38, No. 8 August/September
Barbara Pierce, Editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille,
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The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, President
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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. 8 August/September 1995
1995 CONVENTION ROUNDUP
by Barbara Pierce
by Marc Maurer
THE FUTURE OF CATEGORICAL
SERVICES IN REHABILITATION IN THE UNITED STATES
by Fredric K. Schroeder
REPORT FROM THE OFFICE OF
SPECIAL EDUCATION AND REHABILITATIVE SERVICES
by Judy Heumann
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND AWARDS FOR 1995
THE SCHOLARSHIP CLASS OF 1995
THE HERITAGE OF CONFLICT
by Marc Maurer
BRAILLE LITERACY, BRAILLE TEXTS, AND BRAILLE BILLS
RESOLUTIONS ADOPTED BY THE
ANNUAL CONVENTION OF THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND JULY, 1995
by Ramona Walhof
THE CONSTITUTION OF THE
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
Copyright (c) 1995 National Federation of the Blind
by Barbara Pierce
Those who attended the 1995 convention of the National Federation of the Blind are still talking about the unforgettable experiences we shared during the first week of July. The Chicago Hilton and Towers provided an almost perfect setting for a National Federation of the Blind convention: friendly and competent staff, an elegant but uncomplicated facility, and a stimulating host city in the nation's heartland. As each convention closes and fades into memory, one is left with a few indelible memories that forever after spring to mind each time that convention is remembered--the skirling of bag pipes on the convention floor, half a hundred blind children and their families taking their rightful place in the Federation clan, the hotel's television channel broadcasting Federation programming all day every day, and a deaf-blind two-year-old showing off for his parents and other adults by running in circles and signing "funny!" These are a few of the pictures that will always color my own memories of the 1995 convention of the National Federation of the Blind.
In many ways this was the convention
of the children. Ninety of them registered during the week at NFB Camp, the
day camp for kids conducted by Mary Willows and her crew of child care workers-
most of them volunteers. A number of other youngsters remained with their parents
or other care givers during convention activities. But wherever the children
were, learning was taking place. A deaf-blind teen who had always been told
that bouncing on beds was "against the rules" was taught the joyful
art by an adult who recognized the importance of such harmless pleasures. Sighted
children begged for and
sometimes got (for the week at least) their own canes so they could be like everybody else. Parents saw blind adults and even other blind children engaging in independent activity that they had only dreamed of for their own youngsters. And throughout the week blind adults talked with parents, played and worked with their blind children, and redoubled their determination to change what it will mean to be blind for this generation of children.
Saturday and Sunday were filled with pre-convention activities--twenty-five on July 1 and eleven on July 2, not counting repeat presentations of the Myna palm-top computer and the Newsline (r) digitized newspaper service. In addition to a morning-long seminar for parents of blind children, the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children presented a series of concurrent workshops and discussions throughout the afternoon. Fifty-two blind and sighted children went for the day to Kiddyland, a child-size amusement park while thirty-one more enjoyed NFB Camp at the hotel. Blind teens took part in a hotel-orientation session late on Saturday afternoon conducted by Debbie Stein of Chicago and Rich Crawford of Iowa and staffed largely by volunteers from the NFB adult orientation centers. It was standing-room only when the teens met to get acquainted with each other and the hotel.
With Sunday came the opening of convention registration, in which a record-breaking 2,030 passed through the lines that day, and the opening of the exhibit hall, which was actually two huge rooms totaling 63,000 square feet of display space. Sixteen affiliates, divisions, and committees staffed display tables along with fifty-three other exhibitors. With that kind of crowd the Braille and print guides to exhibiter locations, including descriptions of each one's products and services, were a valuable addition to the exhibit information table.
One of the most important meetings on Sunday was that of the Resolutions Committee. Fifteen resolutions were considered and recommended to the convention for passage. The texts of the resolutions that became Federation policy this year appear elsewhere in this issue.
Promptly at 9:00 a. m. on Monday, July 3, the annual meeting of the Board of Directors was called to order. After a moment of silence honoring members who had died during the past year, President Maurer called the roll and explained that Board member Dick Edlund was unable to attend the convention because of his wife Eileen's critical illness. Sharon Gold then announced that she would not seek reelection to the Board. Steve Benson, President of the NFB of Illinois and member of the Board of Directors, welcomed the convention to Chicago and made several announcements. He concluded his remarks by presenting a check to President Maurer in the amount of $35,000. It represented half of a bequest that the Illinois affiliate had recently received. President Maurer accepted the gift and announced that United Parcel Service had contributed $10,000 to the Federation through the Baltimore Chapter. David Ticchi, President of the Cambridge Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Massachusetts, presented a check for $500.
Next B. J. Mcdonald, founder of the magazine The Cross Stitcher, made a presentation of a beautiful framed cross stitch sampler to the NFB. It was created at the request of a woman who wanted to honor a blind man she knew with a sampler that would incorporate Braille. The design created shows a cottage with trees and sky. Above is the alphabet in print and Braille, and there is also a verse from the Book of Job. The Braille is done in gold beads, and the framed sampler measures nineteen inches high and seventeen and a half inches wide. President Maurer accepted the gift for display at the National Center.
Jim Omvig of Arizona, Chairman of the Pre-authorized Check (PAC) Committee, then announced that chapters boasting 100 percent participation in PAC by February 14, 1996, will receive special recognition for having done so and will be given an NFB mug with appropriate commendations. At the beginning of the convention 1,325 people were contributing an annual total of $306,012 to the PAC Plan.
Two award presentations were made during the Board meeting. Sharon Maneki, Chairperson of the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award Committee, presented a plaque and check to Dr. Hilda Caton, Director of the Braille Research Center. Steve Benson, Chairperson of the Blind Educator of the Year Award Committee, conferred that award on Bonnie Peterson, a professor of communication at the University of Wisconsin, Parkside. A full report of both these ceremonies appears elsewhere in this issue.
Dr. Norman Gardner, who has been active in a number of fund- raising activities for the Federation through the years, briefly described Quorum International, a company offering Federationists home-based business opportunities selling unique products. He then introduced Martin Matthews, Executive Vice President for Marketing at Quorum International. In addition to providing excellent products of many kinds and exciting opportunities for blind people and the NFB to earn money, Quorum has taken seriously its responsibility to make its sales materials accessible to blind sales representatives. Recorded and Braille materials will be available early this fall. Those interested in more information about Quorum International should contact Dr. Norman Gardner, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230.
Dr. Jernigan then reminded the audience that earlier this year the Board of Directors decided to conduct a special drawing during the convention for which only past NFB scholarship winners registered at the convention would be eligible. The prize, which would be drawn sometime late in the week during a general convention session and for which the winner must be present to collect, would be $1,000. He invited interested scholarship winners from previous years to register with Peggy Elliott.
Twenty-five 1995 scholarship winners were introduced to the convention at the Board meeting this year. Emily Ross, an undergraduate biology major at Reed College in Oregon, was the winner of the $10,000 scholarship this year. A full report on the scholarship class of '95 and the awards they received at the banquet appears elsewhere in this issue.
The Board then turned its attention to the Associates Program. Those recruited to become Members-at-large (Associates) not only make contributions to the NFB but also become full- fledged members. The top ten recruiters this year by number of Associates and by dollar amount are as follows:
Top Ten in Number of Associates Recruited
10. Frank Lee (Alabama), 61 9. Kenneth Jernigan (Maryland), 61 8. Verla Kirsch (Iowa), 63 7. Gary Thompson (Nebraska), 66 6. Beulah Sawyer (South Carolina), 78 5. Toni Eames (California), 80 4. Arthur Schreiber (New Mexico), 95 3. Karen Mayry (South Dakota), 106 2. Bill Isaacs (Illinois), 126 1. Tom Stevens (Missouri), 183
Top Ten in Dollar Amount Raised
10. Toni Eames (California), $1,182 9. Joe Ruffalo (New Jersey), $1,220 8. Jim Salas (New Mexico), $1,433 7. Marc Maurer (Maryland), $1,740 6. Tom Stevens (Missouri), $2,112 5. Bill Isaacs (Illinois), $2,298 4. Mary Ellen Jernigan (Maryland), $2,387 3. Karen Mayry (South Dakota), $3,379 2. Duane Gerstenberger (Maryland), $3,940 1. Kenneth Jernigan (Maryland), $13,517
The Board meeting adjourned shortly before noon. Monday afternoon and evening were filled with twenty-three different meetings and workshops; a field trip for children, and It's a Broken-Hearted River to Freedom, Mister John, an original play written by Jerry Whittle and performed by the Louisiana Center Players. Add to this array of activities the convention exhibit hall and the finale of Chicago's "A Taste of Chicago" with its spectacular fire works display, and the problem facing every Federationist was how to fit in everything one wanted to sample.
Tuesday morning at 9:45 the gavel fell, opening the 1995 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Following the invocation, President Maurer introduced Steve Benson to welcome the convention. After warmly welcoming the crowd and making a few announcements, Steve recalled Dr. Jernigan's statement that NFB conventions are like the gathering of the Scottish clans, and no such festivity is ever complete without the music of the bagpipes. At that point in Steve's remarks the skirling of the six bagpipes and two drums of the Glengael Pipe Band could be heard in the distance. If you have ever had occasion to stand close to a piper, you know how much volume the bagpipe produces. The welcoming roar of the audience was so tumultuous that band members later reported that their only problem marching through the throng that suddenly surrounded them was that they had difficulty hearing one another as they played. After the band reached the platform, convention delegates stood in silent tribute to those who had died during the previous year while one piper played "Amazing Grace." Then the Douglas-plaid kilted pipers retreated, leaving delight in their wake.
Dr. Jernigan, who chairs our convention arrangements activities, made several announcements of interest. Fifty-five foreign guests attended this year's convention, including thirty- four from Canada. Other countries represented were Argentina, France, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. He also announced the publication of two new books: the latest offering in the Kernel Book series of paperbacks, Toothpaste and Railroad Tracks; and The World under My Fingers, a collection of pieces on the importance of Braille to blind students. Both are available singly or in cases of fifty from the Materials Center, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, telephone (afternoons only) (410) 659-9314.
A letter of welcome from the Mayor of Chicago and a proclamation from his office were then read to the Convention:
As Mayor and on behalf of the City of Chicago, I extend cordial greetings to the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois and all those attending its fifty-fifth Annual Convention. Chicagoans are both pleased and honored that you have chosen our city as the site of your gathering.
Your visit is important to us, and we will do all we can to make your stay pleasant. Our vibrant city is sparkling with a diverse array of people, art, architecture, culture, and business. I encourage you to take some time out from your schedules to appreciate all that Chicago has to offer. We are delighted to open our world-class city to you.
Best wishes for a successful, informative, and enjoyable convention.
Mayor Richard M. Daley
WHEREAS, people with disabilities are our nation's largest minority, with 19 percent of all Americans having disabilities and over 500,000 people with disabilities living in Chicago; and
WHEREAS, the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) is working to make Chicago the most accessible city in the nation through advocacy, education, training, and direct services for people with disabilities of all ages in all aspects of life; and
WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind will hold its fifty- fifth annual convention July 1-7, 1995, at the Chicago Hilton and Towers Hotel; and
WHEREAS, founded in 1940, the Federation is the largest organization of persons who are blind in America with over 50,000 members; and
WHEREAS, the Federation's ultimate goal is the complete integration of people who are blind into society on a basis of equality; and
WHEREAS, the Federation's objectives include the removal of legal, economic, and social discriminations; the education of the public to new concepts concerning blindness; and the achievements by all blind people of the right to exercise to the fullest their individual talents and capabilities; and
WHEREAS, the Federation also provides programs which offer a common ground, a sense of participation, and a restoration of confidence for newly blinded persons;
NOW, THEREFORE, I Richard M. Daley, Mayor of the City of Chicago, do hereby proclaim July 1-7, 1995, to be National Federation of the Blind Week in Chicago, and urge all Chicagoans, businesses, and organizations to celebrate and acknowledge the Federation's fifty-five years of service and accomplishment and to support its ongoing advocacy efforts for people with disabilities.
Dated this twenty-eighth day of June, 1995
Richard M. Daley, Mayor
The remainder of the morning session was devoted to the roll call of states, in which each state's delegate told the chair his or her name, the name of the alternate delegate, the name of the person who would be serving on the Nominating Committee, the dates and location of the state's next convention, and whether or not a national representative had yet been assigned. In addition we learned that Delaware and Mississippi had succeeded in passing Braille bills in the past year. Alpedio Rolon, President of the NFB of Puerto Rico, announced that the organization's White Cane Legislation had just passed in the state house of representatives and was headed for the conference committee between the state senate and house. Ted Young, President of the NFB of Pennsylvania, made the following announcement:
Mr. President, this is a special day for Pennsylvania, so I would like to make an announcement on it. For years I have stood in envy as my fellow state presidents have announced that they had the director of their state agency with them. Today, I am pleased to say, not only do we have the new director of our state agency with us, but he is a longtime Federationist known to you all, Bob Eschbach. [applause]
The afternoon session began as usual with the 1995 Report by President Maurer, giving a summary of the activities of the National Federation of the Blind during the past year. The full text of this important address appears elsewhere in this issue, but here are President Maurer's concluding remarks:
Whether it is a vendor in Kentucky or a teacher in Connecticut, a Social Security recipient in Louisiana or a student in Alaska, we are the blind--organized and on the move. Our programs may be complex, but our goals are not--we seek independence and a full life for the blind. We ask only to be considered on the basis of our ability. The means for achieving this objective are within our own hands. They are our strength, our understanding, our commitment, our willingness to sacrifice, our imagination, and our courage. We have been fortunate; we have come to know the power of collective action. We must also demonstrate that we are worthy of the power we possess. But I have no doubt that we have the judgment to make those decisions and take those actions which will propel us the rest of the way to first-class citizenship. The Federation has many assets, but our essential being is the spirit that we bring to our daily endeavors--and that spirit is unstoppable.
In the coming year I, as President, will do the best that I know to make our Federation all that it can be--and I will not vacillate or waffle or compromise. But I will also expect you to do your part. I intend to ask each of you to contribute your effort, your energy, your resources, your initiative, and your boldness. I know the members of the National Federation of the Blind, and I have absolutely no doubt that we will meet the challenges of the years ahead. This is the commitment that we make to each other, to ourselves, to the blind who have gone before us, and to the generation still to come. We move to the year ahead with gladness and vigor. This is what I ask of myself; this is what I ask of you the members; and this is my report for 1995.
The remainder of the afternoon was filled
with interesting presentations:
* "The Will to Succeed: a Blind Athlete Speaks," by Craig MacFarlane; * "Aspects of Centralized Library Service," by Frank Kurt Cylke, Director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped; * "The Future of Categorical Services in Rehabilitation in the United States," by Dr. Fredric K. Schroeder (the full text of his remarks is printed elsewhere in this issue); "The Power of Public Speaking," by Dr. John W. Smith, Professor of Speech Communication, Ohio University; * "Report from Recording for the Blind," by Ritchie Geisel, President and CEO.
The Tuesday evening dance was filled with the big-band sound provided by the Big Band Machine--one of Chicago's favorite bands, with vocalists and the style and flare of the big-band era.
The Music Division's Showcase of Talent also took place Tuesday evening. A number of Federationists took part in this popular event. The winners in the Amateur Division were Johnna Simmons (North Carolina), second place; and Don Galloway (Washington, D.C.), first place. The winners in the Professional Division were Dr. Nathaniel Brown (California) second place; and Dr. John Smith (Ohio) first place.
The first item on the Wednesday morning convention agenda was the election of six Board members. Elected to two-year terms were Donald Capps, South Carolina; Priscilla Ferris, Massachusetts; Ed McDonald, West Virginia; Betty Niceley, Kentucky; Joanne Wilson, Louisiana; and, for the first time, Wayne Davis, Florida. Wayne is the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida. Each newly elected Board member thanked the Convention for the honor and the challenge conferred by the office and pledged continued hard work on behalf of the Federation and its goals. Perhaps the most touching of these brief statements was made by Priscilla Ferris, who said:
Mr. Maurer, Dr. Jernigan, fellow Federationists, I want to thank you for this honor. Twenty-two years ago, when I joined this organization, I thought it was just to go to monthly meetings, to sit around with some friends. But in twenty-two years I have learned differently. This is an organization of learning and sharing. We have good and bad times, failures and successes; but we work together. That's the important thing. I would like to share something with all of my Federation family.
This morning I became the grandmother of an eight-pound, nine-ounce grandson. He was born at four o'clock, and his name is Ian Joseph. He, like his mother and the rest of my family, will be a member of this great organization of ours. Thank you very much.
"The Power of the Computer in the Hands of the Blind: Obstacles and Opportunities" was the title of the next convention agenda item. Curtis Chong, President of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science, discussed the problems and possibilities in recent technological innovation.
In a presentation titled "Newsline (r): A Nationwide Digital Newspaper Network for the Blind," Dr. Jernigan and Jim Patterson, President of Times On-Line Services, announced that The New York Times will soon be joining USA Today as nationwide newspapers available to blind people through the NFB's telephone-access system. Dr. Jernigan also told the audience that earlier in the week the Chicago Tribune had expressed interest in joining the NFB system and was making a generous contribution to the project.
The next agenda item was an address by the Honorable Luis Gutierrez, Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Chicago. His title was "Fairness in Government: Creating a Climate for Full Participation by the Blind."
At the conclusion of the morning session Mr. Philippe Chazal, Director of the Vocational Training Center for the Blind in Paris and Vice President of the Commission on Vocational Training and Employment for the European Blind Union, spoke to the convention about the situation of blind people in France. Then Dr. Euclid Herie, Chief Operating Officer and President of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and Treasurer of the World Blind Union, addressed the Convention briefly. At the conclusion of his remarks the session adjourned.
Wednesday afternoon and evening were filled with tours, seminars, workshops, and committee meetings. As usual the National Association of Blind Students sponsored its popular Monte Carlo Night for all those who like playing various games and having a good time.
The Thursday morning convention session will go down in Federation lore as the Marriage Mart. President Maurer began with the announcement that Jason Farrar of Colorado and Kasondra Bair of California had become engaged during the convention and expected to be married in March. The morning program then began with an address from James Gashel, NFB Director of Governmental Affairs, titled "The Foundation of Independence: Education of Blind Children."
Following Mr. Gashel's remarks, Diane McGeorge was called upon to give a door prize. This is what she said:
I have got to do a lot of things in the NFB, but I've never got to do the next thing I'm going to do. This note reads, "Special announcement with the door prize, Ray Raysor proposes marriage to Joie Stuart, both members of the DC Chapter. This $25 door prize is good even if she says, `No.'" [prolonged applause and laughter] "And the last sentence says Ray `hopes to be married in the fall.' So this prize comes from Ray Raysor.
Mr. Maurer: There are all kinds of ways to propose. Often it is done in somewhat more secluded circumstances. Who won the door prize?
President Maurer then returned to the morning's agenda with a joint presentation titled "Inclusion for All: Building on the Tools of Blindness." The speakers were Dr. Alan Gartner (Dean for Research) and Dorothy Kerzner Lipsky (Director), of the National Center on Educational Restructuring and Inclusion, Graduate School and University, City University of New York. Dr. Gartner and Ms. Lipsky have worked closely together for a number of years and in their presentations drew on their experience in teaching to show that full inclusion is a process, not a placement.
At the close of Ms. Lipsky's remarks she said:
In closing, I just want to say in the best tradition of what I see happening here--people are getting engaged and they're getting all sorts of incentives; so I want to end my presentation in that same tradition. I want to say that, if Alan Gartner will marry me, then I will give one hundred dollars to the National Federation of the Blind. [laughter]
During the confusion that followed Diane McGeorge gave a door prize, and then President Maurer broke in with:
"He accepts; he'll do it. [cheers and applause] Don't ever think that things don't happen at these conventions!"
After the tumult subsided, Dr. Ralph Bartley, Superintendent of the Kentucky School for the Blind, delivered an address titled "Striving for Excellence in a Residential School for the Blind." Dr. Bartley discussed a number of obstacles to an excellent residential school education and also a group of characteristics that must be present if good education is to take place for blind students.
Attention next turned to "The Importance of Braille Literacy in the Education of Blind Children." Dr. Sally Mangold, Professor of Special Education at San Francisco State University, addressed this vital subject. Dr. Jernigan next chaired a panel titled "Braille Literacy, Braille Texts, and Braille Bills." The three panel participants represented the Association of American Publishers, Inc. This very important discussion appears in full elsewhere in this issue.
The final agenda item of the morning was presented by Lawrence Thompson, Principal Deputy Commissioner, Social Security Administration. His topic was "Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income: Plans for Changes in Eligibility, Work Incentives, and Claims Processing."
The afternoon general session began with "A Report from Poland" delivered by Tadeusz Madzia, President of the Polish Association of the Blind. After reporting on the activities of his organization, Mr. Madzia presented a beautiful Medieval-style clock to President Maurer, who accepted it on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind. Mr. Madzia also honored Dr. Jernigan with the Polish Association of the Blind's highest distinction, the Golden Sign, an order presented only to people who have greatly contributed to the welfare, rehabilitation, and social integration of the blind and who have also contributed to cooperation between organizations of blind people. He went on to say that he considered Dr. Jernigan a great friend of the Polish blind people. In accepting the small golden medallion, Dr. Jernigan expressed his gratitude and his hope that our two organizations will continue to work together for the improvement of the lives of blind people around the world.
The next agenda item was one that is always popular. This year it was titled "Productivity and Independence: The Blind Get It Done." The participants were Steve Shelton, Senior Systems Engineer for AllTEL Information Services in Oklahoma City; Debbie Kent Stein, author of children's books, Chicago; and Noel Nightingale, Attorney, Environmental Practice Group, Heller, Ehrman, White, & McAuliffe, Seattle. All three talked about their jobs and the ways in which their philosophy has shaped their experience.
Then Jarrel Boatright, Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Telephone Pioneers of America, delivered to the Convention a "Report From the Telephone Pioneers of America." "A Report From the American Foundation for the Blind" was the final agenda item of the afternoon. It was delivered by Carl Augusto, President of the American Foundation for the Blind.
The Thursday evening banquet was, as usual, the highlight of the convention. President Maurer's address, "The Heritage of Conflict," was simultaneously stirring, humorous, and thought- provoking. The text of the entire address is printed elsewhere in this issue, but the following excerpt suggests its flavor:
As everybody knows, we live in a time of turmoil. The federal government is re-examining its role in programs for the blind, and the state governments are doing the same. So is the private sector, and so are we. A few years ago many of the groups of the disabled (including some of the blind) seemed to think that the Americans With Disabilities Act would solve all (or, at least, most) of our problems--but we in the Federation never felt that way--and we don't feel that way now. Whether the restructuring of public buildings, the redesigning of the workplace, and the reconfiguration of the environment mandated by the ADA are a good or a bad thing is not pertinent to what I am saying tonight. What is pertinent is this: Ultimately government cannot make us free, cannot make us equal participants in society. Business cannot do it; the press cannot do it; the public at large cannot do it; and the agencies for the blind cannot do it. We will either do it for ourselves, or it will not be done. Others can help (and certainly they can hinder)--but in the total scheme of things they cannot give us freedom, and they cannot keep us from having it. We have come too far for that. We are too strong, too determined, too well organized, too knowledgeable about our own needs and strengths, and too close to the final goal to allow it to happen.
Two awards were presented during the banquet. Joyce and Tom Scanlan jointly received the Jacobus tenBroek Award, and Tom Curley, President and Publisher of USA Today, received the NFB's Distinguished Service Award. Both presentations are reported fully elsewhere in this issue.
The general session on Friday began with the joyful announcement that Eileen Edlund was well enough that day for Dick to slip away from home long enough to look in on the convention. As usual, the Friday session was devoted to organizational business. Jim Gashel made an excellent Washington report, and fifteen resolutions were discussed and voted upon. The closing figures for the Pre-authorized Check (PAC) Plan program as reported by Chairman Jim Omvig were encouraging. The number of people contributing on PAC rose from 1,325 to 1,415, and they will be contributing $331,170 in the coming year. Gary Wunder, Chairman of the SUN Committee, reported that 858 Shares Unlimited in NFB had been sold during the convention, raising $8,580 for the organization. In the scholarship-winner drawing for $1,000 the name of Brian Buhrow, class of '88, was drawn.
So ended the 1995 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Filled with energy and promise for the future, we turned homeward determined that the coming year will witness accelerating change in public attitudes about blindness. Each of us has work to do if measurable progress is to be made. In the months ahead, thousands of people will be told that they are becoming blind; parents will learn that their children will never see. We must be ready with hope and solutions, understanding and encouragement. We left Chicago energized for the challenges ahead and counting the weeks to the 1996 convention in Anaheim, California.
JULY 4, 1995
The activities of the past twelve months have signified growth and change for the National Federation of the Blind although the solid substance of our organization and our enduring purpose have not altered in the slightest. Our representative character as the voice of the nation's blind and our paramount objective to serve as the vehicle for collective action by the blind and by the parents of blind children remain the fundamentals on which we have built the organized blind movement. All that we have done, all the programs that we have built, all the recognition that we have achieved must be understood in this perspective.
Blind sheltered shop workers, blind teachers, blind students, blind parents, blind people in the professions, the parents of blind children, blind scientists, professionals in the field of work with the blind, the blind from every cultural setting, those with disabilities in addition to blindness, those who have recently become blind, those who are older and those who are not, those with education and those without it--the blind-- this is what we are and why we have the strength that we have. We have one overriding goal, to respond to the needs of the blind-- and we will not permit differences of style or training or background to divert us from serving that end. This unwillingness to be sidetracked by unimportant details gives us the unity, the harmony, the single-mindedness, and the force of will that constitute the essence of the National Federation of the Blind.
On television and radio, in newspapers and magazines, in public meetings and private gatherings, the work of the Federation is becoming ever more widely known. Our former first lady, Mrs. Barbara Bush, published in 1994 the memoirs of her years in Washington. Contained among her recollections is a description of a visit to the White House by several members of the National Federation of the Blind. Mrs. Bush was particularly impressed by Second Vice President Peggy Elliott. Although Mrs. Bush had other duties to perform on the day of our visit, the work of the Federation was of such interest to her that she took additional time to devote to us. This is what she says about the Federation:
I was trying hard to keep up my regular schedule. One morning in early January, for example, I met with members of the National Federation of the Blind. They were so fascinating I visited with them much longer than scheduled. Their spokesperson was a young blind woman who was a Yale Law School graduate and a court trial lawyer. She showed me how she took notes with a pocket Braille device that looked like a ruler. They told me that only 25 percent of our blind children are taught Braille; the other 75 percent are locked into second-class citizenry. The group was petitioning to have Braille education made available to all children. I had never thought about this before, but everyone must know how to read--whether it is by sight or by feel.
This is the description of the Federation contained in the memoirs of former first lady Barbara Bush. Our name and the work we are doing are being distributed throughout the United States and the world.
It is not only in the memoirs of our nation's leaders that the Federation is being recognized. Paul Nelson and Judy Pearson are the authors of a book entitled Confidence in Public Speaking, 6th edition. This text incorporates quotations from the 1989 National Federation of the Blind banquet address "Language and the Future of the Blind." Not only is the talent for public speaking commended, but the purpose for doing the speaking, the need for blind people to achieve freedom, is acknowledged as well.
Our public service announcements, which depict the innate normality of the blind, also continue to be broadly circulated. During the past year our message appeared in all of the top ten television markets and on over 200 superstations, cable systems, and local television channels throughout the nation.
Late last summer the CBS television network featured the National Federation of the Blind on its overnight news program. The subject being discussed was the installation of detectable warnings on subway platforms. Certain uninformed people believe that bumpy surfaces should be installed along the edges of these platforms to warn blind pedestrians of danger. When the blind feel the bumps, these people say, the platform edge is close at hand. Unless the blind feel the bumps, they add, they will not know about the edge until it is too late.
These uninformed people demanded that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority install the bumps along the platform edges in all of its seventy-four rail stations--a distance of eighteen miles--at an estimated cost of thirty million dollars. The bumps were required (they said) to make these rail stations accessible to the blind in accordance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The National Federation of the Blind has opposed installation of these bumpy surfaces. Our experience indicates that they are not necessary, and in certain instances they are actually hazardous. Those who want them installed say that many blind people have not been trained to travel safely. Failing to install the bumps (they say) will keep such untrained people from riding the subway. Putting the bumps underfoot would make it possible (they argue) for everybody to ride--especially the blind who have never learned how.
We responded to this specious line of reasoning on the CBS television network. Installing the bumps does not ensure that those who are blind will not fall. In fact, it is very likely to be precisely the opposite. If the installation of these bumpy surfaces will encourage untrained blind people to think that injuries cannot occur in the subway, these people will take fewer precautions than are advisable in the circumstances. Furthermore, the irregular surface underfoot will increase the instability of pedestrians and heighten the danger. With all of these factors in mind, we oppose the installation of the detectable warnings.
I am pleased to be able to report to you that this spring the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (with our assistance) came to an agreement with the Department of Transportation that the installation of the detectable warnings will not be required. Officials of the transit system agreed to install an experimental electronic warning system, and they have asked us to help design it. We will be working closely with them and with the Sensory Engineering Center and the Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University to produce it.
Last fall Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, President Emeritus of the National Federation of the Blind, provided staff training to counselors and others who work at the New York Commission for the Blind. This initial training session demonstrated that the collective experience of the organized blind movement can provide a kind of background and comprehension which is not available from other sources.
The government of Bermuda last fall invited Dr. Jernigan to make presentations regarding the ability of the disabled to the educational community, the government, and the public-at-large of Bermuda. The training program lasted a full week and included groups ranging from grade school children to news media representatives to the Governor General. Our message of independence for blind people was enthusiastically received.
Dr. Jernigan continues to serve as the president of the North America/Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union. As an officer of the world organization and a representative of the blind of this continent, he traveled last fall to Amman, Jordan, to participate in policy discussions and to study programs for the blind in that country; and this spring he visited Caracas, Venezuela, for meetings with leaders among blindness organizations from throughout the world.
This coming August Dr. Jernigan will be leading a delegation to Toronto to help plan for the 1996 quadrennial convention of the World Blind Union, which will be held there. The 1996 World Blind Union convention will bring together delegates from all parts of the world, and we of the National Federation of the Blind will be there to make new friends and to continue our work with those we have already come to know. Our interaction with blind individuals and organizations from throughout the world has given us a level of understanding and a perspective that have helped to enhance our ability to bring independence to the blind of our own country.
During the past year we have provided background and knowledge to a number of visitors to the National Center for the Blind. They came from Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Great Britain, Germany, Greece, India, Israel, Japan, Korea, Morocco, New Zealand, Nepal, Pakistan, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Ukraine, and the United Arab Emirates.
The World Blind Union technology committee, chaired by Ruperto Ponz Lazaro of Spain, chose as its meeting place in 1995 the National Center for the Blind. One segment of the meeting consisted of a tour and hands-on demonstration in the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind.
The International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind, as Federationists know, houses the most extensive collection of technology for the blind in the world. In addition to raised-line-drawing equipment and other specialized machines, there is at least one of every kind of device of which we are aware now being produced anywhere in the world (along with the programs and accessories to operate them) for producing information from computer equipment in speech, in Braille, and in refreshable Braille. Our commitment, made when the International Braille and Technology Center was opened in 1990, is to maintain the collection of equipment and to acquire all useful machines for the blind that become available. During the past year we have obtained or upgraded four Braille embossers, four Braille translation programs, one refreshable Braille display, eight DOS- based screen review programs, three Windows-based screen review programs, five Windows-based Braille translation programs, six speech synthesizers, two stand-alone reading machines, four PC- based reading systems, five portable note-takers, and one telecommunications device for the deaf-blind. We purchased five Pentium computers, two 486 laptops, and a number of other machines, accessories, and software.
We published one major review of PC-based reading systems, and we are currently completing two additional documents that analyze computer programs and hardware. The first is a comparative examination of screen reading programs. The second analyzes the performance of Braille printing machines. This means that we have written evaluations of the performance criteria of most of the products now in the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind. The writing of these evaluations covers hundreds of pages of print. Nobody else in the world has ever attempted a comparison of this scope, and nobody else has the array of products that would make such an effort possible.
One element of the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind is our computer bulletin board, NFB NET. Because of the continued growth of this service, we have added an additional telephone line and installed state-of-the-art high- speed modems. In addition to a substantial body of NFB literature, we have added programs of interest to blind computer users, electronic texts, and the resources of a CD-ROM shareware collection. There are presently more than 10,000 files on the bulletin board. If you were using the fastest modem, with absolutely perfect conditions for transferring information, it would take a solid week, twenty-four hours a day, to get everything from our computer bulletin board. While you were loading that information, we would have added still more.
Within the last few months the National Federation of the Blind has established an Internet site, which is part of the worldwide computer communications system known as the World Wide Web. The address for our site is "nfb.org" or "blind.org." Those who seek knowledge on the Information Superhighway will be able to learn the real meaning of blindness. We have already placed on the Internet our Kernel Books, our magazines, and other informational documents; and we are also offering the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act, the model Braille bill, Braille translation software, Social Security information, a compilation of computer resource information, and much more.
Our Coordinator of Public Information, my wife Patricia Maurer, who serves as a full-time volunteer, is selecting items to be included in the body of literature available on the Internet. Our objective in establishing this Internet site is to provide all useful information about blindness. The problem with most research libraries dealing with the blind is that they have incorporated into their collections the negative viewpoint that blindness is necessarily a disastrous deprivation while failing to present the more realistic view that blindness is merely one of many characteristics--a tragedy only if society and the individual make it a tragedy. We intend to use the Internet to correct this one-sided presentation. We will not attempt to restrict the distribution of the views of others about blindness, but the experiences of the blind must also be distributed on the Information Superhighway. The establishment of this site has cost us many thousands of dollars, and maintaining it will be an ongoing expense, costing many thousands more. However, we will be reaching many millions of people, and the education we provide will change forever the negative attitude about blindness. The Internet is one more mechanism for us to use to bring real opportunity to the lives of the blind.
The development of computer technology has in the past two decades been of considerable benefit to the blind. More information has become available through speech output devices and Braille printers than ever before. However, current trends indicate that ready access to information for the blind from computers is in danger. Computers formerly produced information in text format. The new machines are making the same information available in pictographs. Synthesized speech software and Braille translation programs cannot easily translate these pictures into words.
Therefore, in February of this year we invited individuals with knowledge about developing computer technology and programming for the blind to attend a Conference on Technology for Standardization of Information Interchange for Persons with Disabilities. The purpose of the conference was to identify a standard information transfer method that would let the blind get at the information. Will the telephone have a computer screen? Will the person making a call need to see the screen to understand what information is being transmitted? Will shopping be done by seeing images on a television and touching the image which is to be purchased? How can the blind use such devices? These and related questions were considered at the conference. Participants included representatives from computer companies such as IBM and Microsoft, scientists doing computer research and programming for the blind, individuals from government purchasing departments, and members of the organized blind.
Shortly before this convention Congress considered and adopted amendments to the Telecommunications Act. Part of the legislation is a requirement that communications devices be accessible to the disabled. The understandings we reached in our conference should be a tremendous advantage in implementing these amendments.
As the Information Age advances, it is of vital importance that the blind be able to reach the sources of that information with ease. We are committed to ensuring that this will happen. We will be participating later this summer in a top-level meeting at Microsoft headquarters to discuss information access for the blind and other disabled persons using the newest computer operating systems and applications programs. As it is with so many of our other activities, so it is with computer technology. We believe that the blind will be a part of the Information Age, and we the National Federation of the Blind are committed to seeing that it happens.
One of our most powerful initiatives this year, which will be considered at length later during the convention, is the development of the first nationwide talking newspaper service for the blind. This service, called Newsline for the Blind,■ takes the text of newspapers by telephone and transforms it into computerized speech, which can then be read by a blind individual using a touch-tone telephone. The advantage of full automation is that the service is extremely fast, low in cost, and high in quality. The first newspaper to join with us in providing this service is USA Today, which has now been a part of Newsline for the Blind■ for almost a year. Within the next few weeks The New York Times will become a part of the service. The pilot project to test the concept of the digital newspaper has been a resounding success. We are now seeking funding to establish this service in cities throughout the country. Our objective is to make the newspaper available to all blind people nationwide.
The Braille literacy campaign we initiated several years ago continues to be a top priority. Our new videotape, "That the Blind May Read," presents in graphic form the value of reading for the blind and the severe damage caused by the lack of literacy. This videotape has already been broadcast on television in dozens of markets and distributed to libraries and schools throughout the country. In the few short months since its release, this video program has been acquired by almost a thousand institutions. We have faith that, when the public, the governmental officials, and the educators come to understand the importance of literacy for the blind, they will teach what blind people need to learn. "That the Blind May Read" is among the most succinct and powerful vehicles for creating the climate for literacy for the blind.
Braille bills, which we drafted, have now been adopted in well over 50 percent of the states, and proposals for such legislation are actively being pursued in a number of others. The heart of the Braille bill is the policy that, if a blind student is to be taught to read and if the teacher or the parents want Braille to be taught, it will be taught. We have proposed that this policy be incorporated in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which is scheduled to come before the Congress later this year. We have been assured that a Braille literacy provision will be part of the legislation. The members of this organization have already submitted more than 1,500 letters to members of Congress urging that this provision be adopted. Because of the urgent necessity for the blind to be literate, we must ensure that such a proposal is incorporated in the Act. We who are blind intend to be able to learn to read.
Several years ago, before we began our work to promote the adoption of Braille bills, we attempted to discuss with the publishers of textbooks the need for their materials to be available in forms the blind could use. Each of the people with whom we spoke thought that we had a good idea but that it was somebody else's responsibility. The publishers took no action, and the Braille textbooks were still as scarce and limited as ever. Then we visited the legislatures, and the Braille bills became a reality.
I am pleased to report that we have now formed a tentative working relationship with the Association of American Publishers, the group of companies that produce textbooks for use in primary and secondary schools. The publishers, who will be making a presentation at this convention, indicate that they are spending several million dollars a year to produce electronic texts that can be used to print Braille. They recognize that the days of no Braille books are gone. They also have come to understand that working with the National Federation of the Blind will be much better than meeting us before legislative committees. Our developing relationship with the publishers is likely to result in an increased number of Braille texts for blind students, as well as streamlined operation and economy for the publishers.
Braille (we are repeatedly told) is difficult, bulky, and slow. If those who are expected to teach Braille believe that the end result will be mediocre at best, the effort to do the teaching will not be great. With ineffective teaching the inefficiency of Braille becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, we can do something about it. We have assisted with some of the teaching ourselves. Sharon Maneki, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland, co-authored an article with Barry B. Frieman, Professor of Early Childhood Education at Towson State University, which appeared in the Childhood Education magazine. In this article teachers are urged to give lessons in Braille to sighted students. Third graders (the article suggests) learn Braille with ease. They use the system to pass secret notes to one another, and they take the skill of reading for blind people as a matter of course. Sighted teachers who have blind students in the classroom are also much more readily able to give support to those students if they have an understanding of Braille. Braille must be regarded not as special but ordinary; not as unusual but part of the regular educational process; not as atypical but as an expected part of the routine for the blind. When this happens, literacy for blind students will be achieved, and literacy is exactly what we want.
In the spring of 1995 the Braille Research Center, an independent organization conducting research dealing with Braille, moved its location to the National Center for the Blind. Dr. Hilda Caton, who is the director of this Center, has extensive experience in dealing with educational materials for blind children. Ruby Ryles, the assistant director, is well known to Federation members from her position of leadership in the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. The Braille Research Center will be receiving its space at the National Center for the Blind without charge for the first few months, and the National Federation of the Blind has provided a grant to cover costs of the transition, but the ongoing financing of the corporation will be handled by the Braille Research Center. Because Braille literacy for the blind is of central importance to us and because those directing the Braille Research Center are so well qualified, we are pleased to be working closely with them.
In the mid-1960's the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC) was organized. This agency sought to gain control of programs for the blind and, thereby, control of the lives and activities of the blind. NAC, as part of its effort to achieve widespread recognition among agencies for the blind, officials in the field of education, and representatives of the government, requested that it be placed on the list of recognized accrediting bodies of the United States Department of Education. NAC has for all of its existence been controversial at best and sometimes unscrupulous in its behavior. NAC accreditation has often been a shield for shabby practices--or worse--by agencies for the blind. Because of its behavior the organized blind had no choice but to oppose it.
In the spring of 1994 we requested that the Secretary of Education remove NAC from the list of accrediting agencies. I am pleased to report that United States Education Secretary Richard Riley has responded. The letter to NAC is clear. Recognition of NAC as an accrediting agency of the Department of Education has been withdrawn.
We have assisted a number of blind people with legal cases during the year. Barbara Kreisberg is a licensed nursing home administrator in North Carolina. A year ago she was supervising a nursing home for the Britthaven Corporation. Late last summer Barbara Kreisberg lost a substantial portion of her sight. With her own money she purchased magnifiers and hired readers, and she continued to administer the nursing home. Then she was ordered by her employer to stop using the readers and the magnifiers. As you might expect, without using these techniques she could not read, and she could not do the work. Barbara Kreisberg was terminated. Officials of the Britthaven Corporation will not spell out the reason for the firing, but before they imposed the arbitrary rule that techniques used by blind people were prohibited, Barbara Kreisberg was doing her work and doing it well. The reason for her termination is clear. It would not have happened if she had been able to see. She was dismissed because she is blind. However, such action is a violation of the law, and we are assisting with the lawsuit. I predict that before we are finished, Barbara Kreisberg will be back on the job at the Britthaven nursing home. Blindness cannot stop her, and we are not prepared to let her employer use phony excuses to stop her.
Wiscraft Industries, located in Milwaukee, is a sheltered shop for the blind. Two of the workers, George Washington and Verne Lind, sought help from the National Federation of the Blind earlier this year. Both blind employees were being paid between $1.00 and $2.00 an hour--less than half of the minimum wage. However, when sighted people were hired to work alongside the blind at Wiscraft, their pay was $5.50 an hour--$1.25 above the minimum wage.
With help from Scott LaBarre, George Washington and Verne Lind have filed complaints with the Wisconsin Equal Rights Division. When the National Federation of the Blind became involved, the managers of the workshop began to take the blind employees more seriously. Although the formal investigation has not been concluded, conditions for George Washington and Verne Lind have already begun to change. Both of them are now being paid at least the minimum wage--or better. It is worth being active in the National Federation of the Blind. Ask George Washington and Verne Lind. They have evidence in their pay envelopes.
Corally Littrell and Sandra Rowley-Goldstein are blind special education teachers in the Long Meadow School Department in Massachusetts. Corally Littrell had been teaching a multiply- disabled blind child. When this student was transferred to a new school, problems occurred. The principal (unfamiliar with blindness and the capacity of a blind teacher) insisted that Corally Littrell could not continue to provide services to the child without a full-time sighted monitor. It is not reported whether the principal intended to protect the blind student from the blind teacher, the blind teacher from the blind student, or both of them from each other. Finally, Corally Littrell was removed from her teaching assignment altogether.
The principal at the school must have been astonished when the new special education teacher arrived. Her name is Sandra Rowley-Goldstein, and she is also blind. Once again, the principal insisted that a sighted person must be present during the lessons at all times. Such practices are, of course, discriminatory. Consequently we have become involved. A hearing was held before the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination only a few days ago, and we expect a decision shortly. Blindness does not prevent us from performing the duties required of special education teachers, and the fear and misunderstanding about blindness by officials at the Long Meadow School Department must not be permitted to bar us from the profession. We in the National Federation of the Blind intend to help Corally Littrell and Sandra Rowley-Goldstein resume their special education duties. We believe that this is a part of the special education program that we should provide to the Long Meadow School Department.
Barbara Braun is a blind person living in Eugene, Oregon. About ten years ago she began working in the accounting department of the Fred Meyers Corporation, which operates a large chain of retail stores. For ten years Barbara Braun performed her duties satisfactorily. Then, when the company changed to a new computer system, her duties could no longer be done without computer access technology. Rather than acquiring this technology, company officials circulated a rumor to other employees that accommodations for Barbara Braun would cost $200,000 and would reduce the end-of-the-year bonuses that might otherwise be paid. Imagine how popular that made Barbara Braun. She was forced to leave, and we are helping with the complaints-- a workers' compensation claim and an employment discrimination action. Although we are not finished with the Barbara Braun matter, part of it has been completed. In the workers' compensation action a cash settlement has been paid, and we expect to win the discrimination case as well.
There have also been a number of Social Security cases this year. Harvey Heagy lives in New Orleans. He came to the National Federation of the Blind several years ago with notices from the Social Security Administration which claimed that he had received almost $20,000 more in disability benefits than he should have. Furthermore, his monthly checks were terminated even though he earned a small enough amount to remain qualified.
Appropriate appeals and a new claim for benefits were filed. When the payments were reinstated, Harvey Heagy began receiving an amount twice as high as the benefit that he had been getting before the termination. But that is not all. The claim that there was an overpayment has also been settled. Harvey Heagy will not be required to repay the $20,000, but he will be receiving an additional check from Social Security for $8,000.
Janet and Joe Triplett, who live in Tulsa, Oklahoma, have been active leaders of the National Federation of the Blind for many years. Joe Triplett was elected this spring to serve as President of the National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma. The Social Security Administration has been attempting to require Janet Triplett to repay over $10,000 in benefits. Earlier this year we challenged the overpayment claim. The decision of the hearing officer was unequivocal and immediate. Janet Triplett owes the Social Security Administration not one penny, but she will be receiving several thousand dollars in back benefits.
Charles Allen of Louisville, Kentucky, is the able President of the Merchants Division of the National Federation of the Blind. As a vendor in the Kentucky Business Enterprise Program Charles Allen has been faced with the practice of splitting vending facilities. If a particular vending location can generate enough income for one vendor (agency officials say), it can probably generate enough for two. The Kentucky Business Enterprise Program has made a practice of assigning a second vendor to the location and splitting the income--although, I should parenthetically insert, the program officials have not been willing to practice what they preach. That is, the business enterprise supervisors have not been willing to reduce unemployment and help the economy by lowering their income and splitting their salaries with the less fortunate.
Several years ago Charles Allen requested the opportunity to run his own business, but the Kentucky agency refused. There was a hearing and later an arbitration. The matter has now been resolved. The State of Kentucky has agreed that Charles Allen will operate his own business, and his income will not be split. Our assistance in eliminating the multiple vendor policy has been effective, and the earnings of blind vendors in Kentucky show it.
Carolyn Dodd is a long-time teacher in Hartford, Connecticut, and the sister of United States Senator Christopher Dodd. In the last few years she has lost much of her sight; and despite her continued effectiveness as a teacher, school board officials decided that she could not teach Montessori classes. They did not want a blind person teaching the sighted although they would have permitted her to teach the blind. Carolyn Dodd does not have extensive experience dealing with discrimination or blindness, but she has become a member of the National Federation of the Blind, and she requested our help.
Homer Page (President of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado, Commissioner of Boulder County, and Chairman of the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind), at the request of the National Office, met with Carolyn Dodd about her situation and agreed to make a presentation on her behalf to school board officials. The message of the presentation was delivered with courtesy and tact, but it was unmistakable--either Carolyn Dodd would cease to be a victim of discrimination or the Federation would take a hand. The school board thought the matter over. Within a week it had come to a decision. Carolyn Dodd was offered a contract, and she has been teaching Montessori classes throughout the school year.
Robert Holt is a blind man living in Roseville, California. Three months ago he tried to buy a car from the Ford dealership in his area. The sales personnel at the dealership declined to sell it to him because, as they put it, such a sale might violate the law. Robert Holt explained that he wasn't planning to drive the car. He just wanted to buy it. But the Ford people said: nothing doing. So Robert Holt called the National Federation of the Blind. We explained to the manager of the Ford dealership that the color of our money is just as green as it is for the sighted and that the law does not prohibit sales of automobiles to blind people but the exact opposite. Refusing to sell cars because the potential purchaser is blind is discriminatory. Robert Holt paid his money and got the keys.
It is necessary for the organized blind to become familiar with leaders in the business community. We need to provide information about the capacity of blind people, and we need to learn how business reacts to us. To expand our public education campaign, we have been working with senior management officials of the Kaman Corporation, a manufacturer of helicopters, and we have discussed literacy for blind children with Chip Mason, the president of the Legg Mason brokerage house, one of the largest in Baltimore. Mr. Mason has promised to make a substantial contribution to support the establishment of our digital newspaper service. The business perspective that these leaders bring to our work is invigorating, and the suggestions they have will expand our interaction with the business world and broaden the opportunities available to the blind.
In addition to the innovative efforts of the Federation in the last year, we have continued our ongoing activities. Bringing in new members is one of the most important things we do. Shortly before this convention the fiftieth chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina was organized. This affiliate has the largest number of local chapters of any state in the nation. Six new statewide Parents of Blind Children Divisions have been formed, bringing the number of state parents' organizations to twenty-eight. And we have also conducted state seminars, built chapters, and strengthened affiliates throughout the country.
Although the major remodeling at the National Center for the Blind has been completed, we have modified our headquarters and performed necessary maintenance during the past year. For example, air conditioning equipment which had been in a mechanical room on the fourth floor has been moved to the roof, and this room has been restructured to serve as an office. A large area on the second floor has been divided to create more offices there. A portion of the wooden floor on the ground level in the Johnson Street wing has been removed and replaced with concrete. This was necessary because the crawl space beneath that floor often contained standing ground water, which was causing the floor to deteriorate. In the process of remodeling, the crawl space has been drained. Before we poured the concrete, we filled this space with 27,000 cubic feet (sixteen hundred tons) of crushed rock.
We have distributed our literature to more parts of the world this year than ever before--ninety-nine nations outside the United States--precisely a hundred, including our own country. We continue to produce approximately 35,000 issues of our monthly magazine, the Braille Monitor; over 10,000 copies of our magazine for parents and educators of blind children, Future Reflections; and more than 110,000 copies of the Voice of the Diabetic. There are more than four hundred aids and appliances available from our Materials Center as well as more than a thousand different publications. The total number of separate items that we have shipped from the Materials Center this year is two million.
There are now eight books in the Kernel Book series, and this year we have published a volume about the history and the use of Braille, entitled The World Under My Fingers. Including our quick reference guide to matters dealing with blindness, entitled If Blindness Comes, we have distributed this year more than 67,000 books from the Materials Center.
We continue to record, reproduce, and circulate to the blind Job Opportunities for the Blind Bulletins, Presidential Releases, The American Bar Association Journal, and a number of other publications and books. More than 75,000 tape recordings were duplicated and mailed from our headquarters. And of course we receive information as well. The mail continues to arrive in large bundles, and our telephone lines--all twenty-eight of them- -bring us information, requests, and suggestions in a constant stream--not to mention the data transmission lines, fax machines, and modem connections.
The intricacy of our organization and the diversity of our efforts indicate substantial growth. However, our effectiveness must be measured by the benefit that comes to the individual blind person. Our Federation is a people's movement created by the blind to be used by the blind. A letter came to me shortly before the convention from a young blind woman in Alaska named Soo Kee Reed. She indicated that she is a member of the National Federation of the Blind. She had become blind at the age of three because of a serious case of measles. Her parents did not know what to do or where to turn. Then they met a member of the National Federation of the Blind who encouraged their daughter to explore the world around her and to study Braille. This Federationist introduced Soo Kee to the techniques used by blind people in cooking, in shopping, and in traveling. But even more important she was given hope and encouragement. In grade school Soo Kee was told that she could not study in the regular classroom, but she and her parents objected. Science, they were told, was too difficult for the blind, but they had the example of the Federation to follow. They demanded that Soo Kee be given a chance. "My first year in science," she says, "I got a B, and I was satisfied with myself. My parents asked me to give all their thanks to the NFB for the encouragement in raising a blind child."
Whether it is a vendor in Kentucky or a teacher in Connecticut, a Social Security recipient in Louisiana or a student in Alaska, we are the blind--organized and on the move. Our programs may be complex, but our goals are not--we seek independence and a full life for the blind. We ask only to be considered on the basis of our ability. The means for achieving this objective is within our own hands. It is our strength, our understanding, our commitment, our willingness to sacrifice, our imagination, and our courage. We have been fortunate; we have come to know the power of collective action. We must also demonstrate that we are worthy of the power we possess. But I have no doubt that we have the judgment to make those decisions and take those actions which will propel us the rest of the way to first-class citizenship. The Federation has many assets, but our essential being is the spirit that we bring to our daily endeavors--and that spirit is unstoppable.
In the coming year I, as President, will do the best that I know to make our Federation all that it can be--and I will not vacillate, or waffle, or compromise. But I will also expect you to do your part. I intend to ask each of you to contribute your effort, your energy, your resources, your initiative, and your boldness. I know the members of the National Federation of the Blind, and I have absolutely no doubt that we will meet the challenges of the years ahead. This is the commitment that we make to each other, to ourselves, to the blind who have gone before us, and to the generation still to come. We move to the year ahead with gladness and vigor. This is what I ask of myself; this is what I ask of you the members; and this is my report for 1995.
If you or a friend would like to remember the National Federation of the Blind in your will, you can do so by employing the following language:
"I give, devise, and bequeath unto the National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, a District of Columbia nonprofit corporation, the sum of $__________(or "______ percent of my net estate" or "The following stocks and bonds: ________") to be used for its worthy purposes on behalf of blind persons."
by Fredric K. Schroeder
From the Editor: On Tuesday afternoon, July 4, Dr. Fred Schroeder, Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, addressed the convention. Categorical services, rehabilitation and training especially suited to the problems posed by the individual's disability, are in serious trouble in the Congress. Dr. Schroeder reported on his first year as RSA Commissioner and on the current legislative situation. This is what he had to say:
Let me begin by saying that this afternoon, as I listened to the Presidential Report, I was struck by the concept of collective action that you referred to early in your presentation as you recounted the successes we have had in the past year. Collective action really does sum up what we are all about. It explains our success as a movement. Collective action is the combination of the individual efforts of fifty thousand blind people from throughout the United States. But the individual effort of fifty thousand blind people must be coordinated, and to coordinate it requires leadership. The presentation you made this afternoon is a tribute to our individual efforts, but, Mr. President, it is also a tribute to your leadership.
In 1994 the National Council on Disability commissioned a Lou Harris Poll which showed that two-thirds of people with disabilities in our country are unemployed. Among individuals with disabilities from minority backgrounds the rate of unemployment is nearer 80 percent. As we know, our best estimates are that blind people are unemployed at a rate somewhere between 70 and 80 percent. These statistics paint a dramatic picture of the terrible cost which blind and other people with disabilities bear in both economic hardship and social isolation as a result of institutionalized prejudice in our society.
Each year the federal government expends in excess of two billion dollars to support the public vocational rehabilitation program for the purpose of helping blind and other people with disabilities secure employment. All states have a vocational rehabilitation agency, and in twenty-five states there are separate agencies which serve only the blind. Regardless of the structure (a combined agency or a separate agency for the blind), state rehabilitation agencies are charged with implementing services authorized under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.
And what are these services? The Act provides that vocational rehabilitation services are any goods or services necessary to render an individual with a disability employable, including but not limited to counseling, guidance, and work- related placement services; vocational and other training services; physical and mental restoration services; maintenance for additional costs incurred while participating in rehabilitation; interpreter services for the deaf and reader services for the blind; rehabilitation teaching services and orientation and mobility services; occupational licenses, tools, equipment, and initial stocks and supplies; transportation in connection with the rendering of any vocational rehabilitation service; telecommunications, sensory, and other technological aids and devices; and rehabilitation technology services. Blind people need services. We need the training to be able to travel independently. We need competent instruction in Braille reading and writing to be competitive in an economy driven substantially by information. We need vocational training to prepare us for specific occupations. All of these services are authorized under the Act.
Nevertheless, the provision of services represents only half of the equation, half the solution, for true and effective integration. As Dr. Jernigan has taught us, the real problem of blindness is not simply the lack of eyesight, but public misunderstanding about blindness. Society does not assume for us a role of equal partnership, but in fact takes for granted that the blind will naturally assume a role of nominal participation. The problem of unemployment for blind people must, therefore, be viewed both as a problem of public attitudes toward blindness and as a challenge for better training, better services, and better technology.
In 1992, when the Rehabilitation Act was reauthorized, it contained a number of striking changes. Perhaps the most powerful was its emphasis on client choice, initiated and fought for by the National Federation of the Blind. Specifically, the Act provides for client choice and increased control in determining vocational rehabilitation goals and objectives; in the selection of vocational rehabilitation services and the entities providing such services; and in the methods used to provide or procure such services. But the choice provisions go beyond simply the right of a client to be actively involved in the selection of a service provider. The Act also broadens a client's participation in the selection of a vocational goal. With the '92 amendments an agency must consider an individual's "unique strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, and capabilities" in the selection of an employment outcome.
In this way the Congress made a clear statement that the purpose of the vocational rehabilitation program is, not simply to find a person a job, but to find a good job with a promising future that will allow the individual to raise him- or herself out of poverty and live a life of real dignity. Additionally, this point was emphasized by the explicit statement that the purpose of the Act was to "empower individuals with disabilities to maximize employment, economic self-sufficiency, independence, and inclusion and integration into society." As stated in both the House and Senate Committee reports, "It is the Committee's intent that these principles guide the policies, practices, and procedures developed under all titles of the Act."
Client choice presumes a highly individualized process of negotiation. It is premised on the idea of collaboration between the client and the rehabilitation counselor. Choice presumes that, given the right information, an individual will be able to select the services and service providers best able to meet his or her needs. Yet I believe that real choice--meaningful choice-- requires more than just information.
Last July, when I began my work at the Rehabilitation Services Administration, I was required to complete the considerable volume of paperwork necessary to instate me as a bona fide federal employee. After I filled out the required documentation, the personnel specialist with whom I was working asked if I would be interested in the government's health insurance plan. When I indicated that I was, she told me that there were a number of plans from which I could choose. She took me to a room and began giving me brochures explaining the various options and suggested that I read each one and let her know which plan I wished to select.
I was surprised to find that there were perhaps fifteen or twenty different plans from which to choose, each with a detailed brochure explaining its individual provisions. Some that required a lower biweekly fee provided less coverage or higher copayments. Some had networks of doctors; others allowed you to visit any doctor you wished. Some offered a list of doctors for whom you would pay less, but gave the option of paying more and seeing someone outside of its program. Some were HMO's, and others were traditional eighty/twenty plans. Some were hybrids offering various features of both. When I returned to my office, I began wading through the various materials and soon became overwhelmed by the quantity of information and the difficulty of finding common characteristics to use for comparison. Finally, in frustration I got up from my desk and went out into the outer office. There I stopped an RSA employee who happened to be handy and asked, "Do you have the government health insurance?" He replied that he did. I asked, "What plan do you have?" He told me he had Blue Cross. I said, "Do you like it?"
He said, "Yes, it's fine."
"Great," I said. "I'm getting Blue Cross." Later I weighed the brochures I had been given and found that I had thirteen pounds of printed material explaining my various options.
I had choice in selecting my health plan. I had all the information an individual could ever want. But my ability to exercise choice was limited, not by the lack of information, but by the lack of useful information. I had choice, but what allowed me to exercise my choice was contact with someone else who had real-life experience. As we look at defining choice for clients of the vocational rehabilitation program, I believe we should begin with an understanding that choice is more than lists, more than data, more than volumes of printed information. Real choice, the kind that people want, must include contact with others who can translate options into real-life experiences.
This is why the Federation's training centers have been so effective. Because they provide services in an environment where a blind person becomes a part of a community of other blind people, the individual acquires skills and the self-confidence necessary to put those skills into action. The blind person develops a sense of him- or herself as a whole person with the right of first-class status in society and the capacity to make that right a reality. To have choice, we must have perspective. We must have a clear vision of what is possible for us as blind people. To have this perspective, we must work actively to reshape our own assumptions about blindness into a broader conception integrating our own experiences with the achievements and experiences of others.
If we are to make a difference in the terribly high unemployment rate among the blind and other people with disabilities, we must integrate real choice into our systems, and we must ensure that our systems have the flexibility and responsiveness necessary to allow clients to move through the system quickly and efficiently. The Rehabilitation Services Administration is deeply committed to working with state agencies to streamline their processes. Through a regional forum the RSA Region X office in Seattle has critiqued proposed state agency streamlining plans and provided technical assistance. The plans eliminated many layers of administrative approvals, supervisory clearances, and overlap.
Since then each state agency has established streamlining workgroups and is implementing the results of the regional forum as well as its own ideas. In our Dallas Region state agency directors and RSA have jointly worked on a streamlining effort. This effort consisted of an in-depth review of agency processes for administrative and program operations. Similar activities are underway in other regions, and we intend to encourage and support these efforts strongly.
We are also involved in a process to help measure the success of the VR agencies through the development of evaluation standards and performance indicators. We are revising our Title I standards and indicators based upon 165 written comments received on the draft indicators issue paper disseminated in November, 1994. Our main goals for revising the standards and indicators are to simplify and streamline the indicators and to focus more clearly on outcome measures.
If we are to hold agencies accountable for placing increasing numbers of people in jobs, The Rehabilitation Services Administration must make sure that rehabilitation personnel have the expertise necessary to work effectively with clients. For blind people the need for good information about the most up-to- date technology is vital to expanding employment opportunities. To help meet this need, the National Federation of the Blind has been awarded a three-year RSA grant to assist blind clients to enter the job market by training rehabilitation personnel to enable them to address information-access issues they encounter in dealing with clients and potential employers. This project will draw from the extensive expertise of the Federation's International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind to develop new, consumer-based training approaches to meet these needs.
As you may be aware, there are a number of proposals currently before the Congress to reorganize rehabilitation services nationally. On the Senate side Senator Nancy Kassebaum of Kansas has introduced S. 143, which would consolidate numerous job-training programs under a block grant proposal. S. 143 would create one-stop-shopping job training programs within each State. Recognizing the specialized nature of vocational rehabilitation, Senator Kassebaum does not propose merging vocational rehabilitation into the generic one-stop program. Alternatively, S. 143 would create certain linkages between VR and the generic system which would expedite the exchange of important data and referral information. In this way the specialized services which blind and other people with disabilities need would continue to be delivered through a state agency system while simultaneously tapping into the generic system's expertise in areas such as employment-trend data as well as specific job listings. We believe that Title IV of S. 143 is a well-reasoned approach to linking the rehabilitation system more closely to the generic job-training system. Presently, approximately ten state agencies are participating in greater or lesser degrees with one-stop shopping job-training efforts in their states. S. 143 would build upon this experience and, we believe, offer expanded employment opportunities for blind and other VR clients throughout the country.
On the House side Congressman Howard "Buck" McKeon of California has introduced H.R. 1617. This proposal would also consolidate numerous job training programs; however, it differs dramatically from Senator Kassebaum's proposal in the way it approaches the provision of rehabilitation services. Congressman McKeon proposes a system of local workforce development boards comprised primarily of representatives of business and industry to administer all job training, including rehabilitation.
Under this proposal services would be administered by a generic job-training program which would differ substantially from community to community. The state agency system would be effectively dismantled, and in its place would be an unknown system premised on the concept of privatization and the use of vouchers. It is unclear who would determine what voucher a client would receive; the amount of the voucher; the nature and scope of services to be provided; and, perhaps most important, what would happen if an individual spends his or her voucher and is still unable to get work. Presumably the generic system will base eligibility on unemployment. What happens to upward mobility? What happens to services aimed at preserving employment for a person who becomes blind or whose vision becomes worse? There are many unanswered questions. What happens if the individual has a training need and no service provider is available to meet it? In twenty-one of the states and territories there are no private service providers of any kind to serve the blind. Even if you live in a state that has some services, what happens if the individual has a training need and the only vendor willing to accept the voucher provides poor quality services?
Clearly there is a role for vouchers in the delivery of certain VR services. Traditionally the voucher concept has been used extensively to provide reader services for the blind, and more recently we are using vouchers in the provision of personal assistance services for people with physical disabilities. Additionally, under our demonstration authority, we currently have seven grants targeted toward developing new and better ways of integrating the use of vouchers to enhance client choice. We are not against vouchers, but we are deeply troubled at the prospect of dismantling the current system without any indication that the private sector has the capacity or expertise to meet the needs of blind and other people with disabilities. The Rehabilitation Act will be reauthorized in 1997, and we believe this is the appropriate vehicle for having a national discussion on possible improvements to the Rehabilitation Program. We do not believe that our nation's VR system should be dramatically restructured without a single public hearing or any meaningful method for involving blind people and others with disabilities in the process.
In conclusion, we believe that the mission of the public vocational rehabilitation program is to assist blind people and others with disabilities in securing jobs. We believe these must be good jobs with good salaries, good benefits, and good upward mobility potential. We believe that employment is the cornerstone to meaningful integration. To help the individual become employed, the system must meet the individual's training needs, but, equally important, it must assist the individual in reshaping his or her beliefs and attitudes about disability.
As Dr. Jernigan has told us, it is the combination of training and attitudes that allows a blind person to reach his or her highest potential. The provision of services is in many respects the easier part of the rehabilitation process to understand and to deliver. We know how to provide training. We know how to provide adaptive technology, but, for our services to be effective, we must win the battle of helping the individual reshape his or her conception of blindness. To accomplish this requires training within the context of a positive view of blindness, a view of blindness premised on the assumption of the right of first-class status in society. This is the reason that client choice is such a key provision of the 1992 Amendments. This is the reason why we are experimenting with better use of vouchers, and this is the reason we oppose the categorical dismantling of the state agency system in favor of a system designed to do nothing more than dispense services without helping the individual reshape his or her attitudes about disability.
Finally, we believe that the tax dollars devoted to vocational rehabilitation should be wisely spent. We believe in simplifying regulatory and reporting requirements for state agencies and other grantees to reduce unnecessary administrative burden. We are working with state agencies in simplifying their own processes to allow them to provide better, more responsive services to clients. And we are developing evaluation standards and performance indicators to be able to demonstrate to our clients and to the public the value they are receiving for the tax dollars we are expending.
These are the things we as a federal agency can put into place, but if we are to have a meaningful and lasting legacy, it will be through strengthening the role that blind people and others with disabilities play in controlling the direction of their own rehabilitation. The blind have been working steadily toward this end for at least the past fifty-five years. In 1992 the Congress recognized the wisdom of this principle and translated it into public policy through amendments to the Rehabilitation Act, and we at the Rehabilitation Services Administration intend to see that it is fully implemented.
by Judy Heumann
From the Editor: On Thursday afternoon, July 6, Judy Heumann, Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Education, was scheduled to address the convention. Unfortunately, Ms. Heumann was called into budget meetings with the Secretary and was, therefore, unable to leave Washington. Following is the text of the address she would have delivered if she had been able to join us:
It's a great honor to be here, because the National Federation of the Blind is one of the major organizations leading the nation in the fight for full access to our society for blind people. You are helping the nation understand that by accepting the contributions that can be made by blind people, America will become stronger.
In the words of my good friend and colleague Fred Schroeder, "The NFB represents a new and positive philosophy of blindness premised on the principle of self-determination. . . . The blind are not deficient sighted people, but whole and complete blind people." I am grateful for the leadership of the NFB because your work has helped my work--and the work of many others--who are advocates for equal rights for disabled people.
Together we have made many gains. We have won the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and other laws that affirm that the right to equal protection guaranteed by the United States Constitution extends to people with disabilities. Today--thankfully--our laws affirm that we as disabled people have as a matter of right full equality of opportunity and access to the same choices and opportunities as nondisabled persons. We now have laws on the books of the federal government and of many state governments that establish once and for all that barriers to that right must come down!
As you know, we in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services are now working with legislative and oversight committees on both sides of the Hill and with public and private agencies of all sorts to re-examine the programs OSERS administers, the funds we distribute, and--most important-- the laws we oversee. These discussions are part of the great debate that is now taking place in Washington.
On the one side are those who say that the government can't really do anything to solve our problems, so the most important thing to do is to balance the budget as quickly as possible without regard to the consequences. On the other side are those of us who say, "Of course government can help people. In fact, government is the only institution the American people as a whole control. It is our government, elected by us. Through it we can help solve the problems that face us."
The President says, and I agree, that, if we create a budget that does not facilitate the ability of people to contribute to our society, our nation will not be able to successfully compete in today's growing global economy. If we create a budget that does not give people the resources they need to make the contributions they can, our nation will be sowing the seeds of a bleak economic future.
In the past our nation's prosperity was insured by her rich natural resources, her industrial prowess, and her military might. Today these are not enough to guarantee our future. Today the only constant in the world is change. Industries are born and die in the time it takes to market a new technology. The nature of any given job changes in the blink of a microchip. Today the only way for America to safeguard her future is to make sure that Americans have the knowledge and skills they need to adapt and adjust to rapid changes.
That's one reason that OSERS spends many, many millions of dollars a year helping to finance vocational rehabilitation services and research to make vocational rehabilitation services better. Today OSERS is working hard to sustain and expand bipartisan support being built in Congress to maintain the integrity of our vocational rehabilitation programs and to preserve funding levels.
In the past there has always been bipartisan support for the program. Today we are fighting to maintain that support as some in Congress are proposing measures we believe would erode it and result in poorer services for disabled people. Without a doubt Jim Gashel has been a leader in the fight to assure that we do not destroy the system.
The measure is part of a proposal to include the Vocational Rehabilitation program in a broader consolidation of adult job training and literacy programs. The Senate version would preserve the one-stop shopping aspect of services for disabled people that we in OSERS support. These services would remain under the authority of people trained specifically in service delivery to disabled individuals. But--again, led by Jim Gashel--OSERS and advocacy groups are working to insure needed levels of funding.
On the other hand, the House version of the voc rehab measure, as it stands today, could very well undercut services for disabled people. Although the latest version of the House bill would keep 1996 funding at the levels requested by the President, there is not enough accountability for the quality of services.
We remain concerned that any block grant of job training programs by the present Congress could mean as much as a 15-20 percent reduction in overall funding for vocational rehabilitation. Many individuals served by the VR program need specialized services from well-trained personnel before they can benefit from employment training. I am worried that the service delivery strategies identified in the House provisions affecting rehabilitation will not ensure that individuals with significant disabilities will be able to get the specialized services they need from people who are trained to deliver them.
I am the first to admit that the current system for service delivery that is administered by the federal government is far from perfect. It must be improved, and we are working to improve it now. But the answer to current problems is not and cannot be to throw services for disabled people into a state-run patchwork that would probably put such services at the bottom of their priority list.
On the other hand, I firmly believe we must work to strengthen the Federal/State partnership of vocational rehabilitation programs. State rehabilitation programs can and should work closely with other state programs to provide employment opportunities. The vast majority of disabled people are those with moderate to mild disabilities. These individuals should be able to benefit from state rehabilitation programs, and the federal Vocational Rehabilitation program can help provide technical assistance to assure that states do this well.
As part of this effort, we are seeking to identify those successful strategies states have already initiated to incorporate VR into their one-stop shopping models. The changes my office is proposing must be in the context of improvements to the Rehabilitation Act. We must not allow the dismemberment of what most individuals already identify as a block-grant or one-stop authority for individuals with disabilities. We must not throw out the baby with the bath water.
Speaking of throwing out the baby with the bath water, there are those in Washington today who would eliminate the Department of Education. In my opinion this would take America back to the bad old days when education was not seen as a top priority in this nation and when educational concerns were buried in another Department. It was only after the Department of Education was created that the movement for educational reform took front and center position in America's political debates.
Once again I want to thank Jim Gashel and the Department of Education for leading the fight to save the DOE. The NFB was among the first constituent groups to support the Department's continuation. You should be very proud of your organization. I am.
June 30, Rep. Dale Kildee introduced a proposal for reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The bill was the result of a year and a half of careful study, thorough re-examination, and intense analysis, carried out by OSERS in consultation with groups across the nation.
Now IDEA has proven to be extremely effective since its passage in 1975. A recent Louis Harris survey on disabilities shows that: "Largely due to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the gap in education (between the disabled and non-disabled) is beginning to close. More youth with disabilities are entering postsecondary education; youth with sensory impairments enroll in postsecondary education at the same rates as the general population. The percentage of students with disabilities who graduated from high school or received a completion certificate rose from 55 percent in 1984-85 to 64 percent in 1991-92. More than 44 percent of college-age disabled students attended at least some postsecondary education in 1991-92, up from just 29 percent in 1984-85. Among the nation's college freshmen those reporting disabilities have more than tripled since 1978, growing from 2.6 percent to 8.8 percent.
Are we satisfied? No! We should continually raise our expectations for improved educational outcomes in the support of special education. We can and should adjust the IDEA to meet the changing needs of the twenty-first century. It is twenty years old; it's time for a tune-up.
Our vision for improvements in the IDEA is based on six key principles that clearly define our mission to improve results for students with disabilities, beginning as early as possible in the child's life. These principles are:
* Align the IDEA with state and local
education improvement efforts so students with disabilities can benefit from
* Improve results for students with disabilities through higher expectations and meaningful access to the general curriculum, to the maximum extent appropriate.
* Address individual needs in the least restrictive environment for the student.
* Provide families and teachers--those closest to students--with the knowledge and training to effectively support students' learning.
* Focus on teaching and learning.
* Strengthen early intervention to help insure that every child starts school ready to learn.
To implement these goals, our IDEA reauthorization proposal stresses recruitment and training of educational personnel, greater involvement of the family, and strengthening of the process by which Individualized Education Programs are created and carried out. Our IDEA reauthorization package calls for top-notch training for personnel who work with blind children and with disabled children.
Furthermore, training for educators that work with low-incidence populations is not only preserved in our proposal; it is given greater emphasis. Under the new IDEA as proposed, more federal funds would be shifted to training programs for educators working with low incidence populations, which means that there would need to be less reliance on the vicissitudes of state programs and politics.
Aside from teacher training, the most important strategies included in our IDEA reauthorization package are strengthening the IEP process and the early and continuous involvement of parents. Under our IDEA proposal parents would be a part of a child's placement team. Parents would be periodically given truly meaningful assessments of their child's progress in order to be able to judge whether their child's IEP is working or not, whether or not some aspect of their child's program should be modified, and what modification must be made to improve learning. That means we must continue to develop effective, accurate, appropriate methods of evaluation with the ability to make recommendations on effective methods for teaching the child and on ways to facilitate quality learning and improve outcome.
Under our IDEA reauthorization proposal students must be taught to the general curriculum, or parents must know why not. Our goal in proposing this is to help disabled students meet the same challenging standards established for all children. I want to note that access to general curriculum does not necessarily require that a student be located in a regular classroom. In fact, by emphasizing educational outcomes, our IDEA reauthorization package firmly reinforces OSERS' conviction that "inclusion is a process--not a place."
I believe that our society should provide the resources necessary to allow each individual blind child to succeed in school and prepare for a productive, fulfilling life. The specific resources needed--and the combination in which the resources are needed--will be different for each child, because each child is different.
In one way, however, all children are the same. They all need help in developing and maintaining a strong, positive self image. Not because they don't start out with strong self-images--I am convinced they do--but because too often adults, even well-meaning, loving adults, tend to undermine a child's self-confidence.
For example, about ten years ago Edwina Trish Franchild wrote that when she was a child she assumed it was perfectly natural for her to sense her surroundings in ways that were different from others. It was not until her parents--out of love no doubt--continually took her to doctors to try to change her into a seeing person and continually talked behind her back about her problem that Edwina became convinced something was wrong about herself. This conviction had disastrous affects upon her later on in life.
I know that, if the National Federation of the Blind has anything to do with it, blind and visually impaired children would never again have to suffer the same types of self-doubt. And I know that, if the National Federation of the Blind has anything to do with it, every blind child in America would graduate from school knowing in their heart and soul that the sky's the limit. I applaud your good work, and I urge you to keep on working.
During the coming time period Congress will be making decisions that could permanently affect policies and programs impacting on all disabled Americans. I am convinced the blind community must become even more effectively involved in the electoral process than it already is. Representatives of the blind community should work--and work hard--within whichever political party they belong to, to insure that their concerns are placed on the agenda for national debate. The challenge is clear: we must work to protect the laws that protect our rights at the same time as we work to reform and improve them. I look forward to working with you.
National Federation of the Blind awards are not bestowed lightly. If an appropriate recipient does not emerge from the pool of candidates for a particular award, it is simply not presented. At this year's convention four presentations were made:
The Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award
At the Monday morning Board of Directors meeting Sharon Maneki, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland and Chairwoman of the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Selection Committee, presented that award. She said:
Good morning, President Maurer and fellow Federationists. The committee of Jacquilyn Billey, Joyce Scanlan, Alan Harris, and I truly have a distinguished educator of blind children to present to you this morning. She has taught on every level, students from first to twelfth grade. She taught as an itinerant teacher in a resource room and for a time at the Florida School for the Blind. She has a master's degree from Peabody College and a doctorate from the University of Kentucky. Her influence knows no bounds. As a professor she is responsible for many vision teachers' knowing Braille--what a unique thing that is! She taught at the University of Louisville from 1976 to 1992. She is also responsible for many, many blind children's having the opportunity to become literate through the development of Patterns Pre-Braille Program, Patterns: Primary Braille Program, and Patterns: English and Spelling Braille Program. She is also responsible for students who are visually impaired having the opportunity--and we hope continuing to have the opportunity for many more years--to learn both print and Braille because of the development of her book, Print and Braille Literacy: Selecting the Appropriate Media.
This individual learned the importance of Braille and fought for it before it became fashionable to do so. She took and continues to take her lead from consumers in her current position as Director of the Braille Research Center. I'm sure that there's no doubt in anyone's mind that I'm speaking of Dr. Hilda Caton. [applause]
This is what Dr. Caton said:
Thank you very much, Sharon. I just have a very brief statement. I'm having a little trouble with this. I once told a dear friend, student, colleague, and mother of my godchild that you shouldn't cry in public, so I'm going to try not to do that. It really is difficult for me to say to you what this means to me. As Mrs. Maneki said, I have been in the field for a long time--thirty-two years to be exact. I have been a teacher of blind children. I've worked with some very talented and dedicated colleagues on development of materials for the blind. During those years I did try to focus on the needs of the blind children and adults I was working for, not on what other people told me I should focus on. To get this award now from those very people really means more than I could possibly tell you. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. I think that with NFB's philosophy, there's strength, vision for the future, so deep within me and part of me and you too. I know there is just no limit to what we can do to promote literacy and use of Braille among blind people all over the world, not just this country. Thank you very much. [applause]
Sharon Maneki continued by saying:
I'd like to read the plaque that Dr. Caton has just received:
OF BLIND CHILDREN
The National Federation of the Blind
Dr. Hilda Caton
For your creativity and ingenuity
in developing teaching methods
to enable young readers to learn Braille;
For vigorously advocating
and promoting the teaching of both Braille
and print to visually impaired students;
For your leadership
in establishing and directing
the Braille Research Center.
Our colleague, our friend,
on the barricades.
You champion our movement,
you strengthen our hopes,
you share our dreams.
Blind Educator of the Year Award
Steve Benson, Chairman of the Blind Educator of the Year Committee and President of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, came to the podium during the meeting of the Board of Directors to present this award. Here is what he said:
Recipients of the Blind Educator of the Year Award must have demonstrated leadership and mastery of the art of teaching. They must also have taken up the torch of Federationism and shared it with our blind brothers and sisters. They must have reached out to the public and taught by example that blind people have the capacity, the energy, and the desire to compete on terms of equality with our sighted neighbors and our colleagues. In 1995 the Blind Educator of the Year Award recipient is a woman who has advocated vigorously and well for the right of blind children to learn Braille. She has articulated the Federation's philosophy and policies as clearly and as forcefully as anyone could. As she works with parents of blind children, she emphasizes the absolute necessity of having high expectations for blind children, the same as for sighted children.
While this year's recipient has devoted time, energy, and means to working with blind children and their parents, she is, in fact, a university teacher. She has high expectations for her students. She gives them a superb education. The award committee (Homer Page, Patricia Munson, Judy Sanders, Adelmo Vigil) believes this year's recipient is worthy of the very high recognition our Blind Educator of the Year Award conveys. This teacher fully understands the lasting impact of the effort of a skillful teacher. She also has an enormous appreciation of the work of the teachers before her, Dr. tenBroek and Dr. Jernigan. The recipient of this year's Blind Educator of the Year Award is Bonnie Peterson. [applause] Bonnie Peterson is President of our Wisconsin affiliate. She teaches communication at the University of Wisconsin, Parkside. Bonnie, here is a plaque and a check for $500, and the plaque reads:
BLIND EDUCATOR OF THE
National Federation of the Blind
in recognition of
in the teaching profession.
You have enhanced the
You inspire your colleagues.
You build the future.
July 3, 1995
When Bonnie Peterson came to the microphone, this is what she had to say:
I am a speech teacher who is speechless. This is really quite an honor. I thank the Committee. (All of the techniques that I teach my students not to use, I'm using right now!) Now, don't ever let anyone hear this tape. I want this whole part erased. I thank you very very much. Obviously I care deeply about this, and the appreciation of my peers in this organization is quite humbling. Thank you.[applause]
The Jacobus tenBroek Award
Early in the banquet proceedings on Thursday evening, Ramona Walhof, Chairperson of the Jacobus tenBroek Award Committee, came to the podium to present that award. This is what she said:
The Jacobus tenBroek Award is presented only as often as we have one of our members outstanding and appropriate to receive it. It is not done every year. This year's recipients (we have two recipients this year) have been outstanding, have met the standards set by our founder, Jacobus tenBroek. Joyce and Tom Scanlan are our 1995 Jacobus tenBroek Award recipients. [applause]
Joyce Scanlan first joined the National Federation of the Blind in 1970 when she attended our National Convention, which was held in her home city of Minneapolis. Tom joined the state organization, the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, about the same time. Both immediately moved into positions of leadership. Joyce was elected President of the NFB of Minnesota in 1973 and has been re-elected ten times since that time, each for a two-year term.[applause] Of the currently serving state presidents, Joyce Scanlan has served the longest, twenty-two years in that position. She was elected to the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind in 1974 and re-elected six more times to that position. In 1988 she was elected Secretary, and in 1992 she was elected First Vice President and was again re-elected in 1994.
Tom Scanlan has also been a leader since the early 1970's. In Minnesota he has held office, and he has been helpful throughout the country in working with computers and blind computer users. Tom Scanlan is currently employed in one of the very top positions in the Department of Administration in the State of Minnesota, and he shares his time and his knowledge with blind persons throughout the Federation and throughout the country.
Joyce and Tom are tough. Many of us remember in the early 1980's when they led the battle with the Minneapolis Society.[applause] That battle seems long ago, but there is no question who won it. Those who don't remember can read about it. It's written up. In 1988 Joyce Scanlan became the Director of one of the three National Federation of the Blind centers, BLIND, Inc., (Blindness Learning in New Dimensions, Inc.) It has become one of the facilities that offer the best quality training blind people can get in this country. Last fall I was privileged to attend the open house at the newly remodeled Pillsbury Mansion, now the headquarters for BLIND, Inc. Not only was the building impressive, but we also had the opportunity to meet and talk with the students who had received the training and who were going to work and coming back to work with other students who followed them. Neither Joyce nor Tom Scanlan requires attention or recognition. We all depend on both of them for the things that they give, and I can name a whole list.
This is very important to all of us throughout the organization, and we take this occasion to present our Jacobus tenBroek Award to Joyce and Tom Scanlan.
I'm going to give Joyce this plaque, and I ask you to hold it up so people can see it. It's a great big walnut plaque with a brass plate and black lettering, which reads:
JACOBUS tenBROEK AWARD
National Federation of the Blind
Joyce and Tom Scanlan
For your dedication,
sacrifice, and commitment
on behalf of the blind of this nation. Your contribution is
measured not in steps but in miles,
not by individual experiences but by your impact
on the lives of the blind of the nation.
Whenever we have asked, you have answered.
We call you our colleagues with respect.
We call you our friends with love.
July 6, 1995
Now I'm sure that this audience wants to hear from you.
When Joyce Scanlan came to the microphone, this is what she said:
This is just too much! I think my face is the same color as my dress, and I'm trembling in my boots, and I'm in tears. I'm almost speechless. I know that's hard to believe in Minnesota. I think, like all Federationists we do our work, and we don't expect a lot of recognition or thanks. We just do it because it's important to all of us. It's this kind of thing that is just really hard to respond to.
It was the Federation that brought Tom and me together in the first place. It's kind of handy when you are the President and the Treasurer is your husband. You can fight about Federation money, and that saves you from fighting about your own personal money. I'm sure that both of us, although we've been in the Federation now for twenty-five years, hope we have twenty-five more or fifty, or a hundred more years because this organization means so much to both of us. We thank you so much for this award.[applause] And I want to thank everybody for the support that we have had throughout the years in our work in the Federation, and especially Dr. Jernigan. I do remember the gates. Thank you.
Tom then came to the microphone, and here is what he said:
By nature I am always a very quiet, shy person, sort of a typical Minnesotan--just get in there and get the job done. But I remember my first convention in 1970 when I walked into that convention, and the blind man presiding demonstrated no image of blind people I had ever seen before. Dr. Jernigan has had a tremendous impact on my life and this whole organization. Thank you very much.
Dr. Jernigan then came to the podium and said:
When Joyce first became President, I had to teach (and sometimes I thought I had to learn) her a little about politics. She always wanted to get into a fight with people about whether they should have a gate at the old Minnesota Home for the Blind. She was about to split the outfit up on doctrinaire notions. And I said, "For God's sake, let them have the gate or not. In the long run you will be able to do what you want to, but you can't do it that way." She always reminds me that I taught her about the gates up there. I said, "By and by you won't have a home for the blind; just get in there and consolidate."
Distinguished Service Award
Near the close of the banquet, Dr. Jernigan made the following presentation:
As the members of this audience know, 1995 marks the occasion of a monumental change in the lives of the blind. For the first time in history there is the very real opportunity for every blind person in the United States who wants to read a regular daily newspaper to have the means to do it--and not just when somebody else is available for the reading but any time the need arises or the desire dictates.
The new era was ushered in when USA Today and the National Federation of the Blind teamed up to create National Newsline for the Blind. As our network of local service centers expands, any blind person in the nation can read the morning newspaper by telephone, either at home or when traveling. The system allows scanning, skipping articles, going back to read again, and reading fast or slow--in short, the same ability to interact with the newspaper that sighted people have had for more than a century--something the blind have never had.
It's a wonderful feeling, and the man who has ultimately played perhaps the key role in helping make it happen is this year's recipient of our Distinguished Service Award. He is Thomas Curley, President and Publisher of USA Today.
Mr. Curley was the original news staffer on the project that led to the creation of USA Today. He was assigned in 1979 by then Gannett chairman Al Neuharth to study the feasibility of a national newspaper. He later worked in every department of USA Today. In 1986 he became the newspaper's sixth president and in 1991 added the title of publisher. USA Today circulation under Tom Curley has grown to more than 2,000,000 a day, the nation's largest.
Mr. Curley began his journalism career at age fifteen, covering high school basketball for his hometown newspaper, the Easton, Pennsylvania, Express. He continued working for newspapers during college and joined Gannett's Rochester, New York, Times-Union in 1972 as night city/suburban editor. He became director of information for Gannett in 1976 and began coordinating Gannett's newspaper research projects, which produced more than 50,000 interviews on media use. He became editor of Gannett's Norwich, Connecticut, Bulletin in 1982; publisher of The Courier-News at Bridgewater, New Jersey, in 1983; and returned to USA Today in 1985.
He was born July 6, 1948, so tonight is a special occasion for him. It is his birthday. We are glad he came to share it with us.
Mr. Curley's wife Marsha is a free-lance writer. He has two daughters, Laura and Melinda. His brother John is chairman and CEO of Gannett. Mr. Curley has a B.A. in political science from La Salle University in Philadelphia, and he has an M.B.A. from the Rochester Institute of Technology.
But the statistics and the facts don't tell the story. When I called Mr. Curley one afternoon about two weeks ago, he was immediately available and easy to talk to. It has always been that way when any of us have called him. It was my first contact with him, but I am sure it won't be my last.
Mr. Curley, we are choosy about who gets our awards, and we are stingy with them. We don't give them every year, only when we think they are deserved. This one is.
As I told you two weeks ago, I am a good deal older than you are, but this is the first time in my life that I have ever had the opportunity to read and interact with a newspaper on a daily basis whenever and wherever I wanted to do it. That is a major milestone in my life and in the lives of increasing numbers of other blind people, and you deserve much of the credit for it. There has never been anything like the National Newsline Network we are establishing.
Again I say: The accomplishment is monumental, and you have been key in making it happen. Therefore, it is with gratitude and respect that I present to you this plaque. It contains our logo and says:
National Federation of the Blind
President and Publisher
For exceptional service
to the blind of the nation
The banner you carry is learning
The cause you espouse is fairness
The power you wield is knowledge
July 6, 1995
Thomas Curley: Thank you very much, Dr. Jernigan. I was feeling extremely honored just thinking about being here, and then I heard President Maurer's speech, and I must say that, as he wound through that, I was scared to death. I was counting the pages, and all I can think about now is whether some fool back home has hired the guy who wrote the Macaroni-Kid story. [applause and laughter]
This really is very moving and wonderful in many ways. I have learned so much being with you in a short period of time. I agree with what President Maurer has said. This is about freedom, not just the freedom of the members of the National Federation of the Blind, but freedom for all Americans. To the extent that we can take this at least small step, our society in general will be much stronger, and our democracy will be served because perhaps hundreds of thousands of Americans will have some more access to news they want when they want it. [applause]
We hope as we learn how to do this that we can roll out more of this kind of information and then, listening to you, make the adjustments that you feel are appropriate. There is one thing that I can guarantee you: as long as we do something, the rest of the industry will be quick to follow. [applause]
More than a hundred years ago a New York editor, Horace Greeley, said that the duty of the newspaper is to print the truth and raise hell. As I was listening to President Maurer's speech, it occurred to me that we do about half of it right. I hope, as you read our newspaper and experience it and experience other journals that will quickly follow us in this area, that you are touched the way that all of us are--in some ways provoked, in some ways saddened, and in other ways rejoiced, but in all ways feeling more informed as citizens and more willing to take up all the causes that are necessary to make this democracy even stronger. I thank you so much for honoring us, and I wish you the best of luck.
From the Editor: Twenty-five men and women from Hawaii to Rhode Island arrived at the Hilton and Towers Hotel as members of the National Federation of the Blind scholarship class of 1995. Not counting their expense-paid trips to the convention, this year the class divided $85,000 in scholarship awards, which were made at the close of the Thursday evening banquet. This year's class is a remarkable group of students--bright, energetic, and eager to change the world. They met the full convention during the meeting of the Board of Directors on Monday morning. Peggy Elliott, Chairman of the Scholarship Committee, introduced each of them. This is what they said:
Mark Adelsberger: I'm Mark Adelsberger. I'm from St. Louis, Missouri. I'll be going to the University of Missouri at Rolla next year to study computer science and hopefully in five years will have a master's degree to enter a field relating to computer programming, although I'm not entirely sure what specific field.
Elizabeth Bearden: I'm Elizabeth Bearden. I'm from Winston- Salem, North Carolina. I'll be a sophomore at Princeton University in the fall. I plan to become an international lawyer or diplomat.
Eddie Bell: I'm attending college in California, going for a degree in psychology to hopefully open my own practice in family or marriage counseling.
Stephen Bugner: My name is Stephen Bugner. I'm from North Providence, Rhode Island. I go to Providence College. I will be a sophomore in the fall. I'm an education major. I am looking forward to learning more about the NFB. I'm a new member, and this is my first convention. I look forward to coming to many more, becoming a better traveler. This is my first time traveling like this, but I'm getting used to it, and I'm happy to be here. Thank you.
Tim Cordes: I'm Tim Cordes. I'm from the State of Iowa, and I currently attend the University of Notre Dame. I plan to go on to conduct biomedical research. Thanks.
Buna Dahal: We are having the best convention that we ever had. Is that right? [applause and laughter] I'm from Illinois. I live right here in Chicago. I go to the community college. It's called College of Dupage. In the spring I will start going to the University of Illinois, Jane Adams Social Work School. My major is social work. Let me tell you from my heart, it's a great honor to be an NFB scholarship winner. Thank you.
Bonnie Davis: I'm Bonnie Davis from East Liverpool, Ohio. I am currently enrolled at Ohio University. I'm studying business, working towards my bachelor's degree. I hope to teach some day and write creative stories and work with the Federation of the Blind. Thank you.
Jeff Dittel: My name is Jeff Dittel. I live in New Haven, Connecticut, and am a graduate student at the University of New Haven in computer science. I am one that likes computers.
Sharon Goto: I'm Sharon Goto from the State of Hawaii. I'm an M.B.A. student. I'm going to be a student at Chaminade University, and I'd like to further my career in federal procurement. I'm a recent member of the Hawaii Chapter of the Federation of the Blind.
Mike Graham: I'm originally from the State of Montana, and I'm presently in the State of Colorado. In the fall I'm attending the University of Northern Colorado for a second year of a doctoral program in special education in the field of blindness. As to my vocational objective, I hate to mention a specific job. I'm interested in systems change--to change the service delivery system so that blind students and adults get more out of resources and programs now available. Thank you.
Angela Howard: My name is Angela Howard. I'm from Louisiana. I'm currently a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind, which is one of our NFB training centers. I will be attending Gilford College in the fall, double majoring in education and women's studies. I'm not quite sure what I want to do with that yet, but hopefully I'll figure it out. Thank you.
Sheila Koenig: My name is Sheila Koenig. Next year I'll be a senior at Cardinal Stritch College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I chose to enter the profession of teaching Spanish or English because I want to share with my students the beauty and power of language. I'm eager to embrace this power to educate and challenge, not only their ideas about literature, but also their preconceptions of blindness. Thank you for this honor.
Jeanine Lineback: It's great to be here in Chicago at our 1995 convention. I am Jeanine Lineback. Many of you know me as Jenny. I'm from the State of Colorado. I'll be attending in the fall the University of Colorado at Denver, studying social sciences with an emphasis on policy development in administration. I hope to hold a position in which I can help develop policies that will influence the attitudes about blindness and change what it means to be blind. I really want to thank the scholarship committee and all of my friends for supporting me and making me a winner of the 1995 scholarship class.
George Mayes: My name is George Mayes. I'm from Reno, Nevada, originally from Louisville, Kentucky. I am called the trouble-maker preacher, but I'm glad to be here, and I want to thank the Committee for this opportunity. The most important thing we have as blind people is attitude. When we wake up in the morning, we can have a good day or a bad day. I intend on having a good day. Thank you.
Christopher Moore: This is Christopher Moore, formerly from Nebraska. I recently transferred to Nashville, Tennessee, where I will be attending Tennessee State University in the fall, continuing to work on my bachelor's degree in culinary arts and food service management. My vocational goal is eventually, in a couple years, to open my own restaurant. It is an honor to be here, and I thank you again for having me.
Krista Oliver: I'm Krista Oliver, and I'm originally from Michigan. I received my bachelor's degree in psychology from Albion College and my master's degree in clinical psychology from the University of Missouri in Columbia. I am currently working on my Ph.D. in clinical psychology. I'm not exactly sure what I want to do with my degree--clinical work for sure and possibly some research as well. Thanks.
Melissa Orsick: My name is Melissa Orsick. I'm from North Carolina. I am currently a post-graduate student at North Carolina State University in veterinary epidemiology, which is the study of diseases in populations and their distribution. I would eventually like to work with the USDA or the CDC in infectious diseases and food safety. Thank you.
Ken Pendleton: My name is Ken Pendleton. I am currently writing my dissertation in social philosophy at the University of Oregon. I hope to stay cloistered away in academia for a long time.
Carolyn Provenzano: Thank you, Peggy. First of all I want to say it's wonderful to be in Chicago for the 1995 National Federation of the Blind Convention. My name is Carolyn Provenzano. I'm from Louisville, Kentucky. I am seeking a two- fold degree--an MSW, a master's degree in social work, that will go right into a clinical psychology degree. I have two missions in life: within the next three years I plan to be a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice and also to be a leader in the National Federation of the Blind. Thank you.
Juliana Raiche: My name is Juliana Raiche, and I'm from the State of Virginia. I am planning to go to Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. I will be a freshman studying music. My dream is to earn a Ph.D. in Renaissance music, I think right now. (That might change.) Also I would like to be a classical guitarist and teach all over the world. I would really like to thank the Federation for this wonderful opportunity, because I was told that I couldn't teach guitar because I couldn't see. I always knew way down deep inside that I could. So thank you very, very much.
Emily Ross: I'm Em Ross. I'm from Oregon. I'm a junior at Reed College in Portland, where I'm studying biology. My dream in life is to go into ethnobotany, which is the study of plants and humans. It's how humans interact with their plant societies.
Carlos Servan: I'm from New Mexico, attending the University of New Mexico Law School. My goal is to be an international lawyer and be a good father of that fourteen months' baby. Thank you.
Lilia Silva: My name is Lilia Silva, and I'm from Port Isabel, Texas. I plan to attend Amherst College in Massachusetts in the fall, hopefully to double major in English and psychology. Although, as I have told many people, that is very iffy right now because of all the different choices that I have. I am just so excited about that. My vocational goal is to possibly become an English professor or a psychologist. I'm very, very excited to be here. This is my first convention. Thank you.
Cindy Simon: I'm from New Jersey. I'm a third-year law school student from New York University School of Law. My vocational goal is to continue to be involved in the making of public policy through the practice of law and through participation in politics. I am currently a town council candidate in my home town.
Mark Truman: My name is Mark Truman. I am currently attending Daytona Beach Community College in the great State of Florida. My vocational goal is to be a tax attorney. I'm happy to have this excellent opportunity. Thank you.
Peggy Elliott: "And there, Mr. President and members of the National Federation of the Blind, are the twenty-five scholarship winners this year." [applause]
As you can see, we had an impressive group of scholarship winners this year. Here are the awards they received:
$3,000 NFB Scholarships: Mark Adelsberger, Bonnie Davis, Sharon Goto, Michael Graham, Jeanine Lineback, George Mayes, Christopher Moore, Kenneth Pendleton, Carolyn Provenzano,
Carlos Servan, Lilia Silva, and Mark Truman. $3,000 Ellen Setterfield Memorial Scholarship: Krista Oliver. $3,000 Hermione Grant Calhoun Scholarship: Elizabeth Bearden. $3,000 Kuchler-Killian Memorial Scholarship: Stephen Bugner. $3,000 NFB Educator of Tomorrow Scholarship: Sheila Koenig. $3,000 NFB Humanities Scholarship: Juliana Raiche. $3,000 Frank Walton Horn Memorial Scholarship: Buna Dahal. $3,000 Howard Brown Rickard Scholarship: Cindy Simon. $3,000 Mozelle and Willard Gold Memorial Scholarship: Edward Bell. $3,000 Kurzweil Scholarship: Timothy Cordes. $4,000 NFB scholarship: Melissa Orsick. $4,000 Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship: Jeff Dittel. $4,000 Anne Pekar Memorial Scholarship: Angela Howard. $10,000 American Action Fund Scholarship: Emily Ross.
An Address Delivered by
President, National Federation of the Blind
At the Banquet of the Annual Convention
Chicago, Illinois, July 6, 1995
The history of the world is, according to one notion, the biography of inspired human beings who have faced and surmounted prodigious obstacles--who have been instruments in the instigation or resolution of conflict. Conflict challenges order and stability, but it can sometimes also channel and focus energy and power. Conflict can be a destructive force, but not all conflict is regressive. Frederick Douglass said:
The whole history of the progress of human liberty
shows that all concessions yet made to her august
claims have been born of earnest struggle. If there is
no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to
favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who
want crops without plowing up the ground. They want
rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean
without the awful roar of its many waters.
Even if all progress must be stimulated by conflict, conflict itself is not enough. Whether the conflict is productive or destructive depends on the imagination, the insight, the spirit, and the courage of the people involved. It is essential that the objective to be gained be worth the risk, for no conflict exists without an element of loss. It is how we respond to the risk and the possibility of loss that determines not only the outcome of the current dispute but to some extent the prospects for the future as well.
If we are so timid that we are unwilling to let our convictions compete with those of others and if we fail to support our convictions with reason, effort, and resources, then progress can never be ours. But if we recognize that the history of the world must include the biography of inspired human beings (be they blind or sighted) who have faced and surmounted prodigious obstacles, then a future with greater opportunity than we have ever known (both for us and for society as a whole) is an achievable goal. Much of the world's history has been written without us because until recently we had not developed the mechanism to handle conflict. But we will be absent from the biographer's notebook no longer. We have created the vehicle; we are collecting the resources; and we have certainly found the will.
We, the National Federation of the Blind, are prepared to meet contention and have conflict if we must, but our purpose must be seen in perspective. We recognize that, even for the winner, all conflict has within it an element of loss; we recognize that the potential gain must equal or outweigh the risk; and above all, we recognize that progress cannot come without conflict, even for those who want peace. With that understanding and in that context, let me make one point unmistakably and irrevocably clear: We intend to have progress!
There are two dangers in conflict: one that we will have too much of it; the other that we will have too little. In the beginning of our organization (in 1940 when Dr. Jacobus tenBroek and those few others who were with him brought the National Federation of the Blind into being in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania), there was almost no conflict at all about blindness or the blind. Blind people had traditionally been without power, and until we came to know our strength, this remained true.
It is not that there was no hardship. God knows, there was plenty of that. Employment opportunities for blind people were almost nonexistent. The vending program established under the federal Randolph-Sheppard Act was in its infancy, with very few participating vendors; and working conditions and wages in the sheltered shops for the blind were dismal. Education for blind children was narrowly focused and dead-end in nature even though the schools for the blind had existed for a hundred years and even though some of them had excellent academic programs. Training in mobility and the skills of daily living that the blind need in order to function and compete in the world at large had not yet been developed--at least, not as we know those skills today. Although the Social Security Act had been adopted five years earlier in 1935, the programs for the blind that are now a part of it had not been created.
Despite these disadvantages, we found the strength to organize--and then, necessarily, we found ourselves in the midst of conflict. By the 1950's our activities had expanded to include making surveys of state programs for the blind. In these surveys we, the organized blind, criticized the programs that were not providing adequate services--which at the time meant most of them. This role of vigilant monitor of programs dealing with blindness remains as important today as it was then. Programs established to serve the blind must be responsive to the needs of the blind. The blind who are to be served by these programs are, collectively, the best judges of their performance.
However, some of the officials in the field of work with the blind had never imagined that the blind (the people they thought of as their clients) might try to speak and act and think for themselves. They believed that it was somehow inappropriate for the blind to examine the performance of the governmental and private agencies established to give them service. With our insistence that the blind have a right to a voice in shaping programs that affect their lives, there came a heightened awareness of the Federation, as well as increasing controversy. If there was to be any progress at all, how could it possibly have been otherwise!
During the decades that followed, conflict within the field of work with the blind ebbed and flowed, but it was always present. Most of the time the disputes involved the organized blind on the one hand and officials of governmental and private agencies for the blind on the other. By the late 1980's, however, the bitter clashes that had so long characterized matters dealing with blindness had diminished to such an extent that they had become--if not nonexistent, then certainly muted.
What happened to cause this alteration? And of even greater importance, what does the change signify for the future? If there is no conflict, there can be no progress, but we must always keep in mind that the first great danger in conflict is its potential for destructiveness--the risk that it may get out of hand and eliminate the good along with the bad. We must, however, with equal clarity remember the second great danger inherent in conflict (just as destructive as the first, and perhaps more threatening--certainly more insidious because it is usually not recognized) that there may be too little of it--that the total absence of controversy may signify stagnation. The trick, then, is to strike a balance--the minimal amount, enough but not too much.
Is the apparent diminution of controversy an indication that the creative spirit regarding blindness and the blind is gone? Although confrontation within the field of work with the blind is no longer one of its principal characteristics, conflict regarding blindness still exists. The basic misunderstandings about blindness and the blind have not been totally eradicated. There are still many among officials of agencies for the blind, among the members of the general public, and even among the blind themselves who believe that blindness means inferiority--that the loss of eyesight is equivalent to the loss of productive capacity. This means that conflict (although not always represented by confrontation) is still very much with us.
However, there are also an increasing number of people who recognize that blindness is not the devastating affliction that, at one time, it was almost universally thought to be. This alteration in the perception of the nature of blindness has largely occurred because of our strength and our activities-- because of the determined efforts of the National Federation of the Blind. Today, in many instances, those managing programs for the blind have come to realize that blind people are not enemies but potential allies. Furthermore, acceptance of blind people as valued participants in the broader community is increasing.
The process has been a long and painful one. But through the strife and confrontation we have accomplished an objective which was, at one time, not only implausible but virtually unimaginable. We have created the potential for alliances within the field of work with the blind that permit us to expand our efforts. If we properly assess the opportunities which are becoming available to us (with all of the dangers that accompany those opportunities) and if those involved in programs for the blind can bring themselves to make the same assessments, we will no longer face the disadvantage of constant abrasive conflict within the arena of blindness. We may even be able to forge a cohesive alliance that can bring real equality and full independence to the blind. This is the heritage of conflict.
The possibility of alliances with the agencies for the blind offers opportunities which have not been available in the past, but if those alliances come, they will not come without danger. Those who join alliances must, of course, have a shared objective, a mutual understanding, and a common bond. The best alliances demand not only commonality of purpose but mutual trust as well. If we let the agencies trust us, we must be prepared to trust them. If we engage in alliances with others, we accept and promote (even if only passively) the positions they espouse and the actions they take. Consequently, we must guard against the danger of being bamboozled by the rhetoric of cooperation. Otherwise, we may come to believe that those things which in the past we deplored in the performance of many of the agencies were really not so bad--when it is perfectly clear that they were.
We may be tempted to assume that, because we have formed alliances, it would be difficult or impossible to survive without them. On the other hand, if we are not quick on our mental feet, we may fail because of former conflicts--struggles that are no longer relevant--to take full advantage of the cooperation that might be achieved. Despite all of the dangers that accompany our burgeoning relationships with programs for the blind, these growing interactions give us the opportunity for more progress than was formerly possible. Although conflict need not be in the form of confrontation, it must occur for future growth. Therefore, if the agencies for the blind want to join with us, what are they prepared to bring to the table? Our agenda will always be action-oriented, and anybody who makes an alliance with us must be willing to help promote our projects, and not just expect us to promote theirs.
What will be the focus of our collective effort today and in the years ahead? Although conflict within the field of work with the blind has diminished, misunderstanding about blindness in the public mind remains all too common. Unless this misunderstanding is eliminated, we who are blind will be prevented from reaching our potential. Therefore, the direction of our action in the years ahead is perfectly clear.
There are still some people who believe, even today, that blindness is entirely negative and that the blind have nothing to contribute. A report from the National Eye Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health, entitled Vision Research, A National Plan: 1994-1998, describes the plight of blind people in a way that holds out little hope for those who are unfortunate enough to be afflicted with that condition. The report says in part:
Although seldom fatal, eye diseases cause suffering,
disability, and loss of productivity for millions of people
in this country and throughout the world. These diseases may
have their most pronounced effects on an individual's
quality of life, affecting the ability to act independently,
recognize family and friends, read, drive a car, and perform
a host of other activities that we consider routine daily tasks.
So says the report, but the writers from the National Eye Institute add something else. They tell us that sight is "our most precious sense." It will come as no surprise that the report contains nothing about the abilities of blind people or the alternative techniques used by the blind. We who are blind (the National Eye Institute would have us believe) have lost our independence, our ability to read, our productivity, our capacity to recognize family and friends, and our chance to engage in a host of other routine activities. There is one small consolation though: Blindness may cause suffering, but at least, as these authors tell us, it is seldom fatal.
What a dismal picture! Is it true that our lives are devastated by the loss of sight? Can it really be said that sight is our most precious sense? What about the sense of touch? If we were totally without it, we would lose one of our greatest protections, the ability to feel pain, which really means the ability to survive since pain tells us when our bodies are being injured by hot or abrasive objects, or when we are too cold or have eaten or drunk damaging substances. Of course, the reverse of pain is pleasure, and certainly the sense of touch provides more of that than most of us have thought about. Begin with sex, and take it from there. But all of this quibbling about which of the senses is most precious misses not only the meaning of daily purpose for the blind but the purpose of life for everybody.
Life is more than the five physical senses. There are other senses, those that make us human. What about the sense of judgment; the sense of commitment to family and community; or, for that matter, the sense of humor? Perhaps one of our most important senses is the good sense to know when to disregard the opinions of the National Eye Institute.
We are not saying that sight is of no importance--it is. However, sight is not the essence of life. It may be pleasant to see a face or drive a car or watch a sunset, but the absence of these things does not in and of itself cause mental imbalance, physical immobility, or economic destruction--nor does it rob us of pleasure or the capacity for a full life. We who are blind are no longer willing to permit fear and misunderstanding about blindness, dressed up in the language of a scientific report, to limit our lives. We will avoid conflict when we can, but as I have said before, we intend to have progress.
The research of the National Eye Institute has what might be called a sight bias. Without examining the fundamental reason for doing so, these researchers assume that those who possess eyesight will do well and those who are without it will not. These researchers are not the only ones who conduct business from this point of view.
Here, for example, is a report from the Baltimore Sun for August 10, 1994.
Some scholars [the article says] believe most audiences tend to hear what someone says first with their eyes. "The research on how listeners process vocal messages shows that 55 percent of the impact is visual, 38 percent is vocal [meaning the tone of voice] and 7 percent is verbal," says Andrew Wolvin, chairman of the department of speech and communication at the University of Maryland, College Park.
How does this research as reported by the Baltimore Sun apply in practice? If only 7 percent of a message arrives verbally, and 38 percent is conveyed by the tone of voice, does this mean that the blind are deprived of the remaining 55 percent? What about sighted people who talk on the telephone? Do they lose 55 percent of the message? On the other hand, do blind people (being deprived of sight) concentrate more fully on the language being presented? Is the visual information (all 55 percent of it) a distraction from the real meaning of the speaker?
You can argue it both ways, and the Arkansas Gazette demonstrates this. On February 12, 1995, an article appeared which declared that, in certain instances, sight is more of a hindrance than a help. The paper reported in part:
A study published recently says the best chance of catching a lie is when you're not distracted by how the liar looks.
"People [the article continues] spend a lot of time remembering what they are doing with their faces," said Joseph Cappella, professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.
"We have a strong visual bias," agreed Judee Burgoon, professor of communication at the University of Arizona. If you're watching for lies, "it's not a bad idea to close your eyes."
This is the report from the Arkansas Gazette, and following its logic, it may be argued that the blind, not being distracted by the visual image, get more out of a speech or an audio presentation than the sighted.
This proposition is reinforced by a scientific study being conducted by the National Institutes of Health. According to a report drafted in the winter of 1995, the visual cortex of a blind person's brain is activated by non-visual stimuli. Even though our hearing is no different from the hearing of the sighted, perhaps a larger segment of the brain of a blind person is used to process auditory information, which means that the processing is done with more efficiency, more speed, and more analytical power.
Or does all of this speculation miss the point? The need to gather information is as important for the sighted as it is for the blind, and as important for the blind as it is for the sighted. Human beings are inventive. They use alternative channels to get the same information. As long as the knowledge is obtained, it makes very little difference what mechanism is used to get it. Our experience demonstrates that the blind can compete on equal terms with the sighted, and those who describe us as lacking in perception because of our inability to see (or, for that matter, as having more of it because we don't) have a lot to learn. Perhaps they should go back to the drawing board and try again. As it is, they invite controversy without purpose.
Maybe the members of the press and the researchers at the National Institutes of Health can be excused for their lack of comprehension because they have very little experience with the blind. However, those who are in the field of work with the blind should have a more thorough understanding--and, thankfully, many of them do. A book of helpful hints for the visually impaired, published in 1994 by Vivian Younger and Jill Sardegna, entitled A Guide to Independence for the Visually Impaired and Their Families, expresses the view that blindness is completely debilitating. It is, they suggest, possible (by using the material contained in their book, of course) to regain a measure of independence. However, blindness (they say) alters dramatically almost every aspect of life. For example in the chapter dealing with social interactions, the authors say this:
The more impaired your vision becomes, the less you may feel a part of the sighted world. Vision is a major source of information gathering, and without it you are cut off from a lot of clues you once unconsciously depended on. Where you were once able to see a friend's facial expression, you may now be able to see only his shadow. He may eventually become a disembodied voice.
You also may [the publication continues] feel detached from your own body. You may wonder what your face is doing or what emotions it is expressing. You may even feel faceless.
I interrupt the narrative to ask: Can they really believe it? I have heard many bizarre experiences ascribed to the blind, but I have never before in my life known anybody to believe that blind people become detached from their own bodies and unconnected with their own faces. Have you ever really wondered what your face was doing? Yet there are those who will question why we object!
But there is more:
How [ask the authors] do you deal with these problems and start becoming reoriented to the world?
Ask a friend over to watch television--and you can serve canned juice and potato chips. Have your children take turns walking with you to the corner each evening until you feel safe and confident traveling alone.
You can call family members and say, "We're having a change of menu. I'm serving pizza and soda this week--and by the way, can you pick up the pizza on your way over?" Serve that double cheese and anchovy deluxe on paper plates and drink your soda from cans until you have mastered pouring.
This is the advice given in Chapter ten, and it speaks for itself. Although some newly blinded persons may temporarily have trouble in pouring, there is really nothing very intricate about it. The trouble with this book is not the detail of it but the emphasis and the overall perspective, the custodial tone and the looking down.
But these authors have not exhausted their recommendations to assist us in gaining full and independent lives. Earlier in the publication (in the chapter called "Getting Reacquainted with Your Home") there is a passage offering advice to the blind person about the bathroom. If I hadn't read this myself, I would have found it hard to believe. See how this strikes you. The authors say:
It is unavoidable--you will need to find your way around the bathroom almost immediately. Fortunately, because it is small--and because we often use it in the dark--the bathroom may be the easiest room in the house to get accustomed to with little or no vision.
Make your starting point [the authors say] the entrance to the bathroom.
I interrupt to ask where else would you make the starting point? But back to the text.
Although you can probably count the number of steps to the toilet, start by following along the wall using the sweep/step method. Notice the contrast of the bath mat to the floor, the towels to the wall, or the tub wall to the floor. If you are worried about slipping on the bath mat, you can tape it down or replace it with the nonskid type.
This is what the authors say--and again, the trouble is with the emphasis and the talking down. If a person is elderly and frail, then he or she (whether sighted or blind) may be concerned about slipping on the bath mat and may want to tape it down or replace it with the nonskid type. But age is not mentioned. It is blindness. And as all of us in this room know, blindness has absolutely nothing to do with slipping on a bath mat.
As to the foolishness about counting the steps from the bathroom door to the toilet, I won't dignify it with a comment. Persons who need to use that method won't know why they started or what to do when they arrive. As to trailing the wall with a sweep/step method: Forgive them, Lord. They know not what they say.
But we are not through with the bathroom. Consider how these authors deal with the bathtub. Here is what they say:
When you get to the bathtub or shower, take a few practice attempts getting in and out. If you have trouble getting into the tub, face the wall and brace yourself against it with your hands for support. Next, feel with your knee for the top of the tub. While holding onto the wall, step up, over, and into the bathtub.
To get out of the tub, just follow these directions in reverse.
This is the advice from the guidebook for those who have become visually impaired. It was published in 1994. Is all conflict in the blindness field at an end? Don't you believe it! But before we leave the bathroom, here is one final hint from the authors.
The biggest problem you will probably ever have in the bathroom [they say] is finding the toilet paper. The dispenser is often located in the most inconvenient and illogical place. So take time when exploring this room to practice finding the toilet paper while sitting on the toilet.
I remind you that the authors are speaking about the exploration of the bathroom in your own home. How often have you lost the toilet paper dispenser? How much practice is required to find it? You may even have designed the layout.
With self-proclaimed experts like these offering advice to the blind, is it difficult to understand why we sometimes face attitudes which question our initiative, our judgment, our competence, and our very capacity to be full citizens and human beings? How should we respond? Even though all conflict has within it an element of loss, we cannot accept this erroneous description. It must and it will be challenged. We have created the vehicle to handle conflict, and you can put money in the bank on this: We intend to have progress!
The writings of the public press are often a reflection of popular thought. A report from the Denver Post on December 18, 1994, describes the reactions of a veteran reporter when visiting a program for young blind children. This emotionally charged feature entitled "Brightening the Lives of Blind Babies" says:
Their mysterious, dark world is full of danger and unimaginable challenges. They hear voices but cannot see faces. They hear music but cannot see the band play.
They must learn to walk without ever having seen someone take a step. They must learn to grasp without ever having seen a hand. They must learn to read without ever having seen a word. They must learn to eat without ever having seen a spoon.
They are blind babies.
That's what it says--and it just gets you right here, doesn't it? Whether it's little kittens--little hungry, sore- pawed kittens--or whether it's a blind baby who has to learn to walk without ever having seen somebody else do it, the emotion just drips, and the tears come rolling after. As Mark Twain said in another context: Great legend; great lie. Pass on!
And, of course, it is a lie, but that is not the real trouble with it. I have no objection to letting people clean out their sinuses, their tear ducts, or their guilty consciences with a heavy dose of false beliefs and misplaced emotion--but I do have an objection to condoning such exercises when they damage lives and blight futures. And in this case that is exactly what is happening.
Of course, blind children learn to eat without having seen a spoon, and they continue eating that way for the rest of their lives--along with a knife and a fork into the bargain. Most of us here in this room have done it tonight, but we haven't mixed tears with our gravy--and that goes for the sighted among us, too.
Have I been too hard on this reporter? Not at all. Listen to more of what he says.
Nothing in thirty years of journalism--three decades of seeing misery and sorrow and suffering on five of the Earth's continents--had prepared me for the emotional impact of this assignment.
When I first walked into the room, the sadness overwhelmed me. I stood there, a veteran journalist who isn't supposed to get choked up--and I fought back tears.
So have I been too hard on him? You bet I haven't. As any blind person with an ounce of sense knows (and most sighted people, too, if it comes to that), this is a bunch of disgusting twaddle. Yes, it does make you want to cry--and yes, for the blind children about whom he is writing. But not for the reasons he gives. The tears come for the damage this so-called "veteran journalist" is doing--the doors he is helping to close, the dreams he is helping to kill, the futures he is helping to twist and destroy. But he is not finished:
A little blind girl was sitting cross-legged on the floor of a darkened room [he says], next to a bright white table of light, desperately trying to pick up the brightly colored plastic triangles, squares, and circles.
The operative word, of course, is "desperately." If she had just tried to do it by using her sense of touch, she might not have had any problem with it.
But back to the text.
Without a bright light [the reporter continues], the little girl couldn't see the shadowy shapes--but even with brilliant light, she can't see the colors.
One of her playmates today is a little girl who was born without eyes and who will never detect a dim shadow or a vague shape.
There you have it--the cause of misery: two little girls playing together--both blind. Is that really tragic? But the author is not finished:
My first impression [he says]--as is most visitors'--is one of near hopelessness.
Every tiny lesson is a monumental struggle for the child and for the parent. Learning how to pour milk into a glass can take years.
If it takes years, probably you can't learn to do it at all.
But back to the report.
By the end of my second visit [he says], I had begun to conquer that sense of awful hopelessness.
I had seen the smiles, and heard the laughter, and witnessed the courage.
They exercise, they discover, they socialize. They talk, and they sing, and they laugh, and they touch--but all the time they are learning to cope with the unseen, scary world around them.
So says the reporter. The children have courage. The world is scary. This description reminds me of a conversation I once overheard between two sighted volunteers who were planning an outing for blind people who were members of a large church. One volunteer said to the other: "First we give them lunch. Then we walk them on the lawn."
Undoubtedly our veteran journalist would have felt right at home "walking them on the lawn." But we should not do this man an injustice. He has not written casually. He has thought it through and has a philosophy of blindness.
Since 90 percent of a person's learning is by sight [he says], these kids suffer the biggest learning handicap of all--and many of them have other physical disabilities to add to their burden.
In the spirit of his philosophy, here is how he describes the techniques used by these blind children to identify objects:
To find his seat at the lunch table [the veteran journalist tells us], four-and-a-half-year-old Vincent feels along the row of chairs, touching an item on the back of each. When he finds the piece of macaroni, he knows that's where he sits.
Vincent has chosen macaroni as his sign, to mark his chair and his storage cubicle--because he can't see his own name.
Does it occur to you to wonder what stimulated this tear- jerking piece of trash? Well, the answer is not hard to find. The article appeared a week before Christmas, and the program for the blind in question was being hyped to receive donations from the 1994 charity drive then being conducted by the Denver Post.
The final portion of the article is thoroughly appropriate in the context. Here is what it says:
To contribute, use the coupon on Page 8T in today's Denver Post.
Please--do it for the Macaroni Kid.
So that's the Christmas present the Denver Post gave to the blind of the nation last year. If any of you leave your chairs and plan to return, I assume you will tie a lettuce leaf on the back or smear a little gravy for identification.
But enough of this foolishness! In reality it isn't funny. We are dealing with something that is as sinister and serious as the lives and destinies of us all. The fact that most people won't see it that way doesn't lessen the damage. It makes it worse. As to the Macaroni Kid, he won't thank the Denver Post as he grows up--or if he does, there will truly be cause for tears and pity--tragedy indeed. His chance for a full life will be much enhanced if articles like the one I have just quoted cease to be written.
And here is where we come in, we of the National Federation of the Blind. If we are willing to let this article (and others like it) go unchallenged, all will be peace and goodwill. But if we challenge and debunk such articles (as surely we will and must), conflict and resentment will inevitably result. In the circumstances and with carefully considered and deliberate purpose, I say: Let it be so. Let the conflict come. In fact, if it does not come to hunt us, we will go and hunt it. We will do it for the blind of the nation; we will do it for ourselves; and, yes, we will do it for the Macaroni Kid. He deserves better than he got, and we will help him get it.
And it is not just the Macaroni Kid who gets hurt by articles like the one in the Denver Post. This spring, as I was preparing for the convention of the National Federation of the Blind, I received a call from a woman who was clearly in a state of agitation. She told me that she had been receiving our literature and that she didn't want it anymore. From the tone of her voice I could tell that she was extremely upset. I asked her what the trouble was, and she responded by telling me that she had asked in the past to be removed from the mailing list to receive our literature and our monthly magazine, the Braille Monitor, and that she could not have this literature coming to her home. She said that her children would see it. I said that our literature might be of help to her, and she said: "I realize that, but my children are not dumb. They will know."
With real reluctance and great sadness I removed her name from the mailing list. This woman is becoming blind. We had been sending her our literature because she clearly needs it. However, she thought that she could hide her blindness from the members of her own family--and she felt the need to do so. She won't accept our help because she is ashamed of becoming blind, and she is making a desperate effort to prevent others from learning that she is losing her sight. She wants to keep this from her children. She wants to protect them from the shame, and she wants to hide.
With such an attitude this woman is destined for failure. Such is the result of articles like the one in the Denver Post. Such is the predictable fate of the Macaroni Kid unless we can change it. Such is the tragedy of blindness. Such is the challenge for all of us.
As I have said, we in the Federation will avoid controversy when we can, but we will meet it when we must. We have the vehicle to handle conflict, and we know how to use it. We know that all conflict contains an element of loss but that without conflict there is stagnation. There is no progress. And one thing is certain--we intend to have progress.
As everybody knows, we live in a time of turmoil. The federal government is re-examining its role in programs for the blind, and the state governments are doing the same. So is the private sector, and so are we. A few years ago many of the groups of the disabled (including some of the blind) seemed to think that the Americans With Disabilities Act would solve all (or, at least, most) of our problems--but we in the Federation never felt that way--and we don't feel that way now. Whether the restructuring of public buildings, the redesigning of the workplace, and the reconfiguration of the environment mandated by the ADA are a good or a bad thing is not pertinent to what I am saying tonight. What is pertinent is this: Ultimately government cannot make us free, cannot make us equal participants in society. Business cannot do it; the press cannot do it; the public at large cannot do it; and the agencies for the blind cannot do it. We will either do it for ourselves, or it will not be done. Others can help (and certainly they can hinder)--but in the total scheme of things they cannot give us freedom, and they cannot keep us from having it. We have come too far for that. We are too strong, too determined, too well organized, too knowledgeable about our own needs and strengths, and too close to the final goal to allow it to happen.
I want to be clearly understood. We are not seeking unnecessary conflict, and we are not trying to belittle the importance of the help which agencies for the blind and the general public can give. Without goodwill and understanding on the part of the public, we can't make it. But the same is true of every other segment of society. I believe we will have public goodwill and understanding because we will work for it and earn it. I also think we need the assistance of the governmental and private agencies doing work with the blind, but we must establish the context and define the terms. The nature of the contact with the agencies and the extent of their influence must be limited, not total. We must have partnership, not custody.
There is still much to be done as we move from second-class status to first-class membership in society. Certain representatives of the press; some of the scientific community; the remaining misguided, self-proclaimed experts in the field of work with the blind; and even some of us who are blind hold outmoded notions that look to yesterday instead of tomorrow. But with all of our problems we are making more progress than we have ever made, and our future is bright with hope.
As to our relationship with agencies for the blind, conflict has diminished, and increasingly we are considering alliances and turning outward to broader confrontations. This does not mean that all conflict inside the blindness field is finished or that it will not recur. It simply means that we are making progress. We take pride in our heritage, both in the progress and in the conflict which was necessary to achieve it. What we have done has worked. Look about you tonight for the evidence. We the blind have come here in our thousands. We have come from every part of the nation. We have come with our hopes and dreams. We have come to reaffirm our unity and purpose as the strongest collective force for growth in matters dealing with the blind. We have come, not only to remember the past, but to plan for today and to build for the years and the decades ahead. We have come with the knowledge that we possess the capacity to meet the challenge. As we have repeatedly said, we want no strife or confrontation, but we will do what we have to do. Our future is in our own hands, and it has never looked better. If we do not go the rest of the way to full membership in society, the fault will be ours--not somebody else's. We can ask no more; we will accept no less. And make no mistake! We intend to have progress! My brothers and my sisters, let us make it come true.
From the Editor: The following panel presentation was made during the Thursday morning, July 6, session of the convention. The issue addressed, solving the problems faced by text-book publishers in providing electronic versions of the school books blind students need and doing so economically and quickly, was one of the most important discussions of the convention. Here is the presentation in its entirety:
Dr. Jernigan: This is an important item on our program, perhaps as much for the fact of its occurrence as for what any of us who are making presentations will say. It is long past time that we and the Association of American Publishers, Inc., got together and tried to see if we can make common cause. It has been to our cost and theirs that this has not occurred in the past.
Recently I heard the figures thrown around that, to meet the provisions of the Braille bills, publishers in this country have costs in excess of $5 million a year, and I said to the person who told me that, "It may well be, and if so, it serves them right." Now I didn't say that to be belligerent, but I said it because, if I had economic interests at stake and I thought somebody had influence on those interests, I'd go hunt them up. On the other hand, be it said on behalf of the publishers that they made some attempts in this field, but they were not knowledgeable in the blindness field. They did not know what group or people to contact. I suspect the fact they are here indicates now that we will have closer relations in the future. But also the impact of seeing the numbers here will bring home in a way that nothing else could that we are the blind of this country, that we are the ones who are out there in the states and localities and before Congress, working to determine the legislative agenda and talking about what blind people need and what they intend to have.
Let me say that the reason for this agenda item goes back to the introduction of the first Braille bills. When we got legislatures in an increasing number of states to enact into law a provision that any textbook used in that state had to be made available in an accessible form, our purpose was not to see if we could find a way to make life difficult for the publishers or to see if we could add costs to their production. I think also the publishers had no interest in trying to keep blind people from having Braille.
We've been talking to the publishers recently, and I want to introduce some of them to you, representatives of the American Association of Publishers. We have three of them here. The first one is Robert St. Clair. We have him listed in the program as Director of Production and Manufacturing for McDougal Littell, Inc., which is (I gather) part of Houghton Mifflin, and the Chairman of the Committee Serving Students with Disabilities for the Association of American Publishers, Inc. He has got a promotion since we put our program together. He is, as of about a month ago, Vice President of McDougal Littell, Inc., effective June 6.
So, fresh from his promotion to say whatever he wishes to say is Robert St.Clair.
Robert St.Clair: Thank you, Dr. Jernigan and members of the National Federation of the Blind. It is my privilege to have this opportunity to share with you some of my experiences of the past four years in trying to assess the school publishers' role in making electronic text files available for translation into Braille.
Before I begin my remarks, I want to qualify them by saying that I speak as the Director of Production and Manufacturing for only one division of one publishing house. Others may have had different experiences and may have a different perspective from mine, and I do not claim to represent them.
As you all know and as Dr. Jernigan mentioned, for several years states have been passing legislation that requires publishers of educational materials to furnish electronic files of all adopted pupil materials for which Braille translation software is available. The first state to pass a law that had a major impact on school publishers was Texas. Although the bill was not signed into law until late spring, 1991, the requirement was made retroactive to cover books already submitted for adoption in April of that year. Those involved in the drafting of that legislation apparently assumed that all publishers must use computers to create electronic text files, so that it would be a simple matter for publishers to copy those files for submission in Texas and that the files would be appropriate and useful for translation into Braille. That simply is not the case.
Whether books are produced out-of-house or in-house, on high-end composition systems or in page-layout programs, the resulting files, while meeting the needs of publishers to produce textbooks for sighted students, do not meet the needs of Braille producers to prepare materials for visually impaired students. Thus publishers were forced to create separate, parallel files to meet the requirements of the Texas law. At the time that the Texas law was implemented, my employer was a relatively small independent employee-owned publisher. We had not yet been acquired by Houghton Mifflin, and the potential financial impact on our bottom line was significant.
Simply to have our compositors strip the typesetting codes from their files in order to create the flat ASCII files required by law cost approximately $5,000 per title. To edit and sequence the files to match the printed bound books exactly according to quotations from our compositors would have cost between $35,000 and $40,000 per title. So the first point I want to emphasize is that the files that publishers create in the course of developing a print book are not accurate or appropriate for translation into Braille. So many changes occurred between the time that the original word-processed file is complete and the time the printing plates are made that it is often more efficient and cost-effective to scan or re-key the bound book and then proofread and verify and correct the resulting electronic file than it is to proofread and edit the original word-processed file. Thus every time a school publishing company is required to create an electronic file for Braille purposes, it incurs additional expense.
As of today, as many as twenty-five states have passed Braille laws with varying degrees of specificity and interpretation. Many of them are modeled on the Texas law and present a variety of problems for publishers. One of these problems is determining who in the state administration is responsible for administering the law and who can tell publishers just what the specifications are. What format is required? When are files to be submitted? For what subjects? On what timetable?
The second point I want to emphasize then is that publishers spend a great deal of valuable staff time unnecessarily just trying to find out what requirements they need to meet in each of perhaps twenty-five states. In many cases they are needlessly duplicating effort by sending the same files to several or many states. Furthermore, it is conceivable that, when all fifty states have Braille laws, publishers will be furnishing separate files to all states for all pupil titles sold or adopted in those states.
My third point then is that publishers are creating special electronic files intended for translation into Braille and duplicating those files and sending them out to numerous states, whether or not there are Braille-reading blind students in those states who need any, much less all, of those books. According to a survey conducted last year by the Association of American Publishers, respondents reported that they are spending an average of $675,000 per year per publisher to meet the many state requirements. Given the number of different editions of different texts in different subjects in use in schools of this country, the odds of a Braille-reading blind student in a given state needing the eleventh-grade history book published by McDougal Littell in 1994 are slim indeed. Thus much of the expenditure is helping no one while adding an adverse effect on the publisher's profitability.
I should point out that school publishers are not social service agencies or welfare organizations. They are for-profit organizations, whose ultimate responsibility is not only to the education community, but to their shareholders as well. What then do we propose as a solution? In 1993 the Association of American Publishers established a committee to foster communication among school publishers and to increase their ability to serve Braille-reading blind students in a meaningful way without unnecessarily increasing the cost of print materials for sighted students.
One of the primary missions of the AAP Committee is to promote the development of a national repository for electronic files for Braille textbook production. Such a repository at a minimum would enable publishers to send electronic files to one location instead of to fifty different locations. Through the state's own identification and assessment of blind students, the repository then could determine state requirements and provide files to states only as needed. It could also serve as a clearing house to advise states of prior requests from other states and to avert duplication of effort among state agencies.
A national repository could not only eliminate unnecessary waste and duplication, it also could provide a much needed service to the many state and regional agencies faced with the formidable task of guaranteeing accessible educational materials for blind students and others with special needs.
The final point I want to emphasize is that publishers stand ready to help in this effort, but it is our fervent hope that we be allowed to focus our efforts where they are truly needed and to eliminate the costly duplication of effort that is serving no one--neither the blind community nor the economy. Thank you. [applause]
Dr. Jernigan: Mr. St.Clair, it is refreshing to hear your talk. You've been very candid. Let me be equally candid. You're right. Publishers are not in the charity business; they're in the business of meeting their need to make a profit. We are not in the charity business for publishers. Although our heart bleeds for your problems, it also bleeds for blind kids who don't have an opportunity for books. As you know, what we're trying to do is to see if our interests can come together and mesh. If they can't, then they're going to be adversarial, and everybody is going to suffer. Let me talk just a second, and then I'm going to introduce the next persons on the panel.
One of the problems you mention for publishers can be seen in a different perspective. Suppose that you published books only in Braille, and suppose you said, "Well, unless we can first find a sighted kid who needs print, we won't publish that book at all. It won't be immediately available." The problem we've found with Braille over and over is that the teachers say, "Well, I don't run into enough kids who need Braille, so therefore I won't get trained in Braille because I won't use Braille." And the publishers have always said, "Well, we don't know any kids out there who read Braille, so we won't prepare the book for them in Braille." Then a blind child comes along, and the teacher says, "Gosh, I'd like to teach you Braille, but I don't know it, and there are no books available in Braille." So you are in a vicious circle. [applause]
At a minimum we intend to have quickly available in every state any textbook used by sighted students in that state. Now that doesn't mean that it has to be on the premises at that time. You're right. We ought to be able to streamline the effort better. That's why your organization and ours need to work together. We pass the Braille bills. Nobody else. We pass them. And we intend to pass them in every other state. And we intend to amend the federal law to make it a federal requirement. The only question is this: Do we work separately and adversarially, or can we find a way--and I hope and believe we can--to work together? Ultimately our objective simply must be met. That is--every blind child in this country must have available to him or her textbooks in an accessible form so that excellence in education and true competition are possible. That's what we have to do. [applause]
Let me now introduce the second of our panelists. I talked with her on the phone the other day and got acquainted with her. I found it a pleasant experience. We worked together well in planning what we would do on this program. She is Christine D'Ortona. She is the Assistant Director of the School Division of the Association of American Publishers. It is a pleasure to have you with us.
Christine D'Ortona: I must say that I've been a little anxious about this for a while, not knowing exactly what I would encounter. But here I am, and I think it will be just fine. My background in publishing prior to my association with the Association of American Publishers was trade and then some special-edition magazines. So I was involved in an entirely profit-making enterprise, where we sold advertising, and we didn't do a project if it wasn't going to make the bottom line. I was pretty surprised when I took my job at AAP as the Assistant Director of the School Division with no knowledge of how school publishing is done.
When Bob St.Clair spoke his piece, he mentioned adoption states and open territories and electronic files. I'm not sure if you all are more savvy now than I was then, but an adoption state is one of twenty-two states in this country in which a kid learns from instructional materials dictated by state committees' decisions of acceptable materials. Consequently, adoption states are paid a good bit of attention by school publishers because we (and I'm going to use "we" in the editorial sense because I don't really work on books; I represent people who do)--we develop a product with a state's standards in mind and then hope after we have spent that many millions of dollars developing a product that the state says, "Yes, this is exactly what we want. Please come into our school districts and sell these things to our children."
So school publishing is unlike other kinds of publishing. You put out the cash up front. You make the expenditure up front and then hope that all those development costs will pan out. This is one of the areas where production of electronic files for Braille books is very costly. If I'm going to present a program in Texas or Arkansas, which right now is pretty tough with the Braille law, I have to be prepared. However large my program is, if I have a basal reading program of three hundred titles, I have to be ready to put all of those in Braille.
Now I know that's wonderful news if I have a blind child myself or if I'm blind. That's great news. If, however, I am a publisher and it's not a big-market state, there is sometimes cause for hesitance. Maybe I don't want to take that program into that state with that very hard-to-satisfy Braille law.
Now I hope that I didn't get too many people upset with that. One of the areas that I've been encouraged to work in with the Association of American Publishers and with Mr. Maurer and Dr. Jernigan and NFB is finding a happy medium. Ohio just passed a Braille law. The original language in the Ohio Braille law was onerous, to say the least, and unenforceable really. I mean there was just no way any publisher could list every single title they had in their entire inventory as available in Braille and at the same cost as a print text. What we were able to do with Ohio was we were able to go in and say, "Look, we know what you want. Your goal is for those kids who need the instructional materials in Braille to get them as quickly as they can get them, so let's work together in finding language for the enforcement of this law that will benefit the kids, give the publishers the time that they need to do these Braille materials, and ultimately we will all benefit."
So that was my first experience with this coming together and working together that Dr. Jernigan mentioned, and it was wonderful. We did the same thing with Tennessee. Now I'm working on New York, so get ready. You're my next target. But I can honestly and truly say that school publishers are committed to getting materials into Braille. There was an analogy given me that Dr. Jernigan was pretty tough in the beginning because he felt like he had to kick the mule in the head to get its attention. Well, we're kicked. We're listening.
I have a very serious request--that we work together to find reasonable solutions to this very big problem for you, and "reasonable" is key. You can't tie the hands or put publishers out of business. That's not going to benefit anyone. [applause]
Dr. Jernigan: Thank you, Ms. D'Ortona. Let me say this to you. If some of the electronics manufacturers in this country had started at the beginning to make some of their products accessible so that blind persons could use them--read the dials and so forth--they could have done it for fifty cents apiece. Now they have to retrofit. So it costs a great deal and very often doesn't get done. Cooperation is fine, but I tell you what the publishers must not do is simply dig in their heels and whine. That won't help. You're not going out of business. You say that your texts cannot now be quickly put into an accessible form for Braille. They could have if you had started at the beginning; and, if you say, "Well, other publishers don't do it. . . ." Take no comfort from the fact that you're able to modify language in a given state. We're always going to be there, and we'll go back and toughen up every state Braille law. We'll keep at it. Now that's not meaning we're going to fight the publishers. What we want you to do and what I believe you will do is to work with us to see that from the very beginning you plan that you're going to need to make these textbooks available, and then it won't put you out of business.
If I were your employer, Ms. D'Ortona, I'd do two things: I'd fire you if you didn't find a way to make me a profit, and I'd fire you if you didn't find a way to work out any problems with the National Federation of the Blind because that would keep you from making a profit. [applause] That is what I would do. Life is hard. [laughter]
Now the third person on our panel is Kathlene Karg, Assistant Director of Copyright and New Technology, Association of American Publishers, Inc. Ms. Karg, it's a pleasure to have you here also. [applause]
Kathlene Karg: Thank you very much, Dr. Jernigan. It's a tough audience; you want to fire me before I even talk to you. I come at this issue from the viewpoint of copyright, which is the underlying intellectual property behind all the works that we are talking about today, whether they are only for sighted or whether we've made that transition to make it available to other sectors of our society. I also come about it from a viewpoint of the technology. I agree with you totally, Dr. Jernigan, that if we had started this process ten years ago and we had started putting everything into ASCII or SGML or even ICAD, we wouldn't be here talking about this issue. Of course, then I wouldn't have gotten to meet you.
What's done is done, and we have to look towards the future, and I think that we've been doing that very successfully. I hope that this is the first step in a long journey together to meet the goal that we all want--that is, to provide all materials to every sector of our society on an equal, fair basis. [applause]
I want to mention one specific role that I take in this process, because I am located in a Washington, D.C., office. I want to reassure you that I'm not a techie; I'm not a lawyer; and I'm not a politician. So why I'm in Washington, I can't figure out. But what I have done is sit down with some of the staffers that work in Senator Dole's committees, specifically those that are dealing with the rights of the disabled and providing services to the disabled. Senator Dole has shown a lot of initiative and interest in bringing the issue of creating a federal repository that Robert St.Clair spoke to you about to become a reality, swiftly and to the benefit of all. I have given him language that can go into law immediately, that I think would be approved by everybody in this room, as well as all of my members, and it's sitting right now on his desk as things often do in Washington. So if I was to do anything today, I would call on NFB, that if this is the initiative that we all want, if this is what we need--I've seen how effective you are at the state level--let's work together on a federal level to make this possible.
If I may take one other moment just to address the copyright issue, I know that you have had a number of seminars and discussions during the last few days on Internet and other network abilities. I want to say that this is a concern for us because obviously, if we put an electronic file of one of our textbooks out to a Brailler, that electronic file can easily be put on a network, and the entire world can have it in a matter of seconds. I'm not saying it's a reality yet, but it's a very close fear to our hearts, not just for the issue of providing Braille, but for any electronic products that we put out there. We want to make sure that, when we take this next step, it is a step and not a plummet off a cliff. So I hope that you will understand these issues because the copyright issue has been so misunderstood in public society. It is a right in our Constitution, and it protects creators and inventors so that they get some rewards for their work. Without that we are going to lose our number one product for this country, which is intellectual property. I'll close with that. Thank you very much. [applause]
Dr. Jernigan: I want to emphasize to you that whatever else comes, Braille must and will be made accessible and available to blind students in the schools throughout the country. I tell you this, not asking you as a kindness or a charity. I hope you will want to do it. But whether you want to do it or not, in the same way that sighted children in this country would fight, their parents would fight, for the right for them to have textbooks, we intend to have textbooks; and we have the clout to make it happen. We're going to do it. [applause] If you set up a national repository and we're not involved in it, it won't work. That doesn't mean that we have to run it, but we have to be assured it's going to work.
This has to do with your bottom line; we're approaching you from that point of view. We want you to make profit, a lot of it. I hope you do. We also want textbooks. You must figure that into your profit structure, and if necessary you'll have to go back and rethink the way that from the ground up you publish textbooks. It's that important. We will ultimately have put into law that much clout. That's not meant to be a threat. It's meant simply to be a hopeful thing. All of us want everybody in this country to have a chance at literacy. The publishers certainly have an interest in that.
I wonder if any of you three from the publishing industry--. You've been good-tempered and candid in dealing with us, and we've tried to be equally candid in response. It's important that we get together. We do want to work with you, not in an adversarial capacity. So, if any of you want to make any response, we'll take one of you and let you do that. Ms. D'Ortona will do it.
Christine D'Ortona: The only response I want to make is: Dr. Jernigan implied that I felt that I sort of beat Ohio down. That wasn't it at all. The end result of our working with the NFB in the State of Ohio was that the kids in Ohio are actually going to get their materials more quickly and more effectively. You are going to have better quality. You're going to have better timing. We were able to go into Ohio and define what it was that the kids were going to get. My concern is only that some of these states' laws that are pushed through are pushed through without the knowledge of what it takes a publisher to do their job. There is a certain amount of time, there is a certain amount of technology, and I've already said there is a certain amount of money--but that's not even the main issue. We know we have to produce them. The law says we have to produce them to sell in the state. We have no choice, so what we want to do is work with you and put together language that affects what it is you want for your kids and what it is we must do as vendors in your state.
Working with New York is something that I hope to do so that we can work out language that makes sense. We don't need a big board to evaluate how the laws are enforced. We just need reasonable time periods. We need copyright protection. We need certain elements built into the laws. I am more than happy to work with any state group, any NFB group that's writing a law right now. I'm not a bully. I very much value my publisher's customers, and that's who you are. Give me a call. Mr. Maurer and Dr. Jernigan both have my phone number. I will come out there, or if I don't, I will send representatives who work in your state. We can work together. Together is the only way this thing is going to be resolved. [applause]
Dr. Jernigan: Ms. D'Ortona, I have one more thing to say to the publishers while we are getting everything out in the open. Very often, when I go to the publishers or have gone to the publishers in the last two or three years, once we got them so they were talking with us, and we with them, anytime you start talking about specifics they need to do, each one says, "Well, you see, that's the other publishers. I can't really deal with this." The publishers are not one unified group. The publishers had better become one unified group, and that's not said in the tone of being a bully. That's said in the tone of being a realist. If the publishers don't get together and deal with people outside of the publishing industry simply because each one is so independent, then they are going to have difficulties economically and otherwise.
What the publishers need to do is to get their act together, get together as one group and deal with us. You publishers should understand that you won't be dealing with our states individually; you'll be dealing with us as an entire national body. We can focus resources; and then, if we work together as the National Federation of the Blind and as the publishers, we can come up with what's best for the publishers in the way of profitability and in the way of producing materials, and what's best for the blind in the way of access to reading material. That's really what we need to do and why we are glad you did come. I think that this has been a productive discussion and that it has been very helpful to us, and I hope it will be to you in getting on with the business of providing textbooks for blind children. [applause]
President Maurer: I want to say this to you who are from the Association of American Publishers. You have an interest in the copyright law, and so do we. We were asked recently to provide proposed language to amend that law to make it much more readily and easily available to have Braille made available for us. We did provide that language. You provided language having to do with a national repository. We didn't discuss ours with you. You didn't discuss yours with us. If we keep on that way, I suspect there is going to be conflict. I'd rather there weren't, but if we don't change, I see no alternative. We will have an interest in anything dealing with Braille, and we will have an interest in the copyright law as it deals with Braille or other formatted book production for blind people.
Jim Gashel is our Director of Governmental Affairs, and he is the one principally responsible for dealing with matters that go before the Congress. He is here at the convention, and I introduced him to you. I would urge you, when you decide that you are going to deal with changes in the law affecting blind people, to consult with us before we get there so that we don't end up, as we have in front of the legislative committees, with different points of view. It would be very helpful. I presume that you feel the same, and it seems only fair that, if any of you would like to respond to that, I should offer that before we cease.
Kathlene Karg: I would, of course, like to work with the NFB legislative body and whatever role they would like to play. I would like to see your legislation before it hits the floor of the Senate or the House. It's always nice to know ahead of time what we are all trying to do together, and I will start to share what we are doing with you. I think that's the only way we can possibly make this all work. [applause]
President Maurer: Thank you very much. It has been a pleasure, as Dr. Jernigan said, to have all of you come and be with us. We look forward to working with you in time to come.
by Ramona Walhof
From the Editor: Ramona Walhof is the Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB of Idaho. She also serves as the Chairman of the Resolutions Committee. Each year she presides over the receipt and handling of all resolutions until they are acted upon by the convention. This is what she has to say about the resolutions considered at the 1995 convention of the National Federation of the Blind:
The Resolutions Committee meets early in the convention and consists of members from at least half the states. As are most Federation meetings, the Resolutions Committee meeting is open, and frequently a large number of observers are present. This means that issues raised in resolutions are brought to the attention of several hundred people early in the convention so that they can be discussed informally as desired throughout the week.
The 1995 convention passed fifteen resolutions. The National Federation of the Blind takes its resolutions seriously. These are policy statements of the organization, and we use them to let others know what our policies are.
Any member of the NFB may present a resolution to the Resolutions Committee for consideration. After reading and discussing it, the committee will send it on to the convention floor with a recommendation of "pass" or "do not pass." In order to receive action, resolutions must be written clearly and presented to the NFB President or the committee chairman at least two weeks before the convention. This year not all the resolutions presented were in such a condition that the committee could act on them.
The Board of Directors may also present resolutions to the convention floor for action. However, this year all the resolutions were brought to the committee. The fifteen printed below were passed by the committee and the convention.
As usual, we are providing full texts of all the resolutions passed in Chicago by the 1995 NFB Convention. First I will give a brief description of each:
Resolution 95-01 seeks to preserve the linkage between blind and seniors aged sixty-five to sixty-nine with regard to the amount of money that can be earned by Social Security beneficiaries without losing benefits.
Resolution 95-02 commends Secretary of Education Richard Riley for removing the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped from the list of accrediting boards recognized by the Department of Education.
Resolution 95-03 calls upon Congress to amend the Javits- Wagner-O'Day Act to provide that sheltered workshops for the blind assist blind persons in preparing for competitive work for private and public employers and to provide that agencies' eligibility for government support largely depend on their effectiveness in this area.
Resolution 95-04 condemns and deplores the attempt of representatives of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) to seek legislation in various states for the certification of mobility instructors.
Resolution 95-05 reiterates the position of the NFB that separate identifiable agencies generally provide the best service to the blind and rejects the cross-disability approach.
Resolution 95-06 calls upon producers of television programs to confer with NFB representatives about when to read aloud printed contact information.
Resolution 95-07 urges the Social Security Administration to encourage college students to get work experience without being penalized.
Resolution 95-08 urges Congress to pass legislation to eliminate copyright difficulties when material is being produced in alternative formats for the blind.
Resolution 95-09 opposes the application of the Javits- Wagner-O'Day Act to the procurement of specialized materials for the blind by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), now or in the future.
Resolution 95-10 requests the Social Security Administration to develop a clear and simple benefits-reporting system which beneficiaries can follow when moving from inactivity to work activity.
Resolution 95-11 calls upon agencies having responsibility for guidelines, regulations, or enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to eliminate requirements for detectable warnings.
Resolution 95-12 advocates the preservation of identifiable rehabilitation programs based on the principle of consumer choice and control and with federal funding available.
Resolution 95-13 calls upon the U.S. Department of Justice to support actively decisions of arbitration panels in the Randolph-Sheppard program.
Resolution 95-14 seeks equal access for the blind in using telecommunications services and systems.
Resolution 95-15 urges manufacturers of computer hardware and software to make manuals available in Braille when requested by the blind and the deaf-blind.
WHEREAS, the Social Security Disability Insurance program includes an exempt earnings provision for blind people so that work is encouraged with no financial penalty applied to the extent that earnings do not exceed the exempt amount for seniors in the age range of sixty-five to seventy; and
WHEREAS, proposals which are pending in Congress would raise the current earnings exemption threshold in five annual adjustments from $11,280 currently to reach $30,000 beginning in the year 2000; and
WHEREAS, a version of the earnings exemption changes which was passed by the House of Representatives as part of the "Contract with America" legislation would apply the higher threshold amounts to age sixty-five to seventy retirees but not to blind people, leaving blind people with an earnings exemption of $11,280; and
WHEREAS, the objective of the earnings limit changes--to promote work incentives for beneficiaries--is equally valid for blind people and senior citizens: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1995, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this organization call upon the Congress to make changes in the earnings exemption threshold which apply to blind people to the same extent that they apply to seniors.
WHEREAS, the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC) appeared for many years on the Secretary of Education's list of officially recognized accrediting agencies; and
WHEREAS, the recognition of NAC by the Secretary of Education was obtained from the beginning on the basis of politics and not on the merits of NAC'S program; and
WHEREAS, throughout its history NAC has severely damaged the quality of services to the blind by attempting to force itself upon the field in a way that was calculated from the beginning to overpower the views of blind consumers; and
WHEREAS, the Secretary of Education, Richard W. Riley, decided to remove NAC from the list after reviewing information supplied by the National Federation of the Blind in which it was clearly demonstrated to him that NAC was no longer eligible for recognition: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1995, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this organization applaud and commend Secretary Riley for acting forthrightly to remove NAC from the list of officially recognized accrediting agencies.
WHEREAS, the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act, originally known as the Wagner-O'Day Act, became law in 1938, for the purpose of giving a non-competitive priority in federal purchasing to favor items made by blind people at non-profit agencies called sheltered workshops; and
WHEREAS, the jobs made possible by virtue of the Javits- Wagner-O'Day Act are not in the competitive labor force and, in the vast majority of instances, never lead to jobs that are in the open labor market; and
WHEREAS, in its operation of the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act in the manner just described, the federal government is overseeing and financing a system of segregated employment settings for blind and disabled people, directly contravening the policy of the United States, declared in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, to promote employment opportunities for persons with disabilities in integrated settings: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1995, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this organization urge the Congress to enact legislation which will reshape and reform the Javits- Wagner-O'Day program into an instrument of job training and transitional work opportunities for blind people, providing for each person employed in the program a plan with specifically identified goals and time schedules to obtain competitive employment; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that eligibility for agencies to participate in the Javits-Wagner-O'Day program be based to a considerable extent on each agency's consistent demonstration of its ability to enable blind people to achieve competitive employment outcomes.
WHEREAS, the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) is promoting legislation for enactment in the states and seeking to create a state- administered regulatory scheme for certification of mobility instructors; and
WHEREAS, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, where legislation of this type has been proposed most recently, the certification standards, examination policies, and other related matters would all be regulated by a board to be known as the "State Board of Examiners in Orientation and Mobility;" and
WHEREAS, according to the legislation, the board would consist of nine members appointed by the governor, seven of whom "shall be engaged in rendering professional services in orientation and mobility, one shall be engaged in rendering professional services in ophthalmology or optometry, and one who is legally blind shall represent consumer interests"; and
WHEREAS, the make-up of the proposed board alone reveals AER's real purpose, to control the practice of orientation and mobility teaching by having the certification and examination standards shaped to fulfill its own narrow objectives; and
WHEREAS, it is a grandiose and false notion in the extreme to think that teaching independent travel methods to the blind is so intellectually challenging and technically difficult that state-level certification is warranted to assure appropriate expertise when such has never been demonstrated at any time or in any state: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1995, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this organization reject AER's proposed orientation and mobility instructor certification legislation and vigorously oppose this legislation in every state in which the legislation is introduced; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we condemn and deplore the efforts of AER to use state certification legislation as the means of seizing control over mobility instruction for the blind.
WHEREAS, on more than one occasion during the past several months the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) has issued official position statements to the effect that all programs which receive federal funds for serving people with disabilities should be "cross-disability programs," meaning that they should serve anyone with any disability and not be specialized in their approach; and
WHEREAS, the statements made by NCIL have had particular reference to services for the blind provided through specialized agencies, such as separate state agencies for the blind, which at the option of the states are permitted to receive direct federal funding under Title I of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended; and
WHEREAS, the attempt to enforce a cross-disability mold upon all programs and services is undesirable and not workable in that individuals often have particular disabilities, such as blindness, deafness, or other specific conditions; and
WHEREAS, the notion that everyone must conform to a generalist view of disability is an attempt to strong-arm the entire service-delivery system to fit a particular view of disability, not the particular needs of individuals: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1995, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this organization firmly and forcefully reject use of the cross-disability approach in the organization, planning, and delivery of training, adjustment, and supportive services; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we reaffirm the long-standing policy of this organization to preserve and create wherever possible a specialized approach to services for the blind provided by identifiable and consumer-responsive agencies.
WHEREAS, many informational programs and commercials are aired on television and cable channels that make use of silently displayed contact information such as toll-free telephone numbers; and
WHEREAS, persons who are blind cannot easily obtain this information from these broadcasts: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1995, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this organization call upon television networks, local stations, cable companies, and producers of programs for the above throughout this country to confer with representatives of the National Federation of the Blind regarding the verbalization of essential telephone numbers and similar information.
WHEREAS, blind students in postsecondary education programs should be encouraged to obtain work experience through activities such as internships, work study, and similar programs; and
WHEREAS, students who participate in these programs are often challenged by the Social Security Administration on the assumption that the income which they have received or will receive will likely affect entitlement to cash benefits; and
WHEREAS, policies and regulations of the Social Security Administration should, to the maximum extent possible, encourage work activity by beneficiaries and should particularly avoid penalizing students who are performing useful work as a means of acquiring experience and skills needed for obtaining and retaining employment; and
WHEREAS, it is particularly important that, in the case of full-time students who are disability insurance beneficiaries, months of trial work should not be counted for income received and services provided under virtually any foreseeable circumstance, and, in the case of full-time students who are SSI recipients, arrangements should be made to exempt income and resources through expedited approval of Plans for Achieving Self Support or other procedures: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1995, in the city of Chicago, Illinois, that this organization urge the Social Security Administration to issue revised and clear guidelines especially designed to promote work experience for students; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the guidelines called for in this resolution be designed to enable students who are beneficiaries to obtain work experience without penalty so that they are encouraged to view work as the most attractive option available.
WHEREAS, revision of copyright laws is under review in Congress in part as the result of the burgeoning capacity for electronic publishing and distribution of information; and
WHEREAS, copyright clearance is often the major obstacle to the timely conversion of printed matter into Braille or sound-recorded formats designed for use by the blind; and
WHEREAS, any delay in obtaining copyright permission to reproduce printed matter in formats that are exclusively useful to blind and visually impaired persons cannot be justified on the basis of protecting intellectual property or financial interest since the material is already published and available to sighted readers: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1995, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this organization urge the Congress to enact statutory provisions which will assure that copyrighted works may be reproduced at any time if the purpose for the reproduction, as indicated by the format used, is to provide blind and visually impaired persons with direct access to the work in question.
WHEREAS, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) is responsible under federal law for providing reading matter in Braille and sound-recorded formats; and
WHEREAS, in order to make this service possible, the NLS relies principally upon specialized, nonprofit production facilities which supply specified quantities of books and magazines under contract; and
WHEREAS, a competitive process is used by NLS to obtain the greatest amount of suitable material from the few suppliers available at the most favorable price possible; and
WHEREAS, efforts have been made to require NLS to alter this approach, at least in certain instances, by giving a non- competitive priority to programs operating under the Javits- Wagner-O'Day Act; and
WHEREAS, application of the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act to materials procurement by NLS has distinct programmatic and financial disadvantages and is not in the ultimate best interest of the vast majority of blind and visually impaired readers: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1995, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this organization oppose application of the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act to the procurement of specialized materials for the blind by NLS; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, in the event of future efforts to restrict procurement activities of NLS by entities in the Javits-Wagner-O'Day program, this organization, to the extent necessary, seek appropriate exemption legislation.
WHEREAS, senior officials of the Social Security Administration speak with great conviction of their desire to reduce the work disincentives in the cash benefits and medical assistance programs; and
WHEREAS, in order to achieve this objective, the policies and procedures of the Social Security Administration at all levels, but particularly in local offices, should reinforce the view that work activity for beneficiaries is preferred over inactivity and, in fact, is the expected norm; and
WHEREAS, work activity among blind people could best be promoted by presenting beneficiaries with current, individualized reports with sufficient detail for them to know the current information on file concerning the months of trial work used and available, the beginning and ending dates for an extended period of eligibility, the amount of time remaining (if any) for Medicare part A coverage to continue without charge, and other matters relating to the anticipated effect that work may have on benefit eligibility; and
WHEREAS, the current procedures for handling claims nullify the pro-work stance of the Social Security Administration by failing to anticipate work of beneficiaries and, as a consequence, not giving them a user-friendly and simple way to submit work reports routinely; and
WHEREAS, the unintended consequence of the present reporting and data-tracking procedures relating to work activity is that a punitive "got-ya" approach appears to be the principal method used to monitor work, with virtually all of the consequences being disclosed as after-the-fact penalties, not before-the-fact advantages: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1995, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this organization reassert to the Social Security Administration its request for the design and implementation of a user-friendly work and benefit status reporting system; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the principal objective of this system should be to provide a path of clarity and simplicity for beneficiaries to follow in going from inactivity to work activity.
WHEREAS, the need for and usefulness of so-called detectable warnings has now been studied extensively by groups of professional researchers at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and the Battelle Memorial Institute; and
WHEREAS, the findings of both studies confirm the everyday experience of blind people, that safe travel from place to place does not depend upon having strips of truncated domes installed to surround features of the built environment such as streets and drop-offs; and
WHEREAS, the research also shows that the strips of truncated domes do not make a unique or even significant contribution to safe and effective mobility for blind people in moving about through the public streets and in using transit stations; and
WHEREAS, truncated domes are a potential hazard to everyone; and
WHEREAS, in light of the research results and the substantial body of evidence that blind people neither want nor need detectable warnings, the guidelines and regulations requiring them cannot be supported and should not be enforced: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1995, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this organization urge all agencies having responsibility for guidelines, regulations, or enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act to remove all references to and abandon all requirements for detectable warnings; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization express as a matter of policy its commitment to assist entities covered by the ADA in efforts to defend themselves against enforcement of requirements for detectable warnings.
WHEREAS, Congress is considering bills to consolidate laws and programs relating to education, training, and employment for youth and adults; and
WHEREAS, the impetus for the consolidation approach is to move responsibility for program leadership from the federal government to state or local governments and to reduce federal spending in the process; and
WHEREAS, both original and redrafted versions of the various consolidation measures contain plans to merge the vocational rehabilitation program with the delivery of job-training and employment services for the general non-disabled and unemployed population, but the more recent proposals, particularly the bill being considered in the Senate, have called for maintaining vocational rehabilitation as a distinctive state-administered program with a significant continuing federal role in both funding and policy leadership; and
WHEREAS, reforming the vocational rehabilitation program so that consumer responsiveness and client choice can prevail over claims of bureaucratic necessity is long overdue, but submerging the program into the generic job training system would not achieve this goal and would sacrifice the identifiable service delivery system in the process: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1995, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this organization continue to serve as a vigorous advocate for an identifiable vocational rehabilitation service-delivery system which is based on the principles of choice and consumer control over individualized service decisions; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge the Congress to reaffirm the commitment to specialized services which is best expressed by maintaining leadership within the federal government over statewide and identifiable public vocational rehabilitation agencies and with adequate funding provided for services chosen to meet individual needs.
WHEREAS, the Randolph-Sheppard Act contains an arbitration procedure, which can be used by state licensing agencies to challenge violations of the law by federal property-managing departments, agencies, and instrumentalities; and
WHEREAS, according to the Randolph-Sheppard Act the decision of an arbitration panel in a proceeding such as this is binding, and the head of the property managing agency is obliged to cause any violation found to cease; and
WHEREAS, resistance to, rather than compliance with, the decisions of arbitration panels has become the normal response of federal property managers (most notably the Department of Veterans Affairs in recent cases) who act as though the decision of a Randolph-Sheppard arbitration panel means nothing; and
WHEREAS, it has become the expected practice of the Department of Justice to join with federal agencies and officials in resisting, and in fact disregarding, arbitration panel decisions: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1995, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this organization call upon the Department of Justice to cease and desist from assisting with or promoting resistance to arbitration decisions issued pursuant to the Randolph-Sheppard Act; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Federation request cooperation by the Department of Justice in assuring that decisions of Randolph-Sheppard panels are given the substantial deference and weight they deserve as official rulings in the administration of the Randolph-Sheppard Program.
WHEREAS, bills now pending in Congress offer the possibility of removing legal obstacles to rapid expansion of our nation's telecommunications capacity and the variety of services available; and
WHEREAS, the proposed changes in the law underscore the necessity for a highly developed telecommunications infrastructure to support the needs of our society, including the needs of people who are blind, in the information age; and
WHEREAS, in order for blind people to compete and interact on equal terms with others, it is essential that the efficient and effective use of telecommunications equipment and services not become dependent upon the ability to see; and
WHEREAS, access provisions for persons with disabilities, including the blind, have been included in somewhat different forms in both House and Senate versions of the telecommunications reform legislation: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1995, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this organization urge the Congress promptly to complete action on a comprehensive telecommunications reform measure which includes the strongest possible affirmative statement that access for people who are blind is required; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that upon the enactment of the telecommunications reform legislation this Federation will do all in its power to seek approval of regulations and standards which will assure that efficient and effective equal access methods are available for blind people in using telecommunications equipment and services.
WHEREAS, accessibility to computer hardware and software results in more job opportunities, broader academic pursuits, and a higher level of independence for blind and deaf-blind consumers; and
WHEREAS, this accessibility is often contingent upon the availability of user's manuals in Braille; and
WHEREAS, the availability of user's manuals in Braille is virtually non-existent: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1995, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this organization actively advocate for the provision of Braille editions of manuals for users of computer hardware and software and that these manuals be available on request from the manufacturers of these products.
ARTICLE I. NAME
The name of this organization is the National Federation of the Blind.
ARTICLE II. PURPOSE
The purpose of the National Federation of the Blind is to serve as a vehicle for collective action by the blind of the nation; to function as a mechanism through which the blind and interested sighted persons can come together in local, state, and national meetings to plan and carry out programs to improve the quality of life for the blind; to provide a means of collective action for parents of blind children; to promote the vocational, cultural, and social advancement of the blind; to achieve the integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality with the sighted; and to take any other action which will improve the overall condition and standard of living of the blind.
ARTICLE III. MEMBERSHIP
Section A. The membership of the National Federation of the Blind shall consist of the members of the state affiliates, the members of divisions, and members at large. Members of divisions and members at large shall have the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities in the National Federation of the Blind as members of state affiliates.
The Board of Directors shall establish procedures for admission of divisions and shall determine the structure of divisions. The divisions shall, with the approval of the Board, adopt constitutions and determine their membership policies. Membership in divisions shall not be conditioned upon membership in state affiliates.
The Board of Directors shall establish procedures for admission of members at large, determine how many classes of such members shall be established, and determine the annual dues to be paid by members of each class.
Section B. Each state or territorial possession of the United States, including the District of Columbia, having an affiliate shall have one vote at the National Convention. These organizations shall be referred to as state affiliates.
Section C. State affiliates shall be organizations of the blind controlled by the blind. No organization shall be recognized as an "organization of the blind controlled by the blind" unless at least a majority of its voting members and a majority of the voting members of each of its local chapters are blind.
Section D. The Board of Directors shall establish procedures for the admission of state affiliates. There shall be only one state affiliate in each state.
Section E. Any member, local chapter, state affiliate, or division of this organization may be suspended, expelled, or otherwise disciplined for misconduct or for activity unbecoming to a member or affiliate of this organization by a two-thirds vote of the Board of Directors or by a simple majority of the states present and voting at a National Convention. If the action is to be taken by the Board, there must be good cause, and a good faith effort must have been made to try to resolve the problem by discussion and negotiation. If the action is to be taken by the Convention, notice must be given on the preceding day at an open Board meeting or a session of the Convention. If a dispute arises as to whether there was "good cause," or whether the Board made a "good faith effort," the National Convention (acting in its capacity as the supreme authority of the Federation) shall have the power to make final disposition of the matter; but until or unless the Board's action is reversed by the National Convention, the ruling of the Board shall continue in effect.
ARTICLE IV. OFFICERS, BOARD OF DIRECTORS, AND NATIONAL ADVISORY BOARD
Section A. The officers of The National Federation of the Blind shall be: (1) President, (2) First Vice President, (3) Second Vice President, (4) Secretary, and (5) Treasurer. They shall be elected biennially.
Section B. The officers shall be elected by majority vote of the state affiliates present and voting at a National Convention.
Section C. The National Federation of the Blind shall have a Board of Directors, which shall be composed of the five officers and twelve additional members, six of whom shall be elected at the Annual Convention during even numbered years and six of whom shall be elected at the Annual Convention during odd numbered years. The members of the Board of Directors shall serve for two- year terms.
Section D. The Board of Directors may, in its discretion, create a National Advisory Board and determine the duties and qualifications of the members of the National Advisory Board.
ARTICLE V. POWERS AND DUTIES OF THE CONVENTION, THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS, AND THE PRESIDENT
Section A. Powers and Duties of the Convention. The Convention is the supreme authority of the Federation. It is the legislature of the Federation. As such, it has final authority with respect to all issues of policy. Its decisions shall be made after opportunity has been afforded for full and fair discussion. Delegates and members in attendance may participate in all Convention discussions as a matter of right. Any member of the Federation may make or second motions, propose nominations, and serve on committees; and is eligible for election to office, except that only blind members may be elected to the National Board. Voting and making motions by proxy are prohibited. Consistent with the democratic character of the Federation, Convention meetings shall be so conducted as to prevent parliamentary maneuvers which would have the effect of interfering with the expression of the will of the majority on any question, or with the rights of the minority to full and fair presentation of their views. The Convention is not merely a gathering of representatives of separate state organizations. It is a meeting of the Federation at the national level in its character as a national organization. Committees of the Federation are committees of the national organization. The nominating committee shall consist of one member from each state affiliate represented at the Convention, and each state affiliate shall appoint its member to the committee. From among the members of the committee, the President shall appoint a chairperson.
Section B. Powers and Duties of the Board of Directors. The function of the Board of Directors as the governing body of the Federation between Conventions is to make policies when necessary and not in conflict with the policies adopted by the Convention. Policy decisions which can reasonably be postponed until the next meeting of the National Convention shall not be made by the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors shall serve as a credentials committee. It shall have the power to deal with organizational problems presented to it by any member, local chapter, state affiliate, or division; shall decide appeals regarding the validity of elections in local chapters, state affiliates, or divisions; and shall certify the credentials of delegates when questions regarding the validity of such credentials arise. By a two-thirds vote the Board may suspend one of its members for violation of a policy of the organization or for other action unbecoming to a member of the Federation. By a two-thirds vote the Board may reorganize any local chapter, state affiliate, or division. The Board may not suspend one of its own members or reorganize a local chapter, state affiliate, or division except for good cause and after a good faith effort has been made to try to resolve the problem by discussion and negotiation. If a dispute arises as to whether there was "good cause" or whether the Board made a "good faith effort," the National Convention (acting in its capacity as the supreme authority of the Federation) shall have the power to make final disposition of the matter; but until or unless the Board's action is reversed by the National Convention, the ruling of the Board shall continue in effect. There shall be a standing subcommittee of the Board of Directors which shall consist of three members. The committee shall be known as the Subcommittee on Budget and Finance. It shall, whenever it deems necessary, recommend to the Board of Directors principles of budgeting, accounting procedures, and methods of financing the Federation program; and shall consult with the President on major expenditures.
The Board of Directors shall meet at the time of each National Convention. It shall hold other meetings on the call of the President or on the written request of any five members.
Section C. Powers and Duties of the President. The President is the principal administrative officer of the Federation. In this capacity his or her duties consist of: carrying out the policies adopted by the Convention; conducting the day-to-day management of the affairs of the Federation; authorizing expenditures from the Federation treasury in accordance with and in implementation of the policies established by the Convention; appointing all committees of the Federation except the Nominating Committee; coordinating all activities of the Federation, including the work of other officers and of committees; hiring, supervising, and dismissing staff members and other employees of the Federation, and determining their numbers and compensation; taking all administrative actions necessary and proper to put into effect the programs and accomplish the purposes of the Federation. The implementation and administration of the interim policies adopted by the Board of Directors are the responsibility of the President as principal administrative officer of the Federation.
ARTICLE VI. STATE AFFILIATES
Any organized group desiring to become a state affiliate of The National Federation of the Blind shall apply for affiliation by submitting to the President of the National Federation of the Blind a copy of its constitution and a list of the names and addresses of its elected officers. Under procedures to be established by the Board of Directors, action shall be taken on the application. If the action is affirmative, the National Federation of the Blind shall issue to the organization a charter of affiliation. Upon request of the National President the state affiliate shall provide to the National President the names and addresses of its members. Copies of all amendments to the constitution and/or bylaws of an affiliate shall be sent without delay to the National President. No organization shall be accepted as an affiliate and no organization shall remain an affiliate unless at least a majority of its voting members are blind. The president, vice president (or vice presidents), and at least a majority of the executive committee or board of directors of the state affiliate and of all of its local chapters must be blind. Affiliates must not merely be social organizations but must formulate programs and actively work to promote the economic and social betterment of the blind. Affiliates and their local chapters must comply with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federation.
Policy decisions of the Federation are binding upon all affiliates and local chapters, and the affiliate and its local chapters must participate affirmatively in carrying out such policy decisions. The name National Federation of the Blind, Federation of the Blind, or any variant thereof is the property of the National Federation of the Blind; and any affiliate, or local chapter of an affiliate, which ceases to be part of the National Federation of the Blind (for whatever reason) shall forthwith forfeit the right to use the name National Federation of the Blind, Federation of the Blind, or any variant thereof.
A general convention of the membership of an affiliate or of the elected delegates of the membership must be held and its principal executive officers must be elected at least once every two years. There can be no closed membership. Proxy voting is prohibited in state affiliates and local chapters. Each affiliate must have a written constitution or bylaws setting forth its structure, the authority of its officers, and the basic procedures which it will follow. No publicly contributed funds may be divided among the membership of an affiliate or local chapter on the basis of membership, and (upon request from the National Office) an affiliate or local chapter must present an accounting of all of its receipts and expenditures. An affiliate or local chapter must not indulge in attacks upon the officers, Board members, leaders, or members of the Federation or upon the organization itself outside of the organization, and must not allow its officers or members to indulge in such attacks. This requirement shall not be interpreted to interfere with the right of an affiliate or local chapter, or its officers or members, to carry on a political campaign inside the Federation for election to office or to achieve policy changes. However, the organization will not sanction or permit deliberate, sustained campaigns of internal organizational destruction by state affiliates, local chapters, or members. No affiliate or local chapter may join or support, or allow its officers or members to join or support, any temporary or permanent organization inside the Federation which has not received the sanction and approval of the Federation.
ARTICLE VII. DISSOLUTION
In the event of dissolution, all assets of the organization shall be given to an organization with similar purposes which has received a 501(c)(3) certification by the Internal Revenue Service.
ARTICLE VIII. AMENDMENTS
This Constitution may be amended at any regular Annual Convention of the Federation by an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the state affiliates registered, present, and voting; provided that the proposed amendment shall have been signed by five state affiliates in good standing and that it shall have been presented to the President the day before final action by the Convention.