Braille Monitor April-May 1985
Federationism is a full-time activity. It is not put on and off like a suit of clothes or a pair of shoes. Instead, it is a way of thought and a part of everyday life. When a Federationist goes to work or to dinner, Federationism goes too.
The state of Missouri issues an identification card to blind persons who apply for it. It is issued by the state Division of Motor Vehicles (just as drivers licenses are), and it serves many of the same purposes. With the exception of authorizing an individual to drive a car the card carries the same entitlements. Howard Neal, a Federationist from Missouri, recently had an experience in a restaurant which underscores the difference between Federationists and blind persons who have not yet joined the movement. He stood up for his rights; he took what began as a bad situation and made of it something positive; and he had the perspective to understand that each of us should try to advance the well being of the rest of us throughout the country. Here is a letter which he recently sent to the National Office of the Federation:
Enclosed please find a copy of a letter I sent to Bamco Headquarters, which is the holding company for Stewart Anderson's Cattle Company restaurants. As the letter says, I tried to write a check for the meal using my state I.D. card. I was told I would have to use a major credit card instead, and did so at that time.
I sent their management company the enclosed letter with the result that I was called by Mr. Rich Chorich's (V.P. of Operations) assistant, Don Roberts.
He agreed with me that their policy was unfair to blind people and told me that he had called the two St. Louis stores and told them to accept the state I.D. card. The best success came when he informed me that they would change their nationwide policy on the identification card policy to conform with the laws in each state where they operate. Our phone conversation was successful in more than just the above sense. I got the opportunity to educate him about our movement and answered some questions about what it really means to be blind and shared with him the concepts I have learned as a Federationist.
Thank you for the education that made it all possible.
Howard G. Neal
Maryland Heights, Missouri
Dear Mr. Rich Chorich V.P. of Operations:
I am writing to inquire about your check policy regarding payment of food checks. On January 4, 1985, Burt Gedney, Patty Williams, and I came to dine at your Stewart Anderson's Cattle Company Restaurant at 11440 Olive Street Road, St. Louis, Missouri. These people are good friends of mine, and I wanted to treat them to a dinner for a special occasion. I might mention I use a state identification card due to the fact I am blind and obviously cannot obtain a driver's license. My friend Burt inquired while we were in the waiting line whether this identification card would be accepted. He was informed by your manager (this was at nine o'clock in the evening to help you find the manager at that time and date) that this I.D. would not be accepted. I spoke with the manager and advised him that the state I.D. is legally the same as the driver's license. Both cards are issued by the Department of Motor Vehicle registration. This I.D. has binding legislation by the House and Senate of Missouri and represents a great deal of work and promotion by the National Federation of the Blind and myself. The National Federation of the Blind is a national consumer movement with about fifty thousand members and a Missouri membership of over two thousand members.
Your failure to recognize this card constitutes a misdemeanor and is discriminatory against all blind persons who have no choice as to the identification we use.
Fortunately I have a Visa and Master Card, but I was embarrassed and made to feel like a second-class citizen by your policy. I enjoyed the meal and tipped the waitress only because your policy is not her responsibility. If your manager would have waited on us, I would not have tipped due to this injustice. I did enjoy the evening despite this. I am led to believe this may also be a case of not being your manager's total responsibility, rather just a possible ignorance of the law on his part. I really do not believe this is truly your policy in fact. I do not believe you intend to discriminate against blind people either. You are, instead, possibly leaving this out of your training policy.
Please correct your policy to recognize the state identification. I would appreciate hearing from you soon on this matter. I am planning to send a copy of this letter within ten days to my congressman and senator to let them know that we are still having problems with the I.D. Thank you in advance for your prompt attention.
Howard G. Neal
Member of the National Federation of the Blind