Part IV: We Know Who We Are--From Confrontation to Emerging Harmony

Under the leadership of Dr. Jernigan, the National Federation of the Blind changed from a comparatively small organization of the blind into a powerful and mature social and political force. The techniques to achieve this transformation varied with circumstance.

During the 1970’s, there was accelerating growth within the organized blind movement, and the Federation doubled in size. To manage the expanded scope of the Federation, a system of leadership training was adopted for individuals at the local, state, and national levels within the organization.

By 1978, a building had been identified in Baltimore, Maryland, to house the National Center for the Blind, and this facility soon became the focal point of programming for the blind throughout the United States. Visitors came from dozens of other countries each year to study the operation of Federation programs at the National Center for the Blind. Staff members were found and trained to promote the innovative programs of the Federation.

The Federation, during the 1980’s, established training programs for the blind in several states, and many other programs for the blind studied the techniques and the structure of service delivery established by Dr. Jernigan. As Dr. Jernigan’s leadership reached an increasing number of people and programs, there came to be increasing harmony and cooperation between programs for the blind and the consumers they serve. Even officials in agencies to serve the blind that had not actively accepted the value of partnership with blind consumers were affected by the style and the language of the Federation’s great leader.

Although it is highly desirable to achieve harmony, this cannot be done simply by giving into everybody else’s contrary view. Harmony can only occur when those who seek to harmonize have respect for each other. Furthermore, respect for a person or an organization cannot be reached unless the language of respect is employed. When certain self appointed arbiters of language told us that we must drop the honest, respectable, and forthright term "blind," Dr. Jernigan took up his pen. We are blind people, we know it is respectable to be blind, and we do not intend to accept somebody else’s erroneous notion that we should try to hide from the fact. These are the sentiments in the article by Dr. Jernigan which appeared in the August 1993 Braille Monitor entitled "The Pitfalls of Political Correctness: Euphemisms Excoriated", this is what he said: