Vol. 41, No. 9 October 1998
Barbara Pierce, Editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille, on cassette, and
the World Wide Web and FTP on the Internet
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
Marc Maurer, President
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Baltimore, Maryland 21230
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National Federation of the Blind
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION SPEAKING FOR THE BLINDIT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES.
Table of Contents
The Winston Gordon Award
The Hunt for History
by Barbara Pierce
You Wouldn't Kid Us, Would You, Bob?
The Randolph-Sheppard Program Under Attack from Within
Young Braille Readers and Their Friends Take Note
Report from the Trenches
by Marvin Sandler
Judge Spatt's Ruling in the Maxi-Aids Case
The Naked Truth about Benign Discrimination
by Michael Baillif
Page Sets Sights on County Treasurer
by Jason Dewirtz and Kristin Dizon
New Mexico School Update
Different Roads: The NFB Makes the Difference
by Seville Allen
Taking Out the Garbage
by Kathy McGillivray
Copyright 1998, The National Federation of the Blind
The Winston Gordon Award
LEAD PHOTO #1/CAPTION: Terry Colli, Embassy Director of Public Relations, chats with Helen Thomas, UPI White House Bureau Chief. Lloyd and Mary Jernigan can be seen in the background.
PHOTO #2/CAPTION: Ron Foster, a UPS Vice President, talks with Dr. Jernigan.
PHOTO #3/CAPTION: Deane Blazie spends a few minutes with Dr.
PHOTO #4 DESCRIPTION: Pictured here are the guests seated at round tables. The elegance of the table appointments is quite obvious. In the background a man can be seen speaking at the podium. CAPTION: His Excellency, Ambassador Raymond Chretien, addresses the luncheon guests.
PHOTO #5/CAPTION: Left to right, Marc Maurer, Patricia Maurer, Kenneth Jernigan, Mary Ellen Jernigan, Raymond Chretien, and Euclid Herie.
PHOTO #6/CAPTION: Paul Sarbanes, U.S. Senator from Maryland;
Kenneth Jernigan; and Mary Ellen Jernigan.
PHOTO #7/CAPTION: Euclid Herie, CNIB President and CEO; Tim G. Sheeres, Chairman of the Winston Gordon Award Selection Committee; Kenneth Jernigan, President Emeritus of the National Federation of the Blind; and Raymond Chretien, Canadian Ambassador to the United States.
PHOTO #8/CAPTION: Mary Ellen Jernigan receives flowers from Timothy Sheeres.
PHOTO #9/CAPTION: Kenneth Jernigan responds to the award presentation from the podium.
PHOTO #10/CAPTION: Euclid Herie presents a plaque to Ambassador Chretien in thanks for his hosting of the awards luncheon. The Ambassador and Mr. Sheeres examine the plaque as they listen to Dr. Herie speak.]
September 14 was a beautiful late summer day in Washington, D.C. At 11:45 a.m. a stretch limousine pulled up in front of the strikingly modern Canadian Embassy. Dr. and Mrs. Jernigan, Dr. and Mrs. Maurer, and Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd Jernigan, and Dr. Jernigan's daughter Marie Cobb climbed out of the car and entered the building.
They and a number of other guests were then ushered to an upstairs dining room. Following cocktails, Timothy Sheeres, Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Directors of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), Chairman of the Winston Gordon Award Selection Committee, and master of ceremonies for the day, welcomed everyone and introduced the head table. His Excellency, Raymond Chretien, Canadian Ambassador to the United States, was seated beside Dr. Jernigan. After Ambassador Chretien had also welcomed the group, the rest of the guests introduced themselves. Among the distinguished guests present were United States Senator Paul Sarbanes of Maryland; Helen Thomas, White House Bureau Chief, United Press International; Deane Blazie, the first recipient of the Winston Gordon Award; Dr. Fred Schroeder, Commissioner of the U.S. Rehabilitation Services Administration;
Frank Kurt Cylke, Director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped and one of those who nominated Dr. Jernigan for the award; Dr. Susan Spungin, Vice President for National Programs and Initiatives, American Foundation for the Blind; Dr. Tuck Tinsley, President, American Printing House for the Blind; and Ron Foster, Vice President for Public Affairs, United Parcel Service.
Mr. Sheeres presented the Winston Gordon Award to Dr. Jernigan. Winston Gordon was a blind Canadian industrialist and philanthropist with strong ties to the CNIB. His generous bequest provided the means to establish the Winston Gordon Award, which is presented annually to a person or organization that has made a significant technological contribution to improve the lives of blind people. Dr. Jernigan received the 1998 award for his tireless work to establish NEWSLINE for the Blind®.
Dr. Jernigan made a brief but moving acceptance speech. The Winston Gordon Award consists of a two-troy-ounce gold medallion and $15,000. The medallion is one and a half inches in diameter and reposes in a velvet-lined walnut slipcase. The text on the obverse reads, "Winston Gordon Award"; on the reverse appear the letters "CNIB" and the words "Canadian National Institute for the Blind."
Mr. Sheeres then presented Mrs. Jernigan with a beautiful spray of autumn flowers, and Dr. Fred Schroeder read a congratulatory letter from President Bill Clinton, which read:
The White House Washington, D.C.
September 11, 1998
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
Congratulations on your selection by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind as the 1998 recipient of the Winston Gordon Award. I am proud to join your many friends and admirers in celebrating this recognition of your unprecedented accomplishments on behalf of blind people.
Your life and work, which have become synonymous with the National Federation of the Blind, have contributed enormously to the efforts of blind people to achieve full inclusion in our society. Because of your dedication, countless men and women are better able to avoid the trap of isolation and dependence. And opportunities for employment and social integration are greater for the blind today than at any time in history.
I am especially pleased that the Canadian National Institute for the Blind has chosen to honor your exceptional achievements in technology for the blind. The International Braille and Technology Center you created has stimulated the development of remarkable new technologies for blind people, and, as the founder of an innovative news service and job search service, you have empowered blind people with information and employment access that could not have been imagined just a short time ago.
Your work has been motivated by an unshakable commitment to the idea that blind people deserve full access to all of our societyfrom the schoolhouse to the workplaceand that they have extraordinary contributions to make to our national life. Many Americans have dreamed of equality, but those, like you, who have helped turn those dreams into reality are true heroes worthy of our deepest gratitude.
Best wishes for a wonderful award ceremony.
As the final order of business on this happy day, Dr. Herie presented a large tactile plaque to Ambassador Chretien. It was the silhouette of a man walking and using a white cane. The design is the logo of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. As a souvenir of the occasion, each guest was given a lapel pin with the same design.
The Hunt for History
by Barbara Pierce
For some time now the National Federation of the Blind has been building the most complete collection possible on the subject of blindness. For years we have routinely gathered every book, recording, or video with any connection to blindness that we could find. Long or short, constructive or unconstructive, well done or badly done: we want a copy.
We are always happy to receive material from anyone for this collection. For example, Mrs. tenBroek recently sent us all of Dr. tenBroek's papers. Anyone interested in finding an appropriate repository for a collection of blindness-connected materials of any size should contact President Maurer to discuss whether or not the National Center for the Blind is the right facility to house them.
As part of this project, in recent months we have begun transferring our open-reel tape collection of conventions and speeches to CD's for permanent storage. In doing so, we have discovered gaps in our collection which are significant enough for us to pay $100 a reel for these specific missing materials. We are eager to find copies of the open-reel tapes that appear on the following list. Anyone possessing any of the tapes and interested in selling them should contact President Maurer personally. Anonymity is guaranteed. Dr. Maurer will confirm that the tape is one that we are looking for and make arrangements for its purchase and safe transfer. Contact Marc Maurer, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, (410) 659-9314.
Here is the list of tapes we are looking for:
1. All of the 1953 Convention, 8 to 10 reels. 2. The presentation by Dr. Newel Perry on the education of blind children at the 1954 convention in Louisville, probably 1 reel. 3. The 1958 convention in Boston, about 10 reels.
4. The 1959 convention in Santa Fe, about 10 reels.
5. Reels 3 to 10 of the 1960 convention in Miami.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Marc Maurer]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: James Gashel]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Richard Davis]
You Wouldn't Kid Us, Would
The Randolph-Sheppard Program
Under Attack from Within
From the Editor: People with experience in the blindness field recognize the Randolph-Sheppard vending program as the backbone of employment opportunities for blind people. Hundreds of fields provide possible jobs for us, but for down-to-earth reliability of making a living, blind people count on food-service jobs.
Given the centrality of the Randolph-Sheppard program in the employment picture over the past sixty and more years, the recent attacks on it by the Department of Defense (see the Presidential Report in the August/September, 1998, issue of the Braille Monitor for details) have understandably caused deep misgivings to us all, particularly vendors. But when, on top of all the other threats to the program, we suddenly learned this summer that a small group of men had put together a plan that would entirely transform the Randolph-Sheppard program as it has evolved, without ever consulting the people affected, Federationists were understandably angry and worried.
It was mid-August before we learned what was happening, but then the documents began to fly. In keeping with the Monitor's policy of providing original documents so that readers can draw their own conclusions, the following article is comprised chiefly of a number of source documents. As you read them, be sure to note the dates on which they were each written or released. Also note the ways in which the proposed plan changes as it hits the opposition of blind people. Readers should be warned that this is not pleasant reading, and the story is far from over. Whether you are a vendor or not, this situation is important to you, for in many ways the Randolph-Sheppard program is and will continue to be the most important single source of jobs for blind people in the foreseeable future. If you care about the financial future of the blind community, read on. We begin with an introduction to the documents by President Maurer. Here it is:
The Randolph-Sheppard Act, which was adopted by Congress in 1936, authorizes blind vendors to operate vending facilities on federal property. A central part of the program is "the priority," which gives blind vendors the right to be licensed "for an indefinite period."
The Randolph-Sheppard program is one of the most successful employment initiatives for the blind ever devised. Some vending facilities are small, but others generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue each year. The most recent records of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, the federal agency that supervises the program, indicate that over 3,000 blind vendors, with an average annual income of about $28,000, currently participate in it. Some vendors earn substantially more, sometimes well over $100,000 a year.
Although the number of vendors participating in the program has not increased in recent years, their average income has. Marginal facilities have been closed, and the emphasis has shifted to more lucrative locations. Taken together, businesspeople in the Randolph-Sheppard program across the country made almost exactly 422 million dollars in gross sales in 1997. According to General Services Administration data, in recent years this program has been among the top fifty food concession businesses in the country.
Although the Randolph-Sheppard program has probably put more money into the pockets of blind people than any other single program, it is sometimes criticized or attacked. Those who want it to do more than it has done demand to know why it isn't bigger and better. Those who would like to get hold of the money it generates claim that it provides unreasonable advantages to a small group of vendorsvendors who are occasionally referred to as unreasonable, ungrateful, arrogant, and greedy. It is speculated that the vendors are sometimes called "greedy" because they maintain the perverse opinion that they should keep the income they earn rather than cheerfully giving it up so that someone else can spend it.
The most recent effort to capture the program came to light in August of 1998. Robert Humphreys, a lawyer on retainer for the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America (an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind), tried, along with Ralph Sanders and a few other of his cronies, to persuade members of Congress that the Randolph-Sheppard program is a dismal failure. The best way to save the program (they said) would be to turn it over to Humphreys and his associates. Their proposal would have eliminated the indefinite priority for new vendors entering the program. Vendors already operating facilities would be permitted to remain a part of the program "unless terminated," but new vendors would be forced out in three to five years. During this process Humphreys's organization would receive substantial sums for "consultation" and "training." Even a cursory reading of their proposal suggests strongly that Humphreys and his allies are seeking to exploit the blind in order to gain control over the program. In promoting this scheme, Humphreys and his friends say they are promoting positive programs for the blind. Remember, Humphreys is a lawyer representing the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America, an ACB affiliate. And also remember the client he represents did not know of the proposal he made to Congress.
But there is more. Ralph Sanders (who has done what he could to harass the NFB since he and we parted company in the early eighties) is now employed by the Cantu Corporation. Cantu has made efforts to secure vending operations which by rights should be a part of the Randolph-Sheppard program. Some of these vending operations are large food service facilities on military bases. The plan, apparently, is that with Sanders's help Cantu will use blind vendors to secure locations that the company will then operate. Vending operations will be awarded in the name of the blind, but Cantu will do the work, and Cantu will collect most of the profit.
But there is still more. Ralph Sanders lives in Baltimore, Maryland, at 12 East Henrietta Street. A recent mailing from that address on the letterhead of an organization calling itself the National Association of Randolph-Sheppard State Committees asks that a payment of twenty-five dollars be forwarded for each vending facility in the United States. If all such payments were to be made, the total would amount to approximately $85,000--
$85,000 which would be spent at the discretion of whoever collects it at 12 East Henrietta Street.
In late August of 1998, a meeting was convened at the National Center for the Blind. Leaders of the Blind Merchants Association (the Merchants Division of the National Federation of the Blind) and the ACB's Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America were present. Background documents exposing the plots to take over the Randolph-Sheppard program were reviewed. Although Bob Humphreys works for the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America, the ACB vendors present were unaware that their legal counsel had sent a proposal to Congress to alter the Randolph-Sheppard Act significantly. During the meeting the representatives of the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America indicated that Ralph Sanders had been appointed to serve as their legislative representative in Washington. Sanders had neglected to tell them that he had joined Humphreys in promoting the takeover of the Randolph-Sheppard program. They did seem to be aware of several unsavory and financially questionable episodes in Sanders's recent past, but they admitted that they couldn't think of anyone else capable of doing their legislative work. If this is an example of what Sanders is prepared to do to help vendors, the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America are indeed to be pitied, and all of us in the blindness field can batten down the hatches for stormy weather to come.
Note: As this issue was going to press, Terry Camardelle, president of the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America, told President Maurer that, although the RSVA had intended to appoint Ralph Sanders officially as its legislative representative, the organization has now decided not to do so.
Here are a transmittal letter and the original proposal as Humphreys, Sanders, and company first submitted it to Senators Ted Stevens and Daniel Inouye. Note that the letter is addressed to Liz Connell, a member of Stevens's staff and carbon-copied to Mark Fox, one of Senator Inouye's staffers. Here are the two documents:
June 11, 1998
Ms. Elizabeth Connell
c/o Honorable Ted Stevens
United States Senate
Following your recent telephone discussion with Sandy Sanderson and Ralph Sanders, the substance of which was related to me, and my conversations with Mark Fox and others, I have put together an enhanced concept for the Jennings Randolph Institute which I believe conforms to what Senator Stevens would like to see the Institute accomplish. His vision, as I perceive it, is to evolve Randolph-Sheppard into a fully privatized entrepreneurship program. I agree that, properly conceived and implemented, this new approach would result in the creation of hundredsperhaps thousandsof fully competitive, non-subsidized self-employment opportunities for blind people, utilizing the existing blind vending facility program as a training ground. At the same time there is a strong potential for reducing state expenses and the burden on the taxpayer.
The Jennings Randolph Institute is perfectly positioned, with Senator Stevens's help and support, to be both a catalyst and facilitator for this purpose. The Institute would undertake the following essential activities:
1. Enter into national partnering agreements with a select number of major companies which have retail sales outlets (examples:
Subway, Hallmark Cards, Tower Records, Blockbuster Video) under which blind vendors in the Randolph-Sheppard program would be trained in accordance with the standard training packages of the companies, but with additional technology, educational materials in accessible media, and assistive-service components identified by JRI to ensure the successful preparation of the candidate blind entrepreneurs.
2. Arrange for a total initial support package of not more than twelve months' duration for blind entrepreneurs, which includes:
(a) business plan development; (b) vocational rehabilitation seed money where necessary; © Small Business Administration low-interest loans or bank loans through institutions with which JRI has partnering agreements; and (d) licensing assistance and franchise fee or business entry payments.
3. Serve as a quality evaluation mechanism for state vending facility programs through self-assessment, program review, and an accreditation or seal-of-approval program.
The complete program would ultimately convert the existing Randolph-Sheppard vending facility program conducted by the states by making greatly expanded opportunities available to blind people in the private sector. As I envision the program, with the infusion of leadership by the Jennings Randolph Institute, a dual track system would be put in place under which a currently licensed blind vendor would be given the option of retaining his or her vending facility in the current program or training for the private sector. All newly licensed blind individuals would continue to be trained by the state licensing agencies, licensed, and placed in vending facilities in federal, state, and private buildings. After a period of competency development and experience, the vendor would be required to enter the private entrepreneurship training program.
With the support of the state agency and with JRI as the facilitator for training and placement, the candidate entrepreneur would enter (for example) the Subway management training course. The state agency would obtain a loan for the blind entrepreneur with a participating partner bank or through SBA to pay the Subway franchise fee. After successful operation of the retail establishment, the blind entrepreneur might be given the opportunity to purchase his operation and run it as his or her own business. If, for whatever reason, the individual is not successful, he or she may reapply to the state licensing agency for reinstatement as a blind vendor. The state could reclaim the franchise, and the retail establishment could be held as an opportunity for another candidate in training.
I believe the concept just described is viable, although some research must be conducted to demonstrate and prove its viability. Additional leadership/center of excellence functions described in the Concept Statement and Business Plan provided to you on May 11, 1998, are also important to the improvement of the existing Randolph-Sheppard program. I would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you and to discuss my ideas and plans in greater detail. Please let me know if you would like to do so.
Robert R. Humphreys
cc: Mark Fox
Jennings Randolph Institute
The Randolph-Sheppard Act Revitalization Initiative
Since the enactment of the 1974 amendments to the Randolph-Sheppard Act and the implementation of regulations, the blind vending facility program has exhibited negligible growth in business opportunities for blind licensees. The absence of incremental growth stems substantially from the fact that the system itself is closed and that the regulations and the attitudes of State program officials strongly encourage licensed vendors to remain within this closed system and not venture out to more risky, but perhaps more rewarding, opportunities.
The training and experiential opportunities provided by the program have significant merit but fail to promote the realization of skills in a more competitive, real life environment. Underscoring this posture, the Rehabilitation Services Administration recognizes placements through the Act as "noncompetitive." Moreover, the closed system seems to demand recurring financial support simply for maintenance of existing placements, through which it continually addresses the needs of the same core of individuals. Turnover, much less expansion, is minimal. This inevitably results in disappointing placement and productivity levels. It would appear that the basic premise of the program is that individuals served by it are not capable of self-reliancea premise the Jennings Randolph Institute believes is inaccurate and unjust.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that the lack of opportunity in the vending facility program results from an inherently limiting, closed-door design and that the program (that is, enterprise opportunities for blind people) would grow substantially if and when that door is opened. A newly designed program would become a vital training ground, in contrast to the current closed and somewhat distorted business environment.
The Jennings Randolph Institute feels strongly that the program should have a healthy training component, a reasonably long job experience component, and a cyclical application phase resulting in a potential move to private enterprise or, alternatively, reassessment of the vocational choice. Such changes would have a dramatic impact on the very nature and quality of the Randolph-Sheppard program. Under the new construct those currently in the program would retain the option of continuing under the current closed system until retirement, termination, or resignation. Those newly entering the program would be placed on a path toward personal and business self-reliance, the essence of the American dream.
The Jennings Randolph Institute is certain that this fundamental change in approach to the program's structure is not only appropriate and timely but also essential to its long-term survival and to the expansion of entrepreneurial opportunities for blind business people. Appropriateness and timeliness stem mostly from the stunning changes in the U.S. business environment since the mid-1970's. Particularly apparent are the expanded opportunities for those entering small business for the first time, which advantages include ease of entry, training, support, standardization of customer service, and the resulting impressive record of success. The advent of the franchise and a more standardized and universally accepted approach to merchandising virtually eliminates the need for reliance on unproven and unpredictable concepts. The critical necessity of our recommended program changes is demonstrablethe program is slowly but certainly eroding, particularly with the downsizing of government, and the changes will enable blind people to become independently responsible for their own destinies. The Jennings Randolph Institute is convinced that the changes represent a new paradigm that will benefit both the blind individual and the taxpaying public at a fraction of the current cost and with a significantly higher return on investment.
None of the components we are advocating is yet in place, but the Jennings Randolph Institute is positioned to conceptualize, research, design, implement, and fully exploit opportunities specifically designed to train and place eligible blind individuals in the enterprise mainstream. We have commitments from an array of experts who are unexcelled in their knowledge of the workplace, the business world, and the special requirements of the blind. Our ability to examine and propose workable approaches to new and revolutionary business opportunities puts us in a unique niche that will provide the maximum return for each dollar spent.
We are also in a unique position to develop extended partnerships with major business enterprises and funding institutions. We have identified a number of key corporations with which we expect to enter national agreements. These capabilities, with the regular and direct involvement of the Institute in the expansion of the program, ultimately will enhance substantially the likelihood of individual success and will reduce the dollars required for successful placements. The Jennings Randolph Institute will add significant value to the process.
On the page following the text of this Executive Summary we provide a flow chart which demonstrates the concepts outlined above. The following annotation sets forth an abbreviated explanation of each of the key components of the flow chart.
Annotation to key components:
1. Randolph-Sheppard trainingnew training model is recommended by JRI consistent with existing business alliance models.
2. Licensurea function of the State Licensing Agency.
3. Vendor manages for 3 years minimumthe traditional operating model for Randolph-Sheppardpositions the vendor for true independence. JRI defines the model and maximizes the State's efforts.
4. Vendor candidacyat year 3 of a vendor's management, the vendor is potentially qualified to propose and set up his/her own business. The State assists the vendor to prepare for candidacy.
5. Business Plan preparedvendor/trainee prepares the plan to exit the Randolph-Sheppard program and become independent based upon JRI-provided model.
6. Plan submitted for reviewthe business plan is presented to a select, qualified panel under JRI-developed standards, which panel reviews the plan for quality and viability.
7. Approved? Did the panel approve the vendor's business plan?
8, 9, 10. Plan not approved. The vendor may make three attempts to have the plan approved. Upon failure of the third attempt, the vendor is referred to the vocational rehabilitation program for reassessment of his/her objectives. If the rejection follows the first or second attempt, the vendor returns to operate a standard vending facility and obtain more experience.
11. If the plan is approved, the State Licensing Agency assists with financing of the new business utilizing the model established and facilitated by JRI.
12, 13. If the financing is successful, the SLA connects with the JRI-approved business partner.
14. The vendor, with SLA support, enters training for the enterprise of choice.
15. JRI is available to make the special adaptations for the blind entrepreneur necessary for successful training.
16. Upon completion of training, the vendor begins operation of his/her enterprise.
17. At predetermined milestones JRI and the State evaluate the vendor's progress toward independence.
18. JRI compiles all program data, analyzes data, and submits recommended program improvements to the State Licensing Agency.
As soon as these documents came to the attention of James Gashel, NFB Director of Governmental Affairs, plans were made to bring members of the NFB's Merchant Division and representatives of the ACB's Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America together for discussions. The day following that meeting, which President Maurer described at the beginning of this article, a memorandum was circulated broadly by the NFB in the hope of sounding the alarm to everyone with an interest in the survival of the Randolph-Sheppard program. Here, in part, is the text of that memorandum:
DATE: August 25, 1998
FROM: James Gashel
Director of Governmental Affairs
National Federation of the Blind
RE: A breach of trust: the Randolph-Sheppard program is
threatened from within
Yesterday, August 24, 1998, a plot to destroy the Randolph-Sheppard program in the name of reforming it was exposed. This occurred at a meeting of leaders of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America (RSVA) held at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore. The meeting was called by Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind. The purpose was to promote united action by the NFB and RSVA on behalf of all blind vendors, but substantial doubt was cast on the possibility of future cooperation.
The information which was disclosed at the meeting is summarized here with a few necessary comments by way of introduction. The issue is then presented more fully in the letters which follow. Since the issues raised are of consequence to all blind people and agencies serving the blind, this information is intended for broad distribution.
The priority for blind persons to operate business enterprises in public areas is certainly one of our most valued statutory rights. Therefore the NFB has never wavered in its commitment to uphold the program or defend the vendors. In fact, this commitment is demonstrated year-in and year-out to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars spent on legal cases and program initiatives related to blind vendors.
RSVA is an organization specifically consisting of vendors. For those who may not know, it is a special-interest affiliate of the American Council of the Blind (ACB). Robert Humphreys is an attorney in Washington, D.C., who serves as legal counsel for the RSVA. Ralph Sanders, a former Maryland vendor, is RSVA's legislative representative.
These are (or at least should be) positions of trust and responsibility, not to mention accountability, to the RSVA membership. Imagine our surprise, therefore, to learn that both Mr. Humphreys and Mr. Sanders are spearheading a campaign to scuttle the blind vendor priority as it is known today.
Their plan is to use a privately-held corporation, a corporation which Mr. Humphreys and his friends have created and named. They have given their corporation the high-flown name of the "Jennings Randolph Institute." Mr. Humphreys is a principal founder of the institute and may well envision himself as the CEO of the privatized Randolph-Sheppard program.
Under the plan the program would be privatized by limiting the time allowed for any blind vendor to manage a Randolph-Sheppard facility. The time limit would be approximately three years with the possibility of something like a two-year extension. By "privatizing" they mean the desire to form relationships with national franchise chains, such as Subway and Blockbuster Video. Although the desire may be laudable, it falls far short of the priority to operate an actual business in a prime location with real customers. This is now achieved through the existing Randolph-Sheppard Act.
It should be noted that their privatization plan would not immediately limit the rights of existing blind vendors. However, all new vendors who are licensed after the plan is enacted would be required to accept a time-limited opportunity. The trade-off would be the hope that placement could be achieved in franchise operations. Therefore newly licensed vendors would be required to apply to the Jennings Randolph Institute for an opportunity in the privatized arrangement or seek retraining through vocational rehabilitation.
At the meeting the representatives from RSVA defended the privatization plan and demonstrated support for its content. However, they denied knowing that their lawyer and legislative representativeMr. Humphreys and Mr. Sandershad already presented the plan to the Congress. [Jim Gashel then describes what might have happened to the Randolph-Sheppard Act in the legislative process if the plan to change the program had not been discovered. He then continues:]
In light of these facts everyone who has an interest in the prosperity of the Randolph-Sheppard program should read the correspondence which follows. Bear in mind that the letter of August 3 from Mr. Humphreys went to the executive director of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. If this agency has an interest in changing the Randolph-Sheppard Act at all, it would be to seize the opportunity to change the blind vendor program into a disabled vendor program. That would also be the objective of WID (the World Institute on Disability), which Mr. Humphreys praised effusively in his letter of August 3.
Finally, it is not necessary to create an avalanche of letters to Senator Stevens objecting to the privatization plan. However, letters from representatives of vendors, such as persons who chair state committees, and letters from state agency directors would reinforce the view that Congress should not consider the plan.
That was Mr. Gashel's memo. Two of the enclosuresthe June 11 letter to Elizabeth Connell and the executive summary of the JRI proposalappear earlier in this article. The important information in the August 3 letter was summarized in Mr. Gashel's memorandum.
As soon as the documents circulated by the NFB became public, Humphreys and Co. swung into damage-control-mode. Robert Humphreys posted an open letter to the blindness community on the Internet dated August 28, 1998. In that letter he said that he was a good man and a hard worker, that he had written the 1974 amendments to the Randolph-Sheppard Act, that he had held a number of positions in which he had supported the Randolph-Sheppard program, that he thought the National Federation of the Blind had been mean to him, and that he hadn't done anything to hurt the program. On September 1, 1998, Humphreys apparently felt the urge to repeat and enlarge upon what he had said on August 28. Here is what he said:
Date: Tuesday, September 1, 1998
Subject: Second Open Letter from Robert Humphreys
My Concepts for a Better Blind Vending Facility Program
Following the broad distribution of NFB's accusations against me and my ideas last week, I placed an Open Letter on the ACB listserv. Since that time I have had an opportunity to reflect upon some of the comments and reactions I have heard on the subject of the Jennings Randolph Institute.
First, it is important for both ACB and NFB members alike to know that I now understand there is the appearance that the Jennings Randolph Institute (or at least that aspect of it which would expand the Randolph-Sheppard program in the private sector) was developed in a vacuum. It was not. I have raised in various forums the need to expand in private industry, including the Mississippi State Randolph-Sheppard Conference in Dallas on March 31 (at which Charlie Allen, NFB Merchants President, appeared on a panel with me), and in a luncheon in April with NCSAB President Jamie Hilton and state agency directors Creig Slayton and Dick Davis, in which I proposed a national conference on the future of the Randolph-Sheppard program, including a private-sector initiative. In one form or another, the overall concepts also have been discussed with Blind Vendor Committee chairs and RSVA Board members.
The concept I have developed was released prematurely by NFB officials who did not appreciate or understand that the concept wasand isa work in progress. I fully intend to consult with my friends and colleagues, both blind vendors, state licensing agencies, and others when it appears the concept is evolving into a viable one.
The so-called mandatory feature of the private-sector initiative in the Jennings Randolph Institute is merely an idea which does not affect the essential aspects of the Randolph-Sheppard program. It is designed to stimulate thought and creativity and in no way would, in my conception of it, punish or penalize any blind vendor, present or future. In any construct I would consider reasonable, state licensing agencies would have the option of adding a new range of private-sector, entrepreneurial opportunities to their vending facility programs.
Finally, I have not proposed, nor would I, any change in the Randolph-Sheppard Act. As I previously statedmost stronglyI did not write the Randolph-Sheppard Act Amendments of 1974 and advocate for the program for nearly thirty years to preside over or encourage the program's demise. It is my strong hope that those who have attacked me personally, as well as my ideas for program expansion and new jobs for blind people, will now reconsider their position and reflect on the need to reduce unemployment among blind people below the 75 percent level.
Robert R. Humphreys, Esq.
How Mr. Humphreys can assert that his ideas would not change the Randolph-Sheppard Act is a mystery. The blind vendor priority would be eliminated for new vendors, and those who enter the program in the future would have only a few years in which to remain in it. However, there is more to the series of Humphreys memoranda. Here is the final one:
Subject: Letter From Robert Humphreys, the sequel
September 8, 1998
To my friends and colleagues in the blindness community:
Because of the unusually wide distribution by the National Federation of the Blind of materials attacking me and my ideas, I find it necessary to respond. Although I cannot hope to match the propaganda machine generated by NFB, perhaps the following will reach enough opinion makers, independent thinkers, and fair-minded individuals to bring about some balance in what people throughout the country are exposed to.
I encourage you to distribute the enclosed paper as widely as you can. If, after reading it, you still have questions about me, the Jennings Randolph Institute, or my expectations for the Randolph-Sheppard program, please let me know.
Robert R. Humphreys
The Jennings Randolph Institute: What it Is and
What it Isn't
Separating Fact from Fabrication by Robert R. Humphreys, Esq.
Mark Maurer, Jim Gashel, and Don Morris of the National Federation of the Blind have leveled some very serious charges against me and have made a variety of allegations about a new nonprofit organization I have created for the purpose of benefiting the Randolph-Sheppard blind vending facility program. I have named it the Jennings Randolph Institute. It is timesome would say it is past timeto put these allegations and charges, which are nothing more than libel and distortion, to rest, once and for all.
I will begin at the beginning. For those of you who do not know me or know about me, it is important to give you some information on my background and experience. [Again, Humphreys tells us that he is a good man and that he has held a number of important positions. We would not reprint all that he says on this topic, except that he so clearly wants people to know that he claims credit for much of what the Randolph-Sheppard program has done. Now back to the text:] As Special Counsel to the United States Senate Labor and Public Welfare Committee and assistant to Senator Jennings Randolph of West Virginia, the father of the Randolph-Sheppard Act and ardent patron of the blind vending facility program, it was I who wrote the Randolph-Sheppard Act Amendments of 1974, singlehandedly. I arranged the hearings and the witnesses, got the General Accounting Office to study abuses in the program, negotiated with the House of Representatives on a final bill.
From mid-1977 to 1980 I was Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and in the Department of Education. I was responsible for administration, policy, management, and program development of the Randolph-Sheppard program on the national level. After 1980 I entered the practice of law. Much of what I have worked on during the last eighteen years has involved, in one way or another, the vending facility program. I have brought law suits on behalf of blind vendors and State licensing agencies and have been an arbitrator in numerous cases, both for vendors and for states. For several years I have also represented the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America as its legal counsel. Everything I have done has been for the improvement, benefit, and expansion of the program. [One is tempted to ask, "You wouldn't kid us, would you, Bob?" But back to the Humphreys memorandum.]
For the past several years it has become increasingly clear to me that a number of dramatic steps must be taken without further delay to keep the Randolph-Sheppard program from slowly but surely withering away. For a long time I wasn't sure what all those actions should be. Toward the end of 1997 I began to think seriously and in detail about how I could help improve the program and, I hoped, turn it around. A month or two later I had the beginning of an answer, though certainly not the whole answer: I would create a nonprofit agency which would be free to do all the things the Rehabilitation Services Administration and the States could not do, but which needed to be done if the program was to improve and expand. As the author of the 1974 amendments to the Act and as a national advocate for the program, I felt strongly that I could not stand idly by while the program continued to decline.
In late February, 1998, I had developed the ideas and the framework for my new nonprofit agency, the Jennings Randolph Institute (JRI). The key purposes of JRI as I wrote them in the Articles of Incorporation are as follows:
*To serve as a national expert, authority, and information resource on the Federal Randolph-Sheppard Act and the program operating thereunder; to provide education through information, seminars, and training to state agency officials, attorneys, blind vendors, arbitrators, and the general public on all aspects of the vending facility program;
*To monitor patterns, practices, and actions which violate the Randolph-Sheppard Act, and to apprise and advise the Rehabilitation Services Administration about such matters;
*To identify, develop, and support best practices and innovations which may improve the blind vending facility program;
*To serve as an ongoing resource to the Rehabilitation
Services Administration and state licensing agencies with respect
to policy, planning, program development, management, and
administration in the vending facility program; and
*To serve as a national communication center, source, and network for such program.
[These are the goals outlined in the Humphreys proposal, and despite a certain presumptuousness, they are lofty enough. However, one does wonder whether the government thinks it needs all this advice, and surely sometimes blind vendors would want to have a voice in all of the planning being done for their good. But back to the Humphreys document.]
I would suggest to the reader that none of these purposes would do anything other than benefit the Randolph-Sheppard program.
When I attended the blind vendors' Sagebrush Conference in Las Vegas in late February, I asked Bert Hansen, a friend and prominent vendor from Nevada, and Warren Toyama, president of the Hawaii Association of the Blind, a longtime vendor and friend, to serve as incorporators of the Jennings Randolph Institute. Both agreed, and when I returned to Washington, I filed the Articles and got the Institute incorporated. An incorporator has no function other than to get a corporation up and running as a registered entity and to select the initial board of directors.
At this point in history, I have to backtrack a bit. Following extensive discussion by the members of the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America at the 1997 ACB/RSVA conference in Houston, Warren Toyama arranged a meeting with his longtime friend, Senator Daniel Inouye, for himself, Filo Tu, another Hawaii vendor, and me. This took place in August, 1997. As reported on numerous occasions, this was a meeting of great accomplishment and momentSenator Inouye agreed to become a champion for the Randolph-Sheppard program. Following that success, I was encouraged to begin identifying other potential Congressional supporters for the program.
The first person to come to mind was Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska. Senator Stevens is a high-ranking and powerful, very senior Republican. He is Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. His father was blind, and he had long been a friend of Sandy Sanderson, who recently was elected to the Board of Directors of the American Council of the Blind. I asked Sandy to arrange a meeting with Senator Stevens for the purpose of developing his interest in the vending facility program. Not only did Sandy arrange the meeting, he flew from Anchorage to Washington, in part to participate in it. Ralph Sanders, a vendor from Maryland, had worked with Sandy on a number of issues and had become acquainted with Senator Stevens and his staff. Ralph also attended the meeting, which took place on March 9 of this year.
It was my expectation in meeting with Senator Stevens to convince him that he should join Senator Inouye as a champion for the vending facility program. Sandy, Ralph, and I told the Senator of all the problems we were having with the Department of Defense, GSA, the Postal Service, and the Interior Department and asked him to help us strengthen the Federal priority. Senator Stevens looked at things differently. He took the position that he would help us keep what we have, but it made no sense to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic; that is to say, because the Federal government was downsizing, as were State governments in many cases, there would be little opportunity in the future to expand the program on Federal property. Instead we should be looking toward the private sector to expand employment for the blind. Stevens noted that tax credits or other means might be utilized to encourage private building owners to allow the establishment of vending facilities.
Some time passed after the meeting with Senator Stevens, but finally I was able to get key staff from the offices of Senators Inouye and Stevens to meet with me to see whether, and how, they would support an initiative involving the Randolph-Sheppard program. This meeting took place on April 28, 1998. I recommended possible Congressional funding for the Jennings Randolph Institute, particularly focusing on the idea of a national center of excellence for the program. At this time I had not considered utilizing the Institute as a means of expanding the program into the private sector.
By mid-May my thinking about JRI had evolved to the point of identifying four core areas, or principal activities, for the Institute. These were (1) a National Information Resource, collecting all important documents relevant to the Randolph-Sheppard program and serving as an information exchange for vendors and program officials; (2) a Policy Development Center to bring in program authorities and creative thinkers to address specific problems in the program; (3) an RSA Program Support capability, to assist the Rehabilitation Services Administration accomplish its Randolph-Sheppard mission; and (4) a Best Practices Grants and Regional Training capability, to give incentives to States to create new and productive concepts for the program through grants and to assist states in their training needs, both for staff and for vendors, where needed.
After a couple of weeks Mark Fox of Senator Inouye's office and I finally got together to discuss Fox's impression of the April meeting. This was around the end of May. Fox indicated that both he and Liz Connell from Senator Stevens's office thought I was giving too much emphasis to a think-tank approach for the Jennings Randolph Institute, when what was needed was new jobs for blind people. While I was convinced that the think-tank program development and coordination activities of JRI were essential, I also wanted to encourage continued dialog with the two Senators' offices and to intensify their support for the vending facility program. I began to think about Senator Stevens's statements in our March meeting that emphasis needed to be placed on the private sector.
While state blind vending facility programs often include private-sector placements, the Randolph-Sheppard Act itself directly addresses only facilities on Federal property. The Act's priority only applies to Federal departments, agencies, and instrumentalities. There is no possibility, therefore, that any concept I might develop to have the Jennings Randolph Institute assist in the creation of jobs in the private sector would have any impact at all on the Act, the priority, or vendors in Federal facilities.
By mid-June, I had developed an initial concept for adding a private job component to the Jennings Randolph Institute and decided to share my idea with Mark Fox and Liz Connell. The concept, as I began to envision it, would involve the creation of national partnering agreements with major companies which issue franchises or otherwise establish standardized retail outlets, such as Subway, Blockbuster Video, or Tower Records. There is nothing, in my view, that would prevent blind individuals with business capabilities from running any kind of retail sales or service organization; just because the program has focused primarily on food service does not preclude a substantial presence in other areas.
Although I had not received a response to my June letter by the time the Orlando conventions of the American Council of the Blind and the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America took place in early July, 1998, I remained hopeful that I would get some indication of a reaction by sometime in August. I did not share the Jennings Randolph Institute concept with the RSVA Board, nor with ACB, because I wanted to ascertain whether it was viable. I did talk with several RSVA Board members in detail, to sound them out and get their ideas for improvement of the concept, particularly as it related to the expansion of the vending facility program in the private sector. I also discussed my ideas with several State agency officials. At this juncture everyone with whom I talked on this subject was quite enthusiastic and encouraging.
Meanwhile there were two other meetings in which I participated which helped evolve the concepts I had under development: On March 31 I participated in a national conference hosted by the Mississippi State Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on blindness and low vision in Dallas. I was on a panel on the need to preserve the Federal priority in Randolph-Sheppard. The panel included Charlie Allen, then president of the NFB Merchants Division; Gene Hiesler, RSVA Board member and a vendor from Texas; and Mike Hooks, the new BEP Director for the Texas Commission for the Blind.
I took the position that we in the blind-vendor community have periodic meetings, discuss the problems in the program, and then go home and do nothing until the next meeting. We need, I said, to take an organized and coordinated approach to the problems of the program. I urged that a number of things be done, including expansion of the vending program in the private sector and the convening of a national conference of the best minds in the country to discuss where the program is going and how to improve it. There was unanimous support for my position from the audience.
In mid-April I had lunch with Jamie Hilton, president of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind and head of the New Jersey Commission for the Blind; Creig Slayton, Iowa Commission director; Dick Davis, Minnesota director; Joe Cordova and George Arsnow of the Rehabilitation Services Administration's Office for the Blind and Visually Impaired; and Elton Moore and John Maxson of Mississippi State. I presented my idea for a national conference on Randolph-Sheppard. All in attendance supported it, and subsequently the NCSAB's Randolph-Sheppard Committee endorsed it, as did NCSAB at large. NCSAB's Executive Committee then withdrew the endorsement for purposes of further study, with the expectation of voting on the idea again during the Fall meeting.
At the end of July, at the direction of the RSVA Board, I was able to secure an invitation to become a member of the National Blue Ribbon Panel on Self-Employment, Small Business, and Disability, which met in Chicago for the purpose of making recommendations to the National Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities established under the President's Executive Order. I believed it was extremely important to ensure that no recommendation would go forward that would be adverse to the Randolph-Sheppard program. The recommendations to be made to the National Task Force, which in turn will recommend action to the President and the Congress, fortunately will not include any negatives for Randolph-Sheppard.
During the course of the Blue Ribbon Panel meeting I had occasion to talk with Tony Coelho, Chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, a prominent former Democratic Member of Congress who was the chief House sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act. I told Tony of my ideas for the Jennings Randolph Institute, and he volunteered to discuss the matter with Senator Ted Stevens, who was by coincidence soon to attend the World Trade Fair in Lisbon, Portugal, with Tony, the Fair's U.S. Representative. I reinforced, in talking to John Lancaster, Executive Director of the President's Committee, my discussion with Coelho in a letter dated August 3. Lancaster, according to my information, passed along my letter and Executive Summary of my thinking on the JRI privatization initiative to Judy Heumann, Assistant Secretary of Education, for her review and comment.
In early August I presented my thinking on the Jennings Randolph Institute to the Legislative Working Group, a biweekly meeting of blindness organizations in Washington, comprised of representatives of the American Council of the Blind, American Foundation for the Blind, Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, National Industries for the Blind, and Blinded Veterans Association, Inc., and myself. There was great interest among the members of the group, with several expressing the belief that JRI was an exciting, creative, innovative concept.
One of the ideas I advanced for the Jennings Randolph Institute has caused anxiety and consternation among blind vendors and State agencies, and which must be explained fully. It is believed, because NFB has put it out as fact, that I am promoting privatization of the vending-facility program and that every vendor would have to move into a private-sector job within three years. The fact isthe truth isI have never proposed a change in the Randolph-Sheppard Act, nor to privatize it.
[We interrupt to note that Humphreys slips in this reinterpretation of his earlier descriptions of his plan. In the June 11 letter to Liz Connell he describes a two-track program in which current vendors would be grandfathered in to the new program and could keep their current locations. But when he describes the revised program for new vendors, he says that after three years they have three tries to develop a plan that is acceptable to JRI officials, and if they don't measure up, they will be counseled to alter their vocational goals. Humphreys's original executive summary says nothing about future vendors being permitted to return to the Randolph-Sheppard program as we have known it. Following the furor, however, in late August, Humphreys's tune begins to change. But let us return to the Humphreys text.]
I have proposed that the Jennings Randolph Institute, when it is established, help State licensing agencies expand into the private sector through the use of franchisee training adapted to the needs of blind vendors, national partnering agreements, Small Business Administration guarantees, and low-interest loans. One concept I floated was the notion that vendors coming into the program would have the opportunity to move into private-sector, high-income potential jobs after training in the Randolph-Sheppard program, that a new vendor would have three opportunities to enter the private franchise job market with State agency and JRI support, and that if those efforts were unsuccessful, the individual would be returned to the vocational rehabilitation system for placement in another area, including the standard blind-vending facility program. I emphasize that none of these ideas was or is now set in concrete. NFB leaders have spread lies in an attempt to control my ideas and defeat any innovation that will benefit the Randolph-Sheppard program.
It was my fervent hope, a hope which I maintained until late August, 1998, that I would find encouragement for my new ideas in the Congress and throughout the blindness field. I am still hopeful that the Jennings Randolph Institute will succeed, because good ideas do not die. The Jennings Randolph Institute was, when I established it in March and it is now, a work in progressa collection of ideas that has not yet reached maturity.
NFB leaders decided to launch a smear campaign of lies and slander. They went so far as to offer to the blindness community so-called documentation of my efforts to destroy the vending facility program. Did they forget that I am the architect of the modern-day Randolph-Sheppard Act? It is pathetic that new ideas would be attacked without any valid reason or justification. But, as many of you have told me, this is not an unusual tactic for these people. These types of actions, past and present, bring nothing but dishonor and disrepute to those who promote them and, unfortunately, to their organization and its good and innocent members.
These vile tactics must be challenged. As I have said over and over again, at a time when blind people are faced with an unemployment rate of 75 percent, even in a time of unparalleled prosperity, and when the Randolph-Sheppard program has lost a quarter of its vendors, the danger is not in new ideas, but in a lack of ideas. We must work together, and we must begin quickly. Those with ideas must be supported in their efforts, not hindered. There is much to do, so let us get on with the task.
That is what Humphreys had to say, but clearly not everyone remembered recent history the way he did. Here, for example, is a memo written by Richard Davis, Director of the state agency in Minnesota and a participant in some of the events recounted in the Humphreys documents. This is the way Dick Davis remembers things:
To: NCSAB Members
From: Richard C. Davis, Chair, National Council of State
Agencies for the Blind, Inc., Randolph-Sheppard Committee
Re: More About Randolph-Sheppard Institute
Date: September 15, 1998
NCSAB President Jamie Hilton recently sent members copies of correspondence regarding the Randolph-Sheppard Institute. Below is even more correspondence on this issue, including "Some Clarifications" by ACB President Paul Edwards, an "Open Letter to Jim Gashel" by Ralph Sanders, another open letter from Bob Humphreys with a paper entitled "The Randolph-Sheppard Institute:
What It Is And What It Isn't," and a message from Sandy Sanderson. With the exception of Mr. Edwards's communication, some of the attached are pretty unpleasant to read. I am reminded of the old saying, "A good offense is the best defense."
It is essential that, in reading the attached, NCSAB members make sure that personalities not obscure what actually happened. From what I have seen, Mr. Humphreys, who has long been involved with Randolph-Sheppard, unilaterally decided to reshape the program without involving its primary stakeholders. By stakeholders I mean blind vendors represented by the ACB's Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America and the NFB's Blind Merchants Division and the state licensing agencies, represented by the NCSAB.
Contrary to what Mr. Humphreys implied in his second open letter, he did not discuss the notion of a private-sector initiative in the April 22 NCSAB luncheon meeting which Jamie Hilton, Creig Slayton, and I attended. At that meeting he made no mention of the Randolph-Sheppard Institute or his contacts with members of Congress. His only suggestion was that NCSAB support a national visionary meeting on the future of Randolph-Sheppard. Later that day Ralph Sanders attended the Randolph-Sheppard Committee meeting and spoke. Although the meeting focused on the future of Randolph-Sheppard, he made no mention of the Institute.
Bob Humphreys and I both were present at a meeting with the U.S. Postal Service on June 26. All the leading stakeholders were in attendance, yet he made no mention of the Randolph-Sheppard Institute or any other kind of private-sector initiative. He has never discussed these concepts with me as Randolph-Sheppard Chair, Jamie Hilton as NCSAB president, or any other NCSAB member that I know of. Since we were all on the best of terms, working together to increase employment opportunities for blind vendors in the U.S. Postal Service, it seems incredible that he would have neglected to do so.
Nevertheless, he seemed to have plenty of time to discuss his concepts with, and submit concept papers to, Senators Inouye and Stevens and their staffs, Tony Coelho, John Lancaster, and others not directly involved with the Randolph-Sheppard program. His letter of September 8 and the attached paper show that he worked extensively behind the scenes without telling anybody but a few close friends.
For some time the Randolph-Sheppard Act has been under attack by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of the Army, NISH, private-sector vending companies, and other organizations which challenge blind vendors' priority on federal property. The Department of the Army would like to amend the Act to exclude troop mess halls from its coverage. Only a year ago we banded together to defeat a seemingly innocuous amendment to the Department of Veterans Affairs funding bill which would have put blind vendors under the control of the Veterans Canteen Service.
Mr. Humphreys should know that any unilateral, behind-the-scenes action would be viewed as a threat to the program. It is no surprise that Jim Gashel reacted as he did when he learned of Mr. Humphreys's actions. The question is, given the current climate regarding Randolph-Sheppard, why did Mr. Humphreys act as he did? If his plan was really a great one, why not bring it to all of us, discuss it with us, get our support for it, and let us all approach the Congress together? That would have made the most sense. Why work behind the scenes at all?
Maybe ego was a factor. Mr. Humphreys's open letters and paper are filled with "I's" and "my's." He tells us that he wrote the 1974 Randolph-Sheppard Amendments, that the Randolph-Sheppard Institute was his idea, and that he decided Senator Stevens would be a good champion for the Randolph-Sheppard program.
It is almost as if Mr. Humphreys regards the Randolph-Sheppard program as his own personal property. It isn't, regardless of his past efforts on its behalf. It belongs to blind vendors, their consumer organizations and elected committees of blind vendors, the state licensing agencies which run it, and the citizens who fund it. It provided the first public demonstration of the competencies of blind people, and it continues to offer excellent opportunities for blind persons to run their own small businesses.
I am afraid Mr. Humphreys's actions themselves have done a great deal to damage his reputation. His accusations to the contrary, the NFB did us all a service by discovering those actions and reporting them. I am glad that ACB President Paul Edwards has taken a firm stand and disavowed any support of Mr. Humphreys's actions. It is now time for the open letters to come to an end, and for Mr. Humphreys, Mr. Sanders, Mr. Sanderson, and friends to stop fooling with Randolph-Sheppard and give the rest of us a chance to repair the damage.
For the rest of us, I hope we can re-establish the good relationships we had before this whole unfortunate incident occurred. The Ad Hoc Committee on Randolph-Sheppard started a period of unprecedented cooperation between the Blind Merchants Division, the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America, and the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind. Many of us have developed new friendships with former adversaries as a result. Let's learn from this experience and take steps to assure it will never happen again.
cc: NFB and ACB
That's what Dick Davis had to say. Now here is one of several open letters written by Jim Gashel:
August 31, 1998
An open letter to Robert Humphreys, Esquire
As you know, we first met in 1974. Since that time I have never had anything but the very highest regard for you until August 18, 1998. That was the date when I first became aware of your proposal to privatize the Randolph-Sheppard blind vendor program. Believing that I knew you fairly well, that was surprising to me. But the thing that has surprised me even more and, I must say, has saddened me as well, is the fact that you developed the plan and then took it directly to the Congress. More than that, you took the plan to Senator Ted Stevens because he chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee. You did that because you wanted to see authority for the plan and its funding to be enacted as part of an appropriations bill for fiscal year 1999.
As you know, Bob, this is a great way to slide something through the Congress and have it become law, but it is not a straightforward way. In fact, I have no evidence that you would even have tried to inform the blindness community of what you were up to until after the fact. As you know, I have evidence that you were presenting this plan to Congress as far back as May and June, 1998. I also have evidence that your efforts have not been casual. In fact, you submitted revised information on your proposal as recently as August 3, 1998. Still you failed to inform either the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America or the National Federation of the Blind that you were doing this.
Brainstorming within our community is one thing, but writing up a plan and taking it to the Congress as though you represent the blind is quite another. At this point neither the National Federation of the Blind nor the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America has endorsed the privatization plan. Therefore, if you really care about blind people in the way that you used to, why didn't you at least have the decency to work with the blind first before you took the plan to Congress?
On March 4, 1998, you incorporated the Jennings Randolph Institute as a District of Columbia Corporation without the slightest involvement by the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America. You did this even though you serve as the attorney on retainer to the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America. I am not certain of this, but I have heard a report that your billing to the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America has charged that organization for the costs of forming the corporation, even though that organization knew little or nothing of what you were doing. According to the officers of that organization, they certainly did not know that you had been going to the Congress with a plan to privatize the program. If that is so, most attorneys that I know would consider acts such as these to be an ethical breach.
Much of your letter to the blindness community, to which I am now responding, consists of name calling aimed mainly at the National Federation of the Blind. For example, you say that the disclosure of your actions was cowardly on our part and suggest that we should have contacted you first. If that is so, isn't it even more cowardly to skulk around behind our backs and take the plan to the Congress? As you know, I was in your presence on more than one occasion since May when at least a mention of the prospects for legislation would have been appropriate. So, Bob, younot Ihave set the standard for secrecy.
In fact this is the most distressing aspect of this entire episode. It is one thing for either the NFB or the ACB to take a proposal to the Congress, either together or separately, but it is quite another for someone, such as you, to set yourself up as the spokesman for the blind and then to tell the blind what you have done after the deed has been done. This is the kind of conduct that the NFB can definitely never accept, and I truly doubt that the ACB can accept such behavior either. If we have anything in common, and I believe that we do, I am certain we agree on the view that important decisions which affect us must be made by us. The notion that you can presume to speak for us without approval to do so is something that cannot be accepted.
Finally, Bob, I am truly sorry and greatly saddened that you have become involved in something like this. I know that this is something that Senator Randolph would not have wanted you to do because he genuinely listened to the blind. As you know, he would never have proposed something like the privatization plan in the Congress unless he was sure that blind people were on board with the idea. Just read your own words in your letters to Liz Connell in Senator Stevens's office in which you refer to the privatizing plan as "my idea." Never once do you refer to the plan as anything but your idea. The legacy of Jennings Randolph is that he believed in blind people, and he also wanted to hear first from us about what we wanted. Why have you forgotten that? That is the saddest part of all of this for me.
Director of Governmental Affairs
National Federation of the Blind
As you can tell from the allusions to other documents, many more memoranda and open letters have been written than we have space to reprint here. Ralph Sanders has said openly that the only reason the NFB has taken exception to the concept of the Jennings Randolph Institute is that we did not come up with it first. He says that we plan to take the idea over for ourselves, that we will take the money and power from it, and that we will call it the Jernigan/Randolph Institute. Needless to say, we have no interest in operating such a program. Even though Sanders is a vendor and we believe that vendors have the right and the responsibility to take an active part in determining the future of the programs that shape their professional lives, Sanders is perhaps the last person on the face of the earth with whom we would discuss our future plans and dreams. Such an allegation as his is nothing short of shocking in its poor taste and small-mindedness.
The furor of the past several months has been unpleasant for everyone. We can rejoice that the possibility of allocating federal funding for the Jennings Randolph Institute has ended for this session at least. Let us hope that everyone has learned an important lesson and that, the next time someone has a bright idea that affects the lives of thousands in the blindness field, the matter will be handled differently. Regardless of the slanders and accusations hurled at us, the NFB will continue to work to see that the rights and livelihoods of all blind people are protected from our foes and even from our erstwhile friends.
[DESCRIPTION: Two photographs accompany this article. One is of a five or six-year-old boy seated on the floor, reading a book, and the other is of a nine or ten-year-old girl reading Braille at a desk. CAPTION: Ellen Bartley (NM)]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Matthew Jin (WA)]
Young Braille Readers and Their Friends Take Note
From the Editor: From November 1 to February 1 every year a growing number of elementary and secondary school students who read Braille take part in the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille. Flex your fingers, kids; the 1999 contest is about to begin.
Each spring, after the contest ends, the letters from grateful parents and teachers begin pouring in. Here is a small sample of notes Mrs. Cheadle received at the close of the 1998 contest:
February 2, 1998
Thank you for having this contest yearly. It really accomplishes its purpose. One year my student, _______, won the contest (first place), and she felt really great about herself.
This year I have two students entering. One is so excited about the contest. He missed some school getting a kidney transplant. The other has been hard to motivate for home reading. This has been a tremendous influence on them.
Keep up all of your good work.
Kathy Dempsey, VH Specialist
February 2, 1998
Dear Mrs. Barbara Cheadle,
My name is Marlene Culpepper, and as the school's Braille teacher I am the certifying authority for our contestants' participation in your contest. It is my first full year as a Braille teacher and our first year participating in your contest. It has been such a positive experience for all of our students.
One of our students laughed when I mentioned that we were entering this contest. She said that she didn't read at home for enjoyment and that reading was not really the activity of her choice. I am happy to report that with each passing month she read a greater number of pages and that she began to look forward to reading more. She enjoys reading now and hopefully has developed a habit of reading a little each night. . . .
Our school has four Braille readers, who have all participated in the contest. I am happy to report 100 percent participation for our first year.
Thanks again for the opportunity to participate in your terrific contest. We look forward to entering again next year.
February 15, 1998
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you and all of the others who make the contest, Braille Readers Are Leaders, possible. This is a wonderful service to Braille students. I would like to describe my experience with the contest.
I enrolled a third-grade student in the 1997 contest. It was the first time I had enrolled a student and the first time he had entered this contest. At the beginning of the contest he was still only so-so about reading Braille versus reading print. If I asked him, he probably would have asked for print just so he could look at the pictures.
At the beginning of the contest he was not reading Braille books at home at all. We started with a very small book that was only nine pages long. He reluctantly agreed. Gradually we added a book that he took home each day until he was taking about three books home each school day. Over the weekend he would take nine books home.
It took a little while, but the improvement began to show. During the three months that he read for this contest I feel that he advanced through a half to perhaps close to a full year of Braille instruction. By the end of the contest he requested to read books. He asks to have a reading day, where he will not be asked to write Braille, but just to read stories. He even sneaks ahead of my lesson and reads the next story in the Patterns book.
Please continue to offer this contest for other young Braille readers. It has made a world of difference for this young reader and his family.
Do you know a Braille-reading student who would benefit from participating in this contest? The contest form appears at the center of the print edition of this issue. You can detach it and pass it along to someone who can make good use of it. If you need additional copies, you can get them from the Materials Center, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, or call (410) 659-9314.
Life insurance constitutes a very special gift to the National Federation of the Blind. A relatively easy and direct form of planned giving is a new life insurance policy. You can make the NFB the beneficiary and owner of a life insurance policy and receive a tax deduction on the premium you pay.
For example, at age fifty you purchase a $10,000 whole life insurance policy on yourself and designate the NFB as beneficiary and owner of the policy. The premium cost to you is fully tax-deductible each year. You may even decide to pay for the entire policy over a specific period of time, perhaps ten years. This increases your tax deduction each year over the ten-year period and fully pays up your policy.
You may, however, already have a life insurance policy in existence and wish to contribute it to the NFB. By changing the beneficiary and owner to the National Federation of the Blind, you can receive tax savings, depending on the cash value of the policy. Your attorney, insurance agent, or the National Federation of the Blind will be able to assist you if you decide to include the NFB in your planned-giving program through life insurance. For more information contact the National Federation of the Blind, Special Gifts, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998, phone (410) 659-9314, fax (410) 685-5653.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Marvin Sandler]
Report from the Trenches
by Marvin Sandler
From the Editor: The Tuesday afternoon, July 7, general session of the 1998 convention was memorable for several reasons: an excellent presidential report, stirring speeches by a federal judge and a sailor, and a moving, spontaneous tribute to Dr. Jernigan by those contributing to the new Jernigan fund. This last event necessitated radical alterations in the agenda, and one of the things that disappeared entirely as a result was a brief presentation by Marvin Sandler, President of Independent Living Aids (ILA), who was leaving the convention later that evening.
Since the ILA vs. Maxi-Aids suit seems destined to drag on in one form or another for months to come, it is appropriate for us to print here the remarks Mr. Sandler did not have the opportunity to deliver. This is what he would have said:
I'm the President of Independent Living Aids, which some of you know by our initials, ILA. I've been given the opportunity to speak to you for a few minutes about the lawsuit that we filed against Maxi-Aids and the Zaretsky family during February of 1995. The case went to trial during early November of 1997, and the jury handed down its verdict on December 8, 1997, after five weeks of trial and two and one half days of deliberations. The jury found in our favor on four counts, two federal claims (copyright infringement and trademark infringement) and two New York State claims (materially deceptive acts and practices and false and misleading advertising). They awarded ILA $2,400,000.06.
The lawsuit was covered extensively by the Braille Monitor, which devoted the entire March, 1998, issue to the case. The NFB is the only organization in this field which reported on this case. Not a word has appeared in any other journal or publication in our field. This is an organization that has beliefs and the guts to express those beliefs in print to its membership and to the outside world. In the Braille Monitor article of December, 1994, which was published before this lawsuit began, Dr. Jernigan and Mrs. Pierce wrote, "We long since stopped buying anything at all from Maxi-Aids, even if their price was the lowest to be had. We did this because we did not like their behavior or dealings." That message has been repeated in the latest Braille Monitor, which was just published last week. Now, that's putting your money where your mouth is, and that's guts.
Perhaps other organizations have either not fully understood the ramifications of this lawsuit to their constituents or didn't think it was important enough to write about. Perhaps they have thought that it was simply a spitting war between two companies and that the issues involved did not affect the blind community as a whole. The NFB clearly thinks differently.
Those of you who have had the opportunity to read the Braille Monitors of December, 1994, and March, 1998, will recall that one of my complaints against Maxi-Aids was that they had consistently beaten us on a number of bids by the identical figure of six cents. You will recall that the award given by the jury was $2,400,000.06. When I went to thank the jury, the foreperson said to me, "I hope you appreciate the six centsthat was to let them know that we know." I've had phone calls from people who have said, "I just loved the six cents," or "That six cents was cute." Let me assure you that it wasn't something cute or something to loveI believe it was a recognition by the jury that something was wrong, that an offense had been committed, and that they were letting Maxi-Aids know that "they knew."
There is something else about which everyone should be aware. On each of the claims that we made against Maxi-Aids the jury was asked if Maxi-Aids's conduct and actions were willful, and in each case the jury unanimously answered, "Yes." They were asked if Maxi-Aids had willfully infringed on our copyrights, and they unanimously answered, "Yes." They were asked if Maxi-Aids had willfully committed trademark infringement, and they unanimously answered, "Yes." What Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys did were not the actions of people who didn't realize what they were doing and who accidentally transgressed. The jury held that the actions of Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys were willful and deliberate and intentional.
Some people who have spoken to me have given me the impression that they feel that the issues raised in this lawsuit do not affect them. Well, just read the jury's verdict on our claims, and you can begin to understand that I fought this case, not only for ILA, but also for you, the consumers. Question twelve that was posed to the jury by the judge was, "Did the plaintiff (ILA) prove that the defendant Maxi-Aids engaged in materially deceptive acts and practices with regard to the advertising and sales of its products?" and the answer given by the jury was, "yes." Next they were asked, "Did the plaintiff (ILA) prove that the primary injury resulting from the said deceptive acts and practices were suffered by the public?" and again the answer was, "Yes." Next they were asked, "Did the plaintiff ILA prove that it also was injured by the said deceptive acts and practices?" and once again the jury said, "Yes." Finally they were asked, "Did the plaintiff ILA prove that the defendant Maxi-Aids acted willfully when it committed the deceptive acts and practices?" and again the answer was a resounding, "yes." Is this a little spitting war between two competitors, and something that doesn't affect consumers? No way!
Remember that question, "Did the plaintiff (ILA) prove that the primary injury...was suffered by the public," and the answer, "Yes." You were first; ILA was second. That was the way the judge phrased the questions, and that was the way the jury answered. This was a battle that I fought, not just for me, but also for you.
When someone says that this was a private war between two competitors and that you, the consumers, were not affected, remember what was presented and proven at trial. Watches made in Hong Kong were advertised by Maxi-Aids as made in Switzerland. They were shipped to consumers like you packed in boxes that said, "Swiss" and had warranties that stated that the watches were made in Switzerland. When consumers placed orders for "Magna Wonder Knives," they received an off-brand knife known as a "Dux" knife, but the invoice that accompanied the shipment listed the product as a "Magna Wonder Knife." The evidence at the trial proved this. When a customer ordered a "Tab Grabber," which is a device that will open the tabs on pop-top soda cans and will also open soda bottles, they received a product with an invoice stating that a tab grabber was being shipped. However, the product itself was only a can opener that would not open a soda bottle, but someone at Maxi-Aids had pasted the name "Tab Grabber" right over the original manufacturer's label that said, "Can Opener."
So don't let anyone tell you that you the consumers are not affected. Just look at the Hong Kong watches advertised as Swiss, the "Dux" knives substituted for "Magna Wonder Knives" and the can openers substituted for "Tab Grabbers." And the list goes on and on and on. We've also uncovered customs fraud and counterfeiting, which I'll describe in a few minutes.
There is another aspect to the jury's verdict about which you should be aware. The jury held Elliot Zaretsky and his son Mitchel Zaretsky and his daughter Pamela Zaretsky Stein to be personally liable, along with Maxi-Aids, their corporation. What this means is that the jury recognized that the responsibility lay individually against the Zaretsky family, who are the owners and officers of Maxi-Aids, and they will not be allowed to hide behind the corporate shield. In a world in which people deny responsibility and shuffle responsibility onto others, the jury recognized and ruled that the Zaretskys bore individual responsibility for the actions taken in the name of Maxi-Aids.
Now let me bring you up to date on what has happened since the time of trial. As might be expected, Maxi-Aids's attorneys have filed motions with the courtthree in all. The first requests that the jury's verdict be set aside, which is the same thing as asking that it be overturned. The next is that, if they don't get the first, the jury award should be reduced to what they feel is a more realistic figure, $14,132. Can you imagine, they want the amount reduced from a verdict rendered by a jury who sat through five weeks of trial and who deliberated for two and one half days, and they claim that it should be reduced from $2,400,000.06 to $14,132. Finally, they have requested a new trial on the issue of whether my statement to the Braille Monitor back in 1994 constitutes libel.
On our side we have also filed motions. We have filed papers opposing the motions filed by Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys. We have also filed motions seeking the recovery of our legal fees, asked for a permanent injunction to prevent Maxi-Aids from continuing to engage in the practices of which they were found guilty, and asked for the confiscation and destruction of all of their infringing catalogs. These motions are to be argued at a hearing before the judge on July 17, and I'm sure that the October issue of the Braille Monitor will carry an article detailing the results of the judge's final ruling.
It's almost a certainty that Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys will appeal if the judge's rulings go severely against them. At that point the matter will go to the United States Court of Appeals, which consists of three judges, who will then consider the entire case and who will rule on whether the jury's verdict and award plus the judge's rulings on the verdict and award should be upheld or reduced.
Part of a lawsuit involves a process called discovery. This includes demands made by each side for documents as well as depositions, which are sworn answers to questions given by the other side's attorneys and which are then used at trial. During the course of the discovery process we have obtained information that has led us to believe that there were additional transgressions by the Zaretskys which were not part of our original lawsuit. As a result we have filed a new action against Maxi-Aids, Elliot Zaretsky, and Mitchel Zaretsky under the RICO statutes. RICO is an acronym used by the government, which was named after Rico Benadelli, who was the gangster played by Edward G. Robinson in the movie, Little Caesar. It stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupted Organization.
We have come across documents that lead us to believe that Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys have been engaging in customs fraud. We have in our possession six sets of invoices which were prepared in duplicate by one of Maxi-Aids's overseas suppliers. Each set consists of two invoices on which the invoice numbers are identical and the merchandise is identical in both catalog number, quantity, and description. However, on one invoice the pricing for each item is about half the pricing on the other. There are cover sheets attached, apparently written by the overseas supplier, which state that there are duplicate invoices enclosed "as per your request," with the higher-priced invoice to be used for payment and the other for customs purposes, which, because of the lower prices written on it, would naturally carry lower customs duties. There is also a caution, "Do not mix the two." That's pretty serious stuff. We contend that it is customs fraud.
We've also come across something that we contend is counterfeiting. You all know the Say When® liquid level indicators. They were invented at Kentucky Industries for the Blind, and they are made by blind workers. We have uncovered evidence that Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys were counterfeiting this product, making it on their own, and passing it off as genuine Say Whens® from approximately 1990 until 1995. In conversations with Robert Byrd, who was at that time running Kentucky Industries for the Blind, we have been advised that sales of the genuine Say Whens® by Kentucky Industries for the Blind dropped so precipitously that three blind workers had to be laid off. We, as suppliers to people who are blind, have an obligation to support those who support us. As I speak to you today, ILA is the only major mail order house still supplying the genuine Say Whens®.
As I end my remarks today, I want you to know that I will continue my efforts to make the playing field level in our industry. Ours is an industry that needs self-policing, and this was stated emphatically by Dr. Jernigan in the Braille Monitor article of December, 1994. I don't want to kid you; I didn't file my lawsuit against Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys because of altruism. It all began because Elliot Zaretsky called me up and, speaking in a voice that I can only describe as ominous, told me that he was not happy about things that he claimed I had said about him. He said, "You've been saying bad things about me, and you better stop." He then told me that I better keep my mouth shut.
That was all I needed to hear, and twenty minutes later I was on the phone with my lawyer. I was outraged that in this day and age someone could feel so powerful that he could call with impunity and tell me to keep my mouth shut. So that's how it startedin the beginning it really was more a spitting war between two personalities than anything else. However, during the discovery phase we found things that led us to believe that Maxi-Aids was acting in a way that was unfair to you, the consumer, as well as to ourselves and was giving our industry a bad name. So our interests, yours and mine, coincide. Unfair acts hurt both of us. There's a saying in the lawit's in Latin, and I never got beyond my high school Amo, Amas, Amat, so I can't give you the exact words. However, it roughly translates in English into, "He who works for himself also works for the king." What this means is that, in trying to protect ILA's interests, I am also protecting yours.
I think that the last paragraph of the March, 1998, Braille Monitor expressed it well when it stated that now everyone knows what's been going on. I pledge that ILA will do everything we can to root out improper practices that affect you, our customers, in an adverse manner. Our industry needs self-policing, and we will do our share. When you read updates about our RICO lawsuit against Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys, I want you to know that we are fighting not only for ourselves but also for you.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: ***Maxi-Aids logo from the March issue. Caption:The Maxi-Aids logo]
Judge Spatt's Ruling in the Maxi-Aids Case
From the Editor: The preceding article provides a summary of activity up to the first week of July in the lawsuit brought by Marvin Sandler and Independent Living Aids (ILA) against Elliot Zaretsky, his three children, and Maxi-Aids. Following the jury's decision resoundingly in favor of Independent Living Aids, the Zaretskys' attorney, Mark Mulholland, made several motions for reconsideration of various parts of the verdict. Jack Dweck and Richard Hubell, the ILA counsel, rebutted those motions with their own, and each side then got one last chance to respond to what the other had said. Then the Judge, the Hon. Arthur D. Spatt, went off to consider the arguments and render his decision, which he did orally in a hearing on July 17 and in writing on July 25, 1998.
During the opening minutes of the July 17 hearing, the parties discussed several legal points. Then Judge Spatt read his decision, without the citations of legal precedents that would ultimately be included in the final written document. Because this case affects every blind person and every agency that purchases blindness products in the United States, we reprint here the full text of Judge Spatt's ruling as he presented it on July 17.
Amicus file from 7/17/98. Motion before Judge Spatt.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
July 17, 1998
INDEPENDENT LIVING AIDS, INC., and MARVIN SANDLER, Plaintiffs, 95 CV 656 (ADS) U.S. Courthouse, Uniondale, New York vs.
MAXI-AIDS, INC., HAROLD ZARETSKY, MITCHEL ZARETSKY, ELLIOT ZARETSKY, and PAMELA ZARETSKY STEIN, Defendants.
CIVIL CAUSE FOR MOTION
TRANSCRIPT OF PROCEEDINGS
The Honorable Arthur D. Spatt, United States District Court Judge
THE COURT: This is the decision of the court: The facts underlying this case are set forth in the court's earlier decision and the trial transcript and will not be repeated here. In addition, I'm going to skim over this decision, and I will issue a written decision, but I will give you the highlights orally.
Briefly summarized, the plaintiff, Independent Living Aids (ILA), and the defendant, Maxi-Aids, Inc. (Maxi-Aids) are New York corporations engaged in the mail-order business, specializing in products for the blind, visually impaired, and physically disabled. This case arises from ILA's claim that from 1985 to 1995 Maxi-Aids engaged in state and federal copyright infringement, common-law trademark infringement, unfair competition, false advertising, and deceptive trade practices.
Following trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs on the following actions:
One, a federal copyright infringement claim based on Maxi-Aids infringing on ILA's copyrights in its 1985 through 1995 catalog by copying original product listing.
Two, a federal trademark/service-mark claim arising out of Maxi-Aids's use of the ILA logo in its advertising, catalog, and sales program in a manner likely to cause confusion as to the source.
Three, a claim arising under New York General Business Law, Section 349, for willful deceptive acts and practices with regard to the advertising and sale of its products.
And, four, willful false advertising in violation of GBL [General Business Law] Section 350.
The plaintiffs were not entirely victorious, however, and the jury rejected the following actions by finding a verdict in favor of the defendants:
One, a federal trade dress infringement claim regarding their "Slimline Lo-Vision watches."
Two, federal trademark/service-mark claims regarding the terms "Independent Living," "ILA," "Do More Products," "Maxi-Aids and Appliances for Independent Living," and "Maxi-Aids Products for Independent Living."
Three, a state law claim for intentional interference with economic benefits relating to bidding procedures.
Finally, the jury rejected the counterclaim brought by the defendants against the Plaintiff, Marvin Sandler, for libel, arising from a letter Sandler wrote to the Braille Monitor, which published the correspondence.
Presently before the court are the defendants' motions pursuant to Federal Rules 50 and 59 and the plaintiffs' cross-motion for attorneys' fees, a permanent injunction, and a final judgment embodying a provision requiring the confiscation and destruction of all infringing catalogues.
I'm not going to go through the standards of Rule 50 and 59; they will be in the written opinion. But a motion for judgment as a matter of law after a jury verdict will not be granted unless, one, there is such a complete absence of evidence supporting the verdict that the jury's findings can only have been the result of sheer surmise and conjecture. Or, two, there is such an overwhelming amount of evidence in favor of the movant, in this case, the defendants, that reasonable and fair-minded persons could not arrive at a verdict against themcitations omitted for all of this.
In order to grant a new trial pursuant to Rule 59, the court must find that the verdict is "seriously erroneous" or constitutes "a miscarriage of justice."
To grant a motion for a remittitur, namely to reduce the amount of the verdict, the court must find that the jury's award was so excessive as to "shock the judicial conscience and constitute a denial of justice."
Maxi-Aids asked for judgment as a matter of law on the copyright infringement count, contending that ILA does not hold a protected copyright interest in its catalogues published between 1985 and 1995, because these catalogues "were irrevocably placed in the public domain" in that the majority of the product listings appeared previously in identical form during the years 1980 through 1984 in non-copyrighted catalogues.
Thus, Maxi-Aids asserts, the 1985 to 1995 catalogues are nothing more than virtual duplicates of unprotected catalogues, which were selected and organized without originality and are therefore unprotected under the Copyright Act of 1976. The key case is Feist Publications against Rural Telephone 499 U.S. 340, cited by Judge Martin in his decision of May 19, 1997, handed up to the court this afternoon. The Supreme Court in Feist ruled that originality is essential to warrant copyright protection and that toil or sweat of brow expended in collecting information in the public domain does not justify conferring copyright protection on a compilation of facts. Rather protection attaches only if the selection, coordination, or arrangement exhibit originality.
Notwithstanding its conclusion, the court emphasized that "Original as the term is used in copyright means only that the work was independently created by the author and that it possesses at least some minimal degree of creativity. To be sure, the requisite level of creativity is extremely low. Even a slight amount will suffice. The vast majority of works make the grade quite easily as they possess some creative spark...no matter how crude, humble, or obvious."
That is not the words of a district judge. That is the words of the Supreme Court of the United States. In Feist, "The court underscored that the required level of originality is minimal. And most compilations, merely by exercising some independent choice in the coordination, selection, or arrangement of data, will pass the test. The telephone directory involved in Feist failed because it was found to be completely devoid of originality." Also the words of the United States Supreme Court.
And the Second Circuit has said so as well in CCC Information Services and other cases which I will put in the written opinion. Bearing in mind the onerous burden facing a movant on a Rule 50 motion and, conversely, the low threshold for originality in copyright claims, the court rejects Maxi-Aids's contention that ILA did not present sufficient evidence that their 1985-1995 catalogues warranted copyright protection. There is ample proof in the record to support the jury's specific finding that "The Plaintiff ILA proved that it changed the product listings from its non-copyrighted catalogues so that the listings as changed in the copyrighted catalogues were removed from the public domain and were original and protected." (Question number one in the verdict sheet), and there is other evidence which I'm not going into in the testimony that supports that.
In the Judge Martin case, my distinguished colleague tried this as a bench trial. He decided as an issue of fact "if one looks at each opinion as a whole, then it seems clear that the changes made by West are trivial indeed." That was his finding of fact.
The jury in this case found otherwise, and in my view the evidence supports it, which will be in the written opinion. Accordingly, the defendants' motion for judgment as a matter of law with respect to the federal copyright infringement claim is denied.
As far as a defense on Laches is concerned, equitable Doctrine of Laches, to prove this defense, a party must show that, one, the plaintiff had knowledge of the infringing activity. Two, the plaintiff inexcusably delayed taking action. And, three, the defendant would be prejudiced if plaintiff belatedly asserted its rights. That is from the Tri-Star Pictures case.
And there is a presumption of Laches that applies in a trademark action if the plaintiff fails to bring suit within the six-years statute of limitations applicable to state law fraud. Once this presumption attaches, which it did here, the burden is on the plaintiff to show why the Laches defense ought not to be applied. So we look at each element.
First, delay. The court finds that the profit reasons, while they may not excuse the full extent of the delay, do excuse the greater portion sufficient to justify the company's conduct. Beginning in 1989, counsel for ILA began corresponding with Maxi-Aids in an effort to get the company to cease copying its catalogs. Sandler himself directly communicated with Elliot Zaretsky to try and resolve the matter. When Maxi-Aids continued copying ILA's catalogs, the plaintiffs complained about the defendants' conduct to various government agencies, including the Department of Veterans Affairs and two attorneys general. In the court's view this is not a case where the plaintiff simply sat on their hands for a nine-year period without making any effort to advise the defendants of their concerns or to assert their rights.
Although the plaintiff certainly could have been more aggressive, namely suing in advancing their claims of copyright and trademark infringement, they did everything else. The court views ILA's correspondence with Maxi-Aids and the various government entities as justifiable efforts to resolve this matter outside the context of litigation. Accordingly the court finds that the delay in bringing suit was not unjustified.
In any event delay will not itself bar the plaintiffs' suit. In order to prevail on a defense of Laches, the court must find that the defendants likely have been prejudiced by the plaintiffs' unreasonable delay in bringing the action. Because the presumption of prejudice is established by operation of time, it is the plaintiffs' burden to make a showing that no prejudice ensued.
One form of prejudice is the decreased ability of the defendants to vindicate themselves that results from the death of witnesses or on account of fading memories or stale evidence. The key crucial test of prejudice is that witnesses have died or disappeared because of the delay. And that hinders the defense. Here there is no claim that any key witnesses died or disappeared during the interim. Moreover, in the court's view the defendants do not appear to have suffered any decreased ability to vindicate themselves due to the delay. While the defendants baldly assert that they were "forced to try the case in the face of diminished memories, loss of evidence, et cetera," the sole examples offered by the defendants were Elliot Zaretsky's inability to recall his source of ILA watches in 1986 and the defendants' inability to produce some invoices from ten years ago and other unspecified records, from the mid 1980's.
In the context of a lengthy trial involving highly sophisticated issues, where a mountain of evidence was produced by both sides, the court finds that these isolated instances of memory loss and lost documents do not warrant a finding of prejudice. The crucial witnesses were alive, available, and able to testify about the pertinent events and did testify.
Maxi-Aids was able to produce the greater part of the significant documentary evidence. Notably, Maxi-Aids prevailed on the federal trade dress actions, the majority of the federal trademark/service-mark claims, and the state law claim for intentional interference with economic benefits.
In sum, the isolated examples emphasized by the defendants do not supply any basis for a finding of prejudice in the legal sense.
I'll discuss the other argument about prejudice, about the earnings mounting dramatically, in the written opinion. Suffice it to say the court declines to adopt this bizarre theory. Accordingly the court finds that the defendants were not prejudiced by the delay in bringing suit.
The next element is the public interest. Even if it were to find that the plaintiffs had delayed unreasonably in bringing suit and that the defendants were prejudiced by this, it nevertheless would decline to apply the Doctrine of Laches in view of the public's interest at stake in this lawsuit.
The products involved concern the health and safety of visually impaired and physically disabled individuals and their care-givers. It is difficult to conceive of a subject more worthy of public concern and attention. In sum, the court declines to apply the Doctrine of Laches.
With respect to the statute of limitations, the plaintiffs introduced evidence of at least five violations in each of the five consecutive Maxi-Aids catalogues from 1986 through 1989 by using ILA watches in its advertisements. Significantly, Defendant Elliot Zaretsky admitted that he advertised, marketed, and sold the watches bearing the ILA logo through 1990. Since there was evidence of trademark violations in 1989 and 1990, within the six-year period proceeding commencement of this lawsuit in 1995, the bar imposed by the statute of limitations is inapplicable.
I will get to the defendants' motions to dismiss the plaintiffs' claims arising under GBL 349 and 350 essentially in the written opinion. The defendants do not ask for the judgment as a matter of law, because as far as the court is able to discern, the defendants did not specifically move with respect to the GBL claims in their prior motion for judgment as a matter of law and may not renew such a motion now.
To grant a new trial pursuant to Rule 59, the court must find that the verdict with respect to the GBL claims is "seriously erroneous" or constitutes a "miscarriage of justice". Here neither justification for a new trial is present.
I go into at length why I believe that with regard to both GBL claims under 349 for deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any business, and under 350, with regard to false advertising in the conduct of any business.
The defendants mount a two-pronged attack on the GBL claims. First, the plaintiffs did not offer any evidence that any customers were actually deceived. Second, the violations of GBL were not "against the public interest." The plaintiffs, who unfortunately do not offer a single case in support of their position, contend in conclusory fashion that there was adequate evidence on both fronts, since Maxi-Aids's descriptions of the products at issue were patently false and since the public interest was implicated in that the parties, consumers, are disabled disadvantaged individuals.
Contrary to the defendants' suggestion, the first element of a GBL 349 and 350 claim, "that the act or practice was misleading in a material respect," does not require proof in the form of survey evidence, admissible market research, or consumer testimony to demonstrate actual deception. As noted in the practice commentaries to the statutory provisions, "GBL sections 349 and 350 contain no requirement that an injured party show reasonable reliance on his erroneous statements otherwise prohibited by the sections in order to obtain relief."
In the court's view the evidence that was presented with respect to this element of the claims, namely that Maxi-Aids's advertisements of the watches and knives at issue were patently false and admittedly so, supports the jury's finding. It was enough that the plaintiffs' evidence demonstrated "that a reasonable person would be likely to be misled by the material rather than that the individual consumers actually were misled."
The court also finds without merit Maxi-Aids's contention that the GBL violations were not against the public interest. It is clear and unrefuted that the customers at issue are among the most vulnerable in our society: the blind, the elderly, the physically disabled, and the infirm. In the court's view Maxi-Aids's false, misleading advertisements of products directed at this population constitutes "public interest" of the highest order. Therefore, the defendants' motion for a new trial on the GBL claims is denied in all respects.
Next, the defendants move pursuant to Rule 59 for remittitur of the jury award of $2,400,000.06 on the grounds that it is excessive. Alternatively, they seek a new trial relevant to all issues or as to damages alone. Briefly reiterated, to grant the motion for a remittitur, the court must find that the damage award was so excessive as to "shock the judicial conscience and constitute a denial of justice." I am going to cite one case because it was mine: Walz against the Town of Smithtown, 46 F.3d 162 170 (2d Cir.) cert denied, 115 S. Ct. 2557, and other cases, including the most recent cases decided this year.
Affording due deference to the jury's determination, the court in its discretion declines to disturb the award since it neither shocks the judicial conscience nor constitutes a denial of justice.
The award covered myriad trademark and copyright infringements occurring over the span of many years, as well as the defendants' deceptive practices and false advertising. In this court's view there was ample evidence before the jury to support this award. While the defendants expend considerable effort urging this court to set aside this award and to undertake "a detailed appraisal of the evidence bearing on damages," in the court's view such arguments are misplaced. The award is entitled to great deference. It is not for this court to determine de novo what it would have awarded had it been the fact-finder. Since the monetary award is not conscience-shocking, it will not be disturbed.
The defendants seek a new trial on their counterclaim for libel stemming from Sandler's letter dated January 17, 1994, to Jernigan. In the letter which the Braille Monitor published, Sandler accused the defendants of unethical business practices, dishonesty, fraud, and related charges. Without speculating as to the basis for the verdict, a reasonable jury could conclude, based on the evidence presented and this court's charge, that Sandler's remarks were not "defamatory," which is the question they answered. The court instructed the jury as follows, in part:
"In order to recover on the libel counterclaim, the defendants must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the statements in the letter by Plaintiff Sandler... were defamatory, meaning that the statements had a tendency to expose the defendants to public hatred, contempt, ridicule, or disgrace or discredit them in the conduct of their business or occupation... the question for you to decide is whether the statements in the published portions of the letter of the plaintiff, Sandler, were defamatory... not every unpleasant or uncomplimentary statement is defamatory." This is my charge to the jury.
"A statement that is merely unpleasant, offensive, or embarrassing or that hurts the defendants' feelings is not necessarily defamatory. Because language often has different meanings, the law imposes upon the defendants the burden of proving that the statements about which they complain would in fact be understood by the average person to be defamatory as I have defined that term for you".
Without invading the jury's deliberative process, in view of the court's instruction, a fair reading of the record supports the jury's finding that Sandler's remarks did not expose the defendants to public hatred, contempt, ridicule, or disgrace, or otherwise were defamatory because his letter could have been found to describe their conduct, or so the jury could have found.
In other words Sandler's letter couldthe jury could have decided that Sandler's letter would not "lead the average person in the community to form an evil or bad opinion of the defendants under the circumstances of this case."
The defendants' remaining contentionwell, I'm denying the motion for a new trial or in any respect to disturb the verdict on the counterclaim for libel. The defendants' remaining contentions are without merit. For all the foregoing reasons the defendants' motion for judgment as a matter of law, a new trial, and remittitur are all denied in their entirety.
The plaintiffs' motion for attorneys' fees and costs in the amount of the $431,881.40 plus statutory interest, as the prevailing party on their trademark claim, copyright claim, and GBL claims, as set forth more fully below, or in the written opinion, the court is unable to adequately determine the amount of attorneys' fees to be awarded at this time due to several deficiencies in the plaintiffs' fee request:
First, the attorneys' time sheets do not differentiate attorney hours devoted to their successful claims and those claims which the jury rejected. I don't have to go through them again.
The plaintiffs complain that they are unable to distinguish between attorney hours devoted to their successful and unsuccessful claims, mainly because their time sheets do not reflect the exact nature of the work performed.
However, central to an application for attorney's fees is the submission of time records reflecting the hours expended by counsel in pursuing the successful claims of their client. In order for a party to recover attorneys' fees, such time records must be made contemporaneously with the associated work. It is not necessary for the applicant to submit the actual diary entries made by the attorneys at the time they performed the work. Rather, reconstruction of such contemporaneous records on a computer and billing based on these records is adequate, and I'm leaving out the citations. Most of the cases were my cases, as a matter of fact.
What is important is that these records should identify for each attorney the dates, the hours expended, and the nature of the work done. The burden is on counsel to keep and present records from which the court may determine the nature of the work done, the need for it, and the amount of time reasonably required. Where adequate contemporaneous records have not been kept, the court should not award the full amount requested.
In sum, it is the plaintiffs' burden of demonstrating that the fee request relates to work performed on their prevailing claims. The court declines to award plaintiffs' fees and costs associated with the claims on which they did not prevail. Nor will the court award attorneys' fees for defending the libel counterclaim. There is no right to attorneys' fees for that. For this reason the court will afford the plaintiffs' counsel another final opportunity to review their records and determine whether they adhere to their initial assessment that they are unable to distinguish between time spent on the successful claims and hours devoted to the unsuccessful ones. In the event they're unable to do so, the court intends to substantially reduce the total fee application by as much as one half, to reflect that the claims on which the plaintiffs' lost and defense of the libel count are claims which were a major part of their theory of this case.
In this regard the court observes that the plaintiffs seek $10,822 for work performed in connection with their unsuccessful motion for preliminary injunctive relief. The court will not award fees for unsuccessful applications. Accordingly such work must be deleted in the renewed application.
Second, the plaintiffs' counsel must recalculate their fee request, reducing their hourly rates for a partner and associate from $350 per hour for a partner and $175 dollars per hour for an associate, respectively, to $225 per hour for a partner and $135 per hour for an associate, and that is the top fee I'm paying ever. And that was in the Louis Yanno (ph) case only, not the four other cases that at the Second Circuit affirmed at $200 an hour. In the Louis Yanno case, where exceptional services were rendered in a very difficult case, and I consider this a very difficult caseit certainly was difficult for me, and I'm sure it was difficult for all counsel.
I address your attention to Louis Yanno against Olsten, 109 F.3d 111, where the Second Circuit affirmed the $225 an hour in a very complicated employmentand successfuldiscrimination case, where the plaintiffs' counsel, unhappy with my award of $225 an hour and $135 per associate, made a separate appeal from the liability part of the case and the award of damages, a separate appeal on attorney's fees, and brought in professors from law schools, and had amicus curiae, almost every bar association saying that "My office is in Manhattan, prices are high, the rents are high," and all these things, and "I should get Manhattan prices." And the Second Circuit says, the case was tried in the Eastern District of New York in Uniondale; we are not going to get into Manhattan prices. So that was that.
So for Mr. Dweck, $225 an hour; Mr. Hubell or an associate, $135 an hour.
Third, the plaintiffs' fee request includes hours devoted to subjects which on their face bear no relation to this case. Such extraneous matters include ILA's subsequently-filed RICO lawsuit against the defendants and, oddly, "estate planning" for Marvin Sandler. Of course the court is not going to award attorneys' fees for these items. Accordingly the plaintiffs are directed to resubmit their application deleting such items.
For the reasons stated the court is unable to determine the plaintiffs' motion for attorneys' fees. Accordingly the motion is denied without prejudice and with leave to renew within ten days of the date of this decision; no extension will be granted. This motionthese motions were made months and months, ten months, five months, six months, after the verdict. We are not going to waste any more time. Ten days. The court observes that the defendants offer numerous additional arguments against awarding attorneys' fees, which will be addressed when the clarified application is submitted.
Since the defendants already have advised the court of their objections to the fee request, they will not be required to file additional opposition papers. Although they are free to do so, if they do, it is ten days after they receive the plaintiffs' additional submission.
Finally, the plaintiffs' motion for a permanent injunction enjoining the defendants from committing any further violations and/or infringements of plaintiffs' trademarks or copyrights, tortious interference, or engaging in false or deceptive trade practices, and for the preparation of a final judgment providing for the "destruction and confiscation of all infringing catalogs on the part of the defendant," we did not find any objection to this aspect.
Did you object to this, Mr. Mulholland?
MR. MULHOLLAND: Absolutely.
THE COURT: You did? In what part of your opposition did you object?
MR. MULHOLLAND: May I just have a moment?
THE COURT: If you continue to object, I'm going to give you an opportunity to object if you want to. I don't really find any objection to that part of the...
MR. MULHOLLAND: Your Honor, without finding the specific point, I do recall in our papers we pointed out that the alleged copying of catalogs had all been an event that flowed from the original supposed copying of the 1985 catalog. We pointed out that subsequently, in 1995, Maxi-Aids by then had completely revamped its catalog. In fact, that revamping process started in 1993. At trial we were accused of copying the '95 catalog, and plaintiff had conceded the copying had stopped by the time this trial had started.
THE COURT: I'm going to give you an opportunity to file an opposition to this portion within ten days. Because I don't see any opposition.
MR. MULHOLLAND: We can do that more clearly then.
THE COURT: Yes, more clearly. What I'm going to have, is that you're going to file your opposition within ten days, Mr. Mulholland. And ten days after that you're to submit a proposed judgment, final judgment, a proposed injunctive order, for the court to review, good Mr. Dweck.
MR. DWECK: Is that an order or a judgment, your Honor?
THE COURT: I guess it is a judgment. I want it to be part of the other judgment. I want to see what it looks like first.
MR. DWECK: So you want that separate?
THE COURT: Just that separate section. In conclusion, having reviewed the parties' submissions and oral argument, and for the reasons stated orally and in the written opinion to be issued, it is ordered that the defendants' motions pursuant to Rules 50 and 59 are denied.
It is further ordered that the plaintiffs' motion for attorneys' fees is denied without prejudice and with leave to renew within ten days from today, in keeping with the declarations of the court. And as far as the plaintiffs' motion for a permanent injunction and preparation of a final judgment providing for this injunctive relief and for the destruction and confiscation of all infringing catalogs, I'm going to wait to receive the opposition from the defendant and then the proposed portion of the final judgment having to do with injunctive relief. We will issue a written opinion as soon as we can. Thank you very much.
There you have the transcript of Judge Spatt's July 17 ruling. He has three final matters to decide now that his written opinion has been circulated. At this writing (in mid-September) he has not yet announced these decisions. The first is the amount he will instruct Maxi-Aids to reimburse ILA for legal fees. Dweck's firm recalculated the amount in accordance with the judge's instructions but apparently still didn't get it right. So the discussions continue.
The second matter is the plaintiffs' motion for a permanent injunction prohibiting the defendants from committing further violations or infringements of ILA's trademarks or copyrights, tortious interference, or engaging in false or deceptive trade practices. The judge invited Mr. Dweck to write the language the plaintiffs would like to see and Mr. Mulholland to suggest modifications. Dweck's text listed officers and directors of Maxi-Aids as well as all four members of the Zaretsky family by name in the permanent injunction. Mulholland pointed out that Elliot Zaretsky's deaf son Harold had not been found guilty of a number of the charges by the jury, so he asked that Harold's actual name be dropped from the list. Sandler reports that, since Harold is both an officer and a director of Maxi-Aids, he continues to be covered by the proposed injunction, so ILA has no problem with Mulholland's suggested change. Judge Spatt, however, has not yet indicated his decision.
As for the confiscation and destruction of Maxi-Aids catalogues, Marvin Sandler reports that Mitchel told the judge that all the old catalogues had been destroyed and that Maxi-Aids staff were now using only the 1998 catalogues, which do not infringe. Mulholland, on the other hand, assured the judge that all but about ten of the old catalogues will be destroyed. The ten would be used for reference purposes when filling orders from people using old catalogues.
Sandler points out that, setting aside the difference in verb tense ("had been" versus "will be") between the two statements, the ten catalogues precisely demonstrate the problem. Unless Maxi-Aids sets out to notify its customers that their old catalogues must be returned, the infringing pictures and text will continue to do damage for years to come. This dispute is still to be resolved by the judge's order.
In the meantime Mulholland has definitely been fired by Zaretsky. At the July 17 hearing Mulholland was conducting matters for the defendants, but the new firm of Bauer and Schaffer was also represented. No announcement has yet been made about whether or not Zaretsky intends to appeal the jury's decision because all the loose ends must be tied up before an appeal can be filed. But the very fact that a new firm has been retained suggests that Elliot Zaretsky intends to appeal the verdict.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has not yet announced what it intends to do about continuing to accept bids from Maxi-Aids in the wake of this case. No one at the VA is prepared to make a public statement, but we understand that a decision is expected soon.
The mills of justice certainly do grind slowly. Ten months have passed since a jury found that Maxi-Aids engaged in a number of unfair and deceptive practices. Yet private and state agencies continue to give them business. Low price appears to be the explanation, but where and when will morality enter the equation? We will keep you posted.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Michael Baillif]
The Naked Truth about Benign Discrimination
by Michael Baillif
From the Editor: Michael Baillif is an attorney working in New York City. Until recently he lived and worked in the nation's capital, where anything can happen and eventually will. In the following article he reflects on the significance of one of the more bizarre incidents to occur recently on the diplomatic scene.
This is what he says:
Have you ever had a dream in which you found yourself in public and, to your horror, realized that you didn't have on any clothes? Believe it or not, a variation of this nightmare actually happened to a man in Washington, D.C., early last summer.
In June the President of South Korea came to Washington to meet with President Clinton. Among other festivities a state dinner was held to celebrate the occasion. As the guests walked through a receiving line shaking hands with President Clinton, the unthinkable happened. One of the attendees, a renowned video artist, who also happened to be disabled, stood up from his wheelchair and, with the help of a walker, approached President Clinton for a handshake. As he extended his hand, the man's pants somehow became unfastened and fell down around his ankles. To make matters worse for both the man and those in the audience, he wasn't wearing any underwear!
The next day the poor man's disaster was greeted with howls of laughter on news shows and talk radio programs across the country. After all, the image of someone's pants falling down as he greets the President is something right out of a Marx Brothers movie. Significantly, however, the laughter evoked by this incident choked in the throats of many when they learned that the man was disabled. MSNBC, for instance, refused to air the report of the mishap, describing it as "an unfortunate incident with a handicapped gentleman."
This unwillingness to join in the merriment, however, revealed a second naked truth, this time about the nature of benign discrimination. With the best of intentions some in the media denied the man the most basic aspect of equality: the right to be laughed at when one is at the center of an absurd situation. As Jane Austen so eloquently phrased it in Pride and Prejudice, "For what do we live but to be made sport of by our neighbors and to laugh at them in our turn?"
Where a potentially humorous situation is attributable, not to a person's disability or some other distinguishing characteristic, but to a circumstance that could involve anyone, laughter is the appropriate reaction. Indeed, to suppress mirth in such a case is to build a protective wall around the member of a minority group. While this wall may shield the member of the minority from the few snickers that everyone occasionally merits, it just as surely precludes the person from full acceptance as an equal in the world we all inhabit.
An important contrast to the concept exemplified by the man and his fallen pants was the misuse of a particular characteristic perpetrated in the Mr. Magoo movie. In Mr. Magoo the attempted humor was specifically based on exploitation of blindness. In an effort to gain chuckles, blindness was portrayed in a way that was not only inaccurate but insulting and ultimately harmful. The distorted image of blindness on which the creators of Mr. Magoo sought to capitalize was, for the most part, recognized as tasteless. It no longer tickled the funny bone of a society in which the understanding that blindness does not equate with incapacity is steadily advancing.
In Mr. Magoo the subject of the humor was blindness. In the case of the man and his fallen pants, however, the humor was derived from an event that could have happened to anyone. Coincidentally, it befell someone who was disabled.
In this case the immediate and natural reaction is the healthiest and most productive one. People should laugh and enjoy the strange events that fate drops in their path.
Ultimately, the extent to which a person who happens to be a member of a minority group is subject to laughter for the right reasons is one of the most accurate measures of equality. Once we are successful in helping society understand why the incident with the man and his falling pants is funny and why Mr. Magoo is not, we will have taken one more step toward ending benign discrimination. This reality is a basic truth that was revealed when the man dropped his pants in President Clinton's receiving line.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Homer Page]
Page Sets Sights on County
Democrats Eye Only Elected Seat in County
Government Held by a Republican
by Jason Gewirtz and Kristin Dizon
From the Editor: Homer Page is a longtime leader in the National Federation of the Blind and an experienced politician. He is about to take part in yet another election in Boulder, Colorado. The following article giving the details appeared in the June 11, 1998, Boulder Daily Camera.
Homer Page is challenging Republican incumbent Sandy Hume for Boulder County Treasurer in the November election.
Page, a Democrat, accepted the nomination Wednesday from a Boulder County Democratic Party committee targeting vacant government positions. While he has not officially announced his candidacy, Page said he expects to shortly.
"There are some serious reasons why we need to take back this seat," Page said to a crowded, clapping audience at the monthly meeting.
He said Hume has been an inconsistent treasurer who has poor relationships with the financial community, other elected officials, and county government staff.
Page, a former two-time Boulder City councilman and Boulder County commissioner, recently dropped out of the crowded primary race for the Second Congressional District seat vacated by U.S. Representative David Skaggs.
Page acknowledged that he previously had his sights set higher than the treasurer post and asked himself whether he really wanted the job when the party nominating committee came calling.
"In all honesty, six months ago I would have said no," Page said.
Now, he said, he is proud to be seeking the office.
"What I really want is to be active in this community, to be active in the political process, and to make a contribution," he said.
Democrats are keeping a close eye on the treasurer's position because it is the only elected office in county government held by a Republican.
"This is going to be a tough year," Page added. "We're going to be challenged up and down the ticket."
Democratic party member Sam Forsyth said, "We have an opportunity to elect only the second Democrat to the county treasurer's office in over sixty years."
Hume is a former county commissioner who also served eight years in the state Senate and House of Representatives. He has been treasurer since 1994, leaving his commissioner position to seek the post.
Hume, who announced his plans to run again in April, said he assumed the Democrats would submit a challenger for his position and had heard rumors of Page entering the race.
"I know Homer well, and I'm sure we'll have
an interesting and honorable race," he said.
New Mexico School Update
From the Editor: For some time now we have been following the situation at the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped (NMSVH). (See the October, 1996, issue of the Braille Monitor for details.) In May of this year the U.S. Justice Department finally released its report on the school. It makes discouraging, if not distressing, reading. In recent months some hopeful signs have appeared. The Board of Regents is now radically different from the one that looked the other way when the worst of the abuses were taking place. Also, beginning with the current academic year, Dr. Nell Carney, the former Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, has taken over as superintendent at NMSVH. All this is good news, but the new broom has a lot to sweep away. The following summary of the Justice Department's report appeared in the June 24, 1998, edition of the Albuquerque Journal. Here it is:
Feds Fault New Mexico School for Blind
Students Not Taught Braille, Cane Use
by Rene Romo
The state's primary school for the blind has failed to teach most of its students how to read Braille and walk with a cane and lacks adequate mental health services, according to a report issued recently by the U.S. Justice Department.
The report is the first in-depth, independent analysis of the Alamogordo school's teaching performance and provides "a sad commentary on what's been going on over the last twenty years," said Joe Salazar, vice president of the Board of Regents for the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped.
Salazar and Board of Regents president James Salas acknowledged the school had problems but declined to release details of planned corrective measures.
They said the state Attorney General's Office, representing the school, sent a proposal to the Justice Department on June 15 outlining a plan to remedy the alleged violations of students' statutorily guaranteed rights.
"Every area they pointed out where we were weak, we are going to correct," Salazar said.
A Justice Department spokesman was unable to respond Tuesday to questions about the report.
The Justice Department investigation stemmed from a 1996 civil suit filed against the school's regents and employees by sixteen former students who alleged acts of physical and sexual abuse by school staff and other students between 1973 and 1996.
The students, who charged school administrators ignored complaints and failed to protect students, settled their suit in January. Terms of the settlement have not been released.
According to the Justice investigation carried out by the Civil Rights Division, only twelve of the sixty-five to seventy students attending the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped during the 1996-97 academic year could read Braille. Sixteen students could not read at all.
The school, at the time of an April, 1997, tour, had only a part-time Braille teacher, and "many of the other classroom teachers appear to consider Braille too difficult for their students," who are of average or above average intelligence, the report states.
The majority of students were taught to read print, often standard-size print, the report states. Those students include legally blind students and those with degenerative eye disease and who will eventually lose most or all of their sight.
Of the twelve students said to read Braille, many who are partially sighted read Braille with their eyes instead of using their fingertips to decipher the raised printed code.
The report said it was "unacceptable" that some visually impaired students had to wait months to receive replacements when they lost or damaged their eyeglasses.
The school also failed to ensure that able-bodied students were proficient in the use of a cane, the report states. Some students told investigators they avoided using canes to avoid public embarrassment. But the Justice report said the school should "address such emotional and social concerns directly, rather than permitting students to literally bump around in a misplaced effort to conceal their disability."
Arthur Schreiber, President of the New Mexico chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, a private advocacy group, said teaching Braille and other independent living skills such as walking with a cane are the backbone of specialized instruction for the blind.
"I think they (NMSVH) are doing horribly," Schreiber said.
"They certainly have a big job in front of them."
Albuquerque attorney Bruce Pasternack, who represented the sixteen plaintiffs in the civil suit against the school, said the Justice Department investigation confirmed his clients' complaints of a lack of protection and educational deficiencies:
"The government corroborated that."
The investigation, however, did not deal with allegations of physical and sexual abuse.
Despite the lawsuit, the school still had an inadequate abuse-reporting system in place in late 1997, according to the Justice Department. School policy required employees to report suspected abuse, but there was no standard reporting form. And there was no mechanism for students or parents to report abuse or neglect, the report states.
"Although our evaluation revealed that the school has significant strengths on which to build, it revealed violations of students' constitutional and federal statutory rights," said the report, signed by Bill Lann Lee, acting assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division.
The report also states the school lacked adequate mental health resources, mainly because mental health counseling services are provided by unlicensed or unqualified staff.
In one case a student's self-mutilation behavior was addressed not with treatment but a warning he would be punished if the behavior continued. In another case a boy with a history of suicidal gestures was turned down when he requested more than monthly counseling sessions.
Schreiber said the report is especially galling since the school, a land-grant institution, is one of the best endowed institutions for the blind in the country.
The school had an annual budget of more than $7 million in 1997, spending the equivalent of $105,000 for each of the seventy students living on campus.
At the time of the April, 1997, tour of the campus, the school employed 160 full- and part-time staff members, of whom "only twenty-one provided education and habilitation services directly to students," the report said.
Former student Jennifer Switzer-Hensley, a 1977 graduate of the Alomogordo school, said she was not surprised by the report. She didn't learn Braille or how to use a cane until two years ago through a state Commission for the Blind service.
"If you had any sight at all, we weren't taught mobility, even if your condition would deteriorate," Switzer-Hensley said.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Seville Allen]
Different Roads: The NFB Makes the Difference
by Seville Allen
From the Editor: The following article first appeared in the Spring, 1998, issue of the Vigilant, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia. Seville Allen edits that publication. She is a longtime Federationist and a leader of the NFB of Virginia. This is what she says:
We hadn't seen each other since that day in June, 1959, when we graduated from the eighth grade. We had been best friends from the time we entered kindergarten until we returned to school in the fall of 1956 to begin the sixth grade. I returned as a total, as those with no sight were known at the residential school for the blind. My best friend was partially sighted, and she continued playing with the sighted kids. Our friendship faded, and by the time we graduated from eighth grade, we hardly saw each other at all. That was thirty-nine years ago.
Last spring our paths crossed electronically when I answered an e-mail she sent to a listserv requesting contact with graduates of the school for the blind we had both attended. We discovered that during the thirty-eight years since our eighth grade graduation our lives had taken very different roads. She attended a public high school in her home town. I completed my secondary education at the school for the blind. She married and became a parent, raising three children. I became a clinical social worker, then a career civil servant working as a federal employee.
My former playmate was not a Federationist, but she arranged to meet me at our 1997 convention in New Orleans so we could meet again in person. When the time came to meet her, I was a little anxious since all our contact had been by electronic mail. We had not spoken at all. As it turned out, my anxiety was unnecessary. She greeted me enthusiastically when I knocked on her door at the hotel.
Since we've met in person, we've spent many hours getting to know each other again. Her voice and personality are much as I remember. We are both avid readers, study history, and enjoy traveling. While our lives have been very different, we still have a lot in common, just as we did as children. The biggest difference I see between us now is our attitude about our blindness. Blindness has kept her from reaching her full potential. She tells me how difficult it is to do things because of her low vision or, as she says, "Because I can't see very well." But more than that she continuously marvels at what I do in spite of my total blindness. I can illustrate the difference in our approach to blindness with an incident that happened when we visited in New Orleans.
She and her husband had gone to a small, inexpensive restaurant for breakfast. She told me about the wonderful pancakes, and I asked how to get there. She began explaining where the restaurant was located, then hesitated. "Well," she said "you better have a sighted person go with you because you have to cross a street."
I joined the National Federation of the Blind about twenty-four years ago, and that changed my life. Perhaps had I not become a part of our Federation family and learned that blindness is an inconvenient characteristic, I too would have believed I needed a sighted guide to take me to that pancake restaurant.
I realized fully that our different approaches to blindness result from my involvement with the NFB when we recently met for lunch. I was visiting her city on a job-related assignment. My rediscovered childhood friend asked how I travel to strange cities on my own without fear and with no eyesight. I heard myself telling her that the National Federation of the Blind has made the difference. I told her that, until I met the Federation, I had assumed there were many things I just wouldn't do, but for me that is all different now. She was quiet for a moment then told me that, when she was in New Orleans last summer, she was overwhelmed by watching blind people running the convention.
That experience has helped her begin to
re-examine her own situation. I'll continue to encourage her through my words and more
through my actions, and perhaps some day she too will be a Federationist. It's never too
late to put blindness in its proper perspective, as one more characteristic that makes us
who we are just as do our height, gender, and temperament.
Taking Out the Garbage
by Kathy McGillivray
From the Editor: The following article first appeared in the Spring, 1998, issue of the Minnesota Bulletin, a publication of the NFB of Minnesota. Kathy McGillivray is a Disability Specialist in the Disability Services department at the University of Minnesota. As Kathy's experience shows, NFB philosophy and self-confidence come to a person in varied and interesting ways. This is what she says:
The day had finally arrived. The last box had been hauled away from the apartment where I had lived for the past five years. I was excited. Finally I had a place of my own. No more paying rent. No more repeated calls to the caretaker to beg him to fix my sink. I was free at last. I had just moved into my newly-purchased condominium and was happy to have more space and to live in a quieter neighborhood.
Overall, the move had gone relatively smoothly. In fact, this was the easiest move I could ever remember. Now that all ten of my volunteer moving crew had left, I decided it was time to take out some garbage. We had already unpacked some of my boxes, and they were neatly stacked near the door. I decided it was time to get rid of them before the pile became too large.
I remember that, when I had first looked at the house, one of the other owners had warned me that the dumpster would be very difficult for me to find. She said I would probably need some help with it. She let me know about another blind person who had wandered several blocks looking for it. I told her that I appreciated her concern, but I would do just fine.
Hoisting my boxes onto my shoulder, I made my way down the back stairs and out to the parking lot. A sighted friend had informed me that I could go out and walk straight ahead for a few yards, take a left and go about twice as far again, and I would be at the dumpster.
I tried following these directions, but alas, no dumpster. I worked my way around several cars in the parking lot and searched for the dumpster but was unable to find it. Within a few minutes a woman came out and showed me where it was. I thanked her politely but inwardly felt humiliated, frustrated, and even a bit angry. It was just not fair. I had just bought my own place, organized the move, and now I could not seem even to take out my own garbage.
A few days later I invited a friend to my house. My pile of boxes had grown rather large, and there were several bags of trash that needed to be taken out. I asked my friend for some assistance since there was so much to haul. At this point there was a lot of snow in the back of the building, and many cars were parked there. My friend commented, "This is really going to be hard for you to find. There are really no landmarks; you just have to find your way through open space." She offered several suggestions for ways to locate the dumpster. I tried them later that week and was not very successful.
The reader of this account might be wondering why this was such a difficult task for me. The dumpsters are located across an alley, where many cars are parked, and the snow is not shoveled very well in the winter.
Several days later I asked the president of the condominium association whether it would be possible to move the dumpsters closer to the building. She said no.
Finally, I decided that enough was enough. I was going to find a way to locate these dumpsters, no matter how long it took. I grabbed my trash and headed outside.
This time I really made an effort to notice my surroundings and changes in the terrain as I moved closer to the dumpsters. Upon finding them, I took time to look around the whole area. I noticed that there was a garage within several feet of the dumpsters. I had also noted a fence and several trees along my path. As I returned to my house, I wondered why nobody had pointed out these environmental cues to me, especially the garage. In a way I was glad they hadn't because it gave me the opportunity to discover them on my own.
By now, as you can probably guess, taking out the trash at my new place is a routine task, and I don't even think about it. While this was a relatively small incident in my life, it made me think about some garbage we blind people can collect in our attitudes if we are not careful.
One of the biggest pieces of garbage we can collect is the idea that sighted people have more information about the environment than blind people do and that they know best what we can do and how we should do it. While sighted people can provide valuable information, they do not necessarily have all the information. As Federationists know, blind people are often the best teachers of other blind people.
A second piece of garbage we need to take out of our lives is excessive anger and frustration. Whether we are blind or sighted, if we are honest with ourselves, we all experience frustration in our lives to one degree or another. Anger and frustration can be our friends if they move us to action. They can sound an alarm that calls us to wake up and make a change in our lives. At a certain level the NFB came into existence because of positive anger. People were angry about the lack of opportunities for blind people and the negative stereotypes society often has about us, so they did something about it. On the other hand, anger becomes an enemy when it paralyzes us and saps us of the creative energy we need to solve problems in our lives.
The third piece of garbage that needs to be disposed of is plain, old-fashioned laziness. If you're like me, you prefer things to be easy rather than hard. Unfortunately, much of life is not easy. I think we all know several blind people who would rather have things done for them than learn the alternative techniques that would enable them to do things themselves. I fear that this attitude will not pay off in the end.
Just as I found a way to get my trash to the dumpster, all of us need to find ways to get rid of the garbage that collects in our lives. Through the work of the National Federation of the Blind, we can recognize that garbage and put it where it belongs.
From the Editor: This month's recipes have been provided by members of the NFB's Public Employees Division.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ellen Paxson]
by Ellen Paxson
Ellen Paxson works as a customer service representative for the Social Security Administration in Stockton, California.
1 slab pork spareribs
1 bottle barbecue sauce
Method: Bake the ribs on a rack in a roasting pan at 350 degrees for one hour. Remove from oven, cut ribs into serving-size pieces, and smother with barbecue sauce. Return to oven and cook for another hour.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Annette Anderson]
Green Bean Salad
by Annette Anderson
Annette Anderson is the Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind's Public Employees Division and a member of the Board of Directors of the Ohio affiliate. She is employed as an investigator for the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.
1 pound fresh or frozen green beans
3-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2-1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons dried dill weed
3 tablespoons slivered red onion
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
Salt and black pepper to taste
Method: Steam green beans until almost tender. Rinse in cold water, drain, and pat dry. Combine olive oil, lemon juice, dill weed, and onions. Add beans and black pepper. Before serving, add feta cheese, toss, and mix well, adding salt if needed. Serve at room temperature.
by Annette Anderson
4 small packages assorted Jell-O
1 small package raspberry Jell-O
2 cups unsweetened pineapple juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1 pint heavy cream
Method: In four pans prepare the assorted packages of Jell-O according to package directions. When Jell-O is firm, cut each batch into cubes, place them all in a bowl, and refrigerate. In a saucepan combine pineapple juice, sugar, and raspberry Jell-O and stir over medium heat until the Jell-O dissolves. Set mixture aside to cool. When the mixture is the consistency of whipping cream, whip the heavy cream, fold it into the raspberry mixture, and fold the combined mixture into the assorted Jell-O cubes. Line a large shallow pan with whole ginger snaps, spoon Jell-O mixture over top, refrigerate for four hours, and serve.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: John Halverson]
by John Halverson
Dr. John Halverson is the president of the Public Employees Division and a longtime leader in the NFB. He is the Regional Manager, Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Region VII, located in Kansas City, Missouri.
1 pound mild Mexican Velveeta cheese with jalapeno peppers
1 large jar picante sauce, medium
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach
1 4-ounce can green chilies
Method: In a large bowl microwave spinach and break into small pieces with a fork. Add picante sauce and chilies (including liquid) and microwave for two minutes more. Cube the cheese, add to mixture, and return to microwave for four minutes or until cheese is completely melted. Mix thoroughly and serve with blue corn chips. To increase the heat, substitute hotter picante sauce or hotter cheese.
Margaritas by the Pitcher
by John Halverson
John points out that these are a great accompaniment to the chips and spinach dip in the previous recipe.
12 ounces frozen limeade concentrate
3 limeade cans water
Method: In a large pitcher place the frozen limeade and three cans of water. Using the limeade can as a measure, pour it two-thirds full (eight ounces) with tequila. Complete filling the can with four ounces triple sec and pour into pitcher. Mix thoroughly, pour over ice, and enjoy!
by John Halverson
2 packages frozen hash brown potatoes
½ cup melted butter
¼ cup chopped onion
1 cup cream of chicken soup
1 pint sour cream
10 ounces grated cheddar cheese
Method: Thaw potatoes for forty-five minutes before using. Combine all ingredients except bread crumbs in a greased 9-by-13-by-2-inch pan and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake one hour at 350.
by John Halverson
3 cups unsweetened applesauce
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups white sugar
½ cup butter or margarine
½ cup cooking oil
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup raisins, optional
1 cup nuts, optional
6 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking soda
Method: Mix all ingredients thoroughly and pour into greased and floured baking pan of choice. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
Method: In a small saucepan mix all ingredients; boil, stirring for two minutes. Remove from heat and, when cool, pour over cake.
News from the Technology World:
We received the following press release shortly before the National Convention. It is self-explanatory:
Blazie Engineering to Acquire
Telesensory's Computer Access Products Group
Forest Hill, MD and Sunnyvale, CAJune 18, 1998--Blazie Engineering and Telesensory Corporation jointly announced the planned acquisition by Blazie Engineering of Telesensory Corporation's Computer Access Products (CAP) group. This product group includes the PowerBraille family of refreshable Braille displays and distribution of related hardware and software products. The transaction is scheduled to close in July, 1998.
Both companies are major developers, manufacturers, and distributors of assistive and adaptive devices for people who are visually impaired around the world. This transaction will provide a win-win situation for the companies and their customers. Deane Blazie, President and founder of Blazie Engineering stated that this "represents an outstanding opportunity for our company to rapidly expand its very successful line of Braille equipment by adding the PowerBraille family of Braille displays." Blazie Engineering will continue its focus on providing state-of-the-art Braille equipment to the worldwide blind community, in addition to improving tactile access to the Graphical User Interface of the twenty-first century.
This transaction will also allow Telesensory to centralize its efforts on its core business. Larry Israel, Telesensory's chairman, president, and chief executive officer, stated that this will allow the company to penetrate other under-served markets with their Video Magnifier and OCR Reading Machines. These are especially popular among the older population still eager to preserve an independent and active life style.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Denise Mackenstadt]
We recently learned that Denise Mackenstadt, one of the leaders of the parents division and the Washington State affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind, was elected to Chair the Board of Trustees of the Washington State School for the Blind. Nine trustees are appointed by the Governor. Denise represents the First Congressional District, north and east of Seattle. She has been a member of the board for some time, and we are certain she will do an excellent job as its leader.
In the Spirit of the Season:
The following tidbit was published in the October, 1997, issue of SB News, an internal industry publication of SmithKline Beecham. The feature column was titled, "As I See It," and the subheading read, "What was your best Halloween costume?"
Patrick Barrett, a Year 2000 compliance specialist with Diversified Pharmaceutical Services and an active member of the NFB of Minnesota, said:
"My best costume was a talking book for the blind. My wife and I are blind and listen to talking books on cassette tapes. I cut holes in a long, rectangular box for my arms and legs, as well as for the cogs of the tape. I affixed print and Braille labels and played the tape that matched the label on a battery-powered tape player, which I held inside the box. I won first prize at a local eatery."
On Tuesday, March 24, 1998, the fifty-eighth chapter of the NFB of South Carolina was organized in Calhoun County, the last county without an NFB chapter. Now there is no blind South Carolinian anywhere in the state who is more than a few miles from a Federation chapter. The new officers are Irene Taylor, President; Kimberly King, Vice President; and Ann McCabe, Secretary/Treasurer. Congratulations to this new chapter and to the NFB of South Carolina.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Arthur Segal, December 10, 1927, to August 25, 1998]
Sharon Maneki, President of the NFB of Maryland, recently notified us of the death of our longtime brother and colleague, Arthur Segal. This is what she wrote:
I am sorry to report the death of Arthur Segal on Tuesday, August 25, 1998. Arthur was a member of the NFB for fifty-two years, a most unusual record. Arthur was not just a member; he was an activist. He was the president of the Merchants Division for many years and held numerous offices, including president in the NFB of Pennsylvania.
Throughout his life Arthur had numerous careers. He spread Federation philosophy in all of them. As a rehabilitation counselor he introduced many Pennsylvanians to the Federation. As a businessman in the Vending Program he not only encouraged other vendors to join the Federation but also initiated a work study program for the students at his alma mater, the Overbrook School for the Blind. In Maryland Arthur worked for Baltimore City as the Mayor's ADA coordinator and served on many task forces to promote better access for the blind.
Arthur understood that the Federation meant friendship and fellowship. He used his art of gourmet cooking not only to entertain but to spread confidence and hope to other blind people. He loved children and for many years delighted in playing Santa Claus at the Baltimore Chapter Christmas parties. One of Arthur's jobs at NFB of Maryland conventions was to organize the auction to raise money for the tenBroek Memorial Fund. He made sure that we always managed to meet the pledge that we had made at our National Convention. Arthur's spirit will remain with us, especially when we listen to the recording of his singing "The Blind Workshop Blues."
It was most appropriate for Arthur's memorial service to take place at the National Center for the Blind. We will miss Arthur. His dedication, loyalty, and love of our movement will continue to be an inspiration to all who knew him.
Edgar Sammons would like to correspond in Braille with anybody from anywhere in the country. He would prefer to correspond with people who are forty years old or more, but if younger people want to write to him, he will appreciate it. Monitor readers may remember that one of his letters was quoted in a banquet speech some years ago. Contact him at 2365 Cold Springs Road, Mountain City, Tennessee 37683.
At its April 8, 1998, chapter meeting, the Potomac Chapter of the NFB of Virginia elected the following officers: Larry Povinelli, President; Seville Allen, First Vice President; Robert McDonald, Second Vice President; Bob Hartt, Treasurer; Cathy Schroeder, Recording Secretary; Carol Cooper, Corresponding Secretary; and Melissa Resnick, Nancy Yeager, and Louise Ruhf, Board Members.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Completely reconditioned Perkins Braille writer, $350. Trade-in accepted. Payment plan is negotiable. Call Nino Pacini evenings or weekends at (313) 885-7330.
Jiffy Slate for 3-by-5-inch index cards. Call Nino Pacini evenings or weekends at (313) 885-7330.
Alive and Well in Rochester, New York:
The July issue of the Braille Monitor carried a miniature on page 509, which inquired about the whereabouts of the National Braille Association. The writer thought perhaps the NBA had either moved or closed. Almost immediately we received two responsesone saying that the agency had closed; the other assuring us that it had not and that the Brailler jewelry was still available. Since the second letter was from the NBA executive director, we pass along its contact information. The National Braille Association is located at 3 Townline Circle, Rochester, New York 14623-2513, (716) 427-8260, fax (716) 427-0263, e-mail <[email protected]>, Web site <http://members.aol.com/nbaoffice/index.htm>.
The prices of Perkins Brailler jewelry are pins, $49, and charms, $45. Checks, money orders, Visa, and MasterCard are accepted.
Fortune Cookies for Sale:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Lucky Touch Fortune Cookie Company is a student-operated business at the California School for the Blind that sells giant fortune cookies (about six inches by five inches by four inches) with combined large print and Braille fortunes. The standard cookies sell for 40 cents each and the large ones for $6 each. Students can also put in customized fortunes. Chocolate-dipped fortune cookies are also available. For more information please contact Judith Lesner, Advisor, (510) 794-3800, extension 300, or e-mail to <[email protected]>.
Braille Transcription of the Koran Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The Arizona Instructional Resource Center at the Foundation for Blind Children in Phoenix announces the completion of a Braille transcription of the English Translation of the Holy Koran. The Braille copy is available for sale in seven volumes. For more information or to purchase, please call the AIRC at (602) 331-1470.
Jett Enterprises Catalog Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Jett Enterprises announces that its 1998 "No Frills, Just
Priced Right" catalog is available as of September. It is packed
with all-occasion gifts, talking products, and specialty items
for guide dogs and for everyday living. Call (760) 778-8280 for a
free cassette or a 3.5-inch disk. If you have previously received
a catalog on disk, return it and have the new catalog copied to
it. Jett Enterprises will return it at no charge. They do not
ship outside the United States. Send your request to Jett
Enterprises, 3140 Cambridge Court, Palm Springs, California
92264. Visit the Web site at <www.onisland.com/jett>
The Jackson Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Mississippi elected the following officers for 1998: Sam Gleese, President; Alfred Hudson, First Vice President; Sarah White, Second Vice President; Deloris Watkins, Secretary; James Prince, Treasurer; and Lorraine Williams and John Hawkins, members of the Board of Directors.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Jumbo Brailler, $450, includes shipping. Brailler just came from Howe Press, so it should be in tip-top shape.
Braille 'n Speak 640 with 1996 update. No flash memory, asking $850, including shipping, cable, carrying case, and adapter.
DECtalk Express (external), brand new, in box, never opened.
Asking $950, including shipping.
Talking adding machine from Science Products for the Blind. Works fine. Instruction tape with it. Asking $240, including shipping.
One CD called, "AM Gold 1970," $13 plus $3 shipping. If interested in any of the above, call Isaac at (617) 247-0026.
The Hazelhurst Chapter of the NFB of Mississippi elected the following officers for this year: Wade Branum, President; Frank McGowan, First Vice President; Prentice Horton, Second Vice President; James Lockett, Secretary; Tina Branum, Treasurer; and Directors, Richard Zinzel and Dale Landry.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Paul and Bernadette Dressell]
Braillewriter Cleaning and Repair Service:
Paul Dressell, a longtime NFB leader in Ohio, asked us to carry the following announcement:
Bernadette Dressell, who has been cleaning and repairing Perkins Braillers since January, 1998, has been trained and certified by Howe Press, where Perkins Braillewriters are manufactured. She now has all parts in stock, and she can normally guarantee a two-week turnaround. Please call or write for price quotes to Bernadette Dressell, 2714 Ruberg Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45211-8118, (513) 481-7662.
Dolphin Computer Access Now in U.S.:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Dolphin Computer Access is pleased to announce the opening of its U.S. office in San Mateo, California. From this office customers will be able to purchase and receive support directly on Dolphin's full range of Windows 95, 98, and NT assistive-technology products. Contact Dolphin Computer Access, LLC, 100 South Ellsworth Avenue, 4th Floor, San Mateo, California 94401, sales (650) 348-7401, support (650) 348-7402, fax (650) 348-7403, Web site: <http://www.dolphinusa.com>.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Reading Edge book, newspaper, magazine, and letter, portable reading machine, never used, in shipping container with latest upgrade and documentation manual, audio instruction cassette manual with Braille labels. Asking $2,935. Contact Lyndon at (561) 585-7952 or <[email protected]>.
In a recent issue we printed a notice announcing the availability of the new catalog from Access USA, but the fax number was listed instead of the voice line. To receive a catalog, call (800) 263-2750, e-mail <[email protected]>.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The NFB of Wisconsin is currently raising funds by selling bean bag key rings. As single items they will sell for $3 each. There are two types, zoo animals or puppies. If you buy one of each, your total cost for the two is $5. (Add $1 for postage to all orders for one or two.) Contact Julie Vogt, (715) 395-0049 or cell phone (218) 343-8950. Make checks payable to NFB of Wisconsin and send with your order to Julie Vogt, 2620 Tower Avenue, Apartment 6, Superior, Wisconsin 54880.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The Clovernook Center for the Blind seeks to fill the position of rehabilitation teacher. The successful candidate, who will report to the supervisor of programming, will provide assessment, instruction, and evaluation of personal management, home management, communication, and education skills to people who are visually impaired. The job requirements include graduation from an accredited college or university with a degree in rehabilitation teaching, certified by AER in rehabilitation teaching (or AER certifiable); preferred experience with population who are blind and multi-disabled; ability to work cooperatively with others toward the promotion of the optimal independence of all persons regardless of disability; work flexible hours as needed; pre-employment drug screening and background check as required by Clovernook Center; a post-offer, pre-employment doctor's statement indicating the applicant is free of communicable disease and able to perform the job duties; and successful completion and maintenance of OD/MRDD approved CPR and first aid training.
For more information contact Michael Walsh, VP Human Resources, Clovernook Center, 7000 Hamilton Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45231-5240, (513) 522-3860, Internet address, <http://www.clovernook.org>.
New Product Release:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Full Life Products introduces the only truly affordable Talking Caller ID. CIDney Model 500 costs $39.99 (plus shipping and handling). This unit will speak the incoming caller's 10-digit phone number between the first and second ring. If the incoming caller's number is blocked or unidentifiable, it will announce "number blocked" or "number unknown." CIDney 500 stores the last ten calls and speaks them back to you upon command (including the day and date of the call). The unit's voice has a mute and three volume settings. About the size of a deck of cards, the Model 500 is easy to use and takes seconds to plug in. Contact Full Life Products, P.O. Box 490 Mirror Lake, New Hampshire 03853, or call toll free (800) 400-1540, Web site:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
AST 486DX 266 computer and keyboard, SVGA monochrome monitor, Artic Transport speech synthesizer, and HP Arkenstone scanner. Entire system fully compatible, ready to run. Asking $1,600 (negotiable). Call Marion Lanham, (410) 256-4843 (home) or (410) 879-8920, extension 262 (office).
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ted Henter]
Ted Henter Honored:
Henter-Joyce, Inc., was named the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year in category II (25 to 100 employees) during a ceremony at the St. Petersburg Coliseum June 4, 1998.
The award was accepted by Henter-Joyce President Ted Henter and CEO Mel Henter. Henter-Joyce will now be entered in the state of Florida small business competition.
Here is the text of the award:
Evan Kemp Entrepreneurship Award
President's Committee on Employment
Of People with Disabilities
Theodore C. Henter
For displaying exemplary skills, energy,
Leadership, initiative, and courage necessary
To establish and create a successful
Business venture in the private sector
June 1, 1998
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Richard Umsted]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Louis Tutt]
Honored or Something:
Occasionally one reads a piece of information which at first glance is shocking but after a bit of reflection seems dismally appropriate. The following announcement appeared in the Spring issue of the quarterly newsletter of the Division on Visual Impairments (DVI) of the Council for Exceptional Children. Bear in mind that Richard Umsted was the superintendent of the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired who left under a cloud after a number of students were physically and sexually attacked by other students and, according to several parents, by staff members, and efforts were made to cover up the problems. Lou Tutt, who presented the award, is well known for his adherence to the National Accreditation Council and his dislike of the National Federation of the Blind. Despite what the following text says, to the best of our knowledge, Dr. Tutt continues to be the superintendent of the Maryland School for the Blind. It is clear from what follows that we don't all understand the concept of advocacy the same way. Here is the notice:
Richard Umsted was the recipient of the Exemplary Advocate Award. The award was presented by Lou Tutt, past school for the blind superintendent, principal, O&M instructor, teacher, DVI president twenty-two years ago, and past president of AEVH. Lou suggested that the "U" in Umsted is for Umsted, "M" is for man, "S" is for sensitivity, "T" is for together, "E" is for excellence, and "D" is for drive. A resolution of Dick's credits was read. Dick accepted and thanked all for recognizing his advocacy and especially thanked his family, who have supported him. He stated that faith, family, and friends have made it all possible.
A Different Kind of Book Depository:
Peter Donahue recently sent us the following announcement:
The International Braille Research Center (IBRC), an organization supported by the National Federation of the Blind over the years, announces plans to construct a new Internet Resource for Braille users. During the coming year the IBRC plans to build an online Braille Book Depository, which will contain material in Grade II Braille. These materials can be read online, downloaded and produced in hard-copy Braille, or read with a Braille-aware device such as a paperless Braille display or Braille notetaker. Titles may also be read using speech. This resource will supplement other collections of online Braille materials such as that being established by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). The NLS beta tested this concept earlier this year and plans to expand its offerings. During the first year many of our selections will be literary titles, but we also plan to add specialty materials as time and resources permit. To assist in the development of this resource, we need the following types of assistance.
Books, magazines, and other types of information will be gathered from Internet sites such as Project Gutenberg. These will be translated into electronic Grade II Braille. Those wishing to help with translation will be sent titles by snail mail or e-mail and will be expected to return the translations the same way. These titles will then be placed in the depository. To volunteer to translate materials, contact Peter Donahue, Project Coordinator and Webmaster for the Braille Book Depository at 100 Lorenz Road, Apartment 1205, San Antonio, Texas 78209, Phone: (210) 826-9579,e-mail: <[email protected]>. Let us know what types of material you like to read so we can send you books that will be of interest to you. This will also help us develop a cross-section of materials of interest to blind readers the world over. Please indicate whether you prefer to receive material for translation by e-mail or snail mail.
* Sources of material in Grade II format:
We believe that some material already exists in Grade II format, which we would like to include in the depository. If you know of such material, please let us know where it can be found so we can download it for placement in the depository, or send us the URL's where it can be found so we can link to them. Otherwise, if you have any materials in electronic Grade II format and would like us to consider adding them to our depository, please send them to us at the addresses above. Electronic Grade II Braille files can usually be identified by their extensions. The most commonly used Braille file extensions are .brf and .brl. Materials of interest to us include literary titles, appliance manuals, computer and software manuals, crafts books, how-to titles, cookbooks, maps, Braille graphics, textbooks, music scoresjust about anything you can imagine and would like to contribute to this resource. We will accept contributions from anywhere in the world. We will also place NFB chapter, division, or affiliate newsletters in the depository if they are provided in Grade II format. Again you can send these to us by e-mail or by snail mail. We ask all Division and State Presidents to supply us with electronic Grade II copies of their newsletters.
* Financial assistance:
Since many types of materials can be included in a resource like this, we would like to pay for material translation and for general maintenance of the Braille Book Depository. All financial contributions to this project are welcome and should be sent to Dr. T.V. Cranmer, President, International Braille Research Center, 4424 Brookhaven Avenue, Louisville, Kentucky 40220.
* When will the depository be online?
We plan to launch the site and make it available to the blind community as soon as we have at least 100 titles in Grade II Braille, but an enthusiastic response and contributions of materials already in Grade II format will boost this number significantly. You can learn more about the activities of the International Braille Research Center by visiting <http://www.braille.org>. This new and exciting resource promises to revolutionize the availability of Braille to the worldwide blind community in the next millennium and represents a cutting-edge solution to the problem of access to Braille materials.
Seedlings 1999 Catalogue:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Seedlings Braille Books for Children announces that its new 1999 catalog is now available. It contains over 330 low-cost Braille books for children. Thirty-seven new books have been added this year, including:
For pre-schoolers: print-Braille-and-picture books like Clifford's Furry Friends ($9) and Frosty the Snowman, a musical board book ($6).
For beginning readers: print-and-Braille easy-readers like Arthur's Pet Business ($8).
For older children: Newberry Award winners in Braille such as Julie of the Wolves ($17) and A Wrinkle in Time ($20).
Other new Braille books include selections from popular series like The Dear America Series and The American Girls Collection.
For more information, check Seedlings' Web page at its new address: <http://www.seedlings.org>. To receive a free catalog, call (800) 777-8552, or write to Seedlings, P.O. Box 51924, Livonia, Michigan 48151-5924, or e-mail <[email protected]>.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Perkins large cell Braille Writer for sale, one year new. Paid $850, asking $500 firm. If interested, send cassette with name and address to Melissa Zeoli, 211 Scituate Vista Drive, Cranston, Rhode Island 02921. No personal checks will be accepted, only money orders.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Mary Ellen and Paul Gabias enjoy the Texas barbecue at Bear Creek with children Joanne, Geoffrey, and Philip, who is in the backpack.]
With great joy Mary Ellen and Paul Gabias, longtime Federation leaders, report the birth of Elliott Pierre (pronounced Peer like the capital of South Dakota) at 3:07 p.m. on September 3, 1998. Elliott was born at home and weighed in at seven pounds and three ounces and measured twenty inches. Big brother Philip was taking a nap at the time, but Geoffrey and Joanne were present to greet their new brother's entrance into the family. All the Gabiases are doing well.
I pledge to participate actively in the effort of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.