interested in building in design features helpful to blind consumers--consumers who comprise a large cross section of society in their ability to use computers and their capacity to deal with computers and computer-like devices.
We may hear from the companies marketing screen-reading programs for Microsoft Windows. We are fortunate that the number of such companies seems to be growing each year. We may also ask Microsoft to tell us what it has done in the past year to improve our ability to use its operating systems and software.
Potential meeting attendees should be warned that NFB in Computer Science meetings are not for the faint of heart--technologically speaking. Some techies like to come to our meetings to talk shop. Be prepared to hear technical terms thrown about like so much confetti. I refer to such arcane phrases as "building a protocol between the application layer and the operating system layer," "accessing a Web Server," "associating icons with text strings," and so forth.
So, if this hasn't turned you off, come to the 1995 meeting of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science. For further information about the meeting and other computer-related matters, contact Curtis Chong, President, National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science, 20 Northeast 2nd Street, Apartment 908, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55413, Email: [email protected], Evening Phone: (612) 379-3493.
NFB NET Training Seminar
No matter where you turn today, you
are likely to hear references to the information superhighway. With all this
interest many blind people feel the need to get and use a modem so that they
aren't left out.
We in the National Federation of the Blind have had our own Information Superhighway since June 1, 1991, in the form of NFB NET, our computer bulletin board service (BBS). That was the date when NFB NET officially went online.
Once again this year we will be holding a training session for NFB NET users. The session, which will be held on Saturday, July 1, from 2:00 p.m. until 5:00 is designed for new modem users, for people who haven't accessed NFB NET before, and for people who want to learn more about the capabilities of our BBS.
Topics to be covered will include telecommunications basics, using your modem and communications software, registering for NFB NET, navigating around, reading and entering messages, downloading the Braille Monitor and other files, finding files, setting up off-line reading facilities, and more. David Andrews, Systems Operator (SysOp) of NFB NET, will also answer your questions.
If you don't know what the above paragraph means and you would like to, perhaps you had better attend the annual NFB NET training session on Saturday, July 1, starting at 2:00 p.m. See you online.
[Photo #20 Claudell Stocker teaches Braille to parents of blind children. Caption: Claudell Stocker instructs Kevin and Antoinette Hatton in the use of the slate and stylus.]
The National Organization of Parents of Blind Children
"The Benefits of Growing Up in
the National Federation of the Blind" is the title of the annual seminar
sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, Saturday,
July 1, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Registration begins at 8:00 a.m., and the registration
fee is $5. This fee will also cover the cost of all special workshops--such
as the Beginning Braille for Parents workshop--sponsored by the NOPBC during
The keynote address is titled "Blindness: What Does it Mean in the Mind of a Child?" It will be delivered by Ramona Walhof, a former preschool teacher, blind businesswoman, and mother of two sighted children. Other speakers will zero in on the subjects of low-vision children, sighted siblings, other relatives of the blind child, and sighted children of blind parents. Also on the agenda is a panel of blind and sighted children, youth, and adults discussing the impact of the NFB in their lives.
The afternoon session will be comprised of a number of concurrent workshops. See the Spring, 1995, issue of Future Reflections for the details.
Several exciting initiatives regarding the creative use of toys and play activities for children are being developed. We hope to kick these off at convention with some special demonstrations. Stay tuned! We will announce any developments as time allows through our state and local parent divisions and chapters.
From 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday there will be a convention orientation session for blind youth. This session provides students (grades six through twelve) a chance to get together early in the convention, which allows them time to begin forming friendships. It is also a structured opportunity to meet interesting and competent blind adults. The adult counselors will take the youth out in groups to familiarize them with the layout of the hotel and convention site. The counselors will also lead discussion groups, organize get-acquainted activities, and familiarize youth with the NFB and the NFB convention schedule.
On the day of the parent seminar we are planning a field trip to Kiddie Land, which is a scaled-down, kid-size amusement park. It is specially designed for younger children. The fee, which includes admission to Kiddie Land, unlimited rides at the park, transportation, and lunch, is $15.00 per child. Once again Carla McQuillan, President of the NFB of Oregon, has volunteered to organize and lead the field trip. Carla owns and operates a Montessori preschool program. She has extensive experience as a teacher and administrator, and she is also a parent.
Since the number of children who can be accommodated for this trip is limited by space available on the bus and by the ratio of volunteer workers to children, we urge you to pre-register your children for the Saturday, July 1, day trip. The volunteer workers, by the way, are mostly blind parents, teachers, and students who are willing to donate some of their convention time to helping your children enjoy convention too. Children under the age of five and older children who choose not to register for the Kiddie Land trip are invited to register for NFB Camp for the day.
From 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday evening the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and the National Association of Blind Students will sponsor Family Hospitality Night. Bring the kids, relax, and meet other parents. We will be using the NFB Camp room, so there will be plenty of toys and space to keep the kids occupied. Teachers of blind children and blind teachers will be there too, to talk informally with parents about educational concerns.
The annual meeting of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children will take place on Monday, July 3, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. At this meeting we meet and hear from parents from all over the country. We discuss local and national projects (such as our Braille Readers are Leaders contest), elect officers, listen to a presentation from the 1995 Distinguished Educator of Blind Children award winner, accept committee reports, and discuss activities of our state and regional parent divisions and chapters. This year we also have Mr. Christopher Craig as a special guest speaker. Mr. Craig, a former NFB scholarship winner and a doctoral student in special education, has been investigating how blind and visually impaired children emerge into literacy and how the family affects that process.
On Tuesday evening, July 4, from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. we will conduct an IEP workshop entitled "How to be an IEP Advocate for Yourself and Others." The Individualized Education Program (IEP) process continues to be the key element in planning a good education for a blind or visually impaired child. That is why we conduct this workshop at convention year after year. And year after year we have a consistently high attendance. This year we will be discussing specific strategies for Federationists who go to IEP meetings as advocates for others. Although pre-registration for the workshop is not required, we urge you to preregister this year so we can prepare the proper number of handouts in print, large print, Braille, and recorded formats. Those who pre-register will have first shot at the prepared hand- outs in the media of their choice.
For more information or to pre-register call Barbara Cheadle at (410) 659-9314 or evenings at (410) 747-3472.
Public Employees Division
The Public Employees Division of the
National Federation of the Blind will meet at 1:00 p.m., Monday, July 3.
The federal employment picture is, to put it nicely, fluid. Many agencies are downsizing, others are rumored to close, and others will be hiring. The famous, or is it infamous, SF-171 employment form is no longer used. Personnel offices are disappearing. Government is being reinvented.
Times of change are times in which those who are prepared can take advantage of the change and improve themselves. Our speaker will discuss how best to market yourself in the post-171 era. How do you find out about federal jobs when there is no personnel office? What should you put on your resume? With no standard resume form, how do you know what each agency wants to know? Can you apply for a job by faxing a resume? Is there still a selective placement program? Should you say you are blind? What are your rights during downsizing? As usual, we will invite three employees to discuss their public-sector jobs.
If you have questions or suggestions for additional speakers, please contact John Halverson, President, National Federation of the Blind, Public Employees Division, 403 West 62nd Terrace, Kansas City, Missouri 64113, telephone (816) 426-7278 (work), (816) 361-7813 (home), and CompuServe 73132,153.
Science and Engineering Division
The Science and Engineering Division
meeting is shaping up to be jam-packed with exciting information. From microbiology
to mathematics, members know more science than I can hope to understand. Find
out how it is done at the division meeting. This will be a hands-on seminar.
Highlights include presentations of original scientific research by blind colleagues
and what works for the blind in grasping and relating visual data. Come learn
how the blind succeed in college science and engineering courses and how blind
scientists get ahead on the job.
The Science and Engineering Division is launching its mentorship program this year. If you are a student in the sciences and want to spend a day with a blind professional in your field or if you want to meet an enthusiastic, entertaining Federationist who holds an opinion on most scientific matters, this program is for you. To sign up as a mentor or protege, contact John Miller, Division President, by E-mail [email protected] or call (619) 587-3975.
Social Security Seminar
An outreach seminar (Social Security
and Supplemental Security Income: What Applicants, Advocates, and Recipients
Should Know) will take place on Wednesday Afternoon, July 5. The purpose of
this seminar, which will be conducted jointly by the National Federation of
the Blind and the Social Security
Administration, is to provide information on Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits for the blind. Seminar presenters will be Sharon Gold, Member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB of California, and J. Kenneth McGill, Special Assistant to the Associate Commissioner for Disability, Office of Disability, Social Security Administration.
The Division will conduct a workshop
from 1:15 to 4:30 p.m., Saturday, July 1. The major topic will be announced
later. At approximately 2:45 p.m., time will be devoted to readings of poetry
and short story fiction. All Federationists are invited.
Both a book auction and a gemstone auction will be held during the convention by the Division. The book auction will take place at the conclusion of the annual meeting at approximately 4:45 p.m. On July 3 at 9:00 p.m. the division will conduct its gemstone auction, in which unmounted stones will be sold. The book auction will feature books donated and autographed by authors and is an excellent opportunity for augmenting personal collections or for buying gifts.
With registration beginning at 1:15 p.m., and the meeting starting at 1:30 p.m., the Division will present a program concentrating on the writing of children's literature. Items of business, including elections, will be conducted throughout the afternoon with the biannual elections scheduled at approximately 4:15 p.m.
Lori Stayer will discuss the Division's publication, Slate and Style, while Jerry Whittle will tell us about the Division's new book, now nearing publication. The meeting will be chaired by Tom Stevens.
[Photo #21 Portrait Caption: Ed Eames]
FINAL SETTLEMENT IN THE DOLLAR RENT A CAR CASE
Monitor readers will remember that in June, 1993, we reported on the problems Toni and Ed Eames had in late 1991 when they tried to rent a car from Dollar and have a friend drive it for them on a trip. The Eameses brought suit against Dollar and have finally received a settlement that should resolve this problem for all blind people attempting to do business with Dollar in the future. Here are the pertinent paragraphs of the settlement, which was signed by a U.S. Assistant Attorney General and took effect on January 4, 1995:
Actions to be taken by Dollar:
A. In order to afford services to individuals
with disabilities, and to individuals with visual impairments in particular,
Dollar Operations and/or Dollar Systems, as specified below, agree(s) to implement
the following changes in its/their policies pertaining to the rental of vehicles
on the effective date of this Agreement for those actions identified at subparagraphs
15(a), (b), (d), and (e) and within sixty days of the date of this Agreement
for those actions identified at subparagraphs 15(c) and (f):
a. Dollar shall no longer require that an individual with a disability seeking to rent a vehicle at a Dollar Operations' facility present both a driver's license and credit card bearing the same name.
b. Dollar may, however, require the authorized driver to present a valid driver's license and the renter to present a qualifying credit card. Dollar may also require the individual holding the qualifying credit card to present some form of photo identification to ensure that he or she is in fact the same person whose name appears on the credit card. The individual holding the credit card for payment may be required to sign the rental contract. Each person who is permitted to drive the vehicle must present a valid driver's license, and sign the rental agreement as authorized driver or as an additional authorized driver, as applicable. Only persons holding a valid driver's license may drive the vehicle leased under the rental contract.
c. Dollar shall inform all employees who have dealings with prospective renters at Dollar Operations' facilities of the change in policy, as described in subparagraph (a) above, and Dollar shall incorporate the new policy in (a) for Dollar Operations' facilities, its Policy and Procedure Manual, and (b) for Licensee facilities, its Operations Guide and other appropriate training manuals. Dollar shall also incorporate the new policy into its training programs for employees at Dollar Operations' facilities and at all other facilities operated under the name "Dollar Rent A Car."
d. In addition, all prospective renters at Dollar Operations' facilities, upon request, shall be advised of Dollar's change in rental policy as described above. Further, Dollar Systems shall inform all Licensees who enter into or renew license agreements on or after the effective date of this Agreement that the Licensee shall advise all prospective renters at Licensee, upon request, of the change in rental policy as described above.
e. Further, Dollar shall incorporate by reference its Operations Guide into those of its license agreements that are entered into or renewed on or after the effective date of this Agreement.
f. Dollar shall make available at Dollar Operations' facilities to those sight-impaired individuals who are unable to read the rental contract a recorded version of same, either through local audio equipment or via an 800 telephone number, or Dollar shall otherwise ensure that the terms of the rental contract are effectively communicated to individuals who are blind or have visual impairments.
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."
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: RADIO SPIRITS
by Kenneth Jernigan
The national office of the Federation
has entered into an agreement with Radio Spirits of Buffalo Grove, Illinois,
concerning the distribution of old-time radio programs. Radio Spirits has an
extremely large collection of programs from the golden era of radio--Jack Benny,
Fred Allen, Fibber McGee, Gunsmoke, Lux Radio Theatre, Orson Welles, One Man's
Family, and literally hundreds and thousands of others. For every cassette that
you or your friends buy from Radio Spirits, the NFB will receive a contribution,
provided you indicate in your telephone call or your letter that you are calling
in connection with the NFB promotion. The toll free number is (800) 729-4587.
You may request information about the availability of specific radio shows,
or you may ask for a free catalogue. Every time you call or write, you should
make certain to indicate your connection with the National Federation of the
Blind. Not only will you be helping finance our movement--you will also discover
a veritable gold mine of old-time radio treasures. All of us should help promote
this effort by asking any of our friends who are interested in old-time radio
to call Radio Spirits and indicate that they are connected with the Federation.
This month's recipes come from members of the National Federation of the Blind of New York.
[Photo #22 Portrait Caption: Tracy Carcione]
VEGETARIAN SHEPHERD'S PIE
by Tracy Carcione
Tracy Carcione is an active member of the New York City Chapter of the NFB of New York.
2 turnips or 1 rutabaga
1 package frozen corn
1 package baby carrots
3 or 4 cloves garlic
1 small onion
Method: I have listed what I consider
essential ingredients. Frozen carrots may be substituted for baby carrots. You
could also add any other vegetable you might have in the refrigerator, such
as eggplant, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, or whatever else seems
good to you.
Chop the turnips into small pieces. If you use rutabaga instead, steam it for a few minutes to soften it. Also steam the baby carrots. Cut any other fresh vegetables into small pieces. Chop the onions and garlic and saute them until soft. Put all the vegetables in a deep casserole dish. Season generously with cinnamon and pepper. Add any or all of the following: cumin, allspice, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Make mashed potatoes. I usually cook the potatoes in the microwave, then take off the skins when they've cooled a little. Put the potatoes in a bowl with about 1/4 cup of milk and beat until smooth, usually about two minutes. If the consistency isn't right, add more milk and beat until smooth. Spread mashed potatoes over the vegetables so they form a crust (about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick). Bake at 350 degrees for forty minutes. Serves two people generously with leftovers.
by Tracy Carcione
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 small egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 pound fresh rhubarb, diced and dusted with flour
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup white sugar
1« teaspoons butter, softened
Method: In a small bowl combine milk (at room temperature) with lemon juice and let stand five minutes to sour--milk should form small curds. In a large bowl combine brown sugar, oil, egg, and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Add dry ingredients with soured milk to the sugar mixture, beating after each addition, until smooth. Fold in rhubarb and nuts. Pour batter into buttered 4-by-8 loaf pan. Combine white sugar and butter and sprinkle over batter. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bake for one hour or until golden. Let the bread cool in the pan for ten minutes, then remove from pan to a rack to finish cooling.
[Photo #23 Portrait Caption: Lori Stayer]
by Lori Stayer
Lori Stayer is a Job Opportunities for the Blind Coordinator for New York and Editor of the Writers Division quarterly magazine, Slate and Style.
4-ounce can bean sprouts
4-ounce can corn
1 small onion, diced
3 to 4 mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 ounce green squash, diced
1 ounce shredded Muenster cheese
Salt & pepper to taste
Method: Saut the vegetables in
a minimal amount of oil on a big griddle. Beat eggs and pour over sauted veggies.
Add shredded cheese. Turn mixture several times with a spatula till the egg
is cooked. Serves two meal-sized portions.
by Debbie Miller
Debbie Miller is a member of the Syracuse Chapter of the NFB of New York.
6 boneless chicken breasts, skinned and pounded
1 egg, slightly beaten
Italian bread crumbs
1 stick butter
3 cups white wine
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons oregano
3 teaspoons garlic powder
Method: Dip chicken in egg, then bread crumbs. Saut in oil and butter until brown. Bake in oven with wine, mushrooms, lemon juice, oregano, and garlic powder for one hour in a 350-degree oven. Serve over buttered egg noodles and sprinkle with poppy seeds.
SAUSAGE POTATO CASSEROLE
by Sharon Thompson
Sharon Thompson is a member of the Syracuse Chapter of the NFB of New York.
1 pound bulk pork sausage
1 10-3/4-ounce can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 cups thinly sliced peeled potatoes (about 1 1/4 pounds)
1 cup (4 ounces) cheddar cheese, shredded
Method: In a large skillet cook sausage until it is no longer pink, drain. In a bowl combine soup, milk, onion, salt, and pepper. In an ungreased 11 by 7 by 2 inch baking dish, layer half the potatoes, then half the soup mixture, then half the sausage. Repeat these three layers. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for one and a half hours or until the potatoes are tender. Uncover and sprinkle with cheese. Return to oven and bake uncovered until cheese is melted (about five minutes). Yields four to six servings.
SHEILA'S FAMOUS POTATO SOUP
by Sheila Greene
Sheila Greene is a member of the Syracuse Chapter of the NFB of New York.
4 medium onions, chopped
8 carrots, chopped
1 13-ounce can evaporated milk
1 stick butter or margarine
4 stalks celery, chopped
8 potatoes, sliced
1 16-ounce can cream style corn
Pinch curry powder
Method: Cook onion and celery in 2 cups water. Add carrots and potatoes. Cook until all are tender. Add butter, milk, curry powder, and corn. Simmer gently for fifteen minutes. Do not boil.
by Micki Webb
Micki Webb is a member of the Syracuse Chapter of the NFB of New York.
3 to 4 pound beef or venison roast
3 cups water
1 cup vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1 small bottle catsup
8 to 12 whole cloves
6 to 10 bay leaves
2 large onions
Salt and pepper to taste
Method: Place meat in medium roaster and add all other ingredients. Cover and roast in moderate oven (about 350 degrees) until tender (about 2« to 3 hours). Remove meat, cool, and slice as thinly as possible. Thicken and strain gravy. Return meat to gravy and chill overnight. Heat and serve with fried noodles.
[Photo #24 Portrait Caption: Carl Jacobsen]
by Carl Jacobsen
Carl Jacobsen is President of the New
York City Chapter and First Vice President of the NFB of New York. He offers
Monitor readers his secret recipe for successful dining: Reservations!
** Accessible Music Store Online:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
CDnow!, the Internet Music Store, has become the first retailer on the Internet to introduce a special new format that greatly facilitates shopping for the visually impaired. This business was established by the Olim brothers, who contacted the National Federation of the Blind to help them design a program particularly suited for blind shoppers. The result is a customized format using Text to Speech (TTS) mode. TTS is a combination speaker and software device that allows the computer to read out loud what is on the screen. CDnow!'s special new format allows its message to be read logically in TTS mode, while deleting the unnecessary punctuation.
"CDnow! has certainly made an effort to accommodate the visually impaired," said David Andrews, Director of the International Braille and Technology Center for the National Federation of the Blind. "It offers the visually-impaired customer access to information that otherwise would be very difficult to get. The special format enables visually-impaired users to gather information independently whenever they want it. This is a liberating step for someone who is blind."
CDnow! has more than 140,000 CDs, cassettes, and mini-discs available, which translates into almost every rock, jazz, and classical album currently in print. CDnow! has put the All-Music Guide online, which provides customers with a complete collection of biographies, ratings, and reviews in an easy-to-use interface that both computer novices and experts find extremely useful in facilitating their selections.
To access CDnow! directly, networked users can type "telnet cdnow.com." To access CDnow!'s special linear format, visually-impaired users should type "TTS" at the main menu. For more information about CDnow!, please call Jason Olim at (215) 646-6125, or send e-mail to "[email protected]"
Kristen Jocums, President of the Salt Lake City Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Utah, writes to report the group's election results: Milt Taylor, First Vice President; Vince Silas, Second Vice President; and Allen Hicks and Anitra Webber, Board Members.
[Photo #25 Portrait Caption: Adrienne Asch]
Dr. Adrienne Asch, Professor of Biology, Ethics, and the Politics of Human Reproduction at Wellesley College and a long-time Federationist, was recently appointed to serve as a member of the Commission on Childhood Disability for a term beginning January 1, 1995, and ending November 30, 1995. The announced purpose of the Commission is to evaluate the effects of the current definition of disability under title XVI of the Social Security Act as such definition applies to eligibility of children to receive SSI benefits, the appropriateness of such definition, and advantages and disadvantages of any alternative definitions. The Commission will be taking testimony around the nation and reporting to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Congratulations to Dr. Asch.
** Books Available:
The following is information about the two latest NFB publications to be added to the Library of Congress (NLS) collection: Standing on One Foot, edited by Kenneth Jernigan (RC 38289), eighty-four pages, read by Scott Sedar. The Library of Congress annotation reads, "Nine essays by blind adults relating experiences regarding their blindness. Kenneth Jernigan writes about the pitfalls of social conditioning and accepting the public's mistaken ideas of a blind person's limitations. Marc Maurer describes becoming a father for the first time, and Gwen Nelson offers her experience as a juror. 1994."
If Blindness Comes (RC 38282), edited by Kenneth Jernigan, read by Gary Telles, 243 pages. The Library of Congress annotation reads, "Defining a blind person as one who has to develop so many alternative techniques as to substantially alter his pattern of living, this guide encourages the newly blind to ask, "How can I do it," rather than, "Can I do it?" The history and purpose of the National Federation of the Blind are discussed as are other available programs, devices, and employment information. 1994."
[Photo #26 Tina Blatter, holding her cane, stands at table displaying her tactile art. Caption: Tina Blatter displays her work at the Art Exhibit and Sale during the 1994 NFB convention.]
** For Sale:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Braille/large print greeting cards for all occasions with unique raised design by Tina Blatter, a blind artist. Tactile collage paintings are also available with Braille/large print descriptions included. For more information contact Tina Blatter, Artistic Touch, 100 West Spaulding Street, Lafayette, Colorado 80026, or call (303) 665-5671.
[Photo #27 Portrait Caption: Ken Silverman]
** Appointed to Serve:
Ken Silberman, President of the Southern Maryland Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind and an engineer at Goddard Space Flight Center, was recently appointed to the Interagency Committee on Disability Research (ICDR), established by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR). The Committee's purpose is "to promote coordination and cooperation among federal departments and agencies conducting research relevant to people with disabilities." At the end of 1995 the group will issue a report to the President and Congress making recommendations concerning coordination of policy and the development of objectives and priorities for all federal programs conducting research related to the rehabilitation of individuals with disabilities.
** For Sale:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have the following Braille books for sale: My Life in Three Acts, by Helen Hayes (two volumes), $10; Liar's Poker, by Michael Lewis (three volumes), $20; and Sunset Cooking for Two (two volumes), $15. I am also looking for anyone who works with preschool kids. I am trying to find some different activities and ideas. Please write in Braille or on cassette to Laurie Marsch, 211 Southbrooke, #6, Waterloo, Iowa 50702, or call after 5:00 p.m., Central Time (319) 232-1750.
** Information Wanted:
Tracy and Eric Duffy are expecting their first baby, so Tracy wrote asking the following:
I would like to hear from experienced blind parents. I am particularly interested in advice about strollers, backpacks, car seats, and other equipment that people have found useful. What types or brands have you found especially efficient or easy to use? Please write to me at 2405 Adams Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43202, or call (614) 262-9378.
** Playback Equipment Needed:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Professor S.K. Oswal from Tennessee is helping develop a Library for the Blind in New Delhi, India. The project currently needs two types of equipment: (1) four-track, 15/16 IPS speed cassette recorders and (2) 8 1/3- and 16 1/3- RPM disk players capable of playing Library of Congress format books (both in good working condition). If you have one or more of these commercially produced machines and wish to donate them, please contact Professor Oswal in print or Braille or on cassette at Middle Tennessee State University, Campus Box 70, Murfreesboro, Tennessee 37132, or call (615) 898-2573.
** For Sale:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have for sale an IBM model L40-SX laptop computer package, which includes the following: 386-SX, 20 Mhz, 10MB RAM and 85MB hard drive, 1 serial port, 1 parallel port, 1 docking station port, 1 VGA port, 1 mouse port, full 101-key keyboard, 10-inch LCD VGA display, one 2.5-inch, 1.44MB floppy disk drive; 2 rechargeable NICAD battery packs; Accent mini internal speech synthesizer; and Vocal-Eyes, version 2.2 screen reading software. Price, $1,200 or best offer. Contact Andy Baracco by email, [email protected] or call (818) 901-8216.
On February 12, 1995, Ed and Toni Eames received the Maxwell Medallion from the Dog Writers Association of America at its annual awards ceremony. Their article, "Kirby's Miracle," which dealt with the rehabilitation of Ed's guide dog after cancer necessitated the amputation of his left front leg, was voted the best 1994 feature article in a dog magazine. The ceremony was held in New York City the night before the opening of the Westminster Dog Show.
** Reader Service Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I am a sighted reader, and I read almost anything printed in English onto cassette tapes. My fee is $6 an hour. I specialize in textbooks for school and college, and I will also read instructional manuals. For more information please write to Teresa Simon, 12400 Rojas, #80, El Paso, Texas 79927.
** For Sale:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Castle is a cassette chess publication pertaining to the interests of the blind chess player. The cost for four issues is $9. A C-60/90 cassette-duplication service is available as well. The cost for a single 2- or 4-track tape duplication is $2.50 or three for $6. Four-by-six-inch, see-through mailers with enclosed plastic address card and Velcro-dot seal are available for $1.20 apiece. I also have sports highlights cassette albums. "Baseball and Superbowl History" is one of many. A free taped catalog is available upon request. The cost of these albums is $3.50 for one or $10 for three. Please communicate in Braille if possible; print is acceptable. Checks should be made payable to Gintautas Burba, 30 Snell Street, Rockton, Massachusetts 02401.
** For Sale:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Braille 'n Speak Model 640, 1994 version; disk drive; serial to parallel converter; World Port 2400 bps pocket modem; all connecting cables and leather carrying cases $1,500. Please write or call Harold Snider, 3224 Beret Lane, Silver Spring, Maryland 20906 or home telephone (301) 460-4142, work telephone (410) 659-9314.
Having learned in Chris Boone's article in this issue about the first round of the negotiation competition for law students, readers will be interested to know that Chris and her partner Theresia Urich participated in the National Negotiation Competition in mid-February and came in second in the nation. Congratulations to Chris and her partner.
** Correspondence Wanted:
Cathy and Martha Harris, members of the NFB of Pennsylvania and former members of the Baltimore chapter, would like to receive letters from NFB members. Martha is seven. She is in first grade and attends a public school in Altoona, Pennsylvania. She is totally blind, has learned grade 1 Braille, and is
learning grade 2. She would appreciate receiving letters from other blind children.
Cathy says of herself: "I am recently divorced and am blind. Martha is my only child. I enjoy reading, handcrafted ceramic and wooden items, music, cooking and baking, and collecting recipes. I would really appreciate receiving letters from NFB members. Write to Martha and/or me at: 1528 - Crawford Avenue, Altoona, Pennsylvania 16602.