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Mobilization and Momentum: The Founding of the Blind of the Nation: The time has come to organize on a national basis!

So declared the first President of the National Federation of the Blind, in an appeal broadcast to blind Americans from the site of the organizing convention at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in mid-November of 1940. The speaker was a 29-year-old Californian, Jacobus tenBroek, who had lost his sight in childhood and went on undeterred to earn no less than five college degrees, three of them postgraduate diplomas in law. He would go on further to become a distinguished constitutional scholar, chairman of the California Social Welfare Board, chairman of his department at the University of California, and author of award-winning books (among them a definitive study of public welfare programs for the blind, Hope Deferred). But at the time he spoke in 1940, tenBroek was a junior instructor at the University of Chicago Law School, just beginning his twin careers as university professor and leader of the organized blind. This is what he said to his fellow blind in that first year of mobilization:

In dealing with the public, especially in its many governmental forms, we, as handicapped persons, have long known the advantage and even the necessity of collective action. Individually, we are scattered, ineffective and inarticulate, subject alike to the oppression of the social worker and the arrogance of the governmental administrator. Collectively, we are the masters of our own future and the successful guardian of our own common interests. Let one speak in the name of many who are prepared to act in his support, let the democratically elected blind representatives of the blind act as spokesmen for all, let the machinery be created to unify the action and concentrate the energies of the blind of the nation. The inherent justice of our cause and the good will of the public will do the rest.

When the problems of the blind first began to be regarded as a proper subject of public concern, they fell within the jurisdiction of the county or township authorities. At that time, local organizations of the blind were adequate. But when, in the course of time, our problems were taken over by the state legislative and executive authorities, the local organizations of the blind had to be associated in a larger group capable of statewide action. Now that the national government has entered the field of assistance to the blind we must again adjust our organizational structure to the area of the governmental unit with which we must deal. The time has come to join our state and local blind organizations in a national federation. Only by this method can the blind hope to cope with the nationwide difficulties at present besetting us.

There are many goals upon which we can unite: the ultimate establishment of a national insurance program which will eliminate the diversities of treatment of the blind among the states and insure an adequate support to all; the correction of the vices that have crept into the administration of the Social Security Act by seeking its amendment in Congress; the proper and reasonable definition of the blind persons who should receive public assistance; governmental recognition of the fact that the blind are not to be classified as paupers and that they have needs peculiar to and arising out of their blindness; the proper type of statutory standards by which eligibility for public assistance should be determined; adequate methods for restraining the influence and defining the place of the social worker in the administration of aid laws; proper safeguards to prevent administrative abuse and misinterpretation of statutes designed for our benefit; legislative and administrative encouragement of the blind who are striving to render themselves self-supporting; legal recognition of the right of a blind aid recipient to own a little, earn a little, accept a little; governmental recognition of our inalienable right to receive public assistance and still retain our economic, social, and political independence, our intellectual integrity, and our spiritual self-respect these are but a few of the problems that are common to the blind throughout the nation. But the mere listing of them shows the imperative need for organization upon a national basis, for creating the machinery which will unify the action and concentrate the energies of the blind, for an instrument through which the blind of the nation can speak to Congress and the public in a voice that will be heard and command attention. Until the blind become group-conscious and support such an organization, they will continue to live out their lives in material poverty, in social isolation, and in the atrophy of their productive powers.

With that call to action and to mobilization, tenBroek captured the sense of urgency with which the new movement of the blind was imbued in the year of its birth. In 1940 the condition of blind people in America was a barren landscape of impoverishment and frustration, and an inner state of desolation and despair. In one of the largest states, California, no more than 200 blind men and women were (by official estimate) actually at work in normal occupations. Thousands upon thousands who were able and willing to work were without jobs, forced to live on public aid grants which in most states were beneath the level of minimum subsistence. Of those lucky enough to be employed at all, most eked out a starvation wage as low as five cents an hour laboring in sheltered workshops at ancient trades (commonly known as blind trades) such as chair caning and broom making, with little hope of moving outward and upward into regular jobs. The very few sightless persons who held decent positions then were typically either teachers at the schools for the blind or employees of agencies in the blindness system. Only a token number had been able to secure vending stands under the Randolph-Sheppard Act of 1936, which had been enacted to give preference to blind persons in the establishment of these modest business enterprises within federal buildings.

Vocational rehabilitation service for the blind was even more ineffective and rudimentary. In fact, although there were limited state and local efforts at rehabilitating the blind, and even an occasional gesture in that direction from the national government, the blind did not become officially feasible for services under the federal-state rehabilitation program until the enactment of the Barden-LaFollette Act in 1943. As for education, in 1940 only a handful of blind youth were attending colleges and universities while for the vast majority of students who graduated from schools for the blind the prospects of a normal life and livelihood were have begun to return to us, soliciting employment at our hands.

This was the bleak climate in which a scattering of blind men and women from seven states assembled at Wilkes-Barre, late in 1940, for the purpose of realizing a dream of national unity and self-expression. To be precise, there were sixteen delegates present at the founding convention of the NFB, representing these states: California, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The sixteen men and women who were the delegates in at the creation the founding fathers and mothers of the National Federation of the Blind were Jacobus and Hazel tenBroek of California; Gayle and Evelyn Burlingame of Pennsylvania; David Treatman, Robert Brown, Enoch Kester, Harold Alexander, and Frank Rennard, all of Pennsylvania; Ellis Forshee and Marlo Howell of Missouri; Mary McCann and Ed Collins of Illinois; Emil Arndt of Wisconsin; Frank Hall of Minnesota, accompanied by Lucille deBeer; and Glenn Hoffman of Ohio.

In an early order of convention business, the delegates elected tenBroek as the first President of the National Federation of the Blind, and chose a slate of officers to serve with him which included Robert Brown, First Vice President; Frank Hall, Second Vice President; and Emil Arndt, Treasurer. The first meeting of the National Federation of the Blind was also a constitutional convention; in one of their most significant actions the delegates drafted and adopted a constitution, which announced in its second article that the purpose of the National Federation of the Blind is to promote the economic and social welfare of the blind. This original constitution, which was to be amended in details over the years but never altered in spirit or purpose, was brief enough to be typed on a single page. (The complete text of the original constitution is reprinted as Appendix C to this volume, together with the constitution as last amended in 1986 as Appendix D.)

Of all the memorable events of this inaugural convention of the organized blind, the most impressive to many delegates was the powerful and brilliantly argued address delivered at the banquet by their young President. Confronting the question Have Our Blind Social Security?, tenBroek answered no in thunder and proceeded to enunciate a vigorous, sweeping attack on the actions of the federal Social Security Board in betraying the principles and the promise of the Social Security Act. For all its rhetorical power and unmistakable passion, this maiden speech by the newly chosen leader of the movement was also an expert demonstration of his prowess as a constitutional scholar; and it remains significant after fifty years as a ringing declaration of the Federation's dominant concern during the first decade with the bedrock issues of economic and social security. Beyond that, the speech was a striking demonstration of the new tone and manner of the organized blind leadership in its dialogue with the world (and in particular with the custodial agencies). Here was no trace of the supplicant, let alone of the mendicant; no appeals to pity; no talk of the tragedy of blindness or the permanent dependence of its victims. Nor perhaps even more astonishing was there any echo of the traditional genuflection and ritual praising of the agency authorities (such as the Social Security Board) who then held over the blind the power of life or death. The note that was struck by President tenBroek at the outset of his first convention speech that of independence, aggressiveness, and determination set the tone for the body of presidential speeches to come in the years and decades ahead, those not only of Jacobus tenBroek but of his successors Kenneth Jernigan and Marc Maurer as well.

The full text of the 1940 presidential address follows:


by Jacobus tenBroek

Five years ago, in 1935, the Congress of the United States passed and the President of the United States signed what was widely regarded as the most progressive and humanitarian social legislation since the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution emancipated the slaves. Two years later, in 1937, the Supreme Court of the United States sustained this enactment against a charge of constitutional invalidity. Because the primary aim of this liberal legislation was security against certain of the major social and economic hazards of life, it was called the Social Security Act. It aspired to nothing less than protection against the pennilessness of unemployment, security against the destitution of age, and mitigation of the desolation of blindness. In its passage, the worker found release from apprehension, the aged found physical comfort, and the blind found hope.

After five years of experience with the Social Security Act, what has become of these lofty purposes that were thus expressed by the nation's Legislature, approved by its Chief Executive, and sanctified by its highest Court?

Ladies and gentlemen, I come before you tonight, in the first place, to say that so far as the blind are concerned the Social Security Act has not only failed to attain its plainly expressed goals but it has been used as a weapon to compel the states to treat their blind in a more niggardly fashion; and I come before you in the second place to proclaim to the wide world that the reason for this failure and the wielder of this weapon against you has been the Social Security Board at Washington. Proceeding in profound ignorance of the problems of the class with which it has dealt, moved by an intolerable authoritarian arrogance, the Social Security Board at Washington has constituted itself a supreme tribunal to judge whether the states are treating their blind badly enough. If they are not, these administrative despots in the nation's Capital apply compulsion by way of open threat and subversive action. So damaging have the activities of this Board become that it represents the greatest single menace to the welfare of the blind now in existence. Our salvation depends upon our ability to confine its operations within the limits of the law. Its unauthorized exercise of discretionary power must be terminated. This can only be accomplished by a militant, aggressive, group-conscious national organization of the blind. By this means we may diminish the Board's arrogance if we cannot reduce its - ignorance.

To speak now more particularly, I levy three specific charges against the Social Security Board at Washington: First, it has unlawfully arrogated to itself the power to define the expression needy individuals who are blind as used in the Social Security Act; second, having illegally usurped this power, the Social Security Board has exercised it in a narrow, restrictive, and untenable way; third, the Social Security Board has arbitrarily, unlawfully, and oppressively insisted that the states, in order to gain or retain federal participation in their plans for aid to the blind, must determine need on an individual basis and not on a basis of legislatively fixed general standards.

(1)The illegality of the Board's assumed power to define the expression needy individuals who are blind in the Social Security Act can easily be demonstrated by a resort to the Congressional record. Title X of the Social Security Act which deals with the blind was amended into the Act by the Senate Finance Committee of which Senator Harrison was chairman. The report of the committee to the Senate and the statements of this chairman when introducing the Act were very emphatic as to the location of the authority to define the term needy individuals who are blind. Senator Harrison said, We have laid down the conditions (in the Act) and we leave to the states to say who shall be the persons selected to receive the federal assistance. As if to place the matter beyond all controversy or doubt as to the intention of Congress, Chairman Harrison made the following carefully worded statement: It must be recalled that when this proposal was first made to the Senate Finance Committee it gave much more power to officials in Washington, so far as pensions were concerned. The authorities were to pass on state plans with respect to amount of pensions, who should get pensions and so forth but we subsequently effected a complete change. I know it was the opinion of the Committee on Finance that the whole order should be changed and that the authority should be vested in the states. It is hard to imagine how the power of speech could be more accurately employed in describing what was within the mind of Congress.

Equally forceful is the procedural history. Under Section 1002 (a) of that Act a state plan for the blind must, in order to gain participation by the federal government, provide for seven specifically set forth conditions. In the Senate, Senator Wagner moved to amend Section 1001 (a) by adding two additional requirements which must be present in a state plan if it is to have federal approval. They were (8) provide that money payments to any permanently blind individual will be granted in direct proportion to his need; and (9) contain a definition of needy individuals which will meet the approval of the Social Security Board. The amendments were accepted by the Senate without discussion. However, when the Social Security Act reached the conference committee of the House and Senate for a resolution of their differences, these amendments were stricken out at the insistence of the House, and the Senatorial conferees readily concurred in the omission when attention was called to their significance. Is it possible that anything more illuminating could have been done? This procedural history indicates that amendments were framed and proposed for the purpose of compelling states to provide a definition of need which was satisfactory to the Social Security Board, and upon reflection these amendments were deliberately withdrawn from the Act. Hence it is not possible to have any doubt that Congress intended that the Social Security Board should not have the specific power which it now claims.

(2)The definition of a needy blind person which the Social Security Board has foisted upon a number of reluctant states and upon the outraged blind of the nation has been that he is one who lacks the physical necessities of life, one whose needs will be satisfied by the provision of a bare animal minimum in food, shelter, and clothes. Thus, according to the Social Security Board a needy blind person is one whose need is the same as that of paupers, indigents, and the aged, for concerning these latter the state intends only to relieve material poverty.

This definition must be rejected by anyone having even the slightest acquaintance with the needs of the blind. A needy blind person has a greater need than paupers, indigents, and the aged, because there are additional elements comprising it. Besides the physical necessities of life, his need consists in some fair utilization of his productive capacity. This can only be obtained by restoring him to economic competence in a competitive world. Without it his need will never have been terminated. With it he is a normal, useful, self-respecting citizen. Hence his need is as broad as the effects of his blindness. It can only be met by a rehabilitation that is social, economic, and psychological, and these are the objectives within the intentions of the legislatures of many of our states in their statutory schemes providing aid to the blind.

In order that the blind recipients of aid may enlarge their economic opportunities and may be rehabilitated into independent livelihood these statutory schemes provide that the blind may possess a certain amount of tangible and intangible assets and may accumulate a certain amount of earnings without penalty. These statutory schemes recognize that one of the purposes of aid to needy blind persons is to remove them from the class of needy blind persons and one of the means of enabling them to so remove themselves is to permit them a reasonable sum of personal property. They acknowledge that this, in the last analysis, must be the distinction between aid and relief. These state plans were well designed and deliberately worked out to fulfill the demands of these comprehensive purposes. That a cry should now be heard from Washington that these plans should be dedicated to less than this is only explained by the famous remark of Justice Brandeis about the zealots who even if well-meaning are without understanding.

(3)In providing that needy blind persons should be afforded financial assistance two courses were open to the legislatures of the states: They might have left the welfare departments to determine who were needy persons within the meaning of the word needy as generally used, or the legislature might have defined the word needy with particularity, setting up definite tests, and leaving the welfare authorities no function but to determine whether each particular applicant complied with those tests. As between these two alternatives some of the legislatures had no real choice in view of the extensive rehabilitative objectives they wished to accomplish. If these were to be realized it was apparent to the legislatures that a system would have to be created in which there was a minimum of administrative interference with the conduct and funds of the recipients. Administrative personnel, whether by reasons of training or native ineptitude, were notoriously considered to be unqualified as discretionary agents in such matters. Furthermore, if the blind were to be given a chance to enlarge their economic opportunities, and if their efforts to render themselves self-supporting were to mean anything, they would have to be given complete freedom of choice as to the direction of the rehabilitative effort, and entire flexibility within prescribed limits, as to their economic arrangements and position.

Accordingly, the legislatures of such states as Pennsylvania, Illinois, and California set up in the aid statutes themselves a complete system of standards on the crucial issue of what need is and what blind persons should receive assistance. Thus, under these statutes, the sole function of the welfare authorities is to find out whether an applicant falls within the categories specified by the legislatures. Senator Wagner's proposed amendment (8) would have given the Board some discretionary power to determine whether the state plan made payments in direct proportion to the blind person's need, and that amendment was also stricken out. The fact of this deliberate omission is proof of the absolute intention of Congress to leave the matter as to who was needy and as to what blind persons should receive assistance to the judgment of the states. It is further proof that Congress intended that the judgment of the states in that matter should be so free that it could set up a statutory system with a complete set of standards for the payment of aid and thus obviate the fettering restrictions of a social service budgetary system which would interfere with rehabilitative efforts. It is proof that state plans in order to gain Social Security Board approval do not have to grant aid to blind persons in direct proportion to their need and may make flat payments to all persons who come within the classification. Consequently, the expressed attitude of the Social Security Board that it may refuse to approve state plans because they grant aid not in accordance with individual need is utterly and palpably untenable and is an assumption of the power which Congress, by omitting the proposed amendment (8), specifically aimed to prevent.

In this discussion, I have concentrated attention chiefly upon the Social Security Act and the Social Security Board's interpretation of it. I have done so because that subject represents one of the primary problems now confronting the blind and because that subject shows, in an acute form, the need for unified action and national organization on the part of the blind. It is a problem of vital importance both to those states now receiving federal funds and to those which have been denied the participation of the federal government. It is not a problem that can be handled by one state or by a small group of states. All the blind in all the states must combine and concentrate their energies upon it in order to reach a workable and satisfactory solution.

Another reason for spending so much time and attention upon the Social Security Act and the Social Security Board's interpretation of it is that that subject points to a number of other problems that are common to the blind throughout the nation. The proper definition of blind persons who should receive state assistance is one such problem; the proper type of standards to be set up in the state statutory schemes is a second; the proper function and place of the social worker in the administration of the state and national legislation is still a third. Finally, the whole idea of a national pension or annuity is involved in this discussion. The problems arising in connection with the administration of the Social Security Act will undoubtedly recur in connection with the administration of a national pension when that is obtained. It is important for us to build up a national body of common and transmissible experience upon these subjects in order to avoid the errors of the past and make secure our future. Upon all of these problems it is necessary for the blind to organize themselves and their ideas upon a national basis, so that blind men the nation over may live in physical comfort, social dignity, and spiritual self-respect.

So spoke Jacobus tenBroek, in the first of a long series of presidential addresses delivered at the Federation's yearly conventions (his last was to be in 1967 at Los Angeles). In a letter written only days after the 1940 inaugural convention, tenBroek further clarified the purpose of his speech and spelled out the intimate connection between the rise of the organized blind movement and the issues of security facing the nation's blind. The National Federation of the Blind is intended, he wrote to a correspondent, to be a permanent organization devoted to the advancement of the social and economic welfare of the blind; but the immediate impulse in its creation arose out of the necessity to bring concerted pressure to bear on Congress and the Social Security Board on behalf of the blind of the nation.

TenBroek pointed out in his letter that the National Federation of the Blind convention at Wilkes-Barre had passed two closely related resolutions: the first calling for a national pension for the blind, and the second seeking congressional action to block the Social Security Board from obstructing the purposes of the Social Security Act. On both subjects the delegates were unanimous and emphatic, he wrote. Practically all of the delegates present at Wilkes-Barre felt that the ultimate solution to many of these difficulties lay in the establishment of a federal pension act which would contain adequate safeguards against the type of thing we have experienced under the Social Security Act, but they all agreed that for immediate and practical purposes we should concentrate our energies upon the passage of an amendment to the Social Security Act reserving to the states the right to define need and the right to determine what should result from a consideration of an aid recipient's other resources and income. He concluded with these positive words: Without being unduly optimistic, I personally feel that we are now striking out along the right lines, and I can assure you that the new organization is in the hands of energetic blind persons who thoroughly understand the problems of the blind.

Jacobus tenBroek's exuberant confidence in the durability and mission of the fledgling Federation found expression in a letter he sent in early January, 1941, to his California mentor and senior colleague, Dr. Newel Perry. With the National Federation of the Blind not yet two months old, he wrote, its permanence is definitely assured. The factor guaranteeing that permanence is the closely knit nucleus composed of Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and California. What tenBroek might well have said, but of course did not, was that the main factor guaranteeing that permanence was his own tireless organizing efforts throughout the states which embraced not only finding and recruiting new members but galvanizing the leaders of existing local groups. What he did say was that several states, among them Washington and Colorado, were then on the point of joining the Federation while others still stubbornly resisted his continuous efforts to bring them into the fold. The Utah-Idaho group, he told Dr. Perry, has been confoundedly slow about answering my letters, as has been the case with an organization in Omaha, Nebraska. In the same letter tenBroek singled out half a dozen other groups and individuals with whom he was in regular contact. He barely mentioned in passing that all of this activity was taking place at the same moment that his own teaching career at the University of Chicago Law School was just resuming. The Christmas holidays, he said in closing, ended with the second of January, and I am again deeply immersed in the problems of legal research and writing with students with whom I have been unable to teach very much of either as yet.

Barely two months later, tenBroek reported to Dr. Perry on the results of a week's intensive lobbying in Washington only the first half of a campaign (in which he was joined by Gayle Burlingame) to change the hearts and minds of officials in the Roosevelt administration regarding the needs of blind recipients of public assistance under the Social Security program. Gradually working our way upwards, he wrote, Burlingame and I first presented our case to Jane Hoey, director of the Bureau of Public Assistance, and her associate, a lawyer named Cassius. Next we went to Oscar Powell, executive director of the Social Security Board; and finally to Paul V. McNutt, administrator of the Social Security Agency. TenBroek then added these terse characterizations: Hoey, he said, is simply another social worker of the familiar type but with a higher salary than most. Cassius has lost none of his qualities since Shakespeare described him, except that his wit has been sharpened by a little legal training. Powell is a very high-caliber man with a fine sense of argumentative values, a considerable store of good nature, and unusual perception. He simply is not a believer in our fundamental assumptions.

TenBroek then turned his attention to the top man in the agency hierarchy. McNutt, on the other hand, he said, is a lesser Hitler by disposition and makes our California social workers look like angels by comparison. However, tenBroek was not intimidated by this authoritarian personality and persisted in pressing him for a clear-cut statement of the agency's position. Are you saying to us, he asked McNutt at one point, that blind men should have their grants reduced no matter how small their private income and no matter how great their actual need? McNutt's answer was that he was saying precisely that. I formulated the question in several other ways only to get the same reply, tenBroek wrote. I can't say that I wasn't glad to get this declaration from McNutt since it provides us with an official declaration by the highest administrator of them all that ought to be of immense propagandistic value to us. Moreover, he added sharply, McNutt's conduct during the conference has provided us with the most perfect example of the arbitrary and tyrannical methods of the Board that we could hope to have.

Nor was tenBroek content to end his petitioning at the top of the agency hierarchy. In the remaining week that I shall stay in Washington, he wrote, we shall attempt to carry our appeal the last administrative step. Senator Downey of California and Senator Hughes of Delaware are attempting to secure for us appointments with President and Mrs. Roosevelt. Unfortunately, those White House appointments were not forthcoming; and no meeting was ever held between the vigorous President of the United States, who was disabled but scarcely handicapped by polio, and the equally vigorous President of the National Federation of the Blind, who was disabled but scarcely handicapped by blindness. It is fruitless, of course, to speculate on the possible results of such a meeting between the two national leaders, each of whom was then the champion of a new deal for the people whom he served. But it is plausible at the least to suppose that there would have been between these two men an unusual degree of mutual regard born out of their shared experience of triumph over physical afflictions of a severity that in their day, shattered the lives of ordinary people.

The efforts of tenBroek and his fellow Federationists to reform the policies of the Social Security Board were unsuccessful in the short run. But not in the longer run. During the next two decades virtually all of their demands for the improvement of aid to the blind were to become law, and by the mid-sixties the program was so broadly liberalized as to represent a model for other public assistance programs such as aid to the aged and aid to the disabled to strive to emulate. The Federation's early campaign had greater success on another front: as a rallying cry for the blind of the nation. During the months following the inaugural convention, the word spread widely of a new organization in the field of blindness unlike any other a national organization of the blind rather than for the blind, a democratic association made up of blind persons rather than an appointive agency made up (despite its occasional blind showpieces) mostly of sighted specialists in short, a blind people's movement.

By the time of the National Federation of the Blind's second annual convention, held in August of 1941 at Milwaukee, the atmosphere had begun to change most notably the climate of opinion among the blind themselves. Where there had been a total of sixteen delegates from seven states at the Wilkes-Barre convention the year before, there were 104 persons from eleven states in attendance at Milwaukee. The prevailing mood of the delegates was conveyed in a post-convention bulletin by the president of the Michigan Federation of the Blind, Wayne Dickens, who wrote: A lively interest among the delegates in the progress of the blind and particularly their enthusiasm for the legislative program of the Federation carried the business of the convention through to completion with thoroughness and dispatch;and the volume as well as the quality of the work accomplished was a source of general satisfaction.

Dickens pointed to a social interlude during the convention to illustrate his observation: Late Friday afternoon, just before the banquet, he wrote, the delegates mingled on the mezzanine. Leaders in blind affairs in their home states, and well informed on all phases of blind welfare, the delegates readily began that exchange of ideas, plans, and suggestions which characterized the convention both on the floor and behind the scenes and which supplied the delegates with a wealth of information with which to direct the irrespective state programs for the coming months. An observer would have readily perceived that people of ability and intelligence had rallied to the support of the Federation.

An observer at the next year's convention at Des Moines would have noted that even more people of ability and intelligence were rallying to the Federation's support. In 1942 (at the third convention) no fewer than 150 delegates representing fifteen states were in attendance. The convention featured a banquet address by Dr. Newel Perry and a crowded agenda of committee reports, resolutions, and speeches followed by spirited debate. After Raymond Henderson, newly elected executive director, spoke on future legislative policy, the delegates were provoked to extended discussion. It was generally agreed, wrote Wayne Dickens in his convention report, that some deliverance from the pauper's oath should be attained if the blind are to receive adequate help. Some members wanted this deliverance to be carried to such a point that eligibility for the pension would be judged by the fact of blindness alone. (It may be noted here that deliverance from the pauper's oath, which under Social Security took the form of a means test based on individual need individually determined, would become the major plank in the Federation's legislative program during the next few years, and that the idea of a flat grant or pension based on blindness alone would become the preferred formulation.)

Although the issue of public assistance remained at the forefront of attention at the 1942 convention, other concerns which were to gain importance in later years began to be apparent. As Raymond Henderson was to write in a post-convention bulletin: The delegates decided that the time had come when the Federation should no longer limit its activities to improvement in the Social Security situation. Problems of employment, and more especially of job discrimination, surfaced at least mildly in resolutions dealing with such matters as civil service barriers and sheltered workshop maneuvers to exploit blind workers through exemptions from the Fair Labor Standards Act. (Again, it should be noted that these issues of employment opportunity and discrimination would eventually supersede the problems of Social Security on the Federation's agenda, and in one case at least that of exclusion from the civil service the organized blind would, in barely more than a decade,begin to break down the barriers and end the discrimination.) The growing spread of interest in the cause of Federationism among blind people everywhere in the land was illustrated during the 1942 convention by a host of reports of new organizing activities on the community and statewide levels. Wayne Dickens told of his own efforts in Michigan to mount a statewide membership drive, which had already netted 170 members. In Connecticut, three local blind groups were reportedly seeking to establish a statewide association for the purpose of joining the National Federation. And a social club in Birmingham, Alabama, was said to have redefined its purposes and organized upon a statewide basis with the intention of entering the Federation as soon as the assessment can be raised. The convention delegates, however, were not content with these encouraging signs of activity and interest. They enthusiastically endorsed a motion by Dr. Newel Perry, the venerable dean of the movement in California, to the effect that (as the convention bulletin put it) every delegate present assume that it is his obligation to make a definite, personal, active effort to induce in any way all nonmember states to join the Federation as soon as possible, and that we make ourselves each a committee of one to enlarge the organization as rapidly as possible.

The decade of the forties, as Jacobus tenBroek was to recall in later years, was a time of building: and build we did, from a scattering of seven state affiliates at our first convention to more than four times that number in 1950. In the decade of the forties we proved our organizational capacity, established our representative character, initiated legislative programs on the state and national levels, and spoke with the authority and voice of the blind speaking for themselves.

Early in that inaugural decade tenBroek and his handful of fellow founders had formulated the basic principles underlying the organized blind movement. In their essence these principles were toendure unscathed through half a century of change and growth; but of necessity, their felt priority and degree of emphasis shifted over time. As the presidential speech delivered by tenBroek at the1944 convention banquet serves to demonstrate, the attention of the organized blind in that early period was still mainly focused on subsistence centering upon public assistance in the face of the stark reality that the vast majority of blind men and women were still regarded as unemployable (other than in sheltered workshops) and were therefore dependent upon the public aid provisions of the Social Security Act. The issue of security one of the classic trinity of Federation goals (Security, Opportunity, Equality) would gradually yield the high ground of attention to other needs, notably those of employment and opportunity, as blind men and women through the inspiration and momentum of the Federation came to move by the thousands off the public assistance rolls into the competitive job market. But in the war-torn forties President tenBroek and his colleagues felt compelled to devote as much emphasis to bedrock security and survival as to the other urgent imperatives of early Federationism; those of organization and expression. His convention address of 1944 follows:


by Jacobus tenBroek

It is somewhat less than four years ago since a small group of us met at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and organized the National Federation of the Blind. The years that lie between that original meeting and this convention have been marked by arduous labor and by what I think are many successful accomplishments. They have been marked also by many new and increasingly difficult problems, by temporarily increased economic opportunities for the blind, and by tremendous changes in the world to which we must adjust ourselves.

It is a pretty safe guess that the world and this nation will not return after the war to conditions as we knew them before1941. It therefore behooves us as an organization to review ourwork, re-examine our program, and consider what modifications, if any, need to be made to meet the new world that is to come.

In thinking over the activities of the National Federation of the Blind, a considerable number of highly diverse and varying projects come to mind. We have, of course, had a prolonged struggle with the Social Security Board and the Federal Security Administrator, Paul V. McNutt. We have had our squabbles with the Civil Service Commission. We have had our squabbles with the Administrator of the Fair Labor Standards Act. We have put forth extended efforts before the Congress of the United States and before the legislatures of some of the states. We have had problems with respect to sheltered shops and replacement and rehabilitation and stands. We have had personal problems and general problems, we have had problems of every sort and variety, and at one time or another, we have turned some of our time and energy to their attempted solution.

The problems of the National Federation of the Blind are as numerous and diverse as the total problem of blindness, and consequently they reach into every phase of the life of our peopleand the life of our community and of the nation. But in looking over these different activities, it seems to me that underlying them have been a relatively small number of important principles which can be more or less simply stated.

The first of these guiding precepts has been the principle of organization. We have come to realize that we must organize. We know now that we cannot solve our problems on an individual basis. We cannot face the power of government single-handed, nor the tyranny of unthinking, groundless discrimination, nor the desolation and frustration of enforced idleness, nor the absence of organized opportunity to earn a livelihood and to become self-respecting, active participants in the life of our communities. We cannot face these things single-handed if we hope to overcome them. Individually, we are scattered, ineffective and inarticulate. We have come to realize that we must organize, that we must act collectively, that we must supply ourselves with the machinery to unify the action and concentrate and direct the energies of the blind for a common goal.

Once we have this basic organizational faculty in mind, certain other things follow more or less automatically. Since the blind, because of their experience, know their problems better than anyone else, better than social workers or teachers or government administrators, since they alone fully understand the problems of blindness, their organization must be democratic. There must be general participation by the blind in the determination of policiesand in all major decisions, and the officers of the organizations must be subject periodically to removal if they do not performtheir duties satisfactorily.

The second fundamental thing that follows, once we have fully grasped the meaning of the organizational principle, is that the organization must be as large and as broad as the problems withwhich we must deal. There was a time when local organizations weresufficient because the problems of the blind were handled locally. There was a time when state organizations were adequate. But the problems of the blind are now national in character, and the organization of the blind must also be national in character.

I think it is now possible for us to say without possibility of contradiction that we are national in character. When we met at Wilkes-Barre to form the organization, seven states were represented: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California. We now number eighteen. In addition to the original seven charter members there are Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Michigan, South Dakota, Washington, and Alabama. They constituted fourteen at the time of our Des Moines convention. Since that time, we have added four other members: Delaware, New Jersey, North Dakota, and Oregon.

Besides these members, every active organization of the blind themselves in the United States is either a member or affirmatively supports our program. It is therefore possible for us to say that the National Federation of the Blind is the organization through which the blind of the nation, through collective action and unified, articulate self-expression, can improve the conditions under which they live. The National Federation of the Blind is not an organization speaking for the blind; it is the blind speaking for themselves.

The second of the fundamental principles underlying our program and guiding our activities substantially is our demand for equality. Now, the idea of equality lies at the basis of modern democratic organization and is commonly thought to apply to all groups except such minority groups as the blind. It does not mean, of course, that all men are equal in physical, mental, or moral qualities. In modern society, the idea that men are created equal and that they should be treated equally is simply this:

Every man should be given an opportunity to fit himself into the economic organization of the country in a way which his qualities and his training provide for. It is the opportunity to be tested on our merits. This is the idea of the United States Supreme Court, which has often said that the idea of equality is the idea that men should be treated equally unless there is a sufficient difference between them which is related to social purposes and bears upon the objective then in contemplation; that is to say, that the color of hair is utterly a matter of no concern whatsoever if you want a man to drive a railroad locomotive. If what you want is a man to use a typewriter, you don't need to worry how many feet he has. Likewise, visual acuity is not the basis upon which any man should be employed who has to use his head or his hands. This is the principle upon which we have conducted our fight to secure for the workers in the sheltered shops the same protection with respect to minimum wages that other workers are guaranteed by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Labor should be compensated according to its value or its skill or something else. It does not depend on the amount of sight you have. It is on this principle that we have introduced our amendment to the Civil Service Act of the United States, by which we prohibit discrimination on account of blindness, and it is on this principle that we are fighting a new vicious form of discrimination because of blindness which has recently arisen in California, and which will likely spread to other states.

The Board of Chiropractors of that state recently provided that no person with less than fifty per cent of visual acuity would be allowed to take the examinations or to enter the profession. This utterly crude, arbitrary, and unreasonable action was taken despite the fact we have many successful chiropractors and despite the fact also that lack of sight is in many ways an asset in the profession, because that profession depends on manipulation, which depends on dexterity, which is a quality that the blind must cultivate.

Therefore, our second fundamental principle is the principle of equality, and it underlies practically all of the claims that we make, because it is not based upon any notion that all men are physically or mentally equal, but that they have an equal right to insist upon opportunities for which they are properly qualified.

The third of the principles has to do with public assistance. It is the proposition that public assistance should be granted upon a blanket grant basis to all the members of a class, that is to say, that the statutes granting public assistance should simply provide general categories and all blind persons falling within those categories should receive as automatically as possible the uniform amount of assistance which is provided for in the law. We have favored this system for very important reasons.

One of them is this: that blind people are normal, intelligent persons, who have the problem of adjusting themselves physically, spiritually, and mentally to a handicap which is permanent. In the process of readjustment, there are no general formulae, no regularly established procedures. It is an individual process, and any method of assistance which puts the blind under guardianship, which places them at the discretion of social workers for their guidance, is a system which destroys that individual personal process of reconstruction. It is for these reasons that we oppose a system of relief which insists upon the means test, budgeting, individual need individually determined, and large social worker discretion, which in our experience have been veritable instruments of oppression.

The fourth of the principles which underlie our work and guide our activities also relates to public assistance. It is this: that the statutes providing public assistance for the blind should contain an exempt earnings clause; that is to say, they should provide that the earnings of a blind person, at least up to a certain point, should be his, and his pension, his grant, his public aid should not be reduced by the amount of those earnings. Generally speaking, we favor this proposal because other systems, particularly the present ones, encourage idleness with all the evils that attend idleness.

A man is not going to work to earn a penny if he knows that that penny will be taken from him in terms of a reduction of his pension and if he knows that penny will not in any way increase his total income. It is only by permitting a man to accumulate a certain amount of money, preferably through encouraging earnings, that the blind will be able to get themselves off the relief rolls through rehabilitation, investment in stands or professional education, or any other of similar ways.

The final principle about which I would like to make a few remarks has to do with our relationship to other organizations in the nation. Naturally, we are happy to invite any group to help us and assist us if they believe in our program and the principles for which we are fighting, but as our program has gone forward, we have come to realize that there is one segment of the community which, more than any other, has responded generously to our appeal. That segment is organized labor. The reason for this is not far to seek.

In organizational structure and in purpose, we have many things in common. The blind have organized their local organizations and their state organizations into a National Federation which is modeled in many ways after the national organizations of organized labor. Through forces over which we have no control, we are forced to extend to each other a good deal of mutual aid and to ask society for protection and to some extent for assistance. That is exactly what organized labor must do. In modern industrial conditions, the individual worker is helpless without the cooperation of his fellow workers.

Therefore, because of these reasons, because we are trying to do for our people what organized labor is trying to do for its people, because of the similarity in organizational structure, in purpose and in work, and because of the laboring man's inherent sympathy for the underprivileged and the conditions under which they live, organized labor has responded more than generously, materially, morally, and with political support.

These are the principles underlying all the diverse, various activities which we have undertaken. Whether we should now adhere to them will depend upon our estimate of the world that is to come, and will depend upon decisions of this organization which will be democratically arrived at. Those decisions will be reached tomorrow and on the next day. Thank you!

The 1944 convention of the National Federation of the Blind may be regarded as typical of the annual meetings held during the organization's first decade. Attending the three-day sessions in Cleveland, Ohio, were fewer than 200 delegates from 18 statesa sizable gain from the prior convention two years before (none was held in 1943 due to wartime travel bans) but still a small enough group to hear the banquet oratory without the aid of loudspeakers. For reasons of economy, the Federation's National Convention was held jointly with the state convention of the Ohio affiliate a situation that misled several guest speakers into supposing that they were merely at a state meeting. (One of them called it a party and others expressed surprise at the presence of blind persons from out of state.) Even more discouraging was the substitution of alternative speakers (at least four times) in place of the invited luminaries graphic evidence of the unimportance, not to say irrelevance, of the organized blind in the eyes of most politicians and public figures of the time.

Few of the guest speakers at that wartime convention appeared to be aware at all of the Federation's objectives or philosophy; most spoke of matters entirely unrelated to the concerns of the blind, or failed to perceive the relationship where it did exist. At one point a representative of the Navy women's auxiliary, the WAVES, spoke at length about the great diversity of skills and characteristics among the girls recruited into military service but made no reference to the conspicuous absence (through exclusion) of blind women in either the WAVES or the WACS. Another speaker, representing the Red Cross, spoke glowingly of the contributions of blind people to the war effort; but his reference was merely to giving blood and making donations, not to participation in war-related occupations from which in fact blind workers, however well trained, were still largely excluded even in the wartime absence of able-bodied males.

More curious even than the indifference and ignorance of these convention guestsviewed from the standpoint of a later generation is the appearance of passivity and acquiescence on the part of the National Federation of the Blind delegates themselves in the face of such patronizing oratory. The convention proceedings reveal not a single retort or rebuke, nor even a polite question, from the assemblage of delegates at the banquet. Their prevailing silence might be variously interpreted; but it would seem evident that these early Federationists, with few exceptions, had come to the convention not to educate but to be educated. (Indeed that is what one of their own officers told them they were there for.) They were still new at self-organization, not altogether comfortable with self-expression, not even sure yet of their worthiness and dignity let alone of their equality. But, with each passing year and each annual convention, these members of the National Federation of the Blind would become more confident of themselves and of their movement, and less willing to be seen but not heard. Even in that early year of 1944, in the incipient phase of the organized blind movement, the leadership of the Federation was speaking out and talking back; before much longer, an increasingly active and involved membership would be doing the same.

Again in 1945, because of the dislocations caused by the Second World War and its conclusion, the Federation did not hold a convention. The 1946 convention was held in St. Louis, Missouri, and the 1947 meeting was convened in Minneapolis, Minnesota. And the Federation increasingly continued to speak out and talk back.

Even the leaders of the Federation, however, were still relatively restrained in their declaration of the movement's goals and objectives. As late as 1948 President Jacobus tenBroek stated that the Federation proposes to enable blind men and women of this country to live as near normal lives as possible, and that it is dedicated to the proposition that the blind can become productive members of society. That restraint was only realistic, to be sure; at a time when only a fraction of blind people were employed at all, it was sufficient to aim at being simply productive rather than fully competitive and to hope for lives as near normal as possible. Yet the same spokesman felt confident enough, at the 1948 convention in Baltimore, to proclaim A Bill of Rights for the Blind containing an ambitious roster of new demands for recognition and respect. In addition to its eloquent appeal for equality and normality, this convention address by President tenBroek represents a turning-point in its unusual emphasis on employment opportunity and transformation of relief into rehabilitation. The text follows:


by Jacobus tenBroek

I have a serious question to ask the sighted persons present would you swap vision for a good chicken dinner? On the face of it this is an absurd question, for no one who has vision would swap it for anything. But for those of us who are blind, this question is not necessarily absurd. It is not that we prefer to have lost our eyesight, but having been deprived of it, we have discovered it is dispensable. There are even some blind among us who assert that blindness is a joy; for, as they point out, those who lose their heads are decapitated; those who lose their clothes are denuded; does it not follow, therefore, that those who lose their eyesight are delighted?

Let us suppose that as we leave this meeting our sighted guests were to be involved in an accident which destroyed their vision. This is not an idle supposition. Every year, without regard for social or economic background, color or creed, through accident and illness, blindness is forced on thirty thousand men and women in the United States. What problems would you face as a newly blinded person? What needs would be yours? You would probably spent months or years consulting doctors and eye specialists in futile efforts to regain your precious vision. But after your patience and certainly your pocketbook had been exhausted, you probably would wish for death. The world we live in is a visually oriented world, and for the sighted eternal darkness seems unthinkable. You probably would resign yourself to be set aside from ordinary pleasures and accustomed pursuits. But if you were lucky enough to know something about blindness or were properly guided in the early days of your sightlessness, your adjustment would be swift. After initial orientation to self-locomotion and self-care, the world would become familiar through the auditory and tactual senses.

There are a quarter of a million blind persons in the United States, but this statistic fails to tells us that the blind man or woman has the same feelings and desires, the same sorrows and joys as sighted persons. You would probably be no different after adjustment to blindness from what you had been before you became blind. To be sure, there are physical limitations to blindness, but most of these are of no more than nuisance value. You bump into things; you occasionally lose your way home; you even, in the mistaken notion that you are following the clicking of high heels out of a crowded railroad station, wind up in the ladies' restroom. But with proper orientation you would develop techniques for overcoming this physical limitation in blindness. The Braille system would replace script in your books, tape measures, thermometers, carpenters' levels, and speech notes.

What I have said so far will illustrate the wide-spread misconceptions about the nature of the physical handicap of blindness. If sighted people find it hard to get an accurate notion of what blindness is in its relatively obvious physical aspects, how much more must they misapprehend its subtler psychological, social, and economic ramifications? It may, therefore, be worthwhile to try to clear up some of these misconceptions; for us to say what the principal problems of blindness are; for us to tell the story of blindness as we live it daily. Since we do it without bitterness or malice and knowing full well that the sighted community bears towards us nothing but the best will in the world and the most generous impulses, it might not be inappropriate to do this in the form of a Bill of Rights which we ask the sighted community to grant usa Bill of Rights, not declaring our independence from society but our need of being integrated into it; a Bill of Rights, not guaranteeing special favors and position, but equality of treatment; a Bill of Rights, not glossing over our weaknesses or our limitations, but recognizing us for what we are, normal human beings, or at least as normal as human beings are; a Bill of Rights according us a fair chance to live socially useful lives.

First among the rights which we seek from our sighted friends is the right to their understanding. Of their willingness to work for our welfare and their activity on our behalf we are assured. But what we need is their understanding. This is an assertion of our normality (if I may disagree with President Harding about a suffix). We are ordinary peoplesome little, some average, some great. But, in any event, we have the same strengths, the same reactions, the same desires, the same ambitions as the rest of humanity. In California in recent years two of our blind people have been inmates in the state penitentiary, one convicted of embezzlement, the other of second-degree murder. At the same time another blind man was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Illinois; two others were Senators of the United States. The vast majority of us achieve neither of these extremes of success. Like most other people, we are neither criminals nor political leaders nor anything else that the average man is not.

I cannot speak of the right to your understanding that we are normal people without recalling the well-known lines from The Merchant of Venice, spoken in another context but applicable with equal force here: Have we not organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer. If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?

The normality of blind people has an important bearing on the second right we would wish to see sanctified in a Bill of Rights for the Blind, namely, the right to security. What happens to normal people when they are permanently without business or employment, when they are subjected to unremitting economic dependence on others? The answer is that in the course of time their initiative disintegrates; they lose their social, political, and spiritual independence; they either suffer unendurable privation or become the easy victims of the hand that feeds them. This is what happens to normal men whether blind or sighted. But in the case of the blind an additional element is present. Over and above the economic problem, they face the necessity of making adaptations psychological, social, and physicalto blindness. Anything which tends to hamper the process of individual personal reconstruction weakens the personal integrity and reliance of the blind individual.

Now all of this is something more than abstract social doctrine. It has an immediate and a significant application to programs of public assistance. A program of public assistance which is to be consistent with these facts must be so arranged as to leave the recipient's independence unimpaired. He must be free to spend his grant as he pleases. He must be left to make his own decisions about where and how he shall live and what he shall do. He must have the divine election, so far as social existence and his own talents permit, of making the choices which determine his own worldly destinies, not without guidance, if he wishes it, but without intrusion, if he does not. Man does not forfeit the rights of individuality and the dignity of the person by economic necessity or physical handicap; and the injunction to be thy brother's keeper is not an order to become his master.

The public assistance acts of the various states and the Social Security Act of the Federal Government, as administered, violate and degrade these principles. Under them too often the blind are virtually made wards under social worker guardianship. The means test, individual budgeting, and social worker discretion on which all of these acts are based, strike down the very independence and self-respect of the recipients which must be developed if they are to build a personality and character which will enable them to live with a reasonable degree of usefulness and assurance. These acts first assume that blind people are necessarily paupers and then perpetuate them in that condition. The principle of individual need individually determined opens the way to, if it does not require, an inquisition into the most intimate affairs of the recipient of blind aid. This archaic system of pauper relief not only fails to stimulate recipients to become self-supporting, which should be a primary aim of any system of public assistance to the blind, but it also continually impresses upon them a sense of their own helplessness and dependence. This treatment of the blind is all the more remarkable since aid has been increasingly granted to other groups in our economy on an alternative basis, quite regardless of individual needto farmers by price support and parity payments, to industrialists by tariffs, to laborers by minimum wage and maximum hours provisions, to youth by public education. Blind persons as a class, no less than these other groups, require the helping hand of government to carry them to a healthy life embodied in active contribution to their communities.

The third right that we would seek to establish in our great charter of liberties is one that is not peculiar to the blind, but one which is common to allequality; but the special circumstances of blindness, particularly the lack of understanding about it, make it desirable to re-assert the right and show its relevance. The idea of equality has been associated with all the great struggles of the masses of mankind to better their lot in the history of Western civilization. It is viewed by the philosophers of democracy as the most enduring impulse and authentic demand of the human spirit. It has been established by our own national experience as the indispensable condition of liberty. It was placed at the base of our constitutional system from Lockean and Jeffersonian sources and placed in the Constitution as the culmination of the greatest humanitarian movement in our history, namely, abolitionism. It reaches back deeply into ethical, religious, humanistic, and libertarian origins.

Yet this fundamental part of our system and our heritage is daily denied to the blind. We are denied equal treatment under the rule of law, equal right to the self-respect which derives from a sense of usefulness, and equal opportunity to compete for the normal means of livelihood. More often than not a denial of equality involves a denial of opportunity, and this, the right to equality of opportunity is the fourth and the last of the rights we should seek to have included in our Bill of Rights.

Full and equal membership in society entitles the individual, says the report of the President's Committee on Civil Rights, to the right to enjoy the benefits of society and to contribute to its progress.Without this equality of opportunity the individual is deprived of a chance to develop his potentialities and to share in the fruits of society. The group also suffers through the loss of the contributions which might have been made by persons excluded from the main channels of social and economic activity.

Exclusion from the main channels of social and economic activity and there by a lack of opportunity for self-support these constitute the real handicap of blindness, far surpassing its physical limitations. The government service is frequently closed to us through groundless discrimination on account of blindness. In some states this has been ameliorated by corrective legislation not so, incidentally, in the federal government but even in those states enforcement is spotty, difficult, and almost non-existent. In some professions, at which the blind have excelled, such as osteopathy and chiropractic, there have been persistent efforts to exclude the blind by administrative ruling. Teaching, especially in junior colleges and universities, where blindness is not a factor in performing the work, has as yet opened up only to a relatively few. In private employment the same story is to be told; the usual experience is for the blind man to be brushed aside as incompetent, as unable, as the fellow you could never expect to perform that job unless he could see. With respect to self-employment, which almost always involves some capital, the investor regards the blind man as a bad financial risk.

The absence of economic opportunity is more than the absence of economic security. It is the disintegration of the personality. It is men living out their lives in social isolation and the atrophy of their productive powers. The curse of blindness is idleness--idleness which confines the blind to the sidelines of life, players warming the bench in the game that all should play.

For equality of opportunity to be a reality to the blind, competent blind persons must be admitted without discrimination to the common callings and professions as well as to positions in the Civil Service. We do not ask that blind men should be given jobs because they are blind; we do not ask that they be given preferential treatment or handicap allowances. We ask only that when a blind man has the training, the qualifications, the dependability, and the aptitude, he be given an equal chance with the sighted that the bars to public and private employment interposed by legislative enactment, administrative whim, and managerial prejudice and misunderstanding be removed.

These problems too have a significant and an immediate application to the public assistance laws. Those laws, once again, are not geared to meet the real needs of blindness. It should follow from what has been said that every effort needs to be made to rehabilitate the blind into active endeavor, social contribution, and remunerative employment. Far from achieving these ends, or even from permitting them, the public assistance acts generally tend to perpetuate the blind permanently on the relief rolls. Earnings and other income are automatically deducted from the amount of the grant made, and thus much of the motive for rehabilitation, self-improvement, and active endeavor is removed. If the blind recipients of relief were permitted to retain a reasonable portion of their earnings and to accumulate a small amount of capital, they would have incentive to be active, to do something; their rehabilitation and productive effort would be encouraged; and the ultimate goals of self-support and independence of the public assistance rolls would open up to the realistic vision of men who cannot see.

Nor is this hope a dream of the future. The Congress of the United States unanimously passed a measure, unfortunately vetoed by the President, allowing the states, without loss of federal funds, to exempt forty dollars of the monthly earnings of blind aid recipients. For this measure we do honor to Congressman Reed of New York, Senator Martin of Pennsylvania, and Senator Ives of New York. They took the lead and put it across. They deserve and do receive the eternal gratitude of the blind. As Senator Ives explained on the floor of the United States Senate, this was but a short step in the right direction; but of all the steps, it is the most important, for it establishes a principlea principle whose ultimate fulfillment will drive to the shambles the soul-stifling conception of the needs basisa principle which, with public understanding, with security, equality, and opportunity, will convert blindness into a mere physical nuisance and blind men into social assets.

So, with the ringing words Security; Equality; Opportunity President tenBroek at once coined the famous motto of the Federation and prepared the way for new goals and commitments. The objective of security has since found expression and partial realization in improved programs of Social Security; but the goals of opportunity and equality have had their focus on another front that of productive employment in the full range of normal occupations and professions. The drive for jobsfor more and better jobs had been foreseen from the birth of Federationism; as early as 1941 a speaker at the National Convention declared that before further progress can be made toward a solution of our employment difficulties, our attitude and standard in this field will have to undergo complete revamping. He predicted that we shall have to as certain whether or not blind people's capacity is limited to a few standard occupations such as chair caning, broom and mop making, piano tuning and music, and news dealing. In short, we shall have to ask ourselves the question, `Is the blind man a producer or a permanent dependent?'

The answer which the Federation gave to that question was direct and unequivocal: the organized blind were to be committed to the task of dissolving all barriers to the acceptance of blind persons in private industry, in the professions (notably including teaching), and the skilled trades. From the outset the National Federation of the Blind repudiated the traditional and widespread stereotype of blind persons as permanent dependents and natural inferiors limited to the routine blind trades of the sheltered workshops those twentieth-century relics of the infamous Victorian workhouses exposed and excoriated in the novels of Charles Dickens. During the Federation's second decade, in the 1950s, the battle against the sheltered workshops and custodial agencies (themselves no less organized and determined than the National Federation of the Blind) was to take on the proportions of a mortal struggle perceived by the agencies as a struggle for survival and by the blind as a struggle for liberation.

Underlying this conflict was a profound difference of philosophy, and of psychology, regarding the nature of blindness itself. Until the advent of the organized blind movement, there had been little or no dispute about that; the entire world appeared agreed that blindness was a total and tragic blight which left its victim mentally incompetent and physically immobilizedin short, a permanent dependent. Virtually all of the institutions created by society to care for its blind wardsinstitutions which by the mid-twentieth century numbered in the hundreds and extended their supervision literally from cradle to gravewere based on that negative stereotype and had acquired a vested interest in its perpetuation. Plainly put, what this meant was that if the blind should ever come to be redefined as normal human beings, with the full range of ordinary abilities and possibilities, these custodial agencies would become irrelevant and obsolete. It was as simple, and critical, as that. The battle lines were drawn, then, not merely around specific practices and policies of the agencies but upon fundamental assumptions of philosophy bearing on the meaning of blindness and the character of the blind.

Nowhere were these issues more deeply explored or eloquently articulated than in a 1951 convention address by President Jacobus tenBroek entitled "The Neurotic Blind and the Neurotic Sighted Twin Psychological Fallacies". In this landmark speech, tenBroek departed from his customary style of public address to launch an incisive scholarly attack upon the psychological theories and assumptions supporting the structures of custodialism. His address follows:


by Jacobus tenBroek

Long and significant strides have been taken by the nation's blind in the eleven years since the first convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Through successive advances in public assistance and social welfare, by improvements in vocational guidance and placement, and with increasing gains in economic opportunity and cultural participation, the blind are moving steadily closer to the ultimate goal of full and equal membership in American society. A very great deal, of course, remains to be done; and it may be well to remind ourselves, on this anniversary, of the several dominant features of the Federation program with which we are today most actively and immediately concerned.

Perhaps first in any listing of the ends to which our organization is pledged, is the goal of understandingwhich, in negative terms, means nothing less than the total eradication of the ancient stereotype of the helpless blind man, that age-old equation of disability with inability which remains today, as ever, the real affliction of blindness. Second, and closely dependent upon the first, is the assertion of our normality: the elementary truth that the blind are ordinary people, and more exactly that they are personsunique individuals each with his own particular as well as his general human needs. Third among our objectives is security, representing a normal human striving which is only accentuated not transformedby the fact of blindness, and to which the programs of public assistance are especially addressed. But security remains a static and even a stultifying concept without the further element of opportunity, which is the fourth of our objectives: opportunity to participate and to develop, to become useful and productive citizens. Fifth in line (but not in importance) is the goal of equality, which is both a precedent and a product of all the rest: equality which flows from the sense of belonging, from the frank acceptance of the community, and which entails equal treatment under the law, equal opportunity to employment, and equal rights within society. Sixth is the objective of education: education of the blind in terms of social adjustment and vocational rehabilitation; and education of the sightedparents, teachers, employers, and the communityin terms of the several goals already mentioned. Seventh and last is the platform of adequate legislation, permanent safeguards based on rational and systematic evaluation of our needs and erasing once and for all the restrictive barriers of legal discrimination and institutionalized ignorance.

These are only the most general and conspicuous of the goals to which we are committed. Within each area, of course, there are concrete problems and particular emphases. In public assistance, for example, the overriding need is to secure adequate protection while actively encouraging the efforts of recipients to surmount the relief rolls by way of self-sufficiency; and in the field of rehabilitation, the objective is to improve the services of training and placement while retaining administration by those qualified to understand the distinct needs and problems of the sightless. On every level the accent varies; but when all parts work together in harmony under skilled direction, they express the underlying theme of integration social, psychological, and economic. And the dominant note that emerges is one of hope; for if it is true that we are a long way still from equal partnership with the sighted in the continuing experiment of democracy, it is also true that by contrast with our status only eleven years ago we are a long way toward it.

In this brief summation of goals and achievements, there is however an implicit assumption which is so generally taken for granted that it is only rarely recognized. The assumption is that the blind are fit to participate in society on a basis of equality; that there is nothing inherent in their handicap, or invariable in their psychology, which renders them incapable of successful adjustment and adaptation to their society. And the corollary of this assumption is that there is nothing fixed or immutable about the obstacles encountered by the blind in their progress toward integration; that social attitudes and opinions are essentially on our side, and that where they appear otherwise they are based on ignorance and error and can be changed.

These are large assumptions; and they carry an immense responsibility. For upon them rests the entire structure of social programming and welfare services to which this organization is dedicated. But suppose, for a moment, that these assumptions are false. Suppose that the blind are not just ordinary people with a physical handicap, but psychological cripples; and suppose, further, that the complex of attitudes and beliefs about the blind entertained by the general public are at bottom completely hostile and immune to change. If these suppositions should somehow receive scientific sanctionor even if they should become widely accepted among the public and among the blindit is easy to see that the consequences for programs of education, assistance, rehabilitation, and employment (to name only the most conspicuous) would be profoundly different from those we now pursue. The long campaign to integrate the blind into society on a basis of equality would have to be discarded as naive and utopian; the effort to enlighten public opinion and to erase its gross discriminations would have to be abandoned as illusory and futile. The blind would become again, as they have been so often in the past, a caste apart, a pariah class; and our efforts on their behalf would be reduced to the administration of palliatives designed to make their social prison as comfortable as possiblebut not to help them escape.

To all this it may be replied that there is after all no danger of such reactionary suppositions gaining credence in informed circles; that the weight of scientific and theoretical opinion is altogether on the other side. And so in fact it has appeared; as recently as last year's convention I should have agreed wholeheartedly with this belief. Today, however, I am compelled to announce that this confidence is no longer justified. For the suppositions I have outlined are precisely those avowed and put forward by two recent writings that lay serious claim to scientific status: one of which asserts that the conditions of blindness invariably impose a neurotic personality structurea psychological crippling; and the other of which declares that social attitudes toward the blind are fundamentally a sublimation (a deflection) of aggressive instinctual drives, carrying an inescapable undercurrent of hostility. The first of these may be called the thesis of the neurotic blind; the second, the thesis of the neurotic public.

What is most surprising about these theories, at first glance, is that they are the work of two outstanding individuals who are themselves blind, and whose sympathetic and generous contributions in the field have earned distinguished reputations for both. One of these gentlemen, Dr. Thomas Cutsforth, is a prominent psychologist and authority on problems of the blind, whose classic work The Blind in School and Society, published over fifteen years ago, has been credited with greatly modernizing the fundamental concepts of the psychology of blindness. The other, Mr. Hector Chevigny, is the author of two notable books on blindness,besides being a reputable historian and a skilled professional writer. About the complete integrity and considerable ability of both these men there can be no question; but about the truth and value of their respective theories there can be and there is a very large question indeed.

The first of the two viewsas expressed by Dr. Cutsforth in a symposium on blindness published last year1maintains that the response to blindness under modern conditions results invariably in a pattern of behavior indistinguishable from that of neurotics. To his credit, Dr. Cutsforth does not say, as so many psychologists have said in the past, that it is the physical defect which created the disturbance; rather he says what amounts to much the same thing, that the conditions imposed by blindness make such personality distortion inevitable. The blind person, we are told, comes to evaluate himself as society in its ignorance evaluates him; and as a result he soon feels inferior and alone. In his effort to regain both self-respect and social esteem, he reacts in either of two ways and two ways only the way of compulsive compensation, or the way of hysterical withdrawal. Both responses, according to Cutsforth, are fundamentally neurotic which means, among other things, that they hinder rather than assist the individual to adjust to his handicap and to society.

Such terms as compulsive and hysterical, of course, plainly beg the question; they are neurotic by definition. Most of us, however, would probably agree that the ostrich reaction of withdrawing from reality and retreating into infantile dependence is no solution to the problem of adjustment; but the author's attitude toward the familiar adjustive mechanism known as compensation is less easily accepted. We shall say more about compensation later on; for the moment it is enough to point out that even the psychoanalyst Alfred Adler, whose rigid theory of organ inferiority made neurosis a virtually inevitable accompaniment of physical handicap, nevertheless maintained that the defect could be overcome and complete adjustment achieved through compensatory activity.2 Not so, however, Dr. Cutsforth. In following this pattern [of compensation], he asserts, the individual develops along the lines of the compulsive personality.Therapeutic or educational emphasis upon compulsive symptoms leads in the dangerous direction of creating lopsided personalities, monstrosities, or geniuses as the case may becompensations are as much evidence of personality pathology as the less approved and more baffling hysterical reactions.3

Clearly, there is little hope for the blind person within the terms of this analysis. He is committed to behaving either compulsively or hysterically and both ways are equally neurotic. What is more, any attempt to combine the two mechanisms only makes matters worse. Nor is there much hope to be derived from clinical treatment of this blind neurotic; for it is obvious, says Cutsforth, that any therapeutic program for the adjustment of the blind personality that concerns itself only with the correction of either or both of these personality malformations is doomed to failure.4 Since these malformations are the only ones allowed, it is a bit difficult to know what else a therapeutic program might be concerned with. But it may be supposed that what the author has in mind is a broader program aimed at the modification of unsympathetic social attitudes, which are admitted to lie at the root of what he calls the neurosis involved in blindness. This is, however, very far from his purpose. Observing that until recently the blind and those interested in them have insisted that society revise and modify its attitude toward this specific group, he continues: Obviously, for many reasons, this is an impossibility, and effort spent on such a program is as futile as spitting into the wind.5

Only two of the many reasons, evidently the most clinching, are vouchsafed to us. The first is that society has formulated its emotional attitudes not toward blindness itself, but toward the reaction pattern of the blind toward themselves and their own condition.6 But since the reaction of the blind to their own condition has already been defined as a reflection of social attitudes, this amounts to saying that the social attitudes are formed in terms of something which itself is formed by social attitudes a neat bit of circular reasoning which avoids coming out anywhere. The second reason advanced against this spitting into the wind that is, trying to change social attitudes should be of particular interest to members of the National Federation of the Blind: it is extremely doubtful, claims Dr. Cutsforth, whether the degree of emotional maturity and social adaptability of the blind would long support and sustain any social change of attitude, if it were possible to achieve it.7 And finally, he declares: It is dodging the issue to place the responsibility on the unbelieving and non-receptive popular attitudes. The only true answer lies in the unfortunate circumstance that the blind share with other neurotics the nonaggressive personality and the inability to participate fully in society.8

The implications of this extremist theory for the broad field of social programming are not difficult to make out. In its assignment of the primary responsibility for maladjustment to the blind individual alone, it discourages attention to the home and community environment in which character is formed and personality develops; and, even more specifically, in its emphasis on the immutability of social attitudes, it disparages all attempts to modify or revise them as futile and even dangerous. Indeed, Dr. Cutsforth labels as hypocritical distortions all efforts to, as he puts it, propagandize society with the rational concept that the blind are normal individuals without vision.9 If the blind are not normal, there is obviously little point in attempting to educate or prepare them for a normal life. If they are compulsive and hysterics, far from seeking equal treatment and full participation in society they should be content with the exiled status of the misfit and the deranged. There is no need to spell out in specific terms the numerous ways in which this verdict would operate to undermine the progress of the blind toward equality and integration. The only one of our programs which might in some sense survive its test is that of public assistancebut it would be an assistance shorn of opportunity and bereft of dignity, an empty charity without faith and without hope. The Cutsforth thesis of the neurotic blind, in short, would seem to rule out any and all solutions to the problems of rehabilitation and adjustment other than that of prolonged psychotherapeutic treatment on the individual leveland even here, as we have seen, it is not at all clear what there is to be treated.

Fortunately, there is an answer a scientific answer to this defeatist theory. But before turning to that it is necessary to consider the other recent theory which by implication supports the reactionary suppositions we have outlined: namely, Hector Chevigny's thesis of the neurotic public. (This viewpoint, as set forth in a book called The Adjustment of the Blind,10 is the joint property of Chevigny and his co-author, Sydell Braverman; but because he is the senior author and because his name is most widely associated with the ideas in the book, we shall refer to the formulation as Chevigny's.) Observing that the emotion which is most commonly encountered in attitudes toward the blind is that of pity, Chevigny subjects the pity concept to a psychoanalytic examination along the lines of classical Freudian theory, coming to the conclusion that pity derives from an original cruelty impulse through either sublimation or reaction formation.11 This original impulse is variously and ambiguously defined as fear, guilt, and sadism; but the implication is plain throughout that expressions of pity always represent a deflection of deep-seated feelings of hostility. Chevigny next attempts to distinguish between pity and kindness, maintaining that kindness has a different origin in the psyche and represents beneficent rather than hostile feelings. Curiously, however, kindness itself is later conceded to be a sublimation of the aggression toward one another present in all children, [and] it may also be the end product of a less sound defense system against the same drives.12 In short, kindness, like pity, is essentially a sublimation of aggressive drives; from which it would appear that the distinction between the two emotions, if any, is one of degree rather than kind. Far from distinguishing pity from kindness, Chevigny has succeeded only in making the point that all attitudes toward the blind, however apparently well-meaning, are founded on a subterranean rock of antipathy and aggression.

The inconsistency of this psychoanalysis of attitudes becomes understandable when it is seen as a particular instance of the paradox inherent in the whole system of Freudian instinctivism: the paradox that, as Freud himself expressed it, the things of highest value to human culture are intelligible as a consequence of frustrated instincts.13 The most virtuous emotionslove and affection, toleration, sympathy, and compassionall are explainable in terms of the sublimation of innate aggressive drives; even the sense of justice, as Erich Fromm has pointed out, was traced by Freud to the envy of the child for any one who possesses more than he.14 Freud's psychological determinism does not consist however, as popular writers often suppose, in the reduction of all behavior to the sex drive, but rather in the conception of a dialectical struggle between the forces representative of life and death a struggle underlying all human history, individual and cultural. The tendency to aggression, he insisted, is an innate, independent, instinctual disposition in man andconstitutes the most powerful obstacle to culture.15 But if the existence of culture depends on the suppression of natural instinctsif, as Freud put it, the core of our being consists of wishes that are unattainable, yet cannot be checked16 then cultural equilibrium is at best precarious, if not foredoomed to destruction. Indeed Freud came to wonder whether civilization might not be leading to the extinction of mankind, since it encroaches on the sexual function in more than one way.17 As he saw it, observes a prominent modern psychoanalyst, man is doomed to dissatisfaction whichever way he turns. He cannot live out satisfactorily his primitive instinctual drives without wrecking himself and civilization. He cannot be happy alone or with others. He has but the alternative of suffering himself or making others suffer.18 Short of destruction of the species, then, the conflict of man and society must remain forever unresolved. Whenever the inhibiting social forces are for a moment relaxed, we see men as savage beasts to whom the thought of sparing their own kind is alien.19 But on the other hand, whenever the inhibitions become too severe, or the frustrated instincts pile up against the blocksas periodically they mustthen, says Freud, the organized explosion known as war becomes inevitable. A period of general unleashing of man's animal nature must appear, wear itself out, and peace is once more restored.20

So much for the Freudian theory of instincts, and the extreme cultural pessimism to which it gives rise. It is relevant to our present purpose insofar as it illuminates the consequences for social programming which might be expected to follow its application to the psychology of social attitudes. For if Chevigny is correct, and all social attitudes toward the blind, antagonistic, or benevolent, are explainable as the consequence of frustrated instincts, then by Freudian standards two conclusions may be said to follow: First, that the services and programs based upon these attitudes, like all cultural products, are achieved only at the cost of general neurosis and are therefore unhealthy and precarious; and second, that the submerged hostile feelings toward the blind must periodically erupt over the barriers in outbreaks of persecution and aggression. It would seem evident that this thesis of the neurotic public affords little hope of any rational and sustained progress in the social welfare of the blind; at least until such time as the general population may be induced to undergo extended psychoanalytic therapy. In the face of universal hostility, however well-disguised, there can be no serious thought of achieving recognition and integration; and the solution to the problems of the blind must perforce be sought in the reinforcement, rather than the removal, of the medieval barriers of isolation and segregation.

It may however be flatly stated that the Chevigny thesis of the neurotic public is not widely entertained by serious students. The validity of its Freudian assumptions has been sharply and effectively challenged by major developments over the past ten years within psychology and the social sciencesmost notably, perhaps, in the sphere of the cultural anthropologists. An impressive number of psychiatrists and psychoanalysts as well, concluding that man's biological nature need not condemn him to conflict with society, declare that in fact anxiety and conflict are largely the product of institutions which, being manmade, are subject to alteration. In the words of Harry Stack Sullivan, the present social order operates destructively on human beings, not only as it sets limits within which the patient's interpersonal relations may succeed, but as the source from which spring his problems, which are themselves signs of difficulties in the social order.21 The relevant conclusion for our purpose is that the personality problems of the blind may not be placed at the door of their defect or even of their personal frustration, but rather have their focus in the arena of social relations and institutions. Again, in rejecting the theory of innate aggressive propensities, these post-Freudian social scientists interpret attitudes of genuine affection, sympathy, and compassion as the healthy expressions of natural human attributes. It may be suggested that, according to this modern formulation, the concept of adjustment as extended to the blind would signify not their conformity to immutable outer circumstance but rather the adjustment and arrangement of social conditions and attitudes in closer harmony with the established physical needs of the blind.

With this we return to the Cutsforth thesis of the neurotic blind the thesis that denies the possibility of altering social attitudes and places the blame for maladjustment squarely upon the blind. Nothing would be gained, of course, by rejecting these contentions on moral or sentimental grounds. They make their claim on a scientific basis: the only relevant test is whether they are sustained by the scientific evidence. And it may at once be said that the main contentions of the Cutsforth theory are not supported by the available data compiled by research psychologists and social scientists. His claim that inner responses to blindness are reductible to the two mechanisms of compulsive compensation and hysterical withdrawal is questionable on several counts. Hans von Hentig22 has pointed out that the loose habit of referring to aggression and withdrawal as the main reactions to disability is of course a simplification. There are many intermediate responses. And he notes especially, what many in today's gathering have long since discovered for themselves, that there is a matter-of-fact attitude, taking the handicap as it is, [like] poverty, hunger, bad luck, and neglect, making no fun of the handicap, yet not stressing it by trying vainly and painfully to disregard the infirmity. Another observer, Vita Stein Sommers, discovered after intensive study of blind adolescents that her subjects displayed a variety of adjustive behavior. Some showed mechanisms of adjustment which served to reduce emotional strain and tension, and contributed to a solution of their mental conflicts. No apparent harm to their personality development was indicated.23 Sommers found no less than five major types of response to blindness; and, in direct refutation of Dr. Cutsforth, she concluded that the most satisfactory was that of compensation. The cases, she writes, support the belief of many psychologists that compensation is the most healthful form of adjustment, frequently resulting in superior forms of accomplishment. 24 This conclusion coincides with the conviction of those psychologists influenced by the teachings of Adler, who himself maintained that by courage and training, disabilities may be so compensated that they even become great abilities. When correctly encountered a disability becomes a stimulus that impels toward a higher achievement.25 A recent survey of research in the field of disability has reported that the Adlerians find that both compensatory behavior and inferior attitudes do occur in physically disabled persons, but that they are by no means of universal occurrence. Some investigators, the report continues, question whether these symptoms are any more frequent than in the general population.26 From all of this it may be concluded, in reference to the Cutsforth thesis, not only that there appear many other responses to blindness than those of compensation and withdrawal, but that compensation itselfan ambiguous and little-understood phenomenon has generally the appearance of a positive and adjustive, rather than a neurotic, form of behavior.

As to the claim that the conditions imposed by blindness necessarily lead to personality disturbance, the available evidence points strongly in the opposite direction. One European psychologist who has devoted particular attention to the problem of physical impairment declares that even the most serious physical disability does not necessarily result in a distorted personality. Although there are often factors in the environment of the crippled person which tend to produce distortion, other factors operate at the same time to lessen the probability of its occurrence.27 Again, a wartime study based on the neuropsychiatric examination of 150 blinded soldiers found that emotional disturbances do not always or necessarily occur and that the soldier of sound personality structure, free from pre-existing neurotic or psychopathic traits, is fully capable of making an adequate emotional adjustment to his disability providing adequate orientation and rehabilitation facilities are available. The authors further conclude that blindness, as a mental stress, does not appear to be capable, by itself, of producing abnormal mental or emotional reactions.28

Dr. Cutsforth's assertion that it is dodging the issue to place the blame on social attitudes, and that these are somehow out of bounds to investigators, receives even shorter shrift from the findings of research psychologists and social scientists working with the handicapped. Instead there is general agreement that, in the words of Lee Myerson, the problem of adjustment to physical disability is as much or more a problem of the non-handicapped majority as it is of the disabled minority 29; and, unlike Dr. Cutsforth, the data uniformly indicate the practicability, as well as the need, of changing the attitudes of parents, teachers, employers, and the community generally. Some students, such as Roger Barker, emphasize the similarity between the minority status of the blind and that of racial and religious subgroups, and suggest that the solutions found to problems of prejudice in general through such means as education, psychology, propaganda, learning, and politicsmay be equally applicable to the physically handicapped.30 An opinion area of primary importance, of course, is the home environment. Sommers, among others, asserts that parental attitudes and actions constitute the most significant factors in setting the fundamental habit patterns of the blind child; but, since parents themselves reflect the attitudes of the community, she concludes that our main concern in dealing with the problems of personality development in such an individual must be an effort to shape the reactions of his environment. The training of the handicapped and the education of those with whom he is most closely associated and of society at large must take place simultaneously.31 Her concluding words are especially worthy of quotation: The ultimate results will depend on the extent to which the home, the school, the community, and society at large coordinate and direct their efforts toward giving [the blind child] sympathetic understanding but not undue pity, encouraging independence and initiative, and helping him to achieve success and happiness as a contributing member of the family group and as an adult member of society.32

In summary, it may be said that this view of the relation of blindness to personality development, espoused by the great majority of research psychologists and workers with the blind, denies that any single personality pattern is invariably associated with blindness, holding rather that individual responses depend primarily upon such variable, and modifiable, factors in the environment as the attitudes of parents and the community. The practical implications of this more optimistic explanation lie definitely in the direction of encouraging the modification of public attitudes and relationships toward the blind, and of fostering programs directed toward the greater all-around participation of the blind in society. The great objective of public understanding first among our seven organizational goals emerges in the light of this empirical evidence as not only necessary but eminently practicable; and along with it the erasure of false stereotypes and the establishment of our normality. The various specific programs of education and legislation, of rehabilitation and social security, are similarly supported by these findings as indispensable means toward achievement of the ends we have set for ourselvesthe ends of full equality, of unlimited opportunity and of total integration.

This, then, is the scientific evidence that underlies the growing structure of programs and services supported by the National Federation of the Blind. It is this evidence that finally gives the lie to the antique notions of inferiority and incapability which have surrounded the blind from earliest times. And it is this evidence that effectively refutes the reactionary thesis of the neurotic blind and its corollary of the neurotic public; for it asserts that there is nothing in the psychology of the blind which miscasts them for the role of equal partners with the sighted and that there is nothing in the psychology of the sighted which prevents their recognition of this demand. It would of course be prematureas in scientific matters it is always premature to claim either that present knowledge is complete or that the achievement of integration will follow automatically from its publication. But it is not too much or too soon to declare, with all the conviction at our command, that the blind are capable of fulfilling the equalitarian destiny they have assigned themselvesand that society is capable of welcoming them.


1. Paul A. Zahl, ed., Blindness: Modern Approaches to the Unseen Environment (Princeton University Press, 1950).

2. See Rudolf A. Dreikurs, The Social-Psychological Dynamics of Physical Disability. Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 4, No. 4 (1948), p. 42.

3. Op. cit. supra note 1, pp. 176-177.

4. Id. at p. 176.

5. Id. at p. 179.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. Id. at p. 183.

9. Id. at p. 179.

10. Hector Chevigny and Sydell Braverman, The Adjustment of the Blind (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1950).

11. Id. at p. 148.

12. Id. at p. 149.

13. Quoted in Joseph Jastrow, Freud: His Dream and Sex Theories (Cleveland: World Publishing Co., 1932), p. 290.

14. Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom (New York Norton Co., 1941), p. 294.

15. Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents (London: Hogarth Press, l946), p. 102.

16. Quoted in Jastrow, op. cit. supra note l3, p. 290.

17. Quoted in Franz Alexander, Fundamentals of Psychoanalysis (New York: Norton Co., 1948) p. 323.

18. Karen Horney, Neurosis and Human Growth (New York: Norton Co., 1950), p. 377.

19. Freud, op. cit. supra note 15, p. 86.

20. Clara Thompson, Psychoanalysis: Its Evolution and Development (New York: Hermitage, 1950), p. 140.

21. H. S. Sullivan, Conceptions of Modern Psychiatry (Washington, D.C.: William Alanson White Psychiatric Foundation, 1947), p. 87.

22. Hans von Hentig, Physical Disability, Mental Conflict and Social Crisis, Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 4, No. 4 (l948), p.27.

23. Vita Stein Sommers, The Influence of Parental Attitudes And Social Environment on the Personality Development of The Adolescent Blind (New York: American Foundation for the Blind, 1944), p. 65.

24. Ibid.

25. Alfred Adler, Problems of Neurosis (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Company, 1930), p. 44.

26. R. G. Barker, Beatrice A. Wright, and Mollie Gonick, Adjustment to Physical Handicap and Illness (New York: Social Science Research Council, Bulletin 55, 1946), p. 84.

27. Id. at p. 85.

28. B. L. Diamond and A. Ross, Emotional Adjustment of Newly Blinded Soldiers, American Journal of Psychiatry, (1945), vol. 102, pp. 367-371.

29. Lee Myerson, Physical Disability as a Social Psychological Problem, Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 4, No. 4, (1948), p. 6.

30. Roger G. Barker, The Social Psychology of Physical Disability, Id. at p. 31.

31. Sommers, op. cit. supra note 23 p. 104. See also Stella E. Plants, Blind People are Individuals, The Family, Vol. 24, No. 1 (March, 1943), pp. 8, 16.

32. Sommers, Id. at p. 106.

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