THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND MAGAZINE FOR PARENTS OF BLIND CHILDREN
Barbara Cheadle, Editor
Published by the National Federation of the Blind 1800 Johnson Street Baltimore, MD 21230 (410) 659-9314
ISSN 0883-3419 Vol. 13, No. 1 Barbara Cheadle, Editor Winter, 1994 Contents Snapshots from the 1993 NFB National Convention
Michigan: Host of the 1994 National Parents Seminar and National Federation of the Blind Annual Convention
Reflections from Home: Report on the 1993 National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind, Dallas, Texas by Jude Lincicome
Through the Screen Door A poem by Nancy Scott
NFB Recognizes Outstanding Individuals
Gift of Independence: Teacher Helps Blind Find Their Own Way
1994 Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award by Sharon Maneki
Childhood on the Lower East Side by Dr. Abraham Nemeth
Meeting the Needs of the Deaf-Blind Child
1993 Gus Gisser Memorial Braille Readers Contest Report by Sandy Halverson
Chesnee Girl Wins Braille Award
The Scholarship Class of 1993
NAPUB Plans National Braille-A-Thon for Detroit by Jerry Whittle and Betty Niceley
The Nature of Independence by Dr. Kenneth Jernigan
MICHIGAN: HOST OF THE 1994 NATIONAL PARENTS SEMINAR AND NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND ANNUAL CONVENTION
Each year the National Parents of Blind Children Seminar gets bigger and better. This day-long seminar has become one of the traditional kickoff events of the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC), (formerly the Parents of Blind Children Division), the seminar attracts parents, educators, and interested members of the Federation from all over the country, and a few foreign nations as well. And the 1994 seminar and convention in Detroit, Michigan, promises to be the best, the biggest, and the most informative we have ever had. The focal point of the convention activities will be the Westin Hotel at the Renaissance Center in Detroit. From Friday, July 1, to Thursday, July 7, over 2,500 blind people and hundreds of parents of blind children will converge upon the hotel to listen, learn, share, discuss, debate, and otherwise participate in the week's activities. It is a unique opportunity for parents and educators to learn about blindness from the real experts on blindness■the blind themselves. For parents, the first big event is the National Parents of Blind Children Seminar on Friday, July 1. The seminar agenda includes topics that are always appropriate■"Planning Your Child's Individualized Education Program (IEP)" and "How to Choose the Right Technology for Your Child"■as well as some topics never (or seldom) explored in previous national parent seminars, such as "Readers and Drivers: The Other Alternative Techniques" and "Learning Through Play: A Panel Discussion about Toys, Games, Hobbies, Recreation, and Sports." Other subjects on the agenda include: "Parents: The Blind Child's First Mobility Teachers" and "From Taking Notes to Taking Out the Trash." Registration for the seminar will begin at 8:00 a.m. The seminar will begin at 9:00 with the keynote address, "Cheap Mistakes: When Children Need to Fail." The registration fee for the seminar is $8.00 per family for those who wish to join, or renew their membership in, the NOPBC. The fee is $5.00 per person for those who do not wish to become members. The seminar will conclude at 5:00 p.m. As usual, a special field trip has been planned for children ages five to twelve. Donna Posont of Michigan is organizing and supervising this year's trip to Greenfield Village. Donna Posont is a blind mother, an active member of her local chapter and state affiliate of the NFB, and an active member of the Parents of Blind Children Division of Michigan as well. She has conducted many local field trips and other activities for children for the Michigan parent division. Here is what she has to say about the field trip:
On Friday, July 1, 1994, children between the ages of five and twelve are invited to take a field trip to Greenfield Village, which is one of the most extraordinary places you can visit. It provides unique educational experiences based on authentic objects, stories, and lives of America's famous inventors. On this ninety-three-acre outdoor exhibit stand the Wright brothers' bicycle shop, Thomas Edison's Menlo Park laboratory, and the Logan County Courthouse in which Abraham Lincoln worked as a lawyer. These are not replicas■they are the actual buildings. You will also find a working blacksmith's shop, an 1880's farm, and a 1913 carousel. These are one-of-a-kind exhibits you don't just look at■you experience them! And, because of a contact we have with a member of the Greenfield Village staff, we will have a special guide for our group who will be dressed in colonial costume and who will explain the exhibits as we examine them. We will gather in the hotel near the parents' seminar room on Friday morning between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. The price for the trip is $20.00 per child. This includes the cost of transportation and lunch. We will return by 5:00 p.m. or before. Parents will be told Friday morning where to pick up their children. Since the number of children who can be accommodated for this trip is limited, we urge you to pre-register your child(ren) for the Greenfield Village daytrip. Children will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Please contact Donna Posont if you have any questions about the day-trip, if you want more information about pre-registration, or if you have a child with special needs. To pre-register your child(ren), send your check for $20.00 per child and the names, ages, and indication of special needs of each youngster (including whether the child is blind or sighted) to Donna Posont. Her contact information is 20812 Ann Arbor Trail, Dearborn Heights, Michigan 48127; phone (313) 271-3058.
Two other very special workshops for qualified parents, teachers, and other members of the Federation will take place Friday concurrently with the afternoon session of the 1994 National Parents of Blind Children Seminar. These workshops, "Braille Methods," and "The Nature and Nurture of Cane Travel and Independent Movement in the Early Years" will be conducted from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. These workshops are open to two groups of people: blind adults and parents of blind children who are willing and able to work within their Federation affiliates to use and share their new knowledge for the benefit of others and teachers and others who work professionally with blind children. The "Braille Methods" workshop will be conducted by Claudell Stocker, a nationally known Braille expert. The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped's (NLS) Literary Braille Competency Test was developed under her direction as the former head of the NLS Braille Development Section. Mrs. Stocker also conducted the very popular "Beginning Braille for Parents" workshops at our last three national conventions. Participants must be able to read and write Grade II Braille. A maximum of twenty persons may register for this workshop. Joe Cutter, who is both an early childhood specialist and an orientation and mobility instructor, will be conducting the cane travel workshop with the help of Carol Castellano, President of the Parents of Blind Children Division of the NFB of New Jersey, and George Binder, a children's cane travel instructor in New Mexico. Mr. Cutter assisted Fred Schroeder with a cane travel workshop at National Convention a few years ago. He has been a proponent of giving canes to blind preschoolers, and even toddlers, for many years. The purpose of this workshop is to train participants in the concepts, philosophy, and strategies which undergird the successful nurture of independent movement, confident cane travel, and good orientation and mobility for young blind children. With this knowledge participants will be better able to advocate for quality cane travel and O&M programs for children; and the teachers, O&M specialists, and other professionals who attend the workshop will be better prepared to provide these quality programs. The maximum number of participants in this workshop is fifty. We urge NFB parent's divisions and state affiliates to consider sending a representative to this workshop. To pre-register for either of these workshops, send your name, address (including city, state, and zip code), telephone number, and a check in the amount of $10.00 (made payable to National Organization of Parents of Blind Children) to NOPBC Convention Workshops, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. Also, please indicate if you are a parent, teacher, or other professional and whether you are blind or sighted. If you are registering for the Braille Workshop, please describe your level of Braille knowledge or experience. Other activities during the convention will include an opportunity for blind youth to get together for a discussion. This will also take place the afternoon of Friday, July 1. Friday evening the NOPBC will sponsor a Parent Hospitality Room in the NFB Camp room from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m. There will be food for everyone (specifics will be announced at the seminar) and plenty of toys and space for the kids to play. Susan Benbow of New Mexico and other teachers and blind adults will be on hand to talk to parents one-on-one about particular educational concerns. If you wish, they will also demonstrate the use of the slate and stylus or other simple activities to you and your child. As usual, the annual meeting of the NOPBC will also take place during the convention. The meeting will be on Sunday afternoon, July 3, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. An IEP workshop will also be held for parents on the evening of Monday, July 4, from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
General Child Care Information As usual, child care will be available during the 1994 convention. Again this year the volunteer director of child care services (christened last year and now known as NFB Camp) is Mary Willows. Mrs. Willows is an experienced educator, the mother of two children, and a long-time leader in the National Federation of the Blind of California. This volunteer job is a major undertaking. It takes a tremendous amount of time from many Federation parents who care deeply about making the NFB Convention an enjoyable and enriching experience for every member of the family who attends. Child care is provided not only during the parent seminar on Friday, July 1, 1994, but also during the convention sessions, the banquet, and other special meeting times (as resources allow). Parents are asked to make these donations for child care: $50 for the week (including the banquet) for the first child and $25 for each additional child. Or, if you do not need the full week of NFB Camp, $10 per child per day and $10 per child for the banquet night. Parents who cannot contribute the suggested donation should contact Mary Willows to discuss what donation they are able to make. Mary will be available in the NFB Camp room before and after sessions. Please contact Mary as soon as possible to indicate the number of youngsters in your family who will be participating in NFB Camp during the week. Be sure to tell her about each child's special needs, if any. We also need to know the age of each youngster and whether each is blind or sighted. Checks for child care (made payable to NOPBC) and registration information should be sent to Mary Willows, 3934 Kern Court, Pleasanton, California 94558; (510) 462-8557. Since the suggested donation does not cover all expenses, other donations from individuals and groups will be much appreciated.
Hotel Reservations As usual, our hotel rates are the envy of all who hear about them. For the 1994 convention they are: singles, $38; doubles and twins, $43; triples, $45; and quads, $48. In addition to the room rates, there will be a tax, which at present is twelve percent. There will be no charge for children in the room with parents as long as no extra bed is required. To make hotel reservations for the 1994 convention you should write directly to Westin Hotel, Renaissance Center, Detroit, Michigan 48243, Attention: Reservations; or call (313) 568-8000. Westin has a national toll-free number, but do not (we emphasize NOT) use it. Reservations made through this national number will not be valid. They must be made directly with the Westin in Detroit. The hotel will want a deposit of $45 or a credit card number. If a credit card is used, the deposit will be charged against your card immediately, just as would be the case with a $45 check. If a reservation is canceled prior to June 20, 1994, the entire amount of your deposit will be returned to you by the hotel. Requests for refunds after June 20, 1994, will not be honored.
Convention Dates and Schedule Here is the general outline of convention activities: Friday, July 1■seminars for parents of blind children, blind job seekers, vendors and merchants, several other workshops and meetings, and Parents' Hospitality (evening). Saturday, July 2■convention registration, exhibit hall open for business, first meeting of the Resolutions Committee (open to observers), some other committees, and some divisions. Sunday, July 3■exhibit hall open all day, meeting of the Board of Directors (open to all), division meetings (including the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children annual meeting), committee meetings, continuing registration. Monday, July 4■opening general session, exhibit hall open before session and during lunch, evening picnic and gala, and evening IEP Workshop. Tuesday, July 5■general sessions, exhibit hall open before session and all afternoon, tours. Wednesday, July 6■general sessions, exhibit hall open before session and during lunch, banquet. Thursday, July 7■general sessions, exhibit hall open before session, adjournment. Miscellaneous Information NFB information tables will be set up in the hotel (usually near the hotel registration area). Details about where the Friday, July 1, workshops will be held, location of the NFB Camp for kids, and so forth will be available at these tables. The complete convention agenda, in print or Braille, is available to all those who register for the convention. Registration opens on Saturday, July 2. The fee is $5 per person. There is no pre-registration for the convention. Each person must be present to register him- or herself. Banquet tickets generally do not exceed $25 to $30 and should be purchased at the time you register. We have a system called the Banquet Ticket Exchange which gives you the option of selecting in advance the people with whom you wish to sit at the banquet. The procedure is explained at registration and again early in the convention session. Hospitality and convention information will be available at the Presidential Suite and the NFB of Michigan Suite throughout the convention. The location and phone numbers of these suites will be listed in both the pre-convention and convention agendas. The NFB of Michigan is putting together some wonderful tour packages for convention. Details will be in the Braille Monitor and at the NFB Convention Information table when you arrive. If you do not get the Monitor and would like some information in advance, write or call:
National Organization ofParents of Blind Children Convention Information 1800 Johnson Street Baltimore, Maryland 21230 (410) 659-9314. REFLECTIONS FROM HOME Report on the 1993 National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind Dallas, Texas by Jude Lincicome Editor's Note: Jude Lincicome, a parent from Maryland, received a scholarship from the Parents of Blind Children Division of the NFB of Maryland (POBC/MD) for herself and her son, Jeremy, to attend the 1993 NFB Convention. Jude later gave a fascinating report about their convention experiences to the annual meeting of the POBC/MD. That report (which was published in <M>Horizons<D>, the Maryland Parent Division newsletter) became the basis for the following article. Here is Jude's "Reflections from Home":
Jeremy and I arrived in Texas on Friday afternoon, July 2, feeling a little bit of apprehension and a lot of excitement. The Hyatt Regency DFW was quite comfortable, and we found our room easily. We stayed in the West Tower. NFB Camp and the swimming pool were also in the West Tower. Across a quarter-mile corridor was the East Tower where the majority of convention activities were held. While parents were attending sessions, children went to NFB Camp, which was directed by Mary Willows, a blind educator. The week was abundant with activities in the hotel and about the Dallas area. The children had a great time not only sharing adventures but making new friends with true peers■other blind children and/or siblings of blind children. For one week they were just like everybody else. Our busy week began early Saturday morning at 8:00 a.m. with the Parents of Blind Children all-day seminar for parents and teachers, "Meeting the Needs of the Blind Youngster." How reassuring to hear speaker after speaker reinforce the importance■no, the necessity■for early Braille and cane travel instruction. It was during this seminar that I realized that I was not demanding enough independence in cane walking for Jeremy. For those who do not know us, Jeremy is five years old and attends the Maryland School for the Blind. How about that! Me, the one most folks who know me say demands too much from her children, guilty of not expecting enough. Just for this, the whole trip seemed worthwhile. The morning included recognition of the Braille Readers Are Leaders contestants, discussion of the role of parents, blind role models, and alternative techniques. There was also an excellent panel on the needs of deaf-blind children. Dr. Abraham Nemeth, inventor of the Nemeth Braille code for mathematics, spoke of his upbringing and education as a blind child in an earlier era. Both the progress we have made and, sadly, the regression since his days as a youth were most enlightening. For the afternoon we broke into specialty groups. The choices included: Current Trends and Legislation in Special Education; Deaf-Blind Children; Integrating Braille at Home and in the Classroom; Alternative Techniques for Junior High, Middle, and High School Students; IEP Workshop; Blind Multiply Handicapped Children; Cane Travel; and Personal Independence and Daily Living Skills. Since I write a column for parents of the multiply handicapped blind child for the POBC of Maryland newsletter, I attended the group led by Colleen Roth, who chairs the POBC Network for the Blind Multiply Handicapped Child. While I was busy learning all I could about how to be my son's best advocate and how to more effectively meet his needs, Jeremy spent the day at a Dude Ranch with his friends from NFB Camp. His favorite story about the trip is about the hayride and what happened on the way to the petting zoo. "...The wheel came off and we tipped." What an exciting start of NFB Camp! For me the most impressive part of the ranch trip was that all the children participating were given canes (if they did not already have one), no matter what level of vision they had. What a great message to everyone about the importance of using a cane. Since this trip, Jeremy uses his cane everywhere he goes; a habit I've tried for a year to instill in him. Saturday evening we went to a pizza party with high-steppin' fiddle music. We made new friends at the party, then went for a swim before bedtime. Sunday was less structured, giving us time to go into town for a whataburger and shop for a few forgotten items. Then it was on to the convention exhibit hall to shop again■-this time for information, ideas, trinkets, gifts for friends and family, and a tee shirt in Braille. This was my first of many trips around the exhibit hall, and I dare say I probably still missed a few things to see. Registration was quick and easy with one stop to register and purchase tickets for trips and the banquet. Lines were only a couple deep despite the fact that over 2,500 persons registered during the week. Sunday afternoon Jeremy and I took our turn working the POBC table in the exhibit hall. Toys we thought would be attractive for kids were a hit with the adults. Our print/Braille tee shirts with the cartoon Pluggers<191> character Zacharoo (a blind kangaroo) and the words "Braille is Finger-food for the Blind," were liked by young and not-so-young. We sold out of several items the first couple of days. Monday morning was spent again at the exhibit hall and the Sensory Safari, a hands-on exhibit of stuffed animals sponsored by the Safari Club International. Jeremy had a rare and wonderful opportunity to touch and explore, in detail, huge elephant tusks, tiny squirrel feet, hippo teeth, wolf fur, mountain lion claws, monkey tails, and bird feathers, just to name a few. Each animal had a knowledgeable guide to answer any question. Some animals had tape recordings of their special call or sound. How many of us can say they have plunged their whole hand into the mane of a buffalo or felt the tongue and back teeth of a hyena? Monday afternoon was our Parents of Blind Children Annual Meeting. Speakers again reinforced the necessity of Braille and cane independence for blind children, giving example after example of kids successful at learning Braille or cane walking. We vicariously experienced each child's triumph and were all encouraged by these examples to renew our own resolve to have our child be the best that he or she can be. Ruby Ryles, who is currently working on her Ph.D. in the education of blind children, gave an enlightening presentation of her research which documents the positive link between Braille literacy and employment of the blind. Officers and board members were elected and state POBC reports were given. Networking■exchanging names and addresses■was also a highlight of the meeting. A swim in the pool after dinner was about all the activity Jeremy and I could handle as by now we were both feeling the effects of early to rise, late to bed. Reluctantly we missed the "Yah Sure Can Do Carnival" sponsored by the NFB of Minnesota affiliate and BLIND, Incorporated (the NFB of Minnesota orientation and training center for the blind). Tuesday morning the magnitude of the convention became evident. Eight halls were joined to form a huge room to accommodate some 2,500 registrants from not only our 50 states, Puerto Rico, and D.C. but from many other countries,■such as Thailand, Japan, Canada, and Saudi Arabia■as well. People of every variety, size, color, shape, ethnicity, and station who carried canes or used dogs (and some who used wheelchairs, too) were coming together in one place for a common cause. It was truly an awesome sight! As I sat watching the people in the room, it occurred to me that something seemed to be missing■something that perhaps had not happened■yet. Then it came to me. We had been here for four days now, here in a strange place with people we've never seen before, doing things we've never done before, among people who like my son are blind. How strange that my level of stress and anxiety was so low. There were a few people who during the first days seemed to carry a lot of emotional baggage. But they, too, seemed to have been able to leave it behind and join the spirit of our single purpose■learning about blindness and how to be the best that we can be. And whatever each of us is, is okay. As if this realization was not exciting enough, the roll call of the states brought my awareness back to the convention hall. As each state represented was called forward, conventioneers responded with a resounding cheer. Our tiny state was third in numbers attending. Not bad! Albeit, it does seem most fitting that the state of Maryland, under our President, Sharon Maneki, should assume a role of leadership since we are the home of the National Center for the Blind, headquarters of the National Federation of the Blind. If only we can sustain that enthusiasm when we get home! Just think what we can accomplish. The afternoon session was highlighted by the Presidential Report by Marc Maurer. The scope and power of the National Federation of the Blind seems to touch us at all levels of our lives. I hope you will read his report in the Braille Monitor. No less inspiring was an address by the Honorable Sam Johnson, Member of Congress, Third District, Texas: "Blindness: Meeting the Challenge Through Self-Organization and a Fighting Spirit■Lessons From One Who Knows!" Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, President Emeritus of the National Federation of the Blind, both amused and instructed us with his presentation of "The Nature of Independence." Dr. Jernigan gave a very personal, sensitive, and instructive answer to a group of letters he received from blind students at a training center for the blind concerned about what they perceived to be a rift between Dr. Jernigan's choice of using sighted-guide techniques over independent cane walking at convention, and the position of the National Federation of the Blind concerning the importance of independent cane travel. Again, I hope you will read this also. [Editor's note: This speech is reprinted in this issue on page 44.]
Tuck Tinsley, III, Ed.D., President of the American Printing House for the Blind, Louisville, Kentucky, gave us a good look at what we can expect from the American Printing House in his talk "Tomorrow's News Today." Some of the joint projects now taking place between the National Federation of the Blind and the American Printing House for the Blind will help prepare the future generation to meet the challenge of competitive employment in the age of computers and technology. As my head was reeling with possibilities for my son, I hurried to pick him up from NFB Camp to go to the Texas Barbecue Under the Stars. To think I had to travel all the way to Texas to meet the President of my NFB Baltimore County Chapter. That night Ken Canterbury met my son Jeremy. This was Ken's first real experience with a blind child. I have asked Ken to be my son's big brother. Role models are important for children, and I am glad to find a blind man for my son to look up to. Just think, several times I almost gave up on coming to the barbecue. Food, friends, fun, dancing, and music were abundant. We had a great time. I'm so grateful we went. Wednesday morning came all too soon, beginning with election of NFB Board Members. Greetings from the Congress of the United States were then delivered to the convention by the Honorable Greg Laughlin, Congress member from the fourteenth district, Texas. His remarks were a firm reminder of the responsibility the National Federation of the Blind has to lead the nation's blind and to advocate for them and the high regard held for the National Federation of the Blind by those who govern this great nation. Turning to other serious matters, the remainder of the morning was spent in a discussion of issues around "Fair Labor Standards ■ Fact or Fiction for Blind Workers in the Sheltered Workshop." James Gashel was moderator of a panel which included: Joe D. Cordova, Assistant Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind and Administrator of the Industries Division; Richard J. Edlund, Member of the Kansas House of Representatives; Fred Puente, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Blind Industries and Services of Maryland; Donald Ellisburg, labor lawyer and consultant; William Gross, Assistant Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the Employment Standards Administration in the U.S. Department of Labor; and Austin Murphy, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Labor Standards, Occupational Health and Safety of the Committee on Education and Labor in the House of Representatives. General consensus was that there is a serious double standard in the wage earnings of blind and sighted employees in workshops for the blind. Ironically, the majority of the monies allocated to a workshop go to the salaries of the sighted administrators and supervisors, and what is left is paid to the blind employees. The legislation, which was originally designed with the intention of increasing employment possibilities for the blind by allowing employers to pay sub-minimum wages, is now responsible for unfairly keeping blind employees in sub-minimum-wage-paying jobs. However, studies show that productivity is higher when wages are at or above minimum-wage standards. This was a very sobering panel. Reality shock has certainly made me concerned, even frightened for my son's future. I'm really glad I insisted on a strong Braille component for Jeremy's IEP this year! His opportunities in the future will be better with good Braille skills and cane independence. Wednesday afternoon and evening was left open for Federationists to relax, enjoy local sights, or do whatever they wished. Our afternoon was spent riding the train to the airport and exploring the shops. This was Jeremy's choice, and I'm so proud that he is telling me what he wants to do. During our afternoon he wanted to go about with his cane "all by myself." Before, when we were in the mall or the airport and even when he had his cane, he has always wanted to touch either myself or his brother's wheelchair. So this was a real gain. Most of Thursday morning's general session was devoted to issues of education. Those speaking included Frank Kurt Cylke, Director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress, and Ramona Walhof, Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind. Mr. Cylke's presentation was entitled, "Twenty Years of Service and Twenty Years to Come." Ramona Walhof's inspiring speech was called, "Braille: A Renaissance." Next was a panel discussion called "Mainstreaming, Schools for the Blind, and Full Inclusion: What Shall the Future of Education for Blind Children Be?" Panel members were: Fred Schroeder, Executive Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind and formerly Director of Low-Incidence Programs in the Albuquerque Schools; Dr. Phil Hatlen, Superintendent of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired; Dr. Michael Bina, Superintendent of the Indiana School for the Blind and President of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER); and Dr. Ralph Bartley, Superintendent of the Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind. The morning ended with a presentation by Patricia Stenger, Senior Vice President of the American Diabetes Association; the title was "Diabetes: A Leading Cause of Blindness in the United States." Issues of modernizing the Social Security and SSI systems were addressed by Louis Enoff, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, first thing during the afternoon session. Excellence in the workplace was demonstrated by the next panel of speakers: Richard Realmuto, teacher of technology, Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, New York; Kathy Kannenberg, teacher of mathematics in Raleigh, North Carolina; Michael Gosse, Ph.D., Electrical Engineer at Atlantic Aerospace Electronics Corporation in Greenbelt, Maryland; and Alan R. Downing, a high-performance engine builder. Under the topic, "Diversified Tasks: The Blind in the Workplace," each spoke of their success as blind professionals in a diverse cross section of employment. Finally the Honorable Jim Ramstad, Member of Congress, Third District of Minnesota spoke about pending legislation, the Americans with Disabilities Business Development Act, and what it could mean to the blind for self-employment opportunities. Reports from Dr. Kenneth Jernigan as representative of the World Blind Union of North America/Caribbean Region were deferred to Friday because of time. Thursday night's banquet was a most phenomenal success due to an incredible banquet address presented by President Marc Maurer. A look at the past and people's perceptions of blindness were presented in a hilarious walk through the writings of several scholars of the day. It was clear that President Maurer enjoyed presenting his address as much as we enjoyed hearing it. Neither Jeremy nor I had the energy left for the Colorado Hoe-down following the banquet. The spirit was ready, the flesh weak. Jeremy had stayed busy at NFB Camp with trips to the park, puppet shows, and fun in the Oyngo-Boyngo, a marvelous net-enclosed trampoline. And Friday would bring with it a field trip to the Science Center and lunch at McDonald's. Friday's general session was devoted to the business of running a big organization. Reports, finances, resolutions, and a report from our NFB Director of Governmental Affairs, James Gashel, filled both morning and afternoon sessions. I made a last trip to the exhibit hall to make sure nothing was overlooked, then went to the NFB Camp to collect my son for the last time. The tears in the eyes of his caretakers were a sure sign of the loving care my son received while at Camp. After exchanging addresses and promising to write, we left for one more ride on the airport train, dinner, then bed. My only disappointment from the entire week was that we had not won any of the hundreds of door prizes, ranging from chips to $1000 in a leather briefcase. My secret wish was to take home a box of Armadillo Droppings, the caramel and pecan confections that had been taste-tested in general session by President Maurer himself. Saturday's return trip was spent enjoying the quiet and remembering the past week with friends. How richly blessed we are by the vision, wisdom, information, friendships, networking with other families, and the reassurances we received at the Federation Convention that after all is said and done, blindness need not be a crippling handicap. And with Braille literacy and competence in cane walking, blindness may be reduced to nothing more than a nuisance. I returned home with a renewed hope for my son and his future, and a resolve to make certain he has the Braille and cane skills he must have. I, too, am learning Braille. In closing I would like to share a funny anecdote from our final train ride to the airport on Saturday. I sat across from a father with his young daughter. The man sat staring at me for quite a while before he spoke. I answered his questions about where we had been and where we were going. Then he asked "What do you use that for?" looking at my purse with his eyes. "What do you mean?" I asked, "That's my purse." "Then what do you keep in that?" he asked, again pointing with his eyes, but now at Jeremy's book-bag with noticeable Braille on the flap. Confused by his odd questions, I said, "It's my son's book-bag." "You see well" replied the man, seeming pleased with his test of my vision. I was simultaneously amused by his `beat-around-the-bush' way of determining my visual acuity, and offended by his obvious thought that because I was also carrying a cane (Jeremy's small cane that we replaced at convention) that he needed to determine by trickery whether I was really blind or merely pretending by also carrying a cane. For a brief moment, I felt like I could have been proud to be blind like Jeremy. And then I wondered if it was that I would be proud to be blind or proud to be associated with the blind; for I had just spent eight days in the company of the blind learning about blindness, and I had been privy to some measure of their courage, determination, and caring for one another. And I do feel proud to have been at the convention■the National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind.
THROUGH THE SCREEN DOOR by Nancy Scott
I am on my back steps, my squirt gun ready, but I need something good to shoot. I already shot the house. The water thuds if I get close, but that's no fun anymore.
I hear the hiss of Mom's iron in the pantry. I could shoot her, but not really. There's a door for the water to hit so I could shoot her in my head. I aim at the spitting iron.
I fire. The water sisses with the force of my wishing. Buzz against the screen so I know its going where I want. Buzz. Siss. Pull. Feel the water going from the gun. Siss. Buzz. "Stop that." What? That's not supposed to happen. Mom must be hearing me think. I know she can do that sometimes. "There's water all over the floor." No. There's a door there.
I'm six and I'm not stupid. "You're shooting through the screen. Water goes through the door." That can't be. Water is big. It stays in one place, not like air and noise. I tell her. Mom sighs from mad to show-and-tell; puts my left hand inside, my right with the gun out and says "shoot." Pull. Buzz. Wet against my inside hand. "Yes. Come look." She puts my right hand in the puddle on the floor.
I could have shot her after all. How far wouldwater go through the door? How high could I make it reach? Good thing she isn't hearing me think. Maybe if I reach real high No, I'll try for the tree. NFB RECOGNIZES OUTSTANDING INDIVIDUALS
Three special awards were presented at the 1993 NFB Convention. They were: the Blind Educator of the Year Award, the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award, and the Golden Keys Award. These awards are not bestowed lightly. If a worthy recipient does not emerge from the pool of candidates for a particular award, it is simply not presented that year. These awards are, therefore, meaningful expressions of recognition and gratitude to outstanding individuals who have made a difference in the lives of blind people. The Golden Keys Award was presented for the first time in 1993 at the Convention banquet Thursday evening. The National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB), a division of the National Federation of the Blind, created the award; and Betty Niceley, President of NAPUB, made the presentation to the 1993 winner. The winner had, in Mrs. Niceley's words, " worked for us and with us to increase the use of Braille. [He] sought us out, wanted our comments, listened to us, and put into action the suggestions we made." She then presented a beautiful plaque with seven gold keys emulating the keyboard of the Braille writer to Deane Blazie, inventor of the Braille 'n Speak and many other outstanding Braille products for the blind. The two educator awards were presented at the Monday morning meeting of the Board of Directors. Emerson Foulke was the 1993 winner of the Blind Educator of the Year Award. Stephen Benson, Chairman of the Selection Committee, described Dr. Foulke's many accomplishments, then presented him with a plaque and a check for $500. Dr. Foulke has a Ph.D. in psychology from Washington University in St. Louis. He has written literally hundreds of articles, authored and co-authored many books, and taught at the university level for thirty-three years. He has long been involved in technical research and research on human perception. Beyond that, he has done extensive work in Braille and is involved in the construction of the Braille Code. Sharon Maneki, Chairperson of the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Selection Committee, presented that award. She said:
We in the National Federation of the Blind constantly challenge ourselves to find new ways to meet our goals. In 1987 we created the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award because we not only believed in excellence in education, but we believed that the best way to help blind people is to make it better for the next generation. The members of the Committee have a difficult task. Those members were Jacquilyn Billey, Allen Harris, Fred Schroeder, Joyce Scanlan, and I. We were able to find a candidate who reflects what we stand for. She is a candidate who has been teaching for nine years in the classroom. Some may say that's like combat duty, but she is a person who believes in students and passes on the torch, not only of knowledge, but of confidence in their abilities. This year's Distinguished Educator of Blind Children is a teacher in Zia Elementary School in the district of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Gail Katona.[applause] I'm going to present Ms. Katona with a check for $500 and also with a plaque, and I will read the plaque:
DISTINGUISHED EDUCATOR OF BLIND CHILDREN
The National Federation of the Blind honors GAIL KATONA LIST = for your skill in teaching Braille and the use of the white cane, for generously donating extra time to meet the needs of your students and for inspiring your students to perform beyond their expectations. Our colleague, our friend, our ally on the barricades, you champion our movement, you strengthen our hopes, you share our dreams. July, 1993
After Ms. Katona accepted her plaque, she said:
I'm overwhelmed. Thank you very much for this wonderful award. It is a great pleasure and honor to receive it from an organization such as yourselves. I would like to thank Mrs. Maneki and the members of the selection committee for selecting me this year. I would also like to say thank you to Mr. Fred Schroeder, who, when I was first hired into Albuquerque, was the coordinator of the program. So Fred was the one who hired me initially and gave me the opportunity to start the program in Albuquerque and to teach these wonderful blind children.
I'm a niece of Karen Mayry from South Dakota, so it's no wonder that I've been a member of the NFB since I was about sixteen or seventeen years old, and it is through this organization that I have learned my philosophy and my attitude about teaching blind children. Blind children are children first■they're kids. They're little. They need to be taught. Our blind children need to be taught the skills of blindness. I do my best to make sure that all of my students get the opportunities to learn and to grow to their full potential. I think that is done through the use of teaching Braille so that we have proficient Braille readers, and we always encourage the use of a long white cane so the students can become very independent cane travelers. Thank you again. This is a wonderful honor. GIFT OF INDEPENDENCE Teacher Helps Blind Find Their Own Way
From the <M>Albuquerque Journal<D>, September 21, 1993, by Tracy Dingmann.
Jefferson Middle School student Jennifer Espinoza shuffles down the crowded hallway, tapping her white cane uncertainly and hunching her shoulders as if to shield her body form students charging around her toward class. Her eyes see nothing, and her ears strain to hear clues from her cane over the din. From a spot down the hall, Jennifer's teacher Gail Katona watches but makes no move to help. "If I walk with her, then she depends on me," she whispers, as Jennifer slowly makes her way to class. For the ten years Katona's been teaching visually handicapped children, that's been her passion: to keep such students from thinking they must depend on others to live happy, educated, and successful lives. This past summer the National Federation of the Blind named Katona its 1993 Distinguished Educator of Blind Children. The prize means a lot to a woman who grew up inspired by a blind aunt, a "really regular, normal person" who skied, golfed and worked as a probation officer. "Through her and the National Federation of the Blind, I met blind people from all walks of life■successful, capable people," said Katona, 30. "Then I met some blind people who were not very independent, and I tried to figure out what the difference between them was." What did she find? "It all boils down to education, attitude, and the expectations others have of them," she said. Katona learned Braille at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania and earned a degree in elementary education of the visually handicapped. Her first job was at Zia Elementary in Albuquerque, where she co-founded a program to teach visually handicapped children from throughout the district in one classroom. The program is the only one of its kind in New Mexico public schools and has been nationally recognized, Katona said. It was for her work there■her last year at Zia■that Katona won the Federation's top honor. This year Katona moved to Jefferson to start a program that concentrates services for visually handicapped middle school students at one school. Four students from Zia, including Jennifer, came with her. For most of the school day, Katona follows her students to the classes they attend with regular students, staying to help them with especially difficult subjects such as math and science. "Middle school is tough for any kid. It's been a rough transition for both of us," said Katona last week while watching Jennifer navigate the crowded halls. But the Jefferson program makes it easier for such students. Visually impaired students at other middle schools have only the help of one part-time special teacher, who travels from school to school, Katona said. At Jefferson, Katona also tells staffers about the special needs of blind students. And she punches out all of her students' lessons in Braille and translates their work from Braille for their regular teachers. Katona spends considerable time dispelling the fears and stereotypes kids have about blind people. "We sure had some stares the first week. We had kids stopping dead in the hallway," she said, smiling wryly. Katona has since talked to all sixth-graders about what it's like to be blind. "I've had several students say, `Can you teach me Braille?'" she said. Kids at the Jefferson program can also look to each other for support, Katona said. Jennifer and her best friend, Michelle Lopez, went to school together at Zia for years, and now they help each other at Jefferson. Michelle is legally blind but can make out large letters. Like Jennifer, she walks with a cane and reads Braille. But they can't be together every minute. Jennifer's sighted lab partner in science class Friday happens to be Abby Browder. The task■looking at various objects through a microscope. "You're going to have to be Jennifer's eyes as you actually look at it," Katona tells Abby. "You've got to give good verbal descriptions." "It's veiny," says Abby, peering through the microscope at a leaf. Abby said later she enjoys working with Jennifer. "I've never really had any experience with blind people, but Jennifer's nice," she said. "It's different. It's interesting." Across the room, Michelle scrutinizes a hair and crystals of salt with her lab partner. Jennifer doesn't say much, but bubbly Michelle makes it clear how they feel about their special teacher."Very fun, very intelligent," she says. "She's a really neat person." 1994 DISTINGUISHED EDUCATOR OF BLIND CHILDREN AWARD by Sharon Maneki Editor's Note: Sharon Maneki is President of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. She also chairs the committee to select the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children for 1994.
The National Federation of the Blind will recognize an outstanding teacher of blind children at our 1994 convention, July 1 to July 8, in Detroit, Michigan. The winner of this award will receive an expense-paid trip to the convention, a check for $500, an appropriate plaque at the banquet, and an opportunity to make a presentation about the education of blind children to the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, a Division of the National Federation of the Blind, early in the convention. Anyone who is currently teaching or counseling blind children or administering a program for blind children is eligible to receive this award. It is not necessary to be a member of the National Federation of the Blind to apply. However, the winner must attend the National Convention. Teachers may be nominated by colleagues, supervisors, or friends. The letter of nomination should explain why the teacher is being recommended for this award. The education of blind children is one of our most important concerns. Attendance at a National Federation of the Blind convention will enrich a teacher's experience by affording the opportunity to meet other teachers who work with blind children, to meet parents, and to meet blind adults who have had experiences in a variety of educational programs. Help us recognize a distinguished teacher by distributing this form and encouraging teachers to submit their credentials. We are pleased to offer this award and look forward to applications from many well-qualified educators. DISTINGUISHED EDUCATOR OF BLIND CHILDREN AWARD 1994 APPLICATION Name: Home address: City: State: Zip: Day phone: Evening phone: School: Address: City: State: Zip: List your degrees, the institutions from which they were received, and your major area or areas of study.
How long and in what programs have you taught blind children?__________________________________
In what setting do you teach? Itinerant program[ ] Residential school classroom[ ] Special education classroom [ ] Other [ ] Please explain____________________________
How many students do you teach regularly this year?____________________________________ What subjects do you teach?_____________________
How many of your students read and write primarily using: Braille [ ] large print [ ] closed circuit television [ ] recorded materials [ ] small print [ ]. Please complete this application and attach your letter of nomination; one additional recommendation, written by someone who knows your work and philosophy of teaching; and a personal letter discussing your beliefs and approach to teaching blind students. You may wish to include such topics as the following:
What are your views on the importance to your students of Braille, large print, and magnification devices, and what issues do you consider when making recommendations about learning media for your students? When do you recommend that your students begin the following: reading Braille, writing with a slate and stylus, using a Braille writer, and learning to travel independently with a white cane? How should one determine which children should learn cane travel and which should not? When should typing be introduced, and when should a child be expected to hand in typed assignments?
Send all material by May 15, 1994, to Sharon Maneki, Chairman, Teacher Award Committee, 9736 Basket Ring Road, Columbia, Maryland 21045; telephone (410) 992-9608. CHILDHOOD ON THE LOWER EAST SIDE y Dr. Abraham Nemeth From the Editor: A basic ingredient in every NFB National Parents Seminar is the blind adults who talk about what it is like to grow up as blind children. Parents■including myself, and I have been organizing and attending these seminars for the last ten years■never get tired of these talks. Year after year I have been inspired, informed, and challenged by Federationists who are willing to share their insights into blindness. What I find especially intriguing is that despite the different circumstances and environment in which these speakers grew up, they always have something to say which is relevant to the problems we■today's generation of parents■struggle with. As relevant and as inspiring as any of our speakers was Dr. Abraham Nemeth who gave the following presentation at the NFB Convention, July, 1993, Parents Seminar in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Nemeth, distinguished college math professor and creator of the Nemeth code for Braille mathematics, grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York nearly 70 years ago. Here is his inspirational story:
I was very lucky. I had parents who knew nothing about blindness but who had an innate understanding of what was necessary to do to raise a blind child. I was also lucky because I went to the New York City public schools, where I had a very, very good resource teacher. Not only was I integrated, but I was really integrated. Let me tell you a little about that. The New York City public schools had a resource room for blind kids in each of the five boroughs. It so happened that the one in Manhattan was within walking distance of where I lived, so I went there. Every day my aunt (my father and mother were busy taking care of the store they operated) walked me to school and walked me home. We had a wonderful teacher. Her name was Miss Roberts. She taught me Braille, and she made sure that I learned it. There were other kids in the resource room; some of them with no sight, some of them with a lot of sight; and everyone learned Braille. There was no such a thing as you didn't learn Braille. Even those who could ride bikes learned Braille. Now I did not go to the resource room for arithmetic, or geography, or history. I went to my regular classroom for these subjects. I went to the resource room during times when the other kids were doing penmanship, drawing, art, and so forth. It was there that the resource teacher would teach me blindness skills; for example how to read a map. I remember one day she put me at a large globe of the world. This huge globe had nice smooth surfaces for the oceans, was raised for the land masses, and was even more highly raised for the mountain areas. And then she put a problem to me. You know the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, she said. Now, this globe spins. Which way should the globe spin in order for the sun to rise in the east and set in the west? Finally I figured that out, and it was a wonderful educational experience. My father, (maybe some of you heard me tell this story in Denver four years ago at the NFB Convention) whenever we were out walking, he would tell me, "Now we are walking west, and when we make a left turn, we will be walking south. Listen to the traffic. All of it is going in the same direction on this street. But when we get to the next street you will notice that all the traffic starts traveling in the opposite direction." And he would let me touch mailboxes, fire hydrants, police call boxes, and fire call boxes and let me read the lettering on them. You know in our neighborhood on the Lower East Side the kids would all open the fire hydrants in the hot summer. He never encouraged me to open a fire hydrant, but he showed me where and what the firemen would do if they had to open the fire hydrant. Anyway, my mother was equally perceptive. She would send me on a trip to the grocery store. She would give me five or six items to memorize when I was six years old, tell me exactly what to buy and in what quantity, and send me to the grocery store for them. Where was the grocery store? Around the corner, no streets to cross. And who was the grocer? My grandfather. Anyway, I was very diligent in remembering every single item and would bring back everything she sent me for. This was wonderful memory training. I had an uncle who was a handyman. He taught me how to fish electrical wire through a wall, how to replace a burnt out bulb and screw in the new one, and just generally how to do electrical work. I developed a wonderful sense of mechanics. I knew how things had to go together. My grandfather, I told you, had a grocery store. And he had an icebox, not a refrigerator, but an icebox. A large block of ice kept all the cheeses and butter and things cold. And from the icebox, which was high overhead, there was a rubber hose. As the ice melted the water would drain through that rubber hose into the sink below. Well I was a curious little fellow, and one day I went around the back of the store and discovered this hose trailing in the sink. Now my mechanical sense told me that no mechanical mechanism could work right if there were loose parts around. Things had to be connected. It was clear to me that the end of that hose had to be connected somewhere. So, I felt around. Aha, I thought, the faucet, that's where it goes. So, I connected the hose to the faucet and, proud of myself for having corrected my grandfather's obvious oversight, I walked out of the grocery store. A few hours later I was confronted by my grandfather. I will end the story at that point. As a boy I had a tricycle. Now, remember, I had no sight at all. My father told me that I could ride the tricycle around the block, but to remember to make a right turn every time I came to a corner. Ride slowly, he told me, don't bump into anybody, and come back here. That's what I did. I rode my tricycle around the block and I came back where I was supposed to. One time my younger brother and I went on some kind of an expedition. We got separated, and my brother, who had perfect sight, got lost. I came home. When I grew up on the Lower East Side I had a wonderful playmate. We used to filch empty orange crates from the grocery stores, and then we would go to the junk yards and take the wheels off discarded baby buggies. Then we would find planks of wood and make a wagon or a skateboard. I would hop on the back of it, and he would drive it. Now that little buddy of mine became famous. He was Zero Mostel. I spent almost every Saturday night in his home. Why did I spend every Saturday night in his home? Because my father took me there. What was my father doing? He and all the other men were poring over the account books. What were they doing in those account books? They were making interest-free loans to immigrants coming into this country. After a year or two these people had acquired furniture and a business and were as affluent as you could be in those days. They would repay the loan with a little appreciative addition, and then we would have more money to lend to more immigrants. And that's what my father and those men were doing on those Saturday nights■keeping records of those free loans. It was a wonderful experience in morality, in human feeling. And so I knew all of Zero Mostel's family. I knew his mother and father and his brothers and sisters and so on. Because of my family, because of their expectations and what they taught me, it never occurred to me that I couldn't do whatever I wanted to do. I just had to think of a way of doing it. Take this problem, for example. A lady who was blind called me one day in desperation. She's having a problem. She has a family and she wants to broil a pan of hamburgers. She knows she has to turn those hamburgers over. But she can't see which ones she has turned over and which ones she hasn't. How can she solve this problem? I told her it's very simple. You make the hamburger patties and you put them in the broiler pan. Then you take some toothpicks and you implant one in each patty. You time the hamburgers and when they are half done you pull out the broiler pan, pick up the spatula, and feel above the hamburger. When you locate a toothpick, take it out and turn the burger over. When there are no more toothpicks, all the burgers have been turned. The lady was very thankful for this idea. There are all kinds of ways of doing things. Let your kids participate in household activities. Let them change a bulb. Let them do the dishes. Teach them to pour water from a bottle into a glass. Let them do this over the sink at first if you don't want a mess. Pretty soon they will be able to pour any liquid■hot or cold■without spills. It's not a problem. They will learn if you expect them to do it and you give them the chance to experiment and learn. But don't give them the idea that they are wonderful because they are able to pour a glass of water. Everybody pours a glass of water. I once had a teacher, a vision teacher as they call them these days, who told me I was a genius because I was able to read Braille at the rate of a high school student. Now maybe I have other qualifications that would rate me as a genius, but certainly reading at the rate of a high school student is not one of them! Expect your kids to do the normal things, and then react normally when they do. Encourage them and do not overprotect them. My father did not overprotect me. You know kids will tease a blind kid in the street■particularly on the Lower East Side where I grew up. They would get after me, and I would want some protection from my father. I would say, "Pa, he hit me." My father would say, "So, why didn't he hit me?" In other words, my father was trying to teach me to fend for myself. Which I was very well able to do. One time, in the park, a sighted kid was teasing me. When I ran after him, he shimmied up a ladder on one of these jungle gyms which had a trapeze, a pair of rings, a chinning bar, and all that stuff. I went right after him. Well he wanted to get out of my way so with his hands he grabbed the upper bar and moved himself to the right. He ended up dangling above the ground some distance from the ladder. The poor fellow got so scared he was unable to move back to the ladder and get down. However, I wasn't scared so I did get back to the ladder and get down. But somebody from the park had to come with a ladder and get him down. He didn't start up with me too much after that. I did participate in physical activities. I was on the high school swimming team (I'm still a good swimmer). I climbed ropes and jumped and did all kinds of physical activities. It was very good for me. Well, all I can tell you is that I have led quite a normal life. I think I have been able to do this because I was not overprotected as a child. I had a wonderful, wonderful support system in the form of relatives, parents, and teachers who expected me to be normal and do the normal things. They gave me opportunities to learn. And that's what made it all possible. And that's what can make it possible for your kids to have a normal childhood and life, too. MEETING THE NEEDS OF THE DEAF-BLIND CHILD
"At first everything looked real bleak for us. We cried a lot the first few years. But our child is now thirteen and she's absolutely wonderful!" Those who met Keri-Ann Ruemmler at the 1993 NFB National Convention couldn't help but agree with this statement by her mom. Keri-Ann is a delightful young teenager. Her engaging smile, lively curiosity, and pleasing personality captivated everyone who crossed her path at the 1993 NFB National Convention, which she attended with her mother, Sally Ruemmler of Kansas. Deaf-blindness was certainly no deterrent to Keri-Ann in making friends and generally having a great time at the convention. But it was no easy journey for the Ruemmlers to go from a bleak to a wonderful outlook for their daughter. It required attitude adjustment, information, courage, persistence, some very specific training strategies, alternative techniques in communications and mobility, and support from the National Federation of the Blind. Sally Ruemmler shared some of her experiences with other parents at the NFB Convention through the panel discussion "Meeting the Needs of the Deaf-blind Child." This panel was one of the items on the agenda of the all-day Parents Seminar. Sally shared the podium with Kathy Arthurs, the mother of a three-year-old deaf-blind and multiply-handicapped daughter; Kathleen Spear; and Don Petty■both of whom are deaf-blind adults who grew up as deaf-blind children. Julie Hunter, president of the NFB Parents Division in Colorado and chairman of the Concerns of Parents of Deaf-Blind Children Committee, moderated the panel discussion. Julie began the discussion by giving a little bit of background on deaf-blindness. She pointed out that most of us think immediately of Helen Keller when we think about deaf-blindness. But this image is inaccurate. Helen Keller, Julie explained, is representative of only one of four general categories of deaf-blindness. The four categories, according to Julie, are based upon when the individual became deaf, and when he or she became blind. Helen Keller represents the category made up of those who are born both deaf and blind or who lose both vision and hearing very early in life, before the development of language. Another category is made up of those who are born deaf (or, again, become deaf very early in life), then later lose their vision. Ushers Syndrome is a common medical condition among persons in this category. Sally Ruemmler's daughter, Keri-Ann, fit into this category. Then there are those who are blind from early childhood and only later in life (after the development of language) lose a significant amount of hearing. Julie explained that her teenage daughter, Lauren, fell into this category. The fourth category consists of adults who became deaf and blind through disease or injury. These individuals had learned language and developed life skills as seeing and hearing children. Julie Hunter explained that the significance of these categories lies in the manner in which the children who are deaf-blind have historically received services. What has happened, and still happens, is that children who are primarily deaf have their special education programs planned by educators of the deaf, and children who are primarily blind have their programs initiated and conducted by educators of the blind and visually impaired. This was the pattern of education, for example, for both Lauren Hunter and Keri-Ann Ruemmler. Keri-Ann, being first and primarily deaf, for many years received services from only the deaf program. Lauren, who was blind many years before she began to lose her hearing, had her special education planned by the teachers of the visually impaired. As a consequence, the programs for these children are often inadequate. Sally Ruemmler, in her presentation, explained that it wasn't until her daughter attended a program for the blind at the Kansas School for the Visually Handicapped, that they understood the nature of Keri-Ann's vision loss. It turned out that she has tunnel vision, which affects her mobility (she couldn't see to the side or straight down without turning her head). This explained why she frequently fell and bumped into things and why she had trouble with interpreters who signed so broadly that much of it was outside her field of vision. As troublesome as it was for the Ruemmlers to piece together a program for their daughter, parents of congenitally deaf-blind children have far more difficulties in finding suitable programs for their children. Mrs. Hunter pointed out that very little has been available to these children, in spite of what was learned from Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan regarding the need for intensive total-waking-hour intervention. The lack of an appropriate education for these children, Julie explained, has often led to a misdiagnosis of mental retardation. This problem highlights the need, Julie Hunter explained, for public recognition of the special character of deaf-blindness as a unique disability distinct from both deafness and blindness. This basic information set the stage for the four panel speakers. The first speaker was Kathleen Spear, a congenitally deaf-blind mother, grandmother, and college graduate. Kathleen addressed the crowd in her own voice without an interpreter. Kathleen explained that her parents knew that she was blind by the time she was six months old. At first, they feared she was also brain-damaged. Although all but one doctor advised her parents to put her in an institution, she was raised at home with her six brothers and sisters. When she was four, her parents were told that there was no evidence of brain damage but that she was deaf. This was devastating to her parents. "Until the day my father died," Kathleen said, "he could not say the word deaf-blind." Nevertheless, her parents demonstrated considerable insight and good sense in raising her in those early years. "My dad was an immigrant, my mother the child of immigrants. Neither had any experience with disabilities. [But] my first speech therapist, believe it or not, was my dad, who had the equivalent of a sixth-grade education. He would sit with me by the window in his armchair after going through the comics with my brothers. Putting his hand under my chin, he would point to his pipe and say, `What is this?' Then he would say, `Who am I?' He would give me the answers■pipe and dad■and I would try to emulate him. I didn't do a very good job then. The only people who could really understand me were my parents. But it was the beginning of the idea of language for me." The frustrations she must have experienced in learning to communicate as a small child were poignantly expressed in her description of going to Mass on Sunday. "As a little girl the thing I looked forward to all week was going to church. In church I could sit for an hour and watch the glow of the candles (I had some residual vision in my right eye then) and smell the incense. And for one solid hour nobody pulled me or pushed me or tried to make me understand." Even as a toddler, Kathleen had an independent spirit. "I was a tenement kid. I learned independence by roaming the neighborhood by myself. Years later my father would say that I was the only four-year-old on the block with a police record because sometimes the cops had to go and find me and bring me home." Education consisted of a series of five different schools before she entered an apartment for the deaf-blind at the age of eleven. By then, however, Kathleen explained, she had learned Braille. "A blind person can talk about Braille as an alternative technique, but to me it is not an alternative technique. It is salvation. I read Braille faster than most people read print. I went through college using Braille." Of her college experience, Kathleen said, "I didn't graduate summa cum laude, but I did graduate in four years with a B average. I can tell you I didn't sleep much during those four years." It was while she was in college that Kathleen learned to use a cane. "I had not learned to use a cane because the deaf-blind weren't supposed to be able to do this. But while I was in Manhattan attending Hunter's College I taught myself to use the cane and went about the city with it." Of all the successes in her life Kathleen stated that she most valued the fact that she had been a successful parent. As a child she never believed she would ever marry or have a child, but she did. Tragically, however, she was widowed when her son was nine years old. She raised her son, who is now 30 years old and a lieutenant in the United States Navy, as a single parent. Kathleen ended her presentation with a poem she had written about Helen Keller. In one line of the poem, Kathleen refers to the message of Helen Keller's life. But she could just as well have been referring to her own life. Here is the line: "The message that she left to us who are both deaf and blind is symbolized in hope that life need not leave us behind. If people would accept us, life wouldn't be so hard. For we possess potential; who knows how much save God." Don Petty was our next speaker. When Julie Hunter introduced him and his wife, Marilyn, (who was interpreting for him), she explained that Don and his parents, Bob and Charlene Petty, had written a book called Out of the Shadows. The book described their difficulties in getting education and services for Don when he was a child. Don explained that his speech would be given by reverse interpretation. He would speak first, then his wife would repeat his speech for the audience. Don's disability came about because of a bout of encephalitis he had as a baby. The loss of vision came first. He learned Braille in the third grade, but he could understand speech until about the eighth grade. By age eighteen he was learning to sign. Don especially emphasized the importance of his parents in his life. At one point, as a young adult, he was doing nothing but sitting at home, depressed about his life. His father came into his room where he was sitting in front of the t.v. and asked him, "Do you want to spend your life in front of the television?" Don decided that this was not what he wanted to do with his life. Today, he is married and has a job. After his brief presentation Don invited everyone to come and speak with him, his wife, and his parents at the exhibit hall where they had copies of his book for sale. Our first two panelists were living proof of the ability of deaf-blind children to grow up and become happy, productive adults. They were representative of what can be if parents dare to dream and expect the most from their child. But we all know that dreams are not achieved without hard work and persistence. Our next panelist, parent Kathy Arthurs, described the nitty-gritty reality of life with a deaf-blind infant and toddler. Here is the edited text of her remarks: My name is Kathy Arthurs. I have two children. Kristin is eight, and Kaylee is three and a half. Kaylee is here with me at the convention. She is a spunky three-year-old. You'll hear me calling her as she runs and runs down the hallway. Kaylee was born blind deaf. She was born with a cleft-lip palate. She has epilepsy. It's a depressing thing to hear the doctors tell you that your child will never see well, hear well, speak well, or even develop cognitive skills■that she'll never do much of anything. Naturally, I went home depressed. My husband didn't know what to do with me. But I thought about it, and I came to the conclusion early on that the only person who should put limitations on my daughter was my daughter. I decided I had to be positive. I know that's been said a lot today, but it is so true. You have to be positive. You have to be positive, and you have to understand what your child needs. For example, I decided that Kaylee needed to know when I was around, even when I wasn't touching her. So, from the time she was a small infant I wore the same perfume so that no matter where I was, she could smell me. It just seemed like common sense to me that Kaylee needed to learn to use her hands to explore things around her. So I wore interesting jewelry and interesting clothing. I painted t-shirts with fabric paint. I sewed appliques on my clothing and on hers. I did anything I could so she couldn't avoid touching different textures from the very earliest age. I had a rule when she was an infant: If you wanted to admire my baby, you held my baby. This way she could see your glasses, your beard■God help you if you had false teeth! When she was a little older, we needed to find a way to get her interested in moving about. Kaylee does have light perception, so for stimulation we used a small flashlight. We used it to help her pick up her head and to motivate her to move across the floor. My husband would push on her feet, and I would use the light in front of her. We strung Christmas lights from toy, to toy, to toy. This really motivated her and got her moving. Then I put my Christmas lights around my child's room so she could see the perimeter of the room. This has made for an interesting childhood, let me tell you. She thinks Christmas is year-round. Dealing with food was terrible! She was scared to death of touching her food. So I devised a method of putting plastic wrap across the food so she could feel the food through the wrap. This way she could discover a lot of things about the food■shape, temperature, hard, soft, thin, thick, even bumpy or smooth■without actually getting her hands on its surface. And little by little I pulled back the wrap so that, with a lot of encouragement from me, she began to feel the unwrapped part. We still have some trouble with gooey stuff, but for the most part she is feeling everything now. Very early on I Brailled all of her children's books with clear contact paper and a slate and stylus. I didn't know Braille well, so I found a Braille chart■a cheat sheet■and used that to help me. When Kaylee started to cruise around and walk on her own at eighteen months, I gave her a cane. I had three rules: she had to hold onto it, she had to hold it in front of her, and she had to keep the point down. I confess my shins were definitely raw for the first six months or so after she got her cane, but she finally got the idea. Now she has confidence and independence. The cane is an extension of herself. She doesn't leave home without it. We keep it in the same place by the door so when we go someplace she always knows where it is. When she runs into something she hasn't seen before, I take the time to let her feel that object. We spent an hour at last year's convention on a grate on the sidewalk in downtown Charlotte. Parents, please, I urge you, get your child a cane. If it doesn't work at first, put it up for a while and give it to them later. Education and IEP's■what a nightmare it was at first! My school system said "We've never had a deaf-blind child in our preschool classroom," and I said that's okay, Kaylee's going to be the first. I stood my ground and the school system, when they realized they couldn't push me around or make me change my belief in Kaylee, backed down. From that experience I learned that parents have power. This is my advice to parents: Get yourself educated. Know the rules. Stand your ground. Kaylee is now in preschool. Regular, ordinary, toddlers-running-everywhere preschool. For support she has me and an interpreter in the classroom in addition to the regular preschool teacher. And all the children in there love her. She has taught them as much as they have taught her. With the right support, why not regular preschool for the deaf-blind child? Everybody asks me how I deal with Kaylee's disabilities, how do I raise her? The answer is simple. Mostly it's just like raising any other three-year-old. We go places together as other families do: to church, to the YMCA, to the park, to the mall, wherever. I don't tell Kaylee she can't do something. I've always said she can try. Yes, she can play with other kids in school, the neighborhood, or at church. Yes, she can ride her tricycle■even if it means crashing into a few things. And Kaylee has rules and regulations to follow just like other kids her age. She has to pick up her own toys. She has a regular bedtime. She has chores. For example, she takes the clothes out of the dryer and puts them in a clothes basket. She puts the silverware in the drawer. (Mind you, it doesn't always get in the right place, but it gets in the drawer.) I always remember that Kaylee is first and foremost a child like any other child. Yes, she is deaf-blind, but that comes second. First, she is a child. In our three-year journey with Kay, I have discovered that I can still have the same dreams for her that I had before she was born, before we knew about her physical disabilities. I expect her ...[emotionally overcome and cannot speak for awhile, applause] I'm sorry. I expect her to get a higher education. I expect her to have a career, to marry, to have children, and to aid her community. And if you see my little toddler at this convention, please say hello to her■that is, if you can catch up to her as she's running through the hallways. [applause] Thank you. Sally Ruemmler, who was introduced at the beginning of this article as the mother of deaf-blind teenager, Keri-Ann, concluded the panel with her remarks. Unlike the other panelists, Keri-Ann was deaf first. The gradual loss of peripheral vision did more than create a mobility problem for her. Because of her blindness, she began to lose friends and was rejected by many in the deaf community. Interpreters at the public school she attended did not understand why they needed to modify their signing for her. (Interpreters, Sally explained, tend to sign widely and Keri-Ann, because of the loss of her side vision, could only see signs if they were kept within the very narrow range of her central vision.) Finally, with the help of their new friends in the Federation, Keri-Ann got a cane and some mobility training. Her parents enrolled her in a private residential oral school where her specific communication needs were accepted and understood. Although many parents are understandably reluctant to send their child away from home to school, Sally said that for Keri-Ann this move "was absolutely the beginning of independence for her." "I am," Sally explained "the original overprotective mother. Now my child flies home every other weekend by herself. She is quite independent." To further increase that independence Keri-Ann, her mother explained, had enrolled in a summer program for youth at the National Federation of the Blind's Colorado Center for the Blind. She would be attending that program after the NFB Convention. "She is very excited [about going]," Sally said. "She is going to come back more independent than she left, I'm positive." Sally concluded her remarks with a declaration of her commitment and gratitude to the organization■the National Federation of the Blind■which truly changed what it means to be deaf-blind for Keri-Ann and her family. She also invited everyone to take a moment at the convention to stop and talk with her daughter. "She's quite a character," Sally proudly boasted. "You will be in for a treat." It was obvious from the audience's warm, enthusiastic response to this panel that one did not need to be the parent of a deaf-blind child to draw inspiration and increased understanding from the deaf-blind and their parents who have become an important part of this movement. FAMILY SUPPORT OF EMERGENT LITERACY PRACTICES FOR CHILDREN WITH VISUAL IMPAIRMENTS by Chris Craig I am a doctoral student in the Special Education department at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University, majoring in visual impairment. I strongly believe that research involving families of children with disabilities should center on the needs of the family, rather than the needs of the researcher. Thus, I deeply appreciate the cooperation of the NFB on some research which I hope will benefit children with visual impairments and their families. The professional literature has discussed how reading aloud to children is the most important way to foster literacy development. Selecting stories with repetitive passages, using tactual books and material which adequately represents visual concepts, and promoting Braille awareness through exposure to the medium in a variety of contexts have all been identified as ways to enhance the shared reading experience for parents and their children who are blind. In general, the literature has emphasized the importance of family involvement in the literacy development of young children with visual impairments. Unfortunately, there is very little research on how children with visual impairments "emerge" into literacy or how home literacy experiences impact on learning to read and write in either print or Braille. Thus, my doctoral dissertation will examine the nature of family support of emergent literacy practices in the homes of children with visual impairments. Fifteen families attending a week-long preschool evaluation program at the Tennessee School for the Blind assisted in the development of a survey instrument for the study. The survey measures family support of literacy practices, home literacy opportunities, and parental attitudes toward Braille and low vision devices. Over a three week period, these families reviewed drafts of the survey and made suggestions as to how to improve the instrument. In addition, the research staff at the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) has provided both technical and financial assistance for this research, and I am very grateful for their support as well. During the month of September, 1993, the NFB assisted me in my research by sending out survey packets to over 250 of its members. The study includes primarily families who have a child with a visual impairment ages two to eight and who believe that their child has the ability to learn to read and write in either print or Braille at some level. Families who received the packets were asked to fill out the survey and return it using the self-addressed stamped envelope enclosed in each packet. I am very excited about beginning my dissertation as I believe the outcome of this research will help to increase literacy opportunities for children with visual impairments. I hope to be able to share with you the preliminary findings of this study sometime in 1994 through the Braille Monitor or Future Reflections. 1993 GUS GISSER MEMORIAL BRAILLE READERS CONTEST REPORT by Sandy Halverson Editor's Note: Sandy and John Halverson of Kansas City, Missouri, voluntarily serve as the judges for the annual Braille Readers are Leaders Contest co-sponsored by the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB) and the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC). Sandy is a Braille teacher, and both she and John have been Braille readers since childhood.
Ten years ago, the boards of NAPUB and NOPBC established the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest for the purpose of promoting Braille reading among school-age children. The members of our organizations were appalled by, and deeply concerned about, the growing Braille illiteracy among our blind youth. Even bright children were in danger of remaining mediocre or poor Braille readers. For numerous reasons, blind children were not catching on to the excitement and thrill of reading via Braille. We finally decided that if the kids were motivated to read, they could overcome other obstacles to reading Braille (such as less instruction time with teachers, fewer books, and so forth). And they have! Once motivated by the contest we have seen both good readers and lackadaisical readers catch fire with the excitement and pleasure of reading. Although originally motivated by the cash prizes and other awards, the students soon become self-motivated as reading becomes its own reward. In the 1993 contest we had 226 contestants■our largest number ever■from 35 states plus Canada. We had a nice mixture of students who have been in the contest off and on for several years, and students who were entering the contest for the first time. We also had four deaf-blind contestants who were given special recognition and prizes in honor of Gus Gisser, a deaf-blind, long-time member of the National Federation of the Blind. A memorial donation from the National Federation of the Blind of New York made these special prizes possible. Judging for the contest is based entirely upon the number of Braille pages read by the contestant. All students competed in one of five categories: grades kindergarten through first, second through fourth grades, fifth through eighth grades, ninth through twelfth, and Print to Braille. Those who had participated in previous contests were also eligible to compete in the Most Improved category. This category honors students who show the most improvement in number of Braille pages read from one year to the next. First-, second-, and third-place winners in each category receive cash prizes■$75, $50, and $25 respectively■a contest t-shirt, and a certificate. Most Improved winners also receive a cash prize and a certificate. All contestants receive a Braille certificate and a ribbon of participation. Here is the list of winners by category:
Kindergarten■First Grade First place: Krystle Zamudio■1,656 pages Salinas, California Second place: Jessica Culley■1,329 pages Steubenville, Ohio Third place: Amber Jo Kineard■1,268 pages Pineville, Louisiana
Second■Fourth Grade First place: Blake Earl Roberts■8,366 pages Felton, Delaware Second place: Gabriela Gonzalez■6,317pages Alexander, Alabama Third place: Jessica Leigh McCracken■5,678 pages Dorchester, South Carolina
Fifth■Eighth Grade First place: Stacy Kruger■13,694 pages Worthington, Minnesota Second place: James Konechne■12,510 pages White Lake, South Dakota Third place: Jennifer Espinoza■10,643 pages Albuquerque, New Mexico
Ninth■Twelfth Grade First place: Chastity Morse■15,838 pages Anoka, Minnesota Second place: April Swaim■12,649 pages Arlinton, Texas Third place: Matthew E. Weaver■6,955 pages Berlin, New Jersey
Print to Braille First place: Hillary Anne Bates■2,361 pages Ceville, Indiana Second place: Joshua Jungwirth■2,044 pages Ishpeming, Michigan Third place: Laura Ann LaDuke■1,802 pages Frankfort, Michigan
Most Improved Jocelyn Dore, Ontario, Canada J.T. Fetter, Sterling, Virginia Katherine Gresh, Flourton, Pennsylvania Melissa Saylor, Kentucky Jennifer Warner, Green Springs, Ohio
Deaf-Blind Award Winners Second■Fourth Grade First place: Robert Riddle■3,498 pages Vancouver, Washington Fifth■Eighth Grade First place: Janna Nelson■2,699 pages Aliquippa, Pennsylvania Ninth■Twelfth Grade First place: Jennifer Baker■4,884 pages Rockville, Maryland Print to Braille First place: Hillary Anne Bates■2,361 pages Ceville, Indiana CHESNEE GIRL WINS BRAILLE AWARD
Editor's Note: The following article by Steven Shultz appeared in a South Carolina paper, the <M>Spartanburg Herald-Journal.<D> It was later reprinted in <M>The Palmetto Blind<D>, the newsletter of the NFB of South Carolina. Jessica is the daughter of Mrs. Sarah Jane McCracken, president of the Parents of Blind Children Division of the NFB of South Carolina. The contest is, of course, the National Federation of the Blind's Braille Readers are Leaders Contest. Jessica was one of the fifteen national winners in the 1992-1993 annual contest.
For third-grader Jessica McCracken, learning to read was more than just another accomplishment on the way through school. Blind since she was born, Jessica struggled with Braille reading for years. She and her teachers worked at it month after month with little success. Then Jessica suddenly had a breakthrough, and the meaningless mass of bumps that had been so frustrating opened up into a whole new world of meaning. Now Jessica reads every spare moment she has. And last week, the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind where she studies honored her for having won third place in the National Braille Literacy Reading Contest. Between November and February, Jessica read 5,678 pages of Braille. She reads stories, poems, children's books■everything she can put her fingertips to. "She just zooms through everything," her teacher, Terrie Randolph, said, as Jessica sat nearby, her hand flying over a maze of raised dots on a white page. She's insatiable for a dot." Jessica's parents, Joel and Sarah Jane McCracken of Chesnee, said learning to triumph had changed their daughter's life. "We thought she'd never learn to read," she said. "Then one day, after three years, it was like a light came on. It's been so wonderful." Both her parents teach in Spartanburg County public schools and knew the importance of not giving up on teaching Jessica to read. "She is such a good example," Mrs. McCracken said. "That's what I tell my students: Reading opens so many doors." Like other children her age, Jessica reads Nancy Drew mysteries, the "Ramona" books by Beverly Cleary, and Judy Bloom. Even though the McCrackens learned a little bit of Braille, Jessica's abilities are in a different league. Mrs. McCracken said, "People say, `How on earth is she reading?' And I say I have no idea. It's a miracle." THE SCHOLARSHIP CLASS OF 1993
Reprinted from the September-October, 1993, issue of the <M>Braille Monitor<D>.
The task of the National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Selection and Award Committees is never easy. During the spring the members of the selection committee must pore over many hundreds of scholarship applications to choose the group of finalists, who will attend the convention to compete for the various awards. Then during convention week, when there are always at least five things one wants to do with every free moment, the awards committee members must find the time to get to know each of the twenty-six winners in order to make the final judgments in the competition. This year the job was particularly difficult. The Class of '93 is talented and energetic. A number of its members are already active in the Federation, and during the convention many others began to demonstrate deep interest in and personal response to our philosophy and commitment to changing what it means to be blind. Here are the 1993 scholarship winners as they presented themselves to the Board of Directors at its Monday, July 5, meeting. Peggy Pinder, Chairman of the Scholarship Committee, introduced each person and listed first the state from which the winner comes and then the state in which he or she would be a student this past fall. This is what the winners had to say in the few seconds they were given in which to introduce themselves:
Jack Allord, Wisconsin, Wisconsin: "Good morning, everyone. I'm Jack Allord from Shawano, Wisconsin. I went to Illinois School of Technology and studied mechanical engineering. After that I went into the Army, and they saw fit to make a Korean interpreter out of me. After the Army I went to Northern Illinois University and got a degree in biology, studying genetics. After that I went to Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, and got a doctor of dental surgery degree. Right now I'm at the University of Wisconsin in Green Bay, studying administration science. I hope to go into health care administration. Extracurricularly, I'm on the Independent Living Council of Wisconsin. I'm a speaker for the visual impairment program at North Central Technical College. I am very active in Free Masonry■I'll be the Grand Master of Free Masons in Wisconsin in 1996. Thank you." Laura Biro, Michigan, Michigan: "Good morning, fellow Federationists. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the National Federation of the Blind not only for honoring me with a scholarship, but for your continued love and support. I am currently a junior at Sienna Heights College in Adrian, Michigan, where I'm pursuing a career in social work. My ultimate goal is to obtain a master's degree and work with handicapped children. Thank you." Matthew Brink, Michigan, Michigan: "Thank you, Miss Pinder, and good morning to you all. I am presently at Western Michigan University, academically focused right now in psychology, specifically working with clients with traumatic brain injury. I also co-instruct in a class in abnormal psychology and just finished an internship in Battle Creek. I am also learning from the National Federation of the Blind, for which I am grateful and hope to contribute to the '93 convention, as well." Maren Christensen, Montana, Montana: "Hello. My name is Maren Christensen. I'm currently a student at the University of Montana. I'm enrolled in a joint degree program, receiving my law degree and a master's in public administration. I intend to work as a lawyer with particular emphasis on implementing progressive public policies. I am honored to be here. I have enjoyed the last two days of meeting, talking with, and listening to this group of dynamic, intelligent, and active, dedicated individuals. I'm real pleased to be here, and I'm particularly pleased with my new NFB long white cane. Finally I can move as fast as I want to. Thanks." Bill Cuttle, Massachusetts, Massachusetts: "Hello, everyone. This is my first convention. I'm very grateful to be here, not only for the scholarship, but also I have just met so many nice people. To be honest, I'm a little overwhelmed with everything that's here. I'm going to be going to Boston College Law School in September, and I'm going to be focusing on the field of family and juvenile law. I received my bachelor's degree at Bridgewater State College in psychology and a master's degree also in counseling psychology from the University of Massachusetts and have been working in the field of mental health for the past seven years as a clinical director of programs for kids. I'm thirty-one, and I'm going to be trying a new career. I'm hoping to combine my background with law to help other people. Thank you." Marvelena Desha, California, California: "Hello. My name is Marvelena Desha, and I'm from San Francisco, California. This is my first convention, and I must say that I am very impressed with the Federation. In September I am going to be attending the University of California at Berkeley with a major in linguistics and foreign language. I hope to pursue a career as a foreign language interpreter." Brigid Doherty, Oregon, Oregon: "Good morning, everyone. I am a junior at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. I am majoring in international studies. I have been out in the work force for the past twelve years, working as a legal secretary and office manager among other things. I'm very pleased to be back in school, working toward a better understanding between cultures. I would like very much to work either in a governmental capacity or in business, helping people to learn to communicate with other cultures as they are traveling overseas■also just to have a better understanding door to door, neighbor to neighbor. We're all living in an increasingly interdependent world, and I think it's very, very important that we learn to understand one another better. I thank you for the opportunity of being here." Ann Edie, New York, Massachusetts: "Good morning and thank you all for the opportunity to be here at the NFB convention. My background is teaching Asian studies and Chinese. In the fall I'll be going to Boston College to study teaching of the blind. I hope eventually to combine these two interests by teaching blind people the skills that they need, by teaching sighted people Braille and other skills that will help them understand the abilities of blind people, and by teaching both sighted and blind people Chinese and Asian studies and Asian cultures. I'm very happy to be here, and thank you very much." Tina Ektermanis, Missouri, Missouri: "Hi. My name is Tina Ektermanis. I'm a senior at Northwest Missouri State University with a major in computer science and a minor in mathematics. I ultimately plan to go on for a master's degree. I'm not exactly sure where yet, but I plan to work in the field of adaptive technology or network administration. Thank you." Al Fogel, New York, (Washington, D.C. this summer) and New Jersey: "Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Al Fogel. I've just completed my first year at Rutgers Law School in Newark, New Jersey. This summer I'm working at the Department of Justice with the ADA. I have a bachelor's degree in accounting and Talmudic law. I hope to be a corporate attorney with an emphasis on bringing more disabled people into the corporate field. I can say that starting next year, working with Rutgers, we'll be getting the first disabled student to go into a New Jersey law firm. I'm glad to be here. I'd like to thank the Scholarship Committee, and I'd really like to thank the Texas people for some down-home hospitality. Thank you." Christopher Foster, California, California: "Good morning. I'd like to thank the Federation as well as the committee. This is my first convention, and I have learned a lot in the last few days. I also have my brand new long white cane. Again I'd like to thank you all. I'm going to be a freshman at Sierra Community College in Rockland, California, where I will start my studies in English and computer science. I hope to then go on to the University of California at Davis, where I will continue and hope to get a master's in computer science. I would like to go into possibly design engineering or something like that, just to sort things out and do the follow-through work at companies and things. Thank you very much." Saeed Golnabi, Ohio, Ohio: "Good morning, everybody. My name is Saeed Golnabi. I am very happy and pleased to be here. This week I have had the best experience in my whole thirty-two years. Right now I am at the University of Cincinnati. I'm working on my Ph.D. in mathematics, and I hope I will graduate in a couple of years. Thank you." Kathleen Hart, New York, Washington: "Thank you. Good morning. I previously have been a teacher of special education and a counselor. I hold both a bachelor's and a master's in education. I am currently a senior at Colgate Rochester Bexley Crozer■that is a seminary. I am working on my master's in divinity and will be graduating next May 14. I am looking for ordination in the Episcopal Church as a deacon and have about four more years to go till that happens. I have been a Federationist for two years. My first convention was two years ago. About a month after that my state affiliate's president invited me to a state leadership conference, and I also met my fiance at my first convention, so the Federation has been wonderful!" Denise Howard, Georgia, Georgia: "Good morning. My name is Denise Howard, and I'm from Savannah, Georgia. I recently graduated from high school. In the fall I'll be a freshman at Spelman College. I plan to double major in English and elementary education. Thank you." Mary Hurt, Kentucky, Kentucky: "I'm Mary Hurt from Louisville, Kentucky. My first convention was in '87. I'm a past treasurer of the Diabetics Division and Kentucky State representative for the Diabetics Division. In 1991 I raised $10,000 for that group, and I am a senior at the University of Louisville, studying business administration. I plan to pursue a career in the world of corporate finance, and I'm very honored to be here." Jennifer Lehman, Wisconsin, Minnesota: "Good morning, everyone. My name is Jennifer Lehman. I'm a recent graduate of BLIND, Inc. in Minnesota. I am President of the Minnesota Association of Blind Students, and I was elected last night to be the Secretary of the National Association of Blind Students. I'm also a member of the Metro Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota. Right now I am a junior at the University of Minnesota. My major is sociology. My minor is communication and speech and hearing science. I would eventually like to be a speech clinician, working with preschoolers. I want to say that I am very honored to be a scholarship winner and very glad to be here for my third convention." Zuhair Mah'd, Florida, Florida: "Good morning, fellow Federationists. I've always been told how hard it was to speak in public, but I guess I know now what it means. My name is Zuhair, and I am studying computer science at Florida Atlantic University. I also work for the Office for Students with Disabilities as a computer consultant in assistive technology. I'd like to take the opportunity here to thank the National Federation of the Blind very, very much for the help and the honor it has bestowed upon me. I'd like to make a pledge here to be, for everyone else that I meet, as helpful as the National Federation of the Blind has been to me. Thank you very much." Angie Matney, West Virginia, Virginia: "Good morning. My name is Angie Matney. I recently graduated from Iager High School in Iager, West Virginia, and I will be attending Washington and Lee University in the fall, where I plan to major in English and/or computer science to pursue a career either in post-secondary education or in the field of adaptive technology for the blind. I would just like to thank each and every one of you for the opportunity that you have given me to attend my first NFB convention as a national scholarship winner and also to thank you for my new long white cane. Thank you very much." Janelle McEachern, Arizona, Arizona: "Good morning, everybody, and greetings from the great state of Arizona, the home of the almost world champion Phoenix Suns■almost, I say. My name is Janelle McEachern, and I hold my bachelor of arts degree from Arizona State University. It's a history degree in American and European military history. I am currently in law school, ASU College of Law. I'm studying to be a lawyer, and I am also taking my master's degree in American and British constitutional and legal history. I'm doing both at the same time, so I'm either desperate or crazy■I haven't figured out which yet. I hope to be both an attorney and a professor of constitutional and legal history for either American or British■I haven't figured out which. I guess I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. In my spare time I do disability advocacy. I am a prospective board member for the Arizona Bridge to Independent Living. I am a volunteer consultant on ADA accessibility guidelines for area historical museums and zoos. I also do local missionary work for my church, and I am a civil war history buff. Thank you." Jonathon Mize, Texas, Texas: "Good late morning, close-to-lunch late morning. Welcome to Texas, where you have wide-open spaces and always pleasant-smiling faces■the only place where it costs a $10 cab fare just to get out of the airport. My previous background in education■I got an associate in science degree with emphasis in public administration from South Plains College in Levelland, Texas, and transferred to Stephen F. Austin University as a junior majoring in public administration. I will continue to get my master's degree at the University of Texas at Austin, where I will also have the public administration master's. In the near future I plan to be a city manager or work in some of the state agencies■Lord knows they need help. Thank you." Sally Nemeth, West Virginia, Ohio: "Good morning. How y'all doing out there? Good, I hope. I thought I'd try a little bit of Texan. This is my first NFB experience, and I have to say, what an incredible initiation! My background is in communication and psychology. I have a strong interest in the area of wellness. I am a member of the ADA Training and Implementation Network. This fall I'll be beginning a degree in counseling at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. I hope eventually to obtain a Ph.D. in either counseling or counseling psych and with that to teach, to conduct seminars on a national basis, to write, counsel, engage in community service, and eventually join the Peace Corps. I thank you for your generosity in helping me to obtain my goals." Jim Salas, New Mexico, New Mexico: "Good morning, everybody. I'm Jim Salas. I'm attending Webster University, pursuing a master's degree in human resources development. I'm interested in the people side of organizational effectiveness. For the last four years I've been the associates program chairman in New Mexico. Over that period of time we've quadrupled the number of associate recruiters, and we are the two-time defending national champion. They're going to be telling us in a little while who the champion is for this year, and we have some pretty good numbers again. If we win, great, congratulations to us. If Missouri or Maryland or California or one of those pretenders happens to get in this year, well congratulations to them; but remember there is always next year! In the immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, `Vi'll be back!'" Carolyn Scharkey, Missouri, Missouri: "Hi. It's good to be here. I was the first licensed hairdresser in the state of Missouri as a blind person, and I then had three children of my own, two foster children, and just loved people. I decided to go into social work so will be entering the University of Missouri, St. Louis, in the fall. Thank you." Christopher Smith, New Jersey, Rhode Island: "I just recently graduated from Ridgewood High School in northern New Jersey. I'll be a freshman at Brown University this September, and I plan to major in English, creative writing, with the goal to become a professional writer. This is my first experience with the Federation. I'd like to thank everyone for their truly sincere welcome, and I look forward to a long and committed future with the Federation. Thank you." Chuck Strickland, California, California: "I have a master's degree in physics with a minor in computer science from Southwest Texas State University, which is where I've mostly been, in Texas. I was a participant in the Young Scholars program sponsored by the National Science Foundation, and I was a science counselor there. It was held at SWT. I'm now going for a Ph.D. in physics. I hope to teach at the university level and do theoretical physics, make some contribution. I'm attending the University of California at Riverside. Thanks for your consideration." Colleen Wunderlich, Illinois, Indiana: "Good morning. I would like to begin by thanking the Federation for the opportunity they have given me to be here today. I feel very fortunate to have received influence from these Federationists. I feel that they have a great sense of inner strength and pride, and I hope that I will achieve my dream of becoming a psychiatrist. Right now I will be attending Purdue University in the fall, where I will major in pre-med and psychology. Then I plan to go to medical school. I believe that the Federation will be here to help me achieve my dream. When I do so, I'd like to give that back to future generations to come. Thank you very much."
Peggy Pinder: "And there, Mr. President and members of the National Federation of the Blind, are the twenty-six scholarship winners this year."
As you will observe, it was an impressive group of students this year. Here are the awards they received: $2,000 NFB Merit Scholarships: Marvelena Desha, Tina Ektermanis, Al Fogel, Saeed Golnabi, Kathleen Hart, Denise Howard, Jonathon Mize, Christopher Smith, and James Strickland. $2,000 Ellen Setterfield Memorial Scholarship: Janelle McEachern, $2,000 Hermione Grant Calhoun Scholarship: Angela Matney. $2,000 Kuchler-Killian Memorial Scholarship: Ann Edie. $2,500 NFB Scholarships: Jack Allord, William Cuttle, Christopher Foster, Mary Hurt, and Zuhair Mah'd. $2,500 NFB Educator of Tomorrow Scholarship: Sally Nemeth. $2,500 NFB Humanities Scholarship: Colleen Wunderlich. $2,500 Frank Walton Horn Memorial Scholarship: Carolyn Scharkey. $2,500 Howard Brown Rickard Scholarship: Maren Christensen. $3,000 Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship: Matthew Brink. $4,000 NFB Scholarships: Brigid Doherty and James Salas. $4,000 Anne Pekar Memorial Scholarship: Laura Biro. $10,000 American Action Fund Scholarship: Jennifer Lehman
In introducing Jennifer during the banquet for brief remarks, Peggy Pinder said: Jennifer took time out during her undergraduate years to go to a training center for blind people when she met the Federation and realized that she needed what the Federation and its training centers have. She hasn't been in school this last year. She's going for the first time to the University of Minnesota (ranked as a junior), where she is earning a bachelor of science degree in sociology. As I think many of you know, Jennifer is an active and loved member of both the Minnesota and the Wisconsin affiliates and intends to be a pre-school speech clinician. Now here, for a few remarks, is this year's $10,000 scholarship winner, Jennifer Lehman. Jennifer Lehman: Thank you all so much. I am very, very honored to be chosen as this year's top scholarship winner. I want to thank President Maurer and Dr. Jernigan and everyone in the National Federation of the Blind for all the help and support you have given me during the past three years. I would not have been able to make it through a lot of situations that have happened in the past three years if it had not been for all the support from the members of the Federation family. I can't even tell you how I feel right now or how much the NFB means to me. So I just want to say that I will continue to be active in this organization and help to change what it means to be blind. I want to help get more people into the movement so that everyone's life can be changed as much as mine has been by this wonderful organization. Thank you all.[applause] NAPUB PLANS NATIONAL BRAILLE-A-THON FOR DETROIT by Jerry Whittle and Betty Niceley For the past five years, the National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana has held a Braille-A-Thon at its state convention as a means both to promote Braille literacy and to raise funds for the state affiliate. During the past five years, the NFBL has raised over five thousand dollars and has received some excellent publicity about Braille literacy in almost every major city in Louisiana. Volunteer Braille readers pledge to read a set number of Braille pages between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on the Friday before a state convention begins. For several weeks prior to the state convention, these volunteer readers procure sponsors, and then the volunteers gather in a large room in the hotel where the state convention is held and complete their page goals. Some read as many as three hundred pages, and others read just a few pages. For example, Harold Wilson raised over $1,300 on just ten pages the first year the event was held. Because of the success of the Louisiana Braille-A-Thon, the National Association to Promote the use of Braille (NAPUB) has decided to hold a similar event at the 1994 NFB Convention in Detroit, and if successful, it will be continued at each National Convention. "We expect to have excellent Braille readers and brand-new Braille readers participating on Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in Detroit," said Betty Niceley, President of NAPUB. "We should have at least two hundred people reading Braille in one room in Detroit, and we will try our best to have every major television station and newspaper in the Detroit area there to cover the event. We will be calling on our membership in NAPUB to pledge to read their pages and to find sponsors in their home states who would be willing to pay them handsomely for their hard work. Half of the money will go to NAPUB and half will go to the national organization. If Louisiana can raise two thousand for state convention, there is no reason why we couldn't raise over one hundred thousand for national Braille-A-Thon," said Niceley, smiling. "We want to make this an annual event. I bet it will be one of the quietest fund raisers we could ever have." If you would like to participate and receive some sponsor sheets, you may contact either Betty Niceley, 3618 Dayton Avenue, Louisville, Kentucky 70402, (502) 897-2632, or Jerry Whittle, 101 South Trenton Street, Ruston, Louisiana 71270, 1-(800)-234-4166. THE NATURE OF INDEPENDENCE An Address Delivered By Kenneth Jernigan At the Convention of the National Federation of the Blind Dallas, Texas, July 6, 1993 Shortly after last year's convention, I received a number of letters from students at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. It was clear that the letters were written as the result of discussions held at the Center and that, although the apparent topic was independent mobility, the real issue was independence in general, and how blind persons should live and behave. I want to share those letters with you, then tell you how I answered them, and finally say a few things about what I think independence really is. The letters are all dated July 23, 1992. Here is a composite of them:
Dear Dr. Jernigan: I am a sophomore in high school. Right now, I am in a teenage program that the Louisiana Center for the Blind is sponsoring. It is the STEP program. That means Summer Training and Employment Project. We are allowed to get jobs and make money as well as have classes. A few weeks ago I attended the national convention. I really enjoyed all your speeches and everything. People noticed that you and Mr. Maurer walked sighted guide sometimes, [I interrupt to call your attention to the almost code-word use of the term "sighted guide." Not "walking with a sighted guide" or "walking with a sighted person" or "holding the arm of a sighted person," but "walking sighted guide." This makes it clear that the concept of "sighted guide" has been the topic of considerable conversation. But back to the letter.] and we thought you all would never walk sighted guide, because you all are so highly involved in the NFB. I never thought sighted guide was OK until then. So why did you all use sighted guide? I know there are many reasons why this might be. We discussed this in one of our talk times and came up with one reason this might be. We know that you all have to be at meetings all the time, and it would be faster if you would use sighted guide. [I interrupt again to call your attention to the use in the following sentences of the depersonalized "it." Now, back to the letter.] I am sure you don't use it so much that you lose your cane travel skills. I am not trying to say this is wrong. I was just wondering why you do this. Someone brought up that if we, as the people being trained at the moment, were caught using sighted guide, they would fuss at us. And I realize that you are not the one in training, so it is not wrong. We couldn't use sighted guide, because we might want to use it more than the cane if we use too much of it.
Yours truly, ____________________
Dear Dr. Jernigan: During this past convention in North Carolina some of us noticed that you did not walk with a cane. I do not understand this at all. I can understand that you have to be in many places in a short amount of time at the conventions, and that might be the reason you went sighted guide. But I also know that when you came for a tour of the Center, you also went sighted guide. We do not understand this. We all have our own theories as to why you went sighted guide, but we want to get the correct answer straight from the horse's mouth.
Your fellow Federationist, ____________________ That's a very clear-cut letter, and I am pleased to be called that end of the horse. Here is the last one: Dear Dr. Jernigan: This year I came to Charlotte to attend my third national convention of the NFB. I am currently a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind in the STEP program for blind teenagers. This program stresses cane use, Braille literacy, employment readiness, and self-confidence based on achievement. While at the convention I heard from a friend that you were never actually seen using your cane. I discussed this with a group of friends, and it was decided that you most likely had many places to go and had to get to them quickly. This made sense, and the question seemed settled. Then one of the group remembered you using sighted guide during a tour you took of the Center while passing through Ruston on the way to the Dallas convention in 1990. This was such a hectic situation, and the question was no longer settled because the only alternative travel technique anyone noticed you using was sighted guide. I do not mean this letter to imply any disrespect towards you, the Federation, or its many achievements. If the Federation had not pushed so hard for independence for the blind, I would have no grounds on which to write this letter. It is because of my own personal convictions about independence that I ask why the figurehead of the NFB is not himself using the alternative techniques that his student, Joanne Wilson, has been teaching for nearly ten years in Ruston. I would prefer to end the letter on a positive note. I realize that you are responsible for the training I am currently receiving, and I am grateful for it. I am not implying that you have no cane skills, because I do not honestly know. Sincerely, ____________________ These are straightforward letters, seriously written. They raise fundamental questions, questions that deserve a reasoned answer. Here is the expanded substance of what I wrote: Baltimore, Maryland July 29, 1992 Under date of July 23, 1992, the three of you wrote to ask me why I didn't travel alone with a cane during the national convention in Charlotte and why on a visit to the Louisiana Center in 1990 I took a sighted person's arm instead of walking alone with a cane. I appreciate your letters and will tell you why I do what I do. In the first place let us assume that I didn't have any cane travel skills at all. This might be comparable to the situation of a parent who had no education but dreamed of an education for his or her child. That parent might preach the value of education and might work to send the child to high school and then to college. The parent might, though personally uneducated, feel tremendous satisfaction at the learning and accomplishment which his or her effort had made possible. In such circumstances what attitude should the child have toward the parent? The child might be critical of the parent for his or her poor grammar and lack of education and might even be ashamed to associate with the parent■or the child might feel gratitude for the sacrifice and the work that had made the education possible. This is not an apt analogy since I have perfectly good cane skills, but it has elements of truth about it. When I was a child, there were no orientation centers or mobility training. The only canes available were the short, heavy, wooden type, and we youngsters associated carrying a cane with begging, shuffling along, and being helpless. It was not until I finished college and had taught for four years in Tennessee that I first carried a cane. It was made of wood and had a crook handle. I might also say that it was longer than most of those in vogue at the time, forty inches. I started using it in 1953, just before going to California to work at the newly established state orientation center for the blind. The Center had been in operation for only a few months and had enrolled only four or five students by the time of my arrival. In those days the California Center was using 42-inch aluminum canes. They were a tremendous improvement over the 40-inch wooden cane I had been carrying, and I immediately adopted the new model. Even so, it seemed that something better was needed. I worked with the person who had been employed as the travel teacher, and we experimented with different techniques and canes. In the mid-1950's the solid fiberglass cane was developed. It was first made by a blind man in Kansas, but we at the California Center popularized it and brought it into general use. We also worked to improve the tip. Our students received intensive training, those with any sight using blindfolds (or, as we called them, sleep shades), and our students and graduates were identifiable in any group of blind persons because of their competence and ease in travel. Since they had enjoyed the benefit of our study and experimentation, as well as intensive instruction and the time to practice, many of them probably became better travelers than I■and I felt pride and satisfaction in the fact. We were advancing on the road to freedom and independence. In 1958 I went to Iowa as director of the state commission for the blind, and I carried with me the experience and knowledge I had acquired in California plus a 48-inch fiberglass cane and a head full of new ideas and hopes for the future. I hired a young sighted man who had no experience at all with blindness and spent several days giving him preliminary instruction in mobility, using blind techniques. First I had him follow me all over Des Moines, watching me use the cane while crossing streets and going to various places. Then, he put on sleep shades, and I worked with him to learn basic skills. Next I sent him to California for three or four weeks to gain further experience and to compare what I had taught him with what the California Center was doing. Finally he came back to Des Moines, and I spent several more weeks working with him until (though sighted) he could (under blindfold) go anywhere he wanted safely and comfortably using a cane. During all of that time I worked with him on attitudes, for unless one believes that he or she is capable of independence as a blind person, independence in travel (as in other areas) is not truly achievable. This travel instructor's name is Jim Witte, and he developed into one of the best I have ever known. Iowa students rapidly became the envy of the nation. You could single them out in any group because of their bearing, their confidence, and their skill in travel. As had been the case in California, some of them undoubtedly traveled better than I, and I felt a deep sense of fulfillment in the fact. Joanne Wilson (the director of your own Louisiana Center) was one of those students, and I am sure she has told you how it was at the Iowa Center■how students were treated, what was expected of them, the relationship between staff and students, our dreams for the future, and how we set about accomplishing those dreams. Arlene Hill (one of your teachers) was also an Iowa student. Both Joanne and Arlene are living examples of what we taught and how it worked. So are President Maurer, Mrs. Maurer, Peggy Pinder, Ramona Walhof, Jim Gashel, Jim Omvig, and at least fifty others in this audience. It was in Iowa that we developed the hollow fiberglass cane. It was an improvement over the solid cane, lighter and more flexible. We also gradually began to use longer and longer canes. They enabled us to walk faster without diminishing either safety or grace. As I have already told you, I started with a 40-inch wooden cane. Then I went to 42-inch aluminum■and after that to solid fiberglass, then to hollow fiberglass, and (three or four years ago) to hollow carbon fiber. As to length, I went from 40 inches to 42, then to 45, 48, 49, 51, 53, 55, and 57. At present I use a 59-inch cane. It seems about right to me for my height and speed of travel. Will I ever use a still longer cane? I don't know■but at this stage I don't think so. Obviously there comes a time when a longer cane is a disadvantage instead of a help. I've told you all of this so that you may understand something of my background and approach to independence in travel, and independence in general. The doctors who established the medical schools a hundred years ago were (with notable exceptions) not generally as competent and skilled as the doctors they trained, for they did not have the benefit of the kind of concentrated teaching they themselves were providing. Obviously they could not stand on their own shoulders. Through their students they extended their dreams into the future, building possibilities that they themselves had not known and could never hope to realize. So it is with me in relation to you. You are the third generation of our mobility trainees, having the benefit of what I have learned and also of what Joanne and the other Iowa graduates have learned. Unless you make advances over what we have done, you will, in a very real sense, fail to keep faith with those who have gone before you and those who will follow. In this context I would expect and hope that some of you will become better travelers (and, perhaps, better philosophers and teachers) than I, and if you do, I will take joy in it. Having said all of this, let me come back to my own travel skills. During the 1950's I traveled completely alone on a constant basis throughout this entire country, going to almost every state and dealing with almost every kind of environment■urban area, city bus, taxi, complicated street crossing, rural setting, hired private car, country road, and almost anything else you can imagine. During late December and early January of 1956 and 1957, for example, I traveled alone to fourteen states in eleven days, writing testimony for the NFB's Right to Organize bill. It was no big deal, and not something I thought about very much. It was simply a job that had to be done, and the travel was incidental and taken for granted. I have taught travel instructors and have developed new techniques and canes. I travel whenever and wherever I want to go in the most convenient way to get there■and sometimes that means alone, using a cane. Once when I was in Iowa, students observed that I walked to a barber shop one day with another staff member, and they raised with me some of the same questions you have raised. That afternoon in our business class (you may call it by some other name■philosophy or something else) I dealt with the matter. I told the students some of the things I have told you, and then I went on to say something like this: "Although what I have told you should mean that even if I couldn't travel with much skill at all I might still not merit your criticism, we don't need to leave it at that. Follow me. We are going to take a walk through downtown traffic■and see that you keep up." I took the lead, and we walked for eight or ten blocks at a fast clip. When we got back to the classroom, I didn't need to tell them what kind of travel skills I had. They knew. Then, we talked about why I had walked to the barber shop with another staff member. In that particular instance I had matters to discuss, and I felt I couldn't afford the luxury of doing nothing while going for a hair cut. As a matter of fact, in those days I often made a practice of taking my secretary with me to the barber shop and dictating letters while getting my hair cut. Of course, I could have made a point of walking alone each time just to make a visible demonstration of my independence, but somehow I think that such insecurity might have made the opposite point and would certainly have been counterproductive. In the Iowa days I was not only director of the state Commission for the Blind but also First Vice President and then President of the National Federation of the Blind. Both were full-time jobs, requiring me to use to best advantage every waking minute. I was up before 6:00 to go to the gym with the men students; I wrote over a hundred letters a week; I entertained legislators and other civic leaders an average of two or three nights a week to gain support for our program; I traveled throughout the state to make speeches; and I spent long hours working individually with students. Besides that, I handled the administrative details of the Commission and the NFB on a daily basis. At the same time I was doing organizing in other states and dealing with problems brought to me by Federationists throughout the country. In that context it would have been a bad use of my time (and both Federationists and Iowa students and staff would have thought so) for me to spend much of my day walking down the street to make a visible show of my independent travel skills. I traveled alone when I needed to, and I gave demonstrations to students, legislators, and others when I needed to do that■but I never did either to convince myself or to establish in my own mind the fact of my capacity or independence. It didn't seem necessary. So what about the NFB convention in Charlotte? I was in charge of convention organization and arrangements, and there were a thousand details to handle. There were four hotels and a convention center, each with its own staff and each requiring separate handling and a myriad of decisions. Sometimes I had not only one but two or three people with me as I went from place to place, talking about what had to be done and sending this person here and that person yonder. Even so, I might (you may say) have refused to take the arm of one of the persons with me and used my cane to walk alone. But for what reason? When a blind person is walking through a crowd or down a street with somebody else and trying to carry on a meaningful conversation, it is easier to take the other person's arm. This is true even if you are the best traveler in the world and even if both of you are blind. In fact, I contend that there are times when refusing to take an arm that is offered may constitute the very opposite of independence. If, for instance, you are a blind person accompanying a sighted person through a busy restaurant closely packed with tables and chairs, do you create a better image of independence by trying to get through the maze alone, with the sighted person going in front and constantly calling back, "This way! This way!" or by simply taking the sighted person's arm and going to the table? What is better about following a voice than following an arm? From what I have said, I presume it is clear which method I favor. Of course, if no arm is conveniently available, you should be prepared to use another method, regardless of how crowded the restaurant or how labyrinthine the path. In either case you should do it without losing your cool. But I'll tell you what alternative is not acceptable in such circumstance■pretending that you don't want anything to eat and not going at all. That's not acceptable. But back to the convention. When you are trying to get through crowds quickly to go from meeting to meeting, and possibly also trying to find different people in those crowds in a hurry, the efficiency of sighted assistance multiplies. Incidentally, even if I were sighted and doing the things I do at national conventions, I would want two or three persons with me■to look for people in crowds, to send for this and that, and to talk and advise with. As an example, consider what happened at last year's convention with respect to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander. He has normal eyesight and is in every other way, so far as I know, able-bodied and energetic. I am sure that he can drive a car and walk vigorously. Yet, he sent an assistant to Charlotte a day in advance of his arrival. The assistant scouted out the convention and then went to the airport to meet the Secretary. The assistant drove the car from the airport to the convention, accompanied the Secretary into the meeting hall, went with him to the platform, met him at the edge of the platform when he finished speaking, and drove him back to the airport. If the Secretary had been blind, I wonder if somebody would have said, "Just look! He's not independent. He has to have a sighted person with him at all times, accompanying him everywhere he goes and driving his car." Since I am not a student trying to learn to travel independently or to establish within my own mind that I can compete on terms of equality with others, and since I can and do travel by myself when that is most convenient, I feel no particular obligation to make a demonstration when it is more efficient to do otherwise. If I were a student, I should and would behave differently. As an example, I think a student should always use a rigid (not a collapsible) cane. But I generally use one that is collapsible. Why? Students often are uncomfortable with canes, and if they are allowed to use those that fold or telescope, they may tend to hide or conceal them because they think (even if subconsciously) that it will make them look less conspicuous. I have carried a cane for so long that I would feel naked without it, and I always carry one whether I am with somebody or not. Because they were so rickety, I refused to carry a collapsible cane until we developed the telescoping carbon fiber model. I pull it to such a tight fit that it doesn't collapse as I use it, and I almost never collapse it unless I'm in close quarters. Again, it is a convenience, and my sense of independence is not so brittle that I think I have to carry the rigid cane to prove to myself or others that I am not ashamed to be seen with it or uncomfortable about blindness. When I was teaching orientation classes in California and Iowa, I often said to those in attendance that students at a center tend to go through three stages: fear and insecurity, rebellious independence, and normal independence■FI, RI, and NI. During fear and insecurity one tends to be ultracautious and afraid of everything, even if at times putting on a good front. During rebellious independence one tends to be overly touchy, resenting anybody who attempts to offer him or her any kind of assistance at all, even when the assistance is appropriate and needed. In the rebellious independence stage one is likely to be a pain in the neck, both to himself or herself and others■but this is a necessary step on the road from fear and insecurity to normal independence. Unfortunately some people never get beyond it. Hopefully one will eventually arrive at the stage of normal independence, with relatively little need constantly to prove either to oneself or others that one is capable of independence and first-class citizenship. This means maturity in dealing with condescending treatment, and it also means flexibility in accepting or rejecting offers of assistance, kindness, or generosity. Sometimes such things should be graciously or silently taken, sometimes endured, and sometimes rejected out of hand■but the reason should never be because you doubt your own worth, have inner feelings of insecurity, or wonder whether you are inferior because of blindness. Normal independence also means not rationalizing your fear or inability by saying that you are just doing what is convenient and efficient and that you don't feel the need to prove something when in reality you are just covering up the fact that you are as helpless as a baby■and it means not going so far the other way and being so touchy about your so-called independence that nobody can stand to be around you. It means getting to the place where you are comfortable enough with yourself and secure enough with your own inner feelings that you don't have to spend much time bothering about the matter one way or another. It means reducing blindness to the level of a mere inconvenience and making it just one more of your everyday characteristics■a characteristic with which you must deal just as you do with how strong you are, how old you are, how smart you are, how personable you are, and how much money you have. These are the goals, and probably none of us ever achieves all of them all of the time. Nevertheless, we are making tremendous progress■and we are farther along the road now than we have ever been. I am pleased that you wrote me, and I am especially pleased that you are able to receive training at the Louisiana Center. It is grounded in Federation philosophy, and it is one of the best. You are getting the chance while you are young to learn what blindness is really like, and what it isn't like. You have the opportunity to profit from the collective experience of all of us■the things we tried that didn't work, and those that did. On the foundation of love and organizational structure which we have established, you can make for yourselves better opportunities than we have ever known■and I pray that you will. The future is in the hands of your generation, and I hope you will dream and work and build wisely and well. Sincerely,<Kenneth Jernigan
That is what I wrote, and there have been a number of subsequent developments. One person, hearing these letters, said, "I can see your point, but don't you think you should try to be a role model?" To which I replied, "I thought that was what I was doing." Then, there was the letter I got about a month ago from a person who attended a seminar at the National Center for the Blind last Christmas. She said in part: The discussion about the letter from the students at the Louisiana Center for the Blind has stuck with me and helped me in two ways. I no longer feel the deep embarrassment I had been experiencing about being unable to read Braille and having less-than-perfect travel skills. I remain painfully aware that I could be much more efficient than I am, particularly if I could read and write Braille, but I no longer feel that I am less worthy because of the lack. And, by the way, I hope to take care of my deficiencies in that area soon. The discussion also helped me better to appreciate and respect my dad, who was blinded by an on-the-job accident when he was 26. After he became blind, he went to law school, and I have always admired his relatively quick adjustment to blindness. On the other hand, I have always felt somewhat embarrassed that when traveling he uses a sighted guide the majority of the time. (For instance, I was horrified and disbelieving when I heard my dad flew to Alaska by himself to go fishing without his guide dog or a white cane!) He has a guide dog but only used him when he was going to work. I have never seen him use a white cane although I have just learned that he used one while in his office at work. However, the seminar discussion helped me to understand that everyone's situation differs and that the opportunities available are not uniform. My dad has accomplished a lot: He was an administrative law judge until he retired last month; he is an avid fisherman; and he is as pro-Braille as anybody I have ever met.
That is what the seminarian wrote me, and her letter makes a point. It is simply this: We absolutely must not become so rigid and dogmatic about the means and precise details of achieving independence that we make ourselves and everybody else around us miserable. Down that road lies bigotry, as well as the loss of any real independence or true normality. Usually when I go to bed at night, I read myself to sleep with a recorded book. A few months ago somebody took me to task for this. The person said something to this effect: "You should not read recorded books. You should use Braille. After all, the Federation advocates Braille literacy, and if you use tapes and talking books, you decrease the circulation of Braille from the libraries, and you also set a bad example. What kind of statement are you making? What kind of image are you creating? You have an obligation to serve as a role model." I didn't argue with the person. It wouldn't have done any good. Yes, I use Braille; and as you know, I find it helpful. More than that. My life would be poorer without it. But Braille is a means. It is a vehicle, not an article of faith. I am conscious of the fact that I have an obligation to be a role model, and I do the best I can to meet the requirement. But the kind of role model I want to be (for anybody who cares to see me that way) is that of a competent, well-balanced human being, not a caricature. The fact that I don't want to die of thirst doesn't mean that I want to drown. What is independence? I would define it this way. With respect to reading, it means getting the information you want with a minimum amount of inconvenience and expense. For me that means Braille, but it also means using live readers, recordings, and (despite my limited competence in that area) a certain amount of work with computers. For somebody else the combination may be different, but any active blind person who lacks skill in Braille will be limited■not necessarily unable to compete but definitely limited. As to travel, independence is the ability to go where you want when you want without inconvenience to yourself or others. Probably none of us (blind or sighted) ever fully achieves that goal all of the time■and almost all of us achieve at least some of it some of the time. Usually we are on a continuum. If I could not travel by myself without discomfort or great expense, there are times when it would be a real problem. What about the trip I made to Kansas City in May of this year to meet with local Federationists and speak at a JOB seminar? My wife had other things to do, and it would have been inconvenient to take somebody else. I went alone. Did I have any assistance during the trip? Yes. At times■when it was convenient for me and not inconvenient to others. What about the time last month when I was called for jury duty? It would have been very difficult for a guide to have accompanied me to the jury box or the jury room■so, of course, I went by myself. Does that mean that nobody showed me where the jury box was or gave other assistance? No. It means that I went where I needed to go without inconvenience to me or those around me. That is what I call independence. Just as with the sighted, there are times when you as a blind person want privacy■want to go somewhere (to see a boyfriend or girlfriend, for instance) without being accompanied by your daily associates, want to buy a present for a friend or a loved one, or just feel like following a whim. In such cases a dog or a cane is helpful. On the other hand, there are times when the assistance of a sighted person is extremely beneficial. Taken by itself, the use or lack of use of a sighted guide has very little, if anything at all, to do with real independence. In fact, the whole notion of independence (not just in mobility but also in everything else) involves the concept of doing what you want when you want, and doing it without paying such a heavy price (either monetarily or otherwise) that the thing is hardly worth having once you get it or do it. In conclusion, I say to each member of this organization: Hold your head high in the joy of accomplishment and the pride of independence■but not because of dog or cane or human arm, and not because of your ability to read Braille or use a computer. These are the trappings of independence, not the substance of it. They should be learned, and used when needed■but they should be regarded only as means, not ends. Our independence comes from within. A slave can have keen eyesight, excellent mobility, and superb reading skills■and still be a slave. We are achieving freedom and independence in the only way that really counts■in rising self-respect, growing self-confidence, and the will and the ability to make choices. Above all, independence means choices, and the power to make those choices stick. We are getting that power, and we intend to have more of it. That is why we have organized. That is why we have the National Federation of the Blind. We know where we are going, and we know how to get there. Let anybody who doubts it put us to the test. My brothers and my sisters, the future is ours! Let us meet it with joy; let us meet it with hope; and (most important of all) let us meet it together!