The Braille Monitor
38, No. 6
Barbara Pierce, Editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille,
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 38, No. 6 June 1995
CLOVERNOOK TRIES AND FAILS TO CORNER THE MARKET ON BRAILLE MAGAZINES by Kenneth Jernigan
DULUTH LIGHTHOUSE FOR THE BLIND TAKES A BATH AND FINDS ITSELF IN HOT WATER
MORE OF THE SAME AT THE ARKANSAS SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND
ACHIEVING A DREAM WITH THE HELP OF THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND by Buna Dahal
TIPPING, THE RIGHT THING
by Shawn Jacobson
ESCAPE FROM SLAVERY: FROM
A SHELTERED WORKSHOP TO MY FIRST NATIONAL CONVENTION
by Jeffrey J. Treptow
OBJECTIONS TO BLINDNESS RULES MOUNT
A CONVENTION OPPORTUNITY
NEW BOOK AVAILABLE
by Barbara Pierce
A DAY THAT WILL LIVE IN
by Bennett Prows
by Bob Herguth
by Stephen O. Benson
Copyright 1995 National Federation of the Blind
[LEAD PHOTOS/CAPTIONS:] May 16-17, 1995, Canadian and U.S. delegates assembled at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore for the spring meeting of the North America/Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union. They gathered in front of the main entrance during a break in the afternoon session May 16.
[Photo #1: Portrait Caption: Frank Kurt Cylke, Director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped]
[Photo #2: Portrait Caption: William Raeder, Executive Director of National Braille Press]
[Photo #3: Portrait Caption: Tuck Tinsley, President of the American Printing House for the Blind]
[Photo #4: Kenneth Jernigan stands in front of the TED 600 Braille embosser and pushes the run button. Caption: Kenneth Jernigan operates the TED 600 Braille embosser in the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind]
CLOVERNOOK TRIES AND FAILS TO CORNER THE MARKET ON BRAILLE MAGAZINES
by Kenneth Jernigan
On March 28, 1995, a meeting occurred at the headquarters of
the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically
Handicapped of the Library of Congress on Taylor Street in
Washington, D.C. It might on the surface have appeared to be a
run-of-the-mill gathering of government officials, private
agencies, and blind consumers--undramatic and soon forgotten. But
such was not the case. In its own way this meeting exemplified
most of the problems now current in the blindness field:
budgetary constraints, shifting political balances, new
alignments, and the search for innovative initiatives and
solutions. And there was drama. In the ebb and flow of the polite
exchanges and measured phrases, there were both strain and the
threat of future conflict.
To understand the implications, one needs a certain amount of background. To begin with, there is a federal organism called the Committee for Purchase from People Who are Blind or Severely Disabled, ordinarily simply referred to as the Committee for Purchase. This committee determines what products the federal government will buy from sheltered workshops and is composed of fifteen members. Some of these members serve because they are employed by certain federal agencies: Department of Defense, Department of Labor, Department of Justice, etc.; and some serve because they are appointed by the President of the United States. The Committee (the Executive Director of which is Ms. Beverly Milkman) puts items that it decides the federal government should purchase from sheltered shops on a list called the Procurement List. Items on the Procurement List are not put out for competitive bid but are bought directly from the approved sheltered shop.
The Committee for Purchase works through two private, nonprofit organizations--National Industries for the Blind (NIB), and National Industries for the Severely Handicapped (NISH). The law which makes all of this possible was passed in 1938 and was known as the Wagner-O'Day Act. Purchases made under the Act were limited to workshops for the blind. In 1972 Senator Jacob Javits offered an amendment to the Wagner-O'Day Act (subsequently known as the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act) providing that purchases should also be made from sheltered shops for the severely handicapped.
National Industries for the Blind (NIB) is a separate, identifiable organization, serving as the intermediary between sheltered shops and the Committee for Purchase. It awards contracts to sheltered shops and is largely composed of sheltered shop officials. It has a paid staff, the recently appointed Executive Director being Judy Peters, and it takes five percent of every contract it gives to a sheltered shop.
All of this may seem far removed from the March 28 meeting called by NLS, but such is not the case. And there is more. The organization which many of us used to think of merely as the Clovernook Printing House for the Blind (an organization which produced Braille books and magazines) was always more than that. From 1934 to 1955 it was a regional library for the blind in the Library of Congress network. Originally it was a home for blind women, and it later became (as it is today) a sheltered workshop. Its official name is now the Clovernook Center--Opportunities for the Blind; and it is, as it always has been, located in Cincinnati.
For a long time Clovernook has bid in the competition to produce Braille magazines for the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress (NLS), and it has always received some of the contracts. This is partly true because Clovernook has often submitted the low bid, some say because of the sub-minimum wages it pays its blind workers--but there are other factors. NLS feels that it is desirable to have as many organizations as possible producing Braille and competing for the business. There would be obvious disadvantages to having only one or two Braille producers, with the leverage that such a monopoly would permit. Be that as it may, there have always been competitive bids.
But this year a new wrinkle was added. Clovernook served notice that it intended (and it has the right to do this because of its status as a sheltered shop) to request the Committee for Purchase to remove Braille magazines from the competitive bidding system and place a large number of them on the Procurement List. Thus it would have a monopoly. Obviously this would hurt other Braille producers and might even drive some of them out of business. Although Clovernook's prices might initially be reasonable, the damage to other Braille producers and the possible ultimate monopoly caused alarm bells to ring.
So the groundwork was laid, and the stage was set. It only remained for the situation to be formalized, and that was accomplished by a letter from Dr. Gerald Mundy (Clovernook's Executive Director) to Mr. Frank Kurt Cylke, Director of NLS:
Cincinnati, Ohio January 16, 1995
Dear Mr. Cylke:
I wish to inform you that the Clovernook Center-- Opportunities for the Blind is taking the necessary steps for placement of the magazine production work performed under contract with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped on the federal Procurement List as provided for under the provisions of the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act. This decision has been reached after thorough consideration of our agency's options concerning continuation of employment opportunities for the consumers we serve.
As you know, Clovernook has a long history of providing quality and timely Braille magazine production for NLS. Throughout that history the NLS/Clovernook cooperative effort has produced high-volume, high-quality Braille for NLS patrons. In turn, this cooperative effort has provided ongoing employment for the more than fifty people who are visually impaired and multiply disabled within Clovernook's Braille printing operation. Beginning with the contracts for 1993, magazine-production awards were made strictly on price with a new costing method; quality and timely delivery were no longer factored in the award formula. As a result Clovernook lost a large percentage of the magazine work that was providing employment to the people we serve. Beginning in January, 1993, Clovernook was forced to lay off eleven people who are blind and multidisabled from its bindery operation. Given that Clovernook's mission is that of offering employment opportunities to people with visual impairments, we have concluded that the course of action we are pursuing is the only option that will assure Clovernook sufficient on-going employment opportunities for those we serve in our braille printing operation.
We will be requesting the National Industries for the Blind to provide the President's Committee For Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Handicapped all necessary information for placement of our 1995 magazine production work on the federal Procurement List. Please be assured that we continue to be committed to excellence in our Braille magazine production and to meeting the performance specifications of the NLS for quality and on-time delivery that you have become accustomed to in dealing with the Clovernook Center.
Sincerely, Gerald W. Mundy, Ed.D. Executive Director
Dr. Mundy's formal letter brought a formal response, but
perhaps not the one he expected. The occasion was the annual NLS
meeting of Braille producers--usually scantily attended, but not
this time. There was a full house, and a court reporter to take a
Much of what follows is taken from that transcript with only enough editing to remedy the phrasing, eliminate redundancy, and smooth out the more obvious grammatical misadventures--my own as well as those of others. The meeting started at 9:30 in the morning, and Mr. Cylke began by saying that there were microphones on the table and in the audience and that a stenographer was taking a transcript of the meeting. He then introduced those present: Dr. Tuck Tinsley and others from the American Printing House for the Blind, Louisville; Ms. Pat Johnson and others from Associated Services for the Blind, Philadelphia; Mr. Geoffrey Bull from Braille International, Stuart, Florida; Mr. William Raeder and Ms. Eileen Curran from the National Braille Press, Boston; Dr. Gerald Mundy and others from Clovernook, Cincinnati; Mr. Joe Sullivan from Duxbury Systems, Littleton, Massachusetts; and representatives from National Industries for the Blind and the Committee for Purchase. In addition, a number of NLS staff members were present, as was an observer from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. Finally, James Gashel and I were there representing the National Federation of the Blind. If others were present, I am unaware of it.
When the preliminaries were finished, Mr. Cylke began the meeting as follows:
This Braille Producers Meeting is, as you know, normally held every year. Because of some extenuating circumstances we did skip a year, but we are back on schedule. I believe you are all aware of the first item on the agenda, but for those who aren't, let me read you a letter that I wrote to Jerry Mundy on the 17th of January:
Dear Dr. Mundy:
I am writing with reference to our telephone conversation of
last Thursday when you informed me of plans to have production of
Library of Congress Braille magazines placed on the Procurement
List of the Committee for Purchase from People Who are Blind or
Severely Disabled. This letter is to ask that you attend the
Braille producers meeting scheduled for Tuesday, March 28, here
in Washington. At that time I suggest that you present your plans
and address the impact of such action on the community of Braille
production facilities and on individual readers of Braille
magazines. As there is no more important topic currently under
discussion, I am sure you will have a large and attentive
audience. [Which you do.]
If you agree, I will ask Lois Mandelberg to place you on the agenda for 9:00 a.m. You may consider the time as open, with no constraints.
That letter was carboned to several people, including most
of the people in this room. But, for Geoff Bull, who wasn't
onboard at that time and for others, that sets the stage for this
Bill Price, who is head of our business operation here; Brad Kormann; and I met with Beverly Milkman some time ago. I believe approximately a month ago. And we asked that any action to place the magazines being produced by Clovernook on the List be deferred or at least held until we had this meeting, where Jerry Mundy could bring to you his reasons for doing so. We indicated that everyone who was a producer at this time was a not-for- profit for-the-blind organization. While they didn't fall under the rubric of the committee, it seemed to us that there certainly would be an impact. I won't go into the details of what those impacts are, but there would be an impact on them. And there would also be an impact on the blind community through the increased costs and related probable cuts of the magazines that will be produced. Ms. Milkman agreed to that, and I indicated that I would send a transcript, an unedited transcript, of the conversations that would be held at the meeting. That is why we have a court stenographer here. He will be here through the whole day, but he will produce two documents: one of the first part of the agenda through noon, or whenever we complete our work--and then the second. The first piece will be transmitted to Beverly at that point.
Yesterday Jerry called and asked if he could show a video, and we said, yes, of course, he could if he would like. I turn the meeting over to you, Jerry, at this point.
Comments by Dr. Mundy
Dr. Mundy: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
First of all, just to express our thanks for John and Charlotte and myself for having the opportunity to be here today. This is the first producers meeting that I have attended. I know I have had staff attend meetings here in the past, over the years. And of course, as you know, Charlotte [that would be Charlotte Begley] has been very much involved in the Braille authority as well in terms of our representation there for a number of years, and we have had other staff prior to Charlotte being involved. So, delighted to be here today.
One of the reasons that I brought along the videotape was that I thought it would be an opportunity for us to present our organization to you in sort of a concise way. It is an eleven- minute videotape that we developed within the last year and a half or so. We developed two tapes. These are developed as public relations and education tools as well as a sales tool. The tape that I would like to show you this morning is a good representation of what we do at Clovernook and the products that we produce at Clovernook. And since we are talking about Braille production here, there is a segment of the tape that deals with that aspect. And it will give you a good flavor, I think, for what we do in our Braille printing house and who it is we employ, because I think that is an important element of what we are talking about here, at least from our perspective. Our major mission at Clovernook is to employ people who are blind, particularly those who are multi-disabled blind.
So if we have a person in the back there who would start the tape. It has a good audio, so those of you who cannot see I think should get quite a bit of it as well.
[Whereupon the videotape was shown. After this Dr. Mundy said:]
That and the other video that we have produced are available to anyone who wishes to either borrow them or keep them on file. We will make them available to you for either purpose.
Moving along then to my comments. What I have done is, I have a brief presentation here that I will read to you. It is available in large print and in Braille. So those of you who wish to take a copy of it with you are certainly welcome to a copy.
Also I noticed in the materials that are provided to all of us here with the agenda, Mr. Cylke has provided correspondence related to the Braille magazine program. And unless I missed it, I don't believe the letter that I wrote to you originally was included in there, Kurt, and if that letter was available to people through you, that would be fine. Or I can make it available if people would like.
Mr. Cylke: The letter that followed your telephone call?
Dr. Mundy: Pardon me?
Mr. Cylke: The letter that followed your telephone call?
Dr. Mundy: Yeah, that is it. But the original letter that I sent to you regarding placing the magazines on the Procurement List. That was dated January 16th. That is not included in the packet. So if anyone would like to have a copy of that letter, I would be happy to mail it to you if you want to leave a business card with me or if you want to provide it, Kurt, whatever.
Let me just go ahead and present to you what we have prepared here. It is brief. I have, as you know, John Mitchell, our Director of Manufacturing, and Charlotte Begley, our supervisor of transcription, of course, here as well. They can answer questions in areas of detail that I cannot answer as well as they. So certainly they will be free to enter into the discussion on this as well, if you have questions at the end of my presentation.
You will also notice that my presentation does not vary a great deal from the letter that I wrote to Mr. Cylke back in January. I think it is fairly straightforward. It presents why we wish to place the magazines on the federal Procurement List. So with that introduction I will go ahead and read this brief presentation.
The mission at Clovernook Center is to provide individualized training and opportunities for people who are visually impaired, particularly those with additional disabilities, to enable the attainment of an optimal quality of life.
A little bit about our history. Clovernook was established in 1903 by Florence and Georgia Trader as a residence for homeless blind women. In addition to residential services, Clovernook provided employment to the people that it served through its workshop. One area of employment that Clovernook developed was the translation and production of Braille reading materials. In 1931 when the Library of Congress began providing reading materials to citizens who are blind, Clovernook expanded its Braille printing operation to produce books for this program.
As time went on, the program, which today is known as the National Library Service, NLS, expanded the services provided to include over twenty-five Braille periodicals and more than 300 Braille books annually. In response to the increased need for low-cost, reliable Braille production for NLS, Clovernook invested heavily in its Braille printing operation during the 1960's to increase its production capacity from seven million Braille pages annually to over fifty million Braille pages annually. This increase in capacity brought about a large increase in employment opportunities within the printing operation, whereby today Clovernook employs over forty-five individuals who have visual impairments in the production of Braille reading materials. Most of these individuals have multiple disabilities.
Comment on recent changes: the Braille production work performed by Clovernook for the National Library Service has always been awarded on an annual basis through competitive bids. Until the 1992 bid request, the awards were based on a formula which factored in price, quality, and performance and timeliness of delivery. It was a 40/30/30 basis respectively for those three areas. Starting with Fiscal Year 1993, NLS dropped consideration of quality and delivery through a point system in determination of awards. Since this change Clovernook has seen a sharp drop in the awards it receives for magazines from NLS and a corresponding decrease in employment opportunities for people with visual impairments. The loss of some magazines was by less than one percent on the bid price, with prices being cut by producers as much as 39 percent between 1992 and 1993 in order to win the publication. If the formula for awards in 1992 had been used for 1993 work, Clovernook might have retained at least two magazines that were awarded to other producers.
The NIB affiliation: Since 1979 Clovernook has been associated with the National Industries for the Blind (NIB). Through this affiliation we are able to place federal procurements on set-aside, to provide employment opportunities for people who are blind. This process falls under the Wagner- O'Day Act of 1938 and then expanded to people with severe disabilities by the Javits Amendment in 1970. Clovernook currently produces nine different file folders for the Federal Government under this legislation. Although we could have, Clovernook did not elect to add work performed for NLS to this Procurement List, this procurement process. Our reasons for not doing this were twofold: (1) Pricing for the magazines was high enough to cover our operating expenses and provide additional revenues to help offset losses in other program areas, such as rehabilitation, supported living, and community rehabilitation.
And number (2) NLS has a history of opposing attempts to place items on set-aside under Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act. And in summation, in light of Clovernook's mission of providing employment opportunities as well as the change in the NLS bid process and a changing market, we are now pursuing placement of Braille magazine production work performed under contract for NLS on Procurement List set-aside under the provisions of JWOD.
And that is our statement. And if there are some questions? Mr. Cylke: I would like just to make a comment, and then you will notice on the agenda Bill Raeder has asked to make a statement. I will then entertain statements from anyone else, and we can enter into it.
Mr. Jernigan has just asked to be put on the List.
On February 24, 1995, Jerry, you wrote to Congressman Robert Portman and included the same basic comment that you just did about the quality and so forth. On March 2 you sent me a copy of that letter and that statement, and on March 2 I addressed that point. You had that from the second, for the last twenty-six days or so. And I would like to read for the group the paragraph. Those of you who have the package can see it, but those of you who don't have it, it is not in Braille. And this is the paragraph:
A review of the attachment by NLS staff indicates that the document contains a mix of correct and incorrect information. You are correct in stating that the system of numerical rankings in paragraph M-1 of the Braille magazine solicitation was changed, although the change actually occurred for 1993, not 1992. However, you are not correct in stating that NLS dropped consideration of quality and delivery when determining awards. Both are, in fact, considered when evaluating a bidder's responsibility and production capacity. A review of records indicates that the technical determinations of Clovernook's capacity for 1990 through 1995 were not affected in any way by this revision. Unless an agency had experienced difficulty in the quality or delivery of Braille magazines in a prior year which negatively impacted our estimate of production capacity, the award of magazines was based on the lowest bid up to the production capacity. Clovernook had not experienced difficulty in Braille magazine production during those years.
And then the letter goes on, the next paragraph saying, "The award of Braille magazines is consistent with the FAR, Federal Acquisition Regulations, and is awarded to the lowest responsive, responsible bidder. And the Clovernook history from 1990 to date is nineteen magazines in 1990, sixteen in '91, seventeen in '92, twelve in '93, seven in '94, and back to sixteen in '95." Bill Raeder, would you care to make your presentation?
Comments by Bill Raeder
Mr. Raeder: Thank you, Kurt.
Jerry, let me first address you. You and I have talked on the phone about this since January 17. And we understand what you are doing, and I want to say that we clearly interpret what you are doing as being your interpretation of what is the best interest of Clovernook and that you are not doing this for the purposes of hurting National Braille Press or other agencies or people whom we serve. And I appreciate the cooperative attitude that you have had on the phone with me and the long-term good relationship between our two agencies. I will say that in England they define, for politicians, the word "friendship." Friendship for politicians is those people who agree with you on a current issue. Fortunately we are not politicians here. We are producers of Braille books and agencies serving blind people with a mutual interest. And whatever the outcome here, I expect that a continuing friendship between our agencies will endure.
Notwithstanding that, you know and I know that, if your proposal or application is accepted by the Committee, then other agencies, at least National Braille Press, will be hurt. So I have asked to be put on the agenda here to make a statement to that effect, to expose the other side of the issue. And so we are here to explain (if in fact Braille magazines must be put on the Procurement List) how we feel that will hurt National Braille Press and blind people at large.
My first argument is, indeed, that National Braille Press would be hurt if the Committee were to adopt your proposal and your application. Clovernook may be a sheltered workshop, but Clovernook is not the only agency that hires blind people. National Braille Press has had, as its policy and its practice since our founding in 1927, to provide employment for blind people. And this is done not only in the direct labor area, but also in the management area. And it is done on a competitive basis. Our blind employees are paid and hired on a competitive basis with their sighted counterparts.
And if we go through our organizational chart, with respect to those departments that relate to the production of Braille magazines, including management, we can see where our employees are indeed blind and where they are not. Starting with myself as Executive Director of the National Braille Press, I am blind and have been the Executive Director since 1975. To my right is sitting Eileen Curran, who is our Director of Operations with the responsibility for our Braille contracts and the supervision and management of the whole production staff. She is blind. Her assistant is the Assistant to the Director of Operations, who is responsible for the input of these jobs, the administrative intake of jobs, and the flow of the administrative work through the job process, including scheduling and troubleshooting in the production process, who is also blind. Our transcription department at this time has no blind people in it. But it has had at times in the past, and there is a possibility for that in the future.
Our Braille proofreading department, as one might suppose, is made up of all blind people. In our plate fabrication department our PED operator is blind. Our pressing, both print and Braille, at this time does not happen to have any blind members, but there have been in the past and could well be in the future. And our collating, packaging, and shipping department is made up substantially of blind people and has been historically.
Some thirteen out of twenty-two employees, or better than 50 percent of our employees who are involved in the production of Braille magazines for NLS or elsewhere, are legally blind.
Now some of these people are being hurt, have been hurt in the recent round of bidding here at NLS for NLS magazines. In spite of the fact that we know paper costs and other costs have gone up, presumably labor costs have gone up. And for the most part prices and bids on NLS magazines have gone up. By Clovernook's own acknowledgement, you have bid aggressively in this last round and won a large share of the magazines. Counting dollars rather than magazine titles, my understanding is that this year you have won 69 percent of the magazine dollar contract from NLS versus 39 percent last year, versus 48 percent average over the prior five years, prior to this. And so 69 percent is a significant increase over the five-year history, and NBP has been hurt. We were almost put out of the NLS magazine business.
And our blind employees are hurt. We have had to reduce hours on the part of six employees, six blind employees. And, in fact, if it were not for the employees themselves, some of them would have been laid off. But they got together and said, rather than laying some off, which would be very hurtful to have a paycheck totally cut out, let's all, in one department, reduce our hours so that nobody needs to suffer the ultimate ax. However, in spite of that, one person we did have to lay off altogether, and that person has totally lost their paycheck. So blind people elsewhere benefit from the work provided by NLS. And I don't like to see our people hurt. I don't like to see Clovernook's people hurt. But I don't want to see the particular hurt that comes out of the aggressive bidding of Clovernook in this past year made permanent.
A second argument is that there is already provision in the law whereby Clovernook has favorable treatment in the bidding process at NLS. As does NBP and as does each and every non-profit agency interested in serving blind people. And that law (which is it?) 89-522, is implemented by NLS by providing a 10 percent cost or 10 percent price bidding handicap to agencies that are non- profit and are serving blind people. So there is already this benefit in the law that provides us agencies serving blind people with a handicap against the broad commercial market that might be interested in bidding for government work.
I don't believe that the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act or 89-522 was designed to benefit one agency or one group of blind people over another. I believe that those laws were implemented to provide blind people with a benefit as a whole, not to set some of us off in penalty against the benefits gained by others. And so I think, therefore, that in keeping with those two laws it would be inappropriate to add this additional handicap.
A third argument is that we are not here about file folders or military supplies or other goods and services that are necessary in the running of our government. We are talking about Braille magazines, which are mandated by Congress as a direct service from our taxpayers to the blind citizens of our country. And the government contracts with us to produce those goods, Braille magazines. And the budget, as we all know, is very limited for that Braille production. And in the current Congress it is likely to be at least as limited in the immediate future. And it is my understanding from talking with Beverly Milkman at the Committee, that, if this proposal is adopted, NLS will be required to pay approximately five percent more for the magazines in order to pay the fee of NIB for the monitoring of the work at Clovernook to assure that quality and prices are in line.
I believe there is an additional dollar cost because, as I think we producers all know, the competitive bidding process has been an effective mechanism to maintain price control. To the credit of NLS, back in the '70's the agency here, NLS, developed a longer list of vendors than they previously had so that there could be some very real competition. And now there are basically five of us that compete for these magazines. And the bidding, as we all know, has been tough. And that is a means of controlling price. If these magazines are taken off the open market for bidding and put on the Procurement List, they will no longer be subject to the direct price control of the marketplace. Yes, they will be subject, as I understand it, and I don't pretend to understand it fully by any means, but yes, they will be subject to monitoring by NIB to see that the price continues to be in line. But that monitoring, I think we must recognize, by NIB, is not being done by what is, I think we can suppose, a totally disinterested party. And so, therefore, I can only conclude that the prices that NLS will be paying for magazines will be hampered some if these magazines are put on the Procurement List.
And so for these reasons--the surcharge of whatever it is, approximately five percent--plus the lack of direct price control by the marketplace, is going to cause a cost increase in the NLS Braille magazines. Now given the tight budget, what does this mean? It doesn't mean taxpayers are going to pay more. It means Braille readers are going to get less. And I do not believe that that was the intent of the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act: that services be decreased to blind people.
Now I started with my first argument that NBP would be hurt. And actually there is another way in which NBP would be hurt. We, like, I suppose, Clovernook and the other producers, gain strength from the work that we do at National Braille Press. It provides us with a body of work that supports the production structure, the staffing pattern, the machinery, and plant onto which we can piggyback our other work. We don't really make any profit on the Braille magazines, but it does provide the structure that keeps the plant really rolling because NLS is our largest single customer.
Now we have been using that strength to conduct our own publishing program and direct service to blind people. And the books that we have been publishing are designed to provide practical information that helps blind people prepare themselves for opportunity and challenge in life: cookbooks, helping cooks to cook or parents to parent or computer operators to use their computers or books to inspire people who are not computer operators to get started and books on employment. Our Take Charge: A Strategic Guide for Blind Job Seekers, published in Braille a few years ago, won the President's Committee book award. So the strength that we have gained from the Braille magazine production has redoubled, so to speak, by strengthening our publishing program in direct service to blind people.
In my conversation with Beverly Milkman, I became aware that she was concerned with fairness and how her committee makes the decision. And although we clearly advocate that no magazines be put on the Procurement List, because the provisions of the Act are covered by 89-522 in terms of giving some benefit to blind people and because we don't want to hurt some blind people for the benefit of others, it is possible that her committee may decide against what we advocate and in favor of what Clovernook is asking. And if that happens, then fairness changes. Fairness now, and how the work is distributed to those of us who produce, is guided by the marketplace and by the rigor with which NLS conducts the bidding process. If magazines are to be put on the Procurement List, then fairness becomes a subjective decision on the part of the Committee. And I would like to say that, if it comes to that, then Clovernook ought not to get the 69 percent that they gained this year because of aggressive bidding, but rather the average of what they have gotten, say over the last five years--48 percent. And they ought not to get the magazines on which others have been competitive, but get the work on which Clovernook has traditionally been competitive.
So, in conclusion, because of the very nature of this product, a direct service to blind people, and because of the very nature in which the product is being produced by agencies serving blind people, such as National Braille Press with over 50 percent of the people involved in this production being blind people, [we urge] that the Committee in its wisdom decide that it is not necessary to put these magazines on the Procurement List in order to benefit blind people.
We have read the notice put in the Federal Register by the Committee, and we intend to respond to their invitation for further information. And we intend to respond by direct communication in addition to what Mr. Cylke is providing, the minutes of these meetings, to express our concern.
And, Jerry, let me close by saying I appreciate your forthrightness, and that is a good ingredient in our interagency communications. And so I appreciate the opportunity, Kurt, to come here and express my own forthrightness as to how NBP would be hurt and what we have advocated. Thank you.
Mr. Cylke: Thank you. Are there any producers who would like to make a statement before we enter into a discussion? Geoff Bull, did I see you raise your hand?
Comments by Geoffrey Bull
Mr. Bull: Yes, please, Mr. Cylke. Since I would like to make my presentation and questions directed to Mr. Mundy, perhaps I can move down the table. Okay. Thank you. Jerry, first of all, could you tell me when you decided to submit this proposal?
Dr. Mundy: Well, as we notified Mr. Cylke in January of our intent to place these magazines on the federal Procurement List, that decision did not come about quickly. You know, we had given a good deal of serious thought to this for quite a long period of time prior to finally making the decision and then my discussion with Kurt on the phone.
Mr. Bull: Okay. This was my thought, that you had been discussing this for a long time and--
Dr. Mundy: Not an easy decision.
Mr. Bull: This seemed a very opportune time to make the application. This recent increase in Braille, I note, brings you up to a point that you haven't reached for five years? Is that right? I believe you have not been at this level of magazine production for the past five years.
Dr. Mundy: For four years. Historically, I think as we all know around the table, Clovernook has done the lion's share of the Braille magazine business. And as we pointed out in my brief presentation, the two years prior to this current contract year have been quite a bit below that area. And that is what really--
Mr. Bull: I am taking Mr. Raeder's figure as 1990 to allow for this level. Could you tell me, Mr. Mundy, a little bit about your handicapped-staff percentages? What percentage of your staff relating to magazine production are handicapped?
Dr. Mundy: John will speak to that since he supervises that area.
Mr. Mitchell: The Braille Production Department is comprised of three main departments: the first being the transcription, which is a consolidation of both transcription and proofreading. That department currently has twenty-one employees, eleven of which are blind. The press operation room has six employees. Currently there is one individual in that operation that is blind. And then the binding operation has approximately thirty- five employees, all of which but one are blind, thirty-four out of thirty-five.
Mr. Bull: So you have forty-six out of about sixty-two, if my mental arithmetic is keeping up here.
Mr. Mitchell: That is correct.
Mr. Bull: So that is approximately 75 percent in round terms.
Mr. Mitchell: That is correct. And that includes supervisory staff.
Mr. Bull: I am very pleased to hear that. I notice the note of anguish, anxiety, and maybe a touch of anger in Mr. Raeder's voice when he was going over the staff, the handicapped staff, who may be affected by any radical change in magazine policy. I share that anguish, that anxiety, and a little bit of the anger when I look at my own staff. I, too, am blind, as the president of the company, completely accountable to the board of directors for the company's operation. I have only been in the chair for the past month, and I am already reviewing a couple of very strong candidates for middle management amongst our handicapped staff. We have one handicapped member in the transcription department. All the proofreaders are blind, our press, our plate- embossing operator, who is a wonderful young man, very productive, with the help of a very strong magnifier can just read the screen from a few inches, so he can produce the correct files. We don't have anyone in the press department at the moment, but we are peeking into other areas, by taking people from the Job Service Department, and we are also very much involved with the schools who are bringing their severely handicapped people into our production process on a job experience basis.
We only have approximately 25, 28 percent of our staff who are handicapped. Bill, I am aiming at your figures. They are wonderful. Do you have any formula, any equation, any philosophy, Jerry, that makes 75 percent of the staff applicable for monopolistic status as opposed to 50 percent or 25 percent? What is the formula here?
Dr. Mundy: Well, if we are talking about a formula that relates to doing work under the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act, there is a ratio of direct labor, blind direct labor related to sighted direct labor, that one must meet in order to qualify under the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act, produce under contract.
Mr. Bull: What is that, sir?
Dr. Mundy: Seventy-five percent.
Mr. Bull: Seventy-five percent. You have just about reached the magic figure.
Dr. Mundy: Well, we--And the way it applies, too, Geoff, is that it applies across the board in an organization; at least it has with us for many years. We have always had to apply our blind labor in our printing house against the total ratio in our organization because we have contracts to produce the file folders that you heard about a little earlier.
Mr. Bull: Right.
Dr. Mundy: So we have had to meet that ratio overall for our total employees who work in the employment center.
Mr. Bull: So if Bill and I can get up to 75 percent, we can make an application?
Dr. Mundy: That is correct. And I would encourage you to do that.
Mr. Bull: Very good. Now the level of magazine production that you are currently at, that is a satisfactory one for you as far as remaining at that level indefinitely? Because presumably, will you be part of the bidding process in the future?
Dr. Mundy: Well, I guess you are asking a couple of questions there. The major reason that we wish to place these magazines on the List is to stabilize our employment.
Mr. Bull: We would love to do that.
Dr. Mundy: Right. So what we are attempting to do now is to do just that. Our employment dropped considerably in the two previous years, and we had to lay something like eleven people off. So that seriously concerns us. And so that is part of the reason for pursuing the magazines. And then the second part of your question was what, would you mind repeating it?
Mr. Bull: I have forgotten it, too. Oh, are you going to bid?
Dr. Mundy: Oh, yes, thanks. In talking with Beverly Milkman, at the Committee, it was her feeling that, if these magazines are placed on the List, that we should not, that we should agree not to bid on the other magazines.
Mr. Bull: You are giving the four of us the 30 percent to squabble over.
Dr. Mundy: That was her statement to us. We have no problem with that.
Mr. Bull: Generosity, Jerry.
Dr. Mundy: You asked the question; I understand.
Mr. Bull: What factors do you see were prevailing that enabled you to come into the '95 magazine-bid process at several percentage points below your previous bids? How were you able to do this?
Dr. Mundy: You want to answer that?
Mr. Mitchell: Sure, I am the individual who is basically responsible for the generation of bid information. And quite frankly, we took the information that had been gathered over the prior two years, established trends by the other producers and how they were bidding the various publications, and established what we believed to be a price that we could quote to assure that we would win the work.
Mr. Bull: Was this a price that was economic?
Mr. Mitchell: As a package, it certainly is.
Mr. Bull: As a package it is.
Mr. Mitchell: That is correct.
Mr. Bull: So, therefore, why are you fearful of the competitive process if you feel you can hold at these prices? Why do you not stay with the competitive process? Because if you are able to bid at this level and why you haven't bid before, I don't fully understand, but why do you fear the competitive process? Mr. Mitchell: Well, one thing again, that occurred, and if I may I would just like to use Ladies Home Journal as an example of the impact that we feel that the change in the awards formula for the Fiscal Year 1993 publications had. Braille International at that time had dropped their pricing 39 percent from 1992 to 1993 to gain control of that publication and then dropped it an additional, I believe, 15 percent between 1993 and 1994 to retain publication for an additional year.
Mr. Bull: I think that was probably related to the purchase of a second Heidelberg Press, but I can't--
Mr. Mitchell: Well, to answer your question, I think that we feel that this is a prerogative that Clovernook has. We realize, too, that it has an impact; and, if it was Utopia, we would prefer that this impact not take place. However, we have to be concerned with Clovernook's interests and the employees of Clovernook. And this is essentially why this action is being taken.
Mr. Bull: I think what concerns me is either you put in a bid below costs and chose that point in time to make your application for the Javits-Wagner-O'Day. If that is the case, then we must be aware of future trends. You put in a bid that you feel you can hold to, and you have no fear of the competitive process. Now whichever case that may be, I am concerned. If it does mean that you put in a low bid and chose your moment in time to make the application for the JWOD, then we have to be very wary about any pricing increases in the future because, let's face it, we have X number of dollars purchasing, X number of dollars from the government potentially producing Braille magazines. Now away from the competitive process, or indeed if you put in a low bid here which you cannot hold to, that X is going to increase and the X cents per page (two cents, three cents, four, five, six, seven cents per page) will go up. If the budget is fixed, the amount of Braille produced for the Braille user is going to go down. And I think that is the aspect that concerns me most here.
There are the ambition and motives of Clovernook, and some of them I understand, but they are being put before the needs of Braille and the Braille user. Braille is a very scarce and precious commodity. We cannot jeopardize it through the ambitions or motives of one producer. You cannot, you cannot jeopardize Braille in this way. And I ask you to reconsider your application, because I feel without the restraints of costs, quality, and delivery--and as a Braille manager I know how well, how wonderfully well this competitive process works in keeping all three of those in check--without those restraints I feel there will be a decrease in Braille. I have other points, but I don't want to monopolize the floor at this point. Thank you.
Dr. Mundy: I would like to speak to the costs, the figures that you are alluding to, Geoff, and that Bill mentioned a little earlier. In terms of the...I believe it was stated something about the increasing cost as a result of placing the magazines on the Procurement List. And I would like John to just review for you a little bit of what impact that would have.
John, would you like to--
Mr. Mitchell: Certainly. Just overall, for Fiscal Year 1994, according to the attachment that was to Mr. Cylke's letter, which was Braille magazine comparison of awards by producer and year: if you will look at 1994, the total was $1,888,864. 1995 awards dropped more than eight percent to $1,729,976. And the information that Mr. Raeder had concerning the notion of a five percent increase on the magazines that are in question with Clovernook pursuing placement on the Procurement List is correct. It still would come nowhere close to the level for the outlay for 1994.
Mr. Bull: Well, we are not comparing apples with apples here. There are apples and oranges all mixed in here. What essentially I am saying is, if there is any increase in cost, particularly without those strengths of the competitive process, we will have less Braille.
Mr. Cylke: I would say at this point let's see if there are any other presentations, and then we can start the discussion later.
Are there any other producers? Yes, ASB.
Ms. Johnson: Yes.
Mr. Cylke: And if you would just identify yourself for the record.
Comments of Pat Johnson
Ms. Johnson: Pat Johnson, Associated Services for the Blind. The mission of Associated Services for the Blind is to promote the self-esteem, independence, and self-determination of blind and visually impaired people, providing them with training, education, materials, information, and support.
Over thirty years ago, before government involvement in the Brailling of magazines, Associated Services for the Blind in joint cooperation with the Curtis Publishing Company Brailled the Ladies Home Journal, Jack and Jill, and Children's Digest. When ASB was asked to surrender these magazines to the Library of Congress National Library Service, the agency was assured they would always have the opportunity to provide these magazines to blind consumers. Since that time ASB has lived up to its part of the agreement by continuing to purchase and update equipment for translation and high-speed duplication and has continued to hire blind and visually impaired people in its Braille department. At present 50 percent of the staff that produce Braille magazines are visually impaired.
The loss of revenues from Brailling magazines will have a substantial effect on the operation of ASB's Braille department, requiring drastic cuts. Many visually impaired staff will lose their jobs. However, even though we see our losses to be substantial, the greater loss would be involving people throughout the United States. Once competition is removed in the production of Braille magazines, we believe that service to the end user will deteriorate. And forcing magazines out of the Library of Congress National Library Service and making them available under the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act to agencies within National Industries for the Blind, the wrong signal will be sent to all blind people.
We would be encouraging blind and visually impaired people to take employment in supported situations at minimum wages, with dependence on government supplemental income, rather than encouraging blind and visually impaired people to seek jobs at competitive wages and benefits in the open job market.
We at Associated Services for the Blind are strongly opposed to the action of the Clovernook Center. Such action will result in a deterioration of service to blind people throughout this country. And we see such an action as regressive in that it encourages dependence, poor self-esteem, and condemns blind and visually impaired people to the work life within a sheltered workshop. We will do everything we can to prevent the implementing of the proposal as we hear it today. Thank you.
Mr. Cylke: Thank you, Pat.
I want to ask if there are any printing houses: There is one, would you care to make any comment?
Comments by Tuck Tinsley
Dr. Tinsley: I would like to start off just with a statement. The fact, Jerry, that you are a trustee of APH, when I asked you about the situation, if you understood the possible crucial impact on the rest of us, you said that it was your charge as Executive Director of Clovernook to present this information to the Committee and then see what happens. That is your charge. When I did sit at the table, I saw this letter to Congressman Portman, which surprised me, which is a political approach also. So personally I need to let you know that did bother me when I saw that.
The non-profit organizations sitting around this table provide products and services very necessary and do to a great extent complement one another. NLS provides the books in alternative formats and equipment. National Industries for the Blind provides employment. That is your major focus. And the others of us provide services and products and, believe it or not, do provide employment opportunities for the blind. APH at this point has over eighty disabled employees. It is important for NIB to recognize and respect the significance of the very limited contractual opportunities that the rest of us have to provide products for fees. Mr. Raeder elegantly pointed out that these are fees which are crucial in supporting the other valuable services and important products, many of which are orphan products, which we were all chartered to provide. That is the reason we exist.
NLS provides us by far the largest opportunities, the largest bulk of contractual opportunities. NLS has recognized the significance of these contracts and with the 10-percent rule gives preference to non-profits, whose true primary role (I do say true primary role; I want to emphasize that) is to provide services to the blind. The charters of APH and the other organizations around the table are limited in the products that we can provide. And we provide our services to a very limited, finite population. My understanding is that NIB workshops are not limited for the populations for which they can provide products.
The increase in the set-aside continues to chip away and has taken a heavy toll on the others of us, APH included. We had the six-cassette container. It is now in Mississippi. The four- cassette container is now in Royal Maid, also Mississippi. IRS: NIB has taken that, part of that, to Louisiana. We are talking about magazines now. What is to stop NIB from setting up a tape- duplication facility? As more and more are set aside, there is less and less available for us. Not 15 percent impact, but 10 percent and 5 percent and 10 percent and 5 percent and 10 percent and 10 percent. That is 50 percent, and soon we are gone. This is and will be devastating if it continues, and it could leave us with nothing available and nobody providing products and services but NIB sheltered workshops. And that would be a sin. Thank you.
Mr. Cylke: Thank you, Tuck. Mr. Jernigan, you asked for time.
Comments by Kenneth Jernigan
Dr. Jernigan: It has been a most refreshing kind of conversation, and candid. Very rarely do I ever hear anybody speak as directly and unequivocally as I have heard. It was several decades ago, I guess--Dr. Mundy said: "In Utopia, I could afford to be concerned about the rest of you. My job is to take care of Clovernook"--I am minded of a man who said that what is good for General Motors is good for the nation. He lived to say that he really didn't mean it that way. He had been misunderstood--but it stuck. What is good for Clovernook is not necessarily good for the blind. It may be--but not necessarily. I have some concerns, and I will state them quickly. Then I want to tell you what, since we are an action-oriented organization, we (meaning the National Federation of the Blind) propose to do.
In the first place I would be curious to have, if I could, some answers from producers--and I think that the first question can be a yes/no question. Maybe not. I wish to know if you have any employee that you pay less than the minimum wage. Now surely that is a yes/no. Who wants to start that?
Dr. Tinsley: I will start it.
Dr. Jernigan: Do you?
Dr. Tinsley: No.
Ms. Johnson: No.
Dr. Jernigan: Okay. Now wait--for the record that is APH and ASB.
Mr. Raeder: National Braille Press does not.
Dr. Jernigan: No.
Mr. Bull: A long way away from that at Braille International.
Dr. Jernigan: Do you?
Mr. Bull: A long way away from--
Dr. Jernigan: You do not.
Mr. Bull: That is right.
Dr. Jernigan: Dr. Mundy?
Dr. Mundy: We pay sub-minimum wages to some people.
Dr. Jernigan: Thank you.
Now for the second question I want to ask--and I don't want to be misunderstood as to the purpose of the question. This is not the time to discuss whether NAC is a good or a bad outfit. This is not the time to discuss whether one should or should not be accredited. I wish to know: Are you or are you not NAC- accredited?
Dr. Tinsley: No, APH.
Mr. Raeder: No.
Ms. Johnson: No.
Mr. Bull: No.
Dr. Jernigan: APH, no; ASB, no; Braille International, no. Dr. Mundy?
Dr. Mundy: We have been accredited by the National Accreditation Council since mid-70's.
Dr. Jernigan: The answer is yes.
Dr. Mundy: And we are happy to be accredited.
Dr. Jernigan: Yes, I understand you are pleased with it. The answer is yes.
All right, now I ask you to consider those two answers and then let me tell you these things.
If you are going to use sub-minimum wages and your competitors don't use sub-minimum wages, there is some problem in a level playing field for competition. If you are going to spend part of your money on NAC and if it is as controversial as the majority of the field believes that it is, that becomes a factor in some people's thinking, although not in other's. But now to the main issue. Mostly the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act is set up to see that people in sheltered employment can sell products, can make products--not primarily to sell those products to other disadvantaged minorities, but to the government at large. The blind are a disadvantaged minority. And I tell you very frankly that the National Federation of the Blind, although it may wish all of you well, is not primarily concerned with any one of you producers. It is primarily concerned that blind people in this country have an opportunity and a fair shake. And I believe that that is what Congress will be concerned with. We have had a talk with Beverly Milkman. We have said to her: "If this goes forward, you may expect that we will do our utmost. We will bring every possible influence to bear that we possess. And we will give it top priority--because we believe this proposal damages blind people."
In January we had occasion to hold a Washington seminar, and as part of that some of our people wanted to talk to their Congressional representatives. My count was that somewhat over 500 blind people went to Congressional offices. At that time we were unaware of some of these things. Otherwise our priorities might have been different. We primarily talked about Social Security at that time. I suspect we will go back. And I suspect we will want to inform the members of Congress that, in the name of an act that is supposed to help people with disabilities, blind people in our judgment are being hurt and deprived (or are potentially being deprived) of reading material, which is a program that I think is dear to the hearts of the Congress of this country. And we will not be unmindful of Mr. Raeder's comment about the 5 percent. In fact, many in Congress probably do not know that NIB takes 5 percent of everything that is produced in order to pay the fee, and I wonder how they will react when they understand that, regardless of other considerations, every page of Braille that is produced under this proposed system will have a 5 percent levy on it. I have a feeling that many of them won't like it.
I would say to you in conclusion (because I don't need to talk long--I think what I have said is clear) that many of you know that NIB as well as all programs for the blind is now under severe pressure. There is talk in Congress (and serious talk) about the possibility of eliminating special agencies for the blind as far as the federal government is concerned. There was a conversation held no longer ago than Sunday of this week with major groups in the cross-disability field, talking about the elimination of agencies for the blind. We were represented at that meeting and did what we could to advocate the position that agencies for the blind should continue.
One of the groups that is under severe pressure as far as its very existence is the whole Javits-Wagner-O'Day system, NIB and the Committee for Purchase. I suspect that a major fight in this area may be sufficient to tip the scale for people who already think that that program is a problem. You know that very often there has recently been talk of decentralizing purchases and of local communities' not going through any centralized procurement system. I believe you are playing with dynamite. I believe that Clovernook is asking for trouble where no trouble need exist.
I want to conclude by saying to you that the National Federation of the Blind will take action with reluctance because we respect the players around the table here, the producers. There has been a growing harmony in the blindness field in recent times. There has been more and more a combining to try to save programs and to try to improve programs. The kind of conflict which will occur if this proposal goes forward will dwarf many conflicts of the past. I tell you again, with real reluctance, that the National Federation of the Blind will do everything in its power to talk to Congress about all of the ramifications of this and to talk to the Executive Branch of Government. We will not be swayed--and we will be heard!
Mr. Cylke: Thank you. Jim, if you would like to come to the table.
Comments by James Gashel
Mr. Gashel: I am the Director of Governmental Affairs for the National Federation of the Blind, and I want to follow Dr. Jernigan's remarks in a couple of respects. For those of you who don't know and for the record here, I personally am involved with the Congressional activity that impacts upon blind people having Braille and books and with the general policies pertaining to the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act and rehabilitation, etc. I know that a lot of you are not involved in the Washington-type activity every day. You read the newspapers, but I want to give you my take on this.
And, Jerry, it is quite frankly to say that I am not even sure this is a good move for Clovernook. Let's start there. But even if it is, it is certainly not a good move for blind people and definitely not a good move for the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Program. And ultimately if the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Program were to go down, it would defeat your whole strategy. Now I don't know whether you have been checking the news or not, but affirmative action is not the most popular thing here. It may be in Cincinnati. I don't know. But it is not the most popular thing in Washington. And quotas are definitely not the most popular thing in Washington. It so happened that the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Program was created in 1938, before our country got to be against quotas. But the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Program is the ultimate quota program. The ultimate quota program. Yet it has so far escaped notice as being the ultimate quota program, but after the Javits- Wagner-O'Day Program was enacted, the Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted. The policy of the Americans with Disabilities Act is for employment in the competitive labor force and employment on the basis of equality. The social conditions are not now the same, and the employment conditions are not now the same for blind people that they were in 1938.
And if, as Dr. Jernigan has said, the Congress were made aware (and they basically are not aware) of the fact that the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Program is the ultimate quota program and is really segregated employment for blind people, not integrated employment, which is anti-federal policy today, then I think that the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Program would on its own merit not stand today. And Congress will know about that if an application like this goes forward, because an application like this is fundamentally not in the best interests of blind people.
I did a little calculation of the numbers. I am not sure they were all presented here, but it seems to me that employment of blind people would be diminished as a result of this proposal. I didn't even hear you, Jerry, say that employment of blind people in Cincinnati would be increased, just that it would be stabilized at 75 percent of sixty-two people, or something like that--that it would just be stabilized. Yet a number of the producers around the table said employment of blind people would go down. So I suspect, if we looked across the industry here, that what we would really be looking at is diminished employment opportunities for blind people, not more employment opportunities. I don't think that would stand the test of our modern thinking about employment opportunities, let alone stand the test of the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Program. When you go before the Committee for Purchase, what they are ultimately going to want to know is what does this application do to employment of blind people--not employment at Clovernook, but employment of blind people, period. If they have to say that the numbers are going to go down--well, that application ought to go down. I think you ought to withdraw the application rather than subjecting it to that kind of scrutiny.
I guess the last thing I would say, just adding to what Dr. Jernigan said, is this: the National Federation of the Blind a couple of years ago made as a priority in legislation to deal with the problem that we were having on the appropriations for the NLS program, because that program was going down, down, down. And it went down in real dollars--not just in 1993 inflation. That was a wake-up call to us. And we said, "Wait a minute. The number of books is going to go down. The number of magazines is going to go down unless we wake up and do something about it." And we did. We went to the Congress last year, and it is on the record. We took people to the hearings. We testified at those hearings. And the NLS appropriations went up by about six percent. Now, that ultimately is to the benefit of blind people and can mean more books and magazines. It is also to the benefit of the producers.
But what you are talking about here is a project that would mean a real cut in the purchasing power of the NLS appropriation. And one thing that Congress has focused on more than anything else right now is, in terms of the NLS program, that blind people want more purchasing power out of this program and want the highest appropriation that Congress can possibly approve. Fundamentally Congress is not going to like the idea that it is going to cost more to purchase a certain number of magazines from one supplier. That is fundamentally inconsistent with what the Congress is looking at right now. And I just think that opens up, not only the appropriation, but the whole purchasing idea under the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act, to the kind of scrutiny that you ought not to be bringing upon this field right now. Thank you very much.
Mr. Cylke: Thank you. Is there anyone else who would like to make a statement at this point? Then I suggest we are running just a little off our agenda. Let's take a fifteen-minute break and come back at quarter past eleven, and we can continue the conversation. [Whereupon, a short recess was taken, and then the meeting was reconvened.]
Mr. Cylke: We are still on the same topic, which is the
Clovernook matter. Are there any comments, or is there any
discussion that you would like to entertain?
Ms. Curran: I have a question.
Mr. Cylke: Would you identify yourself and then--
Ms. Curran: Eileen Curran from National Braille Press.
Jerry, you mentioned that, when NIB looks at your Braille production to see if you have 75 percent blind people, and you do at the moment, you then said they look at the whole agency as well. If you were to increase the number of blind people in your file folder business in five years and decreased the number of blind people in your Braille production, would you still be considered eligible for Braille production of magazines on procurement for--
Dr. Mundy: The way the ratio is figured is on the basis of, at the present time at least, on the basis of the total number of people employed in the employment centers in terms of that ratio. And I believe I am correct on that. We have people from NIB who could probably comment on that better than I. But we have been working under this for a number of years, and that is essentially it.
Ms. Curran: Okay, but there is no guarantee that it would stay that way for Braille magazine production, will stay with 75 percent blind people.
Dr. Mundy: I would like to add, though, I think it is extremely important that people understand our mission. I opened with my comments in terms of what Clovernook's mission is, and that is to employ visually impaired blind people, particularly those who are multi-disabled blind people. If we were to look at the constellation of the people we employ in our Braille printing, you would see that a very large percentage of those people employed there are multi-disabled. We have been doing this for many years. We have employed people in that area. We have no plans to decrease that number of people. In fact, we changed our name in 1990 because we wanted to be able to express what we are doing, and that is providing employment opportunities for people who are visually impaired, especially those who are multi- disabled and blind. So we are not looking toward a decrease in the number of people that we are employing. We are looking toward increasing that number of people.
So while there have been some comments in terms of how it might cause a decrease overall in terms of the number of people producing Braille, we believe that, while this is stabilizing our employment of those we employ presently, it will give--it will enable us the opportunity to provide additional employment in the future.
Mr. Mitchell: If I could just add something.
Mr. Cylke: If you could just give your name.
Mr. Mitchell: John Mitchell with Clovernook. The comment was raised earlier about the concern that they didn't hear of any additional employment opportunities being created by this move. Since October, since the announcements of the awards for the magazines, Clovernook has hired nine additional individuals who are blind in the production of these Braille publications. Now certainly, if this is pursued and we are successful, it will not require any additional labor at this time, beyond what was hired starting in October of 1994.
Mr. Cylke: Are there any other comments? Jim Gashel?
Mr. Gashel: I am the one that raised the question about the additional employment opportunities. And what I was really talking about is this: you have already created the additional employment opportunities through the bidding process, so that is not being done under the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act. The test under the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act is do you create additional employment opportunities, and what you are telling us is that you won't--at least not right now. Nobody knows several years down the line. But that is one thing that the Committee for Purchase looks at. They boldly tell the Congress, "We created through this program X thousand new job opportunities for blind and severely disabled people." Your number would be zero right now as I understand it. Now, what you also need seriously to look at is what this does to employment of blind people, not just in Cincinnati, Ohio, but in Philadelphia, and Louisville, and not to exclude the rest of you--also in Boston.
Mr. Bull: Florida.
Mr. Gashel: Yeah, not to exclude--wherever these places are. You are part of a global economy almost. You are at least part of the U.S. economy--and part of the employment opportunities for blind people throughout this entire country. You really ought to have a little broader vision than Cincinnati. That will be the test--and I would challenge you other producers to get your figures together because we need to show what impact this action would have on employment opportunities for blind people. We know it won't increase any at Clovernook. That is the answer to that. Now, the question is: will it decrease employment opportunities for blind people in these other locations--and the answer to that is clearly yes. The number I don't know, but I think we ought to get that number together.
Mr. Cylke: Thank you.
Dr. Tinsley: Tuck Tinsley, APH. Is there a representative of the President's Committee for Purchase?
Mr. Heyer: Yes, there is.
Dr. Tinsley: Wonderful. Could you tell me how you determine whether or not you place a product on the Procurement List? If something is tossed to you, what goes through your committee's unified head?
Mr. Heyer: Okay, I am John Heyer. I am with the Committee for Purchase from People who are Blind or Severely Disabled. The question as I understand it is what does the Committee consider when it makes a decision to add something to the Procurement List?
Dr. Tinsley: Yes, sir.
Mr. Heyer: Okay. We have in our regulations--there are several factors. One is what is just being discussed, the creation of employment for people with disabilities; the capability of the organization to provide the service that is being considered; the impact on the current or most recent contractor for the item; and also we consider any other comments which we receive during the comment period. And as I think it was noted earlier, there is a comment period currently going on concerning the proposal to add the sixteen magazines which Clovernook is currently producing to the Procurement List.
Dr. Tinsley: What are the parameters of the impact? What characteristics do you look at in determining whether or not there is an adverse or a negative impact?
Mr. Heyer: Okay. The term which is in our regulations is severe adverse impact on the current contractor. We look at the bottom line on this really, and it dates from some litigation early in the Committee's history: a situation in which as a direct result of the Committee's action, the contractor which is currently providing it, particularly if it is a contractor which has been doing this same item for a long time and has become dependent on it, that they could well go out of business. That is the worst case, bottom line. Obviously the Committee is not going to cut things quite that close. We do look at the situation, the contractor, how big a piece of that contractor's business is involved here, what is likely to happen as a direct result of the addition of these particular items. Is there a preceding history; is this something where this contractor has been impacted in the past by other actions of the Committee in adding things to the Procurement List?
Dr. Tinsley: So the cumulative effective action is--
Mr. Heyer: Is a factor, yes.
Mr. Cylke: Are there any comments or points?
Dr. Tinsley: This might be naive, but I am not sure of the flow of the money. If $10,000 is set aside--that is, take $10,000 away from NLS budget, does it go directly from Congress to NIB, or does it flow the other way?
Mr. Heyer: No, it continues to flow through NLS. Basically the way the program operates is, once something has been put on the Procurement List, any government agency which wishes to buy this particular item is required to go to the designated non- profit agency that the Committee has established through this process, and they would continue to contract with the agency--in this case, presumably, assuming that this were added to the Procurement List, NLS would continue to buy the specific Braille service of the specific magazines from Clovernook.
Mr. Cylke: If for example, Tuck, (and as you know we are going out with a survey of our magazines) if the magazine selection changed and fourteen of the sixteen magazines happen to be produced by Clovernook, but it was determined that they would not be produced any longer, Clovernook would then be losing all but two magazines. You would have the other fourteen open to competitive bid.
Dr. Tinsley: And does the agency that was contracting in the past have a voice in this, knowing that--
Mr. Heyer: Oh, yes.
Dr. Tinsley: Okay, so NLS would have a voice in this also.
Mr. Heyer: They are consulted. We have been, you know, we do work with them. We have worked with them in other items that have been set aside. We do ask, look to them particularly in the areas of capability, particularly in this case being as Clovernook is the current contractor for the magazines in question. I think this is a factor that at least partly has already been addressed.
Mr. Cylke: Yes, it should be clear that the notification of this action came from Jerry Mundy to us, not from Beverly Milkman. And the initiation of the meeting that we had with Ms. Milkman was at our initiative. To my knowledge, Bill, have we had any contact from them about the announcement in the Federal Register or anything? Bill Price?
Mr. Price: No.
Mr. Cylke: We have not been contacted by you.
Dr. Jernigan: I want to ask the representative of the Committee for Purchase a question. Suppose that these are put on the Procurement List, and then suppose that a year or two years from now prices are raised. What kind of review both nominal and real does the Committee have on price increases?
Mr. Heyer: Well, the Committee is required by the law to set an initial fair market price and to review the price and to adjust as conditions warrant. The Committee has a rather complicated pricing system, which determines if the price does remain in the market ballpark. You have heard this 5 percent kicked around. Basically what we are looking at would be the median of the bids, plus or minus about 5 percent. And the price is normally kept in this range. The price is also any price changes. We do discuss them with, in this case NLS, and attempt to get a concurrence.
Dr. Jernigan: One more question: since there are very few producers of Braille magazines in this country, do you have any idea how you would set a fair market price if Clovernook became the only producer of Braille magazines and if it increased its prices?
Mr. Heyer: I would like to say I think that it is extremely unlikely that that is going to occur. I mean the price basically. It is a situation where, as we have indicated, there are sixteen magazines currently being proposed, and I would like to mention that basically under this proposal that is the maximum number that can be added to the Procurement List. The Committee may determine, for reasons of impact or otherwise, to add a lesser number than the sixteen. So I mean, they may add one. They may add none. So I think the chances that they would be totally, dominate the entire market--I think particularly given the sort of thing I have heard today--and this I understand will be transmitted to the Committee as part of their decision--I think it is unlikely that it could take over the entire market. And I don't think that is what is intended.
Dr. Tinsley: Mr. Heyer, you said you weighed the position of the person you're providing, or agency you are providing services to. Do you know NLS's position on this request? Yes, or no? I am just wondering.
Mr. Heyer: I am not sure that I understand. We haven't gotten a formal position as yet. We have had some things, I must apologize, I am just standing in for Ms. Milkman, who is out of town. I have been out sick a good long while, so I have not been involved in any of this other than be told, "Come and listen to see what is going on."
Dr. Tinsley: Okay, may I address a question to Mr. Cylke? Mr. Cylke, for the record could you or would you mind stating NLS's position on this request?
Mr. Cylke: At this point in time what we have communicated to Beverly Milkman is that we wish to present the impact on the Braille production community for consideration by the Committee. We expressed--concern perhaps is too strong--but reservations about the ability of the Committee to the point that Mr. Jernigan just raised, the ability to identify appropriate price levels, ability to have producers continue in the manner that they are producing now. And at this point it is an exploratory situation. But I do wish to stress that at no point has the Committee contacted us. I was unaware until I heard at the table this morning that the announcement was put in the Federal Register. I was told that the progress would not take place until after this meeting. So, that it is--
Mr. Heyer: I would like to clarify that if I could based on what I was told. As I understood it, it was our understanding that the Committee would not make a decision until after this meeting. However, because of the length of the administrative process, which we are required to go through under our law, it was necessary for us to put this notice in the Federal Register. And I apologize for the fact that apparently word did not get to you on that.
Mr. Cylke: Not only did word not get to me on that, I wasn't aware that that was the position of the Committee.
Mr. Heyer: All right. Well, that was basically what was relayed to me.
Mr. Cylke: Yes, I understand.
Mr. Raeder: Point of information. Bill Raeder here. We have read the notice in the Federal Register, which came out about two weeks ago. And it invites comments up to April 10th.
Mr. Heyer: Right. Yes, this is basically--we are required to put this notice out with a thirty-day comment period. And I would urge you to get the comments in, although I understand that a transcript of what is going on today will be provided to the Committee.
Mr. Cylke: Yes.
Mr. Heyer: And the Committee will consider anything that was said in this room this morning. If you would care to comment directly, there is an address in there. I have a couple of copies of this notice if anyone would like to see it or to get our address. We would like to see something by the 10th. We are not firmly inflexible. We will not slam the door in your face if it is not on our desk by the end of that day. But we would like to see it shortly thereafter at the latest, so we can continue. What we need to do at this point is to provide all the information the Committee is required to consider and give them a chance to vote on this matter.
Mr. Cylke: Are there any other questions or points?
Mr. Gashel: Mr. Cylke, I would just say this: With respect to the Federal Register notice; now we have that. Jerry, apropos of the comments that have been made around here, quite frankly, unless we were to hear from you that this application is not going to go forward, there is a lot of activity that is going to have to go forward. Because it is very clear from what our friend from the Committee for Purchase just said, their administrative process is going forward. And that means that the whole thing is up in the air. The Congress will be involved as we have discussed. The Appropriations Committees will be involved.
This is right at the time when the NLS appropriation is on the table. Mr. Cylke doesn't have to tell you how delicate that is. It has been quite delicate in recent years. This is right at the time when the whole subject of the Rehabilitation Act and its reauthorization and its folding into employment and training programs in general is being considered. All of that is on the table on Capitol Hill. And we will absolutely have no choice, unless. . . . You are the only one really, in effect, in control of this process. You could abort it today by withdrawing that application. And I realize that is a tough decision. It is the best decision for blind people.
I hope you will make that decision because otherwise you give the rest of us (and I think that is true of all of the producers in this room as well as the National Federation of the Blind) absolutely no choice but to do the things that we have to do for the broader benefit of blind people. The big thing for you to do would be to withdraw that application and show how much more interested you are in preserving these programs and in helping them grow rather than constraining them.
I would just like to ask one question of the man from the Committee, and that is: if we want there to be one, is there an opportunity for a public hearing before the Committee?
Mr. Heyer: This is something basically, what I would ask you to do would be to make a request to the Committee to see if a public hearing would be an appropriate thing to do. Normally the Committee does not get into public hearings, although we have on occasion had them. Particularly, what we normally do is we permit interested speakers to come to one of our committee meetings. And I do believe we have a committee meeting on, early in April. It would be possibly an appropriate time for this.
Mr. Cylke: Thank you. Any other questions?
Mr. Decker: I have one comment.
Mr. Cylke: This is Jack Decker.
Mr. Decker: Jack Decker from American Printing House. As I look at the comparison of dollars going to each of the facilities over the years, I notice in the last year that all facilities except one went down from the total dollars awarded. Two of the facilities--and we are one of them--are at a level that we would have to seriously look at whether we should continue in Braille magazine production. There is just not enough dollars there to warrant coming back. As long as you have the 1.6 million dollars sitting out there that if you are competitive, if you have a shot at, you keep coming back. But if you take two thirds of it away, then we really have to seriously look at whether it makes sense to continue coming back. So I think there is a real possibility that one to two of the Braille magazine producers may not be here in the future if this happens.
Dr. Jernigan: I would like to say something to Mr. Heyer. For the record I tell you that there is a room full of people here--and that ought to be enough to make a record. We request a hearing before the Committee.
Mr. Heyer: All right, sir. Well, I will report that back to the Committee. Under our regulations the Committee has to make a determination as to whether that is appropriate, and we will be getting back to you quite shortly on that.
Mr. Cylke: Bill Raeder.
Mr. Raeder: I would like to endorse the comment from Jack Decker here a moment ago, that National Braille Press was so hurt by the current round of bidding for Braille magazines that it is a major subject before our next executive committee meeting as to whether we would be continuing in Braille magazine work at all for NLS.
Mr. Cylke: Bill Price.
Mr. Price: Bill Price. You know, I would like to respond to Tuck's question, which Mr. Cylke did respond to, whether or not we had made our position clear to the Committee at any point. We did have the meeting that was mentioned earlier with Mr. Cylke and Brad Kormann and myself with Beverly Milkman and Will Harmon and another person from the Committee or from the NIB. One of the things that we did, in fact, point out to Ms. Milkman personally in that meeting was our real concern. And I will say I think we expressed it as a concern. I certainly meant to get it across as a concern that it isn't just simply removing sixteen magazines, and then the other people would have all the competitive opportunity to bid on what is left.
My concern is now (and it was expressed to Beverly Milkman) that it has a significant impact on the competitive process that remains. Just as you have stated, our process here for procurement would be significantly impacted in a negative way and just for the reasons that Jack Decker and Bill Raeder have just mentioned. We would be concerned about who would be left to bid on the magazines, what the prices of those bids would have to be, and the overall impact on our procurement and the cost to magazines. That, indeed, was stated more or less in that manner in that meeting with the Committee.
Dr. Tinsley: If you preface what you said by "We are opposed to it," it makes it really clear.
Mr. Cylke: I didn't state it that way because it is inappropriate for me to do so, but Bill has--Yes?
Mr. Bull: Geoff Bull, if I may come back? On the subject of the impact that this proposal would have, Braille International is one of the new kids on the block. We came in 1979, and I think we made a useful contribution in bringing the cost of Braille books into a very competitive area. I think we made a significant impact upon Braille books.
In '93 we moved into premises twice the size we were currently occupying, at great expense, in anticipation of having a competitive market in the magazine production area. We at Braille International are going to have to review our situation very, very seriously if this proposal goes through.
I would also like to elaborate on a fact that Bill Raeder mentioned, because I think it is a very important one. And it is the platform that the government funding gives us to do other things. We are not using government funds to produce Braille for individuals or employees of small companies, church groups, organizations of the blind--but we do have the equipment, the staff, and the building, which affords a wonderful platform to make available these other Braille projects, which are so preciously and desperately needed. And our base is decreased through the amount of funds available for other purposes. Then there must be an ongoing effect on the availability of Braille to the low-volume user. Also with the lower margins and disproportionately high overheads arising from the lack of the magazine funding, this I think would have a roll-on effect against the cost of Braille books, because our overheads would be higher proportionately, and our margins would be slimmer. So I think that would have a roll-on effect in other areas regarding price. Thank you.
Dr. Mundy: Kurt, I know you are nearing the end of the time for comment here, and I just wanted to be able to say (and this is Jerry Mundy for the record). I just wanted to be able to say at the end of our discussion here that one of the things I said during my presentation earlier is that we did not arrive at the decision to proceed with placing magazines on the Procurement List in an easy fashion. It was not something that we made a decision on overnight. It was something that we gave a lot of serious thought to. So I want to reinforce that. It was not an easy decision.
Secondly, I think it is extremely important that you all understand that we are here today, and we are listening very closely to what you have had to say. The process continues. As Mr. Heyer has already pointed out, the process is yet to be culminated with the decision.
I am willing to follow the process through. As I said at the beginning, this was not an easy decision. I think I stated clearly in my presentation why we decided to do so. And I still believe that that was the appropriate decision on our part. Our intent is, of course, not to have adverse effect on any of the other members of the Braille production community. That was not our intent. It is not our intent yet. We frankly believe that we, as a major producer of Braille (and have been for many, many years), are not having any more of an adverse impact on the Braille-producing community by doing this than if we were not to do it. We are simply now able to stabilize the employment of our people and allow us to employ more people in the future by doing this. So that is my comment. Thank you.
Dr. Tinsley: Jerry, you said you were listening--
Mr. Cylke: This is Tuck Tinsley.
Dr. Tinsley: Yeah. You prefaced it by saying you are listening, but did you hear what we said, because I am concerned with your last comment, that you don't see a negative impact. Do we need to go through it again?
Mr. Bull: Are you disputing everything that we have said this morning?
Dr. Mundy: It will, of course, be in print, and I suppose we could listen to it again on tape, if we wish to. So I, you know, what I am saying to you, Tuck, and to the other members of the group here, is that we have taken what we have heard here today very seriously, and we will continue to do so. I don't know whether that answers your question. I think I heard what was said here.
Dr. Tinsley: Okay.
Mr. Cylke: Are there any other final comments? I would just add one point. It should be understood that, in the system in which we live, the placing of the magazines on the List is not under NLS control. And it is not under our control whether we agree or disagree with that placement on the List. We have by legal constraints to act. That is why we don't express an opinion.
The meeting today was not to direct any comment at all from the Library of Congress, but to open it up to a public hearing so that producers could indicate the impact on them and so that consumers could reflect the impact on them. I have heard what has been said, and I trust that Mr. Heyer and others have heard it. I know that Ms. Milkman will have access to the testimony, and that is what we can provide. At this point I will close this part of the meeting and say thank you very much.
After these remarks by Mr. Cylke, the meeting was adjourned. Those who were present went their separate ways and doubtless pondered what they had heard.
The End of the Story
And what of the rest of the story? It speaks with an unmistakable voice and is quickly told. The lesson is clear and requires no comment:
Cincinnati, Ohio April 5, 1995
Dear Mr. Cylke:
Once again thank you for taking the time to talk with me by telephone yesterday. After considerable thought we have made the decision to withdraw our application to the President's Committee for Purchase from People Who are Blind or Severely Disabled to place sixteen (16) magazines on the Federal Procurement List. In order that there be no confusion, the magazines referred to are those listed in the Federal Register, Vol 60/#47/Friday, March 10, 1995.
We look forward to continuing the good working relationship we have with you and your staff in the future.
Gerald W. Mundy, Ed.D.
The Clovernook Center--Opportunities for the Blind
cc: Beverly Milkman, Executive Director, President's Committee Judy Peters, President, National Industries for the Blind
DULUTH LIGHTHOUSE FOR THE BLIND TAKES A BATH AND FINDS ITSELF IN HOT WATER
From the Editor: Here's an interesting problem for you. What
would you do if you administered a sheltered workshop for the
blind which had always been assumed by uninformed members of the
general public to benefit blind people? Then suppose you found
the agency's dirty linen being thoroughly aired in a series of
hard-hitting stories on the local television news broadcast? What
could you do to try to rescue the situation?
That is the unenviable situation the Duluth Lighthouse for the Blind found itself in last fall. As one of the dwindling number of so-called sheltered workshops employing blind workers that is still throwing away good money on accreditation by the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC), the Lighthouse had never deluded blind people into believing its propaganda, but the TV reporter's revelations came as a shock to the general public. The following is the article describing the TV news series which appeared in the Winter, 1995, edition of the Minnesota Bulletin, a publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota. It was written by Curtis Chong, First Vice President of the NFB of Minnesota and a longtime observer of the blindness field. Here it is:
[Photo #5: Portrait Caption: Curtis Chong]
Duluth Lighthouse for the Blind Embroiled in Controversy
by Curtis Chong
For many years the Lighthouse for the Blind in Duluth has
been regarded by the community as the premier agency for the
blind in the Arrowhead region. So entrenched in the public mind
is the Lighthouse that once a public official was heard to
proclaim with pride that the Lighthouse was the most wonderful
employer of blind people in the area. In short, the Lighthouse
has traditionally been viewed by the public as a benevolent and
charitable benefactor to people who suffer from the tragedy of
This is not how most blind people regard the Lighthouse. By and large it is often criticized; traditionally disliked; and generally viewed as a repressive, paternalistic agency. Blind people in the Arrowhead area who can't find employment anywhere else have turned in desperation to the Lighthouse for help and have accepted work in the agency's sheltered workshop as a last resort. Instead of providing the necessary training to help these individuals find meaningful employment elsewhere in the community, the Lighthouse has typically retained more productive workers in order to keep production high and continue to receive government contracts while laying off those workers deemed to be less useful.
Perhaps the most infamous attempt by the Lighthouse to expand its business was the acquisition of contracts to produce toilet tissue for the Federal government. This project was not favorably regarded by the blind community. Yet the Lighthouse managed to squeeze the State of Minnesota for more than $150,000 in grant money, which the state then permitted it to spend without proper checks and balances.
In mid-November, 1994, a three-part investigative report on the Lighthouse was aired on Channel 6 in Duluth. Prepared by television reporter Barbara Reyelts, the report showed the public that the Lighthouse is every bit as paternalistic, repressive, and discriminatory as blind people have maintained for years. Here are some interesting tidbits of information from the story:
The acting director of the Lighthouse is Nick Thul, who was appointed to fill that position after Michael Conlan resigned, though Conlan still serves as a consultant. The Director of Communications (Public Relations) for the Lighthouse is Nancy Roche, who just happens to be Mr. Thul's daughter. And the Lighthouse expects the public to believe that Ms. Roche did not get her job because of her relationship to her father?
Sandy Wilmot is a blind woman who worked for seventeen years at the Lighthouse as a liaison between shop workers and the administration. Two years ago the Lighthouse management eliminated Ms. Wilmot's position, ostensibly for financial reasons. She was then fired. When the reporter questioned Thul about this treatment, he claimed he had never heard of Sandy Wilmot. Citing his eleven years on the Board, Thul said, "If she was an employee that was mistreated, I think as an active board member I would have known about it."
Shortly after Thul took charge of the Lighthouse, the press was invited to a reception and news conference. During the two- hour event reporters were not introduced to a single blind shop employee. They could film production workers on the line, but they were not given a chance to meet or talk with any of them.
Nick Thul was reported to say that the Lighthouse had every intention of advertising for and hiring a blind person to work at the reception desk. Blind people in Duluth expressed a different view: why not hire a blind person as executive director of the Lighthouse?
Recently, the Lighthouse doubled its shifts, going to round- the-clock production. But not one of the new people hired was blind, and no one in the blind community knew about any job openings until after they were filled.
To win lucrative government contracts, the Lighthouse must ensure that 75 percent of its direct production labor force is blind. In administrative and management positions, however, the Lighthouse employs only two people who are blind. Additionally, the Lighthouse has apparently found a way to sidestep the 75 percent direct-labor requirement by setting up a separate for- profit corporation. This corporation has yet to hire anyone who is blind.
Today the Lighthouse finds itself embroiled in controversy with the very people whom it is supposed to serve--namely, blind people themselves. Current and former blind employees have signed and distributed a petition calling upon the Lighthouse to make reforms. We understand that a lawyer has been retained and that the entire matter is also being investigated by Services for the Blind. We know that longtime Lighthouse director Mike Conlan is no longer in charge of the agency. But instead of leaving in disgrace, Mr. Conlan is now serving as a consultant, meaning that he is still being paid by the agency. If the television reports we have seen are accurate, Nick Thul certainly does not represent an improvement. Blind people are still expected to keep quiet and accept with gratitude everything that the Lighthouse dishes out to them. As a token gesture the Lighthouse plans to hire a blind receptionist. Then, to add insult to injury, the Lighthouse has set up a subsidiary, for-profit corporation to sidestep the federally-mandated 75 percent direct labor requirement.
How will all of this shake out in the end? We hope that matters will work out in favor of blind people in the Arrowhead region. The public image of the Lighthouse has already been tarnished. Victory for the blind is certainly possible.
That's the way the Minnesota Bulletin reported the situation
in Duluth, and, no question about it, the television expos
damaged the reputation of the Lighthouse. From the agency's point
of view something had to be done immediately to counteract the
negative publicity the sheltered shop had recently received. Then
it apparently occurred to someone on the staff that positive
publicity might be gleaned from the agency's recent
reaccreditation by NAC. The idea demonstrated a perverse
ingenuity. Those who know the truth about NAC and the hypocrisy
of its seal of good practice, of course, would recognize such an
announcement as an occasion for apology, but the Lighthouse could
count on the popularity of the concept of accreditation and the
public's ignorance about NAC to protect the workshop from any
possible embarrassment. Even so, the PR offensive required some
remarkable twisting of the facts. For example, by the end of 1994
there were sixty-nine NAC member agencies, not the hundred
mentioned in the Lighthouse press release. In NAC's heyday in the
early eighties it could boast only 104 agency members, but those
days are far in NAC's past.
With a startling disregard for truth, the writer of the announcement made the statement that NAC was the only accrediting body in the blindness field--as though the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) were not already accrediting, by its own count, some 500 agencies serving blind consumers. Moreover, the writer talked about NAC standards as though they were actually used to measure the excellence of the agency engaging in the accreditation self-study. Those unfamiliar with NAC's compelling need to accredit any agency willing to pay its fee could be pardoned for making such an assumption, but no one actually in the blindness field can pretend that NAC standards actually impose any requirement of excellence at all. (See the May, 1995, issue of the Braille Monitor.)
But the most amusing and amazing piece of creative mis- direction in the press release was the statement that the Duluth Lighthouse is one of a virtual handful of the 3,200 agencies serving blind people to demonstrate sufficient excellence in service delivery to earn the coveted NAC accreditation. Well, that's one explanation for the shrinking group of NAC member agencies, but not one that would ordinarily come to mind. Here is the Duluth Lighthouse press release as it was printed on November 29, 1994, in the Duluth Budgeteer:
Lighthouse Awarded Maximum NAC Reaccreditation
The Lighthouse for the Blind, Duluth, Minnesota, announces
their reaccreditation by the National Accreditation Council
(NAC), the only standard accrediting body for organizations that
serve individuals who are blind and visually handicapped.
The Duluth Lighthouse has been reaccredited for the maximum allowable period through December 31, 1998. Of the 3,200 agencies serving the blind and visually impaired nationwide, only 100 agencies have achieved NAC accreditation.
In his congratulatory notification, Alfred Rosenbloom, Chairperson of the NAC Commission on Accreditation, said, "The commission is pleased to learn of the many commendable activities of the Lighthouse since the time of initial accreditation. My sincere congratulations to the staff and Board of the Lighthouse for the Blind for this maximum award of reaccreditation."
Since its inception, one of NAC's major responsibilities has been the development, publication, and distribution of standards of best practice in services for the blind and visually impaired. These standards are used as the bases of the accreditation process.
The accreditation process provides the framework and tools that an organization can use to systematically and thoughtfully evaluate the quality and effectiveness of its resources, procedures, and services in comparison to national standards and to develop specific plans for improvement of its operation.
The accreditation process emphasizes public accountability. An organization demonstrates its commitment to operating in a responsive and responsible manner through open, broad-based internal evaluation and planning, combined with external peer review.
The Duluth Lighthouse for the Blind is a private, nonprofit organization established in 1921 to provide rehabilitative and employment services to the blind in this region. It is the largest, most comprehensive facility serving the blind and visually impaired between the Chicago Lighthouse and the Seattle Lighthouse.
MORE OF THE SAME AT THE ARKANSAS SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND
From the Editor: On June 1 Ivan Terzieff will take up his duties as Superintendent of the Arkansas School for the Blind and there is no doubt that he will have his hands full. In the November, 1994, and March and April, 1995, issues of the Braille Monitor we reported the problems at the school. One might have hoped that after Leonard Ogburn pled no contest to the charges of harassment against a teacher in January, the school staff would have turned its attention to repairing the damage that had been done to the institution. But human beings are rarely so sensible or so pragmatic. On April 21 the Arkansas Times reported on the current condition of the school and the staff. It makes illuminating if discouraging reading. The Story was written by John Haman. Here it is:
Feuding at the School for the Blind
A Superintendent's Scandal Prolongs the Hostilities
by John Haman
If you thought the trouble at the Arkansas School for the
Blind ended with the firing of Superintendent Leonard Ogburn,
Since Ogburn was dismissed in September and later convicted of misdemeanor harassment for spanking a female teacher, the school, with its forty teachers, 117 on-campus students, and $5.7 million budget, has become a silent battleground between two hostile camps: those who believe Ogburn was a corrupt empire builder and those who think that he hung the moon. The two groups don't eat together, say teachers, and they avoid each other in the halls. Anti-Ogburn employees say they have been harassed by administrators, had their tires punctured in the parking lot, found their mail opened, and received anonymous hate mail at work. Since January 28 the Little Rock police have taken five reports of criminal mischief at the school, and the administration has just hired a day-time security guard to put minds at ease.
"It's a freak show," says music teacher John Gould, an Ogburn opponent who believes administrators have sought revenge against him for taking his criticisms to the press. "It is like a big Peyton Place."
The divide only widened when the state legislature voted to reorganize the school, downgrading several redundant administrative positions and putting some general functions like maintenance and transportation under the purview of the adjacent School for the Deaf.
There have been rumblings that some school employees have been slow to accept the mandates of the legislature. But the real source of internal conflict (if not legislative unhappiness) remains the State Police investigation on Ogburn and the school, conducted by Investigator Danny Harkins. Copies of the case file have been floating around the school for months, revealing, with scores of employee interviews, just who hates whom. In those smoldering pages teachers back-stab their colleagues and bosses over pay and qualification issues, claiming that nepotism motivated the hiring of relatives from other state jobs who transferred in at their old, inappropriately high wages. Salacious memos were spirited from trash cans for the file, and the investigator was bombarded with anonymous tips.
In one intriguing episode, five-year substitute teacher Ann Polk, who testified in support of the school restructuring, says she was unceremoniously removed from the substitute list. She believes this was retaliation by principal Tom Blackwell. The next day Blackwell left the school and never came back. Shortly afterwards Polk was reinstated.
And there have been other problems:
The woman who accused Ogburn of spanking her has also filed a complaint against the school with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In lieu of suing the school, she has offered to accept a payment of $25,842, or one year's salary, to settle the matter. Her attorney, Mark Riable, a former legislator, warns that the school could expose itself to federal and state civil rights suits with the potential of very large damages if it does not settle.
Gould, the music teacher, has met with several Little Rock lawyers about bringing a harassment suit against the school over accusations made by a supervisor that he helped students falsify work-study hours. Gould says the supervisor, an Ogburn sympathizer, is retaliating against him because Gould went public with accusations against Ogburn, including the allegation that Ogburn tried to intimidate employees into giving to the United Way by giving the school's board a list of employees who had not contributed.
To the chagrin of many, Ogburn has continued to appear on campus. Shortly after his September firing, he went on campus several times to collect mail. In January he attended a state championship wrestling match at the school, and in February Ogburn showed up at a reception for the finalists for his old position, an action galling to his detractors. Acting superintendent Jim Hill said he has no idea who, if anyone, invited Ogburn to the event.
To cap it all off, Ogburn supporters recently held an appreciation banquet to honor Ogburn's lengthy service to the blind school, but Hill stressed that the function did not occur on campus, and no school money was spent on the affair.
"There are people on campus so sympathetic with Mr. Ogburn that he could literally spank someone in front of them and they would deny it," says Gould.
Riable says his involvement in the case has led many other school employees to ask if he would also represent them in complaints against the school, but he has so far declined. Nevertheless, he is disgusted by what he knows of the school.
"If you had gone over there two years ago, you'd think Orval Faubus was still the governor," said Riable. "There was a director that ran that place by intimidation and control and favoritism. The merit system didn't have a place there.
"You have a board that is independent from the governor, once appointed, and independent from the Arkansas Department of Education. You have administrative hangers-on who learned that if they could befriend the director, that was the person who would make the salary recommendation to the legislature. And from a political standpoint a lot of people were afraid they would appear unsympathetic to the plight of the blind if they didn't go along."
Hill, the acting superintendent, acknowledges many of the troubles, but says the school has come a long way since Ogburn and the legislative hearings.
"It goes without saying that when you have people testifying that other people's jobs should be omitted or cut out, I think there's going to be some feelings there.
"There was a split in the staff, but there has been some reconciliation between the groups," he says. "People are not as divided in their seating arrangements. And professionally the group has always maintained that the kids come first, and anything else is secondary. We have gone through some sessions in conflict resolution techniques."
The new superintendent, Dr. Ivan Terzieff, is scheduled to arrive from Iowa on June 1.
"If the school's going to survive," says Hill, "it's going to have to be more open with the outside world, specifically the legislature."
ACHIEVING A DREAM WITH THE HELP OF THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
by Buna Dahal
From the Editor: One of the speakers at this year's Mid- Winter Conference sponsored by the National Association of Blind Students was Buna Dahal, a student at the College of Dupage in Glenn Ellen, Illinois. In 1990 she left Nepal and came to this country to study at the Overbrook School for the Blind. At the time she knew no English and certainly did not know English Braille. She had used a white cane to travel in Nepal, so she undertook the trip completely alone. In the five years since her arrival in the United States, Buna has made remarkable strides. She is charming and vivacious and filled with courage and determination. She attributes much of her success to the support and encouragement she has received from members of the National Federation of the Blind. Here is her story as she told it to members of the student division:
As Dr. Jernigan said in the Kernel Book,
The Journey, it is "the journey of the blind from second-class status
to hope and opportunity." I am also moving into this journey to fight for
equality, security, and opportunity for the blind. In 1990 I came to the United
States on a yearly scholarship to study computer technology and English as a
second language at Overbrook School for the Blind International Program in Philadelphia.
After my school year was over in '91, I moved to Illinois, where my uncle and
auntie lived. I had a great desire to continue my education in the U.S. My uncle
and auntie believed blind people could go to college and be successful independently
as their sighted peers do. Because of them my wish came true.
For about two years I wondered if there were any blind people in the U.S., or if I was the only one. If there were, where were they? Luckily, I received my answer on May 8, 1993, when I joined the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, Chicago Chapter.
When I was a child, my parents and I knew about my blindness and were sure nothing could be done to get my sight back. I said to my mother, "Mom, there are many blind people like me in the world. I'm not the only one. If they have opportunities to go to school, there must be those things for me too. Please look for my school." At that time, I was just five years old. After sixteen years, I found the family I was looking for in my childhood. This real family is the National Federation of the Blind.
Because of reports in the media about muggings, I was scared to death to travel independently. Let me tell you, in Nepal I was the first woman to travel independently using a cane. When I came here, I lost my independent travel because I didn't know any blind people who were able to do it. So I used a dial-a-ride service to go to the first chapter meeting. There I met blind people who were walking with their canes. On one hand I felt guilty, and on the other hand I was embarrassed. Within a couple of weeks, while I was having a conversation with Brian Johnson about both my fear and my eagerness for independent travel, he said, "Buna, the media don't mention all the trips that people make every day without being attacked."
Right then I said to myself, "If nothing happens to other blind people, I'm sure nothing will happen to me either." As a result I started taking the train downtown to attend chapter meetings by myself.
Because of my blindness I was confused about what I could be in the future. My college counselor forced me to major in elementary school teaching and rejected my interest in social work, not on the ground that my academic score was low, not on the ground that I was a non-competitive student, but on the ground that I was blind. At the time I had neither people nor a place to talk about my unhappiness. Later I attended the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois convention in 1993. It was my first convention in my entire life. I went back to the college and changed my major to human service in order to reach my goal of social work.
Furthermore, I used to record classes on a tape recorder. It was the dumbest thing I had ever done in my life. I believed I could not take notes in Braille because English was my second language. Moreover, I had been told that Braille would make me slow. Last winter quarter I was exhausted with my school work. I hated to sit down and listen to those tapes again. It was like being in the entire class for the second time. The next morning I had a child psychology test, but instead of studying that night, I picked up an article, "Competing on Terms of Equality as Blind Students," by Fred Schroeder. As soon as I read this literature, I took out my recorder, put my slate and Braille paper in my bag, and said, "I don't care how slow I am; I am going to take class notes in Braille." Can you guess what happened? I became faster in Braille than on tape. [applause] Believe me, nothing can beat Braille.
Today I have back my independent travel skill, Braille skill, and a beautiful dream to be a social worker because of the National Federation of the Blind. Finally, since you are all listening to me patiently, I hope that you are realizing too how rapidly NFB has changed the whole structure of my life within twenty months.
To me as a Federationist, the most important positive first step on my march toward freedom was to learn that to be blind is to be human, not perfect.
[Photo #6: Portrait Caption: Shawn Jacobson]
TIPPING, THE RIGHT THING TO DO
by Shawn Jacobson
From the Editor: When I was twenty-one,
I had my first experience with a bellhop who didn't want to accept a tip from
me for carrying my bag to my hotel room. I was about as green as they come,
never having been anywhere that tipping might be required without someone older,
more experienced, and wealthier than I along to cope with such social emergencies
as tipping. But as an inveterate reader of murder mysteries, in which people
are always paying lavish tips for various services, I knew that I should give
the little man with only one hand something for having lugged my heavy bag to
my Washington, D.C., hotel room. As I remember it, a dollar was what I had available,
and although that was a bit much in the mid sixties for the service, I pressed
it on the bellman.
Then the fun began. He didn't want to take it. I insisted. He said that he couldn't take money from a poor, young girl who was blind. I assured him that my expenses were being paid by a New York organization, and tips were part of the deal. That settled the dispute; he couldn't accept money from a blind person, but an outfit from New York was a different matter. I forbore to mention that the organization was a nonprofit, Recording for the Blind. I figured that hostilities might begin all over again, so I tried to comfort myself with the fact that I had won.
Yet the experience shook me, and I must confess that tipping has continued to present me with innumerable quandaries through the years. That first encounter was a shock. Even at the time I recognized that the poor man had no business turning down my tip and that telling him someone else would be paying it would protect his pride. But I could not help feeling that, if I had not insisted that he take the money, he would ultimately have felt some regret or even indignation when the glow of virtue induced by his chivalry toward a blind woman wore off.
I continue to debate with myself about tipping situations: hotel shuttle drivers, yes, a dollar or two if the distance is substantial; cab dispatchers at the airport, no; hotel doormen who summon cabs, yes, theirs is not an easy life. And so it goes. Blind people have a harder time than most in making these decisions because it is sometimes hard to tell what other people are doing. My rule has become to err on the side of generosity. I still occasionally have trouble with people who don't think it is appropriate to accept money from someone whom they believe to be worse off than them. But I now know how to deal with that feeling. It is amazing how far you can get when you are intent on giving away money. The trouble is that many blind people aren't quite prepared to take a firm stand on the matter of tipping Shawn Jacobson is not one of these, and his advice is well worth heeding just before the national convention. Shawn is a member of the Sligo Creek Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. He works in Washington, D.C., so he knows first hand about the ins and outs of tipping. Here is what he has to say on the subject:
The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland conducted a
retreat at the National Center for the Blind on March 31 and
April 1, 1995. One of the seminar topics was how to act
professional despite the misconceptions about blindness held by
sighted people. All of the old stereotypes were revisited. We
talked about how some people think that being blind makes you
deaf, stupid, etc. Why do people think this anyway? Much of the
discussion went on in this way.
But toward the end of the meeting an odd thing happened. Fred Flowers mentioned that he had been on a bus trip to Atlantic City with a bunch of other blind people. The hostess did a great job for the group, but almost no one tipped her. He pointed out that such hosts and hostesses rely on tips for most of their income.
We went on to discuss why such a thing had happened. Don't worry, no one suggested that blindness caused people to be rude or stingy. We concluded that blind people might not tip because it is not something expected of us. When sighted people want to do everything for us, it is easy to take service for granted; the next step is to think that being served is our right. We also suggested that some blind people don't tip because they don't have the chance to be in public very often and therefore don't know how frequently people are expected to tip.
All this is probably true, but what do we do about it? We can go on not tipping and hope that people will always be kind. However, I strongly believe that such an attitude hurts us. Fred commented that, after her experience on the Atlantic City trip, the hostess would never again want to work for blind people. The problem is that, given any excuse at all, people will think that being blind makes one unreasonable, rude, and generally selfish. Dealing with a large group of blind people who don't appreciate what you do for them is going to be noticed and remembered. Thus, when we as blind people fail to be acceptably generous, we inevitably pay the price in stereotyping and in a generally negative public image.
Sighted people who don't tip are not well liked by people who depend on tips. I once talked to a man who worked in a hotel. He said that everyone dreads Mary Kay conventions because the people are told not to tip, and they don't. If we believe that blind people are like sighted people, then it follows that we will not be well liked if we do not tip.
How much should we tip? About 15 percent is good in most situations. More should be given if the service was especially good. Sometimes, if the service was poor or the server was rude, patronizing, or otherwise unpleasant, no tip should be given at all. I once took a cab from northwest to southwest Washington, D.C., which went through all four quadrants of the city. The driver then charged me two dollars more than the fare should have been. Since that was about the amount I would have tipped him, I gave him no tip and called it even. Sometimes the best tip you can give such a person is the advice to learn his or her trade. However, this happens rarely. I can think of only three or four times when I have had service that was so truly bad that I refused to tip.
Whom do you tip? Anyone who serves you and depends on tips for his or her livelihood. Waiters, waitresses, and bartenders should be tipped. Hosts and hostesses and tour guides should be tipped. Barbers and hairdressers who do not own the business should be tipped. So should cab drivers, provided, of course, that they are honest. Doormen and ushers should also be tipped. For example, when my wife and I went to Virginia Beach, we tipped the waitresses at sit-down restaurants, but not at fast food restaurants like McDonalds. When we went to a baseball game, we tipped the usher who showed us to our seats and cleaned them before we sat down. We also tipped the beer vendor.
It should also be noted that you do not tip if a restaurant includes a service charge in your bill. Some restaurants do this for all customers. Others, however, only do it for large groups. For instance, a restaurant I go to for lunch in Washington adds a service charge for parties of five or more people. In general, if gratuities are included in the bill, tipping is not necessary. It is always appropriate to ask whether the gratuity has been included in the bill.
Lorraine Rovig, Director of the Job Opportunities for the Blind Program, said that in her experience most sighted people tip, but often blind people do not. If we want to have as much respect as sighted people, then we should behave with the same sensitivity to social expectations as sighted people do, and that includes tipping.
At the National Center for the Blind members of the Federation family are expected to clean our rooms before we leave. We help in this way because it saves the organization's hard-earned money and insures that future guests will have a pleasant stay at the Center. Tipping is a lot like this; if you tip, the people who do things for you will have a good impression of you and hence of other blind people. If you don't tip, you leave the impression that you (and unfortunately all other blind people as well) don't know any better and are not worth serving. To sum this up: whether or not you tip is not just important to you and the people who serve you; it is important to other blind people as well.
[Photo #7: Jeff Treptow stands and faces camera while holding microphone. Caption: Jeff Treptow]
ESCAPE FROM SLAVERY: FROM A SHELTERED WORKSHOP TO MY FIRST NATIONAL CONVENTION
by Jeffrey J. Treptow
From the Editor: A slightly different version of the following article first appeared in the Fall, 1994, issue of the Braille Spectator, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. Jeff Treptow was an NFB Scholarship winner in 1994. His story is a poignant reminder of the problems that still exist in both the nation's sheltered workshop and rehabilitation systems. Jeff did not want a production line job, and he had the ability to succeed in a different kind of work, but it took twenty years of struggle for him to see his dream come true. We must never forget his story or cease our efforts to help all the Jeff Treptows still fighting their lonely battles. Here is Jeff's story:
It was early evening in late March of 1974, and my mother
had just finished putting the supper dishes into the dishwasher.
"The Waltons" was almost over, and I was sitting in the den
watching the black-and-white TV when I heard Mom and Dad begin a
rather loud conversation.
It lasted only a few minutes, so I went back to watching TV. But the lull lasted for only a short time. "Hawaii Five-O" had barely started when another row erupted. My hopes for a quiet evening flew out the window as the commotion continued. As the argument grew louder, my curiosity increased. I got up and walked to the kitchen door at the end of the hall to see what the argument was about. It was about me.
The next morning I was supposed to go into Phoenix to meet with a rehabilitation counselor who was going to enroll me in a job-training program. According to the plans Mom and I had laid out, I was to take the Sun Valley bus into Phoenix, transfer to a city bus that would take me to the counselor's office, and go to the training facility from there. The catch was that my dad would have to take me to the Greyhound bus terminal, where the Sun Valley bus departed, but Dad didn't want to be bothered. He felt that I should stay home and collect SSI (Supplemental Security Income) so that he could pocket the money.
That evening Mom finally convinced Dad to take me to the counselor's office. The training program lasted approximately three years, after which I landed only a temporary receptionist's job at a non-profit agency that provided recreational activities for the blind. With the end of that job I began a long period of unemployment. I did not find another job because of a combination of discrimination, the lack of transportation, and the unwillingness of the state agency to help. I remained unemployed for five years, and the skills I had acquired through the training program got rusty, making me unemployable again. During those five years I made frequent attempts to find other jobs.
During all this time my dad missed no opportunity to assure me that no one would ever hire me and that my best bet was just to stay home, collect my SSI checks, and hand over the money as soon as the countable-resources limit was reached. Finally in July of 1983, suffering from profound frustration and lack of hope, I agreed to start working at Arizona Industries for the Blind (AIB), a sheltered workshop operated by the Department of Economic Security. I have suspected in the years since then that my counselor may have maneuvered me into the shop by the expedient of not providing me with the help I needed.
The sheltered workshop was located on the west side of Phoenix, which meant that every day I had to endure a one-and-a- half- to two-hour commute by bus from my parents' home in Mesa. The only hope working in the sheltered shop gave me was that I could someday get off SSI and not have to give any of my money to my custodial father. Actually, as it turned out, I never did give my father any of my money.
My job at the shop was folding items that were made in the sewing room. My supervisor was a large German woman who looked like she could throw a person across the room with her voice alone. It was not a congenial place to work. I was depressed and discouraged.
Shortly after I started work at Arizona Industries for the Blind, my mother, who worked at Motorola, brought home an application for a job opening. I filled it out and gave it to her to submit to the personnel office. The simple act of applying for another job gave me some hope that the future might be better. Months passed, and I anxiously awaited the green light to abandon the shop and begin a more meaningful career with a large corporation. Several more months passed, and there was still no word on my application at Motorola. By late November, 1983, I finally admitted that the Motorola job was not going to come through. Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and depression overwhelmed me.
During the nine years I spent at the sheltered shop, I made numerous unsuccessful attempts to find a better job. Even though the shop served mainly as a dumping ground and place of exile from the mainstream of the economy, by late June of 1984 I had been able to save enough money to move from my parents' home in Mesa into an apartment on the east side of Phoenix. This cut down the commuting time somewhat and liberated me from the custodianship my father tried to impose. It also provided relief from the frequent bickering between Mother and Dad; it also allowed me to do many things I could not have done while living at home.
In 1984 there was almost no bus service in Mesa, which made it difficult to get around. But despite the relative smoothness of the transition, I was still somewhat apprehensive; however, once the move was complete and I became accustomed to living on my own, I couldn't imagine how I had stood living at home for so long. For the first time I had the freedom to do the things I wanted to do, like flying to Madison to visit my favorite aunt. My life became more normal with this added freedom.
Then, in late April of 1992 the decrease in national spending on defense caused downsizing among defense contractors. Since defense and government contracts made up more than half of all work done at AIB, the line workers faced inevitable layoffs. I was laid off from the sheltered workshop in May of 1992, which surprisingly gave me a feeling of uplift. For the first time in nine years I could feel good about myself. During all the years of working in the shop, it had become more and more difficult to hope for something better. But along with the growing feeling of hopelessness had come an insatiable desire for a better career. It had taken an enormous amount of strength to persevere and not to succumb to the resignation of staying in the sheltered shop for the rest of my life and becoming beaten down and apathetic like so many others.
During the following months I looked for another job, but I could not find one--not even a part-time job to earn some extra money. I recognized that I didn't have the skills needed to pursue a more demanding career, so I decided to go back to school to further my education. I went back to the vocational rehabilitation agency to get my case reopened. At first my new counselor seemed fairly open to what I wanted to do, but later she told me that I should just wait until the shop called me back.
This attitude angered me, and I was more determined than ever to better myself so that I would not have to do menial labor. The counselor maintained that menial labor was not so bad, but by now I knew better than to listen to her. What she said might be true for some people, but it was not true for me. One evening in early September of 1992 I was watching the news and getting my dinner when a story about computer training for the disabled appeared. It focused my attention, so I grabbed a pen and note pad to take down any phone number or address where more information could be obtained.
The training program was at Goodwill Industries, and it had just gotten started a few months earlier. I immediately made an appointment to see about entering the program, but again my hopes were dashed when I learned I needed the support of a rehabilitation counselor to enter the program. I didn't think there was a chance of bringing my counselor around, but I approached her one more time--the result, continued resistance and stonewalling. But later that month I wrote to her supervisor to protest her negative attitude. I also wrote to the Client Assistance Program (CAP) requesting assistance in dealing with the agency and getting a new counselor. The agency eventually caved in to my demands and gave me a new counselor. In January of 1993 I entered Phoenix College to begin working on a degree in office automation.
Even though I now had a counselor who was willing to help me, I was so anxious to get started with my education that I paid for the first semester at Phoenix College out of my own pocket. It seemed to me that, if I took the initiative to start something, it would show the agency that I was worthy of assistance. It would also demonstrate what I was determined to accomplish. Once I started the first semester of school, I needed to find a part-time job to earn some extra money to supplement my $371-a-month disability check.
In the fall of 1993 I applied for a work-study grant and was awarded funding. I took a job in the Phoenix College Psychology Department Office as a clerk answering the phone, distributing the mail, receiving visitors, and doing some typing and filing. I also applied for a scholarship from the National Federation of the Blind in early 1994. I was surprised to hear during May that I had been chosen as a finalist. Being awarded the scholarship and attending the national convention in Detroit represented a major turning point in my life. I am now sure that I will never have to return to sheltered workshops and custodialism as a way of life. I only hope that my success will inspire the others I left behind in the sheltered workshop, particularly at Arizona Industries for the Blind.
For most of us a mid-life career change means a world of uncertainty. For a visually impaired person, however, it may well seem even more insurmountable. My mother deserves to share in my newfound success and freedom. After all, she was the driving force behind me in my twenty-year quest for a better life. She was there for me from the start, from that evening in late March of 1974 right up to the moment I received my scholarship. I was sorry that she could not be at the banquet when I received my scholarship.
Regardless of the problems and difficulties I have had to face, I believe that I have done a good job of transforming myself from a sheltered workshop worker to a person in a more satisfying career. And if I can do it, I believe that any other blind or visually impaired person can do the same thing.
OBJECTONS TO BLINDNESS RULES MOUNT
From the Editor: In recent months everyone in the blindness
field has been working--some more energetically than others--to
preserve the linkage that has existed for almost twenty years
between the earnings limits established for Social Security
recipients between the ages of sixty-five and seventy and those
for blind recipients of Social Security Disability Insurance
(SSDI). We lost the first round in the House of Representatives,
not because of Congressional sentiment that blind people didn't
deserve the benefit, but because the momentum to complete the
Contract with America was too great to correct a mistake that
Speaker Gingrich and many others recognized had been made in the
provisions of the legislation.
We are now working to see that language preserving that linkage appears in the Senate version of the bill in the hope that the conference committee will eventually see that blind SSDI recipients as well as seniors who would like to work and still receive their Social Security pensions can earn an increased amount without losing their stipends.
Accomplishing this extremely desirable goal will not be easy. Many have assumed that, because the linkage has been present for eighteen years, it will inevitably be preserved. They are wrong. There is nothing inevitable about the process, and there are many in the wider disability field who look at the higher earnings limit that the blind have received and see it, not as the thin end of a wedge that might be used to win a similar benefit, but as an unfair advantage that one group of disabled people has enjoyed. There is no question that many other severely disabled people deserve and could benefit from higher earnings limits in the SSDI Program. It is also true that without the legal definition of a disability, like that for blindness, defining severe impairments is a complicated problem. But none of this diminishes the pressure we face in trying to preserve the earnings-limit linkage for blind SSDI recipients.
It behooves all of us in the blindness field to roll up our sleeves and work together in the coming weeks to undo the damage that has been done and raise the earnings limits for blind SSDI recipients to match those for retirees. The following editorial demonstrates just how much more difficult this job will become in the months and years ahead. It appeared in the March 28, 1995, edition of The Washington Post. Here it is:
A Penalty for Extraordinary Effort
The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal on Monday in a
case that illustrates the difficulty of fairly administering
federal programs designed to help the grittiest of its citizens.
This matter involved a disabled man, but it has application also
to the whole panoply of means-tested benefits programs. It
represents the irony of penalizing those who most want to break
out of a cycle of dependency.
Paul Spragens, who lives in Wyoming, suffers from a congenital deformity of the joints that has left him with no use of his arms and only limited use of his legs. He gets around in a mobilized wheelchair, works as a self-employed indexer of books, and types with his toes. The determination and strength of character necessary to follow this course are extraordinary. But the income derived from this work must be supplemented by Social Security disability payments.
In 1986 Mr. Spragens lost his disability assistance because his average monthly income for that year was $349.26. The law states that he must be dropped from the rolls if his earnings exceed $300 a month. He contested that law in court not because it is inherently unreasonable or beyond the power of Congress to enact. Instead he claimed he had been denied equal protection of the law because disabled people who are blind are allowed to earn $650 a month, while everyone else is restricted to $300. He has lost his case, and the courts are undoubtedly right. It may not be fair that the blind, who have particularly skillful advocates in Washington, receive an advantage. But the distinction made in the law is not irrational, and acts of Congress are entitled to a presumption of constitutionality.
Alas, the solution for Mr. Spragens is to stop trying so hard. Take a week off every month. Earn less and be given more. This somewhat cynical calculation, of course, is the one that must be made by families on public assistance all the time. There must be clear guidelines and cutoffs at some point for every welfare program. But when the consequences of trying harder and earning a little more are so abrupt and severe, the natural tendency is to cut back and keep the benefits. As the welfare overhaul continues, this quite obvious paradox is at the core of the reform: how can society encourage a return to work when that option carries so many penalties for those who would take it up?
A CONVENTION OPPORTUNITY
From the Editor: Curtis Chong, President of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science, has just passed along the following information which he says is important and will be interesting to anyone concerned about blind people's access to the National Information Infrastructure and to the increasing number of touchscreen information panels in use today in public places. It was prepared by Dr. Gregg Vanderheiden, of the Trace Center. Here it is:
Recently, much attention has been given to the National
Information Infrastructure (NII), and the impact it will have on
the dissemination of public and private information. A critical
issue in creating interfaces to such information systems is to
ensure that, as interfaces become more user-friendly to some
populations, they do not become more inaccessible to others.
Access to the Internet or to touchscreen-based information
systems, for example, can be difficult or impossible for people
who are blind because of graphical presentation of information or
touchscreen interfaces. The explosive growth of the Internet,
combined with the increasing use of kiosks in settings across the
country, has made accessibility an urgent issue. As part of
Project Info Curbcuts, strategies are being developed and
implemented to provide alternate access to such information
Project Info Curbcuts, spearheaded by the Trace Research and Development Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and part of the Universal Access Project, is an international effort to ensure that next-generation information systems are accessible to all people. As part of the 1995 National Federation of the Blind Convention, the Trace Center, World Institute on Disability, and CPB/WGBH will be sponsoring a special resource and demonstration room, to which all convention attendees are invited. The room will feature demonstrations of a Talking Fingertip technique, a technique which allows alternate access to touchscreen-based information systems. Internet access will also be demonstrated and will include discussion of Mosaic, NetScape, and DosLynx programs for the World Wide Web, plus Gopher and FTP (File Transfer Protocol). The Info Curbcuts room at the Chicago Hilton and Towers Hotel will be open Sunday, July 2, from 9:30 to noon and 1:00 to 5:30, and Monday, July 3, from 9:00 to noon and 1:00 to 5:30 p.m.
Further information about Project Info Curbcuts can be obtained by writing to Trace Research and Development Center, Room S151 Waisman Center, 1500 Highland Avenue, Madison, Wisconsin 53705, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, (608) 262-6966, (608) 263-5408 (TDD), or fax (608) 262-8848.
[Photo #8: Barbara Pierce sits in a rocking chair in front of a large brick fireplace and reads a book in Braille. Caption: Barbara Pierce]
NEW BOOK AVAILABLE
From the Editor: A number of us have felt for some time that
there was a need for a small, easy-to-read compilation of
articles about the importance of Braille. Many of the new Braille
literacy laws around the country require that parents be given
pertinent information about Braille before they are asked to
express their opinion in an IEP meeting about whether or not
their blind children should be taught Braille. We wanted
something that would express our conviction that Braille is an
efficient and useful tool and that blind people benefit greatly
from being taught to read and write it as early as possible.
The World Under My Fingers, published in large-print paperback by the National Federation of the Blind and edited by Barbara Pierce, is our attempt to meet this need. Many of the essays were first published in the Braille Monitor; several others were written specially for this publication. It is available from the Materials Center, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, telephone 12:30 to 5:00 p.m. Eastern time (410) 659-9314. The cost for a single copy is $1. A carton of fifty is available for $50.
The following letter is the first article in the book. Here it is:
Open Letter to Parents
by Barbara Pierce
Can you remember the intoxication of learning to read? I
can. When I began first grade, the Scott-Foresman primers about
the adventures of Dick, Jane, and Sally were in use, and I still
remember the picture of Dick standing on his shoulders in a pile
of leaves, feet kicking in the air, while one of his sisters
intoned the page's text, "Look at Dick! Funny, funny Dick!"
Had I but known it, those early weeks of first grade were the
high point of my reading career. We gathered around the teacher
in reading groups to sound out the words and falter our way
through each page. I was good at it. I understood the principles
of picking out the sound of each letter and shoving them together
rapidly enough to guess at the meaning. The result was that I was
in the first reading group.
My success didn't last long. By second semester each page bore many more lines of print, and my mother was forced to work with me at home after school or before bed to help me keep up. For I was what they called a low-vision child. I could see the print with only one eye, and I am certain that I was legally blind, though no one ever used that word in my hearing. Mother placed a little lamp close to the page so that I could see as well as possible, but the letters were still blurred, and I could never get the hang of reading an entire word at once.
By second grade I was in the second reading group, and by third grade I had slipped to the third group, despite the lamp now clipped to the side of my desk. I had to face the truth: I was dumb. I lay awake at night worrying about the increasing number of spelling workbook exercises left undone because my reading and writing were too slow to complete them in class. I still maintained an unbroken string of perfect spelling tests because my parents drilled me on the spelling lists every week. The tests were nothing, but the workbook! I fantasized about what it would be like to go to bed at night and not stare open-eyed into the black prospect of mortification when the truth about me and my incomplete work eventually came to my parents' notice.
It happened at the close of the third marking period, and it came, as such things do, like a bolt from the blue. I had actually brought home what I thought was a good report card--all A's and B's--except for art, penmanship, and gym, in which I always got C's. Everybody knew that I was terrible at those things because "Barbara's blind as a bat." But the dreaded unmasking of my shameful secret in the spelling workbook seemed to me to have remained hidden beneath an A for yet one more grading period. I handed my mother my report card and ran out to play. But when my brother and I were called in for dinner (Dad was out of town at the time), I knew that something was wrong; Mother had been crying, and she did not sit down to dinner with us. She said that she had a headache. It soon became apparent that I was the headache. My report card had betrayed me after all. In all that hard-to-read small print at the bottom the teacher had given me a U (unsatisfactory) in the puts-forth-best- effort category, where I was used to getting E's(Excellent) or at least S's (satisfactory).
Mother went to school the next day and learned the horrible truth about me. I was astonished to learn afterward that the relief of having my shameful secret out in the open actually reduced my burden. True, I had to make up all the work I had been avoiding because the reading had become too difficult. Play time was much reduced, and I had to learn all over again how to go to sleep without worrying, but things were never again as bad.
In the following years we tried magnifying glasses for my good right eye, and the summer after fourth grade I had to be tutored in an effort to learn to read with high magnification. In September of fifth grade my new teacher called on me to read a paragraph in the geography book during the class lesson. I read like a second grader, and I was mortified. The teacher never called on me again. By sixth grade I was hardly using the glasses at all. I was quick to learn as long as I didn't have to struggle to make sense of the print, and it was easier on everyone for the teacher to assign a rapid reader to work with me on in-class reading projects.
Finally, at the close of seventh grade, my parents faced the painful truth: if I were to have any hope of literacy, I would have to learn Braille. Print was no longer an option. I mastered the Braille code in a summer of weekly lessons taught by a woman who used Braille herself, though she admitted that she was not a good Braille reader. She assured me that her husband could read Braille rapidly, but I never heard him or anyone else use the code efficiently. People told me it was important to use my Braille and that practice would increase my speed. But by that point in my education I had already worked out alternative ways of getting my reading and writing done, and I was no longer eager to crawl down a page of text as we had done in early elementary school. I practiced writing Braille with my slate and stylus because I knew that in college I would need a good way of taking notes in lectures, but I never made time to learn to read Braille properly.
Now that I am a member of the National Federation of the Blind, I know hundreds of people who read Braille easily and well. Some of them could not see print when they were beginning school, so Braille was the only option for them. But many more could make out print when they were learning to read, even though as adults they cannot see it. They were lucky enough to be taught Braille along with print, and they simply and naturally learned to decide which method would be most useful for each reading task. As a result they now read Braille at several hundred words a minute.
I have never regretted learning to read print. Everyone should know the shapes of print letters, but I will always bitterly regret that I was not taught Braille as a small child. Today I am struggling to gain the speed and accuracy in reading Braille that I should have had by the time I was ten. I have now been working at it for more than six years, and my reading speed has tripled, but I must face the fact that I will probably never read as well as a bright ten-year-old. Setting aside the fact that the adult brain does not master new skills as rapidly as does a child's, I cannot bring myself to practice reading aloud to my long-suffering family. The time for taking advantage of such an opportunity is childhood, and I cannot inflict my stumbling reading on my husband.
If my mother could speak to you who are facing the dilemma of whether or not to demand that your children learn Braille, she would urge you to decide in favor of Braille. No matter how clearly a youngster can see print at the moment, if the vision is fragile or problematic in any way, Braille will often become invaluable in the future, even if print too continues to be useful. I urge you to keep your child's options open and your expectations high. All young things need space to stretch and grow within their God-given abilities. Please insist that your child be given a chance.
[Photo #9: State Senator Jeannine Long stoops to embrace Haille Linhart who is holding her NFB cane in the state capitol building. Caption: State Senator Jeannine Long, sponsor of Washington's Braille literacy bill, is pictured here with nine-year-old Federationist Haille Linhart at a legislative reception.]
A DAY THAT WILL LIVE IN LITERACY
by Bennett Prows
From the Editor: Bennett Prows is one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington state. He recently sent us the following report on affiliate efforts to pass a bill protecting the right of the state's blind children to learn Braille. Here it is:
January 26, 1995, marked a turning point for Braille
literacy in Washington State and was a watershed for the National
Federation of the Blind of Washington. The State Capitol in
Olympia will never be the same, and from now on the blind will be
recognized as a force to be reckoned with in the state
This year efforts to secure the passage of the Braille bill in Washington State were punctuated by the activities surrounding a day that has become known here as Braille Literacy Day. But this year's day was different. The NFB was joined in Olympia by virtually every statewide organization of and for the blind on January 26, 1995, to promote Braille and Braille literacy. Tables were set up between the House and Senate Galleries to exhibit the various agencies' and organizations' support of the use of Braille. The NFB organized the exhibits and invited the Washington State School for the Blind, the Department of Services for the Blind, the Braille Access Center for the Blind, the Washington Council of the Blind, and the Washington Talking Book and Braille Library to join our effort to educate the public about the need for Braille literacy. Federationists and other blind persons from throughout the State of Washington fanned out over the capitol grounds to give virtually every legislator and legislative office the message that Braille is important for blind students in Washington State. Packets of material about the NFB and about the 1995 version of our Braille bill were distributed, and key legislators in Senate and House Education committees were personally contacted.
We emphasized the unanimity this year on the need for the Braille bill and urged the representatives and senators to act quickly to give Washington's blind children the right to learn and use Braille.
A press release issued by the NFB was distributed to all of the major newspapers and radio and television stations in the State. The release explained that there is a crisis in effective teaching of Braille to blind citizens and told the media about the educational efforts being conducted at the State Capitol. The blind came from every part of the state, and this year more than ever, the prospects for passage of a meaningful Braille bill look bright.
The highlight of the day came when the National Federation of the Blind of Washington hosted a legislative reception for more than one hundred guests at the governor's mansion on the capitol grounds. Thanks to the hard work of Denise Mackenstadt, Barbara Freeman, and other Federationists throughout the state, nearly twenty-five legislators attended the festive reception. Governor Mike Lowry and his wife Mary attended for more than an hour. We greeted the guests at the door and introduced the many guests to one another. The food prepared by the Governor's staff was excellent and, of course, was a big draw for hungry legislative aides and other capitol staff members. This event gave us the chance we needed to push for our vital legislation and to show the legislators that the blind are first-class citizens in every way when given the training in the alternative techniques and skills of blindness, such as Braille.
Few groups or organizations are invited to hold receptions in the governor's mansion, and the NFB was put on an exclusive list. From now on there is no question about who leads the blind in Washington State. The power and influence of the organized blind movement will be felt. Whether we win the fight for a Braille literacy bill this year or next or the year after that, let there be no mistake--we will not quit until the blind have the same right to read and write with confidence and competency as our sighted peers.
This year's Braille Literacy Day was a giant step forward in the affairs of the blind in Washington. Judging by the reaction of the lawmakers and staff attending the reception, we will be heard. President Gary Mackenstadt and all other Federationists here will not rest until blind children and their parents no longer have to fight to receive instruction in reading and writing Braille.
[Photo #10: Steve Benson sits at a table behind a microphone preparing to write with slate and stylus. Caption: Steve Benson]
by Bob Herguth
From the Editor: The Chicago Sun-Times carries a column called "Chicago Profile." It is exactly what its title suggests--a brief, (thirty-five computer-screen lines in length) almost shorthand description of an interesting Chicago resident. On April 26, 1995, the subject of the column was NFB of Illinois President and member of the national organization's board of directors Steve Benson. Here it is:
Stephen O. Benson
At Public Library
He's a public relations specialist in the Chicago Public Library's communications office, has been there since June, 1991. He works at Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State.
Because he's blind, he types on a computer terminal that has voice output. He writes news releases, public service announcements, story ideas. Works on special projects, handles calls. He interviewed authors as host of "The Write Stuff" on municipal cable TV.
About His Sight
His retinal degenerative condition was "discovered when I was two or three." In fifth grade he was transferred from Lincoln to Bell School and learned Braille. He earned a DePaul degree.
He checks out books, in Braille and on tape, from the Regional Library for the Blind, 1055 W. Roosevelt. Last year he read 150 books: "ninety-five kids' books I read to my son, and fifty-five others."
Taught English at Gordon Tech. Then taught Braille and living skills at Hines VA Hospital's Blind Rehab Center. Was assistant director of Guild for the Blind: teaching, directing PR, writing grant proposals.
On National Board
He's on the board of the National Federation of the Blind, serves on its scholarship committee. He's president of the Federation's Illinois affiliate. It hosts the National Convention here July 1 to 7.
"As a kid and into my thirties I played softball, basketball, and football. When I was quarterback throwing a pass, the receiver would yell some audible signal. Opposing ball carriers had to make a noise. Softball, I would balance the ball on all five fingers when batting. When I'd pitch, the catcher would clap or make some sound. In basketball the ball and the players' feet make sounds. You learn where the basket is by other sounds."
Wife Peg is an attorney with CNA. Son Patrick is nine. They live in Edgebrook. He goes to work by CTA bus and subway. Now fifty-three. When he was young, mom Edythe "taught me about puppetry." He was a part-time puppeteer for seventeen years.
Advice to Son
"If you can read and read well, you can do whatever you want. Almost every career you enter requires reading, and most require good writing skill. If you're a good writer, you can almost write your own ticket."
[Photo #11: Four Ionic columns at the front entrance and eight caryatids embellishing the side exterior form the front entrance of this large white Georgian marble building. Caption: The exterior of the Field Museum is closely patterned after the Erechtheium, one of the Athenian Acropolis temples. The Field Museum was founded in 1893 at the close of the World's Columbian Exposition. On May 2, 1921, the Field Museum opened at its present location at Lake Shore Drive and Roosevelt Road, just south of downtown Chicago.
by Stephen O. Benson
From the Editor: If you are reading this article within a few days of receiving the June issue of the Braille Monitor, you probably still have time to make your convention reservation at the Hilton and Towers Hotel for the 1995 convention of the National Federation of the Blind, July 1 to 8. The telephone number for reservations is (312) 922-4400. But you don't have much time. Read this last installment of the "Chicago Notebook" for a few more reasons why you don't want to miss the convention, and make your reservation today. Now here is what Steve Benson, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, has to say:
In the February Braille Monitor
I described two of Chicago's finest museums and the four-year-old Harold Washington
Library Center--all within easy walking distance of our convention hotel. This
issue will continue the walking tour of the City by the Lake. We will begin
with another museum.
Five blocks from the Hilton and Towers Hotel stands the Field Museum, Chicago's museum of natural history. Founded in 1893 to house an extraordinary collection gathered for the Worlds Columbian Exposition, the museum moved to its present location at the south end of Grant Park in 1921. The nine-acre facility is dedicated to the study of the earth's physical environments and human cultures. The museum, named in honor of Marshal Field, is a world-class center for scientific study and a fascinating adventure for all who visit it.
Most of the museum's exhibits and specimens are behind glass or are out of reach; however, there are many interactive exhibits. For example, the "Inside Ancient Egypt" exhibit provides an opportunity to explore a life-size replica of the tomb of Unis-Ankh, son of the pharaoh King Unis, 2400 B.C. Tour the upper level of the Mastabe Tomb and then descend the thirty- five-foot shaft to the burial chamber below. Escape through a tomb robber's tunnel to a chamber containing twenty-three mummies. You will find a 14,000-pound stone door that is said to separate the real world from the afterworld.
The Inside-Ancient-Egypt exhibit permits you to walk along the banks of a Nile river marsh and lift the water of the Nile with a simple lever device called a shaduf. Examine the funerary boat of Pharaoh Senwosret, III. You become an ancient Egyptian when you try to pull a three-ton stone block on a sled just as the pyramid builders did. Complete your journey through ancient Egypt in an authentic market place. Try out an Egyptian bed, or learn about hieroglyphs.
Among its 19,000,000 specimens the Field Museum counts a 930-pound thigh bone of a giant dinosaur. Not surprisingly, this object is right out where the public can touch it; after all, who could walk away with it?
Other exhibits at the Field Museum depict a Pacific beach, the cultures of the northwestern United States and Alaska, and a lava flow. There are special dinosaur exhibits and many other fascinating attractions. In the summer the Museum is open every day from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. There is no admission charge on Wednesdays; otherwise adults must pay $5.00, children and senior citizens $3.00. For more information or for directions to the Field Museum, stop at the Illinois suite or the Illinois information desk.
Five blocks north of the Hilton and Towers, on Michigan at the foot of Adams street, is the world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago. Part of its fabulous art collection is beautifully reproduced in the NFB's 1995 calendar. Unfortunately, virtually none of the art can be touched. For those who can see the art, a trip to the Art Institute is well worth the time and effort.
Two blocks north of the Hilton and Towers, at the northwest corner of Congress Parkway and Michigan, stands one of Chicago's jewels, the Auditorium Theater. This structure designed as a hotel and concert hall by Louis Sullivan and Dankar Adler, opened its doors in 1889. The hotel portion of the building now serves as Roosevelt University. The theater, with its nearly perfect acoustics, is a rather active site for major concerts and plays.
On the southwest corner of Congress Parkway and Michigan, stands the 800-room Congress Hotel, which opened its doors in 1892. Four blocks north of the hotel you will find the downtown campus of DePaul University. DePaul opened in 1898 as the first Catholic coeducational university in the United States. Almost five blocks north of the hotel is Orchestra Hall, home of one of the world's three finest symphony orchestras. Orchestra Hall opened in 1905.
In a city of more than 2.8 million people, there are understandably thousands of restaurants of all kinds with an amazing range of quality. Within easy walking distance of the hotel there are a number of restaurants worth your time, energy, and means. One of these, the Berghoff, has been a Chicago tradition since 1898. In the ninety-eight years since its founding, the Berghoff Restaurant has been operated by one family at its present site, 17 West Adams.
Herman Joseph Berghoff was born in Dortmund, Germany, in 1852. He immigrated to the United States in 1870 and established the Berghoff Brewery in Indiana. The Berghoffs came to Chicago to sell beer at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. Their suds were so well received that they moved their operation to the Windy City.
The Berghoff looks as it did at the turn of the century. Its unique dark wood, artwork, and tiled floor are accents to its bustling energy. The restaurant's extensive menu of course has standard German favorites, but the German dishes represent only 30 percent of the menu. There is good, solid, American fare; and the owners are very careful to keep apace with changing trends in dining habits. The restaurant seats 700 people, and it is very often full.
Please check with the Illinois suite or the Illinois information desk for more details. One thing is certain: if you visit Chicago, you have to eat at least one meal at the Berghoff.
A short cab ride away from the Hilton and Towers is a Chicago legend, the Como Inn. For seventy years the Marchetti family has played host to Chicagoans and visitors from around the world. The Como Inn features food from all regions of Italy in a complex with a capacity of 1,100 people. Though that may sound overwhelming, the restaurant is divided in such a way that patrons can be seated in an alcove large enough for two or in a ballroom for 250. The food is excellent, the prices are fair, and the service is efficient and well-paced. It's no wonder that the Como Inn has been a fixture in Chicago for seventy years.
Let's make one more restaurant stop; it is a short taxi ride from the hotel, although the sturdy of leg can walk the mile plus to my favorite pizza emporium. Pizzeria Uno at Wabash and Ohio invented the Chicago-style deep dish pizza and since 1943 has maintained a level of quality that is truly unique in the restaurant business. Very few restaurants are worth standing in line for; the true pizza connoisseur will agree that Uno's is one place that does not disappoint.
There are many other attractions in downtown Chicago that deserve visitors' attention: trading on the Chicago Board of Trade Floor; a visit to Marshall Field Department Store; a stroll along north Michigan Avenue (the Magnificent Mile); a visit to Legends, one of Chicago's most outstanding blues night clubs, across the street from the Hilton and Towers.
July in Chicago is normally an excellent time of year weatherwise. The average daytime temperature is eighty-three degrees; the average nighttime temperature is sixty-three degrees. Once in a while we experience variations in those temperatures. At times in July Chicago even gets hot. But mostly the prevailing breezes off Lake Michigan keep us cool and comfortable. Chicago is the place you will want to be from July 1 to July 8. The Illinois affiliate will be at the Hilton to greet you with the kind of caring enthusiasm one would expect from family. We have surprises planned for you. Come to the Convention and see what they are.
One more reminder: please make reservations immediately for one of the nine tours we have arranged for you. An immediate reservation will help our tour company in planning for the proper number of buses for each tour. Please call (312) 341-0221 for information and reservations. See you at the 1995 NFB Convention.
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."
This month's recipes come from members of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio.
[Photo #12: Portrait Caption: Colleen Roth]
RED DEVIL'S FOOD CAKE
by Colleen Roth
Colleen Roth is a member of the Board of Directors of the NFB of Ohio and chairs the Network on Blind, Multiply Handicapped Children, conducted by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, a division of the National Federation of the Blind. Colleen received this recipe from her grandmother. It first appeared in a German cookbook in the 1890's. The frosting recipe first appeared on a confectioners sugar box in the early 1930's. If the cake is made correctly, both the batter and the chocolate cake are actually red in color. Follow the directions exactly if you want true devil's food.
2« cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup vinegar
1 cup boiling water (it must be boiling)
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup cocoa
4 cups flour
Method: Combine milk and vinegar and let stand for a few minutes in a warm place to allow milk to sour. The mixture will develop soft curds. Cream sugar, shortening, vanilla, and eggs until smooth. Add sour milk and then flour. Then combine boiling water, cocoa, and soda. Add this mixture to batter and mix well. Bake at 350 degrees in one ungreased or lightly greased 13-by-9 or three 9-inch round cake pans for twenty-five to thirty minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. This recipe also makes great cupcakes. Bake these for twenty minutes. If you add an extra cup of flour, you can make drop cookies. Ice all of these with the following frosting:
1 3/4 cups confectioners sugar
pinch of salt
6 soup spoonfuls of cocoa
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons margarine or butter
Method: Mix all ingredients together and heat. Then beat in a mixer until mixture reaches frosting consistency. This recipe will cover one batch of cookies, cupcakes, or the sheet cake. If you like lots of frosting, double it for the layer cake. You can also add a little milk and turn the frosting into an ice cream topping.
POTATO CHEESE CASSEROLE
by Mary Pool
Mary Pool is President of the Stark County Chapter of the NFB of Ohio and a member of the affiliate's Board of Directors. For many years she chaired a catering group in her church. The following recipe was one of the group's most popular menu items.
10 large potatoes
2 small onions, chopped
1/2 pound Velveeta cheese, cubed
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup margarine or butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
Method: Boil potatoes, peel, and cube as you would for potato salad. Mix all ingredients except milk, and place in a 9- by-13-inch pan. This recipe can be prepared to this point the day before. Just add the milk at the time of baking. Bake in a 350- degree oven for thirty to forty minutes. If mixture is soupy after baking, add more bread crumbs and bake for an additional ten minutes.
To serve 100 people, modify the amounts of ingredients as
40 pounds potatoes
3 to 4 medium onions, chopped
3 pounds Velveeta cheese, cubed
5 cups milk
8 tablespoons dried parsley
2 cups bread crumbs
1-1/2 cups margarine or butter, melted
5 teaspoons salt
HONEY BAKED CHICKEN
by Cheryl Fischer
Cheryl Fischer is the President of the Cuyahoga County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio.
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
3 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1/4 cup white cooking wine
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 to 3 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2« pounds)
Method: Toast sesame seeds in small frying pan over medium heat, three to five minutes, shaking pan frequently. Pour into bowl and stir in honey, mustard, lemon juice, and wine. Rinse chicken and pat dry. Arrange chicken in 9-by-13-inch baking pan and pour sauce over top. Bake at 400 degrees, basting regularly for fifteen to twenty minutes. Pour pan juices into bowl and serve along with chicken.
by Cheryl Fischer
1/4 to 1/2 cup milk
1 to 2 teaspoons honey
Method: Chop banana into bowl. Pour milk over bananas, sprinkle walnuts over top, and drizzle with honey.
BLACK BEAN AND PORK STEW
by Cheryl Fischer
4 cups water
1/4 cup dry black beans (or other kind)
2 hot chilies
3/4 pound lean pork, boneless shoulder
1« cup tomatoes, chopped, peeled, seeded (can use whole from can)
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup dry red cooking wine
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 cups of 1-inch cubed pieces of butternut squash
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Method: Heat water, beans, and chilies to boiling in pot. Let boil two minutes and remove from heat. Cover and let stand one hour. Remove chilies, heat beans to boiling, and reduce heat. Simmer one hour in covered pot. Remove seeds from chilies and coarsely chop the pepper. Remove fat from pork and cut meat into 1-inch cubes. Stir pork, chilies, tomatoes, onion, wine, sage, marjoram, salt, cumin, cinnamon, and garlic. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat and cover. Simmer thirty minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in squash, cover, and simmer twenty to thirty minutes longer, or until squash is tender. Stir in bell peppers and cilantro, cover and simmer five more minutes.
by Cheryl Fischer
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 cup frozen peas
1 teaspoon paprika (to make rice yellow)
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups uncooked converted white rice
4 cups water
Method: Heat oil, garlic, onion, and pepper in 4-quart pot. Saut till tender. Add water, rice, salt, paprika, and peas. Cover pot and simmer over low heat till rice is tender and liquid is absorbed (about twenty to twenty-five minutes).
[Photo #13: Portrait Caption: Kathy Arthurs]
STUFFED BREAST OF LAMB
by Kathy Arthurs
Kathy Arthurs is the President of the Parents of Blind Children Division of the NFB of Ohio.
3 pounds boned breast of lamb
1« teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon onion, minced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup margarine or butter
8 cups soft bread crumbs
1/8 teaspoon sage
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup mint jelly
1/4 cup vinegar
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups cold water
Method: Sprinkle lamb with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Saut onion and celery in butter until browned slightly. Add bread crumbs and cook one minute, mixing gently. Remove from heat and add remaining salt, remaining pepper, sage, nutmeg, thyme, and egg. Toss with fork until well mixed. Place stuffing on one side of each piece of the lamb and fold other side over stuffing, making three or four rolls. Tie each roll with string and place on a covered dish for baking. Bake uncovered in 450- degree oven for fifteen minutes. Add the boiling water, cover, and bake at 350 degrees for 1 3/4 hours, basting often. Spread with mint jelly and vinegar combined. Bake uncovered for thirty minutes longer or until tender, basting often. Pour off excess fat, leaving four tablespoons in the pan with drippings. Add flour, blend, and add two cups cold water. Cook until smooth. Season to taste and serve with the lamb. Serves six.
by Kathy Arthurs
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup butter
2-1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup chopped nuts
1/4 teaspoon salt
Method: Mix butter, sugar, and vanilla. Work in flour, salt, and nuts until dough holds together. Shape into small one-inch balls. Place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for ten to twelve minutes. Remove from pan and roll in powdered sugar. Cool and roll in sugar again.
24-HOUR CABBAGE SALAD
by Pat Eschbach
Pat Eschbach is the Treasurer of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio and a well known and deeply loved Federationist.
4 pounds cabbage, sliced thin or grated
2 green peppers, grated
2 carrots, grated
1 onion, grated
1 tablespoon gelatin softened in 1/4 cup cold water
1« cups sugar
1 cup vinegar
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup salad oil
Method: Combine first four ingredients and place in a cloth bag or cheese-cloth-lined colander to drain. After placing the gelatin in cold water, heat the sugar and vinegar to dissolve sugar. When the mixture is cool, add celery seed, salt, and pepper. Add gelatin and cool to the thickness of cream. Then add salad oil. (If you add the oil too soon, dressing will separate.) Mix dressing with the sliced and grated vegetables and place in refrigerator for twenty-four hours. This will keep for several days. The flavor gets better as it stands, making it a fine salad to prepare ahead of the occasion for which it is to be used. Actually Pat reports that this salad will keep for weeks rather than days under refrigeration.
[Photo #14: Portrait Caption: Peggy Chong]
** The Word Gets Around:
Peggy Chong recently wrote us the following note:
Some time ago the Metro Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota purchased several copies of the NFB fifty-year history book, Walking Alone and Marching Together. We intended to give copies to a few libraries that did not have the book in hopes that other libraries would see the need to have it in their collections as well. In 1991 after the book came out, our chapter did a great job at convincing the city and county libraries to add the book to their collections. So this year our focus was on colleges and universities.
One of our members began calling the school libraries and was amazed to find that most institutions of higher education in our state already have purchased the book.
Our state convention last fall was held in Mankato, where there is a state university that we thought did not have the book. Because the university has a rehabilitation-counseling department that trains students to become rehab counselors, we felt that it was important that our book be in the library. So the Friday morning of the convention, Jon Ice and I went to the library staff and presented them with our history, the Kernel Book series, and other information about the National Federation of the Blind.
We will keep looking for places that need our book in their collections. But the job is getting harder, which means that we are getting the word out.
Congratulations to the NFB of Minnesota; keep up the good work.
** Study Materials Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Just published is Audio-Forum's newest Whole World Language Catalog. The fifty-six page edition, available free, features the world's largest selection of self-instructional audio-cassette- based language courses in ninety-one languages. The courses, including English, are offered at various levels of learning, all emphasizing the spoken language. There are references to a printed text for which you will need the assistance of a reader.
In addition to the popular traditional Spanish, Italian, and French language courses, there are hard-to-find programs, like Greek, Ukrainian, and Mohawk.
A typical course consists of fifteen to eighteen hours of recording on twelve cassettes plus a 200-page book. The self- study method is basic--listen and imitate, the same method children use to learn to talk. Only native-born speakers are recorded, ensuring correct, natural pronunciation and intonation of the standard version of each language.
In addition to self-study foreign language courses, Audio- Forum offers audio-cassette products from a variety of subject areas, including literature, personal development, religion and philosophy, and English as a second language.
To obtain a copy or copies of Audio-Forum catalog(s), please call toll-free at (800) 243-1234, or send your request to Audio- Forum, 96 Broad Street, Guilford, Connecticut 06437. When placing your order, please state that you are a Braille Monitor subscriber, that you are blind or visually handicapped, and that you qualify for Audio-Forum's special twenty-five percent discount.
** For Sale:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have for sale a Braille 'n Speak 640 in excellent condition. It includes a carrying case, earphone, battery charger, serial cable, and computer accessories. Asking $1,000 or best offer. If interested write or call Linda Crisp, 219 Bryant Street, Bulivar, Tennessee 38008, or phone (901) 658-6050.
[Photo #15: Portrait Caption: Sally Ruemmler]
** Toll-Free Help Now Available to Parents of Deaf-Blind
The Parents of Deaf-Blind Children Partnership is pleased to announce a toll-free line for parents or other care-givers who need information and encouragement about issues regarding deaf- blindness. The number is (800) 859-4111. This line is available only to parents and other family care-givers. Professionals and others may call (913) 764-2444. Sally Ruemmler chairs this National Organization of Parents of Blind Children activity, and her address is 401 North Pinon Street, Olathe, Kansas 66061-5924.
Ramona Walhof, Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB of Idaho, reports the following coverage of the affiliate's presentation of its prestigious Thelander Award at its recent convention:
On April 10, 1995, The Idaho Business Review carried an article titled "Blind Federation Honors Boise Pair." The text reads:
Barbara and Gerald Wannamaker of Boise have received the Thelander Award for their fund-raising efforts and support from the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho.
The Thelander Award is the highest award given by the NFB-I and usually is presented to a statesman. This is the first time ever for the award to go to a couple outside of the political arena or the Federation.
Gerald is the executive vice president of Kit Manufacturing in Caldwell, and Barbara is involved in the Radio Reading to the Blind Program and an advisory board member for Resources for the Blind.
The couple presents an annual celebrity art and dinner event with proceeds benefiting the blind. This year's event is scheduled for November 11 at Peter Schott's Restaurant in Boise.
Joe Triplett, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma, reports the affiliate's election results from its recent convention: Joe Triplett, President; Nanette Murrin, Vice President; Janet Triplett, Secretary; Steve Shelton, Treasurer; and Chartula Sanders, Board member.
** Hoping to Find:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I am a deaf-blind reader of the Braille Monitor. I would appreciate receiving pass-along issues of Reader's Digest, Popular Mechanics, Fortune, National Geographic, and The New York Times in Braille. I am also interested in purchasing an Optacon for a reasonable price. Send all offers in Braille to Gordon Janz, 2425 Brunswick Street, Apartment 101, Vancouver, British Columbia, V5T 3MI.
** Eager to Buy:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Seeking a Talking Time One clock by Sharp in good condition. I will pay up to $50.00. If you have a clock you are interested in selling, please call Tony Lewis at (510) 865-6171 or write 3221 Briggs Avenue, Apartment C, Alameda, California 94501.
** Perkins Brailler Repair and Resale:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Complete Perkins Brailler service: I have recently begun purchasing, repairing, and selling old Perkins Braillers. Repair only is available if wanted. If you have a Perkins Brailler that is feeling poorly or if you have an old Perkins that you would like to sell, contact Nino Pacini (evenings and weekends) at (313) 885-7330. Trade-ins are accepted, and payment plans are negotiable.
At its April 12, 1995, chapter meeting, the Potomac Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia elected the following officers: Larry Povinelli, President; Patty Droppers, First Vice President; Seville Allen, Second Vice President; Bob Hartt, Treasurer; Melissa Resnick, Recording Secretary; Carol Cooper, Corresponding Secretary; and Jerry Yeager, Susan Povinelli, and Louise Ruhf, Board members.
** For Sale:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Twenty-three 11«-inch by 11-inch three-ringed Braille notebooks, $5 each. Twenty boxes 11-inch by 11«-inch lightweight, rough draft Braille computer paper, $20 per box. Send checks and requests to Janet Cross, c/o 523 Old Forest Way, Panama City, Florida 32404 or call (904) 874-8401. To avoid shipping charges, orders will be sent Free Matter.
** Recorded Computer Magazine Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Computer Folks, a magazine for blind computer users by blind computer users, offers twelve monthly issues, each on a 60-minute cassette, for only $24. Your host is Richard Ring. He may offer basic DOS tips for the beginner, as well as a technical demonstration of new adaptive software for the more advanced listener. The magazine features interviews with vendors of the latest equipment for the blind, yet the main interest is not public relations for companies, but the ideas, questions, and concerns of readers. Subscribers' articles, letters, and want ads are welcomed. From the housewife to the college professor, we are all computer folks.
Send $2 for a sample magazine or $24 for a year's subscription to Richard Ring, 269 Terhune Avenue, Passaic, New Jersey 07055-3326, or call (201) 471-4211 evenings or weekends. Computer Folks is not a print magazine read onto a tape by someone with no knowledge of computers and no involvement in the blind community. Usually serious, sometimes witty, Computer Folks is not just for the folks at 269 Terhune Avenue. From Canada to California, we are all computer folks.
** Hoping to Buy:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I am interested in purchasing microwave cookbooks in Grade II Braille. Readers of the Monitor may contact Jolene Cardenas at 2713B Piliwai Street, Honolulu, Hawaii 96819, or call (808) 843- 2611.
At its mid-winter election, conducted by mail, the Members- at-large Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio elected the following officers: Elizabeth Haag, President; Ruth Hinch, Vice President; Betty Jackson, Secretary; Martha Hays, Treasurer; and Wayne Ingle, monthly cassette newsletter editor.
** In Memoriam:
We recently received the following letter from Karl Smith, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Utah:
The National Federation of the Blind consists of many different kinds of people--speakers, expounders, organizers, pioneers, and more. Behind these highly visible people there exists a core of stalwart, steady members who, without publicity or fanfare, go about the business of changing attitudes about blindness in their neighborhoods and towns and with everyone with whom they come in contact.
Conrad Salvesen, who died in early February, was one of these steady, faithful members of the NFB. He was a member long before I ever heard of the Federation, and because of him and his wife Virginia my life and the lives of countless other blind people are better than they might have been. Con was not loud; he did not stand out in a crowd. But you can bet that, if there was a crowd, he would be part of it. Con loved to attend national and state conventions and kept up on the issues by faithfully reading the Braille Monitor. He encouraged others to become part of the Federation and in other ways touched many lives in his own quiet way. Conrad won't be at this year's state convention in May or the national convention in July. He will be missed by all of us. I hope we can take a lesson from Con's example. Let us all try to change what it means to be blind for ourselves and for the generations to come.
Olivia Ostergaard, Past President of the Fresno Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of California, reports the following election results: Toni Eames, President; Lyrue Taylor, Vice President; Jan Kafton, Secretary; Ed Eames, Treasurer; and Olivia Ostergaard and Rosemary Hickey, Board members.
** For Sale:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Artic Vision 215 speech board, version 3.04 with WinVision software included, four years old and works fine. Price $280. Contact James De Marr at e-mail address: Jdemarr@aol.com or call (319) 355-5597, or write to him at 803 Hillside Drive, Bettendorf, Iowa 52722.