The Braille Monitor
39, No. 6
Barbara Pierce, Editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by
The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, President
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Baltimore, Maryland 21230
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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
39, No. 6 June
WAR AND CONFUSION CONTINUE AT THE ARKANSAS SCHOOL
FOR THE BLIND
by the Editors
by Gore Vidal
COMMERCIAL TECHNOLOGY FOR THE BLIND
by Curtis Chong
by Barbara Walker
THE CASE FOR BRAILLE
SEEING CLEARLY: TEENAGER REFUSES TO LET BLINDNESS
KEEP HER FROM LIVING LIFE TO THE FULLEST
by Kim Boatman
WHO IS QUALIFIED TO BE A MOBILITY INSTRUCTOR?
by Kenneth Jernigan
PORTRAIT OF A DONOR
by Michael Baillif
BANGLES, BAUBLES, AND BEADS
by Tamara Kerrill
DIRECTOR'S SALARY SETTLED
TEN THINGS TO THINK ABOUT IF YOU WANT TO START
by Maureen Pranghofer
"OH! I NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT THAT!"
by Lauren L. Eckery
BRAILLE AWARENESS DAY, 1996, BRINGS BIG DIVIDENDS
IN WASHINGTON STATE
by Bennett Prows
HOW FAR DOES THE MESSAGE TRAVEL?
by Kenneth Jernigan
IN MEMORIAM--E.U. PARKER
by Kenneth Jernigan
MR. PARKER AND PAC
by Barbara Shaidnagle
Copyright 1996 National Federation of the Blind
[LEAD PHOTO/CAPTION: Each year the Baltimore Chapter conducts an art
auction as a gala fund-raiser. This spring the event took place on
Saturday evening, April 20. It was a spectacular success. Area businesses
donated the flowers pictured here and much of the food prepared by Marie
Cobb and her talented volunteers. Eliza Brown looks on as guests begin to
sample the buffet.]
[LEAD PHOTO/CAPTION: Each year the Baltimore Chapter conducts an art auction as a gala fund-raiser. This spring the event took place on Saturday evening, April 20. It was a spectacular success. Area businesses donated the flowers pictured here and much of the food prepared by Marie Cobb and her talented volunteers. Eliza Brown looks on as guests begin to sample the buffet.]
[PHOTO #1: This picture is of a large brick building with a columned entrance. CAPTION: the administration building of the Arkansas School for the Blind PHOTO #2: Pictured here is a man seated at his desk in an office. CAPTION: Dr. Terzieff, photo, David Reynolds]
WAR AND CONFUSION
CONTINUE AT THE
ARKANSAS SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND
by the Editors
There is a war going on at the Arkansas School for the Blind (ASB)! It is a war of attrition, but no less a war. The victims are the innocent young blind children of the state; and the combatants are the superintendent, the teachers, the board, the alumni, and the politicians. Presumably the winner will decide the future of the school--assuming, that is, that a school still exists when the war is over.
The superintendent is fighting with the board and the Arkansas State Legislature; the board is fighting with the superintendent and the legislature; and the legislature is attempting to overpower the superintendent and the board. The teachers and administrators are picking sides. After all, their jobs are at stake! The battle has begun, and blows are being struck.
Should the school become a warehouse for children whose primary disability is not blindness but retardation? Alternatively, should the school become purely an academic and vocational institution for children whose primary disability is blindness? Should the position of the Braille teacher be eliminated, giving that responsibility to the classroom teachers of English, mathematics, and science? Can a school for the blind function efficiently without a high school principal? Can the superintendent ridicule the president of a local consumer organization of the blind and get away with it? Did the ridicule really happen, or is it just a figment of the imagination of a number of staff members? Will the superintendent tolerate drugs on campus, or is that too a figment of somebody's imagination? These and many other questions are at the heart of the war, and an interim report from the battlefield seems in order.
As Monitor readers will recall, we reported the unusual and noteworthy behavior of Leonard Ogburn, former superintendent of the Arkansas School for the Blind, in our November, 1994, and March, 1995, issues. A very brief recap of these events might be helpful. In June, 1994, the Board of Trustees of ASB suspended Ogburn for alleged sexual harassment of current and former female teachers and students, including fondling and wrestling holds in which the lower part of his body came into close contact with theirs.
One teacher in particular, Miss A as we identified her in earlier articles, complained that Ogburn had abused her by committing such acts as spanking her. A massive state police report was gathered after investigation. Ogburn failed a lie- detector test and was charged by the Pulaski County prosecutor with sexual abuse. In September, 1994, the Board of Trustees, after hearing Ogburn and examining the state police report, invited Ogburn to submit his resignation. The emotional turmoil which existed at the school boiled over into violence when the tape recorder of the Braille Monitor reporter attending the Board meeting was smashed by a man whose wife, a pro-Ogburn alumna of the school, was being interviewed. This occurred after Ogburn's resignation had been accepted and the board meeting had ended.
In January, 1995, after an evidentiary pre-trial hearing, Ogburn pleaded no contest to one count of sexual abuse. As a first-time offender he was fined $250 and placed on probation for a year. Details of these matters were reported in the Monitor articles. The media in Arkansas had a field day with Ogburn and ASB.
However, the Ogburn matter was far from settled. On June 21, 1995, Ogburn filed suit against all the parties concerned in his dismissal--the board of the school; the attorney who had filed the complaint against him, Mark Riable, a member of the Arkansas State Legislature at the time; Phil Wyrick, also a member of the legislature and a powerful opponent of the status quo; and the Governor of Arkansas. The complaint was noteworthy for its aberrant spelling and grammar, leading some to question its genesis.
Apparently Ogburn continues to be serious about this complaint, but nobody is backing down. Discovery has begun in the lawsuit, and the State Attorney General (acting on behalf of the school and its board, along with other named parties) will defend all persons cited in the complaint. Various witnesses who spoke with the state police are now saying that they were misquoted and that they wish to change their stories. These witnesses had been interviewed by an investigator from the State Attorney General's office. Most of them are teachers at the school. In his suit Ogburn alleges wrongful dismissal. It is interesting to note that he allegedly agreed not to sue the school at the time of his resignation. The case will probably come to trial in September, 1996.
In early 1995 the Board of Trustees of the Arkansas School for the Blind began to advertise for a new superintendent. After they had interviewed three final candidates, Dr. Ivan Terzieff was hired for the position. He was formerly Director of Educational Services at the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School. Terzieff holds a doctorate in orientation and mobility, and prior to serving in Iowa, he taught cane travel at the Ohio School for the Blind--where, the Monitor is told, he once punched his supervisor for conduct he thought abusive of a female student. When asked about the incident, Dr. Terzieff confirmed the truth of the story to the Monitor reporter.
In June, 1995, Dr. Terzieff moved to Little Rock to assume his position. During the intervening eleven months from then until now, the factionalism among the teachers, administrators, and alumni of ASB has continued unabated. The legislature continues to find ways to show its dissatisfaction with the school and Dr. Terzieff. Beginning with the current school year, for instance, the staff of the school was reduced by fourteen positions, five administrative and nine maintenance. It seems likely that additional positions will be cut from the staff of the school for the 1996-97 school year.
In addition to these budget cuts, other problems are said to exist. They include allegations of use of drugs at the school during a wrestling meet; abuse of elementary school students by a teacher; ridicule of the NFB State President in public, in such a way as to take advantage of her blindness; and a change in the manner in which Braille is taught. These charges are circulating widely among school personnel, alumni, and parents.
In order to try to get at the truth, the Braille Monitor interviewed Dr. Terzieff twice during March and early April of this year. We also interviewed teachers and administrators from both pro- and anti-Ogburn factions. Here is what we learned.
Dr. Terzieff seemed open in his two interviews with the Braille Monitor, answering all questions. But his reputation for telling every audience what it wants to hear is given credence by statements from others that contradict what he told us.
His response concerning use of drugs on the campus is a case in point. Several teachers had told us that drugs were used at a wrestling meet held at ASB where over two hundred students participated, representing residential schools from throughout the United States. Dr. Terzieff said (and another administrator confirmed) that, although drug use was suspected, a thorough search of students, vehicles, and dormitories revealed no drugs on the campus and that the rumors of drug abuse were blown out of proportion. In fact, a source close to the administration said that one student (not from ASB) was not permitted to compete in the wrestling event because he went off campus without permission and it was felt that he might have used drugs while away from the school. Both Terzieff and high school principal Jim Hill said that this was all there was to the drug rumors, dismissing them as nothing more than idle speculation. But a number of teachers at the school say otherwise.
And there is more. Since our interview with Dr. Terzieff, we have obtained information about a student who says that he has been a regular drug user at the school for several years. During the 1995-96 school year, sources tell us that he was caught using drugs on the campus. These same sources tell us that Dr. Terzieff did not notify the police but that the drugs were confiscated by the school. If, as seems credible, these allegations are true, then they directly contradict the statements made by Dr. Terzieff in his interviews with us. The case is further strengthened by the natural reluctance of students to admit their use of drugs.
Regarding abuse of elementary school students by a teacher, Dr. Terzieff said that he had interviewed the teacher and the teacher's aid concerned in the matter and that he had disciplined the teacher for inappropriately punishing several students.
When asked about how he would handle grave matters of a criminal nature such as rape, major physical abuse, theft, possession of drugs, or weapons on campus, Dr. Terzieff said that it was his policy to call the police about any matter of a criminal nature that occurred. He said that withholding such matters from the police hurt the reputation of the school and he felt that openness in calling the police in a criminal matter would only enhance the school's reputation. When these statements are placed in juxtaposition to the drug allegations and Dr. Terzieff's handling of them, they are troubling.
Dr. Terzieff is in deep trouble with his Board of Trustees and the State Legislature regarding the budget of the school and the reductions in force which are scheduled to take place before the beginning of the next school year. According to Dr. Terzieff, he has no administrative staff to help with budgetary matters. He says that he must go to the School for the Deaf for assistance. He says that three of the five administrative personnel cut during the present school year dealt with accounting and budgetary matters.
As in dealing with the allegations concerning drugs, Dr. Terzieff gave every appearance of frankness and openness on other matters. He seemed quite willing, for instance, to discuss specifics concerning school personnel. We talked about the case of Miss A. She is the teacher who complained about being spanked and harassed by Leonard Ogburn (See the November, 1994, issue of the Braille Monitor). Miss A is not certified in visual impairment and teaches in the vocational program at the school. Dr. Terzieff said that, because of her lack of certification and the teaching position which she has held, she should be terminated. In making this statement, Terzieff told the Monitor reporter that he was aware that Miss A had audited the courses necessary to receive certification in visual impairment at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, but that she had not received grades in these courses because it was impossible for her to take graduate and undergraduate courses simultaneously.
Miss A subsequently told us that the director of the program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock had made an arrangement with Ogburn so that she could take the examinations and become certified. To date she has not done so. Subsequent to our interviews with Dr. Terzieff and Miss A, her attorney (former legislator Mark Riable), who had represented her in the Ogburn matter, wrote a letter to Dr. Terzieff and the Board of Trustees at the School:
Little Rock, Arkansas
March 27, 1996
Mr. Ivan Terzieff, Superintendent
Arkansas School for the Blind
Little Rock, Arkansas
Dear Mr. Terzieff:
I have not met you personally, but I became very familiar with the Arkansas School for the Blind in conjunction with my representation of Miss A, a blind lady who is a teacher at the school and has been for many years.
I am sure that you are aware that Miss A complained to the Governor concerning her treatment at the hands of former blind school Superintendent Leonard Ogburn. Apparently, following Mr. Ogburn's suspension and no-contest plea, he resigned under pressure, resulting in your being hired to replace him.
I continue to be interested in Miss A's well being, and I am determined to make sure that she is both properly treated and that there is no retaliation upon her as a result of her having the fortitude to complain about the treatment she claims was imposed upon her at the hands of Mr. Ogburn.
As a result of information recently provided to me, I am now concerned Miss A has been targeted for termination at the school.
I want to let you and the Board know in no uncertain terms that I will consider any attempts to terminate Miss A as acts of retaliation for her standing up for her rights.
I stand ready to bring an action for retaliatory termination in Federal Court and also will seek recovery pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act, as it is my understanding that Miss A is one of only two blind employees at the school.
It is my sincere hope that none of this will be necessary and that the school will reconsider.
I should remind you and the Board that Miss A had a viable action against Mr. Ogburn and the school for what appear to have been clear violations of her state and federal civil rights. She chose not to prosecute her claims, being more motivated by her desire to consider the potential harm further negative publicity would cause the school over her personal interests.
However, should her employment be wrongfully threatened, I will advise her that she must consider her interests first since apparently no one else will.
Mark Riable, Riable Law Firm
During an interview which the Braille Monitor conducted with State Representative Phil Wyrick, he told us that he had spoken to Dr. Terzieff and others at the school regarding Miss A and that it is his opinion that Miss A should not be dismissed. At a board meeting held on April 9, 1996, Miss A was not recommended for termination.
In his interview with the Braille Monitor, Dr. Terzieff said that he felt that Braille should be taught by the classroom teachers who teach subjects in which it is necessary to use Braille, such as English, mathematics, and science. He said that the classroom teachers are all certified to teach Braille as part of their certification in blindness and visual impairment. He felt that those classroom teachers would lose their ability to teach Braille if they do not keep in practice.
In a matter involving another teacher, Miss B has taught Braille at the school for the past seventeen years. According to Dr. Terzieff, there are forty-one Braille readers at the school, and that is the number that he reported to the American Printing House for the Blind under the federal quota system. He says that twenty of the Braille readers are following an academic course of study and that the remaining twenty-one are following a vocational course of study or have additional disabilities other than blindness. Dr. Terzieff further says that Miss B does an adequate job of teaching blind students who are following an academic course of study but that she lacks the patience to teach students who are slow or have additional disabilities or who may be following a vocational course of study at the school. Therefore, it was his opinion that Miss B should also be terminated, or perhaps reassigned, that the responsibility of teaching Braille should be left entirely to classroom teachers, and that they should be evaluated on their ability to teach Braille as part of their ability to teach specific subjects.
Subsequent to our interview with Dr. Terzieff, Miss B has been offered and has accepted another teaching assignment for the coming school year. The question is not why this is being done but why any thought of termination was ever considered. After all, she has seventeen years of seniority at the school, and she is certified as a teacher of blind and visually impaired children. It should be pointed out here that there are several teachers at ASB who do not have their certification in blindness and visual impairment and have been at the School for much less time than Miss A or Miss B. Also some say that perhaps other administrative staff could be cut.
Shortly before the board meeting on April 9 of this year, the Braille Monitor learned that Dr. Terzieff had given Jim Hill, the principal of the high school, a letter saying that he would be terminated at the end of the 1996 school year. However, at the board meeting this termination was not ratified. The board went into executive session to discuss personnel matters, and at the end of the board meeting no action was taken on the letter that Dr. Terzieff had sent to Mr. Hill.
From sources within the school the Braille Monitor has learned that recommendations were made by senior administrators to Terzieff regarding positions and staff members who might be terminated. Dr. Terzieff has failed to act on these recommendations. Teachers and others at the school say that they hope any necessary reductions in force will be made in a reasoned, objective manner by the school's administration; but they feel that, in the politically charged atmosphere of factionalism and personalities that permeates the school, this may not be possible. They believe that the legislature may have to do the job.
We discussed NAC accreditation with Dr. Terzieff during our interviews. In the summer of 1995 a NAC on-site review team came to the school for one day. As a result of that on- site review, a report was given and the school was re- accredited for a period of one year. Dr. Terzieff's position on NAC accreditation is not clear-cut. During the portion of our interview which dealt with his views on de-NAC-ing, he said that he thought the most sensible strategy for any school for the blind to employ was to seek a single, outcome-based method of accreditation similar to that which was adopted by the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School in 1991. Dr. Terzieff said that he wanted to adopt this outcome-based accreditation at the Arkansas School. He said this accreditation could be provided best by the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges.
Subsequent to our interviews with Dr. Terzieff, we were told by school staff members that Dr. Terzieff told them he did not believe that the Arkansas School will be re-accredited by NAC in June 1996. However, as Monitor readers know, it is rare (regardless of quality or merit) for NAC to withhold re- accreditation so long as the entity in question is willing to be associated with it and to accept its seal.
Dr. Buffa Hanse is the State President of the National Federation of the Blind of Arkansas. She was elected to that position last October. Also in October, 1995, she made a presentation to the faculty and staff of the Arkansas School for the Blind regarding NAC accreditation. Three people who attended that staff meeting all gave the Braille Monitor the same version of what occurred. They say that Dr. Terzieff stood behind and to one side of Dr. Hanse while she was making her presentation. They say that he shook his head, rolled his eyes, and made faces at specific points during Dr. Hanse's speech.
Although Dr. Hanse has some usable vision, she did not see Dr. Terzieff's alleged inappropriate behavior because she was not facing him. When asked about the matter, Dr. Terzieff vehemently denied it. Because of the conflicting testimony, there is no way to reach a definitive conclusion about what occurred. At the very least, however, the charges and denials emphasize the tensions and chaos which swirl in a dance of constant commotion just beneath the surface of daily life at the Arkansas School for the Blind--not a good atmosphere for the education of blind children or, for that matter, any children.
Obviously Dr. Terzieff knows that he is in deep trouble with some of the members of the legislature and his own Board of Trustees. Several new board members have been appointed since Leonard Ogburn resigned as superintendent. These new members are much more proactive than their predecessors. To some extent they were necessarily appointed to reflect the views of members of the Arkansas State Legislature, who will ultimately determine the future of the school.
Comments from board members and legislators indicate that the school may well be consolidated with the Arkansas School for the Deaf for administrative matters. That is, the future structure of the school would be to have one superintendent, with the school being called the Arkansas School for the Deaf and Blind. There would be a principal of the School for the Deaf and a principal of the School for the Blind, and the superintendent would have administrative responsibility for the entire operation: purchasing, business matters, transportation of students, maintenance of the campuses, and other non-educational administrative functions. The principals would handle educational and academic matters. This seems to be the thinking of the majority of those with whom we have spoken.
Dr. Terzieff, on the other hand, wants to maintain an identifiable School for the Blind under the current system. He says he is content with a single board of trustees, but he wants the two schools administered separately.
Then there is the issue of whether ASB will continue to accept the same type of students as previously. Currently the majority of its students have other major disabilities besides blindness. In particular, many are retarded. In Arkansas, as in other states, there is an institution for retarded children, Arkansas's being called the Children's Colony.
To date the Children's Colony and local education authorities have sent children who are both retarded and blind to ASB even though their primary disability may not be blindness. Like many other schools for the blind, ASB is providing some training for these students and giving them a certificate of attendance at age twenty-one. Some legislators and board members would like to see the Children's Colony absorb students whose primary disability is retardation. This would necessitate the establishment of a special unit at the Children's Colony in order to assure the safety of the blind students. These same board members and legislators would like to see ASB return to its former status as an academic and vocational institution for blind children with few additional disabilities. ASB would then follow the model of the Kentucky School for the Blind, which won a recent court case permitting it to become an academic and vocational school for students whose primary disability is blindness.
New laws restructuring ASB may be introduced in the Spring of 1997. Meanwhile, Dr. Terzieff does not seem to be in step with the process of increasing academic emphasis. He has demonstrated that he believes ASB should accept more students with additional disabilities and that it should become a school for multiply-handicapped blind children instead of just a school for the blind. During the present academic year he has sought funds from the Easter Seal Society to care for students with additional disabilities. He hopes to get more students from the Children's Colony. There is the understandable human incentive to expand one's operation by increasing the enrollment, with the accompanying justification for a higher budget.
Those supporting an academic and vocational school for the blind contend that, if the school did not take students with additional disabilities, rural school districts with little money and bright students who are blind would be inclined to send those students to ASB. This is a debate that is taking place in many states, but in Arkansas there is little chance that it will be settled on its merits. Rather it will likely become just another focal point for the infighting, personality conflicts, and political pulling and hauling which seem to characterize every aspect of the operation of the Arkansas School for the Blind.
When we first visited ASB in September, 1994, the buildings and grounds were in bad condition. Since June, 1995, when Dr. Terzieff took over as superintendent, he has managed to acquire $390,000 in discretionary funds from the Governor's office. This money has been used to improve the condition of the physical plant at the school. However, according to Dr. Terzieff, much more is needed. The outcome of the current power struggle he is having with the legislature will probably translate into improved classrooms, bedrooms, and equipment-- or the lack thereof.
One of the leading Arkansas legislators told the Braille Monitor that Dr. Terzieff, as he put it, "doesn't make any sense when he speaks." This legislator, needless to say, thoroughly disagrees with Dr. Terzieff's educational philosophy, his views about the future of the school, and his conduct as superintendent. He believes that Dr. Terzieff should, as he put it, "go away," that the Schools for the Deaf and Blind should be amalgamated, and that the School for the Blind should become an academic institution.
Regardless of what else may be said, there appear to be ongoing discord and disagreement at and about ASB. Factionalism at the school continues. Parents, alumni, staff, administrators, and board cannot agree on the school's role. And through it all runs the dirty stain of NAC, doing little these days either to help or hurt but simply remaining as an ugly reminder. The forgotten ones, of course, are the blind children of the state--the people for whom the institution was created in the first place. They are the ones who count, the ones who should receive first thought in every consideration. Meanwhile, the battle goes on; the chaos increases; and the children suffer.
by Gore Vidal
From the Editor: The following copyrighted recollection of Senator Thomas Gore first appeared in the New York Review of Books on November 2, 1995. It is an excerpt from Gore Vidal's new book, Palimpsest, published by Random House, Inc.:
Much of the first ten years of my life was spent on a hill above Broad Branch Road--the branch being Rock Creek itself, a clear, pure stream that rushed shallowly over rocks between wooded hills, a haven for salamanders and all sorts of fresh water life. Senator Gore owned three acres of woods above the creek where, shortly before my birth, he had built a gray stone mansion. Because of T.P. Gore's anti-war and anti-League of Nations positions, the good people of Oklahoma had denied him a fourth term in the U.S. Senate and so, from 1920 to 1930, he practiced law in Washington, D.C., and built his house, now the residence of the Malaysian ambassador.
In the crash of 1929, Gore lost most of his money; in 1930 he returned to the Senate. Predictably, he fell foul of the new President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. By then Gore was a populist turned conservative. He and the President quarrelled over whether or not the dollar should go off the Gold Standard. "If you do take it off," said Gore, "you will have stolen the money of those who had faith in our currency." Carter Glass, a Senator present at the meeting, later told the blind Gore that the President had gone gray in the face. But Roosevelt took the currency off gold; then, of the half dozen Senators that Roosevelt tried to purge in 1936, T.P. Gore was the only one to lose his seat for good.
I was ten when he was defeated in the Democratic primary. He was melancholy, to say the least, and somewhat bored during the last thirteen years of his life, practicing law in Washington as attorney for the Apache, Comanche, and Kiowa tribes whose lands had been stolen by the federal government. In 1984, thirty-five years after his death, he won a great posthumous victory when the tribes got a good chunk of the money owed them.
Rock Creek Park was very much my territory. The house itself was gray-yellow Baltimore stone. On one side there was a steep lawn that overlooked Broad Branch Road and the winding creek while on the other side there was the front door, approached by a circular drive at whose center was a small fountain. In those days, from the house one saw only green woods, a rose garden, rows of flags, as we called irises, and a small vineyard of purple grapes. At the edge of the woods was a slave cabin, falling to pieces.
The main hall always smells of fried bacon, floor wax, irises, books--thousands of dusty books. There is a large dining room on the left, with a fireplace and a niche on either side in which there are two tall gaudy pink and gold Svres vases. Back of a screen there is the door to the large white kitchen where the large dark Gertrude Jackson presides.
To the right of the hall, a living room with a large bay window framed by bookcases. I recall a set of Mark Twain; and a set of Voltaire in a red binding; also, the works of Brann "The Iconoclast." A large sofa, covered in pumpkin-yellow and salad-green. Beside the fireplace the Senator's chair, and a smaller one where I sat when I read to him, drinking Coca-Cola and trying not to let the ice tinkle. He forbade Coca-Cola in the house because it contained cocaine.
Perversely, the Senator, who had done his best to put his rural origins behind him, insisted on keeping chickens--to impress visiting constituents?--but since there was too much shade, they moped in the woods. I found them a bit dull but I did my best to keep them amused.
One day at the table I was told, "Eat your chicken." A terrible knowledge of Edenic magnitude filled me with horror. This? On the plate? The same? The same. I would not eat chicken for many years despite my grandmother's cunning ways to trick me into what I took to be a form of cannibalism.
The Senator called his wife Tot, which I rendered as Dot. To her, he was Dad, which I rendered as Dah, an Irish locution, I am told. Her first name was Nina. I never heard her call the Senator by his first name except once when they were in the small sitting room off their bedroom; he wore a long night shirt and she was in her usual uniform, a pale pink wrapper over a lace night dress--since he could not see her she never bothered with her appearance unless there was company. While reading to him, she noticed that his night shirt had ridden up to his knees. "Put your dress down, Tom," she said. Otherwise he was Dad or Mr. Gore.
No one that I know of ever called him Tom or Thomas. President Roosevelt, in his squire of the manor way, addressed him once, and only once, as Tom. The Senator ignored him until he was addressed properly. As a boy in Mississippi, he had been called Guv, short for Governor, tribute to an ambition that was noticeable even then. There seems never to have been a time that he was not in demand as an eloquent and witty speaker, particularly at those political picnics which were one of the few communal pleasures during harsh Reconstruction days.
The Gores belonged to the Party of the People; hence, populists. T.P. Gore's father was clerk of Walthall County, an elected post of peculiar power in that state, a sort of regional chancellor. Since there were few blacks in north central Mississippi, Gores had never been slaveholders, unlike Dot's father's family, the Kays of South Carolina, or her mother's family, the McLaughlins of Meridian, Mississippi.
Dot and Dah complemented each other. She was dark with large eyes and high-arched brows; she was also small--hence, Tot. She had a beautiful low speaking voice. When Dah first heard it at a political picnic in Palestine, Texas, where her family had moved after the War, he said, "I'm going to marry you." He was a twenty-five-year-old blind lawyer, practicing law with his father and two brothers. After losing an election to the Mississippi legislature, he had left the state. The campaign had been unusually dirty. Also, rather more to the point, he was already bound for the United States Senate; this meant that he must leave Mississippi, where one had to wait for an incumbent to die, which could be decades; much too long for a man in a hurry. First, he headed west to Texas; then on to the Indian territories, where he helped organize the state of Oklahoma. In 1907, he was sent to Washington as the state's first senator.
Thomas Pryor Gore. He is seated in his heavy wood Mission rocking chair, now in my bedroom at Ravello. He listens as the secretary reads to him; the straight but rather small chin is held high while the head is slightly tilted to one side. The blind eyes are tight shut with concentration. He has a full head of cowlicked white hair, a rosy unlined face, and a large straight Anglo-Irish nose with the curious Gore nostrils that most of us have inherited, including our young cousin who currently lives in vice-presidential obscurity, a sort of family ghost flickering dimly on prime-time television.
Dah is about five foot nine or ten; he stands very straight. He is well-proportioned except for an astonishing stomach. A parabola begins at his rib cage and extends half a foot out in front of him before it abruptly rejoins the lower body. The stomach is hard as a rock. Dot would often touch it with wonder. "When you're dead, I'm going to have this opened up. I've got to see what's in there. It's like iron, that stomach." Now I am getting the same stomach, but much later in life, and thanks only to alcohol. Dah himself never drank until old age, when doctors prescribed two shots before dinner. Both of his brothers were alcoholic, in the best Confederate tradition. This meant that they functioned as lawyers all day; then, work done, they drank a great deal. So, too, I fear, did Dot, to Dah's distress. At dinner she would begin to ramble in a story or slur her words, ending the meal by sneezing exactly five times and blowing her nose in the Irish linen napkin, to my mother's fury. She lived to be the oldest of my four grandparents, dying in her eighties.
I have a newsreel of Dah from 1931, the year that he came back to the Senate. He is standing in front of the Capitol with another Senator, also blind. Clearly, an unpolitical human interest story was on the producer's mind. Gore's voice is measured, precise, more Southern than Southwestern in accent, with an actor's phrasing. Lyndon Johnson used to imitate him unsuccessfully. The Gore style influenced at least two generations of regional politicians. Much of his effect depended on a sharp sudden wit that could surprise a crowd into laughter, very like his old friend and fellow Chautauqua speaker, Mark Twain. It is said that Will Rogers, in performance, most resembled Gore. But I wouldn't know. Although I often led Dah from his office onto the Senate floor and even into the holy of holies, the Senate cloak room, I never heard him make a speech. It was a family complaint that when he was due to make a major speech in the Senate, he would tell none of us in advance. We would only know about it from the newspapers the next day. Dah ends the 1931 newsreel with an offhand, "Nice to see you," straight to the camera. Early in his career he liked to hold notes in his hand that he would pretend to consult in order to disguise the little known, at the time, fact that he was totally blind.
We are seated on the porch--a sort of open loggia--at one end of the Rock Creek Park house. It is summer. The irises, in full bloom, have a heavy lemon smell. I am eating grapes that I've just picked in the arbor that separates porch from dilapidated slave cabin. Dah sits in his rocker. A woman journalist rattles away: How did he become blind? We have all told this particular story so many times that we can recite it without thinking. Eight years old. Throwing nails at a cow. Another boy's nail misses. Hits Guv's eye. Still has one good eye, and partial, if fading vision in the damaged eye. Age ten, appointed page to the Mississippi State Senate at Jackson. Boards in a state senator's house. Son of house has a birthday. Guv brings him a gun. When you pull the trigger, a spike comes out. Doesn't work. Guv holds it to his good eye to see what's wrong. "Now I'm blind," were his first words after the spike found its target. The family wanted to put him in a school for the handicapped. No. I'm going to study law. How? Send someone to school with me, to read to me. A relative named Pittman went with him to the Lebanon School of Law in Tennessee. Gore learned to memorize what was read to him, including endless statistics. Learned to recognize people by their voices. Was not surprised when radar was developed in World War II. "All blind people know about radar. You can feel the sound waves bounce off a wall up ahead of you. Gives you warning."
Woman journalist has a tinkling laugh. Dah winces, "Is there any sound more dreadful than that of a woman's laugh?" he would say. A mild misogynist, he was a true misanthrope, which the public never guessed as they gazed on his serene, kindly face with its crooked thin-lipped smile, and the blind gray eyes--one was glass--that had a surprising amount of life to them, particularly when he was about to launch a devastating line.
"You must admit," said the journalist, "that when you lose your sight, your other faculties develop. So there have to be compensations."
"There are no compensations," Dah said, grimly; particularly for someone whose greatest pleasure in life was reading. He was read to almost every minute of the day. Once Senate or legal work was out of the way, he turned to history, poetry, economics. He disliked novels. Dot, two secretaries, and, later, I were the principal readers. As our spirits would sometimes start to fail, he would observe, blithely, "Both of Milton's daughters went blind reading to him."
Dah had a curious position in the country, not unlike that of Helen Keller, a woman born deaf, mute, and blind. The response of each to calamity was a subject of great interest to the general public, and we children and grandchildren were treated not so much as descendants of just another politician but as the privileged heirs to an Inspirational Personage.
Politically, Gore always thought of himself as a member of the Party of the People even after he had been co-opted by the Democrats, whose more or less populist tribune, William Jennings Bryan, would three times be a losing candidate for President. Although not unalike politically, Gore and Bryan got on uneasily. At Denver in 1908, when Gore seconded the nomination of Bryan for President, he started the longest demonstration in the history of American conventions. Gore made, as they used to say, the eagle scream. I suppose the magic was entirely in his performance, because the text . . . Well, as he himself said, a successful speech must reflect the people's mood at the time. He liked alliteration. "I prefer the strenuosity of Roosevelt to the sinuosity of Taft," he would observe in 1912.
The Gores were constantly struck by fate. Dot thought that Dah had been born under a maleficent star. After all, the odds are very much against losing an eye in an accident, but to lose two eyes in two separate accidents is positively Lloydsian. But fate had many more freakish misadventures in store for him.
According to family tradition, while practicing law in Corsicana, Texas, Gore boarded in a house where also lived a blind girl. She became pregnant, and the blind boarder was accused of seduction by the blind girl's guardian. A shotgun was produced in the best tradition of Cavalleria Rusticana. Gore walked away. "Shoot," he said, his back to the guardian, "but I'm not marrying her." Thanks to the scandal, he lost an election to Congress but won Dot; and together they moved on to the Indian territory, and glory.
In 1960, I wrote a television play about this episode. I played myself as the narrator. William Shatner and Inger Stevens played Gore and Nina Kay. The Indestructible Mr. Gore was shown on NBC's Sunday Showcase. Dot was ecstatic. The entire Oklahoma delegation to Congress was at her bedside to congratulate her. Then Dah's brother, the sardonic Ellis, sent me word that I had got it all wrong: Guv had indeed knocked up the blind girl, and their mother, Carrie Wingo Gore, had taken her in.
Years later, Gore was tried for the attempted rape of one Mrs. Minnie E. Bond. Dot thought that this bit of melodrama was far and away fate's masterpiece. Because, as Dot said grimly, "All our lives, just as things start going well for us, something awful happens and we have to begin all over again."
Although in writing my memoirs I have pretty much kept to the system of recording only what a faulty memory recalls (and the written--equally faulty?--memories and biographies of others), I did send away to the University of Oklahoma at Norman for the various accounts of T.P. Gore's alleged "indecent assault" on Mrs. Minnie E. Bond in the Winston Hotel at Washington City during an afternoon of March 1913. Minnie wanted $50,000 damages for the agony that she had undergone. Gore said he would not "treat or retreat," and opted to stand trial in Oklahoma City.
On February 19, 1914, the jury took ten minutes to exonerate the Senator. The family's version of events was, more or less, that of the press of the day. Minnie had come to Washington to ask Senator Gore to appoint her husband internal revenue collector for the state. On three occasions he said no. She asked to see him yet again; he told her to come to his office but she said that she would prefer that he come to her hotel. He did, with his secretary-escort, one of Dot Kay's brothers.
Since the downstairs parlors were full, Minnie led the Senator upstairs to what proved to be the bedroom of a Mr. Jacobs; she then tore her clothes and gave what the newspapers said was a loud "squawk." Jacobs and two other "witnesses," conveniently stationed nearby, rushed in. Gore had been framed.
But reading the press accounts (I think I shall avoid the actual transcripts of the trial if they exist), I wonder why Harry Kay didn't go upstairs with him. But then I always wondered how on earth Dah managed sex. A blind man can't go into a bar and, with a glance, find a partner. In the course of the trial the prosecution came up with a number of instances where Dah had allegedly made advances to women but none of the women ever stepped forward. The fact that he always had a brother-in-law or a man secretary as escort meant that he would have to rely on them for any arrangements that he might have made with women, not to mention guiding him to the men's room in a strange city.
The jury simply said there was "insufficient evidence" to condemn Gore, and no one took seriously the stories of the three politically interested witnesses. It would seem that the actual reason for the frame-up involved an attorney named J.F. McMurray who had involved himself in the transfer of some Indian lands and then sued the tribes for $3 million in fees. Gore took the side of the Indians. McMurray did not get his money; hence, revenge in the generous form of Mrs. Minnie E. Bond.
All this was par for the course in the frontier politics of the day. But more disturbing to me was the plaintiff's investigation of the blind girl and Gore in Corsicana, Texas, some twenty years earlier. The family story was that, in 1895, the twenty-five-year-old Gore was practicing law with his father and brothers in Corsicana. Gore was also the Party of the People's candidate for the House of Representatives. He took music lessons from a young blind girl, the ward of a local couple. The "music lessons" sound truly far-fetched. Gore was tone deaf. Every time the national anthem was played, he invariably said, "Now there's a catchy tune."
I cannot tell what is true and what is not true in the deposition of one S.P. Render. But the story is hair-raising. In 1914 Render found the blind girl in Galveston, Texas, where she was still giving music lessons and living in genteel poverty. The Gores had, she told Render, thrown her out years earlier. As for the pregnancy, Gore was responsible. "I was engaged to [him] and I loved him as well as a child--for I was at that time, in heart, a child, in mind a child . . . but I did not submit to him of my own free will. He overpowered me and I could do nothing." When she told him she was pregnant, he plied her with medicines, saying that "the fever" must break. When this failed to make her abort, "some little instrument" was used.
Mr. Render says that Gore was put on trial--who was the plaintiff?--for seduction and abortion, criminal offenses in Texas. Just before the trial, the blind girl told Render that Gore came to her and begged her to answer no questions at the trial on the ground that not only would she destroy his career but also his "aged" parents, who had never harmed anyone. Finally, she concedes, "`The little one is gone--you could not shield him and you have done all you can against me' and I said, `If you promise me you will be a better man . . . I will accede to your wishes, I don't see any good that could come in me doing otherwise'; and then I was almost immediately conducted into the court room. I followed out his wishes as far as I could." Render adds that Gore, as a lawyer, knew that no court in Texas would send to prison a blind girl who refused to answer questions of the court.
In the Bond case the judge ruled that any previous adventures of either plaintiff or defendant could not be admitted as evidence. Was Gore guilty? In the Bond case, most unlikely; it was too obvious a political trap. In the blind girl case, he was indeed guilty, and according to his brother, Ellis, Guv got their parents to take the girl in as part of a deal made with her. I now understand why Dah resisted all biographers as well as publishers interested in memoirs. "My life," he said to me, "was such a dull one and there is so much I cannot tell."
During the influenza epidemic of 1918, Gore nearly died and never entirely recovered his strength. He was also about to die of diabetes when Fate saved him--for more torments? Insulin was invented, and so, more or less in the normal course, he died of a stroke from high blood pressure in 1949, aged seventy-eight, while joking with Dot at breakfast.
Gore's personal triumph over blindness had become so powerful a myth in his own time that his actual political career was somewhat occluded, while his intellectual powers and wit, though duly acknowledged, were hardly treasured by the folk he represented, much less by Americans at large. There is no first-rate biography of him, thanks largely to Dot's carelessness with papers. In the attic at Rock Creek his archives were strewn over the floor or stacked in trunks and broken boxes. Unable to see this mess, he probably didn't realize that his history was being erased through sloth.
In the absence of primary texts, the Woodrow Wilson biographers seem not to have got much out of him. A.S. Link regards him as a political manipulator and not much more. But biographers of prophets tend to be proprietary of their great men, and Gore was always there to say no to ambitious transgression whether in the name of the republic, the common man, or the Almighty.
Bryan's nomination in 1908 had, predictably, ensured a Republican victory. But as a leading populist-Democrat in the Senate Gore was now ready for a winner. He began to engineer an alliance between the populists of the South and Southwest and the big city bosses of the East. The result was the nomination of Woodrow Wilson, a one-term New Jersey governor who had sworn faithfully to serve the local bosses; then, more in sorrow than in anger, he double-crossed them. Wilson's subsequent alliance with Bryan and Gore was a necessity for him and a convenience for them. The tribunes of South and West, of farm and factory, had their permanent base in Congress; the White House was simply a pleasant extra.
Gore ran Wilson's campaign out of Chicago. When the Republican vote was split between Taft and Roosevelt, the truly eloquent, if not entirely sound of mind, Wilson was elected President. Bryan was made Secretary of State. Later, when it became clear that Wilson was maneuvering the United States into the First World War, Bryan honorably resigned. I've always thought him of far more consequence than historians now do. They remember his ignominious end at the "Monkey Trial" in Tennessee, not to mention the three defeats for President. But I think of him--like Gore in the early days--as a literally popular voice raised against the bold crude ownership of the nation and a resolute enemy to the end, like Gore, of those wars that the ownership never ceases to wage against what it takes to be enemies of its financial system.
In the Senate Gore was expected to forward Wilson's ambitious domestic program, which he did, enthusiastically, even though the two had personally fallen out after the election when the Senate was in the process of "organizing" itself--that is, selecting various officers and setting up legislative procedures. The all-important post of secretary to the Senate had not yet been chosen. Urgently, Wilson sent for Gore. "I would like," said the new President, "for the Senate to appoint my brother, Joseph, secretary. He is highly qualified and . . ."
Gore listened, astonished. Finally, he said that he never thought that he would have to remind so eminent an historian as the author of Constitutional Government in the United States that the legislative and executive branches of the government were forever equal and forever separate and that for the executive to have his own brother, as an executive spy, in the councils of the legislature would make a perfect hash of the separation of powers.
"Wilson never forgave me for that." Dah is in his rocking chair, cracking peanuts, lap covered with their shells; the bushy white hair is in an interesting tangle. "Of course, he was the sort of man who got uneasy if you ever raised your eyes higher than the third button on his waistcoat. As for me," the crooked smile, "well, whenever there's a Republican President, I'm a Democrat and when there's a Democratic one, I'm out of step." He sounded more amused than sad. As a politician, he was a lone wolf. I suppose, at heart, he was more Whig than populist and no conservative at all, at least in the current sense of the word: one who serves unquestioningly the wealthy interests that control American life while parroting official cant of the "better dead than red" sort. He particularly loathed Franklin Roosevelt's phrase, "age of the common man."
"There was never such an age and never will be and it goes beyond the limits of necessary demagoguery to pretend that there could even be such a thing." He also disliked Lincoln's rhetoric. "Was there ever a fraud greater than this government of, by, and for the people?" He threw back his head, the voice rose: "What people, which people? When he made that speech, almost half the American people had said that the government of the North was not of, by, or for them. So then Lincoln, after making a bloody war against the South, has the effrontery to say that this precious principle, which he would not extend to the Southern people, was the one for which the war had been fought. Well, he did say this at a graveyard for Northern soldiers. I suppose that was appropriate." If I got anything from Dah, it was the ability to detect the false notes in those arias that our shepherds lull their sheep with.
I always found him noblest when he put his career at risk for some overriding principle. He thought that no foreign war was worth the life of any American. Neither do I. When the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce ordered him to vote for war in 1917, he wired them, "How many of your members are of draft age?" He was defeated in 1920. But he was re-elected in 1930, on the same principles, he liked to say, that had defeated him a decade earlier. The comeback was a dim affair. "I remember asking a political friend, just before I entered the race, what was the mood of the people nowadays, and he said, `They're a lot harder to tickle now.'"
Courage was Gore's most notable trait. But then his great-grandfather had been a Methodist preacher of such somber fire and will that he was known as "Rock" Gore. On the demerit side, Dah did not think that government money should go to anybody if he could help it. "When I first came to the Senate there were still pensioned widows from the war of 1812. Give someone a pension and you create a Methuselah." Coldly, he refused the request of a delegation of the blind for government aid. He had been able to make his way, he told them, and so could they. This was disingenuous. "When I was young, cheese and crackers was one word to me," he used to say, emphasizing his poverty. Bored with this repetition, I am said to have responded, at the age of six or so, "Well, ice cream and cake are one word to me."
Actually, the Gores were well-to-do for their time and place. He was born in 1870, among the ruins of Walthall, Mississippi. Yet even then, when the university degree was the principal dividing line between lawyers, teachers, divines, and the redneck peasantry, most of the Gore clan was educated.
Ironically, after the Gores had become prosperous in northern Mississippi during the 1840's by taking over what had been Chickasaw land, T.P. Gore went west to the territories to which the Chickasaws had been removed, and, in effect, by creating Oklahoma, he helped rob them of their land a second time. Also ironically--guiltily?--he tended to take the side of the Indians in their losing disputes with the government over the stolen lands. Then, out of office he became their attorney.
The spirit of Harry of the West, as Henry Clay was known, was the spirit of the border people from Clay to Lincoln to Gore. "Internal improvements" was what interested these rustic paladins. When imperialist President Polk gave us the Mexican War, which, in turn, gave us what is now one third of the United States, including California, Congressman Lincoln denounced him. Lieutenant U.S. Grant did, too, on the ground that we were behaving like a predatory European power. We were supposed to create our unique Arcadia without border raids on other countries. We certainly needed no more land. Wasn't the Monroe Doctrine our holy text--along with the Declaration of Independence, which proclaimed as a universal given the right not only to pursue happiness but the implicit right to separate from an onerous foreign master?
Gore came out of the border world. He represented the ruined farmers of the Civil War, who would later be victimized by eastern financiers, playing casino with the price of cotton. "Seven-cent-cotton" was one of the first phrases I remember hearing.
In due course, Bryan and Gore and the other liberals-- today called conservatives or nativists or worse--reached out to labor, organized or not. The Civil War that had brought ruin to the South had also awakened all sorts of energies that led to new alliances. In effect, the Party of the People took over the Democratic Party and, despite the presence of the big city bosses who at least represented the working man, unionized or not, the party was for the working people at large in a way that the Republicans could not be since they tended to agree with Alexander Hamilton that the rich were wiser and better than the poor and so ought to be allowed to rule the country and do business without popular interference. For Gore and the other populists, the imperialism of the two Roosevelts and Woodrow Wilson--Polk, too, earlier--was a terrible distraction from our destiny, which was the perfection of our own unusual if not, in the end, particularly "exceptional" society.
I sit with Gore in the living room of his flat in Crescent Place, just across the street from the stately house of Agnes and Eugene Meyer, owners of The Washington Post, that official voice of empire. The Rock Creek Park house was sold in the war: impossible to heat. I am still in uniform, a Warrant Officer back from the Aleutians. Dah rocks in his Mission chair. Discusses my political career and what he calls "the New Mexico option" because "Oklahoma is too volatile." He always looked grim at the thought of his Bible-loving constituency. "Of course, you were born in New York. Why not take advantage of that? Why not get yourself a district in the city? You pay Tammany Hall your first year's salary and, except for city matters, they leave you alone." I thought this a dead end.
Then we talked of the past. He had got into the habit of answering my long questioning letters with long ones of his own. I thought that his to me were lost in the war when my mother threw out all my clothes, books, and papers, on the sensible ground that I'd not be coming back. But apparently Dah kept not only my letters but carbons of his own to me. Excerpts have been published in World Literature Today by one Marvin J. La Hood, who found the collection at a university library.
It is nice to hear Dah's voice again; disconcerting to hear my own, a sort of schoolboy Machiavelli with, alas, a non-Machiavellian fury to be in the right like my politically martyred grandfather.
I always thought Dah somewhat invidious whenever he discussed the ever-more imperial trappings of the Presidency and the blaze of world publicity which, from Wilson's triumph at Versailles to Bush's vomiting in the lap of the Japanese Prime Minister, was the outward and visible sign of our imperium's military glory and economic primacy. But all that is now quickly fading away, and one can see how quaintly prescient we were fifty-five years ago.
The correspondence begins March 9, 1940. I am at the Los Alamos Ranch School at Otowi, New Mexico. Apparently, I've been reading about the First World War and Gore's ambivalent maneuverings in the Senate.
Gore explains his "resolution [that] warned American citizens not to exercise the right to travel on the armed ships of a belligerent. . . . I introduce that resolution two or three days after the celebrated Sunrise Conference which is now `historic' . . . . I thought then that we were speeding headlong into war--as we were." For someone brought up in the wreckage of the Civil War, any foreign war seemed like perfect folly. For someone who detested the country's ruling class, the idea of a war that would be profitable only to the Rockefellers and to the Morgans was insupportable. Certainly those who actually fought the war would not do well out of it. But then they never do.
Dah's socialist impulses eroded with time. He had wanted to nationalize the railroads at the time he helped write the constitution of the state of Oklahoma, and I believe that this virtuous proposal is still in the text. But despite his expertise on banking and currency in the Senate, he detested Maynard Keynes without quite understanding him. He grasped, reluctantly, tax and spend in bad economic times, but he never took in the other side to Keynesianism: try to make money in good times and in the classic marketplace.
In the letters Dah deeply dislikes Roosevelt both personally and politically. "He worships at the shrine of Power and Popularity." There is now, he notes, almost $50 billion of national debt, hardly a Star Wars price tag for what was meant to be a New Deal for those millions of people undone by a vast depression. The worst hit, as Dah had prophesied, were the veterans of that war for Wilson's greater personal glory. I had always thought Gore's concentration on one man's vanity too petty a motivation for the American role in the events of 1914-1917. But when I came to study Wilson at Versailles, blithely carving up the Austro-Hungarian empire, I would understand why this ignorant, would-be Metternich drove Dr. Freud so mad that he felt obliged to publish a libelous "psychoanalysis" of Wilson, without having met him, of course. Although Freud's analysis is nearly as demented as Wilson's imperial--even messianic--behavior, he does echo Gore's original analysis of a prim American school teacher whose ignorant self-esteem never faltered. As I write, Wilson's handiwork is now exploding in what proved to be his dottiest invention, Yugoslavia.
Senator Gore was obliged to observe three American Caesars in action. In his youth there was Theodore Roosevelt's Spanish-American War, followed by the bloody conquest and subjugation of the Philippines. When Gore came to the Senate at thirty-seven, Roosevelt was still President and an anathema to a tribune of the farmers and workers. Then, twice, Gore helped elect Wilson President. From the start, there had been a vague understanding between them that the egregious Thomas Riley Marshall be replaced as Vice-President in the second term by Gore, but, as of 1916, relations were so bad between Wilson and Gore that the Senator decided to sit out the election. When it became obvious that Wilson was going to lose, Gore got a desperate call from the White House. The election would be determined by California. Gore was popular in California. Would he stump the state? Gore made one condition: The slogan must be, "He kept us out of war" and, presumably, "he" would do the same in the second term. Gore barnstormed California. Then he wired the White House the exact margin by which Wilson could carry the state. That night Wilson's opponent, Charles Evans Hughes, went to bed as President of the United States. But the next morning California was heard from and Gore's predicted plurality reversed the election. Wilson was President; and the war came.
Dah turns on the radio news. He mostly listens to right- wing commentators like Fulton Lewis, Jr. He did not live long enough to realize just how conservative a President Roosevelt was at home, or how much a radical imperialist he was abroad, breaking up the colonial empires of our allies as well as those of our enemies and, like metal filings to a magnet, attracting their fragments to us. But in the Forties all that Gore can see is the vast amount of debt--so puny compared to what the truly radical Reagan was to give us.
"These debts," Dah writes me, "constitute a first lien, a first mortgage on every dollar's worth of private property. . . . However, all this is not the most fatal defect in the New Deal: it has spoiled the character and the morals, spoiled the souls of millions of our people. I have always thought that self-respect is the sheer anchor of human character. As long as it holds, there is hope. When it breaks there is no hope, nothing left." Thus speaks the Protestant conscience, not to mention, alas, Herbert Hoover.
I have always regarded Roosevelt's improvisations in a kindlier light. It was the Depression brought on by the higher capitalism that denied people work, and Roosevelt was there, no matter how opportunistically, to get the people, as well as the capitalists, through the bad times. But there is indeed a terrible truth in Gore's observations on the necessity of self-respect--of individual autonomy. In order to exclude the black minority from American society, the white majority decided to pay them off with welfare, thus seeing to it that there would be no "anchor" for many black families for many generations. No wonder so many are now choosing the fire this time as the ultimate in "self-respect."
"Those crowds," he begins, turning off Fulton Lewis, Jr.- -Amos and Andy would soon be on, his favorite comedy, swarming with politically incorrect "Negro" stereotypes. "Those crowds that Wilson saw in Europe." He shakes his head; the white hair is now all on end as two cowlicks meet and Dot will soon have to start unsnarling and combing them straight. "I suppose any man's head would be turned by them. Now Roosevelt has gone to Yalta. At least there won't be any crowds. But he'll be just like Wilson. He won the war, and he'll make the peace or so he thinks. But Churchill and Stalin will be too smart for him. Just as Lloyd George and Clemenceau were too smart for Wilson. Then there's the fact he's dying, which doesn't help matters. . . ."
From Dah's letter to me on my fifteenth birthday: "I compare or contrast your opportunities now with mine when I was your age and I all but envy you. I lived thirty miles from the railroad and attended a school which ran about four or five months a year--in a building 30 by 50 there was no fifth dimension." Nevertheless, by then, he had freed himself of that religion which was--and still is--a terrible blight in that part of the world. At nine or ten, told that if he had faith he could fly, he attached corn stalks to his arms and climbed out on to the roof of a barn and took off, to fly around the world. He broke his collarbone. Later, when his father decided to abandon the family Methodism for the Campbellite variant of Fundamentalism, the family was ordered to choose its brand. The mother stayed as she was. Two children became Campbellites, for father's sake. Gore turned atheist, a daring thing to do then--and now--in Christ-cursed Mississippi. On the other hand, he did not let it be generally known that he was a non-believer; if he had, he could not have had a political career. A conundrum that he liked: "Can God, the all-powerful, do anything?"
"No, He can't"
"What can't He do?"
"Can't make a year-old heifer in a minute."
"Course He can. Why, in just a minute, there it is."
"Yes, but no matter how big that heifer is, it's still only a minute old and not a year."
From Antigua, I write Dah about my new friend, the president of the Guatemalan Congress: "They respect men of learning here and don't try to reduce them to the lowest possible common denominator."
Dah is amused: "I particularly enjoyed the last paragraph where you mentioned the fact that in certain localities you have to appear genial and a little half-witted in order to woo the omnipotent public."
But he was not without considerable political cunning. "The worst thing an intelligent man must endure in politics is to keep a straight face while a man thinks he's making a fool of you." Of enemies: "I always turn the other cheek, bide my time, and wait for him to lay his head on the block." Then he'd clap his hands sharply, like an ax severing a head, and smile his saintly smile.
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."
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Curtis Chong]
COMMERCIAL TECHNOLOGY FOR THE BLIND
by Curtis Chong
From the Editor Emeritus: As Monitor readers know, Curtis Chong is the President of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science. He is employed as a designer consultant by American Express Financial Advisors of Minneapolis. As a member of the World Blind Union's Committee on Technology, he recently prepared a paper concerning guidelines for designing modern technology that can be used by the blind. Very few subjects have more importance to the blind than this one, and Mr. Chong's straightforward approach is refreshingly understandable. Here is what he has to say:
Although there will always be a need for some specialized technology designed especially for the blind (for example, the Braille writer), it is preferable for people who are blind to be able to operate the same technology that is commercially available to the general population. The problem we face is that, more often than not, commercially developed technology is designed in such a way as to preclude efficient and convenient use without sight. It is not that manufacturers deliberately set out to prevent blind people from using the technology they develop. It is simply that they haven't considered the possibility that a blind person might want to use their product. Moreover, even if some developers wish to ensure that blind people can use a specific device, they face the problem that there are no easily obtainable guidelines which they can follow to meet this goal. In other words, their design efforts are likely to be conducted on a hit-or-miss basis.
The ideal goal is to have electronic appliances usable by everyone, including people with physical, sensory, or cognitive disabilities. However, in attempting to achieve this goal, it is important to recognize that features that make the appliance usable for one disability group may cause the device to be unusable for another. For example, replacing printed labels with raised pictographic symbols may be beneficial to people with learning disabilities, but they are useless to blind people who may read Braille or raised print. Accordingly, it should be clearly understood that this paper focuses specifically upon the access requirements of persons who are blind.
This paper will attempt to establish broad principles and suggest some specific practices that may be followed by developers of commercial technology so as to ensure that the products they develop can be operated by a blind person without sighted assistance. It should be viewed as a guide that can be used to stimulate thinking on the subject--not as the definitive solution to the problem.
This paper will not address the problem of access to computers and the graphical user interface. Many organizations have devoted substantial time and energy to this problem. However, relatively little thought and effort have been devoted to the question of how modern consumer electronics can be designed so as to be operated by those of us who happen to be blind. As a growing number of these devices use digital controls and computer technology to carry out basic functions, our ability to use them steadily diminishes.
Before making specific design recommendations, I would like to suggest a few principles that should be used to shape the design effort. These include operability, integration, usability built-in, and accessible documentation.
Operability in this context means that a specific appliance is designed in such a way that a blind person can exercise all of its essential functions without sighted assistance. A good example of this concept is the television. We may not be able to see the picture while enjoying our favorite movie, but we are able to turn the television on and off, adjust the volume, and select the desired channel without asking a sighted friend to help us. (At least, this is the case with most televisions available today.)
The principle of integration is aimed at ensuring that features necessary to operate an appliance without sight are an integral part of the design and benefit everyone who uses the appliance--not only the blind. A telephone with buttons that can be operated by touch is an excellent example of this concept. The fact that the buttons can be felt is beneficial not only to the blind user but also to everyone else. Other examples include the talking clocks and calculators formerly manufactured by Sharp and the talking answering machines currently available from such companies as AT&T and Panasonic. With regard to these latter devices, the speech generated is sufficient to enable full control and operation without sighted assistance.
Usability built-in means that ideally a peripheral (and often expensive) piece of assistive technology is not necessary for a blind person to operate an appliance. Although in some cases necessity may force us to use assistive technology (e.g., a Braille 'n Speak equipped with an infrared transmitter) to operate some equipment with infrared or other connection schemes installed, this is not the preferred method of controlling an electronic appliance. It makes no sense for us to have to use a piece of equipment costing a thousand dollars simply to operate an appliance that may at most cost a few hundred. One method for accomplishing this goal would be to provide speech output, either built into the appliance or available as a low-cost accessory. Given the increasing sophistication of digital technology, this may well become a necessity for the appliances of tomorrow.
Accessible documentation refers to the concept of making instruction manuals available in a medium other than print. For manuals prepared using a word processor, it should be possible to make ASCII-text versions available (for a nominal fee) so that the manual could be transcribed into Braille or read on the blind person's own computer.
Guidelines for Physical Controls and Labels
Physical controls usually take the form of knobs, dials, switches, slide controls, and buttons. In digitally controlled devices, they have sometimes taken the form of switches activated by light, pressure, heat, or capacitance. Usually these switches are located on smooth control panels that are totally unusable by the blind. Moreover, these switches often provide only visual cues to indicate that they have been activated. In some cases remote controls with tactile buttons are available, but the user is presented with only visual cues to indicate what the appliance is doing.
Physical controls should not depend upon sight alone for operation. Consideration needs to be given to the use of other senses (e.g., touch and hearing) to manipulate controls. This would be of benefit to all users, blind and sighted alike. Sighted users will appreciate not having to divide their visual attention between two activities and will also enjoy the ability to operate the appliance--even when lighting is poor. Blind users will appreciate the ability to operate what would otherwise be an unusable appliance.
Here are some suggested guidelines. Bear in mind that other approaches are possible if sufficient creativity and motivation are brought to the design effort.
1. Push buttons should be discernible by touch. The button can be indented, raised, or contained within a raised boundary that can clearly be detected by touch.
2. Push buttons should never be touch-activated. Some minimal pressure should be required to activate the control, and the appliance should provide tactual or audio feedback to indicate when the button has been pressed.
3. The shape of a push button can provide important clues to its function. Consider using texture or other tactually detectable changes (such as a raised symbol) to identify buttons for unusual or important functions.
4. Small, closely clustered controls are often difficult to negotiate by touch. Consider spacing controls so that each one can be detected easily by touch. Ideally, spacing between controls should be no less than one-half the control's width or height. Crowding controls together to provide what appears to be a seamless surface makes them difficult to operate by touch.
5. Buttons that turn modes on or off should provide tactile or other nonvisual means to indicate the on or off state. These might include:
* Leaving the button in when a mode is on and causing it to pop out when the mode is off, or
* Generating a high tone when the mode is turned on and a low tone when the mode is turned off.
6. Slide controls can be made more useful if they have notches, clicks, or tactile markings indicating normal settings.
7. The use of a continuous rotary selector (as in a radio tuning knob) will be enhanced for everyone if a notch, dot, or raised pointer is placed on the knob. Also it is very helpful if the selector has a detent for every possible setting so that individual settings can be selected by touch.
8. Tactile labels should be built in to supplement visual labels which the blind cannot use. These may consist of raised sans serif upper-case characters made of thin lines. Tactile labels should not use pictograms or other non-textual symbols. This assumes that the controls being labeled are not dynamic in nature--that is, that the controls always perform the same function.
9. Braille labels and overlays should be made available upon request.
Guidelines for More Sophisticated Digital Devices
Appliances which use digital technology pose a more complex problem for blind people. Individual buttons do not perform the same function consistently. Modes change automatically, without notice. Often, the operator is required to select an item from a menu displayed visually. Although for some devices a remote control with tactile controls may be available, the blind person may be unable to perform any control or selection functions because the choices to be made are displayed visually with no verbal prompts. In other words, many appliances have today become dedicated computers, with all that the term implies.
Although many digital devices with relatively simple control systems can be operated without sight, it is often necessary for the blind person to spend considerable time and effort memorizing numerous sequential procedures. The control of these devices is made more difficult when they memorize settings--even when turned off. Sometimes these devices will shift from one menu to another after a predetermined amount of inactivity time has passed, making it difficult for the blind operator to determine what function is being selected.
The guidelines presented here are at best a preliminary attempt to deal with the digital appliances of today. It should be understood that, as digital appliances become even more sophisticated, these guidelines will need to be adapted. Here are some suggestions that can enable blind people to operate digital appliances independently with the maximum possible efficiency.
1. There should be a way for the user to return the appliance to a state where all mode settings are known. This is different from the "Reset" function that many appliances have to restore factory settings. The intent here is to enable the operator to predict what will happen when specific procedures are executed. If the operator makes a mistake in executing the procedure, he or she should be able to return to a known starting point to try again. In addition, the operator should be able to perform any desired function from this known state with a minimum number of keystrokes.
2. If the design calls for displayed menus to change automatically after a certain amount of inactive time, there should be a way to lock the display so that it doesn't change, or, failing that, an audible cue should be provided to alert the operator to the fact that the display has changed. In this latter instance the design should be such that the user can predict what the display will change to, without having to see it; and it should be possible to turn off the audible cue when it is not needed.
3. The design of the digital appliance must be such that a blind operator can memorize a sequence of events that can be executed consistently to perform a specific function or set a desired state. If for any reason the sequence of events needs to be aborted due to an error in execution, the appliance should provide some means of letting the blind operator know that the error has occurred and return the device to a known state. A simple beep will suffice for most situations. Other audible cues should be provided to indicate, for example, when data are to be entered (as in the security code for an automatic teller machine); when an automatic sequence is beginning and ending; and when the appliance will no longer accept input. Audible cues may not always be desired; therefore, there must be a method for turning them off.
4. If speech output is built in to the appliance or provided as a low-cost accessory:
A. There should be a way to turn the speech on and off. This mechanism should not require sight for use. People who do not need the speech may find it a novelty at first but will quickly find it an annoyance if they cannot disable it.
B. Speech should be responsive and interruptable. This means that it can be stopped and started almost instantly, simply by pressing a key which causes new speech to be generated.
C. A button should be provided which causes the speech to speak the entire display, if it is one line, or the entire list of menu choices, if the display consists of multiple lines. If a choice is to be selected from a list, a method should be provided to speak each choice individually so that the operator will know what is being selected.
D. Speech output does not need to carry more information than the visual display unless it is essential to the operation of the appliance.
E. A headphone jack should be provided for private listening. This will enable the blind person to hear confidential information as in the case of an automatic teller machine.
The principles and guidelines set forth in this paper should not be viewed as the total answer to the question of how technology can be made usable by people who are blind. For one thing we cannot possibly know all of the forms that future technology will take and the problems that such technology will pose for the blind. Moreover, technology is changing at an accelerating rate. Solutions that may work for today's technology will certainly not solve the problems that will arise with the technology of the future. We can hope, however, that designers, engineers, and marketers will make a conscious effort to ensure that the products emerging from their work can be used by those of us who are blind. If they will consider that technology will be used by everyone--blind and sighted alike--and plan their work accordingly, we stand a better chance of maintaining parity with our sighted peers in our ability to use electronic appliances.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Barbara Walker]
by Barbara Walker
From the Editor: Six years ago this month word began to circulate throughout the Federation family that Jim Walker, a leader in the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska, husband of Barbara Walker (then President of the affiliate) and father of two young children, had died suddenly of a massive heart attack. The tragedy deeply saddened Jim's and Barbara's hundreds of friends and brought the Federation family together in shared grief and love when Barbara spoke during the roll call of states on the opening day of the convention. Barbara has continued to raise her children and live her life as an active Federationist as she and Jim had always done. She is quiet and unspectacular in the way she goes about doing what she believes in, but in the end nothing can resist her will when she knows she is right. The following article is a case in point. Barbara wrote it for the Issue 1, 1996, of News from Blind Nebraskans, a publication of the NFB of Nebraska. Here it is:
There were many reasons I didn't put a stone on Jim's grave right away when he died six years ago. Most of them had to do with my grief work. I knew that my intention to have Braille on the marker had the potential to stir up resistance. In addition, there was my need to educate. Ordinarily I find that kind of thing to be an interesting challenge and an opportunity for growth. But for quite a while after Jim died I found almost everything annoyingly trivial. I had no patience and seemed to vacillate between cutting people off before they had a chance to present yet another barrage of triviality and letting them finish while I withdrew, saying only what seemed necessary to encourage them to fill the unbearable silence. So it was that I waited almost two years to begin a process that took another four to complete.
Knowing I would both want and need support, I asked my parents to go with me to choose the marker when they were visiting. During the discussion with the salesperson, I said I wanted Jim's name and dates in both Braille and print. I could hear apprehension mixed with an attempt at cool customer accommodation as the woman explained that no one had ever requested such a thing and she didn't know how it could be done. Did we have any ideas? I told her about my involvement in having a plaque made with both Braille and print. At that time we explored the use of several metals, most of which would require making a mold at considerable expense. I also said I had talked with someone at the Christian Record Braille Foundation about their use of stainless steel Braille plates in the outdoor nature center. They would be both willing and able to make such a plate for the marker. She asked me to get measurements and said she would talk to the monument people about attaching it to the stone. I left feeling encouraged.
My parents and I went immediately to the Christian Record Braille Foundation, had the plate made, and took it to the cemetery. Within the next couple of days the woman called to say that there should be no problem setting the plate in as I had requested in such a way that it would be flush with the stone. On Memorial Day of 1991 my children and I saw the marker for the first time. Although the plate was not exactly flush with the stone all the way around, it seemed to be set in permanently. It wasn't until it rained that the problems began.
The first two times the plate needed to be reglued, I felt uneasy but said very little. They fixed it promptly, telling us to let them know whenever it came loose so that they could redo it. By the third time, though, I was beginning to feel concerned. For one thing the plate was no longer flat in the inset. It seemed to me that the old glue wasn't being removed before the new was applied. Besides that, the plate was no longer flush anywhere, but depressed at one corner and raised at the corner diagonally opposite, allowing moisture easy access.
But the thing that turned my concern to action was the time in August of 1994 when Garth, my children's half-brother, was visiting from the Army. He said it looked like the plate wasn't put in carefully, and he thought it should be done right so it would look like it belonged there. With that and Marsha's and John's assent, I talked again to the cemetery personnel. They assured me that they would study the situation and try to rectify it.
On the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, 1995, Marsha, John, my friend Judy, and I visited the grave with a bouquet of flowers. As I was brushing the dust from the plate, it came loose in my hand. We went immediately to the cemetery office, and I said that something needed to be done. I explained that the glue wasn't working and that because they weren't taking the old glue off before putting on new, the plate was beginning to bend.
The woman there said she would make a note for the maintenance person, saying the glue might need to be removed before affixing the plate. I asked that she take "might" out of her note and that she let the person know that I wanted the job done right this time. She handled the plate as if it were a foreign object, wondering aloud if it was read vertically. I showed her how it was read, and Judy helped her mark it so that it would be right-side up. She said it should be done by Friday of the coming week. I asked that I be notified by phone. Judy said we would be there the following Saturday to check it.
The next day, when Marsha and her friend Jane were bike- riding, they went through the cemetery. It was raining. They saw the plate sitting on the stone with glue oozing out around its edges. They said that it was crooked and that, when Marsha tapped it gently with her foot, it moved. During the week someone did call and leave a message on our machine saying that the job was done. When we went on Saturday, the plate was there, but less well done than any time previously. No one was in the office, so I called early the next week. I was told that someone would get back to me by the following Monday. No one did.
When I called on Tuesday, I was transferred to the manager. He said they had done their best. When I asked how thoroughly they had studied ways of attaching stainless steel to granite, he said that, if I wanted to go to someone else to have the job done, it was my business, but I would be expected to pay for it. I said that I would prefer that they explore options other than glue. I told him about my conversations with someone at Christian Record and someone in the hardware business, both of whom had wondered about the possibility of using stainless steel screws or something of that kind. He knew nothing about that. He added that the person who would be doing the work was on vacation but would be back toward the end of the week and would call me.
Later that week, as the children and I were preparing to go to our Bible School program, Steve, the grounds superintendent from Wyuka Cemetery, called to ask if I could come there to show him which side was up on the Braille plaque. I suggested our trying first to talk through it by phone. I decided to start by describing Jim's middle initial, D., in the middle of the top line, since that was the shortest grouping of dots. When Steve said that he could see a dot there followed by two right angles one just below the other, I knew we had succeeded. He then explained to me that they had decided to use a compound which sets up like concrete and put rivets through the plate and into that. He said they couldn't use screws because, unlike concrete, granite crumbles when drilled. I said our requirements were that the plate be right- side-up, flat, as permanent as possible, and appealing to look at both visually and tactually. He said he would do his best.
That Saturday Marsha, John, Judy, and I went again to the cemetery. And finally, after four years of hassling, the marker looked finished. I don't like the fact that the rivets aren't in exactly the same place on each corner. But I'm told that it shows more by touch than by sight. The important thing is that, at long last, it meets our specifications.
The Braille is not, as some have conjectured, there so that I can read the tombstone. I can easily read the print tactually. It is there because, when I thought of what I could do to have the marker reflect something important to Jim without putting words in his mouth, I decided that to have his name and dates in both Braille and print might be the best legacy a slab of granite and a plate of stainless steel could convey. I am grateful to my family, friends, Steve, and fellow members of the National Federation of the Blind everywhere for support in seeing the project through. I hope it will stand in a positive way as a symbol of our changing what it means to be blind.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Jim Gashel]
THE CASE FOR BRAILLE
From the Editor: The following statement was presented by the National Federation of the Blind in late fall of 1995, to the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth, and Families of the House Committee on Economic and Educational Opportunities. The draft language of the House version of the revised Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is more constructive than that of the Senate bill, S. 1578, which has now been reported out of committee and will go to the Senate floor for consideration during the next several months. The Senate bill no longer contains language to require an IEP team to follow certain procedures, such as considering a blind child's need for Braille instruction or materials. In other words, the Senate bill would leave the present law, which is silent on Braille, silent.
The House draft still contains strong language, including the requirement that Braille instruction and the use of Braille must be part of a blind child's IEP unless all members of the IEP team concur that Braille is not needed. Although this provision is very strong in its present form, a definition of "blindness" has not been included. This could mean that the provision on Braille, now in the House bill, would apply to very few children, especially if school districts are free to define blindness very restrictively, which is something they may choose to do. We will be working in the weeks and months ahead to correct the problems with both versions of this legislation. Meanwhile, everyone with an interest in improving the lives of blind children should continue educating members of the House and Senate about the importance of including provisions in IDEA that will insure the right to learn Braille to children who cannot see well enough to read print effectively. Here is the NFB statement:
Statement of the National Federation of the Blind
Re: Basic Literacy Instruction for Blind Children: A Compelling Educational Need
It is the policy of our nation as stated in the National Education Goals that by the year 2000 "Every adult American will be literate and will possess the knowledge and skills necessary to compete in a global economy and exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship." In order for blind adults to achieve this goal, literacy instruction must be strengthened for children. The trend is shocking. Nearly half of all blind elementary- and secondary-level students can read neither Braille nor print. The percentage of those who can read at all is declining. This statement will discuss the underlying factors which have led to these conditions and describe a proposal for remedial federal legislation.
Basic literacy skills are fundamental to an appropriate education. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) declares that a "free appropriate public education" must be provided to children with disabilities. Impaired vision can have a profound impact on reading and writing performance. Therefore, the selection of instructional methods and materials--Braille, print, auditory instruction, or a combination thereof--to be used for each child is a critical educational decision.
The process used to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for each child should lead to appropriate choices of reading and writing media, but entirely too many children who are blind or visually impaired receive inadequate instruction with the result that they become functionally illiterate. In the information age it is obvious that reading and writing skills must be highly developed for almost anyone to lead an independent, self-fulfilling life. Participation in the social mainstream is becoming virtually impossible without basic literacy skills.
Successful communication using print can be correlated to having normal or nearly normal eyesight and the ability to process information. With print as their sole alternative, persons with defective vision often find themselves struggling just to keep up with fellow students or colleagues whose vision is unimpaired. Still, among educators who teach blind and visually impaired children, use of print as the instructional format is decidedly favored. Special educators who are trained to serve children who are blind are officially referred to as "instructors in vision" or "vision teachers."
This professional designation reflects an educational philosophy which is then expressed as a planned instructional approach. The philosophy is that use of eyesight is the customary way by which people receive and process information. Therefore, use of the visual sense for learning is preferred. If a child who is blind still has some sight, it is predictable to a virtual certainty that the child must first demonstrate an inability to achieve progress in school before use of non-print media occurs. As a result of this philosophy the individualized planning process used under IDEA leads to adopting print (requiring use of eyesight) as the preferred form of instruction for blind students.
Data collected by the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville, Kentucky, show that in 1968--the first year for which figures are available--9 percent of the blind students in elementary and secondary schools in the U. S. did not have reading or writing skills. They used neither print nor Braille. Students classified as "blind" are generally those whose vision is less than 10 percent of normal eyesight. During 1968 40 percent read Braille and 45 percent read large type or regular print. Four percent read both. There were 19,902 blind students enrolled in elementary and secondary schools in 1968. In January, 1993--twenty-five years later--there were 50,204 blind students enrolled. Fewer than 9 percent read Braille, 27 percent read print, and 40 percent read neither.
These figures reveal the shocking magnitude of the literacy crisis among blind youth. The tragedy is that lives can be wasted unless intervention and literacy skills training occur at some point for those who are not being taught to read and write in school. Their recourse is to receive training from vocational rehabilitation or to face lives of dependency, subsisting at public expense. In preparing for and seeking employment, blind people face some obvious physical restrictions in performing work (such as unskilled labor) which may be available to others who are not literate. This is why the ability to read and write using the alternative skills of blindness such as Braille is absolutely critical for today's blind youth.
It would be misleading and certainly inaccurate to attribute the literacy crisis for blind people solely to the mandate in IDEA for school placements in the "least restrictive alternative." The underlying causes are far more complex and must be addressed by professionals in special education, parents, and blind students themselves. Recognizing this fact, leaders in the field of blindness services have begun to respond to this acknowledged literacy crisis. Projects to improve Braille literacy skills training for blind adults have been funded in recent years by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research and the Rehabilitation Services Administration in the United States Department of Education. State laws are also beginning to echo the concern that blind people in growing numbers are graduating from school without the ability to read and write.
Bills, generally entitled the "Blind Persons' Literacy Rights and Education Act," have now been passed in essentially the same form in 26 states. [By the time of publication this number had risen to twenty-seven. (See Bennett Prows's article elsewhere in this issue.)] These state laws generally require that each blind student must receive a Braille literacy skills assessment and instructional services using Braille unless all members of the IEP team concur that the student's visual impairment does not affect the ability to read and write proficiently. The proficiency standard stated in the law for blind students is the same as that expected for a sighted student of comparable ability and grade level. There is a presumption stated in the law that using Braille is necessary for a blind student to communicate at the expected level of proficiency.
The principles listed below have been unanimously agreed to by all of the major organizations both of and for the blind in the United States:
(1) If a child is unable to read print by reason of total blindness or visual impairment and if literacy skills are to be taught, the child should be taught to read and write Braille by a certified teacher competent to teach Braille literacy skills to the blind, unless by reason of multiple disabilities it is impossible for the child to read Braille.
(2) If a child has a visual impairment and if literacy skills are to be taught, the child should, if the parent or parents want this to be done, be taught to read and write Braille by a certified teacher competent to teach Braille literacy skills to the blind. If a dispute arises between the parent(s) and the local educational agency regarding appropriate reading media, both print and Braille shall be taught.
(3) No teacher should be considered competent to teach Braille literacy skills to the blind unless such teacher has passed the Braille competency test developed by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress. The passing of the Braille competency test should not be considered a substitute for or an alternative to regular training and certification of a teacher but should be in addition to such training and certification.
Need for Federal Legislation
Individualized planning for instruction is one of the fundamental principles of IDEA. That principle is sound. Each disability is unique, and individuals are often uniquely affected by essentially the same disability. Therefore, the IEP process is appropriately designed to create an individually tailored response to each child's disability-related needs.
Because the policy of individualized planning is sound philosophically, it is ironic that it has contributed to diminishing opportunities for blind students with some vision to learn to read and write in Braille. However, there is no question that this has happened. Those who have opposed state-level Braille literacy laws have often argued that a legislatively expressed preference for virtually any form of instruction would violate IDEA. The response is that the state laws very carefully preserve individualized planning as the starting point for each child, while acknowledging the likelihood that the child who is blind has a high probability of needing Braille.
Those who say that a preference for Braille violates IDEA claim that the choice of reading and writing media for a child must be governed solely by the IEP. This position has never been tested in the courts, but it raises an ominous warning that state laws in and of themselves may be insufficient to make Braille instruction and the availability of Braille materials priority considerations for schools. As a matter of practical reality (although such an interpretation would probably lack legal soundness), an interpretation that the state Braille literacy laws conflict with IDEA can be envisioned and would certainly threaten the small amount of progress that has been made.
It is clear that using IDEA as a roadblock to literacy for blind children is undesirable and definitely not consistent with the purpose of the law. This is precisely what is happening, however, when state policy makers and legislators are told that an expressed preference for Braille for blind students would place the state in jeopardy of losing Federal assistance. Therefore, a Federal solution in the form of amendments proposed for IDEA should be considered. The legislation must preserve IDEA's individualized planning process and ensure that such planning acknowledges an express right for each blind child to receive instruction in Braille without first being required to fail at reading and writing print.
Legislation to amend and reauthorize the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is now under active review in the first session of the 104th Congress. Bills have been developed by both the Clinton Administration and the responsible subcommittees in the House and Senate. While the bills are sharply divergent in certain respects, they are essentially identical in regard to proposing new provisions for the IEP process.
As compared to current law, the bills under review generally provide more precise direction on the process for developing the IEP. While the makeup of the IEP team would be consistent with current regulations, certain considerations which must be made by the team are brand new. One of these is the provision concerning the IEP for a child who is blind, to wit: "In the case of a child who is blind or visually impaired, consider whether the child needs instruction in Braille or in the use of Braille."
If this language is adopted as currently proposed, the IEP team would be fulfilling its responsibilities for the blind child merely by considering the child's need for Braille instruction. As a standard the obligation of "consideration" is clearly minimal. Even worse, it could actually become harmful.
The state laws which have been enacted to promote Braille literacy training for children have already been described. All of these laws have standards for the IEP process which go far beyond the mere "consideration" of the blind child's need for Braille. Generally the laws state a "presumption" that Braille skills will be needed for the blind child to read and write at grade level. Exclusion of Braille from the IEP is permitted in individual cases if all members of the team concur that the child's visual impairment does not restrict reading and writing performance at grade level. Also the child's future literacy needs must be evaluated by the team.
In response to the "consideration" standard, organizations representing blind consumers and service providers have jointly developed a substitute provision. The language (attached) would specify that Braille skills training will be made available to all blind and visually impaired children. Consistent with both the state Braille literacy laws and the individualized planning principles of IDEA, Braille instruction would not be provided to a given blind child if all members of the IEP team concur that it is not needed. Once again, the child's future literacy needs must also be evaluated in making decisions about Braille training.
In contrast to the draft bill language on "considering the blind child's need for Braille," the substitute language would better support and complement the state-level efforts now underway to address the literacy crisis among blind youth of school age. Most important of all, the substitute language would not overturn the existing state laws and would actually do a great deal to strengthen them.
IDEA: Proposed Amendment on Braille Literacy
(d) INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PROGRAMS.--
(3) In developing an IEP, the IEP team shall-- .....
(E) in the case of a child who is blind or visually impaired, as defined in clause (ii) of this subsection--
(i) provide for instruction in Braille and the use of Braille unless all members of the IEP team concur that, after an evaluation of the child's reading and writing skills, needs, and appropriate reading and writing media (including an evaluation of the child's future needs for instruction in Braille and the use of Braille), instruction in Braille or the use of Braille is not appropriate for the child.
(ii) For purposes of this subparagraph, the terms "blind" and "visually impaired" mean--
(I) visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with the use of a correcting lens or a limited field of vision so that the widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees;
(II) a medically indicated expectation of visual deterioration; or
(III) a functional limitation resulting from a medically diagnosed visual impairment which restricts the child's ability to read and write standard print at levels expected of other children of comparable ability and grade level.
Note: This legislative language was developed jointly by the American Council of the Blind, the American Foundation for the Blind, and the National Federation of the Blind. Though the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) chose not to participate in this exercise, its leaders have agreed not to oppose the three organizations' efforts to get the language incorporated into IDEA.
[PHOTO: A young woman is standing at a table in the convention exhibit hall examining a Braille 'n Speak. CAPTION: Shannon Ramsey]
SEEING CLEARLY TEENAGER REFUSES TO LET BLINDNESS KEEP HER FROM LIVING LIFE TO THE FULLEST
by Kim Boatman
From the Editor: the following article first appeared in the February 12, 1996, edition of the San Jose Mercury News. It is one more illustration of the contributions being made by members of the National Federation of the Blind of all ages. Here it is:
On Friday afternoons, when the promise of the weekend lures many of her Los Gatos High School classmates to the usual teenage pursuits, Shannon Ramsay can be found reading the New York Times.
In a clear, careful voice she read about the Middle East recently to three elderly women in wheelchairs at the Terraces of Los Gatos Health Center.
She might as well have been reading about the moon, for all Vivienne Simpson cared. Simpson was content to watch Shannon's hands dance effortlessly across the stark white pages of a Braille edition of the Times.
"She is so adorable," said Simpson, smiling with grandmotherly affection. "How she manages to do what she does at her age is beyond me."
Born with limited vision, Shannon, fifteen, sees nothing now because of retina deterioration. But she moves through life with a cane and a determination that has her father Alex convinced she'll be famous.
She maintains an "A" average at Los Gatos High, where she studies chemistry, algebra II, advanced English, and German. Shannon also takes driver training--learning road rules for which she has no use--because it's a required class. She takes notes in Braille and reads textbooks translated into Braille. She sings in the choir, participates on the debate team, and works with the National Federation of the Blind.
Shannon wishes she had time to swim or to run track, like she did in middle school.
Like many girls for a while she harbored a real affection for horses. With radio antennae soldered to her stirrups as a sort of curb-feeler contraption, she used to ride in an arena.
"I like to fit as much as I can possibly do into the day," Shannon said.
She possesses little patience for those who think it'd be simpler
if she let obstacles defeat her, and she frequently has to convince teachers she
can keep up in their classrooms.
"There are a lot of things I have to battle for,"
she said. Shannon wears a silver bracelet of linked turtles that her
mother Antje, a resource specialist at McKinley High, bought for her. For a turtle, Shannon moved swiftly as she left school on that
recent Friday. The people at the Terraces have no idea what Shannon must do
to get there. With her cane tapping in a wide arc in front of her, Shannon
walked confidently down two sets of steps at the high school. She tangled briefly
with a rose bush next to the walkway, a skirmish she shrugged off. She requires assistance to cross busy Main Street in front
of the school, but mostly she flies solo. Shannon made her way a couple of blocks, where she caught the
bus for the ten-minute ride to a stop near the Kings Court shopping center. She walked through the center, talking familiarly about the
Wooden Horse toy store, Peet's Coffee and Tea and drawing an occasional glance
from shoppers. As she left the center, she wandered into a grass strip but found
her way back to the sidewalk. Shannon walked into the Terraces, where the receptionist greeted
her by name. Although she doesn't consider her route difficult, her father
frets and sometimes follows her. "There's a battle between us parents and Shannon,"
said Alex Ramsay, a retired IBM engineer. "We're afraid she'll do something
to herself, and she wants to do things to gain her independence." But the Ramsays also have paved the way to freedom for Shannon,
who has a twenty-year-old brother and an older half- brother and an older half-sister. Although Los Gatos High Principal Ted Simonson said he, too,
must resist the urge to assist Shannon around campus, he believes the Ramsays'
work to help Shannon function on her own has been critical. "She is really a focused young woman," Simonson
said. "We've got a heck of a lot of kids with a heck of a lot less problems
who don't do nearly as much." The Ramsays spent hours helping Shannon learn her way around
the campus before she started high school. They have brainstormed to provide
recreational opportunities: Alex Ramsay came up with the stirrups that allowed
Shannon to ride horses. And they pay attention to the details that help Shannon feel
like any other teenager. So, even though she can't see, Shannon carefully coordinates
her clothing and accessories with her mother's help and applies makeup herself.
Recently she dyed her hair a burnished red. "I got tired of being a blond," she said. Still, despite her effort, Shannon is isolated at times. Although
she has blind and partially-sighted friends across the country, "Sometimes
I feel a little bit lonely at school because I don't have a group of friends
to hang out with," she said. So she, too, gains something each Friday at the Terraces. "It's so cute. They walk up and say, `I love you,'"
she said. "It's really rewarding to see how the people enjoy having me
around." On that recent visit she admired a crazy quilt made by ninety-one-year-old
Vera King's mother, reaching out to stroke the satin when King proffered it. Shannon read for thirty minutes to a woman who could not speak
but who waved goodbye as Shannon left. "I think it is wonderful Shannon experiences that there
are people who need her help," Antje Ramsay said as she picked up her daughter.
"I think it's an incredible thing Shannon is doing." [PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. William Wiener]
"There are a lot of things I have to battle for," she said.
Shannon wears a silver bracelet of linked turtles that her mother Antje, a resource specialist at McKinley High, bought for her.
For a turtle, Shannon moved swiftly as she left school on that recent Friday. The people at the Terraces have no idea what Shannon must do to get there.
With her cane tapping in a wide arc in front of her, Shannon walked confidently down two sets of steps at the high school. She tangled briefly with a rose bush next to the walkway, a skirmish she shrugged off.
She requires assistance to cross busy Main Street in front of the school, but mostly she flies solo.
Shannon made her way a couple of blocks, where she caught the bus for the ten-minute ride to a stop near the Kings Court shopping center.
She walked through the center, talking familiarly about the Wooden Horse toy store, Peet's Coffee and Tea and drawing an occasional glance from shoppers. As she left the center, she wandered into a grass strip but found her way back to the sidewalk.
Shannon walked into the Terraces, where the receptionist greeted her by name.
Although she doesn't consider her route difficult, her father frets and sometimes follows her.
"There's a battle between us parents and Shannon," said Alex Ramsay, a retired IBM engineer. "We're afraid she'll do something to herself, and she wants to do things to gain her independence."
But the Ramsays also have paved the way to freedom for Shannon, who has a twenty-year-old brother and an older half- brother and an older half-sister.
Although Los Gatos High Principal Ted Simonson said he, too, must resist the urge to assist Shannon around campus, he believes the Ramsays' work to help Shannon function on her own has been critical.
"She is really a focused young woman," Simonson said. "We've got a heck of a lot of kids with a heck of a lot less problems who don't do nearly as much."
The Ramsays spent hours helping Shannon learn her way around the campus before she started high school. They have brainstormed to provide recreational opportunities: Alex Ramsay came up with the stirrups that allowed Shannon to ride horses.
And they pay attention to the details that help Shannon feel like any other teenager.
So, even though she can't see, Shannon carefully coordinates her clothing and accessories with her mother's help and applies makeup herself. Recently she dyed her hair a burnished red.
"I got tired of being a blond," she said.
Still, despite her effort, Shannon is isolated at times. Although she has blind and partially-sighted friends across the country, "Sometimes I feel a little bit lonely at school because I don't have a group of friends to hang out with," she said.
So she, too, gains something each Friday at the Terraces.
"It's so cute. They walk up and say, `I love you,'" she said. "It's really rewarding to see how the people enjoy having me around."
On that recent visit she admired a crazy quilt made by ninety-one-year-old Vera King's mother, reaching out to stroke the satin when King proffered it.
Shannon read for thirty minutes to a woman who could not speak but who waved goodbye as Shannon left.
"I think it is wonderful Shannon experiences that there are people who need her help," Antje Ramsay said as she picked up her daughter. "I think it's an incredible thing Shannon is doing."
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. William Wiener]
by Kenneth Jernigan
Professor William Wiener teaches and is Chairperson of the Department of Blind Rehabilitation at Western Michigan University at Kalamazoo. He is also the Co-Chairperson of the Certification Standards Committee of Division Nine (Orientation and Mobility) of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER). He and I have recently had an exchange of correspondence that I believe Monitor readers will find interesting. Here it is:
March 30, 1996
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
It has been a long while since I communicated with you. When we last spoke, we discussed the conference on reasonable accommodation in O&M that Elga Joffee, Dennis Lolli, and I were mounting in behalf of Division 9 of AER. At that time I assured you that the purpose of the conference was not to prevent the certification of instructors who are blind or disabled but instead to explore how we could include them within our certification process.
Now, a year later, I am glad to tell you that we have met our objective. At the conference we worked with blind and other disabled instructors who teach mobility and video taped the approaches that they use to teach people to travel. Among the various techniques that were used, we found a number that were effective and that should enable blind and disabled people to teach travel skills and assure the safety of the client. Also at the conference we reaffirmed our desire to implement a certification process that would include all instructors who can perform the essential functions of the job without regard for disability. Following the conference the Certification Standards Committee further modified the certification standards to better reflect this participation. Recently the membership of the Division approved these standards by a ten to one margin.
Today we have several blind students enrolled within our university training programs. AER has certified at least one blind instructor and has a process in place to certify other blind and disabled instructors. I believe that we have made great strides in this important area. I invite you and other leaders within the organized blind movement to refer blind students to our university programs. I can assure you that they will be warmly welcomed.
William R. Wiener
Co-Chairperson of the Division Nine
Certification Standards Committee
April 14, 1996
Dear Dr. Wiener:
I have your letter of March 30, 1996, and my problem with it is the one I had with the conference you held a year ago. Perhaps I can best capsulize it by substituting a term. Let me use your own words and replace blind with sighted. Your letter would then read in part:
When we last spoke, we discussed the conference on reasonable accommodation in O&M that Elga Joffee, Dennis Lolli, and I were mounting in behalf of Division 9 of AER. At that time I assured you that the purpose of the conference was not to prevent the certification of instructors who are sighted but instead to explore how we could include them within our certification process.
Now, a year later, I am glad to tell you that we have met our objective. At the conference we worked with sighted instructors who teach mobility and video taped the approaches that they use to teach people to travel. Among the various techniques that were used, we found a number that were effective and that should enable sighted people to teach travel skills and assure the safety of the client.
If I should write you such a letter, you would not just think it inappropriate. You would question my sanity. You would feel that, since sighted people by the hundreds are now successfully teaching mobility to the blind, the issue is not in doubt and that accommodation implies something that is manifestly ridiculous. I must confess to similar emotions.
I suspect that there are more blind people teaching mobility today than sighted people and that the proficiency of the trainees and the safety with which they travel equal the product of the sighted. I am concerned that blind people attending your courses will be expected to use the techniques of the sighted and that they will be "accommodated."
If this reasoning seems strange to you, it only underscores the fact that I have never succeeded in conveying to you the problem I have with the very foundation of your approach. Let me be sure that I am clearly understood. I am not saying that sighted mobility instructors are necessarily less proficient than the blind; I am not saying that sighted mobility instructors should use the techniques of the blind; and I am not denigrating university training for mobility instructors. If you respond to my letter (either to me or to others) by putting forward these false issues to attack, the exercise will be a study in futility, one that is calculated to do nothing but make points in an argument, an argument that is not only negative and counterproductive but fails to deal with the issue I have repeatedly raised with you.
A number of years ago I showed you the standards that I would apply in considering whether a student should be certified as a mobility instructor. You will remember that they were different from yours and seemed as quaint to you as yours did to me. In the final analysis the test of a thing is: does it work. Perhaps, if you take a sufficiently long view, there is no other meaningful test.
The day may come (assuming that we continue our dialogue) when we will have a meeting of the minds. Meanwhile, I thank you for your letter and for the contribution it makes to the exploration of this important subject.
National Federation of the Blind
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Michael Baillif]
PORTRAIT OF A DONOR
by Michael Baillif
From President Maurer: I have been working with a number of Federationists to try to find new funding sources for the organization. One product of this effort is a new committee entitled the Future Assets and Tax Tips (FATT) Committee. Last fall Ramona Walhof, Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind, observed that there are members of the National Federation of the Blind who could benefit from our developing innovative methods of donating to the organization. Sometimes we do not think of making large gifts to our own cause. Sometimes we do not know the mechanisms for making gifts that will be most beneficial to the organization and to ourselves. To solve this problem, Ramona Walhof suggested that the FATT Committee be established. Its purpose is to explore methods for raising future assets for the organization through planned giving. Planned giving is the phrase which means finding ways to give our money to good causes so that they actually get most of it while we continue to enjoy its use during our lifetimes and benefit from tax incentives as well.
One of the members of the committee is Michael Baillif, who served several years ago as president of the student division and who is presently a tax lawyer for one of the best known tax law firms in the United States. Michael Baillif suggested that we print a description of a donor. Even though he is a tax specialist, this description is in English. Here it is:
Meet Margaret Syring. She is an elderly lady from Saint Paul, Minnesota, with a sprightly manner, a generous heart, and more than her share of common sense. Not long ago Margaret donated $10,000 to the Federation in the form of a Charitable Gift Annuity.
When asked her reasons for giving, Margaret explained: "The money I have isn't mine. I'm only a steward, and I should use it well. I'm not a millionaire; I don't even have one million dollars, but I want to use the money I have to help people." At the time of her gift, Margaret had no direct involvement with the Federation. In fact, she did not even recall how she heard of us. One day she simply wrote the organization requesting information, was impressed with the activities and programs described in our literature, and decided to support the Movement. She contacted our National Office in Baltimore and said that she wanted to establish a charitable gift annuity with the Federation as beneficiary. We were only too happy to oblige.
Margaret had some very sound reasons for making a donation through a charitable gift annuity. She explained: "I wanted to make an outright gift, but I also needed money to live on." The charitable gift annuity accomplished both of these goals nicely. The $10,000 gift now is the property of the Federation to spend as it likes; and, in exchange, Margaret will receive an annuity of $800 per year for the rest of her life. Thus, by her gift Margaret was able to support the Federation, while at the same time assuring herself of a lifetime stream of income.
Although Margaret's donation was not motivated by income tax considerations, she nevertheless was able to reap significant tax advantages from the charitable gift annuity. A substantial portion of her $10,000 gift was deductible against income from other sources, thereby reducing her tax bill for the year in which the gift was made. Moreover, part of her annual annuity payment from the Federation will be free of tax when it is received in the future.
"I think there are many people out there who would like to support the Federation," Margaret commented. "They just need to know how. They don't realize that it is so easy to do and that there are so many different ways to make gifts."
Portraits of donors, like that of Margaret Syring, come in all shapes and sizes. As Margaret proves, a donor need not be rich and need not make a gift outright without any sort of financial return. Charitable gift annuities and other giving vehicles currently being developed as part of the Federation's Planned Giving Program make gifts a real possibility for people of all ages and income levels. This is an effort in which we all are able to participate, either by establishing a planned-giving program ourselves or by helping to find those who can.
As Margaret Syring found out, the Federation's Planned- Giving Program is a new and innovative means of funding the Movement. More information regarding the Federation's Planned Giving Program will be disseminated in July at the Federation's National Convention in Anaheim, California. Material and guidance can also be obtained directly from the National Office in Baltimore. The program has great potential for allowing both members and supporters to help build the organization's financial strength to the unprecedented levels necessary to undertake the work that so desperately needs doing.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Janet Caron]
BANGLES, BAUBLES, AND BEADS
by Tamara Kerrill
From the Editor: Janet Caron is one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida. She is also a talented jewelry maker. The following story about her appeared in Tapping the Charcoal, our most recent Kernel Book. Here it is, beginning with Dr. Jernigan's introduction:
Creating custom-made jewelry is not a common occupation. It requires a particular artistic talent. It does not, however, as we of the National Federation of the Blind and as the following story (reprinted from the Miami Herald) show, require eyesight.
In 1985 Janet Caron walked cautiously toward the Trevi Fountain through the streets of Rome. Her failing sight made the trip difficult, but she was determined to toss three coins into the cascading water. According to Roman tradition, if a visitor tosses coins into the famed fountain, she is assured of returning.
"I stumbled to get there. I was heartbroken," she said. "I was in tears as I threw those coins over my shoulder, and people were looking at me. I was losing my sight, and I truly thought that I would never get back to my beloved Rome."
She also never thought she would lead a productive life again. She was wrong. Today, Caron, who lives in Pompano Beach, makes exquisite jewelry from scratch.
"When I first lost my sight, I couldn't believe it was happening to me," Caron said.
She said doctors are at a loss to determine the cause of her blindness. "But once something like this happens, you really realize how capable blind people are," Caron said.
Caron began creating jewelry two years ago to satisfy an artistic craving. Her tiny apartment is filled with colorful bags of beads from Italy, Africa, China, and other distant places. Caron also makes her own beads from raw clay, which she glazes and fires in a kiln at a Pompano Beach ceramics shop.
The colorful chokers and matinee lengths are combinations of ivory, handblown glass, painted porcelain, jade, and other special materials. She finds the beads at various thrift shops. Caron tests the authenticity of the beads' material by rubbing them together and running her fingers over them. She takes her cache of colorful creations to some local art fairs, like the annual Christmas show at Coral Ridge Mall.
Caron's biggest triumph as a blind woman, however, took place two years ago when she hesitantly boarded a plane bound for Rome--the city she had visited regularly before she became blind.
"I fell in love with Rome," she said. "I love the European way of life. I thought I would never get back there again. In 1990 I went back, and I did very well. I got off the plane, and I just broke into Italian. I stayed for a month." Caron has been back to Rome three times and plans to keep on going every spring. Her necklaces have even gone on sale at the American embassy. "My life is very full now," she said. "Blind people may have lost their sight, but they haven't lost their intellect."
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Nell Carney]
DIRECTOR'S SALARY SETTLED
From the Editor Emeritus: As Federationists know, Nell Carney was Federal Commissioner of Rehabilitation during the Bush Administration. Blind herself, Dr. Carney's association with the blindness field is long-standing. In the 1950's she was my student at the Tennessee School for the Blind. Later she was employed in work with the blind on the West Coast in the state of Washington. Then for a time she was one of the program officials at the Virginia Department for the Blind. In the 1960's Dr. Carney was the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Tennessee, and for a number of years she was a National Board Member of the Federation.
When the Bush Administration left office, Dr. Carney went to Mississippi as head of the State Department of Rehabilitation. It is noteworthy that the Mississippi Services for the Blind was NAC-accredited when she became Director, and that such is no longer the case. Likewise, Royal Maid, the state's major workshop complex, was NAC-accredited and is no longer. The same can be said of another small agency in the state.
Dr. Carney went to Mississippi as the outgoing employee of a Republican administration. The Governor who hired her (he is still in office) is also a Republican. Not surprisingly, members of the Legislature from the other party might find occasion to criticize. Be that as it may, today she finds herself embroiled in the partisan politics that swirl around the Governor and the Legislature. If the Republicans should elect the President this fall, many have speculated that Dr. Carney will again be seen in Washington. Meanwhile, the political kettle boils in Mississippi. Here is an article that appeared in the Laurel, Mississippi, Leader Call on April 14 of this year:
The director of the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation will get to keep her $93,500 salary, but lawmakers have gotten a chance to vent frustration over her leadership.
Governor Kirk Fordice vetoed part of a bill Saturday that would have reduced Nell Carney's salary by $20,000. He called the decrease "arbitrary and capricious."
The House failed sixty-six to forty-four to override. The vote was eight shy of that required.
Representative Steve Holland, Democrat-Plantersville, displayed letters he said were critical of Carney and her management of the 865-worker agency. Holland said he has passed along the criticisms to Fordice's office for several years.
"We may be micro-managing, but we have to look after the disabled citizens of the state if the governor is not, and apparently he's not concerned," he said.
The governor said he had investigated some complaints and has "seen nothing in the way of tangible evidence to suggest any serious failures in the leadership or the performance of this agency."
TO THINK ABOUT IF YOU WANT
TO START A BUSINESS
by Maureen Pranghofer
From the Editor: Maureen Pranghofer is a frequent contributor to these pages. The following article first appeared in JOB Recorded Bulletin 167, January, 1996. Here it is:
Last November, after considerable assistance from the staff at BLIND, Inc., and Minnesota State Services for the Blind, I began a small business. This past year has been a wonderful learning process. Hopefully, if you have the yen to be an entrepreneur, you can glean something from what I have learned.
1. Know what your abilities are. After my accident in June of 1993, when I became totally blind, I began thinking about what kind of career I might like to pursue. Working from my home seemed to be the most practical thing to do.
Make a list of things which you are good at and think about how they could be used in a business. As you gain skills in additional areas, they can be added to this list of possible entrepreneur ideas. But it's difficult to start a business unless you know well the area which you are entering.
2. Figure out how you can use what you have. As I just indicated, making a list of what one can do is important. You need to know your strengths and weaknesses, your limitations and potentials. After making this list, you must weed out what will not work. For example, while I was at BLIND, Inc., making a grilled cheese sandwich was a major undertaking. Now I cook all kinds of things, ranging from Nigerian cuisine to homemade peach sherbet to ordinary fare. Could I start a business preparing some kind of food and selling it? Well, maybe, but in looking at this idea I found obstacles, in that cooking--though I enjoy it--is physically very tiring for me. It would be an inefficient and fatiguing venture at best, even though I could perhaps be said to have abilities in that area.
3. Don't be afraid to do more than one thing. In sorting out what I could and could not do, I was left with three things which were all of great interest to me and which I felt had business possibilities. So I came up with a business which uses all three things. They are separate entities, but I earn money from all of them. In my case my business, consists of transcription of print material into Braille and onto cassette tape, speaking to groups about the needs of people with disabilities, and writing music. I love this arrangement. There is great variety in what I am doing, and there is no possibility of my becoming bored.
4. Put together a business plan. I received funding for my computer and embosser through Minnesota State Services for the Blind. They first required me to have a small business plan. I had not a clue about what such a plan should include, so I contacted SCORE, which is a volunteer organization made up of retired business executives who assist people in starting their own businesses. In one meeting I learned what kind of information should be in the plan. I would advise using SCORE or another business expert to check your completed plan and assist you in formulating it. Items in your plan can include, but are not limited to, reasons why you think you should go into business, your background, your resum, a statement about the nature of the proposed business, a description of your marketing plan, your projected expenses in beginning the business, and your projected revenue.
5. Don't become discouraged about money. Several blind individuals have called me during the last year with business ideas. None of them has had money to use to obtain the necessary equipment to begin the business venture. I obtained money from my state agency for the blind. This avenue is available to many people. However, it is not something that happens overnight. I had to contact my counselor repeatedly in order to make anything happen. I returned to him time and time again with what I wanted to do, and with others from BLIND, Inc., speaking up on my behalf, things eventually moved. If one source tells you "no," keep trying. Don't be afraid, for example, to go to a supervisor. Know your rights. Know what you as a client of the agency are entitled to before beginning to pursue what you want. Return to the "no" answer with a desire to find out why it was given. Then counter that argument.
Don't give up if your state vocational rehabilitation agency is not the way to go. Most states have a small business agency, which has lots of information about how to start a small business. Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act, people with disabilities are a minority, a protected class, and therefore eligible for many small business grants. Pursue these.
6. Know what you would consider success. If in your small business plan you have determined that you need to make a certain income, reach for this goal, but be realistic. Success for one person is not the same thing as it is for the next. For example, I want to make enough to supplement my Social Security Disability Insurance. Because of other disabilities, it's not practical for me to get out of the system, but I can still earn the monthly amount allocated. I consider that success. Others would want to earn far more money in order to consider themselves successful. Decide what to aim for, and make it realistic for your own circumstances.
7. Don't drop everything to start the business. Did you know that it takes an average of five years for most small businesses really to start showing a consistent profit? This is, of course, an average, so it isn't always accurate. But just because your business is starting, don't leave another job, for example, until you know you will have a regular income from your business.
8. Prepare for feast or famine. I have found in the last year that there are times when I am not particularly busy and times when I feel quite overwhelmed with the amount I have to do. This feast-or-famine business takes some getting used to. Don't worry if there isn't a lot to do; it will come. Balancing your life when there is an abundance of work can also be a problem. At times I have had to struggle to keep from working every waking hour. It's only a job, so don't get caught in the unhealthy loop of working all the time simply because you work out of your home. When I'm not busy, I work on no-deadline things which have been sitting around for a while, and when I'm swamped, I get things done while trying to stick to an eight-hour work day.
9. Let your business go where it takes you. Sometimes we get ideas of how things should be, and we want to stick to the plans we have made. I have found that flexibility is essential in business. It may simply be that I am a creative person and think in those terms, but I have found my business taking me in directions I never would have dreamed it would. Almost all of my speaking to groups about disability has, for example, been made possible because of word-of-mouth contacts. I have done very little marketing.
One day, while I was reading my mail, I got a card from a real estate company advertising their services. I dropped it into the trash but did not drop the thought: I wonder if there is any way I could market my teaching about disability to people in this field? I did some digging, found out where people in Minnesota become licensed as real estate agents, and made a cold call to the executive director. I asked if anyone had taught a course dealing with the way one assists disabled customers and issues related to accessibility in housing. He said, "Write a proposal; that sounds interesting." I did and got a lucrative contract out of the deal. They have since hired me to do a number of other classes dealing with aspects of real estate and fair housing, which only indirectly have to do with disability. This means that I am delving into new areas requiring research, which I am having to learn starting at the bottom. However, I would not be involved with this if I had not let my creativity take me in this direction and if I had not then used the opportunities presented to me.
10. Be confident. I cannot emphasize this last point enough. Be confident, be confident, be confident. I have made many mistakes along the way. I have constantly learned new things, ranging from more efficient ways to use my software to evaluating how I can improve public speaking based on audience critiques. However, that is not what I let people know. The biggest drawback I have noticed when talking to potential entrepreneurs is that they seem to lack confidence in what they can do. Believing you can do what you set your mind to do is one of the first steps toward doing it.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Lauren L. Eckery]
"OH! I NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT THAT!"
by Lauren L. Eckery
From the Editor: Lauren Eckery is a thoughtful member of the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska. She is also a frequent contributor to these pages. The following article first appeared in Issue 1, 1996, of News from Blind Nebraskans, a publication of the NFB of Nebraska. Here is what she has to say:
I have written several articles now about the situations other blind persons and I have encountered in our daily lives and the ways we solve them. Something in me wants to come up with that one perfect comment that will help bring about greater understanding between sighted and blind people whenever the issue of the capabilities of the blind arises. I want to find something that will eliminate some of the experiences we now have over and over and over again. I frankly seem to be having more and more difficulty keeping my patience when I hear what sounds to me like the same old same old for about the zillionth time.
If I heard less than reasonable reactions to blindness only now and then, I could chalk the incidents up to some individual person's ignorance, but these things happen all the time. They often occur with otherwise intelligent and kind people, and they occur with people we've known for years as well as with strangers. What could I do that would eradicate, once and for all, the misunderstandings that seem to crop up in our lives? Unfortunately, no pill allows people, voila! to deal with a blind person appropriately. If that pill were available, I could probably also find one to give me the patience I need.
The fact is that people do have choices. They can learn all they need to know about treating blind people respectfully. They can learn it quickly and easily or slowly, the hard way. Right in the Federation we have the tools for crash courses in reasonable treatment; however, as in almost all other aspects of life, most of us learn most of what we know the hard way.
I had taken my now fifteen-year-old daughter Lynden and her friend Shafina to the ice-skating rink. I chose to sit and crochet while they skated. I heard many bits of conversation from people of all ages as they came and went. Only one brief conversation sticks in my mind today.
A very young child and her or his father had been watching the skaters through the window. The child asked, "Why do some people keep falling down?"
The father explained, quite wisely, "That is how they learn to skate."
The child, hesitating only briefly, then said, also quite wisely, "Oh, I think that is how they learn to fall down."
Whether we like it or not, one step at a time, one word or idea at a time is what usually gets results in our everyday lives. I believe we could all do more to raise society's consciousness about blindness. Most of us will never be world- renowned figures who can have a profound impact by using the media effectively, but the best teaching is done one-on-one, virtually unnoticed by the world. I will never have the skill, funds, or creativity to invent that pill, but until I can neither speak nor write another word, I can continue to give the best I have--words of enlightenment.
I cannot force anyone to listen to what I say. Neither can I force anyone to believe as I do. I can, however, plant seeds which others can choose to let grow in their minds and hearts. That is what I and so many other ordinary blind people do all the time.
Sometimes people understand completely; more often they understand a little. At times blind people are permitted to function exactly as we would prefer to; sometimes, when we educate only partially, we find ourselves compromising. I would do well to remind myself that most of the time I am doing the best I can. This is true of others, too.
Some time ago I was singing in a combination choir from the three sister churches in our area. We were rehearsing at my then home church, the site of our special Thanksgiving service.
No one seemed to question that I could learn the alto parts to the songs; nor did anyone seem bothered by my use of Braille words for the music.
Eventually it came time to rehearse lining up and moving from our seats to our standing position. Most choirs do this as a matter of course, and I have sung in many choirs around the city with no catastrophic consequences. But my consistent experience has been that, whenever it comes to moving around, suddenly somebody, or a group of somebodies, panic--even though I have a long white cane and use it effectively.
As usual, on the day in question someone suddenly realized that I was at the head of the line of altos and that I would be standing at the end of the line near the steps which led off the platform. This fact did not bother me. I knew I could lead the section to the right spot, and I knew that I could stop before reaching the top of the steps by using my common sense and my cane.
When I assured the group that I could do this, I got no responses like "Oh sure, we never gave it a thought." Instead, coming from the general buzz of voices came suggestions: "Let's put someone else in front of Laurie for her to follow. That will be safer for all of us." "Laurie, you could stay in your seat and just rise with the rest of us to sing. You know your part, so you can sing from wherever you are. It won't matter." "Why don't you make it easier for all of us?"
I felt an avalanche of well-intended solutions covering and almost smothering me. I also felt totally embarrassed having this much attention unnecessarily focused on me.
It seemed to me that I would stick out like a sore thumb if I didn't move with the rest of the choir. In addition, I felt that my opportunity to help by leading our section was being taken away from me. I felt more and more as if my dignity were being snatched away, right in front of all these people.
The words "It won't matter" struck me like a bullet, right in the middle of my broken heart. I suddenly heard myself ask, quite strongly: "Well, what about my dignity?"
What followed was that deafening silence with which many of us are far too familiar. Had I now been totally rejected, or was there an inaudible "Oh! I never thought about that"?
The silence seemed to last longer than any of the pieces we were to sing. Would even one person understand? Would anyone be there to support my view of the matter? Would I be able to fit in as I desired? Or would I be bluntly told that I was inconsiderate of their worries? Maybe they would somehow slide it all under the platform, act as though I had never said a word, and refuse to speak to me. In other situations I have faced all of these reactions. How would this incident resolve itself? Who would break the silence? I prayed fervently to the Holy Spirit, who in my understanding has never addressed blindness negatively. God has given me a good mind; I trusted that He would give me the necessary words to help us move on. After all, God gave Jesus and others powerful words to combat hypocrisy and prejudice in ways that could mend broken hearts.
I broke the silence by laughingly saying that I didn't understand why people thought I couldn't walk when it was my eyes that didn't work properly. They seemed to recognize then that I really had not intended to shame them or show them up, as some people have occasionally interpreted my words.
The night of the service came, and as usual I was first in line in our section. I walked to my place and back two or three times to our seats with the rest of the choir without incident. I believe no one in the congregation noticed, but I did. I did not stick out like a sore thumb. Instead I fitted naturally into the choir.
Another time I was at a store in which the staff did not know me. I had purchased several items and was told the total cost. Then there was a long pause. "Do you have cash?" the clerk asked.
I told her I could use either a check or credit card since I did not have that much cash in my purse.
"Well," she replied, hesitantly, "You'll have to use cash. If you used a check or credit card, you would have to sign your name, and I can't sign for you."
I felt flustered and had to work hard to check my impatience. It was 1995, almost the turn of the century. We have experienced all kinds of technological advances and amassed vast scientific knowledge, but people still think a blind person cannot sign her or his name? I answered with impeccable logic and as much patience as I could muster, "Well, I can sign my name. I do it all the time."
"Oh!" she replied very relieved, "I never thought about that." The rest of the transaction went smoothly.
I went into this store over the holidays, and someone saw me using my signature guide. This same clerk said to the customer, "Isn't that neat? I never thought of that before she came in." The customer came over to inspect my signature guide.
She said her father, who was ninety years old, was totally blind, but neither he nor his family had ever thought of using a signature guide. They either signed things for him or let him scribble wherever he wanted to on the page whenever his signature was needed.
As the customer was telling me this, she suddenly realized how her father's dignity had been affected. This realization came to her without either of us addressing the issue of dignity directly.
I didn't have a spare signature guide to give her that day (I do now), but she said she was sure she could make one after seeing mine. Before she left, she said, "Sometimes we don't realize the simple things we can do to make something work."
When I first started working as a reservationist at Westin Hotels and Resorts, I was asked a lot of questions. The workers saw that I was getting around fine, handling my lunch on my own, and making phone calls at break time. They were told that speech had been added to my computer so that I could do the work. But they didn't understand how I did all those things.
I am unusually protected against blatant discrimination at work because of our strict policies against harassment. In the harassment policies of many companies, issues of racism, sexism, and age discrimination are fully explained; but there is no language specific to disability. Westin's policy, however, includes warnings in its policy about negative comments or treatment based on disability. There are also procedures for filing a complaint to resolve an unfortunate situation. This is a freedom I have seldom known, and though some people respond to this policy by simply not speaking much to me for fear they'll say the wrong thing, most people there now realize I am as much a part of the company as they are and that I can answer any questions they might have. I do not consider questions about how I do things as discrimination. I accept questions gladly--after all, questions invite answers.
I explained (through an office memo and personally) that I used my cane to find what was in front or around me, and I memorized the work facility during our orientation day in training.
I told colleagues that I have various ways of identifying my lunch items and containers by touch, and I microwave the food I want to heat just as they do. I do keep my lunch in a specific area in the refrigerator because I would not want to be thought to be rummaging through everyone else's lunch to find mine.
Then there is the phone--I have difficulty understanding why anyone thinks using the phone would be a problem for a blind person. I can feel the keys on the number pad and count them, and I know which number is which by the location. When I dial, I can also hear the touch-tones in my ear as a second means of identification. I can either bring phone numbers with me in a format I can read, get them from directory assistance, or memorize a phone number as someone gives it to me. These are things any ordinary person can do.
As for my work station, I am still explaining how my speech system allows me to read the computer screen. Many co- workers seem to think that my computer functions differently from theirs and that I do different work. I constantly assure them that I do the same work they do, but that I access it differently.
Inevitably I am met with, "Oh, I never thought about that," or "Duh, stupid me." When people say the latter, I remind them that I do not consider them stupid. At times in my life I haven't thought of the obvious; it can happen to any of us.
One of the most perplexing problems I confront as a blind adult is that many people are afraid to get to the Oh-I-never- thought-about-that stage. Some will insist that they know what is best for me, even when they have never met a blind person before. Having other people decide for me that I cannot do something has been one of the greatest handicaps I have lived with on a daily basis.
The assumption of such people is that the blind are inevitably bound to be students and they themselves teachers whenever their paths cross. Certainly there are many things I can learn from sighted people, but teaching others how to deal with blindness is one thing better left to those who live with it.
I am actually quite relieved when someone hangs in with me, asks questions, listens to my answers, and is able to say, "Oh, I never thought about that." By so doing, such people allow me to be the teacher, and they allow themselves to be students. In that lies my dignity--our dignity!
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Governor Mike Lowry of Washington State prepares to sign the Braille bill into law while NFB of Washington President Gary Mackenstadt (right, behind the Governor's chair) and other interested Washingtonians look on.]
AWARENESS DAY, 1996, BRINGS BIG
DIVIDENDS IN WASHINGTON STATE
by Bennett Prows
From the Editor: Washington State is the twenty-seventh state to pass a law protecting the right of blind children to be taught Braille. Bennett Prows is one of the leaders of the NFB of Washington. Here is his report on the historic completion of the affiliate's long struggle to see this bill passed:
The 1996 legislature once again saw the NFB at the forefront of the battle to bring Braille to blind students. We have now enlisted the assistance of virtually every organization, group, and individual in the educational field in Washington State and brought the Braille bill to the Washington House of Representatives and Senate one more time. On February 17, 1996, a large contingent of the blind of the state, their friends, and parents of blind children, along with teachers, agency administrators, and the general public met at Olympia for our finest Braille Awareness Day ever.
We set up tables in the capitol building between the House and Senate galleries, where legislators and staff could come and see any number of demonstrations of the benefits of learning Braille. While agencies and organizations of and for the blind showed the public that Braille is as effective for blind persons as print is for the sighted, a number of us spread out to meet with the key legislators who were going to pass the legislation to give legally blind students the opportunity to read Braille in the public school system in Washington State. And our efforts paid off.
At about 10:45 a.m. H.B. 1078 was read for the final time on the floor of the House. While the blind of the state watched from the gallery, the Representatives passed the current version of the Braille bill unanimously after very little discussion.
At noon we lined the rotunda of the capitol and held a ceremony to celebrate this victory. Bennett Prows was the master of ceremonies for the twenty-minute program, during which Gary Mackenstadt, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington, thanked the many officials who had taken a hand in passing the House version. He pledged to have the bill out of the Senate very soon. The highlight of the ceremony was the moment when Governor Mike Lowrey read his own proclamation declaring February 17 as Braille Awareness Day in Washington State. The crowd roared, and the echo could be heard throughout the capitol when the governor whole-heartedly endorsed the Braille legislation this session. "As soon as it is passed," he told the audience, "I will sign this common- sense bill to ensure literacy for blind children." The ceremony was followed by singing from a trio of blind children from the Washington School for the Blind.
We have worked hard since the red-letter day in February, and at this writing we can announce that the Braille bill has passed both houses and now awaits the Governor's signature. Because of the steadfast determination of the National Federation of the Blind over the past eight years, we will soon have a Braille law in Washington State. It has been a long time coming, but we, the members of the National Federation of the Blind, did it!
Editor's postscript: On Friday, March 22, 1996, the National Federation of the Blind of Washington hosted a reception to celebrate the signing of the Braille bill into law, which occurred at 4:30 p.m. that afternoon in Olympia, the state's capital. The reception took place in Tacoma at the affiliate's mini-convention, and a number of legislators and representatives from organizations and agencies that had worked on the bill were in attendance. The event was a huge success, and Washington State looks forward to increased Braille literacy for its blind children.
HOW FAR DOES THE MESSAGE TRAVEL?
by Kenneth Jernigan
The National Federation of the Blind takes every opportunity it can to acquaint people with its name and message. On pencils, books, calculators, and anything else we can find, we give our address and invite people to contact us if they need our help. We often wonder how far the message travels and how effective it is. Here is at least one answer, and it is encouraging:
The 22nd of March 1996
Dear President Maurer:
I think you'll be surprised when you will find out that you are receiving this letter from far away, from Romania.
My name is Nicolae Dosan. I am 34 year old and I have been blind since 1986 as a result of a detached retina. Since my childhood I have suffered from short-sightedness. This illness got worse gradually till my retina got detached in 1985. I was operated, but everything was useless. I must tell you that I am married and I have 2 children about 10 and 12 years old.
Why am I writting to you?
Maybe it will seem fun for you, but I found your address on a pencil by which my children wrote in school. I noticed this note that was written there: "Someone you know needs assistance with problems of blindness." I don't know if this note was addressed only to the american blind, but I felt that I must try to write to you, that I must tell someone about my problems.
Maybe you will ask: "Why tell your problems to someone outside your country?" The answer is very simple: here, no one has time to listen to the problems of the blind, their everyday difficulties. Maybe neither you have the time, but I beg you to make it possible for me, a Romanian blind man, to be heard by you, the President of the National Federation of the Blind in U.S.A.
The most important of my problems is the economical one, but for no missunderstandings, I will explain in a few words what is this problem about. I am qualified in watering physiotherapy-masseur. I graduated the Medical College. In our country, are guided to this profession people who have serious sight problems, but yet, they don't ensure us a job according to our qualification. This is my present situation. I and my family have to live with approximately $80.00 a month although the prices are equal or, sometimes, even higher than those in the Occidental Europe. So you see that it is obviously impossible for us to live this way.
Mr. President, I would like to ask you a question: which are the chances for a blind medical assistant in watering physiotherapy-masseur to come to your country in searching for a job? Because this is what I want to do. I would like to go anywhere to work so that I could ensure my family a normal life and a future.
You are the first foreign person to whom I write about this problems and that is because I think that U.S.A. is the most free and democratic country.
I would like very much to find out something about the blind's life in your country. Before I end, Please permit me to thank you for your time and attention and in the same time I apologize for my writing mistakes.
I hardly wait for your answer and I want to tell you that I am greatfull to you whether you would help me or not.
This is the letter we got from Romania, and if we can be of help, we will. Meanwhile, we have evidence that our message is finding its way throughout the world.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ethel U. Parker, March 18, 1922, to April 7, 1996.]
IN MEMORIAM--E.U. PARKER
by Kenneth Jernigan
Some of the things I find it necessary to do for the National Federation of the Blind are unpleasant, and some are a joy. Others are tinged with sadness and cause reflection. The present undertaking falls into the latter category, for I must report the death of one of our longtime leaders, E.U. Parker of Mississippi.
I first met E. U. and his wife Gene at the Houston Convention in 1971. E. U. was in the full prime of his active life, being one of the most successful State Farm Insurance agents in Mississippi (and, for that matter, the country). He was also serving as one of the movers and shakers in the politics of his state. He went home from the Houston Convention to organize the NFB of Mississippi, a job that he did vigorously and well.
It was E. U. who first suggested and then helped establish the Pre-Authorized Check (PAC) Plan, and it was he who constantly promoted it year after year. Anybody who has attended the NFB Resolutions Committee even for a little while during the past fifteen or twenty years is familiar with the voice and opinions of E. U. Parker. He was courteous and considerate, but he always said what he thought--and he would be heard.
E. U. (his name was Ethel) was always willing to serve, and he always had good judgement and sound opinions. A few years back, I went to Laurel and visited in the Parker home. It was clear from conversations with people on the street and at dinner that night at the country club that Ethel and Gene were among the leading citizens of the town. The respect of their neighbors was obvious.
As I look back on my association with Ethel and Gene, I remember a man and a woman with character and integrity. I remember Ethel's contacts with Mississippi congressmen and senators, and how he was always willing to leave whatever he was doing to come to Washington or go anywhere else when needed. I remember the meals I shared with Ethel and Gene at national conventions and in my home. I remember Ethel's financial contributions and the unassuming (almost anonymous) way in which he gave, no wish for credit, no asking for recognition. I remember a successful man, one who shared what he had with others and did it for the joy of the act itself. But above all I remember a friend--a close, dear friend--one that I will greatly miss. He made life better for the blind of the nation and for the National Federation of the Blind, and he made life better for me personally. His contributions will be lasting; his memory will be honored.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Barbara Shaidnagle]
MR. PARKER AND PAC
by Barbara Shaidnagle
From the Editor: The following little article arrived just as the Monitor was going to press. It was so obviously in the spirit of the other tributes to E. U. Parker included in this issue that we thought it should be added. Barbara and Joe Shaidnagle live in Texas. Here is Barbara's recollection of Ethel Parker:
When the daily mail brought the message that E. U. Parker had died, my mind played hopscotch with memories. My most vivid is the day he struggled to teach me to dive, and I resisted because I was afraid to hit the water face first. I remembered as a newlywed visiting his home in Laurel being awed by him. He was a successful businessman, had lots of plaques of appreciation on the walls of his house, and took time to help his blind brethren. I remembered being especially awed by that house. It is practically two houses in one, and Mr. Parker and his wife Gene lived on the bottom floor.
I remembered spending some time there and listening to Mr. Parker talk about his trips to Jackson, developing contacts in the state legislature, trying to improve the lives of blind people. He talked a lot about a Kenneth Jernigan and a Federation and the fight to help blind people. I could easily imagine Mr. Parker giving a skeptical legislator a good talking to, but this Jernigan and the NFB? Who were they?
Eventually we went to a national convention, and I met Dr. Jernigan and seemingly thousands of other blind and sighted people in the National Federation of the Blind. It became clear why Mr. Parker called the NFB "my Federation" and why it became my Federation too.
He believed that we had bigger legal battles looming and that the National Federation of the Blind simply had to keep fighting for the little guy, the blind guy. The blind had to lead the blind.
He came up with a little idea called the Pre-authorized Check (PAC) Plan as a way of donating to the NFB. Mr. Parker downplayed his role in the creation of PAC when explaining it to our chapter; he simply wanted the NFB to have the money. His only thought was for the guy in the workshop, the woman in the post office stand, the couple with only their AB (Aid to the Blind) (now SSDI) monthly check.
When we convene in Anaheim in July, Mr. Parker, we will remember you. When we meet at our state conventions, we will remember you. At our monthly chapter meetings we will remember you. We will talk about the Pre-authorized Check Plan as you set it up to be, a form of painless, monthly, tax-deductible contribution to the National Federation of the Blind.
You were a great friend, Mr. Parker, and I will miss you. But your PAC legacy will be with us always.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ruth Broadnax]
This month's recipes were submitted by the National Federation of the Blind of Tennessee.
by Ruth Broadnax
Ruth Broadnax is the Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind of Tennessee.
2 sticks margarine
1 stick butter
3/4 cup lemon-lime soda
3 cups sugar
3 cups cake flour
3 tablespoons lemon extract
Method: Soften margarine and butter. Beat in eggs. Add lemon-lime soda, sugar, flour, and extract, then blend well. Grease bundt or pound cake pan with shortening and flour it. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bake for one hour and twenty minutes or until a toothpick or knife inserted in center comes out clean. Allow to stand on cooling rack for a few minutes before removing from pan.
COCONUT POUND CAKE
by Ruth Broadnax
1« cups butter (3 sticks)
3 cups sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
¬ teaspoon salt
¬ teaspoon soda
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 package frozen coconut
Method: Cream or soften margarine or butter. Add sugar slowly, beating constantly, until mixture is light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Sift flour, measure, and resift three times with salt and soda. Add flour mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in vanilla and fold in package frozen coconut, which has been thawed. Line a 10-inch tube pan with wax paper. Grease and flour the paper. Turn batter into pan, pressing it down with spatula, making circles. Bake at 300 degrees for one hour and twenty minutes. Cake is done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove cake to cooling rack and allow to cool slightly before carefully removing it from the pan.
by Ruth Broadnax
6 tart apples (peeled and sliced)
1 cup granulated sugar
« teaspoon nutmeg
¬ teaspoon cinnamon
« cup butter melted
2 cups bread crumbs
Method: Mix together nutmeg, cinnamon, butter, and bread crumbs. Toss apples and sugar together. Grease casserole dish and arrange a layer of apples on the bottom, then a layer of the bread-crumb mixture. Repeat these two layers until all ingredients have been used. Bake at 350 degrees for forty-five minutes.
by Ruth Broadnax
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 eggs, beaten
1« teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, undrained
2 cups chopped bananas (about three medium)
Method: Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add eggs and oil, stirring just until moistened. Do not beat. Stir in pecans, pineapple, and bananas. Pour into three well- greased 9-inch pans or two well-greased 9-by-13-inch pans. Bake at 350 degrees for twenty-five to thirty minutes. Cool in pan ten minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely. Frost with cream cheese frosting.
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick margarine
1 16-ounce box confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
Method: Cream together cream cheese, margarine, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Spread to cover each cake layer and sprinkle with nuts before stacking cake.
Don Capps Remembers E.U. Parker:
Columbia, South Carolina
April 11, 1996
Dear President Maurer:
Enclosed is a check in the amount of $100 for ten SUN Shares as a living memorial to the loving memory of a good friend, E. U. Parker. Betty and I were very close to E. U. and of course love his wife Gene. We first met E. U. and Gene at the 1971 convention at the Shamrock Hotel in Houston. They visited with us in our hotel suite for a period of time, allowing us the opportunity of getting acquainted with them. It was at that time we planned to organize the NFB of Mississippi, and it was my privilege to preside over the organization of the affiliate. Serving on both the NFB Board and the tenBroek Board with E. U. was a positive experience. Having earned valuable experience as a successful businessman, tremendously assisted by Gene, E. U. had good judgment and vast knowledge which he always used to make the Federation better. All of us in this big Federation family across the nation will greatly miss E. U. He certainly leaves a legacy of service to his fellow blind. We have talked with Gene and have encouraged her to come to Anaheim since she is also very important to all of us in the Federation.
In making this living memorial to the NFB in loving memory of E. U., Betty and I believe we will also please Gene.
Donald C. Capps, President
National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina
Braille Transcription Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I am a certified Braille transcriber, and my rates are lower than most. Call or write for a list. Contact Donna Jean Webb, 1106 N. Olive Street, Gladewater, Texas 75647, relay, (800) 735-2989, or (903) 845-3018.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Jessie Nash]
Those who have been in the movement for any length of time will remember the name Jessie Nash (see Braille Monitor, November, 1980). She was the operator of a vending facility in Georgia and was unjustly removed from it. Year after year as we fought for her rights, her name became a rallying cry for the Federation's struggle to establish the rights of blind vendors.
In recent years she had been in bad health. Her husband Hugh recently sent us the notice of her death. Here in part is the obituary:
Jessie Mae Nash, age seventy-one, of Jacksonville, Florida, passed away Thursday, March 7, 1996, in Jacksonville after a long illness. The Suwannee County native moved to Jacksonville from Albany, Georgia, two years ago. She was a restaurant manager and the president of the Southwest Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind in Albany.
Survivors include her husband, Hugh I. Nash, Sr.; her mother; three sons; one daughter; and twelve grandchildren.
National Center for the Blind Staff Member Honored:
Melvin Ray does tape duplicating and performs other duties at the National Center for the Blind. He is also an ordained Minister of considerable eloquence and ability. Recently he received a triple honor--citations from Lawrence A. Bell, President of the Baltimore City Council; Kurt L. Schmoke, Mayor of Baltimore; and Parris N. Glendening, Governor of the State of Maryland. We congratulate Mr. Ray on his receipt of these honors, and we doubly congratulate him for having earned them. Here is the Citation from the Governor:
The State of Maryland
Governor of the State of Maryland, to
Reverend Melvin Ray, Greeting:
Be it Known, Because of your demonstration
integrity and ability, meriting our great trust and
respect, we are most pleased to award you the
in appreciation of your outstanding services
the citizens of this State
Given Under My Hand and the Great Seal
of the State of Maryland
this 29th day of March
One Thousand Nine Hundred and Ninety-Six
Parris N. Glendening
John T. Willis
Secretary of State
Reported in the 1890's:
As evidenced by the speech "Blindness: Is History Against Us?," the phenomenon of the blind as movers and shakers is not limited to the present century. Catonsville, which is a suburb of Baltimore, has a newspaper called the Catonsville Times. In the April 3, 1996, edition, the Times said:
One hundred years ago, in The Argus of April 4, 1896, was the notice of John Glenn's death. . . .:
Mr. John Glenn . . . died Monday morning in his sixty- eighth year. He had lost his eyesight when only twenty-one years of age. . . . For some time after this calamity he lived the life of a country gentleman at the family country seat, Hilton, and was closely identified with all the movements for the development and advancement of Catonsville.
Karen Clayton, Secretary of the Siouxland Chapter of the NFB of Iowa, reports the following election results: Rich Crawford, President; Dorothy Westin, Vice President; Karen Clayton, Secretary/Treasurer; and Will Kitto and Glen Klemme, Board members.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Claire Parker PHOTO/CAPTION: Donna Maglin]
We are saddened to report the deaths of two active and committed members of the National Federation of the Blind of New Hampshire. On April 2, 1996, Claire Parker, wife of affiliate President John Parker and Treasurer of the Lakes Region Chapter, died following an illness of several months. Then on April 16 Donna Maglin, a member of the Board of Directors of the New Hampshire affiliate, lost her battle with cancer. Both Donna and Claire were deeply loved and will be greatly missed.
Braille Books Available:
We recently received the following notice:
Two educational books in TWIN VISION (print-Braille) are available at cost from the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults: Handbook of Braille Contractions ($4) and Dictionary of Braille Problem Words--in two volumes ($6).
Checks should be made payable to American Action Fund and sent to American Action Fund, 18440 Oxnard Street, Tarzana, California 91356.
The Ups and Downs of Exercise:
Recently Michelle Landry of Maryland came to the National Center for the Blind to give a demonstration and discuss an idea with President Maurer. Her idea requires use of a personal-size trampoline. Devotees call the exercise done on this equipment rebounding. This is what Ms. Landry has to say about her idea:
Rebounding is a way to have fun and improve your health at the same time. The Rebounder is a round trampoline-style device which allows you to jump, exercise, and do aerobics in the privacy and convenience of your own home and at an affordable cost. A stabilizing bar can be attached to provide increased security and control. To use this bar, however, you must keep one hand on it at all times, limiting your ability to use both arms simultaneously for upper-body movements.
I am interested in developing a new stabilizing method which would enable blind users to have both hands and arms free to do aerobics and other exercises on the rebounder without the stabilizing bar. I am looking into grants and other funding options in order to make this available, and I plan to contribute a percentage of the profits to the NFB.
The Rebounder is great fun in addition to being good for the user. It offers many health benefits, especially for women. Here are just a few of the advantages of Rebounding: increased lung capacity, greater oxygen absorption, resistance to cardiovascular disease, increased efficiency of the heart and other muscles, decreased cholesterol and triglyceride levels, increased metabolism and endurance, improved coordination, improved relaxation and ability to sleep, and better control of weight.
If you want to have fun and improve your health at the same time or if you are interested in helping to pursue funding for this project and the NFB, I would like to hear from you. Please contact Michelle Landry, P. O. Box 28362, Parkville, Maryland 21234, telephone (410) 668-7120.
Computer Instructional Cassettes Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Top Guide to the Internet is an eleven-track, thirty-one- chapter tutorial on Internet use for users of Shell accounts. The interactive tutorial teaches ten skills of effective Internet use and features many resources of particular interest to blind folks, including reading newspapers, searching the yellow pages, and searching the RFB&D and NLS catalogs. Also included is a supplemental disk full of additional information and useful programs.
In addition, Top Windows Demystifier is a tutorial consisting of six tracks and a supplementary disk, which teaches the basics of navigating Windows 3.1. The tutorial is useful with any screen reader and gives an interactive introduction to Program Manager, File Manager, and some of the other programs which come with Windows. The tutorials are available by check or money order for $19.50 plus $2.00 shipping from Top Dot Enterprises, 8930 11th Place, S.E., Everett, Washington 98205, (206) 335-4894, e-mail: email@example.com.
Inquire about catalogs and credit card availability.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have the following items for sale: 1. Echo Commander synthesizer with external speaker, Braille and print instructions, price $100 (never been used). 2. Sensible Speller (to be used with Echo Commander synthesizer), cassette tape, three disks with print instructions, $50 (never been used). (Both of these items are used with Apple computer.) 3. Myna 386 computer-organizer, IBM PC compatible, uses MS DOS and DECtalk speech synthesizer, also uses IBM Screen Reader, includes Myna tutorial cassette tapes and IBM Screen Reader tapes, print manual, rechargeable batteries, adapter, headphones, carrying case, and twelve raised locator dots. Still under warranty with technical support. Other accessories: external floppy disk drive with AC adapter. Price $1,000 (never been used). 4. Talking calculator, clear female voice, price $30 (never been used).
Please contact me in Braille, on cassette tape, or by telephone, (404) 288-5945. Make payment by money order or check to Gladys Taylor, 3335 Beech Drive, Decatur, Georgia 30032.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Arkenstone has a new address, 555 Oakmead Parkway, Sunnyvale, California 94086-4023; phone (800) 444-4443, international (408) 245-5900, fax (408) 328-8484, and TDD (800) 833-2753. Current Arkenstone developments include the Atlas Speaks Talking Map and the enhanced ArkenClone. The latter is a computer designed to support PC-based access technology, price $1,495.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
We are a new company selling speech software, scanners, and other software. You can save from $20 to over $200 on our products. For further prices and information call or write in Braille if possible to Clayton Wall, President, National Technology for the Blind and Visually Impaired, 105 Sawyer Street, South Portland, Maine 04106, (207) 799-5091. Our catalog comes in three formats: IBM 3.5-inch floppy disk, print, and cassette.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. David Ticchi]
We recently received a press release which included the following information:
David Ticchi, President of the Cambridge Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Massachusetts and member of the YMCA board of trustees in his community, has been selected by the United Way of Massachusetts Bay to carry the Olympic Flame in the upcoming 1996 Olympic Torch Relay. Cambridge resident David Ticchi was selected as a Community Hero based on his outstanding contributions and service to others and the community. The 1996 Olympic Torch Relay, undertaken by the Atlantic Committee for the Olympic Games, will span 15,000 miles and travel through forty-two states for eighty-four days, beginning in Los Angeles on April 27. The Olympic Torch Relay will conclude July 19 in Atlanta at the opening of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games.
Selected through the Share the Spirit campaign organized by Olympic Torch Relay presenter Coca Cola, David Ticchi is one of 5,500 Community Heroes nationwide who will carry the specially designed 3.6 pound torch up to one kilometer. Congratulations to David Ticchi.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language,
seventy-two Braille volumes, $400; Roget's New Pocket
Thesaurus, twenty-nine Braille volumes, $300; a light probe,
$20; and King James version of the Bible in Braille to give
away. The book shelves for the dictionary are easily
disassembled and can be included. For information call Jean
Parker weekdays at (303) 355-9935.
In Memoriam: Ted Robbins, one of the leaders of our Montana affiliate,
recently wrote President Maurer to report the sad tidings of the death
on March 4, 1996, of long-time Federationist Mike Maloney. Mike had been an
active member of the Montana affiliate for fifty years. He attended several
national conventions and worked tirelessly to ensure the quality of the organization's
summer orientation program. Mike will be deeply missed by those who knew and
Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, seventy-two Braille volumes, $400; Roget's New Pocket Thesaurus, twenty-nine Braille volumes, $300; a light probe, $20; and King James version of the Bible in Braille to give away. The book shelves for the dictionary are easily disassembled and can be included. For information call Jean Parker weekdays at (303) 355-9935.
Ted Robbins, one of the leaders of our Montana affiliate, recently wrote President Maurer to report the sad tidings of the death on March 4, 1996, of long-time Federationist Mike Maloney. Mike had been an active member of the Montana affiliate for fifty years. He attended several national conventions and worked tirelessly to ensure the quality of the organization's summer orientation program. Mike will be deeply missed by those who knew and loved him.
New Large-Cell Braille Agency:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Many newly blind adults find it difficult or impossible to learn standard dot Braille. In many cases this problem is due to a lack of sensitivity caused by neuropathy. Due to being older, newly blind adults do not have as much sensitivity in their fingers. Their fingertips cannot easily distinguish a standard dot Braille cell.
There are some materials available in large-cell or jumbo dot Braille. Nevertheless, such materials are scarce. What has been needed is a non-profit agency dedicated to the large-cell Braille format, an agency that can devote 100 percent of its resources and time to making large-cell Braille materials available to those blind people who need the large-cell Braille format due to difficulty reading standard dot Braille.
To meet the need for large-cell Braille courses and materials, the National Large-Cell Braille Foundation (NLCBF) has been founded in Orlando, Florida. The agency will work to accomplish three major goals. First is the creation, production, and distribution of a Grade I and Grade II large- cell Braille course called Hooked on Braille(TM). This course will use audio tapes, Braille course materials, and an innovative set of flash cards to teach large-cell Braille. The course is expected to be unveiled in August, 1997. The second goal of the NLCBF is the production and distribution of a large-cell Braille King James version of the Bible. It is expected to be ready for distribution in five years. The third goal of the NLCBF is to help raise the Braille literacy level in America by getting blind people hooked on Braille. To this end the National Large-Cell Braille Foundation will launch a Braille literacy campaign in January, 1997. The campaign will officially introduce the slogan of the NLCBF, "Get Hooked on Braille(TM)."
The NLCBF will be supported entirely by contributions and grants. The agency was founded by Harry Martin, a blind Navy veteran and author.
First Annual Jazz Camp:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
During the week of July 7-13, 1996, renowned jazz artist Henry Butler will conduct a jazz camp for visually impaired/blind students at the Indiana School for the Blind in Indianapolis, Indiana. This project, the first of its kind, is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Students accepted through an application process will attend the camp at no charge.
Henry Butler will be supported by a small staff of accomplished jazz educators including Alvin Batiste, Professor of Jazz Studies at Southern University; Greg Erbeck, Music Instructor at Indiana School for the Blind; and Michael Mandel, performer and composer from New York City. The jazz camp will incorporate many components of jazz performance. For example, separate clinics are planned on piano and vocal performance, music fundamentals, jazz improvisation, and demo tape construction. A public performance featuring Henry Butler with the students and staff will close the camp on Friday evening.
Henry Butler will serve as artistic director and lead instructor of the camp. A native of New Orleans, Butler received formal music training at the Louisiana School for the Blind. Butler then earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Southern University and Michigan State University, respectively. He then returned home to perform with almost every important Crescent City R & B jazz musician. Along with a rigorous recording and touring schedule, Butler also is a jazz studies faculty member at Eastern Illinois University.
For further information on the jazz camp or to schedule an interview with Henry Butler, Artistic Director, please call Jo Ann Collins (Administrative Director) at (209) 278-4680.
Attention Everyone Interested in the Senior Blind:
Cathy Randall, Chairwoman of the Committee on the Senior Blind, writes as follows:
Attendance and audience enthusiasm at annual NFB Senior Blind Committee meetings keeps growing year after year. The 1996 meeting will include a panel to discuss the first year of a series of twelve-week courses for seniors in developing the skills of blindness. Panel members include Judy Sanders, state-wide coordinator for the Older Blindness Project in Minnesota; Chris Cuppett, instructor for seniors classes at Mankato Rehabilitation Center, Minnesota; and Kathy Burnside, instructor for the senior blind at BLIND, Inc.
Jim Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs, will give an update on legislative matters important to seniors. The committee will revisit the recent issue of becoming a division. The meeting will begin at 8:00 p.m. Sunday, June 30. The location will be announced in the convention agenda. Don't miss this important meeting; everyone is invited.
Don Morris writes to remind all Masons that the NFB Masonic Square Club will hold a breakfast meeting Monday, July 1, at 7:00 a.m. Call him for further details at (301) 447- 2795.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Karl Smith]
Turning Water Into 7-Up:
The following anecdote appeared in the September, 1995 issue of Insight. It was contributed by Karl Smith, President of the NFB of Utah. It reminds us all of the value of both a sense of humor and the right perspective. Here it is:
The first time it happened was about seven years ago during lunch with my family at a local restaurant. About half way through the meal the waitress glided past and deftly filled my half-empty glass of 7-up with water. I didn't quite know how to react since this had never happened to me before. I ended up drinking my Water-up and chalking it up to experience, glad for a great story to tell my friends.
The NFBU state convention began just a few days later. I was sitting at the head table at the banquet on Friday evening when, imagine my surprise, the waitress whipped by and filled my again half-empty glass of 7-up with water. This was getting ridiculous--Two different waitresses in two different restaurants just a few days apart. I knew if I didn't think of something fast I would be doomed to a life of drinking Water- up, or maybe I would have to start ordering brown, red, or some other colored liquids to drink.
The next day during the lunch hour at the convention I came up with what I thought was a simple solution. When the waitress came to take my order, I told her I wanted 7-up. Then I put my plan into action. "By the way," I asked, "can you bring my 7-up in a different kind of glass from the one my water is in?" Well, what do you think she said? "Oh sure, Honey, I guess that's so you can tell the difference, right?"
This may not seem a very important reason to you for having the National Federation of the Blind, but I ask you, have you ever drunk Water-up? How did I finally solve my problem? I now drink Dr. Pepper.