Vol. 31, No. 7 September-October 1988
Kenneth Jernigan, Editor
Published in inkprint, Braille, on talking-book disc, and cassette by
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
MARC MAURER, PRESIDENT
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
to the President, address changes,
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FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
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Vol. 31, No. 7 September-October 1988
CONVENTION ROUNDUP 1988
by Barbara Pierce
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND DISTINGUISHED TEACHER OF BLIND CHILDREN AWARD
JACOBUS tenBROEK AWARD
1988 SCHOLARSHIP AWARDS
PREPARATION AND THE CRITICAL
An Address Delivered by Marc Maurer
BLIND EDUCATORS RECEIVE AWARDS
BRAILLE AS I FEEL IT
by T. V. (Tim) Cranmer
WHY DO THEY HAVE TO BREAK
by Charlene Groves
OF ADMINISTRATORS, ETHICS,
AND THE NATURE OF SCHOOLS FOR THE
by Barbara Cheadle
OF ELEVATORS, McDONALD'S, AND THE SPEED OF BRAILLE
BLINDNESS: THE MEANING
OF THE METAPHOR
by Zach Shore
AIRLINES, FAA ARE BLIND
TO DISCRIMINATORY RULES
by Mike Deupree
I AM BLIND AND A GENUINE
by Dan Crawford
DIABETES WITHOUT HIGH BLOOD
by Robert C. Dinwiddie, M.D.
CLAUDELL STOCKER TO HEAD
BRAILLE DEVELOPMENT SECTION
AT THE NATIONAL LIBRARY SERVICE FOR THE BLIND AND PHYSICALLY HANDICAPPED
IF YOU BELIEVE YOU CAN,
OR IF YOU BELIEVE YOU CANNOT...
by W. Harold Bleakley
A THOUGHT-PROVOKING RESOLUTION AND AN ISSUE WHICH IS NOT YET SETTLED
GINGER BEEF AND OTHER THINGS
by Kenneth Jernigan
RESOLUTIONS ADOPTED BY THE ANNUAL CONVENTION OF THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
Copyright � 1988 National Federation of the Blind
by Barbara Pierce
For several years Steve Benson, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, predicted that the 1988 National Federation of the Blind Convention at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Chicago would break all records for attendance and set new standards for fun, fellowship, and breadth of dining and recreational opportunity. He made promises and took bets. By July 9 it was clear that he had made a clean sweep. The largest, most exciting, and most profoundly satisfying convention the Federation has ever had was history and had become a part of the heritage of the movement. Well over 3,000 conventioneers filled three hotels, and just under 2,500 of them went through the lines to register as convention attendees. Approximately 2,000 shared the excitement and fun of the banquet emceed by Dr. Jernigan. And bus loads and boat loads of Federationists sallied forth on tours and theater expeditions Wednesday afternoon and evening. Yet, behind the drama (and underlying the fascinating substance of all the activity) the Convention was at its heart once again what it always is for each of us: the inspiration and challenge that strengthen us for the year ahead and the embodiment of the love and support that give us the courage to stand together in the name of justice and truth in the year ahead.
The Hyatt Regency was a beautiful and formidably large headquarters hotel for the forty-eighth annual convention. Fountains splashed into a lagoon on the plaza level, and at almost every hour of the day or night chamber groups or a pianist provided music for diners, strollers, and those standing in the lines at the hotel registration desk. By two days before the beginning of the convention these hotel registration lines had become so dense that Hyatt officials were circulating among the throngs of cheerful Federationists to offer champagne. Outside, Chicago was celebrating its ethnic diversity with A Taste of Chicago, an unbelievable array of foods from every corner of the world. Hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans came to sample, and Federationists swelled their ranks at least, before the Convention actually went into session.
It has become traditional for parents and educators of blind children, as well as hundreds of other interested blind adults, to gather all day Saturday of convention week for a seminar. This year's theme was On the Road to Independence: What Parents and Children Need to Know About Blindness and Independence. More parents and teachers than ever before gathered to learn from professionals and experienced blind people so that they can guide their blind children toward productive and independent lives.
That evening the Illinois affiliate kicked off the week's hospitality with a sock hop, which shook the Hyatt to its considerable foundations. Brian Johnson acted as the disk jockey, and he saw to it that everyone present would not soon forget this form of fun, resurrected from the Fifties. Sunday was filled with registration, exhibits, and committee and division meetings. At the end of the first hour, nearly 500 people had registered and by two o'clock Sunday afternoon more people had passed through the lines than had ever before registered during an entire Sunday. The final number for that day was 1,824. The figures continued to break records throughout the week. Illinois registered 193 members as part of its delegation. The first five states all had more than 120 delegates in attendance, and the top ten each had more than 75 people registered. The exhibit hall this year had a particularly fine range of products, literature, and food. Nowhere in the country can a blind person learn so much so quickly about so many aids and appliances as in this week-long extravaganza. The tenBroek Fund's Elegant Elephant Sale netted more than $1,200 this year, and many affiliates and chapters raised funds with the help of eager Federationists. One of the most novel items for sale was a baseball cap bearing the NFB logo and playing the chorus to Glory, Glory Federation. Everyone was grateful to discover that the purchasers were never able to organize themselves so as to burst into song simultaneously. The most welcome new item for sale in the Federation section of the exhibit hall was our new post card. With a very attractive line drawing of the National Center for the Blind pictured on the front, this standard-sized card is available in unlimited quantities at twenty-five cents apiece from the National Office. Using these cards is an excellent way to spread the word about the National Federation of the Blind. Fourteen committees and divisions conducted meetings on Sunday. The Dog Guide Committee took the necessary steps to become the National Association of Dog Guide Users, National Federation of the Blind our newest division. The Resolutions Committee debated a number of resolutions, twenty of which reached the floor of the convention. In addition, one resolution (88-101) came to the convention floor through the Board of Directors. As always with Sunday afternoon and evening, the frustration lay in having to choose which meetings to attend.
The annual pre-convention Board of Directors meeting took place this year on Independence Day, a fitting time for the week's activities to move into high gear. The Board meeting began with the pledge to the flag, followed by the unison reading of the NFB Pledge. The text of this pledge is found on the reverse of the NFB membership card and is an important summary of the duty, commitment, and pride of every Federationist. It reads:
I pledge to participate actively in the effort of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.
Steve Benson welcomed everyone to Chicago at the beginning of the Board meeting and noted that members of the Illinois convention committee were all wearing white hats for easy identification. He presented hats to Mr. and Mrs. Maurer and Dr. and Mrs. Jernigan. He then read a document from Governor James Thompson proclaiming July as National Federation of the Blind Month in Illinois.
Mr. Maurer then presented a red, white, and blue Associate ribbon to each Federationist who had recruited fifty or more members-at-large (Associates) during the past year. In ascending order, the winners of the red, white, and blue ribbons were:
11. Patricia Munson, California,
10. Michael Floyd, Minnesota, 56 Associates;
9. Mary Ellen Jernigan, Maryland, 58 Associates;
8. Verla Kirsh, Iowa, 64 Associates;
7. Norman Gardner, from Idaho most of the year and now from Arizona, 89 Associates;
6. Karen Mayry, South Dakota, 106 Associates;
5. Marc Maurer, Maryland, 135 Associates;
4. Tom Stevens, Missouri, 152 Associates;
3. Frank Lee, Alabama, 160 Associates;
2. Kenneth Jernigan, Maryland, 161 Associates;
1. Bill Isaacs, Illinois, 187 Associates.
We have a long way to go in this program, but it was gratifying to see that the top six recruiters had all found more than one hundred people to become our Associates in this movement. The desire to increase the number of those next year wearing red, white, and blue ribbons next year burned even brighter in the crowd as the eight $100, one $400, and one $600 prizes were drawn and presented. Each recruiter had one chance to win a prize for each Associate he or she had recruited. The results of the drawing illustrate that there are many reasons to recruit Associates, and not all of them altruistic. The winners of the $100 prizes were: Rubin Salato, Arizona, 3 Associates; Verla Kirsh, Iowa, 64 Associates; Betty Hendricks, California, 18 Associates; Peg Benson, Illinois, 4 Associates; and Al Maneki, Maryland, 14 Associates. Three of the $100 prizes were won by Frank Lee of Alabama, who had recruited 160 Associates. The $400 prize was won by Tom Stevens of Missouri, with 152 Associates; and the $600 prize was won by JoAnn Becker of Massachusetts, with 43 Associates. The Board of Directors then voted to conduct a similar contest in the coming year with one notable change. Each recruiter's name will go into the box for the drawing as many times as he or she has Associate dollars divided by ten. This means that everyone will have the maximum number of chances to win, so there will be no advantage in recruiting three $10 Associates, for example, instead of one $30 Associate.
Monday afternoon and evening eighteen committees and divisions conducted meetings and seminars. Hospitality that night was enlivened by the annual Celebrity Auction, sponsored by the Merchants Division. Again this year the lightning-tongued Duane Gerstenberger acted as auctioneer. On Tuesday morning the Honorable Eugene Sawyer, Mayor of Chicago, welcomed the delegates and presented the key to the city to President Maurer. Dr. Jernigan then introduced Euclid Herie, Managing Director of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and Vice President of the North America Region of the World Blind Union. His address, Children of Minor Wives, was an eloquent plea to the blind everywhere to struggle for first-class citizenship. Again this year the roll call included every state in the nation and the District of Columbia. As always, the afternoon session began with the Presidential Report. All of us look forward to this moment in the Convention because, after a year of patrolling our own sector of the barricades, this report reviews, however briefly, the entire battle during the preceding year. Encouragement and rededication surged through the audience as President Maurer reminded us all of what we have accomplished this year and pointed to the road ahead. His report is reprinted elsewhere in this issue. Following the Presidential Report, three members of the Illinois delegation to Congress addressed the Convention. They were Representative Lane Evans, Freedom for the Blind: Let's Make It Happen ; Representative Charles A. Hayes, Equality for the Blind: The Future Is Now ; and Representative John Edward Porter, A Message of Hope: A Platform of Opportunity for the Blind. While he was at the podium, Congressman Porter (after an exchange with Dr. Jernigan) promised to cosponsor H.R. 3883, the Air Travel Rights for Blind Individuals Act. Within forty-eight hours the Congressman had delivered on his promise. This, too, is what happens at Federation conventions. Next, Gary Wunder, President of the Missouri affiliate and member of the NFB Board of Directors, addressed the Convention. He works as a computer analyst, and his topic was The Blind Analyst and the World of Computers. Federationists never tire of hearing the stories of our members who have been given a chance, often grudgingly, and have demonstrated again that the blind can and do succeed as working, tax-paying citizens.
The final agenda item Tuesday afternoon was: The Blind of the World in Collective Action. Several distinguished guests from around the world addressed the convention. David Blyth from Melbourne, Australia, (Chairman of the East-Asia Pacific Region of the World Blind Union) outlined briefly the conditions facing the blind in Australia. Wimon Org-Amporn, Consultant to the Foundation for the Blind of Thailand, spoke movingly of the efforts of his group to win services and rights for the blind of Thailand, where less than four percent of blind children can be educated. Mrs. Geraldine Braak, President of the Canadian Council of the Blind, arrived that evening and spoke to the convention later in the week. Tuesday evening saw the now traditional reception, during which Federationists had an opportunity to meet members of the Board of Directors and this year's class of scholarship winners. The evening ended with a spectacular dance, complete with a sixteen-piece big band that provided three hours of unforgettable dance music.
The Wednesday morning session opened with the report of the Nominating Committee and the election. Earlier in the week Richard Edlund (President of the NFB of Kansas) had announced that he would not stand again for election as Treasurer, ending a distinguished and colorful term of fourteen years as a national officer. Mr. Edlund's work, especially in helping to organize sheltered shop workers, has been vitally important, and all of us are grateful for his contributions through the years and his continuing dedication to the movement.
Those elected as national officers (terms are for two years) were: Marc Maurer, President, Maryland; Diane McGeorge, First Vice President, Colorado;
Peggy Pinder, Second Vice President, Iowa; Joyce Scanlan, Secretary, Minnesota; and Allen Harris, Treasurer, Michigan. Elected to the Board (also for two-year terms) were: Steve Benson, Illinois; Charles Brown, Virginia;
Glenn Crosby, Texas; Bob Eschbach, Ohio; Frank Lee, Alabama; and Ramona Walhof, Idaho. Mrs. Walhof (one of the long-time leaders of the movement) is new to the Board. She now serves as President of the NFB of Idahom and before that, she was the Assistant Director of Job Opportunities for the Blind Program.
Six Directors (Donald Capps, South Carolina; Joanne Fernandes, Louisiana;
Priscilla Ferris, Massachusetts; Betty Nicely, Kentucky; Fred Schroeder, New Mexico; and Gary Wunder, Missouri) were not up for election since their terms do not expire until 1989.
Dr. Geerat Vermeij is a nationally renowned marine biologist teaching at the University of Maryland at College Park. His address, To Sea with a Blind Scientist, was an inspiration to each of his listeners. He described graphically how he has met the various challenges facing him, and he underlined the importance for all blind people of learning and depending upon Braille.
The convention devoted the remainder of Wednesday morning to the ever more critical issue of air travel and the blind. Dr. Jernigan began the presentation with a rousing statement of the Federation's position. Neil F. Hartigan, Attorney General of Illinois, next reviewed his state's efforts to insure the rights of disabled people. He has written to Illinois airport personnel and police to warn that there is no state or federal law limiting the seating of blind passengers. He has also urged all of the other states' Attorneys General to take like action.
Finally, Matthew Scocozza, Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs of the federal Department of Transportation (DOT), outlined his department's proposed rules for implementing the Air Carrier Access Act. The audience was courteous, but tough questioning followed his address. It was clear to all that DOT has ducked the underlying question in the exit-row seating struggle namely, that it is a question of civil rights, not safety. As Mr. Scocozza spoke, Federationists who have been arrested on airplanes filed across the stage and stood behind him, each wearing a card stating the date of arrest, just as is done in police mug shots. Mr. Scocozza's speech and the questions that followed will be reprinted later. The blind in the lineup were not down-and-outers or radicals but substantial citizens and community leaders a deputy mayor; several executives; attorneys; a college administrator; professors; a congressional assistant; students, homemakers, and business people in fact, a complete cross section of the social and community leadership of the nation.
In Mr. Scocozza's speech and the discussion which followed, it was clear (as is so often the case) that the federal Department of Transportation was attempting to play games and practice deceit. Mr. Scocozza kept telling us that he was in our corner and that we were preaching to the choir, but he was unwilling to give a straight answer to questions concerning the right of the blind to sit in exit rows in planes. The audience was not impressed with the sophistry that the new DOT rules would prohibit discrimination by saying that no blind person could be denied the right to sit in an exit row but that, purely as a matter of safety, no person who was unable to see could sit there. There was an overwhelming sentiment that if the blind are to be barred from such seats, it would be more honest and more palatable if the Department of Transportation would just say so in straightforward language. Finally, Mr. Scocozza sought to avoid responsibility by this statement:
I would mention that I am a politician; and as you know, on January 20th, 1989, I'm out of here if not sooner. Any particular rule with exit row seating is going to take a long time to promulgate probably a year or so, two years at a minimum, because of the amount of attention and comments that are going to be submitted. I encourage you all to stay as active as you are and to make sure that all good guidance that you can give the Department and the FAA continues.
The audience did not appreciate the attempted flim-flam or the condescending advice to keep up the good work. Indeed, the truthfulness of Mr. Scocozza's assurances can be measured by the fact that even as this is being written (less than two months after the convention) the FAA has already submitted for approval proposed rules to the Office of Management and Budget rules which would bar the blind (no, not the blind but just those who cannot see) from exit row seats on airplanes.
Thursday morning, July 7, began with a panel discussion entitled Developments and Trends in Programs and Opportunities for the Deaf-Blind. The participants were Martin Adler, President of Helen Keller Services for the Blind; Boyd Wolfe, Chairman of the NFB Committee on the Deaf-Blind; and Mary Ellen Reihing, Assistant Director of Job Opportunities for the Blind. Mr. Adler reviewed the history and programs of the Helen Keller National Center. Mr. Wolfe made an impassioned plea for everyone (but particularly the professionals) to consult the deaf-blind before formulating policies concerning them, and Miss Reihing underscored Mr. Wolfe's remarks by describing her own experiences in making friends and working with many deaf-blind people.
Frank Kurt Cylke, Director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, summarized the activities of NLS during the past year. He called special attention to the collections of Braille music and Braille maps, which are both as nearly complete as NLS can make them. He also announced that NLS, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and the Cornell Ornithology Laboratory will produce a bird song tutorial next year. This will be available to borrow or to purchase. It is always a pleasure to hear from Mr. Cylke and to reaffirm his healthy working relationship and friendship with the organized blind movement. One of the liveliest program items of the Convention was the address of Tom Deniston, Acting Director of the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board. As an experienced military pilot for many years before being injured in Vietnam, Mr. Deniston stated categorically that in the exit row controversy, The issue is not safety; the issue is stereotypes. Following Mr. Deniston's presentation was a discussion of Policies and Trends in Rehabilitation: a Report from the Rehabilitation Services Administration. Sue Suter, Acting Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration of the federal Department of Education, told the audience (with typical federal optimism) that the RSA is working to increase the options and opportunities for training and advancement for disabled people; and although no one doubted her good intentions, it is equally true that nobody expressed any great hope that rehab's performance will make any dramatic improvements. Regardless of who is in power (Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative) the massive flood of paperwork and promises seems to flow majestically on. James Gashel, NFB Director of Governmental Affairs, next spoke about Rehabilitation from the Consumer Point of View, and as usual, his views were straightforward and devoid of nonsense as he analyzed such jargonized federal rehabilitation concepts as similar benefits, eligibility, and means tests in the world of rehabilitation service delivery, or lack thereof.
The final program item of the morning addressed one of the most pressing and disturbing problems facing the blind today. Its title was Literacy for the Blind at School and Work. Barbara Cheadle, President of the Parents of Blind Children Division, and Ruby Ryles, teacher of visually impaired youngsters and mother of a blind son, emphatically expressed the views of the audience with their condemnation of the way reading is taught (or not taught) to blind and partially sighted children today. Their articulate presentations clearly impressed the third member of the panel (Dr. G. Thomas Bellamy), Director of Special Education Programs of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services of the United States Department of Education. In his remarks, Dr. Bellamy proposed that (by focusing on the quality of special education, analyzing what happens to the disabled after they leave school, and trying to build a consensus across the entire special education community) we will achieve improved literacy for the children we are concerned about. Many in the audience thought that increasing the literacy of the blind might be a better way to improve the quality of their education than the procedure outlined by Dr. Bellamy, but everybody agreed that the discussion and exchange of ideas had been useful.
The Thursday afternoon session opened with Disability Insurance and SSI:
Programs, Trends, and the Future, which was presented by Michael Carozza, Deputy Commissioner for Policy and External Affairs, Social Security Administration. Mr. Carozza agreed with the Federation's conviction that rehabilitation today is not working for blind SSI and SSDI recipients, and he said that the Social Security Administration is working to find ways of enabling blind recipients to return to the work force in significant jobs.
In recent years the National Federation of the Blind has sought ways to illustrate our conviction that our philosophy (coupled with dedicated, talented leadership) will result in successful rehabilitation. Dr. Jernigan demonstrated the truth of this belief over a period of twenty years as Director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind. Today three state affiliates of the Federation have established rehabilitation centers, and one state has enabled a skilled Federationist to revolutionize its commission for the blind programs.
Four panelists described their programs Joanne Fernandes, Director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind; Joyce Scanlan, President of BLIND, Inc. in Minneapolis; Diane McGeorge, Director of the Colorado Center for the Blind; and Fred Schroeder, Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind. Several students from these programs also spoke. Just to know that somewhere in the country today at least some students are receiving the training that all of us should have had uplifted the spirits of everybody who heard this thrilling panel. Perhaps the single most influential commentator on radio today is Paul Harvey. At times in the past he has questioned the capacity and abilities of the blind, but when he accepted our invitation to address the National Convention, he carefully read and studied our literature and performance. He listened with great attention to the remarks of the panel concerning training centers for the blind, working to rehabilitate blind people effectively, and he came to the podium and demonstrated that he had understood what he had read and observed. Particularly, he demonstrated that he has come to respect the National Federation of the Blind and what we stand for. His words were stirring and his presence powerful. Hearing him address the convention was an unforgettable experience. A few days later he devoted a considerable segment of his nationwide broadcast to a commentary on our organization and its goals and accomplishments. The afternoon session ended with an address by Candace Von Salzen, head of the Philanthropic Advisory Service and Vice President, Council of Better Business Bureaus. She reviewed the role of the CBBB and PAS in providing information to potential donors to charities, and she commended the Federation for its effective work to improve the lives of blind people. Again this year the banquet (held on Thursday evening) was the high point of the entire convention. The food was delicious; the crowd was spirited, and the program was electric. Dr. Jernigan acted as master of ceremonies, and it was clear that he enjoyed the job as much as the audience enjoyed his chairing. He had not emceed a Banquet since he assumed the presidency in 1968, so most of us had only heard recordings of his wit and masterful control of this exciting event. It was memorable to watch him at work and share in the fun of the occasion. Twenty-six scholarships were presented, and Mildred Rivera, a third-year law student at the University of Pennsylvania, received the $10,000 Ezra B. Davis Memorial Scholarship presented by the American Brotherhood for the Blind. Her moving remarks are reprinted elsewhere in this issue. The Jacobus tenBroek Award is not presented every year, but in 1988 the organization did bestow its highest tribute upon Jacquilyn Billey, President of the NFB of Connecticut. She received a standing ovation and an out- pouring of joyful recognition for her contributions. For the second year we presented the National Federation of the Blind Distinguished Teacher Award for outstanding instruction of blind children. The recipient was Evelyn Riggan, who works with blind children who are six and under, in the Portland, Oregon, public schools. The moment for which we had all been waiting finally arrived, and President Maurer came to the podium to make the 1988 banquet address, Preparation and the Critical Nudge. We have come to expect that the banquet address will (by turns) amuse, anger, sadden, and challenge us. President Maurer's speech did all these things, and more. It placed our ongoing struggle for justice, respect, and equality in the context of social and historical perspective. We who are blind, organized throughout the land, have the strength and purpose to change the course of history, President Maurer said, at least our own history. We believe that it is our responsibility to make it happen, and we accept the challenge with the full knowledge that the moving force is and must necessarily be the National Federation of the Blind. The banquet address is printed in full elsewhere in this issue.
The Friday program is traditionally the business session of the Convention. Dr. Jernigan made the financial report, and delegates looked hard at the funding challenges we face. Allen Harris, Chairman of the PAC (Pre-Authorized Check) Plan Committee, announced that as of the close of the convention, 1,201 people had joined the Pre-authorized Check Plan, an increase of 145. During the Convention fifty-one people signed up for the Deferred Insurance Giving (DIG) Program, bringing the value of those insurance policies to just under six and a half million dollars.
James Gashel, NFB Director of Governmental Affairs, reviewed legislative activity of interest to the blind during the past year and looked ahead to coming matters of importance. The remainder of the Friday session was devoted to consideration of resolutions and other business. On Saturday morning, July 9, the convention concluded with the Job Opportunities for the Blind (JOB) seminar.
And so the 1988 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind came to a close. The magic of the experience is still strong in those of us who were there. Truly it was the biggest and best Convention we have ever had. Many who came to Chicago, expecting to miss Denver next year because of expense, distance, conflicting schedules, or some other unimportant peripheral left vowing to be there even if they had to walk. If you have never attended an NFB Convention, you may not understand this attitude. If you have attended one, you do not need an explanation. So it is on to Denver a new year of challenge and hope; twelve months of opportunity to live our Federationism on a daily basis and make life better for the blind; and a Rocky Mountain, mile-high convention in 1989.
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
July 5, 1988
The past year has been one of astonishing growth and tremendous unity. Twelve months ago (at the time of my first report to you), I observed that the spirit of commitment and the harmony in the National Federation of the Blind had created a close-knit, powerful, effective force. Today, it seems to me that the dedication of our members and the determination we share are even greater.
We have often said that if the public understood the real meaning of blindness, much of the discrimination we face would be solved. However, public education (capturing the attention of over two hundred million people in America and raising their consciousness so that we as blind people are recognized as normal, productive, active, independent human beings) is no small task. Shortly after our last convention, the address delivered there by Dr. Kenneth Jernigan entitled Air Travel and the Blind: What is the Problem, What is the Solution was published in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and USA Today. With this one article, we reached over five million people. The text of Dr. Jernigan's remarks occupied at least a full page in each of these newspapers, and our message was not cut, rewritten, or edited to suit somebody's mythological image of what we as blind people are like. Rather, Dr. Jernigan's powerful and incisive commentary, charging the airlines with violations of federal law and discrimination against blind passengers, was carried without modification.
The reaction was immediate and overwhelmingly positive. Hundreds of letters and phone calls came in response. There were a few (a very few) hostile reactions primarily from the airlines themselves. But the vast majority of those who responded are with us. Perhaps the best way to capsulize the reaction is by telling you about a telephone conversation I had with a lady in Oregon. She told me that she had not been aware that blind people faced discrimination. She thought the behavior of the airlines was completely irrational, and she wanted to know how to help. She said something to this effect: If I had only known about this, I would have been prepared to do my part. But I had no idea. This lady's comments show that one of the principal tools of the airlines (the scare tactic) can only work if the public is prevented from having the facts. The more we write, the more we speak, and the more we act to bring this problem into the open, the greater will be our progress. Once the public understands, much of the discrimination we face will be solved. And, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and USA Today are only the beginning.
After this wide-spread publicity, dozens of newspapers and magazines and a number of interview programs sought information about blindness from the Federation. These requests continued to come in a growing crescendo. In May of this year one of the featured segments on the Travel Channel, a syndicated television production, was an extensive interview dealing with problems faced by the blind in air travel. I went to New York for the program. The person interviewing me was knowledgeable about the Federation and the irrational behavior of the airlines toward blind passengers. Our message of ability and independence the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind was carried nationwide to an estimated fourteen million homes. Last December I was invited to make a presentation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. I addressed faculty and students about the most serious problems faced by the blind. The remarks made by those who participated in the symposium were recorded for later broadcast on National Public Radio.
Then, there is the University of Chicago Law School. In March of this year that institution, well-known for its legal scholarship, hosted a presentation about blindness and the law. I carried the message of our Federation to that meeting a message of ability and independence. The response at Harvard and the University of Chicago was good. With every public service announcement on radio and television, with every newspaper article, and with every seminar and public appearance a few more individuals understand our situation a little better; and the discrimination which might have occurred will either not happen at all or at least be diminished. The influence of the National Federation of the Blind, along with our reputation for getting things done, has spread not only to every corner of this country but to other lands as well. During the past year we have had visitors at the National Center for the Blind from many parts of the world, including: Canada, Wales, Japan, Korea, Australia, and Spain. The president of the Swedish Federation of the Blind, accompanied by nine other members, stayed at the Center for two days. After examining the programs and philosophy of the Federation at our headquarters, these Swedish representatives of the blind traveled to Louisiana, where they met with leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana who are operating a center for the blind there. The beliefs of the Federation are not just theory or half-formed hopes. They work. They are practical. The National Center for the Blind in Baltimore and the Federation affiliates throughout the country are the tangible embodiment of the philosophy we preach and the progress we are making. Those who have come to visit during the past year have received not only a visible demonstration of our tangible accomplishments, but also a healthy dose of Federation spirit and philosophy as well.
And it is not just at the National Center for the Blind that things are happening, but everywhere in the land. Federationism is a living force, which is changing what it means to be blind. During the past year there have been seminars in state affiliates throughout the country, and we are also establishing an increasing number of training centers for the blind. Since our convention last year in Phoenix, we have started training centers in both Colorado and Minnesota. When these are added to the programs which we were already operating in Louisiana, New Mexico, and elsewhere; the impact is more than visible. It is decisive. Later in this convention these training programs will be discussed, but for the present let me only say that this is one more illustration of Federationism in action, of the quality of life for the blind being made better because of the National Federation of the Blind. A few weeks before Thanksgiving Dr. and Mrs. Jernigan traveled to London to attend meetings of the officers and Executive Committee of the World Blind Union. As president of the North America Region, Dr. Jernigan serves as an officer of the world organization. From that meeting we learned about legal complications which threaten to retard the development of computer technology incorporating a Braille keyboard. Furthermore, Dr. Jernigan was informed that there are those who propose substantial revisions in the Braille code. If some of their proposals were adopted, the current system of Braille would become obsolete. We cannot permit Braille to be redesigned out of existence, and we cannot allow spurious claims to stand in the way of inventors who are creating Braille keyboard computer devices. The National Federation of the Blind has taken steps to ensure that Braille is not killed in the name of progress, and we will not tolerate retarded development of Braille keyboard computer devices because of some legal sleight-of-hand. Of course, the major question considered at the London meeting was the future of the World Blind Union. What will that organization be? How much participation should the National Federation of the Blind have in it? Will the World Blind Union be dominated by unrepresentative minority groups, and what will this mean to the whole organization? The World Blind Union meets this fall in Spain. Dr. Jernigan will lead our delegation. After the meeting, we will be able more precisely to decide how much participation will be beneficial to our movement. We have been as active this year in dealing with civil rights matters in the courts as we have ever been. Douglas Lee is a resident of Springfield, Illinois. Last September he was beginning his third year at the University of Illinois as a computer engineering major. Doug received one of our Merit Scholarships in 1986. He thought he would use this scholarship, in the amount of eighteen hundred dollars, to buy a computer, which he needed for his studies. When rehabilitation officials in Illinois learned about the scholarship, they told Doug that he could not spend it as he wished. The counselor said that the money must be used for tuition and fees. Even though he needed the computer, agency officials told him that he couldn't spend his own scholarship money for it. Instead, they said he had to pay it to the college so that charges to the agency for the blind would not be as high.
Doug's gross income for 1986 was twenty-nine hundred dollars less than two hundred fifty per month. If he could not get the computer, Doug would likely remain untrained and unemployed. We helped him with an appeal, and I doubt that I need to tell you the result. Douglas Lee kept his eighteen hundred dollars, and he was not deprived of rehabilitation services because of it. If you consider the responsibility of the rehabilitation agency, and the massive amounts of money that are provided each year by the federal government and the states, you will easily understand why cases of this kind should never have to be brought. Those in rehabilitation are expected to find a way to help get people into school not keep them out of it. The purpose is to assist blind people to find employment not prevent them from having it. If Doug Lee had been fighting this battle on his own, the outcome would most certainly have been different. However, we will not tolerate shoddiness, covetousness, or bureaucratic Mickey Mouse. We believe that blind people should have an opportunity for a decent education, and we will not let the Illinois Department of Rehabilitation Services keep us from having the chance. That is why we have the National Federation of the Blind. Earlene Hughes is a blind mother, living in Delaware, with three small children. She asked for our help recently during a child custody dispute with her former husband. He was preparing to demand custody of the children because he is sighted and Earlene is blind. We got involved when a local social services agency began to insist that Earlene's fitness as a parent should be reviewed by counselors from the state agency for the blind. Working with Earlene's attorney, we convinced the social worker that relying upon a qualified expert (a professional who has been involved with blind people throughout the country) would be better. The social worker agreed, and the president of the Human Services Division of the National Federation of the Blind reviewed Earlene's situation and prepared a report for the court. The president of that division, Betsy Zaborowski, (incidentally a blind person) is a licensed clinical psychologist. The report we supplied to the court and the work we did with Earlene and her lawyer have been effective. The arguments about blindness did not work. Custody was not awarded on the basis of vision or the lack of it. Earlene's three children still live with her, and they will continue to do so one more reason for the National Federation of the Blind. Kristen Knouse is a totally blind champion equestrian competitor. She is a student at Rutgers University and a member of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association. Last spring Kristen took first place in her region and was slated to go to the national championship competition at Singing Wood Farm near Laurinberg, North Carolina. Only hours before she had planned to leave for the national tournament, Kristen was notified that the owner of the farm, where the competition would be held, was absolutely opposed to having a blind person participate. The Board of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association had been persuaded to agree. They said that Kristen could not ride. With the backing of the Federation (and because she is a spunky lady), Kristen went anyway. Hazel Staley, the president of the National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina, is a person to be reckoned with. When she learned that quick action was needed, Hazel picked up the phone and called Shelby French, the owner of the Singing Wood Farm. It was he who had persuaded Association officials to black ball Kristen on grounds of blindness. The conversation between Hazel Staley and Shelby French settled matters Kristen would be back in the saddle. She took fourth place in the national event.
As parents have grown to expect quality education for blind children, the problems in obtaining it in the public schools have increased. One example is the case of Darrell Shandrow in Tucson, Arizona. Darrell's mother Betty came to last year's convention on very short notice and learned that her son (who is blind) has certain rights guaranteed by law. Darrell was being educated at the Arizona State School for the Blind. Neither he nor his parents were happy with this placement. The educational opportunities at the school for the blind are simply not as great as those available elsewhere. So, he wanted to attend public school. Inasmuch as Darrell is an honor roll student, he felt certain that there would be no problem. But the school system made it clear that a blind student would not be welcome. The school for the blind is there for the education of blind children, they seem to say, so why should we bother? At the time of our last convention, there had been a hearing and two appeals. At each stage of the proceedings the decision had been unfavorable. We told Betty we would help her with further action. So we went to court. A suit was filed in the United States District Court for Arizona. That litigation has now been concluded. Beginning in September, Darrell Shandrow will be attending the public schools near Tucson. The school district (which had earlier refused to educate him) will be paying all of his transportation and education costs. Although it has been delayed, Darrell Shandrow will have an opportunity for a better education because of the work we have done. Another blind student is Charles Cheadle. His parents are known to Federationists throughout the country. Barbara Cheadle is the President of our Parents of Blind Children Division, and she edits Future Reflections, our magazine for parents and educators of blind children. John Cheadle works at the National Center for the Blind, in Baltimore. Their son Charles is ten years old. The public school system for Baltimore County has refused to teach Charles Braille. Furthermore, officials at the school not only refused to teach it, but even refused to discuss the matter. They reacted as though the thought of teaching Braille to a blind student with a little remaining vision was almost immoral. The philosophy of these officials, in the Baltimore County Public School System, is representative of the most negative beliefs about blindness. Of course, Baltimore County is not unique. This negative philosophy can be found in many school districts, and it is all too often evident in gatherings of professionals who are supposedly teaching the blind. They believe that Braille should be taught only as a last resort. They believe it even when print is clearly not working. And very often, they are not willing to be shown that their beliefs are inaccurate especially when those doing the showing are blind. An appeal to obtain Braille instruction and materials for Charles Cheadle is now being taken through the due process procedures available under Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. We intend to win that appeal, even if it means carrying the matter into the courts. We simply cannot continue to allow the schools in this country to deny literacy to our children. Sometimes the question is employment. Sometimes it is training. In this case, it is the right to read read which encompasses both and more. Although school officials would not verbalize it exactly this way, their argument is at the basic level. They don't think blind people are able to do anything worthwhile, so they believe that education for the blind is irrelevant. If they were honest enough to admit it, they think that blind people can't amount to anything anyway. Therefore, it is a waste of time to try to teach them. But of course, their understanding is completely at variance with the truth. Blind children are as bright, as capable of learning, and as productive as any other students. In the case of Charles Cheadle, we intend to make this clear. Those officials in the Baltimore County school system have something to learn, and we of the National Federation of the Blind intend to do the teaching. The power of the Federation, and the positive influence it has had in the lives of individual blind people is exemplified in our work on matters involving Social Security. Consider the broad picture. The Social Security Act has several unique provisions in both the Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs that apply only to the blind. They reflect the particular circumstances faced by those who become blind. These special rules have not been adopted by accident. Someone had to bring them to the attention of Congress and officials in the Social Security Administration. This task has been done (and done effectively) by members of the National Federation of the Blind.
Blind persons receiving Disability Insurance can earn up to seven hundred dollars per month (after allowed deductions) before their benefits are terminated or suspended. This earnings ceiling increases with the cost of living. Disabled persons who are not blind are limited to monthly earnings of no more than three hundred dollars. That amount has not increased in several years. Seven hundred dollars a month in earnings is not very much, but it certainly beats three hundred. Now we face a challenge. A report by a Social Security Disability Advisory Council has recommended that the earnings ceiling for disabled persons be raised to $490 per month and that the earnings ceiling for blind persons be lowered (that's right, lowered ) to the same figure. The idea, they say, is to achieve equity.
We have opposed the recommendation to lower the earnings ceiling for the blind. On May 26th, I appeared before the Social Security Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee. Among other things, I explained that the work incentives in Social Security should be increased, not lowered. Consider the blind who are age sixty-nine or older. For them there is no earnings limitation. This should be the case for all blind people. The restriction on earnings should be removed altogether. That would encourage blind people to work. The ceiling on earnings has the opposite effect. Those who are afraid that they might lose benefits stay home. This deprives them of income and prevents the employer from receiving the services of a productive worker. Seven hundred dollars a month in earnings is not much, and the Disability Advisory Council wants to cut it even further and they do it in the name of equity. However, the National Federation of the Blind is alert and ready to resist this recommendation. Our proposal would put blind people to work. That result is far more desirable than the situation which now exists, and it embodies a much more even-handed equity.
On another front involving Social Security, we have now formally proposed legislation to allow blind persons a choice of rehabilitation programs. By law Social Security pays for rehabilitation services provided to Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries. However, payments can only be made to state rehabilitation agencies. If you want Social Security help, your only choice is the state agency. Congressman Harold Ford of Tennessee is the sponsor of a bill which would change all that. He will be speaking at this convention later in the week. His bill is H.R. 4273. In that legislation we are proposing that blind people be allowed to choose public or private rehabilitation agencies. Each blind person would be free to design and pursue an individually chosen course of rehabilitation. There would no longer be a take-it-or- leave-it plan dictated by a rehabilitation counselor. With enactment of this proposal by Congress, we would be able to create the kind of client-centered rehabilitation service program which is most likely to be responsive to the needs of the blind. If we do our work well, we can make it happen. And when rehabilitation has changed, the reason for the alteration will be the National Federation of the Blind.
As usual, we continue to have our normal complement of Social Security cases involving overpayments, back payments, and the like. Joe Byard, a leader of our Maryland affiliate, was charged with an overpayment exceeding thirteen thousand dollars. Our research shows that he does not owe the money. We are helping with an appeal. The special provisions of law that apply to the blind and the expertise of the Federation will be present to assist in the proceedings.
Deborah Strother lives in Ruston, Louisiana. She filed a claim for Supplemental Security Income benefits in April, 1986. Included in the claim was a request for a plan to achieve self-support. The Social Security Administration ruled against her without considering her self-support plan. A hearing was held, and her claim was denied. That's when the Federation got involved.
Our contacts with the Social Security Administration, in Baltimore, were instrumental in this case. Deborah's circumstances had changed. She was clearly eligible for Supplemental Security Income even while she was appealing the denial of her prior claim. But Social Security would not accept a new application as long as she was appealing. We intervened, and Deborah got her checks. Then we went on to press the Social Security Appeals Council to order another hearing so that the plan to achieve self-support might be considered. We won that round, too. Deborah has now had her second hearing, this time with assistance from the National Federation of the Blind. Suzanne Bridges, in Louisiana, and Jim Gashel, in Baltimore, have worked together on this case. The decision should be issued shortly, and we expect it to be favorable. Deborah Strother should be paid the Supplemental Security Income benefits to which she is entitled back to the date of her original application. In this case (as in so many others like it) the outcome would clearly have been different had it not been for the existence, support, and involvement of the National Federation of the Blind.
Then there is the case of Jimmie Myers. He lives in North Carolina. We started helping with his Social Security claim about two years ago. Jimmie was not receiving Disability Insurance benefits at that time even though he was blind, not working, and fully insured. In other words, he met all of the requirements for a blind person to receive Disability Insurance checks. But the money was not coming. The Social Security Administration was not paying Jimmie because they said he had become ineligible several years earlier. They asked him to repay an alleged overpayment of fifty-four thousand dollars. First, we went to work to get his Social Security checks reinstated. When this was done, we started on the problem of the alleged overpayment. This part of the case is still pending, but we expect a favorable outcome there, too.
In case anyone doubts the value of our organizing and working together, perhaps the following facts about a Social Security case will help to put things in perspective. Because of the size of the monetary award in this instance, I will not disclose the name of the individual. However, the person who sought our help was a blind vendor. There are some special disability insurance provisions that apply to blind vendors. They have been described most recently in the May-June Braille Monitor . It pays to read the Monitor.
In this case the Social Security Administration alleged that there had been an overpayment of benefits in the neighborhood of six thousand dollars. Because of the alleged overpayment, checks had been stopped. When we looked at the case, we determined that the individual was still eligible and had been eligible for several years. We took an appeal, and we won. When people ask you what the National Federation of the Blind does, tell them about this blind vendor. The money that had been withheld by the Social Security Administration came earlier this year. The total amount is over one hundred fifteen thousand dollars. Steve Fort is a blind person living in California. He began receiving adult disabled dependent child's benefits from the Social Security Administration in August of 1971. In 1985 he was informed that, because of his work activity, entitlement to benefits had ceased in 1983 and that he had received overpayments in the amount of nine thousand one hundred ninety-two dollars, which he must now give back. In the initial hearings Fort was not represented by legal counsel or otherwise so he did not contest the fact of the alleged overpayments. Then, Sharon Gold (President of the National Federation of the Blind of California and of our lawyers division) became involved. As might have been expected, the judge has now ruled that there is good reason to believe that Fort was not overpaid, that he may still be entitled to payments, and that the matter must be reconsidered by the Social Security Administration. This case illustrates again the value of our collective action, joint effort, and specialized administrative and legal expertise. It was Jim Gashel's research and writings, coupled with Sharon Gold's courtroom ability and determined work, which tipped the scales in Fort's favor. The case is not finished, but it will be. We will follow it through to a successful conclusion, and the reason for the success will be the shared know-how and continuing work of the National Federation of the Blind. Justice for the blind is not simply a matter of getting the right laws passed or the proper amount of public good will. It requires constant work, collective action, a caring spirit, and a knowledge of when and how to do what. In short, it requires the National Federation of the Blind. We continue to work on vending cases. The arbitration hearing in the case involving Melvin Barrineau and the South Carolina Commission for the Blind has now been completed. Don Capps (our formidable president in South Carolina) has been instrumental in this case from the beginning and now serves on the arbitration panel. Peggy Pinder is the lawyer on the case. The South Carolina Commission for the Blind is requiring all of the road-side vendors (but nobody else) to sell the specific brand of soft drinks that the Commission dictates. Melvin believes that this policy violates the Randolph-Sheppard Act and is just plain wrong. We agree, and we expect a decision from the arbitration panel vindicating the right of blind vendors to operate their businesses independently and without arbitrary rules, restrictions, or limitations. Dennis Groshel is a blind vendor in Minnesota. He operates vending machines at the Veterans Administration hospital in St. Cloud. Last year the Veterans Administration threatened to terminate the vending facility contract that it had with the Minnesota state agency. This would have put Dennis out on the street with no business to run. We helped the Minnesota Attorney General's office bring a suit in the federal courts. Our efforts were successful. Almost exactly a year ago, an injunction was granted, and Dennis was protected.
During the past year we have continued to participate in proceedings this time before an arbitration panel. Jim Gashel is serving as one of the members. The Veterans Administration is claiming that all veterans hospitals (more than one hundred and fifty of them) are exempt by law from the Randolph-Sheppard Act. Therefore, the outcome of this case will have national significance. If we had not been organized to meet the challenge, the opportunities for blind vendors in veterans hospitals (opportunities worth several million dollars) would have been eliminated. But we are organized, we are knowledgeable about the rights of the blind, and we know how to take action. We will not let the rights of Dennis Groshel (or other blind people like him) be trampled or ignored. That is why we have the National Federation of the Blind.
There has been a great deal of activity relating to the airlines during the last year. At this convention there will be an extensive discussion of the rights of blind people to fair and equal treatment on the airlines. Because we will be covering it thoroughly later in the week, I will not review the details of our airline battle with you. However, I should note that federal officials, airline personnel, and many others are finally learning that the blind will not go away; and we will not be treated as second-class citizens. Although the battle has been hard, we do not stand alone. There are hundreds who have offered their support from airline pilots, to business executives, to members of Congress and senators, and to state attorneys general. The airlines have been big enough and brutish enough to have it their own way much of the time, but they have not understood clearly what we are or what we mean to do. The organized blind movement is absolutely steadfast and rock-solid determined. We welcome those who have come to stand with us in this fight for rationality and freedom. And we invite the airlines to do the same. If they refuse, they must be brought to recognize the equality of the blind. There is simply no other choice. Airline officials will deal with us on terms of equality. We have asked for no more, and we will accept no less.
One of our characteristics as a federation is that we never become discouraged, and we never give up. The Laurie Eckery case demonstrates exactly what this means. Laurie Eckery is one of our leaders in Nebraska. In 1977, (eleven years ago) Laurie applied for a job at the Bishop Clarkson Hospital in Omaha. Officials at the hospital wouldn't consider her because of blindness. So, Laurie filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights. It took the Civil Rights people several years to investigate and make an initial ruling. However, that decision was finally made. The letter of findings said that Bishop Clarkson Hospital had violated Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. But this decision was only the first step. The hospital said Section 504 did not apply to employment. When officials at Bishop Clarkson Hospital learned that they were wrong about this, they tried something else. Even if employment discrimination is prohibited by this law (they said), 504 is not applicable in this particular case. That argument too was settled early in 1988. After all of these delays, the case of Laurie Eckery is back on track. Recently the Office for Civil Rights declared that the hospital owes Laurie back pay. The hospital wants to settle for two thousand five hundred dollars. In view of the ruling of the Office for Civil Rights, this offer is ridiculous. We intend to try to recover the full amount owed, and we will take the matter to court if necessary. The decision of the Office for Civil Rights is that the full amount of damage for the discrimination practiced in 1977 should be paid. The amount due is over one hundred thousand dollars. The growth of the Federation can be seen not only in our activities throughout the nation but also at the National Center for the Blind. Our organization is large and complex. Despite our growth (perhaps because of it) most of our work is done by volunteers some of them at our headquarters, in Baltimore, and many more throughout the country. In order to accomplish all that we do, we must rely on volunteer help and the use of technology. There is an example of this in my own family. My wife Patricia is now spending almost full time at the National Center for the Blind on a volunteer basis, and much of her work involves the operation of a computer. We are heavily computerized with over thirty Leading Edge computers in use. They may be operated independently or combined to form a computer network. The network is jam-packed with centralized memory, high- performance printers, and other devices of the modern era. Approximately three-quarters of a mile of computer cable is used to connect the pieces. Without this machinery, and without the dedication of those who serve the Federation at our National Office and around the nation, we would not be able to produce the amount of work we have come to expect from the National Federation of the Blind.
Last year I reported to you that the volume of material we were handling had been increasing at a tremendous rate. Circulation of aids, appliances, and materials was up more than twenty percent over what it had been the previous year. During the past twelve months our growth has been at an even faster rate. Last year we circulated (for the first time) over a million items through our aids, appliances, and materials program. This year the number is over a million and a half. The remodeling at the National Center, which we discussed last year, to establish a substantial kitchen and dining facility, a Braille and Technology Room, a Records Management Center, and recording studios has been completed. Renovations are now being made to replace the elevators and upgrade the second floor. This work, along with other repairs, should be completed sometime before the end of the year. The facilities at the National Center for the Blind are already superior to any others available in work with the blind anywhere in the nation. When the elevators have been replaced and the second floor put into shape, we will have completed renovation of all the space in the main building at the Center. Because of the dramatic expansion of our programs, part of the space on the second floor will no longer be rented. Instead, we will use it ourselves. Last year we remodeled much of the area on the fourth floor of our building. Fifteen new offices were constructed. However, the challenges we face and the work we are constantly called upon to do has grown at least as fast as the physical facilities we occupy. Therefore, we must build at least some more office space in our building.
For the first time the Braille Monitor is being recorded in our own studios.
As I consider the Monitor, I am astonished at our progress as a movement. The Monitor continues to grow along with the Federation. In 1985 we were producing approximately eighteen thousand copies of our magazine each month. Today the number is approaching thirty thousand. Even with all of the legal cases I have outlined today, there are still others which should be brought. Which of the airline cases will break the pattern and signal the beginning of the end of discrimination against blind passengers? A few years ago the Albanese case shifted the balances for blind vendors throughout the nation. The lawyer handling that case was Bill Gleisner. Not only is his legal training very good, but his commitment to the movement comes from the heart. I am pleased to tell you that during the next year Mr. Gleisner will be handling legal matters at our national office.
The rate of our expansion is evident in all of the statistics (and in dozens of other ways). We have added more staff, built new offices, and expanded our programs with such rapidity that the rate of our growth is a source of real pride. The satisfaction we feel in our accomplishments means commitment. The National Federation of the Blind is the organization we make it. If we intend to multiply services and broaden our influence, we must be prepared to find the resources to meet the demand. Not only do we have an increased Monitor circulation, more aids and appliances, dozens of legal cases, and more technology available to the blind; but we also have all of the other programs we have come to expect as a matter of course. During the past year over seven thousand five hundred presidential releases have been distributed, and the Job Opportunities for the Blind program has issued more than twelve thousand JOB Bulletins. The Voice of the Diabetic, the publication of our Diabetics Division, has been sent to more than twenty-five thousand people. The American Bar Association Journal has been distributed through our national office by the National Association of Blind Lawyers. More than twenty-one thousand radio and television spots have been circulated for broadcast. Over ten thousand copies of Future Reflections, our magazine for parents and educators of blind children, are published for each issue of the magazine. And of course, there are newsletters from other divisions and affiliates throughout the country. Thousands of students have received the newsletter of our Student Division. Our scholarship program has reached more people than ever before; and the activities of our student members at Harvard, Yale, the University of Chicago Law School, Michigan State, and dozens of other institutions show the effectiveness of this program. Then, there is our work with members of Congress, our activities with the Social Security Administration, and our cooperative relationship with the Library of Congress. All of this and more makes up the daily program of the National Federation of the Blind. Ours is truly a large and complex organization, and we achieve astonishing results. However, as our activities become more diverse, we must not lose contact with the essentials. We are a people's movement. Our building, our computers, our expanded office space, and the rest of it are an indication of a trust. We must use that which has been given to us to make the lives of blind people better. And our activities must bring results.
Last March a call came to the National Office. It was reported that a woman, Betty Moore, who is eighty-three years old, had recently become blind. While she was in the hospital, her daughter came and asked Betty to sign a paper. The paper was a power of attorney. For some time Mrs. Moore remained completely unaware of nature of the paper she had signed. Only later did she learn that her own daughter had withdrawn all the money from her bank accounts and had put her house up for sale. When Mrs. Moore went to the courts of Ohio to seek retribution, the judge said that she was blind. He insisted that a guardian be appointed to take charge of her affairs, and he scheduled an examination to determine whether somebody should be put in charge of her. I was asked if the National Federation of the Blind could help. We could, and we did. The perceived image of blind people as incompetents was there in the courtroom. The result of this erroneous perception was that Mrs. Moore lost many thousands of dollars and almost lost her home. It was only saved at the last minute.
However, the view of blind people as helpless wards is demonstrably wrong. Our experience shows it, and our innermost beliefs about ourselves proclaim it. At my request Peggy Pinder began immediately with an investigation. Then we assisted in preparing for the legal battles. Already, a great deal of progress has been made. The tentative decision of the trial court judge that Betty Moore requires a guardian (not only for her property but also for herself) has been reversed. The misappropriated property must still be recovered, but there is no longer any danger that a misguided judge will authorize both the property and the person of Betty Moore to be handed over to the custody of a court-appointed guardian. Blindness may not be used as the means for somebody else to control our possessions and our lives. There has never been a time when this should have been permitted, and we will certainly not let it begin in 1988.
As I consider our progress during the past twelve months, I am proud of what we have done and how we have behaved. We have kept faith with the traditions of those who founded and built our movement with Dr. tenBroek, who brought the Federation into being; with Dr. Jernigan, whose wisdom and leadership continue to guide and strengthen us today as they have for almost forty years; and with all the others who have put their hearts into making the Federation the caring, determined, gentle, tough-minded organization it is. In my work I have felt the warmth and trust you have given me, and I have tried to behave in such a way that you would be glad you gave it. Sometimes my efforts have failed to bring the results that I hoped to achieve. But I have always tried to keep our mission and our goal clearly in mind. We in this organization have made a promise you as members, and I as President. No matter what comes, we will meet it with firmness and determination. We are stronger today, better organized, and more deeply committed than we have ever been. This strength and dedication is testimony to our members who have given whatever was needed and served whenever called. As I look ahead, I know that we will face challenges which will demand from us all the faith and judgment that we possess. However, I feel genuine security and peace, for I have come to know the members of our movement. We will not lose heart, and we will not fail.
Finally, let me say only this: I am deeply grateful for your goodwill and support. I need them. For my part, I will work as hard as I know how with all the resources that I have to ensure that our promise is fulfilled. That is my commitment and my report.
In 1988 the National Federation of the Blind established the Distinguished Teacher of Blind Children award. Mrs. Ramona Walhof, who chaired the selection committee, made the presentation at the convention banquet on Thursday evening, July 7. She said:
We have talked a lot about the education of blind children at this convention. We have talked about the problems and there are problems. But there are also teachers who are working to solve the problems. It seems appropriate for the National Federation of the Blind to recognize those teachers of blind children who are doing good jobs. For the first time this year the National Federation of the Blind has selected from all the teachers throughout the country one distinguished teacher of the blind. This is our way of recognizing and congratulating this teacher for optimistic expectation and tough instruction of blind students. In our culture teachers of blind children are still the role models for both the children and their families. The teachers have tremendous influence (whether for better or worse) on young children. As we do with scholarship winners, we bestow upon this teacher not only an award but also our greatest gift, ourselves and our Federation. We advertised for nominations and applications, and we received many. Some of you have heard from the woman we chose. She made a presentation earlier in the week at the meeting of the Parents Division, a presentation which was well received. She has attended as many of our meetings as she could this week. Sitting with the Oregon delegation, she has shared with us this convention. I urge you to get acquainted with our Distinguished Teacher. Evelyn Riggan works with children six and under, primarily in the Portland, Oregon, public schools. She has taught at three schools for the blind Utah, New Mexico, and Oregon. She has also taught in an itinerant program in eastern Oregon as well, and she is building a very strong program in Portland. The Distinguished Teacher of Blind Children Award includes a check for $500 and a plaque. The plaque reads: `Distinguished Teacher of Blind Children Award, presented to Evelyn Riggan for her outstanding dedication, service, and talent from the National Federation of the Blind, July 7, 1988.' Following this presentation by Mrs. Walhof, Evelyn Riggan spoke: It is indeed a pleasure for me to be with you. When I was contacted if my name could be placed in nomination for this award, I was told that I would need to share something about my philosophy of education, and I would like to comment very briefly on that to you.
I wrote something like this. The following are attitudes that I carry into my work with adults, with children, with the blind, and with the sighted. I believe that everyone has the right to be respected, to be curious and explore, to make mistakes, to laugh and have fun, to live independently, and to make choices. And along with rights come responsibilities. Everyone has the responsibility to take care of one's own self, family, belongings, and world to take the consequences of one's own actions and inactions to respect other persons' property and rights. It is the teacher's role, along with the family, to facilitate experiences, mold self-discipline, stimulate thinking, build a sense of self-worth, promote common sense, and provide instruction and skills to gain independence and self-sufficiency.
It was twenty-nine years ago that I met my first blind child when I was a regular classroom teacher in a fourth grade public school class. I think I had only seen two blind people before that time in my whole life. Jannie, who was my fourth-grade student, was expected to do everything that all the other kids do. She had already had Braille instruction. This was the fourth grade, period. She had her books, and she did very well. I have, of course, worked with many blind children since that time and my aims and my objectives are still the same.
It is with honor that I accept this award as a representative of all of the teachers who are committed to having our blind children become self-sufficient, socially assured, well-functioning adults in our community. Thank you all.
One of the high points of the 1988 convention of the National Federation of the Blind was the presentation of the Jacobus tenBroek Award, which occurred at the banquet on Thursday evening, July 7. Steve Benson, who is President of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois and who chaired the selection committee, said:
The Jacobus tenBroek Award is the highest honor which the National Federation of the Blind can bestow upon one of its members. It is presented only occasionally. Its recipients must demonstrate outstanding character. They must exhibit extraordinary leadership. They must be dedicated to our philosophy and to carrying out our mission the achievement of equality, security, and opportunity for all blind people.
The recipient of this year's award must (as Dr. Jacobus tenBroek did) extend himself or herself beyond the routine and do those things that in the long haul make a significant difference in the lives of blind people. Beyond that, the recipient of this award must love his or her fellow blind people. The Jacobus tenBroek Award Committee for 1988 has selected a person who meets these standards. This year's recipient is a leader a person who has earned national respect. This person has worked hard to carry our message to the public and to blind people. The 1988 recipient has been involved in the growth and development of local chapters and state affiliates all across the nation. Her (it is a woman) sensitivity, patience, quick wit, and aptness of thought are extraordinary.
She is one of us who was recruited in the 1970's. She takes seriously what she does within and for the NFB. She knows that what happens to blind people in California affects people in Louisiana, Minnesota, Florida, and Maine. Tonight's recipient of the Jacobus tenBroek Award sees her work in the Federation with a national perspective. I am speaking about a woman whose background is in education, vocationally and avocationally. College students acclaim her. State presidents revere her. Members cite her as an example of what a Federationist should aspire to become. The Jacobus tenBroek Award Committee for 1988 has selected as this year's award recipient a person who lives east of the Mississippi and north of the Mason-Dixon Line whose spirit and work on behalf of all of us transcend political and geographical boundaries.
Tonight I am pleased and privileged to present the 1988 Jacobus tenBroek Award to Jacquilyn Billey, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut. The inscription on the plaque reads :
National Federation of the Blind Jacobus tenBroek Award
for your dedication, commitment, and sacrifice on behalf of
the blind of this nation. Your contributions must be measured not in steps but
by miles, not by individual experiences but by your impact on the lives of the
blind of this nation.Whenever
we have asked, you have answered. We call you our colleague with respect. We
call you our friend with love.
July 7, 1988
Jackie, it's yours!
Jacquilyn Billey, who was taken completely by surprise, responded as follows:
Thank you so much, fellow Federationists. I had as much fun as everyone else trying to guess who they were talking about east of the River. I came to my first convention a few years ago, and I have been given many things by this organization. I have come to a place in my life where I can start to give back some of the things that have been given to me from the Federation. The time is right in my life to work harder than I have ever worked before. Thank you so much. Dr. Jernigan, who was master of ceremonies at the banquet, concluded the presentation by saying: Jacquilyn, if anybody ever deserved that award, you do.
The 1988 convention marks the fifth year in the expanded scholarship program of the National Federation of the Blind. Since 1984 the Federation has been awarding twenty or more scholarships each year to outstanding blind students throughout the nation. Each winner has received both a cash grant and a convention scholarship, enabling him or her to attend the NFB convention and learn first-hand about the Federation. Our 1988 convention in Chicago was by far the largest gathering of blind people ever to be held anywhere in the world. One of its most distinctive features was the high proportion of young people in attendance. Children, students, young professionals, and young men and women seeking work and ideas for careers all came in large numbers, plunged into convention activities, and added a zestful enthusiasm to the mix that was this year's convention. The scholarship chairman started counting. By the end of the week, she had found in attendance at the convention at least forty-four scholarship winners from the previous four years. These men and women are now moving into leadership positions in their local chapters, their state affiliates, and the national movement. Scholarship winners serve as chapter presidents; as state officers; as important organizers of affiliate seminars; as presenters at many division and committee meetings at the national convention; in leadership positions in the National Association of Blind Students; in innumerable jobs in the exhibit hall, the registration line, and the convention hall itself; as organizers of parties and fundraisers at state and national conventions; as associate recruiters, PAC contributors, and DIG policyholders; and in all the other roles necessary to make a grassroots organization staffed by volunteers from its own membership work smoothly, continuously and nationally.
Part of our history of the last four years has been written in the names of those forty-four men and women who are former scholarship winners. Some now work. Many continue their studies. All have committed themselves to making opportunity for their fellow blind men and women through the Federation. They stand for achievement. They stand for hard work. They stand with us in our march to the future that we will fashion for ourselves. Again this year the Federation presented a broad array of valuable scholarships. Here, in the words of its participants, is the presentation ceremony which occurred at the 1988 banquet:
Dr. Jernigan: One of the important things we do in the National Federation of the Blind is to present scholarships. The people who have received our scholarships in the past have gone on not only to make distinguished records for themselves but, as a group, they have also distinguished themselves in working in this movement and with their fellow blind. We have a good group of scholarship winners this year.
Peggy Pinder: Tonight it is my privilege once again to introduce to you the 1988 class of scholarship winners. This year's class, as Dr. Jernigan says, is an especially fine one. Their youth, both in age and spirit, are invigorating and exciting. Their questions, their commentary, and their reactions during this week have been enlightening and will serve as a spur to even higher achievement to all of us in the National Federation of the Blind. But, most of all, these twenty-six scholarship winners their aspirations and their firm intention to succeed stand for something fundamental to the National Federation of the Blind: the quality of hope.
Today, in convention session, we discussed illiteracy and unemployment, the twin shackles that the blind are trying to loose. Those shackles symbolize our past, but this convention and these winners symbolize our future and the real hope for blind people in this country.
These twenty-six men and women, taken as a group, stand out as achievers, as successes in their chosen fields of study, and predictably as successes in their chosen careers. It gives me great pleasure this year to introduce to you these twenty-six scholarship winners.
I will begin with the first class of scholarships, National Federation of the Blind Merit Scholarships. There are eight of these scholarships, each in the amount of $1,800.
Brian Mark Buhrow - California. Brian will be a freshman in the fall at the University of California at Santa Cruz, where he intends to study toward a degree in computer science. Brian intends to become a computer programmer.
Cara Ann Dunne - Illinois. Cara will be a freshman in the fall at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she intends to study foreign languages and international business, first at the bachelor's and later at the graduate level.
Dorothy Nani Fife - Hawaii. Dorothy will be a second-year graduate student at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. She is taking a graduate degree in special education and will teach special education children.
Claudette Fletcher - New Mexico. Claudette is currently in a master's degree program at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, where she plans to write a thesis on the subject of why counselors helping the blind never seem to get us jobs. After earning her master's degree, she intends to earn a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.
Carmen V. Necega - Florida. In the fall, Carmen will be completing her senior year at Florida International University in Miami, where she is earning a degree in social work, after which she intends to seek employment in the field of social work.
Michael J. Riley - Indiana. Michael will be a sophomore in the fall at St. Joseph's College in Rensselaer, Indiana, where he is taking a bachelor's degree in mathematics and business. Michael intends to be an accountant.
Darryl L. Thomas - Oklahoma. Darryl will be a senior in the fall at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, where he is studying criminal justice and journalism. Darryl is also considering a career in law or law enforcement.
Beth Watson - Maine. Beth will be an entering freshman in the fall at the University of Maine at Orono, Maine, where she intends to take a degree in biochemistry.
Before announcing the next award, I should remind you that we of the Federation are all collectively the donors of many of these awards, the ones entitled National Federation of the Blind Merit Scholarships. We are privileged to have in the audience with us tonight the donor of the Francis Urbanek Memorial Scholarship. This scholarship is in the amount of $1,800 and is restricted to a high school senior entering college in the fall. As a scholarship committee tonight, we are especially proud to give this award to a South Carolinian, also the home state of the donor.
April Jeffcoat - South Carolina. April will be a freshman in the fall at Newbury College in South Carolina. Her interests are many including the studying of education, the studying of journalism, the study of English, and the study of Spanish.
The next scholarship is the Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship in the amount of $1800. This scholarship is restricted to undergraduate students.
Heidi Michelle Sherman - Minnesota. Heidi will be a Sophomore in the fall at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, where she is studying Russian area studies and German. Heidi will be leaving shortly in about a week for a trip to Yugoslavia, where she will be serving as a guide and interpreter. We are also privileged this evening to have with us (and have had with us for the entire week) the donor of the next scholarship, the Frank Walton Horn Memorial Scholarship in the amount of $2,000. This scholarship is endowed by Cathy Randall's mother and stepfather in honor of Cathy's father, and we are especially honored to have those with us this evening who remember and honor his name through this scholarship. Cathy serves as First Vice President of the NFB of Illinois. The donors request that the scholarship be given, if possible, to someone interested in architecture or engineering.
Darren J. Haddeland - North Dakota. Darren will be a sophomore in the fall at the University of North Dakota at Grand Forks, where he is studying geological engineering.
We are also privileged to have with us (and have had with us for the entire week) the donor of the Ellen Setterfield Memorial Scholarship, a new scholarship this year, given by Roy Landstrom of Renaissance Agencies, Inc. This donor has restricted the Setterfield Scholarship to students at the graduate level in the social sciences. The Setterfield Scholarship is in the amount of $2,000.
John T. Bundy - Oregon. John is currently a candidate for his Ph.D. degree at the University of Oregon in Eugene, after which he intends to be employed as a clinical psychologist in a hospital or university setting. The next seven scholarships are also entitled National Federation of the Blind Merit Scholarships. Each of these is in the amount of $2,500.
Linda Goodspeed - Massachusetts. Linda is currently in the master's degree program in the College of Communications at Boston University, where she is studying medicine journalism. Linda has recently received a promotion in her employment to the position of senior editor at the magazine for which she works.
Kimberlie Fae Hoffman - South Dakota. Kim will be a sophomore in the fall at Trinity Bible College in Ellendale, North Dakota, where she is studying elementary education.
Sue Ellyn Premo - Wisconsin. Sue will be attending Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, in the fall, where she will be a first-year student in the graduate program studying toward a master's degree in public administration.
Esther Alexandra Rhee - Indiana. Alex will be a sophomore in the fall at the University of Chicago, where she is studying towards a degree in economics. She may then take a master's degree in business administration or possibly a law degree.
Victoria Renee Vaughan - Pennsylvania. In the fall, Vickie will be a first-year law student at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. Rosalind Wilcox - Iowa. Rosalind will be a first-year graduate student in the fall right here at the Art Institute of Chicago, where she intends to study toward a degree and later work in the field of art therapy.
Barbara (Bonnie) M. Zoladz - New York. Bonnie is a graduate student and intends to earn her Master's degree in clinical nutrition at Cornell University and then to earn a certificate as a registered dietitian. She intends to teach and counsel diabetic children and their parents in the management of the disease of diabetes.
The next two scholarships are both entitled Howard Brown Rickard Scholarships. Each of these two scholarships is in the amount of $2,500. The donor of these scholarships asked that they be given to persons studying in the fields of law, engineering, or the natural sciences in order to encourage blind people to go into areas that are not always thought of by the blind. I must say that, in the years I have been in the Federation, there didn't used to be a lot of us, but there are getting to be more and more and more.
Ralph Charles Brian Imlay - Missouri. Ralph will be entering his third year as a medical student at the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Kansas City, Kansas. His particular interests include organ donor programs and treatment of the victims of child abuse.
Eileen M. Murray - Virginia. Eileen will be a junior in the fall at Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Richlands, Virginia, where she is studying toward a degree in animal science. Eileen intends to be and you can count on it a veterinarian.
The next scholarship is the Hermione Grant Calhoun Memorial Scholarship, also in the amount of $2,500. This scholarship is restricted to female students only, and its donor (the late Dr. Isabelle Grant, who was a long-time member of this organization) is still remembered and beloved by many of us. The scholarship goes this year to:
Melissa A. LaGroue - Alabama. Melissa will be a freshman in the fall at Birmingham Southern College in Birmingham, Alabama. She intends to study for a B.A. and then a master's degree in education. She hopes to work in special education and also has an interest in music therapy. Again, I would remind you that the donors of the next three scholarships are in this room. They are three scholarships entitled National Federation of the Blind Merit Scholarships, each in the amount of $4,000.
John A. Miller - Nebraska. John will be a freshman in the fall at Stanford University in California, where he intends to take a degree in electrical engineering.
Jennine M. O'Reilly - New York. Jennine will be a second-semester senior at the State University of New York at Albany in the fall, where she intends to earn a bachelor's degree in business and marketing. She intends to earn a master's degree in business administration and work in the field of marketing.
Annee Worsham - Washington State. Annee will be a freshman in the fall at Whitman College, Walla Walla, Washington. She intends to study languages and hopes to become an interpreter. I understand she is thinking of studying Spanish and maybe Japanese. She also indicates that she'd like to be an ambassador one day, and you can count on that, too. Our final scholarship this evening is in the amount of $10,000. The scholarship is entitled American Brotherhood for the Blind Ezra Davis Memorial Scholarship and, again, many of the donors of this scholarship from the American Brotherhood for the Blind are here in this room this evening. I will first announce the name of the winner and as she comes forward, tell you a little about her. Keep in mind that this winner, the $10,000 scholarship winner, has also earned the privilege of speaking briefly to the entire convention.
Mildred Rivera - Pennsylvania. Mildred earned her bachelor's degree at Cornell University and is about to enter her third year of law school at the University of Pennsylvania. She is working this summer as an intern for a law firm in Los Angeles, and you can tell that they count on her. They keep calling, trying to find her here. But despite their calls, I can tell you that Mildred has been paying attention and actively participating in our convention this week. It is a great pleasure and a personal privilege for me to be able to introduce to you for a few words our Brotherhood scholarship winner of 1988, Mildred Rivera:
It is a great honor and a privilege to address the convention, Dr. Jernigan, and President Maurer. I think the one thing I can tell everyone here is what the Federation means to me. I can sum it up in one word. It means freedom freedom from oppression, freedom from prejudice, and freedom from our own fears. What Dr. Jernigan and President Maurer and all the Federationists in this room have done for all of us is to create a better country to live in, where we will have more opportunity. I knew that before I came here; I knew it. But I learned it in a different way as I came to the convention and met all of you wonderful people that live the Federation and the philosophy that we teach. I just want to thank you for teaching me that the philosophy is a reality.
I especially would like to thank my state president from Pennsylvania, Terry McManus, and I want again to thank all of you wonderful people. And, Mr. President, I'd like to say to you that you have my commitment and my word that this investment that you have placed in me will not be wasted, that I will do anything in my power to let the philosophy live and let freedom ring for the blind people of the United States of America.
Peggy Pinder: There you have them, ladies and gentlemen, our twenty-six scholarship winners. Scholarship winners, I have a few words to say to you. We have honored you this evening, and we have given each of you a cash scholarship. We have also given each of you a scholarship to come to this convention and the opportunity to get to know the Federation. I have something I want to say to you in closing our 1988 scholarship program. We have given you something much more than money. We have given you something far more valuable to us, something far more precious, something that took far longer to get, something we give, with free will and delight, to each and every one of you. We have given you our organization. This week we have given you our time. We have talked with you; we have worked beside you; we have laughed with you and partied with you. This week we have given you our knowledge about blindness and the way that this country can be made better for all blind people through the Federation. We have given you for forty-eight years our efforts to improve the lives of all blind people in this country. We have given you this week a treasure that we have treasured ourselves and hope that you also will treasure. Like you, the National Federation of the Blind works hard. Like you, the National Federation of the Blind achieves its goals. Like you, the National Federation of the Blind simply doesn't give up until we succeed. And like you, we are building for tomorrow.
We have built the Federation with each other, and we have built it with hope. We look forward now to building not only for you, but with you. We have built well. We are proud of the gift we give you. We offer you our organization with pride. Take it with pride. We offer it to you with love. Take it with love. We look forward with pride in our organization and you, and with love for all blind people, to building that future together that we are destined to share. Building it with you will make us all stronger.
Congratulations, scholarship winners, and we'll see you next year in Denver. Dr. Jernigan concluded the ceremony by saying: Congratulations to all of you scholarship winners. Both you and we are winners as a result of this day's activities.
An Address Delivered by
President, National Federation of the Blind
At the Banquet of the Annual Convention
Chicago, Illinois, July 7, 1988
Lord Bolingbroke once said that history is the teaching of philosophy by examples. Each historical figure is remembered for expressing in action a certain philosophy. The important moments in time have become significant because of actions taken by individuals which have represented specific points of view. However, those events which have helped shape the course of history have had more than one element. There are competing philosophies each seeking ascendancy. The educator Lewis Mumford wrote that in human experience there are singular moments when the merest nudge can move mountains and change the course of history. These points in time are critical, because it is only then that the balances between compelling, competing ideas alternate philosophies can be changed by concerted effort or individual acts of courage. At such times, as Andrew Jackson observed, one human being with courage makes a majority. These critical points in history do not occur by happenstance. They must be created deliberately, and with strenuous effort. A philosophy which has guided a government or shaped the mental processes of a social order cannot be fundamentally altered easily or simply. Regardless of the seeming spontaneity and suddenness of an event, no philosophy which competes with the established norm can be fixed in the hearts and minds of a society without an accumulation of advance preparation. Only with such preconditioning can a new social balance be reached. But after the old order has been sufficiently challenged that a new equilibrium has almost been achieved, a small choice (a simple decision or the lack of it) may determine the course of a life or the destiny of a people. Change ordinarily evolves over hundreds of years, but when a fundamental difference in the way we view the world comes quickly (even though necessarily with a considerable amount of advance preparation), the shift in our thinking is called revolution.
These principles apply not only to societies and governments but also to individuals and social movements as well. A change in direction often takes place not because the governing institutions have had a change of heart, but because the pressure brought to bear by individuals organized for collective action has added the necessary impetus. The critical point for the reordering of basic values is (regardless of appearances) never reached individually or spontaneously. The times are right for revolution only when individuals have organized to create the social climate which will permit it. Even when events follow one another with such rapidity that a fundamental alteration is made in a relatively short time, the causes can be found much earlier. Slavery was legal in the United States in 1861. Four years later, after a war had been fought, the Thirteenth Amendment (prohibiting slavery) had been ratified. However, the seeds of the change are discernible almost a hundred years earlier in the slavery provisions of the Constitution, adopted in 1787.
We express (each and every one of us) our philosophy in the actions of our daily lives. As a movement we declare our principles not only in the words we use but also in the steps we take to put those words into practice. The individual act contributes to the totality. The philosophy of a movement is a composite. It is the combined hopes and dreams of thousands of individuals but it is more than that. It is a shared ambition, a collective determination.
The philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind is simple and (at least we are sometimes told) revolutionary. We believe that blind people, organized throughout the land, have the strength and purpose to change the course of history at least their own history. We believe it is our responsibility to make it happen and we accept the challenge, with the full knowledge that the moving force is, and must necessarily be, the National Federation of the Blind.
The conviction that we the blind have not only the ability to determine our own future but also the right to do it the right to be the principal architects of the programs and activities which affect our lives is the very essence of our movement. It is the central thread which has run through the Federation from the day of its beginning. When the National Federation of the Blind came into being in 1940 under the leadership of Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, the doctrine of self-determination was an unquestioned given. This same spirit of independence has been the prime factor in the building of the Federation from the forties to the present. The faith (in fact, the certainty) that our own actions can dramatically change the opportunities available to us a faith and a certainty so eloquently proclaimed in the speeches of Dr. Kenneth Jernigan originally brought us together, sustains us today as a movement, and will give us the strength we need for the battles of the future. Without this unshakable core of belief and knowledge, we would cease to be the powerful movement which we are and simply become one among the many who attempt in this way or that to assist the blind. As it is, we are unique the strongest force in the affairs of the blind today. We are the National Federation of the Blind.
Implied in the thesis that we are responsible for our own destiny is an alteration in the traditional role of the blind. All segments of society the blind, agencies serving the blind, and the public as a whole are involved; and when we have completed our work, each of us (and each component of the social order) will be different. Some time ago I received a letter from a disabled graduate student who asked that I provide him with incidents involving disability and humor for a college research paper. His request said in part:
I am a graduate student at Arizona State University. At present I am involved in a research project and would appreciate your assistance. I am looking at the dynamics involved in humor and disability. I am seeking jokes, cartoons, or personal accounts about the experience of being disabled. Part of my interest in humor and disability stems from the fact that I have been disabled for twelve years. During this time I have found numerous situations in which humor has turned possible disaster into something I could put behind me. I feel that I cannot be the only one to use humor in such a manner and am asking others to share their experiences with me.
Perhaps the writer of this letter does not believe that the blind are a minority. One phenomenon associated with many minority groups is that the individuals comprising those groups often become the objects of humor. There are ethnic stories and racial slurs. There are also jokes about the blind. However, the humor is not really humor, and it demeans both the teller and the listener both the majority and the minority. It is always a put-down, and often an excuse. There are some who will argue that raising an objection to a little humor is overreacting. Surely, they will say, you would not want to be oversensitive. Those who are unable to find humor in a situation take themselves too seriously. Being able to laugh at yourself demonstrates a sense of inner security. Those who cannot do this are touchy, insecure, and without a sense of humor.
To which I say, nonsense! Let those who say that a little innocent fun at the expense of the blind is harmless (and perhaps even admirable) consider the program Saturday Night Live. On March 5th, 1988, this comedy show carried a skit depicting a blind man being interviewed about his blindness on a television talk show. This ostensibly humorous routine contains one of the most dismal and dreary accounts of blindness I have ever heard. Blindness is the overwhelming characteristic in the man's life. Nothing else really matters. Notice that in the midst of the gloom and the twisted mockery there is yet the positive language of hope which only makes matters worse. In the Middle Ages it was considered amusing to decorate blind men's heads with donkey ears and make them fight at county fairs. The ears are absent, but the jeering and public ridicule are still with us on Saturday Night Live. Here are excerpts from the broadcast. The dialogue begins with the talk show hostess:
`You've still had a fulfilling life, right?'
`Doing what,' the blind man replies, `listening? Listening to a sunset? Didn't they tell you, honey, I'm blind. Okay? Hello? Blind. Where are you? Can't see you.'
`I understand that. But given everything, isn't blindness just one more obstacle to overcome?'
`Yeah, right. I'll tell you what. Why don't you try it for about a day and a half?'
`I'm sure it's very challenging, but what about the positives? Your other senses are heightened, aren't they?'
`Oh yeah, yeah. They're great. I can smell a little better now. That really comes in handy on the subway every day. Not to mention the hearing, of course. Yeah. So let's figure this one out. Let's see, I can hear crickets chirping a little louder than you can, and you can see? Yeah, that sounds fair. That's a fair trade-off. Thanks, God!'
`You're a little bitter, Hal. No doubt about it. But you haven't let this stop you from leading a normal life.'
`Well, yeah, I'm pretty much dead in the water, I'd say. Mostly I just hang around the house and drink a lot of beer. That's about it.' `You know something? You're a horrible man. Do you know that? A few weeks ago we had a blind horseshoe pitcher, and he was just wonderful.'
[Here the talk show hostess breaks into tears.] And then we had a blind sky diver, and he always managed to adapt, and he got out there in the world.
`Well they're insane. Okay, honey? They've got no grip on reality. Guys, you're blind, okay? Calm down. Stop embarrassing the rest of us. I don't understand it. What do you people want from us, anyway? Do you want us to perform for you! Is that it? I'll tell you what. Why don't I just do a little dance for you! Blind man dancing. Okay, is that good? All right. I'm sorry. I'll think of something to say that's nice for blind people. Okay? Something like, okay, if you go blind, it's not so bad. You get a nice tax thing, a little deduction there, and oh yeah, you can look right at an eclipse. That's no problem.'
That is what millions of people heard and saw less than six months ago on Saturday Night Live; and far from being funny, it is disgusting; it is sick; and it is a straight-out lie. Blind people (we are told) get a tax deduction. We drink a lot of beer and sit at home. Even those of us who are successful (a success, it should be noted, which betokens insanity) have only been able to succeed by engaging in some sort of recreational pursuit. The responsibilities of citizenship, the participation in community activities, and the holding of a job are not even considered. If this is what passes for humor, forget it. If this is what we are supposed to cultivate to prove we are adjusting, we will remain unadjusted and write a new script. We don't control the air waves; but we recognize a lie when we meet one, and we also know enough to avoid being conned into being satisfied with second-class status on the grounds that we have a duty to demonstrate a so-called sense of humor. Again I say, forget it! We have put behind us the donkey ears of the Middle Ages and the donkey tails of Saturday Night Live. We have thrown off the pathos and bitterness, the dejection and gloom, and the passive docility which have traditionally been expected of us.
Instead, our mood is one of hope, accomplishment, and the joy of discovery. We know that with reasonable opportunity we can compete on terms of full equality in society, and we also know that with reasonable opportunity the sighted can come to accept us for what we are.
What is required is a redirection of public attitudes and beliefs and remarkable as it may seem, one of our principal areas of effort must be with the very governmental and private agencies which have been established to help us do the job. The sad truth is that the agencies often have worse attitudes about us than do the members of the general public. They portray us as helpless and inept. An issue of the Journal , a District of Columbia newspaper, tells of a teen-age girl who wanted to help the blind. Influenced perhaps by the attitudes of those who work at the agency where she volunteered, she decided to write a cookbook for the blind. Sometimes misconceptions about blindness are veiled and hidden, but not this time. This is the way the article describes her work:
Cooking hurts when you're blind. It is a vexing daily chore for America's eleven and one-half million blind and visually impaired populations, according to the American Foundation for the Blind. For many of them, it is a frustrating and defeating stumble around the kitchen for sustenance conducted dimly or in total darkness by people who long to be as self-sufficient as the rest of sighted America. That's why seventeen-year-old Elizabeth Warshawsky plucks our heart strings with the recent publication of her Braille and large-print cookbooks for the blind.
The high-school student from Shaker Heights, Ohio, took two years to write and design her cookbook, only part of a busy schedule of study and volunteer work at her local Society for the Blind.
[The article continues with quotes from the student.] `I couldn't get The Miracle Worker out of my mind,' said the high school senior, in a telephone interview. `I saw the movie in the second grade, and it changed me. It made me see how we could help the blind by just taking some time to think about them, to work with them a little.
`So [the article continues] in ninth grade this idea comes to me,' she explained. `I saw how the blind people I volunteered for had such a terrible time with food. It's so frustrating and dangerous in the kitchen for them; they solve the problem of eating by getting into a rut, sticking to apples, lunch meats, and sandwiches; and malnutrition is a real problem for many of them.
`But what really excited me,' she recalled, `was all this new food that can be easily prepared, food that is nutritious and hot, the kind of foods blind people once had when they could see.'
So the article says, and it is hard to know how to respond to such a messy mishmash of misinformation. Has this student really met blind people? What influences were brought to bear to teach her that the ordinary kitchen is for the blind a dangerous and frustrating place, a veritable minefield of terror and booby traps? How did she conclude that malnutrition is a serious problem for those of us who are blind? Did the local agency for the blind (reinforced by the American Foundation for the Blind) give her the impression that blind people stumble around the kitchen, feeling defeated? No matter how it came to be, the misunderstanding of blindness has now been learned. A book has been written containing the most blatant misrepresentations about blindness. Opportunities which might have been available will never be and it has all been done in the name of helping the blind. Instead of this half-baked collection of underdone ideas, we prefer reality and a more positive view of our prospects and possibilities. We reject this gloomy assessment, along with the bitterness and blight traditionally associated with blindness. Rather, our mood is one of hope, accomplishment, and the joy of discovery. We believe that we who are blind, organized throughout the land, have the strength and purpose to change the course of history at least our own history. We believe it is our responsibility to make it happen and we accept the challenge, with the full knowledge that the moving force is, and must necessarily be, the National Federation of the Blind.
A company calling itself Safe-E-Scape of Tampa, Florida, writes to tell us that it has devised a set of burglar bars, which are most appropriate for the blind. These bars, which fit on the inside of the window, have a locking mechanism, which is opened without a key. In writing to me Safe-E-Scape says: We feel that this product can be very important to blind people everywhere and of every economic and social level. We are, of course, a for-profit concern and are first seeking customers who (we feel) most need and will best accept our product. That is what they say, and I ask you: Why are these burglar bars particularly appropriate for the blind? Why more for us than for others? Are we less able to protect our property than the ordinary sighted citizen? Is there a concerted effort by criminals to seek out the homes of the blind? As far as I know, the property of blind people is not more valuable than the property of the sighted. Or, is the reason for selling this product to the blind contained in the fact that there is no key? If the blind are more helpless than others, there is a need for greater protection. But the very helplessness of blind people contains inherent disadvantages. Those who are helpless may misplace a key (or worse still) may not be able to use it even if it is not lost. These notions are all contained in the advertisement for the special burglar bars for the blind.
And they are also contained in a bill considered by the House of Delegates of the 1988 Maryland General Assembly. The bill (which embodies the inherent assumption that the blind and other so-called vulnerable groups need special, segregated laws to protect them) was entitled An Act Concerning Crimes Against the Elderly and Vulnerable. The language of this legislative measure leaves no doubt as to what is meant by those who are vulnerable. It says, in part:
The maximum sentence allowed by law for commission of any crime of violence may be doubled for commission of that crime of violence against a person who is: (1) 60 years old or older; (2) Blind; (3) Paraplegic; or (4) Quadriplegic.
According to this bill, if you are blind, you are more vulnerable (in fact, twice as vulnerable) to crimes of violence than other people are. But our experience teaches us otherwise. Blindness does not mean that keyless burglar bars or extra legal protection is required. We are able to live in the world as it is. I am pleased to say that the bill for the vulnerable died in the Maryland legislature. The views of the Federation helped kill it, and we hope that the misunderstandings about blindness which it represented are also on the way to being killed. In our organizational efforts and our daily activity our mood is one of hope, accomplishment, and the joy of discovery. We believe that we who are blind, organized throughout the land, have the strength and purpose to change the course of history at least our own history. We believe it is our responsibility to make it happen and we accept the challenge, with the full knowledge that the moving force is, and must necessarily be, the National Federation of the Blind. Traditionally those who seek to tell the story of blindness exaggerate and distort. They tell us that blindness alters the mental processes that we who are blind are characterized by heightened sensitivity, extreme joy, and deep gloom. There is, for instance, the report some time back in People Magazine concerning a blind child who became so depressed while attending a school for the blind that he forgot how to smile. He had to be taught how to move his face.
However, as we know from our own personal experience, blindness and depression are not necessarily synonymous. Nor (as we can testify) does blindness carry with it some of the other peculiar results, weird side effects, and odd-ball associated characteristics which some have claimed. In the book And There Was Light by the blind author Jacques Lusseyran, we find this astonishing passage: Shortly after I became blind, I felt indescribable relief, and happiness so great it almost made me laugh. Confidence and gratitude came as if a prayer had been answered. I found light and joy at the same moment, and I can say without hesitation that from that time on, light and joy have never been separated in my experience.
To which one is tempted to respond: Yuk! One blind person could not move his face; the other felt relief and happiness. The only way I know to reply to such fantasy is by calling on the poets. If memory serves me, James Russell Lowell said something to this effect:
Here comes Mr. Poe with his raven,
Like Barnaby Rudge;
Three-fifths of him genius,
And two-fifths sheer fudge.
I would agree with Lowell, but I would change the ratio. National Industries for the Blind, the agency which distributes millions of dollars worth of government contracts to sheltered workshops for the blind, has recommended that a special sandpaper-type material be attached to the floor in buildings where blind people walk. The blind (or so National Industries for the Blind apparently believes) cannot effectively get around by any other method and should follow the sandpaper to find their way. Then, there is the opinion of a researcher into low vision, reprinted some time ago in an issue of the Architectural Record . As you might expect, the findings of this researcher are couched in terms of architectural barriers. However, the conclusion reached is, to say the least, astonishing.
One of the most difficult architectural barriers faced by partially sighted persons [the publication says] is locating a rest room in a public building and determining whether it is for men or for women. This problem can be easily solved by affixing panels to rest room doors in such a way that visually impaired persons can readily identify the facilities. Those on men's rest room doors should be an equilateral triangle with a vertex pointing upward, and those on women's rest room doors should be a circle. The edges of the triangle should be one foot long, as should be the diameter of the circle, and all panels should be one-quarter inch thick. The color and gray value of these geometric figures should be distinct from the color and gray value of the doors. [I interrupt to ask you to disregard the hidden Freudian pornographic symbolism contained in this treatise and to say that there are other (possibly even better) ways of determining which bathroom is which. But back to the article.]
If this were done [it continues] even the totally blind could touch the edge of a panel and easily determine whether it is straight or curved.
As I ponder this report, I confess to a certain curiosity. Are the geometric shapes intended to represent the people involved men triangular with straight edges, vertex pointing upward; and women circles with lots of curves? It is embarrassingly suggestive. Let me simply leave it at this: although it is often important to find a bathroom, most blind people seem to manage; and I believe it is a foolish and overdramatic exaggeration to describe the matter as one of the most important problems faced by the blind. Shortly before last summer's National Federation of the Blind convention an item appeared in the Honolulu Advertiser which declared that there are characteristics of blindness which are advantageous in marriage. Here is the item in full:
Marriages among blind people last longer statistically than marriages among people with good eyesight. Or, so our Love and War man has been informed. He doesn't doubt it. It's common knowledge that the blind tend to be better lovers than the sighted. For two reasons: 1. It's quite comfortable for them to communicate with their hands. 2. And, they make love with inner visions of each other, which remain forever as they so desire.
So there you have it. You may have been under the impression that blind people were just like everybody else except that we can't see. Not so! We have the ability to communicate with our hands and besides, there is that special inner vision which we conjure up when making love. When reading this piece of so-called news from the Honolulu Advertiser , I wondered where the reporter got his information. In my experience with thousands of blind people (some of whom have attended conventions of the National Federation of the Blind), I have reached the conclusion that the mating patterns of the blind do not vary substantially from those of the larger society. Let any reporter interested in field testing come to this gathering of blind people from throughout the nation. I suspect that the research will show that we have about the same experience (and the same attributes) as others just as loving, just as bad, just as wonderful.
The Queen's University of Belfast has a program for teaching the blind about dentistry and oral hygiene. There is even a kit with models and tape recordings. The brochure has this to say about the course.
The Queen's University of Belfast Touch Tooth Kit has been developed by the Department of Pediatric and Preventive Dentistry within the University. It is a complete dental health programme for the visually impaired.
It includes the smells and sounds of the dental surgery, large models for the student to feel what he is learning, and a complete set of Teachers' Notes to lead them through an up-to-date programme of dental health education.
Why anyone would want to experience the smells of dentistry without being compelled to do so is something I can't understand. Why a university should think that blind people need the sound of the dentist's drill, the spicy aroma of tooth decay, and the feel of a deteriorating molar is beyond comprehension. Perhaps the designers of this course have concluded that the psychological stresses for blind people have been too great. Consequently, they may have decided that the blind are abnormally interested in the bizarre. How else can the existence of this dental education program for the blind be explained? Why is the ordinary dental hygiene program not enough? Most of the blind people I know have teeth, and the toothbrush is not an unknown quantity. I venture to say that blind people are as aware of dental hygiene as the sighted are. If the message were not so destructive, it would be amusing. The basic assumption is that blindness necessarily means diminished ability, that we do not have the capacity to learn with the ordinary tools in the usual way. As with so much else, we reject this assessment. Rather, our mood is one of hope, accomplishment, and the joy of discovery. We believe that we who are blind, organized throughout the land, have the strength and purpose to change the course of history at least our own history. We believe it is our responsibility to make it happen and we accept the challenge, with the full knowledge that the moving force is, and must necessarily be, the National Federation of the Blind.
Agencies for the blind have been established to provide services to blind people. However, the actions of the officials of some of these agencies frequently represent the most difficult problems that we face. It is unfortunately too often true that the agencies established to serve the blind create more problems than they solve more than would have existed if they had never been there at all.
Last year a supervisor in the vending program of the Division of Eye Care of the Department of Human Services of the State of Maine sent a written directive to all blind vendors in the state expressing her opinion that the blind are not only incompetent but at least as immature as small children.
Here, in part, is what she said:
It has come to my attention recently that some of you are not aware of the guidelines for operators regarding dress and hygiene. Although this is not a formal dress code, excessive deviations deemed by the program supervisor to be detrimental to the image which we want to convey of viable small business people in the community will be noted and may become part of a corrective action procedure. [I interrupt to say that this portion of the document seems clear enough. There is no formal dress code. However, if you do not follow the informal dress code, action will be taken against you. But back to the text.]
Jeans are permissible as long as they are in one piece, clean, and fit properly. [Again, I ask: Why were such instructions given? In the vending program, blind vendors are supposedly operators of independent small businesses. Is it proper for a state official to send a memorandum to licensed vendors telling them to wash their jeans? What does it mean if a state official thinks it is necessary to instruct an entire class of people that the pants they wear should be in one piece? These are the directions ordinarily reserved for small children or the mentally defective. However, this is not all that the state of Maine thinks should be addressed to independent blind vendors in its program.]
Clothes should, of course, [the document continues] be clean and complimentary. Beyond that, the clothes you are wearing should not be provocative in any way, by this I mean that there should not be a lot of bare skin showing (shoulders, low necklines, et cetera), fit should be good without being tight, proper undergarments should be worn, midriffs should not be bare. We are operating public businesses, not the bar at the country club. I already mentioned [this official continues] that clean hair (washed several times each week) is essential. Hair style should be attractive and neat, whether long or short. This means that regular hair cuts are expected, no matter what style you've chosen. Facial hair is acceptable as long as beards and mustaches are trimmed and clean. Men should shave every morning unless they can demonstrate that their facial hair growth is not visible over longer periods.
In order to eliminate unpleasant body odors, [this supervisor's letter goes on] a shower or bath each day and the use of deodorants is imperative. Hands should be washed with soap and water frequently and fingernails must be clean. Most people need to wash their hair at least every other day, especially in this type of environment.
Remember that this state official is talking to people who are supposedly operating their own businesses. Although much of the substance of her directive is objectionable, the primary problem is in the tone and the spirit. Of course, one should wash one's hands and wear clean underwear, but the condescending tone of the order is intolerable. Is it any wonder that the blind of the state rose in condemnation of such statements? Within a few weeks the directive of the vending supervisor was rescinded. The reason for the change is not hard to find. The members of the National Federation of the Blind of Maine had taken concerted action and had said, Enough! The result is indicative of what is happening throughout the country. Our mood is one of hope, accomplishment, and the joy of discovery. We believe that we who are blind, organized throughout the land, have the strength and purpose to change the course of history at least our own history. We believe it is our responsibility to make it happen and we accept the challenge, with the full knowledge that the moving force is, and must necessarily be, the National Federation of the Blind. Sometimes there are incidents which underscore with dramatic force the urgency of the work we do and the magnitude of the task still left for us to accomplish. Recently a person flying from Baltimore to Indianapolis on USAir, found a paper attached to his ticket. It said unaccompanied child. Written across the face of the document was the word blind. There were spaces on the form to indicate who would be responsible for the traveler, both at the origin and destination of the flight. The person flying that day was the president of the National Federation of the Blind. I was that person. I had been classified automatically in the same category as small unaccompanied children. Less than two months ago a totally blind woman, Shelia Marque, called to ask for the help of the Federation. She has been blind for less than a year. Her husband is a custodian at the First United Methodist Church in Chanute, Kansas. The Marques live in the country with their three children, and Mrs. Marque is a student, studying elementary education, at a nearby college.
Although she has qualified for student teaching, there has been no placement. Faculty members at the university tell her that it is not possible to find a teacher willing to work with her.
Sometimes Mrs. Marque rides into town with her husband. While he performs custodial duties at the church, she explores the town and practices with her cane. When the travel is finished, she returns to the church to wait for her husband to complete his tasks. Mrs. Marque called because of what happened to her when she wanted to attend a funeral in the church. She was told by officials of the church that she should not be in the building because it was bad publicity to have a blind person on the grounds. She called us to ask if someone could do something about this discrimination. As she said, I have been blind for less than a year, and all I have faced are setbacks. And where, one wonders, shall the blind worship if not at church? Where, indeed! What a picture! The blind are ridiculed on Saturday Night Live. We need separate burglar bars and cookbooks. There should be special laws to protect us. We forget how to smile and must be taught to move our faces or alternatively, we smile constantly and are surrounded by light. We must have sandpaper on the floor to guide us, and circles and triangles on the bathroom doors to intrigue and inform us. We must be told when to change our underwear and wash our hands. We need to be taught the smells of the dentist's office. We make good lovers because we know how to use our hands and have inner visions. And finally, we are not even permitted to come to the church. Is this a picture of gloom and despair? Not at all. We are better off today than we have ever been before. We recognize the prejudices and misconceptions which we face, and we are organized to do something about them. The fact that we understand and catalog does not mean that we feel bitterness, defeat, or despair. When we identify these injustices and bring them into the open, the very fact of doing so begins the process of change and improvement. Yes, many of the governmental and private agencies are negative in their outlook and are still mired in the past, but others (a growing number) are working with us in progress and partnership. And increasingly throughout the country we are establishing training programs of our own to serve as models and touchstones.
Likewise, although the media and the public at large are still characterized by outworn notions and lack of information about the true nature of blindness, the progress toward enlightenment and change has been amazingly rapid, and it continues at an accelerating pace. More people today are with us than against us, and the balances are constantly shifting in our favor. Invariably when the press and the public understand, they are with us. But we do not need to rely on logic and statistics to see what we are achieving. Look about you! Never before in the history of the world has such an assemblage as we have in this room tonight been brought together. In the presence of this determined, united multitude, can you doubt our ultimate success? In the final analysis our future will be what we determine it to be what we are willing to work, plan, and sacrifice to make it be. We can ask for no more, and we can accept no less.
There are critical times for a nation, a social order, an individual, or a movement times when a nudge or a single act can make the difference. But no such critical time has ever occurred without extensive advance preparation. The final act may precipitate the event, but the act cannot occur without all of the others which went before it. Which step is more important the first or the last? The answer, of course, is that neither is more important. Both must be taken for either to be significant or at all memorable. And there are also the steps between the ones we are taking now and have been taking through all of the years since the National Federation of the Blind was established. Changes in the social fabric can only be made after individual effort has created the climate and prepared the way, and in the complexity of present society individual effort is lost unless it is joined in concerted action. This is a lesson we have learned well and we have also learned the value of the first step, and patience, and the long view. And something more! We have come to understand the importance (indeed, the necessity) of knowing when to refuse to wait, when to reject patience, when to say no to delay the courage and judgment to insist that freedom and opportunity must be now, not tomorrow! All of this comes with the maturing of a movement, and every movement must either mature or die. We have no intention of dying. Rather, our mood is one of hope, accomplishment, and the joy of discovery. We believe that we who are blind, organized throughout the land, have the strength and purpose to change the course of history at least our own history. We believe it is our responsibility to make it happen and we accept the challenge, with the full knowledge that the moving force is, and must necessarily be, the National Federation of the Blind.
The philosophy of our movement is expressed in the individual actions of each of us and make no mistake! Act we will! Our prospects have never been as bright; our determination has never been as strong; and our goal has never been as clear. My brothers and my sisters, let us march together to the future!
In 1986 board members of the National Association of Blind Educators, a division of the National Federation of the Blind, voted to establish a Blind Educator of the Year Award. The idea seemed sound. When all the applications started pouring in, it was abundantly clear that there are many, many excellent blind educators in this land of opportunity for all. Blind educators are working from the preschool arena to the graduate level in universities. Not only are the blind teaching, but we are also administering, working as teacher aids, and participating in all areas of education. In 1987 Pauline Gomez was chosen as the first Educator of the Year. Miss Gomez was looking for work during World War II and soon realized that, with many women working and no adequate child care available for many working mothers, she should start one of the first preschools. Pauline wondered how parents would feel about leaving their young children in the hands of a blind woman, for the blind had not taught the sighted before this time in New Mexico. Parents had known Pauline, and they had no fears, so she took one room in her house and began her school.
As time passed, many parents wanted their preschool children taught by Pauline, so she was forced to add an addition to her home to accommodate all the children. Then, Pauline had to hire other teachers to assist with the overwhelming number of new children. Pauline was in the position of having to educate the new teachers in her methods of teaching while at the same time doing all of the administrative tasks involved in building, maintaining, and operating a school.
The National Association of Blind Educators awarded Pauline the first award, for she demonstrates to all the world that a blind person can, indeed, be exceedingly capable.
The second Blind Educator of the Year award was given in 1988 to Fred Schroeder. Fred trained as an elementary teacher, a teacher of the blind, and is presently working on a Ph.D. in the field of education. Fred began his career as a cane travel teacher. He was one of the first blind persons to hold this job, since some professionals in the field of work with the blind feel that the blind cannot teach the blind the use of a white cane. Fred proved them all wrong. Some years later a job opened up in his home town. In this job he oversaw the education of blind children in the public school system.
The results of his labors are on many slides for all to see his excellent work. Because the blind children all learned Braille and the skills of the white cane, they thrived, both in and out of school. With these skills and the confidence in their abilities as blind children, they were able to compete on terms of equality with their sighted peers.
For many years there had been talk that Fred's state needed a commission for the blind. With work from the New Mexico affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind, the commission is now a reality. Fred Schroeder is the director. Now, all the blind in his state have the chance to learn the skills which will allow them to succeed.
We in the National Association of Blind Educators congratulate these two excellent educators, for with their fine work they are showing the world that, with the skills we teach in the NFB and great self-faith, opportunities for the blind are boundless.
Who will be the next, the third, Educator of the Year? Only time and 1989 will answer that question. But thanks to the long, hard work of Dr. Jacobus tenBroek and Dr. Kenneth Jernigan and many others, the blind have the chance to participate fully in the field of education.
by T. V. (Tim) Cranmer
Let's hear it for Braille! Hurrah! Hurrah!
If you are among the thousands of satisfied Braille readers who think the best thing to do about Braille is sing its praises and urge everyone else to do the same, if you are under the impression that nothing is wrong with the Braille we have and we had better let well enough alone, then you could be asleep at the switch. While you have been relishing your reading, our good-intentioned keepers in the establishment have been making mischief with the Braille codes, with the result of creating a Braille babel you may rather not know about. Take a look at where we are today in the world of Braille codes, and you'll see why NAPUB (the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille) and prominent individuals of all persuasions are beginning to speak out for intelligent improvements.
The first thing to recognize is that, like it or not, Braille has always been more than a little unstable. Braille symbols and rules for their use have been adopted from time to time. The details of the big and little changes made to the codes in the last fifty years I leave to the others to report. History may be important to an understanding of the present, but it is not a talent of this writer to examine the history of Braille. More to the point of this article, I call attention to the present Braille dilemma:
It is no accident that I feel the necessity of using the plural when I talk about Braille today. That is because we no longer enjoy a single reading and writing tool based on an alpha-numeric system that can be referenced by the single word Braille. We have managed to fragment our most valuable communication tool into (among others) literary code, mathematics code, computer code, textbook code, and (with less formal adoption) magazine, poetry, and other formats. None of these codes is sufficient for use in writing about everything of interest to an educated lay public. Some may argue the point, but the fact is that the Braille Literary Code, the fragment of greatest interest to most of us, is woefully inadequate for transcribing into Braille such general interest publications as the Wall Street Journal, Science News, the Reader's Digest , or the daily newspaper. Furthermore, attempts to produce these and many other materials in Braille today require those publishers who undertake to produce our books to translate the printed page into a special language, wherein print symbols are interpreted into English words inserted into the text. The best known example of this nonsense is the spelling out of words like plus, minus, and equals , when these symbols are shown in print. People in my age group still think of the Braille en sign as plus and the Braille in sign as minus. Not so anymore. The fact is, the Literary Braille Code, which is used to emboss most of our Braille material, does not include characters for these and several other symbols that would be required faithfully to emboss Braille editions of the magazines I have mentioned. Of course, I know the plus, minus, and equals signs are available in the Nemeth Code of Mathematics; but that code, as it is, is not used for reproducing popular literature. That's for the math buffs. Simple solutions come to mind to remedy the deficiencies of the Literary Braille Code. It's tempting to suggest ways to improve literary Braille, but I think this would be treating the symptom with a Band-Aid while ignoring the bigger problem a fragmented system of overlapping, sometimes conflicting, codes which collectively are called Braille. Fragmented Braille impedes learning. Imagine the plight of the adult who loses his sight through accident or disease and finds himself in a rehabilitation center, where he may stay a few weeks or months. He knows how to read print. He is now introduced to Braille. He must learn that many of the things he takes for granted when it comes to reading print must be abandoned to learn Braille. Such things as the single quote and the double quote are used for feet and inches respectively and follow the digits to which these units apply in print. But Braille requires the reversal of the order, as well as changing the symbols to equivalent abbreviations. All other measurements (like temperatures cited in the weather forecast or in a cookbook; distances mentioned in track, swimming, or marathons; or anything else) become an absurd exercise in unlearning. Now, tell our hypothetical student that he can't read or write such simple arithmetic as 2+2=4 without exiting one code and invoking another. Now, go back to the original code and start teaching our hapless blind friend (who may still be struggling with the problems of regaining his self-esteem as a person) that before he can read even a page from his favorite magazine, he needs to learn a bunch of arbitrary word forms, contractions, and context-sensitive symbols. Do all of this, and you should prepare to accept failure more often than not.
It's no better for the would-be teacher of the blind in a residential or public classroom. The graduate student preparing for a career in special education receives inadequate instruction in Braille. It's not because the need is not recognized. It's just such a major undertaking to teach or learn Braille that every possible excuse is trotted out to minimize attention to the subject or ignore it entirely. The most popular excuse for giving short shrift to the study of Braille is that it is of limited use, and it's dying out.
By contrast, sighted students learning to read are not overwhelmed by a plethora of multipurpose symbols. They learn to recognize upper case and lower case letters, numbers, and a rather limited set of punctuation marks. Having done so, they are prepared to read practically anything they are likely to encounter in newspapers, books, or magazines. If the sighted student develops an interest in some technical field, a few new symbols required for the specialty may have to be learned, but he or she will not have to accept new meanings for familiar symbols which can only be interpreted by the context in which they are found. A sighted person with no more than grammar school literacy can cope with materials produced in the popular press. It should be the same for the blind reader.
Change is ever with us and oh, how we hate it. A few weeks ago I received notice that my favorite word processor has been improved with three hundred new features. I'm eligible for an updated version for a very small fee. My reaction was strong and immediate: No thanks. I'll keep what I have and know how to use. Three hundred new features just means three hundred more things to learn, hundreds of pages to read, and I don't need all that. I haven't learned all of the functions of my present version, but this may not be a good analogy for our present problems with Braille. No one, to my knowledge, is offering three hundred or even a dozen fixes for the literary Braille code. In fact, there is no clear direction for change beckoning us. We have no science to show us the way to the future developments in communication tools for the blind. We are no longer moved by personal intuition or missionary zeal to create a new Braillle code or greatly enhance the present one.
When Braille is changed (notice I didn't say if ), it must come as a response to a widely felt need for change in a direction, clearly forged through debate within the blind community. Here is my starting premise:
We desperately need a unified Braille code (just one Braille) a single code capable of reproducing anything and everything that can be found in print directed to an educated lay reader. This code must provide one-to-one correspondence to the set of symbols currently available to publish in print materials addressed to a general public. It should be noted that I am here advocating a notational unity between Braille and print not to be confused with consistency in format, font, and style.
Is it not reasonable to ask that our Braille code provide facility for producing all of the symbols on a QWERTY keyboard, including the shift of all keys? Shouldn't we be able to produce the same symbols as those provided by the most popular computer keyboards? Shouldn't we have a character set to match the ninety-six printable characters included in the ASCII code? As of now, these simple requirements can be met only by resorting to three codes computer, literary, and mathematics.
Furthermore, I submit that extensions branching from the basic unified code should not be allowed to introduce symbols, formats, or rules that conflict with the one Braille code. Put in the language of the scientist, any code devised for mathematicians, chemists, physicists, or any other discipline must include the basic code as a subset.
In devising a unified Braille code, all elements that currently enjoy universal meaning to Braille readers and that are retained in a unified code must keep their current meaning. This recommendation is made to ease the transition from the fragmented world to the unified Braille code. It should be obvious that not all present contractions can or should be retained.
All decisions affecting code symbology, format, or rules must be based on such factors as learnability, teachability, and readability to the exclusion of consideration of bulk or cost.
From the time man learned to utter the first word until the present complex system of language, the tools for writing and recording thought have undergone continuous change. Language and print changes have accelerated in our lifetime. New words have come into the language to enable us to talk about modern social, economic, and technical developments. As language changes, so must the written discourse of our times. Those of us who depend upon tactile symbols to record our thoughts must not accept a written notation frozen in the comfortable past. Nothing lasts forever, not even our beloved Grade Two Braille. If change is inevitable (and I believe it is), it should proceed on a course set by the combined wisdom of blind people everywhere. Join the debate! Discuss the problems and glories of Braille with your friends and acquaintances, and contribute to the thinking en masse by sharing your opinions with NAPUB and the rest of us through letters and articles for the NAPUB newsletter and the Monitor . Together we can shape the future of the written language of the blind.
by Charlene Groves
When I went to first grade (it was in a sighted school with sighted children), we were told that we could each have only one piece of paper at a time and that we must use that piece before we could come and get another. (I used Braille paper, of course.) Each boy and girl was responsible for getting his or her own paper unless our teacher decided to appoint somebody to hand out paper to the rest. And even then, we were still only allowed to have one piece at a time.
Our teacher seemed to feel (and perhaps she was right) that we would waste the extra paper if we were permitted to have more than one piece. But this did not give us the opportunity to develop judgment and the responsibility for planning, even when we had an assignment that would obviously require several pages. But those were the rules; and being only children, we accepted them as a matter of course since that was how things were. Then one day toward the middle of the year we had a new teacher, a most remarkable teacher. We were allowed not only to take more than one sheet of paper at a time but were also encouraged to take paper back to other people in our row when they needed it. We were pleased with the new sense of freedom and responsibility.
But then one day my counselor from the state agency for the blind happened to enter the room just as a girl from my row handed me a piece of Braille paper. My counselor immediately demanded to know why I wasn't getting my own paper. It made no difference to her that the girl had also brought paper to sighted children in the row. Nor did it make any difference when it was explained that I also brought paper to the people in the row when the occasion arose. Even when our teacher explained to her how the system worked and the sense of sharing and responsibility which it developed, it did no good. Nor did it help when I repeated the explanation when the counselor took me to a separate room to give me a lecture.
I was told that under no circumstances was I ever again to allow a sighted person to do for me anything that I could do for myself. Didn't I realize that my laziness and lack of assertiveness would inevitably make life harder for other blind people? Didn't I know that it was my job to show the world what blind people could do? Didn't I understand that if I allowed sighted people to bring me my paper, everybody in my class would assume that I couldn't do it for myself?
She brushed aside my faltering attempts to talk about sharing, responsibility, and development of judgment. After all, I was only a little girl. From now on, she said, I wasn't to allow any sighted person to help me. I got the idea that if any sighted person should try to help me, or even ask if I needed help, I was to be as sharp and unpleasant as I could so that they would not make the same mistake again. When I tried to tell her that I didn't think this was a nice way to live and that I didn't want to act that way, she told me that I had to remember that I was blind and that this was how blind people had to live. She let me understand that if I persisted in my dependent and maladjusted behavior, she would talk to my parents about sending me away to a school where they would teach me how to learn to be blind. I was only a little girl, and I tried to do what she said.
Two days later my mom got a call from my teacher. My teacher wanted to know what was going wrong at home which had caused me to be so sharp and nasty for the last couple of days. Fortunately my mom soon had things straightened out. She said that I didn't have to live that way and that I should always check with her and Dad before doing anything that I thought was wrong that any of my counselors told me to do. In the meantime my counselor was busy dealing with my teacher. After all, the counselor was from the state and was an expert in the field of blindness. My teacher was only a public school teacher without specialized knowledge. It was intimated that the state agency could cause problems if the counselor's advice was not followed. After all, she was a professional. From now on I was to do everything for myself, especially getting my own paper.
So my teacher did what she was told. Yet, being both a sensible and a compassionate woman, she was unwilling to have me singled out as the only one in the class who had to get my own paper. So from that day on, we had to go back to the old system. Each boy and girl got his or her own paper no sharing, no responsibility, no developing sense of judgment. That was a long time ago. Perspectives change, and I am no longer a little girl but I remember, clearly and vividly. And I wonder about the damage and the power and the unfilled void.
by Barbara Cheadle
Barbara Cheadle is the President of the Parents of Blind Children Division of the National Federation of the Blind, and Sandra Kelly is President of the Parents of Blind Children Division of the NFB of Maryland.
As most Federationist know, Richard Welch, Superintendent of the Maryland School for the Blind, has not been to say the least friendly to the NFB. Those who faithfully read the Braille Monitor should be very familiar with his attitude toward Braille, the NFB, and blind mobility instructors. To put it succinctly he doesn't like them.
With that background, you can imagine how astonished I was when I received a call some time in mid-April from Del Simmons, the librarian and a long time staff member of the Maryland School for the Blind. She told me that she had entered nine students in our NFB Braille Readers Are Leaders contest. Her students were anxious to hear about the results of the contest, and she wanted to know when the winners would be announced.
It so happened that the NFB of Maryland was planning to give special awards and recognition to all the Maryland contestants at our upcoming May 14, 1988, parents of blind children seminar. In addition to the national prizes, certificates, and ribbons the NFB of Maryland was awarding attractive wooden plaques to all of the Maryland contestants, as well as cash certificates to the top readers. We really wanted to let the kids know how important it was for them to keep reading and to be proud of reading Braille. Of course, I immediately told Mrs. Simmons all about the seminar and our plans for recognizing the students. We were mailing our announcements about it and the Maryland School would get one, too, I told her. I also suggested that I could mail out the information directly to the parents if she would tell me who they were. She declined and said she would notify them. (The contest rules require that the name and address of the parent be given on the entry form, so we did get most of the names and addresses later.) Two more times before the seminar we called and reminded Mrs. Simmons about the date and asked if any students were coming. Then, we received a letter dated May 11, 1988, from Mrs. Simmons. She said that the invitation had come a little late and that the parents either had other commitments, or that the students lived too far away and it was inconvenient for their parents to bring them in. Then she asked us to send her the prizes so she could present them to the students at the awards day ceremony in June.
Of course, we knew that the excuses were just that excuses. She had been told about the event a month in advance and had received follow-up calls and an announcement through the mail. Also, at least six out of the nine Maryland School for the Blind contestants lived in Baltimore or one of its suburbs. As it turned out, one of the school's students did attend the May 14 recognition ceremony. However, he had never received any information about it from the Maryland School for the Blind. We had done our own mailing, and that was how he learned about it. Although this behavior seemed unprofessional and not in the best interest of the children, it was hardly fair to hold Mrs. Simmons totally responsible. Dr. Welch's attitude and conduct toward the NFB as well as his notions about Braille have been such that it was noteworthy that she had entered the students in the contest in the first place.
But we had one more possibility. It was a long shot, but Sandy Kelly called Mrs. Simmons back and explained that we (she and I) would be pleased to bring the prizes over and present them to the children at the school awards ceremony. (The contest rules clearly state that, Prizes will be personally awarded, whenever possible, by representatives of the National Federation of the Blind. )
To her credit (and somewhat to our surprise), she agreed. However, it turned out that there were at least two award ceremonies, and we had just missed one of them. But we could still come to the Newcomers Unit awards ceremony on the 9th of June.
When we arrived at the school for the blind that day we were cordially (if somewhat nervously) greeted by Mrs. Simmons. She seated us with the others who were handing out awards (we were the only non-staff persons there). The program listed the Braille awards as the last item of the day. Mrs. Simmons' name was listed with it, but our names and the sponsors of the Braille contest (NFB Parents Division and NAPUB) were not listed. Later, when we were introduced by Mr. Dennis Duda (the master of ceremonies and one of the school administrators), he simply referred to us as some people Mrs. Simmons had here to help present the awards. He obviously didn't know anything about the contest or who we were.
Mrs. Kelly and I noticed several things of significance. First of all, of course, we noticed that the programs were not available in Braille. With the money and technology the school has, making up Braille programs should have been no problem. We could only conclude that no one thought Braille, and/or the students, teachers, and others who used Braille, was or were important enough to bother with Braille programs.
The next thing we noticed was that there was only one student who carried a cane. He did not use it during the ceremony. (The totally blind students used the partially sighted students as sighted guides.) To his credit, though, he unfolded it and used it after the ceremony as he and his parents were leaving. From some conversation we overheard, and the fact that no other students were using canes, we got the distinct impression that using the cane inside the building was not a practice his teachers had encouraged.
We were also surprised that Dr. Welch was not present. Not only was he absent, but no one made any comment about why he wasn't there, or conveyed his regrets at being absent, or gave any message from him at all. We wondered just how important he thought all of this was.
Among the awards given were the mobility awards. Although there were many awards given in such categories as music and recreation, only two mobility awards were given. Somehow, we had expected that at least one of them would have something to do with improvement or advancement in independent mobility off campus, or maybe best cane technique, or even improvement in on-campus travel. But we were way off base. The two awards given were to the wheelchair student who had shown the most improvement, and the student who had demonstrated the most advancement in the use of his residual vision. (No mention was made of the cane, nor did he carry one though he clearly had very little residual vision.) Of course, we had no problem with the wheelchair award, but we really wondered what kind of independent travel these kids were getting if no one merited an award that had anything to do with excellence in traveling with a cane.
Finally, we had our turn. We gave our speeches then handed out the plaques and certificates. In addition to our awards, Mrs. Simmons had made up certificates for the students who had participated. There was a good response to our speeches at least, there was from the parents who attended. The staff seemed either nervous and very uncomfortable, or plainly puzzled. Mrs. Kelly and I had little doubt that if the NFB had not sponsored this contest for Braille readers and if a librarian hadn't been concerned about motivating her students to read, the Maryland School for the Blind would not have made any effort to recognize and encourage their Braille readers. The emphasis at the ceremony was unquestionably on such things as music and recreation. Academics, reading, literacy, and independent travel simply weren't priorities.
As Monitor readers know, the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB) and the National Federation of the Blind Parents of Blind Children Division sponsor the Braille Readers are Leaders contest each year to encourage literacy among blind children. Some of the educators in the field, not being fluent in the use of Braille themselves, tend to discourage its use. Contrary to what these people say, Braille can be read at hundreds of words per minute, and many blind persons throughout the country are doing it every day.
On June 8, 1988, Barbara Cheadle (President of the NFB Parents of Blind Children Division) and Sandra Kelly went to the Maryland School for the Blind to present Braille Readers are Leaders awards. Mrs. Kelly said:
In 1968 I was a graduating senior from the Maryland School for the Blind. Awards were presented in the gym, and at that time one's proficiency in Braille did not merit special recognition.
Over the years the advent of the computer caused special education program administrators and others in the field of work with the blind to re-examine the need for Braille and its real relevance to blind persons. Their conclusions were neither accurate nor positive. They said rapid reading speeds could not be attained; Braille was tedious and slow. Give a blind person a cassette player/recorder and eventually a computer, and all his problems would be solved.
Fortunately the National Federation of the Blind, the largest consumer organization of blind persons in the country, established the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille, NAPUB. It is this special interest group, along with the Parents of Blind Children Division of the National Federation of the Blind, which sponsors an annual Braille Readers are Leaders contest to encourage and challenge blind students at all grade levels to develop Braille skills of which they can be proud. Had such a contest been in existence while I was a student here, I'm sure I would have entered as often as I could, and I'd have done well. I appreciate more now than I ever thought I would the level of independence I've had as an adult because of those skills.
To the parents who are here today: You can help your Braille readers become leaders in their communities and workplaces not only by helping them enjoy reading and developing appropriate applications for Braille at school and at home but by giving them opportunities to meet successful blind role models. I realize that several on the staff here are blind. Blind children need to know about blindness outside the school grounds, for the time will come when they'll leave this campus as I did twenty years ago. There were blind teachers here, too, when I was a student. But it wasn't enough. Sighted children have an opportunity to observe sighted adults in a variety of work and play situations; blind children deserve equal treatment and opportunity. The National Federation of the Blind and NAPUB are proud to recognize the 1988 participants in the Braille Readers are Leaders contest by awarding plaques, certificates, and in two instances $25.00 gift certificates for aids and appliances purchases from the National Center for the Blind. We're glad for the opportunity to make these presentations, and hope that some of you will become interested in other activities of the Parents of Blind Children Division, NAPUB, our Student Division, and the NFB. In addition to meeting positive blind role models, you'll learn about scholarships and employment and that it is respectable to be blind.
After Mrs. Kelly had spoken, Mrs. Cheadle said:
What do elevators, McDonald's, a bank machine, and a new microwave oven have in common?
If you go into any McDonald's restaurant today you can get a Braille menu on request. It is common, downright ordinary in fact, to find Braille markings on elevators. A bank machine I use at a local supermarket has you guessed it Braille instructions taped on the side. And even six years ago, I was given the option of getting a Braille manual when I ordered my microwave oven. More than ever before in our history, Braille is available to the blind on a common everyday basis. And just as important, the public accepts Braille. To the public, Braille is just the normal method of reading and writing for the blind.
Tragically, just as we are experiencing a breakthrough in the availability and common acceptance of Braille among the public, we are also experiencing a dramatic decline in the percentage of blind students who are being taught Braille.
We are now in a position of having more Braille, but fewer and fewer students who have the skill to take advantage of the new and greater opportunities for independence and employability that this increase in Braille offers to the blind.
What could we do about it? The National Association to Promote the Use of Braille and the National Federation of the Blind Parents Division got together in 1984 to see what we could do to reverse this trend. We just couldn't let the coming generation of blind and partially-sighted children suffer the consequences of illiteracy. For the truth is, if you don't have a complete, flexible, and portable system for personal reading and writing that you can rely on throughout your lifetime, then you are illiterate.
One of the projects we embarked upon in our fight for literacy for the next generation of the blind was the National Federation of the Blind Braille Readers are Leaders national Braille reading contest for children in grades kindergarten through twelve.
And that is why we are here today; to honor the students at the Maryland School for the Blind who have participated in the 1987-88 fourth annual NFB Braille Readers are Leaders contest.
All of you those of you who entered the contest, I mean whether you read 5 pages or 10,000 and yes, we have contestants who have read 10,000 and more pages are leaders, are winners. You are because you have chosen to throw your lot in with the some ninety-nine percent of the rest of this country who are literate; you have chosen to be normal.
Yes, the technique is a little different. You read with your fingers and I read with my eyes. But it is only a minor difference. After all, the Japanese use a different technique, too. They must learn literally thousands of characters, and they read in a column from the top to the bottom of a page and from right to left.
Yes, I am here today to honor you for your participation in this contest, but I am also here to make a pledge to you.
The National Federation of the Blind, the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille, and the NFB Parents of Blind Children Division will do everything in our power to see that you have more Braille available to you now and in your future than has ever been available to the blind before. We pledge to work to create a positive atmosphere and acceptance of Braille as a normal, legitimate method of reading and writing. We pledge to create more opportunities for independence and employability of the blind so that you can fully utilize the Braille skills you are learning. We pledge this to you. Your job is to prepare yourselves to take advantage of these opportunities. Keep reading and improving your Braille skills. But even more importantly, believe in yourselves. It is normal to read Braille. It is respectable to be blind.
Let me leave you with a quote from a book I recently read. The main character is a blind boy. At the very end of the book this is what he says:
I'm not embarrassed about being blind. It's just different. Everyone is different in some way, and that means we're all the same, too. Get it?
by Zach Shore
Zach Shore is one of the rising young leaders of our movement. He won an NFB scholarship at the 1987 national convention in Phoenix, and since that time his writings have appeared in this publication. Here he is again, and the order of placement of his article in the contents is not accidental.
How often do we hear such expressions as blind faith, a blind guess, and blind to the truth? We all use these and many similar sayings without ever giving them a second thought. But what do they really mean; what are we actually saying?
Recently I submitted an article to my school newspaper entitled, Stop Placing Blind Students Behind the Language Barrier. Unquestionably, the headline needed to be shortened. Since the article dealt with a shortsighted and foolish university policy which allowed blind students to waive their foreign language requirements solely on the basis of blindness, my editor changed the headline to read, Blind to the Language Barrier. What the editor had unwittingly done was to equate blindness, the physical condition, with a metaphorical meaning of mental incompetence and lack of foresight. He suggested that those who lack physical sight also lack intellectual dexterity. The headline really said that the makers of this policy, whom the editor called blind, were foolish. In other words the blind, who do not possess sight, do not possess foresight either. Of course, the editor had no intention of suggesting any such thing.
It never occurred to him that the headline would be offensive to anyone. That's because metaphors of blindness have so subtly crept into our language that we never stop to consider their true meanings. To put the matter into perspective, consider this scenario. A group of friends are out to dinner, and one of the friends is Jewish. When the waiter brings the check, one person in the group who is not Jewish casually says, Hey, this bill is too high. I think our waiter is trying to Jew us out of some money! The speaker has associated Jews, the ethnic group, with qualities of greediness, thievery, and an overall lack of integrity. Imagine how offensive this would be to the Jewish dinner companion. Yet, the speaker had no intention of offending anyone. He was simply using an expression so common to him that he never once thought about it. In the case of metaphors of blindness, the word blind can often be replaced with words like mindless and unintelligent . For example, blind faith is really an unintelligent or uneducated guess. And blind to the truth is another way of saying unable to know the truth. To ask, Are you so blind that you can't see what's happening here? expresses the sentiment, Are you so stupid that you don't know what's happening here? All of these common sayings illustrate how our language associates blindness with ignorance and, therefore, the blind with the ignorant. But there are some references which do not equate blindness with ignorance. Take the case of an angry baseball fan. After the umpire makes a bad call, the fan yells out, That blankedy blank ump is blind! Clearly, this is an offensive statement to any self-respecting blind person simply because it is so inherently negative and demeaning. However, the fan has said exactly what he means to say; that is, that the umpire lacks the physical characteristic of sight, which is exactly the characteristic which the blind lack. The fan may well wish to imply that the umpire is also stupid and incompetent, but this is unclear. The disgruntled fan has called the umpire literally blind, but not metaphorically blind, and therefore incompetent. The metaphorical meanings of the word blind encompass everything from shortsighted to stupid, from ignorant to mindless, and from foolish to incompetent. This is how society has perceived the blind. How else do you suppose such expressions have come about? Why do we not say Jew faith, a black guess, or deaf to the truth? It is because the blind were, and still are, viewed in a unique way, different from that of any other minority group. They are thought of as both literally and metaphorically blind. The demeaning metaphor is yet another obstacle which society has placed in the path of the blind, but which the blind will overcome on their way to equal status with the sighted.
by Mike Deupree
From the Monitor Editor: Who says the press and the average member of the general public can't understand what we are talking about when we say that the airlines are giving the blind a raw deal and behaving like chumps? The tide has turned, and the momentum is building. I have never met Mike Deupree, but I'd like to. He sounds like a fellow with some sense and not just a head full of prejudice and preconceptions. If you tell me that I might not feel that way if he didn't agree with me, I reply that that only proves that the blind are human. But I go on to say that certain things have the ring of truth and common sense.
Besides, how about you? How many times lately have you called somebody stupid for agreeing with you? Be that as it may, here is what Mike Deupree says in his July 16, 1988, column in the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Gazette.
There's another controversy under way involving Federal Aviation Administration rules, and this time it's almost entirely unnecessary. It involves seating restrictions applied to handicapped or disabled passengers. No, I'm not insensitive to the needs of those passengers. I'm insensitive to the needs of the airlines and the bureaucrats. The reason the controversy is unnecessary is because with very few exceptions there's no reason to treat these passengers differently.
The primary issue in the news now involves blind people. Not surprisingly, Peggy Pinder of Grinnell is smack in the middle of it. The lawyer, former state legislator, and officer of the National Federation of the Blind was hauled off a Midway Airlines flight in March for violating the airline's policy on seating blind people.
She says it was because she's a smoker and wanted to sit back in the smoking section instead of near an exit as airline rules require. The airline says it was because she didn't listen to a special safety briefing for disabled passengers. In either case, the point is the airline's special policy about where blind people must sit.
The Midway case is somewhat unusual, because it is more common for airlines to specify areas where handicapped passengers are not allowed to sit, rather than where they must sit. On many airlines handicapped people may not sit next to an emergency exit. In fact, another NFB officer was arrested for violating such a rule on a United flight last year.
Midway's rule is easy to evaluate: It's bad. It is designed to protect the handicapped person by putting her closer to an exit. That shows good intentions, but the airline is dealing with an adult here. If she wants help, give it to her. If not, leave her alone. It's her life. If the airline was really worried about her well-being, it wouldn't let her smoke.
The United rule is another matter. It assumes handicapped persons are unable to deal with the emergency process and could thus endanger not only themselves but other passengers as well. That's a much stronger argument, and it gets into a touchy area.
Quite frankly, as an airline passenger, if I could choose the people sitting in certain seats the ones in the cockpit, certainly, and maybe the ones by the emergency exits, too I'd pick people who have full use of at least five senses. But I don't think you can automatically assume a blind person is incapable of opening an emergency exit. In fact, if the lights were out or the cabin were filled with smoke, I'd rather put my life in the hands of someone who was used to being sightless. In any case it would depend on the individual; although I've never met Peggy Pinder I've read enough about her to believe she would be competent not only to open the hatch, but maybe to land the airplane if necessary.
In fairness to the intent of the rulemakers, let's be honest: Some blind people couldn't handle the escape mechanism. But let's be honest again:
Neither could some Presbyterians, some Purdue fans, and some veterinarians. On the other hand, virtually any intoxicated person would be bad news in such a situation, but have you ever been on an airliner where they refused to serve alcohol to the people sitting in the exit row? Me neither, and if there were a problem, I'd much rather see that exit seat filled by a blind Presbyterian who went to Purdue vet school than by some sot who's been guzzling bourbon all day.
Besides, who knows how those door gadgets work, anyway? I used to think I did. As everyone who has flown commercially knows, there comes a time prior to takeoff when they reassure nervous passengers by modeling life vests and reading a checklist of pre-death procedures. Passengers are supposed to follow along on a little plastic card.
In years past, these cards had the instructions written in two or three languages, and you could get a rough idea of how things worked. This system has been improved, so now there are not written instructions at all, just pictograms, which are equally incomprehensible in any language. It is all very egalitarian and internationally nondiscriminatory, and I think if they gave the pictograms to the blind people and Braille cards to the sighted ones, it would be equally informative. So who cares who sits where? Oh, all right. There should be some restrictions. I don't think people who are almost certainly physically or mentally incapable of handling the emergency system children, for instance, or paraplegics should be seated there. But I don't know any serious person who is arguing that they should be. In most cases the rulemakers ought to let handicapped people sit where they want and get on with solving problems that are far more likely to affect the average passenger. They could start with little kids who sit behind you and kick the back of your seat all the way from Chicago to Los Angeles. Now, that's a really serious problem.
by Dan Crawford
Since a considerable part of this issue of the Monitor is devoted to matters concerning the 1988 NFB convention, it seems worthwhile to go back a year and print an excerpt from the 1987 convention, which was held in Phoenix. The item is interesting, and it is as relevant today as it was at the time it was presented on Thursday morning, July 2, 1987. Here it is the story of a blind man in the horse trading business, Dan Crawford from Estill Springs, Tennessee:
Good morning. I'm proud to be here. Remember I'm a handler of horses, not a public speaker, so bear with me. I'm blind and I am a genuine horse trader and have been for twenty- five years.
How did I become a horse trader? Well, I'm not sure. I'll try to give you a brief history of how I got into the horse business. I was born in Garden Prairie, Illinois, in a farming community and raised on a dairy farm that my parents operated. I lost my left eye at the age of five and only had ten percent vision in my right eye.
I attended the Illinois Braille and Sight Saving School in Jacksonville through my sophomore year. And I guess everybody at Jacksonville could have predicted my future. I used to slip away to the local stable and eventually got caught and got in trouble. So from then on my future was definitely predictable.
At the end of my sophomore year I transferred to Belvedere High School. And it was during my junior and senior years of high school that I really started working horses.
I was very fortunate in that my father was an excellent horseman and able to teach me a lot. I also associated with qualified horse people, as well as excellent veterinarians and farriers.
I never will forget the first horse that I trained for money. I was offered $35 to ride this horse, and back in those days $35 was a lot of money, so I jumped at the chance. Believe me, I needed every dollar.
From then on, horses started coming in for training on a regular basis. And between training horses, helping to milk cows, and going to school I kept quite busy After graduation I still continued to train horses. By then I'd upped my rate to $50 a month.
Then the horses still continued to come in for training. I attended college for a while and worked horses on the side. Eventually I upped my rate to $100 a month. And people still continued to send me horses.
About this time I incorporated a new aspect of the horse business. I started buying untrained horses and training them for resale. I found that I could make far more money than I could training them for their owners. And so I continued this practice.
Then, I took a factory job working for the Green Giant Canneries, but I still worked horses on the side.
And it was about this time that some of my friends and I decided that we'd like to rodeo a little bit. We started roping and tying a little bit with Mom and Dad's dairy cows. Needless to say this did not make my mother too happy. And about the same time one of my friends got hold of a real outstanding bareback bronco. One of the times I had my pride hurt the most was when this bronk bucked me off, kicked me in the head, and knocked me out for eight hours. Unfortunately, all of this was documented on complete color film. Well, enough about my rodeo days. I still continue to train horses. About this time I realized that there was more money to be made in strictly buying and selling horses because there was far less chance of getting my bones broken. So I continued buying and selling horses.
But this didn't put enough bread on the table, so I took a better factory job at Belvedere Products, where I worked as an upholsterer. Fortunately the two jobs seemed to work quite well together that is, for a few years. Eventually the horse business got big enough that I had to give up the factory job. At this time I might add that while I was working at Belvedere Products, I lost the remaining sight in my right eye. I was twenty-seven years old, and I wondered if I'd still be able to continue the horse business. Somehow I just knew I could.
In some respects it was easier continuing the business after I lost my sight than before. During the last couple of years of seeing, I found my sight was actually more of a hindrance.
The strange thing was that all this time that I was buying, selling, and trading horses, I never thought of it as a career or anything to base a future on just something to while away time and keep myself busy. I was probably thirty years old before it dawned on me: Well, I'm probably born to be a horse trader and probably will be the rest of my life. And so I still continue buying and selling horses. But I also started buying and selling saddles and horse trailers. I found that the three seemed to work quite well together.
And so I practiced this for a few years and traveled around the country having a good time. But in 1975 a big change came into my life. I met my wife to be, Sue. Sue and I were married. When were we married, dear? February 14, 1976. Sue and I... Sue has really been a valuable asset in this business. She has curtailed my traveling and held a pretty tight rein on my expenditures especially those geared around good timing. Sue does all the paperwork and does pedigrees with our stud books.
At this time I might add that we specialize in the Arabian horse. And I will have to admit that I am just a little bit prejudiced toward the Arabian although, in fairness, we have owned some outstanding quarter horses, appaloosas, thoroughbreds, Tennessee Walkers, and a few Morgans, as well as a few other breeds. But our business is basically geared around the Arabian. The next major change in our lives occurred in 1981. We moved away from Illinois and into Tennessee on a twenty-acre farm near Estill Springs. Estill is located exactly half way between Nashville and Chattanooga on Interstate 24. Our farm has four stock-filled ponds. We have in our ponds catfish, bass, and crappies, as well as we have a year round spring fed creek. So I thought perhaps when we moved to Tennessee that I might retire from the horse business strictly relax and fish and have a good time. But as things will happen, they don't always work out that way. When I moved from Illinois, I sold every horse that we owned. But a good deal came along with some horses, and before I knew it, we were back in the horse business bigger than ever. We had to build a new barn to expand our facilities. And if all goes well, we hope to build a new house this year. It's about time. Sue deserves one.
I often have people tell me they think it's just amazing the way I handle and get along with horses. And they wonder if I think other blind people could do the same thing. And my answer is immediate. Yes. If I were a young blind person and wanted to get into the horse business, there are ways in which I feel this could be accomplished. I would start buying and selling saddles and bridles and other related accessories. It would take approximately six months to a year to learn most of the horse equipment. But hopefully this would be a way the beginner could start to meet competent and qualified horse people and also a way for the beginner to start his or her education in becoming a genuine horse trader. To become a horse trader it's a long drawn out process. It's just like going to college. It's going to take from three to five years to completely understand and learn the horses' anatomy and comformation, as well as various good and bad points about the horse, as well as studying up on pedigree.
So that is why I think I would start handling horse-related accessories. This would bring in a source of income while learning the business.
Again there is no reason why other blind people can't become genuine horse traders. The horse business is a multi-billion dollar business. And ninety to ninety-five per cent of the people who get into the business fail. Now I know that may seem hard to believe. Let me assure you that it is true. Therefore, there is money to be made for the remaining five percent. So I say if you are at all interested in becoming a horse trader, go for it.
by Robert C. Dinwiddie, M.D.
(This article appears in the Summer, 1988, Voice of the Diabetic, the publication of the Diabetics Division of the National Federation of the Blind. Since diabetes is the leading cause of new blindness in the United States today, it is necessarily a matter of concern and interest to the members of the organized blind movement. Here, in the words of an eminent specialist, are facts which may surprise you.)
When most people think of diabetes, they think of high blood sugar. Indeed, most people with diabetes do have elevated blood sugars. To be more precise, however, those people have diabetes mellitus . This term is derived from the Greek word meloi, which means honey. This has obvious relevance to the elevated sugar levels in most diabetics' blood and urine. There are people with diabetes, however, who have perfectly normal blood sugar at all times. These people have a less common type of diabetes called diabetes insipidus . Like those with diabetes mellitus, people with diabetes insipidus pass abnormally large amounts of urine, but the urine is insipid, i.e. without taste.
To state it more clearly, the urine in patients with diabetes insipidus is very dilute, because diabetes insipidus is a disease in which the urine cannot be concentrated.
In a normal person who is deprived of fluid, urine volume decreases, and the urine itself becomes more concentrated. This occurs as the body attempts to retain as much fluid as possible. Normally with fluid deprivation, a hormone called vasopressin (or antidiuretic hormone) is secreted from the brain through the pituitary into the blood stream. Vasopressin acts on the kidneys to retain water, leading to the production of a concentrated urine. Diabetes insipidus can result from deficiency of vasopressin or from kidney diseases in which the kidney does not respond to vasopressin. There is no abnormality of blood sugar in diabetes insipidus. As long as one ingests enough fluid to replace urinary losses, diabetes insipidus is a rather benign, if inconvenient, disease. When a person with diabetes insipidus cannot ingest enough fluid for some reason, large volumes of dilute urine continue to be passed and severe dehydration can occur. In rare instances, diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus can occur in the same person. In fact, this unlikely occurrence has affected one of the staff of Voice of the Diabetic , Cheryl McCaslin. Actually, diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus do occur together slightly more often than would be expected by chance alone. This association is known as Woolfram's Syndrome. It includes not only diabetes mellitus (DM), but also a form of blindness, optic atrophy (OA) and deafness (D). Woolfram's Syndrome is also known by the acronym DIDMOAD Syndrome. It is quite unusual but is interesting in at least two aspects. First, frequent urination can persist despite good blood sugar control because of the coexistent diabetes insipidus. Second, it can explain the unusual occurrence of blindness in someone with diabetes mellitus for less than ten years. The usual type of severe diabetic eye disease takes at least ten years to develop.
Diabetes insipidus is much less common than diabetes mellitus. Woolfram's Syndrome is even less common, but unfortunately someone has to have even the rarest of diseases.
Under date of August 10, 1988, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress issued the following press release:
Claudell Smith Stocker has been appointed head of the Braille Development Section at the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress. The appointment will be effective in September.
The Braille Development Section, which is part of the Materials Development Division, is responsible for providing course materials for training and certifying volunteer Braillists in the literary, mathematics, and music codes and in Braille proofreading.
As head of the section, Mrs. Stocker will work with Braille teachers throughout the country, as well as with organizations providing Braille materials or concerned with the promotion of Braille as a reading medium. In addition to duties related to training and certification, Mrs. Stocker will be responsible for planning and direction of Braille research and development and uses of new technology.
Mrs. Stocker comes to NLS from the Kansas Rehabilitation Center for the Blind, bringing twenty-eight years' experience in teaching communications skills, particularly Braille, and in research on methodology. She has served as coordinator of volunteers and has, for the past three years, been coordinator of the overall teaching program. She is the author of four textbooks: Modern Methods of Training Braille (American Printing House for the Blind, Louisville, Kentucky); Listening for the Visually Impaired (Charles Thomas Publishing Company, Springfield, Illinois); A Remedial Primer for Teaching Braille Reading (State of Kansas, Rehabilitation Center for the Blind, Topeka, Kansas); and Braille Writing Simplified (unpublished). She has also published numerous articles and papers, served on a variety of committees and task forces, and conducted workshops for professionals in several states. Mrs. Stocker received a bachelor of science degree from Our Lady of Victory College in Fort Worth, Texas; has done graduate work at Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas; and has received graduate training from the Menninger Foundation in Topeka.
NLS provides recorded and Braille books and magazines for blind and physically handicapped readers through a network of cooperating libraries throughout the country. Many of the network libraries use volunteers certified in Braille transcription by NLS to produce special materials for patrons.
This announcement by NLS brings to an end a prolonged search which had lasted for many months to find a replacement for Richard Evensen, whose tragic death left a vacancy in the position of head of the Braille Development Section of the National Library Service. Mrs. Stocker, a member of the National Federation of the Blind, is highly respected and should make valuable contributions in her new job.
by W. Harold Bleakley
As most Federationists know, Harold Bleakley is President and principal owner of AIDS Unlimited, Inc. Alternative Independence Devices and Services. He is also an active member of the Baltimore Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland.
Henry Ford said it. While he was not one of our great American philosophers, he was right when he said, If you believe that you can, or if you believe that you cannot, you are probably right. Unfortunately all too many blind persons who are interested and otherwise suited to go into their own businesses miss an excellent opportunity because they believe that they cannot succeed in their own business. They believe the myths. The figures tell a sad story. Here they are. The number of blind persons in their own business, as a percentage of the blind population, is pitiful when compared to the number of seeing people in their own businesses, as a percentage of the general population. U.S. News and World Report states that there are about fifteen million small businesses in the country. This is slightly more than six percent of the population of approximately 240 million. Even when vendors under the Randolph-Sheppard program are counted, there probably are not more than about 5,000 blind persons in their own businesses. This is about one percent of the estimated 500,000 blind persons in the country. While the Randolph-Sheppard program is a most fruitful source of employment for blind persons (because of the state control of locations and equipment, management control, and other factors), it is difficult to consider the average vendor as an entrepreneur. However, if we do not include vendors in the count, what is left is far less than one percent of the blind population. Those are sad statistics.
What is wrong? Too many blind people believe that they cannot succeed in their own business, because they believe the myths. One of the myths they believe is that there are not opportunities today. There were business opportunities, lots of them, in the good old days. But there is not much around today. The truth of the matter is that there are more business opportunities today than ever before in history. There are more products on the market, greater diversification of products, more manufacturer's representatives, more wholesalers, more retailers, more service businesses, and more people. Years ago were not the good old days. American business has blossomed since World War II. In the last recession more businesses were founded than those that went bankrupt, and most of the businesses started were small businesses. So much for that myth. And then there is the myth about big business, that big corporations have taken over, that you cannot make it unless you are a giant. There are people who actually believe this, and so they believe they cannot succeed in their own business. It is exactly the reverse. The American business landscape is dotted with small businesses, not big businesses. Most of the new products come from small businesses. Well over half of the American business payroll comes from small business. Most new jobs are created by small business. And then there is the money myth. You need a large amount of capital to start your own business.
Certainly there are types of businesses that require enormous amounts of money a steel mill, for example. There are other types of businesses that need moderate amounts of money to start. Then there are many types of businesses that require very little money to start. While there are many other instances, a good example would be starting a manufacturer's representative business. Space does not permit, at the present time, a detailed discussion of how one goes about establishing a manufacturer's representative business. For now, suffice it to say there are thousands of such businesses across the nation. The number is growing; the concept has great potential; and, generally, very little money is needed to start. Also, there is the question of how you start. That, too, can make a big difference in how much money you need. All too often people jump in with a big splash plush facilities, a lot of space, lots of personnel, fancy equipment. That takes money and drains the available cash fast at the very time when sales income is the lowest. The businesses that start in the garage or basement are legion. Think of all the fruit stores and laundries where the owners live above or behind the store. Aids Unlimited started in my home. The den was the office, and the dining room and living room were the warehouse. We grew. It got to the point where I almost needed a map to get from the den to the dining room table. Now, of course, we have rented office and warehouse facilities. There are other less important myths and myths within myths. The biggest, saddest myth of all is, I believe I cannot do it because I am blind. I believe I cannot be a manufacturer's representative, an industrial commissioned sales agent, an equipment or business broker, or succeed in this business or that business because I am blind.
If we are interested and otherwise suited for going into business for ourselves, this lack of confidence is the greatest factor holding us back. In believing in the myth that we cannot succeed in business because we are blind, we have actually come to believe the myth that most of society believes about the blind. It is tragic to see that so many of us on the one hand complain about the attitudes of society toward the blind and on the other hand act out society's myths. The truth is that if we carefully select the type of business we want to go into (and everyone, blind or sighted, should select carefully), blindness has nothing to do with success. The way you handle a particular function may be different, but all the functions of business management can be handled efficiently without vision. Customer discrimination on the basis of blindness is not an item of any consequence. It is far different than when you apply for a job on somebody else's payroll. When it comes to going into your own business, as in so many situations in life, it looks to me that, even though he was not one of our great philosophers, old Henry Ford was right when he said, If you believe you can, or if you believe that you cannot, you are probably right.
Resolutions are the policy-making vehicles of the National Federation of the Blind, and usually the process is quite clear-cut. A resolution will be presented, discussed, and then voted up or down; and although the matter may again be introduced at a later time, for the moment it is settled. Not so with Resolution 88-21, which was introduced at this year's NFB convention by Rami Rabby.
It was not so much a resolution as an indictment of the present system of education of blind children. It called attention to the fact that the term least restrictive environment, which is mandated by Public Law 94-142, is being used to promote the very opposite situation; that many educators are confusing geographic proximity with true integration; and that sitting at the next desk to a sighted child does not necessarily prevent the blind child from having social isolation or an inadequate education. The resolution caused prolonged debate and serious soul searching.
Ultimately it was defeated not only in the resolutions Committee but also by roll call vote on the floor of the convention. But the size of the vote does not tell the story, for many of those who voted on the winning side had mixed feelings and cast their ballots with troubled hearts. Hardly a person could be found who would say that the present system is working. In fact, there was virtually unanimous agreement that it is bad, extremely bad. Then why did the resolution lose? Some felt that while it pointed out the problem, it did not offer a satisfactory solution. Others felt that such a new approach (yes, new not old) should not be adopted too precipitously that it needed more study, more discussion, and more refinement. Still others felt that (regardless of the resolution's merit and even conceding its correctness) its provisions would have no chance of acceptance throughout the country at the present time and that it would only serve as a vehicle for our opponents to attack us. Yet, with all of these reservations, everyone agreed that the resolution spotlights a problem which must be dealt with. Braille is deliberately being de-emphasized in the education of blind and visually impaired children; skills are not being taught; and concepts of the inferiority of the blind are being sanctified and institutionalized by the very schools which should be teaching the opposite. Whatever the final form of the policy and plan of action which we adopt, the problem demands attention and solution. Between now and the Denver convention next year all of us should think about it and be prepared to deal with it. Here is the resolution, not as Rami Rabby originally presented it to the Resolutions Committee but as it was revised and defeated on the convention floor:
WHEREAS, the Education of All Handicapped Children Act (Public Law 94-142) is founded on the principle that every handicapped child in the United States shall be provided a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment; and
WHEREAS, this principle has been generally interpreted to mean that, merely by placing a disabled child in a regular public school classroom alongside his/her nondisabled peers, the environment automatically becomes less restrictive; and
WHEREAS, this attachment to physical mainstreaming as the paramount objective in the education of blind children has led to the virtual demise of programs in which blind children are instructed and trained in groups; and
WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind has always believed that the quality of a blind child's education is determined not so much by where the child is taught but rather by what is taught and how intensively that is, whether or not the child is trained to develop a positive attitude about blindness, a healthy self-image as a blind person, and a self-confident, independent, resourceful, and problem-solving approach to life, as well as the basic skills of blindness, such as the use of Braille and the ability to travel with a cane, and to view these alternative techniques as efficient tools for success in today's society; and
WHEREAS, after observing the Education of All Handicapped Children Act in action since the mid-1970's, the National Federation of the Blind has reached the conclusion that the principle and practice of physically mainstreaming blind children (no matter what) have, for the most part, failed; and
WHEREAS, this failure is conspicuously reflected in the large numbers of blind high school graduates who, throughout their educational careers, were physically integrated but socially outcast, who consequently become inassertive, passive, and psychologically ill prepared to interact as equals with their fellow graduates, and who are woefully lacking in those basic skills of blindness which would otherwise have enabled them to compete head-on with their sighted peers, both in college and in the work place; and
WHEREAS, as more and more blind children are born into, and grow up in, two-income families, it is not in their best interest to have career-oriented mothers and fathers sacrifice their need for self-fulfillment through work and instead spend their most productive years bickering and arguing in endless parent/teacher conferences, administrative hearings, and court appearances, in an heroic effort usually fruitless to convince teachers and principals to treat their blind sons and daughters as normal children and to instruct them effectively in the alternative skills of blindness; and
WHEREAS, it is the view of the National Federation of the Blind that, if mainstreaming is ever to have the slightest chance of succeeding, it is at a minimum absolutely essential that blind children be fortified with positive attitudes toward themselves as blind people and with the basic skills of blindness, before they venture into the competitive arena of the regular public school; and
WHEREAS, we believe that the sharing of ideas and information, common experiences, effective responses to negative public attitudes and practical solutions to blindness-related problems; the development of a strong sense of normalcy and a positive self-image; and the cultivation through, for example, team sports of that competitiveness, team spirit, and strategic way of thinking which are so crucial to later success in the world of work can, almost by definition, only take place in group settings, with the involvement of sizable numbers of blind children; Now, therefore:
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 1988, in the city of Chicago, Illinois, that this organization call upon Congress, school boards and principals, the teaching profession, and all parents of blind children to redirect their attention away from the physical location of a blind child's education and toward its intrinsic substance and results, and to recognize that, in terms of the preparation of blind children for life as blind adults, it is group instruction of blind children rather than individual instruction of each blind child within the potentially unfriendly and frustrating atmosphere of a public school which, in fact, constitutes the least restrictive environment; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, without in any way endorsing the poor equality of the residential schools for the blind as we know them, the National Federation of the Blind work toward the establishment of a nationwide network of specialized educational centers for blind children, whose precise location and character may vary, depending on local circumstances and conditions for example, public programs versus private initiatives; city-wide day centers versus residential or semi-residential facilities drawing students together from largely rural areas but whose purposes would be to evaluate the readiness of blind children for mainstreamed education and, if necessary, to train them until such time as they may individually be prepared, in their attitudes and competencies of blindness, to move to a regular public school and to compete on an equal footing, both academically and socially, with their sighted peers, in their own neighborhoods; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Federation of the Blind, both as a national body and through its state affiliates, continue and redouble its efforts to enhance the substantive quality of blind children's education under this new system, by pursuing the following strategies, among others:
A. Counseling the parents of blind children and advising them of the benefits of early attitudinal and skills training and of the significance of delivering that training in group settings.
B. Assisting and guiding the parents of blind children in the ongoing reinforcement of positive attitudes and effective skills, within the family.
C. Conducting educational programs and seminars for special education teachers-in-training.
D. Monitoring and pressing for the improvement of the quality of programs offered by the proposed educational centers for blind children, and of subsequent services in the public schools, and
E. Establishing our own educational centers for blind children, which would serve as national and international models in the field of special education.
by Kenneth Jernigan
Ordinarily I appear in these pages as Monitor Editor, and sometimes as the author of an article, but on this occasion I want to deal with cooking or, more precisely, the creation of recipes something which I dearly love to do. Two or three years ago Mrs. Jernigan and I went to a Jewish wedding, and the beef was just about the best I had ever tasted. I hunted up the host, who hunted up the chef, who told me how he did it. It had to do with a marinade, in which he had partially immersed the meat, turning it now and again. I liked the recipe, but I thought I could improve it and, at least to my taste, I have.
This is what you might call a sort of all-purpose marinade. Mrs. Jernigan and I use it for beef, pork, and fish. We boil mushrooms in it. We make gravy of it. I'm sure it would be good with chicken, vegetables, and (for all I know, though I have never tried it) desserts, stir fries, or mixed drinks. It might even work as hair tonic, liniment, shoe polish, cleaning fluid, or a remedy for the flu. Be that as it may, here it is for whatever you choose to do with it. Use it at your own risk. We make no guarantees and assume no responsibility for the results.
When I use this recipe I usually multiply everything by four or five so that I will have some to use and some to keep. If I am preparing beef or pork, I put a gallon or two into a large bucket or pan and totally immerse the meat, putting a plate or bowl on top of it if necessary to hold it down. I then refrigerate it for twenty-four hours, remove the meat, and either cook it or freeze it for future use. Frozen, it will keep very nicely for months or years, perhaps because of the potency of the marinade. Anyway, here is:
4 cups soy sauce
2 cups dry sherry (Dry Sack preferable)
� cup ground ginger (Yes, I know it sounds like a lot, but that's how much to use.)
� cup liquid smoke
1 tablespoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
(Old Bay is a Maryland spice. If you can't find it, maybe you should substitute a couple of teaspoons of McCormick Season-All and a teaspoon of chili powder. If you can't find the Season-All, then you might simply want to leave this ingredient out, or have a shot at something else.)
2 cups sugar
1 cup honey
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper
Stir thoroughly; immerse the meat; and prepare for pleasure.
Mary Main writes: The Stamford Area Chapter of the NFB of Connecticut held elections at its meeting on June 11, 1988. The following officers were elected: President, Louis Pape; Vice President and Recording Secretary, Judy Murphy; Treasurer, Keith Perrin; and Corresponding Secretary, John Padilla.
**Pack, Bike, and Ski:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: I have a 10-speed Schwinn tandem racer bike, cross- country skis and poles and lady's size 6 boots, a five-piece like-new set of American Tourister hard-sided luggage, and a brand new Panasonic phone with 10-number memory capability. I'll take the best offer. If interested, call (212) 239-1474 or write Maureen Young, Manhattan Plaza, 484 West 43rd Street, Apt. 17-N, New York, New York 10036.
Enabling Technologies has announced the introduction of the Jumbo Romeo Brailler, which produces material in large dots (jumbo Braille). For information contact: Enabling Technologies Company, 3102 S. E. Jay Street, Stuart, Florida 34997, (407) 283-4817.
**Baha'i Material Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Brailled, large print, and recorded material on the Baha'i Faith and its teachings is available free. Material can cover the general history and teachings of the Baha'i Faith, as well as specific topics, such as Life after Death, Fulfillment of Prophecy, and Concrete Steps to World Peace. To receive material or for more information, write in any medium to: Baha'i Service for the Blind, Post Office Box 463, Ludington, Michigan 49431.
Karen Mayry writes: Recent elections of the NFB of South Dakota Black Hills Chapter will have the following slate of officers serving until June, 1989:
President, Eilene Tscharner; Vice President, Shirley Bredenkamp; Treasurer, Sandy Hansen; and the following Directors: Joe Bollwerk, Alec McHugh, Hazel Fuerstenau, and James Stubbart.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: For Sale Visualtek Voyager XL, model XL-5. Includes 19-inch monitor with stand, user's manual, cables, covers, original packing, complete. Perfect condition. Cost $2,925, asking $1,900. Contact: Turner Varcoe, 1322 Simwood Place, Jackson, Mississippi 39211; telephone (601) 362-6265.
**Astrology and Poetry:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Braille Pen Pal Wanted Rakesh Sood lives in India. He and his three brothers are blind. He is twenty-eight, a college student, and is studying economics. His sister and brother-in-law have an electronic business in Stamford, Connecticut, and he hopes to come to this country one day soon. He is interested in music, astrology, and writing poetry in Hindi. He would like to improve his English by exchanging Braille letters with someone who has similar interests. I think he would appreciate any suitable Braille books or magazines that can be spared. His address is: Rakesh Sood, 8/4 Thanderpuri, Roorki, U P India.
As Federationists know, Gene Parker (wife of E. U. Parker of Mississippi) had a gall bladder attack at the 1988 convention in Chicago and had to go to the hospital for surgery. She is now home, and E. U. writes:
It was a great convention though I didn't get to all of it. I guess I'm just writing to tell you that Gene is doing fine. That seems to be an interest of a lot of people over the nation according to my phone calls. Pat Eschbach was a real lifesaver. Of course, everybody was extra nice and helpful, including the Illinois delegation. I was shocked at the interest the hotel personnel showed. Two or three assistant managers called before we left to ask about Gene, and everybody from the housekeeper to the telephone operators took a personnel interest. We finally got home on the evening of July 13.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: LS&S Group's latest catalog contains descriptions of more than 800 products many of them new of particular interest to visually impaired and blind people. For a free, large print 1988/89 catalog call LS&S Group, Inc. (toll-free): (800) 468-4789. Illinois residents call: (312) 498-9777. If you prefer a voice-indexed cassette catalog, please send $3.00 to LS&S Group, Inc., Post Office Box 673, Northbrook, Illinois 60065. Your $3.00 will be refunded with your first purchase.
We recently received the following communication: On May 25, 1988, the Capital Chapter of the NFB of New Hampshire held elections. New officers are as follows: Donna Maglin, President; Helen Hutchins, First Vice President; Albert Constant, Second Vice President; Sherrie Pinfield, Secretary and Corresponding Secretary; and Vi Constant, Treasurer.
**Blind Industrial Workers of America:
The Sheltered Shop Division of the National Federation of the Blind has changed its name to: Blind Industrial Workers of America, Division of the National Federation of the Blind. The new officers are: Charles Erickson, President; Premo Foianini, First Vice President; Ken Staley, Second Vice President; Susan Munck, Secretary; and Jim Skelton, Treasurer. Board Members are: Glenn Crosby, Joe Shaidnagle, and Ron Metenyi. Persons who are employed as industrial workers, in private industry or sheltered shop, are invited to join. Dues are $3.00 and should be sent with name, address, and phone number to: Jim Skelton, 6900 Gary, #87, Houston, Texas 77055.
**Cards and Caps:
We now have postcards with a line drawing of the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore and a statement on the back: For Information About Blindness Contact The National Federation of the Blind, located at The National Center for the Blind, Baltimore, Maryland. We also have caps with the NFB logo and a musical rendition of Glory, Glory Federation. Touch the bill of the cap, and the song plays. Caps are $10.00, and we ask for a donation of twenty-five cents each for the postcards. To order cards or caps contact the National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230.
**See and Taste:
We continue to need both pictures and recipes for the Monitor . Send us good quality black and white pictures showing Federationists at work and play chapter functions, civic and community activities in which Federationists are participating, family happenings, or anything else which might be interesting to Monitor readers. Send an accompanying explanation with sufficient detail to make clear what is being shown. We also need to have recipes from members throughout the country recipes and more recipes. Again, send any accompanying notes which will allow us to give details, and please date the recipes and the pictures, too.
**Diabetics Meet and Elect:
Karen Mayry writes: The Diabetics Division meeting during our 1988 national convention was a huge success. Over 160 persons attended. We gained several new members and state representatives. In addition, hundreds of newsletters Voice of the Diabetic were distributed for persons to share with others in their communities. The following officers were elected and will serve until July, 1989: President, Karen Mayry, South Dakota; Vice President, Ed Bryant, Missouri; Second Vice President, Sue Manchester, Connecticut; Secretary, Joanie Krikac, South Dakota; and Treasurer, Mary Hurt, Kentucky. We look forward to a super year!
**A Moving Sign:
As Monitor readers know, a large lighted sign forty feet long and twelve feet high, containing the name and logo of the National Federation of the Blind, was installed last fall on the roof of the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore. Clearly visible from Interstate 95, the sign has become a landmark and has attracted much favorable attention. On July 26, 1988, a violent windstorm tore the sign from the roof, destroying the chimney, knocking down a light post, and causing other damage. Repairs are now under way, and the sign should soon be back in position more securely anchored and proclaiming its message for all to see.
**We Almost Forgot:
There was a time when state programs for the blind rated front page headlines by rejecting accreditation by NAC (the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped), but that was another day. NAC has now become so inconsequential in the blindness field that its actions largely go unnoticed. In the spring of 1988 at the convention of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota, representatives from the state services for the blind announced that they would no longer accept NAC accreditation. We knew about this constructive action at the time it happened and meant to report it in the Monitor , but it slipped our minds. Anyway, we report it now, and we extend our congratulations to South Dakota and condolences to NAC.
Terry McManus, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania, writes: The National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania is happy to announce that we have another new chapter. On Sunday, July 31, 1988, the York County Chapter was organized. The officers are: President, Margaret Haas; Vice President-Treasurer, Adam LaSalle; and Secretary, Norma Flinchbaugh. We offer them our congratulations and welcome them into the wonderful world of the National Federation of the Blind.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: I wish to hear from blind and deaf-blind people who would like to receive on loan Christian psychology-type books on tape and in Braille. Contact: Reverend Adelaide E. Wink, Evangelical Message Interdenominational, 61 South Lee Street, Beverly Hills, Florida 32665-9130.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Henter-Joyce, Inc., of St. Petersburg, Florida, announces the availability of JAWS Formwriter, a new software program designed to allow blind and visually impaired people to quickly, easily, and accurately complete preprinted forms on a computer and printer. JAWS Formwriter runs on the IBM PC, XT, AT, Personal System 2, or compatible, and can work with a variety of speech synthesizers and screen reading software programs. It represents the latest and most efficinet way for a person who cannot see what is being typed to fill out forms. For more information or to obtain a demonstration version of JWAS Formwriter, contact Henter-Joyce, Inc. at 7901 - 4th Street, North, Suite 211, St. Petersburg, Florida 33702; (813) 576-5658. JAWS Formwriter sells for $495.00 and can be shipped immediately.
Tina Baker writes:
The following officers were elected at the state convention of the NFB of Georgia on May 21 and 22, 1988, at the Sheraton Hotel in Albany, Georgia:
President, Ernest Robbins; First Vice President, Max Parker; Second Vice President, Tyrone Palmer; Secretary, Tina M. Baker; Assistant Secretary, Lucy Palmer; Treasurer, Norris Curtis; and Board Members: Paddy Dale, Clarence Green, Alfred Falligan, Isaac Hayward, Tommie Johnson, and Angie Mincey. And the Monitor Editor says:
Congratulations to the new officers and returning officers.
**According to the Local Needs:
Shortly after returning home from the NFB convention in Chicago in July, Patricia Estes (President of the National Federation of the Blind of Maine) wrote as follows to Frank Kurt Cylke, head of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped:
Dear Mr. Cylke:
Thank you for meeting with me Thursday, July 7, at the national convention of the NFB in Chicago. As you know, the blind of Maine are quite concerned about the decision that has been made to close our local sub-regional libraries and consolidate them to one main library in Augusta. There is much opposition to this move within the handicapped community and also within the library system itself. When contacting Portland, Lewiston, and Bangor libraries, we have been told that there is no formal plan for accomplishing this but that it will be in effect by the end of August.
We have had no way to impact this unfortunate decision. We were not given any opportunity to voice any opinion or even suggestion. The consumers have not been consulted. We object to not being included in the process, as well as to the final outcome.
Closing the libraries in the largest population areas is not a step forward. Putting the books for the blind in the basement of the state library in Augusta is a step backward for services and accessibility. I would appreciate any information you may have on this problem. Is it too late to affect the system? Are we stuck with this decision without any form of redress or appeal?
**Attorney General Gives Ruling:
In the spring of 1988 South Dakota Attorney General Roger Tellinghuisen sent the following letter to chiefs of police in all cities in the state where daily air traffic occurs:
It has come to my attention that some airline crews may occasionally decide that blind travelers may not be seated in particular rows or seats of airliners servicing your city. At the request of several members of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota, I have reviewed the laws regarding this matter.
You should know that there are no state or federal laws or regulations compelling air carriers to seat blind people in any particular area on the aircraft. By the same token, there are presently no laws barring blind individuals from sitting in any particular seat in aircraft, including seats near exits.
There may be airline policies to this effect. There are, however, both state and federal laws barring discrimination against blind and other handicapped people. I would refer you to Section 404� of the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 as amended by Public Law 99-435 (49 U.S.C. Sec. 1374�(1)). This statute provides in part that `no air carrier may discriminate against any otherwise qualified handicapped individual, by reason of such handicap, in the provision of air transportation.' In addition, SDCL 20-13-23 and 23.1 prohibit discrimination in public accommodations and afford a right of equal treatment to all handicapped persons in places to which the general public is invited. This would include public airlines.
Accordingly, it would be my opinion that if you are requested by airline or airport security persons to arrest a blind person who is asserting his or her right to equal treatment on board the airline, you should decline to use your powers of arrest. This is not to say that blind persons are to be afforded any additional or other extraordinary rights. They are subject to arrest, as is any other citizen, for disturbing the peace or violation of any other laws. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
**Braille Exchange List Available:
Braille American Diabetes Association Food Exchange List is available at a cost of $15.00. This list can be ordered by writing to the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota, 919 Main Street, Suite 15, Rapid City, South Dakota 57701.
**Twenty-Eighth Chapter and Growing:
Donald Capps, President of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina, writes: The National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina continues to experience solid growth. On Friday evening, July 29, 1988, the Kershaw-Heath Springs Chapter was organized. The new group begins with a charter membership of 13, and prospects for immediate growth are very good. Marshall Robinson, a vending facility operator, was elected President. Other officers include: Mrs. Thelma Hinson, Vice President; Miss Zelda Jordan, Secretary; Robert H. (Buddy) Catoe, Jr., Treasurer; and Mrs. Wanda Crowley, Social Director. It was my pleasure to work with the blind of the Kershaw-Heath Springs area and interested sighted persons in the creation of this fine chapter. I particularly enjoyed presiding over the organizing banquet, as it is always a rewarding experience to welcome another group into an ever growing Federation family. I look forward to presenting a charter to our new Kershaw-Heath Springs Chapter during the banquet of the state convention in Greenville. This fine new chapter (the twenty-eighth of the NFB of South Carolina) has excellent leadership, and I predict a bright future for the chapter.
In the line of duty as Editor of the Monitor we review a variety of periodicals, both from this country and abroad. The Monitor has never carried paid advertisements, but sometimes we wonder. Consider, for instance, the following samples from the June, 1988, New Beacon , published by the Royal National Institute for the Blind in London:
Luxury three-bedroom caravan to let. Full amenities, `no smoking.' Suitable for blind and elderly people. At Point Clear Caravan Park, Nr Clacton, Essex Tel. Mr. A. King, 0702-74777.
Bachelor, Kensington, London, wishes to meet shortsighted girl with glasses for high myopia. Civilised interests. Please give phone no. Box No. NB/688, New Beacon , RNIB, Braille House, 338 Goswell Road, London EC1V 7JE.
The policies of the National Federation of the Blind are established by resolutions adopted by the national convention. Each year the Resolutions Committee meets early during the convention in the presence of hundreds of Federationists, many of whom speak concerning the matters under consideration. Resolutions are discussed, revised, and ultimately withdrawn or recommended for passage or disapproval by the full convention. Here is a summary of the resolutions presented at the 1988 convention in Chicago, followed by the full text of the resolutions which were adopted:
88-01: expresses support for H.R. 4273 and commends representative Harold Ford for his foresight and wisdom in authoring this significant legislation for the blind. H.R. 4273 would give discretion to blind Social Security beneficiaries in selecting their own rehabilitation agencies and programs, public or private, and would remove the requirement that only state rehabilitation agencies for the blind may be used. 88-02: says that the National Federation of the Blind should seek changes in the federal vocational rehabilitation act and regulations so that unemployed blind people can get the services they rightfully expect. The resolution deplores restrictive eligibility interpretations by state agencies which result in the denial of services to unemployed blind persons.
88-03: notes the fiftieth anniversary of the Javits-Wagner- O'day Act, pays tribute to blind sheltered workshop employees, and concludes by expressing our determination to use the tools given us by Congress and the courts to continue fighting for the right of the blind to organize and advance themselves in employment. 88-04: notes that the new domestic mail manual violates the spirit of the Free Reading Matter for the Blind provisions of the federal law and unnecessarily invades the privacy of the blind. It calls on the Postmaster General to look into the matter and make appropriate changes. 88-05: opposes the proposed federal Department of Transportation rules concerning air travel by the blind, details the discrimination which would be institutionalized by the adoption of those rules, and calls on police and other law enforcement authorities to assist in requiring airline personnel to obey the law, which requires nondiscrimination against the blind in air travel.
88-06: notes the unwise recommendations of the Social Security Disability Advisory Council concerning permitted earnings for blind Social Security recipients and urges the Social Security Administration and the Congress to establish policies which will give an increased number of blind Social Security beneficiaries a reasonable and realistic incentive to work.
88-07: seeks appropriate changes in federal and state laws to require all elementary and secondary school programs to offer Braille instruction to any student who is blind.
88-08: expresses support for H.R. 1158 and S. 558, which would amend Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 providing for fair housing for all, including the blind.
88-09: recommends that the Social Security Administration and the National Federation of the Blind work together to improve notice procedures concerning Social Security matters affecting blind recipients so that those recipients may receive timely, accurate, and understandable information. 88-10: opposes any effort by state rehabilitation agencies for the blind, or anyone else, to require that publishers provide their textbooks in recorded form to blind students.
88-11: calls upon the Rehabilitation Services Administration to insure that blind students receive reader services of sufficient quantity and quality to meet adequately their academic needs by requiring state rehabilitation agencies to assume their obligation as the primary responsible party for the provision of reader services to blind students attending post-secondary institutions.
88-12: was not considered by the convention.
88-13: calls upon the Rehabilitation Services Administration to recognize adapted computer technology for the blind as a legitimate and often essential educational and rehabilitative tool and urges the Rehabilitation Services Administration to encourage state rehabilitation agencies to purchase appropriate computer technology to assist blind clients.
88-14: opposes any radical change, revision, reform, or deviation in standard English Braille, Grade 2, as it has been previously adopted by the Braille Authority of North America, and puts the NFB on record as opposing changes in the Braille Code other than occasional minimal changes made by the Braille Authority of North America.
88-15: During the convention two resolutions were given the number
88-15. One of these was voted down by the committee and not presented by the author to the full convention. The other was withdrawn by its author.
88-16: calls on Congress to enact legislation which would amend the Social Security Act to require that the Social Security Administration make a determination of continuing eligibility within one year of receiving information concerning a change in earnings of an SSI beneficiary.
88-17: recognizes that privatization of the postal service may occur and urges Congress to see that, regardless of the structure of the mail service of this country, reading material and equipment for the blind continue to be received and delivered in a manner similar to the current system. 88-18: was withdrawn by the author.
88-19: calls upon computer products companies to make both hardware and software manuals available on disc to all blind persons who request them in this format.
88-20: was voted down by the committee, taken to the convention floor, and then withdrawn by the author.
88-21: was voted down by the committee, taken to the convention floor, and defeated on a roll call vote.
88-22: asserts the principle that blind persons, as well as other non-drivers, should be entitled to identification cards that hold the same validity as drivers' licenses for transactions requiring proof of identity.
88-101: calls on Congress and the United States Department of Education to work with the National Federation of the Blind to create model schools that will offer long-term and short-term education and training for blind children, outreach to local school districts, support and assistance to the parents of blind children, and student-teacher field placement sites.
WHEREAS, section 222(d) and section 1615 of the Social Security Act provide for payment of vocational rehabilitation expenses of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries to be covered with funds from the Disability Insurance Trust Fund and general revenues; and
WHEREAS, only costs for services provided to the blind under state plans for vocational rehabilitation can now be paid under these sections; and
WHEREAS, this limitation effectively restricts blind beneficiaries to services from one agency in each state, approved to serve the blind by the Commissioner of Rehabilitation Services under section 101 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended; and
WHEREAS, many state vocational rehabilitation agencies which serve the blind are unsuited to give quality services and therefore do not meet the rehabilitation needs of blind beneficiaries; and
WHEREAS, Representative Harold Ford has introduced a bill in Congress (H. R. 4273), which would give discretion to blind beneficiaries in selecting their own rehabilitation agencies and programs, public or private; and
WHEREAS, Mr. Ford's bill is the direct result of the announced policy of the National Federation of the Blind to seek a client-centered rehabilitation system for the blind: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this 8th day of July, 1988, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this organization enthusiastically support H. R. 4273 and give commendation to Representative Harold Ford for his foresight and wisdom in authoring this significant legislation for the blind; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge all members of Congress to give active support to H. R. 4273 in order to assure its prompt enactment into law.
WHEREAS, rehabilitation agencies now receive over 1.4 billion dollars from the federal government annually to provide job training and employment placement services to the disabled and blind of every state and territory; and
WHEREAS, the amount of federal funds available has actually increased beyond inflation in recent years, yet the quality and quantity of services to the blind has markedly decreased in recent years; and
WHEREAS, services have generally declined due to the following factors:
(1) restrictive eligibility interpretations by state agencies, even denying services to unemployed blind people;
(2) state means test provisions that deny services in some reported instances to persons whose only income is from Social Security Disability Insurance; and
(3) excessive application of the similar benefits concept to count any form of assistance from another source against assistance that would otherwise be provided by vocational rehabilitation; and
WHEREAS, these conditions are counterproductive to the goals of rehabilitation, resulting in a rising tide of discontent among blind people generally; and
WHEREAS, the Rehabilitation Services Administration should provide federal leadership to insure that the blind who are in need of job training and employment placement services are not denied: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this 8th day of July, 1988, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this organization seek changes in the federal vocational rehabilitation regulations so that unemployed blind people can get the services they rightfully expect; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we seek appropriate amendments to the federal law to remedy these conditions if changes in regulations are not forthcoming.
WHEREAS, June 25, 1988, was marked as the 50th anniversary of the Javits Wagner-O'Day Act; and
WHEREAS, this Act was intended to give meaningful jobs to blind people in producing commodities and services used by the federal government; and
WHEREAS, instead of providing meaningful jobs, the Act has often been used by sheltered workshops to exploit the blind through subminimum wages and piece-rate jobs, without offering promotional opportunities; and
WHEREAS, in commemorating the 50th anniversary of this program, Congress has now acknowledged the employee status of most shop workers, a declaration which has profound significance for future labor organizing rights of the blind in sheltered workshops; and
WHEREAS, Congress also declared that upward mobility is an historic objective of the program, requiring workshops to employ blind people in management, something that few of them do: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this 8th day of July, 1988, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this Federation join in commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Javits Wagner-O'Day program by paying tribute to the blind employees of workshops, who have a common bond with all of the blind everywhere in suffering the plight of discrimination; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we pledge to use the tools given us by Congress and the courts to continue fighting for the right of the blind to organize and advance themselves in employment so that this anniversary will be recorded as a milestone in extending to our brothers and sisters in the workshops the hand of friendship and freedom on behalf of the blind everywhere.
WHEREAS, the United States Postal Service (USPS) has recently revised section 135 of the Domestic Mail Manual, pertaining to postage-free mailing of materials and products for use by the blind; and
WHEREAS, section 135.3 now requires each postmaster to establish a list containing the names and addresses of those blind persons who are eligible to send or receive items which can be mailed free matter for the blind or handicapped ; and
WHEREAS, each blind individual who wishes to send or receive items free through the mail must apply to the postmaster to be placed on the list and submit name, address, and a statement from a competent authority certifying the individual's inability to read conventionally-printed materials; and
WHEREAS, according to the revised manual, only doctors, nurses, optometrists, and personnel of hospitals, institutions or agencies may be accepted as competent authorities to certify blind people for free matter eligibility; and
WHEREAS, the maintenance of a listing, itself, for the purpose of administering free matter use is an unwarranted invasion of privacy by the U.S. government; and
WHEREAS, this invasion is only made worse by the required certification of a competent authority, officially saying without shame that the blind are not competent to act on their own or to be trusted even in using the mails, erroneously justifying appointment of authorities with medical or professional credentials to approve each blind individual for postage-free use of the mails; and
WHEREAS, the blind find these new requirements not only to be unjustified, unwarranted and outrageous, but also degrading and insulting to our personal dignity: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this 8th day of July, 1988, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this Federation condemn and deplore the Domestic Mail Manual policies on eligibility for free matter use by the blind; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization shall bring this matter to the attention of the Postmaster General and other officials of the United States Government and the Congress in order that these unacceptable and invasive policies will be changed.
WHEREAS, the Secretary of Transportation has just issued proposed rules required by federal law to prohibit discrimination against blind and disabled persons in air travel; and
WHEREAS, the policies announced in these regulations would actually legalize discrimination against the blind on airlines by:
(1) giving the captain of each commercial aircraft absolutely clear authority to deny air transportation to any blind person who does not specifically obey any directive of flight personnel, even if the directive is actually discriminatory and prohibited by the regulations;
(2) deceptively permitting seating restrictions under the guise of a so-called FAA safety regulation, yet to be announced;
(3) allowing airlines to deny air transportation without extra penalty for doing so if another flight is offered to reach the same destination within two hours; and
(4) exposing airlines to a maximum penalty of $550.00, even in rare and extreme cases where air transportation is unlawfully denied, while other regulations now in affect impose fines of up to $1,000 per occurrence whenever a blind passenger even lawfully fails to obey instructions of a flight crew member; and
WHEREAS, this plan to legalize discrimination flatly rejects the intent of Congress to prohibit airlines from treating blind people differently from all other passengers; and
WHEREAS, the continuation of air travel discrimination and the increasing tempo of incidents involving illegal arrests of law abiding blind persons must cease: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this 8th day of July, 1988, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this organization vigorously oppose the proposed rules of the Department of Transportation, which unlawfully seek to legalize discrimination against the blind in air travel; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we brand as public enemy number one the continuing discrimination against the blind in air travel and that we deplore the use of police state tactics by the airlines against law abiding blind citizens; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon all law enforcement agencies to cooperate with the blind to compel the airlines to obey the law concerning discrimination against blind passengers.
WHEREAS, Congress has wisely included several specialized work incentives in the Social Security Act specifically applicable to blind persons entitled to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits; and
WHEREAS, one of the SSDI provisions is a statutory measure of substantial gainful activity (SGA) for blind persons, saying in effect that earnings of up to $700.00 per month (with increases required annually) will not count as proof of ability to work; and
WHEREAS, an advisory council to the Social Security Administration (the Disability Advisory Council) has recommended the following:
(1) repealing the statutory SGA measure for the blind;
(2) immediately reducing the SGA measure for new blind beneficiaries to $490.00 per month with annual increases to be made each year;
(3) freezing the SGA measure for existing blind beneficiaries at $700.00 per month until annual increases in the lower amount for new beneficiaries make up the difference between $490.00 and $700.00; and
(4) permitting the SGA measure to increase annually only after the lower amount catches up to the existing higher amount; and
WHEREAS, the existing law offers blind beneficiaries an important work incentive, although it is not nearly what it should be; and
WHEREAS, the flimsy rationale for making these changes is the notion that SGA for the blind and SGA for other disabled persons (now at $300.00 per month by regulation) should be identical; and
WHEREAS, applying the theory of identical treatment, there should not be an earnings limitation for blind people of any age, since blind people who attain age 69 have no earnings limit; therefore, no limit (as now exists at age 69) would be equity: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this 8th day of July, 1988, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this organization call upon the Social Security Administration and the Congress to reject the recommendations of the Disability Advisory Council identified in this resolution; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge the Social Security Administration and the Congress to recommend and approve policies which will give even more blind beneficiaries a reasonable and realistic incentive to work.
WHEREAS, Congress is considering legislation (H. R. 3019 and S. 1016) to make grants for the establishment of special initiatives to increase the level of literacy in our country; and
WHEREAS, the level of Braille literacy skills among the blind remains low because many educators of the blind themselves do not know Braille sufficiently to teach it; and
WHEREAS, advancements in technology have removed the excuse that Braille materials are too expensive and cannot be readily available, yet the denial of Braille instruction to the blind still persists to a crisis proportion: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this 8th day of July, 1988, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this Federation demand that the resources of our country be used to promote Braille literacy for the blind just as they are used to promote literacy in using print for the sighted; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this policy be implemented by seeking appropriate changes in federal and state legislation which will require all elementary and secondary school programs to offer Braille instruction to any student who is blind.
WHEREAS, Congress is considering amendments to title VIII of the Act, commonly known as the Civil Rights Act of 1968, providing for fair housing; and
WHEREAS, the amendments in the form of H. R. 1158 and S. 558, would extend to handicapped persons the protections of our nation's fair housing laws, and this legislation has particular merit since it would not establish a special category of fair housing legislation for the handicapped; and
WHEREAS, a federal prohibition against housing discrimination would give blind persons greater protection to defend themselves when violations of fair housing arise: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this 8th day of July, 1988, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this organization support the Fair Housing Amendments legislation and urge all members of Congress to cooperate in its enactment.
WHEREAS, blind persons by law now have the right to expect Social Security notices by registered mail, with telephone backup, or in other ways designed to alert them to any planned action affecting benefits or entitlement; and
WHEREAS, the process of implementing these new notice requirements for the blind also gives the Social Security Administration the opportunity to clarify the content of its notices, which could only be beneficial and would likely forestall or prevent many appeals that are now filed due strictly to confusion about the content of the notices; and
WHEREAS, the newly required notice provisions are designed and intended by Congress to insure that blind persons receive timely, accurate, and understandable information in order to protect their legal rights, but that objective will continue to be frustrated if the notices are not made more clear, with a fair presentation of the information, and the removal of threats and intimidating language; and
WHEREAS, just as the new legislation itself resulted from recommendations made by the National Federation of the Blind to Congress, the NFB stands ready to work with the Social Security Administration to improve the notice procedures and content: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this 8th day of July, 1988, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this organization invite the Social Security Administration to participate on a joint task force of the National Federation of the Blind and the Social Security Administration, especially appointed to improve notice procedures and content to give timely, accurate, and understandable information to the blind.
WHEREAS, it is critical that blind students possess the option of selecting from various means of accessing print material; and
WHEREAS, some state rehabilitation agencies have manifested an interest in initiating legislation which would require publishers of college textbooks to provide these texts in recorded form to blind students; and
WHEREAS, such a requirement would place an inappropriate burden upon publishers whose function is to publish books and not record them; and
WHEREAS, mandating that all textbooks be recorded by the publishers would jeopardize the means currently available to blind students of gaining access to print materials, such as readers, Braille, and recorded matter: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this 8th day of July, 1988, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this organization strenuously oppose any efforts by state rehabilitation agencies for the blind, or anyone else, to require that publishers provide their textbooks in recorded form to blind students.
WHEREAS, it is the responsibility of the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) to oversee state rehabilitation programs for the blind; and
WHEREAS, the primary responsible party for the provision of reader services to blind postsecondary students is the state rehabilitation agency; and
WHEREAS, direct administration of reader services to blind students by the state rehabilitation agency has proven to be the most effective and efficient means of providing these services; and
WHEREAS, some offices of disabled student services provide reader services, the quantity and quality of which vary dramatically from school to school; and
WHEREAS, the reader services solely administered by offices of disabled student services are rarely sufficient to meet the needs of blind students; and
WHEREAS, on some occasions these services provided by offices of disabled student services are erroneously defined by state rehabilitation agencies as a similar benefit and used as an excuse to reduce or eliminate the funds provided directly to blind students for the purpose of obtaining readers: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this 8th day of July, 1988, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this organization call upon the Rehabilitation Services Administration to insure that blind students receive reader services of sufficient quantity and quality to meet adequately their academic needs by requiring state rehabilitation agencies to assume their obligation as the primary responsible party for the provision of reader services to blind students attending postsecondary institutions.
WHEREAS, the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) is responsible for overseeing federally funded rehabilitation agencies across the country, including those which serve the blind; and
WHEREAS, the primary goal of rehabilitation agencies for the blind is and should be the placement of blind clients in competitive employment; and
WHEREAS, quality skills resulting from adequate training are a key to competitive employment; and
WHEREAS, in order to be competitive with their sighted peers, the blind must develop and maintain equivalent skills and levels of proficiency; and
WHEREAS, familiarity with and efficiency in the operation of computer technology has become an integral part of many working environments, as well as educational and training facilities, including college campuses; and
WHEREAS, access to adapted computer equipment in educational and training settings is often inadequate or non-existent, inhibiting the development of computer related skills by blind students; and
WHEREAS, accessible computer systems frequently cost no more than other technical aids currently provided to blind students in educational settings; and
WHEREAS, despite its importance in the development of competitive skills, many rehabilitation agencies are reluctant and others unconditionally refuse to provide adapted computer technology for their blind clients as part of the negotiated Individualized Written Rehabilitation Plan (IWRP): Now, therefore
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this 8th day of July, 1988, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this organization call upon the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) to recognize adapted computer technology for the blind as a legitimate and often essential educational and rehabilitative tool; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we strongly urge RSA actively to encourage rehabilitation agencies under its influence to look upon the purchase of appropriate computer technology including but not limited to Braille accessible devices as a negotiable option in the establishment and maintenance of the Individualized Written Rehabilitation Plan (IWRP) of blind clients.
WHEREAS, Braille is used as a primary method of literacy by blind persons; and
WHEREAS, efforts are underway to reform, revise, and otherwise change Standard English Braille, Grade 2; and
WHEREAS, an international conference on Standard English Braille, Grade 2, will convene in London from September 19 through 24, 1988, sponsored by the Braille Authority of the United Kingdom; and WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind, as the oldest and largest organization of blind persons in the United States, is the primary organization speaking on behalf of blind persons in this country: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this 5th day of July, 1988, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this organization oppose any radical change, revision, reform, or deviation in Standard English Braille, Grade 2, as it has been previously adopted by the Braille Authority of North America; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization take whatever action is necessary to dissuade any organization or person, other than the occasional minimal changes made by the Braille Authority of North America, from promoting radical changes in the code of Standard English Braille, Grade 2.
WHEREAS, more than 70% of all blind Americans are unemployed or substantially underemployed; and
WHEREAS, as a result of being unable to obtain employment due to their disability, many of the nation's blind are beneficiaries of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits; and
WHEREAS, upon obtaining employment, the blind SSDI beneficiary is required to notify the Social Security Administration in order that a determination may be made as to continuing eligibility to receive benefit payments; and
WHEREAS, after having supplied the required information, the blind beneficiary often continues to receive benefits for a number of years, and thus, makes the reasonable assumption that it has been determined that he or she is still eligible to receive SSDI payments; and
WHEREAS, due to gross inefficiencies within the Social Security Administration such a determination may actually be postponed for a number of years, and in at least one documented case, a blind SSDI beneficiary has been notified that it has now been determined that he has been ineligible to receive benefits for more than eleven years; and
WHEREAS, once the Social Security Administration makes such a determination, it is a common practice to notify the beneficiary that not only will his or her benefits be terminated but that he or she must repay all benefits which he or she may have received subsequent to becoming ineligible for benefits; and
WHEREAS, the amount of such overpayments made by the Social Security Administration is often staggering. The amount which it was determined that the individual in the case cited herein must repay was $52,904.00; and
WHEREAS, if the beneficiary chooses to appeal the determination made by the Social Security Administration, he or she must produce records to prove that the determination is incorrect; and
WHEREAS, in cases such as the one cited herein, it is difficult, if not impossible, to produce such proof; and
WHEREAS, in most cases, entities such as the Internal Revenue Service are only able to review an individual's record no further than three years in the past, unless there is evidence of fraud, which means that a person is required to keep records for no more than three years; and
WHEREAS, being forced to produce records as far in the past as eleven years creates a hardship for the SSDI beneficiary due to the fact that such records are unavailable with good reason: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this 8th day of July, 1988, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this organization call upon the Congress of the United States to enact legislation which would amend the Social Security Act to require that the Social Security Administration make a determination of continuing eligibility within one year of receiving information concerning a change in earnings of an SSDI beneficiary; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the liability for any alleged overpayment made to a working blind individual not extend beyond the one-year period during which the continuing eligibility determination is being made.
WHEREAS, mail delivery in this country has been performed by a public agency and by a quasi-public corporation; and
WHEREAS, under both structures, blind persons throughout the country could send and receive reading matter and blindness- related equipment in the mail through a mailing program consistently funded by Congress in recognition of the fact that these items weigh a very great deal more than comparable material used by sighted persons (a program commonly known as revenue foregone appropriations ); and
WHEREAS, recently there has been discussion of making the postal service entirely private: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this 8th day of July, 1988, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this organization urge Congress to take care that, regardless of the structure of the mail service of this country, reading material and equipment for the blind continue to be received and delivered throughout this country in a manner similar to the current system.
WHEREAS, computers are being used to improve productivity in a majority of occupations; and
WHEREAS, computer products, both hardware and software, are generally packaged with print manuals describing use of the product; and
WHEREAS, these manuals usually are written with word processors and thus exist on computer disk; and
WHEREAS, blind persons may read information stored on computer disk using speech, Braille, or large print output devices; and
WHEREAS, having computer manuals available in disk format, as well as in inkprint, would enable blind persons to learn and take advantage of more computer products in a shorter learning time thus raising the productivity of blind persons on many jobs: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this 8th day of July, 1988, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this organization call upon computer products companies to make both hardware and software manuals available on disk to all blind persons who request them in this format; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that copies of this resolution be dispersed widely in the computer industry.
WHEREAS, states generally issue driver's licenses and identification cards for non-drivers; and
WHEREAS, in many states non-driver identification cards are not recognized as having the same validity in performing such transactions as making a bank withdrawal, purchasing by check, and entering a night club; and
WHEREAS, blind persons are thereby inconvenienced or harmed since we cannot obtain driver's licenses: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this 8th day of July, 1988, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this organization assert the principle that blind persons, as well as other non-drivers, should be entitled to identification cards that hold the same validity as driver's licenses for transactions requiring proof of identity; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon all relevant state agencies to establish procedures for issuing such identification cards, communicating their validity to businesses throughout the state, and enforcing the honoring of these cards.
WHEREAS, the education of all blind children is of compelling importance to this organization and to the creation of a better future for all blind persons; and
WHEREAS, Public Law 94-142 was adopted for the purpose of insuring an adequate education for all handicapped students but, in the case of blind children, it has failed miserably to redeem the promise of adequate education which is the birthright of all Americans; and
WHEREAS, blind children need intensive, long-term training in the alternative skills of blindness; and
WHEREAS, no single educational setting can meet all of the needs of all blind children; and
WHEREAS, the regulatory requirement of placement in the least restrictive environment has been generally interpreted to mean that, merely by placing a blind child in a regular public school classroom alongside his or her sighted peers, the environment automatically becomes less restrictive; and
WHEREAS, this irrational attachment to physical mainstreaming as the paramount objective in the education of blind children has led to the virtual demise of appropriate education for blind children; and
WHEREAS, major shortcomings in the education of blind children include the failure of the public schools to teach Braille, cane travel, and positive attitudes about blindness; and
WHEREAS, residential schools have been used as a dumping ground for blind multiply-handicapped youngsters and for other blind children whose local schools have refused to educate them; and
WHEREAS, children with low vision are taught to believe that they are not blind, and schools (both local and residential) deliberately withhold from them essential training in the skills of blindness, leaving them utterly unprepared to meet the challenges of higher education and the demands of life; and
WHEREAS, this catastrophic failure to educate our blind children results from an irrational fear of blindness which poisons the thought and practices of educational professionals who work with blind children; and
WHEREAS, this unhealthy atmosphere is so pervasive that blind children and their parents do not, for all practical purposes, have any educational options, except for a few scattered but notable pockets of quality; and
WHEREAS, the parents of blind children are fighting a heroic battle to provide a humane environment which affirms their blind children, and they have often had to take over the job of the schools by teaching Braille and other skills, and parents are still struggling to gain from educators the recognition that parents are a crucial link in the overall education and personal development of their blind children; and
WHEREAS, the training of teachers of the blind is appallingly inadequate in its philosophy of blindness, its lack of requirements for the mastery of the alternative skills of blindness, and its paucity of student teaching and internship opportunities, especially significant because research shows that the single most important aspect of teacher training is the student teacher field placement; Now, therefore:
BE IT RESOLVED, by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 1988, in the city of Chicago, Illinois, that this organization call upon all professionals in the field of education of the blind to re-examine their motivations and the outcomes of their work; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this organization call upon the United States Congress and the U.S. Department of Education to work with the National Federation of the Blind to create model schools that will offer long-term and short-term education and training for blind children, outreach to local school districts, support and assistance to the parents of blind children, and student teacher field placement sites; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this organization call upon the U.S. Department of Education to change the regulations implementing Public Law 94-142 so that, in the case of blind children, the standard for determining educational setting be the most appropriate environment, thereby assuring a complete range of educational options to blind children and their parents.
AS AMENDED 1986
The name of this organization is The National Federation of the Blind.
The purpose of the National Federation of the Blind is to serve as a vehicle for collective action by the blind of the nation; to function as a mechanism through which the blind and interested sighted persons can come together in local, state, and national meetings to plan and carry out programs to improve the quality of life for the blind; to provide a means of collective action for parents of blind children; to promote the vocational, cultural, and social advancement of the blind; to achieve the integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality with the sighted; and to take any other action which will improve the overall condition and standard of living of the blind.
Section A. The membership of The National Federation of the Blind shall consist of the members of the state affiliates, the members of divisions, and members at large. Members of divisions and members at large shall have the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities in The National Federation of the Blind as members of state affiliates. The Board of Directors shall establish procedures for admission of divisions and shall determine the structure of divisions. The divisions shall, with the approval of the Board, adopt constitutions and determine their membership policies. Membership in divisions shall not be conditioned upon membership in state affiliates. The Board of Directors shall establish procedures for admission of members at large, determine how many classes of such members shall be established, and determine the annual dues to be paid by members of each class. Section B. Each state or territorial possession of the United States, including the District of Columbia, having an affiliate shall have one vote at the National Convention. These organizations shall be referred to as state affiliates.
Section C. State affiliates shall be organizations of the blind controlled by the blind. No organization shall be recognized as an organization of the blind controlled by the blind unless at least a majority of its voting members and a majority of the voting members of each of its local chapters are blind.
Section D. The Board of Directors shall establish procedures for the admission of state affiliates. There shall be only one state affiliate in each state.
Section E. Any member, local chapter, state affiliate, or division of this organization may be suspended, expelled, or otherwise disciplined for misconduct or for activity unbecoming to a member or affiliate of this organization by a two-thirds vote of the Board of Directors or by a simple majority of the states present and voting at a National Convention. If the action is to be taken by the Board, there must be good cause, and a good faith effort must have been made to try to resolve the problem by discussion and negotiation. If the action is to be taken by the Convention, notice must be given on the preceding day at an open Board meeting or a session of the Convention. If a dispute arises as to whether there was good cause, or whether the Board made a good faith effort, the National Convention (acting in its capacity as the supreme authority of the Federation) shall have the power to make final disposition of the matter; but until or unless the Board's action is reversed by the National Convention, the ruling of the Board shall continue in effect.
OFFICERS, BOARD OF DIRECTORS, AND NATIONAL ADVISORY BOARD
Section A. The officers of The National Federation of the Blind shall be: (1) President, (2) First Vice President, (3) Second Vice President, (4) Secretary, and (5) Treasurer. They shall be elected biennially. Section B. The officers shall be elected by majority vote of the state affiliates present and voting at a National Convention. Section C. The National Federation of the Blind shall have a Board of Directors, which shall be composed of the five officers and twelve additional members, six of whom shall be elected at the Annual Convention during even numbered years and six of whom shall be elected at the Annual Convention during odd numbered years. The members of the Board of Directors shall serve for two-year terms. Section D. The Board of Directors may, in its discretion, create a National Advisory Board and determine the duties and qualifications of the members of the National Advisory Board.
POWERS AND DUTIES OF THE CONVENTION, THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS, AND THE PRESIDENT
Section A. Powers and Duties of the Convention. The Convention is the supreme authority of the Federation. It is the legislature of the Federation. As such, it has final authority with respect to all issues of policy. Its decisions shall be made after opportunity has been afforded for full and fair discussion. Delegates and members in attendance may participate in all Convention discussions as a matter of right. Any member of the Federation may make or second motions, propose nominations, and serve on committees; and is eligible for election to office, except that only blind members may be elected to the National Board. Voting and making motions by proxy are prohibited. Consistent with the democratic character of the Federation, Convention meetings shall be so conducted as to prevent parliamentary maneuvers which would have the effect of interfering with the expression of the will of the majority on any question, or with the rights of the minority to full and fair presentation of their views. The Convention is not merely a gathering of representatives of separate state organizations. It is a meeting of the Federation at the national level in its character as a national organization. Committees of the Federation are committees of the national organization. The nominating committee shall consist of one member from each state affiliate represented at the Convention, and each state affiliate shall appoint its member to the committee. From among the members of the committee, the President shall appoint a chairperson.
Section B. Powers and Duties of the Board of Directors. The function of the Board of Directors as the governing body of the Federation between Conventions is to make policies when necessary and not in conflict with the policies adopted by the Convention. Policy decisions which can reasonably be postponed until the next meeting of the National Convention shall not be made by the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors shall serve as a credentials committee. It shall have the power to deal with organizational problems presented to it by any member, local chapter, state affiliate, or division; shall decide appeals regarding the validity of elections in local chapters, state affiliates, or divisions; and shall certify the credentials of delegates when questions regarding the validity of such credentials arise. By a two-thirds vote the Board may suspend one of its members for violation of a policy of the organization or for other action unbecoming to a member of the Federation. By a two-thirds vote the Board may reorganize any local chapter, state affiliate, or division. The Board may not suspend one of its own members or reorganize a local chapter, state affiliate, or division except for good cause and after a good faith effort has been made to try to resolve the problem by discussion and negotiation. If a dispute arises as to whether there was good cause or whether the Board made a good faith effort, the National Convention (acting in its capacity as the supreme authority of the Federation) shall have the power to make final disposition of the matter; but until or unless the Board's action is reversed by the National Convention, the ruling of the Board shall continue in effect. There shall be a standing subcommittee of the Board of Directors which shall consist of three members. The committee shall be known as the Subcommittee on Budget and Finance. It shall, whenever it deems necessary, recommend to the Board of Directors principles of budgeting, accounting procedures, and methods of financing the Federation program; and shall consult with the President on major expenditures.
The Board of Directors shall meet at the time of each National Convention. It shall hold other meetings on the call of the President or on the written request of any five members.
Section C. Powers and Duties of the President. The President is the principal administrative officer of the Federation. In this capacity his or her duties consist of: carrying out the policies adopted by the Convention; conducting the day-to-day management of the affairs of the Federation; authorizing expenditures from the Federation treasury in accordance with and in implementation of the policies established by the Convention; appointing all committees of the Federation except the Nominating Committee; coordinating all activities of the Federation, including the work of other officers and of committees; hiring, supervising, and dismissing staff members and other employees of the Federation, and determining their numbers and compensation; taking all administrative actions necessary and proper to put into effect the programs and accomplish the purposes of the Federation. The implementation and administration of the interim policies adopted by the Board of Directors are the responsibility of the President as principal administrative officer of the Federation.
Any organized group desiring to become a state affiliate of The National Federation of the Blind shall apply for affiliation by submitting to the President of The National Federation of the Blind a copy of its constitution and a list of the names and addresses of its elected officers. Under procedures to be established by the Board of Directors, action shall be taken on the application. If the action is affirmative, The National Federation of the Blind shall issue to the organization a charter of affiliation. Upon request of the National President the state affiliate shall provide to the National President the names and addresses of its members. Copies of all amendments to the constitution and/or bylaws of an affiliate shall be sent without delay to the National President. No organization shall be accepted as an affiliate and no organization shall remain an affiliate unless at least a majority of its voting members are blind. The president, vice president (or vice presidents), and at least a majority of the executive committee or board of directors of the state affiliate and of all of its local chapters must be blind. Affiliates must not merely be social organizations but must formulate programs and actively work to promote the economic and social betterment of the blind. Affiliates and their local chapters must comply with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federation. Policy decisions of the Federation are binding upon all affiliates and local chapters, and the affiliate and its local chapters must participate affirmatively in carrying out such policy decisions. The name National Federation of the Blind, Federation of the Blind, or any variant thereof is the property of The National Federation of the Blind; and any affiliate, or local chapter of an affiliate, which ceases to be part of The National Federation of the Blind (for whatever reason) shall forthwith forfeit the right to use the name National Federation of the Blind, Federation of the Blind, or any variant thereof.
A general convention of the membership of an affiliate or of the elected delegates of the membership must be held and its principal executive officers must be elected at least once every two years. There can be no closed membership. Proxy voting is prohibited in state affiliates and local chapters. Each affiliate must have a written constitution or bylaws setting forth its structure, the authority of its officers, and the basic procedures which it will follow. No publicly contributed funds may be divided among the membership of an affiliate or local chapter on the basis of membership, and (upon request from the National Office) an affiliate or local chapter must present an accounting of all of its receipts and expenditures. An affiliate or local chapter must not indulge in attacks upon the officers, Board members, leaders, or members of the Federation or upon the organization itself outside of the organization, and must not allow its officers or members to indulge in such attacks. This requirement shall not be interpreted to interfere with the right of an affiliate or local chapter, or its officers or members, to carry on a political campaign inside the Federation for election to office or to achieve policy changes. However, the organization will not sanction or permit deliberate, sustained campaigns of internal organizational destruction by state affiliates, local chapters, or members. No affiliate or local chapter may join or support, or allow its officers or members to join or support, any temporary or permanent organization inside the Federation which has not received the sanction and approval of the Federation.
ARTICLE VII. DISSOLUTION
In the event of dissolution, all assets of the organization shall be given to an organization with similar purposes which has received a 501�(3) certification by the Internal Revenue Service .
ARTICLE VIII. AMENDMENTS
This Constitution may be amended at any regular Annual Convention of the Federation by an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the state affiliates registered, present, and voting; provided that the proposed amendment shall have been signed by five state affiliates in good standing and that it shall have been presented to the President the day before final action by the Convention.